Monthly Round Up

Monthly Round Up – July 2020

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.

In Westminster

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.

Monthly Round Up

In the constituency

Since my last update my office has opened 892 new cases, and we continue to see a huge number of people contacting me across a wide range of issues as the Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis continues.

Of these, 255 were casework, and the rest were policy and campaign cases. Very large numbers of constituents have written to me regarding the Black Lives Matter campaign, deeply troubled by President Trump’s handling of the protests in the US in response to the devastating murder of George Floyd, and calling on this Government to end UK exports of riot gear such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the US. I have received many emails calling for justice for Ms Belly Mujinga. Many constituents have raised their dissatisfaction with the lack of BAME content in UK school’s curriculum, and the lack of recommendations within the Government’s report on the effects of Covid-19 on BAME individuals.

A huge number of constituents wrote to share their anger at Dominic Cummings and the failure of the Prime Minister in allowing him to keep his job despite public outrage and calls for Dominic Cummings to be sacked, or to resign.

The reopening of schools also concerned a great deal of constituents, who felt that the science did not demonstrate it was safe to do so.

Constituents have also been hugely concerned over the Agriculture Bill leaving open reductions in standards for farm animals and imports, and they asked for my support to vote for the amendments, which to my great disappointed didn’t receive the votes required to pass through.

Constituents have also written on the following topics, amongst others: calling on the Government to impose sanctions on proposed Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank; to protect the NHS in any UK/US trade deals; to attach conditions to airline bailouts; for zoos to reopen; many have written about their concerns about the lack of progress in the EU negotiations and the impact of leaving the EU whilst we are dealing with the impact of the health pandemic; and the Trussell Trust – provider of foodbanks – calls for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme.

I am pleased to have resumed surgeries, with constituents able to book in between 3-5pm on Fridays via Zoom. Find out more about booking an appointment here.

In Westminster

After the ludicrous scenes witnessed with last week’s return to Westminster, with MPs queuing at length to vote, and where myself and other MPs who could not attend due to self-shielding or caring responsibilities were prevented from contributing, I am relieved that I will be able to continue to participate in parliamentary proceedings and represent my constituents virtually via Zoom.

MPs continue to join forces to put pressure on the Government on a range of issues linked to the Covid-19 crisis and other key issues, including last week co-signing a letter from Dawn Butler MP to the Government calling for an immediate suspension of all export licences to the USA that are linked to riot related items and signed the Early Day Motion #520 with the same call to action. I also signed a letter from Sarah Olney MP urging Ministers to renew guidelines and urgently upscale PPE for all transport workers. I signed a letter to the Chancellor calling on him to continue the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and was pleased to see this was extended. I also added my name to those signing a letter to the Secretary of State for Education voicing concerns for the reopening of schools.

I have raised written questions regarding when applying to the DVLA for a provisional licence will resume and regarding the effect of Universal Credit on childcare payments.

I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:

6th May 2020 – HOC Debate: Census – Sikh ethnicity census tick box

12th May 2020 – HOC Debate: Covid-19 Response – Government grants for small business

18th May 2020- HOC Debate: Covid-19 Response – Schools Reopening

Please keep safe during these uncertain times and please contact my office if we can offer you any assistance.

Monthly Round Up – April 2020

In the constituency

It will come as no surprise that the vast majority of correspondence to my office in recent weeks has been related to the current Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, and my office has opened a staggering 974 new cases (almost 100% more cases were opened in March than in any month during Brexit negotiations). 493 -approximately half – of these were casework, the remaining were campaign or policy based.

As the nation approached lockdown, constituents got in touch in large numbers with a wide range of issues relating to the measures introduced by the Government. Some key issues that caused concern included the Government’s delays starting lockdown and closing schools, the impact of the Coronavirus Act on those with disabilities, the concern that religious burial requirements appeared to be contravened in an early draft of the Coronavirus Bill, which was addressed, and the impact of the emergency measures on accessing abortions.

