The horrific terror attack in Sri Lanka with the loss of over 300 lives and the cowardly murder of journalist Lyra McKee cast a dark shadow over the Easter weekend. The statement from the new IRA, referring to enemy forces and apologising for McKee’s death, was a deeply concerning throwback to the time of the Troubles and a reminder that we must never be complacent about peace in Northern Ireland. In PMQs, Emily Thornberry was right to highlight the importance of finding a solution to concerns over a hard border in the Brexit negotiations, Lyra McKee’s murder was a horrific reminder of how fragile the peace is.
Parliament returned from the short Easter recess on Tuesday and I joined a packed room of MPs to hear Greta Thunberg’s powerful call to arms on climate change. As she wisely said, we can no longer shirk responsibility, we must follow the science – and we must do it now. Haringey Council, London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour nationally have declared a climate emergency and Jeremy Corbyn met Greta alongside other party leaders to discuss how to tackle the climate crisis and thank her for her inspiring work. Yet where was the Prime Minister? It’s incomprehensible that she couldn’t make time to discuss the future of our planet. In the words of Greta Thunberg: “this ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”
That same day I took part in Justice Questions, quizzing the minister about what he was doing on prison officer pay. Prison officers are vital public servants whose job is to ensure that our prisons are safe and humane environments, and yet some of them receive a paltry salary that isn’t enough to live on. He promised to listen to the Public Sector Pay Review Body, but also said that he felt he’d “got the balance right” in terms of funding for resources. With experts warning of a prison crisis in which rehabilitation services are hardly visible and drug use is on the rise, I fear that this isn’t the case.
I also asked the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, to pledge an increase in funding for local authorities so that they can put more clean buses on our roads. This, coupled with the recently-launched ULEZ scheme, would be a step towards encouraging more people to take public transport and reduce car use which would in turn, help to reduce deadly air pollution in London which has led to a public health crisis. I chaired a public meeting on air pollution this week alongside the mother of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who tragically died from asthma believed to have been linked to illegal levels of pollution. I await the letter that the Minister has promised confirming whether local authority transport budgets have been uprated.
I’ve become increasingly concerned that EU citizens living in the UK are going to find themselves excluded from voting in the EU elections next month. Even if they are already registered to vote in the local elections on 2 May, there’s an additional form they need to complete for the EU elections. In normal circumstances, local authorities would have written to all EU citizens to give them ample time to apply – but these aren’t normal circumstances as the Government only confirmed at the last minute that we’d even be taking part. I was granted an urgent question on Thursday to raise this issue with the Government and found it incredibly insulting that the Minister referred to EU citizens being able to vote in their ‘home countries’. The UK is their home and all who want to vote here should be able to.
I’ve proudly sponsored a motion opposing honouring President Donald Trump with a lavish state visit. His appalling record of misogynism, racism and xenophobia; disgraceful comments on women, refugees and torture; lack of action on climate change, failure to support the Paris Climate Change Deal and sharing of online content related to a far-right extremist organisation in the UK amongst many other things make him unworthy of such an honour. Read the full text of the motion here:
I attended the first anniversary event of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on PKU. One of my constituents suffers from this rare disease and I intervened so she could gain access to the drug Kuvan which has transformed her life. Too many other PKU sufferers who could potentially benefit still don’t have access and that needs to change.
I joined Shelter in support of their campaign to ban ‘No DSS’ housing ads that are nothing but prejudice and discrimination. It’s shameful that in 2019 we have landlords saying it doesn’t matter if you have great references, you’ve always paid your rent on time, you really need a home – if you’re on benefits we won’t even consider you. It’s cruel and it disproportionately affects people with a disability. I’m campaigning to end it.
Finally, I was appalled by the shooting at the San Diego synagogue and my thoughts are with all those affected. Following the mosque shootings in Christchurch, the Home Secretary said that additional funding is being made available for security at places of worship. I’ve already written to him to urge that it is released as a matter of urgency and to request a meeting.