The cladding scandal continues to rumble and yet the Government are still failing to act. I provided a message to BrumLag for their rally last weekend outlining the practical steps the Government needs to take now – not in some far-off distant time. We need justice for those living in unsafe homes. We must have a guarantee that leaseholders won’t solely bear the costs of remediation costs, action to tackle the meteoric insurance rises for affected buildings, real support on leaseholders service charge bills that have gone through the roof, a ban on procurement contracts being awarded to those involved in the scandal, and an immediate release of monies from the Building Safety Fund to start remediation works now – nothing less will resolve the cladding scandal. Until then, I will continue to up the battle on behalf of all leaseholders, amplifying their voices and making the case for additional government support.
There are calls growing for a ‘diplomatic boycott’ of the Beijing Winter Olympics in light of the human rights abuses that are being perpetrated – from the appalling treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang to the repression of democratic rights in Hong Kong. It is right that international cultural and sporting events continue to allow athletes and ordinary people to mix with one another, to forge ties with people of other nationalities, and to ensure that we are all exposed to different cultures. However, this does not mean that politicians should turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. I support the call from the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China for politicians to refuse their invitations in a ‘diplomatic boycott’ of the event. Our politicians should not be seen to interact with Chinese officials at a sporting event when these human rights abuses continue.
The recent resignation of the Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins, shone light on the inadequacy and tight-fistedness of this Tory Government’s approach to our children. Instead of concentrating on schools, ministers are throwing taxpayers money at yet another failing programme. The tutoring programme is reaching just 1% of pupils and schools have called it too difficult to use. We need to forget fancy programmes that sound good in theory and do not work in practice and instead focus on the teachers who have worked solidly throughout this pandemic and the children we are meant to be supporting. We need breakfast clubs and more extracurricular clubs – to be educational as well as provide time for play and catch up with friends. Book clubs, drama societies, sports teams, debating societies, orchestras and choirs – these would all contribute hugely to children’s development and allow them a safe space to process the last year. Teachers need support with CPD programmes that provide them with new skills and the latest knowledge and techniques in teaching and learning, without added pressure from unnecessary and burdensome administration tasks. We also need quality mental health support in every school. This Government has neglected mental health for too long and with the added trauma of the pandemic, our children deserve access to in-school counselling and activities that promote wellbeing.
During the second of the Opposition Day Debates this week, Labour put forward their plans for tackling the current failures in the justice system. These are not the failures of the hard-working men and women within the system – the solicitors and barristers, the police, and all those who keep our courts running – but the failures of successive Tory governments, who have undervalued and underfunded the system for a decade. We in Labour are calling for misogyny to be made a hate crime so that the violence that is suffered by women and girls on a daily basis does not go unpunished and unrecognised. We are calling for increased sentences for rapists and stalkers and the creation of new specific offences for street sexual harassment and sex for rent. We want to reverse this Government’s low conviction rate for rape with a support package for survivors so that they are not left to navigate the system alone and so that they are not faced with outdated and offensive attitudes towards rape. We want to remove the barriers that prevent victims of domestic abuse from accessing legal aid, bring in new custodial sentences for those who name victims of rape and sexual assault, and train teachers to help identify, respond to, and support child victims of domestic abuse. We want to see a zero tolerance attitude to these appalling crimes that are too often swept under the carpet. Enough is enough.
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!