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This piece is written by Liam Halligan of The Daily Telegraph

Last Sunday, this newspaper revealed the Government was launching a review of UK competition law, ahead of an autumn Budget. “Competition drives down prices, creates wider choice for consumers and leads to better-quality products and services,” said Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, making the formal announcement the next day.

Our political and media class remains fixated on the Covid crisis and the Brexit endgame – for obvious reasons. As the weather cools, the debates over lockdown measures and the London-Brussels stand-off are certainly heating up.

Competition policy, though, encompasses a battle of ideas that, in the long run, means more than how we manage Covid or Brexit. While it sounds arcane, it’s about what kind of capitalism we want.

Across the world, others will be watching, wondering what moves the UK – so often a policy trend-setter – will make. This competition review, while lasting just a few months, could set the path towards regulatory changes which impact enormously the lives and livelihoods of countless millions across the UK and beyond.

The study will be led by John Penrose – a Conservative MP since 2005. He’ll consider how, as the UK hopefully emerges from lockdown and starts life outside the European Union, our competition laws can be improved.

Penrose – who previously worked for JP Morgan and McKinsey – is an innovative thinker. If the Government allows him really to express himself, this quick-turnaround review could be a highly influential piece of work.

But it’s a big “if” ­– because Penrose’s views on competition policy are, in the eyes of some, too radical. I admire his ideas but various powerful players – particularly those running large companies benefiting from the status quo – do not. The quotations that follow are from A Shining City Upon A Hill – a pamphlet Penrose wrote in 2018 – and a speech I heard him give as it was published. “Every so often, capitalism goes wrong,” says Penrose.

Delving back into history, he explains how “waves of bank failures in the early days of the industrial revolution resulted in the UK’s pivotal [1844] Bank Charter Act”. He reminds us that “exploitatively poor working conditions then led to progressively more effective Factories Acts, beginning a long process of improving safety and equity for employees, which continues to this day”.

John Penrose MP will lead a competition review that could shape new laws as Britain prepares for life outside the EU.

Penrose recalls also that “the Great Depression which followed the [1929] Wall Street crash gave birth to modern competition laws, to protect customers from being exploited by over-mighty companies”.

These changes happened not because the governments involved wanted to replace capitalism with a more dirigiste system of socialism or even communism. They were, in contrast, attempts to modify capitalism, in a bid to regain the broad public consent on which it was built, so ensuring its survival.

“Each of these moments happened because capitalism had started to behave in ways which seemed immoral,” Penrose argues. “Creating wealth is wonderful, but not at any cost, and the tariff in human health or dignity had become too high – so each time, the system had to change.”

There are moments in history when, as Penrose says, “society demands new laws to shape and frame free markets so, while driving growth and prosperity, they do so humanely, without exploiting the weak and vulnerable”. Modern capitalism must, periodically, be updated, modernised and rebooted.

Penrose believes, and I agree, that a new rebooting is long overdue. While the current system benefits a lot of us, for many more – perhaps even the majority – it isn’t working as it should.

Far too many consumers feel capitalism is “stacked against them”, says Penrose, “by a complacent, comfortable, out-of-touch global elite” that rewards itself but exploits some lower-skilled workers. “Energy firms rip off loyal customers with sky-high prices as soon as they forget to switch,” he says. “Broadband works slower than it’s supposed to … water firms don’t fix leaky pipes but still impose hosepipe bans.”

The richest 10pc of UK adults now own around half of Britain’s wealth, with the top 1pc controlling 15pc of all assets. While wealth inequality fell from 1995 to 2005, since the 2008 financial crisis, it has risen sharply, driven by falling home ownership, narrower pension provision and endless quantitative easing – which has pumped up the price of property and other assets; good if you own them, bad if you don’t.

Rising inequality

More accurate tax data has revealed a widened income gap between rich and poor

The gap between rich and poor is measured by the so-called Gini co-efficient, where 0pc represents total income equality and 100pc would mean one person owning all the wealth in an economy

Many young adults now struggle to attain living standards enjoyed by their parents. After years of real-terms pay cuts, faith in market economics is slipping. Much of the population views the UK not as capitalist, but “cronyist” – with good reason. And the lockdown has refocused the advantages of wealth and home ownership.

That’s why Penrose’s earlier call for a new Competition Act – “to help shift the balance of power back to customers and citizens” – is so timely.

But that’s where the problems begin. Because, for a large section of the Conservative Party, the big businesses that would oppose more consumer-friendly regulation and pro-competition anti-trust measures simply must not be gainsaid.

Vital consumer markets – including telecoms, house building, banking and energy supply – are dominated by a small number of large companies. It results in poor service, “super-normal” profits and high prices.

For years, our competition policy has been far too influenced by supplier interests. Large developers gave the Tory party £11m over the past year – and a new raft of planning proposals do almost nothing to challenge what is now a highly exploitative oligopoly.

The huge tech firms – adept at recruiting government policy wonks on sky-high salaries – seem immune to scrutiny. And when powerful firms are challenged for ripping off consumers, regulatory changes are typically “voluntary codes” – non-binding stipulations, often circumvented.

Our last Competition Act was in 1998, before Facebook and Google existed. Yet Penrose’s remit may be limited to moving around the deck chairs – merging regulators like Ofcom and Ofwat – rather than setting a new course for the ship of state.

“John Penrose’s work will help ensure we can drive innovation, produce better outcomes for consumers and allow new entrants to the market to grow,” says Rishi Sunak.

I hope so, Chancellor, I hope so. Because if those of us who like capitalism fail to fix it, those who don’t will take over – with disastrous results.

Basingstoke MP Maria Miller visited a British Transport Police County Lines operation at Basingstoke Station. British Transport Police(BTP) have been carrying out County Lines operations across England, Wales and Scotland since Home Office funding for a Taskforce in December 2019.

The main aims of the Taskforce are to tackle drugs on the railway network, and to protect children and vulnerable adults who are often exploited by gangs into selling or moving drugs.

Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, is encouraging constituents to sign up to the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry, which aims to identify an effective vaccine that can be made available to the UK public earlier.

The registry has been developed as part of the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce, in partnership with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), NHS Digital, and the Northern Ireland, Scottish and Welsh Governments.

There are a number of vaccines being identified and safety-tested at the moment, but only large scale trials can give scientists the information needed about how effective they are.

The NIHR working with the NHS aims to recruit over half a million people onto the registry, which will allow people to be put in touch with the vaccine trials in the coming months.

Researchers are looking for people from all backgrounds, ages and parts of the UK, including both people with or without existing health conditions, to take part in vaccine studies, to make sure that any vaccines developed will work for everyone.

So far, 1475 people in Stockport and 720 people in Tameside have signed up to the registry.

Andrew Gwynne said:

“Many people want to help the NHS in the fight against this virus, but are unsure how.

 

“This is a great way to help out. We urgently need a vaccine so that our lives can go back towards normality and this is a great way to help these efforts.

 

“Thank you very much to all of those who have already signed up.”

John Nother, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Chief Digital Officer, said:

“This new online service will be a vital tool in the fight against this disease as large scale vaccine studies get underway within the UK.

 

“The new system will enable researchers to quickly identify and match suitable and willing volunteers to appropriate vaccine trials. In doing so, it will bring enormous benefits, not only to the NHS and health researchers – but to everyone living in the UK.

 

“Signing up and giving your permission to be contacted means you may be amongst the first to find out about opportunities to take part in trials and the latest, cutting-edge COVID-19 vaccines.

 

“There is no obligation to join in any study, if you are contacted. But by taking part, you could help researchers find a vaccine to protect us all more quickly – which in turn could help the NHS and save lives.”

