The Health & Social Care Committee and Science & Technology Committee’s report into Coronavirus: lessons learnt to date is damning about this Government’s repeated failings. Care homes and frontline workers left unprotected, multi-million-pound contracts given to Tory donors and mates of Ministers, one of the worst death tolls in Europe and one of the hardest hit economies. Boris Johnson must start the full public enquiry now so mistakes of such tragic magnitude, costing so many lives, are never repeated. Instead I fear we are going into a second winter with the same complacency and delay that caused such devastation last Christmas.
Nobody wants another lockdown so it’s vital that everyone protect themselves by having the booster vaccination as soon as you can and protect others by wearing masks on public transport and in crowded places.
With the spread of Covid in secondary schools currently far outpacing the schools’ vaccination programme, this month I’ve written to the new Education Secretary about confusion and delays with the rollout. Ensuring every young person who wants a vaccine gets one quickly is vital for reducing the spread and protecting lives this winter. It shouldn’t be taking so long.
Private water companies must STOP polluting our rivers
Last week, along with all Labour Members I voted to stop water companies dumping raw sewage in our rivers. Shamefully, despite promising we’d maintain standards after Brexit, the Tories blocked the Environment Bill amendment that would have brought about change. These private water companies, who’ve paid billions to their shareholders, must not be allowed to continue polluting our waterways and damaging marine habitats. They need to clean-up their act and cover the costs from their profits – not from customers’ pockets. Tomorrow Labour Lords will try again to get the change we need. It’s not too late for the Tories to join them.
This isn’t the only failing in the Environment Bill, a much-needed Bill but in its current form woefully inadequate for the challenges we face. Labour backed amendments that would have strengthened the Bill, improved our air, cleaned our water, protected our bees and pollinators and established a powerful Office of Environmental Protection were all defeated. Our precious environment must not be used as a bargaining chip in trade agreements and as we gear up to COP26 we must do better. My latest Climate Change and Environment Report is now available on my website, updating on some of my work and Parliamentary Questions on these issues over recent weeks.
Ban fire and rehire
The pandemic has shone a light on the shameful yet growing practice of “firing” then “rehiring” workers on worse terms and conditions. It’s a disgusting way for unreasonable employers to force staff to accept lower wages, different hours or changes in working life and in Parliament last week Labour tried to get it outlawed. I was there to vote for Barry Gardiner’s Bill but despite the PM saying its “unacceptable” and the Business Secretary saying it’s “bully-boy tactics” they sadly mobilised their MPs to defeat it. A Labour Government would end this disgraceful practice because workers deserve better.
Exploitation in the UK fashion industry
A University of Manchester article to mark Anti-Slavery Awareness Day has referenced some of the work we’ve been doing through the All-Party Parliamentary Group I chair on Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion. I’m meeting BEIS Minister Paul Scully MP to discuss the report and how we can work together to address the important issues it raises. This month I paid a visit to Wood Green’s Primark store, a name synonymous with fast fashion, to discuss what they’ve been doing as an organisation to address these issues. We also discussed local workforce, recognition of Usdaw Union and how since 2019 Primark have been developing supply chains which do not depend on the Uighur region.
Protect Student Choice
I’m backing the campaign to protect student choice and have called on the new Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to reassess the Department for Education’s plan to remove funding for the vast majority of applied general qualifications such as BTECS. T Levels and BTECs are different, they should be able to co-exist in the qualifications landscape. Read a copy of the letter here.
Black History Month
Black History is British History and Black History Month is a chance to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black communities right here in Haringey. We know that there’s more to be done to end discrimination and secure racial equality in this country. Read my message of support for this month’s Black History Month celebrations.
In the community:
Protect High Street Banking – Lloyds in Muswell Hill next to announce closure
Only one day after presenting my petition to Parliament opposing the closure of Crouch End’s NatWest
, I received the news that Lloyds Bank in Muswell Hill is next to go. This is such a blow for our high street and I’ve written to Lloyds to urge them to reconsider. Customers, especially elderly and disabled people, really value going into the Muswell Hill branch and having knowledgeable staff there to help them. Small businesses need to know they have somewhere local to drop off cash. I’ve raised the issue in Parliament
because it’s a nationwide problem – with branches closing at the rate of 50 a month since 2015. I’ll be highlighting my concerns again during the Budget debate.
The summer saw parts of the constituency affected by flash flooding, with some areas experiencing a month’s worth of rain fall within a few hours. I’ve been in contact with residents and the Council in the months since and am pleased that jet cleaning of all gullies has now taken place in some of the most affected streets. But it’s worryingly clear that the climate crisis increases the likelihood of severe weather events including flooding. I’m applying for a debate in Parliament to discuss flooding preparedness in London so I can highlight the issues many of my constituents and businesses experienced over the summer. I’ve also urged the Government to provide more support to local authorities to tackle urban flooding and put my name down for the next round of Environment Questions.
Shadow Ministerial Update:
The process of ensuring the EU Ambassador and his staff have full diplomatic recognition has been painfully long and drawn out following the Tory Government’s childish initial refusal to recognise them. As Labour’s shadow Europe Minister, I always rejected this foolishness as rebuilding close and pragmatic relations with our EU partners need to be a priority for the Government. The new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has stated that she wants to rebuild relations with Europe and my Labour colleagues and I will be ensuring she does so.
The conflict and ongoing tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan has regularly flared during the past 18 months, and I was pleased to welcome the new Armenian Ambassador, Varuzhan Nersesyan, to Parliament to discuss the issues which remain and hear of the appalling devastation and destruction that the conflict has brought. There remain serious issues with the return of prisoners of war and the destruction of cultural sites and artefacts, and I have raised these with the Foreign Office as a matter of urgency.
Advice & Support:
My regular advice surgeries will be taking place on the second Friday in November (by telephone) and the fourth Friday in November (in person). Find out here how to book an appointment.
You can also keep up-to-date on my work in Parliament and in the community on Twitter, Facebook or through my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk.