Yesterday I spoke in the debate following the Queen’s speech on some of the plans that the Government have introduced for this session of Parliament.
I welcomed some of the Governments robust plans for tackling illegal immigration. There is nothing compassionate about sending out a message that it is worth the risk to make these journeys, fuelling the evil human trafficking trade and limiting the capacity of this country to help the most genuine refugees. These are refugees fleeing actual areas of conflict, not other safe European countries such as France.
I also welcomed the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which will introduce tougher sentences on some of the most serious offenders as well as introducing measures so that police can more effectively deal with protests that become violent and excessively disruptive. But I said that there is a lot further to go. Many of my constituents feel that the system is broken and looking at the sentencing of the man who killed Richard Day in Ipswich, it is hard to blame them. He received only four years for the manslaughter and will get out automatically after two. This is a man who punched Richard Day in the neck and was seen laughing over him as he died. I will be taking this case up further in Parliament and will push for much tougher sentencing for heinous crimes like this one.
As for skills, we are in a great position to benefit from the new freeport in Felixstowe. But in order to make the most advantage, we have to have an ecosystem approach to skills and education. We need to create a framework of dialogue for business, Further Education Colleges and our universities and we need to start careers advice early so that there is a sense that there are multiple pathways both academic and technical and that no one route is superior to any other.
I welcomed the lifetime skills guarantee and also the town deal which will also be a huge benefit to Ipswich. I mentioned the example of Spirit Yachts, which designs some of the world’s most in-demand elegant yachts. In the past they have had to rely on people coming from outside the area to work on their yachts, but now the Town Deal will be funding a maritime skills academy in order to train up a local high-skilled workforce to take up jobs in this sector. It is great that local people will have the opportunities to get these jobs and sell products from Ipswich – the greatest town in the country – around the world!
Today the Common Sense Group of MPs have launched our new book, Common Sense: conservative thinking for a post-liberal age, which covers a range of topics.
I have contributed a chapter, co-authored with Chris Loder MP, on ‘Taking the Politics out of Policing’ which is an area I have spoken about since I was elected.
I have been a member of the Common Sense Group since its founding shortly after the 2019 general election and think it is incredibly important as a way of voicing some of the concerns of ordinary people that I speak to in Ipswich. It allows us as MPs to put pressure on the Government on some key issues such as tougher policing. The expectation of our voters is for a government that reflects the will of the people, rather than pandering to the peculiar preoccupations of the liberal elite and the distorted priorities of left-wing activists. This is why we have written this book.
In my chapter I have written about the creeping role of the force in policing public discourse, particularly with regards to the recording of non-crime hate incidents. These are incidents which are registered without being crimes and despite being non-evidenced and yet they are formally recorded and can even show up during DBS checks when applying for work. This is unacceptable. It has a chilling effect on free speech and allows the police to be used as a weapon by ideologically driven activists who unfortunately think they should be able to control what people say.
It is very clear to me from knocking on doors in Ipswich that the vast majority of people want to see more police out in our town doing what they do best – protecting us from dangerous crime and anti-social behaviour on our streets. This is the people’s priority, but also that of regular police officers. They want don’t want to have to waste their time investigating offensive jokes made on Facebook which don’t constitute a crime, but sadly this is exactly what the College of Policing Guidance tells them that they must do.
I have welcomed the 20,000 new police officers being introduced by the Government and have spoken at length about wanting to push for a fairer funding deal for police in Ipswich. But I think that is just one half of the approach we need to be taking. I believe that we should be creating a framework for policing which ditches the ambiguous guidance about non-crime hate incidents, cuts bureaucracy and paperwork and allows them to do their jobs. This would be a framework which incentivises them to deal with actual crimes.
I have also written about amending the Public Order Act 1986 to enable police to more effectively deal with the most disruptive protests that have taken place over the past year. There is a place in our society for protest, but the police need to be able to act effectively when things become violent and intimidating. As previously stated, I am also a firm believer of the need to get more police on the streets which is another proposal I have recommended in my chapter.
There are a range of other issues tackled in my chapter and across the book as a whole, and I am looking forward to continued discussion in parliament on all of these.
It really is looking like bridge closures due to strong winds are a thing of the past.
The first time the new 40pmh speed limit on the bridge will be in use. Likely to be the case tomorrow as well. Very pleased that the major disruption associated with bridge closures will be avoided.
This new much more sensible approach which has been made possible by the new electronic signs was a v long time coming but I for one am glad its here.
