Clearly the past few days have been regrettable and I’m well aware of the stress and anxiety this has caused a number of my young constituents who have worked very hard for their A levels (many of whom my office has been supporting over the past few days). Any approach to awarding exam grades at a time when exams have been cancelled comes with its own shortcomings and this will be the case with this new approach also.
However, in light of the events over the past few days I think this was the correct decision. Ofqual were responsible for developing the algorithm for awarding grades and to say that I’ve been concerned about some of the patterns that have been emerging would be an understatement and many of the stories I’ve heard have been worrying. It’s positive news that GCSE students have this certainty ahead of receiving their grades this week and that hopefully the kind of upset and anxiety we’ve seen this week can be avoided.
Wherever exam results are handed out it won’t always be good news for everyone and there will always be some that will be disappointed however at the very least the whole system needs to be underpinned by a sense of fairness. I do have concerns about grade inflation and clearly teachers predicting grades isn’t the same as students actually sitting and passing exams but in the absence of exams and the shortcomings of Ofqual’s algorithm there appears to be no alternative. I have been communicating my concerns to Ministers over the past couple of days following discussions with constituents and I’m glad this announcement has been made.
Thanks to all those who let me know their views on the ‘orange wands’ which have been popping up on Ipswich’s roads. It’s clear from the responses that these bollards are almost universally unpopular with cyclists and motorists alike. And I’ve now written to Suffolk County Council to call for them to be taken down and under no circumstances made permanent.
I agree with many of the comments people have made, particularly the concerns around whether these bollards actually make our roads less safe in a number of cases and the impact on emergency vehicles. I’ve included many of these concerns in the letter but it’s disappointing that a lack of consultation on these changes meant these concerns weren’t properly heard before public money was spent.
I’ll follow up with County Council to make sure this issue is addressed.
Bit surprised to have been nominated by constituents for the MP of the Year Awards for my work on supporting children with SEND. I wasn’t aware of this awards scheme before being nominated but it’s a good opportunity to keep raising the profile of the issues affecting these children.
It’s an honour to have been nominated for this award. But actually delivering more support for children with SEND will remain the only measure of success that matters to me.
You can vote in the awards here: https://patchworkfoundation.org.uk/peoples_choice_2020_votesopen/
I went on BBC Radio Suffolk this afternoon to talk about the unacceptable surge in illegal channel crossings and the letter I sent with 22 other Conservative MPs calling on the Home Secretary to take action so that illegal migrants are immediately returned.
I like many am completely fed up with the lawlessness in the Channel and the slap in the face it represents to the law-abiding people of this country and genuine asylum seekers who wish to come to this country legally. All of those who try to come here illegally across the Channel have left a safe European Country to do so and there is absolutely no justification for them to break our laws to get to the UK.
As we set out in our letter, action, not words, is what is needed now. It’s been over four years since we voted to take back control of our borders but our hands are still tied by EU and international rules which don’t allow us to put the people of this country first.
It is good that after the letter we sent, the Prime Minister has said we need to look at changing the law and efforts are underway to get the French to do more. But I’m also clear that our ability to control our borders must not be dependent on the whim of France or any other third country. We must be prepared to turn all illegal boats around and escort them back to France. These dangerous crossings will only stop when we have made it completely clear that all attempts will be futile as the Australians did when they were confronted with a similar problem.
I’ll keep working with other MPs to secure swift action and ensure this issue is treated with the seriousness it deserves and the public expects.
This week I’ve written about the pressing need for pet theft reform and how this campaign has become even more important during the Covid-19 lockdown. Cases of pet theft have increased significantly since lockdown begun, robbing people of their pets just when their companionship is needed most.
This cruel crime causes great distress to victims which can stay with them for years but the theft of a pet is currently treated under the law in the same way as the theft of an inanimate object like a mobile phone. This means that pet thieves, if caught, often only receive pitiful fines of no more than £250. We must make pet theft a specific offence under the Theft Act so prison sentences of up to 2 years become more readily available to judges. The current punishments clearly don’t represent justice for victims or a sufficient deterrent to stop pet theft from continuing to rise.
Following my virtual discussion with campaigners behind the pet theft reform petition last month, we have now received a written response from the Government which says that they have no plans to change the law. This is disappointing but it’s no means the end of the campaign. I’ve asked Ministers to meet with me directly to discuss this issue and I’ll be calling for a debate on pet theft reform in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The status quo doesn’t reflect how important our pets are to us and needs to change.
Yesterday I made a speech on the Counter Terrorism and Sentencing Bill which will see the most dangerous terrorist offenders spend longer in prison. This is a crucial piece of legislation which will punish those who would try to spill blood on our streets out of their hatred of this country and its people. And it will also provide a strong deterrent others who might be thinking about doing the same.
After I raised the case of terrorist Shamima Begum last week on the news, I again raised it in Parliament yesterday to underline just how angry many people are in the country at the Court of Appeal’s recent decision to allow her to return to the UK. The out of touch decisions which continue to come out of our courts must be addressed as we continue to build on the work of this Bill and look to put the public interest first. And I was glad to secure reassurances from Government during the debate that they will be appealing the Begum decision with everything they have.
I also used the speech to argue against amendments Labour were seeking to make that would limit the impact of this Bill on young adult terrorist offenders between the ages of 18 and 21 because of their immaturity. At 18 for all intents and purposes you are an adult with the same rights and responsibilities as every other adult. And you’re certainly old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and that actions which could result in the deaths of many people are inexcusable. I’ve frequently heard Labour politicians make the case that 16 year olds are mature enough to vote and it seems they change their view on where adulthood starts depending on what suits them.
I’ll continue to do everything I can as Ipswich’s MP to make sure we are as robust as possible in the fight against terrorism.
Our town centre is at the heart of life in our town but it faces many challenges which have only been made far greater by Covid-19. That’s why I used a question in Parliament today to call on the Government to release the £25 million Town Deal Funding allocated to Ipswich in the October funding round, in line with our local strategy for the regeneration of our town centre.
A lot of work has gone into developing a clear strategy for our town centre under the Ipswich Vision Partnership, and I hope the Government will recognise that come October.
Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government who responded to my question today came to Ipswich during the General Election where I gave him a tour of the town centre and made the case for Ipswich to be included in the Fund. Now we’re in the Fund, I’ll continue to do everything I can to make sure Ipswich town centre can benefit as much as possible from it.
Clearly the future of our town centre is far from certain and this money will not be a magic bullet. But it’s a positive step which we must make the most of.
This week I used my weekly column to talk about the Black Lives Matter UK movement. I have become increasingly concerned that some of the policies they promote, actions they undertake and language they use such as “white privilege” and “white fragility” are doing more to create division within our society. I was shocked and saddened by the brutal murder of George Floyd and fully acknowledge that a number of my constituents have and continue to endure racism but what we need is a unifying message and set of goals that seek to eliminate racism in all its guises without seeking to stoke further division and separateness.
Fortunately we are not America and race is not as divisive an issue in this country as it is across the Atlantic, we all have a duty to ensure this remains the case, this can be done by calling out and dealing with genuine racism whilst at the same time steering clear from organisations that promote a divisive agenda.