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December 22 Newsletter

Dear Constituent,

Back in January it would have been impossible to predict the extraordinary events – not least the number of changes of Prime Minister – we have seen in Westminster in 2022, all the while against the backdrop of a nation doing our best to move on from the Covid-19 pandemic and facing yet more significant challenges due to the cost-of-living crisis and lurching economic crises.  

Whilst this time of year is associated with festive cheer, this will be a particularly difficult time for some. If you or anyone you know is struggling, available support – including warm spaces – has been compiled here on Bedford Borough Council’s website.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.  

Yours sincerely,

Mohammad Yasin MP

Constituents get in touch

In summary:

  • Concerns about Energy Prices.
  • Calls for free school meals.
  • Animal welfare standards.
  • The Online Safety Bill.

This month, my office has opened a total of 564 cases, 146 of which are casework and the remaining 418 relating to campaign and policy.

As we look towards Christmas, with temperatures dropping and the cost-of-living crisis ongoing, a number of my constituents in Bedford and Kempston have written to me on energy prices, as well as steps to prevent households falling into poverty – some highlighting the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people with disabilities, and others raising the need for benefits to be uprated.

Several constituents have sent self-penned correspondence on the importance of free school meals, some sharing their own experiences, and I was proud to support my Labour colleague’s recent Bill, Free School Meals For All.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill has also been at the forefront of my inbox this month, with nearly 30 constituents in Bedford and Kempston contacting me with their views about clauses in the Bill. Some have called for the moratorium on onshore wind to be lifted, whilst others have voiced concerns that the Government’s policies to may impact on local influence over planning. Many constituents have called for additions to be made to the Bill, such as cycling investment plans, and childcare as infrastructure.

Continuing from recent months, animal welfare has been a focus of many constituents’ correspondence, with my inbox seeing more than 20 emails on trophy hunting alone. The importation of fur and foie gras, as well as the export of live animals, and a need for better compliance with animal welfare regulations in laboratory settings have also been a key topic of discussion.

Similarly, environmental issues have been a common area of concern, such as plastic reduction targets, the Energy Charter Treaty, and opposition to the burning of biomass and the Rosebank oil field.

As the Online Safety Bill has returned to Parliament, I have heard from nearly 30 constituents on a range of issues, such as protection against online scams, freedom of speech, child safety. I believe it is vital that this Bill strikes the right balance between allowing freedom of speech, but also ensuring that it protects vulnerable users online, as was its original intention.

In the constituency

Meetings over the past month have included discussing The Harpur Trust’s strategic objectives from now to 2025 with their senior leadership team, including bursaries for students in financial hardship, and hosting “Bedford Giving” to bring the whole community together to support children and young people. I look forward to seeing their work progress. 

Thank you to the members of the National Education Union who invited me to join their recent meeting to discuss the impact from cost-of-living crisis on teachers. 

I also visited and spoke with the St Bede’s Residents Association on-site, to hear their concerns and offer my support where possible. 

I have also been delighted to attend a wonderful variety of events taking place across Bedford and Kempston.  

The Mayor of Kempston’s reception in November was a great evening raising funds for Kempston Charities – this venerable organisation has existed since the 17th Century, offering grants to support those in need and for education purposes. 

Thanks to Rangarhia Sikh society for inviting me to their foundation stone laying ceremony for the new Gurdwara Sahib building at Ampthill Street, Bedford. This was an auspicious occasion for Bedford’s Sikh community and I wish them the best of luck as the construction continues.  

I attended the Bedford College and Shuttleworth College achievements ceremony where students’ hard work throughout the year was celebrated and it was a pleasure to meet with students and their proud families.  

And as we approach Christmas it’s been a pleasure to meet constituents at various Christmas Fayres around Bedford and Kempston – and seeing so much talent too, with an energising performance by Bedford’s own Rock Choir and braving the elements to attend Bedford Borough Council’s Civic Carol service, which truly got all participants in the festive mood. 

