The Government’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill started its journey through Parliament this week. This Bill has been widely condemned as it will see the UK stepping back from international law to break commitments made with our global partners. This is a dangerous game being played by the UK Government.
A key part of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement, which no one seems to want to mention but which has always been important for bringing peace and stability across communities, is the mutual interest and mutual respect between the UK and Irish Governments for the communities that exist in Northern Ireland. It is our duty to find a path through that avoids stagnation, indecision and fighting in the courts. We cannot afford to frighten off investment that is crucial for prosperity and security. Instead, we must choose investment that brings prosperity and keeps the peace in Northern Ireland.
It was a big week for the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee this week as we heard from the Head of the Home Civil Service, Simon Case. This is the very same Civil Servant who had to recuse themselves from investigating lockdown breaking parties in Downing Street because he attended them.
Now, I have been to Downing Street and it is really not that big. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that those working in Downing Street during the pandemic and during the lockdowns were unaware of what was happening. What was worrying about Simon Case’s answers to questions was how much he copied the Prime Minister’s style. While he said that they were investigating how to make it easier for staff to come forward with any complaints, I am concerned that some staff felt that it was perfectly acceptable to bring alcohol into the workplace and to break all the significant laws the Government had imposed on the rest of the country. It suggests to me that there was a complete failure of leadership within both the Government and the Civil Service.
I am quite frankly fed up of the excuses of the pandemic being an intense period of work and it being a stressful period for those working in Downing Street. It appears to me to treat our key workers with such contempt as if the doctors and nurses working in incredible uncomfortable, and at times, painful PPE, treating the sick and the dying, were not in incredibly intense and stressful workplaces themselves.
Following the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade, an Urgent Question was held in the House of Commons on the importance of women’s reproductive rights. I was dismayed by the attack on women’s rights by the US Supreme Court, especially as it defends the rights to freedom in so many other aspects. A woman’s right to choose does not force beliefs on others. Many women on the Labour Benches have worked with our sister parties across the world for many years to advance women’s reproductive rights, because they are fundamental to our economic rights. The £1.9 billion-worth of cuts to women’s aid programmes around the world do indicate the Government’s approach to those rights and to women’s programmes, so I asked the Minister to seriously urge her colleagues to look again at those cuts. This is a globally financed attack on women’s rights, and we need to respond in kind.
I was pleased to support the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge at their event in Parliament. This year the Summer Reading Challenge is partnering with the Science Museum Group to launch ‘Gadgeteers’, a science and innovation-themed challenge. The Summer Reading Challenge aims to encourage 4-11-year-olds to set a reading challenge for themselves and is funded by the Arts Council England. The Challenge will launch in England on Saturday 9 July. Visit the website to create a profile, find book recommendations, play games, and to find out about local libraries participating in the challenge.
I was pleased to meet with representatives for Rights For Residents to discuss their campaign to end the current restrictions around visiting loves ones in care homes. The lockdowns caused by the Covid pandemic were an incredibly difficult time for everyone, with children out of school, families and friends separated, and increased anxiety over work. However, there are still restrictions in place in some care homes. Rights For Residents told me about the residents who have told their families that they would rather die than continue merely existing in isolation, the residents who are then plagued with guilt for appearing to abandon loved ones who may not understand why they are no longer receiving visits. The campaign wants the Government to enshrine in law the right for residents of care home to have a nominated Essential Visitor so that residents of care homes are not isolated from the visits that are so important to them.
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