In her column the Barnsley Chronicle on 26th April, Stephanie wrote about the need to address climate change and the damage it could do our lives, and how a green industrial revolution driven by people in Barnsley could be the way to do so. You can read her full comments here.
As reported by the Barnsley News and Sport and the Barnsley Chronicle on 26th April, Stephanie will meet with Government officials to continue the push to increase the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving following the tragic death of Jacqueline Wileman. In September last year, a HGV was stolen and driven around Barnsley and crashed into a property in Brierley, but not before tragically hitting and killing Barnsley resident Jacqueline Wileman. The four men responsible were convicted of death by dangerous driving amongst other charges and existing criminal convictions. Each received between 10 and 13 years in prison, but will likely serve fewer. In an exchange in the House of Commons, Stephanie (pictured) questioned Ministry of Justice Minister Rory Stewart on the issue. She challenged the Minister on the ‘devastating failure’ of the Government’s privatised probation system that saw three of the four men convicted of Jacqueline Wileman’s death commit the crime whilst released on probation. Following this, she asked the Minister to meet with her to discuss the case and what they can do to prevent similar incidents – including scrapping the 14-year maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving. Responding for the Government, Minister Stewart paid tribute to the local MP for her campaigning on the case and accepted that the maximum sentence should be increased to life. He further agreed to meet the MP to discuss changing this law. Said Stephanie: “The death of Jacqueline Wileman was a tragic incident that struck at the very heart of our community and devastated many. “In the face of lenient prison sentences handed down to those responsible, Jackie’s family have bravely campaigned to make sure nobody else must go through what they have. “After bringing this campaign to Parliament, I’m delighted the Government have accepted the need to increase the sentence and I will look to meet them urgently and make sure that is the case.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport on 24th April, Stephanie has signed and supported a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer which calls for a formal review of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme. The current arrangement sees the Government acting as guarantor for mineworker pension pay-outs, with surpluses made by the scheme split evenly between its members and the Treasury. Since the agreement was struck in 1994, the Government has taken around £4.4bn from the scheme without paying in a single penny of their own. This includes £617m this year alone, with another £427m planned over the next three years. Stephanie recently held a parliamentary debate on the issue, pressing Government business ministers in the House of Commons to review the 50:50 surplus sharing arrangement, and now she has joined a number of other Labour MPs in signing a letter to the Chancellor, asking the Treasury to do the same. In the letter, the signatories stated: “The strong returns generated by the scheme combined with the absence of direct payments from the Government make the continued withdrawal of a 50% share for the current arrangement difficult to justify. “We call on the Government both to include a stronger level of protection for members’ bonuses as part of the guarantee and to consider taking a reduced share of the surplus to allow a greater proportion to be returned to mineworkers. “To this end, we would request that HM Treasury undertake a formal review of the surplus sharing arrangements, the case for reform and means of enhancing existing bonuses along with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.” Said Stephanie: “I’ve long voiced my opposition to the current surplus sharing arrangement in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme that has seen the Government pocket billions without paying in a penny of their own. “Miners here in Barnsley, who spent years working hard for security in later life should not be forced to get by on a pittance as this Government continues to take money from the scheme. “I’ll continue fighting to get a fairer deal for miners and a greater share of the funds from their pension pot.”
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 18th April, Stephanie is continuing her campaign to remove the maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving following the death of her constituent Jaqueline Wileman. Read more below.
As reported in The Guardian, The Mirror and the by the BBC on 14th April, Ministers have admitted to Stephanie that less one in six new schools have sprinklers installed, flying in the face of official policy and revealing a significant recent decline. Written answers to Parliamentary Questions from the Labour MP, a former teacher, reveal that of 673 schools built by the Department under the Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP) and free schools programme by February 2019, sprinklers are fitted in just 105 of these schools, less than 1 in 6. The government’s flagship free schools are far less likely to be protected, with under 4% or less than 1 in 25 free schools benefiting from sprinkler systems. The figures have dramatically worsened since the Labour government set higher fire safety standards in 2007, and even since the first phase of the PSPB, which saw around 30% of schools fitted. This comes despite official figures showing there have been over 7,000 fires at educational establishments including schools in the last decade, with hundreds of injuries and repair or rebuilding costs vastly exceeding those of fitting sprinklers in the first place. Government guidance states that “All new schools should have fire sprinklers installed except in a few low risk schools.” In 2016, Tory Ministers had attempted to to remove this requirement, but were forced to back down following a furious backlash from trade unions, fire chiefs and the Labour Opposition. Following recent Labour calls to strengthen standards further, the Department for Education has recently agreed to consult on the regulations. The Selsey Academy school in Sussex, which did not have a sprinkler system and was destroyed in a fire, has just been rebuilt without sprinklers as an apparent cost-saving measure. Commenting on the answers to her questions, Stephanie Peacock MP said: “It beggars belief that we even have to debate having the highest standards of fire safety in schools but clearly that is yet another victim of this government’s obsession with austerity. The ridiculous thing is that we spend far more rebuilding and repairing schools after fires than we would have paid to install sprinklers in the first place, making this an utterly false economy. “These figures raise just one more question mark over the Tories’ free schools, which once again are falling short of the previous school building programmes they replaced. Not only are the numbers in stark decline from those under Labour, they are getting worse by the year as the Tories strip back standards and cut back investment.” “There have been thousands of fires at our schools in the last decade and it is frankly absurd that the Government won’t stump up the cash to keep them safe.”
