Weekly Round-Up

I was pleased to be able to speak in the debate on COP26 in Westminster on Monday. I know there are many, many constituents who are concerned about the climate emergency and who want the Government to do more to tackle it and to make sure that the world we pass on to our children and grandchildren is safe and secure. Bristol was the first local authority in the country to declare a climate and ecological emergency. We have set out a city-wide strategy to make Bristol carbon neutral, climate resilient and wildlife rich by 2030—the nuts and bolts, if you like—but Bristol and other cities need investment, and the Government’s funding model currently makes us compete with other cities for that funding. The Government cannot reach their targets using that model, so I asked the Prime Minister to look again and to help us with the private investment that we need to make a massive contribution to the Government’s own national targets. The Prime Minister once again reiterated his commitment to reaching net zero but said that Bristol had the means to invest within the funding that we already have – I’m afraid I’m simply not convinced.

Later on Monday I spoke in the debate on the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill. Having gone to a further education college myself, I am a strong supporter of further education and alternative routes to higher education or skills. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, I think that both FE and alternative routes are vital for better social mobility. Since becoming a Member of this House in 2015, I have spoken numerous times, including in my maiden speech, about the importance of devolution in England and post-16 education. We need to match up the opportunities that exist in my very wealthy city with the lack of opportunity that too many of my constituents face. It remains a dreadful waste of their human potential. I run an annual apprenticeships fair because I think that it is a crucial step up, particularly for those who have a poor experience of school or no history or experience of higher education. The lack of a proposal or support in the Bill for lower-level apprenticeships is a major mistake. The Government needs to think again and try to match up some of those aspirations, particularly around level 2 and level 3.

I raised a Point of Order this week on the issue of trailer and towing safety. The regulations, which abolish a safety test with no safety assessment (which has already happened) were debated in the Chamber last week and are opposed by many, including the Association of British Insurers and the Road Haulage Association. We talk a lot about the Government bypassing the House of Commons, and it seems extraordinary that an action of such magnitude for road safety has happened without legislation. I called for Government ministers to come to the House of Commons to explain their removal of the safety test on trailers and the legality of having done so without putting forward legislation to the House of Commons.

I was also in the debate on the Committee on Standards on the appalling behaviour of the Government in the last 2 weeks. Their efforts to protect an MP who had fallen foul of the rules and who showed no remorse or gave no apology for his actions were an affront to the democracy that the House of Commons is meant to represent. The Government u-turn on the subject is welcome; however that it had to come to such a moment shows just how little integrity and responsibility is shown by this Government.

I was pleased to round off the week visiting East Street Emporium to talk to the local designers and craftspeople working there. It is fantastic to see the collaboration that has brought so many local people together to create a business in East Street. There are some exciting developments happening with significant investment from Bristol City Council, the West of England Combined Authority, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Bringing local traders back onto the high street and encouraging people to return to the shops and cafes is important – by visiting East Street people are helping local people and their businesses with the money going back into the community on trips out, music lessons, and meals in local restaurants rather than into the profits of huge multinationals. It was great to see some hustle and bustle back on our high street.

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.