In the constituency
Since my previous update my team have opened 971 new cases, with the office inbox alone receiving almost 1,700 emails in June, which is the highest I’ve ever seen since becoming an MP. 318 of these were casework, with the remaining relating to policy and campaigning issues.
What is notable during these times is the sheer breadth and diversity of the issues and concerns that have prompted constituents to get in touch, with many sharing concerns about the annexation of the West Bank, amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, writing in support of banning fur imports, in support of the cross-party amendment NC17 led by Yvette Cooper MP which seeks to ensure that all NHS and social care workers whose visas are due to expire before January 2021 can have their visas extended for one year for free, and regarding opposition to the government’s plans to introduce Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) this academic year for young children starting school.
Constituents have written in smaller numbers but across a very broad range of issues, including: concern for local high rates of covid-19 here in Bedford; calling on more support for the arts and theatres; for certain types of businesses to reopen (where there were clear contradictions in the Government’s lockdown easing strategies); against the threatened redundancies at British Airways; for and against changes to Sunday trading hours; regarding the Government threatening to back track on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA); requesting that places of worship be reopened; general concern about children’s education; making Black British history mandatory in the national curriculum; calling for a green recovery post Covid-19; concerned about the government’s proposals to remove support for heat pump technology; wishing to see the Brexit transition period extended; supporting a pay rise for NHS workers; to protect the NHS in trade agreements; regarding the suspension of Marston Vale train services; urging the Government to put a deadline on removing dangerous cladding from buildings; and regarding a Universal Basic Income, amongst many more.
Individual casework this month has included constituents contacting us with issues where employers are not furloughing staff, or paying staff according to the scheme, alongside many other issues.
I’m delighted by the news that Grange Academy in Kempston has been awarded £2.26 million funding for new classrooms. I visited Grange Academy in January and was shocked at the state of repair of some of the temporary classrooms. That month, I asked the Prime Minister to urgently review the funding formula for capital and revenue, so that schools for children with special educational needs and disability are not disadvantaged simply because they have fewer pupils. I hope the follow up letter highlighted their plight and made the Government rethink the rejected first bid. Congratulations to the headteacher, Catherine, the Governors and the Trust who fought hard to get the funding and carried on fighting despite the setbacks.
In June I met with a consultant from AECOM, who won the tender to support Bedford’s investment plan to hopefully secure up to £25million from the Government’s Towns Fund. I’ve spoken with Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constable Garry Forsyth raising several issues brought to my attention thanks to the momentum that is building from the Black Lives Matter movement. I participate in a weekly Bedfordshire Resilience forum, where key stakeholders discuss the local impact of Covid-19 as the crisis continues and we enter new phases, and my team and I have joined meetings to discuss specifically the impact of Covid-19 on the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. I was pleased to meet recently with local constituents at an innovative virtual lobby to discuss climate change.
The interim report of the deep dive into Bedford’s high rate of covid-19 was recently published, and at last Pillar 2 testing is also being included in the Government’s published data, giving us a better picture of cases locally. I raised this at Prime Minister’s Questions, and it was shocking how long it took for this vital data to become available. I am pleased that the rate in Bedford does now appear to be dropping, but we have some way to go.
I am holding weekly surgeries, with constituents able to book in between 3-5pm on Fridays via Zoom. More details on my Surgeries page.
Whilst shielding continues, I have continued to join Westminster virtually.
I supported eight new clauses covering four areas in the Domestic Violence Bill: the rough sex defence; the DPP review of prosecutions lowering charges; the non-fatal strangulation issue; and anonymity for victims.
I’m very pleased that in light of this, the Government introduced a new clause which puts into statute law that defendants cannot argue rough sex as their defence. That obviates the need for a DPP review of charging and the issue of anonymity for the deceased will no longer be a problem as the evidence of sexual violence in their relationship will be irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. I‘m pleased that the Minister agreed to keep the issue of non-fatal strangulation under review.
I was also a named supporter on a Loan Charge clause in the Finance Bill to stop retrospective law costing lives and tackle tax evasion. At least seven people have taken their own life after receiving a huge and unfair retrospective tax bill they could never hope to pay back. I’m sad to say the amendment was not pushed on to vote but I will continue supporting the Loan Charge APPG to fight this unjust tax.
I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:
8th July 2020 – HOC Chamber: Question to the Prime Minister (Care Homes)
7th July 2020 – HOC Chamber: Coronavirus
2nd July 2020 – HOC Chamber: Railways – Passenger Confidence
24th June 2020 – HOC Chamber: Question to the Prime Minister (Pillar 2 tests)
23rd June 2020 – HOC Chamber: Windrush Compensation Scheme
22nd June 2020 – HOC Chamber: Higher Education Institutions: Covid-19
10th June 2020 – HOC Chamber: Sub-Postmaster Convictions
As more businesses are opening again, with many of us starting to be able to enjoy the easing of lockdown measures, please remember we must continue to be vigilant to keep ourselves and others safe. Please contact my office if we can offer you any assistance.