I hope you are well and had a good break over Christmas and the New Year. It barely seems five minutes since I wrote my last update, yet here we are again!
Despite my best efforts, I unfortunately tested positive for COVID over the holidays. Thankfully, I was not too ill, but it did mean I had to cancel some of my plans and I am still feeling very tired.
In better news, it was fantastic to see Labour ahead in the polls at the end of 2021. After all the scandal, corruption and poor handling of the pandemic by the Government, the electorate seems to have finally realised that the Tories are not the best party to run the country. Keir built on this success last week with speech outlining Labour’s contract with the British people, in which he underlined the importance of security, prosperity and respect.
Parliamentary business has been fairly quiet since my last update as we were in recess for 2.5 weeks over the holidays. However, some significant votes took place just before Christmas and we had our final Work and Pensions Questions session of the year (see below for more on these).
Moving into the New Year, we have Opposition Day debates on the cost-of-living crisis and Labour’s plan to support business. I was also excited to have been drawn for this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
Nationality and Borders Bill
The Nationality and Borders Bill returned to the Commons on the 7th and 8th December for its remaining stages. The Bill seeks to make changes to the UK immigration system as it related to asylum seekers and refugees, altering the current system for asylum claims and appeals. It introduces 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. My Labour colleagues and I voted against it, but it passed its third reading by 298 votes to 231. It has now passed to the Lords and we are awaiting a date for its second reading there.
Introduction of New COVID restrictions
As you will be aware, the Government introduced new restrictions last month to try to half the spread of the Omicron variant. I received a flurry of emails from constituents who were concerned about the introduction of what were being inaccurately referred to by many as ‘vaccine passports’. Labour supported the introduction of these measures in a bit to limit transmission. You can read the full response I sent to constituents who contacted me here.
I know that the return to school last week was also a cause of concern for many. The Government’s complacency on ventilation in schools is failing children and school staff. They have no choice but to open windows as temperatures plummet and heating bills rise. Our shadow education team is calling on Ministers to deliver a proper plan to keep pupils learning together in class.
Shadow Minister for Disabled People
We had our last Work and Pensions Questions session in the Commons on December 13th. I asked a question about research commissioned by the DWP on the uses of health and disability benefits. This research is vital to the future of the welfare system as it assesses the adequacy of benefits for disabled people, yet we have yet to see the results.
I received a shocking response from Chloe Smith MP, Minister for Disabled People, who confirmed her Government won’t release the findings. Disabled people deserve to know what the Government is hiding. I am planning to raise this again with the Prime Minister as PMQs tomorrow.
Our schedule of virtual roadshows for disabled people and disabled people’s organisations is shaping up nicely. This time around, each roadshow will have a theme and we have secured relevant members of the shadow front bench to join us. We are still finalising a few last details, but as soon as everything is in place the dates will be advertised on my website.
In the Constituency
Despite the office being closed over Christmas and New Year, my team still opened almost 250 new cases in December. Many thanks to them for putting in a huge effort to ensure we dealt with as much as possible before the break. We always keep an eye on the inbox when the office is shut (in case of emergencies) but tend to find it is pretty quiet.
Housing remains at the top of the list, accounting for more than 40% of new enquiries last month. We also responded to more than 250 policy enquiries on a wide range of topics, with COVID passes, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Nationality and Borders Bill being the most popular subjects. If you would like to know my views on current policy issues, please do take a look at the Your Campaigns section of my website.
2021 was undoubtedly one of the hardest years we’ve had when it comes to assisting constituents. We opened almost 3000 new casework cases and responded to over 4,100 policy enquiries. While policy cases were on a par with 2020, casework showed a slight reduction. When added together however, the total figure is around 70% up on 2019 and 2018, and double that of 2017.
New Year Contact & Surgeries
|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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8469 4638.
Vaccine Clinic Visit
|Thanks to a combination of being ill myself and events being cancelled in the run up to Christmas my non-virtual constituency diary has been pretty quiet of late, but I did manage to fit in a visit to the Waldron vaccination clinic on December 17th. As always, I was hugely impressed by the dedication of the staff and volunteers.
The clinic is currently accepting walk-ins for anyone aged 16+. Full details are available here.