Speaking to BBC News on Inauguration Day as Labour
Speaking to BBC News on Inauguration Day as Labour's Shadow Foreign Minister (Europe & Americas)

My latest monthly e-newsletter has just gone out to thousands of homes across Hornsey & Wood Green.  You can read a copy below.  If you’d like to receive my e-newsletters, and you don’t already, you can sign up here.

Welcome to my January e-newsletter

With the country back in lockdown, one of the worst death tolls in Europe and the deepest recession of any major economy, this isn’t the happiest start to the New Year.

Hope lies with the vaccine rollout, and I’m pleased that in my recent meeting with Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group, progress in Haringey is good.  I’ll continue to raise issues of vaccine supply in Parliament because it’s vital the pace picks up if we are to vaccinate a minimum of two million people a week.  Mayor Sadiq Khan has been raising wider issues of London supplies which we want to see increase.

Sadly, this Tory Government seem intent on making a difficult time even harder for those on low incomes.  Shameful food packages for hungry kids, inadequate sick pay for low paid workers and an imminent cut to Universal Credit that would see six million families lose £1,000 a year.  At PMQs, I urged Johnson to rule it out.  He didn’t answer my question and in Labour’s opposition day debate and vote on the issue the Tories refused to even take part. 

Disabled people have been all but forgotten and I’ve arranged a zoom chat for constituents this Friday 22 January from 12-1pm on Covid-19 and disability.  If these issues affect you, find out more and register here

Time and again I’ve argued you can’t do lockdown on the cheap, but still lockdown 3 isn’t properly funded.  This month, I’ve renewed calls for the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to provide support for the thousands of workers who have been excluded from support throughout the pandemic, including those in the creative industries and the self-employed. Read my most recent letter here.

Here are some of the other things I’ve been doing this month.  If you know anyone who would like to receive these updates, please share this link:

Brexit & Trade Bill

Days in to 2021 and we are already seeing the beginning of what I fear will be many broken Brexit promises by Johnson’s Government – the lifting of the ban on bee-killing neonicotinoids and plans to rip up workers’ rights. It’s no surprise from a Government whose word means nothing, but it is clear there are going to be many tough battles over the coming months.

This week the Trade Bill came back to the Commons and shamefully the Tories voted against amendments to protect our NHS, uphold food standards, protect our environment and maintain workers’ rights. Labour pushed hard to have more Parliamentary scrutiny written into the Bill and supported the Genocide Amendment which would have blocked trade deals with countries that commit genocide.  It says a lot about the moral compass of Johnson’s Government that they wouldn’t even back this, and despite some Tory MPs rebelling, the amendment failed by 308 votes to 319.  Read the letter from Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy MP and Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry here.    The fight doesn’t end here, we’ll try again when it comes back from the Lords.

There was an Urgent Question this week on visa arrangements for UK musicians in the EU, something I’ve raised with Ministers.  International touring is an essential part of creative workers’ livelihoods, and the UK’s music industry is one of the fastest growing sectors.  It is unfathomable that the Government seemingly turned down an EU offer to resolve this issue, and their response to questions in Parliament was woeful.  They need to get back round the table now so when travel restrictions are lifted our brilliant creatives can get back to doing what they do best.

Safety in our schools

I was in Parliament over Christmas for Gavin Williamson’s shambolic statement on school closures, one of the worst I’ve heard from a Secretary of State.  There was no logic to his proposal to close schools in Enfield and Barnet but keep them open in Haringey and I immediately wrote to raise my concerns.  It’s no surprise he was forced into a u-turn days later.  Schools must be a priority for reopening, but the Government needs to step up because that can’t happen unless they are safe for children, teachers and their families. That must include working with teaching unions, rapid, accurate testing and emergency funding where needed for Covid-safe measures.  In Parliament I’ve been asking questions about the vaccine rollout for frontline teaching staff and pushing for every student to have the devices and digital access needed for online learning.  It’s unacceptable that ten months since the first lockdown young people are still waiting. I’m also backing and promoting Haringey Giving’s digital divide campaignwhich is getting closer to reaching its £25,000 target.

I’ve had lots of emails from nursery staff and parents and remain concerned that nurseries have been ignored by this Government. Staff need to feel safe and they must be funded properly through this difficult time.  I held a useful meeting with Shadow Early Years Minister Tulip Siddiq MP and members of Foundation Years Information & Research, an organisation I co-chair.  We are seeking a meeting with the Early Years Minister Vicky Ford MP.  My next Covid-19 zoom chat will be on the impact of the pandemic on young children – look out for details on my social media when available.   

Shadow Ministerial Update

As Shadow Foreign Minister (Europe and Americas), I am delighted that today sees the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the end of Donald Trump’s Presidency and his politics of division and hate.  Like many of you I watched with horror the storming of the US Capitol and the chaos and violence which followed. It is clear that President Trump, with his continued failure to accept defeat and his constant peddling of conspiracy theories, incited the crowd.  Worryingly some of the protestors who attacked the US Capitol have been identified by the FBI as known far right activists with racist and fascist leanings. Sadly, there is evidence that the UK is also seeing an increase in this sort of political activism. The government must bring forward the Online Harms Bill urgently to address the way in which social media platforms facilitate the rise of extremism.

