Gordon Birtwistle’s Westminster Week - January 18th 2013

LAST week in Parliament was a busy, varied and interesting week. On Monday I took part in two important debates.

The first was a debate about the amount of women sitting on the boards of companies. The Government is dedicated to increasing the number of women running companies and sitting on boards. Unfortunately women are still under-represented at the top level of companies and some industries such as the financial sector are particularly male-dominated. There seem to be a number of factors which contribute to the lack of women at the top; family pressures account massively but there is also a lot of misogyny and chauvinism in many workplaces which we must strive to wipe out. The Lib-Dems have worked hard in government to introduce more flexible working and shared parental leave which will hopefully go some way to redressing the balance.

Later on Monday evening I spoke in a Back Bench Business Committee debate on corporate tax avoidance. I had petitioned the committee with Ian Swales MP for the debate to be allowed. Ian was fantastic, as he has more than 30 years’ experience of heading up companies and is a former accountant. He really knows his stuff on this issue and his speech was great. I spoke on the effect that corporate tax avoidance has on developing countries. If we closed the tax loopholes in the UK and took responsibility for multi-nationals based in the UK by ensuring that Britain’s tax rules make it harder, not easier, for them to dodge taxes in developing countries then we could help developing nations to build a good tax system which would stop them relying so much on aid. It’s a no-brainer really!

Many constituents have contacted me over the last few years with their concerns about local pubs losing out to big brewing companies and the amount of pub closures. Despite this being a problem for some time now Labour did nothing on the matter for 13 years. But last week the Government committed itself to introducing a strengthened, statutory code and an independent adjudicator to govern the relationship between pub companies and licensees, as the BIS Select Committee recommended. The adjudicator will have tough powers to hold pub companies to account if they breach the code and the measure will make a significant difference for publicans, the pub industry and community pubs over the country.

Last week I also got to visit lots of factories, this is one of my favourite parts of being an MP and I really enjoy speaking to local employers and shop floor workers about the machinery they are using, the orders they have and the processes they use. On Thursday I accompanied Business Secretary Vince Cable to BAE Systems in Warton. I visited the site recently with the Apprentices APPG but I will never tire of that Typhoon production line! This time there happened to be a pilot at the facility to test fly one of the recently-built fighter jets. I was lucky enough to be able to have a look inside the cockpit of the finished plane and ask the pilot a lot of questions about flying such a machine – and what a machine it is!

On Friday I visited a number of local factories – Luptons, TRW and Barnfields. All of them are doing fantastically well and both Luptons and Barnfields tell me that thanks to the recent increase in capital allowances, they are investing in more than £1m. of new machinery. This is great news and I wish all local companies the best of luck for 2013.