I visited Balliol Primary School in Kempston as they were one of the schools in Bedford and Kempston who participated in UK Parliament Week. It is an annual event, spreading the word about what Parliament is, what it does and how you can get involved. I was made to feel so welcome and I was so impressed with the great questions from the children.  

Similarly, at Bedford Sixth Form, I met with politics students to answer their insightful and astute questions.  

The town centre was full of shoppers and I enjoyed stopping by to meet with a number of retailers on the tenth anniversary of Small Business Saturday on December 3rd. Small businesses are the cornerstone of communities, creating good jobs, growth and opportunities and it was a pleasure to talk to business owners at Bedford Florists on Castle Road, Lotus Store on Castle Lane, and Dinky Donuts, Re-Wind Retro Arcade and Charisma in the town centre.  

I recently discovered No. 7 Coffee House on Wellington Street, a relatively new small business selling coffee, cakes and Bedford Blues merchandise – well worth a visit.  

In Westminster

I gave my response to the Budget on behalf of the people of Bedford and Kempston. The Autumn Statement included £30bn of spending cuts and £25bn of tax rises, meaning my constituents are now paying for the mistakes of 12 years of Tory economic mismanagement.

After a 5 month delay the Online Harms Bill returned to Parliament. In an unusual move, the Government voted to send their own legislation back to Committee – delaying it further. Labour voted against this, because we believe we need this legislation urgently and are concerned that the Government intends to water down crucial elements of the legislation.

Parts of the Bill aimed at cracking down on so-called “legal but harmful” content are due to face further scrutiny, stalling its progression through parliament.

The purpose of the Bill is supposed to be to reduce online harms. Replacing the prevention of harm with an emphasis on free speech means the Bill will leave abusers free to abuse but will not allow other users to be free from abuse.

Labour won a vote on a Motion to abolish non-dom tax status and instead train a new generation of doctors, nurses, and midwives. The Tories didn’t engage with the democratic process and refused to vote. No doubt they will ignore the will of Parliament to invest in our NHS workforce.

I pledged my support for my Labour colleague Zarah Sultana’s much needed Free School Meals Bill which would extend free school meals to all primary school children.

The King unveiled a plaque in Westminster Hall which marks the place of the Lying-in-State of the late Queen Elizabeth II.

MPs are now considering the remaining stages of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Find out more about the aims of the Bill here.

MPs debated a motion to approve the Draft Voter Identification Regulations 2022. The plans to introduce Voter ID are discriminatory, and risk denying millions of people their democratic right to vote.

Photo ID will be mandatory for voting even though the Government knows 11 million people eligible to vote do not have a passport or a driving licence.

Three and a half million citizens – 7.5% of the electorate – do not have access to ANY form of photo ID.

Labour laid down a Motion of regret that the draft Regulations will be implemented for the Local Elections in May 2023 despite insufficient public awareness, guidance and time for preparation, which risks electors being wrongly refused their right to vote.

Keir Starmer and Labour’s business team invited businesses from all across the country to join us in Parliament for a reception to thank them for what they do and hear Labour’s plans for how we will work with businesses big and small to create a stronger economy.

It was wonderful to have a Bedford delegation – Andy Ross + Huw Shurmer from Fujifilm, Peter Wells from Wells & Co, Gareth Barber from Esquires, Tim Edwards + Gabriela Pearson from Foxy Wings and Paul Hutchinson + Julia Course-Crofts from the Bedford Independent.

So many people turned up for a great night which showed just what a difficult period it has been for businesses, with Brexit creating barriers and ludicrous red tape, the pandemic and workforce shortages.

This month Keir Starmer unveiled ground-breaking plans to fix the broken political system and to restore trust in politics by creating the biggest devolution of powers from Whitehall to our towns, cities and regions so we can build a fairer country.

“The Commission for the UK’s Future”, headed by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown is proposing a radical overhaul of how the UK is governed including abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a fairer, more democratic system of accountability.

