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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Parliamentary Report for Co-operative Conference

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

As Chair of the Co-operative Group in Parliament Meg gave the following speech to the Annual Conference of the Co-operative Party in Bradford recently.


As a Yorkshire Lass I’d like to add my welcome to ‘God’s own county’. I realise that being in West Yorkshire is not quite as good as being in Sheffield but I’m sure we’ll struggle on somehow!


My town, Sheffield, like Bradford, is in a process of transforming itself. New buildings, low unemployment, even the amount of traffic on the roads, illustrate a prosperity that is spreading. There is optimism about the economy and confident planning for the future. Yes there are problems, there will always be problems. The difference between now and the late 1980s/early 1990s is that our Government listens and wants to help overcome them.


For many of us outside the South-East of England the re-election of Labour in May is important - not just because it was a Labour third election victory for the 1st time, though that’s worth celebrating - its because we know we keep a Government that does think the regions and nations of the UK are worth investing in. Investing money, investing effort, and investing for a future for our young people.


Compare and contrast this the Thatcher days. No let’s not go there! Lets just enjoy the current Conservative party - Leaderless, directionless and not sure to whether to go for old dinosaurs like Ken Clarke, Eton educated new kids on the block like David Cameron or the current favourite, David Davis. Given time the Tories will be back but we’ll have to wait to find out under what guise they will reappear.


As for the Lib Dems, not so much a political party more a franchise. They rode the easy opposition path at the last election, had an easy time of it from the media - but at some time their collection of policies, a bit left here, a little radical right there, will begin to cause them trouble. Not least when some of their own members find out what the Parliamentary party are promoting.


Let us turn to brighter things - the third term in government. We have to build on our successes - The New Deal, support for pensioners, improved childcare, improving school standards and low unemployment to name a few. We in the Co-operative Party have a real opportunity to help determine future direction in some crucial areas - by further developing the leads we are giving on public services and international development.


It has been a privilege to be Chair of the Co-operative Group in Parliament over the past year. I would like to pay particular tribute to our two Co-op MPs who lost their seats at the last election, Tony McWalter and Jon Owen Jones. Our democratic system is about winners and losers, but it’s sad when those making a contribution are voted out. However I am able to welcome four new members who bring different skills and abilities to the Group. Meg Hillier, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Ed Balls and Linda Riordan - I’m also pleased that Lord Foulkes, Lord Moonie, and Lord Turner have remained members of the Group following their, is it elevation or demotion from the Commons to the Lords.


The Co-operative Group in Parliament is in a strong position to promote the party’s ideas and concerns within Government. Numerically we now have 29 MPs, one down from the last Parliament, but with an overall Government majority of 65 this is significant. Our party’s work on the three private members bills in the last Parliament was taken seriously by Government, particularly the work on Gareth Thomas’s Bill. And there is no doubt that our support for Foundation Hospitals as a means of promoting mutual enterprises strengthened our hand.


We also have another Private Members Bill on Climate Change, which is being piloted through Parliament by Mark Lazarowicz (Yes him again!). Most MPs can wait a lifetime to be drawn so high in the Private Members Bill ballot and he has managed it twice in four years. I hope Mark plays the lottery because his luck is obviously in. I hope he is equally lucky in getting you all out of bed tomorrow morning for the briefing on the Bill. I invite all Co-operative Party members to join in getting this piece of legislation passed - details about how you can get involved are on the Party’s new website.


We have a clear Parliamentary Strategy, which is to work to deliver as many of our Manifesto commitments as possible in Parliament. The Parliamentary Group will continue to broaden and deepen the understanding about co-operative and mutual solutions to some of the problems of the world. Crucially, the Strategy has recognised the work that can be done not just in Westminster but in Scotland and Wales as well. To coin a phrase - ‘a joined up approach’, one that will allow us to expand our reach in policy terms.


I want to thank the staff of the Co-operative Party for all their hard work during the past year. A General Election brings an increase in work for them as constituencies and candidates gear up for the electoral fight.


Following the election I was invited to become Minister for Women and Equality, based at the Department for Trade & Industry. The main issues I’m dealing with range from the introduction of Civil Partnerships, which begin in December, introducing the Equality Bill in the Commons this autumn, and dealing with the Report from the Women’s Work Commission about the gender pay gap.


I also have responsibility for the women and enterprise sector with Alan Michael, as Gareth said. Since July I have been involved with the working groups on ‘engaging with Muslim communities’. It keeps me busy!


The Co-operative Party and movement has a long tradition but I feel we dwell on it to much. Yes, I can remember my Moms divi number - but that will not entice anyone to vote for us, give our co-operative and mutual ideas the time of day. Building on what has gone before; we can increase our influence over events by being positive about our ideas, promoting solutions for today’s world. We have policies that can make a difference, let’s use them and let’s get people enthused about politics again.


Thank you.

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