Andrew Smith MP

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On June 23rd the British people have the choice on whether to stay in the European Union. Andrew has been a supporter of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, and he is backing the Labour IN campaign to support Britain’s continued membership.

Andrew says:  “I voted for a referendum on the European Union in 2011, and I think it’s right that the people have a say on such an important issue for our country’s future.

The EU is not perfect, but history shows how important it is to maintain peace, co-operation and friendship in Europe.  If we were to leave, there would not only be economic uncertainty, but if we wanted to keep the benefits of the single market we would end up accepting EU regulations with no say in how they are made.  We would lose our excellent local MEP Anneliese Dodds as our elected voice in Europe, along with the important work she has done for international co-operation to make big, multinational companies pay their fair share of taxes in the way that small businesses have to.

In Oxford, thousands of jobs depend on trade with Europe. The success of the BMW plant in Cowley shows how important the single market is; but in such a market you need common action for workers’ rights such as minimum paid leave, paid maternity and paternity leave, equal pay, anti-discrimination laws, and protection for the workforce when companies change ownership.

You also need joint action to safeguard the environment. Pollution does not respect national frontiers. Furthermore, Oxfordshire also benefits massively from EU support for scientific research in which we are a world leader. Oxford University alone received over £60 million in EU grants in 2014/15.

In a heated campaign like this, a lot of overblown claims get made.  People I have talked with on the doorstep want accurate information on things like the importance of EU membership for jobs, workers’ rights, and our quality of life, so they can make a careful and considered judgement.  I believe that is what they will do. I also think people realise just how important it is that they use their vote for their own and Oxford’s future, where it is clear we  achieve more working together, enjoying the strengths and diversity of the European Union, than we would standing alone.  That is at the heart of Labour’s case for a vote to remain."

“We achieve more together than we would alone” says Andrew, backing the Labour IN campaign

On June 23rd the British people have the choice on whether to stay in the European Union. Andrew has been a supporter of a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, and he...

Andrew Smith MP met with guide dog owners in the Houses of Parliament to hear about their experiences of being turned away by businesses.

Over 100 guide dog owners had traveled to Westminster from across the country to talk to their MPs about the discrimination they face in their daily lives.

The MP for Oxford East gave support to the charity Guide Dogs’ “Access All Areas” campaign to ensure guide dog owners can carry out everyday activities such as travel by taxi or go to the local shops, without the risk of being turned away.

According to law, guide dog owners are allowed the same access to shops, restaurants and taxis as everyone else. Yet, all too often, guide dog owners are told that their dog is not welcome and not allowed in. In fact, three out of every four guide dog owners has been turned away from a taxi, business or service because of their dog.

Mr Smith is supporting Guide Dogs’ call for disability equality training, and for offenders to be properly punished under the law when they illegally discriminate against guide dog owners.

Andrew said: “It’s shocking to learn of people with guide dogs being turned away or refused services. It’s an important priority both to raise awareness of their legal rights, and to make sure the law is enforced.”

James White, Senior Advocacy Manager for Guide Dogs, said “Guide dog owners rely on their dogs to feel confident and supported. Being turned away by a business leaves people feeling angry, upset and embarrassed. It can rob people of their independence and can leave them unable to do everyday activities.”

“Despite the law being clear on this issue, guide dog owners are still experiencing this form of discrimination every day and this needs to change.”

Andrew calls for an end to discrimination against guide dog owners

Andrew Smith MP met with guide dog owners in the Houses of Parliament to hear about their experiences of being turned away by businesses.

Andrew has today signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, urging the Government to create a strong, ambitious plan to boost cycling and walking in England.  

The Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) is the perfect chance to make cycling and walking a normal part of everyday life and the natural choice for shorter journeys by 2040 - which is the existing ambition for Government.

The letter comes as the public consultation closes on the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy and urges Government to make the necessary changes to ensure the final Strategy can achieve the Government’s aim when it is published in the summer. It is particularly important that  the strategy is successful when cycling levels across most of England outside of London have been relatively static for some time and when we are seeing a long-term decrease in walking rates.

Increasing cycling and walking will help tackle congestion and produce savings for the economy and the NHS through reducing air pollution in cities and increasing levels of physical activity which improves physical and mental health. Cities and towns also become more vibrant through increasing retail footfall, creating stronger communities and decreasing absenteeism through increasing the health of the workforce. It is also possible to enable cycling and walking at comparatively low cost compared to other forms of transport infrastructure making it great value for money.  

The letter, which has been signed by a cross-party group of MPs and Peers, explains that a successful CWIS must include:

 1.      A pathway towards achieving the Government’s ambition for cycling and walking in England. Including identifying the necessary milestones for 2020, 2025 and 2040.  More ambitious targets will also be needed both for increasing cycling and walking, and for improving their safety, across England by 2025.

2.      A plan to at least meet clear targets for both cycling and walking and other outcomes. This should set out the measures proposed, together with the evidence that these are sufficient to deliver the strategy’s targets and milestones.

3.      A package of committed Government investment and other potential funding to deliver the Strategy. This should show the sums allocated by national Government to deliver the Strategy over the current parliamentary term, together with additional funding opportunities from local and non-government sources, and the means by which these will be secured.

4.      A framework for assessing performance with Key Performance Indicators and requirements. This should enable greater transparency, accountability and engagement of the Government and sub-national bodies and local authorities, given their important role in delivery.

5.      Independent governance that challenges and supports the preparation and delivery of current and future Strategies, in particular through monitoring and assessing performance.

Andrew urges Government to sieze chance to create strong and ambitious plan for cycling and walking

Andrew has today signed a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, urging the Government to create a strong, ambitious plan to boost cycling and...

