As restrictions eased, and I returned to Parliament, I visited the National Covid Memorial Wall. A mural of hearts painted by volunteers to commemorate the 150,000 people who died as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a powerful reminder of the impact of the pandemic on people who lost family members and friends, and the need for the Government to learn lessons, so that the mistakes made are not made again.

After repeated calls from across political parties, the Government finally announced a public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. However, the Inquiry will not begin until Spring 2022, which is too long to wait. The Inquiry must be open, transparent, independent and have full confidence of the bereaved families. I also urged the Prime Minister to ensure that the Inquiry specifically looks into why Covid-19 had a disproportionate impact on our Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. 
Israel and Palestine

I share the concerns of constituents who have contacted me about the ongoing humanitarian situation in Israel and Palestine, and fully condemn the attacks committed by both sides. There have been widespread calls from across the international community for the Israeli Government to immediately halt all forced evictions, including those in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, and to exercise maximum restraint in the use of force with protestors.

I wrote to the Foreign Secretary with Sarah Owen (MP for Luton North), to raise local people's concerns and to press for action to prevent the forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes and the illegal annexation of Palestinian land. There can be no justification for the repressive violence being used by the Israeli Government against the Palestinian people. I will continue to call for the UK Government to act to end the Human Rights abuses and to support Palestinian statehood. 
Survey Corner

In my last survey, I asked about your experience of the vaccine programme and your confidence in the reopening of the economy. Here's what you said:

-  81% of respondents had received the vaccine and almost all had a positive experience.

- 56% said the vaccine rollout had increased their confidence about interacting with others, whilst 39% remained concerned about potential variants and unvaccinated people.

- 47% said they would not be comfortable attending a large scale event on June 21st but 78% would be happy to show a vaccine passport or negative Covid-19 test to attend large scale events in the future.

In my next survey, I want to hear your thoughts on foreign holidays and travel restrictions. You can take part here. 

The Queen's Speech

Parliament was prorogued at the end of April, with a new session starting with the State Opening of Parliament on 11 May. This included the Queen's Speech in which she set out the Government's legislative programme, carried out in her name, for this next Parliamentary session.

From the speech, I was disappointed to not see reference to an Employment Bill, which could outlaw awful practices such as fire and rehire, and end worker exploitation through banning zero-hour contracts.  I also believe that the Government's decision to push on with implementing restrictive Voter ID laws will make it harder to vote and disproportionately disenfranchise working-class and minority communities. 
APPG for Football Supporters

As a football fan, I'm pleased to have been re-elected as Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters at the recent AGM. This meeting also focused on an important discussion around increasing LGBTQ+ representation in football and how sport can be a positive force for tackling prejudice. 

At the start of May, I also took part in the football social media boycott that sought to highlight the need for social media companies to do more to tackle online discriminatory abuse. The upcoming Online Harms Bill gives the Government an opportunity to force social media companies to act. Find out more about the Football Supporters Association statement on the Online Harms Bill here.

Find out more

Thanksgiving Service for Mayor Lovell

After a year of Zoom and virtual meetings, I was delighted to join our outgoing Civic Mayor, Councillor Maria Lovell, at her thanksgiving event at St Mary's Church in (socially-distanced) person! Councillor Lovell has done a brilliant job through an incredibly challenging period, and she rightly deserved to be thanked for her service to Luton.

All things being well I look forward to attending many more events in person this summer.
In The Media

I recently appeared on BBC politics East to discuss the May elections, Social Care reform, Covid-19 and local council meetings. You can watch highlights of my appearance here or the whole programme here.

I also appeared on ITV's Late Edition. You can watch the full programme here.
High Town by-election

With local elections being able to take place this year, I stood down as a Luton councillor after 10 years service. The decision to stand down was made easier by the election of a committed new councillor, Umme Ali, in High Town ward. I wish her all the very best!
Reviving our Town Centre

I recently joined a panel discussion for our regional Federation of Small Businesses to talk about what needs to be done to tackle the decline of our high streets and town centres. Questions from attendees included the impact of the pandemic, what central government can do to support local businesses, planning reform and how to encourage community ownership of High Street spaces.

Our town centre is vital for both employment, leisure and culture, and I will continue to work with local businesses and our community to secure it's future. I was also pleased to meet with Luton Council to discuss its upcoming bid to the 'Levelling Up Fund' for the redevelopment of the Bute Street area. 

Rachel Hopkins MP for Luton South