This week saw the beginning of Ramadan for Muslims across the globe – and I extended my best wishes to all of those observing the Holy month. The period of Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to reflect and focus on prayer and those who are fit and able fast from dawn to sunset. The first days are always the hardest, trying to manage parliamentary and constituency duties while adjusting to being without food and water in the day. I’m hopeful that as restrictions continue to ease, families and friends can safely mark Iftar – the evening meal that breaks the fast – in each other’s company, and worship together in a way that was not possible last year due to the national lockdown. I hope you all have a happy, healthy and blessed Ramadan.
On Monday in Parliament MPs from across the House came together to pay tribute to the life and achievements of the Duke of Edinburgh. Our sympathies are, of course, with the Queen and the Royal Family at this time, but particularly the Queen who has lost her husband of 73 years. The Duke of Edinburgh Awards, which he founded in the 1950s, were applauded by many MPs during the tributes and will surely be the Prince’s greatest legacy – young people from all walks of life coming together to take part in activities that enrich their lives and learning and encourage them to go on to achieve great things.
On Tuesday, Parliament debated the sanctions imposed by China in response to the measures imposed for their abuses in Xinjiang. The response so far has been weak. The horrific stories of human rights abuses that we are hearing coming out of Xinjiang requires intervention that goes further than sanctions on officials. The sanctions levelled by the UK, US, EU and Canada do include travel bas and asset freezes and, in response, China has placed sanctions on Western officials. With colleagues from across the House, I am calling on the Government to now take stronger action: call what is happening a genocide and review the influence of China in the UK. We cannot continue to stand idly by while atrocities are committed by a Government with whom we regularly trade and cooperate.
I joined the LBC team and Martin Stanford this week to discuss Prime Minister’s Questions. We talked about the NHS and the importance of our volunteers, but I made clear that our volunteers should not be used by the Government as an excuse to avoid properly funding our care services. The Covid pandemic has had a positive effect on our understanding of our local communities – I know many people who have spoken to neighbours for the first time and who have discovered a lot more about the areas in which they live. This is fantastic and I hope much of this continues, but the Government’s job is to provide public care services and to adequately fund them so that people do not have to resort to plugging the gaps with volunteers.
We also discussed the appalling Greensill scandal and the lack of Government engagement with a comprehensive inquiry into lobbying and cronyism in Westminster. There have been multiple examples in the press over the last year of dodgy contracts offered to companies with little experience but with connections to ministers. We need an understanding of the weaknesses of the rules around lobbying and how the revolving door between private companies and Government works in reality. The public are tired of the stink of corruption and cronyism that pervades Westminster and it is vital that the Government can be trusted by the public, even those who did not vote for them. This will not happen until we have a serious and open conversation about how Westminster lobbying works. Nobody is suggesting an outright ban on lobbying – this is how charities and civil society promote their interests with politicians and put their ideas on the agenda. Instead, there needs to be strict rules and greater transparency to ensure that the system works to the benefit of society as a whole, not to line the pockets of ministers and their friends.
I want to take this opportunity to encourage children in the constituency to get involved in the Royal Mail stamp design competition to honour our Covid-19 heroes. Royal Mail intends to honour the heroes of the pandemic by producing a set of eight stamps, featuring designs created by eight school-aged children. A special panel of judges will pick the winning designs. The final eight stamps will then be sent to Her Majesty the Queen, before finally being printed and issued. The winning set of stamps will be released in Spring 2022. The Heroes Stamp Design competition is open to all UK-based children aged 4-14 and more information regarding the competition and how to enter can be found on the Royal Mail stamp competition website.
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 – and please, keep washing your hands!