On Friday a teenager tragically lost his life in Wood Green in another shooting. Our community is understandably shaken and concerned by the continuing violence and wants to see the Home Secretary Sajid Javid take tougher action to crack down on the number of firearms which seem to fall in to the wrong hands time and time again. The drug trade, which drives violence, needs to be tackled. I want to see an increased number of police officers to tackle the drug and crime networks and an immediate appearance of bobbies on the beat to provide reassurance to the Wood Green community. I’ll be meeting with the Police on Monday to receive an update on the investigation and discuss these issues further.
I brought my first Bill to Parliament this week on an issue close to my heart, that of lifting the ban that prevents asylum seekers from working. Here’s my article in The Times on why I believe it’s so important.
An asylum seeker receives £5.39 a day to live on – an allowance that needs to cover clothing, transport, and food. I believe that people who have risked everything to find safety should have the best chance of contributing to our society and integrating into our community. Giving asylum seekers the right to work allows them to use their skills and live in dignity. Polling shows it has huge public support and I was able to get cross-party support for my Bill with Conservatives including Dame Caroline Spelman, Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine, Green Caroline Lucas and SNP Deidre Brock joining me as co-sponsors.
You can watch my speech here. My Bill will come back to the House again on 22 March.
Whilst this Bill has been my focus for much of the week, I of course have been following the news of the eight MPs who have left the Labour Party. I’m sad to see them go, but don’t believe it was the right decision. We need pro Europeans in the Parliamentary Labour Party. This splinter group doesn’t change the arithmetic in Parliament and I fear only helps the Tories and the wrecking ball they are taking to jobs and our NHS, schools and care for older people. Since the three Tories went Independent too, there’s been even more confusion about what the 11 MPs from both major parties stand for, except to express a general feeling ‘fed up.’
Labour put forward an official amendment noting that a People’s Vote is now one of the only two remaining options. With the clock ticking ever louder I believe it will soon be the only available option. If and when that happens it is just the beginning. We then need to win a referendum and that means working together as a Labour Party to build a progressive case for a Europe that stands against austerity and anti-migrant policies and challenge a Tory Brexit that would be a disaster for workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer standards.
But I know these departures haven’t only been about Europe. I was particularly sad to see Luciana Berger leave the party. Not only because she has championed the cause of mental health so passionately, but because she has suffered such appalling anti-Semitic abuse. I was in the Chamber last year when she spoke about some of her experiences and since 2013, four people have been convicted of anti-Semitic abuse and harassment directed towards her and three of those, from a far-right persuasion, were imprisoned. It is abhorrent, and I believe we must do more, and do it quicker, to eradicate any anti-Semitism from the Labour Party.
On Thursday, I took part in the debate on future trade deals, something I’ve receive hundreds of emails on from constituents. It’s an issue close to my heart, I sit on the International Trade Select Committee and have been working with colleagues to establish a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Trade Justice. You can watch my full speech here, but I highlighted the need to ensure that key principles such as human rights, standards and scrutiny. There has been a lot of concern, rightly expressed, about the need to ensure that future trading partners such as the US can’t get access to our NHS in future trade deals. That’s a concern I share and I believe it’s crucial the NHS is protected. The US healthcare system is among the most expensive and unequal healthcare systems in the world.
Friday was another busy advice surgery and on Saturday I was out in Muswell Hill, talking to residents about Brexit as well as local Muswell Hill issues. I also popped in to the Open Day at Lauderdale House to support the Pink Plaque scheme to celebrate Highgate women’s role in the local area, only 14% of all blue plaques remember women’s contribution and the pink plaques scheme will address this deficit and see more women recognised.