It’s been a busy week both in Westminster and Swansea East this week. The Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election took place on Thursday, where the Labour Party candidate Dan Francis fought a great campaign. It’s an election that took place under difficult circumstances following the tragic death of James Brokenshire in October, but Dan should be proud of the campaign he led.
PMQs this week yet again saw Boris Johnson on the ropes, floundering for support even amongst his own party and trotting out the same old tired slogans. Whilst the rest of us were following the rules over Christmas last year in the second UK-wide lockdown, the Prime Minister and his mates were having a booze-up in Number 10! It’s truly shocking what he thinks he can get away with, he’s taking the British public for fools.
There was a truly sombre moment in my week when I visited the Covid memorial wall. We are now used to hearing the daily and weekly updates of case numbers, the numbers of people in hospital, and the numbers of those who have died. It’s sometimes hard to compute the numbers but seeing the handwritten messages on some of the 150,000 hearts on the wall brings it all home. Each heart represents someone who has died and behind each heart is a family in mourning and friends who are missing them. It was an incredibly moving experience and something all MPs should do – we have to remember in the mass of debates in Parliament on Covid, masks and lockdowns to be sensitive to the fact that people’s loved ones are still dying. We have to do whatever we can to stop the spread of Covid, especially to vulnerable people. Wearing our masks in public places such as public transport and shops is a minor inconvenience compared to the heartbreak that is shown on this wall.
This week I chaired a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm. We discussed the role of financial services in preventing gambling harm, in particular the changes that have taken place in the market in recent years. There are growing challenges to current transaction blocks – problem gamblers who recognise they have a problem and attempt to put in place barriers to their gambling which are then possibly circumvented by new technologies such as new payment methods or cryptocurrencies. Bank-based gambling blocks are easy to access but harder to remove and offer a clear, practical way to support those suffering from gambling related harm. According to research, 50% of people who had turned on a gambling block, spent less or no money following the block. These tools are a fantastic way for problem gamblers to take control of their gambling and support themselves to get back on track financially. We must ensure that gambling companies are not using alternative payments to circumvent this important system.
On Wednesday I was thrilled to visit Holland and Barrett in London’s Marble Arch to discuss the fantastic work that they are doing around the menopause. Holland and Barrett have been supporting women with advice, information, and natural products to help alleviate symptoms of the menopause for over 50 years. Their Me.No.Pause campaign in 2018 helped shine a light on the issues facing women and have sought to bring health and wellbeing to the focal point of people’s lives. They showed me their new digital solution for the menopause which was fascinating to see. It’s so important that we look at different ways of dealing with the menopause and raise awareness of the symptoms that affect so many women.
Continuing my work on the menopause and the global scale of this campaign, I spoke to Penny Ashton on her New Zealand podcast about the menopause and discussed the work that we are doing here in the UK. It is astounding that across the Western world, a world in which we think of ourselves as so enlightened and forward thinking, women still suffer because the topic of the menopause has been considered so taboo. Women are experiencing symptoms that doctors do not understand, that workplaces cannot deal with, and that are isolating them from the world around them, from their friends and families. This has to stop now and that is why podcasts like Penny’s, my work on the Private Member’s Bill in Parliament, and shows like Loose Women are so important in opening up this topic so that women are able to discuss and alleviate their symptoms and continue participating fully in life.
I was also able to visit a Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester this week to find out about the work they are doing with servicemen and servicewomen sentenced to periods of detention. It’s part of the work I’ve been doing on the Industry and Parliamentary Trust on support for those leaving prison. It is right that those who commit crimes are sentenced accordingly and that victims of crime have justice, but it is not right that we do not give those leaving prison the means they need to re-enter society and have the chances to contribute fully. Rehabilitation is vital if they are to have a chance of turning their lives around – and the work the MCTC are doing on this is phenomenal. I am so grateful to the staff and detainees for showing me around, explaining everything they are doing and giving me a glimpse of the difference that appropriate rehabilitation and training can make.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page.
As always, if you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com – my team and I are here to help.