Find out more, including how to sign up here.

The post Gwynne encourages constituents to help the NHS find a Covid-19 vaccine appeared first on Andrew Gwynne MP.

MP’s office to close again

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield)

MP: Get fit for winter and fight Covid

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)

West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin has urged local people to take extra steps to get fit as the nation continues its fight against Covid-19. read more »

On Saturday, the British Furniture Confederation (BFC) launched its Buy the Best, Buy British, Save Jobs Campaign. Its aim is to encourage the British public to seek out British-made goods when they shop this autumn.  It is crucial the furniture sector thrives to support the economy. With British furniture factories closed, or with reduced working due to the pandemic, manufacturers expect sales are down. Worse still, around half of British manufacturers believe they may be forced to make some redundancies or see […]

MP wins exemption for informal childcare

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Dealing with crime

John Redwood (Wokingham)

I reproduce below the Lord Chancellor’s letter to MPs setting out his new proposals, as I think they are good.

                    A SMARTER APPROACH TO SENTENCING

I am writing to inform you that the Government has laid before Parliament a White Paper entitled ‘A Smarter Approach to Sentencing’.

This paper sets out the Government’s proposals to deliver on manifesto commitments to crack down on crime and protect the public by ensuring dangerous criminals are kept in prison for longer.

Our current sentencing and release framework is failing to give victims and the wider public the confidence they should have in our criminal justice system. Too often the time offenders spend in prison does not match the severity of the crime, with some of the most serious criminals being released after serving only half their sentence.

At the heart of this paper are reforms to the sentencing and release framework in England and Wales, which will see certain sexual and violent offenders serve longer jail time, while new measures aim to tackle the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and improve the rehabilitation and supervision of offenders in the community.

Keeping dangerous criminals in prison for longer

Our white paper sets out plans to make whole life orders the starting point for child killers, as well as allowing judges the discretion to hand out this maximum punishment to 18-20-year olds in exceptional cases (where, currently, only those aged 21 and over may receive a whole life order). We are ending the halfway release of offenders sentenced to between four and seven years in prison for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and GBH with intent. Instead they will have to spend two-thirds of their time behind bars, like those serving determinate sentences of more than seven years already do following the legislation we brought in earlier this year. We will also introduce a new power to prevent automatic release for offenders who pose a terrorist threat or are a danger to the public and are serving standard determinate sentences. We will also legislate to increase the time discretionary life sentence prisoners and certain sex offenders must serve in prison before they can be considered for release by the Parole Board.

Tougher community sentences which tackle the underlying causes of crime

The white paper includes plans to make community sentences stricter, better monitored and more targeted at cutting reoffending by tackling issues associated with criminality. More vulnerable offenders who do not pose a risk to public safety will be diverted into treatment programmes to recover from these serious issues, such as mental health, alcohol or drug addiction programmes. This will help them lead crime free lives, ultimately helping drive down reoffending rates alongside strengthened supervision to ensure compliance.

Community sentences will be made tougher by doubling the amount of time offenders can be subject to curfew restrictions to two years for more serious criminals. Courts and probation staff will be given more flexibility to use those curfews to support rehabilitation. For example, by having lesser restrictions Monday to Friday to keep offenders in work, but stricter curfews of up to 20 hours a day on weekends. The robust measures aim to provide strong but rehabilitative punishment in the community.

GPS tagging for burglars

Meanwhile, for the first time, GPS electronic location monitoring will be used to track burglars, robbers and thieves when they are released from prison. Reoffending rates among these offenders is amongst the highest across all offence types, with individuals convicted of theft who reoffend doing so on average five times over their lifetime. The technology will allow probation to monitor an offender’s whereabouts and where appropriate share this data with the police to support them investigating and prosecuting these crimes.   

The move builds on Government’s plans to make greater use of electronic tags to cut crime, following the rollout of GPS monitoring over the last twelve months and plans to begin using so-called ‘sobriety tags’ to tackle alcohol-related offending.

Reducing Re-offending

There is more that we, across Government, need to do to address reoffending. Reoffending weakens public confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to deal with offenders. It also has a significant financial cost, not only to the criminal justice system, but to wider society. This paper introduces cross-government work underway to develop ambitious plans to reduce reoffending, focusing on employment, accommodation, and substance misuse. An important first step is supporting ex-offenders striving to turn their lives around through work by reducing the time in which they are required to disclose certain convictions for non-sensitive roles.

Alongside this, work is underway to boost education in prisons. Ministers will deliver on the manifesto commitment to develop a Prisoner Education Service, focused on work-based training and skills. It will build on recent reforms that have already enabled Governors to commission education services that meets the needs of their prison populations and local economies. The ability to improve prisoners’ functional, vocational and life-skills is key to support wider rehabilitation and reduce reoffending on release.

Next steps

The Government will bring forward legislation next year to deliver on the proposals set out in this paper.

You can view the White Paper at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-smarter-approach-to-sentencing.

Informal childcare and Covid-19 restrictions

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North)

I am pleased to say the Government have now listened to the concerns we put to them about the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on childcare arrangements. In Parliament, the Health Secretary has just announced what we have been asking for – a new exemption to the local rules for childcare arrangements for under 14s and … Continue reading Informal childcare and Covid-19 restrictions

Increase in sign up for garden waste collections in Edinburgh

Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)

More residents have signed up for garden waste permits than at the same time last year the City of Edinburgh Council can report following registration closing in the middle of last week. 

MP urges public to download Protect Scotland App

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)

The free, anonymous app helps stop the spread of COVID-19 and saves lives

SNP MP Drew Hendry has urged people across the Highlands to download, install and activate the new ‘Protect Scotland’ app – to help slow the spread of Coronavirus and support the easing of lockdown restrictions. The free app can be downloaded onto smartphones and will then let users upload their test results. It will alert them, and others, if they have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 by sending them a notification.

The app, which launched last week, has already been downloaded over a million times. This figure already represents 36% of adults in Scotland with access to a compatible smartphone and this level of uptake is already making a significant difference in tackling the virus.

It is important to note that the app does not require that personal identifiable information be given, and the Scottish Government has assured that it will not monitor the location of individuals as the app only uses Bluetooth technology, and not GPS, to identify contacts.

Commenting, Mr Hendry said:

“Off the back of the widespread publicity around the launch of the ‘Protect Scotland’ app, backed by the media, politicians on all sides and many well-known public figures, we are seeing a truly amazing uptake of the app. Roughly 36% of smartphone users across Scotland who can download the app have now downloaded and activated it.

“With the app now having been downloaded over a million times, almost 2 times every second, it is highly important that we keep up the momentum and that more and more people download it for the maximum positive benefit.

“The app – which takes less than 60 seconds to download, install and activate – will allow people at risk to be alerted far more quickly, so that we can all take steps to reduce the risk of infecting others.

“Scotland’s official contact tracing app will help us all to protect ourselves, our family, our friends and our community by enabling faster contact tracing. It is highly important that we all play a role in defeating this virus, to allow us to return to the new normal quicker and in a safe manner.

“The more people who have the app, the more it can help to slow the spread of Coronavirus. That’s why I’m urging folk across the Highlands to download the app. I’d also urge family members to help out older relatives with installing the app so as to make sure we can protect as many people as possible. Let’s all download the app and protect Scotland, together.”

More information about the Protect Scotland app can be found at https://protect.scot/

  • The app is free and does not identify individuals or track their location
  • For iPhones, the app is available on the Apple App Store and for Android devices the app is available the Google Play Store
  • In 2020, around 80% of adults over 18 reported having a smartphone (~3.5 million Scots). Of those individuals, around 50% own an iPhone device and 50% own an Android device. Of those devices, 70% of iPhones and 85% of Android devices are compatible with the “Protect Scotland” app.

