Weekly Round-Up

The Prime Minister this week gave his apology to the nation for breaking the lockdown rules that he had implemented, but it only lasted as long as necessary for the news clip. Then it was back to blaming everyone else but himself. During Prime Minister’s Questions this week, instead of tendering his resignation as an honourable Prime Minister who was found to have so egregiously broken the rules would have done, he once again repeated non-truths about employment in the UK and once again blamed the Labour Party for problems when the Tories have been in Government now for over a decade. The country deserves better. 

I was particularly concerned and disheartened to hear one particular defence of the Prime Minister in which it was suggested that many nurses and teachers had gathered in staff rooms after long shifts to have a drink or two to relax. Having worked for many years in the NHS I can assure my fellow MPs that this does not happen in usual times and most certainly not during this time of crisis. Our NHS staff and teachers who continued going to work and supporting the country through these most difficult times were dedicated and hard-working, sticking to the rules to protect their patients and the children they taught. To accuse them of such thoughtless behaviour now is a disgrace and I hope the MP who made the disgraceful claim will apologise to all NHS staff and teachers.

In a desperate attempt to distract the country from the Prime Minister’s rule-breaking, the Home Secretary has announced a truly shameful plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. There are the ethical concerns around this policy in that we are taking some of the most desperate and vulnerable people in the world and shipping them to a country with an appalling human rights record and cynically marketing this as the process through which to gain asylum in the UK. But they will not be given asylum in the UK. If they are granted asylum, they will only gain the right to remain in Rwanda. Economically, this is a disastrous policy as well. The Home Office has briefed that it could cost £30,000 per person to cover up to three months’ accommodation, but that is already three times more than the ordinary cost of dealing with an asylum case in the UK. The Home Secretary is asking the British taxpayer to pay more towards this morally reprehensible scheme and expecting their thanks for it. It is truly disgraceful. 

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee have this week written to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities urging the Government to remove provisions in the Elections Bill that would give the Government new powers to set direction for the Electoral Commission. Our inquiry has demonstrated that there is a lack of evidence to suggest that the proposed measures are either necessary or proportionate. The Committee does not take a stand on voter ID per se, but we are concerned that the Government has not undertaken adequate research into the impact of the implementation of new rules. We are calling on the Government to protect the independence of the Electoral Commission and ensure that parliamentarians have adequate time and opportunity to feed into and make recommendations on this new Bill so that our democratic procedures remain robust and trusted.

We have had the disappointing news this week that the Portishead branch line has been delayed yet again, this time to February 2023. The re-opening of the Portishead branch line is a key part of the MetroWest project which will link and upgrade the railway system in Bristol and the surrounding areas and will have a real positive impact on Bristol South. Traffic congestion on the roads will be reduced and the capacity on currently overstretched train services will be improved, giving constituents better connections and driving up economic growth. It’s vital this investment into our railway services is made to give people more options for greener travel, which in turn will reduce road traffic and improve air quality in South Bristol.

I have been made aware of a fantastic scheme for young people at Bedminster Quaker House on Thursday evenings. The Arts Club is completely free and no experience is necessary to join. Young people, 11-19 years of age, will be able to take part in creative activities, perhaps pursue their own projects, and hang out with friends and their peers. Exploring the arts is a fantastic way to unwind and perhaps find a new hobby and skill. I would encourage anyone interested to pop along to find out more!

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.