Welcome to my April e-newsletter
After such a difficult year, it has been wonderful to see our fabulous local businesses start to open their doors again. Please show them your support and shop local where you can. I visited the Blue House Yard market to meet some of the artists and musicians bringing colour and creativity to this corner of Wood Green.
COVID is not gone, the horrific situation in India and Brazil bring that home all too clearly. There is no room for complacency, and I’m appalled by the reported comments of the Prime Minister, who when Labour was urging for measures to protect lives and livelihoods, was apparently so dismissive about letting bodies “pile high” in the streets.
What a sickening response when so many lives have been lost and so many families left devastated. Even now the Conservatives are refusing Labour’s calls for a public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic. We need to learn lessons now so these mistakes aren’t repeated.
We also need to know if they were helping themselves when they should have been helping us. Every day brings another report of cronyism, dodgy contracts and privileged access. I want to see a full inquiry into Government sleaze, because it can’t be one rule for them, another for everyone else. Our local businesses have been pleading for support over the past year – you shouldn’t need the PM’s mobile number to have your voice heard.
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.
Stop the stealth privatisation of our NHS
I’ve had lots of concerned local residents get in touch about the US company Centene’s purchase of a number of GP practices across north London. Whilst none are in Hornsey & Wood Green, one is in Haringey and I’m extremely disturbed at this stealth privatisation – not only for this particular case but what it means for the future. I raised the issue in Parliament this month and my website has details of some of the other actions I’ve taken including meeting with the Clinical Commissioning Group locally.
Overseas Operations Bill
There were serious flaws in this Bill which returned to Parliament last week for the consideration of Lords Amendments. In its original form it undermined Britain’s long-standing and unequivocal adherence to the Geneva Conventions and would have caused huge damage to our reputation abroad. Former Military chiefs and former NATO General Secretary Lord Robertson worked with Labour frontbench to table four key amendments, including moves to exclude torture and, war crimes, and crimes against humanity from this Bill. I am pleased that following this sustained pressure the Government backed down on plans for a five-year limit on torture and war crimes prosecutions and made some last-minute concessions.
Finance Bill – the wrong priorities and a missed opportunity
I took part in the Committee of the Whole House looking at the Government’s Finance Bill, which was a missed opportunity to set out a plan for a fairer, greener post-Covid recovery. This Bill hits families in their pockets while slashing social security and handing our key workers – including our NHS heroes – a real-terms pay cut. Meanwhile, it offers nothing to stop some of the world’s biggest companies from using the Government’s enormous new tax break to stop paying corporation tax altogether. My speech highlighted the skewed priorities of this Government that have seen 23 times as many people prosecuted for benefits offences as for tax offences despite the fact that the value of tax fraud is nine times higher than benefit fraud. I also spoke up for those hit by the loan charge scandal and urged the Government to do much more to crack down on the dirty money, often from Russia, that has seen our own Intelligence and Security Committee call London a “laundromat” for illicit and dark finances. Watch my speech here.
Don’t criminalise trespass
Over 600 Hornsey & Wood Green residents signed an e-petition in opposition to the Conservative Government’s pledge to make trespass a criminal offence. I took part in the Westminster Hall petition debate and my speech highlighted how vital it is for people to have access to nature and the open countryside and my fear that these unnecessary proposals threaten our ancient freedoms and risk seeing landowners close off much-loved paths. I also highlighted my concerns about the nature of the second reading debate and the disgusting discrimination faced by Gypsies and Travellers, who are already some of the most marginalised communities. Read my speech here.
Fighting for University Students
I’ve been inundated with messages from students and their families who’ve been placed in an impossible position over the past year, suffering huge restrictions to their education and social life and facing a mountain of student debt. I took part in an Urgent Question calling for information on the Government’s plans to compensate students for lost teaching and rent and urged the Universities Minister to set out a clear plan and stand up for our young people.
Commission on race and ethnic disparities
This report has been rightly met with widespread criticism, with even some of its own Commissioners saying they weren’t given sight of the final copy. It’s a huge disappointment and missed opportunity to address the role of institutional and structural racism in the UK. It’s particularly insulting during a pandemic where Black, Asian and ethnic minority people have died disproportionately and are now twice as likely to be unemployed. I want to see the Government reject these toothless recommendations and instead implement the 253 recommendations on race equality enclosed in the Timpson, McGregor Smith, Williams, Angolini and Lammy Reviews as well as the recent report from the Joint Commission on Human Rights on Black People’s Human Rights.
Improve Maternal Mortality Rates and Health Care for Black Women in the UK
With over 187,000 people signing the petition calling for action to improve health care for black women, a debate was held in Parliament this month. It’s an issue I took up in my recent constituency zoom chat on women’s health and I’m raising further questions in Parliament.
Domestic Abuse Bill
The Domestic Abuse Bill returned to Parliament this week. During the pandemic we’ve seen Refuge reporting soaring pleas for help whilst a decade of savage cuts has left the sector struggling to cope. No woman should feel they can’t seek help because of their immigration status. I backed amendments to support migrant women and ditch the “no recourse to public funds” restrictions. I also supported Labour’s call for a stalking register to track serial domestic abuse or stalking perpetrators and I’ll keep pushing for more support for all victims of domestic abuse.
The Fire Safety Bill returns to the Commons and Labour has again been pushing the Government to go much further and help all the leaseholders who’ve been so badly let down. The Government’s concessions don’t go anywhere near far enough as they don’t include lower-rise buildings or other fire-safety defects. It’s shameful that the Government has betrayed the promise that leaseholders will not pay for the crisis. Labour will keep fighting this injustice – it is the dodgy developers who must pay the price.
In the constituency:
Mary Feilding Guild
I presented my petition in Parliament this month expressing the strong local opposition to the closure of Mary Feilding Guild and cruel eviction of its elderly residents in the middle of a pandemic. The shameful way they’ve been treated by the Guild’s new owners has highlighted the appalling insecurity that still exists in provision for the elderly. Alongside the lifting of the eviction threat I want to see the Government put in place better safeguards and protections so all elderly residents have the security of knowing that their homes can’t be ripped away so easily.
Tile Kiln Lane
I’m pleased that Thames Water put a halt to their work on Tile Kiln Lane following my intervention alongside concerned local residents. It’s a special site for wildlife and one that must be protected. I’ve been newly elected as a Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Woods and Trees and my website has details of some of the work I’ve been doing to protect our mature, urban trees.
Apply for my Politics Summer School
I am delighted that my popular Politics Summer School for 16-19 year olds will be going ahead this year as a virtual event. Young people have faced an incredibly challenging twelve months and I’m planning a varied, interactive week that I hope will be fun and informative. Find out how you can apply here and please spread the word to anyone who might be interested. Applications close on Friday 4 June.
The environment must be front and centre in our post COVID recovery and you can read my latest Climate Change & Environment Update report on my website.