More visitors to Parliament this week indicate Parliament is returning to business as usual. On Monday, I was very pleased to join the all party parliamentary group for British Sikhs at a reception to celebrate Anglo Sikh relations and the achievements of British Sikhs. The reception was held in the grand surroundings of the Speaker’s House, and I particularly enjoyed the performance by a group of Sikh musicians. It was a lovely event.
It was also good to welcome Alzheimers Research UK to Parliament to hear about their work on early diagnosis and treatment. Having experienced dementia in my own family, I know what a distressing disease this can be, and I am very glad to be able to support the charity.
It has been an anxious week for Conservative MPs, as the Prime Minister embarked on a major reshuffle of the cabinet and ministerial team. I am sure I speak for parents and teachers up and down the country in not feeling sorry to see the back of Gavin Williamson from the education department. As the reshuffle proceeded, I found myself on Thursday evening on the BBC Question Time panel alongside defence minister James Heappey. As we began to record, he had heard nothing from Downing Street, and wasn’t sure if he’d still be in his job by the end of the programme. Despite the encouragement of other panellists, he wasn’t at all reassured that the Conservative press office wouldn’t have sent him to do the show if he was about to be reshuffled – he and I both know politics doesn’t work like that! But as I write this morning, he does seem to have kept his job.
Of course, a reshuffle of the personnel doesn’t mean the government is any better than before, and their unfair and harmful policies remain unchanged. On Tuesday, the government rushed through the new social care levy, and on Wednesday, Conservative MPs voted for a £20 cut in universal credit. These measures will cause real hardship for families on low incomes, not least as we heard this week that inflation has risen above 3% for the first time in many years. It’s wrong that those on the lowest incomes should be hit the hardest when buy to let landlords and second home owners get away scot free. I recognise the need to increase tax to pay for social care, and to address the appalling backlog in the NHS, but these measures aren’t fair and they won’t work.