Where there should have been excitement and possibility at the start of the new school year, this was overshadowed this September in consequence of the Government’s failure to act on the known presence of -and risk from – Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), leading to school closures and chaos for staff and pupils across the country. Whilst only one school locally had to delay opening, an enormous task lies ahead to counter the Government’s criminal disregard of schools’ calls for funds for school building repairs and maintenance over the 13 years.
We know this issue will extend far beyond schools, with many other public buildings, including hospitals, built using RAAC. Children and those who are vulnerable have been knowingly put at risk and this Government, which has been mired by avoidable scandal after scandal, must accept that it is time for an election and for a change in leadership.
Whilst we can only guess when the General Election will be called, the date for the Mid Bedfordshire by-election is Thursday 19th October. Residents there deserve an MP who will truly serve and represent them in Westminster and I urge you to offer your support in the run up, knocking on doors and delivering leaflets or in any way you can to help give Labour’s Alistair Strathern the best chance of winning the seat and showing the Tories that enough is enough.
Mohammad Yasin MP
Constituents get in touch
- The use of electric shock collars
- Proposed ticket office closures
- Labour Party Conference invitations
Since my last newsletter my office has opened 479 cases, 198 of which are casework and the remaining 281 relating to campaign and policy.
Alongside the regular casework and policy correspondence my office receives, event invites have started pouring in for the Labour Party’s conference in October. Businesses, charities, and wider service providers are all understandably keen to meet with Labour MPs as we set out our vision for the future of Britain ahead of the next General Election. A number of constituents have written to me to ask that I meet with various organisations at conference. I have confirmed that I will be attending conference and will be taking the time to stop by as many stalls and meeting with as many organisations as possible that my constituents have asked me to meet with.
More widely I have continued to receive a lot of correspondence on the use of electronic shock collars (E collars) on dogs and cats, and on the proposed ticket office closures. The prevailing view of my constituents that have contacted me is that E collars should be banned. In my view, no animal should be made to suffer unnecessary pain and degradation, and we must drive up standards and practice in line with the most recent advances and understanding. Many animal welfare organisations, including the Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club alongside the RSPCA, oppose the use of e-collars and instead promote positive training methods.
On the potential ticket office closures the consultation has now closed and we are all awaiting the outcome. Thank you to everyone who responded to the consultation and I hope that our views will be listened to. I maintain that closing these offices would be a backwards step and we need to ensure that rail is accessible for all.
In the constituency
I’ve had the pleasure of undertaking several visits over the summer, including the Army Reserve Centre in Kempston where I was given a tour and we discussed their important role in our armed forces. The reserves logistics corp provide important training which would be vital to the success of any military operation.
It was great to meet staff and residents from the Thomas Christie Almshouse charity in Bedford. Almshouses represent the oldest form of social housing dating back to the 10th century and support some of the most vulnerable in local communities, yet they are facing
increased regulation which is a threat to their existence. They are a wonderful part of Bedford’s heritage and I will do all I can to support them and their residents.
I also visited the Play 2 Learn Day Nursery on Clapham Road, where I heard about the renovations that had taken place and got to see the wonderful environments that had been created for children to explore.
It has also been great to be invited to attend so many events over the summer, including the Holy Cross Church Bedford family fun day, and a coffee morning attended by over 20 residents of sheltered accommodation at The Limes. I was pleased to join residents from Waterloo House, Aspley Court, The Limes and residents from Warwick Avenue at a Vintage Tea Dance at 3 St Peters.
I was invited to the Mile Road Allotments summer show, meeting with the management committee, volunteers, and allotment goers who proudly showed off their produce, I attended the annual music, dance and fundraising event ‘Mike’s Line Dance’ for Tibbs Dementia Foundation Bedford and I joined celebrations for the 25th anniversary of BRASS whose support during difficult periods for refugees has been invaluable.
It was an honour to attend the award presentation for ACCM UK to recognise the hard work and efforts of the students on completion of their ESOL and IT programmes. I attended the Charity Dinner & Awards Evening hosted by SEVA Trust UK’s Bedford team, celebrating community volunteering achievements, and the work of SEVA Trust in England & India for the past 7 years, especially during COVID-19.
I attended the “Museum for a Day” event at Harpur Suite, and as I was invited to bring an object of special historical significance to me and to Bedford, I wore a 23-year-old shirt, which I was wearing when I went out for my first door knocking session. Museum for a Day celebrates the unity of experiences within our Bedford community.