Many constituents contacted us to say either they or family members were stranded overseas, and my team worked tirelessly to keep pressure on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure flights were made available for these individuals. To date the vast majority of those who got in touch are now safely home.

As we moved into lockdown, and the Government announced their series of support packages, we have heard from sadly far too many constituents who are falling between the gaps, largely those who are self-employed but who are not eligible for government support, small businesses who don’t meet the criteria, and those who work for umbrella companies. The implications for people’s personal finances, employment and housing have evolved, and my team have either sought out the most up to date information from the Government or we have pushed for the gaps to be addressed, wherever they have become apparent.

Many constituents have written regarding the ongoing issues with insufficient supplies of PPE for staff working across a variety of settings.

Usual casework has, of course, also continued – with Home Office, Universal Credit, housing and other benefit issues still causing a great deal of stress for constituents.

I have stayed closely in touch with Bedford Hospital, Bedfordshire Police, HMP Bedford and other institutions and organisations in Bedford throughout, to keep firmly abreast of any issues in the constituency to inform my work in Westminster.

Please note that whilst lockdown and social distancing continues, despite not being able to offer any appointments or hold surgeries in person, my team and me are still here to answer any emails and calls as usual, and video calls can be arranged where they are preferred.

My team prepared FAQs relating to Covid-19, for the most commonly asked queries.

In Westminster

Parliament has reconvened and I am joining virtually rather than in person, and the next few weeks will be an incredibly important time for opposition MPs to scrutinise and challenge the Government on their decisions to date, current and ongoing issues, and any exit strategy from lockdown, which has been suggested will be announced next week.

Since the current crisis, I have written to Ministers, co-signed by other MPs, including writing regarding passengers onboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, which for a long time was unable to dock, and am pleased to say all passengers, including constituents of Bedford and Kempston, are now safely home.

I wrote to Matt Hancock with regards to the disturbing actions that were being taken by some institutions across the UK, including some within our constituency, where blanket ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ letters were sent by medical or care home management to patients or residents. I was pleased that shortly following on from my letter Matt Hancock reiterated that blanket DNRs should not be sent during a daily briefing.

I have co-signed letters to Ministers on issues including demanding support for Nurseries and Childcare providers, to ensure Postal Workers are protected through this crisis, to provide more support for the thousands of carers who are struggling financially, seeking clarification about the Government’s plans to monitor and collect data on the use of emergency police powers under coronavirus legislation, to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport asking why there haven’t been sign language interpreters at the Government’s daily briefings and regarding regulating online gambling during lock down, amongst others.

I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:

03/03/20: led Westminster Hall debate on nursing workforce shortage in England

03/03/20: Commons Chamber – Recent Violence in India.

12/03/20: Commons Chamber – Public Transport (Covid).

13?03/20: HCLG Select Committee launches survey on dangerous cladding.

16/03/20: Commons Chamber – Covid 19

16/04/20: Commons Chamber – Budget Resolutions

17/04/20 HCLG Select Committee launch inquiry into impact of Covid 19 on homelessness and private renters’ sector.

RECESS

27/04/20: HCLG Select Committee takes evidence from Local Government Association on Covid-19 impact.

27/04/20: Commons Chamber – Covid-19: Local and Regional News Organisations.

Monthly Round Up – February/March 2020

In the constituency

From the last GC meeting on the 7th February my office opened 298 new cases. 111 of those cases were casework while the remaining 187 were policy based. In February my office received a total of 662 emails.

The most common issues that arose as casework in February were housing issues. These included properties that were in need of repair, and tenants that needed mould and damp treated in their properties. We also received a large number of immigration cases, with more and more constituents suffering long waiting times for Home Office decisions.

In terms of policy cases, the most common topic was the environment. The need to protect our oceans featured heavily with 47 constituents contacting me, as did the need to strengthen the Environment Bill with 17 constituents getting in touch.