In Parliament I showed my support for securing the future of community pharmacies.

I supported #NursingSupportWorkersDay – thank you to the invaluable contribution nursing support workers make every single day. From supporting nursing teams, patients, families, and carers, they go above and beyond to look after us when we need it most.

Following the Autumn Statement which confirmed the EWR project, I wrote to the Rail Minister, Huw Merriman urging him to urgently publish the consultation response and route announcement.

I joined an event in Parliament ran by Human Rights Watch and the Muslim Council of Britain to raise awareness of human rights abuses across the world as part of Islamaphobia Awareness Month.

In England and Wales, religious hate crimes increased by 37 per cent (to 8,730 offences) this year, up from 6,383 in the previous year – the highest number of religious hate crimes recorded since the time series began in 2012.

In year ending March 2022, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, two in five (42%) of religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims (3,459 offences). I’m in a privileged position as a Labour MP to stand up to racism, hate and human rights abuses in all their forms.

I’m pleased to have signed the #SENDABetterMessage pledge with @disabledchildrenspartnership, backing calls for a fairer health and care system for disabled children and families.

I was invited to join the NHS England senior leadership team to discuss the NHS’ plans to cope with winter pressures this year.

I attended White Ribbon Day a day which is recognised as the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, followed by 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls around the world.

I attended the world Aids Day Parliamentary Reception. This year it’s 40 years since the first case of HIV/AIDS in the UK.

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is “Rock the Ribbon.” The National AIDS Trust is committed to stopping new cases of HIV, securing the rights of people living with HIV, and fighting HIV stigma and discrimination.

It was great to see Laura and Denise, physiotherapists from Bedford hospital who were in Parliament to raise awareness of axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) which causes severe back pain.

This month the Government made their 9th Govt policy announcement on Channel crossings in 3yrs.  each time problem has got worse as they failed to tackle criminal gangs, decisions collapsed & backlog soared. No one trusts Conservatives to fix the asylum system that they have broken over 12yrs.

News of further deaths in the channel is deeply distressing. Our thoughts are with their loved ones, our thanks with brave services who responded.

Criminal gangs have profited from this terrible loss of life. A year on since 27 people drowned, the criminal gangs have grown. We need major, urgent expansion of NCA & European action against smuggler gangs to prevent them putting more lives at risk. We also need more action to address the lack of safe ways for child refugees to reunite with family so they don’t risk perilous journeys.

LUHC & My Representations

Click to view my representations, as recorded on Hansard:

22 November 22: House of Commons Chamber – Energy (oil and gas) profits levy

28 November 22: House of Commons Chamber – Education Questions

30 November 22: House of Commons Chamber – National Disability Strategy

15 December 22: House of Commons Chamber – International Trade Questions: Exports

17 October: Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, was questioned on the Government’s Levelling-Up plans and the state of local government finances, in an evidence session with the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee.

24 October: Levelling-Up funds inquiry questions Scotland Deputy First Minister and council representatives.

27 October – The Committee published its 3rd report on Exempt Accommodation: here.

1 December – The Committee published its Fourth Report – Draft Strategy and Policy Statement for the Electoral Commission: here

The Committee heard that the Government has not made the case that a Strategy and Policy Statement for the Electoral Commission is necessary at this time.

On Monday, the LUHC Committee questions Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands for the Committee’s inquiry into Funding for Levelling-Up.

The Committee is examining the funds available for levelling-up and how effectively resources are directed to those areas most in need.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee launched an inquiry examining voter registration, examining the advantages and disadvantages of the existing system of electoral registration and what steps the UK could take to boost levels of voter registration.

Research by the Electoral Commission from 2019 analysed electoral registers and found that 17% of eligible voters in Great Britain, as many as 9.4 million people, were either missing from the electoral register or not registered at their current address. The research also said that more than 1 in 10 of the (then current) entries on the registers were inaccurate.

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