Kate Green publishes a weekly blog at www.kategreen.org
Here’s her latest update
This was the week in parliament when the cracks between the Tories and the LibDems really began to show. Tory gloating following last week’s truly terrible election results for the LibDems has blown apart the love-in between the two parties. Clegg might be trying to reassert his party’s independence, claiming he’s halting the NHS changes and will be standing up to Cameron in future, but it rings pretty hollow. I wouldn’t now like to guess whether the coalition government will go the full 5 years.
Labour MPs – myself included – have been taking advantage to cause as much upset as possible between the two parties. When David Willets produced his outrageous plans for rich students to buy their way into university, Labour MPs wanted to know what the “fair access” adviser LibDem Simon Hughes thought of the idea. I went into the chamber to ask Willets why he was wasting time and energy on projects for the privileged when the AimHigher programme, which has helped dozens of students from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for university in Trafford, will run out of funding in October this year.
The LibDems were all over the place on the welfare reform bill this week too. Jenny Willott, LibDem MP for Cardiff Central, proposed an amendment to the government plans to cut disability benefits. But when Labour MPs on the committee demanded a vote, amazingly she voted against her own amendment! The LibDems really need to work out whose side they’re on.
Disability’s been a big issue in Westminster this week . On Wednesday, together with other MPs on the work and pensions select committee, I listened to evidence about the future of Remploy, which provides supported and sheltered employment for disabled people. This is a very difficult and sensitive issue: many disabled people would prefer to work in the mainstream labour market, but there are still around 3,000 workers in Remploy sheltered factories and they’re very worried about the future as the organisation has just announced hundreds of redundancies. With jobs so hard to come by, I don’t think this is the time to be reducing employment support for the most profoundly disabled people – the government’s announced an independent review of Remploy, due to report this summer, and I can’t understand why the redundancies have been announced before the findings from that review are available .
Wednesday also saw more than 5,000 disabled people, their friends, families and supporters join a demonstration outside parliament to protest about the government’s cuts. I was sorry that the cost of the fares meant it wasn’t possible for Trafford campaigners to attend, but the demonstration was a powerful indication of disabled people’s anger and concern at the government’s actions, and this is an issue I certainly intend to keep working on. I raised a number of issues in relation to support for disabled children in the welfare reform bill committee this week.
And Wednesday was an exciting day for me for another reason – a night out on the town with the “class of 2010”. It’s just a year since we were all first elected to parliament, and we thought we ought to celebrate – we can’t believe how quickly the year has gone! It has been a privilege to serve as your MP in my first 12 months in parliament, and I very much look forward to continuing to speak out for you in the year ahead.