This week has been a crucial one and one which I – and many campaigners – have been waiting to happen for a long time. The Domestic Abuse Bill finally returned to Parliament after originally being dropped by the Prime Minister as part of his unlawful prorogation. All things aside, I’m really pleased that the government has brought this crucial Bill before the House again because the victims and survivors simply cannot afford any further delay. It’s also positive to hear that despite the fact Parliament is going to be prorogued for a short period again next week, the government have confirmed that this Bill will now be carried forward into the next Parliamentary session.
I was honoured to open the debate on behalf of the official opposition in Parliament as part of my role as Labour’s Shadow Home Office Minister. While I remain frustrated that the Prime Minister’s political game playing nearly cost us this Bill, I really welcome the fact that the government have now brought forward legislation which the opposition can broadly support. That said, we do of course want to make changes to the Bill to ensure it properly delivers the vital changes we need for the victims and survivors of domestic abuse. Indeed, there are still several areas that are crying out to be widened in scope. Now the Bill has passed what’s called its “second reading”, we’ll now be working hard to ensure we get the important changes we believe are essential to properly meet the needs of the victims, survivors and their families. Whether it be ensuring older people are protected from abuse, providing better support for children, reforming our family courts, preventing our housing and welfare systems from worsening situations for victims, making sure that migrant women are fully included, or guaranteeing the network of accommodation and support services has the funding it needs to work, I’ll be continuing to work on a cross-party basis to ensure we fully capitalise on this opportunity.
I’d like to thank all of the charities and different organisations who have fed into this vital work and, of course, the victims, survivors and their families who have shared their stories with us and underlined the pressing need to act. Rest assured, we will continue campaigning until we get the results we need on this. This really has been a team effort and I have no doubt that it will continue to be as we move forwards.
Earlier in the week, I spoke during an important debate on various issues in Northern Ireland – many of which are continuing to go unchecked as the Assembly and Executive at Stormont remains suspended. One of the issues that has been concerning me recently is the lack of a full Children’s Funeral Fund for grieving families, which is now available across the rest of the UK thanks to my campaign. I’m really pleased that many local councils in Northern Ireland have implemented versions of the fund for their local areas however it’s vital that this provision is extended to everyone across our United Kingdom. I therefore raised this issue with the Secretary of State and will be continuing to put pressure on him to ensure families have the time they need to grieve – rather than further cause to worry – at one of the most difficult times in their life.
I also put my gambling hat on and raised the need for gambling reform in Northern Ireland, as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm. The 1985 legislation that regulates gambling in Northern Ireland is no longer fit for purpose and is woefully out of step with the rest of the UK. Online gambling is illegal in Northern Ireland and yet companies still advertise and gain vast profits from this side of their businesses. We need new legislation that can hold them to account and make sure that they are, at the very least, brought into line with the rest of the UK. This must also include a capacity for data collection so that statistics on problem gambling can be collected. This is something which has proven to be invaluable in the work we’ve done in the rest of the UK to support people in this situation.
Many constituents may also have seen the news about the High Court ruling concerning the changes made to the state pension age for 1950s-born women. As co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on State Pension Inequality for Women, Tim Loughton MP and I have this week reaffirmed our commitment to getting the changes the millions of women affected need on this issue and will continue campaigning steadfastly on this. You can view our full statement here.
To wrap up the week, today I’ve been busy meeting people who are doing really important things right across Swansea East and beyond. This morning, I visited the British Heart Foundation shop in Llansamlet and discussed the vital work the charity does with their policy team. The British Heart Foundation are involved in all aspects of heart disease from undertaking research into the risk factors and how to reduce them, to helping people better understand and manage a condition and providing the support necessary for people to do just that. Their shops are an important means of raising money for this vital research – please do support them if you can – you never know what bargains you might find!
At lunchtime, I held one of my regular advice surgeries at my constituency office and took forward many constituents’ concerns. As always, if you would like to book to see me at my next advice surgery, please call the constituency office on 01792 462054 to make an appointment.
This evening, I’m off to Mecca Bingo in Swansea for their charity night where they’ll be raising funds for Cash for Kids. Cash for Kids is a fantastic charity that works with local communities to help children suffering from abuse or neglect, who are disabled or have special needs, or who just need that little bit extra help. We want to see all children achieve and fulfil their potential and it’s great initiatives like this that help make sure that no child is left behind.
After that, I’m going to visit Byte Night at the Liberty Stadium for the largest ever corporate sleep-out organised by Action for Children. This fantastic charity are working to prevent homelessness across our city by helping vulnerable young people remain in safe and secure housing and helping young people and their families improve their relationships and develop stronger support networks so that they do not have to resort to rough sleeping.
As you can tell, it’s been quite a busy week! As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01792 462054.
Have a fantastic weekend!