My week

There was a fantastic turnout for an event in Parliament hosted by my office to discuss women’s rights in Burma for International Women’s Day. Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, from the Burma UK campaign, shared her thoughts on the past, present and future for Women's Rights in the country, and how pressure from the international community is contributing to progress toward gender equality. Please sign up to my newsletter to hear about future events.

Earlier in the day I was able to join my colleague Rupa Huq, where she spoke about Bangladesh’s independence during a celebration in Parliament. It was fantastic to see so many people turning up to commemorate the 46th anniversary.

It was great to meet with MPs from New Zealand on Tuesday to foster closer ties and discuss how to improve policy, as I believe that as an MP our country should engage with others to learn from their experiences and exchange ideas. I also learned that it took over nine years for New Zealand to negotiate its trade agreement with China, which made me consider how long it will take for similar deals between the UK and other nations.

On Tuesday I was on frontbench duty where I pressed the government on democracy in Hong Kong. I asked the Foreign Minister: "According to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the ultimate aim is for the city to select a Chief Executive by universal suffrage, yet two days ago a new Chief Executive was chosen by a committee comprising 0.03% of Hong Kong’s registered voters. As we prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover, how can the House be confident that the Chinese Government are committed to progress towards genuinely democratic elections in Hong Kong?". 

I was in attendance at a parliamentary debate on schools funding in London on Wednesday morning. Some 70 per cent of London schools stand to lose significantly, so it was good to again be present in the Commons to press the government on its decision to implement a National Funding Formula.

Wednesday was another sad day in the process of leaving the EU as Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to the European Council confirming the decision and triggering Article 50. We now embark on the most important negotiations of our generation and Labour will hold the government to account every step of the way, as I wrote for the New Statesman last week. Labour will oppose any deal in the Commons vote if it does not deliver the “exact same benefits” that the UK has from the single market and customs union as it does now - as Brexit Secretary David Davies confirmed in January.

I did not come in to Parliament to make lives for disabled people more difficult, so, after an extended debate on Personal Independence Payments I made an intervention on behalf of constituents who have been through the extremely difficult situation of going through a tribunal when they are in pain. It is difficult for people in these situations to stand up for themselves in order to have their PIP reinstated. I asked the secretary of state to stop slashing public spending and degrading the lives of the sick, poor and disabled, given over two thirds of PIP judgements are getting overturned by courts in favour of claimants.

I was able to meet local residents when I was door knocking on Saturday in Highgate Ward, where there was a lot of support for Haringey Labour's campaign to stop more cuts to our local schools. I enjoy meeting with constituents and representing their views in Westminster. I want to thank the thousands of people who have contacted me since I was elected as your MP, and look forward to continuing to fight for those issues that are important to our constituency.

My week in Parliament 27 March - 2 April

There was a fantastic turnout for an event in Parliament hosted by my office to discuss women’s rights in Burma for International Women’s Day. Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, from the...

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The tragic events that unfolded last week in Westminster and the loss of life that followed was devastating. Terror will not disrupt the lives of Londoners and it was with a sense of remorse and solidarity that MPs returned to Parliament on Thursday. Thanks to brave police officers and NHS workers, we can continue to do our work. I would also like to thank my staff for their measured and calm response during an extremely distressing day in Westminster.

I started the week by participating in a cross-party roundtable discussion on mental health and youth justice. We know that street gangs associated with violence are concentrated in urban areas and their mental health has too often been overlooked, so it was great to attend the meeting and discuss how policy can be designed to help these people. Later in the week I met with Haringey Communities Against Violence, where I was able to meet people who live and work in Haringey with concerns and experience around youth and group violence. I am committed to engaging the community to developing a way to offer support that helps reduce gang violence.

I was able to make it to this term’s End of Term performance for the Training Steel Band, Intermediate Steel Band, Westside Steel Band and Steel Orchestra at Hornsey School for Girls, as well as go over to Fortismere School for an International Women’s Day event that celebrates the achievements of women and girls. The event was made all the more incredible as it was organised by the students themselves.

On Thursday I held my regular advice surgery. I continue to prize this part of my role and look forward to hearing from my constituents on any issues they have and assist where I can.

Attending the Mother's Day celebration on Friday at Edwards Passmore House in the afternoon was fantastic and extremely therapeutic. On Saturday I joined MEP Seb Dance and David Lammy MP to stand up to the politics of hate with a march on Parliament to celebrate the European Union. Labour has a number for tests for Brexit, and if they are not met the party will not support any final deal. In particular, the deal must deliver the same benefits the UK currently enjoys within the EU.