Additional update available via www.drewhendrymp.scot

The post MP urges public to download Protect Scotland App appeared first on Drew Hendry MP.

Anne Marie's Weekly Column - Teignmouth Hospital

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

As many of you will be aware, the consultation on health services in Teignmouth and Dawlish (Coastal Locality) is ongoing and will continue until 26 October. There are four proposals:

After the trouble our High Streets shops have had with the Councils ill-judged road restrictions and closures, Bill Wiggin MP is delighted that Historic England have announced that Leominster will be receiving money through the High Streets Heritage Action Zone... Continue Reading →

MP welcomes funding boost for faster broadband

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness)

Graham Stuart, the local MP for Beverley and Holderness, has welcomed that people in the East Riding will be able to apply for Government grants to deliver gigabit-capable broadband in more rural areas.

Local residents will be able to apply for grants of up to £3,000 to get their houses connected, while small businesses can get up to £7,000 of help. This is because East Riding Council is one of just 17 across the country to benefit from a share of a £22 million boost to the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, which is estimated to benefit at least a quarter of a million homes and businesses in rural areas.

Gigabit-capable broadband is currently the fastest available way of surfing the internet – offering download speeds upwards of 1,000 Mbps. Ultrafast broadband is defined by having speeds greater than 300 Mbps while superfast broadband comes in at either 24 or 30 Mbps – the Government defines it as 24 Mbps while Ofcom and the EU define it as 30.

Graham said, “This is excellent news for my constituents, who often have to deal with internet speeds that shouldn’t be acceptable in today’s day and age. Especially with the newfound focus on working from home due to the Covid-19 outbreak, having decent internet is more important than ever.

“I’d strongly encourage people in Beverley and Holderness to see if they’re eligible for a voucher by checking gigabitvoucher.culture.gov.uk.

“I stood on a manifesto which committed to deliver gigabit broadband to every home in the UK by 2025. This is a great step which builds on our work that has meant 96% of homes have superfast broadband already.”

Matt Warman MP, who is the Broadband Minister, added: “This government is determined to connect every home and business to the fastest broadband speeds available from the Highlands to the Jurassic Coast.

“We’ll be pumping more money into our voucher scheme to help rural communities get gigabit-speed broadband.”

 

What else is happening?

Bob Stewart (Beckenham)

Of course, we are quite rightly fixated on COVID-19 and BREXIT, along with the way our own lives are being affected by these massive developments.  But I am slightly worried that we, as a country, may well be missing other developments in the World that will have huge impact on us in future.  I will mention specifically China and the Middle East as I have some experience of conditions there.

West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has called on the UK government to rethink proposed changes to tax relief for small brewers, voicing concerns that the UK Treasury is putting the future of Scotland’s small local breweries at risk. The local … Continue reading

The post WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE’S MP WARNS UK GOVT OVER THREAT TO SCOTLAND’S SMALL BREWERIES appeared first on Martin Docherty-Hughes MP.

Chi welcomes committee decision to strip Weinstein of royal honour

 

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah has welcomed today’s decision by the Honours Forfeiture Committee to strip Harvey Weinstein of his CBE, following his conviction of three counts of sexual assault and rape in New York in March.

 

Ms Onwurah first wrote to the then Prime Minister Theresa May in 2017 and has since repeatedly written to the Honours and Appointments Secretariat demanding Weinstein be stripped of his honour, most recently in February this year.

 

Chi said “I am pleased that Mr Weinstein has finally been stripped of his CBE following his appalling crimes. It is about time that this action has been taken, three years after I first wrote to the Prime Minister and the MeToo movement spread across the world. This is not only an issue of justice for his victims, or the reputation of the UK honours system, it is also an issue of safety in the workplace: whether on a film set or a shop floor, the workplace must never be a safe space for sexual predators. I am glad that the decision to strip him of this honour has finally been made.”

 

The decision was made at today’s Honours Forfeiture Committee meeting which was arranged to discuss the recipients who have brought shame to the system.

ENDS

Further reading

Chi’s first letter: https://chionwurahmp.com/2017/10/chi-writes-to-the-prime-minister-calling-for-harvey-weinstein-to-lose-his-cbe/

Chi’s responses from the cabinet office: https://chionwurahmp.com/2017/10/seeking-cancellation-of-honorary-cbe-harvey-weinstein/

Chi’s letter to the secretariat: https://chionwurahmp.com/2019/05/8938/

Chi’s latest letter: https://chionwurahmp.com/2020/02/chi-continues-to-call-for-convicted-rapist-harvey-weinstein-to-be-stripped-of-his-cbe/

Latest news: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-54181269

 

 

 

Checking in on small businesses in Hersham

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton)

It was great to be out in Hersham Village with the local Conservative councillors this afternoon, talking to small businesses about the challenges they have faced during Coronavirus.

Like so many businesses across Elmbridge, the owners and staff I met today – including in Ashton House gift shop, the AlleyCatz school uniform shop and the Bricklayers Arms – have worked really hard to get up and running safely over the last few months. This has allowed them to welcome customers back, and has been vital in supporting the local economic recovery.

The consistent message this afternoon was that, while Coronavirus was a major blow, government support has been vital in helping businesses to recover. So far, small businesses across Elmbridge have received £23.6 million in government-funded grants, while thousands of businesses have received Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans and Bounce Back Loans.

The government is continuing to tailor and adapt its support, making sure that businesses and the wider economy have the support they need. Just this week, for example, the government extended a moratorium on business evictions, meaning that commercial tenants are protected from the risk of eviction until the end of the year.

It was encouraging to see how lively Hersham was this afternoon. Over the coming months, I’ll be making sure that the government’s measures continue to support business right across Elmbridge.

My Weekly Round-up

Christina Rees (Neath)

This week I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to urge him to support the development of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence in Wales, which would be located on the Nant Helen surface mine and Onllwyn coal washery site at the head of the Dulais and Tawe Valleys. The Welsh Government project, with the support of Neath Port Talbot Council and Powys County Council, is set to include the construction of a rail test track for rolling stock and infrastructure as well as speed testing, a storage and decommissioning facility, and a training and research centre. This project is a fantastic opportunity for innovation and investment in rail both in Wales and in the UK and I am calling on the UK Government to designate the site and project as the preferred option for a strategic UK facility. This UK Government talk about levelling up and investing in the whole of the UK and this is their opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.

I was proud to chair a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hairdressing, Barbering, and Cosmetology this week. It has been a truly unprecedented six months and so many businesses and workers have been badly impacted by the consequences of the pandemic. Whereas many businesses have been able to adapt their business model and their mode of interacting with clients and consumers through the wonders of the internet, unfortunately, technology has not yet given us the possibility of having our hair cut via Zoom! Our hairdressers, barbers, and beauty salons are vital to the health and vitality of our high streets and we must ensure that more is done to support these pillars of the local economy through these trying times. It was great to hear from all the representatives of the industry, including Keith Conniford, CEO of the Hair and Barber Council.

As an ethical vegan for many years, I was pleased to virtually meet with representatives from Fur Free Britain to discuss their campaign to ban the import and sale of fur in the UK. I am proud that the UK was the first country to ban fur farming two decades ago and that the subsequent EU bans on the importation of dog, cat, and seal fur will be retained in UK law after Brexit. However, although many retailers now refuse to stock real fur, it can still legally be imported and sold in the UK. It is also concerning that consumers may also be misled into buying real fur, believing it to be fake. According to Humane Society International, more than 100 million animals are killed for the global fur trade every year. Animals are treated terribly; farmed and kept in small cases and wild animals cruelly trapped and hunted.  It is time that we legislated to prevent harm and pain being caused to animals in the UK and to prevent those who commit these cruel acts being able to earn from consumers in the UK.

