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Covid-19 emergency legislation response

In March 2020 the Government introduced emergency Covid-19 legislation in response to the ongoing public health crisis.

I hold major concerns regarding the sweeping powers that this bill introduced. However, in line with guidance and following discussion with colleagues, I and other colleagues in the opposition did not attend the debate. It is important to point out that we did have many meetings and discussions relating to this bill and our concerns were relayed to our front bench MPs and shadow ministers. We agreed that this was the safest and most organised way to scrutinise this legislation.

Therefore, the Labour Party including myself put across many issues and concerns in relation to this legislation. To summarise for you, we made the following points with regards to this legislation:

  • The legislation should be reviewed after six months, with a fresh vote in parliament after this six-month period. The restrictions should be temporary and should not represent a long-term restriction of our civil liberties. This has been passed into law, meaning that the legislation will now be reviewed on this basis.
  • Jobs and incomes must be protected. This should include a European-level sick pay for all workers and an end to the five-week waiting period for Universal Credit. I also wrote to the Secretary of State regarding issues that relate to the self-employed, as they did not currently have the same level of protection as employed workers.
  • I would like to see more support for private renters, including potential rent suspension and a ban on evictions for six months rather than three months. Again, I wrote to the Secretary of State on the issue of private renters.
  • I have real concerns regarding the mental health elements of this bill and the impact that this bill has on the pre-existing Care Act. Naturally, these concerns were raised with the Labour front bench and brought forward for debate in the House of Commons.
  • We have recommended that changes to care of the disabled and elderly should undergo a review by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and undergo a review.

Despite very real concerns I do understand the need for urgent government intervention to arrest the spread of this virus, whilst also mitigating the impact on our economy. I would echo the words of Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Johnathan Ashworth, when he said it was with a ‘heavy heart’ that we would support this legislation overall, although with the caveats mentioned above.

I will continue to scrutinise this legislation in the future alongside my Labour colleagues to ensure the issues I have raised can be addressed.

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Local MP joins influential Select Committee

Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, has joined Parliament’s influential Housing and Local Government Select Committee.

Housing was made a priority by Abena in her maiden speech in Parliament following conversations with constituents during the election campaign and after which made clear this was a big concern for local people. Huge cuts to local councils over the last decade has significantly impacted on their ability to deliver vital local services to people in Bexley and Greenwich and across the country and challenging these cuts is also a key issue for Abena.

Abena’s new role on the select committee means she’ll have a direct line to question and challenge Ministers and senior figures in housing and local government and work with colleagues from across all parties to hold Government to account and propose improvements to policies on issues such as homelessness, council funding, housing safety, affordable housing and protections for renters and leaseholders.

Abena said “I will use this role to put the concerns of local people directly to decision makers and fight to improve housing and invest in local government in Greenwich and Bexley and across the country.”

You’ll be able to keep up to date with Abena’s work on the select committee and in Parliament here.

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MP joins Parliamentary protest over cladding scandal

Abena Oppong-Asare, MP for Erith and Thamesmead, joined Mayor Sadiq Khan and other MPs and campaigners at a protest outside Parliament this week in protest at Government inaction over cladding.

The protest was organised by residents living in high rise accommodation who continue to suffer from the lack of Government support and action since the fire at Grenfell Tower.

More than two years since the Grenfell tragedy, hundreds of residential buildings continue to face significant fire safety deficiencies. Leaseholders in privately owned buildings are liable for funding the work to replace the cladding, meaning many face substantial bills they cannot afford.

Speaking after the protest, Abena said “Residents living in affected buildings are left in limbo while the Government fails to act. This ongoing crisis is ruining lives. Ministers need to take action in the coming Budget, with a package of financial and mental health support offered to all those affected.”

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Housing a key priority for new local MP

Abena Oppong-Asare MP has pledged that housing will be one of her top priorities as your MP over the course of this Parliament.

Housing is an issue raised often by local people with Abena and she knows that people care passionately about improving housing, tackling homelessness and addressing safety issues like cladding in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy.

Abena met with John Lewis, Executive Director of Peabody, earlier this month to discuss working together to address issues raised by local people with housing.

She also attended Peabody’s community event to hear the results of their survey of 1,000 Thamesmead residents and commit her efforts to bringing the DLR to 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.