We’ve come to the end of another busy and varied week in Parliament. I began the week by speaking in the second reading debate of the Agriculture Bill. This Bill will determine how we support farmers post-Brexit, by shifting from the Common Agricultural Policy, where farmers where mostly rewarded for how much land they owned rather than what they did with it. Instead farmers will be rewarded if they improve soil health, reduce carbon emissions, improve animal welfare, increase biodiversity, etc, under a new system of “public money for public goods”.
I served on the Bill committee in the last parliament and will do so again now that a slightly revised bill has been brought back. I’m pleased to see support for farmers to share information about agro-ecological farming methods, as Chair of the All-party Group on Agroecology, but would still like to see more support for whole-farm systems instead of a piecemeal approach. I will also be pushing in committee for a commitment to net zero farming by 2040 – a target which is supported by the NFU – and for a clear regulatory baseline, below which standards cannot drop without enforcement action being taken. Mostly importantly, I will be reintroducing the new clause I tabled last time, calling for no lowering of standards in any future trade deals, which would either mean a race to the bottom on animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards, or British farmers being undercut by cheaper, lower quality imports from abroad.
I was really pleased to attend the AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sixth Form Colleges, where we had a productive meeting with new cross-party colleagues. I’m really keen to promote fantastic institutions like the St Brendan’s Sixth Form College in Bristol East and ensure that they have the resources that they need in order to put our young people on the best possible footing for the future. I’m backing their Raise the Rate campaign, so that students at sixth form colleges get funded to the same extent as pupils in schools.
The climate emergency is in the news with the fires still burning in Australia and the upcoming crucial COP26 conference in Glasgow. We have only 9 months until this last-chance summit – we really do not have any time to waste. I will be attending one of the Climate Assembly’s sessions in Birmingham this weekend, which will look at food, farming, and land use. We need to be a world leader in this and work with other countries to ensure that we can mitigate the worst effects of the climate and environmental changes we currently see.
I also had the opportunity this week to meet with some wonderful End Our Pain campaigners who are seeking to ensure provision of medical cannabis for severely-ill children on the NHS. It’s quite frankly appalling that the Government are dragging their heels on the issue of medical cannabis for children who are so seriously ill. Medical cannabis has been shown to significantly improve their quality of life, including the quality of their family life. When there is a child in a family with serious illness, the impact is felt by all in the family and therefore the improvement felt by those children are felt by all. The Government needs to show some leadership on this to support families who are having to travel abroad in order to secure the medication and pay huge sums of money in order to do so.
Likewise, the Government needs to stop hiding behind statistics that show an ever so slight decrease in rough sleeping on last year. While rough sleeping numbers in England remain over 4,500 there should be no cause for celebration. I met with St Mungo’s, a charity which supports rough sleepers with hostels in east Bristol, to discuss this and other issues this week. We must do something about this awful phenomenon that is plaguing our streets and provide well-funded support to charities and organisations that are working to help people back into accommodation and work.
Later on Wednesday, I spoke in Northern Ireland Questions regarding customs checks post-Brexit. Despite assurances from the government that there would be no checks and any paperwork could be ‘chucked in the bin’, it seems, unsurprisingly, that this will not be the case. I asked the Minister if he thought, like I do, that the best way of ensuring there are no barriers to trade and guaranteeing that the Northern Ireland economy and the rest of the UK able to flourish would be to remain in the customs union. The response was once again vague promises for Northern Irish access to the British market, but little detail of how that can be achieved in practice.
On Thursday, I spoke in Westminster about the composting of waste on the Parliamentary Estate. Between October 2018 and May 2019, all the compostable packaging collected in the Houses of Parliament was incinerated rather than being composted. The House of Commons Commission are working to improve the system and are working with different departments within the Parliamentary Estate to ensure higher levels of sustainability. We cannot speak about the need for businesses and individuals to improve the situation regarding the climate and environmental emergency if we in Parliament do not take the lead and take action in our own place of work.
If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0117 939 9901.
I hope you all have a great weekend!