News

As a Breast Cancer Now Ambassador, I was proud to dress in pink today (Friday 20 October) to lend my support the charity’s flagship fundraiser, Wear it Pink.

I know thousands of other people across the UK, including my office staff and many fellow MPs, also added a splash of pink to their outfits to show their support for all the women and men affected by breast cancer each year.

The event, taking place during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is now in its 16th year and has raised over £30 million to date for Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. One in eight women will face it in their lifetime, and every year around 11,500 women and 80 men lose their lives to the disease. Over the years this event has shown itself to be a fun and easy way to raise funds Breast Cancer Now’s vital research, and help stop breast cancer taking the lives of those we love.

 


More information about Breast Cancer Now:

  • Breast Cancer Now is the UK’s largest breast cancer charity.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s ambition is that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live. The charity is determined to stop women dying from the disease, working in a new, collaborative way and bringing together all those affected by breast cancer to fund research, share knowledge and find answers.
  • Breast Cancer Now’s world-class research is focused entirely on breast cancer. The charity supports nearly 400 of the world’s brightest researchers at more than 30 locations across the UK and Ireland. Together, they’re working to discover how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it effectively at every stage so we can stop the disease taking lives.
  • Breast cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK. Nearly 700,000 people living in the UK have experienced a diagnosis and one in eight women will face it in their lifetime. This year alone, more than 50,000 women will be told they have the disease.
  • The UK still has one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe and this year alone around 11,500 women and 80 men will lose their lives. It’s time to act.
  • Breast Cancer Now launched in June 2015, created by the merger of leading research charities Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
  • For more information on Breast Cancer Now’s work, visit breastcancernow.org

In the pink for breast cancer fundraiser

As a Breast Cancer Now Ambassador, I was proud to dress in pink today (Friday 20 October) to lend my support the charity’s flagship fundraiser, Wear it Pink. I know thousands of other...

I am horrified at the death and destruction caused by a bombing attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday. At least 276 people have lost their lives and many more have been injured.

Terrorist atrocities like this are an affront to ongoing efforts to secure peace in Somalia. I of course hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice but, more immediately, I know many in Bristol's Somali community have lost family members and friends in this attack - and that many are still waiting for news of their loved ones.

If you live in Bristol West and if there is any assistance that my team or I can offer, please do not hesitate to get in touch: http://www.debbonaire.co.uk/casework_mp.

Terror attack in Somalia

I am horrified at the death and destruction caused by a bombing attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday. At least 276 people have lost their lives and many...

At the Labour Party Conference I tested my taxi-hailing skills in a football-themed game with Guide Dogs. While trying to get a taxi to take guide dog owner Jacqueline to her local football match, I heard about the real problems assistance dog owners face when being illegally refused by taxis and minicabs.

Let’s just say my performance didn’t quite get me into the top ten on the leaderboard.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi or minicab driver to refuse to take an assistance dog or to charge extra for carrying it. But Guide Dogs research found that 42 per cent of assistance dog owners have been turned away by a taxi or minicab in a one-year period because of their dog. The research also revealed that 38 per cent of assistance dog owners have been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

Imagine being turned away by a taxi driver for no good reason. This can clearly undermine the independence guide dogs bring to their owners and stops them doing the everyday things that most people take for granted – going to a café, meeting friends, going to the doctor’s or to their local football match.

That’s why I’m supporting Guide Dogs’ call for all taxi and minicab drivers to receive disability equality training so they understand the rights and needs of disabled passengers and feel confident to offer assistance. This campaign is supported by more than 30 organisations, including trade bodies, local government representatives and disability groups.

I’ve also arranged with Guide Dogs to do a blindfolded walk in Bristol next month. I’ll let you know how I get on.

 


Further information about the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association provides independence and freedom to thousands of blind and partially sighted people across the UK through the provision of guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services. It campaigns for the rights of those with visual impairments. Guide Dogs is working towards a society in which blind and partially sighted people enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

Guide dogs and taxi refusals

At the Labour Party Conference I tested my taxi-hailing skills in a football-themed game with Guide Dogs. While trying to get a taxi to take guide dog owner Jacqueline to...

I have written previously on this website about autism awareness and about tackling the autism employment gap. Making Bristol an autism-friendly city has been one of my priorities since I was first elected in 2015, and one my whole team is committed to.

Constituents tell me that many autistic people in Bristol, and their families, encounter barriers in accessing public services, receiving support in education and in finding employment. So recently I held a constituency surgery specifically for autistic residents.