I have now recruited a part time caseworker due to join my office team shortly, and so my office will now be back up to full strength. If you know of anyone that needs assistance, please ask them to get in touch.

I have continued to hold surgeries in new locations, which is encouraging constituents who may not have previously, to make contact, and my team have been taking up their cases.

I met with Kevin Bolt, Chief Executive of bpha to discuss the proposed increases in rent, and the long waiting lists for properties mostly as a result of housing shortages. We also discussed the worrisome rates of child poverty in areas within the constituency.

I attended a youth-led intergenerational seminar at Wixams Academy on serious and violent crime. Whilst it took place outside of the constituency, many of the young people taking part live in Bedford, and it was a heartening and informative event.

Continuing my efforts to visit local businesses I had a fascinating tour of FujiFilm’s premises, finding out about their state-of-the-art medical technology.

Today I met with the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Nursing at Bedford Hospital, and was encouraged by the detail and comprehensiveness of their contingency plans should there be an outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus in Bedford.

In the Diary

I will soon be meeting with Garry Forsyth, Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police and have further visits to local schools and businesses scheduled over the coming weeks.

Monthly Round Up December 2019 – January 2020

In Parliament:

It has been a bitter-sweet return to parliament. I am delighted to get back to work to continue to serve the people of Bedford and Kempston but I’m sad to see so many tremendous and hard-working colleagues lose their seats.

There is a strong field of candidates for the Labour Leadership, all of whom would have brought their own talents and energy to the role but for me, Keir Starmer is the outstanding candidate and is the right person to take the Labour Party into the next decade.

It is clear that Labour needs to listen to communities across the country and learn serious lessons following the General Election result. I believe Keir Starmer can bring the leadership necessary to rebuild trust and establish Labour as a united force for good so we can win the next election and deliver the credible and radical change needed to tackle the profound injustices and inequality in our economy and society.

My priorities for Bedford for the next five years will be fighting for funding for Bedford Hospital and improving health and social care provision; supporting Bedfordshire Police to make our town a safer place; and fighting to improve Bedford’s rail services.

In Parliament, I will focus on getting the best Brexit we can which protects workers’ rights, food standards, citizens’ rights and environmental protections. I will do all I can to pressurise the Government on improving and accelerating their very weak plans to tackle the global warming crisis.

I made the following representation recorded on the Hansard:

9th January 2020: Department for Exiting the European Union Questions: Employment Rights after Brexit

I met with Rail Minister, Chris Heaton Harris to discuss ongoing issues with Bedford rail, and a breakdown of the key discussion points at the meeting will soon be published on my website.

Supporting child refugee protections

In the constituency:

My office staff and I have been busy picking up a number of new issues from constituents following the General Election.

I have also received a large amount of emails on a variety of policy issues and campaigns. The most common is the concern over the Government’s disgraceful decision to remove refugee family reunion protections from the EU Withdrawal Bill. I have assured those constituents that I am appalled by the Government’s decision and I will continue to fight for the rights of child refugees. The campaign to equalise payments for living and deceased victims of asbestos related illnesses also featured heavily. I do not believe it is fair for the partner of the deceased (the majority of whom are women) to receive less money at a time when they are grieving.

Several constituents wrote asking me to attend yesterday’s World Watch List Launch, where I heard speakers from the Middle East and South East Asia share first-hand experiences of religious persecution.

My office will continue to be available to any constituent that needs support and if you know of anyone that needs assistance please do ask them to get in touch.

I have recently been appointed a Board member for the Bedford Town Deal, and will attend meetings where my schedule allows this.

I am in the process of meeting with local charities and organisations who support some of the constituency’s most marginal individuals and families to ensure we continue to work together during the next parliamentary term.