In her column the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie wrote about the importance of grassroots sport participation and funding, in both encouraging people to stay active and succeed at an elite level. You can read her full comments here.
As reported in the Yorkshire Post, the Guardian, the Independent, the Law Gazette, and RightsInfo, Stephanie held a Westminster Hall debate this week on providing automatic legal aid to families during inquests. The following is from the Yorkshire Post: A Yorkshire MP has urged the Government not to “turn a blind eye to the suffering of some of the most vulnerable in our justice system” as she called for bereaved families to be given an automatic right to legal aid to pay for representation at inquests. Barnsley MP Stephanie Peacock led a Westminster Hall debate where she said such a move would cost as little as £5m and would be “invaluable to suffering families who need answers”. She said: “A huge injustice sits at the very heart of our justice system. On the one hand, state bodies and representatives are equipped with access to unlimited funds and resources - the best experts and the best legal teams. “On the other hand, vulnerable families in the midst of grief are forced to navigate a complex and alien application process that is provided with the bare minimum of support - indeed, most people will not even receive that.” The Labour MP added: "The process is far too complex, and those who apply for legal aid are forced to run up huge legal bills on their own, represent themselves in court or rely on the generosity of strangers to help raise the required funds. "Often, people have to tackle complex legal processes that involve multiple interested persons and agencies. Among a host of other complicated legal matters, people must address issues such as access to and release of a body, post mortems, communication with investigation teams, securing evidence and criminal investigations. "Most people do not have the legal knowledge to do those things, and many do not have the resources to help. I ask the Minister: is that fair? "We are talking about the death of a child in a mental health setting—a death as a result of neglectful state services, or the self-inflicted death of a prisoner. "The families of those lost feel a deep sense of pain. This debate is about deaths in state detention and custody, or where there is a clear public interest element to finding out the truth - for example, the Grenfell tragedy, the disaster at Hillsborough, or the recent case of Molly Russell who tragically took her own life in part, her parents believe, because of distressing material related to depression and suicide that she was able easily to access on social media platforms."
As reported in the Barnsley Gazette, Barnsley Chronicle and Barnsley News and Sport on 8th April, Stephanie recently visited the Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre as part of the FA’s ‘Football Footprint’ campaign.The campaign aims to celebrate and showcase investment in grassroots football here in Barnsley and right across England, including investment in three new grass pitches and one new artificial pitch at the Dorothy Hyman Centre.During her visit, Stephanie was shown the new pitches, and was presented with the FA’s Grassroots Champion award.Commenting, Stephanie said:“As a keen football player for the Parliamentary Women’s Football Club, I understand how important investment in grassroots football is.“So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Dorothy Hyman Sports Centre and see the work that goes into the local game in my constituency.“It was great to meet fantastic staff, volunteers and players, and I was honoured to be presented with the FA’s Grassroots Champion award as part of the ‘Football Footprint’ campaign.”
As reported in the Barnsley News and Sport and Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie recently visited Parkside Care Home and Valley Park Care Centre in Wombwell.Stephanie was given a tour of the homes and heard about the work they’re doing, as well as chatting to staff and residents.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It’s so important that we support the fantastic work local care homes and carers do in the incredibly difficult circumstances they currently face in the social care sector.“So it was great to visit Parkside Care Home and Valley Park Care Centre in Wombwell.“I was struck by the compassion and dedication of the staff at the homes, and really enjoyed chatting to residents about their experiences."
As reported in the Barnsley Chronicle on 12th April, Stephanie recently visited High View Primary Learning Centre.During her visit, Stephanie chatted to Year 6 students about the House of Commons and her role as an MP.Stephanie then took part in a Q&A with students and had a walk round the school.Commenting, Stephanie said:“It’s always great to see young people here in Barnsley interested in politics and what it entails.“So it was a real pleasure to visit High View Primary – I really enjoyed chatting to Year 6 about the House of Commons and my role as their local Member of Parliament.”