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Abena challenges the Government’s lack of long-term support for Businesses

On 9th January, as Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, I spoke in the House of Commons in response to the Government’s latest statement on Non-domestic Energy Support for businesses.

I challenged the Government on this announcement, which proves their policy is just another example of sticking-plaster politics. Last year, businesses were promised clarity by this government, however, constant chaos in the Conservative party has meant firms, workers, and families had to go another Christmas worrying about their energy bills.

We all know that businesses need to plan ahead but these policies are forcing them to live day to day and not knowing what the next month will bring, let alone the next quarter. Unfortunately, as I stated to the Minister, this week’s announcement did not have to be this way and is just a sticking plaster for the wider energy challenges. There needs to be a long-term plan or this merry-go-round will only continue.

Speaking in the house, I set out Labour’s plans to “back British businesses and give them the certainty they need to plan and invest”. This includes scrapping business rates with a fair tax on the online giants, having a long-term industrial strategy alongside which our industries can invest, and, dealing with the energy crisis at its source.

You can read my speech here or watch the full speech here.

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Abena closes the Financial Services and Markets Bill Debate

On 7th September, as Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, I spoke in the House of Commons on the Financial Services and Markets Bill, making the closing arguments for the Opposition.

I broadly welcome this legislation. I am committed to helping the UK’s financial sector maintain its position as a competitive global financial centre. At the same time, this should not mean any compromise on financial stability or consumer protection post Brexit.

Speaking in the House, I argued that that everyone should have access to the financial services they need, whether that is saving schemes or insurance, and regardless of their income or circumstances. I made the point that all too often, the most vulnerable in our society are unable to afford or are denied access to financial products and services that meet their needs.

I made clear to the Government that if they are serious about building a strong future for our financial services outside the EU, they should recognise that the Bill is an opportunity to rethink how financial resilience, inclusion and wellbeing issues are tackled in the UK.

More widely, I am disappointed that the Bill does not do enough on financial exclusion. I believe we need to protect access to face-to-face banking services and address the extra costs that poorer people pay for essential services such as insurance or loans or credit cards.

As the Bill proceeds through Parliament, I will support efforts to push for bolder, more radical action in a number of areas including green finance, financial inclusion and economic crime. It is important that this legislation delivers not just for our financial services industry but for the wider economy as well.

You can read my speech here or watch the speech here.

 

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MP tackles Covid-19 casework

Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead, Abena Oppong-Asare, updates local people on her work to address their concerns about Covid-19.

 

March saw the takeover of our lives, news and parliamentary business with Covid-19. This led to lockdown by the government and myself and my office are working from our respective homes. My team and I have been working hard to support constituents of Erith and Thamesmead at this difficult time.

Getting people home

This was a big issue this month. I have had numerous queries from constituents stranded overseas, from cruise ships in the Caribbean to holidays in New Zealand, India, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and elderly people in Cyprus. Many of them I have been successful in assisting, and they have either returned home or are en-route. I have had to use many different methods, from simple conversations with travel agents to smooth the cogs, to asking questions in the Chamber and writing to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Supporting the self-employed

Whilst the budget saw many welcome financial measures (from a government that once insisted on harsh austerity!), it soon became apparent this was not nearly enough. The Chancellor and PM rolled out further support for the employed, which will be a great help for many. However, we have so many self-employed people in our constituency who will not be supported. Therefore, I have written to the Chancellor on this issue, to implore him to take further action with regards to the self-employed.

Religious rights

In the government’s emergency Covid-19 legislation there was a potential issue regarding religious burial rights: that these could be removed and enforced cremations placed in place. However, my colleague Naz Shah MP wrote an amendment to the legislation to allow religious burials to take place; I was one of the first signatures to this. Luckily, the government took note and actually tabled their own amendment, which allowed the opposition to focus on other important matters rather than forcing this to go to a vote.

Panic buying and stock piling

I have written to the Business Secretary calling for concrete measures to limit panic buying & stockpiling. Trade unions, major supermarkets, and the Food and Drink Federation must be central to any decision to improve conditions for emergency workers and keep the shelves stocked. Naturally, this is also an area of focus for the Shadow Defra team, and I am fully engaged on this issue. You can watch this space for further action on this in the coming days and weeks.

Scrutinising the Covid-19 Bill

The opposition made the sensible decision not to have all MPs attending these parliamentary sessions. Instead we passed our concerns onto the front bench, who put those to the government on our behalf. My particular concerns relate to the mental health powers, as well as the way that the care bill has been repealed and the impacts this may have on some of our most vulnerable residents.

If you have any questions or concerns during this difficult time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and my team and I will do what we can to support you.