Bell’s Regular Newsletter – 4th February 2023

Feb 4, 2023 | News

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Bell’s Newsletter

4th February 2023

Dear *|FNAME|*,

Wednesday witnessed the largest day of strikes in eleven years, with teachers launching their first day of strikes alongside walkouts from civil servants, public transport workers and university staff. The scale of the walkouts we’re now seeing reflects the scale of the crisis facing our society, economy, and public services after the policy choices of the last thirteen years. Whilst real wages have plunged and public services have crumbled, the richest in society have got richer than ever before.

Bell on the picket line at Bishop Thomas Grant School with striking teachers and Mary Bousted, Join Secretary of the National Education Union.

I started the day on the picket lines with teachers at Bishop Thomas Grant and Dunraven. Since 2010, the average teacher in England has seen their annual salary eroded by ÂŁ6,600 in real terms. Per pupil funding in England has fallen by 3% in real terms in the same period. Teachers deserve better, children deserve better.

I went on to join striking Streatham Job Centre staff, who work so hard to support people in our area amid economic downturn and rising unemployment. Along with 100,000 other civil servants in the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, they’re fighting for fair pay and pensions, job security and funding for public services.

I also met up with the Lambeth branch of the National Education Union (NEU) to speak at their rally in Windrush Square. This was ahead of 40,000-strong march through Westminster to send a message that our teachers deserve better.

Before marching, I also joined members of the International Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) Union and University and Colleges Union (UCU) Union. University staff are united in their struggle for fair pay, pensions, conditions, job security and an end to outsourcing. With UCL sitting on an annual budget surplus of over £90,000,000, now’s the time to address this situation.

The disruption people have been facing this week only underscores how vital these striking workers are to the functioning of society. It pales in comparison to the chronic disruption we face when the Tories are allowed to run our public services into the ground. The Government has to start negotiating with striking workers if it’s going to bring strikes to an end.

Defending our Right to Demand Better

Bell speaking in Parliament

This week the Government steamrollered ahead with legislation that would see teachers, nurses, and rail workers sacked for going on strike. This isn’t about ensuring basic standards in public services, it’s about stopping workers from demanding them. It’s not a Minimum Service Levels bill, it’s a Forced Pay Cuts bill for some of the most important workers in our society. I spoke against this attack on the right to strike at third reading this week.

My latest South London Press column, defending the Right to Strike

One Rule for Millionaires, Another for Hard-Working NHS Workers

Bell speaking in Westminster Hall

This week, I spoke in favour of reducing application fees for overseas healthcare workers seeking indefinite leave to remain. At a time when one in ten posts in our NHS is unfilled, we can’t afford to lose any of our dedicated staff. The Government claims it doesn’t want to give special exemptions to NHS workers but this is clearly an excuse when we look at the way our immigration system actually works. It is built on exemptions and special treatment. The special exemptions that exist for the super rich show it’s one rule for hard-working NHS staff, another for multimillionaires. The Government should be encouraging staff to stay and valuing all our NHS workers properly, no matter where they were born.

Parliamentary Visit to Kenya

Bell stands in a desertified landscape with a woman from Marsabit County

I visited Kenya last week as part of a parliamentary delegation to see how CAFOD and the Coalition for Global Prosperity are supporting communities on the frontline of climate breakdown. We travelled north into Marsabit County to visit Demo and Burgabo: two remote areas of the country which have been decimated by one of the worst droughts in living memory.

According to Carbon Brief analysis, extreme weather events in Africa killed at least 4,000 people and affected a further 19 million in 2022. Our visit took place after a year of widespread drought and famine across the east of the continent, serious flooding in Chad and Nigeria, severe storms in southern Africa, and raging wildfires in Tunisia. We saw the devastating consequences of this first-hand and heard from people living in these communities.

After four failed rainy seasons, water is scarce, crops aren’t growing, and livestock are dying. In some places it hasn’t rained for two years. In a country where livestock is people’s livelihoods, an estimated 1.5 million livestock died in Kenya alone during the failed 2022 March-May rainy season. We saw this first hand, with animal carcasses littering the arid landscape.

With Kenya facing a debt crisis, the country is left confronting this dire situation with both hands tied behind its back. The work organisations like CAFOD and Coalition for Global Prosperity do to mitigate the impact of climate breakdown in the region of East Africa is absolutely essential. Sadly, the Government’s decision to slash the aid budget puts many such projects at risk.

As well as urging them to reverse cuts to overseas development, I’ll also continue to push the Government to take action on the huge sums that private lenders are demanding from countries in the Global South. With 90% of these contracts governed by English law, they have a real chance to lead on this.

Streatham Stands Together

Bell speaks at a community event organised in the aftermath of the Streatham High Road attack

This week witnessed two important anniversaries. I’m thinking of everyone impacted by the Streatham terror attack, which happened three years ago this week. I’ll always be proud of how Streatham stood together in the face of an attack designed to sow fear and division within our diverse community.

Brexit is Still the Elephant in the Room

It also marked the three-year anniversary of the UK’s departure from the EU. Since that fateful date, Brexit has only compounded the problems facing our country. It has deepened the economic crisis, undermined peace in Northern Ireland, and paved the way for the wholesale destruction of laws protecting workers, the environment, and food standards. This year’s IMF forecast shows the UK is the only G7 country facing negative growth. At this week’s PMQs, Rishi Sunak claimed that our country’s dire economic outlook has nothing to do with the estimated ÂŁ100bn we are losing to Brexit every year. It’s time for the Tories to confront the elephant in the room and admit that this has been a total disaster.

Vote to Renew Streatham Business Improvement District!

Local businesses have until the 9th February to vote for the renewal our Business Improvement District (BID)! During my time as an MP, I’ve been so impressed with all Streatham BID’s work to upgrade our High Street and get more people shopping in Streatham. The investment they have channelled into our area has made a tangible difference to our area. Without Streatham BID, there would be no Streatham festivals, Christmas trees and lights, hanging baskets, or business support. I’d urge small businesses to keep supporting their investment in our community and for everyone living locally to encourage their favourite small business to vote.

Meeting with St Martin’s Estate Residents

Bell stands outside her constituency office with St Martin's Estate residents.

It was good to meet with leaseholders from the St Martin’s Estate on Thursday morning to discuss their campaign against damp. MPs spend so much of our time helping constituents with damp, disrepair and other housing issues. Landlords need to spend less time blaming residents for structural issues and more time getting on with repairs.

Speaking at the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent

Bell delivers a speech from a University of West London podium.

I was pleased to deliver a keynote speech at the United Nations (UN) Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD). These human rights experts travelled up and down the country for ten days to examine the racism faced by people of African descent. They warned that people of African descent continue to encounter racial discrimination and erosion of their fundamental rights, describing how the Government creates “really complex narratives trying to justify inaction”. They will present a report with their findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2023.

Meeting with Refugee Action

Bell at a protest in Parliament Square, holding a sign that says 'Migrants & Refugees Welcome Here: Blame Austerity, Not Migrants'

I met with Refugee Action on Thursday to discuss the campaign to lift the ban on asylum seekers working. Under current immigration rules, people can only apply for permission to work if they have waited for longer than twelve months, and only for jobs on the Government’s highly restrictive Shortage Occupation List. Your human rights are not and never should be conditional on your ability to work. However, it is ridiculous to stop people from willingly contribute in this way when we consider the fiscal benefits, the integration, and the impact on people’s wellbeing. I’m pleased to support the Lift the Ban coalition’s efforts to win the right for asylum seekers to work after six months, unconstrained by the Shortage Occupation List.

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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