Here is a summary of my work for Brighton Pavilion locally and in Parliament October 10 -16. As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you need my help with anything.
Sew Fabulous and Social Saturday
Last week, as part of ‘Social Saturday’, I visited the brilliant social enterprise Sew Fabulous who run sewing workshops at the Open Market on London Road. They were running one of their workshops when I dropped in, so I was able to speak to some of those who’ve benefitted from the 6 week funded course.
Surrounded by jars of buttons, boxes of zips, and pin-cushions, those on the course were busy patching trousers for their children, taking in clothes from charity shops, and making gifts for friends. I’m not known for my sewing skills and haven't tried sewing anything more ambitious than hems and patches for over 40 years! Yet I found myself behind a sewing machine giving it a try. It was fun, and Susie and Sue who run the course were very kind about my efforts.
Sew Fabulous have their mission statement proudly displayed on the wall of their studio. Their vision is to provide accessible, fun and useful learning to all; regardless of financial position or social status.One of their aims is also to encourage reuse and recycling, something learning sewing skills so brilliantly offers.
There are more than 70,000 social enterprises in the UK, and many truly amazing examples in Brighton and Hove. The Social Saturday initiative is a great way to champion the brilliant work social enterprises do, and shout about the value they bring to our communities.
Last week there was a timely debate in the House of Commons about the impact of the referendum on the tourism industry in Britain. I’m really concerned about this issue, because our local economy here in Brighton & Hove depends on a thriving tourist industry. I’m deeply concerned about the impact of a so-called ‘hard’ Brexit, and I used the opportunity to push for a cut in VAT for tourism, to create a level playing field with other European countries which tend to have a much lower rate.
I tabled a motion in Parliament last week calling on Ministers to reverse a decision to hike taxes for businesses, schools and community groups who are generating their own solar power.
The Early Day Motion responds to a tax change which the Government has tried to sneak through which would could force people in Brighton and Hove to uninstall solar from businesses and community groups.
Ultimately, this tax hike is a kick in the teeth for businesses, schools and community groups who have invested in rooftop solar. The Government say they support communities taking power into their own hands but then slap a tax hike on those trying to do their bit. I’m deeply concerned that this change will lead to people uninstalling solar – and I’m urging ministers to reverse this proposal immediately.
Fifteen Minute Delay Repay
Last week it was announced the Southern Trains will soon introduce compensation for delays of fifteen minutes or more. It's great to see the campaign I brought to Parliament in support of the work done by Which? being successful. At long last the Government is giving some relief to long suffering passengers on Southern Rail. People suffer these delays on a daily basis.
Though the 25% rate is somewhat measly this scheme will go some way towards compensating people for the constant interruption in their lives. Of course these improvements are only a sticking plaster, and don’t fix the long term problems on the line. Both the Government and the train company are responsible for the utter failure. Indeed the way the rail strike has been handled in recent days shows yet again that GTR is not fit for purpose. It’s time to strip them of this franchise, put this railway line in public hands and make Ministers directly accountable.
I continue to do all I can to persuade the Government and train company to keep guards on all trains, and to resolve the dispute. I’m an officer of the new Rail All Party Parliamentary Group, and we met with the rail minister and the company’s ‘fixer’ Chris Gibb again last week.
EU Referendum Debate
After months of speculation and indecision from the Government, Parliament finally had a chance to debate Britain’s post-referendum direction last week. After a statement from the ‘Brexit Secretary’ David Davis, which essentially told us nothing new, I demanded that he give Parliament a vote on the terms of any deal. I also pressed Davis on deep concerns I have about environmental legislation being watered down in the event of Britain quitting the EU.
The horrific bombings of hospitals and aid convoys in Syria have brought the crisis in that country back into sharp focus in recent weeks. It’s clear to me that Russia and Assad should be referred to the International Criminal Court – as I demanded both in a debate in Parliament and an Early Day Motion I tabled last week. At the same time it’s crucial that Britain adopts a coherent foreign policy. It is clearly inconsistent to blame Russia for creating havoc in the region while we continue to sell arms to the Saudi Arabian Government who are themselves committing war crimes in Yemen.
We must also take further action to end the horror in Syria, from redoubling diplomatic efforts to imposing far reaching sanctions on those who bomb civilian targets.
Last week I spoke in a debate in Parliament on the imminent destruction of the refugee camps in Calais. Many people from Brighton and Hove have volunteered their time in the camps, and many more have donated clothes, food and money. With the camp set to be cleared in recent weeks I’m really concerned about what will happen to people currently living there, specifically children. In the debate I asked the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, whether she agreed with me that the Government’s approach is leading to a toxic, two-tier system distinguishing between “good” refugees and “bad” economic migrants, even if they are fleeing equally desperate situations.
“Can she say whether an adult who fled Afghanistan, faced mistreatment in Iran, travelled through Turkey, where he had no chance to work, and is now trapped in Calais, desperately trying to meet his brother in the UK, would be defined as a migrant or a refugee?”
I’ll continue to do all I can to put pressure on the Government to honour their pledges to urgently bring unaccompanied children to the UK.