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The full extent of the Windrush scandal is slowly coming to light. On Saturday 28 April I held a public meeting for those affected, and the stories I heard were truly shocking.

Some people have been denied passports, missing out on family events including close relatives’ funerals. Others have lost jobs, been denied access to pensions, had problems with landlords or had problems accessing healthcare. I was particularly struck by the level of distress this is causing elderly people who have contributed to this country for most of their lives and should never have been put in this situation.

Around 30 people came to the event in my constituency of Bristol West, more than half of them with cases which I will be working to resolve with my caseworkers. This was the first such meeting was held by an MP with several Home Office officials in attendance, giving people advice to help people resolve their immigration issues as quickly as possible.

The good news is that for many of these people, it looks like the situation will be quickly resolved, although the promise of sorting it out within two weeks has already been broken.

I will continue to hold the Government to account in Westminster and help people resolve individual problems in my constituency. Part of this work is helping constituents find help – last week I gave several interviews on this, including BBC Radio Bristol, Ujima and the Bristol Post.

How to get help

If you are concerned that you, or a family member, may be affected, and you live in Bristol West, I can help resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Please get in touch on 0117 3790981 or email Thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk

If you need more information, latest information is available on the their website. You can also contact the Home Office directly, on their free helpline (0800 678 1925) or by email (commonwealthtaskforce@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk). The helpline is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Windrush public meeting reveals shocking stories of lives turned upside down

The full extent of the Windrush scandal is slowly coming to light. On Saturday 28 April I held a public meeting for those affected, and the stories I heard were...

Nurses carry out extremely demanding and emotionally difficult work, often for modest wages. So it seems particularly unfair that some nurses may leave their training with tens of thousands of pounds of debt.

Last week I met a nurse living in Bristol who highlighted to me one of the ways the Government is worsening the crisis in the NHS and making life harder for nurses.

The Government has already replaced the NHS bursary for everyday living costs and fees for undergraduate students with loans, which has led to a dramatic drop in the number of people to training to be a nurse. In addition to this, the Government are now proposing to remove the bursary for post graduate students from this September.

My constituent Michael Lawton recently completed a post-graduate course in nursing. He received a bursary to cover the £9,000 fees. He continued to work part-time to cover his living costs, while completing an extremely demanding course, involving more than 2,500 hours of clinical practice. 

Michael was very concerned that postgraduate students entering nursing from this September may be saddled with many tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt, up to a £100,000 in some cases. This is a crippling level of debt to repay on a nurse’s wage.

He told me, “without this bursary the post graduate route would not have been an option for me or my peers and sadly my dream of becoming a nurse would have remained just a dream. Even with the bursary, it was hard, but without it, doing training as a nurse would have been impossible.”

Postgraduate programmes attract students from a variety of backgrounds. The NHS needs nurses with a variety of skills other than nursing and the post graduate routes provide this.

And this is becoming ever more pressing. There are over 40,000 nursing vacancies currently within the United Kingdom. Figures published today show the number of nurses from EU countries leaving the UK has risen by 28% over the last year. Our exit from the EU and an aging population also look set to add to the staffing crisis. Removing this bursary will only worsen the situation.

I urge the government to reinstate bursaries for nurses’ training, and not remove the bursary for postgraduate. The good news is that some of my Labour colleagues are trying to fight this using a rarely-used mechanism known as ‘praying against’ regulations. I will be supporting this.

I believe we should be supporting nurses like Michael, who do an amazing job in very tough circumstances.

Why is the Government punishing nurses?

Nurses carry out extremely demanding and emotionally difficult work, often for modest wages. So it seems particularly unfair that some nurses may leave their training with tens of thousands of...

Bristol has been a crucible for music acts that are respected the world over: from Massive Attack to Portishead; from Roni Size & Reprazent to Kosheen. And key to that success are the live music venues – of all sizes – catering to all genres of music acting as a proving ground for talented and creative musicians to learn their trade and entertain generations of Bristolians. This in turn has made Bristol a destination for music fans, and our thriving nightlife attracts thousands of new people to the city every year.

But with this popularity comes challenges. As more people move to the city, there’s more pressure on housing – which can lead to music venues being made unviable due to the density of surrounding developments. Factor in rising business rates, and difficulties attracting funding and subsidies to support grassroots music, and music venues face a touch future in an area of rising costs and uncertain demand.

That’s why Kerry McCarthy MP and I convened a meeting today to bring together music venue owners in Bristol, campaigners looking to secure the future of the city’s night time economy, and key music industry bodies to discuss how we could help live music in Bristol to thrive. We were joined by owners of venues across Bristol and had Annie McGann from Save Bristol Nightlife, Mark Davyd from the Music Venue Trust, Paul Gray and Dave Webster from the Musicians Union, and Tom Kiehl from UK Music on our panel.

The debate we had was wide-ranging. We celebrated the fact the government have accepted the Agent of Change principle for planning (ensuring responsibility for soundproofing is placed on any developers who build homes near new properties). But it was acknowledged that government guidance has to make the responsibilities on planning authorities to uphold this principle unambiguous. It was also suggested that similar principles need to be applied in licensing and enforcement. We also heard many people testifying for the need for state funding for the arts to go to popular music venues and not just those who cater for classical audiences.

But one of the key themes that emerged from the discussion was how to ensure Bristol’s live music venues have a voice and representation in discussions surrounding the city’s evolution. Many venue owners commented that keeping their business afloat was more than a full-time effort, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of nearby planning applications, and attend meetings about Bristol’s future development plans. We identified the need for an independent representative who could be a voice for Bristol’s live music scene (in all its variety and diversity!) who could also inform venues of concerns or proposals that affect their future.

There's lots we can all do to support live music in Bristol. Like Save Bristol Nightlife on Facebook. Join your local resident's association and stand up for venues near you that you support. Let your local councillors know you value live music in our city. And make sure you visit and support the many venues we have across the city!

If you're a music venue owner in Bristol, make sure you contribute to the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that the Agent of Change principle is enshrined in government guidance. In particular question 35 of the consultation is your opportunity to comment on the government's proposals to incorporate the principle into planning guidelines for local authorities.

Kerry and I will also be following up on what we learned from the discussion. We will be contacting PRS to encourage them to develop a system for royalties and fees that works for performers, writers and music venues. We'll continue to support the Agent of Change bill in Parliament. We will apply parliamentary pressure to the government to encourage them to support music education, the rights of musicians and the future of music venues. And we will be talking to organisations that could fund a post to represent live music venues in the city, and we will work with the Music Venues Trust to set this up.

I extend my thanks to all the panellists who took the time to join us, and I especially pay tribute to the venue owners who made it for 10:30am for a Friday morning after clearing up after last night’s gigs! 

Bringing Bristol's live music venues together

Bristol has been a crucible for music acts that are respected the world over: from Massive Attack to Portishead; from Roni Size & Reprazent to Kosheen. And key to that...

Thangam Debbonaire became Member of Parliament for the Bristol West constituency in May 2015 and was re-elected at the General Election on 8 June 2017 with an increased majority of 37,366. 

You can contact Thangam by email on thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk

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