Weekly Round-Up

I was pleased to be able to ask a question during the debate on the Plan for Jobs this week and ask the Economic Secretary to the Treasury about the Government’s plans to significantly reduce the number of BTECs. I recently visited the newly opened jobcentre in Knowle which supports people back to work and I have previously been chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Apprenticeships. I have seen how crucial these qualifications are to young people in Bristol South and I cannot fathom why the Government is abolishing BTECs. I wanted to know if an Impact Assessment of the decision had been done and whether the Government would reconsider. The answer contained no mention of an assessment and was merely a reiteration of previous promises of investment in T-levels and apprenticeships, but it is simply not going far enough.

The work on improving Trailer Safety continues following a hasty decision by the Government to bring in legislation that would allow ‘light’ trailer towing without an additional test to ascertain the safety and knowledge of drivers. Studies have suggested that failure rates for this trailer towing test, known as the B+E test, are at around 30% – 8,575 people failed the test in 2019-20. The government’s decision to scrap the test which gives drivers the knowledge on how to tow safely is extremely concerning, particularly as they have made this legislation without conducting any assessment of the impact this will have on safety on the roads. No one should be driving with a trailer that is not safe, and I have raised questions with the Ministers concerned to highlight the potentially disastrous implications of this measure.  This matters because the consequences of unsafe trailers are catastrophic. Donna and Scott Hussey’s son Freddie was killed as he walked along Parson Street in Bedminster with his mum in 2014 when he was hit by a 2-tonne trailer that had come loose from a Land Rover. The trailer’s tow hitch was not secure as the position of its handbrake prevented it from being locked down. This terrible accident should never have happened. We need greater trailer safety and testing to prevent senseless tragedies like Freddie’s death from ever happening again. The government’s decision to rush through this ill-thought through legislation is a bitter blow for all those campaigning for greater safety.

On Wednesday morning I spoke to BBC Radio Bristol about the Assisted Dying Bill.  I strongly believe that in the end stages of someone’s life, they should have a choice over their treatment.  Research shows that in countries where assisted dying is legal, the amount of people who actually choose to go down this path is very low, but having that choice gives so many people the peace of mind and a sense of control, just as we expect in other stages in our lives.  The safeguards proposed by the Assisted Dying Bill, including requiring a six months terminal diagnosis and two independent evaluations by different doctors, would ensure assisted dying could take place safely, as it already does in countries around the world.

I was pleased to join in with the Industry and Parliamentary Trust’s Poppy Ride on Wednesday in Portcullis House. It’s a fun competition for MPs and parliamentary staff but there is a serious message and I was very happy to support this fantastic organisation and thrilled that I managed to cycle 2.1km in 5 minutes! The sale of poppies each year supports the vital work of the Royal British Legion who help look after our serving personnel as well as our veterans and their families. British Legion fundraising continues throughout the year and you can also take part in a Poppy Ride next May. On the website to register, you can also read the testimonials of those who have been helped by the work of the Royal British Legion and see the vital work that your donations contribute to. 

Applications for the Queen’s Green Canopy Project are now officially open.  Schools and community groups in Bristol South can apply for a free tree as part of the scheme, and it’s a fantastic way to green our community and commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The UK needs millions more trees to reach its 2050 carbon net-zero target, so this is a great way to do your bit and help us reach this goal. Find out more about the scheme and apply for a tree here.

This week is Trustees Week, so I want to give my thanks to the 115 charities and their trustees in Bristol South who do so much for local people.  Charities are the backbone of our communities and have kept so many people going through the difficult years of the pandemic, despite times being so tough for charities themselves.  Trustees voluntarily give up their time to help make our neighbourhoods the best places to live – I am grateful to all of them. 

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.