Update on neonicotinoids and bee welfare

Karin Smyth MP is often asked about the main issues raised by her constituents in Bristol South. One of the issues which continues to be of major importance is the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and their impact on the bee population.

She has recently written to the constituents who have contacted her in the past about the issue with the following update:

The Government has so far been unclear on its position with regard to restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids on crops after the UK leaves the European Union.

Shortly before the Parliamentary summer recess, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove stated that UK government policy on neonicotinoid pesticides would “follow both existing EU protections” and be “enhanced in line with the science”.

He said that he had paid “close attention” to the large-scale scientific study published in June by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which found evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides may indeed harm bee populations. He went on to say that the Government aims “to ensure that our bee population and our pollinators are protected”.

This is certainly a positive step in helping promote the welfare of our bee population, but we must equally all guard against complacency and I will therefore continue to support calls for the Government to introduce or maintain a full and permanent ban on neonicotinoids after Brexit.

To read the House of Commons exchange in full click here

If constituents have any more concerns about bee-harming neonicotinoids or any other issues, they are always welcome to contact Karin.

Bristol-based technology offers affordable access to Braille

Ed Rodgers, MD of Bristol Braille Technology (left), Karin Smyth MP, Paul Sullivan and his dog Elsie

Karin Smyth MP joined blind and partially-sighted people in Bedminster to see ground-breaking technology that promises access to Braille at a fraction of the cost of conventional means.

Bristol Braille Technology (BBT), a not-for-profit company based at Bristol Hackspace, Bedminster, has developed the world’s first multiline digital Braille eBook reader, Canute. Managing Director Ed Rodgers joined the Bristol South MP and a group of local blind and partially sighted people who demonstrated the new technology.

Ed Rodgers said: “Canute offers potential Braille users a better chance of education and employment in their life by learning and using Braille in a radically affordable way. We have been working with a community of Braille users who have been instrumental in the design process.

“We are starting a quiet evolution in Braille literacy here in Bristol and we look forward to working with our MP Karin Smyth and others, to make sure its spreads around the country and abroad.”

Karin Smyth MP said: “I was delighted to see this exciting innovation being developed and used in my constituency, and to hear from local people how much they value Canute’s potential. It promises to make Braille more accessible to people who can’t currently afford access, and I look forward to following its progress in the months ahead.”

Canute has been co-developed for five years by BBT and a group of Braille enthusiasts called the Braillists, which has a national membership of over 250 Braille readers. With this positive and useful feedback from the Braille community, Canute is expected to be in the market in late 2017/ early 2018. This link shows the current process reported by different media.

Electrification announcement doesn’t augur well for Bristol passengers

Commenting on news that plans for electrification of the mainline from Cardiff to Swansea have been dropped, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth said: “I have been asking Ministers for clarification over the delayed electrification of lines into Bristol: will it happen or not? I haven’t been given a straight answer but the ditching of electrification between Cardiff and Swansea doesn’t augur well for passengers in Bristol and the south west.”

Karin Smyth appointed Shadow Deputy Leader of the House

Karin Smyth MP has been appointed to a new Parliamentary post as Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

As Deputy to Valerie Vaz MP (Shadow Leader of the House of Commons) Karin Smyth will be central to the Labour front bench team’s input to the arrangement of Commons business.

“I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into this new role, playing a key part in holding the government to account. We need to ensure we have a modern, open Parliament and that the focus of MPs’ work in the Chamber reflects the priorities of the many not the few,” said Karin Smyth.

The new post means the Bristol South MP has stepped down from her role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Keir Starmer MP.

Relaunch of Bedminster-inspired government trailer safety campaign

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth has welcomed the relaunch of a road safety campaign led by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) in honour of three year-old Bedminster boy Freddie Hussey, killed by a trailer in 2014.

The #TowSafe4Freddie campaign is re-launched by the DVSA from today, 17 July.

Karin Smyth, who has been campaigning on trailer safety after she was approached for support by Freddie’s parents Donna and Scott, said: “I’m pleased the #TowSafe4Freddie is being relaunched to coincide with a busy summer of motoring on the UK’s roads.

“Towed caravans and other trailers are a common sight on our highways during the summer months, as people head off for a break. It’s vital that drivers know how to fix them safely and securely before they set off.

