Monthly Round Up – August/September 2020

In the constituency

In August we saw the Government forced to U-turn after putting the futures of students undertaking their A-Levels in peril thanks to Ofqual’s results algorithm, despite warnings from experts. Several young people, parents and teachers in the constituency wrote to me with their concerns. This is far from resolved, with students who have fallen through the net still trying to battle for the grades they deserve, and with a potential crisis looming for next cohort of examination students if the Government doesn’t take urgent action.  The Government must address the disparities in how the time out of school has been spent, with the most deprived students hit disproportionately hard.

Constituents have written on a number of environmental issues, including the illegal killing of hen harriers and other birds of prey on the UK’s grouse moors, and calls to ban supertrawlers and other destructive industrial fishing from UK Marine Protected Areas once the UK leaves the EU Common Fisheries Policy. Constituents have shared their concerns that the Government’s proposed planning reforms for housing and infrastructure must not be at the expense of nature and the climate. Constituents have written regarding their wish to see an Animal Sentience law legislated, and those who wish to see a ban on the sale of real animal fur in the UK.

Another local issue that several constituents are understandably concerned with is the continued closure of many of Bedford and Kempston’s leisure facilities, operated by Fusion Lifestyle. Bedford Borough Council have this week advised me that they are hopeful of being able to announce the reopening of some further services within the next few weeks.

Constituents have written and are appalled by the Government’s Internal Markets Bill, and many have contacted me to share their views on the EU negotiations and future trade deals.

Many constituents wrote to me as they wish to see this Government commit to resuming, and increasing the funding, for the refugee resettlement scheme. I have also been contacted by constituents keen that furlough and business support schemes are extended to prevent a potentially catastrophic number of jobs being lost and business going under.

In the diary

In recent weeks I have met with Kevin Bolt, the Chief Executive of bpha, the largest local housing association; one of our regular opportunities to discuss housing sector key issues and challenges. I also met recently with SpectaculArts, a local organisation, hearing how they have responded both to the Covid-19 crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement by refocussing their plans on bringing Bedford communities together through the arts and education.

It has been great to see constituents embracing technology through these challenging times, and I was delighted to virtually attend a surprise 90th birthday party hosted by the Retired Caribbean Nurses’ Association. And whilst the culture and entertainment sectors have been dreadfully hard hit through this crisis, I was pleased to attend and support The Place Theatre’s innovative Table Top Swap Shop in August, which was a carefully planned and fully socially distanced event.

Also in August, making the most of the fair weather and opportunity to meet with people outdoors, I visited a number of  local businesses to speak to business owners and workers first hand to better understand the challenges they have faced to date due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and what issues they anticipate on the horizon, including when we end the transition period and fully leave the EU.

Following Bedford being named one of 101 towns that could bid for up to £25million from Central Government for a Town Deal last September the Board, of which I am a member, will be asked to recommend submission of the Town Investment Plan to the Government when we meet next on 12 October.

On the advice of the speaker, my staff continue to work from home wherever possible and I will carry on holding my weekly surgeries virtually, with constituents able to book in between 3-5pm on Fridays via Zoom.

In Westminster

Since lockdown, I have participated in a virtual parliament but I made the decision to physically return after recess ended in September. I haven’t been drawn in the ballot yet to speak and because of social distancing measures in the chamber it’s not possible to spontaneously ask questions, but some of my notable actions include:

  • The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, which continues its inquiry into devolution in England and on Monday 7 September took evidence on health and fiscal devolution.
  • On Monday 14 September The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee began taking evidence as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Building Safety Bill, starting with fire safety and construction industry representatives.
  • I added my name in support for the cross-party letter to the Chinese Ambassador AmbLiu Xiao Ming, signed by over 140 MPs & Peers expressing horror and absolute condemnation of the oppression of the Uyghur Muslims in China.
  • I attended the report launch of the first UK-wide citizens assembly on climate change.
  • I voted for the Government to abandon its one-size-fits-all withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support Schemes. I had my speech ready for the debate, but time ran out and I wasn’t called.
  • I voted for Labour’s amendment to the Fire Safety Bill, requesting that the Government put into law the official fire safety recommendations made during phase one of the Grenfell inquiry. The Government voted it down.
  • I voted against the Government’s Internal Markets Bill to try and prevent the Government from instigating new legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

 

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