On Monday, 57 charities joined forces to write to the Government and urge them to pursue a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, which could support at least 210,000 jobs. I raised this with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury during Tuesday’s Urgent Question on the economic outlook for the UK. The Government should commit to building a fairer, greener economy as we recover from coronavirus – but as yet, seems to have no strategy for achieving this.
On Tuesday, I spoke in the Labour Opposition Day debate on Holiday Hunger, and congratulated Marcus Rashford on his success in convincing the Government to reverse its decision not to fund free school meal vouchers over the summer holiday. Although the Government’s u-turn was certainly welcome, more still needs to be done so that no child has to go hungry. The Government must tackle the underlying drivers of food poverty, not just hand out vouchers; this is especially now true with so many people now facing a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In my speech I praised FareShare South West, which brought an amazing 80 tonnes of food – that would otherwise have gone to waste – into Bristol in the past week alone. I also once again pressed the Government to support Feeding Bristol’s Healthy Holidays scheme, which will be running again this summer. If you are in a position to donate and support the scheme, you can do so here.
I was on ITV West last night giving my reaction to the news the Government U-turned and would provide free school meals over the summer holiday.Marcus Rashford deserves a lot of praise for highlighting this issue. Child poverty rates are projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022. This was raised by Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions today – the Government must act to prevent children going hungry or facing destitution. Please do donate to Feeding Bristol if you can: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/donation-web/charity?charityId=1017733&fbclid=IwAR07TiS3lVAkvZF_4PwKKCK4acEFmWh9wRVhJZGJvmRepWqevGT2InnkuzU
Posted by Kerry McCarthy MP on Wednesday, June 17, 2020
Also on Tuesday, Boris Johnson announced the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. Weakening our overseas commitment will only diminish the UK’s place in the world and will hurt developing countries at a time when they need our support more than ever before. The Government has committed to maintaining spending 0.7% of its budget on overseas aid, but I’d be very surprised if the Tories didn’t use this merger as a veil to hide slashing aid funding by the backdoor. We need a renewed focus on our overseas commitments, not watering it down, considering the overwhelming threat both the coronavirus and climate change poses to the developing world. This is a completely unnecessary and hugely short-sighted decision, and I can’t help but feel that the Government are trying to use distraction tactics to draw attention away from the many mistakes they have made responding to the pandemic in recent weeks.
In the House of Commons on Thursday, I questioned the Secretary of State for International Trade on how the UK can negotiate a trade agreement with the US when it’s not yet been decided what our future relationship will be with the EU and the extent to which we will, or will not, seek regulatory divergence. I’m concerned the Government is going to let pressure from the Trump team dictate what we end up agreeing with the EU. The Government has repeatedly suggested we will be able to negotiate both deals before the end of the year, but this seems highly unlikely, especially with the upcoming November election, which might – we hope! – see Trump ousted from the White House. Boris Johnson and his Government needs to be far more honest with us about the time in which it will take to negotiate good deals that do not undermine UK food standards, environmental standards, workers rights or the NHS.
Today I asked the Secretary of State for International Trade how the UK can negotiate a trade agreement with the US when it’s not yet been decided what our future relationship will be with the EU and the extent to which we will, or will not, seek regulatory divergence? Or are we going to let pressure from the Trump team dictate what we end up agreeing with the EU?The Government has repeatedly suggested we will be able to negotiate both deals before the end of the year, but this seems highly unlikely, especially with the upcoming November election, which might – we hope! – see Trump ousted from the White House.The Government needs to be far more honest with us about the time in which it will take to negotiate good deals that do not undermine UK food standards, environmental standards, workers rights or the NHS.
Posted by Kerry McCarthy MP on Thursday, June 18, 2020
I also spoke on Thursday in the debate on the effect of Covid-19 on BAME communities. Here in Bristol, under the leadership of Mayor Marvin Rees and Cllr Asher Craig, Bristol City Council commissioned a rapid research review earlier on in the crisis from University of Bristol academics. The resulting report concluded that the risk from Covid-19 is generally higher among BAME communities, even after adjusting for risk factors. No one factor alone can explain it, but contributing factors include being poorer, where people live, overcrowded housing, types of jobs, other illnesses and access to the health service. In research published in January 2017 looking at ethnic inequalities in education and employment, the Runnymede Trust judged Bristol to be one of the most unequal cities in the UK and one of the worst places when it came to racial equality. We are seemingly prosperous, and are consistently voted as one of the coolest cities and one of the best places to visit. But all of that gloss masks the underlying inequalities. In the same way that the now removed Colston statue presented a false image of wealth and philanthropy masking the true horrors of how many were enslaved and murdered in the pursuit of that wealth, the gloss is masking the real picture in many of the deprived communities in Bristol. We know that we have a long way to go in making sure everyone who lives in our brilliant city has the same opportunity to thrive – but I also know that we are absolutely committed to making sure this is the case.
This week is Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, run by Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. Coronavirus has affected cervical screening (smear tests) for hundreds of thousands of women, whose appointments may have been cancelled or postponed. Research by Jo’s Cancer Trust has found that 1 in 10 women are less likely to attend their smear test at the moment, which is why the charity has developed a new FAQ about cervical screening and coronavirus: https://www.jostrust.org.uk/information/coronavirus/faqs. You can also visit Jo’s Trust’s website for more information and support: www.jostrust.org.uk/csaw
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