“This campaign, in memory of Freddie Hussey, helps drivers learn how to make a few simple checks to help them tow safely.”

The relaunch follows an exchange in the House of Commons last week (14 July) when the Labour MP secured backing from new Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman MP for another initiative – this one from the National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) – which allows members of the public a free trailer safety check from its participating members.

The headline advice to drivers towing trailers is:

• make sure the brakes are working correctly

• check that the lights are undamaged and working correctly

• check that the coupling height is correct

• use a breakaway cable or secondary coupling

check online here

More about the NTTA scheme can be found here

‘Important’ trailer safety scheme backed by Bristol MP and road safety Minister

A new initiative aimed at improving the safety of towed trailers on roads has received government backing, after a Bristol MP highlighted it in Parliament.

Karin Smyth, who has been campaigning on trailer safety following a constituency tragedy, drew attention in the Commons to a new being scheme run by the National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA) which allows members of the public a free trailer safety check from its participating members.

To watch: Scroll to foot of page

At Transport Questions (13 July) the Labour MP drew attention to the scheme, as part of a discussion she initiated about trailer safety on UK roads: “Will he offer his support to a new road safety initiative from the National Trailer and Towing Association which will see member organisations across the country offering free towing safety inspections to members of the public?”

Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman MP paid tribute to the Labour MP’s work on the issue, and praised what he called an ‘important’ initiative from the NTTA.

He said: “I am delighted the National Trailer and Towing Association has established the scheme so that people can go to one of their participating service centres and get a visual inspection and report on their trailers.

“This should make a difference in assisting trailer owners to identify and have any defects rectified. And not only do I welcome this initiative, I welcome the fact that they and other organisations are working closely with government in order to improve the safety of towed trailers.”

Karin Smyth has campaigned for better trailer safety since being approached by constituents Donna and Scott Hussey whose three year old son, Freddie, was killed when a trailer came loose in Bedminster, Bristol in 2014.

He also told the Commons that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency publicity campaign #TowSafe4Freddie named in honour of Freddie Hussey, aiming to improve driver education on the issue, is to be relaunched this summer, and reminded MPs that the government has recently been consulting on laws relating to causing death by careless and dangerous driving.

Karin Smyth will meet Jesse Norman next week in a bid to make further progress.

Time to rethink making careers in the NHS attractive to people of all backgrounds

Karin Smyth MP has renewed calls for people from all backgrounds to be actively encouraged into careers in health and social care.

In a new article written for Progress this week, the Bristol South MP says more funding on its own is not enough to tackle the National Health Service’s nursing shortage.

Following the publication of figures showing that for the first time since 2008, more nurses and midwives are leaving the profession in the United Kingdom than joining it, the Labour MP said “It is time for us to explore how we can return to the idea of nursing as a highly attractive career for people from less affluent households who are well-equipped with aptitudes to do a great job in our NHS.”

And today (6 July) in the House of Commons she challenged Health Ministers to define clear career pathways between health and social care so that people who want to carry out these vital roles are encouraged to do so. Responding, Health Minister Steve Brine MP agreed, saying “it is imperative we get the right people into the sector.”

Watch the Commons exchange below

In her article, Karin Smyth wrote: “I meet many Bristol South constituents in their thirties and older the like of whom in years gone by would have been well set to join the NHS, using the range of skills they’d acquired through family, caring and employed roles.

“Often they aren’t clear how to enter healthcare professions for which they’d be very well suited. They know there’s a range of secure, well-paid roles with significant benefits, pensions and flexible working options. They know the demand for healthcare will always be there. But they don’t know how to find their way in.

We could do with a proper informed debate about how we attract people from all backgrounds to enter these professions; how we nurture and support them through a challenging set of career journeys. Those journeys may have different end points for different people, but could significantly alter the profile of who is attracted to these professions. It could usher a wider breadth of people with the right aptitudes, developing their skills and boosting the healthcare system we all rely on.”

You can read the article in full here

Health Secretary pledge to Bristol MP on taxpayer value of NHS property lease

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has pledged to look into a decision made last week by NHS Property Services to lease a prestigious new HQ in the City Of London at a cost to the taxpayer of well over £1 million, following a challenge by a Bristol MP.