Monthly Round Up

In the community

Over the past month I have received campaign emails from constituents wishing to see fracking halted and to share concerns about the risk to the NHS in any trade deal with the US.  Several constituents wrote regarding the NHS’s failure to deliver adequate postnatal check-ups that all mothers should receive 6 weeks after giving birth, others asking me to support unpaid carers, and many have written to say they are against a rise in beer duty and want me to fight to protect pubs.

A large proportion of the emails in my inbox were from constituents contacting me expressing a wide range of views on Brexit, including asking me to stop no deal, support a referendum, to leave without a deal and several wrote on the topic of the unlawful prorogation of parliament.

I have been out and about attending events in the constituency and beyond, including the Mind BLMK AGM in Flitwick and chairing the most recent UpRising Bedfordshire business breakfast meeting. I’ve also attended coffee mornings, including one for Small Businesses and another for the Macmillan charity.

On the 20th September I was delighted to join many young people as they held their School Strike for Climate. Other events included the mayoral reception for Mayor of Kempston, the Health and Wellbeing Fair at the Corn Exchange, and a fundraising event at Bedford Rugby Club for Macmillan.

Earlier this month, I was inspired by the student leaders of the Sixth Form at Bedford School as they lead their inaugural Ready 2 Lead conference, I attended a fundraising event at Bedford Rugby Club, and participated in the events organised by the Borough in the town centre for Mental Health Awareness.

In Parliament

Parliament was unlawfully prorogued for some of the last month but I have nonetheless asked a number of written questions, to which many of the responses raise more questions than answers which require further follow up.

On the 10th September I joined UNISON in Parliament for a Disability Rights UK Roundtable to discuss disability rights post Brexit. 

On Wednesday 11 September I attended Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Parliamentary Reception. Holocaust Memorial Day will take place on 27 January 2020, and will commemorate the landmark 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The reception in September was to launch their resources and announce how the Trust will mark this milestone anniversary year. The theme for HMD 2020 is Stand Together. Now more than ever, we need to stand together with others in our communities in order to stop division and the spread of identity-based hostility in our society.

The following are all my recent appearances in the House of Commons, and links to my written questions:

16/10/2019: Debate on the Address: Public Services

15/10/2019: Unregulated Accommodation: 16 to 17-Year-Olds 

08/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Hospitals: Construction

08/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: NHS Trusts: Mergers

08/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Bedford Hospital: Luton and Dunstable Hospital

07/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Bedford Hospital NHS Trust: Vacancies

07/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Bedford Hospital: Finance

07/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Bedford Hospital: Mental Health Services

07/10/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: Bedford Hospital NHS Trust: Medical Equipment

09/09/2019: Written Answers — Department of Health and Social Care: European Reference Networks

09/09/2019: Written Answers — Department for Transport: Railway Track: Weather

05/09/2019: Supply of Medicines: No Deal: challenged the Government on the Yellowhammer document on base case post Brexit impact.

Housing Communities and Local Government Select Committee

In September the Committee took evidence from campaigners and academics in our new social housing inquiry. The new inquiry examines the effectiveness of the Government’s current strategies to boost social and affordable housing provision. 

Also in September, the Committee warned the Government to take heed of local council warnings over restrictive waste strategy: The Committee warned that the strategy risks placing a needless burden on local authorities by enforcing a prescriptive national approach to recycling and waste management. 

 

 

 

Working for You – July and August 2019

In the Constituency

Over the summer, much of the communication from constituents has been about Brexit, with several residents contacting me recently to share their views about the proroguing of Parliament and a no-deal Brexit.

There is real concern about the tactics of Boris Johnson and what this could mean, not only for Brexit, but for democracy. I have written my views about how, without your consent, Boris Johnson has prevented me from doing my job.

Constituents have contacted me with continued reports of poor train service along the Thameslink and Bletchley lines. The recent hot weather caused delays and cancellations and I wrote to the Chief Executive to express my frustrations and ask what they are doing to ensure the efficient running of the service during extreme weather conditions. Over the weekends and evenings Bedford continues to be poorly served for both North and Southbound trains and the rail replacement bus services are struggling due to road closures.