As chair of the APPG on Sepsis since 2017, I was honoured to be one of the guest speakers at the Parliamentary virtual round table about tackling future infection rates chaired by Lord Grade. Sepsis is a highly under acknowledged, under diagnosed, under reported and under recorded condition, of which I have personal experience. Sepsis is time critical, so speed of treatment is vital. Dr Ron Daniels of U.K. Sepsis Trust spoke about the strong connection developing between Sepsis and Covid-19 and that we should stop talking about individual pathogens. We should talk about Sepsis and Antimicrobial Resistance AMR (no longer responding to antibiotics) together, as part of a holistic approach.

There was more worrying news regarding rising levels of coronavirus cases in Wales as Rhondda Cynon Taf saw tighter restrictions to deal with the spike in infections, following Caerphilly the previous week. From Monday, face coverings became obligatory in shops as well as on public transport in Wales, and I would urge everyone who is able to wear a face covering to please do so in shops and other public places. We must all work together to ensure that infection rates do not rise more and that we keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe.

The UK Government’s Internal Market Bill has caused ructions in Westminster and Cardiff this week. This appalling dereliction of duty by the UK Government in relation to their commitments made to the EU is ruining the UK’s reputation on the world stage as a reliable and honourable partner. The UK Government are executing a power grab to undermine our devolution settlement because they hate not being in power across the UK. The great challenges facing the UK over the next year, negotiating trade deals in the wake of Brexit and dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, will require teamwork across the country and with our closest partners. This is not the time to be burning bridges.

As always, if you have any questions or issues and want to get in touch, please do not hesitate to drop us an email on christina.rees.mp@parliament.uk or call us on 01639 630152. My staff are working from home to comply with the social distancing measures, but, as always, we remain there should you need to get in contact with us.

I hope you stay well, enjoy the weekend, and remember – observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!

Argyll & Bute MP says it’s not acceptable for people to sit tests hundreds of miles away For the last couple of weeks my office has been inundated with constituents getting in touch to express concern over delays to the re-opening of driving test centres with many being told to take a test hundreds of […]

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Office Closure

Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire)

My constituency office will be closed on Friday 18th September and Monday 21st September for the local holiday weekend.

Meantime, you can view a list of contact numbers and services which may be useful in an emergency, at the following link: Emergency Numbers for Services in Central Ayrshire

For pharmacy opening times in South Ayrshire, please see https://www.nhsaaa.net/news/latest-news/pharmacy-opening-times-in-south-ayrshire-2/

and for North Ayrshire, please see https://www.nhsaaa.net/news/latest-news/pharmacy-opening-times-in-north-ayrshire-2/

Take care and please remember it is critical we ALL follow the FACTS guidance to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe:

F – Face Coverings in enclosed spaces

A – Avoid crowds

C – Clean hands and surfaces frequently

T – Two metres distance

S – Self-isolate if you have symptoms and get tested

The post Office Closure appeared first on Dr Philippa Whitford.

Visit to In-Comm!

Wendy Morton (Aldridge-Brownhills)

It was great to visit In-Comm in Aldridge last week and meet with Gareth Jones to hear how the business is continuing to offer apprenticeship opportunities.

I really value the work that In-Comm continues to do in developing skills in local businesses. Whilst these remain challenging times, In-Comm continue to highlight the value of apprentices by ensuring that young people have the necessary foundations to enable them to pursue any pathway in the engineering sector.

Having come from a manufacturing background I really value the work of In-Comm and how it is helping both industry and our young people with apprenticeships and skills.

Thanks to Bekki and the team at In-Comm for another great visit

Our Man - An update

Damian Green (Ashford)

It is very good to be back in this space, now that we have started the journey back to normality with Covid. There is of course a long way to go and many people are still suffering badly, but at least it is good to be able to return to the shops and high streets.

Today (16 September), the Justice Secretary has set out the Government’s plans to radically overhaul sentencing, crack down on crime and protect the public by ensuring dangerous criminals are kept in prison for longer.

Napier Barracks

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe)

This week the House of Commons has been debating the Internal Market Bill, which seeks to establish the rules for trade within the United Kingdom after we leave the EU Single Market at the end of this year. There has been considerable controversy surrounding this Bill because it contains measures which would allow Ministers to […]

“I am deeply concerned about recent media reports concerning the future of Barnsley Football Club.

Battle of Britain Day

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen)

Today is Battle of Britain Day which this year is marking 80 years since the most fiercely fought 24 hours of the conflict. It is important that we remember the outstanding contribution which the men and women involved made both in the air and on the ground to help protect our country. Southampton has [...]

The post Battle of Britain Day appeared first on Royston Smith - At the heart of Southampton.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Dear constituent

I am writing to you with another update about coronavirus issues.

Coronavirus Guidance

As you will have heard, the rules and the guidance changed this week to limit meetings to six people. This can be indoors or outdoors, as the autumn and winter are coming soon.

I have received a number of questions about the detail of the changes. The full detail of what was announced is here.

The important thing is to make sure that there isn’t a resurgence of the virus in our area. At the moment the incidence remains pretty low compared with other areas, but none of us want to see it start to spread again here.

Access to GP services locally

I have also received a number of questions about access to GP services locally. GPs have remained open throughout the crisis, though practices have changed their ways of working. In particular most appointments are now made online. However if people do not have access to a computer to book an appointment, they can still do so by phone. This is the guidance I have received.

All practices across Surrey have introduced a digital software platform called ‘Footfall’.  This saves time for patients in allowing them to register an issue 24/7, seven days a week with their practice.  The software will direct the issue to the right service who in turn will respond.  However this is only to complement services already available from the practice including being able to ring and book an appointment. We realise not all patients want to use a digital approach and that is completely acceptable. To be honest the vast majority of all work in general practice is still being carried out by phone.

Job opportunity

If you are looking for a new job at the moment, the local Job Centre Plus team have asked me to tell people that they are currently recruiting new work coaches for claimants. The details are at www.civilservicejobs.service.gov.uk.

Face coverings and deafness

I have had a request from a constituent who works to support deaf people to remind everyone locally that the widespread wearing of masks can cause problem for people with hearing impairments and who normally depend on lip reading. There are some helpful suggestions about this here

Shopping locally

For anyone who is still worried about going out shopping locally, I would just reassure you that social distancing measures and hygiene measures are routine in all our local centres, and local businesses are taking great care over the pandemic. Most people are also wearing masks when shopping, and I would urge everyone to do so. It’s not just about protecting against the virus – it’s also a reassurance for anyone who is nervous about being out shopping.

Best wishes

Chris

The post Coronavirus (COVID-19) appeared first on Chris Grayling.

NFU visit

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)

Jonathan visiting Huntingdon branch members of the National Farmers Union.  read more »

Delighted to speak at the official opening this morning of the new CYCA Centre of Excellence in North Dock, Llanelli.

Thanks to the work of their inspirational CEO, Tracy Pike MBE, staff, volunteers and trustees, CYCA have made a massive contribution to helping children, young people and families in Carmarthenshire bringing 40 years of experience to problems that many are facing in their daily lives.

The new Centre will be a fantastic facility that will help the Charity flourish for many years to come.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil is pushing for progress in the renewal and upgrade programme for substations directly supplying power to the Outer Hebrides.

