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If you live in my part of Bristol, you will probably have heard about the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls. Starting years ago as a mates’ football kick-around, this Sunday league team has grown to a sports club with a difference – it’s the way they do it.

Now including football, netball and cricket, with their own pub HQ (The Plough), the Cowboys are a campaigning force to be reckoned with, as well as a social club and much more. They are internationalist in focus, as well as local – the Easton Cowgirls, for instance, toured the Occupied Palestinian Territories a few years back, playing women-only teams. The club has played a leading role in world anti-racism cup, the alternative World Cup and many missions of peace and understanding through football – to Mexico, to Palestine and across Europe as well as the UK.

As a new MP, I was contacted by some of the Cowboys as they had been befriending and supporting a young man who was at risk of deportation back to a country where he would have faced violence because of his sexuality – my office was able to help get the deportation stopped, but it was the Cowboys who supported him, helped welcome him to the city and campaigned for him.

My nephew and several friends play with the Cowboys, so I guess I am a bit partial – so apologies to all other Sunday league teams! But I wanted to highlight the value of football as a social activity which brings people together across the world, as well as the campaigning zeal of this Easton institution. They demonstrate everything which is great about Bristol.

Featured on TV programmes and in the social life of East Bristol, they are an infamous bunch, who bring joy to many via the hook of sport.

After I spoke in the Chamber, I went up to the Hansard clerks – who type up every single word we say every day (poor them!) for the official record – to make sure they spelled the name Easton not Eastern, and even the Hansard clerk there said ‘no, it’s fine, I know who they are!’

So, at this time of the official World Cup (and good luck England for Tuesday!) I salute all amateur sports clubs, but I’m particularly proud to be able to put on the official Hansard record for the House of Commons my celebration of the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls.  I love you guys!

 

Speaking in Parliament about the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls

If you live in my part of Bristol, you will probably have heard about the Easton Cowboys and Cowgirls. Starting years ago as a mates’ football kick-around, this Sunday league...

This week European Union leaders will meet to discuss migration policy. This is an opportunity to prevent some of the dangerous journeys which have taken the lives of hundreds of refugees over the last few years.

The EU must create a safe and legal route for refugees. As part of this effort, the EU could set up facilities to process resettlement applications in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. These countries are under huge strain, accommodating millions of people in overstretched and often dangerous refugee camps. In this situation, it is not surprising that people risk perilous journeys in boats or lorries in search of a better life in Europe.

The EU needs to take shared responsibility for refugees. What is the EU for, if not to share responsibility for the most vulnerable people? And Brexit does not mean that the UK can drop this responsibility. After the UK leaves the EU, it should continue to cooperate closely on refugee policy.

We are living through a global refugee crisis, which will not be solved by closing borders or building walls.

The EU, and the UK, must share responsibility for refugee safety

This week European Union leaders will meet to discuss migration policy. This is an opportunity to prevent some of the dangerous journeys which have taken the lives of hundreds of...

Everyone, just about, loves the National Health Service.

I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from Bristol West constituents on the NHS and many, many, conversations on the same topic.

Of all these interactions, no-one has ever asked me to ask the government to spend less on the NHS. In fact, most suggest the country should spend more. I agree.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt recently announced extra funds for the NHS. This is good news. Independent organisations such as the King’s Fund and the National Audit Office as well as influential policy makers from across all parties have said the NHS needs more money.

So why am I not thrilled by the announcement?

Firstly, it falls short of what the NHS needs. The Health Foundation, a recognised authority on NHS finance, has said that this is “simply not enough.” The 3.4% increase is little more than the 3.3% increase the NHS needs to maintain current levels, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Secondly, much of this funding is just reinstating some of the cuts made during eight years of successive Tory and Tory-led governments. Over this period, health workers have repeatedly been asked to do more for less, and while increasing efficiency is positive, health staff tell me they can cut no further without risking patients.

And the NHS is affected by cuts to other departments too. Cuts to local government funding have slashed social care provision by £7 billion. This means some people are unable to leave hospital, even when they are ready, as they need help at home. This delays others in receiving the treatment they need.

A failure to prioritise public health more broadly has other negative consequences for NHS budgets. Cuts to sexual health services lead to increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, for example. Failure to implement a sugar tax or minimum alcohol unit pricing has an impact on levels of obesity. All this puts the NHS under even more strain.

This situation means morale in the NHS is often low, leading to staffing shortages. There are chronic shortages in certain areas, such as radiology. A large number of GPs are taking early retirement while an insufficient number of doctors are entering general practice to replace them. In turn, this means hospitals and other providers are forced to buy in expensive agency staff and locums, to the tune of £3 billion per year – another hit to the NHS budget.

The Tory programme of cuts was leading to disaster, something which has been evident for some time. Waiting lists have gone up to 4 million and 26,000 cancer patients had to wait more than 60 days for treatment. In January 2017, the NHS was so underfunded it caused a “humanitarian crisis” according to the Red Cross.

Many of these stories are human tragedies too, no doubt resulting in avoidable complications, illnesses and deaths. The announcement of more funding for the NHS is long overdue, but the Government should not be congratulated for getting us into this mess in the first place.

NHS funding announcement is a sticking plaster after years of savage cuts

Everyone, just about, loves the National Health Service. I’ve had hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from Bristol West constituents on the NHS and many, many, conversations on the same...

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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