In the constituency
It is clear that, as we look tentatively towards a hopeful end to our national lockdown, concerns around Coronavirus still remain. I have discussed the Coronavirus Act and the possibility of domestic vaccine passports in detail with several of my constituents, who were rightly concerned about the impact that these may have on their civil rights and liberties. Similarly, I am also hearing from constituents on a number of issues surrounding foreign travel during this pandemic – some have requested clarification on plans for future journeys whilst others have highlighted the extortionate costs of COVID-19 tests when returning from international travel.
Nearly a quarter of the issues raised by our constituents in Bedford and Kempston have been related to health services and medicine. Much of my correspondence has focused on the appalling proposed takeover of GP practices by the American health company Centene. Of particular note this month has been the sheer number of emails calling for increased funding for brain tumour research. This is a terrible disease and there has been a heart-warming outpouring of support for its victims.Continuing from March, I have seen further emails on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, as well as other ongoing campaigns such as banning Conversion Therapy. There have been a wide variety of requests related to civil rights: some on the legal recognition of British Sign Language, as well as emails calling for public sexual harassment to be made illegal
On the behalf of my constituents I have written several emails to Ministers recently; following letters calling attention to the need for flexible season tickets I contacted the Department for Transport to present this case. Elsewhere, I have written to the Department of Health, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and to the Leader of the House of Commons. I have no doubt that I am keeping the Government busy.
I was delighted to attend ACCM UK’s campaign launch event in March, where they handed out blood pressure and sugar testing kits free of charge to Bedford and Kempston residents from ethnic minority communities. These kits will greatly help residents with type 2 diabetes to monitor their conditions and stay healthy.
I have hugely enjoyed getting back out door-knocking to campaign on behalf of David Michael MBE, Labour Candidate for Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner. After a long year, it has been extremely welcome to safely discuss issues with residents on the doorstep again.
It was a pleasure to host a visit from Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition, and Sarah Jones MP to Bedford. Walking through Bedford town centre, paying tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore at the Harpur Centre memorial, meeting several business owners and residents to discuss the impact of local and organised crime, it’s fair to say they were both clearly impressed with the obvious pride in Bedford shown by residents and I’m hopeful of a return visit.
We’ve welcomed support for the campaign from Rushanara Ali MP, who carried out a recent virtual visit to join Bedford campaigners, Wes Streeting MP and David Evans, General Secretary of the Labour Party, with both joining us knocking on doors.
I met with Bedford Hospital Maternity staff last month, following the CQC inspection in Autumn 2020 finding services to be inadequate, revealed in a report in January. We discussed plans in place and for the future to rapidly improve services, and I offered my support in terms of raising vital issues with the Government, such as the midwife shortage crisis.
As Vice Patron of Autism Bedfordshire I was invited to a virtual update on their work in the pandemic, during which time they have displayed enormous resilience and innovation in continuing to provide their invaluable services to many people with autism and their families.
In Cabinet Office Questions I asked the Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP, Paymaster General, to meet with Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce to hear about the significant challenges that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal has imposed on them. I haven’t had a response so will be raising the issue again in Treasury Questions next week.
I spoke out against the decision to cancel the Warrior Capability Sustainment Program at Lockheed Martin which puts local jobs at risk and damages our armed forces.
I voted in favour of the Lords amendments Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill which Labour worked with others to secure. The Labour frontbench tabled four key amendments. On the first, to remove torture and war crimes from the Bill.The Domestic Abuse Bill came back to the Commons. I supported the Lords amendments. The Bill has the chance to be transformative; but the amendments voted in by the House of Lords are vital for this to be the case.
I wrote my monthly column on the greed of the European Super League Plans and how the debacle showed we need new legislation to protect football fans.
The HCLG Committee launched a new inquiry to examine the Government’s approach to permitted development rights (PDR). The inquiry will examine the impact that an expansion of the PDR system has had, and will continue to have, on the planning system and the Governments targets for new homes and economic growth.
I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:
25th March – HOC Chamber: Trade with the EU: Non-tariff Barriers
14th April – HOC Chamber: Strength of the UK’s Armed Forces Debate: Warrior capability sustainment programme
21st April – Westminster Hall Debate: Special Education Needs