Summer recess is now upon us and I am pleased to have my first Parliamentary term under my belt. The final week at Westminster was dominated by the new Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which will bring yet further cuts to the Welfare Budget as the UK Government continues to forge ahead with its austerity agenda.
The latest reforms will see changes to tax credits which will hit almost 350,000 children as their families become worse off as a result. Our 56-strong group of SNP MPs passionately spoke out against the proposed cuts in the Bill, which effectively amount to an attack on the working poor, at every opportunity only to find our Labour colleagues abstaining in the vote.
Once the champion of the working man, sadly the Labour Party has well and truly moved away from its roots and I am proud to be part of a SNP Group which is providing the only effective opposition to this ruthless Tory Government.
In the run up to recess, I was delighted to attend the ADS Parliamentary Reception which brought together 70 apprentices from 22 of Britain’s leading aerospace, defence, security and space companies. In all, the ADS industries employ 9,000 apprenticeships across the UK, providing them with highly-skilled engineering training, which can lead to extremely rewarding careers.
I was especially impressed by the number of young women among the new generation of trainees, all looking to take advantage of the anticipated growth in the industry over coming years.
The aerospace sector in particular plays a vital role in the economy of Central Ayrshire and I welcome every opportunity to engage with the companies based in my constituency. It was particularly pleasing to meet David Jackson, a young man who has now completed his apprenticeship with UTC in Prestwick and been taken on in a permanent post.
Philippa with David Jackson from UTC Aerospace, Prestwick
I also had the opportunity to meet a number of apprentices on a recent visit to GSK Irvine. The antibiotic manufacturing site has a well-established apprenticeship programme, employing 10 apprentices each year across a range of disciplines.
The plant has been in the Irvine community for over 40 years and is another major employer in my constituency, employing over 400 staff as well as a similar number of contractors, and I welcome the investment which is currently underway at the site which will enable the plant to expand to meet the growing demand coming from the emerging markets.
The Irvine site is the largest energy consumer in the GSK manufacturing network and it was extremely interesting to see at first-hand the sheer size and scale of the operation, and the amount of power and energy this requires. Simultaneously, it was also really encouraging to hear how the management are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint and about their ambitions to become a carbon neutral factory. Their sustainability strategy, which includes a series of energy efficiency projects and investing in wind turbines and a biogas plant to provide all the power for their private waste water treatment plant, is certainly impressive.
Philippa on her recent visit to GSK Irvine
It’s great to see such positive work being undertaken locally and, after a short break to recharge the batteries, I plan to be back out and about in the constituency before heading back to London at the beginning of September. I am particularly looking forward to joining the celebrations for the annual Marymass Festival later this month, my first as the local MP. With such a long tradition, it’s great to see how the celebration has developed into a major multi-event community festival with so much for both the towns folk and visitors to see and do. Hopefully, the weather will be kind and a great time will be had by all.