This week we've seen yet more scandal from this Conservative Government. First came the damning and lengthy dossier documenting the extensive waste under the Prime Minister during his time as Chancellor - a total so far of £26.8 billion.
In this report are just 100 examples of wasteful government spending or departmental losses that took place under his watch from 2019-20 to 2021-22, costing the taxpayer a total of up to £26.8 billion, in each case with nothing to show in return for the money written off.
From the vast and inexcusable amounts lost due to fraud and faulty PPE during the pandemic, to the relatively small but pointless vanity projects so common in recent years, this is a catalogue of waste that the man in control of government spending did nothing to stop, and often directly caused.
The dossier includes examples of waste including huge sums lost through poor procurement in the Ministry of Defence, £271 million wasted on storage of unused PPE; and – instead of cracking down on criminal gangs through the National Crime Agency as Labour has called for – the government spending £10,685 a day on consultancy for small boats instead.
Then came the leaked WhatsApp messages from Matt Hancock when he was Health Secretary. These messages reveal the arrogance and shameful lack of respect that conservative ministers showed to the public.
At the same time as they were flagrantly breaking the law themselves with their lockdown parties, they were demanding stronger enforcement by the police on everyone else and joking at the public and police’s expense. It really was one rule for them and another for everyone else.
The British people deserve a government that will treat taxpayer money with respect. Sunak's past track record shows that he will do anything but.
My statement on the Syria Turkey earthquake
We have all been deeply shocked by the scenes from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria. The damage done and the loss of life inflicted by these earthquakes and aftershocks is incomprehensible.
The death toll between the two countries has now surpassed 48,000 people. About 25 million people—a staggering figure—have been affected overall, with homes, businesses and key infrastructure destroyed. We are looking at a damage area of over 50,000 square kilometres.
This week, I led the oppositions response to the Government’s statement on this disaster. In my speech I paid tribute to the brave men and women from the search and rescue teams that sprang to action within hours of the tragedy to assist in saving people trapped under the rubble of buildings that have collapsed. In particular I gave my thanks to the volunteers from West Midlands Fire Service - Shyam, Shaun, Mark, Aghia, James, Mark, Joe and Paul who flew out to Turkey, and Rob and Hannah who supported from the UK.
The response from the British public has also been incredible. Over £30 million donated to the Disasters Emergencies Committee Appeal in its first day, which has now raised over £100m. This shows the British public at its best: generous, outward-looking, and deeply concerned for the welfare of others around the globe.
More urgently, this gave me the opportunity to ask questions of government regarding the response moving forward. Even before the earthquake, an estimated 4.1 million people in north-west Syria relied on aid to meet their basic needs. It is In Britain's interests to support Turkey and Syria. That’s why I asked the Minister:
What is he doing to coordinate and scale up the humanitarian response with our international partners in the UN?
Whether he could confirm if cuts to Syria, rumoured to be as much as £6-8million were still going ahead?
If the Minister will be setting out a long-term strategy for the UK’s support to the region?
Energy bills set to soar under Sunak
Rishi Sunak is about to let energy bills rise by 40% for families. Energy firms will soon begin writing to customers to warn them of bill increases from the start of April. This is because firms must give customers reasonable notice of price rises or changes that will leave them worse off. Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak’s Government is entirely missing in action and is yet to lift a finger.
While the oil and gas giants are raking in the windfalls of war to the tune of billions in record profits, Rishi Sunak's Conservatives refuse to implement a proper windfall tax that would make them pay their fair share. Instead, the financial burden is being put on working people.
A Labour Government would use a proper windfall tax to stop prices going up in April. Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt must back this plan - or else an extra 2 million people risk falling into fuel poverty. If allowed to go ahead, the number of households struggling to afford their bills would increase from 6.7 million to 8.4 million as a direct result of the April rise.
We would also implement a longer-term plan focusing on clean power and warm homes which would save residents up to £1,400 off your energy bills every year.
Lower energy bills, warmer homes, and clean power. That’s the difference a Labour government would make.
What’s happening in your community?
We have some exciting news this week that the Bartley Community Fridge which will be based from the Bartley Green Community Hub on Hillwood Road will soon be opening. However, they are calling on all those who can machine sew to offer their support. Period poverty in the ward is extremely high and so they are sewing sanitary pads to tackle the issue in an environmentally friendly way. If you have some time to spare, please contact BgnFridge@outlook.com to arrange for the fabric and patterns to be provided.
Quinton will also be seeing the brand new B32 Community CIC Hub opening on 1 Faraday Avenue, B32 1JP. The launch will be on 1st April 11am-4pm. The hub will be in partnership with Haven Community project and will be offering the opportunity for local residents to sign up for Your Local Pantry Quinton.
Yesterday I spoke to residents on Lordswood Garden Estate in North Edgbaston. I spoke with so many residents who raised their concerns about crime including theft, drug dealing and speeding. I will be requesting that the local Police team increase the patrols in the area. More urgently, it is examples like this why I wrote to the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman MP, just a few weeks ago, asking for greater support for our Police and communities who are crying out for change.
Residents should feel safe when at home or on our streets. But that isn’t happening. That is why in my letter, I asked the Home Secretary what she would say to my constituents who are deeply fearful for their communities. I also asked when my constituency will finally see Police and PSCO numbers increased?
Championing World Book Day
This week, I celebrated the importance of reading for pleasure on World Book Day. Every year, World Book Day creates bespoke £1 books for children and young adults across the UK and Ireland, to promote the power of imagination and the importance of reading.
Through World Book Day, every child across our constituency is given a £1 book token, which they can take to a bookshop or supermarket to get their free World Book Day book.
I was pleased to join a Parliamentary drop-in this week to champion reading for pleasure where they were calling on teachers, carers, and parents to ensure that reading for pleasure is encouraged as much as reading attainment. While reading was the only core subject which saw attainment levels improve in 20224, the number of children who say they enjoy it, is in serious decline.
Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success–more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. However, reading for pleasure is at its lowest levels in 18 years and many children have limited access to books.
500,000 (or one in 15) children in England aged 8–18 say they don’t own a single book. This rises to one in 10 for those eligible for Free School Meals. One in five pupils receiving Free School Meals said that the book they ‘bought’ with their World Book Day book token was the first book of their own.
It is so important that every child and young adult in Birmingham has the opportunity to have a book of their own that they have chosen for themselves–and I am delighted to celebrate my own love of reading through the World Book Day campaign.
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Birmingham Edgbaston covering Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton