This month marks the end of my first year as your Member of Parliament for Lewisham East.
In my first year as MP I have helped constituents with more than 3,000 cases on a range of issues affecting the community including housing, immigration, benefits and schools. Many thousands more have written to me regarding policy-related issues.
Below I have outlined some of the key actions I have been taking to deliver on the issues that matter to Lewisham East residents, in Parliament and the community.
Climate Emergency and Air Pollution
Unless we act rapidly to reduce the carbon dioxide we are releasing into the atmosphere, we face catastrophe. That is why I spoke in Parliament about the need to declare an environment and climate emergency in May.
The focus of my speech was on air quality, which in many areas of our community still falls below legal limits put in place to protect us. There are 453 London primary and secondary schools in areas that exceed legal air quality limits.
The Mayor of London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone is leading the way and Lewisham Council is supporting this but we also need transformative Net Zero action at a national level.
In Parliament I urged the Government to declare a climate emergency and take transformative action to achieve net zero emissions urgently. See my speech.
I was also delighted to meet constituents who attend ‘The Time is Now’ climate change mass rally at Parliament in June.
Representing your views on Brexit
Brexit has dominated the political agenda since I entered Parliament. I have been a clear and vocal in my support of a public vote on the final terms of any Brexit deal.
My view is our Labour Party should unreservedly lead the fight to remain in the European Union in any such vote.
I understand the frustrations with the Labour Party’s nuanced stance on this important issue and I have called for the clarity I know members and supporters want to see. See me discuss this on Newsnight here.
I have consistently voted against the Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament, which would make our community poorer, and backed various motions in support of a second referendum and the revocation of Article 50.
I have also supported efforts to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living here and British citizens living in the EU. This work continues in the light of the recent EU elections where it seems many in these groups were unable to vote
With the threat of a disastrous no deal Brexit and uncertainty still high I will continue to be a strong pro-European voice in the Labour Party and in Parliament.
Windrush Scandal and Widening Windrush
As the Windrush Scandal broke last year I called for a truly independent public inquiry and a proper compensation fund without a cap. I rallied a group of more than 50 MPs to demand an immediate halt to mass charter deportation flights. Read more here. I have since been campaigning to widen the Windrush scheme to descendants and family members of the Windrush generation to protect them from the same injustices their relatives have faced.
Action on our Rail Services
Commuters continue to face unacceptable delays, cancellations and overcrowding on trains.
I have pressed Transport Secretary Chris Grayling regarding his complete failure on the new southeastern franchise. Continues delays are holding up improvements to the service that will benefit passengers such as new rolling stock and more carriages. Read about this here.
I have also lobbied the Department of Transport to ensure that long-overdue accessibility works at Hither Green station get underway and have worked with local residents and Lewisham Council to secure Government funding for similar work in Catford. Read more here.
Protecting our young people
Serious violence remains a problem in our community and we urgently need a holistic solution to this complex issue. In April the Home Secretary said that the Government’s mindset needed to shift and adopt a public health approach. But we are yet to see any real action from this government to meet this commitment. In Parliament I have called for the government to introduce its public health approach to serious violence, and to ensure it is properly resourced and funded. This is about policing, but it is also about structural changes to multiple systems and agencies, including health services, youth services, education and the justice system. I also continue to support Lewisham Council as it introduces its own public health model. Read more here.
Education, Education, Education
We know that our primary and secondary schools can unlock the potential of our children and give them the best start in life. In the last year I have visited many schools in the constituency and the picture is clear: continued central government cuts are taking a huge toll.
I have raised this in Parliament on a number of occasions. Most recently, I have raised questions with Ministers after I became aware that schools in our community are having to cut Teaching Assistants in their latest efforts to balance their budgets. Watch this here. I will continue to make sure the voices of pupils, parents and teachers are heard.
Preserving our health services
It is vital that we continue to protect our NHS and enhance mental health services in our area, while paying particular attention to health inequalities.
In Parliament I have lobbied ministers to provide long-term funding support for nursing students who have seen their bursaries cut. I joined with other MPs and the ‘FundOurFuture’ campaign to insist the Government invests in nursing education in England.
As the threat of a no deal Brexit escalates, I have also pressed the Government on how we will meet NHS staffing needs. See my question here.
Ending Period Poverty
In my maiden speech I raised the issue of Period Poverty, which blights the lives of women. Following much pressure from activist groups, I was pleased to see the Chancellor commit to free sanitary products for secondary schools and colleges in the Spring Statement. But with 10% of women in the UK unable to afford sanitary products this does not go far enough. I coordinated a letter to the Chancellor from 70 MPs urging him to take a human rights approach and provide free sanitary products to all, regardless of age or income. This would mark a real end to period poverty. Following my question to Treasury Ministers I was pleased that the government eventually agreed to extend free period products to primary schools too and I continue to monitor the work of the government’s Period Poverty Taskforce.
Universal Credit and Poverty
Universal Credit rolled out across Lewisham in July 2018 and I have been concerned to see the impact this is having on constituents. There is increasing evidence that the five week wait is pushing those who are already vulnerable into poverty. The Trussell Trust has drawn a link between the introduction of Universal Credit and foodbank usage and this is born out in parts of our community too. I used my first Prime Minister’s Question to raise the case of a constituent who has three jobs on Zero Hours Contracts but still has to use a local foodbank. I have also met with a group of constituents who are applying for Universal Credit and heard about the difficulties they are facing. It is clear that the five week wait must be scrapped. I have raised this with Ministers and will continue to work on this in the autumn.
Vote 100 and International Women’s Day
I was delighted to take my seat in Parliament in the year that we marked the centenary of women’s suffrage and their ability to stand for election. I was pleased to co-sponsor a debate on International Women’s Day with a cross-party group of women. In my speech I celebrated the achievements and advancements women have made, while highlighting some of the challenges we still face including the gender pay gap, pensions and period poverty. Watch this here.