In the House of Commons today, I spoke during the Backbench Business debate on the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which I’m very grateful to Vernon Coaker, the Member of Parliament for Gedling, for securing as it’s an issue which is very important to me.
One of the biggest issues with Modern Slavery is a lack of awareness, with 1 of 10 not knowing what it is and 2 in 3 not knowing how to recognise it, so I talked about this and what we can do to improve the situation, and allow the Act to make the difference it intended. You can watch my contribution here.
This afternoon I was drawn to ask a Parliamentary Question of Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence, and took my opportunity to hold the Government to account on the progress they are making on the implementation of their 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and find out whether they are on track to meet their 2020 targets. You can watch the Minister’s response to that question here.
I used my given Supplementary Question to ask specifically about one element of the SDSR which I believe to be very important: BAME representation. SDSR 2015 aimed for at least 10% of Armed Forces personnel to be BAME yet currently only 2.4% of Regular Officers are from a BAME background, and none of these are of two- star rank or above. This is clearly not good enough, and certainly not in line with the target, so I asked the Minister to tell me when the Ministry of Defence will publish a new diversity strategy to get to grips with this challenge? You can watch me asking this, and the Minister’s response here.
This morning my Labour colleague Chris Bryant, Member of Parliament for Rhondda, introduced his Private Members Bill in the House of Commons in an attempt to protect emergency workers from assaults while doing their jobs. The Bill would mean that, in the eye of the law, such assaults would be considered ‘aggravated’ and the possible sentence for perpetrators of such crimes would be doubled. It would also make an offence of those suspected of committing these crimes refusing to provide a DNA sample.
When people put themselves at risk to help others they deserve to be completely protected and go to work knowing that they are protected by the law. I therefore fully support this Bill and showed my support in the Chamber this morning by intervening as Chris introduced the Bill, as well as telling a short story of my own experience with the fire service on Wednesday morning. You can watch my intervention and Chris’s response to it here.
Yesterday I was delighted to be able to discuss in Parliament an important issue which faces many of my constituents – access to advice services.
In Nottingham we have an incredibly wide range of organisations offering free advice on a variety of issues. Some provide a specific service across the city, some support a small locality or focus on a certain community, but what they have in common is their value to the people who rely upon them. I used my speech to highlight some of them and outline the services on offer, as well as address some of the challenges they’re facing, including the full roll-out of Universal Credit which begins in Nottingham next Summer, which threatens to derail the level of service that can be provided.
Thank you to everyone who offered their assistance while I prepared for this, and for the great work that’s being done in our city to provide these services to people that need them.
You can watch the debate here, or read the transcript here.
Last night Parliament voted in favour of moving the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill onto the Committee Stage. I spoke in the debate before voting against the Bill. You can watch my speech here.
I accept and respect the result of last year’s referendum and believe that the Government must now secure a good Brexit deal to safeguard jobs, security, and rights and protections. The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert EU law into UK law so that there is certainty from the moment we leave the EU. This will then allow Parliament to repeal, amend or replace any EU-derived laws as necessary in the future. I do not underestimate this task and it is important that the Government get this vital legislation right.
However, in my view, the Government’s Bill as it stands now is not fit for purpose. Without significant changes in several areas of concern, I was unable to vote for the Bill last night.
Specifically, there are sweeping powers outlined in the Bill that allow Ministers to make changes to other laws. I believe these are powers that require effective oversight or accountability. However, such safeguards are currently lacking from the Bill. The Bill also lacks clear enforcement mechanisms.
On Thursday I was drawn to question the Ministers for Exiting the European Union on their work in Government. My opening question was whether the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill proposals will include for a mechanism to ensure that UK workers’ rights and protections remain in line with EU rights and protections after the UK leaves the EU. As we leave the European Union it is vital that the Government doesn’t take us in a direction opposite to why we voted to leave, and that our workers receive at least the same levels of protections.
