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BLOG: Concerns about Hasland Hall Community School

BLOG: Concerns about Hasland Hall Community School

There has been considerable concern recently following the news that staff at Hasland Hall School had gone on strike in protest at behaviour and disciplinary standards at the school.

I was already pursuing and responding to complaints from parents and staff concerning the school’s approach to Special Needs education and behaviour.

I am a strong believer that every single school day is important to our children’s education and want to resolve these issues to ensure there are no further strikes and to ensure that the evidence base around any issues is as wide ranging as possible.

I also want to ensure that everyone interested in the future of the school and with knowledge of matters there gets an opportunity to have their voice heard.

I have been attempting to meet with the school in recent days and have now been able to secure an urgent meeting with the Headteacher, Miss Ruth Moore, and Ms Kathryn Boulton, Service Director for Schools and Learning at Derbyshire County Council, that I will be attending on Friday 19th July.

The main issues that have been raised to me as concerns by staff and parents are:

• Discipline
• Class Disruption
• Bullying
• Governance
• Record keeping and transparency
• Over reliance on supply teachers
• Violence & aggression towards staff
• Lack of support for children with Special Educational Needs

I am keen to make progress on these issues as quickly as possible so that hopefully many of these issues can be addressed before the start of the new academic year.

I am collecting evidence, both positive and negative, about the school so that we can identify what is and isn’t working well and provide support to the school and the County Council to make the necessary improvements.

To this end, I have booked a room in the Hasland Methodist Church for a series of confidential meetings with anyone that would like to discuss their recent experiences of Hasland Hall School.
If any parents, staff or governors would like to speak to me, they should call my office on 01246 386 286 to arrange an appointment.

The special appointment-based surgery will be at Hasland Methodist Church on Friday 19th July from 11am to 2pm. If you are unable to make it on Friday, I will be arranging further appointments at a later date.

You can also email your views and comments to me at toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk

 

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Toby visited a IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

BLOG: My visit to Kurdistan

As the constituency Member of Parliament for Chesterfield, my primary daily responsibility will always be to represent Chesterfield.

Toby visited a IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

Toby visited an IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp

Alongside this, the 650 MPs also have an opportunity to discuss and influence policy around both specialist areas of knowledge or around Britain’s global role in the world.

There are a great deal of Parliamentary delegations coming into and out of the UK from other countries and these not only further relationships between nations (something that will never be more crucial in the post- Brexit age) but also allow for learning from other cultures and parliaments.

Understanding more about global issues also enables MPs to influence and scrutinise Foreign Office policies and responses to developing situations.

One such opportunity recently presented itself when I was asked to join a cross party Parliamentary delegation to meet the recently elected government of the Kurdistan region in Iraq.

Kurdistan is a devolved region in the North of Iraq who have great warmth towards Britain both despite, and because of, the great hardship that they have suffered over many decades.

The Kurds are the world’s largest diaspora not to have a country of their own, and there are around 30 million Kurds split between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. The Iraqi Kurds were brutally oppressed by Saddam Hussain whose genocides killed tens of thousands and used chemical weapons against them following an uprising after the first Gulf war.

Foreign Office advice is still against all travel to Iraq, but I was assured in advance that the Kurdistan region is very safe and it was clear both in Government circles and out in the wider community that there is a great deal of affection for Britain in the region. Iraqi Kurds describe the 2003 Gulf War as ‘the liberation’ and whilst the oppression of the Kurds and Shia Muslims by Saddam has been replaced by unsatisfactory replacement Iraqi Governments, they clearly believe that their future prospects are brighter than their past.

It was a visit of contrasts. In meetings with the Foreign Office Minister, the Governor of two different Kurdish regions, the Speaker and their respective Chambers of Commerce, the possibilities and hunger for British investment in the region was palpable. They were at pains to assure us that there were huge opportunities for British services and products as well as investment in industries other than the Oil industry that has been their staple for years.

