Cost-of-living crisisThis month, I again raised in Parliament the need for more support for schools and early years settings hit by soaring energy prices. In a separate meeting with the Schools Minister, I highlighted a local primary school who’ve seen their bill soar by £30,000 – the cost of a teacher – and with no extra support they’re having to try and absorb this eye-watering rise from existing budgets. The Government needs a plan before the winter that doesn’t take money away from children’s learning, already so badly affected by the pandemic. PartygateMy Parliamentary question has come back to haunt Boris Johnson, as leaked photos show that he was at the centre of a boozy gathering the night he assured Parliament that there were no parties and the “rules were followed at all times”. He lied to Parliament, he lied to the public and Tory MPs need to show a bit of backbone, put the country first and get him out. Every day he stays in post demeans his office and makes a mockery of the ministerial code. Register now: Health Inequalities MeetingOver the past decade, we’ve seen the health gap between wealthy and deprived areas grow and life expectancy fall. At the same time Tory austerity and cuts to public health spending have stripped away vital services, slashed the number of health visitors and removed essential investment in children’s services, social care, housing, benefits and much more. Join me in Parliament on Wednesday 15 June from 6-7.30pm when I’ve invited Shadow Public Health Minister Andrew Gwynne MP and Haringey’s Cabinet Member for Health Cllr Lucia Das Neves to come and talk about Health Inequalities. Find out more and register here.
Brexit and Northern Ireland ProtocolThe Prime Minister’s threats to rip up the Northern Ireland protocol go right to the heart of the shameless lies that secured his shambolic Tory Brexit. This is an agreement he negotiated, signed, told us was “oven ready” and would lead to an economic boom. He didn’t bother to listen or even read the impact assessments. Rather than seek workable solutions, the government is threatening to rip-up the agreement risking a trade war which would be highly damaging to the UK economy and to families already hit so hard by the cost-of-living crisis. It must be avoided at all costs and the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it brought must never be jeopardised. But it cannot be ignored that this is the direct result of the actions this Prime Minister has taken. Breaking a treaty we signed just two years ago damages Britain’s international reputation and undermines our ability to strike other deals in the future. A better deal for rentersThe Tories have promised a Renters’ Reform Bill in the past three Queen’s Speeches, so whilst I’m pleased it was included in this one – I want a timetable before I’ll believe it. At Levelling Up Questions, I challenged the Secretary of State Michael Gove to set one out, and I’ll be holding him to his answer. I’ve also been speaking to the Sunday Mirror about the renters being ripped off by rogue landlords in Hornsey & Wood Green and abandoned by a Tory Government that’s failing to build the homes we need.
Climate Change & Environment Update ReportI produce a regular update on my work in Parliament on green issues, and you can read my latest here. This month many constituents have included me in their emails to DEFRA about plastic pollution, one of today’s great environmental challenges. By 2050, it is estimated that our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. The urgency and seriousness of the situation has never been clearer. In Parliament I’ve led calls for Government investment to support Plastic Free Communities and campaigned for supermarkets to eliminate excessive plastic packaging. I will continue to call on the Government to ensure that legislation is robust enough to tackle plastic pollution. I have also now signed up to the Big Plastic Count and look forward to taking part in this challenge. Deportation flight to JamaicaLots of constituents have got in touch about the Government’s plans for a deportation flight to Jamaica. We know all too well that the Home Office’s record of appalling injustices is shocking. Many of those on the flight will have arrived as children and have been educated and raised here. You can read my letter to the Minister here. Defend the right to protestAfter voting through the dangerous and extreme Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Government wants to pass another anti-protest legislation that will target protestors and further attack our civil liberties. The Public Order Bill will, once again, destroy our democratic right to protest and silence all those who oppose the Government. This will be particularly damaging to our poorest and most marginalised communities and spread fear amongst the population. My Labour colleagues and I will not support this Bill and will do everything we can to speak out against this worrying direction of governance.
In the community:Travelling this summer? Don’t forget to check your Passport now!I’m receiving a growing number of emails from people caught up in the chaos at the Passport Office. I’ve written to the Minister and pushed for those with urgent, imminent travel to be prioritised for fast track appointments. The standard processing time is now up to 10 weeks so please check your passport now and renew ASAP if you’re planning to travel. The advice page on my website has lots of useful information if you’re affected. Update on Royal Mail servicesFollowing my meeting with Royal Mail’s Chief Executive, I wrote to Ofcom to urge them to investigate Royal Mail’s performance over 2021/22. Postal workers have worked incredibly hard but Royal Mail – as a company – has missed the mark. With the price of stamps increasing once again and Royal Mail reporting record profits, I want the regulator to act. Read my letter and Ofcom’s response on my website. Last chance to sign my petition to save Barclays in Muswell Hill & protect access to cashI’ve written for the Ham & High on why it’s so important we defend access to cash. I’m glad that the Queen’s Speech finally committed to bringing forward legislation, but worryingly it included no mention of face-to-face banking, which local businesses and many elderly and vulnerable people rely on. Bank profits are soaring and the sector needs to show some social responsibility for the communities they serve and for their workforces, not abandon their high street presence and leave people behind in their rush to hand mega-bonuses to shareholders. I’m presenting my petition to Parliament in early June so please sign and show your support.