I followed this question up by asking the Ministers to detail the precise mechanism that they will use to work with trade unions and employers to ensure that Britain does not become the ‘low-standards capital of Europe’ post-Brexit and to maintain workers’ rights over time. The Minister wasn’t able to do this, but you can watch his response to both my questions by clicking here.
Yesterday I debated in Parliament on the state of Nottingham’s schools. I joined my Labour colleague in Nottingham, Lilian Greenwood MP, who hosted the debate, in standing up for our schools against continuing Government cuts.
The government’s projections show that every single school in Nottingham will lose money in real terms, and that will no doubt lead to teachers and teaching assistants losing their jobs. This is not good enough. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to parents outside school gates and you can’t overstate the strength of feeling on this topic. When people start losing jobs, people won’t be happy regardless of their personal politics.
You can watch the full debate here.
Or you can watch my speech here or read it here, if you’d prefer.
Nottingham Post have also covered the debate here.
This lunchtime I took the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Boris Johnson MP, what steps the Government is taking to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and then question why the Prime Minister didn’t make her thoughts on this known to Donald Trump before he announced the US was withdrawing from the agreement, rather than waiting until the G20 summit to challenge him.
On 1 June 2017, Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was adopted by 195 countries in December 2015. Following this announcement the Prime Minister refused to denounce Trump’s decision in a joint statement with the leaders of France, Germany and Italy, whereas Labour strongly condemns the US decision to withdraw from the Agreement. I’m deeply disappointed by Theresa May’s failure to publicly criticise this decision and by her refusal to join the statement of our European allies condemning the announcement and expressing support for the Agreement.
I believe the UK must now redouble its efforts to support the Agreement and we must do everything we can to help make sure that it succeeds.
You can watch my questions and the Minister’s responses here.
This morning I was able to ask Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Cabinet Office, Caroline Nokes MP, what her Department will be doing to ensure that the police have the resources to enforce cyber laws, without having to sacrifice important neighbourhood policing.
Society is more dependent on the internet today than it ever has been, yet anything connected to the Internet, which can include our every day appliances and much more, not just our home computers and phones, is vulnerable to cyber-attack. The global May 2017 ransom-ware cyber attack, which affected some 150 countries, shows us exactly how vulnerable computer networks can be and highlights the need for the Government to take cyber security seriously and provide Police with the funding they need to tackle it.
Yesterday I had met with Craig Guildford, the Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, who had explained to me how our local force experience these problems first-hand, and however determined they are to give both aspects the attention they need, the funding just isn’t there. The Government needs to fix this.
My question and the Minister’s response can be watched here.
As the newly elected MP for Nottingham North, I called for the end of cyclical poverty in my constituency as I made my maiden speech in Parliament earlier today.
Making a maiden speech is an important milestone in an MP’s career. It is the first chance to make a speech during a debate in the House of Commons Chamber.
I began mine by thanking my predecessor, Graham Allen, who was the MP for Nottingham North for 30 years: “Me and all my neighbours owe Graham a great debt of thanks. He ought to be a Freeman of Nottingham or to never have to pay for a pint in Bulwell again – whichever he considers the greater honour.”.
I then paid a tribute to the great city of Nottingham and to the things and people that make it special, not forgetting Market Square, the two world class universities, Vicky McClure and Nottingham Forest’s success in Europe.
But this speech wasn’t just about the things which make Nottingham and the constituency great. I shared my anger about cyclical poverty in Nottingham North, and vowed to work hard for my constituents to make Nottingham North a better place: “I will do everything I can as a Labour and Co-operative Party Member of Parliament and as a Trade Unionist to fill this gap. I shall seek to use all the intricacies of this place [Parliament] to highlight our issues. I shall seek to build support for the long-term projects we need to change our community. And I will work and work until we see things get better.”
A maiden speech is only a small part of what MP has to do but I am thrilled to get the chance to speak for the people of Nottingham North and I intend to do it as loudly and as often as possible.