It was a great honour to introduce Labour’s newest MP, Kim Leadbeater, to the House of Commons on Monday. Kim showed Batley and Spen what we can achieve if we campaign with a positive message which is grounded in the community. I know she will make a fantastic MP and representative for her constituents, and I am proud to be able to work with her.
This week we marked the NHS’s 73rd birthday. The NHS is Labour’s proudest achievement. To think how we would have responded to this pandemic without an NHS is unimaginable – our NHS staff from the doctors and nurses to the ambulance staff to the porters and cleaners; they have kept us going. Now, though, we need to fight for our NHS again to deliver the care our constituents deserve. Waiting lists are highest on record, patients are waiting longer for life-saving cancer care, young people are being denied swift access to mental health support. We appreciate that the pandemic has brought monumental pressures and challenges. But we went into this crisis on the back of years of underfunding and cuts, bed losses and chronic staff shortages. Labour would make different choices. Rather than cuts we would fully fund the NHS. We would invest in fair pay and training for staff. We would transform social care. We would end Tory privatisation. And we are demanding the top-down reorganisation of the NHS is abandoned. The priority has to be driving down waiting lists for patients and providing quality care. Health care needs to be local – London does not know the challenges and the problems that are faced by a GP’s surgery in Birmingham. Staff in Birmingham do. Local healthcare with the funding that is needed to improve health outcomes, and crucially, improve health equality across the country.
The Government continues to ignore the Cladding Scandal and the thousands of people trapped in unsafe and increasingly expensive homes. Instead of getting a grip of the dodgy construction firms and holding them to account the Government are letting them off the hook. Many developers used Special Purpose Vehicles to construct dangerously clad buildings, meaning it’s unlikely they will be covered by the proposed extension of the Defective Premises Act 1972. I’ve tabled a Parliamentary Written Question to see if the Government has considered this and what they plan to do to ensure that developers cannot use loopholes to construct dangerous buildings without having to face the responsibility for having done so. The Government’s proposal to extend the Defective Premises Act regulations from 6 to 15 years also means a large number of properties won’t be covered. The Government haven’t considered the impact of this, leaving many with homes built in the 2000s without cover.
But the Government’s inaction goes further than just developers – it extends to mortgage lenders. The EWS1 guidance from RICS is just that: guidance and so 20% of lenders don’t follow it. This decision to take no regulatory action is leaving many in the lurch. We need to know what discussions the Housing Secretary has had with his Cabinet colleagues to implement real change on EWS1 guidance. The Government have the power to implement change, but I fear all I will get is a blasé response to my question. Then there is the issue of building control companies continuing to use defective cladding to this day. The minister has written an open letter about Kingspan Ltd K15 insulation – but we can’t be sure a letter posted on an obscure webpage will reach everyone. If the Government is serious about tackling the Cladding Scandal, we will see a series of answers to my questions which honestly accept that more can be done. For too long the Government has listed these issues as ‘too difficult’ – that must end now.
This week I watched in horror as Tory MPs who spoke out against the draconian measures introduced by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill voted to pass the Bill’s third reading with a 100-strong majority. This Bill viciously attacks fundamental rights to protest enshrined in our understanding of democracy and does nothing to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls. While the Bill proposes a 10-year prison sentence for damage to a statue, there is still no provision to make street harassment crime or misogyny a hate crime, and no toughening of sentences for rape or domestic abuse. The statues of slave traders are apparently more of a priority to this Tory Government than the safety and wellbeing of women and girls.
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!