Mr MacNeil had discussions with energy supplier Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) who have strong concerns that works to upgrade and renew substations at Broadford on the Isle of Skye and Quoich have been halted.

SSE outlined that the current substations were reaching the end of life and a lack of progress could lead to future problems as the only way of feeding the Outer Hebrides is through the Fort Augustus line which spurs though Skye and then on to the island groups.

In a letter to Ofgem, Mr MacNeil said: “These are substations that SSE are worried are at the end of their life and if they are not in use, the consequences for those of us at the end of the line would be difficult indeed.

“The only feed to the Outer Hebrides is from the Fort Augustus line passing through Skye which then spurs on to the island groups in the Outer Hebrides, one north to Lewis and Harris and one south to Uist and Barra.

“It is concerning that a risk which would certainly not be accepted in other industries such as aviation seems to be accepted within the energy networks.

“Further I would like to query concerns about the equipment at Sloy hydro power station.  The equipment and transformers there are reaching the end of their lives and if there was ever a black-start issue and Sloy being used to start up Peterhead, to have the possibility of those two being out at the same time seems an unnaturally high risk to take.”

Ofgem have acknowledged the letter from Mr MacNeil and he awaits a response.

I would like to thank Community Protection Officers (CPO) who have been at the forefront of the City’s response to Covid-19. During the initial phase of lockdown CPO’s where carrying out high visibility patrols across the neighbourhoods and City Centre ensuring the public remained safe and well.

Officers played a large part in delivering homework and school packages to students that were unable to attend school and in addition continued to patrol parks and open spaces to ensure that children were not using equipment that had been isolated in order to comply with social distancing.

CPO’s responded to the city’s most vulnerable citizens who were either shielding or self-isolating for other means. Officers have carried out over 3000 welfare visits since March. This was in response to safety concerns raised by friends, families and neighbours whilst also carrying out additional welfare visits to establish contact with the many citizens that had appeared on the NHS shielding lists. CPO’s also assisted with delivering much needed medications and essential shopping for those who were unable to get to the shops.

Although the lockdown guidance has eased, CPO’s have continued to carry out welfare visits on high risk city residents whilst continuing to deliver the core statutory function of the day to day role which includes environmental and anti-social behaviour enforcement. CPO’s now assist Trading Standards and Environmental Health colleagues in visiting businesses across the City to ensure they are compliant across a range of checks including Test and Trace & Covid regulations compliance.

Since March 2020 CPO’s collectively have visited 618 Businesses in relation to Covid compliance, carried out 4,073 welfare checks, Investigated 4,471 fly tips, responded to 3,732 complaints of noise nuisance and Issued a total of 2,122 enforcement notices.

Cllr Neghat Khan,
Portfolio Holder for Employment and Community Protection

The post Thanking our Community Protection Officers for their response to COVID appeared first on Nottingham Labour.

At Prime Minister's Questions Rushanara questioned Boris Johnson about the Government's procurement of goods and services during the pandemic.

August newsletter

Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn)

Click here to read my August newsletter

In my newsletter, you will find information about the work I’ve been doing this month as Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kiburn and Labour’s Shadow Minister for Early Years:

  • Calling out the Government’s failure on education
  • Campaign for clear face masks
  • Protecting local BAME communities
  • Hearing about young people’s experiences
  • Roundtable on improving children’s wellbeing
  • Standing up for the Early Years sector
  • Speaking out against Iranian hostage taking
  • Tackling litter from the misuse of nitrous oxide
  • Keep travel free for under-18s

Debbie Abrahams MP Covid-19 response update

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth)

Following on from my blog last Friday, I wanted to provide you with an update on my activities.

Last Thursday, I attended an emergency meeting with the Council and fellow Oldham MPs, in response to the worrying levels of the Covid-19 infection rates across the borough.

During this meeting, myself, Jim McMahon and Angela Rayner asked the Council for enhanced monitoring and tougher enforcement of the restrictions in place, to prevent a full lockdown from the Government. Since this meeting, the following multi-agency actions are taking place to respond to the local situation:

–             Significant increase in testing capacity – this week there are 4 Mobile Testing Units across the Borough plus doorstep testing. The Counc have also encouraged home testing kits which can be ordered via 119.

–             Significant increase in enforcement and compliance visits to business premises – led by multi-disciplinary teams of environmental health, licensing and Greater Manchester Police (GMP). This has led to Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) at supermarkets for non-compliance with mask wearing and FPNs linked to house parties and large gatherings.

–             Deployed multiple teams of door to door engagement staff (Council and partner staff including Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Services, GMP, Housing colleagues) in hotspot areas supplemented by community volunteers from local mosques and community groups. This is opening up dialogues about current behaviour and compliance and driving take up of testing in these harder hit areas.

–             Increase in direct communications – leaflets to all households, targeted and universal digital marketing and use of community networks

–             A partnership approach with numerous agencies working together across the borough. For example, housing association colleagues contacting every tenant proactively by phone to share Public Health messaging this week.

–             Local follow up of track and trace is now live – though there are small numbers, there are good success rates in contacting those currently being passed on. This approach also signposts to local support for self-isolation.

Following my urgent call for local residents to do their duty to prevent a local lockdown, I have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock along with fellow Oldham MPs calling for support from the government, not a blunt lockdown which isn’t supported by evidence of transmission, but would devastate our economy and cost more job losses. This can be read here. The infection rates have slightly reduced in the last few days in the Borough (83.1 per 100,000 people for the week end 15th August, down from 109.7 per 100,000 in the previous week) which is positive news but the numbers are still too high.

Yesterday, I attended a meeting with Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection and the Executive Chair of the NHS Test and Trace programme, Baroness Dido Harding, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety Nadine Dorries MP, fellow Oldham MPs and Council Leader and senior officials. During this meeting, the case was made for Oldham to be provided with more time, to prevent a local lockdown and the challenges we are facing locally including with the Test and Trace programme.  Currently only 1 in 2 people is traced by the national programme and the programme must ensure everyone who tests positive is traced.

I am also liaising on a regular basis with Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham to identify routes of transmission which potentially stretch across Greater Manchester and could also impact Oldham. I am also in discussion with local Public Health teams to analyse local Covid-19 data.

It is vitally important that we have the right resources in place locally so we can effectively fight this pandemic but we also rely on local residents to do their bit and follow the restrictions which are detailed here. This is why I directly contacted the Health Secretary earlier this week, to ensure promised financial support from Government which is essential to help Oldham Council and local public health officials combat the high infection levels is delivered.

Please be assured, as your Member of Parliament, I will continue to work hard on our Covid-19 response in Oldham and Saddleworth.

Do continue to look after yourself and each other.

Feel strongly about this article?

The post Debbie Abrahams MP Covid-19 response update appeared first on Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.

VITAL REOPENING NEWS FOR WILTSHIRE

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham)

👇VITAL REOPENING NEWS FOR WILTSHIRE👇

Indoor theatres 🎭, music and performance venues🎶 will be able to reopen with socially distanced audiences under updated performing arts guidance published by the Government. This follows a successful series of pilots and marks stage 4 of the government’s 5-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts.

Wedding receptions 💍in the form of a sit-down meal in a COVID-secure location for up to 30 guests will now be permitted.

The piloting of a small number of sporting events🏟 to test the safe return of spectators will resume from August 15 with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from 1 October.

Indoor play and indoor soft play 🧸, bowling alleys🎳, skating rinks⛸ and casinos 🎰will be permitted to reopen.

Beauty salons💅, tattoo studios🔏, spas🚿 and barbers💈 across England will be able to offer all close contact services – including front of the face treatments such as eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments and facials from August 15 under new guidance.