For example, there is no such thing as car insurance there (which hasn’t seemed to reduce the risk appetite of local drivers!). There is also a historic distrust of banking and financial services meaning that there is basically no lending or mortgages. Major US Hoteliers have got in there and there are lavish ‘International’ 5 star hotels but their tourism industry has huge further potential.

But alongside these great opportunities we also visited an IDP (Internally Displaced Peoples) camp and met with Yazidi and Sunni refugees who have fled for their lives and live in utter squalor. We met families who have lived for FIVE YEARS in a single breeze blocked room with a canvass sheet over their heads in 40 degree heat. Despite their deprivation they told us that at least they are safe there and would rather be there than at home where they face further attacks. Many of the Yazidi families were lacking their matriarch as many of the women were stolen by ISIS and taken to be ‘wives’ of the conquering soldiers.

The Sunnis (previously favoured by Saddam) are now mistreated by Shia militia with the Iraqi Government unable or unwilling to protect them. These people do not have refugee status in International eyes because they are still within their own country, and the Kurds, who have a historic knowledge of what it is like to flee persecution are largely carrying the burden of attempting to house, clothe and feed tens of thousands of these people alone. There were around 8,000 people at the single camp we visited.

These visits bring home the reality of life and the complexity of some of these global situations that receive a five-minute slot on our news. They need more than charity and despite what you might often hear, they welcome the involvement of the UK and the West. They clearly trust our institutions more than their own.

As citizens of the world we should never complacently believe we have all the answers to complex situations overseas, but nor does that mean that we should offer nothing more than occasional guilt relieving charity either.

My visit to Kurdistan will live forever in my memory and I hope that I can encourage the UK Government and companies to consider anew what more we can do for this beautiful region with huge potential as well as challenges.

Toby with Steve Reed MP and other members of the Parliamentary Delegation meeting with officials in Kurdistan

Toby with Steve Reed MP and other members of the Parliamentary Delegation meeting with officials in Kurdistan

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Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

BLOG: ‘Both carrot and stick are needed to tackle rising antisocial behaviour amongst young people’

Feeling safe and happy in our homes and communities is essential to us leading happy lives. Antisocial behaviour, even less serious kinds such as noise nuisance or graffiti, can have a massive impact on people’s daily lives and make them feel unsafe. But when it spills over into vandalism and violence it is time for the authorities to step in.

There are of course people of all ages that are involved in antisocial behaviour (ASB), but I have recently been aware of a renewed antisocial behaviour problem

In response, I recently held a meeting with police, business owners and council officers to discuss bad behaviour, intimidation and vandalism from groups of young people in the Inkersall area of Chesterfield.

The police are increasing their patrols in the area, but there are limits on what actions they can take. The previous Labour Government introduced Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), which despite some silly press around them becoming a ‘badge of honour’ in some communities were actually a pretty effective tool to prevent individuals from acting in ways that whilst not unlawful in their own right ruined the quiet enjoyment of their neighbours.

The Tory Government abolished them, and there is a widespread view that the replacement powers brought in are less effective. Nonetheless, there is a role for more robust policing alongside measures like improved lighting and CCTV.

Alongside preventative and policing measures there is also a responsibility for the authorities to provide diversionary activities to engage young people in more constructive ways.

Our young people need somewhere to go, something positive to do and people to speak to. Local youth clubs, run by trained and experienced youth workers, used to provide the safe, supportive

spaces that young people needed. The cuts to local government over the last 9 years have effectively wiped out youth services, and I have no doubt that this has led to an increase in ASB in our communities. According to YMCA research, funding for youth services in England fell by £737m (62%) between 2010 and 2018, with over 600 youth centres closing and 3,500 youth workers losing their jobs. These cuts may have created short term savings, but they are having a long-term impact on our communities.

Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

Toby Perkins following his meeting with local Police in Inkersall

I want to see the bad behaviour stopped so that people can feel safe, but I recognise that criminalising young people is not always the answer. The Labour Party believes that new legislation is needed to place a duty on every local authority across England to provide a minimum level of support for young people and to establish a local youth service partnership with young people, parents, professionals and councillors, to ensure local needs are being met. This will require additional public funds from Government, but will improve our communities, increase the opportunities for young people and reduce the pressure placed on police.

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BLOG: New law is needed to protect businesses from extortion

The siting of impromptu Gypsy and Traveller camps in Chesterfield are always a controversial issue and there is always a significant public outcry when a camp appears in our town.

Much of this is based on people’s experiences of the huge clean up required afterwards and the impact it can have on the owners of the land.

We have seen temporary encampments appearing on public and private land, at Queen’s Park, Holmebrook Valley Country Park, Millenium Way business park and numerous other sites. This has often cost the Borough Council and local businesses thousands of pounds in legal fees to evict them, and then hundreds of pounds more in clearing up the sites once they have left.

There is also a growing problem of Travellers setting up unauthorised encampments on business premises and then demanding cash to leave the site. This happened to a local business in Dunston recently and the advice they received from the Police was that often paying for the travellers to leave is cheaper than taking legal action.

This is simply extortion and so I am proposing a new bill in Parliament which I introduced on 22nd May to make it a specific offence to demand money to leave land that you are occupying illegally.

The ‘Unauthorised Encampments’ bill had its second reading in Parliament and although there is not time for it to be brought into law in this parliament, I hope that it will be the start of a debate about how the balance between a recognition of traveller lifestyle can be done in a way that doesn’t impinge upon the lawful business activities of our businesses.

Adjusting legislation to protect landowners and businesses will re-balance the law more evenly to prevent these extortionist practices.

There needs to be accommodation for Gypsy and Traveller communities in a way that can win the confidence of local communities, but ensuring that action is taken against criminal elements is a part of building that public confidence.

The Traveller community does face discrimination and mistrust and there is always opposition to any proposed traveller sites, achieving a better balance could lead to there being less hostility in future whilst preventing businesses or communities from feeling powerless and as though the law is against them.

It is one thing to acknowledge that travellers will need somewhere to be, it is quite another for them to use their presence as a negotiating and money making tool.

However, whilst it is important not to generalise, there are historic problems linked to traveller sites that makes communities uneasy about having a site in their area. And, though there is a duty on all of us to not discriminate and prejudge travellers, there is also a duty on the travelling community to adhere to the law and be respectful towards the communities they move in to.

The best approach we can take is to create permanent Gypsy and Traveller pitches in every area so that there are always places for Travellers to set up camp. This will hopefully reduce the number of illegal encampments whilst also encouraging Travellers to feel like they are an equal part of the community. But we also need tougher legislation to protect the rights of businesses and local authorities and to prevent criminal behaviour.

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BLOG: Delivering on Brexit- my approach

The issue of Brexit is undeniably the most divisive that I have been involved in during my political career. Sadly, this highly nuanced set of questions is being boiled down into simplistic slogans that the two sides chant at each other with increasing intransigence on both sides.

Throughout the process, I have had 3 simple rules which have helped me to attempt to navigate the many choices that we as MPs have faced. My very first consideration is always what is in the interests of Chesterfield and my country.

Secondly, which decision will be consistent with the approach that I laid out in advance of the 2017 General Election and the manifesto that I stood on.

And thirdly, in practical terms which options will help Parliament to move things forward and allow the UK to deliver on the Brexit referendum in a way that is compatible with minimising any negative economic consequences of leaving the EU.

On the first question of the ‘national interest’, I do think that whatever the economic and social benefits of Remaining, which I unsuccessfully argued for during the Referendum, the cost to confidence in our democratic institutions of not seriously attempting to implement the verdict of the British people could be very serious indeed.

