Happy New Year everyone.
Many of you will be wondering what the New Year holds as the crisis around the Brexit negotiations continues.
The flow of emails I have received on the issue has soared and in the last few weeks more than 600 have arrived.
It will come as no surprise that people have expressed many different views about the way forward. The people of Stockport voted to remain in the EU by 53.2 per cent to 46.8 per cent in the 2016 referendum.
I also conducted a postal survey of 4,500 people in those areas where a high number of people voted to leave in 2016.
What is striking is that, of those who responded, 71 per cent now feel ‘the people’ should have the final say on the Brexit deal and 72 per cent said that remaining in the EU should be an option.
I have detected a definite sign of a change of heart amongst people who voted leave but who now say they would like the opportunity to vote again. Of those who voted leave in 2016, 13 per cent said they would now vote remain, with many saying they felt misled or misinformed in the EU referendum.
The young in Stockport are much more pro Europe than older people with 83 per cent of 25-49 year olds saying there should be another vote and an option to remain in the EU against 50 per cent for those aged 64 plus.
I know that the fundamental issue of sovereignty and what it means to be British, which featured so heavily in the 1975 and 2016 referendums on Europe, will not be finally resolved by a ‘people’s vote’.
But we are where we are now and we need practical solutions. The Brexit deal the Prime Minister has negotiated will not be voted on until January 17 and without major changes from the EU, is unlikely to win support from MPs. Also there appears to be no majority support for any other option.
And yet time is running out. We leave the EU on March 29 at 11 pm and we need to make a decision.
My view, reinforced by the survey of constituents, is that we should have another public vote.
This time people would be voting on proper detailed options for the way forward with the full knowledge of what is actually on the table – the Prime Minister’s compromise deal, another deal, no deal or remaining in the EU.
If we do not get support for a People’s Vote then I can assure you that I will support the option that is the least damaging to the economic and social fabric of Stockport and the nation.
It is alarming that the numbers of young people aged 16 to 24 in Stockport seeking homelessness support from Stockport Council leapt from 200 in 2016/17 to 373 in 2017/8 according to Centrepoint.
One of the main reasons given by young people for being in such a desperate position was because parents or relatives were no longer willing or able to look after them.
This is a trend nationally and throughout Britain in the last year more than 100,000 young people presented as homeless as they struggled to find a safe place to sleep and a permanent place to call home.
I am particularly worried about 16 to 17 year olds facing homelessness.
Children and young people need our protection and we need to think of more ways of preventing them from becoming homeless in the first place.
We need longer term good quality supported accommodation for young people who are not yet adults to give them a stable home base.
Too many young people are in poor hostel accommodation. Half of missing incidents are of 16/17 year olds from unregulated accommodation They are very vulnerable to grooming for sex or by criminals who exploit and coerce children and young people to undertake criminal activities, including running drugs in ‘County Lines’ operations.
We also need more projects like the Nightstop Network who help homeless young people find a safe place to stay, one night at a time. This is an invaluable service because it means that a young person will not spend that night on the streets, a bleak prospect, with the risk that that will turn into days and weeks.
Nobody should end their childhood on the streets.
Juries may need to be scrapped in rape trials because of the dominance of ‘rape myths’ in society and the shockingly low charging and conviction rates.
Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, will call in Parliament today for an urgent independent inquiry into the crisis engulfing the criminal justice system’s approach to rape cases.
This would include an examination into why the numbers of rapes charged by the Crown Prosecution Service has plummeted at the same time as reporting rates have soared and why there are such low conviction rates, especially for date and acquaintanceship rape.
Crucially Ms Coffey also wants a wide ranging inquiry to examine if juries are the best way to deliver justice in rape cases.
Greater Manchester has the fourth lowest conviction rate for rape amongst the twenty largest police forces – only Surrey, Cheshire and Northumbria have lower rates.