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We must break our dependence on hostile foreign governments

Households across the country are reeling from the monumental April energy price cap rise. As of April. the average family must now find an extra £700 per year to cover rocketing energy costs, a crippling rise which the Bank of England say is the single biggest shock since the 1970s.

Add to that increasing fuel and food costs, and the Chancellor’s hike to National Insurance, the bottom line is that even more families are going to have to choose between heating their homes or eating, all when energy companies are posting record profits.

Russia’s armed forces are attacking peaceful Ukrainian villages, towns and cities with missiles and bombs which are killing innocent civilians, including children. As I said to the Prime Minister during recent questions, the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Putin continues to appal most of the world and shames the rest.

And while Britain plays its part in supporting Ukraine against Putin’s invasion, the situation has also shed a stark light on our economic reliance on energy and investment from hostile foreign governments. It is a dependence we need to break.

As a Member of Parliament, my first duty is to ensure the safety and security of our nation and its people. Ensuring that we have proper control of our own energy and infrastructure – the very things we need to keep our country running – is a fundamental issue of national security.

That is why I called on the Prime Minister to double our production targets for domestically produced hydrogen to reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and improve our energy resilience.

The Prime Minister agreed with me when he said “that’s exactly what we should be doing”. However, these words must be followed by government action to ensure our energy infrastructure and so much more is secure.

Closer to home, I have presented my bill to Parliament to tackle the anti-social use of quads by giving police the powers they need to be able to track, seize and destroy illegally used quads, and to make wearing of helmets a legal requirement. I will be meeting with ministers in the coming weeks as I continue to push the government to change the law. I have also called for a wider debate to properly discuss the issue. As we move into summer, nuisance quads will become more of a problem as the days get longer and the weather improves.

This will also be our first summer in several years where we can properly enjoy outdoor festivals and concerts. These events were a growing industry before the pandemic and will doubtless be hugely popular now restrictions have ended. However, I am deeply concerned by the sheer scale of under reported spiking at these events and the lack of focus on tackling these terrible crimes.

More disturbingly, the support offered to victims of spiking, who are predominately women and young girls, is often inadequate. Medical tents focus on life-saving care and offer no continuity of care or proper safeguarding, while security services are, frankly, often there to protect the venue, and not the festival-goers. On top of that, police recording of incidents at these events is patchy, with no central collection of crimes as part of official statistics.

Combine this with the fact that those under 18 are allowed to attend often overnight without adult supervision, in a place where they lack their usual support networks, creates a huge safeguarding blind spot that leaves them vulnerable to predatory behaviour.

This needs to change. I am working with West Yorkshire Police, government and other agencies to find a solution to further protect young people.

I believe an intervention is needed that requires festivals to have a robust safeguarding plan in place to deal with spiking and sexual assault before they are granted a license. There needs to be better security on these sites and improved staff training to recognise the signs of spiking, as well as specialist medical and support services that means young girls and women can receive continuing care. We also need effective national recording and tougher sentences for these vile crimes.

Finally, it is great news that Bradford has made it to the final four in the competition to be the UK’s City of Culture 2025. It is a spectacular opportunity to showcase the many brilliant, cultural exports that we know makes Bradford the ideal candidate to win this competition. I have always been outspoken in my belief that sport is one of Bradford’s greatest cultural assets, including the legendary Bradford Bulls in my own constituency.

That’s why I’m working with Bradford Council, the Bradford Bulls and others to pull together a levelling-up bid to Government that will put sport and Odsal at the heart of Bradford South’s regeneration plan.

What better way would there be to celebrate the sporting and cultural potential of Bradford than to become the UKs City of Culture in 2025?

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