“Courage calls to courage everywhere”. It was an absolute joy to stand in Parliament Square on Tuesday morning alongside trade unionists, women’s rights campaigners, elected representatives and community leaders for the unveiling of a statue to Millicent Garrett Fawcett - the first statue of a woman (and the first by a woman) in Parliament Square. Seeing Millicent Fawcett finally up on that plinth, is a reminder of the battles women have fought – and still fight - to have their voices heard and contribution acknowledged. I hope Mary Wollstonecraft, who did so much in the fight for gender equality, will be next for the honour of a statue. You can join me in supporting the campaign here: http://www.maryonthegreen.org
As each day passes, yet more of the Windrush generation are coming forward with heartbreaking stories. I was in the Chamber to hear the Home Secretary’s urgent statement in Parliament on Monday, but it still feels like this is being treated as an “administration” problem. It is much more than that. The Government need to realise that it is their decision to pander to bogus immigration targets that has led to people who have been here legally since they were children losing their jobs, benefits, access to healthcare and sometimes even their homes. Responsibility lies firmly with Theresa May, whose approach first as Home Secretary and now as PM has shown a callous disregard for people’s lives. Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s lack of knowledge of her brief and false suggestion that the Home Office didn’t set removal targets make her position also untenable.
The Government must restore the immigration protections which were removed in 2014 and confirm the rights of the Windrush generation as British citizens. We must be told what deportations have already happened and the Government must make apologies, pay compensation where necessary and invite anyone who has been deported in error back to the UK immediately. There will be a Westminster Hall debate and an Opposition Day debate on the issue this week, where I intend to raise these issues in person.
In Defence Questions on Monday, I raised the issue of cleaners pay. Watch the video here. It is unacceptable that many Government Ministers don’t know how much their cleaners are paid, so can’t tell me if they are receiving a living wage. I will continue my fight to obtain a firm commitment from all Ministers to ensure that cleaners in all departments based in the capital are paid the London Living Wage.
On Wednesday, I took part in Labour’s Opposition Day debate on cuts to schools’ funding. Every single primary and secondary school in Hornsey & Wood Green has seen per pupil funding slashed under this Government. At the same time, we’re seeing class sizes increase and, for the second year running, more demoralised teachers leaving than joining the profession. Labour’s motion, which I supported, called on the Government to ensure every school receives a cash increase in per pupil funding in every financial year of this Parliament. Despite the Tories own election manifesto pledging that no school would have its budget cut, the reality is very different.
Thursday’s debate and vote on a motion saying Britain should stay in the customs union post Brexit wasn’t binding. Nevertheless, I hope the fact it received such strong support, including from pro-European Conservatives sent a message to the Government to drop their ridiculous red line. Remaining in the Customs Union is absolutely vital for the UK economy, for jobs, and for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. There is a growing majority in Parliament who share my view, and I’ll continue to make the case as we draw closer to the important votes next month and into the summer.
With over 200 MPs from all parties signing my letter calling on supermarkets to eliminate plastic packaging, I challenged Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom on Thursday on what action is being taken across all industrial sectors to reduce plastic pollution. Watch the response I received here. More than 40 large companies have announced that they’ve signed up to a pact to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years. That’s great, but it’s only the start. More action is needed, with new legislation if necessary, to ensure that unnecessary plastics are eliminated from consumer products and to work towards a comprehensive framework to tackle existing plastic pollution in our environment.
I'm pleased we’ve seen a conclusion this week on one of the longstanding disciplinary cases against a Labour Party activist. As I wrote in my last blog, the process of dealing with allegations has been too slow with decisions taking too long. It’s essential this changes if the Jewish community are to feel confident that the Labour Party is absolutely determined to root out any anti-Semitism within our ranks.
Finally, I’m proud this week to have taken up an honorary position as one of the new Vice Presidents of London CND. I’ve long campaigned against Trident both on a moral and a cost basis and will continue to do so in this new role https://www.londoncnd.org/latest/2018/4/20/introducing-london-cnds-vice-presidents