Fines will double to a maximum of £3,200 for those who repeatedly flout face covering 😷 rules

New fines 💲 to be introduced for people hosting raves or other unlawful gatherings of more than 30 people.

The post VITAL REOPENING NEWS FOR WILTSHIRE appeared first on Michelle Donelan MP.

Network Rail is preparing the final stages of delivering step-free access at Garforth Railway Station, it has been announced.

Alec had been campaigning for new step-free access at Garforth for over a decade before finally securing funds direct from the Department for Transport. Alec will continue to work closely, cross-party, with Garforth’s Independent Councillors to represent the views of residents through the planning process.

Announcing the scheme in 2014, the then Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “After years of false starts and broken promises under Labour, it is a testament to the local Conservative MP Alec Shelbrooke’s persistent campaigning that I can announce that this scheme is finally happening for the people of Garforth”.

Since 2014 Alec has been in regular contact with Transport officials pushing for firmer plans and no further delays. He also raised the matter several times in the House of Commons Chamber.

But today it has been announced that the final stage before construction is now underway.

Alec said: “Today I’m delighted that Network Rail has formalised a plan with four options for stakeholders to choose from before the submission of a full planning application to Leeds City Council. It is my hope that Leeds City Council can deal with the application swiftly to avoid no further delays”.

“I have been campaigning for step-free access at Garforth Station for many years. We had an original plan submitted but this then incurred unnecessary delays along the way but I have been committed to providing disabled people and pushchair users with the same access to travel as everyone else – and delivering step-free access at Garforth station will help thousands more people travel easily and without additional cost, time or stress”.

Previously, Garforth resident Mrs Morris said: “We’ve waited far too long for disabled access at Garforth. The elderly, disabled and those with pushchairs have not been able to use the station so we’re extremely grateful to Alec for fighting alongside us to deliver this disabled access”.

The Government’s Access for All programme was first launched in 2006 and has delivered more than 200 accessible routes into selected stations so far.

A further 1,500 stations have received smaller scale improvements such as accessible toilets, platform humps to reduce stepping distances and improvements to help those with a visual or hearing impairment.

The post Garforth Station – step free access ready for planning permission. appeared first on Alec Shelbrooke.

Please Recycle Responsibly

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire)

Could I strongly urge constituents to only book slots at Hampshire’s Household Waste Recycling Centres if they intend to use them. On average 60 slots per day are seeing “no shows” at the larger sites.

At a time when the total capacity is being reduced to allow for social distancing, it’s vital slots are properly utilised. It’s easy to cancel a booking if you change your mind or can’t make a slot after all – and as long as this is done the day before, the slot can be allocated to someone else in your community who needs it.

Slots are available seven days in advance at each of Hampshire’s 24 HWRCs and bookings can be made online at www.hants.gov.uk/wasteandrecycling/recyclingcentres/book-appointment or, for those without internet access, by phone on 02380 179 949, between Monday and Friday 9am to 5:30pm

14,700 jobs protected in Welwyn Hatfield

Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield)

Latest figures released have shown the huge impact of the government’s unprecedented package of support directly in the local area.

As part of the next step towards economic recovery and the UK’s long term prosperity following the Covid-19 pandemic the Treasury has released statistics on how it is supporting jobs, incomes and businesses across the country and specifically in Welwyn Hatfield.

MP Grant Shapps has spoken out about the Government’s commitment to ‘protect both lives and livelihoods’ during the ongoing fight against Covid-19. The figures show that in Welwyn Hatfield alone:

  • 14,700 jobs have been protected via the furlough scheme
  • £13,200,000 to support self-employed people
  • £55,318,366 of Bounce Back Loans for small companies
  • £14,388,100.00 of business grants paid out.

After seeing the latest figures, Grant commented, “This has been a hugely challenging time for so many with uncertainty about jobs and businesses. That’s why I’m pleased that the government has done the right thing by helping as many people and businesses as possible through this pandemic.

“Sadly there are of course challenging times to come but rest assured, I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure the government continues to help people and businesses right here in Welwyn Hatfield as we come out of it.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-on-coronavirus-funding-for-business
I am concerned that the shift towards contactless and chip & pin payments, hastened by COVID-19, is disadvantaging older and vulnerable people locally who still use cash. Cash is a vital payment method for businesses and residents in St Helens North, as it is for 18 million people who regularly rely on it across the UK. Yet, one in ten have recently had cash refused in stores and ATM transactions […]

Constituent Survey

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)








The post Constituent Survey appeared first on Liam Byrne MP.

New Hospital in Sutton Confirmed

Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam)

I am delighted to write and tell you that local NHS leaders have confirmed plans for a new hospital to be built in Sutton and to upgrade facilities at St Helier. This represents a £500 MILLION plan that will not only build a brand new state of the art hospital near to the Royal Marsden by 2025, but ALSO invest AT LEAST £80 MILLION into upgrades at St Helier.

The new specialist emergency care hospital, just a few minutes from St Helier, would treat the sickest 15% of patients, those normally arriving by ambulance. This larger specialist team would be available 24 hours a day to diagnose what is wrong with patients more rapidly, start the best treatment faster, and help patients recover more quickly. St Helier and Epsom Hospitals will remain open 24/7, with updated and improved facilities, providing all the other services that they currently do.

My children were born at St. Helier so healthcare provision in Sutton has been an issue that is a very personal one to me. Ever since being a councillor in Carshalton, some 14 years ago, I have been campaigning for a solution that protects the future of St. Helier whilst ensuring that Sutton residents have access to the very best treatment in cutting edge modern healthcare facilities. I believe that this decision can finally put to rest the political arguments so that we can get on with doing what’s best for residents across the whole of the borough of Sutton.

With this plan, the refurbished St Helier Hospital is here to stay providing the majority of local health services, and the sickest patients will get state-of-the-art treatment in the brand-new specialist emergency hospital right here in our area.

You can find out more about the plans, including the answers to some frequently asked questions at the NHS’ website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk. You can also contact them at hello@improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk, or get in touch with me with any queries.

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THESE PROPOSALS

Why is this being done?

To improve the care that we receive. As St Helier’s buildings continue to age over time, it’s necessary to upgrade our healthcare facilities to improve outcomes. Surviving illness and recovering quickly is the number one priority.

Is St Helier closing?

No, quite the opposite. St Helier is here to stay with a multi-million-pound improvement package.

Is a new hospital being built?

Yes. A new specialist emergency care hospital will be built in Sutton, in addition to improving St Helier hospital.

Is St Helier getting an upgrade?

Yes. At least £80 million of the funding promised will go towards improving the facilities at St Helier hospital.

Who developed these proposals?

For the first time, we have a plan that was developed by local clinicians, not national bureaucrats or politicians. Local healthcare professionals made the case for funding to deliver this improvement, which has been rewarded with a £500 million investment. Sutton Council also supported the proposals last year.

Will I have to travel outside my area for services now?

At the moment, if you have a stroke or heart attack you will be taken past St. Helier to be treated at St. George’s. This plan means that we will still be able to treat people within the local area, not moving more services away from Sutton.

Will we still use St Helier?

Yes. From 2025, Epsom hospital, St Helier hospital and the new hospital at Sutton will all have a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) (which already treats the vast majority of people going to St. Helier in an emergency). Under the plans, 85% of services will remain at St Helier. Both Epsom and St Helier hospitals will still have a 24/7 UTC.

Diagnostic tests, such as MRI, x-ray or ultrasound, the heart problem diagnosis unit, the dialysis unit, Croft Ward (which takes care of patients who are stable but not ready to leave hospital), the eye care unit, the gastroenterology unit, and so many more services are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals.

