Rob Bates Political and Parliamentary Officer 5th August 2020 Blog Westminster Share Tweet Earlier this year following Parliament’s enforced absence, the Chair of the Co-op Parliamentary Group, Jim McMahon, wrote about the work Co-op Parliamentarians had been doing in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak and ensuing lockdown to help address these issues. Since Parliament has returned, they have continued to play a vitally active role. Efforts to give greater support to retail workers have continued, particularly amid a huge spike in incidents of violence and abuse directed towards them during the initial lockdown and as non-essential shops re-opened. Following the introduction of his Bill to provide extra protection for shopworkers, Alex Norris MP has now raised the issue with the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, and the Leader of the House, successfully pressing them to finally publish a response to their consultation on retail worker violence. Another issue that could have put greater strain on already pressured retail workers was the Government’s proposals to deregulate Sunday trading laws. Alongside co-operative societies and trade unions it was the efforts of Lucy Powell MP and other Co-op Parliamentarians that ensured these plans were dropped, as the economic case for the change was not made, nor due consideration given to the impact it may have had on retailers, The impact of the outbreak on the funeral care sector and people’s ability to properly grieve has also been a focus of the Co-op Parliamentary Group. Jonathan Reynolds MP has raised concerns over the increase in demand for financial support for funeral affordability with the DWP, and called for a widening of eligibility for existing provisions to reduce the risk of debt for those sadly requiring an unexpected and unplanned funeral. Similarly, Seema Malhotra MP has outlined the Party’s call for a ‘Roadmap to Dignity in Bereavement’, pressing the Government to act now to prevent a potential grief epidemic in future. Preet Kaur Gill MP has led the calls in Parliament against the Government’s decision to merge DFID into the FCO, outlining the importance of a department dedicated to tackling global poverty. Other Co-op MPs including Kate Osamor, Barry Sheerman, Meg Hillier, James Murray and Sir Mark Hendrick have also echoed the Party’s calls for the decision to be reversed. A letter signed by 21 Co-op Parliamentarians has called on Nestle to reconsider the move away from Fairtrade suppliers for KitKat bars, which could cost 27,000 producers in vulnerable communities around the world nearly £2m a year – an issue raised in the House of Commons by Geraint Davies MP. So many other issues affecting the co-operative movement have also been addressed in Parliament. Jim McMahon MP flagged concerns over changes to businesses governance being made by the Government, and helped ensure the changes brought forward in legislation applied equally to co-ops. Alongside Florence Eshalomi MP, Jim also raised the movement’s commitment to providing free school meals for children over the summer holidays, whilst Florence further reiterated our commitment to tackling the entrenched inequality exposed by Covid-19. Whether identifying challenges to the co-operative movement or offering co-operative solutions, Co-op Parliamentarians have been quick off the mark to address so many of the issues that have resulted from the Covid-19 outbreak. The Co-op Parliamentary Group has played a prominent and active role in our response to the current crisis in the time since Parliament’s enforced absence, and that work will continue in earnest over the summer.