Hilary with President Biden at the Speaker’s Friends of Ireland Lunch on Capitol Hill
Hilary with President Biden at the Speaker’s Friends of Ireland Lunch on Capitol Hill

Visit to Washington DC for St Patrick’s Day

I was in Washington DC recently for the St Patrick’s Day events. This included attending the British Embassy breakfast reception, the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, meetings at the State Department including with the NI Trade Envoy Joe Kennedy III and a reception at the White House. Now that the institutions have been restored in Northern Ireland, the First Minister and deputy First Minister were much in demand because people wanted to hear about the new government’s plans.

The Budget

The Chancellor’s Budget lifted the lid on 14 years of Tory economic failure. Taxes are still rising, prices are still going up in the shops and mortgages are higher. Jeremy Hunt’s promise to get rid of National Insurance would mean £46 billion of unfunded tax cuts and a gaping black hole in the public finances. How do you work out entitlement to an old age pension if National Insurance has been done away with? The facts to remember are:

  • Households will be £870 worse off under Sunak’s tax plan on average, giving 5p for every 10p being taken
  • This is the worst parliament for living standards on record
  • Growth in GDP per capita is negative this year and has been downgraded in four years of the forecast period
  • The Conservatives have wrecked the public finances


Hilary opening the new Vickers Oils plant just off Pontefract Lane
Hilary opening the new Vickers Oils plant just off Pontefract Lane


Better Buses Beckon

Mayor Tracy Brabin has decided to bring buses under local control. This will be the biggest change to the way buses are run in Leeds for 40 years. We all know that buses have been run in the interests of private companies, but now we have the chance to change this. Services will now rest in the hands of local people and all money made from fares will go back into supporting services. The Mayor will set the routes, the fares and the standards on West Yorkshire’s buses. It will take a little time for the new system to get up and running because there’s a lot of bureaucracy to go through, but the plan is that the first franchised bus services will be up and running in parts of Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield from March 2027 – and everywhere else by early 2028. I’ve long said that if control of the buses is good enough for London, then it’s good enough for Leeds. And now thanks to Labour we’re finally going to see it happen.

The state of the voluntary sector in Leeds

The latest State of the Third Sector in Leeds report covers the extent, scale and diversity of the voluntary sector of Leeds. The sector continues to play a vital role in our city’s communities, but it is under great strain because of lack of funding. Between 2020 and 2022, the sector has experienced a:

  • 10% drop in the number of registered (charitable) organisations
  • 25% drop in the number of volunteers reported to the charity commission; and a
  • 34% drop in the paid workforce.

This is very worrying.

Meeting representatives of the Leeds voluntary sector
Meeting representatives of the Leeds voluntary sector

The Need for an Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza Now

The crisis in Gaza continues to get worse, with now the risk of starvation. Labour continues to call for the fighting to stop; ie for an immediate ceasefire to allow for the release of hostages and prisoners and enable more humanitarian supplies to reach the Palestinians trapped there, followed by a political process towards a two-state solution. All eyes are now on the resumed ceasefire talks in Qatar.

Political and Parliamentary Activity

  • Visit to Washington and met President Biden
  • Met with Liberty to discuss the Legacy Act
  • Met campaigners for Integrated Education in Northern Ireland
  • Met the Northern Ireland Commissioner Designate for Victims of Crime
  • Attended Shadow Cabinet
  • Meeting with delegations of MPs from Finland and Kosovo
  • BBC Radio Good Morning Ulster
  • Appeared on BBC’s Any Questions in Hexham
  • Meeting with the Pat Finucane Centre
  • Nordic Ambassadors Breakfast
  • Meeting with the NI Independent Reporting Commission
  • Talked to students from Notre Dame 6th Form College and St Anthony’s RC Primary School, Beeston in Westminster

Local Activity

  • Visited Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School to talk to citizenship students
  • Visited the Ruth Gorse Academy Careers Fair
  • Visited St Vincent’s on York Road
  • Met Steve Hoey of Turning Lives Around
  • Spoke to the CWU North East Region meeting
  • Regular column for South Leeds Life
  • Advice Surgeries
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