The collapse of Greensill Capital and the subsequent revelations about its relationship with the Government and Whitehall have raised significant concerns about the links between business and government in the UK. In light of this, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of rules to prevent conflicts of interest and regulation of access by current and former politicians and officials – the propriety of governance in light of Greensill. On Tuesday we heard evidence from the Rt Hon Lord Maude of Horsham, a former minister at the Cabinet Office, Ian Watmore and Sir John Manzoni KCB, both former Permanent Secretaries at the Cabinet Office, and Bill Crothers, a former Government Chief Commercial Officer at the Cabinet Office and former Director at Greensill Capital. From the evidence that we heard it is clear that adequate checks are not being undertaken to ensure that appointments are free from any conflict of interest. Our democracy is founded on the idea of fair play and equality – these links between business and the government whom they are likely to lobby undermine that foundation, regardless of the actions of those involved. We must safeguard our government processes from accusations of corruption and shady relationships if we are to maintain trust of the electorate in our abilities to govern fairly and without undue influence. I look forward to working with the Committee to make sure this is the case.
This week, we have seen the Government’s plan for education recovery post-pandemic going from bad to worse. It is clear that they have no idea how to tackle the inequalities in education that have been highlighted by the pandemic nor how to support children get back on track after the last year. They seem to fail to understand that school is not simply a holding pen for our children during the day while parents are at work; it is meant to prepare them for adult life, to provide them with the tools they will need to navigate the world, both professionally and personally. Children across the country have had an incredibly difficult year, and one that has the potential to affect them negatively in the long run – it is staggering that the Government are refusing to implement the recommendations of the advisor they appointed! Money spent on education is one of the best investments we can make – but this Government’s short-sightedness will have a serious and negative impact on the future prosperity of our children and our society.
The Labour Party held a debate on the justice system for one of this week’s Opposition Day Debates, and called on the Government to do more to tackle the damage that a decade of underinvestment has wrought. With record low conviction rates for perpetrators of sexual violence and an epidemic of misogyny that makes women and girls feel unsafe, this Government is treating victims of violence as an afterthought. And by doing so, they risk dissuading victims from reporting crimes. This cannot continue. Labour is putting tackling sex-based violence at the very top of our agenda and will work to ensuring that violence against women and girls remains in the spotlight until this Government take adequate action.
I was very pleased to visit Ashton Court, the Artspace Lifespace today. In May 2018, Artspace Lifespace took over the running of the Arts Mansion at Ashton Court and have worked to make it into a space for exhibitions, workshops, theatre and dance rehearsals and performances, and community activities. The pandemic has reminded us all of the importance of culture and the arts. Lockdown would have been so much more difficult without the streaming of musicals and plays into our homes, without the virtual choirs, and without the plans made to get back into our cultural and social venues. Art is incredibly important to our wellbeing – as a way to express ourselves, as a way to relax and enjoy the world around us, as a way to see the world in a different light. I’m really excited at the plans Artspace Lifespace have for the coming months and years and am looking forward to visiting the exhibitions and seeing the performances they have planned.
I also met with Minister Nick Gibb MP and the Regional Schools Commissioner to discuss how the Government are holding schools in south Bristol to account for education outcomes for our children. It’s of the utmost importance that these meetings are arranged because ministers can become detached from what is happening on the ground. I have long said that I will do all I can to improve educational outcomes in south Bristol and securing the ministers attendance with our Regional Commissioner is one such method I can use to do this.
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