Co-op fortnight began this week, so I was really pleased to lead a debate on how local government can promote co-ops and alternate businesses. Co-operatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by its members and which, if they make any profit, invest this back into their members and the community they serve. There are really good examples of these businesses in Hackney and our Labour and Co-op Mayor, Phil Glanville, is really pushing co-ops to be part of the economic solution to issues in Hackney.
I questioned the Schools Minister on the removal of asbestos from schools (see here). It is vital that we remove this poison from our schools. The Minister hinted that asbestos is now taken into account when schools bid for capital funding. I’ve followed up on my question with a letter and pressed him to clarify.
I challenged the Government about why it is dragging its feet on leasehold reform. Leasehold is a feudal system that sees some residents face punitive charges they have little to no control over. I've been meeting with residents who desperately want to see their properties become commonhold. I'll keep pressing the Government to move on with this. We need leasehold reform now.
The leasehold system is an outdated form of tenure that affects many in Hackney. The Government keeps flip flopping on its promises about this so Labour called a debate on leasehold reform and urged the Government to act. Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, Communities & Local Government, Lisa Nandy, pressed the Government to keep its promises to abolish leasehold for new flats and begin the process to phase out existing leasehold and make commonhold the default option.
I spoke in a debate on No Recourse to Public Funds. This is a condition on some visas, whereby people are allowed to live and work in the UK but have no access to taxpayer-funded benefits. This may seem reasonable, but in places like Hackney, where rents are so high, it means no access to housing benefit for hardworking taxpayers. This is a real concern for many in Hackney and puts them in some really difficult situations.
The Government pushed through its Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Commons, despite myself and Labour colleagues voting against it. The Bill will now go to the Lords and, due to the Government's majority, is likely to become law. The legislation criminalises people who cross the Channel in small boats, risking their lives to cross one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. This approach is wrong, inhumane, and it simply won't work. We need a much better solution.
At my surgeries I am constantly seeing the effects of our shortage in housing. Despite the Mayor of Hackney building as many council homes as he can, we are now seeing people being sent as far away as Peterborough for temporary accommodation. The Government has missed every target it set itself on housing. This is unsustainable. We need a national government programme that actually delivers on building new homes.
The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt MP, promised 30 hours free childcare for every child over the age of nine months. But, the scheme will not be fully rolled out until September 2025 at the earliest. The children who will benefit from this policy aren't even born yet. By also voluntarily reducing the ratios between the number of adults required to look after children, he is going for a 'pile them high, teach them cheap' approach. This won't help reassure parents about going back to work. Clearly there is a long way to go in delivering on this policy.
The Government's new Illegal Migration Bill will mean that asylum seekers crossing the Channel in small boats will be detained for 28 days and then deported. This plan is unworkable, immoral, and illegal. It is just plain wrong on all counts and I will vigorously oppose it.