My week in Parliament 20 - 26 March

The tragic events that unfolded last week in Westminster and the loss of life that followed was devastating. Terror will not disrupt the lives of Londoners and it was with...

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I was upset to witness MPs vote against securing rights for EU citizens living in the UK or to give parliament a meaningful vote on the outcome of negotiations on Monday. Despite loud calls from the Labour party, the House of Lords and the public, the government will now plough ahead with the negotiations. I will continue, with my colleagues, to hold the government to account on the issues.

On a brighter note, it was a pleasure to speak on the benefits of increasing women in engineering at the Thames Tideway Exhibition Launch. Fighting for gender equality is central to my job, and it was great to share my views at the launch of a project that is expected to bring environmental benefits and new public space along the Thames.

I was glad to be in the chamber to vote for my colleague Diana Johnson’s Ten Minute Rule Bill on the decriminalisation of abortion, which will now pass onto a second reading.

On Tuesday morning I met with Colombian Ambassador H.E. Nestor Osorio, where we were able to discuss the ongoing peace process in his country and what the UK can do to support supporting the vital work being done.

After the meeting, I met with David Mowat, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Community Health and Care, as part of a cross-party delegation that I organised to speak about a local Urinary Tract Infection Clinic, whose funding is at risk.

In the evening I spoke at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity meeting where I responded to Philip Hammond’s Spring Budget. This Budget conveyed a clear message: the government is not concerned about the daily struggles of people who are going to be made worse off as a direct consequence of their policies.

Over the weekend I took part in the March Against Racism to campaign against a toxic anti-immigration agenda. On Sunday I spoke at the Hornsey Parish Church on how I make judgements as an MP for their series examining how we make decisions.

My week in Parliament 13 - 19 March

I was upset to witness MPs vote against securing rights for EU citizens living in the UK or to give parliament a meaningful vote on the outcome of negotiations on...

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On Monday I flew out to the United States as part of a cross-party delegation to foster links with American Congressmen and Congresswomen. During the trip we were able to discuss important issues including trade links and shared security, as well as exchanging ideas about good domestic policy.

On Tuesday evening I gave a speech at the Women’s Information Network in Washington D.C., where I outlined my belief that the fight for gender equality must continue. I also took the opportunity to talk about Labour’s vision for a Budget that supports empowering women toward economic independence.

Wednesday saw Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond take to the dispatch box at the House of Commons. What he unveiled was a Budget that does not help the plight of a huge number of people, with the government still set on welfare freezes and intent on bringing back grammar school education. You can read my full response here.

On Saturday morning I attended Hornsey & Wood Green’s International Women’s Day event, where we discussed how society’s bias and expectation affect women’s ability to participate and lead in public life. I was also lucky enough to give out five awards to women at The Community Hub and was delighted to see such a great turnout and support from men and women across the constituency.

It continues to be a privilege to serve as your MP, and last week my office passed a milestone, having written 4,045 letters on behalf of our constituents on issues affecting their lives. I look forward to continuing to represent your interests in Parliament.

My week 6 - 12 March

On Monday I flew out to the United States as part of a cross-party delegation to foster links with American Congressmen and Congresswomen. During the trip we were able to...

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I started my week by attending an outreach session in Finsbury Park, where I discussed the role of an Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green as well as the work I do as part of my shadow foreign office brief. I was delighted to meet so many people actively engaged in politics and discuss the importance of diversity in Parliament.

Representing the voices of my constituents in Westminster, on Tuesday I asked an urgent question to Chancellor Philip Hammond, pressing him to reconsider increasing business rates across London. Fantastic and cherished companies such as Elsie Cafe, Dunn’s Bakery and Railway Tavern will struggle to absorb the increased tax if Hammond ploughs ahead with the policy in the Budget this week.

I also attended a Stand Up To Racism public rally in Haringey at the Kurdish Community Centre, arguing refugees are welcome in the UK and defending the rights of workers. Before that, I attended a parliamentary reception to mark Rare Disease Day 2017. I was able to meet those affected by rare diseases, as well as clinicians, health professionals and researchers. I was pleased to hear how access to effective treatments is helping to change people’s lives. Coupled with warnings that British medical research will suffer as a result of Brexit, it is vital that there is adequate funding for research as 3.5 million people in the UK will be affected by a rare disease at some point in their life, so whilst individually they may be “rare” their impact is huge.  

Meeting the new head of Stroud Green Primary school on Thursday was fantastic. I shared my concerns about the potential cuts to funding with the government’s National Funding Formula, and reiterated that I will lobby government to protect school funding for our children’s futures.