I agree with those who say that having offered the Referendum, it is Parliament’s job to deliver on the promises made, so whilst some have sought to overturn the result from the outset, I voted to trigger Article 50 and stood on a manifesto which said that Labour would respect the result, and that Britain would leave the EU whilst maintaining a customs union, but ending freedom of movement. My commitment to the democratic process means I will support this in spite of ultimately believing that the benefits of Brexit will prove to have been over-promised and will weaken our economy.

Acepting that we are leaving the EU, does not answer the question of what will our future relationship look like- the position the Labour party articulated at the election largely mirrored a speech that I had made in parliament and was featured on my election leaflets in the 2017 General Election.

But it wasn’t just me who recognised that choosing to leave was only the start of complicated considerations about how the decision would be invoked- the Vote Leave campaign said during the Referendum campaign that : ”Taking back control is a careful change, not a sudden step. We will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave.”

So if Vote Leave understood that leaving without confirming our future relationship was imperative before the vote, why is this entirely reasonable and sensible approach now being decried as treacherous and undemocratic by those very same voices who once called for it? And as there is widespread evidence that leaving without a deal would have immediate and serious economic consequences, I reject the idea that because it would also be damaging for the EU, it would be likely to bully them into giving us a better deal. I think it is far more likely that it would be the British negotiating position that would be weakened by what is clearly an act of self harm.

But it is true that the EU need a relationship with us, just as we need one with them. There are no winners from a No Deal Brexit, which is why they have been willing to negotiate a unique deal with us, it is Britain that has rejected continued membership of the customs union, not the EU.

So, I make no apology for being steadfast in my view that Britain must remain in a customs arrangement with the EU and the negotiations have left us to either remain in the customs union or leave and lose the freedom to trade tariff free. Theresa May’s deal attempts to retain many of the benefits on a short term basis but ultimately accepts leaving it in 2 years. This is useless as it leaves many of the key questions unanswered and will simply act as a two year window for manufacturing companies to make plans to make goods elsewhere.

Critics of the customs union point out that we will still have the EU negotiating trade policy that we will have no say in. They are right, but leaving the customs union would mean a hard border in Ireland, which breaks the Good Friday Agreement and threatens the future of the union and would make Britain a very unattractive place to manufacture goods for export.

My strong sense is that control of immigration whilst still being able to trade was key to Leave voters in Chesterfield. And when faced with this balance between sovereignty and economy, I am firmly on the side of staying in the Customs union.

On immigration, though I believe that Britain has predominantly benefited from immigration economically and culturally, it is very hard to see how an outcome that left UK immigration policy unchanged could be seen as delivering on the Referendum, and so democratically, I felt unable to support the amendment that would have seen us remain in the single market, known as Common Market 2.0.

I also rejected the amendment that would have seen Article 50 revoked in the event of No Deal being agreed. At this stage, it would be seen as very bad faith to be supporting an amendment to call Brexit off before we have even exhausted the ways in which it can be delivered. The fact that it was presented by people who had made it clear that they wanted the UK to overturn the verdict of the referendum in the first place, made it all the less attractive.

However, if Parliament cannot resolve a Brexit deal, it may be that there will be no choice but to put the Prime Minister’s vote to the British people. I know that opinions are sharply divided about this, but it may be the only way to end the logjam, and would at least allow a debate about the specific terms on which we leave which was impossible last time, because the vote took place before those terms were known.

If we were to leave with control of immigration restored and a future trading arrangement secured, I don’t see that there would be a need for a 2nd referendum- that is the Brexit my constituents voted for, I believe.

But, I am clear that to leave without any future arrangements organised would not only fly in the face of what Vote Leave promised but leave us very vulnerable and with the Government facing the choice of imposing huge tariffs on EU imports to be paid by consumers of food and goods (ie all of us) or no tariffs, which would mean UK farmers and manufacturers at a huge disadvantage on the global stage. Either way, it is clear that UK firms would be paying exactly the same tariffs as every other non EU nation without a trade deal.

