My week started yesterday as I travelled up to Scotland in preparation for a Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee Inquiry on Scottish Independence. Today in Glasgow and tomorrow in Edinburgh we’ve five evidence sessions in which we’re questioning 17 witnesses on the potential impact of independence on business, higher education, research and the postal service – all the areas covered by our Committee that are potentially affected. I’ll be heading back to London on Tuesday afternoon in time for a meeting of the All-Party Universities Group, of which I’m Secretary, on A-level reform. Then I’m catching up with the Vice-Chancellors of our two universities who are in Westminster to catch up with South Yorkshire MPs.
Wednesday’s a big day, as it will be the First Reading for my Private Members Bill. But it’s only the formal start of the process; with the Bill being presented to the House of Commons without debate. I was really fortunate to have come second in the ballot for a Private Members Bill, which guarantees me time to bring forward legislation. It’s a special opportunity that many MPs never have, so I thought long and hard about the topic for my Bill. I wanted to do something that was rooted in my values and that would make a real difference in Sheffield. So I’ve decided to put forward legislation to regulate payday lenders.
Payday money lenders are making millions from extortionate loans to some of the most vulnerable in Sheffield and across the country. In hard times, it’s no wonder that people who are struggling will turn to them for help. But the massive interest rates, rip-off charges and misleading advertising of payday lenders are often just pushing people further into debt. My ‘High Cost Credit Bill’ will seek to control advertising of high cost credit products, to ensure clearer information is provided to borrowers on the cost of loans and will include new measures to ensure that loans are affordable by introducing lending limits and capping excessive charges. It will also protect borrowers having problems with repayment by requiring lenders to refer them to free independent debt advice, freeze charges and ensure that proper repayment plans are put in place. I’m pleased to have secured cross-party support for the Bill which will be fully debated at Second Reading on 12 July.
Back in Sheffield on Friday I’m speaking before the showing of a powerful new documentary film at the Showroom about Motor Neurone Disease, ‘I Am Breathing‘. I’m Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group on MND and pleased to support the South Yorkshire Branch of the MND Association to mark Global Awareness Day for MND. Then I’m off to Sheffield College to meet the newly-elected Executive Committee of the Students’ Union and discuss the issues facing their students. Later, I’ll be meeting Professor Cathy Nutbrown, author of the Nutbrown Review on qualifications for early years and childcare staff, and then with the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union over the relocation of Department of Work and Pensions IT jobs away from Sheffield.
On Saturday morning I’ll be speaking at the Annual Meeting of my Constituency Labour Party, where we’ll be joined by Lord Maurice Glasman and my Parliamentary colleague Stella Creasy. In the afternoon, I’ll be supporting the Broomhill Festival – opening a discussion on the question “Can Politicians Create a Fair Society?“. It’s at 2.30pm at the Beacon Methodist Church and everyone’s welcome to come along and join in!