On Friday I heard about UK nationals about Prisoners Abroad from a constituent of Hornsey & Wood Green and what can be done to assist them with issues from separation from families to serious problems with physical survival and coping with deportation back to the UK after years abroad. I look forward to making these representations to my foreign office counterparts in government.

Finally, I was glad to meet so many constituents on Saturday for a Brexit Coffee Morning where we discussed in depth the issue around the rights of EU citizens to remain. The majority of British people support this right, and I hope that this will be reflected as the House of Commons now considers an amendment on the issue.

My week in Parliament 27 February - 5 March 2017

I started my week by attending an outreach session in Finsbury Park, where I discussed the role of an Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green as well as...

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Amidst the uproar caused by President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK, I led the parliamentary response on behalf of Labour, arguing that we are opposed to honouring President Trump with a state visit whilst he remains intent on keeping his discriminatory travel ban in place.

On Monday I also attended a meeting in Parliament with constituents of Hornsey & Wood Green to support the right to remain of three million European Nationals and British Nationals domiciled in the EU. Polls show the majority of the country support guaranteeing their rights, and I believe that we must not use them as negotiating capital, which I have made clear in parliament.

On Tuesday I sat alongside my shadow foreign office ministers to press the government on the desperate plight of the Rohingya in Burma and what representations have been made by the foreign office to the Burmese government. The Labour position is clear: as long there is no justice for the Rohingya, the promise of democratic rule in Burma will remain unfulfilled.

On Wednesday I met with Schools Minister Nick Gibb as part of a cross-party delegation to lobby him on the devastating National Funding Formula the government is set to implement. I made the case that he needs to go back to Chancellor Philip Hammond and demand more money for schools to ensure no school suffers from draconian cuts.

I visited Dunn’s Bakery to support their campaign against raising business rates on Friday. Increasing the rates will have devastating impacts on a number of businesses, which may have to shut down, across our constituency, London and the country. I will continue to campaign against the proposal.

I also spent time on Friday campaigning at St Aidan’s Primary School against the proposed cuts, while on Saturday I stood alongside parents, children and teachers, all of whom are concerned about the cuts that will hit schools across Hornsey & Wood Green.

I rushed back from my advice surgery to Parliament on Friday to make sure I was there to vote for the important third reading of the Bill calling on the Government to sign up to the international Istanbul Convention on preventing sexual violence and domestic abuse. Despite Tory MP Philip Davies yet again trying to call it out of time by making a speech for over an hour and a half, I’m delighted that we were able to force a vote – and see it passed by 138 to 1. The Government signed the convention back in 2011, but it still hasn’t been ratified so I hope Friday’s vote takes it one step closer.

My week in Parliament 20-26 February 2017

  Amidst the uproar caused by President Donald Trump’s visit to the UK, I led the parliamentary response on behalf of Labour, arguing that we are opposed to honouring President...

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In the midst of the discussion of the EU Withdrawal Paper (where I again voted against triggering Article 50 after none of Labour’s amendments were passed), the Home Secretary sneaked out the disgraceful news that the Government had ended our commitment to helping unaccompanied child refugees.

I was one of many MPs who supported the Dubs Amendment last year, calling on the UK to provide sanctuary to 3,000 lone refugee children, and I have been complaining for some time that progress has been all too slow. To then use the distraction of Brexit to abandon the scheme completely with a fraction of that number admitted to the country is shameful. I immediately wrote to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd urging her to reconsider this immoral change in policy and request that she attends the House of Commons to make an urgent oral statement on the matter.

On Thursday I was on the Frontbench alongside my colleagues Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Fabian Hamilton, Shadow Minister for the Middle East for the debate on Israeli settlements. Labour’s position is clear: settlement building in wrong and it creates a significant obstacle in the peace process. The Shadow FCO team will continue pressing ministers on what action they have taken to raise this issue with their Israeli counterparts, and indeed what discussions Prime Minister May has had with Mr Netanyahu on this matter.

I held a meeting with HSBC bank bosses where I let them know my strong opposition to their plans to close the Wood Green branch. You can support my campaign and sign the petition here. On Thursday night I chaired an excellent constituency meeting on the impact of Brexit on our climate change obligations and on Friday, I held my regular busy advice surgery at Wood Green Library.

In the photo I'm meeting some of the scientists who visited Parliament this week to discuss the potential impact of leaving the EU on life sciences. 

My week in Parliament 6-12 February 2017

In the midst of the discussion of the EU Withdrawal Paper (where I again voted against triggering Article 50 after none of Labour’s amendments were passed), the Home Secretary sneaked...

