Karin Smyth MP votes against EU Withdrawal Bill for failing to ensure Parliament has control of our laws, protects rights at work, the economy and the environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

I campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union. The majority of voters in my constituency and in Bristol as a city did not want to leave the EU either (I regularly receive letters from constituents on both sides of this debate about this). But the overall referendum result was in favour of Brexit. I respect that result and have been working towards ensuring the best deal for the UK.

The journey has been far from straightforward since the vote in June 2016 and I expect many more twists and turns along the way.  I spent several months as part of Labour’s Brexit team working closely with Keir Starmer and have continued to follow developments and join my opposition colleagues in pushing for vital amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

These amendments – designed to protect the UK economy, rights at work and the environment – have all been rejected by a government which is in chaos on  these important negotiations. We said that unless the Brexit Bill could pass six key tests then we could not support it.

We need it to protect rights at work, the environment and the EU Charter of fundamental Rights; ensure that a transitional arrangement is in place to protect jobs and the economy and support the role of the devolved bodies; and, crucially, guarantee that Parliament is not sidelined but there is a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement.

The EU Withdrawal Bill in its current guise does not pass these tests and, as such, I and my Labour colleagues could not vote in favour of it.

The Tories want to stop any checks on their power and side line Parliament  but my job is to ensure that we get the best outcome for people in Bristol South and the UK. The Bill will now go on to the House of Lords for further discussion before returning to the House of Commons and we will continue to push for the necessary changes.

 

Karin Smyth MP on the importance of the new arena development remaining in Bristol South.

Karin has responded to the announcement that Bristol City Council is considering moving the planned Arena away from Bristol South. She said:

 

“For many years, we’ve been looking forward to welcoming a new arena to Bristol South and the potential it brings with it for jobs and apprenticeships, investment and the local economy.  An arena for Bristol has been a long time coming with plans for developments at Ashton Gate and Temple Meads. For the past few years, the council has been pursuing plans to build a 12,000 seater venue in the Temple Quarter, something I have supported due to the benefits it would bring to the area.

Bristol South is home to some of the most deprived areas of the city and people desperately need decent job opportunities and apprenticeships – the proposed arena in my constituency offers this. I was very disappointed to learn that the council is considering moving the arena to the outskirts of the city.

I appreciate the financial confines within which the council is working and understand the need to ensure value for money but Bristol South needs this development. The wider economic benefits – including job and apprenticeship opportunities – and social value of keeping it within the city centre and accessible to people living in Bristol South must not be underestimated.

Millions of pounds have already been spent on preparations for the arena in city centre, and Bristol has already waited long enough for its own arena. I sincerely hope that we can find a way to keep the much-needed Bristol arena in the planned location and not waste any more time and money”.

Karin Smyth MP gives a speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate on health inequalities and a lack of accountability across the NHS.

In her speech in the NHS Winter Crisis debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Karin highlighted the need for South Bristol Community Hospital to be given more support in order to tackle major health inequalities in the area. She also described how the Government’s NHS transformation plans have created confusion for NHS workers and patients alike. Karin argued there needs to be more accountability and greater financial transparency throughout the NHS which would make it possible for MP’s to help ensure their constituents hard earned tax is being fairly and efficiently allocated to health services locally: “Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.”

 

 

Karin writes about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people.

Karin Smyth MP has just published an article for the Health Service Journal about the need for the NHS to be more accountable to local people following the Government’s disastrous Health & Social Care Act. You can read it here…

The Kings Fund’s Chris Ham recently wrote about tighter working at the top of the NHS, reducing the number of commissioning bodies and much closer working between the NHS and local authorities. He argues this would simplify a complex system and could release resources. His challenge to politicians is to let that happen without a top-down reorganisation but with some legislation.

The challenge is likely to fall on deaf ears even though just about everyone accepts that the Health & Social Care Act was a disaster. The government has no appetite and little time for non-Brexit enabling legislation and they control the legislative timetable.

My own view is that we desperately need more than adjusting the superstructures. We are at a critical point as we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS as we come to the end of the era of markets and competition exemplified by the disaster of the Health and Social Care Act. To make our whole care system better and to ensure our NHS thrives for the next 70 years the principle of accountability has to be put centre stage.

My pre-MP professional career in the NHS, combined with years of activity in the Labour Party dealing with local councils, led to concerns about the lack of accountability within the NHS. This background showed me that better accountability is a key driver of change and improvement as well as being necessary in a functioning democracy.

The complex fragmentation of the NHS in recent years has muddied things when it comes to accountability. There are literally hundreds of bodies involved. The 200-plus Clinical Commissioning Groups are in effect private members’ clubs.

And of the 250-plus NHS bodies which provide services, some still have fully appointed boards and are controlled directly. Foundation Trusts have a pseudo-membership structure with elected Governors but the model hasn’t done much for public and patient involvement.

And then we have the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) with no legal basis, a leadership that is unelected and unaccountable and operating mostly in secret.

All these bodies spend taxpayers’ money and it is little wonder the taxpayer is both mystified and suspicious as to how they decide what to do with that money.