Andrew secured a debate this morning in Westminster Hall to draw attention to the dedication of student volunteers and to to mark national student volunteering week, which was last week. You can watch a recording of the debate using the link below:

"As last week was the 15th year of national student volunteering week, I wanted to take the opportunity in this debate to celebrate student volunteering, to thank the many student volunteers in my constituency and to support action by universities and government to build on the enormous contribution which student volunteering makes. I thank both the Student Hubs Network Development Director Francis Wright and the Public Affairs Officer at NUS Alexander Lee for their very helpful briefings for this debate.

I have to say that the value of student volunteering doesn’t often get the credit and attention it deserves. I suppose that’s because good news is never as newsworthy as bad news. So you can bet that any problems wayward student behaviour causes will get a lot more attention than thousands of hours of voluntary commitment by students helping to make our communities better places.

In Oxford, our local community benefits from hundreds of dedicated student volunteers from Oxford and Oxford Brookes universities who give time every week to help meet a wide range of local needs.

The local Student Hub currently supports over 30 student-led volunteering projects working in Oxford to the benefit of local residents.

There are 281 Schools Plus volunteers tutoring in 12 local primary and secondary schools across some 26 projects, helping pupil achievement in areas ranging from literacy to music and GCSE Science.

In many cases of course the student volunteers are only a few years older than those they are helping, and it is a particularly powerful mentoring effect when student volunteers themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds can help raise the aspirations and attainment of pupils in poorer communities.

Another project, Branch Up, does that by running activity days for children referred by social services, supporting 30 young people, many of whom come from Oxford’s more deprived areas, through projects tackling educational and extracurricular disadvantage.

Intergenerational support features too through LinkAges, a student-led project that connects students with older people to tackle social isolation, with a particular strong relationship with Isis House, a care in Florence Park, where around 20 volunteers help to run activity sessions and away days. A number of LinkAges befrienders also support older people living alone.

East Oxford Community Centre is home to Project SOUP, a student-led initiative which runs micro-fundraising dinners for community projects by selling soup and bread that would have otherwise gone to waste. So far, over £1800 as been raised for local projects.

I have for a number of years been in touch with KEEN – kids enjoy exercise now – where students from Oxford Brookes and Oxford University – put on games for children and young people with special needs, providing real enjoyment for all participants and welcome respite for parents knowing that their children are socialising and having fun with others of a similar age. I was privileged to present the medals at the KEEN Olympics sports day last summer, and to see so much joy on the faces of all those taking part was really heart-warming.

That brings home an absolutely crucial aspect of student volunteering. There is a huge three-way benefit. Yes those being helped benefit from the activities the students are organising. The students themselves benefit enormously from the experience, in ways which will help their personal development and often their careers - and the local community and society gains from the social value and and benefits of the voluntary activity.

Let me also praise students’ voluntary political involvement too. I go out nearly every Sunday morning calling round the constituency,talking with residents, taking up their concerns and listening to their views on politics and much else. Along with other local activists and councillors, in term time we are always joined by students from Oxford University Labour Club or the Brookes Labour Society. Getting up relatively early on a Sunday morning to help with community representation is not a stereotypical student activity, but the thousands of hours those student volunteers have put in has enriched our politics locally, and I am sure the same is true of student volunteers for other political parties, those working on important campaigns like the forthcoming referendum, and the enormous amount of work which goes into campaigning on issues like equal rights, the environment and homelessness. Students care, and so many channel that caring into purposeful action, which makes a difference.

Now the experience of student volunteering we are fortunate to benefit from in Oxford is replicated in various ways through every university and college. Across the country there is many a food bank, many a faith group community initiative, many a charity which would founder without their student volunteers. As the NUS briefing for this debate points out, for the volunteering week last week alone over 16,000 students got involved in more than 500 events across 125 colleges and universities. More than 600,000 students will be involved in student societies, clubs and volunteering projects this year.

This student contribution is a huge win-win resource for our society, and it merits support at every opportunity. Student hubs provide invaluable facilities and networking. It must be more than 10 years ago now that I had those who came up with the student hub idea, another Oxford first, sitting in my advice surgery explaining the difference this could make in facilitating and expanding student volunteering, and how right they were. This is a success story, one which commands support across the political spectrum. It’s important that everything possible is done to sustain and build on this support. I’m timing my remarks to allow my Hon Friend for Sheffield Central to speak on points coming out of the All Party Group on Student Volunteering, but there are some points I would like to highlight to the Minister and others.

One is just what a resource student volunteering is for the role of universities and colleges in our communities. Every bit of investment they can make in helping to provide student hubs, and supporting funding and sponsorship for student volunteering reflects well on the role of higher education in the wider community as well as benefiting students’ education. It shouldn’t be seen as an add-on, but a core part of universities’ mission. The training and support which is available for those supervising student societies, volunteering and student projects is very much part of that.

It’s important that the government does all it can to support this, for example through the Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills making clear to universities that investing in the provision of high quality social action opportunities for their students is expected.

Noting that within 4 years 35 percent of university applicants will be National Citizen Service graduates, we need to look at how NCS can help build bridges to the universities that have invested in community volunteering, for example by showcasing the best examples to graduates thinking of applying to university.

We need to create in the UK a culture where community service is valued, as it is much more in the US, as an indicator of future leadership and taken into account in evaluating applications to university.

We also need to ensure, through universities’ and student hubs’ support for student volunteering that the benefits of its experience do not disproportionately fall to those who are better off at university because their time is less constrained by the need to do part-time work.

Student volunteering does so much for our society. Thanks to all the students and those helping them who make that possible. Let’s do all we can together to make it an even greater success in the future. Everybody benefits."

Andrew praises student volunteers

Andrew secured a debate this morning in Westminster Hall to draw attention to the dedication of student volunteers and to to mark national student volunteering week, which was last week. You...

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