Over the past few weeks I have been contacted by many constituents who are deeply concerned about the implications of the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill.
This Bill is hugely damaging to the UK. It undermines the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, signed by Boris Johnson just a few months ago, it reopens the discussions about the Northern Ireland Protocol which had previously been settled, and it breaches international law, gravely damaging our global reputation as a law-abiding nation.
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I have been contacted by many constituents who are deeply concerned about the Government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill.
The government says that the Overseas Operations Bill has been introduced to address the issue of prosecution of former members of the armed forces in relation to events which took place whilst on service overseas, many years after the period of service. There is certainly some evidence that this is an issue which needs to be addressed. However, the Bill as currently drafted does not deal with the core objective effectively, and introduces a range of measures which are deeply concerning. This is an appalling piece of legislation which is deeply flawed.
Many constituents have contacted me regarding disruption to their postal service during the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has undoubtedly been very challenging for Royal Mail staff who have faced illness, and the need to adopt new working practices to be safe in the workplace, while the number of parcels for delivery has increased hugely in many areas as residents have stayed at home and ordered online. I know that Royal Mail staff have been working tirelessly to sustain delivery services, East Dulwich residents in the SE22 area have experienced particular difficulties with deliveries. I have been raising these issues with Royal Mail and last week I visited the delivery office for SE22 which is now based in Peckham following the closure of the SE22 delivery office in 2017.
Throughout the pandemic many SE22 residents have gone weeks without post and parcels, and this is not acceptable. It is clear that the closure of the Silvester Road delivery office has been disastrous. The SE15 office is too far away from the further reaches of SE22 on foot, and there is too little space for both postcode areas to be sorted with adequate social distancing, contributing to delays. Royal Mail has sold the Silvester Road delivery office for millions of pounds and it is now being developed as luxury flats. They must provide a fit for purpose delivery office in the SE22 postcode area so that their hardworking staff can provide the service residents rely on.
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I have almost no words for the Tories’ appalling treatment of young people across the country who took A-levels, BTECs and GCSEs this year. These students have faced challenges more difficult than any generation since the end of the Second World War, and they have been failed multiple times over by the government.
I wrote to the Schools Minister and to Ofqual multiple times in June and July to query the formula for awarding grades and to raise concerns that it would increase inequality and deliver profoundly unfair outcomes, and I raised this with him in person shortly before the results were released.
But the Tories ignored all warnings and issued algorithm-generated A-level grades. The impact was utterly devastating, as students who had received offers from top universities found their places being withdrawn because their moderated grades were too low. Local students who got in touch with me included a young man whose parents currently work five jobs between them to support their family, who had been offered a place to study law at a Russell Group university; and a young black woman from Brixton who would be the first in her family to go to university with an offer to study medicine. These young people saw their dreams slipping away in an instant.
I spent the weeks following results day working with my small team to fight for justice for these local students and many others, supporting our local schools and writing to many universities on behalf of individual students urging them to honour their offers and accept teacher-assessed grades.
Although the government finally U-turned on their unfair algorithm, some of these same students are now living through intolerable chaos as they start university, many local students have still had to defer their university places until next year and some remain unable to take up places they were offered. There is still a long way to go to undo the damage caused by the Tories’ exam chaos.