I began my last newsletter with the coronavirus outbreak in Brighton. It
was only three weeks ago, but since then the outbreak is on a completely
different level. I am glad to see that my concerns in mid-February about
the lack of timely health information are being addressed and a public
information campaign is being rolled out across the country.
There are wider issues, though, about our ability to tackle the outbreak of
infectious diseases, particularly around the outsourcing and privatisation
of vital hospital services like cleaning. It is of particular concern when
the Government is negotiating trade deals with countries like the US which
want a share of our NHS. I wrote about these concerns here .
PRIME MINISTER’S QUESTIONS
I had another chance to question the Prime Minister last week and
challenged him on the Court of Appeal's ruling that the Government's
decision to give the green light to the expansion of Heathrow airport broke
the law on climate grounds. Boris Johnson famously once said he would lie
down in front of the bulldozer to stop the building of a third runway which
may explain why the Government is not appealing the judgement. But it
doesn't let the Government off the hook. All its infrastructure policy
plans should now be reviewed to see if they comply with the Paris Agreement
and the UK's climate laws. You can see my exchange with the prime minister
CAMPAIGNING FOR YOUNG HOMELESS AND CARE LEAVERS
I have been campaigning for a change in the law on housing allowance for
homeless young people under 25, and for care leavers. At the moment, the
housing benefit available for homeless is much less for those under 25 -
even though there is no difference in the rent they have to pay. Care
leavers receive the higher rate when they leave care, but only until they
are 22. Then they lose it. It would cost comparatively little for the
Government to correct this injustice. I was joined by about 50 MPs from all
the main parties in writing to the Chancellor to ask him to use the Budget
to give some of the most disadvantaged young people a chance to move on
with their lives, by making sure they have enough for a roof over their
head. I wrote about the campaign in my column in Metro .
On Thursday I attended a meeting of the COMMUNITY ACTION ON HOMELESSNESS
GROUP who work to address homelessness in Brighton and Hove and updated
them on the campaign. I'm currently collecting signatures for a petition so
that the matter can be raised again in Parliament. If you would like to
sign then please contact my local office on: [email protected]
It's not only young people who are at risk of homelessness. The shortage of
affordable housing in Brighton is intolerable and it's being aggravated by
private properties being used for short-term lets, via platforms like
Airbnb, rather than homes. I want the Government to give local authorities
like Brighton and Hove the power to regulate this sector, and I'm asking
for residents' views. I'd be very grateful if you might take a few moments
to complete the survey  on my website.
A LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER FROM SEND SCHOOLS
I joined several other MPs and headteachers from SEND schools in handing a
letter in to 10 Downing Street, calling for more support and funding for
children with special educational needs. I was glad to see the headteacher
from Downs View School in Brighton, Adrian Carver, in the delegation and he
told me of his concerns about the marginalisation of children with special
needs and the impact of inadequate funding, which has led to bigger class
sizes and less support for some very vulnerable children.
THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE HIPPODROME
The annual register of the Theatres Trust yet again named the Brighton
Hippodrome the number 1 theatre 'most at risk' and I'm really concerned
that it will deteriorate even further if it isn't brought back into use
very soon. I've been urging the Council to issue a Repair Order on the
current owner, so far without success. On Friday I met with Jonathan
Suffolk, the Technical Director of the National Theatre, to discuss what
options are available to protect this wonderful old building and to explore
possible avenues to help bring it back into use.
PANKHURST AVENUE RESIDENTS MEETING
On Friday, I attended a residents' meeting about last year's Pankhurst
Avenue fire . The meeting was an opportunity for residents to speak in
person to their landlord, Guinness Partnership. Six months on from the
fire, and with people still displaced from their homes and living in
interim accommodation, it's understandable that those affected are
increasingly anxious to find some resolution. I will continue to support
them with this, as well as raising broader concerns about the scale of the
problems within building control, including the mechanisms in place for
'approved inspectors' to sign off buildings as safe.
FINDING BRITAIN’S ROLE IN A CHANGING WORLD
I contributed a chapter to a report from Oxfam and the Foreign Policy
Centre about Britain's role in the world and building a values-based
foreign policy. I focused on the upcoming UN climate summit in Glasgow in
November, and what the Government needs to do to ensure this summit is a
success and how its claims of climate leadership need to be matched by
effective climate action. You can read my contribution here .
SOCIETY FOR ENVIRONMENT AWARD
I was delighted to accept an honorary fellowship from the Society for the
Environment, which promotes knowledge and education on good environmental
practice among environmental professionals. Thank you to the chairman of
the society, William Pope, who came to Westminster to give me the award.
I have asked a number of questions of ministers, in particular over the
Government's plans for a points-based immigration system. There has been a
lot of publicity about the salary threshold for people coming to the UK to
work, which is discriminatory on so many levels. It will also have a huge
impact on many sectors like construction, hospitality, agriculture, food
processing, retail and more which pay lower salaries than the threshold.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVENTS
On Saturday I chaired a panel for International Women's Day at Brighton
Dome where we discussed the question "_What are the global impacts of
climate change on women and how are women responding both locally and
around the world?_" What should our priorities be now?' I was joined by
some amazing women on the panel who spoke about leadership, action, power
and how women can respond to the climate emergency. The event was organised
by Brighton Women's Centre who, once again, pulled together the city's
largest annual International Women's Day celebrations.
This free and inclusive all-day event celebrates women's achievements while
raising vital funds for the Women's Centre and the amazing work they do
here in Brighton.
I also spoke at Brighton Sofar  on Friday evening for their special
International Women's Day show.