I’m increasingly worried about the deterioration of conditions in Colombia and the real risk that the hard-won peace accord will collapse. With my colleague Fabian Hamilton, Labour’s shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, I’ll be meeting with the Colombian Ambassador and making clear our concerns and the need for all parties to renew their commitment to the peace agreement.  This situation has not been helped by alleged sales of UK made defensive equipment to Columbian forces and we’ve made clear Labour’s opposition to the Foreign Office and the Department for International Trade.

At the start of this week the Russian opposition leader Alexi Navalny was immediately arrested on his return to Russia following his treatment in Germany for Novichok poisoning. It is an affront to the rule of law and freedom for Navalny to be detained by the very Government who tried to kill him and I welcomed the incoming Biden Administration’s immediate and full throated condemnation of the arrest. It is vital that the UK works with the Biden administration and our EU Partners to secure Mr Navalny’s swift release without charge, and that we make it quite clear to Russia that they cannot continue their regime of terror and lawlessness with the use of chemical weapons and unacceptable arrests.

Stop the Klarnage and regulate the Buy Now Pay Later industry

I was one of over 70 MPs to sign an amendment to the Financial Services Bill which would require the regulation of the growing Buy Now Pay Later industry and am extremely disappointed the Government voted it down.  The likes of Wonga may have disappeared but companies like Klarna and Clearpay have taken their place and seen use soar during lockdown – with many turning to them because they can’t afford to make the purchase outright.  It’s not right that a loophole means these companies don’t have to abide by Financial Conduct Authority rules, and by encouraging higher spending they risk pushing people into unsustainable debt.

Stop the British Gas Fire

I backed the GMB Union workers fighting to protect their pay and conditions in the face of Centrica’s fire and hire threats and co-signed this letter urging bosses to get back into negotiations.  Asking workers to sign on to worse terms and conditions with the threat of losing their job is no way to treat hard working staff.

Royal Mail services

I met with Royal Mail bosses last week to raise ongoing concerns with the postal delays particularly in N8 and N4.  I’m glad they confirmed vaccine letters would be prioritised and you can read a full update on our discussions here.  This is no reflection on our posties who have been working incredibly hard on the frontline, dealing with a huge increase in parcels with fewer people.  But I am concerned that none of the issues we saw during the first lockdown appear to have been resolved and I want to see more resources put in place (sadly the huge rise in unemployment locally mean there are lots of people looking for temporary vacancies).    I continue to believe there needs to be a local collection/delivery point for N8 and N4 and that the closure of Hornsey Delivery Office has seen our residents’ mail services suffer.  Sadly Royal Mail’s response to date on this have been dismissive, but I’ll keep pushing with the new CEO.

Haringey’s Local Plan

Haringey Council are currently holding their first steps engagement on their new local plan, and I’ve written about some of the key things I’d like to see in it including 50% affordable housing, commitments to support community space, apprenticeships and action on climate change.  Read my full letter here.

CT scanner for Coroner’s Services

Together with other north London MPs I’ve written in support of a CT scanner for local Coroner’s Services to enable the service to scan for a cause of death more efficiently rather than wait for a post mortem.  Many concerns have been raised recently about the impact of budget cuts on the service and the resulting delay in the release of bodies. This is of particular importance to Muslim and Jewish community members who have specific requirements following the death of a loved one.

You can view the Parliamentary Questions I’ve submitted this month here

Where possible, with the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, I’ve attended a number of events and meetings both in Westminster and across the constituency including:

  • Meeting with Haringey Clinical Commissioning Group for an update on the vaccine rollout.
  • Attending an important online meeting organised by Wightman Road Mosque to give people the opportunity to ask questions to Drs about Covid and the vaccines. With conspiracy theories targeting BAME communities, it’s really important to counter the “fake news” and ensure everyone who can has the vaccine.
  • Meeting with the Labour Campaign for Human Rights.
  • Attending the All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on Long Covid and speaking in the debate in the Commons.It’s a real and growing issue and there needs to be much more support available to those affected, many of whom are still struggling with health issues many months on.
  • Holding my regular meeting with Haringey’s Borough Commander where amongst other things we discussed Covid enforcement, local crime figures, ward policing ward policing and reforms to the Independent Advisory Group which ensures community priorities are reflected in Haringey’s approach to policing.
  • Visiting Bounds Green Food Bank in Christmas week to support the incredible work they’ve been doing to feed growing numbers of local families over this difficult time.
  • Visiting the Staunton Group (Morum House) GP Practice to meet the team and find out some of the things they’ve been doing since they took over the practice. 

Advice & support:
My regular telephone advice surgeries continue on the second and fourth Friday of each month.  Contact me with details of the problem you’re experiencing and your full address in the constituency if you would like an appointment.

You can also keep updated on my work by following me on Twitter or Facebook or visiting my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk.




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