Seven months after the Chancellor launched his ‘Plan for Jobs’ last summer, 14,380 people are claiming out of work benefits and 9,665 people are still on furlough in Birmingham Ladywood. The Chancellor initially triggered a one-size-fits-all wind-down of the furlough scheme last July, but after several last-minute changes over the autumn and winter, the scheme is now set to expire at the end of April, putting 9,665 jobs in Birmingham Ladywood at risk. I am calling for the immediate extension of the furlough scheme to remove uncertainty for local businesses and workers as well as urgent reform to make furlough smarter, with new training to help furloughed workers improve their skills and tough conditions on employers to stop abuse. We need a long-term jobs protection plan – it seems incredibly short-sighted of this Government to push people onto benefits when they want to work and are skilled or able to retrain. It’s time the Government showed they were serious about wanting to support employment.
On Tuesday, the Trade Bill returned to Parliament. It is a real chance for the UK to once again lead from the front and secure human rights for all. The ‘genocide amendment’ would give powers to the High Court to block a trade deal with a country they determine is carrying out genocide. Many people ask why, in the Trade Bill, a genocide amendment is needed, and the simple answer is that because across the world, fundamental rights are being undermined. The UK is a nation built on the rule of law and we have defended the rule of law numerous times over the centuries. It is only right that we ensure our trade is linked to the ethical treatment of people. We need only look to China and its treatment of the Uighur people to see why this action is so sorely needed. These human rights are not abstract concepts – we are talking about forced sterilisation of people based upon their race and their faith. Sadly, the Government chose not to allow MPs a straight vote on the amendment, choosing instead to put forward the amendment that would give select committee chairs a say over trade deals with countries with poor human rights records. This was a cowardly and cynical move by this Government and one which cross-party MPs are determined to fight.
The announcement this week from the Department for Housing, Communities, and Local Government on the cladding scandal has left us with more questions than answers. The cladding scandal has meant thousands of people are facing sky-high insurance premiums and waking watch costs until remediation work on cladding can be done. This announcement means that all buildings below 18 metres and with dangerous cladding will get no support from the Government. This is utterly unacceptable. Leaseholders are in no way to blame for this cladding scandal and yet they are the ones being made to pay for it. This will leave families forced to take out loans to pay for remediation work, families who are already struggling with their household finances after the Covid pandemic compounded the effects of a decade of Tory austerity. I will continue to work with local campaign groups and other MPs because this cladding scandal has not been resolved, these terms are far from fair, and this Government has so much more work to do to fix this.
It’s Apprenticeships Week and with the need to recover from the impact of the pandemic, it’s a good time to remember the value of apprenticeships and call on the Government to do more to support them. We have lost nearly half of our apprenticeship starts in Birmingham, from 10,620 in the 2015/16 academic year, to just 5,800 this year. Apprenticeships are incredibly important – they offer a way into work for those who choose not to go to university, which offers training and qualifications alongside paid work. They will be crucial as we look to come out of lockdown and start repairing the damage done to our local businesses and local economies, as well as the impact on individuals’ work and health. For a community like ours, where unemployment is high, we need to offer these chances to our young people, but for that to happen, our small and medium-sized businesses will need Government support. Taking on an apprentice can be costly and increase paperwork – the Government must work to reduce these burdens on the companies who take on apprentices. We know apprenticeships are a great way of improving social mobility and equality – the Government must act now.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org 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.