I was delighted to join local celebrations and flag raising ceremonies in honour of Pakistan Independence Day, India Independence Day and Ukraine’s Independence Day. I’m proud of the wide range of opportunities we have to celebrate Bedford’s communities.
I attended the Bedford Healthcare Fair at Bedford Girl’s School, a networking event hosted by SARA CIC, an organisation which aims to facilitate education and work experience opportunities for vulnerable young people, with a particular interest in healthcare policy.
Since my last newsletter I’ve also attended local meetings, one with Bedford Train Station’s Station Manager, with representatives from Thameslink and the British Transport Police to discuss the efforts being made to tackle bike theft. Sessions will be set up later this year where people will be able to have their bikes marked to reduce the chance of theft.
bpha has a new Chief Executive Officer, Richard Hill and we met to discuss their housing accommodation in Bedford Borough, the cases raised by constituents and their plans going forward. I wish Richard well in the role and I look forward to continuing to work with BPHA to address issues raised by my constituents.
I also met with Richard Sumray (Chair of Bedfordshire Hospitals) and David Carter (Chief Executive) at Bedford Hospital to discuss services levels and the future of NHS services, including the need for investment in our NHS workforce and infrastructure. I will continue to stand up for our hospital and the incredible NHS staff that work in it.
Hundreds of families from all the communities attended Bedford Eid Mela in Addison Park Kempston, I also attended the Eid celebration at Westbourne centre Queen’s Park and I and enjoyed the food, music and atmosphere at both the Kenyan Bedford Community’s annual and the SMART summer Caribbean BBQ fundraising event. The performances were fantastic at the Bedford African community event and I enjoyed popping by the summer fayre at St Martin’s church.
Also, in the last month I met with Charlotte Wood, the Headteacher of St John’s school in Kempston today about some of the issues she is contending with the budget restraints so many schools are facing. A few years ago, I was able to put pressure on the Government to grant much needed funding to the Grange Academy, a sister school in the Bedford Inclusive Learning and Training Trust to replace dilapidated buildings and I will certainly put pressure on the Government for much needed repairs at St John’s.
I share the dismay of staff, parents and families who were sad to learn this month that Castle Newnham will close their nursery, with September 2023 to be the final intake of pupils. After 25 years the nursery will close as a direct result of insufficient Government funding to cover the costs of running the nursery. I have written to the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb to urge him to act to save the school.
I enjoyed an inspiring and fun visit to Booktastic, the children’s book festival, that took place at Bedfordshire University. It was arranged so that as many children could attend as possible and it was clear they were having a wonderful time.
It was a pleasure to attend the 50th birthday celebration of the Peter Pan Nursery. Congratulations to the staff, parents and children on their recent outstanding rating from OFSTED!
I visited Kempston Academy where I met with teachers and representatives of the Student Council and Elstow School to observe the implementation of the Early Career Framework, a tool in the professional development of teachers. They were both insightful visits.
It’s always fantastic to see new businesses opening in the town centre and this month I visited Tops Pizza who have shops across the region, with a new branch in Bedford, Desi Delights on Midland Road, which serves breakfast, coffee and desserts and Aconchego Portugues cafe in the Church Arcade in Bedford town centre. I wish all new businesses the best of luck.
I also attended the opening of POP BEDFORD with live performances representing Bedford’s different communities taking place throughout the evening. Pride of Place (POP) Bedford aims to bring creative and community use to formally empty retail space in Bedford town centre.
I attended a private viewing of the John Bunyan Museum’s upcoming summer exhibition. The history on display is simply incredible and I hope that everyone will enjoy the exhibition.
I met with Stephen Sleight of the Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership to discuss progress on the Marston Vale line and how we can work together to keep up the pressure for a rail service to resume on the line as soon as possible.
Thank you to Kempston Town Council Mayor Terri Conway for hosting a fantastic Mayoral reception raising money for a number of charities. It was great to see a number of local Kempston community representatives there alongside dignitaries from other areas.
I met for the first time with new incumbent Richard Sumray, Chair of Bedfordshire Hospitals. We talked about the importance of keeping services at Bedford Hospital and issues around staff parking. It’s clear that our NHS needs investment and I will continue to support our Hospital and all the staff working so hard to help us all.
It was a pleasure this week to present my constituent Sundeep Kaur the Points of Light award from Downing Street to recognise the work of her charity Sehhat. The charity works to breakdown the stigma attached to mental health and does some excellent work across the UK.
