Like most women across the country, the events of the last ten days have really struck a chord with me. Almost all women know what it feels like to walk down a road and wonder if they are taking a safe route home. And, I’ve had so many constituents write to me and tell me about their experiences where something has happened and they’ve not been listened to or taken seriously.
But, it’s no surprise women don’t feel safe right now. Under the Conservatives, domestic homicide is at an all time high and rape prosecutions have fallen to an all-time low - just 1.5% of people charged with rape are getting convicted, yet these reports are up by 35%.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that was discussed in Parliament this week, could have been a watershed moment but this Conservative Government’s Bill does absolutely nothing to increase sentences for rapists, stalkers, or for those who batter, control and abuse women. It does nothing about street harassment and assaults. And yes, as Jess Phillips has said, this is an Abusers Charter. It does more to silence women who speak up and protest against a lack of safety than it does to protect us. There is nothing in the Bill about domestic abuse or sexual violence.
For ten years this Government has promised a victim’s law, but it still hasn’t materialised. That’s why I was so proud that this week, Labour published a 10-point plan to keep women and girls safe and end the injustice women and girls face. We’ve published a Victims Law. And in the next few days we’ll publish amendments to make the criminal justice system work better. Labour’s also called on the Government to look urgently at tougher sentences for rape and serious sexual violence. For a new law on street harassment. And tougher action against stalking. We don’t need more consultations and delays, we need action.
Urgent inquiry call from Birmingham’s leaders and families
This week I joined with Birmingham City Council Leader, Cllr Ian Ward, and Labour MPs across Birmingham, in calling for an independent inquiry into the Government's handling of the Covid pandemic.
Over the last 12 months, I’ve heard from so many of my constituents who have just heart-breaking stories, and they need to be heard.
Many grieving families have written to me looking for my support. That is why I put my name to this letter to press Boris Johnson to act now and bring closure to those left wondering if deaths were avoidable.
NHS England has warned us of significant reduction in weekly supply of vaccines and that appointments for first doses should be paused in April. Reports show that this is partly due to a delay in a delivery from India of five million Oxford-AstraZeneca doses.
Over the last year I have repeatedly urged the government to push for the global sharing of Covid19 technologies as I did in this piece in the Independent from back in January. We need to share both know-how and data to utilise manufacturing capacity and increase the production and delivery of Covid19 vaccines.
People are rightly concerned and we need answers from the Health Secretary to explain exactly what these supply issues are and what he is doing to resolve them. Trying to dismiss or downplay the legitimate concerns of anxious people waiting for a vaccine is simply not good enough.
Last night I took part in ITV’s Central Lobby alongside Conservative MP for South Leicestershire Alberto Costa and Liberal Democrat campaigner Zuffar Haq.
It was a lively discussion that focused on the events of the last week around women’s safety. In particular, we spoke about the differences between Conservatives woefully lacking Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that doesn’t mention women at all, compared to Labour’s clear ten point plan to keep women safe.
We also took a look to the future and how the Midlands economy will fare as we begin to come out of lockdown. Under the leadership of Boris Johnson, Birmingham has suffered during the pandemic, leading to us having one of the worst unemployment rates in the country, and the biggest levelling up challenge of any city in the UK.
As Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, on Monday I’ll be hosting an online conversation for the West Midlands.
The event will take a look at our foreign aid spend which has been substantially cut. While the British people have a proud history of supporting those around the world who are in need or who are suffering, this Government has announced a 60% cut in aid to the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster in Yemen.
We’ll be discussing this and more on Monday 22 March. Join us to learn more about the work Labour is doing to fight back against these cuts.
This Sunday is Census Day and it’s vital that everyone in Edgbaston takes part.
By now, you should have received a letter in the post explaining how the census works and with an access code, which you can use to log in to the website.
It’s vital that we all take part and complete the census as it is our chance to stand up and be counted. It also shows the Government and the City Council how many people are in which part of the constituency, so that resources can be appropriately allocated and our local communities get the services that they need.
Launching the Charter of Rights on Exempt Accommodation
After working with 50 different organisations including Spring Housing and BVSC, this week Birmingham City Council launched the city's new Charter of Rights and Quality Standard for exempt accommodation. I was proud to put my name to this and endorse the Charter alongside my Labour colleague, Jess Phillips MP, and Birmingham City Council cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, Cllr Sharon Thompson.
I have been working with residents on exempt accommodation for many years now highlighting the growing problem that this type of accommodation can raise for our local communities. While this is a positive first step that will look to encourage providers to raise their standards, we need to continue to work hard to make sure that those landlords and support providers which don't commit to these standards, are held to account.
I was glad to see one of my constituents start a petition that calls for the Government to allocate time to debate the Supported Accommodation Bill. The Bill calls for controls to ensure the suitability of accommodation provided for supported housing and the fitness of landlords to use universal credit and housing benefit to deliver good support.