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It was with great sadness I was in the Chamber on Wednesday as the Government’s bill to trigger Article 50 was passed by 498 votes to 114. I was one of the 114 MPs who voted against in and in my speech on Tuesday (which you can watch in full here) I set out some of my reasons why including my fear that we are slamming the door on our young people’s future.

But despite my opposition and that of many of my colleagues, the Bill was passed and on Thursday the Government finally published their white paper which will be the focus of our scrutiny next week. Saying goodbye to the EU must not also mean saying goodbye to our values, yet the Prime Minister seems all too ready to cosy up to President Trump, sign arms deals with Turkey and threaten to turn the UK into a tax haven. As Labour MPs we will be doing everything we can to prevent this race to the bottom and pushing for amendments that, amongst other things, protect workers’ rights, secure full tariff and impediment free access to the Single Market and guarantee rights for EU nationals living in the UK.

We must also continue to defend our diverse community. In the past year the country has seen hate crimes soar to their highest levels in recent times alongside an increasing wave of xenophobic nationalism. President Trump’s racist Muslim ban only adds to a poisonous atmosphere and this week I visited Wightman Road Mosque to show solidarity with the community and spoke at the Stand up to Racism demonstration and march against Trump’s immigration ban.

I’ve been contacted by lots of nurses about the impact years of pay restraint has had on their lives and on Monday I met with a number of constituents who came down to Parliament as part of a Royal College of Nursing lobby. The RCN believes that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and has said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet. It’s completely unacceptable that these dedicated and hard-working professionals are having to struggle to get by whilst at the same time coping with ever greater workloads. Unsurprisingly, this week also revealed that the Tory Government’s decision to abolish NHS bursaries has dramatically decreased nursing degree applications raising fears for future recruitment. I have written to the Secretary of State for Health to express my concern and argue that nurses are well overdue a payrise. I will also be tabling some Parliamentary Questions.

I was disgusted at Tory attempts to talk out Dan Jarvis’s important Child Poverty in the UK bill on Friday to prevent it being debated. The Bill called on the Government to reintroduce a target to end child poverty and establish a strategy for meeting it. 3.9 million children are currently living in poverty, including over 6,500 right here in Hornsey & Wood Green, yet we know that children growing up in poverty are more likely to fall behind in school, less likely to secure a job, and more likely to suffer from illness. During 13 years of Labour Government’s 1 million children were lifted out of poverty but under the Tories the numbers are once again rising, so it’s shameful that Tory MPs deliberately allowed the bill to run out of time.

Wednesday saw British Citizen Andargachew Tsege mark his 62nd birthday in prison in Ethiopia despite the continued efforts and representations to free him, including from our Shadow Foreign Office team. I sent him a birthday letter to let him know he remains in our thoughts – and we will not give up the fight to see him freed.

Finally, happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster. I marked the occasion at the Chinese 4 Labour New Year reception with Jeremy Corbyn as well as spending Saturday afternoon speaking at the UCL China Forum as part of a panel discussion on China’s role in the world.

My week in Parliament 30 Jan - 5 Feb 2017

It was with great sadness I was in the Chamber on Wednesday as the Government’s bill to trigger Article 50 was passed by 498 votes to 114. I was one...

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I was on the Front Bench on Monday for the Defence Secretary’s statement on the test (mis)firing of a Trident nuclear missile last June. I am a long-standing opponent of Trident both on a moral and a cost basis and last year voted in Parliament against its renewal. To discover that, before MPs voted, there was a cover up of a serious test failure, raises further concerns about the technology and whether committing to spending billions on its renewal is a sensible use of resources. I support calls for an inquiry into the matter. I’m also concerned that leaving the EU will mean leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), which is widely thought to be crucial in overseeing nuclear safety.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling that Parliament must have a say on invoking Article 50 was a welcome one. You can read the statement I put out on the day here. With our hospitals and schools facing desperate funding cuts, I’m angry that the Government has seen fit to waste so much money – and time – fighting to try and prevent MPs having a say on the most important issue for generations. Thanks to sustained Labour pressure, the Prime Minister said on Wednesday that the Government will publish a white paper. I have been clear since the referendum that I will vote against invoking Article 50. In Hornsey and Wood Green we secured the highest remain vote in the UK with 81.5%. The best way I can represent my constituents and indeed protect our national interest is to vote against invoking Article 50.

