Weekly Round Up :: 24 February 2023

This week kicked off with a meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on our inquiry into planning for the future of the Government’s estates. Sounds dry but with the UK Government being one of the biggest land owners in the country it’s vital that we scrutinise how they plan to manage our taxpayers money properly. We heard from the three main civil service unions on the Cabinet Office’s civil service relocation and job reduction policies. The Government has dropped the target to reduce the civil service by 91,000 posts, although key ministers still expect numbers to drop. The Government also plan to move 22,000 roles out of London by 2030 and to expand the number of regional hubs. It’s important that we have a sufficient civil service to ensure that public services run smoothly, and so that our society functions as it should.

The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, of which I am a vice-chair, will meet for a session in Stormont in early March, bringing together people across the jurisdictions and across all parties, as happened before 1998. Those informal ties are very important, but it is also important that parliamentarians on all sides understand where we have come from and, crucially, look forward to where we are going. The UK Government are failing to act in a similar way. They are failing to bring people together, to improve dialogue in order to find a way through the impasse and to bring functioning and effective government back to Northern Ireland.

The major issue at the moment is, of course, Brexit. Many of the people I have spoken to in Northern Ireland had started their businesses in the past three to five years, since Brexit. The demand for Irish produce in Northern Ireland, across the island and internationally—it is being sold into Fortnum & Mason, and Harrods—is inspirational, and it is thriving. It is important that we celebrate those successes and the opportunities that some of us believe can come from the arrangements on offer from the EU and the negotiations that we want the Prime Minister to conclude. There is huge opportunity here and many of us want to see that for the people and the industries in Northern Ireland. We need the stakeholders to sit around a table and talk and crucially, listen to one another.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. This appalling act of aggression has destabilised security in the region while the atrocities committed by the Russian troops has shocked and horrified the world. It was an honour to meet Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Vadym Prystaiko, this week and to hear him speak so eloquently of the bravery and determination of the Ukrainian people and their desires to fully become part of the European community. We in the Labour Party stand by the Ukrainians and resolve to do all in our power to support them in their fight against Russian aggression. Slava Ukraini!

It was fantastic to see so many people at the Jobs and Apprenticeships Fair yesterday at City of Bristol College. There was so much enthusiasm among the young people looking for a specific apprenticeship or looking into the different opportunities that are available and I know that many of the employers there were excited about the breadth of talent and passion that they were presented with. I am excited to see the opportunities that young people in Bristol South find and I hope you will let us know about your successes!

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.