Health and Care Bill Second Reading

Today I will be voting against the Government’s Health and Care Bill. 

We owe our NHS and social care staff an enormous debt of gratitude for all that they have done during these past 16 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.  They have worked at the frontline of this terrible disease, often putting their own health at risk to provide treatment and care to those in need.  The burden of the Government’s failure to prepare for a pandemic fell on them, as has the impact of more than a decade of austerity.

Our NHS and care staff need more than clapping, they need this government to step up and deliver the resources and investment to fund properly a reformed NHS and care sector, starting with a decent pay rise ensuring that every staff member is paid at least the real living wage.

They need buildings fit for the future of care, not crumbling and leaking relics of yesterday, they need investment in equipment, and they need a credible workforce strategy that helps to deliver the next generations of highly skilled well paid staff to fill the huge gaps in recruitment and problems with retention they have to deal with each week.

Staff need these things so that they can focus on the top priority of bringing waiting times down and delivering the best possible treatment, care and support to everyone who needs it.

But what they categorically don’t need - and no doctor, nurse or carer has ever asked me for - is this Bill. They do not need a Bill which will deliver a top down reorganisation of the NHS, and which bypasses the reform and sustainable funding of social care completely.

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Helen urges the Minister to support renewable community energy

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Helen leads debate to mark Windrush Day 2021

I am proud to represent a constituency with a very direct connection to the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush in 1948. Around 200 of the Windrush passengers found temporary accommodation in the Clapham Common deep shelter, and from there came to find work at the Labour Exchange on Coldharbour Lane and settled in the surrounding area working in our NHS, for London Transport, in the rebuilding of post-war London and setting up shops and businesses helping to build the Brixton we know today. On Windrush Day, 22 June, we celebrate the enduring contribution of this remarkable generation.  After 15 months of the coronavirus pandemic, we cannot mark this year’s Windrush Day without remembering the significant role that the Windrush generation played in the founding of our NHS, and the extraordinary service of all those who have come from overseas to serve in our NHS and social care, and who have given so much during this very difficult time.  We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

Yet, as we mark the contribution of Windrush citizens we must also remember the appalling injustice suffered by the victims of the Windrush Scandal. The Home Secretary has promised to right the wrong of the Scandal, but the Windrush Compensation Scheme is not working. Tragically, 21 victims of the Windrush Scandal have died waiting to receive their compensation.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme must urgently be taken over by an independent body. It is also important that the Windrush Scandal leads to cultural change in our country which must start with listening to the lived experience of Black people, rather than – as the Government has done – denying that structural racism exists.  This morning I led a debate in Parliament to mark Windrush Day 2021. You can see a clip of my speech below >>

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Helen leads debate on reforming the Mental Health Act

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Helen speaks in debate on planning reform

The planning system has a vital role to play in our response to the climate emergency and in delivering the homes and infrastructure needed to end the housing crisis. It should be a framework for fairness, ensuring that new development is focused on meeting the needs of local communities and not the profits of developers.

The Tories’ plans to reform the planning system will shut local communities and local councils out of planning decisions and do nothing to deliver the genuinely affordable, zero-carbon homes we desperately need. Yesterday I urged the Government to think again and put the climate emergency and delivering genuinely affordable housing at the heart of planning policy, and people at the heart of the planning process.

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Helen speaks in debate on Royal Mail services

At the start of the pandemic, many of my constituents in the East Dulwich and Dulwich Village areas covered by the SE22 postcode area reported that Royal Mail delivery services had become completely unreliable. For months residents were left without a regular service and at times waited weeks between deliveries.  This was not the fault of our posties who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic as vital frontline workers, often providing the only conversation of the day for residents who were spending lockdown alone.  The problems in SE22 can be traced back to Royal Mail’s disastrous decision to close the SE22 delivery office on Silvester Road without opening a new delivery office in the SE22 area. Royal Mail should never have been privatised, and the sale of sites such as the Silvester Road delivery office to the highest bidder is just one example of how privatisation has failed.

I have raised these issues repeatedly with Royal Mail and with Ofcom, but it is clear that there is a need for stronger regulation to ensure the reliability of Royal Mail services. This includes the need for delivery office closures to be subject to public consultation and requirements for Royal Mail to take on more staff in times of emergency. There is also an urgent need for more transparent monitoring of services. Royal Mail refuses to provide data at a postcode level making it impossible to accurately assess the quality of service. Ultimately, we need an end to the failed privatisation of this vital public service.  You can see part of my recent speech below>>

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Helen questions the Minister on plans for peat soil restoration

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Helen challenges the Prime Minister on the cladding scandal

On the fifth anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox, I paid tribute to Jo during Prime Minister’s Questions.  Jo was a dear personal friend and colleague.  We were the same age, elected to Parliament on the same day and got to know each other we navigated the early weeks and months as new MPs together.  Jo will always be missed and remembered, and her legacy lives on.

This week we also marked the fourth anniversary of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower which claimed the lives of 72 people.  Four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, thousands of people across the country are still living in unsafe flats. More than 200 high-rise buildings in England are still fitted with combustible cladding like that on Grenfell, and many more blocks still do not have fire prevention measures installed, while the government has broken its promise to protect leaseholders from the catastrophic costs of cladding replacement and fire safety measures.

I asked the Prime Minister why his Government has failed to act to  end the cladding scandal. You can see my question, and the Prime Minister’s dreadful response, here>>

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Helen calls for urgent action to end the use of sexual violence in the conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia

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Emergency debate on the UK's International Development budget

Frustratingly, I was too far down the speaker list in yesterday's emergency debate on the International Development budget in the House of Commons to be called to speak, so I’ve published the speech I had prepared instead.  You can read the full speech here >>

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