The current Secretary of State operates in his role as if he’s some sort of Chief Patient Representative, with no active role in leading and shaping any plans, services or systems.

Local MPs are expected by constituents to stand up for local services ensuring they have enough resources, and to be able to make a difference when things go wrong; but the reality is that MPs have been restricted to an annual vote, in Parliament, on the national plan via the Mandate and the budget. We have no role locally in how the Mandate is delivered or on the alignment of the voted national budget with local delivery. And critically neither do local people.

MPs are pivotal: they’re the point where national policy meets local reality. As well as bringing our local experience to Parliament MPs need be made accountable for our decisions in Parliament. They should not be let off the hook for decisions made in Parliament which impact locally.

MPs should be demanding a local role to be able to follow the money – from our vote in Parliament to the GP surgery door, and back again. Local people should have a way of recognising or linking the taxes they pay to the service they get or indeed do not get.

It’s no secret that the money the NHS is allocated is insufficient to do all that’s promised in the NHS Constitution, to the quality that’s rightly expected. Even Tory MPs are being confronted by the reality of GP list closures, trolley waits, too few mental health beds and delayed dates for operations. And these MPs themselves are being forced to come to terms with the reality of being bounced around the system, as they try to help constituents, trying to understand just who is in charge.

Chris Ham’s proposals have some potential for short term benefits but unless we sort out both national and local accountability we won’t be able to sort the long term. On behalf of our constituents we should be putting the public centre stage, considering how to actively improve the NHS and understanding what the money can deliver. We have to give patients and public genuine influence over decisions affecting the care they, their families and their communities receive and the responsibility that goes with that influence.

Publish everything. Let voters follow their taxpayers’ pound all the way to the services they receive. Real comparisons could be made with other areas which may have better outcomes, have implemented better pathways or achieved lower costs. This allows an informed voice into the decision-making process, also giving a proper channel through their elected representatives.

Being able to follow the money is a big part of accountability. It’s a key part of the path to true openness and transparency in our NHS and a more informed discussion about resources.

And we should all want that.

Karin Smyth responds to news that Bristol South remains bottom of the table when it comes to university attendance among 18-year-olds

The latest UCAS figures reveal that Bristol South still has the lowest percentage of 18-year-olds going on to higher education out of every area of England, in what MP Karin Smyth calls ‘very disappointing’.

The 2017 End of Cycle report shows that just 16% of 18-year-olds in Bristol South are entering higher education – the average for the UK as a whole is almost 42%.
Full figures available here: UCAS Report

Karin says: “It is very disappointing to see Bristol South bottom of the list again, with so few school leavers going to university.

“While progress has been made, with Bristol South seeing the biggest rise in the number of young people going into higher education compared with a decade ago, to remain bottom of the list shows that there is still a long way to go.

“In a big prosperous city such as Bristol, with two internationally-recognised universities as well as Learning City status, it’s hard to see so many young people potentially being left behind – not sharing in that prosperity.

“I will continue to work with schools, families and universities to improve opportunities for young people in Bristol South. This statistic also reinforces the need for other avenues of post-16 training in Bristol to enable young people to go on to secure skilled work.

“We must remember that university isn’t for everyone and I have been – and will continue -working relentlessly to improve quality apprenticeship opportunities in Bristol South.”

Karin Smyth, MP talking in the House of Commons on the Autumn 2017 budget

I spoke in the House of Commons yesterday in response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget. I emphasised my dismay at the Government’s lack of any meaningful financial support for Bristol South to help us tackle the crisis facing our public services – from health and social care, training opportunities for young people to help them get decent jobs, and affordable homes.

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth responds to 2017 Autumn Budget

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond today (Nov 22) revealed his Autumn Budget 2017.
He spoke of a ‘costed and inclusive’ budget with talk of building homes and ‘helping families to cope with the cost of living’ before announcing investment priorities which included funding for research and development for driverless cars.
Bristol South MP Karin Smyth says the budget does little to help the thousands of Bristol South residents in low-paid jobs who are struggling to make ends meet or find a new home.
Speaking after the Budget was revealed in the House of Commons, Karin said: “Bristol South desperately needs more affordable housing and I want to see this teamed up with a new construction centre attached to the local college to provide decent job prospects for local people.
“I’ve long been a supporter of apprenticeships here in Bristol South and was disappointed to see little more than a passing mention on apprenticeships. This, despite a 61% drop in numbers since the levy was announced and despite high drop-out rates among apprentices who are struggling to cope with living and transport costs. More needs to be done to address this.
“The Chancellor claimed that ‘work always pays’ but this is simply not the case. On paper, unemployment may be low here in Bristol South but this does not mean that people are better off. Many jobs remain insecure, temporary and poorly paid and with rents remaining prohibitively high and house price inflation at 14% in Bristol South, owning your own home remains is more than a dream for most.”
Last month, Karin and her fellow Bristol MPs called for a halt to the roll out of Universal Credit until the core problems could be addressed.
“Reducing the length of the wait for Universal Credit puts a sticking plaster on the problem but it doesn’t go far enough” said Karin. Many applicants or those low-earning self-employed workers will be hundreds of pounds a year worse off with Universal Credit. This will hit working mums particularly hard. One in four children is already living in poverty in Bristol South and Universal Credit will undoubtedly see this figure rise. Karin will be continuing her work on boosting apprenticeships in South Bristol, pushing for a halt on Universal Credit until the core problems can be addressed and fighting for affordable housing and rents for residents.

