Weekly Round-up :: 27 January 2023

It’s been a busy week in Parliament. I started the week with a question to Jeremy Quin, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General on the vetting process of ministerial appointments, particularly when possible conflicts of interest need to be managed. The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has developed a strong understanding of the role and requirements of an ethics advisor and we stand ready to help and support the new ethics advisor. It is an essential role at the very heart of government and, indeed, our democracy. While declaring interests under the ministerial code is up to the individual, we need to ensure that there remains a strong vetting process to encourage members to declare interests and ensure transparency.

There was a debate in the Commons on the Northern Ireland Budget Bill. Many people living in Bristol will be impacted by the stalemate in Northern Ireland because of immediate family living there and by the UK Government’s legislative provisions on education and on health. Some of you will have experienced the collapse of a care contract this year because of the lack of budgets in the voluntary sector. The UK Government continue to refuse to accept any responsibility for the failure of their actions in Northern Ireland. Over the past six years the Assembly has been unable to function as they would anywhere else because of the situation with Brexit – a UK Government responsibility. The UK Government’s lack of understanding of the significance of their role in bringing stable government back to Stormont is hindering progress.

I was very pleased to be able to hold a debate in Westminster Hall this week on the importance of apprenticeships. Under this Government, young people are being let down. A lack of investment in capital and social terms is not only harming opportunities for them, but blocking a vital pipeline that helps power everything from the NHS to business and research and development. The Government’s approach to apprenticeships is a case study in the very real damage that can be caused by Government inaction and indifference. I am proud to represent communities in south Bristol that include thousands of young people with talent, ideas and passion, but many are among the least likely in the country to go to university. They need pathways that can lead them to a secure job and a rewarding career, just as our institutions and industry desperately need the skills and capabilities young people bring to the workforce. Apprenticeships can and should be an equally attractive option for those who seek a career but choose not to pursue a university degree.

Apprenticeships can be a fantastic route for young people into rewarding and vital careers and at a time when living costs are soaring and young people are put off taking on the debt that university demands, apprenticeships are a reassuring option for young people keen to learn and develop the skills they need to have a fulfilling career. Apprenticeships for roles in the NHS are a vital lifeline if we are to increase the NHS workforce – something which is badly needed – and to encourage young people into nursing when nursing bursaries are unavailable. We now have 130,000 vacancies in the NHS. It is woeful and shameful, but this is preventable, as it is for sectors beyond the NHS. For example, if we are serious about tackling the climate crisis with high-skilled green jobs, we must cultivate the talents and skills of everyone to reach net zero. We cannot rely on those with a degree; we need more people. We need our education system to work for everyone and give people the options and pathways that work for them. Right now, it does not.

This week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. HPV vaccination and cervical screening and so important if we are to rid society of cervical cancer and that is why going for your smear test is vital. The earlier this cancer is caught, the better the chances of recovery. 1 in 3 women do not respond to the letter from their GP notifying them that a smear test is due. Please take up the opportunity to have this screening – it takes a very short time. I know some people can be nervous about what to expect from a smear test – Jo’s Trust have plenty of information about cervical screening; about what to expect and why it’s important.

Another visit I undertook this week included St Michaels Hospital to hear from a fantastic group of clinicians about the menopause. Many of you will have read about the Government’s decision to take very tame reforms on menopause services which will hold women back. Listening to these clinicians has reaffirmed to me the need to go much further. It’s vital us politicians make sure more women can access better healthcare when needed.

I’ve visited Milestones Trust today – a fantastic organisation supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health needs. It was great to meet the staff and to talk about their experiences working at the Trust and to hear some of the challenges they face but also the positive impact that their work has on their lives. It’s wonderful to see the obvious care they have for their charges and to hear about the ways in which they are supporting each individual to find their place in society.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Today we remember those who lives were brutally taken from them as a result of prejudice and intolerance. We vow to work to prevent such prejudice and intolerance from taking such a hold in society again.

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.