I began the week by meeting with fellow North London MPs, the British Medical Association London Regional Council and the Royal College of Nursing to discuss the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Plan. We also discussed the impact of the Capped Expenditure Process and access to ‘low priority’ serves and certain drug prescriptions. With increasing austerity, the money guaranteed to the NHS by the Conservatives simply is not enough. Huge numbers of NHS Trusts in London remain in deficit, with morale sinking day by day and patients not getting access to the right care. I will continue to call out the Government’s dismal record and push for greater funding for our NHS.
The debate that I secured in Parliament on Skills in London was held on Tuesday. The skills shortage remains particularly acute in London and has worsened severely since 2010, when further education colleges faced cuts of 50% to their funding. The skills system in the UK is very centralised, leaving London with few tools at its disposal to cope with London-specific issues, such as the higher demand for English as a second language, historically low levels of apprenticeships and the reliance on incoming labour in key sectors. There is a strong case for devolution of skills, especially in light of Brexit, to ensure that people can access jobs and employers can access a highly trained workforce. You can read the full debate, along with my speech, here.
Afterwards I attended the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union to discuss the role of Parliamentarians in addressing climate change. We heard from Dr. Alina Averchekova, lead of Governance and Legislation at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. I firmly believe that our country should take a lead on reducing climate change, especially in light of President Donald Trump leaving the Paris Accord. It is for that reason that I signed a pledge to divest MPs’ pension fund from fossil fuels.
This week I asked the Government a series of questions over what conversations they have had with their Turkish counterparts over the opening of a new front in the Syrian civil war, which is deeply distressing. As Turkish troops continue their invasion of a Kurdish enclave in north-west of Syria, devastation continues and will likely lead to a surge in the number of refugees fleeing the region. Our Government must put pressure on all sides to cease the violence.
I have also been monitoring the elections in Cyprus, the first round of which ran last Sunday. With no candidate having won an outright majority, the next round will continue this Sunday. I will continue to keep an eye on developments.
I was able to hold the Government to account on Thursday over the use of disposable plastic packaging. Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove said that there had been a roundtable before Christmas to encourage retailers to commit to reducing demand for plastic. However, this does not go far enough, with the Government failing to assist supermarkets meet targets.
Later in the day I attended a debating competition at Alexandra Park School. It was incredible to see six local schools, all with informed and persuasive contestants, take part in this fantastic competition across a range of topics.
On Friday, I met with Abubakar Ali, representing the Somali Bravanese Community, which is established in London. We spoke about issues affecting the Somali community both in the UK and in Somalia, as well as rebuilding of the Somali Community Centre.
Over the weekend I campaigned in our constituency, listening to constituents’ concerns, before I gave a reading at the Holocaust Multi-Faith Commemoration. It is vital that these atrocities are never forgotten and we continue to hold up human rights for everyone, no matter where they are born.