New measures came into effect this week to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Face masks are once again mandatory in shops and on public transport, all international arrivals must take a PCR test, and any anyone in contact with a suspected Omicron case must self-isolate. The Government gave MPs a chance to vote on these measures, but this was only after they had been introduced.
Concerning news today about the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant of concern. It's been named the Nu variant and it's first been identified in South Africa and other nearby countries. It has prompted the Government to reintroduce flight bans from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. See here for further details.
It’s been a sleazy couple of weeks with the Government defending the indefensible – MPs using their position to lobby Parliament or the Government on behalf of paying clients. This is completely unacceptable and I joined my Labour colleagues in voting to rule this out completely. But the Government’s majority meant this initiative was defeated. The Government, instead, tabled a loosely-worded motion that will see this issue kicked further into the long grass. It means the next time this issue will be revisited is in February.
I called out the Chancellor for delivering another smoke and mirrors Budget this week. The promises of extra money unravel when you look into the details. There is no money for the properly affordable housing that so many families in Hackney need and the school settlement is not enough to make up for past cuts. The money given to government departments will have to cover pay rises now that the public sector pay freeze has been lifted – but this has not been funded so schools, the NHS, and local government still face financial pressures.
This week Parliament returned from conference recess in a sombre mood following the tragic death of my colleague Sir David Amess MP. Sir David was brutally killed during an advice surgery in his constituency of Southend West last Friday. Supporting constituents is a vital part of our role as MPs in a representative democracy and I will continue to be available through the normal channels. My thoughts are with Sir David's widow and children.
This week the Prime Minister addressed the Conservative Party conference. His speech was heavy with the bluff and bluster but light on the detail for how this Government will support families hit hard by the cost of living crisis. He gave his speech on the same day the Government cut £20 per week from Universal Credit.
I challenged officials from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy over the collapse of energy suppliers and the steep hike in energy prices. This sharp rise in prices is on top of the increase in National Insurance and the £20 per week Universal Credit cut. It means households are being hit hard and the Government must step up with a plan to address this. See here to watch my questions in full.
This week MPs debated the Government’s National Insurance tax rise, and the £20 cut to Universal Credit. Both will hit the poorest hardest. The Government says the National Insurance rise is to raise money for social care, but there is no plan and no detail about how it will do this, nor is there a clear sense of where the money raised will be spent. My colleagues and my committee will continue to press for clarity.