On Monday, I was able to question the Health Secretary on the revised advice for people who are currently shielding. From 1st August, the Government will no longer recommend that clinically vulnerable people in England continue to shield. However, for those people who have been shielding for the past few months there is still a great deal of uncertainty, concern and confusion about whether it is safe for them to go outside and about what they can actually do. This is especially true when other people are not following the guidance, for example on social distancing or the wearing of masks. Those people who have been shielding have spent months inside – sometimes completely alone – not only to protect themselves but also to protect our NHS. The Government cannot simply withdraw their guidance on shielding and offer no further support to those affected.
From today, new rules on face coverings come into force in England, and (apart from those people with specific exemptions) we must all wear a face covering in places like shopping centres, takeaway outlets and supermarkets. Of course, wearing a face mask may be a little uncomfortable, and feel odd – especially at first! But, just like social distancing, wearing masks is another step we can take to protect ourselves and others and help stop the spread of the virus. It’s important everyone who is able plays their part.
This week finally saw the publication of the ‘Russia Report’. The report states that Russia poses an ‘immediate and urgent threat to our national security’. Despite this threat, the Prime Minister chose to deliberately delay the report’s publication for ten months. The Government knew that Russia had tried to interfere in the Scottish referendum, with possible interference in the Brexit referendum, before calling the 2019 election. Yet, it still chose to prevent this report from becoming public. The Government has been utterly negligent with our national security, and has serious questions to answer about its willingness to stand up to Putin’s Russia. At Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday Keir Starmer took the Prime Minister to task about this and received a woeful response.
There is now less than a month to go until the temporary pause on evictions runs out on August 23rd, and there are concerns that many renters who are struggling financially because of Coronavirus will ultimately lose their homes due to a lack of Government support. Since March, 227,000 private renters have fallen into arrears, as the pandemic has hit many people’s incomes. This is only likely to get worse for many as the furlough scheme draws to a close, as thousands face redundancy. On Wednesday, my neighbour and Shadow Housing Secretary, Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, led an Urgent Question in Parliament raising concerns about this. Unfortunately, the time to introduce emergency legislation before the Summer recess has now run out. In March, the Government promised that “no renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will be forced out of their home” but has not backed this up with action.
Labour is calling on the Government to make changes to Universal Credit to prevent people from falling into rent arrears, raise the Local Housing Allowance, and temporarily give courts discretion on evictions. I hope the Government meets these requests.
A new ‘borrow a bike’ scheme has launched in Bristol this week, allowing residents to try out an electric, foldable or hybrid model for a month without charge. As some of you know, I’ve really enjoyed taking the opportunity to cycle more during lockdown, and I’d urge anyone who is thinking about giving cycling a go – especially while the streets are still relatively quiet! – to sign up for the scheme here.
My office remains reachable by phone or email, and as ever, please do contact us if we can help on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 0117 939 9901. With the House of Commons now in recess I’m looking forward to getting out and about across the constituency in the next month – so do get in touch if you would like to organise a socially distanced visit.
Remember – keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy.