Helen challenges the Minister on Downing Street parties during lockdown

Ruby Fuller was a remarkable young woman and former Head Girl at Charter North Dulwich secondary school, who lived by the motto ‘Live Kindly, Live Loudly’.  Ruby tragically died from cancer aged 18 on 15 May 2020. As a result of the tight lockdown restrictions in place at the time, Ruby’s friends were unable to say goodbye in person and only ten people were allowed to attend her funeral.

On the day that Ruby died, the Prime Minister and his wife sat in the garden at 10 Downing Street enjoying cheese and wine with colleagues, and Just five days later we now know that more than 100 staff were invited to a party, encouraged to bring their own booze. Such events were unequivocally in breach of the Covid regulations at the time, which so many people across the country, including Ruby’s family, adhered to despite enduring unimaginable personal grief and distress. 

The Prime Minister was too cowardly to show his face in the House of Commons today to answer questions about the parties in his home, so I asked the Minister he sent to represent him, what he had to say to Ruby’s family and friends >>

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Helen visits the Norwood and Brixton Food Bank

Food poverty in our local area is shockingly high directly because of this government’s shameful policies, including the £20 a week cut in Universal Credit. I’ll keep challenging this unacceptable approach, which is leaving more and more of my constituents unable to make ends meet.

The staff and volunteers at Brixton and Norwood Foodbank are working harder than ever to ensure no-one goes without food and other essentials this winter.

Last week, I visited the foodbank to see their extraordinary efforts. You can see a short film from my visit and learn how to support the food bank below.  Please do support our local foodbank if you can >>

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Hondo Tower - December 2021 Objections

I have been contacted by many constituents who are concerned about the planning application for a 20 storey tower on Pope’s Road in Brixton submitted by Hondo Enterprises.

This application will be decided by the Mayor of London and I have written to the Mayor on behalf of my constituents to set out my objection to this application.

The proposed tower is more than twice the height of other local buildings.  There is no planning policy justification for such a tall building in central Brixton, which would dominate the skyline and overshadow existing homes and businesses. 

The design of the building is bland. It does not celebrate or enhance the identity of Brixton, and it is not designed to the highest possible environmental standards.

I urge the Mayor to refuse this application. It isn’t good enough for Brixton.

You can read my full letter here>>

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Helen calls on the Minister to work with the Mayor to save TfL services

There is now just one day until Transport for London’s emergency funding runs out.

London is the only capital city in Europe with a public transport system so overwhelmingly reliant on passenger fares to operate. 

Not a penny of the Vehicle Excise Duty paid by Londoners being spent on London’s roads or public transport. The reduction in passengers throughout the pandemic has led to a dramatic fall in revenue and this is now putting London’s public transport at risk.

The Mayor of London has been working hard to engage government Ministers to provide the support TfL needs, but the Government has only ever given piece meal temporary packages with terms which punish Londoners reliant on public transport.

The Government must stop playing politics with TfL and urgently work with the Mayor and agree a package which works for London to save tube and bus services, which are vital for London’s economy and vital for tackling climate change.

You can see my question to the Secretary of State for Transport here >>

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Helen leads debate paying tribute to the work of King's College Hospital throughout the pandemic

The work of King’s College Hospital’s staff throughout the pandemic has been extraordinary. Despite overwhelming pressures, the care and commitment of the staff at King’s ensured some of the best Covid-19 patient outcomes anywhere in the country. As well as the compassionate care King’s provided for local people, the hospital contributed hugely to the national Covid-19 response through vital research and innovation. I am so very grateful for all of their work.

Staff at King’s are already working hard to clear the backlog in treatment caused by the pandemic, but this work needs to be properly supported by Government. This must include on-going support to help burnt-out staff recover from the pandemic and sustained long term investment to upgrade hospital facilities and equipment. Today, I paid tribute to the tireless work of staff at King’s and urged the Government to commit to the additional resources needed to recover from the pandemic.

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Helen calls on the Minister to give a pay rise to social care staff

The Adult Social Care sector is facing an urgent staffing crisis with more than 100,000 vacancies across the country and staff who have been burnt out by the pandemic leaving the profession for better paid work in retail or distribution.  This has terrible consequences both for the NHS and for vulnerable people who cannot access the care they need.

Urgent action is needed now to stem the loss of valued social care staff. Yesterday, I asked the government to fund an immediate retention bonus and a permanent pay rise for social care staff. You can see my question here > >

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Health and Care Bill

I am so grateful to our NHS and social care staff for their tireless work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. They have been on the frontline, often risking their own health to care for our loved ones. A decade of Tory cuts and neglect left our health and care systems unprepared for the pandemic. Staff now face an incredibly difficult winter trying to clear record waiting lists whilst Covid-19 rates remain high.

It is shameful that in the middle of the biggest crisis the NHS has faced, the Government is rushing through an unnecessary top down reorganization in the Health and Care Bill. The Bill will do nothing to solve the NHS workforce crisis  and will open the NHS up to increased privatisation by allowing profit-driven businesses to sit on local NHS boards.

The Bill also fails to deliver desperately needed reform of social care. The sector needs long-term sustainable funding and to be put on a parity of esteem with the NHS. More than 2 million people who are eligible for care are already not receiving any help at all with vacancies in the sector continuing to grow. Staff need a proper pay rise and the opportunity to build a career in social care.

The Bill is an unnecessary distraction from the urgent problems facing the NHS and social care sector. I will be voting against the Bill and will continue to call for the support our health and care staff need.

 

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Helen speaks in debate on sewage discharge

Privatised water companies discharged raw sewage into our seas and rivers over 400,000 times in 2020. This shocking practise pollutes our waters leaving just 14% of England’s rivers meeting good ecological standards. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I recently saw first-hand the damage raw sewage discharges have caused in Oxfordshire and the urgent need for stronger regulations and better enforcement.  

In addition to harmful bacteria, nitrogen and phosphates, the unmonitored discharges also includes substances such as microplastics, antibiotics and hormones which water companies aren’t required to measure or remove from waste water, but which also harm aquatic life and in turn enter our food chain.

Locally, we have seen the consistent failure of Thames Water to invest in aging pipes and sewers. This has led to recurrent bursts and leaks which waste water and cause disruption on local roads.  The quality of workmanship when repairs are undertaken is also frequently shoddy, with new leaks and bursts often occurring within days of repairs being completed.  This is all evidence of a water industry which is not fit for purpose.

We face a climate and ecological emergency. Our water system has an important role to play in cleaning up our natural waterways and reduce water wastage but privatised water companies, under pressure to deliver a return to shareholders, cannot deliver the investment that is needed.  The water industry should  be returned to common ownership so that it can focus on delivering functioning clean water infrastructure and be part of the solution to the challenge of nature recovery.  You can watch my speech here >>

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#FreeNazanin

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch about today’s important debate on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I’m unable to make the debate so I have written again to the Foreign Secretary.

There is much more the UK Government can & must do to bring Nazanin home. You can see my letter here>

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COP26 and the Climate Emergency

The eyes of the world are currently on Glasgow as the city hosts COP26, the UN climate conference.

The stakes could not be higher. We urgently need the governments of the world to agree to actions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.  Current commitments are far from adequate, and we need to see bold action including to stop the use of coal and keep fossil fuels in the ground, halt deforestation and support nature recovery, and invest in the world’s poorest countries to ensure a just transition to Net Zero.

My constituents care deeply about climate change and the future of our planet, and I have made commitments in every election to work for climate action on their behalf.  In the run up to COP26, I took part in a conference organised by the Dulwich and West Norwood Climate Coalition, an organisation I helped to set up in 2015, attended by hundreds of local residents.  Following the conference, we delivered our petition to Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street, calling for the UK government to negotiate the strongest possible commitments in Glasgow.

Last week, I travelled to Glasgow – by train – to take part in COP26. I’m a member of the Environmental Audit Committee in Parliament, which has the job of scrutinising all government policy and decision making for its impact on the environment and climate change.  We organised an event on international parliamentary scrutiny, looking at the vitally important question of how governments around the world will be held to account for delivering on the commitments they make in Glasgow.

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