The death last Thursday of my friend and colleague Harry Harpham casts a shadow over my week in Parliament. I worked with Harry for many years - long before either of us were in Parliament. His strongly held values and personal integrity shone through in everything he did. Building on his huge experience serving Sheffield as a leading Councillor, in eight short months he had established himself as a great advocate for the city in Parliament. I’ll miss him enormously.
Harry would have been at the centre of our campaign to challenge Government plans to close Sheffield’s Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Office and move 247 civil service jobs to London. I’ve challenged the Prime Minister to publish the reasons why they’ve taken a decision that will cost jobs, undermine Sheffield’s economy and make policymaking more London-centric. On Wednesday I’ll be grilling the Secretary of State for BIS Sajid Javid about the closure at a Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (of which I’m a member) meeting. I’ll be doing all that I can in Parliament, but it’s important to keep up public pressure too – so please sign the petition here.
Before that, today I’ve a meeting of the new Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy, focusing on how both the BIS and Education Departments can work together to promote education and skills – at which we’re launching our inquiry into careers advice, information and guidance. Later in the week I’ll be supporting an event about the ‘Fix Dementia Care’ campaign, which is investigating the experiences of people affected by dementia in hospitals, and speaking in a debate on compensation for Equitable Life policy-holders who lost huge amounts of their pension savings when the company came to the brink of collapse in 2000.
Back home in Sheffield on Friday, I’ll be speaking at a conference organised by the ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education and at a day of debate and action planning for the voluntary and community sector in Sheffield. Then I’ve meetings with PACT, a fundraising charity for the Children’s Hospital, the Tournament Director of the Youdan Trophy, an international football tournament for the youth teams of professional clubs, and the Estates Director of the University of Sheffield. Then in the evening I’m speaking at an event about whether a fair, free and equal society is really possible – a question which goes to the heart of my politics. On Saturday, I’m chairing a conference on economic policy organised by Sheffield Central Labour Party - with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Deputy Director of SPERI Craig Berry and ‘Spirit Level’ author Kate Pickett.
If you’ve seen my website over the last week you might have noticed some changes. I’ve re-launched it so that it’s more informative, interactive and accessible. I’ve also tried to include contact forms on many of my pages, so I can read your views and concerns. Do take a look and let me know what you think.