Tom’s Comments on Steel Industry ‘low’ priority classification

Commenting on news that the government has classified the steel industry as a ‘low’ priority industry in the upcoming Brexit negotiations Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, Tom Blenkinsop, said:

“The steel industry can thrive in the United Kingdom given the right market environment but this document suggests that the government are not willing to work to provide this.

“The dumping of cheap Chinese steel is a huge worldwide problem for the steel industry and we need to work with other steel producing nations to remain competitive in a saturated market. The last thing that British steel industry needs is an import tariff on their goods.

“I will be seeking assurances that the British steel industry will not be an afterthought in the upcoming negotiations from the government’s Brexit Secretary when Parliament returns from recess.”

Tom’s comments on G4S dropping asylum seeker housing in Loftus

Commenting on News that government contractor G4S are no longer looking to home asylum seekers in Loftus Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop said:

“The fact that G4S have listened to the views of the Borough council and myself that East Cleveland lacks some of the facilities which are needed to properly care for asylum seekers, is helpful. East Cleveland has no easy access to community groups, adult English classes, dedicated GP practices, international food shops and has poor transport links.

“I thank the vast majority of the residents of Loftus who listened and accepted these rational reasons which were put forward by the council. It was not questionable letters, hearsay or grandstanding which got this situation resolved, it was facts and a sensible dialogue between the involved parties.

“However the actions of one elected representative who has used ‘dog whistle’ politics to play on people’s emotions and stir up hatred have been abhorrent.

“Going forward there needs to be a new understanding on matters like this, residents should be involved early on in the process so any difficulties can be highlighted and dealt with before any firm decisions are made.

“I will still be meeting with John Whitwam, the G4S Director of Immigration, on Tuesday of next week to reinforce these points and discuss what G4S’s future plans are.”

Tom will vote to trigger Article 50

Tom has confirmed he will vote to start the process of negotiating an exit from the European Union in Parliament this week.

EU leave bill

The vote will give the Prime Minister the power, under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, to notify the EU of the UK’s intention to leave and begin the formal two-year process of negotiating a withdrawal.

Tom said:

I voted to give the British people their say on leaving the EU and now I must vote to support their democratic decision. I voted for a referendum and then campaigned for Remain. Remain lost, so the UK must leave the EU.

Unlike Scottish nationalists who refuse to recognise the result of any referendum, and unlike the Lib Dems, who assume power in Government despite coming third, I must, as a believer in democracy, act upon and respect the result of the referendum on the 23rd June 2016.

There are serious challenges that face us, from securing the best trade arrangements for our industry, to protecting workers’ rights and keeping the country together. My focus must now be on meeting these challenges to get the best possible Brexit deal for Teesside and the UK.

Tom and local councillor blast Arriva Buses for ‘taking Brotton off the map’

Tom and Councillor Michael Dick, Labour Councillor for Brotton on Redcar and Cleveland Council, today blasted Arriva Bus bosses for making route alterations which they say would help to ‘take Brotton off the bus map’.

Arriva announced last week that they were planning in the next month to cut short the half hourly 5a Bus from Middlesbrough to Brotton so that it terminated at Skelton instead of Brotton.

Tom said,

This is a decision which isolates many people in Brotton.  The key issue is that this is the only bus from Brotton that serves one of East Cleveland largest food stores – the ASDA supermarket at Skelton. It would also mean that a direct link from the Kilton Lane area of Brotton to Guisborough and Middlesbrough would be lost.   In addition, access to ASDA would be lost for all residents in Skelton.

Michael Dick said,

This decision will also mean a steep dip in the number of buses serving urban the urban Teesside and Guisborough from Brotton.  This will mean passengers being decanted on to the existing 5 buses, which only run half hourly, or on to the X4 service which is already crowded at peak hours.

Both Tom and Michael said that they would be writing to Arriva NE senior managers, asking that this decision be reviewed with an aim to maintaining the present 5a service and boosting it by adding a turn round at Brotton Hospital – which they argue would provide a new passenger boost.

