Weekly Round-Up: 25 November 2022

The Autumn Statement is the fourth Budget we’ve had this year from the Tory Government. If you needed any evidence that they have lost control of the economy this is it. It was a Budget designed to take the ‘tough decisions’, but what we got was can kicking, procrastination and empty promises on the issues that matter most.

As you all know, my background in the NHS means I watch the Government like a hawk on all thing’s health and social care. Snuck out in the statement was a U-turn on promised improvements to social care funding. This will be a huge blow for anyone who was planning their care package for loved ones. Another example of a government that has run out of ideas. I spoke in the Autumn Statement debate and I pressured the Government to say whether the Treasury had made any assessment of the waste of money across local government since they made announcements about implementing the reforms and systems have been put in place. Or whether the Treasury had considered who is going to deliver these magical packages of care without a workforce plan. In my extensive experience of delivering such projects, what will happen is that we will see tents in car parks again, new hotels being registered for spaces, and agency staff supporting the care packages on higher wages, thus costing the system more.

Young people starting out in life have also been undermined by the Tory Government. They have experienced a decline in school and FE funding and now they face low wages, a recession, high rents and a government bereft of ideas and hope to encourage them into the future. It might be thought that the Government would want to help people back into the productive workforce, but adult education has been particularly badly hit. Again, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that total spending on adult education and apprenticeships will be 25% lower in 2024-25 compared with 2010-11.

Every year, I bring together employers, Bristol City Council, apprenticeship providers and young people at an annual apprenticeship fair, and I will continue to do so. It is the best way to support young people into a productive career, and I still strongly believe in the ladder of opportunity, but significant issues remain unresolved on the levy and the wider supply chain to get people into the apprenticeships that are needed. The Government need to sort it out.

Indeed, Keir Starmer’s speech to the CBI demonstrated what a huge difference Labour would make in government to support businesses to grow. He set out clearly that without a government that wants to build bridges between itself, business, trade unions and civic society we cannot grow the economy. His vision is one derived from collaboration, which will unlock the potential of our young people with apprenticeships and skills businesses need to thrive. Every business in Bristol, and across the UK, has a strategy for growth. It’s about time the government did too.

There was an Urgent Question this week on the tragic murders of Khaola Saleem, 49, and her daughter Raneem Oudeh, 22, in August 2018 committed by Ms Oudeh’s estranged husband. I commend my own local force and the chief constable for leading good work in Avon and Somerset. I asked the Minister whether she would tell us how many forces are still not providing domestic abuse training to officers. The figure was recently nine, but I wanted to know whether that had gone up or down and what more could be done to ensure that forces are given domestic abuse training. While the Government keep talking about their strategy for tackling abuse, domestic abuse incidents are on the rise while prosecutions are falling.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) met this week to discuss the role of devolved administrations from Scotland and Wales in negotiations and scrutiny of international treaties entered into by the UK Government, especially considering the recent comments by former UK Environment Secretary, George Eustice MP, that the UK-Australia trade deal was “actually not that good.” It was pointed out there is plenty of expertise in the devolved administrations and we should be pulling together to scrutinise trade deals so that we know at that stage how this will affect devolved administrations.

Workplace sexual harassment remains widespread, underreported and poorly enforced. This is only compounded by the glaring loophole in the Equality Act. This week I joined the Bill Committee which would close this loophole and it will ensure we are progressing women’s rights in the workplace, making the law work for working people and safeguarding future generations from abuse.

I was also able to speak during the Urgent Question on the Supreme Court’s decision around Scottish referendum legislation. The ruling from the court is a welcome step forward. It’s clear from my work on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee that unless the UK Government acts to drastically improve the flows of scrutiny, engagement and respect between all our parliaments and assemblies the union will struggle to work.

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.