Welcome to my regular newsletter, keeping you updated on my work as your Member of Parliament.
Whilst the national lockdown continues, on Monday the Government announced their long-awaited 4 stage roadmap to end Covid restrictions. You can find out more about the different stages on my website here, but if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch. The Government has promised that further details about support for jobs and businesses will come in the budget next Wednesday. I will await this announcement, and be ready to hold the Chancellor to account over continued gaps in the support package.
In some much needed good news, this month we’ve had three important campaign wins! The Government is finally bringing forward legislation to ban the destructive and damaging practice of peatland burning. Partners are now welcome at 12 and 20 week baby scans at Jessop Wing in Sheffield Teaching Hospital. And Ministers have u-turned, so those with learning difficulties will now be prioritised for a Covid vaccine. Read on to find out more about the campaigns that led us here, and the next steps to come!
We also held our first Hallam Citizens’ Climate Manifesto event on the issue of green public transport! More than 90 people came along and it was fantastic to be able to speak to and hear from so many constituents on these important issues. My team is already putting together the first section of the Manifesto, and I am working on some of the issues raised.
Next week we will be holding our second assembly – to discuss how we can finance decarbonisation in our city, nationally and internationally. We will be joined by Ann Pettifor, who conceptualised the UK Green New Deal! You can sign up to the event here:
- I have been continuing to work on the campaign to restore railway stations along the Sheaf Valley. If you live near the Sheaf Valley railway line please take (and share!) our short survey, to help us grow support for the campaign. You can take the survey here.
- I joined Sheffield campaigners in showing my support for the UN Anti Racism Day of Action on the 20th March, where we will all come together to unite against racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and fascism. You can watch my video message here.
- As a further update on maternity services, partners are now welcome at 12 and 20 week baby scans at Jessop Wing. This is amazing news and will make a huge difference for so many people. Thank you to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for listening to our concerns and helping make this happen. I spoke to the Sheffield Star and the BBC about the importance of breaking the silence over the difficulties people can face during pregnancy, so we can change policy and end the postcode lottery in support. You can read more about the campaign here.
I spoke to @BBCLookNorth about the importance of breaking the silence over the difficulties people can face during pregnancy, so we can change policy & end the post-code lottery in support. pic.twitter.com/cTUgPLCFPh
— Olivia Blake MP (@_OliviaBlake) February 22, 2021
- Along with other Sheffield MPs, I wrote to Matt Hancock to express our support for expanding Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust’s emergency department, and for the delivery of a world leading research facility for child health technology.
- I also joined up with Sheffield MPs to call on the Government to reverse their decision to refuse to provide families with food vouchers over the Easter holiday, instead choosing to provide food hampers for only one of the two week break.
- Last weekend, I met Sheffield City Labour Councillors for a really interesting discussion on Community Wealth Building in Sheffield. Watch this space for more exciting plans to come!
- At the start of the month, the Government announced new legislation to ban peatland burning! This is a really positive step and a huge win for campaigners. But it is increasingly clear that this legislation, in its current form, will not go far enough to protect all peatlands. I have already submitted a number of questions to the Minister to try and get clarity on this, and I will continue to push them on the long-awaited strategy for peatland restoration.
- In some more good news, the Government has also u-turned on the important issue of vaccine prioritisation for people with learning disabilities. I welcomed the change, which I have been calling for since December. Thank you to the many constituents who wrote to me about this important issue. You can read my full statement on the announcement here.
- I have been continuing to hold the Government to account over the roll out of the vaccine, in my role as a member of The Public Accounts Committee. This month, we published a report into the supply and planning issues that have threatened the UK’s vaccine roll out. I spoke to local and national press about the report, and called on the Government to learn the lessons for the next stage of the roll out.
- We also published a report this month, into Government provision of PPE during the pandemic. During the inquiry I questioned officials on the re-use of PPE, their level of engagement with frontline workers, and what steps had been taken to identify conflicts of interest in PPE contracts. Following the events of the last week, Matt Hancock needs to address these failures, so that future government contracts worth millions of pounds are awarded fairly and transparently – and deliver for the public.
- Many of you have been in touch recently about the appalling scenes in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Hamsa al-Foqa, where peoples homes are being demolished. Our Government, and the international community, must step in. I signed this parliamentary motion.
- I have also signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary, calling on the UK Government to follow the example of the US and Italian governments and suspend arms sales to the Saudi regime. As long as we sell billions of pounds worth of arms to the Saudi regime, we are complicit in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
- I have joined MPs in writing to the Home Secretary, to demand the deportation of Osime Brown is stopped. The Government must learn the lessons from Osime’s case, and the experience of countless others, and end the Hostile Environment. You can read my statement here.
