Storm Ciara may have battered the country at the start this week, but that has not held us back in Parliament!
I began the week in Westminster taking Home Office Ministers to task over how they are dealing with children who have been identified as being caught up in county lines operations. County lines drug gangs take advantage of local authority and police force borders to expand their operations to small towns and the areas outside big cities, often exploiting vulnerable children. These youngsters must not be seen as criminals but rather as victims of a system that has failed to support them. Unfortunately, they are often only identified when they are admitted to hospital with stab wounds or other serious injuries. We need to make sure that these children are, when it’s needed, provided with safe alternative housing and not simply returned to the same places for the same gangs to get caught up in again. The Minister said that a Cabinet committee has been commissioned to look at this issue, and I will continue to press for updates on their progress to ensure that children exposed to this risk are not forgotten.
As it’s a new parliament, some of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) that I’m a member of have been holding their AGMs this week. I’m pleased to have been re-elected as a Vice-Chair of the APPG on Oceans Conservation, and to be working again with Surfers Against Sewage who provide the secretariat. I have also been re-elected as a Vice Chair of the APPG for Snooker; not only am a snooker fan, it also has important links with Bristol, with the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association based in Clifton and World Snooker Services, who install and maintain the tables at top-level tournaments, based in Fishponds.
I’m also proud to be Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music. One of the things I love most about living in Bristol is its diverse music scene. We punch well above our weight with live music and I am so glad that the “agent of change principle” campaign, that I have been involved in from the start, has been successful in ensuring that property developers are now responsible for protecting residents from outside noise from existing music venues, and not the venues themselves. I am also pleased that the Government has finally acted to reduce business rates for small and medium venues that will save every venue an average of £7,500 a year – money that can now be put back into the live music sector. This is something I’ve long been pushing for, and it will make a real difference to small venues.
I have been taking part in a couple of sessions for the Committee Stage of the Agriculture Bill this week, where we have been hearing evidence from representatives from organisations such as the various farmers’ unions in the UK, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming and Sustain – as well as George Monbiot, who, it is fair to say, rather ruffled the feathers of some of the Tory MPs! I’ll be supporting amendments in committee to ensure that there are legally binding baseline standards, rewards for farmers who adopt sustainable farming techniques, and penalties for those who damage the environment, for example, by releasing slurry into rivers.
On Wednesday, I hosted an event in Parliament for The Climate Coalition’s Show the Love campaign. Over 90 MPs attended to learn more about the work that the Climate Coalition is doing and to add their pledge pin to our green map of the UK. This committed them to working towards mitigating the damaging effects humans have had on our planet. The Climate Coalition focuses, in particular, on how we can make our living spaces greener by using cleaner energy to heat our homes and on how we can make the spaces around us greener to clean the air that we breathe. We need urgent action, but groups like the Climate Coalition believe that it will make our lives easier – better insulation to reduce the amount of energy used should also reduce our bills; greener areas make us happier than grey concrete; and more greenery means cleaner air and better health. A cleaner, greener future is a positive step as well as trying to avert a climate crisis!
I also met with the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home at their event in Parliament which showcased their campaign to see tougher sentences passed for those found guilty of animal cruelty. Finally, after five years of campaigning, in June last year, the Government proposed an increase to the maximum sentence for offenders from six months to five years, but this Bill fell when Parliament was dissolved for the General Election. Some of the rescues that Battersea see on a day-to-day basis are truly horrific and these awful crimes call for a much tougher sentence than six months. I will continue to support Battersea in their campaign until we are able to vote to pass this Bill in Parliament.
As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0117 939 9901.
I hope you all have a great weekend!