Welcome to my December newsletter featuring an update on my activities in Parliament and the constituency as your MP. I’ll also be sharing an update on the coronavirus crisis, and useful contact information which may help support you and your family during this difficult time.
As always, I would love to hear from you if you agree with how I’m approaching things and what further issues you think I should be addressing; my contact details are at the top of this report. I, and my office team, will continue to help support you and all constituents and to raise issues with the Government or with agencies if they do not appear to have them on their agenda. I look forward to hearing from you.
Covid-19 is still very much at the top of the agenda, but more recently, the question that most of us have been asking is what’s the plan over the Winter/ Christmas period?
Last week, the Prime Minister announced that between 23rd and 27th December, up to three households will be allowed to form a temporary “Christmas bubble” and mix indoors. This will mean that bubbles will be allowed to meet each other in each other’s homes, at a place of worship, and in an outdoor public space, or private garden. However, the government has also made it clear that people will not allowed meet their Christmas bubble in hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants, or at entertainment venues.
It’s important that we’re now all aware of the rules England now has after the most recent national lockdown when it ended just after midnight on Wednesday 2 December.
As it stands, the Government has announced that the following will apply to all areas:
- Shops, gyms and personal care services will all reopen
- Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports will resume
- People will no longer be limited to seeing one other person outdoors
- The rule of six will apply in outdoor public spaces
- Non-essential foreign travel allowed, subject to quarantine rules
- There will be different rules for pubs and spectator sports in the different tiers.
- In tier one, they will be able to open until 23:00 GMT, with last orders at 22:00
- In tier two, they can only open if they serve substantial meals. Alcohol can be served with that meal
- In tier three, hospitality venues must close apart from delivery and takeaway
- Can resume in tier one with a maximum crowd of 50% of stadium capacity or 4,000 spectators, whichever is smaller
- Can resume in tier two with 50% of capacity or 2,000 spectators, whichever is smaller
- Cannot resume in tier three
Lewisham is now in Tier 2 from December 3rd. This means that indoor dining can continue with members of your household, and you can meet outdoors with members outside of your household in groups of up to 6. You cannot meet anyone outside of your household indoors.
This decision will be reviewed every 2 weeks, so our circumstances may change on 17th December.
Should you require any further details of the governments plan, you can read more here.
In another exciting development, the Government has also announced that the roll-out of the first vaccine will begin next week (wc. 07/12) and whilst this is still a huge logistical challenge that will take many months, the end of this crisis is now in sight. However, the introduction of a vaccine must not make us complacent, and it is still vital that individuals follow the rules set out by the government for the benefit of all of society, but particularly the elderly and vulnerable.
Shadow Faith Brief
November was Islamophobia Awareness Month, Labour Muslim Network published a report which found distressing levels of Islamophobia in the Labour Party, and makes sobering reading. Keir Starmer has committed to enacting all the recommendations in the report, including adopting the APPG for Islamophobia: Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.
I have worked throughout the second lockdown to support faith leaders in dealing with their places of worship being closed. I was relieved to hear that places of worship will be open going forward, regardless what Tier we are places in. I have also called on the Government to improve its communications with faith leaders ahead of making announcements.
A highlight from the last month has also been taking part in the Jewish Labour Movement conference. I spoke in a session with three Rabbis discussing the importance of religious communities during the pandemic, and later addressed a group of Mitzvah Day volunteers. Discussions have continued this month about how to support Jewish communities in the Labour Party.
As Shadow Minister for Faith, it is my priority to show that Labour champion people of faith and value all they contribute to our society.
Parliament – Nigeria: Sanctions Regime (SARS) Debate
Recently I took part in a debate in Parliament regarding the serious issue of SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) in Nigeria, and their long history of various human rights abuses which you can view here.
Labour has called for the UK government to consider suspending the funding and training of security forces in Nigeria.
- Nigerian police and military have been authorised to purchase at least £127m-worth of UK registered arms since 2008
- Dozens of protesters were killed last month including at least 12 people gunned down by soldiers in Lagos, according to Amnesty International
- The army and Nigerian authorities have denied responsibility, dismissing reports of fatalities and claiming footage showing soldiers at the scene was manipulated. Authorities have also set about clamping down on prominent protesters, critics and media which broadcasted abuses.
The Labour Party has now publicly called for an “independent investigation into the allegations against SARS units, as well as military, security and policing forces responsible for attacks on protesters.
The UK Government initially stated that SARS officers had not received UK support however since then, UK minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP, has publicly said that the unit has received “strategic assistance” and training alongside personnel from the wider Nigerian police force as part of a programme that ran from 2016 to March this year.
The Foreign Office has also stated that It is important that the police in Nigeria respect human rights and that they have been working with Nigeria to support reforms to ensure this happens. Unfortunately, they have not confirmed whether the government had knowingly provided training to SARS officers and whether assistance or funding to the army or police had ever been reviewed on account of human rights abuses.
I have since written to both Liz Truss MP (Secretary of State for International Trade) and Dominic Raab MP (Foreign Secretary) to raise my concerns regarding the recent events in Nigeria. More specifically I have asked them to condemn the use of force and riot/military-equipment towards peaceful protestors by the Nigerian authorities, and to ask if riot control equipment/military equipment are being exported to Nigeria, and if so, demand the suspension of sales until it can be ascertained that the equipment will not be used against peaceful protestors.
At present neither has responded but I will ensure that I keep you informed of any developments.
Parliament – Deaths in Mental Health Care
This month I also spoke in parliament on the subject of mental health care and it’s lack of funding, with particular attention to the Mental Health unit in Lewisham which is widely regarded as not being fit for purpose due as it was not built specifically to care for those with mental illness.
In the debate, I discussed how with the added pressures of the pandemic, medical professionals are reporting a surge in those individuals who are now suffering with mental illness due to economic hardship or loneliness and the immense lack of funding that the service has. The fall-out after the pandemic has passed has the potential to be another huge crisis for the NHS and we must ensure that those funds are in place to help support those in society who need the help most.
It’s also important to ensure that staff of the service are provided with the correct training, supervision and, most of all, are not overworked. They also need a support structure in place so that they too can be provided with support if things start to get difficult.
For more information on this debate, you can watch my contribution to the debate here, or alternatively look at my contribution in Hansard. This is an issue I will continue to raise in Parliament, and will continue to update you as, and when, there are further developments.
Parliament – Scheduled Mass Deportation: Jamaica
On 30th November I took part in a very important debate speaking against the Government’s decision to mass deport individuals to Jamaica. It’s disgraceful that the Government has still not implemented the recommendations of the Windrush Review, and clearly no lessons have been learned.
The mass deportation is gross mistreatment of predominantly Black people who have grown up here, and who we have a duty to rehabilitate. Many of these people set for deportation have already served their sentence. Many committed these offences when they were young, as they were victims of drugs operations known as county lines or have been criminalised in association.
This is a cause I am very passionate about, and strongly believe that it is our country’s moral responsibility to rehabilitate these individuals, and will continue to press the government strongly on this matter. I have since written to the Home Secretary, and will keep you informed of any further developments on this matter.
Coronavirus Help and Support
- General information on Coronavirus
- Covid-19: Keeping Lewisham Safe
- Health support for residents
- Housing and homelessness advice
- Business support
- Service changes due to COVID-19
Other available advice:
- Citizens Advice Lewisham
- Lewisham Foodbank – Please note changes to services
- Age UK Lewisham & Southwark
- Government business advice – Support Helpline (0300 456 3565 Mon – Fri, 9am to 6pm)
- HMRC Tax Support Helpline – (0800 024 1222, Mon – Fri, 8am to 4pm)
Domestic abuse and Mental Health support:
- Athena Domestic Abuse Support Lewisham
- Mind – Bromley, Lewisham, and Greenwich
- Samaritans – Call 116 123 – 24/7 free from any phone