by Southend West MP Anna Firth – Wins in Westminster!
GETTING back to Westminster always brings with it that ‘back to school’ feeling, and a chance to act on a national level upon the concerns of the local community brought to me over recess.
It has, as always, been a very busy and productive start, and I am absolutely delighted to have seen not one, but two, of my campaigns to make Southend safer a step closer to being written into law.
The first, of course, is the highly publicised toughening of measures surrounding Zombie knives.
Under the new measures, the importation, manufacture, possession and sale of all machetes and knives designed to look intimidating and threatening – known as zombie knives – will be illegal and punishable with up to 2 years in prison.
Fear of knife crime is the number one fear of Essex’s young people for the third year in a row, and this legislation, which also adds a specific new offence for people who supply knives to under-18s, will go a long way to keeping us all safe.
Additionally, new Government measures adding Nitrous Oxide to the Class C list will assist Southend Police to reduce anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime.
Initiatives such as Operation Union and Operation Community have seen an over 50% reduction in anti-social behaviour since this time last year, which is wonderful, and I look forward to continuing to assist with local police force on this. They do fantastic work in Southend, and I was pleased to attend their Open Day Event on September 9 of this year, which gave me and the local community a wonderful insight into their everyday activities.
I particularly enjoyed getting to test out new safety equipment and having a go behind the wheel of a police car.
You may also have seen that I have raised Kingsdown School in the Chamber, and that I have been heavily involved in guaranteeing our students’ safety in the face of RAAC.
Kingsdown’s status as a Special School meant that I brought the necessity of rapid remediation measures to the attention of Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education, in the Commons. I also called, in my capacity as a member of the Education Select Committee, for a dedicated meeting to scrutinise Government policy, its intersection with the School’s Rebuilding Programme and the delivery of acceptable remedial work.
I was delighted that the Schools Minister agreed to deliver all three of these objectives and that the meeting of the Select Committee will take place next week.
On a similar note, I was pleased to speak at the Lord’s Amendments to the Online Safety Bill on the September 12, raising the case of Archie Battersbee, who lived in Southend, in the Commons.
Archie, who tragically died last year aged only twelve, was found by his mother Hollie Dance after possibly attempting an online challenge, which led to a severe brain injury. Hollie has had this uncertainty lingering over her for the last year, unable to access Archie’s online activity beyond 90 days of his Internet search history.
The new Amendments to the Bill, which will see Ofcom allowed to access a child’s online data in cases such as this, will provide a small pocket of peace to bereaved parents and go a long way towards protecting our children in the face of this rapidly changing digital world.
Of course, much of my week remains in Southend, and it has been a busy fortnight. Among other constituency events such as the incredible City Jam, I welcomed Minister of State for International Trade, Nigel Huddleston, to Essex Scientific Laboratory Supplies (ESSLAB) in Southend for a Trade Summit, hosted alongside Sir James Duddridge MP and the Essex Chamber of Commerce.
Over 16 businesses attended, and a substantial and productive discussion was had as to what Essex businesses need to see from the Government. Given that the Thames Estuary, on which Southend sits, is the UK’s number one growth area, with the potential to create 1.3 million jobs and add £190 billion to the nation’s economy by 2050, I was particularly keen to welcome Nigel, and look forward to continuing to work closely with Southend businesses and the Essex Chamber of Commerce, as well as with Nigel and the Secretary of State for Business, Kemi Badenoch, over the ongoing weeks and months.
There is much to look forward to as the House begins to sit again after Conference Recess, and I very much hope that the next few weeks bring as much success as these ones have.
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