On Monday afternoon, as vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Restorative Justice, I hosted the APPG Restorative Justice Evidence Session, together with Jim Simon, CEO of the Restorative Justice Council. We heard evidence from restorative justice projects within schools and healthcare sectors in England. Catherine Allard Headteacher of John Keble Primary School spoke about implementing restorative measures to change the culture in her school. Her school is in a very deprived, multicultural part of London. She said that choosing the staff leadership team was very important, and was essential so that children who are bullied or conduct the bullying are able to open up about their experiences and trust her staff. The support of parents and a multi-agency service was vital to the successful implementation of her project. The children go through the restorative script with staff and try and resolve the issues that are affecting their behaviour towards each other in school. Before restorative action was taken, there were many pupils excluded from school, but when Catherine became headteacher she was determined that her school would become inclusive. We heard from Simon Flowers, headteacher of Car Manor Community School, which has pupils from 4-19 years of age. Simon became headteacher in 2005 and grew up in the locality. When he took over, the school was a third full, with children with very complex needs. He decided to never permanently exclude a pupil and the values in school would be relationship led. He now has 700 children who meet in coaching groups of 8-10 pupils, of mixed age and gender. They meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for 45 minutes, and sit in a circle to discuss the issues that are effecting them. Staff have coaching groups too. The groups self-regulate and make positive choices to improve their behaviour. The older pupils guide the younger to change their mindset to be tolerant and kind towards each other. It’s a family culture. The aim is to produce happy, mature, well-rounded children who progress to colleges or jobs. Feedback shows that this is being achieved. Now his school is oversubscribed and 35 of the 100 staff are alumni. Staff and pupil absences are very low.
We heard from Janine Carroll of Resolve, and Dan Reisel from University College London (UCL) who teamed up to implement restorative practices in maternity care. Janine is a training provider, and Dan works in maternity in the Royal Free Hospital and researches at UCL. Janine looked at relationships in a healthcare setting, and it’s about patients and workers being heard, empowered, and their needs met. Dan looked at the blame culture that has developed when maternity care goes wrong, and changing this to resolve patient and staff traumatic experiences, rather than litigate.
Our final witness was from the social care sector, Rebecca Rushton, who has worked in restorative justice in the childcare and families department for Torbay Council since February 2021. Rebecca comes from a criminal justice background where she implemented restorative practice into many sectors of the justice sector. Rebecca’s role is to embed the golden thread of restorative practice throughout the department. All new staff are trained in restorative practice, and partner organisations are trained too. Ofstead has produced a good report, and Rebecca hopes to continue restorative practice throughout all council departments with the assistance of the Chief Executive and councillors who have been very supportive.
The business in the chamber was Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (Crewe to Manchester) Bill and Labour abstained on the division.
On Tuesday, I chaired the Online Safety Bill Committee all day, when we continued line by line scrutiny and debated many more amendments which were tabled by the UK Government and Labour and SNP opposition parties.
The business in the chamber was the Official Opposition Day debates. The first debate was “Access to GP Services and NHS Dentists”. The second debate was “Replacing the Prime Minister’s Ethics Adviser (Cabinet Office)”. Lord Geidt resigned unexpectedly on Wednesday 15th June in a letter to the PM, in which he said that he had been asked to consider “measures which risk a deliberate and purposeful breech of the Ministerial Code” and he could not have any part in an action that would make a mockery of the Code. Labour’s Motion would amend the Standing Orders to say that if the Independent Adviser post is vacant for more than two months, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) can appoint its own independent adviser on Ministerial Code breeches and begin its own investigation. Labour pressed a vote at the end of the debate at 6.47pm, which we lost by 161 to 252 votes.
The business in the chamber on Wednesday was Northern Ireland Oral Questions followed by PMQs and the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill All Stages. The Chancellor announced his Cost of Living Package on 26th May, and this included: £650 cost of living payments, payable in two instalments to people in receipt of means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit; and a £150 Disability cost of living payment for those receiving non-means-tested disability benefits such as PIP. The UK Government recently changed the rules on the Warm Homes Discount (WHD) scheme so that those on DLA, PIP and AA are no longer eligible. For people on PIP this means that the UK Government are giving the £150 back to them that was taken off due to changes in the WHD scheme.
There was a deferred division on the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022 SI 2022 No 554, which was voted through by 215 to 70 votes.
APPG Sport, of which I am chair, held an online event during National School Sports Week 2022 to discuss the future of maximising PE and sport in schools for the benefit of children and young people in England. Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, vice chair of our APPG, and Honorary Life Ambassador for Youth Sport Trust was on the call. Over 50 sports stakeholders joined in the call to listen to guest speakers: Ali Oliver MBE, Chief Executive of Youth Sports Trust; Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive Women in Sport; Ashlea Smith, Head of Children, Young People and Families, UKactive; and Leigh Thompson, Head of Policy, Sport and Recreation Alliance. There was a lively session of questions from the stakeholders to the panellists, which culminated in agreement that sport is so important to the physical and mental health of children of all ages, and school sport is vital in this development.