My team have been busy helping constituents with a range of other issues. We have had a number of health and NHS related complaints recently including long delays for GP waiting times and concerns over delays to orthopaedic surgery at Bedford Hospital as well as the future of the hydrotherapy pool at Gilbert Hitchcock House. We are seeing the result of Government cuts to patient experience and access to treatment locally.

The Government approved the funding after months of delays for the merger of Luton and Dunstable Hospital and Bedford Hospital. I continue to be advised by hospital bosses that this is the only way to secure acute services in Bedford. I have been reassured that A&E, full maternity and paediatrics are safe. I am watching closely and will do all I can to ensure that there are no cuts to services at Bedford Hospital, and will campaign for the retention of the Hydrotherapy Pool, which I know is an important  service for to many of my constituents.

It has been my pleasure to attend several events across Bedford and Kempston this summer including, but not limited to, the Bedford Eid Festival, the Italian festival in Harpur Square, the Queens Park Allotments open day, the Bedford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support AGM and the Bedfordshire Police Family Fun Day.

In Parliament

I made a representation that was recorded on the Hansard prior the House of Commons prior to recess:

25 July 2019: Priorities for Government (Bedford Hospital funding) 

This week MPs have returned to the House of Commons, and it has been a very difficult few days. At the time of writing this, Boris Johnson has lost his majority and reduced it yet further by expelling 21 MPs from the Party, neighbouring MP Alistair Burt has confirmed that he will not stand in the next General election, and there is a steady flow of Conservative MPs handing in their resignations, the last of which was the Prime Minister’s own brother, Orpington MP Jo Johnson. This week MPs have voted in favour of legislation which aims to prevent No Deal, which is now making progress through the House of Lords.

In order to prevent any risk of a no deal Brexit happening, Labour party MPs abstained from voting in favour of a General Election, and will likely decline to do so before the withdrawal date of the 31st October, however the prospect of a snap general election continues to loom large.

Monthly Round Up

June

Casework

Last month 336 cases were opened on a range of subjects.

Nearly 20% of those who wrote in were concerned about International Affairs, in particular about stopping British arms sales to Saudi Arabia following the the news that the Court of Appeal ruled that British government sales of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the ongoing war in Yemen are ‘unlawful’. Several wrote to me concerned about the welfare of Nazanin Ratcliffe after the British/ Iranian citizen went on hunger strike in prison in Iran.

12% wrote to me about tougher sentences on animal abuse by supporting the animal welfare Bill which I did.

Another 12% wrote to me about climate issues, and many asked me to attend the mass lobby for climate, nature and people – the Time Is Now on 26 June which I did.

8% of constituents writing in last month raised their concerns about the case of a mother with severe learning disabilities who was in danger of a forced abortion at 22 weeks. I am pleased the ruling was overturned by 3 Court of Appeal judges who found the original ruling infringed human rights.

Emails on Brexit were a bit quieter this month – accounting for only 5% of emails – the majority of which were calling for a second referendum following the EU election results. Several wrote in complaining they’d been disenfranchised from the EU elections – a matter I have taken up in Parliament.

Parliament is virtually at a standstill while the Tory leadership contest dominates the Parliamentary and political landscape. The contest is a macho event with the two remaining contenders trying to out do each other on who can offer the most destructive Brexit. In their attempt to appeal to the tiny majority of Conservative Members who will vote for their leader, we have now the dog whistle politics of fox hunting back on the agenda – a policy that the majority of the public were glad to see the back of.

My team have been busy helping constituents with a range of issues. Housing (particularly issues with allocations), concerns about crime, transport difficulties and Universal Credit problems have all featured.

I’ve continued to carry out my regular surgeries across the constituency.

In the community

It was great to celebrate Eid Mubarak at the beginning of June and I also enjoyed joining the Bandhan group for their Queens birthday tea party event.

On Armed Forces Day 2019 I met service men and women, Veterans and Cadets in Bedford town centre. It is right that we recognise the personal sacrifices so many make to keep our Country safe. We must do all we can to support our armed forces personnel both during their service and after.

I was proud to be a part of the multicultural parade organised by the Queens Park Community Orchard. The theme this year was reduce, reuse, recycle – with a plastic octopus highlighting the damage plastics can do to animals. It was a great event to bring people from a variety of backgrounds together to highlight this issue.

I met with Assistant Chief Constable Jackie Sebire at The Kempston Police HQ where we discussed the problem of unregulated children’s homes – an issue that Jackie has been working hard to expose, because of the extreme vulnerability of the young people who live in some of this supported accommodation. Knife crime remains a focus for the force, but inevitably, with reduced numbers of Police and inadequate funding, other types of crime reports (vehicle theft and burglary for example) don’t always receive as much attention as the force would like

I had a great time at Priory Primary School, meeting students during Aspiration week. We talked about their hopes and aspirations for the future. It was also a pleasure to talk to Beech Class in Goldington Green Academy about climate change. I got the chance to answer some very insightful questions from the students about what more we can do to protect our environment and eradicate plastic pollution.

In Parliament

I received this letter from the Royal College of Physicians asking me to raise their concerns about the extent of the recruitment crisis.

I had an excellent meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses’ where it was great to see Charlie Walker of Tax Assist Bedford.

And HCLG Select Committee this month took evidence from Government Minister Rishi Sunak on local government finance and the future funding gap which according to a report by the LGA and independent analysis from PwC is set to rise to around £8 billion in 2024. It also continued its inquiry into the implications of the waste strategy for local authorities and discussed the HCLG Committee report and Government response into the future of High Streets and Town Centres. Given last month’s news on the closure of Topshop and Topman in Bedford, it was a timely opportunity to debate the huge pressures facing the retail sector, the changing face of our high streets and what we can do help the retail sector have a level playing field with online retail and how we must quickly adapt to the new ways people shop and to think about what we want from our community hubs in the future.

I have spoken a number of times in the House of Commons on other issues. Click on the following links to read in full:

4 June: Privately Run Prisons – https://bit.ly/309y1Bp

11 June: Free TV Licenses: Over 75s – https://bit.ly/2Kf7xun

9 June: Inequality and Social Mobility – https://bit.ly/2Zt7uyNc

13 June: High Streets and Town Centres in 2030 – https://bit.ly/2WFgRyl

Working for You – May 2019

In the constituency

Many constituents have written urging me to push the Government to implement a new housing regulator, in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy. Several constituents have written calling for an ambitious Environment Bill that can restore our countryside to its full glory and halt the current crisis. Others have written on the topic of beer duty, which they wish to see cut in the Autumn 2019 budget and several have contacted me to condone the use of torture; I agree that torture is inhumane and I will continue to press the Government to raise this at an international level. Many constituents have written to me on the subject of Brexit to express their desire for a second referendum, or ‘People’s Vote’.

Bedford Borough reflected the national picture at the local elections earlier this month, seeing gains for the both Liberal Democrats and Green Party, and in consequence we lost some excellent Labour Councillors. I extend my deep commiserations to my colleagues who lost their seats and offer my thanks on behalf of the constituents who they served so diligently. They have left both their mark within their wards, and large shoes to fill to the incoming incumbents. I also want to thank the candidates who campaigned tirelessly, yet who weren’t successful on this occasion.

I offer my congratulations to all Labour councillors who gained new or held their seats to serve the community for the next term. I am particularly delighted that constituents have voted in Bedford’s first two Muslim female councillors, Fouzia Zamir and Nesreen Akhtar, councillors for Cauldwell and Queen’s Park Wards respectively.

Thanks are also due to all the volunteers who knocked on countless doors, delivered literature, brought people out to vote on the day and more besides.