‘Stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting – close the loophole’

Last week Tom presented a bill to parliament aimed at preventing employers from undercutting British construction workers by exploiting migrant labour and employing people using ‘bogus’ self-employment contracts.
170130 TB in chamber

The bill aims to ensure that trade union negotiated pay levels and conditions are included in contracts for building power stations. This is already the case for power stations which generate more than 50 megawatts of power but is not guaranteed for power stations that generate less than 50MW, which come under different regulations.

This loophole has led to some employers ‘importing’ foreign workforces on a temporary basis to build these smaller power stations for almost half of the agreed national pay level. Tom Blenkinsop along with trade unions, such as GMB, argue that these standards should apply for construction work on all power stations – no matter the size.

Tom said:

Unscrupulous employers have been using this loophole, affecting power stations that generate less than 50MW, to undermine agreed national standards on pay and working conditions. These standards have been hard fought for by working people through trade unions and cannot be ignored.

Employers using tactics from classing workers as self-employed when they’re not, to bringing in migrant workers to work on these sites for less money, are forcing down the wages of the construction workers and engineers who work on these plants. GMB and Unite have campaigned hard to minimise these practices but to put a stop to it altogether parliament must act.

I introduced this bill to raise the issue but the reality is without Government support it is not likely to pass – my message to the Government is simple: help working people, stop the exploitation, stop the undercutting and close the loophole.

MPs reveal ‘2020’ vision for steel

Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Steel, chaired by Tom , published its vision for revitalising the steel industry.

The report, ‘Steel 2020’, draws on interviews with businesses, unions, Government ministers and employees of the industry to develop a strategy for securing the industry’s future in the UK.

It concludes, that the UK steel industry is currently ‘hamstrung by a toxic combination of policies that hobble the industry by comparison to global competitors’, and calls on the Government to act to provide a level playing field that will allow the industry to ‘thrive nationally and globally’.

Tom Blenkinsop said:

This report confirms that with the right Government action the UK’s steel industry can have long term future and provide the good manufacturing jobs that Teesside and communities all around the country so desperately need.

’Steel 2020’ highlights the incredible innovative work that is already taking place in the metals sector and the challenges it needs to overcome.

This report not only identifies the failures of current Government policy but also offers some solutions too. I know my colleagues and I will continue to push the Government to act on this reports’ recommendations and support this industry which has supported communities all over the country for generations.

Particular credit for compiling this report should go to my Labour colleagues Anna Turley and Stephen Kinnock, whose hard work and belief in this industry made ‘Steel 2020’ possible.

The report recommends further action in several areas including energy costs, Chinese steel dumping and procurement rules for Government projects.

‘Steel 2020’ is supported by members from four political parties and was authored by Dr Ian Greenwood of Leeds University Business School.

Toms response to new school funding formula

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today ridiculed claims by local Conservatives that schools in East Cleveland “would gain” as a result of the introduction of a new schools funding formula by central Government.

Tom said:

“Their claims are spurious. Indeed the claim was put out before the critical meeting of a local Redcar and Cleveland Schools Forum which agreed the allocations under this new formula.

“The claims are also geographically illiterate. The local Tory spokesman thinks that one school named by them – Hillsview Academy on Normanby Road in South Bank – is in “East Cleveland”. A refresher lesson in map reading is needed here!

“In broad terms Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has had a cut of £636,266 in its education service grant for 2017 to 2018 whilst the new formula going down to individual school level shows that a minority of schools will see increases – but even these increases will be swallowed by new charges imposed by the Government.

“The reality is that in Redcar and Cleveland only 21 primary schools and 2 secondary schools will have an increase of budget – but that only up to 1.55%. 11 primary schools and 7 secondary schools will see decreased budgets see a reduction of up to 1% and 12 primaries and 1 secondary will see a reduction of up to 1.5% in their support. A total of 31 schools who will lose out on government funding.

“Of course, the increases are so low that they will be eroded in this year alone by things like increases in National Insurance costs to schools, any pay awards, payment of the apprentice levy for maintained schools and the rising costs of goods and services

“Nationally the Government’s so-called ‘fair funding’ proposals will actually transfer funding away from local schools to other parts of the country. On top of this, the Government’s policy of freezing overall funding per pupil and requiring schools to pay increased costs for employees’ pensions and National Insurance will impose further cuts in schools.