MP and Apprenticeships Minister agree joint working

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth met recently-appointed Apprenticeships Minister Rt Hon Anne Milton MP in Westminster to discuss joint working on better involving parents and small businesses in promoting apprenticeships in her constituency.

“Bristol South sends fewer young people to university than any other UK Parliamentary constituency,” says the Labour MP. “It means apprenticeships are especially valuable for our young people as they provide an opportunity of paid work and training that can open more doors in future.

“I support the government’s drive to improve apprenticeship opportunities for people I represent, and I was pleased to meet the Minister to discuss joint working to achieve this.”

She outlined to the Minister that 80 per cent of apprentices in south Bristol are in retail, health & social care and business administration – which lead to lower wages than other types of apprenticeships.

“We discussed the need to boost local opportunities for young people to take up schemes that lead to higher wages, such as engineering, construction and IT.

“I explained to the Minister the importance of bringing a Construction Training Centre to my constituency, at the site of the City of Bristol College’s South Bristol Skills Academy.

Parent and carer support

“The Department for Education uses a number of means to explain to young people the value of an apprenticeship and at our meeting we agreed that parents have a key role in promoting apprenticeships to young people.

“Parents and carers want to support young people but are rarely equipped or informed about those options. I believe we need much better communications and support to parents and will be looking to develop this locally in the next year.”

The meeting also covered the role of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in improving apprenticeship opportunities in Bristol South.

Karin Smyth adds: “My constituency has hardly any large employers. 99.6% of business in Bristol South employ fewer than 250 people, 88% employ fewer than eight.

“SMEs in my constituency are pivotal to the success of future apprenticeships – both in helping young people find out about apprenticeships, and in supporting them through their programme.

“I look forward to working with the Minister, and with parents, SMEs and others, to help ensure local young people are able to make the most of the opportunities available in future.”

Senior Communications Officer Vacancy

A vacancy has arisen for a Senior Communications Officer in Karin’s team.

Based in Bristol for 15 hours (2 days) per week, communicating with all media, managing the website, using social media and researching local, regional and national issues to support Karin’s work. The role entails analysing, evaluating and interpreting data to ensure the MP is accurately informed on key issues and is aware of trends, providing briefings for the MP and responding to routine correspondence and enquiries from constituents, the media, lobbyists and pressure groups.

Job Title:                 Senior Communications Officer

Salary Range:         £28,000 – £32,000 (pro rata) depending on experience

Location:                 Bristol

Hours:                    15 hours / 2 days per week (flexible)

Closing date:           Monday 23 October 2017

Interview date:        Friday 27 October 2017

 

Key Responsibilities:

  • monitor media coverage, liaise with media, prepare press releases as required (on constituency, non-party political matters)
  • proactive and reactive communications with all media
  • manage the MP’s website contents
  • publicise the MP’s parliamentary activity on social media
  • follow up on social media queries and comments
  • research local, regional and national issues to support the MP’s work
  • analyse, evaluate and interpret data to ensure the MP is accurately informed on key issues and is aware of trends
  • develop knowledge in specialist areas
  • provide briefings for the MP
  • respond to routine correspondence and enquiries from constituents, the media, lobbyists and pressure groups
  • liaise with government agencies, voluntary sector and others to resolve constituency matters
  • ensure records are kept and information managed confidentially and in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.

 

Person Specification:

  • degree educated, or equivalent relevant experience
  • experience of working with print, broadcast and electronic media in a role such as journalist or press officer
  • Strong news sense and a good knowledge of the needs of local and national media
  • able to influence people and build long-lasting, positive relationships
  • able to take responsibility for tasks and act on own initiative
  • excellent time management skills and the ability to meet tight deadlines
  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • able to research issues and analyse data
  • able to work with diplomacy, discretion and confidentiality
  • excellent attention to detail and the capacity to work under pressure
  • an interest in politics, social justice and current affairs
  • in sympathy with the aims and values of the Labour Party.

 

If you would like to discuss the role with Karin please call 0117 953 3575.

 

If you are interested in applying please send a CV and covering letter setting out your experience to karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk.

 

MP comments on Home Office air weapon review

Commenting on a Home Office statement today (10 October) confirming a government review of the regulation of air weapons Karin Smyth MP (Bristol South), who called the debate that led to the announcement, said:

“This review is an important step forward and provides an opportunity to improve the safety and security of these weapons so we avoid further tragedies of the type that devastated the Studley family.

“It is important that all those who want to see changes – to protect people and animals – voice their views because this is the start of a process, not the end. The hard work begins now.”