I was also very disappointed to see former MEP Alex Mayer lose her seat in last week’s European Elections: she worked tirelessly to represent this region in Brussels and to champion the needs of the many according to the Labour Party’s principles.

I have been busy of late within the constituency. It is currently Ramadan, and I have attended a number of community iftar events, where we end our daily fast for Ramadan at sunset. I helped at a litterpick with the Riverfield Residents Association and was honoured to speak at their recent meeting and I was also pleased to speak at the recent International Workers Day celebrations. It was great to catch up with Doris Sharp at her 105th Birthday celebrations at Salvete Care Home, and I was proud to support the young people of Bedford who went on strike last week to urge the Government to address the climate emergency.

I continue to hold busy surgeries around the constituency, usually in supermarkets where a great number of people come to discuss a range of issues with me. Follow this link for details of where and when these take place.

In Parliament

I have now joined the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee. Having seen the effect of Grenfell and the lack of affordable housing in Bedford and Kempston, I fully intend to hold the Government to account as part of my new role. It is important that the department is questioned thoroughly on its policies. Furthermore, I hope to be at an event in parliament to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell, where survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives will be in attendance.

I have spoken a number of times in the House of Commons on other issues. Click on the following links to read in full:

18 March 2019: Far-Right Violence and Online Extremism

4 April 2019: Topical Questions on Brexit

4 April 2019: Loan Charge

9 April 2019: Rwandan Genocide Alleged Perpetrators

1 May 2019: Environment and Climate Change

14 May 2019: Prisons and Probation 

20 May 2019: Medical Cannabis Under Prescription

Working for You – March 2019

In the constituency

Over the past month many constituents have been writing to me about to me about the debates scheduled for yesterday, 14th March, worried about the effect future trade deals could have on our NHS and other public services, and regarding the Agriculture Bill, concerned with protecting our high food standards, post Brexit.  I was able to ask questions in the House of Commons on this. I continue to be contacted each week by a large number of constituents sharing a range of views on Brexit, over half of which include a call for a second referendum.

A number of constituents have written to share their views that schools must be given funding for the safe removal of asbestos and several constituents have requested I put pressure on the Prime Minister to ensure the rules on earthquakes in our fracking legislation are not watered down.

My team have had a busy month with casework on behalf of constituents, with requests for help with Home Office issues, and yet further incidences where constituents’ fluctuating income or employer pay schedules are leading to indefensible losses of Universal Credit income.

I was pleased to see a great turnout for the DKMS Bhangra Ball event at Empire at the beginning of March which raised much needed funds to increase their register of stem cell donors, and it was inspiring to see the talent on display at last week’s Bedfordshire Festival of Music Speech and Drama at the Corn Exchange.

Tomorrow I will be attending the Rail Campaign public meeting at Trinity Arts & Leisure and over the weekend have been invited to celebrate with Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha Bedford for the 642nd Birth Anniversary of Sat Guru Ravidass Maharaj Ji, at the procession through the town centre tomorrow, Saturday, and at the temple on Sunday. I will attend Holi celebrations on the 24th March at Goldington Green Cricket Club.

In Parliament

Brexit debates continued to dominate proceedings in recent weeks, resulting in a series of votes across three days this week. Incredibly the Prime Minister looks set to bring her botched deal back to the commons for a third vote next week, but last night Parliament supported an extension to article 50, which will be requested of the EU if her deal is not agreed. Yesterday was not the right time to call for a second referendum, but I will set out my thoughts on Brexit in a separate post which I will publish later today.

I have spoken a number of times in the House of Commons on other issues. Click on the following links to read in full:

25 February 2019: Relationships and Sex Education

26 February 2019: Jammu & Kashmir

28 February: Net Zero Carbon Emissions: UK Progress

04 March: School Funding

04 March: Planning Reform – High Streets

14 March 2019: Leaving the EU: Agricultural Sector and Overseas Goods