Support for Ukraine
My thoughts and solidarity are with the Ukrainian people in their resolute opposition to the unprovoked and unjustifiable attack by the Russian Government. The Labour Party stands with our allies and partners in condemning it in the strongest possible terms.
The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government’s interests. As the Labour Party has repeatedly stated, the influence of corrupt Russian money must be urgently extricated from the UK.
In response to the Prime Minister’s statement on support for Ukraine, I stated that the UK must step up to provide vital humanitarian assistance. The Government must do more to provide sanctuary for those fleeing conflict and ensure they arrive here quickly and safely.
Locally, I joined our community in supporting the Luton branch of the Association of Ukrainians in the UK in collecting useful supplies and aid to be donated to the Ukrainian people.
If you would like to help, the Disasters Emergency Committee has created a Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal which you can donate to here.
Cabinet Office Questions
Our Civil Service should reflect the communities it serves. As Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, I pressed the Government Minister on plans to relocate senior civil service jobs outside of London. The Government is currently failing to meet its targets and it remains unclear how it plans to remedy this.
I also questioned the Government over why 70% of Government contracts were awarded to suppliers in the South of England. We need Government spending to be more evenly spread out across our country to create good jobs and opportunities for everyone.
The Government must implement a strategy to put opportunities and decision making back in the places that built Britain.
Post-16 Education and Skills Bill
In the Skills Bill debate, I pressed the Government on its plan to remove funding for BTECs. The Government’s own equalities impact assessment states that this course of action will disproportionately affect some of the most disadvantaged students.
As a governor at Luton Sixth Form College, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of BTEC qualifications. We cannot allow the Government to narrow opportunities and undermine social mobility in towns like Luton. The Government must work commit to continuing to fund BTECs and to protect student choice.
International Mother Language Day
Last week, I spoke in a debate celebrating International Mother Language Day, with over 100 languages spoken across Luton, it is important that we recognise the strength in our diversity and celebrate the communities that make up our town.
The importance of learning mother languages is further highlighted by the variety of supplementary schools in Luton helping to facilitate the learning of a variety of languages, including Bangla, Ukrainian, Turkish, Polish, Greek and Tamil. However, many of these schools have been severely impacted by a decade of Government austerity. With 60p in every £1 having been cut from local budgets as local authorities can no longer afford to offer discretionary grants that support the schools.
Living with Covid-19
The Prime Minister has set out the Government’s ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan in Parliament. However, I raised my concerns about the low vaccination rates in Luton and how this will impact our communities. I asked the Prime Minister whether he will take personal responsibility to ensure continued vaccination in communities like Luton with low vaccination and booster rates. Our town must not be left behind.
If you are yet to receive all of your jabs, you can find out more information on where you can get vaccinated here.
GMB and Uber recognition deal
I was pleased to join GMB in Parliament to learn about their recognition deal with Uber. The deal provides 70,000 workers in the gig economy trade union representation, including many in Luton. This is a vital step towards raising standards across the private hire industry and ensuring basic rights for all workers.
Child Poverty Debate
It is truly shameful that in the 21st century, poverty has become part of everyday life for many in our country. Families are choosing between heating and eating, and food bank usage continues to rise. Last week, I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate addressing regional inequalities in child poverty. In my speech, I pointed out that although some regions may not be considered deprived, there are towns within those regions with high levels of poverty. Luton South has over 8,000 children living in poverty, 10% higher than the national average. The number of families facing hardship is also set to increase following the Government’s failure to tackle the cost of living crisis.
The Government has also failed to address increasing child poverty in its Levelling Up White Paper. Reducing child poverty, investing in early years or tackling health inequalities were not amongst its stated missions. Leading children’s charities condemned this omission and stated that levelling up should not just be about spreading opportunities but about tackling “the underlying issues that persistently deny children fair access to those opportunities.” You can watch my full speech below.