Weekly Round-Up :: 21 April 2023

I started the week in a session of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee discussing the work of the Civil Service Commission. We questioned Baroness Stuart on her first year as First Civil Service Commissioner. There were initially some concerns over her perceived impartiality as a politician in carrying out a role that has usually been held by former public servants. There has been a drop in temporary appointments, which had been made during Covid, and many more appointments now are permanent appointments to the civil service. Permanent appointments offer more stability for staff as well as value for money for taxpayers in the longer term. We need a civil service that is responsive to events in the real world, but we also need a stable civil service that is able to understand the long-term trends of the work that is needed across the UK and that comes best with permanent appointments and a high retention of staff.

There was the opportunity to talk to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman this week to find out about the work that they do. The Ombudsman makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by NHS England and UK Government departments and other public organisations. They share their findings from their casework to help Parliament scrutinise public service providers and help drive improvements in public services and complaint handling. It is important that the Ombudsman is there not only to help the public find answers when other organisations are not providing the service they require but also to help us continually improve the services that we all pay into.

It was a pleasure to speak in a debate in Westminster Hall this week on the future of medicinal cannabis. The debate was about the economy and the possibilities for employment in a legitimate industry, however, we have not made much progress since 2018, despite those dedicated campaigners who have worked so hard. Notwithstanding the 2018 decision that medical cannabis could be used to help patients manage their symptoms, the trials and clinical research that would help the wider industry have moved at a glacial pace, so across the NHS, since 2018 only five people have been prescribed medical cannabis. That is ridiculously slow, and so many people have to go private. The Government have a responsibility to ensure that medicinal cannabis is available on the NHS for those who need it. People are suffering right now. We heard during the debate about children who are fitting, sometimes 100 times or more. Accessing care is, in some cases, pushing families to the brink of destitution. We should do everything we can to support those people.

This week I appeared on ITV West to discuss immigration and the Government’s priority to “stop the boats” which is simply a sticker plaster to a wider problem that the Government refuse to recognise. We’ve tried to amend previous legislation to try and break the business model for those trafficking people and work with National Crime Agency. But the government won’t take any long-term strategic look at this. The traffickers are able to exploit these vulnerable and desperate people because the Government has closed the legal routes to seek asylum in this country.

We also discussed housing in light of the decision by Homes England to grant planning permission for 260 homes on historic grassland in Bristol. Housing is my biggest casework issue, and we need to get the balance between building new and affordable homes and protecting our green spaces right. The pandemic showed us how important green space is for our physical and mental health but in order to get that balance right we need Conservative MPs in all areas to come to the table so that urban areas are not having to take all the responsibility for new housing and so that green space in urban areas is protected.

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.