- After a number of my constituents got in touch to raise the appalling conditions asylum seekers are facing at Napier Barracks, I wrote to the Minister, calling for urgent action before more lives are put at risk. I also tabled a number of questions to the Minister, calling for the publication of their delayed independent review of initial accommodation for asylum seekers. I will continue to push the Government on this dangerous lack of transparency.
- My Labour colleagues and I forced a vote in Parliament, to call for an end to the cladding scandal, which has left hundreds of thousands of people still living in unsafe homes, and forced to pay the costs of remediating their blocks. The Government must end this scandal now.
- During a debate in Parliament, on Government support during the pandemic, I shared the story of my recently self employed constituent, Peter, who was ineligible for support and has been left unable to make ends meet. I called on the Government to urgently fix these gaps in support. I also called the Government out on the repercussions of their austerity agenda. Low pay and insecurity has created a perfect storm for transmitting Covid-19 and the Government is failing to learn the lessons.
Low pay & insecurity in our economy has created a perfect storm for transmitting #COVID19. And the Government is failing to learn the lessons.
My speech during todays debate👇🏼 pic.twitter.com/gd7wALumhn
— Olivia Blake MP (@_OliviaBlake) February 23, 2021
- Children and young people with SEND have far too often been an afterthought in the Government’s planning for education. I raised this with the Government and called for those most affected to be put at the heart of all Covid policy.
- I signed a letter to the Government calling on them to extend and expand vital funding used to provide breakfasts to disadvantaged children at school, which is currently set to end in July. With food insecurity rising and the educational attainment gap growing, this programme of funding must be scaled up – not down.
- The BBC has a responsibility to the public to challenge structural racism and ensure their leadership reflects, and can represent, the people they serve. I signed this letter to BBC bosses, asking them to address this and ensure diversity on their Board.
- The Trade Bill once again returned to Parliament this month. I voted for amendments to ensure Parliamentary scrutiny of future deals, protect food, agricultural and environmental standards and support human rights in future trade deals.
- I also co-signed an amendment – so that all pregnant politicians, Minister or not, are guaranteed maternity leave and proper protections.
- I met with BRAC UK – an international aid charity – to discuss how I can support their vital work in Parliament.
- The LGBT+ Parliamentary Labour Party network, of which I am a member, met this month to discuss upcoming campaigns, shared priorities and the elections in May.
Right to Food: The determined work of campaigners, charities and individuals to step in where the Government has failed and ensure no child goes hungry this half term is incredible, but it should not be necessary. I am continuing to campaign for the Right to Food to be enshrined in law. You can join the campaign by signing the petition:
Cancel the cut: My Labour colleagues are continuing to demand the Government cancel the cut to Universal Credit, which will leave unemployment support at an all time low in the middle of an economic crisis. You can join the campaign here by telling the Government to cancel to cut:
Join a union: This month we celebrated #HeartUnions week. In what has been a difficult year, Unions have achieved so much, securing wins for workers across the country. If you are not already in a union, you can join one here.
HIV Testing: During HIV Testing Week, I recorded myself taking a test to show how easy it is to do. It’s really important that we are all testing regularly, so we can reach the target of no new transmissions by 2030! You can order a free test here.
Dates for your diary…
- 27th February: Sheffield Needs a Payrise are holding a fundraiser event tomorrow at 7pm on Zoom.
- 3rd March: These Walls Must Fall and Migrants Organise are holding a planning meeting for the Immigration Bail Reporting Campaign.
- 3rd March: Sheffield Museums are holding a talk about the making of The Sheffield Project.
- 4th March: Next week we will be holding our second Hallam Citizens’ Climate Manifesto event – to discuss how we can finance decarbonisation in our city, nationally and internationally. You can sign up to the event here.
- 8th March: Sheffield TUC will be holding an International Women’s Day zoom event.
- 10th March: Sheffield Save Our NHS are holding their AGM, and will look back on the pandemic and what lessons can be learnt.
- 20th March: Sheffield Labour for a Green New Deal’s next event will be on green housing.
- 25th March: SYMAAG are running monthly Talks for Change, highlighting issues facing migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. You can find out about the next one here.
- 25th March: Sheffield Libraries are holding an event of land regeneration.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. If you would like to share it with your neighbours or friends in Hallam, you can share the sign up link with them here.
As always, please get in touch if there are issues you would like me to raise or campaigns you would like me to get involved with!
MP for Sheffield Hallam