This would be hugely damaging for us and them, but put simply, as we would have this impediment to our relationship with 27 nations and they would have it for one, the impact on us would be much greater.

So, the approach I take will continue to be consistent with that which I have always espoused and on which I was re-elected in 2017. Backing Britain to make a success of Brexit whilst ensuring that we take a careful approach to the biggest economic change we have attempted since the 2nd world war.

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220px-Toby_Perkins

BLOG: Time for the Prime Minister to reach out to all MPs to stop a disastrous No Deal Brexit

Brexit is by far the biggest and most divisive single issue to have arisen in British Politics in my political lifetime. 

I am often reminded by voters that ‘the people voted out’ and indeed, in Chesterfield around 60% of voters backed Leave, I accept that the Referendum vote can’t be ignored. 

When I stood for re-election in the 2017 ’snap’ election, I was clear about what a vote for me meant. I would respect the Referendum result but I would hold the Government to deliver on the promises Leave voters were made during that referendum.  

In simple terms that means continued trade with European nations, control of immigration and the ability to attract world class talent.  

It was always going to be the case that the final EU deal would leave many dissatisfied, but these are the key tests that I think would be a fair delivery of the Brexit vote. Labour’s proposed deal would do just that, with permanent membership of the Customs Union, but control of immigration restored.  

And whilst a no-deal Brexit might open opportunities to sign Free Trade deals with other countries these would leave us with a huge immediate deficit if it came at the cost of our current EU free trade deal, and each of those new trade deals would likely come with their own pitfalls. No US trade deal would be completed until US Healthcare giants could get their claws on to our NHS for sure. 

Since the General Election, the issue of Northern Ireland and achieving a Brexit deal that is compliant with the UK’s commitments in the Good Friday Agreement has also moved to centre stage. Membership of the Customs Union would at least alleviate the trade concerns. 

I have had huge numbers of letters on Brexit from all shades of opinion. But I worry that we are moving further away from consensus.  

I think if Labour’s Brexit deal is supported there will be no need for a second referendum. Labour’s deal is not so far removed from what most Leave voters expected nor would it push us towards the catastrophe of WTO Terms 

However, Jeremy Corbyn this week suggested that if we fail to convince Parliament of the need to support a deal in line with the one I have outlined, that he would support the Prime Minister’s deal being put to the British people for ratification. 

also declined to vote to extend Article 50 as sometimes deadlines are helpful in focusing minds, and reaching an agreement. I hope that the Prime Minister will allow Parliament to vote on Labour’s deal but if that and all other options fall we may be forced to delay leaving the EU, which I know would be a huge frustration to many.  

However, I also reject the second most regular suggestion- that a Leave vote meant moving to WTO terms on trade with EuropeMany Leave campaigners promised during the Referendum campaign that trade would be unaffected and the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal would include huge tariffs on all imported food averaging at 22%. Even worse, tariffs on dairy products for example are 35%. We import over 30% of all the beef, pork and lamb we consume and 39% of all fruit.  

I am aware that many people have simply switched off from the whole issue and just want it over. They want politicians to work together, but firstly there needs to be agreement on what the ultimate objective should be. I believe there is a majority in the House of Commons for delivering on the Brexit vote without the damage of leaving without a deal, I hope the Prime Minister reaches out to those members across the house who will approve a deal of this sort.  

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Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

BLOG: Why we need to reclassify synthetic cannabinoids as Class A drugs

Just over four years ago, I led a Westminster Hall debate on government policy on legal highs following a number of problems in our town centre. I worked with a number of organisations and with MPs across the House and legal highs were eventually banned completely in Early 2016.  I led a campaign with local shopkeepers against the Reefer shop on Knifesmithgate, which was accused of selling legal highs and was seen as a focal point for much of the trouble in town which contributed towards that closing. There was an immediate improvement and this part of the town became a less intimidating space for visitors.