The appointments allowed people to raise specific issues and gave me a better understanding of what’s important to autistic constituents, and how to set about resolving any problems. I want to help create the changes that could transform the lives of those on the autism spectrum, and I hope other MPs and politicians will hold similar events.

Thanks to Henry Barnes from National Autistic Society (NAS) for organisation and Ian Ensum from Bristol Autism Support Service (BASS) for hosting. BASS and NAS have both helped train me and my team on autism awareness and keep us well informed.

I was really pleased to see coverage of the surgery in the i newspaper. Here’s the full text of the story, as it appeared on 19 September: 


Thangam Debbonaire holds ‘UK’s first MP surgery’ for people on the autism spectrum

by Serina Sandhu

A Bristol MP has held what is thought to be the UK’s first constituency surgery specifically for people on the autism spectrum and for parents of children with autism. Thangham Debbonaire, the Labour MP for Bristol West, met with her constituents to find out their specific needs and the barriers they face in accessing services and receiving support, in the hope of making the city more autism-friendly. Many people brought up issues that Ms Debbonaire usually hears during her surgery. “But it was all through the prism of what it’s like for me as a person on the autism spectrum,” she tells i.

Changing employment practices

“People on the autism spectrum have very high rates of unemployment. The graduate unemployment rate is much higher than the rate for other disabled people. There [are] all sorts of things an MP can do to try and change that.

“I changed my own employment practices. I altered the job descriptions to be more accessible for someone on the autism spectrum. There is someone in my office who is and it works extremely well.”

Ms Debbonaire says she believes that many adults with autism are being excluded from mainstream services due to a lack of understanding and awareness.

“If you meet somebody who may be having difficulty maintaining eye contact with you, your first response, if you’re not autism aware, might be: ‘This person is really shifty, I don’t trust them.’ When you become autism-aware, my first response is: ‘It’s possible this person is on the autism spectrum. I just need to lower my expectations about them maintaining eye contact.'”

Since the constituency surgery, which took place on Friday 15 September, Ms Debbonaire says she has already spoken to businesses about being more autism-aware and that she will be dealing with individual problems that her constituents raised.

Her surgery has also encouraged her fellow Bristol MPs to hold similar meetings and Ms Debbonaire hopes MPs across the country will follow suit after they realise that people with autism may be unintentionally excluded from their surgeries.

Making Bristol an autism-friendly city

Her long-term vision is to make Bristol a thoroughly autism-friendly city.

“That’s my goal. It’s very personal but it’s one as a team we believe in really, really strongly.”

It may even benefit neurotypical people (who are not on the autistic spectrum), adds Ms Debbonaire.  “For instance I’m not on the autism spectrum but when I watched a video of a little child having difficulties in the shopping centre – very busy, lots of bright lights, lots of noise, lots of confusing information, sensory overload – I was thinking: ‘Yeah, I’ve had that feeling.’ I think quite a lot of people have that feeling in shopping centres.

“If we could convince city planners, from people who plan cities to people who plan their own small shop, dance class or museum to think about how to make sure that people don’t get sensory overload, it not only becomes more accessible to adult with autism, it becomes more accessible to a child with autism. But also the spin-off benefits are that the rest of us don’t have sensory overload either.”

You can read the story online here in the i newspaper.

There was also good coverage on Bristol 24/7

 

First MP surgery for people on the autism spectrum

I have written previously on this website about autism awareness and about tackling the autism employment gap. Making Bristol an autism-friendly city has been one of my priorities since I...

Today in parliament (Monday 11 September 2017), we will be debating and voting on the second reading of the European Union Withdrawal Bill. This is one stage in the bill's process through parliament. There will be further stages, and opportunities to debate and amend the bill, this autumn.

I regularly consult residents of Bristol West. Four out of five of them voted to remain in the European Union last June. Four out of five of them continue to tell me that they believe that the best relationship for the UK to have with Europe is full membership of the European Union (EU). I agree with them.

Full membership of the EU is best for jobs, for workers' rights, for environmental protection and for our place in the world.

If, reluctantly, we are to accept leaving the EU, I want us to keep full membership of the Single European Market and Customs Union for as long as possible and keep both on the negotiating table for our future relationship with the EU. You can read more about what these terms mean here (see especially Annexe 2, p.25).

It's important to note that membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union help maintain free movement of goods, services, labour and capital; reduce trade barriers, and maintain consumer rights. They also help our universities by keeping us in the Horizon 2020 and ERASMUS schemes. Other countries such as Norway are outside the EU but are part of the Single Market, for instance.