What about bed numbers?

The NHS have calculated that they will need the same number of beds as they do now.

What about A&E?

Unlike previous plans, which saw A&E diverted away into Tooting, A&E is now staying right here in our Borough at the new hospital. Most of the time you will still use St Helier for matters requiring immediate medical attention like broken limbs or cuts. Major trauma cases needing a blue light ambulance transfer will be treated in Sutton at the new state-of-the-art hospital next to The Royal Marsden.

What about maternity services?

Maternity services have also been protected and kept locally. Post-natal and ante-natal care are staying put at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, and births will take place in the brand-new maternity unit at the new hospital in Sutton built to the very latest healthcare standards. Women need the very best care and facilities when giving birth, and the new plans will provide that.

Where will children services be provided?

Most children will continue to receive care and treatment in the same place as they do now. Care for children who need to stay in hospital overnight – as a result of a serious illness or complex problems – will be treated at the new specialist emergency care hospital. This includes children’s surgery.  

What will happen until the new hospital in Sutton is built?

All services will continue to be carried out at Epsom and St Helier hospitals until such time the new hospital in Sutton is ready for patients.

Where will the new hospital be built?

After consulting residents, patient groups and healthcare professionals, the decision was taken to build a brand-new specialist emergency care hospital in Sutton. This will be combined with the necessary infrastructure and transport links to ensure the site of the new hospital is accessible to all that need to use it.

For more facts, and to find out what this multi-million-pound government investment in our local NHS will mean for you and your family, visit the following website: www.improvinghealthcaretogether.org.uk/faq.

Are you getting all the support you can?

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside)

When the Government first introduced restrictions designed to restrict the spread of Coronavirus in March, most schools and nurseries across Bristol South remained open for vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers, with all other children remaining home to stop the virus passing from one family to another.  

Since then, the government has revised the guidance, saying schools can open to certain year groups. The announcement in May for a June opening, left little time for schools to prepare for this and left staff, pupils and parents feeling very anxious.

This has not been helped by the fact that government guidance from schools has been updated almost 50 times already – sometimes amended on a Friday or Sunday for the following week without the key changes being flagged. I know how frustrating this has been for school leadership teams and staff and it’s remarkable how they keep going, supporting our children throughout. I applaud them for that.

We all want to see schools and nurseries fully open again, but parents understandably want to know that their children are safe at school. The lack of clear, consistent Government strategy for re-opening schools offers no reassurance of this. 

I’ve previously written about the importance of local testing and tracing to help authorities manage further outbreaks effectively (see previous article) and I’m pleased to see this now starting to take shape following pressure from myself and the Labour Party.

We do need to get society moving again – experts have said that the social and economic harms from the response to the virus now pose as great a risk of illness and premature death as the virus itself.

Schools and nurseries are more than childcare and learning providers, they’re a vital safety net for children – feeding those who need it, providing resources to those who can’t afford it, identifying victims of abuse or neglect and helping those parents who need support with their son or daughter who has Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND).

I’m in touch with South Bristol Youth, which works with schools and families across the constituency to support young people with learning but engagement rates are low – especially among some of the most at-risk children.

Access to technology is a big issue for some families – especially those with more than 1 or 2 school-aged children. There are some pots of money for this, but we know that lots of children in Bristol South still don’t have the technology they need.

Education has a huge role to play in tackling inequality and enabling social mobility. I know that a lot of schools have put great effort into providing learning guidance and resources – online and which physical learning packs – but we know that some children will continue learning at home with their parents, while others will not.

The gaps that already exist – particularly here in Bristol South (see previous article) – will likely widen and we will be living with the impact of this long after we are free of the virus itself.

British Airways

Ian Mearns (Gateshead)

I absolutely support the campaign led by Unite regarding the appalling treatment of staff at British Airways.

It is absolutely unacceptable that BA have chosen to use a global pandemic to make thousands of staff redundant and reduce the pay, terms and conditions of many thousands of staff who will remain at BA.

I would like to assure all of my constituents, many of whom have contacted me about this issue, that I am working with colleagues to press BA to reverse this decision, and I will continue to do so until BA change course.

Kind regards,

Ian Mearns MP

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to enable the early resumption of shooting after the covid-19 outbreak.

Steve Reed joins Labour’s Shadow Cabinet

Steve Reed (Croydon North)

Labour’s new leader Keir Starmer has appointed Steve Reed MP into the Shadow Cabinet. Steve is now Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Steve has a strong local government background having previously served as shadow local government minister and was leader of Lambeth Council where he oversaw dramatic improvements in key services.

Steve said:

I’m honoured that Keir has asked me to be Labour’s spokesperson on communities and local government.   Councillors and council workers are responding heroically to coronavirus, and I want to make sure they have all the resources they need to succeed.

We’ve never needed good councils more than we do today, and I’m proud to stand up for local government in Parliament

  • Steve Reed
    Steve Reed Member of Parliment for Croydon North

Steven Reed is Labour MP for Croydon North and Shadow Minister for Children and Families. In 2018 his private member’s bill on reducing violent mental health restraint became law. In June 2019 he launched Labour’s civil society strategy outlining radical plans to empower citizens and communities.

Steve chairs the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network, co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London, was Leader of Lambeth Council 2006-12 where he led the council’s children’s services to become best-rated in the country and pioneered the public-health approach to tackling violent youth crime. He worked in publishing for 16 years and was an elected trade union branch secretary.

The post Steve Reed joins Labour’s Shadow Cabinet appeared first on Steve Reed MP.

Stewart Hosie has expressed his disappointment that planned BT works to install fibre optic broadband in Monifeith have been delayed.
The Dundee East MP received assurances from BT late last year that planned work would be finished by the end of March 2020 however this has been pushed back to May, with the possibility of future delays due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Commenting Stewart Hosie said:
"I am disappointed this work has been delayed, particularly as so many people are expected to work from home and are now being forced to rely on the poor internet service that currently exists in the area."
"When I received assurances in October last year that fibre optic broadband would be available in Monifeith by the end of March it was great news for my constituents who have had to make do with slow speeds for some time."
"I hope that the work will now be carried out by May, however with the outbreak of the Coronavirus and the restrictions on movement and working it is only right that BT's priority is focused on repairing and maintenance for the foreseeable future."
ENDS

The spread of coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge and is leading to people across this country making huge sacrifices to protect one another.

As the Prime Minister has said, while we need to create physical distance between ourselves, we must at the same time have closer social support for each other.

That means looking after the most vulnerable people in our society, and alleviating worry as much as possible, at what is of course an anxious time.

All of us in Government are working hard to do just that, and make sure that practical support is forthcoming during this national emergency. We are mobilising every part of Government to protect both our people and our country.

As Housing Secretary, I know that renters and landlords will have been particularly worried about paying their rent and mortgages. As a result, I have moved swiftly to ensure that nobody needs to worry about losing their home at this difficult time, when the security of a home has never been more important.

I have taken decisive action and will bring forward emergency legislation to ensure that no renter will be forced out of their home through this period, and that landlords will be protected too.

For renters in both the private and social sector, there will be a moratorium on all new evictions and clear guidance has been issued stating that existing eviction processes should be dealt with appropriately, prioritising the safety and health of citizens across the country.

Let there be no doubt: renters do not need to be worried about the threat of eviction.

This Government is also clear that no one should be concerned about not being able to afford their mortgage if they fall into financial difficulty due to this challenging time.

We recognise that landlords may also face additional pressures, with concerns about meeting mortgage payments. We have therefore confirmed that all Buy to Let landlords can benefit from a three-month mortgage payment holiday where they are experiencing difficulties due to corona virus.

