Changes in education funding will hit poorest students

Cat Smith, MP  for Lancaster and Fleetwood
Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood

Perhaps the most high profile thing I did the other week was my debut appearance on BBC Question Time, but as well as that I’ve also been very busy working hard for you.

I’ve had meetings with Lancashire College principals including David Wood ,from Lancaster and Morecambe College, which serves our area well in further education. We discussed a wide range of issues from apprenticeships to A Levels and the upcoming area review process.

I defended university maintenance grants for the poorest students. I’m alarmed that the Government, after no consultation, attempted to push through the abolition of student grants through a little known about committee rather than as a full vote of all MPs. Labour tabled a motion to annul the statutory instrument in which these changes are contained, in the hope we could halt the Tories’ pernicious and ill-considered plans, but we were defeated. Scrapping grants will now affect the ambitions and choices of lower income households.

In Westminster I met representatives from Motor Neurone Disease Association and other disability charities and discussed the effects of the government’s welfare and work bill on MND sufferers. MND is incurable, progressive and terminal, often very quickly, but the benefits freeze proposed will push sick people into poverty. We’ve also seen junior doctors walk out on strike for the first time in 40 years, representing a failure of government to negotiate with our hardworking NHS staff. No one wants to see a strike, least of all junior doctors - but they feel the government has left them with no alternative. I’ve supported local doctors and have urged government to get back around the negotiating table.

As the only Methodist MP, it fell to me to host the annual Methodist Covenant Service which gave the opportunity for Methodists who work in Parliament to reaffirm their faith in the context of their work.

It was poignant that this fell around the same time that reports that religious identity in the UK is falling with fewer people identifying as being religious.