Weekly round-up

The last week before Parliament formally rises is always busy, and this one was no different. We had another meeting with the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on our inquiry into the work of the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up to oversee elections, to regulate political finance in the UK, and to work to promote public confidence in the democratic process. This week we discussed electoral law reform and the possibility of bringing digital campaigning in line with traditional media and ensuring membership laws are brought into line with how the world works now. Campaigning has changed so completely since I first became an MP; yes, we still continue to knock on doors and campaign at events in the constituency, but there is also now so much done online through social media. We need to ensure our legal framework continues to regulate campaigning and the funding of elections to ensure transparency and fairness in the virtual as well as the real world.

We had the news this week that having reached an agreement with the EU over Brexit and Northern Ireland, they have now decided that the deal they negotiated was not good enough and they want to renegotiate. Trade is the way to the peace and prosperity we need to see in Northern Ireland. This issue needs to be resolved very quickly if trade is to continue and the peace agreement is not to be jeopardised. This week, in a statement on the situation the Secretary of State told us that he respects the epidemiological unit of the island of Ireland and that, in answer to fellow Labour MP Hilary Benn, the agreement being sought will avoid the need for a veterinary agreement and make it redundant. I asked the Secretary of State whether the agreement that he is now seeking a single agreement across the island of Ireland and the island of Britain? He responded that the agreement they are seeking is one that recognises that Northern Ireland is fundamentally part of the UK internal market. That means not only the goods which at the moment can move unfettered from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, but getting to a point where goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, to be used and consumed in Northern Ireland, are also able to flow freely. He said they want to avoid all those goods consumed and used in Northern Ireland, including from companies that do not even trade within Ireland, having still to go through the same checks as if they were going into the Republic and therefore the single market. He said it is just not sustainable, that is not right for businesses and not right for consumers in Northern Ireland. It would have been good if they had realised this before they agreed to the deal and risk a worsening of relations between us and the EU, still a major and important trading partner.

As schools close for the summer and restrictions are lifted, I think we are all looking forward to relaxing with family and friends and enjoying some nice weather. I hope you are all able to do that at some point during the summer, but I would kindly ask you to consider everyone within Bristol South during this time. Covid has not gone away and indeed the rate of cases in Bristol are rising. There are still many people vulnerable to Covid and to the risks of Long Covid who will be fearful of the impacts of the lifting of all restrictions. Please do continue to wear your masks in indoor settings such as public transport and in shops – we must continue to protect the shopworkers and other key workers who are at increased risk due to their increased exposure. Please continue to social distance where you can and continue to wash your hands regularly.

I want to say a huge thank you and well done to all the incredibly hardworking teachers and teaching assistants in Bristol South. It has been a challenging year for us all, but particularly for teachers who have had to learn to use new systems and ways of teaching and who have welcomed back our children into schools with enthusiasm and care, despite their own concerns of the challenges they faced. Amidst the usual lesson planning that teachers’ holidays inevitably entail, I hope you will all take the time you need to relax and recharge this summer.

I am launching my Summer Survey so that I can hear directly from you about the issues that are important here in Bristol South. Whether you have an opinion on the house building and development of Bristol City Council, the climate emergency, your access to health care, or the skills we are teaching our young people, I want to hear your views to help inform my Parliamentary work so that I can truly represent the views of those living in the constituency. Take the survey here.

This is my last weekly round-up before the summer, but you can keep up to date on my summer survey and other news on my Twitter feed and Facebook page.

If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing Karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk or by calling 0117 953 3575.