Here are some of the events I’ve attended this month, locally and in Parliament:
- Meeting with Haringey’s new Borough Commander Caroline Haines to discuss crime and Police response in the borough.
- Meeting the North Central London Clinical Commissioning Group to discuss issues including the rise of Long Covid in the borough and the struggles some residents are having to book GP or dentist appointments.
- Firing the starting horn for the YMCA Fun Run & Festival in Priory Park and cheering on all the runners!
- Attending a wonderful Civic Service to mark the end of Cllr Adam Jogee’s two-year term as Mayor.
- Speaking at a Parliamentary event organised by East and South East Asians for Labour on “Recognition, Settlement and Solidarity: Hong Konger arrivals in Britain and solidarity amongst the ESEA Community” event in Parliament.
- Attending a magnificent concert of the Crouch End Festival Choir singing Vaughan Williams “A Sea Symphony” at Alexandra Palace.
- Attending a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London to discuss London’s response to the Ukraine refugee crisis. There’s lots of important work going on across London’s councils and the meeting highlighted the importance of data sharing and the particular needs of vulnerable families.
Shadow Foreign Affairs:AfghanistanAs Labour’s shadow Minister for Asia & the Pacific I have been watching with growing alarm the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last year. Now the Foreign Affairs Select Committee have released a damning report into the run up and handling of the fall of Kabul and the western-backed Government and it is safe to say that it has not held back. The report contains a litany of serious errors from the Government, from the failure to take in to account the aftermath of the Trump-negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban in Doha, the weak intelligence analysis of the Afghan Government’s serious military issues and mounting battlefield losses, the grossly negligent failure to plan for Kabul’s fall, and critically the way which we abandoned our Afghan friends and allies who stood by us despite the heroic and dangerous work of our civil servants and armed forces in appalling circumstances. The Government’s handling of the situation has damaged our standing on the world stage, left Afghanistan to its fate, and undoubtedly lost lives. They should hang their heads in shame.UkraineIn the past few months Russian forces in Ukraine have been pushed back from many areas with the bulk of the fighting now in the eastern Donbass region. What Ukrainian forces have found in the areas recaptured has been nothing short of horrific. Mass graves, victims of torture, and countless accounts of rape and cruelty against Ukrainian civilians all speak of the brutality of Putin’s war machine and the UK has rightly joined a chorus of international criticism of these acts, and committed to supporting the Ukrainian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for these war crimes. Back here in the UK we’re still seeing avoidable failures in the Homes for Ukraine scheme – slow processing times, lack of communication between the Home Office and applicant/sponsors, and zero urgency for priority cases. 82% of cases that I have personally raised with the Home Office have now received visas, but too many are still outstanding. I have written to Lord Harrington, the Minister of Refugees, to highlight the human cost of the failing Home Office and will continue to submit Written Questions and speak out in Parliament. If you are sponsoring a Ukrainian refugee and would like my help, please do get in touch. China & Hong KongYet again China’s actions in Hong Kong have demonstrated the speed in which the freedoms and rights promised to the Hong Kong people have been eroded, in a direct and blatant contradiction of the internationally binding Sino-British Agreement. China’s hand-picked choice for Chief Executive, John Lee, has been confirmed in a sham “election” process while promising more onerous and freedom-limiting legislation, and his election has been swiftly followed by the arrest of opposition activists, including the 90-year-old Cardinal Zen. As the shadow Minister for Asia I condemned these arrests and Mr Lee’s sham election in Parliament, and joined colleagues from Labour’s Home Office team to support Hong Kongers who have fled to the UK in the wake of the crackdown on the city’s long-promised freedoms.Israel & PalestineAs so often events in Israel & the occupied Palestinian territories have attracted international condemnation, with both the violence at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the brutal and unprovoked killing of the Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqla & the appalling handling of her funeral procession by Israeli security forces highlighting yet again the challenges facing the Palestinian people. I have long argued and campaigned, along with my Labour colleagues, for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state alongside a safe and secure Israel as a basis for a lasting peace settlement and these actions only undermine the safety of people on both sides of the divide and make the prospects of a lasting peace settlement in the region yet more remote. Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer and Deputy Leader Angela Raynor have led the condemnations of Shireen’s murder in a joint statement on behalf of the Labour Party, following similar condemnations from the shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy and the shadow Middle East Minister Bambos Charalambous.
Advice & Support:
Remember, these e-newsletters are only a snapshot of the things I’m doing each month. If there’s an issue that concerns you which I haven’t covered here, please drop me a line.
If you’d like to speak to me at one of my regular advice surgeries, held by telephone and in-person, find out here how to book an appointment.
You can also keep up-to-date on my work in Parliament and in the community on Twitter, Facebook or through my website at www.catherinewest.org.uk. Best wishes,CatherineCatherine West MPLabour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green Shadow Foreign Minister – Asia and the Pacific