Weekly Round-Up

On Monday I was pleased to attend an event run by the Menopause Mandate, a group of women from all walks of life who share a common interest in perimenopause and menopause. We have heard a lot in recent years about the impact of the menopause on women and the relative lack of support that is available to them, especially in workplaces. We risk losing so much capacity and expertise from women who feel their workplaces are no longer comfortable and which seem to put in place more hindrances than opportunities. The Menopause Mandate are creating a coalition of campaigners to achieve their goal of revolutionising the support and advice available to women from both the health service and wider society.
It was a pleasure to meet Bristol Young Labour members on their visit to Parliament with fellow Bristol Labour MP Kerry McCarthy this week. It is great to see the enthusiasm and talent that we have in our younger members.

We had a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this week, where we heard evidence from Lord Geidt on his role as the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests. I pressed him on the leaked legal advice around the Northern Ireland protocol – which is a clear breach of the Ministerial Code – and all he could do was say the matter falls with the Prime Minister. Lord Geidt’s resignation followed this grilling from the Committee.

It seems to me that either the Prime Minister or the Attorney General is responsible for leaking advice. It then appears that the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests has little power to ensure that the Ministerial Code is followed or that wrongdoing is exposed. Standards in public life are important – they are the foundation to the trust in politicians that underpin the democratic functioning of the state. We must have a Government that is seen to act in accordance with the rules and that when individuals do not act in accordance with the rules, they are punished appropriately. This is not seen to be the case with this Government.

I was pleased to speak during Health Questions in the House of Commons this week. Quality care for our loved ones depends on a well-trained and motivated care force. I think we can all agree on that, and I commend the work of the all-party group. I heard the words of the Minister, but we have had a lot of warm words about a dementia strategy and the promise of a clear date. I asked the Government to be more specific about a date for publication, and to be clearer about the workforce plan, including training for staff, given the Government’s rejection of all workforce amendments to the Health and Social Care Levy Act 2021. We cannot give confidence to people living with dementia and their carers without a much clearer plan that is put in place very quickly.

I was also pleased to be able to speak in the Adjournment Debate on the Portishead Railway, although disappointed that there was a need to debate the subject again. Reopening the passenger line both ways is important, and creating extra capacity on the lines running through Parson Street and Bedminster in Bristol South is crucial to pursuing low-carbon forms of transport and to supporting the new housing that is coming forward. I am keen to work on a cross-party basis on this in the interests of the entire Bristol and North Somerset area, and I urge the Government to do more. Reopening existing lines as well as opening new stations will help open up the city centre for more commuters, making it easier for people to move around different parts of the city, and to do so in a more environmentally friendly way. We need to ensure people are able to engage with local and wider economies to help boost the national economy and ensure they are supported with the efficient and environmentally-friendly transport they need.

I was pleased to attend an event on the early diagnosis of breast cancer held in parliament by the research and care charity Breast Cancer Now. We heard from experts on what can be done to ensure patients continue to benefit from a fast and early diagnosis of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Now have closely followed the data on diagnosis of breast cancer in the last two years and have raised concerns about the drastic drop in performance of cancer waiting times and the drop in uptake in the NHS Breast Screening Programme. We need the Government to significantly improve support for practitioners and hospitals to ensure that staff have the resources they need to clear the backlog of those facing treatment and diagnosis and also to continue to raise awareness among society about the signs they need to look out for. Signs and symptoms include lumps or swellings in the breast, upper chest, and/or armpit, a change to the skin around the breast, a change in colour, size or shape, nipple change, rash or crusting around the nipple or any unusual liquid. For more information, check out the Breast Cancer Now website. If you are concerned, always check with your GP.

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.