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Pre-budget statement offers little hope for people in Erith and Thamesmead

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, detailed his plans to protect jobs and boost the economy today but despite big spending pledges the announcement offers little support for people in Erith and Thamesmead.

Concerned business owners and employees in the creative and beauty industries were expecting to hear details about when they can expect to see business get back to normal today, but the Chancellor’s package managed to completely ignore these important issues. Instead of offering flexible support packages to businesses still closed or operating a reduced service, the Chancellor has offered bonus’ to those that manage to survive the crisis.

Rishi Sunak MP clearly hasn’t had to read the hundreds of emails a day that myself and many other MPs are receiving from business owners on the brink of collapse and constituents struggling to feed their families.

One constituent has been in contact with me with concerns about their beauty business, they said:

“My profession, my reputation and my business is at stake. The action of reopening my beauty business is not from a profit perspective, it’s survival.”

Knowing that if they survive and manage to retain staff for a further 6 months they can claim £1000 from the Government, will offer little solace to many small business owners across Erith and Thamesmead at this point.

Plans announced for the hospitality and tourism sector today, one of the few industries that were acknowledged, reveal a Government that does not understand the extent of the health and economic crisis we are in. The Chancellor’s 50% off meal deal does little to support a hospitality industry that were looking forward to a robust new deal.

The Government’s failed contact tracing app and confusing messaging throughout the crisis has done little to calm public fear regarding the spread of the virus, with a second wave still a looming possibility. The hospitality and tourism industry is unable to re-open at the capacity levels needed to sustain struggling businesses without a thorough test and trace system – none of the Chancellor’s measures address this.

Millions of job losses are predicted for the coming months and whilst plans to create new jobs are welcomed, many will still find themselves on Universal Credit for the first time. Over 12,000 jobs have been furloughed in Erith and Thamesmead and unemployment rose by an unprecedented 2% between March and April.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been promised a £1 billion investment to support schemes and services which help people back into work. Again, this will offer little comfort to the thousands of people applying for Universal Credit for the first time who will be expected to survive on a reduced household income. The return of benefit sanctions, whilst vulnerable people remain exposed to the virus and businesses remain closed, demonstrates the lack of understanding and compassion offered by the Government to those struggling financially from the crisis.

If people in Erith and Thamesmead are to feel the benefits of government investment and feel supported through the upcoming period of economic instability, support needs to be targeted locally, with a net-zero target in mind and with long lasting benefits. The Labour Party are calling for four tests to be met in regards to economic support:

  1. Projects must involve local firms, upskill the local workforce and lead to material improvement in the quality and availability of local employment
  2. The Chancellor must rebuild economic resilience right across the entire country and protect those institutions, like local authorities, that can help deliver that resilience
  3. Every single project must be consistent with the drive to net-zero so we can build the green jobs of the future
  4. Any benefits of investment now must be cancelled out by poor decisions later. The Conservatives promised at the last election there would be no rises in income tax, national insurance or VAT. We need the economy to bounce back from the crisis, so there’s money in the coffers to protect public finances.

The people of Erith and Thamesmead deserve a better economic deal for jobs from the Government, to survive the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Monthly Newsletter – May 2020

Newsletter header

Throughout May I’ve been active in Parliament and the constituency helping represent issues that matter to you. I’ve received hundreds of emails campaigning for better Covid-19 support measures, support for businesses, issues around schools re-opening, safety measures at work and much more.

I am looking forward to getting back into the constituency but during lockdown I’ve still been keeping up to date with local issues virtually. I have met with teachers and unions to dicuss how we can safely re-open schools and it is clear parents and staff are worried about the current measures in place. If you’d like to make your voice heard on this issue you can complete the survey here. I will be calling for better support for vulnerable children and standing alongside teachers calling for risk assessments and clearer guidance. I also had the chance to meet with some great local voluntary groups including, Our Heritage UK and Greenwich Association of Disabled People.

We’ve had some major local successes this month! Thamesmead Now started their new weekly TV broadcast on Youtube which you can check out here. My office have also had some major successes in helping people return to the UK  from abroad. We have now helped everyone stranded in Australia, Bahamas, Canary Islands, Cyprus, France, India, New Zealand, Sierra Leone and Tunisia return home.

