Thanks to the NHS

It was a privilege to finally be able to attend the NHS Parliamentary Awards after they were delayed by the pandemic. Two teams that I had nominated won regional competitions and were subsequently nominated for national awards. They are the Luton and Bedfordshire Children's Rapid Response Team and the Integrated Discharge Hub at the East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT). I went to visit one of those teams last year to hear all about the fantastic work they do. Whilst they didn't win the national awards, it was great to see NHS teams across the country receiving recognition for their excellent work.

This month also saw the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the NHS by a Labour Government in 1948. Since then, the NHS has become more than a healthcare service. As we have seen during the pandemic people have a deep emotional attachment to it and it is a source of national pride. It is vital that we continue to protect it for future generations. As your MP, I will always vote against attempts to privatise this national institution and fight to protect the principle that the NHS should be for healthcare for all, not private profit for some.
Education Recovery

I recently spoke in a Westminster Hall debate regarding education support for children from low-income families. In my speech, I made the point that, prior to the pandemic, the previous 10 years of austerity had already resulted in the largest cut to education funding for 40 years. This has had a negative impact on children, particularly those from poorer families, causing a growing attainment gap with students from wealthier households. In Luton South, 37% of children are living in poverty, an increase of 3% since 2014. Before the pandemic, disadvantaged secondary school students were 17 months behind their wealthier peers. This has been further exacerbated by Covid as many students did not have laptops or devices, and/or access to data to help them learn at home.

The Government's plan to try to help students catch up is wholly inadequate, both in terms of the funds provided and its scope. The Government should be encouraging and funding afterschool activities such as sports and arts, or simply time to play. Arts and creativity, physical fitness and socialising are vital to a child's development. To read how Labour's education recovery plan would help to deliver a meaningful catch-up for children click here, and you can watch my full speech above.
Protecting Your Rights In Planning Processes

On Wednesday, I presented my first Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament. The Bill aims to safeguard the right of individuals, communities and local councillors to participate in individual planning applications. The Government's proposed planning reforms would create a zonal approach that would weaken local oversight of individual planning applications.

The Government's reforms would also expand the use of Permitted Development Rights (PDR). PDR allows developers to bypass the need to get full planning permission and leads to poor quality housing in inappropriate locations. We have already seen the effects of PDR on Luton with town centre offices converted into housing with no thought given to access to essential local amenities such as schools and green space. My Bill would allow local councils to refuse PDR developments if they believe the development would be harmful to individuals or the wider area.

Local communities must be able to shape their areas. To tackle the housing crisis, we need a planning system that delivers good-quality, truly affordable homes rather than one that allows the developers free rein. The Bill will hopefully return to the House on 22nd October for its Second Reading. You can watch my full speech above and read more about the Bill here.
Travel Day of Action

I was pleased to join easyJet workers who had travelled down to Parliament for the Travel Day of Action. The aviation workers' demonstration highlighted the plight of the travel industry and called on the Government to provide additional support and to help the industry safely reopen. The travel and aviation industries are vital to Luton's local economy - they directly employ thousands of people and support many more in the supply chain. I have repeatedly called on the Government to provide a conditional support package to the industry, which would safeguard jobs and include commitments to facilitating the sector's green transition. You can read my full letter to the Secretary of State here.
Survey Corner

In my last survey, I asked you about schools and education here is what you told me:

- 59% of you said you thought the school day should be extended.

- 71% of you thought that there has not been adequate mental health support for children to help them reintegrate into school.

- 58% of you said that not enough emphasis had been placed on play and social interaction following the isolation of lockdown.

In my next survey, I want to hear your thoughts about the relaxation of public health restrictions due to take place on Monday 19th July. You can take part here.

Find out more

Hat Works Visit

I had the pleasure of receiving a sneak peek of the Hat Works building that has been refurbished as part of The Culture Trust Luton's Hat District project. The project has seen the refurbishment of various former hat factories, with the aim of preserving their heritage while also providing spaces to nurture new creative businesses in the town centre. Hat Works seeks to provide flexible creative workspaces to allow local talent to network and support each other. I look forward to seeing the benefits that these developments will provide to local creative businesses. 
CYCD & Charity Bike Ride

It was a pleasure to welcome the Freedom 50 Riders to the Centre for Youth & Community Development (CYCD), alongside the Mayor of Luton, Cllr Mahmood Hussain. The team is cycling from Oldham to London to mark the 50th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh and to raise money for projects to support vulnerable children in Bangladesh. You can find out more about their journey here. 

Support for Local Businesses

I recently asked the Government about the support available to local businesses as they begin to reopen. Many businesses were forced to take out loans to support them during the lockdown, and the first repayments are due imminently. As the Government's inept handling of the pandemic has prolonged the crisis, many businesses have not had sufficient trading time to afford the repayments. The Government should offer businesses debt restructuring plans to protect their future and safeguard jobs. See my question here.
Armed Forces Veterans Survey
Saturday 26th June was Armed Forces Day, a great opportunity for us all to thank everyone who serves or has served in our armed forces. The Labour Party has launched a veterans survey to hear about the issues impacting those that have served, whether that be around housing, employment or care services. We want to hear from as many veterans as possible, so if you are a veteran or know someone who is, please complete and/or share our survey. You can find the survey here.
Rachel Hopkins MP for Luton South