This is designed to alleviate the pressure on landlords, who I know will be concerned about meeting mortgage payments themselves while also ensuring that no unnecessary pressure is put on their tenants as a result.

At the end of this period, landlords and tenants will be expected to work together to establish an affordable repayment plan, taking into account tenants’ individual circumstances.

This mirrors the mortgage payment holiday that other mortgage holders will also be able to access. These measures will protect renters and landlords, ensuring everyone gets the support they need.

The way that landlords have engaged with us on this issue has been hugely positive. I congratulate them for stepping up to the plate and working collaboratively with us to ensure that tenants are protected at this difficult time.

Part of my Ministerial portfolio is also to tackle homelessness. This is always a priority for me and requires even more of my attention during this crisis.

To address the specific danger posed to rough sleepers by coronavirus, I have announced an initial £3.2 million of emergency funding to support them if they need to self-isolate. It will ensure that councils are able to put emergency measures in place to avoid urgent assistance.

Local Government is at forefront of our national effort, and I have spoken to over 300 council leaders and sector bodies to ensure they are well placed to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services for communities.

The weeks ahead will not be easy, but ruthless and determined collective action will allow us to succeed, turn the tide and return to normality.

We have an enormous challenge ahead of us and but my message is clear – this Government will do whatever it takes to help people across this country at this difficult time.

Originally published by The Daily Telegraph 20/03/20

Hull MP reacts to the Budget

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North)

Diana Johnson spoke in the Commons debate on the Chancellor's Budget Statement.
 
The Hull North MP's remarks ranged across several key issues for Hull North, including support for workers over the Coronavirus, the NHS and public health, flood resilience and devolution for the Humber.

Philip Dunne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what provisions are included in the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill 2019-20 to protect national parks and AONBs from aircraft noise.

Raise the Rate debate

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield)

A&E at The Royal Glam

Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

A&E @ the Glam – Strength in Unity

I have said from the very beginning that if we are to ensure a 24 hour A&E Service at RGH then we need to forget about Party Politics, and come together to work cross-party.

We need you to play your part too, by signing the below letter. If you wish to do so then please let me know by filling in the form at the bottom of this page:

 

The configuration of Emergency NHS services across Cwm Taf Morgannwg has changed over the years – and will continue to change along with medical advances and changes in the local population. We welcome, for instance, the development of the new Major Trauma Centre at UHW, which will almost certainly save lives and we recognise that for some specialist forms of care it will be necessary to travel to a regional centre of excellence such as the Burns Unit at Morriston. We also understand that there is a UK-wide shortage of Emergency Consultants. and that Cwm Taf Morgannwg is not in a unique position with the recruitment challenges it faces,but would note that 5 of the 7 LHBs in Wales have substantially increased emergency consultant numbers over the last 6 years whereas Cwm Taf Morgannwg has not. We would argue that the uncertainty created over the future of the hospital due to the South Wales Programme has itself created a self-fulfilling prophecy about recruitment problems.

Our starting point, however, is that all NHS services should be safe, efficient and delivered as close to people’s homes as is medically and logistically feasible. Time-critical medical interventions can make the difference between life and death in many emergency situations and we are concerned that if the A&E were permanently to close at any one of the three hospitals, significant numbers of patients in some of the most deprived communities would not be able to get to an Emergency Department in time. A&E cannot be seen in isolation from other services such as GP surgeries, local minor injuries units and out-of-hours support. Additional capacity in these services would almost certainly lighten the load in the Emergency Departments, but this must be put in place before any changes to the configuration of Emergency Care is considered, let alone implemented, with evidence that they have substantially reduced the load on Emergency departments required before any changes. Changes to A&E provision at any one of the hospitals would have serious implications for other services within the hospital, including ITU and theatre and might harm the recruitment of other specialists.

There would be significant knock-on effects if the A&E at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital were to be downgraded to a Minor Injuries Unit, as the hospital would almost certainly lose its Intensive Care Unit and operating theatre. This could jeopardise the long-term future of the hospital. The RGH’s Emergency Department is the most used in the area, with roughly 65,000 attendances a year, and ranked the best in terms of viable outcomes.  We fear the two other Emergency Departments would find it impossible to cope with the additional workload and that many patients will travel instead to UHW, which is also already over-stretched. We are also concerned that extra A&E admissions to PCH and POW would put additional pressure on not just their respective A&E depts but onwards and throughout the hospital system. We are determined to work with people of all political parties and trades unions (and none) to get the best possible outcome for the communities we represent. We believe the eventual decision should be informed by clinical best practice and local experience on the ground – and not by any partisan consideration.

We are calling on the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to do the following:
1) Rule out the closure of A&E at the RGH or changing it to a 24-hour Minor Injuries Unit.
2) Reinstate the option of maintaining a full consultant-led A&E at all three hospitals. This would require a serious new attempt at recruiting Emergency Consultants who would have secure full-time permanent posts working across all three hospitals. It would also require at least a ten-year commitment to RGH so that potential staff can apply with confidence.
3) Bring forward proposals to extend the opening hours of the Minor Injuries Unit at Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda and Ysbyty Cwm Cynon and make these units more readily accessible for walk-in patients.
4) Bring forward other proposals for community health services, including improvements in the out-of-hours GP service, that might alleviate the pressure on all three A&E departments
and bring services closer to local communities.

In addition, we are calling on the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to publish the following:
1) A socioeconomic and equality impact assessment of any proposed changes.
2) Detailed analyses of travel-to-hospital times, average ambulance response times and levels of car ownership, for all electoral wards in the area. that analyses such times during periods of poor weather.
3) Detailed statistics for levels of ischemic heart disease, diabetes, stroke and infant and adult mortality for all electoral wards in the area. and how they compare with the Welsh averages/wealthier wards in Wales.
4) An assessment of how many patients from each electoral ward would be affected by a proposal to move to an 8 to 8, and 8 to 10 and an 8 to midnight Emergency Department.
5) An assessment of capacity in the Emergency Departments at POW, PCH, and UHW and how they would cope with additional patients.
6) Statistics for the number of patients who are admitted on towards at each hospital from A&E.
7) An assessment of the impact to the Welsh Ambulance Service, Ambulance response times, handover response times, in terms of waiting times at hospitals, blue light trauma travel times
and non-emergency transport between hospitals.

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Reflecting on Defeat

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

First of all, thank you to everyone who has sent such kind messages to me after last night’s result in Birmingham Northfield. Even though I never took this election – or any election – for granted, it is still a big blow to lose the seat I have represented for 27 years and which is […]

Compensation package for Waspi women

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne)

Labour has pledged compensation packages for millions of women hit by state pension age rises imposed by the Tories.

Pay-outs of up to £31,000 will be made, with an average payment of £15,000.

The scheme will be delivered within Labour's first full five year term of government.

Payments will go to women born in the 1950s who had their state pension age hiked.

David Cameron's coalition government presided over a change in the law that increased the women's state pension age to 65 in November 2018 - followed by 66 in October 2020.

Labour will introduce a compensation scheme as rapidly as possible for the 3.7million women hit by the changes, which Cameron's Tory-Lib Dem government imposed in 2011.

It comes after Boris Johnson u-turned on his pledge to help those affected.

He dismissed the concerns of a woman who has lost out on her pension, telling her it’s “not possible” to right the huge wrong she and so many others have suffered.

The next Labour government will compensate women who were unfairly hit by the rise in the state pension age and give them the respect they deserve.

They were not able to prepare and have had to suffer serious financial consequences as a result.

We have a historic debt of honour to them.