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Toby and Ruth George MP recently met with Derbyshire PCC, Hardyal Dhindsa, to discuss the campaign to tackle synthetic cannabinoids

Unfortunately, over the couple of years, we have seen a growing problem with the drugs ‘Spice’ and ‘Mamba’. Spice and Mamba are known as ‘synthetic cannabinoid’ substances that are supposed to mimic the effects of cannabis. Spice has been dubbed the “zombie drug” due to the debilitating effect it has on people. If you have been unfortunate enough to witness someone on Spice, it can be very alarming as they do look like they have just stepped out of an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’. Users will often be seen in a slumped, semi-conscious state often with their bodies posed in alarming and contorted shapes and their behaviour can be very unpredictable.

The short term effects of Spice are known and can include paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations, kidney problems and breathing difficulties. The long term effects simply aren’t known yet but could lead to significant mental and physical health problems. This is not just an issue of crime and antisocial behaviour, but a public health issue that has serious implications for the individual users, and a knock-on effect for families, communities and emergency services. We have seen a six-fold increase in the past year in the number of ambulance call-outs to people who are on synthetic cannabinoids. The East Midlands Ambulance Service is already under a great deal of pressure and I have been contacted by several people who have had to wait several hours for an ambulance following serious accidents. This added pressure due to Spice users is the last thing needed by our ambulance service and over-stretched A&E department.

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

Toby speaking at the Westminster Hall debate on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids

And this is the crux of why people feel so passionately about this issue – Spice, and similar substances, are having a massive impact on users and people right across Chesterfield. Users quickly become psychologically (not chemically) dependent on Spice and seeking out the drug becomes the sole purpose in their life. These people are victims and vulnerable people, with many of them being rough sleepers or having mental health issues, but their actions impact on a huge number of other people. Many people are frightened to go into the centre of our towns because of the impact of Spice users and the alarming state that people get themselves into on these drugs.

Over the last few years we have seen a growing homeless community in Chesterfield, with Spice becoming the main drug of choice amongst this group. Spice is very cheap compared to other drugs and, partly due to the low cost and its Class B status, very easy to get hold of. I recently met with Sian Jones, manager of homelessness prevention charity Pathways, who told me that many users do not realise just how dangerous and potent the drug is when they first start using, and they become dependent on the drug before they realise the damage it is doing.

Spice users are having a big impact on our town centre businesses and retailers. Retailers trying to run their businesses in tough times have contacted me, saying they have people under the influence of these drugs in contorted positions in their shop doorways, forcing customers away and impacting on sales.

Hardyal Dhindsa, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, together with our hard working local police, have put a huge amount of effort into trying to clamp down on these drugs.

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Toby on a visit to New Beetwell Street Bus Station with the Derbyshire PCC and local councillors to discuss the homeless situation in Chesterfield

Hardyal introduced Operation Chesnee, which led to 70 arrests and a spate of convictions. At least 40 people have now been charged, and convictions are ongoing. Derbyshire police have put significant resource into cracking down on Spice and Mamba, but while they are class B drugs, there is a limit to the resources they can put in and the returns they can get. Hardyal also chairs regular town centre summits, which are attended by police, probation, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council, substance misuse services and local businesses, to discuss how we can work together to address the issues affecting our town centre. Public Space Protection Orders are already in place and being used to combat Spice users in town and the police and drug support services are working closely together to ensure people are being offered the help they need.

Now I have responded to the call from Hardyal and other Police chiefs to get these substances re-classified as class A drugs and spoke in a recent Parliamentary debate to that effect.

I am not seeking to criminalise the users of these drugs, many of whom need help and support for a variety of issues, but the reclassification will help the police to target the dealers higher up the supply chain who are making a lot of money and who are  responsible for the devastating impact these drugs are having on users and communities. Reclassification will mean tougher sentences for dealing, which will hopefully disincentivise people from selling the drug.

Reclassification will not be a silver bullet in resolving this new threat to our communities and we will need the Government to provide more resources for policing, increase the provision of drug treatment services and tackle the growing homelessness crisis which is leaving so many people in a vulnerable state where the use of drugs is the only way of coping with life on the street, but it can play a part.