I believe it is best for my country and my constituents that we have as close a relationship with the EU as possible.

This government is recklessly throwing away all of the best possible options. Labour wants to keep them on the negotiating table. With this bill, the government is giving itself sweeping powers to make huge changes, virtually unchecked by parliament. They have also failed to protect environmental standards. This is worrying, because the only protection we have from air pollution for example, currently derives from EU rules and the government had to be taken to court to stick to them.

I voted against triggering Article 50 because the government had shown itself to be singularly ill-equipped to start the process of leaving the EU. I will be voting against the bill tonight because I believe this is the best way of making the government reconsider their strategy.

There is a long way to go in this process so I need your views and thoughts. I will continue to hold regular EU meetings, consult you through surveys, listen to your views in person and through my inbox.

Please do complete this short survey and add in anything you think I need to know or any questions you have. 

The EU Withdrawal Bill

Today in parliament (Monday 11 September 2017), we will be debating and voting on the second reading of the European Union Withdrawal Bill. This is one stage in the bill's...

In this week's 'Brexit questions' session I asked the government how they were going to ensure that collaborations between University of Bristol and UWE Bristol and other EU universities are protected in any future relationship we might negotiate with the European Union.

If this is an issue which concerns you, and you live in Bristol West, please complete my latest Brexit survey, to tell me what you value about our current membership with the EU, what you'd like to change, and what kind of relationship you want us to have. https://goo.gl/forms/YQocY2lYbG7wyhyO2

Brexit, universities and a survey

In this week's 'Brexit questions' session I asked the government how they were going to ensure that collaborations between University of Bristol and UWE Bristol and other EU universities are protected in any...

One of the things I’m most proud about as your representative in Parliament is how strongly you feel about the environment. One of my jobs as Opposition Whip for the Shadow Environment team is to help challenge the government to honour international agreements on climate change and environmental protections. I’m regularly inspired by your questions, your campaigning, your activism. Many of you have written to me, for example, about your concerns about climate change, about species decline, or about air pollution, and you often link the different problems with solutions which could help with all of them. Here are two ways I’m working to do my bit!

Many of you have urged me to do as much as possible to protect bumblebees, as the populations of most species are declining dramatically. I’m proud to say I’ve now become the species champion for the Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus Sylvarum), working closely with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and other wildlife organisations. The Shrill Carder Bee was common a century ago throughout the UK but it’s now confined to just a few areas in the South West, South Wales and the South East and risks becoming extinct.

Bumblebees are great pollinators and have a key role in producing much of our food; they also pollinate wildflowers that are the basis of complex food chains, feeding other wildlife. Declining populations will therefore affect our ability to grow crops, and generally undermine our whole ecosystem. So, expect to hear a lot about the Shrill Carder Bee from me over the coming years! You can find out more about the work of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust on their website: www.bumblebeeconservation.org

We also need to produce clean energy to start combating climate change. We have considerable expertise in this area right here in Bristol. I’ve recently met with local firms who are doing pioneering work to help harness tidal energy. And I’ve visited a test tidal turbine complex at Den Oever in the Netherlands to find out how the technology works and what challenges the industry faces.

Our region has considerable potential to develop this green technology. The Severn Barrage and Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon are two ideas that could provide a clean alternative in our energy supply. But they would need investment and government support to make tidal energy a viable source of power, and to care for the delicate ecosystems where they would be built.

I’ll continue to stand up for our environment in Parliament, and I hope you’ll continue sending me your questions and your ideas to help me do that.

 

(Article first published in the Bishopston Voice, September 2017)

 Photo by Dave Watson

Bees and barrages

One of the things I’m most proud about as your representative in Parliament is how strongly you feel about the environment. One of my jobs as Opposition Whip for the...

Yesterday (Tuesday) the police reported that a woman died from serious stab injuries in the early hours of that morning, in Ludlow Close in St Paul's, Bristol. 

My first thoughts are of the woman, and of her family and friends, and how they must be feeling. I send them my condolences and sympathies for this dreadful incident.

Avon and Somerset Police launched a murder investigation and have briefed me by phone regularly.

Two people have been arrested and, at the time of writing, neither has been charged. 

The police have been open with the public about their prior involvement in this case. They have referred this incident to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is standard procedure in such circumstances.

The IPCC will be viewing the footage from the body-worn cameras (BWC) which cover all the interactions between the police and the individuals involved. They will then decide if an independent investigation is needed.

I am pleased that the public have responded very positively to this horrific incident. I urge anyone with any information to come forward and contact the police on 101 and quote log number 5217191693.