Despite Parliament operating virtually throughout May, I’ve had the chance to raise a variety of issues effecting people in Erith and Thamesmead. I represented Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple by calling for a Sikh ethnic tick box on the Census 2021. I received over 40 requests from constituents to speak on the Agriculture Bill. In this speech I asked the Government to protect British farmers, animal welfare and the environment. I also spoke on the Fire Safety Bill and asked the Government to protect all victims of Domestic Abuse including those with NRPF in the Domestic Abuse Bill debate.

Belvedere Incinerator

Sadiq Khan calls for judicial review into second Belvedere incinerator
Several constituents raised concerns regarding the construction of a second incinerator in Belvedere. This would be harmful to the environment and public health which is why I joined residents in calling for a review of this project. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has asked for a judicial review to take place.

 

Abena speaking in Parliament

I raised concerns about rising care fees following Covid-19
After speaking with Inclusion London and Greenwich Association of Disabled People I raised concerns with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about fears that care home fees are likely to rise. This would have a huge impact on many constituents and I will continue to hold the Government to account over any rise in fees.

 

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MP for Erith and Thamesmead appointed to new role in the Shadow Treasury Team

Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead has been appointed to the role of Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s newly appointed Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Ms Oppong-Asare will be supporting the Shadow Treasury Team in their work to hold the Government to account over new financial measures introduced in light of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ms Oppong-Asare said:

“I am delighted to have been asked to work with the Shadow Treasury Team at such an important time for our country. Covid-19 has highlighted the fragility of the current workings of our economy and the need for more scrutiny to be placed on our taxation system and public spending.
We will be continuing to hold the Government to account over failings in how they have responded to Covid-19. We have already raised issues such as the financial black hole charity organisations are facing and problems with the Furlough scheme, which has since been extended.
This appointment will mean I can work with colleagues to ensure my constituents needs are represented and taken into account by the Government in regards to spending and economic growth.
I am looking forward to working with my engaged and talented colleagues to ensure we support the Government in their successes and hold them to account in their oversights.”

The Shadow Treasury Team will also be working on new measures to help the UK economy recover after the crisis, with Ms Dodds already calling for the introduction of a new taxation system to create a “fairer situation for the future.”

On April 4 2020, Keir Starmer MP was elected Leader of the Labour Party and has now finalised appointment of the new Shadow Cabinet who will sit on Labour’s Front Benches when Parliament is reconvened.

In a statement, Starmer said:

“We are living through a national emergency. Under my leadership, the Labour Party will always act in the country’s interest to save lives and protect livelihoods. That will be the number one priority of my Shadow Cabinet.
We will be a responsible opposition that supports the government where we believe they are right and challenge them when we believe mistakes are being made.”

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Policy response – AG bill

Many of you have been getting in touch with me about the Agriculture Bill and the crucial importance of maintaining our high animal welfare and food standards in future trade deals.

I very much share your deep concern that if we do not have provisions in place to prevent future trade deals allowing in imports produced to lower standards than our own, this will severely threaten our British farmers and our high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards.

Like the British public, Labour will not tolerate Trump’s chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-injected beef on our supermarket shelves, with all of the animal welfare implications surrounding these products.

While the Prime Minister has said that our standards won’t be lowered in future trade deals, you are entirely right that these are nothing but warm words until we have legislative guarantees binding the Government to this promise – particularly when the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already made it clear that in any future US trade deal they will expect the UK to accept such lower standard products.

This is an area I am highly concerned with and I previously scrutinised this bill in my role on the Agriculture Bill Committee. I was also PPS to Luke Pollard MP assisting his team in important work in ensuring that the Agriculture Bill legislates for the continuation of the UK’s good food and animal welfare standards.

A Labour colleague tabled an amendment to the Bill in Committee stage to include a legal requirement that food imported to this country must not be produced to lower standards than our own, but this has been rejected by the Government.

My Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government at every available opportunity to safeguard our animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards and legislate against lower standard imports. I will certainly be supporting amendments in the Agriculture Bill’s Report stage seeking to do precisely this.

