Deterring dangerous channel crossings
I asked the Minister for Tackling Illegal Migration about those individuals who are coming to this country illegally, and how this makes it more difficult for the genuine refugees we should and must help.
Today in the chamber the Nationality and Borders Bill is being debated. The House of Lords has suggested removing a clause which was put in place to deter these dangerous crossings. There is a genuine concern for those putting their lives at risk by crossing the channel in small boats, and disgust towards the evil criminal gangs profiteering off of this. Removing this clause, which differentiates between those who came to the UK legally and those who arrived via unsafe and illegal means, would be a slap in the face to those who follow due process.
Unsurprisingly, Labour will be supporting the Lords amendment and doing nothing to prevent the small boats crossing the channel or safeguard the lives this puts at risk.
Ipswich Polish community
Today at Prime Minister’s Questions, I spoke of how the Ipswich Polish community has stood strong alongside the people of Ukraine.
The political-philosopher Rousseau once said about the Polish people, ‘You can swallow the Pole, but you will never digest them’. I’ve always felt that this quote is very reflective of the Polish people and their history of robustly standing against Russian aggression, and more specifically their steadfast support for their dear allies, the Ukrainian people.
Locally, we have seen the heart-warming generosity of Ipswich people: the Polish Community Hub has raised nearly £10,000 to support a town in Poland which is taking in Ukrainian refugees, predominantly children. Three lorries are taking donations to Lviv, in Ukraine, which were collected from generous donations (including essentials, medication, and bedding).
Ipswich people are going above and beyond to demonstrate their support for Ukraine, including local restaurant owner Julien, who is driving across Europe with donations, Rob and Sharon from the Geek Retreat who are donating their takings to Red Cross Appeal for Ukraine, Maidenhall Residents’ Association, which is taking donations from the community, and Ipswich Town which matched the donations taken by the Red Cross at their Lincoln match, with about £7,000 being donated in total. I am incredibly proud to represent the Town as it demonstrates true Ipswich spirit and generosity towards Ukraine.
I asked the deputy Prime Minister about how the UK is supporting Poland, as it welcomes Ukrainian refugees, and faces security threats of its own.
When I met four Ukrainian constituents on Friday, they described how grateful they were for this support from the Ipswich community, and particularly the Polish community in the Town. I am very pleased to support Ipswich resident Magda Chambers, who has raised over £8,000 to support Ukrainian refugees, with donations being driven across the Ukrainian border in lorries today and throughout this week.
My constituent Olena told me about her family, in Kharkiv, Eastern Ukraine, which is encircled by Russian forces. I asked the Home Office today about how we can help her family members, and other like them, who are currently in a warzone. I asked about a way to get refugees to safety which does not rely on offers from Putin, for a humanitarian which takes evacuees to Russia or to Belarus.
I also asked, on behalf of my constituent Viktoria, whether the family visa scheme is transferrable to others if one of the family members who is eligible doesn’t want to take the opportunity, so we can help those desperately in need of a safe passage out of the warzone.
I know I speak for my constituents when I say we want to help those fleeing Ukraine, and I am pleased to support the efforts and generosity that my constituents have shown towards the people of Ukraine.
Post Covid Restrictions
On TalkRADIO this afternoon we discussed moving back to normal with no restrictions. I am pleased that we are seeing the restrictions eased, that we are one of the freest economies and societies in the developed world, and that we are leading the world when it comes to vaccine rollout and opening up.
Today we have seen big announcements from the Prime Minister, outlining our roadmap back to normality. The government will be working with retailers to ensure that tests are still readily available to buy, and they will remain free for those in the most vulnerable categories. Testing has cost the public purse £15.7 billion so far, so it is absolutely right that we step towards balancing this cost with learning to live with the virus.
In the spring, over-75s and high-risk categories will be offered a booster to provide extra protection.
Children’s mental health week
This week is children’s mental health week. I spoke in the chamber this afternoon on how important it is to take steps on children’s mental health – especially the need to get things right for those with special educational needs.
It has been an incredibly difficult time for young people, with disruption at school because of the pandemic, as well as the age of 24/7 social media having negative impacts on mental health.
