Thank you as ever for your interest in what I’ve been up to here at home and down in Westminster on behalf of Cheadle constituency.
I was delighted to hear that the Reverend Libby Lane is to become the Church of England’s first female Bishop when she takes up her position as our Bishop in January. I understand that Mrs Lane has previously lived in Stockport so it will be great to welcome her back.
Less good news that the Secretary of State responsible for planning, Eric Pickles, has decided to ignore the wishes of local residents by not holding a public enquiry into the proposals for a massive housing development at the site of Woodford Aerodrome.
I still believe that the size and scale of the planning proposals are just too large and could permanently damage the unique characteristics of Woodford village.
The unemployment rate in Cheadle constituency continues to fall, now standing at just 1.4% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64. Every new job makes a massive difference to the lives of both the employee and their families. One of the reasons unemployment is falling is innovative projects such as that run by B4Box in partnership with Stockport Homes. The project is training and employing people from disadvantaged groups who have previously been far from the labour market, and I am looking at how we can make more projects like B4Box possible.
Andrew Stunell MP and I joined up for the launch of a new shopping website that gives 100% of its commission to the charity sector that will greatly benefit the excellent St Ann’s Hospice, Heald Green. Further good news for hospices as the Coalition Government announced more support by refunding them for the VAT costs they incur. Hospice UK provided an estimate that suggested that the cost of a VAT refund for hospice charities would be £4m.
National Carers’ Rights Day was a chance to urge people that care for ill or disabled loved ones to find out about all the financial and practical support that they are entitled to. I also wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister calling for social care to be provided free of charge to people who are at the end of their lives, and for greater support to enable the terminally ill to choose where they die.
As many of you are supporters of the Millie’s Trust, you will know that I raised the tragic case and the need for paediatric first aid training for all nursery staff in a parliamentary debate last week. The debate had been secured by over 100,000 people signing an e-petition on the Government’s website and I was delighted that Millie’s parents and founders of the Millie’s Trust, Dan and Joanne Thompson, were able to be in Westminster.
In response to the debate Childcare Minister, Sam Gyimah, promised a national review into nursery school provision of paediatric first aid. I will be working with the Thompsons to ensure that they and all their supporters can engage with the review to ensure that the case for universal paediatric first aid training in nursery schools is made as forcefully as possible.
All three major parties had a commitment in their 2010 manifestos to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development. I was pleased to support new legislation that will enshrine this commitment into law, ensuring that the terrific contribution the people of the UK makes to the world’s poorest continues whoever is in Government after the General Election.
The headline from the Autumn Statement was the realisation of a Lib Dem policy on stamp duty. People buying homes worth less than £935,000 will now pay less stamp duty than they did before, meaning that a buyer in Stockport will pay on average £607 less when purchasing a new home.
As a long term supporter of our local pubs, I was pleased to support a change to the Small Business Bill that will allow pub tenants tied to a large pub company to opt for a rental only arrangement, allowing them to buy beer on the open market. The amendment that was secured gives publicans a fairer deal and help to keep more pubs open.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People released a new report campaigning for greater emotional support for everyone who is diagnosed with sight loss. I am backing their calls for great assistance to be provided to those that are going blind, shockingly only 30% of eye departments currently have access to a qualified sight loss advisor.
On World Aids Day I joined STOPAIDS, a network of 80 UK agencies that have united to secure an effective global response to the AIDS epidemic, to lend my voice to their campaign to eradicate the disease by 2030. Thanks to UK investment the number of people dying from aids is plummeting, but we cannot be complacent.
NSPCC are currently campaigning to make it a crime for an adult to send a sexual message to a child, and I was pleased to meet with them to find our more. The incidence of online child abuse is very sadly rising so we must ensure the law changes to meet this threat and keep our young people safe online.
The UK has one of the world’s highest Meningitis B rates in the world and it tragically kills more of the country’s under 5s than any other infectious diseases. Thankfully a new vaccine has passed all safety tests and been permitted a license, there is now a delay due to price negotiations between the drug company and the NHS. I believe strongly that it is now high time we brought in the vaccine.
Terrible Christmas jumpers were the order of the hour when Save the Children came to Parliament for their Christmas Jumper Day campaign. A great fundraiser as people in workplaces across the county raised money while raising some questionable knitwear –making the world better with a sweater!
And finally, Erin Jones of Moorfield Primary School, Hazel Grove, was the winner of my Christmas card design competition. I was pleased to go and meet Erin in person to give her some special Christmas prizes, and her colourful design was made into 40,000 Christmas cards, one of which I hope made it through your letterbox!
All that remains for me to do is to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas, and best wishes for a great 2015.
Mark Hunter MP