First, some good news! After 8 months of uncertainty for students, staff and parents, CAPA College will be staying in Wakefield and re-opening its doors to new students in September 2018. A botched attempt to move the college to Leeds left the future of this outstanding performing arts college hanging in the balance. I have been calling on Ministers in Parliament and working with the Schools Commissioner for Yorkshire, parents, teachers and governors to get CAPA College a new permanent home in Wakefield. I hope we will soon have some more good news to celebrate.
I was delighted to open the fantastic new £7 million Advanced Innovation and Skills Centre at Wakefield College. Wakefield is one of the largest cities in the UK without a university. People don’t want to have to travel to Leeds or Huddersfield to study university-level courses. The new Centre will transform higher-level skills training in Wakefield, allowing people to study for degrees without having to move away from our city. I pay tribute to Wakefield College’s principal Sam Wright and her team. This is a landmark building for the city, and will bring more students, graduates, businesses and jobs to Wakefield
In Parliament the Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, gave coffee companies a roasting last week over their failure to recycle disposable cups. The UK uses 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, but fewer than 1% are recycled. Disposable cups are coated with a thin plastic film to make them watertight, but makes them almost impossible to recycle. Coffee companies have been printing labelling on the cups, misleading coffee drinkers into thinking that the cups are recyclable. It is time they started to take responsibility for the waste problem they have created. Costa Coffee will recycle any cup and give you 25p off your hot drink if you bring your own mug. Why not give it a try?
We are also looking at single use plastic bottles. We use 35m bottles a day, only half of which are recycled. Plastic litters our towns and cities, collects in rivers and ends up in the sea. We need to reduce our waste, reuse what we can, and recycle. One solution might be to reintroduce a deposit return. Long before recycling became fashionable Britain had common sense systems such as these for reusing our empties.
The chaotic infighting on Brexit is consuming the Tory Party. While the Tories squabble, the clock is ticking, and the risk of crashing out of the EU with no deal grows. For families and businesses in Wakefield, leaving the EU with no deal would be a nightmare. There would be no free trade agreement between the UK and our biggest trading partner – the EU buys nearly half of everything we sell. We already have the lowest growth and highest inflation of any EU country.
Leaving with no deal would hammer the UK’s chemicals industry, which is our second largest export to the EU after cars. EU regulations protect human health and the environment, and enable chemical companies in Wakefield to sell products across Europe. With the terrible news of 400 Brexit-related job losses at BAE’s plant in Brough, and 400 job losses at Vauxhall’s plant at Ellesmere Port, the Government needs to give certainty to companies employing tens of thousands of British workers. If they don’t I fear this trickle of bad Brexit news could become a flood in the New Year.