The appalling attacks we saw in Ladywood, in the very heart of our city, in the early hours of Sunday were shocking. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the man who was tragically killed, those who were injured, and all their loved ones. I would like to thank the members of the public who have helped West Midlands Police with their enquiries, and I would encourage anyone else who has information who has not yet come forward to do so. The clear warnings that myself and others have been giving about the rising levels of knife crime across the West Midlands are sadly being ignored by the Government and they remain slow to respond to the rising levels of violent crime across the country. I was in Parliament on Monday to ask the Home Office when they will finally step up and get to grips with the knife crime pandemic that is sweeping the country to prevent yet more people being killed or seriously injured on our streets.
The public health guidance for England changed this week as the Prime Minister announced tougher measures to deal with the spike in Covid-19 cases we’ve seen across the country. From Monday 14 September, you must not meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than 6 either indoors or outdoors. Places of worship, restaurants, and other secure venues will be able to continue operating, but individual groups within must not exceed 6 people and groups must not mix with one another. The pandemic is not over, and we must continue to follow the social distancing guidelines and maintain a two metre distance, wear face coverings in shops and other enclosed spaces, and continue washing our hands frequently. This will help protect us and our families as well as the NHS.
I was pleased to speak in both the Opposition Day debates in Parliament on Wednesday of this week. In Ladywood, up to 8,600 jobs are at risk if the Chancellor pushes ahead with plans to withdraw all wage support schemes this October. We need him to change course and implement a targeted continuation of the schemes for those sectors that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and for whom there is not yet any clear indication of when they will be able to reopen. In Birmingham, we are particularly impacted by the lack of support for the arts and entertainment industry. There are 60,000 jobs in the arts and entertainment sector in our region of the West Midlands and the heart of Birmingham, with all its theatres and arts venues, is significantly impacted. The sector is struggling because public health advice and the laws that are in place because of public health are preventing this industry from getting back on its feet. We cannot legislate in a way that negatively impacts this sector and all the people who work within it without offering financial support to get through. While it is important to get UK business back up and running and to get people back to work, it was the arts and entertainment sector that supported many people through the loneliness of lockdown. The streamed theatre productions, the audio book readings, and fantastic UK programming was there to support people through a very difficult period. They do not deserve to be abandoned by the Government now.
The second Opposition Day debate centred on the exams fiasco and a request for the Secretary of State for Education and his department ministers to release all information and advice that they had had in the period leading up to the decision that led to the upset and disruption caused to our young people. The Government, and the Education Secretary, have been insistent that this fiasco was the fault of a “mutant algorithm” and not because of their own incompetence and inability to act on advice that was given to them. We want answers not scapegoats. We are thoroughly fed up of this Government pushing the blame for every decision onto other people: an algorithm caused the exams fiasco, young people are at fault for spreading the virus after Government advice to get out and support the economy, too many people requesting tests is to blame for the test shortage. It’s not good enough and the Government must stop trying to pass the buck and accept responsibility.
It was certainly a busy week in Parliament, and I ended it by leading an Adjournment Debate on the detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. We have all seen the distressing drone footage showing men being rounded up and have heard the stories from witnesses describing relentless, vicious torture and forced abortion and sterilisation. The UK Government cannot continue to stand by and merely give soundbites to media outlets condemning the violent actions of the Chinese state. We need Magnitsky-style sanctions on individuals, both state and non-state actors, where there are grounds to suspect they are involved in the serious human rights violations. Along with sanctions, we must work harder to ensure that forced labour is not used for any of the products that end up sold in the UK market. We hear talk of Never Again when discussing the horrors of the Holocaust. We need that same conviction and strength of feeling to be the approach to the horrors of this genocide happening today in Xinjiang.
As ever, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!