“Reallocating inadequate levels of overall funding will not address the funding crisis in local education. Cutting funding to local schools will make matters locally even worse. In areas like East Cleveland where pupil poverty exists and too many people are still unemployed or on zero hour contracts, we need real and substantial increases in funding to allow local children to get a fair start in life.

“There are no winners under this Government’s current school funding policies, only losers.”

‘Help Teesside lead the world’ – Tom’s appeal to Government

Tom has called on the Government to invest in Carbon Capture and Utilisation (CCU) technology in Teesside as a way to boost investment and job creation in the region.

Tom pointed to the recent success of Carbon Clean Solutions in India which has created technology to capture the CO2 created by an industrial plant and use it to make Baking Soda, on a commercial basis, i.e. without Government subsidy.

The UK Government controversially cancelled a project to help get the industry off the ground in the UK in 2015, which was due to fund starter projects in Teesside, despite warnings that the move could cost thousands of jobs. Last year, a Parliamentary Advisory Group on Carbon Capture and Storage called for greater Government support for the industry and claimed early investment in the technology could save consumers billions.

Tom said:

The Government must act to support CCS and CCU technology now. Teesside in particular could benefit as our area’s industry provides the perfect environment in which to build a commercially viable Carbon Capture sector.

I have written to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ask for a meeting to discuss how this could benefit Teesside and what the Government can do to get this industry going.

Carbon Clean in India have shown that with determination and innovation this can be done. The Government cannot afford to pass up this opportunity which would cut pollution, cut bills, create jobs and bring much needed investment to our area.

I believe the Government can and should help Teesside to lead the world in this relatively new technology.

‘Labour won’t short change armed forces’

Tom has welcomed the Labour Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith’s proposals to spend more money on the armed forces.

Currently, as a NATO member the UK has an obligation to spend 2% of its GDP on defence and security. However, the Conservative Government have made major cuts to the defence budget and been accused of an accounting ‘sleight of hand’ by including war pensions and other areas of spending in the 2% target. An independent review of the Government’s figures suggested that without the questionable inclusion of these areas of spending the UK would not meet its NATO target.

Nia Griffith has said she is considering plans to ensure that at least 2% of GDP is spent on security and defence capabilities, by not counting money spent on pensions as contributing toward the target.

Tom welcomed the move:

This proposal shows the Labour won’t short change our armed forces or cut corners on Britain’s security.

The Government has approached meeting the 2% NATO spending target as an accountancy problem, rather than a necessary part of ensuring our country is kept safe.

Nia’s proposal would help servicemen and women get the support they deserve. Labour’s policy would make defence spending about our nation’s security again, rather than financial manoeuvres.

Tom Blenkinsop MP takes final steps to sign up to the Army Reserve

Labour Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland is set to join the Army Reserve as part of the Royal Military Police Reserves.

Tom Blenkinsop MP is undergoing the final assessment stage before he signs up for phase one basic training, which he will take alongside his parliamentary duties.

Tom said:

“I’m looking forward to going to Glencorse barracks in Scotland to start my formal Army assessment for the Army Reserve.

“Passing these tests will allow me to start training with the 243 Provost Company, Northern Detachment, 1 Regiment Royal Military Police, I can’t wait to start.

“My family has a strong tradition of military service, my father was a Royal Navy veteran, my grandfather was a British Army veteran and my brother has just joined the Royal Navy Reserve. Military service is a family tradition that I am proud to continue.

“This has been great motivation to keep fit, Frankie and Nick from Redcar Amateur Boxing Club have been putting me through paces for months in anticipation for my Army fitness tests, I’m sure that this hard work will pay off.”

The Army Reserve is the largest of the Reserve Forces, and supports the Regular Army at home and overseas, Army Reserve Soldiers come from all walks of life and work part-time as soldiers for the British Army alongside full-time Regular soldiers.