On Monday 27th June I chaired the Petitions Debate in Westminster Hall “That this House has considered E-petition 597715 relating to the school week”, which was opened by the chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP. The petition “required to make Friday part of the school weekend, require schools to make Friday a day off, meaning there will be three days that children will get to stay off every week. Children can have a lot of stress at school due to exams and homework and with a 3 day weekend, children could have a longer time to relax and let off stress gained from school.”
The UK Government response provided on 21st April 2022, stated that it has no plans to require schools to make Friday part of the weekend and that regular attendance at school is vital for children’s education, well-being and long-term development.
I was honoured to listen to Reverend Professor D. Ben Rees speak about his fascinating book about Jim Griffiths, the former MP for Llanelli, titled “Jim: the life and work of Rt Hon James Griffiths”. The evening was opened by Lord John Morris, whose time as the former MP for Aberavon overlapped with Jim and he shared his memories of the great man. Jim was Minister for National Insurance in the 1945 Labour Government and founded the modern welfare state. Jim persuaded the then Labour Leader Hugh Gaitskill to build relationships towards Welsh devolution and Jim was known as the “architect of devolution”. The event was hosted by the current MP for Llanelli, Dame Nia Griffith.
On Monday evening at 10pm Labour voted against the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which had been debated for six hours in the chamber. The Bill was introduced on 13th June and is in response to the UK Government’s concerns over the Protocol (special arrangements for Northern Ireland so it is border free) and not being able to negotiate a settlement with the EU. The Bill empowers Ministers to dis-apply the Protocol and relevant parts of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement in domestic law, and make new domestic law in place of the Protocol. Ministers would do this for safeguarding, social and economic stability, the territorial or constitutional integrity of the UK, functioning of the Belfast Agreement, health, and environmental reasons. There are 5 areas where Ministers can act: movement of goods; regulations of goods; vat and excise; removing the jurisdiction of the CJEU; and state aid. The only parts protected would be individual rights, the common travel area, and North-South co-operation. The EU has said that if the Bill is passed then it will respond with all measures at its disposal. The European Commission has said that it will move ahead with legal action against the UK. Labour lost the vote by 221 to 295 votes.
On Tuesday I continued to chair the Online Safety Bill line by line scrutiny sessions. The hundreds of amendments were debated to conclusion last week, and this week we are considering new clauses to be added to the Bill.
In the evening I went to the world premier of the documentary about trophy hunting “Lions, Bones and Bullets” which told the heart-breaking story of trophy hunting captive-bred lions and its links to the Far Eastern lion bone trade. The authors were present, and told us about how they bravely went undercover in South Africa to infiltrate ranches that specifically breed lions who are then shot by trophy hunters whilst in a captive situation. The lion cubs are taken from their mothers when only a few weeks old, and are kept in small open air pens, with no shelter from the sun, and fed with cattle carcasses from abattoirs, which may be diseased. The bones from the killed lions are then sold to countries in the Far East, and are fraudulently used as tiger bones in Chinese medicine. The documentary will be released in the autumn.
On Wednesday morning I joined in a Zoom call with fellow officers of the APPG for Steel to discuss plans to keep pressure on the UK Government to support the UK steel sector.
The business in the Chamber began with Oral Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, followed by PMQs. The Prime Minister was at the NATO summit so Deputy Dominic Raab stood in, and by convention the Labour Deputy Angela Rayner opposed him across the despatch box.
After PMQs I attended a special event during Cecil Week, the anniversary of the killing of Cecil the Lion, and the launch of the new report of a UK ban on trophies, “Trophy Hunting and Britain: The case for a Ban”. Guest speakers were Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for DEFRA; Dr Jane Goodhall DBE; Founder of the Jane Goodhall Institute; HE SKI Khama, President of Botswana (2008-2018); Boniface Mpario, Senior Maasai Elder. The event was chaired by Eduardo Gonclaves, Founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, “For People, For Wildlife, For Ever”. The 117,000 word APPG report is the world’s most comprehensive about trophy hunting, and includes facts, figures plus case studies and testimonies of world experts. There were over 200,000 lions in the 1970s but there could be as few as 9,610 lions left in the world today. Trophy hunters shoot an animal every 3 minutes, and could kill up to 170 million this century. British trophy hunters have won prizes for single-handedly shooting over 100 different wild animals. Opinion polls show that 9 out of 10 British voters, conservationists, scientists, and African community groups back a ban.
The regulators – the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and the Financial Services Complaints Service (FSCS) – addressed MPs who have constituents that work, or have worked, for British Steel and have been affected by unsuitable advice provided by financial advisers regarding the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS). The regulators discussed the proposed BSPS compensation redress scheme which is out to consultation. MPs fed back their concerns to the regulators, and we have collected our views in a letter written to the FCA, signed by 27 cross-party MPs.
On Wednesday evening I attended another world premier documentary “Land of the Free: Out of the Shadows” about how trophy hunting is thwarting efforts to protect endangered wildlife. There are many celebrities who have been campaigning against trophy hunting for many years, and some took part in the film, for example Virginia McKenna of Born Free, Priscilla Presley, Peter Egan.
There were votes from 7pm on the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill at Committee Stage which was debated on the floor of the House. Labour voted against incorporation of Government New Clauses 18-25, losing by 273 to 205 votes. Labour voted amendment our 98 and lost by 175 to 271 votes. Labour voted for amendment 97 and lost by 191 to 271 votes.