Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards writes her monthly column for the community.
It was a real honour to join with so many Ukrainian members of our community for the solidarity march in West Bridgford last Saturday.
It was incredibly moving to hear the Ukrainian National Anthem sung and to see the sea of blue and yellow clad support.
Britain will always stand with Ukraine, we are in awe of the bravery shown by the Ukrainian people, their armed forces and President Zelensky and we all welcome our Ukrainian friends to Rushcliffe at this incredibly difficult time.
I want to thank Sofia Lesiuk, The Ukrainian Cultural Centre in Nottingham and The Rock Church for organising the event and giving all of us the opportunity to show our support.
As you may have seen from the news, the Prime Minister visited Ukraine at the beginning of the month and, earlier this week, addressed Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.
The UK has pledged a further £300 million of further military aid, including electronic warfare equipment and a counter battery radar system.
Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary announced further humanitarian aid of £45m for charities working within Ukraine and the region. We have also announced new sanctions which ban British firms from exporting services like accountancy, consultancy and PR to Russian companies.
Parliament is currently prorogued ahead of the Queen’s speech on the 10th May.
This will set out the programme of legislation that the Government will pursue in the next year (also known as a parliamentary session).
We have spent much of April debating outstanding issues on some of these Bills with the House of Lords and 31 of them have now become law (or Acts of Parliament).
Included in these 31 Acts are laws to protect the Environment (Environment Act 2021) which contains ambitious, binding targets to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change, waste and pollution of our air, water and land.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act includes tougher sentences for those who assault emergency services workers and extends mandatory life sentences to those convicted of killing an emergency services worker who is carrying out their duties.
This is called Harpers Law, after PC Andrew Harper, who was killed whilst responding to a burglary.
The Act also increases sentences for child murder and child cruelty, it protects breastfeeding mothers by introducing a new offence of breastfeeding voyeurism.
It introduces new offences to tackle rural crimes like hare coursing and also new powers for the police to tackle disruptive protests like the Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain Protests.
We have also introduced legislation that has reformed our asylum system (The Nationality and Borders Bill) by introducing tougher penalties for people smuggling and enabling us to remove those who enter the UK illegally to a third country.
This will break the business model of the people smugglers who profit from dangerous channel crossings and put so many lives in danger.
Our Skills and Post-16 Education Act, strengthens collaboration between local employers and education providers and will make sure employers are more closely involved in developing technical qualifications.
It also offers a new Lifelong Loan Entitlement so that all adults, regardless of age, can re-train and switch careers throughout their lives.
We have also passed the Professional Qualifications Act, which recognises the qualifications of highly-skilled professionals from around the world in the UK, allowing us to attract the brightest and best talent to our labour market.
We are also supporting the brave men and women who protect us. The UK Armed Forces Act 2021 will enshrine the Armed Forces Covenant in law, another manifesto commitment.
The Act will prevent service personnel and veterans from being disadvantaged in the provision of key public services and require public bodies to have due regard to the principles of the Covenant.
We must continue to look after our brave service personnel and the veterans who have fought to keep our freedom.
Unprecedented levels of Government spending to support our society through COVID has increased inflation to the highest level for more than 30 years.
There is no doubt, the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is testing our economy and having a huge impact on the cost of living.
The Government knows this and is rolling out a package of support. It won’t be a simple fix and it will take time, but there are some things the Government can and is doing to support those who are struggling most.
That’s why we have passed regulations to increase the National Living Wage by 6.6 per cent to £9.50 an hour, an extra £1000 a year. This goes hand in hand with changes to the Universal Credit Taper and increases to the Work Allowance which will hand increases to more than 2 million families.
In addition, it was announced in the Spring Statement that 80% of households would benefit from £150 council tax rebate, followed by a £200 loan to help with energy bills in October and an expansion to a support scheme for vulnerable people.
The Chancellor has also cut VAT from 5% to 0% on energy efficiency products such as solar panels, insulation and heat pumps, cut fuel duty by 5p a litre and raised the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance to mirror Income Tax.
For small businesses and our high-street, we are cutting business rates by at least 50 per cent this year for 90 per cent of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. We have also frozen Beer Duty, to try and help our pubs and hospitality sector.
Lastly, as we have seen the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine, we know that we must both support Ukraine, through humanitarian and military aid, and sanction Russia for their leaders’ barbarity.
This means not only direct sanctions against the regime but also doing more to punish its financiers and supporters who benefit from our open economy.
That’s why we have passed the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, which set up a register of overseas entities and their beneficial owners. It also requires overseas entities who own land here to register and gives law enforcement powers to tackle unexplained wealth.
This has made it far easier to sanction thousands of Russian oligarchs and supporters of Putin and his murderous regime. I would expect to see more measures to squeeze them still further in the Queen’s Speech next week.
I will update you all on the new announcements in the Queen’s Speech in my column next month.
Ruth Edwards MP