HSBC’s announcement that they plan to close their Wood Green branch in May comes as a huge blow to the local high street, the residents and businesses who rely on its services and the dedicated branch staff. With a multi-billion-pound investment planned for Wood Green over the coming years it’s also incredibly short sighted. I have called for an urgent meeting with bank bosses to try and get them to rethink this misguided decision. Sign my petition to support the campaign here.

On Wednesday, I chaired an interesting event on domestic energy efficiency policy, where we discussed how we can learn from good practice overseas – specifically the Dutch Energiesprong scheme. I believe it’s so important we work closely with our European neighbours on issues of climate change and energy efficiency, and don’t allow the Government’s rush to Brexit to isolate us.

I held one of my pop-up advice surgeries at the Carers’ Coffee Morning in Crouch End on Thursday, followed by my regular advice surgery at Wood Green Library on Friday. I also spoke at the first conference for the Labour Campaign on Mental Health where I highlighted best practice including Haringey’s Suicice Prevention Plan.

Over the weekend I took part in Haringey Council’s moving Holocaust Memorial Day Multi-Faith Commemoration at Bruce Castle Museum where I gave a reading about the genocide in Darfur.  I was ashamed to see President Trump instead use Holocaust Memorial Day to issue a blanket 90 day ban to citizens from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and appalled that our own Prime Minister has failed to condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.

This shameful attack on Muslims and on refugees fleeing persecution flies in the face of the values of tolerance, diversity and freedom under which the USA was founded. Over one million people have already signed a petition against an official state visit to the UK by President Trump and I have offered my full support to the cross-party campaign to unite and condemn this abhorrent policy.

You can sign the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171928

My week in Parliament 23-29 January

I was on the Front Bench on Monday for the Defence Secretary’s statement on the test (mis)firing of a Trident nuclear missile last June. I am a long-standing opponent of...

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The Prime Minister finally provided more detail on what leaving the EU will mean this week – but her words certainly didn’t provide any more reassurance. No membership of the Single Market, no clarity on the Customs Union, no guarantee of the rights of the thousands of EU nationals who have made Hornsey & Wood Green their home and the chilling threat of Britain becoming a tax haven if negotiations don’t go our way.

I’ve set out some of my thoughts here and confirmed again to the many people who have contacted me this week that I will continue to vote against triggering Article 50 at every opportunity. Visiting the Francis Crick Institute on Friday, where 44 per cent of the researchers are European citizens, provided me with yet another powerful reminder of the important role the EU plays in science funding and research.

Tuesday night saw a fantastic turnout at the launch of the Fair Funding for All Our Schools campaign where I highlighted the impact seven years of austerity has had on our schools and pledged to do everything I can in Parliament to oppose these misguided cuts. Sign the petition against cuts to school funding here and join me in showing your support for this campaign.

An urgent question on Burma on Wednesday gave me the opportunity to challenge Foreign Minister Alok Sharma on the deeply concerning state of human rights on Myanmar. You can watch my full intervention here.  For all those of us who have campaigned for years for democracy and an end to repression in Myanmar, it is all the more troubling to see evidence‎ that - for all the progress that has been made - the suppression of the majority in Myanmar has been replaced in far too many areas with the persecution of minorities.

Following a spate of violent crimes towards the end of last year, David Lammy and I wrote a joint letter to the Deputy Mayor for Policing Sophie Linden requesting a meeting to discuss how we can work together to make our community safer. The meeting took place on Friday, together with Haringey’s Borough Commander, Council Leader Cllr Claire Kober, Cllr Eugene Ayisi and Assembly Member Joanne McCartney. The meeting heard from senior Trident police officers and a good debate was had as to how the government could do more at borders and ports to halt the large numbers of firearms illegally trafficked into the UK.

I watched Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the USA on Friday with a feeling of unease at what the next four years will bring, bearing in mind some of his statements during the campaign. It felt a lot more inspiring the next day to see all the images of the many thousands of women peacefully marching around the world to stand up for equality and I can only hope the loud and clear message reached the White House’s newest inhabitant.

Trump’s election and the imminent prospect of Brexit also raises fears about what it will mean for climate change obligations. It’s absolutely essential we don’t start to go backwards. I’ll be speaking on Thursday 9 February at a meeting at St Mary’s School on “Brexit: the challenge for Britain’s climate change obligations” – and hope to see many of you there. More details here:

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Finally, one of the highlights of my week was opening the new Rising Stars nursery in Wood Green on Friday and meeting some of the lovely children and staff.

My week in Parliament 16-22 January 2017

The Prime Minister finally provided more detail on what leaving the EU will mean this week – but her words certainly didn’t provide any more reassurance. No membership of the...

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Catherine West

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