LUHC Select Committee
14/09/34: the LUHC Committee continued its inquiry into the finances and sustainability of the social housing sector in England with questions to investors, for-profit providers, and credit rating agencies. My fellow MPs questioned witnesses on topics including the role of for-profit organisations in delivering social housing, the role of private funding in social housing, the regulation of for-profit providers and the role of the Regulator. We also looked at how organisations’ credit ratings affect investment in social housing and the factors influencing housing associations’ creditworthiness.
Education Select Committee
05/09/23: 5 September 2023 – The LUHC conducted a Pre-appointment hearing for His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Sir Martyn Oliver is confirmed in post amidst calls for inspection reform.
06/09/23: The Committee called in the Minister and DFE Chief to ask questions about the crisis of RAAC in schools.
11/09/23: The Education Committee launched its new inquiry into effects of screen time on education and wellbeing.
12/09/23. The Education Committee continued its inquiry into teacher recruitment, training and retention. I focussed on cost pressures facing teachers, bursary schemes, the levelling-up premium, early-career payments and reclaiming student loan repayments and what more can be done to support and attract teachers.
I am concerned that outside London and the Southeast, the East of England, where my constituency lies, has the highest number of teacher vacancies. Teacher retention is especially problematic in disadvantaged schools, and areas in the Northeast, West Midlands and the East of England are substantially less likely to have teachers with a relevant degree teaching shortage subjects.
- 13 September: Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill Consideration of Lords Amendments, ping pong. We voted for the Bill at Report Stage, and we remain supportive of its key measures. We support the inclusion of every Lords Amendment that has returned to the Commons. This long overdue Bill must be an opportunity to finally end Britain’s role as a global hub for dirty money and set a new standard for transparency, while supporting honest businesses to trade and flourish. Peers voted 211 to 185 to create a ‘failure to prevent’ fraud and money laundering duty on a company where an individual commits crime for the benefit of the company. The city won’t like it. Govt will try to overturn the defeat.
- Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill. Lords defeat govt 177: 146. Oppose giving local authorities power to grant planning permission to build residential properties on functional floodplains or in areas at high risk of flooding. This will upset developers funding the Tory party.
Lords refused to give the government a blank cheque and build on ancient woodlands, as proposed in the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill. It was a victory for common sense but the government will try to overturn it in the Commons.
- Online Safety Bill – Labour has long campaigned for stronger protections for children and the public online; to keep people safe, protect from scams and online fraud; secure our democracy; and ensure everyone is treated with decency and respect online. The Bill has gone through a number of major re-drafts and the Government must now ensure it is not subject to further delay.
While we recognise there are still issues with social media companies profiting from algorithms pushing content to us all, Labour will support its progression and implementation because the Government have waited too long to act.
- I was pleased to see the Government has finally re-joined the EU’s Horizon programme. The life sciences sector is essential for driving growth across every region of the UK. The damage caused to the sector by the terrible Tory Brexit deal has been catastrophic. The government now acknowledges that access to Horizon funding is necessary to increase growth and productivity, but their two-year delay has held the UK economy back, and caused growth to suffer as a result.
Parliamentary Events & drop-ins
- I was pleased to be able to join former footballer Andy Cole in showing my support for Kidney Research UK’s Parliamentary launch of their major new report on the health economics of kidney disease.
- I met the founder of the Daily Mile school initiative, Elaine Wyllie. Across Bedford alone, 2788 children participate in this simple but effective programme which has shown not only to improve physical and mental health but has also boosted classroom performance. Elaine is still keen to broaden the programme and continue to campaign for effective public health measures for the nation’s schoolchildren and to integrate The Daily Mile into education policy.
- I joined the @macmillancancer Coffee Morning in parliament. Their “What Are We Waiting for?” campaign is calling on the Government to urgently reduce long waits for cancer treatment.
- I signed an EDM relating to World Suicide Prevention Day 2023 and one calling for compensation for the nuclear test veterans.
- I co-signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary regarding Mr Jimmy Lai, a 75-year-old British prisoner of conscience in Hong Kong.
- I signed a cross-party letter to the Secretary of State for Education to raise to raise awareness of the issues fronting Religious Education, as well as to understand how the Government is rectifying these unique issues in the provision of Religious Education. 25% of RE lessons in secondary schools are being taught by non-specialist teachers and 23% of secondary schools are reporting zero hours of RE teaching for year 11 pupils.
Click the links below for my contributions recorded on Hansard:
- 04/09/23 – Chamber: Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in Education Settings
- 05/09/23 – Chamber: Nutrient Neutrality: Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill
- 07/09/23 – Cabinet Office Questions, Chamber
- 13/09/23 – Westminster Hall, Ticket Office Closures
- 05/09/23 – Tabled an Early Day Motion: Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month