This week was a sad week for Labour – we said goodbye to our friend and colleague, Jack Dromey. Jack was a titan of the Labour movement, an excellent representative for Birmingham Erdington and a dedicated campaigner. He is a real loss to Labour, to the House, and to the people he represented for so many years. It was an honour to speak in the tributes to Jack in Parliament on Wednesday about our shared British and Irish heritage and what this meant to him. My thoughts and sympathies are with the family.
I was pleased to speak at the National Pensioners Convention on the pressure that the crisis in care is placing on older people due to the lack of government investment. We have a welfare state for the 2020s that is built on the life expectancy of people in the 1940s. There is an assumption embedded into the system that families will cope. No one wants to think about their own mortality or what would happen if they developed a serious illness or disability, but we must think about the system that we need in place in the twenty-first century. We in Labour do not believe that the Tory plans go far enough. Our goal should be to ensure that the UK is the best country in which to grow old because there is a system of care that no one has to wait for. We need strategies to increase recruitment, and in order to do so successfully we need to ensure fair wages and fair conditions for those who take on this vital but challenging work. Too many people are being forced to take part-time work or withdraw entirely from the workforce to help meet the care needs of relatives. Financially and practically this does not make sense. We need a system that helps people remain at home so that hospitals can continue with their vital medical care, we need a system that is financially accessible to all, and we need a system that is well-staffed. The Tories are failing in this abysmally.
I also met with Care England this week as part of my role as Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care to discuss the impact of Covid and how we should move forward. Covid has highlighted inequalities across our society but also represents a moment we can use to reset our ideas and develop policies and systems to ensure that everyone in society is cared for. We know the challenges that exist with the recruitment of staff and their retention under current pay and conditions, but it was also really interesting to talk about innovations in care. Care England is keen to develop care systems that not only look after the medical needs of those under their care, but also the mental stimulation that helps create a better future for everyone. We so often forget when we are discussing the needs of the care sector and those who will require their services that long-term care is not only about addressing medical needs, but also about ensuring that life is happy and fun – whether it’s someone to talk to, activities with others, or entertainment, we all need our minds stimulated as much as our physical needs met.
I was very pleased to attend a reception at the Irish Embassy for the unveiling of a bust of the late John Hume by artist Liz O’Kane. John Hume was a wonderful politician and a determined campaigner for peace in Northern Ireland and it was a wonderful occasion to once again pay tribute to a great man. Liz O’Kane is a fantastic artist and it’s a really beautiful sculpture that will remind us all of the dedication and determination that is needed to find peace in our politics and in our lives.
We had a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Trailer and Towing Safety this week where we heard from Baroness Vere of Norbiton about proposed changes to driving licence and trailer training accreditation. We also discussed a number of reports: the Trailer Training Accreditation Scheme from the DVSA with input from APPG stakeholders; the Trailer Safety Report from the Department for Transport; the Work Programme of the APPG; and on safety awareness initiatives such as Motorway Service Areas Stops. Our roads are busier than ever; it is vital that safety is a priority. Ensuring strict regulation of trailers and their towing is a small bureaucratic price to pay to ensure that no one else is killed on our roads from a dangerous trailer. We in the APPG will continue pushing the Government for regulation that mitigates the risks on our roads and ensures that drivers are accountable for the security of their vehicles.
The cost of living crisis has hit hard this week. With energy bills soaring the Government needed to take action to save family finances. Yet when the crunch came they could only offer a buy now, pay later solution. The loan, yes you read that right, they are giving people will be spread out over five years. This doesn’t solve the high energy prices, it simply kicks the can down the road.
I asked the Chancellor if he had thought about the millions of people who use prepayment meters as they can’t receive money off their energy bills as they top up at the meter at the corner shop. He admitted the Treasury doesn’t know how to reach 60% of them at present. Once again the Chancellor has shown himself to be detached from people’s lives and unable to implement policy that will make a difference.
The Labour Party has a fully-costed scheme that will place a levy on the oil and gas giants making billions to cut your bills. This will make a difference today and not load up people’s credit cards with more debt.
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