You can watch my speech on this issue from last week’s Westminster Hall debate the on Reclassification of Synthetic Cannabinoids at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgL1XD5-FIs

Regular 'Town Centre Summits' are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield Town Centre

Regular ‘Town Centre Summits’ are held to discuss the issues affecting Chesterfield’s town centre 

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The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

BLOG: Toby Perkins MP shares his thoughts as Chesterfield commemorates the Centenary of the end of the Great War

This year sees the centenary of the end of the Great War and has renewed our focus on the sacrifice that was made by so many millions of men then, and which are still made today by those that serve in our Armed Forces. Remembrance Sunday in Chesterfield has grown over the last few years, with an increase in events and a real feeling of the town coming together to honour those who have given their life for their country.

The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

The handmade poppies cascade at Chesterfield Town Hall

There are numerous important documentaries and articles regarding the Great War and it is important that, as the events pass from living memory, we never forget the catastrophic conflict the world went through and hopefully ensure it never happens again. The War cost the lives of 10 million soldiers worldwide, including 886,000 British military personnel, and almost 7 million civilians. And whilst we remember those who served, on this centenary the Royal British Legion is asking us to thank the entire First World War generation, commemorating not just those who fought and died on the battlefield but all of those who played their part on the home front and those that returned to build a better future for generations to come.

It is also important that whilst we recognise the contribution that has been made in the past, we also support today’s generation of Servicemen and women. The Armed Forces are not in the news as much lately as there are no major conflicts that we are currently engaged in, but our personnel are still in service across the world, spending months away from their families and maintaining a level of preparedness and professionalism to ensure they are always ready to step into action in our defence.

As an MP, and as Chair of Labour Friends of the Forces, it is my duty to ensure that the interests of the defence community are at the very top of Parliament’s priorities and to ensure that our Armed Forces’ personnel and veterans are getting the recognition that they deserve.

Toby in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit Kenya

Toby in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit

This is the main reason that I signed up to Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which I proudly ‘graduated’ from last month. I and several colleagues volunteered to spend a minimum of 15 days in a year witnessing our Armed Forces in action. The scheme is designed to increase the knowledge base of MPs about Service life and give serving soldiers, sailors and Airmen the opportunity to question MPs too. Over the last couple of years I have spent time in Kenya with the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK) taking part in battle ready exercises and seeing what it is like setting up camp out in the field. I also spent time with the Navy, sailing to Amsterdam on a Type 23 frigate, HMS Sutherland and on our new destroyers, as well as witnessing the new Aircraft Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Though these trips could never replicate a long term life in the Forces, it did give me a good idea of the conditions our Armed Forces have to live in, how they feel about their roles and learning about why people join and leave our Armed Forces.

In Chesterfield, I am always proud of the effort, pride and community spirit on Remembrance Sunday. You may have already seen the cascade of poppies adorning the town hall and other public buildings, presenting a powerful public reminder of this important occasion and put together through the hard work of many volunteers and contributors from across the borough.

Toby at the Graduation ceremony for the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme

Toby at the Graduation ceremony for the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme

There will be numerous events in Chesterfield over the next few days to mark the Centenary and I hope that you will be able to join me at one. I will be speaking at the Festival of Remembrance at the Winding Wheel on 8th November at 7pm, I will be joining the Staveley Annual Remembrance Day Parade and Service on Sunday 11th November at 10am, before joining the Borough Council’s ‘Service of Remembrance’ at 2.30pm when I will lay a wreath at the War Memorial on Rose Hill.

I hope that whilst we stop and take time to remember the fallen from the Great War, that we also think about our servicemen and women who are serving today and I resolve to always fight their corner in Parliament.

Toby has taken part in battle ready exercises as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme

Toby has taken part in battle ready exercises as part of the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme

 

 

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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