Please do not make any public allegations, including on social media, or comment on the specific allegations, as this may jeopardise a future prosecution. 

Avon and Somerset Police will post any updates about the murder investigation on their website

----

An update from Avon and Somerset Police (24/08/17)

A 27-year-old woman who died following an incident in the St Paul’s area of Bristol has been formally identified.

Asiyah Harris died at a property in Ludlow Close in the early hours of Monday (21 August).

A forensic post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of death as stab injuries.

Senior Investigating Officer Det Ch Insp Gary Haskins said: “We’re continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding Asiyah’s death and our thoughts are very much with her family at this distressing time.

“They are being fully supported by a trained family liaison officer who will keep them updated on the progress of our investigation.

“We understand this is also a concerning time for the local community so neighbourhood officers will continue to provide reassurance through additional patrols over the coming days.

“A 37-year-old man remains in custody for questioning after we successfully obtained a warrant of further detention. A 27-year-old woman has been released under investigation.

"If you have any information about this incident and haven’t yet spoken to us, please call 101 and give the call handler the reference number 5217191693.”

Statement on the death of a woman in St Paul's on Monday 21 August 2017

Yesterday (Tuesday) the police reported that a woman died from serious stab injuries in the early hours of that morning, in Ludlow Close in St Paul's, Bristol.  My first thoughts are of the...

Last night, adding yet another success to a great summer for women’s sport, England women’s team secured a Rugby World Cup semi-final place after overpowering USA.

So my piece in today’s Bristol Post is a timely one. I’ll reproduce it here, for those unable to get hold of the local paper.


If you could take a magic potion to slash your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and improve your mental health, appearance and confidence, you’d take it, wouldn’t you? Well, that potion is sport and exercise.

I never did it. At school, I saw PE lessons as a burden. I loved gym club till puberty hit and those nylon leotards made me want to hide. As an adult, I was baffled that anyone would want to run around a field with a ball or stick. I’ve always liked watching cricket – tea and cake are properly timetabled in, and as a person of Indian origin it’s practically the law. And how wonderful it was to see our women’s cricket team playing here in Bristol this summer and going on to win the World Cup. But run around in trainers myself? No!

That is, until the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign came along to inspire women and girls to get into sport. It coincided with me attending a course for women with breast cancer. As I sat with 49 other women at Southmead Hospital the message of ‘This Girl Can’ really kicked in. Adding two extra hours of moderate to vigorous activity to my week could make a big difference to whether or not we’d get cancer again. That did it.

So I went for a run with my sister-in-law. And learnt about happy hormones! Who knew? She did! As do Women in Sport, a fantastic organisation bringing women and girls into sport at all levels. Their research shows women do less sport than men - we’re losing out on the benefits. Just 150 minutes per week – or half an hour five days per week – will make a huge difference. It's especially effective if you start between the ages of 14 and 21, but it’s never too late.

Since that first one, I’m now at three weekly runs; I took part in my first 5k race – the Race for Life on the Downs, in a time I never thought I would do (38 minutes); I walked the 14 miles Gower Coast MacMarathon in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care last September, which gave me a real boost after a year of cancer treatment and raised money for Macmillan. This September I’m doing their 22-mile walk – wish me luck! If you want to sponsor me, you can find my fundraising page on my website.

A recent inspiring visit to meet women involved in Empire Fighting Chance and Bristol Boxing in Easton convinced me I can add in a weekly exercise class. And let’s all take inspiration from a fabulous summer of women’s sport – with great team performances in cricket, football, rugby and athletics. 

Getting more exercise might not mean champion times, or a perfectly toned set of abs, but it might, and it will definitely make your life better! Why not join me?

Letting sport and exercise work their magic

Last night, adding yet another success to a great summer for women’s sport, England women’s team secured a Rugby World Cup semi-final place after overpowering USA. So my piece in... Read more

On 9 September this year I will be doing a 22 mile walk of the Gower MacMarathon, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care.

Last year, I did this with my family and we raised nearly £1,500 for Macmillan. It also marked a return to health for me as we did it just a few months after I finished treatment for breast cancer.

Macmillan do excellent work supporting and improving the lives of the 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK today. I’m proud to be supporting this wonderful charity, who helped me so much when I was undergoing treatment.

If you’d like to sponsor me, please visit my justgiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thangam-debbonaire1

Walking the MacMarathon for Macmillan Cancer Care

On 9 September this year I will be doing a 22 mile walk of the Gower MacMarathon, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care. Last year, I did this with my...

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