My weekly roundup from the European Parliament, the UK and beyond.
Last week my work in the European Parliament had a big focus on digital technology. It was Girls in ICT Day, an awareness raising campaign aimed at empowering more women in technology so as to remove the gender imbalance found in ICT. You can read my Huffington Post article here and watch my speech in the Parliament here.
I also attended two meetings with the European Internet Forum, one on ICT and climate change, and the other on children's safety online. Hosted by my colleague Clare Moody MEP, I also attended the annual report launch of the Internet Watch Foundation, an important UK charity which works with the internet industry, police and Government to protect children and young people from online sexual abuse by taking down illegal content and identifying abusers. The IWF receives funding from the EU and works closely with sister organisations in other Member States to share knowledge and information in order to tackle this borderless crime. It would be devastating for at-risk children and young people if the UK left the EU as close partnership-working between Member States' Safer Children's Centres, such as IWF, has resulted in the rescue of many children and the prosecution of abusers. One of the IWF analysts who monitors and traces sources of online sexual abuse described his work and how he and the other analysts support each other in what is an often harrowing task. As a co-founder of the European Parliament's Child Rights Intergroup I always seek to advocate for the best interests of children and young people. In this respect I was pleased to give a speech on protecting children across borders in the plenary session.
Child safety remained high on the agenda all week as I attended an enquiry of the House of Lords to give evidence on unaccompanied minors. More than 10,000 refugee children have gone missing in the past two years and governments across the EU need to immediately act. As I have been to refugee camps in Northern France and Germany several times and met many unaccompanied children, I am heartbroken at the severe lack of compassion shown by the UK Government so far. However, thanks to pressure from Labour MPs and MEPs, Cameron has now changed his mind and will allow entry for unaccompanied child refugees. You can continue to give your support by keeping in touch with the Refugee Taskforce established by Labour and chaired by Yvette Cooper MP, and following updates on my website.
Later in the week, I co-hosted a meeting with young women from diverse backgrounds with my inspirational Italian socialist colleague, Cecile Kyenge MEP. We talked about the challenges facing women in the political sphere and discussed how to get more women, especially women from ethnic minority backgrounds, into politics. Labour's all-women shortlists and zipped lists for Euro candidates have certainly helped; 11/20 Labour MEPs are women but this gender rebalancing of power needs to be pushed across all political parties at all levels. In that respect my work on Gender Mainstreaming has been significant as it tackled the structure and procedures of the European institutions themselves.
Last week I also attended an event hosted by Glenis Wilmott MEP highlighting the aerospace industry, which is a recipient of massive EU investment funds for research and development, and a key employer in the North West. If the UK voted to come out of the EU, it would put thousands of high quality jobs in jeopardy as well as decimate the local supply chains which are predominately small businesses.
Back in the UK, I attended the Blackpool and Fylde Young Labour launch, then a coffee morning Q&A on the EU in Lytham St Anne's which also raised money for Women's Aid, and then a wonderful home-cooked lunch at the unique Art Deco Cafe in Sydney Park, Blackpool, where I met local councillors who are working hard to regenerate their town and put Blackpool back on the map. The afternoon was spent meeting staff from the arts, education, culture and entertainment sector which enabled me to learn about the excellent transformational work of Left Coast, go behind the scenes at the Grundy Art Gallery and take a peek at the historic Matcham's circus arena and the stunning ballroom housed inside the tower. But no trip to Blackpool is complete without a trip up the tower to view the Comedy Carpet through the glass floor. Did you know that this iconic North West attraction has been helped by EU funding? In fact without millions of pounds of EU investment Blackpool would not be the up and coming town it is today and would most certainly in fact be flooded as the sea wall itself was constructed as part of crucial ERDF funding.
On Saturday morning I took a quick tram-ride to Bury to visit the town's Art Museum to support the local hospice at the annual Bury Art Festival. Later I joined trade unionists and activists for Manchester's May Day anti-austerity rally where I had the opportunity to talk to many people including Migrants Supporting Migrants and the Workers Educational Association about the crucial support of European Social Fund for lifelong learning.
Despite the poor weather I was out on the doorstep on Sunday, talking to constituents in Haslingden, Rossendale, ahead of this Thursday's local elections. All credit to local Labour candidate and mum of 3, Lisa Bloor, who is a great champion for working women!
On Bank Holiday Monday I returned to Burnley for the International Workers' day rally in Burnley and shared a podium with Jeremy Corbyn, local Labour MP Julie Cooper and Labour Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner, Clive Grunshaw who is seeking re-election. It was very moving to see so much strong grassroots support for Jeremy Corbyn who has given hope to thousands of people with his anti-austerity politics. My IWD speech can be found here.
I would like to conclude this week's post by saying how relieved I am that justice has finally been served for the families of the Hillsborough disaster. I hope the families can finally find solace in the fact that the truth has been incontrovertibly established.