Bell’s Regular Newsletter – 14th January 2023

Jan 14, 2023 | News

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Bell’s Newsletter

14th January 2023

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Welcome to my first newsletter of 2023. I’d like to wish a happy new year to everyone who’s keeping up with my work via newsletter. It may be a new year but we’re facing the same old problems. With the Government launching a fresh attack on workers’ rights as public services fall into deeper crisis, I’ve been back in Parliament this week holding their feet to the fire.

Ambulance Strikes

Bell on the picket line at Waterloo Ambulance Station with striking paramedics

On Wednesday, ambulance staff across our NHS walked out as part of the first paramedics’ strike action since the 1980s. I joined paramedics on the picket line at Waterloo Ambulance Station to show my support for these workers. After a decade of neglect, the situation in NHS emergency care is the worst it’s ever been. Ambulance workers deserve our full solidarity in their fight for the resources they need to save lives.

Anti-Strike Legislation

Enough is Enough! Graphic, which reads "I Support the NHS Strikes"

On Tuesday, just 24 hours after inviting striking NHS workers in for peace talks, the Government declared war. Instead of negotiating with ambulance workers, nurses, junior doctors and other NHS workers considering strike action, the Tories are stripping away their basic rights. Anti-strike legislation returning next Monday would give the Tories carte blanche to mandate “minimum service levels”: sacking education, healthcare, public transport, and other key workers who exercise their fundamental right to withdraw their labour.

Workers should never have to strike to ask for the resources they need to do their jobs or protect the vital services we all rely on. The threat of sacking workers in shortage occupations like nursing and teaching make these plans arguably even more disruptive than strike action itself. I’ll oppose this legislation at every turn, which is attempting to crack down on workers highlighting the collapse of public services instead of rebuilding.

My latest South London Press column about the situation facing midwives

The Future of our Postal Services

Bell standing with a local florist each holding a bunch of lilies. Councillors Andrew Collins and Alison Inglis-Jones standing next to them.

Thank you to my friend Tahir Ali MP for securing a debate on the future of our postal services and highlighting the decline in services that has gone hand in hand with cuts to services and efforts to drive down working conditions and pay. Last year, Royal Mail Group announced record-breaking profits of £758,000,000 for 2021 and promptly paid its shareholders £567,000,000. In the ensuing months, they announced swingeing job cuts, tried to row back on the commitment to a six-day postal service, and began to roll out new gig economy style contracts for their workforce. As I pointed out in the debate, this sort of mismanagement from Royal Mail leadership makes a very strong case for taking our mail back into public ownership – as the overwhelming majority of the public want.

Make Cats Matter

Bell in front of the Christmas tree and light display with Santa, Lambeth Mayor Pauline George and Streatham BID director, Louise Abbotts.

This week in Parliament, I shared my constituent Olivia’s story of losing her beloved cat, D’Artagnan and expressed my support for her campaign to make it a legal requirement to stop and report collisions. 630 cats are hit on our roads every day, but they do not enjoy the same protections as other animals like dogs, horses, pigs, sheep, cattle and goats. Putting this change into law would mean that drivers who do hit cats are obliged to notify the police, increasing the likelihood of owners getting their beloved pets to the vet in time, or at the very least, providing them with some closure.

The Government has ruled out making this change on the basis that they are focusing on microchipping and making roads safer as their main policy response. There is cross-party consensus on these measures. However, the reality is that collisions are almost always going to be likely, particularly in major cities like ours where cars are ever present and cat ownership is high. This would be a small change that would make a big difference to the 27% of UK households that own cats. It’s one I will continue to pursue.

Watch my debate contribution

Procurement Bill

The Tories’ Procurement Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday. One in six government contracts won by businesses were awarded to companies in tax havens. The pandemic rightly put the procurement process under the spotlight as the Government scrabbled to get hold of the equipment it failed to stockpile and build the infrastructure to try and limit the spread of Covid. This resulted in a £10 billion overspend on PPE alone and a misfiring Test and Trace system that cost us around £29 billion.

Labour is pushing for this legislation to include clawback clauses and outlaw the kind of preferential contracting that saw Tory donors awarded over £1.2 billion worth of PPE deals. Procurement should mean delivering high-quality services and driving up environmental and employment standards, not a race to the bottom that props up tax dodgers and rewards Tory cronies and donors.

With one in six companies receiving public money registered in tax havens, I’d like to see procurement cleaned up. The Government has a responsibility to promote better employment and environmental standards and ensure companies taking public money are putting it back into the UK Treasury and economy.

JHCR Evidence Session on Asylum Support

I’m pleased to announce that I have joined the Joint Committee on Human Rights, where I’m hoping to hold the Government to account as they ramp up their attack on our democratic rights. This week, I participated in an evidence session on asylum support, asking experts and local government leaders questions around shoddy accommodation, inadequate legal and financial support and giving asylum seekers the right to work.

Visiting Refugee Support Organisations in Calais

Bell with Jeremy Corbyn MP and volunteers with Refugee Community Kitchen

On Friday, I joined Jeremy Corbyn MP on a visit to Calais, where we met with some of the volunteers supporting refugees in the area. We got stuck in with the Refugee Community Kitchen, touring their warehouse, taking part in a roundtable with local support organisations, visiting local living sites, and seeing the Isutvyo Day Centre to meet service users. As the Government escalates its attack on people simply for seeking safety and security in our country, this was an important reminder of the need to centre compassion and humanity in our response to the humanitarian crisis.

As ever, if you have any questions about the work I’m doing as MP, please get in touch at this address:

Best wishes,

Bell Ribeiro-Addy,
Labour MP for Streatham

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