Politics has often been very grim over the past few years. So, in common with the whole country, MPs were thrilled and delighted at the news that Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori have arrived home in the UK, having finally been released from detention in Iran. I know many of my constituents have followed their plight closely, and I have been privileged to meet Richard Ratcliffe on a couple of occasions to pass on the good wishes of people in Stretford and Urmston. Their release is a huge credit to all the politicians and officials involved, especially Nazanin's and Anoosheh's MPs, my colleagues Tulip Siddiq and Janet Daby, but it has taken a painfully long time for the families to be reunited. The Foreign Secretary told parliament she would not tolerate cases of any British national being arbitrarily detained, anywhere, and MPs will be holding the government to that promise.
Meanwhile, we continue to receive appalling news from Ukraine. The UK government has announced its Homes for Ukraine scheme, which enables people in the UK to offer Ukrainian refugees accommodation in their home for at least 6 months. Again, this is something constituents have told me they'd like to do, and I pay tribute to their generosity.
It's been an interesting week on the Public Accounts Committee, with hearings on the restoration and renewal of parliament on Monday, and on the child maintenance service later in the week. Despite the urgent and desperate need for a very significant programme to restore and repair the fabric of the Houses of Parliament, work has stalled - thanks in part, it seems to me, to political interference. This is unforgivable - Parliament doesn't belong to those of us who happen to sit there now - as a UNESCO world heritage site, we have a responsibility to preserve it for the whole country and for future generations. The hearing was unsurprisingly acrimonious, as we learned that there are still no decisions about how to move forward, despite the extent and the cost of the delay.
In common with every MP in the country, I deal with many complaints from constituents about the child maintenance service, and so I took a very active part in the hearing on its performance on Wednesday, leading off with questions on why so few separated families receive any child maintenance at all, and why the CMS is so lax about enforcing payment.
The committee will be publishing reports on our findings on both these topics in the coming weeks.
I was so pleased to join Trafford Domestic Abuse Services (TDAS) at their afternoon tea fundraiser last week. I am a huge admirer of their vital work, and was glad to be able to support their efforts to raise money for their Reach project, which helps some of the most vulnerable young victims of domestic abuse in Trafford. It was a lovely afternoon (thanks for the delicious cakes and sandwiches), but most important to everyone there was to be able to support such a worthwhile cause.