It came to light this week that whilst the rest of us were following the rules, making deep sacrifices and being separated from loved ones over last year’s Christmas period, the Tories were partying. The Prime Minister should be deeply ashamed. 489 people died of COVID on the day of the Downing Street Party, a party which the Government covered up and then laughed about. The people of Birmingham expect our leaders to follow the rules set for everyone else and lead by example. The Prime Minister has failed yet again to demonstrate any kind of leadership and as your MP, I share your frustrations. I have had a number of constituents contact me about this and I want to assure you that I will continue to call for a proper independent investigation into the party to ensure it is not one rule for the Conservatives and another for everyone else.
I was pleased to learn that the House of Commons Select Committee for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has launched an inquiry into supported exempt accommodation. Whilst some providers do brilliant work supporting and housing vulnerable communities, there is increasing evidence found in sector reports and casework I receive from constituents, that a number of providers are in fact cowboy landlords who are exploiting these tenants through a range of abuses.
A landmark report recently estimated that local authorities are spending over £1 billion on this scandal-ridden sector. I asked the Government whether they knew how much had been spent in the exempt accommodation sector over the last year. Incredibly, the Government responded that it would be too costly for the department to collect this information. This is one of several examples of the Government looking the other way on exempt accommodation and refusing to address the problem, whilst pouring billions of pounds of public money into the pockets of these unscrupulous, and at times criminal, operators.
I have long-campaigned for the Government to close the legal loopholes that enable these rogue operators and so I am pleased that the Committee will be investigating and making formal recommendations which the Government must respond to. You can provide evidence to the Committee here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1688/exempt-accommodation/
I had many constituents contact me with their concerns about the Government’s Nationality and Borders Bill that was back in Parliament this week. The Bill would grant the Government the draconian power to deprive UK nationals of citizenship without telling them. The Government claims that the changes are required for practical reasons, but the reality is that the legislation is just not necessary – the current rules minimally require the Government to provide notice to people it is seeking to deprive of citizenship via letter to the person’s last known address. This part of the Bill undermines the rule of law and targets some of society’s most vulnerable people as under it, you would not be entitled to see the evidence against you or contest that evidence in a fair process.
Labour is completely against the announcement to remove citizenship without notice and therefore supported amendment 12, put forward by David Davis MP, which proposed to delete it. Unfortunately, we were out-voted by the Conservatives, but I will continue to fight for my constituents and highlight the damage this legislation will cause throughout its remaining stages.
In light of the new guidance starting next week to keep us safe from Covid-19, also known as ‘Plan B’, I would ask everyone continue to do all they can to stop the spread of the virus. Remember, you can still order free lateral flow tests in order to be regularly tested and if you show any Covid-19 symptoms you should take a PCR test as soon as possible. You can read more about the new guidance on the GOV.UK website.
I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend – stay safe!