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MP seeks improvements to Environment Bill

Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, has been working to improve the Government’s Environment Bill.

A small number of MPs have been scrutinising and proposing amendments to the Government’s Environment Bill as part of its passage through Parliament.

Bill Committees consist of a small number of MPs who provide line by line scrutiny of legislation and propose changes to it. Abena Oppong-Asare as serving as a member of the Bill Committee for the Environment Bill, which sets the UK’s environment policy for years to come.

Abena has used her role to question Ministers and experts and support proposals to strengthen the Bill in order to take tougher action to tackle climate change and clean our air.

You can watch the Bill Committee hearings here, here and here.

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MP weighs in on major changes to law

Local MP Abena Oppong-Asare has been working hard in Parliament to improve two major pieces of legislation which will impact the UK for years to come.

Abena sits on the Bill Committee for the Agriculture Bill, which will determine Britain’s food and farming policy post-Brexit. She’s part of a small number of MPs who are scrutinising the Government’s Bill line by line and proposing amendments to support British farmers, protect food safety standards and animal welfare regulations.

Abena has also been working as a member of Labour’s Shadow Defra team on the Second Reading of the Environment Bill, which will determine our environmental policies. Abena and Labour colleagues are putting pressure on the Government to improve the Bill to introduce tougher commitments to improving air quality and tackling plastic waste. These are issues of great concern to many people in Erith and Thamesmead.

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MP reports back on first weeks in Parliament

Abena speaking in Parliament

Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Abena Oppong-Asare, reports back on her first weeks in Parliament since December’s General Election.

With Christmas in the way, Parliament has only met for a short time since December’s General Election. However, that hasn’t stopped Erith and Thamesmead’s new MP from getting to work in Westminster on behalf of local people.

Since her election on 14th December, Abena has been busy attending and speaking in debates, scrutinising Government legislation and challenging Ministers.

Abena gave her maiden speech in the Commons and took the opportunity to criticise the Government’s appalling record on homelessness. She committed to fighting for safe and secure housing for all during her time in Parliament. Watch here

Abena also challenged the Government’s proposal to introduce a voter ID law which will make it more difficult for people to exercise their right to vote. This will particularly impact poorer communities and ethnic minorities who are less likely to have a passport or drivers licence. Abena and Labour will continue to oppose this proposal, for which there is no evidence to justify its need.

After being appointed as a member of Labour’s Shadow Defra team, Abena has joined efforts to protect British farmers and secure our tough animal welfare and food quality standards post-Brexit and in any trade deal the Government attempts to negotiate with the United States.

Abena was delighted to attend the first meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London and looks forward to working with colleagues across all parties to champion London and its citizens.

Abena spoke to BBC Radio Five Live about her first weeks in Parliament on the John Pienaar show as Backbench MP of the Week.

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MP joins Shadow Environment Team

Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare has taken on a new role as a member of Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs team in Parliament.

Abena will serve as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Secretary of State, Luke Pollard MP, working with him and Labour’s team to hold the Government to account and attempt to improve the law on environmental and food issues and rural affairs.

With a new Environment Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill going through Parliament in the coming months, it will be a busy time.

Abena said “The climate emergency means we need bolder and swifter action to cut carbon and water use and protect vulnerable habitats and species. In the next three months the Government will be introducing mammoth changes to laws governing fishing, farming, food, chemical regulations and environmental protections. The Shadow Defra team will be holding the Government to account, strengthening what we expect to be weak legislation and ensuring that the climate doesn’t play second fiddle to the Tories Brexit ambitions.

“Labour won’t accept any lowering of environmental protections or animal welfare standards and we will keep pressure on Ministers to enact the urgent action we need to address the pressing climate crisis.”

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MP gets her hands dirty to support community project

Abena Oppong-Asare, Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, got her hands dirty this week to help plant over 1,400 bulbs in Abbey Wood.

Abena joined residents and Abbey Wood Labour councillors Denise Hyland Ann-Marie Cousins to plant hyacinth and daffodil bulbs opposite Lidl. Almost 1,500 bulbs were planted.

Abena said “Special thanks go to those who organised the event and everyone who attended to help plant the bulbs. I look forward to seeing the flowers in bloom this spring!”