I hope you well, despite the miserable weather!
I wanted to share a quick overview of what I have been up to over the last month in Parliament and the constituency.
Last month once again saw a lot of important – and at times controversial – business take place in the Commons. Here are a few highlights.
I know that many of you continue to feel angry and moved by the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, who used to live in Lewisham Deptford. I visited Nazanin’s husband Richard when he was on hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to offer my support.
My colleague Tulip Siddiq, who is the family’s current MP, also held a Westminster Hall debate on Nazanin’s case on November 16th. I had hoped to attend, but unfortunately was held up in the Commons chamber. I know that Tulip will continue to act as a fierce advocate for Nazanin and her family and I will do everything I can to support her.
Labour’s 5 Point Plan to Fix Our Politics
As I’m sure you will have seen, the Tories continue to be engulfed by corruption and scandal. On November 17th we used our Opposition Day Debates to outline Labour’s five-point plan to fix our politics. Ending paid directorships and commercial consultancies is vital, but it’s only the start of what we need to do. Read more about the plan on my website.
Health and Care Bill
This controversial bill had its third reading in the Commons on November 23rd and has now gone to the Lords. My Labour colleagues and I are concerned that it represents a rushed, top-down reorganisation of our NHS. It will fail to integrate health and social care, erode local accountability, and give powers to the Health Secretary to hand major contracts to the private sector without scrutiny. Along with my colleagues, I voted against the bill at third reading.
We need a proper solution for rescue and reform that brings waiting times down, including a credible, long-term strategy for NHS staff recruitment and retention. This must come alongside a long-term plan for the care workforce as part of wider reforms to fix social care.
Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill is coming back to the Commons today and tomorrow for its remaining stages. The bill seeks to make changes to the UK immigration system as it relates to asylum seekers and refugees, altering the current system for asylum claims and appeals, introducing measures on people smuggling and modern slavery, and by introducing a two-tier system for asylum-seekers arriving in the UK, differentiating based on method of arrival.
This bill is a sham. It won’t solve the problem of dangerous boat crossings that are putting lives at risk, it proposes unworkable solutions that will cost the taxpayer and it undermines international humanitarian conventions at a time when cooperation is needed more than ever. We will be voting against it.
Shadow Minister for Disabled People
Following Keir’s reshuffle I am delighted to remain in post as Shadow Minister for Disabled People. My team and I have achieved a lot over the last eighteen months and I am keen to see our plans through. Jonathan Ashworth has replaced Jonny Reynolds as our Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and I look forward to working with him.
November finally saw the start of the legacy benefits court case. For anyone who has missed this story, a group of four people have brought a judicial review to the High Court accusing the Government of breaching the human rights of disabled people when it failed to uplift legacy benefits in line with Universal Credit at the start of the pandemic. The case concluded on November 19th but we are still waiting for the judgement to be passed down. I wrote about the court case for the i newspaper.
November and December marked two important times in the calendar: Disability History Month , which started on November 18th, and the UN International Day of Disabled People on December 3rd. Both offered opportunities to promote the rights and well-being of disabled people and to raise awareness of the barriers they continue to face in political, social, economic and cultural life.
I also continue to fight for immunosuppressed people to get the support they need. Many still don’t know if the Covid-19 vaccine works for them and I have been pressing the health ministers to ensure this group has access to antibody testing. It is vital that the Government acts swiftly to prevent more cases like the tragic death of Michele Brown.
In the Constituency
As always, my office has dealt with a huge amount of casework over the last month. The team opened another 250 new cases in November and housing remains at the top of the list . We also responded to 300 policy enquiries on a wide range of topics, with the debates on the Health and Care Bill and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe attracting the most attention . If you would like to know my views o n current policy issues, please do take a look at the Your Campaigns section of my website.
The constituency office remains closed to the public for the time being , but we are always contactable. If you know anyone who is in need of support, please do encourage them to email email@example.com or call 020 8469 4638. Details of my upcoming surgeries are available here .
It has been great to get out and about a bit more in the run up to Christmas and I’ve enjoyed visiting some of the local markets. Here are a few other recent highlights.
Respect for Shopworkers
On November 19th I visited the Co-op store in Brockley in support of USDAW’s Respect for Shopworkers campaign. Shopworkers provided a lifeline to us all during the lockdowns and they continue to do so in a challenging climate. I was saddened to hear of the abuse they continue to face.
Creative Industries Update
I know many of you are excited for Lewisham’s year ahead as London Borough of Culture 2022 and I had a great time at the launch on November 25th.
The next day I met with constituents who work in the creative sector for another Creative Industries Roundtable. We heard from Lewisham Council’s Head of Culture and I was pleased to see that the full programme shows off how diverse and exciting Lewisham is. I’ m really looking forward to taking it all in in the New Year.
We also heard from constituents involved with campaigning on Kevin Brennan MP’s Musician’s Copyright Bill which aims to increase the cut of streaming revenue paid to artists. I support the bill and remain committed to supporting local musicians.
I’m hoping to hold another roundtable soon (hopefully in person) . If you’d like to get involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
St Mungo’s Visit
On December 3rd I visited St Mungo’s Lewisham Assessment and Recovery Centre to meet with staff from Hepatitis C Trust and the University College London Hospitals’ Find and Treat team. They are doing fantastic work with St Mungo’s to prevent hepatitis C infections.
UCU Goldsmiths Strike
On December 3rd I also made sure to visit the picket line at Goldsmiths to show solidarity with the strikers. UCU members are striking for three weeks in protest at planned restructuring which will see at least 52 staff being made redundant. You can donate to the strike fund here .
Small Business Saturday
I always look forward to Small Business Saturday as it’s a great excuse to visit some of our fantastic local businesses (and make a start on my Christmas shopping!). This year I focused on Deptford High Street.
Small businesses have hugely struggled over the last 18 months. A future Labour government will scrap and replace business rates, ensuring online giants and bricks and mortar shops are on a level playing field. We will also help create 100,000 new businesses over five years, boost the start-up loans scheme and champion a policy of buy, make and sell more in Britain to boost growth.