Today I spoke at the launch of the new “Speak for Change” report by the Oracy APPG on the importance of developing speaking skills in school which featured The Oaks Primary School in Chantry, Ipswich. Oracy is the development of speaking skills which allows students to express themselves fluently and confidently.
The report shows just how key Oracy is to pupil’s development in school but also for their social and emotional wellbeing. It’s been clear from the dislocation a lot of young students have felt this year, that the social aspect of improving these skills cannot be understated.
I found it particularly concerning as highlighted in the report that 66% of primary teachers and nearly half of secondary teachers have said that school closures during the pandemic had a negative effect on the spoken language development of pupils eligible for free school meals. In my role on the Education Committee this year we have spoken at length about how to best support students in making up lost learning and I believe that making Oracy a key focus is crucial to this.
Evidence in the report also shows that Oracy’s benefits extend well beyond school to improving young people’s chances of securing their preferred education and training pathway as they leave secondary school and boosting their employment prospects. It is my belief that, on top of other areas of the curriculum, we need to make sure that all our young people have access to a language-rich environment. Unfortunately, there are so many talented young people from more deprived backgrounds who do well in school but when they get to interview for jobs don’t perform to their full potential. Every child in this country should get the oral communication skills that will see them thrive.
I have always been a keen advocate for the benefits of speaking skills throughout education. When I was at university, I was the mentor for the charity Debate Mate and actually ran a debating class in all girls schools in an underprivileged part of Manchester. I coached them for 6 months and then entered them into the regional final and saw how their speaking skills and their confidence grew over that time. It was incredibly fulfilling to see this positive transformation.
I was also really thrilled that The Oaks Primary school in Ipswich was included in the report and wanted to thank co-headteacher, Jeremy Pentreath, for his contributions. I visited them very recently and they explained to me all the work they have been doing. They have done a fantastic job at effectively implementing their Oracy programme and it is clear they are seeing the results. Staff have noticed the positive impact it is having on teaching and learning, particularly in areas such as vocabulary, Pupil Premium underachievement, engagement, positive learning behaviours and retention of facts.
I am now a vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy and am keen to help further the cause going forward.
I voted in favour of an amendment (the Lord Bishop’s Amendment) to the Fire Safety Bill which sought to protect leaseholders from the remediation costs associated with all fire safety defects (not just cladding). As you may know I was an early signatory to the McPartland-Smith amendment which was very similar but was voted down by the House of Commons on the 22nd March. I was disappointed that that vote was unsuccessful and hoped that the Lords Amendment would pass today. Unfortunately, it did not.
This is the second time I’ve voted against the Government on this key issue and it’s not something I take lightly, but given that there had been no material change between the last vote and this one in a way that would see many of my constituents better protected, I felt that I had to once again vote this way.
I’ve always been clear that my priority is to represent my constituents and it’s possible that from time to time this will involve me voting a different way from my Party colleagues. Yes, when people voted for me, they voted for a Conservative MP, but I also believe that people hoped they were voting for someone who was prepared to make difficult decisions that put their constituents first.
Over the past year the Government have outlined a range of support for leaseholders (in the Billions) and many of my constituents who are leaseholders have received the support they need. However not all. When discussing this matter with Ipswich leaseholders I have been clear that I do not want any leaseholder to be left behind, and sadly at this stage, many still are.
This issue is not just about cladding. Many leaseholders live in properties where there are fire safety defects that need to be urgently addressed including wall insulation, fire doors, wooden balconies and fire brakes. Sometimes remediating these issues can cost thousands of pounds and it is resulting in leaseholders being unable to sell their properties as many mortgage lenders are refusing to lend, essentially making many of the properties valueless.
These leaseholders have bought their properties in good faith and are not to blame for these fire safety defects, and I fail to see why they should be forced to saddle the costs.
Ultimately the taxpayer shouldn’t have to bear the cost of this either. Those who should pay are those who are responsible. Whether it’s the builders or the management agents.
I have had many detailed discussions with the Housing Minister over this matter and he has made clear to me that the Building Safety Bill will be the place to resolve these issues. However, a key concern for me is there isn’t currently much detail regarding this, and I haven’t been given a clear timeline for when this new Bill will be in place and when the uncertainty and anxiety that many of my constituents face will be ended. Ultimately this is what led to me voting again the way I did today.
Since the moment I was elected I’ve done everything I can to support leaseholders in Ipswich and I will continue to do so.