There are times in history that feel like a tipping point. Whether it’s the #metoo movement saying enough is enough or the overwhelming Irish backing for a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion that has focused attention on the need for women in Northern Ireland to receive the same. It was a powerful moment in the House of Commons on Monday night when I joined MPs across the house to stand in support of Stella Creasy’s application for an emergency debate on the subject. I also took part in the debate on Tuesday, because we cannot stand by while women and girls in any part of the UK are criminalised or put at risk for accessing basic healthcare. You can watch my full speech here: https://goo.gl/AUR494
Theresa May’s attempts to rush through the EU Withdrawal Bill next week make a mockery of the notion that Brexit was ever about parliamentary sovereignty. This legislation will have a huge impact on our country for generations to come and it will shape the human rights, workers’ rights, consumer and environmental protections that we’d be left with post-Brexit. It’s clear the Tories don’t want us to properly debate the Lords’ amendments, instead they want a rubber stamp for their plans, whatever the impact on our community.
They will not get this from me nor from Labour. In tabling Labour’s own amendment demanding “full access to the internal market of the European Union”, Keir Starmer has made it clear once more that Labour will vote against any Brexit deal that doesn’t maintain these benefits. From everything we’ve seen so far of the Prime Minister’s negotiating ineptitude it’s impossible to believe any deal she comes back with will protect jobs, our economy and the global, tolerant values our community holds so dear. That’s why it’s so crucial the final deal is put to a people’s vote and I’m supporting a cross party amendment that calls for this.
I’ve also put my name to Labour MP Mary Creagh’s important amendment to give the new Environmental watchdog the teeth it needs to be effective. The Tories’ current proposals are pathetic, but that’s no surprise given their attitude to the environment – which they demonstrated again this week by giving the misguided, expensive and environmentally damaging plan for a new runway at Heathrow the go ahead. It won’t get my vote in Parliament. Air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of nitrous oxide and Heathrow exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. A third runway would mean an extra 200,000 people affected, exposing 124 more schools and over 43,000 more school children to unacceptable levels of noise. I’m much more convinced by the argument for Gatwick, which would be quicker, cheaper, less damaging to our environment and unlock more potential for much needed housing development.
On Wednesday, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling on their annual cycle ride from the Dutch Embassy to Parliament to mark the launch of Bike Week 2018. I love cycling; it’s free, good exercise and often the quickest way to get from a to b on London’s congested streets. But too many people are put off because of safety fears. The Government has just closed their call for evidence on their cycling and walking safety review and I hope they’ll take on board the sensible recommendations Cycling UK have put forward. That includes making 20mph the default speed in built up areas, improving driver training, creating consistent design standards for new highway systems and shifting the way the transport budget is allocated so more goes to cycling, walking and safer streets.
I spent the latter part of the week in Geneva in my role as a member of the International Trade Committee. The Select Committee heard from the UK Mission in Geneva and experts at the World Trade Organisation about how WTO trade rules work in practice and how disputes between countries are resolved. It was a fascinating trip but confirmed my view that the UK is better off in a strong trading block of over 500 million in the EU than going it alone where the US, China and others could well force a worse trade deal onto the UK, leaving us and many of our businesses considerably weaker. The committee also met members of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on the interplay between Aid budgets and trade and on how trade should be made fairer for developing countries.
Over the weekend, I cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the fabulous Crouch End Festival (find out what’s on and get involved here https://www.crouchendfestival.org) and joined the Greek Orthodox Community of St Barnabas in Wood Green to commemorate the founder of the Cyprus Church St Barnabas and celebrate the annual Cyprus Day.