In terms of special educational needs and disabilities, we must bear in mind how much these children struggle with disruption, uncertainty, and change to routine which we have seen as a result of the pandemic. Getting special educational needs right has a societal impact – and if we don’t get it right, it has detrimental effects to mental health. Not being understood as a result of their differences can be disastrous for young people, their mental health, and their progress in school. As someone who grew up with dyslexia and dyspraxia, I know how it feels to have learning differences misunderstood, and just how important it is that we get this right.
We need to make sure that the system is one which works for young people with special educational needs, not only to ensure every child is reaching their potential, but also because of the wider societal impacts when these students fall through the cracks.
Ministry of Justice regional office coming to Ipswich
Very pleased with the recent announcement from the Ministry of Justice that one of the 7 new regional offices will be coming to Ipswich, bringing new civil service jobs.
Today in the chamber I asked fellow Suffolk MP James Cartlidge about the timeline for these new jobs, and I look forward to hearing more updates from the Ministry of Justice on how we can make sure as many of these jobs as possible go to Ipswich people.
I hope that being one of the 7 new regional offices will mean Ipswich is at the forefront of new initiatives such as tackling domestic abuse and supporting victims, reinforcing the great work done by our local voluntary sector – with charities like Lighthouse Women’s Aid which I visited in the autumn.
Elective Orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich to Colchester
As you know from previous posts I’ve been very active on raising my constituents concerns on the move of elective element of Orthopaedic surgery from Ipswich to Colchester, which culminated in my own special debate in Parliament in 2020.
Today I sought an update, asking the Minster for Health and Social Care how we are going to ensure the best quality services for Ipswich patients.
The new centre in Colchester looks to improve capacity which could cut waiting lists, which I welcome – especially since we are seeing about 2 million more patients on waiting lists nationally due to the pandemic. However, I do still have concerns about the logistics of how some Ipswich patients will get from A to B for surgery.
This is while the pre and post surgery appointments happen in Ipswich, along with emergency surgery. These questions need to be addressed ahead of the centre opening in 2023, and I will be meeting the Minister to discuss this further.
I am pleased about the progress on the new A and E department in Ipswich hospital which could hopefully cut waiting lists too.
Levelling Up Announcement
Though I waited in the Chamber today to comment on the Levelling up announcement, unfortunately the debate ran out of time and I wasn’t called to speak. So I wanted to share my thoughts here instead:
- Education Investment area: Extra funding for things like teacher retention in Ipswich
- Ministry of Justice: Opening 1 of 7 new offices right here in Ipswich bringing hundreds of jobs to the area
- Devolution for Suffolk: Better link up for skills and education hopefully alongside further investment
All of this is on top of the £25 million from the Towns Deal as well as the opportunities presented by Freeport East on our doorstep. Great news!
When it comes to generating high paid jobs in the Ipswich area, Freeport East is a very exciting project. As one of the government’s 8 new Freeports, I am very pleased that Freeport East will be on Ipswich’s doorstep, and I want the benefits of the Freeport to be realised by my constituents as soon as possible.
This morning in the chamber, I asked the Treasury for assurances that rocket boosters would be put under this project. I was happy to hear the Treasury tell me that they will be accelerating the Freeport projects, ensuring that the high skilled jobs come to our area as quickly as possible. I will be ensuring that the government does everything it can to propel Freeport East forwards and make these high-skilled jobs a reality for the people of Ipswich.
Meeting with Nadine Dorries
Yesterday I met with Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to discuss grassroots sports funds. In this meeting, I advocated for our local grassroots sports clubs and the difference they make, especially to young people in the most deprived areas.
Following a visit at the end of last year, I raised the case of Ipswich Vale Exiles FC and the Bourne Vale social club with the Secretary of State, and how vital the club is to the IP2 area it serves. When I visited the club, I heard about the contribution of their 22 youth teams to the opportunities for young people in the area, as well as the financial struggles of the club. As well as raising the situation of Bourne Vale in the chamber previously, yesterday I asked the Secretary of State how we can better support grassroots sports, and the potential for a grassroots sports fund in Ipswich.
I also told the Secretary of State about the Gecko Theatre company, which is using funds from her department to build a state-of-the-art rehearsal space, a significant project which is contributing to the regeneration of the waterfront. Yesterday I was ensuring that the use of funds from her department’s grant would be as beneficial as possible to the Gecko Theatre company, and I will be continuing this discussion with the Treasury.