Watch the exchange: scroll to the foot of this page

Karin Smyth contrasted the NHS Property Services move with the threefold increase imposed by the same organisation on the rental bill facing Knowle West Health Park in her Bristol South constituency.

Speaking at Health Question Time in the House of Commons, the Labour MP asked: “NHS Property Services have just signed a million pound lease on a central London location. Can I suggest other properties are available? Would he like me to enquire in my own constituency in Knowle West where NHS Property Services increased rental for the local health park threefold. Better value to the taxpayers is available.”

Jeremy Hunt responded, stating he will look into these matters if Karin Smyth sends him the details.

Karin Smyth said: “The Naylor Review set out a strategy to make better use of the NHS estate. But the signing of a five year lease by NHS Property Services on a prestigious HQ in the City Of London at a cost of well over £1m doesn’t sit well alongside the threefold increase in rent they’ve imposed on Knowle West Health Park.

“The contrast is worrying and can only undermine the credibility of the strategy, and fuel the unhelpful speculation over the government’s intentions for NHS properties across the country.”

Is it going to happen or not? MP quizzes Ministers on rail electrification

A Bristol MP has renewed her challenge to government Ministers over the delayed electrification of stretches of rail lines into Bristol Temple Meads.A Bristol MP has renewed her challenge to government Ministers over the delayed electrification of stretches of rail lines into Bristol Temple Meads.

As a member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, the Labour MP played a key part in a recent inquiry into the modernisation of the Great Western Railway which led to the publication of its report in March 2017. She also quizzed the Rail Minister on the issue during a Commons debate last autumn.

Now Karin Smyth has this week tabled a series of Parliamentary Questions, and written to Transport Ministers, drawing attention to the continuing delays, and to the general election campaign visit by Chancellor Philip Hammond during which he reportedly refused to commit to a new date for the electrification project.

In her letter she says: “Whilst I recognise that decisions need to be subject to ongoing assessment, seven months on (from the Committee report) in the continuing absence of any government commitment to electrification, I and my constituents remain confused and still await news.

“My constituents want to know the timescale, not just for the electrification they want to see, but also for a firm government decision one way or another. Put simply: Is it going to happen or not?”

The Bristol South MP has also tabled Parliamentary Questions, asking the Secretary of State for Transport

  • when he expects to announce whether the Great Western mainline to Bristol will be fully electrified; and if he will make a statement
  • what assessment he has made of the benefits for passengers in terms of capacity, frequency and journey times of the full electrification of the Great Western mainline to Bristol, and
  • what the role of the Office and Rail and Road is in relation to the full electrification of the Great Western mainline to Bristol.

Thank you: 2017 general election

This is the speech made by Karin Smyth MP having been re-elected as Bristol South’s Member of Parliament in the general election on 8 June 2017:

“Thank you to the returning officer, and to all the staff still here this morning and to all the staff in the polling stations across Bristol South who have worked tirelessly again to serve our democracy.

“I’d also like to thank Avon and Somerset Police for their unstinting efforts in making sure this campaign ran well today and for keeping us all safe.

“I’d like to thank my fellow candidates in the campaign and to wish them well in the future.

“And I’d like to thank the volunteers from Bristol South Labour Party who have supported me so much in the last two years and worked so brilliantly in this campaign.

“My Parliamentary team have also worked incredibly hard in the last two years to serve the people of Bristol South.

“And I would like to thank my family for their unstinting support, particularly in the last five weeks of this campaign.

“Two years ago I made a promise to Bristol South residents: whichever way they voted, I would work tirelessly on their behalf.

“The election interrupted the work that I’ve tried to do on behalf of Bristol South residents and, as other candidates have acknowledged, we do have some real and specific challenges relating particularly, for example, to deprivation and community need.

“Tonight, I have received the privilege of the voters’ endorsement. I repeat my 2015 pledge. I will roll my sleeves back up immediately. I will re-double my efforts, standing up as the champion for south Bristol’s various communities.

“In the past two years of Parliament it has been my privilege to serve on the Public Accounts Committee, scrutinising the expenditure of taxpayers’ money.

“Theresa May called this election at your expense, to shore up her support within the Conservative Party, and you have passed judgement on her arrogance.

“I look forward to continuing the fight for a fair deal for Bristol South in the future.

“Thank you.”