Welcome to this month’s newsletter for Lewisham East. I hope you have enjoyed some of the sunny weather (and even some snow!), and have seen the beautiful spring daffodils and crocuses appearing in our parks.
This is my monthly round-up of how I’ve been representing you in Parliament. I’ll cover the local elections, the roadmap for easing lockdown, and other important issues that will be affecting you and your families.
As ever, please contact me and my office (via the details at the top of this letter) if you are experiencing any problems you need help with. I am always happy to consider raising issues to the Government or other bodies on my constituents’ behalf.
Local Elections – Thursday 6th May
Our elections on May 6th are fast approaching. We will have the opportunity to vote in a council by-election in Catford South, as well as London Assembly Members and a Mayor for London.
Making a plan to vote is essential – no one wants to miss out due to illness or isolation on the day. For this reason, we are all strongly advised to register for a postal vote – and if you aren’t registered to vote at your current address, please do so here. Please spread the word to your family and friends as well.
Roadmap out of Lockdown
The Prime Minister announced at the end of February what our immediate future in the pandemic will look like. The dates for stages 2, 3 and 4 are not concrete, and may be shifted later depending on transmission and death rates.
On 8th March, England will enter Stage 1, where we will be permitted to meet one other person outside of our household for socialising outdoors. All schools will return, and some ceremonies can resume.
On 29th March, we will be able to meet with up to six people outdoors, and some outdoor sports activities will resume.
Stage 2 will hopefully begin on 12th April. All shops will open and outdoor dining will be permitted. Indoor sports activities can resume.
Stage 3 is pencilled in for 17th May. It is expected that all rules for outdoor socialising will be lifted, and there will be limited mixing indoors. Cafes and restaurants will re-open for indoor dining.
All going well, we will enter Stage 4 on 21st June. All restrictions will be lifted.
In order for our lives to return to normal as soon as possible, it is essential we continue to take care with social distancing, mask wearing, and take our vaccine when we’re offered it. For full details, visit the Government website.
Rishi Sunak has laid out what spending the Government plans to make in the year going forward. While we welcome the extension of furlough to September 2021, and that more self-employed people will now receive the Government grants following the passing of the tax return deadline, this Budget still leaves far too many people falling through the cracks.
I spoke in the Budget Debate to raise the issue of the lack of a plan for social care, no progress on decarbonising our economy, and absolutely no mention of the fire safety crisis affecting many residents of apartment blocks. Labour will be firm in holding the Government to account for these decisions – and you can hear our Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds speak about our priorities here.
Stop and Search Surgery
On Monday 8th March I will be holding a virtual surgery to discuss the use of Stop and Search in Lewisham East.
Do you have any concerns about the way you have been policed? Have you or someone you know had an experience where you felt disproportionate force was used? I want to hear from you.
Please email me to secure your slot. Together with the police, we can work to make our community safer and our policing fairer.
Forde Inquiry into Racism in the Labour Party
Myself and Labour colleagues were distressed last month to hear that the inquiry into racism in the Party, led by Martin Forde QC, has been suspended indefinitely. This is a crucial investigation into how Black members are treated, and is something that has been needed for many years.
I wrote to David Evans, Labour’s General Secretary, to encourage him not to let this inquiry gather dust. I will be paying close attention to how the issue progresses.
Bakerloo Line Extension Update
This week it was announced that the land marked out for the Bakerloo Line Extension, running from Elephant and Castle down to Lewisham, will be protected from any development which may obstruct the project.
This is a huge breakthrough, and provides reassurance that progress is underway. Myself and other Lewisham MPs, along with Councillors and City Hall, have called for these safeguards to be put in place for years. The extension to Catford is still not confirmed, but I will continue to advocate for it.
Justice Select Committee
I was delighted to return to the Justice Select Committee this week – in a very different fashion to the previous (in person) meetings.
One current issue I will focus on is the serious backlog in cases waiting to be brought to court. These delays cause pain and distress for victims of crime, who just want to see justice done and an end to the proceedings. To catch up on the committee’s most recent discussion, you can watch it here.
Parliament – Covid Statement and Debate
At the end of February, as the Prime Minister announced the plans for easing out of lockdown, I questioned him on the disgraceful practice of the Government giving out valuable pandemic contracts to friends of Ministers. Too many of these contracts have produced sub-standard service and awful value for the taxpayer.
The Prime Minister promised me we will “claw back” any money lost through these contracts, and I will be holding him to it.
I also raised with Matt Hancock how vulnerable our NHS is; while Covid-19 has pushed our health service to the brink, it has been under consistent pressure since Tory austerity began in 2010. If urgent action is not taken to strengthen it now, the NHS will not be ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Parliament – Cladding Crisis
The Government announced measures last month that would mean some leaseholders would be freed from the costs facing them in regards to unsafe cladding. However, many leaseholders will still need to foot the costs for fire safety works if their building is beneath 11 metres in height. This is completely unacceptable, and is making many people who the Government won’t support unable to sell their homes.
I raised this in the Chamber, as I know too many of my constituents are stuck in unsafe homes.
Parliament – Uyghur Women
As the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China continue to be persecuted, I took the opportunity to raise the particular plight facing the women in this community. Reports came through recently of a serious programme of sexual assault by officials in the prison camps. On top of distressing news of sterilisations and children being taken from their parents, I will continue to call for stronger action from our Government to condemn this genocide.
Parliament – Anoosheh Ashoori and Debt Owed to Iran
News reached me last month that Anoosheh Ashoori, who continues to be arbitrarily detained in prison in Tehran, has now had his privileges of phone use revoked. This is just the most recent example of the emotional challenges facing Anoosheh, as well as the physical ones.
I brought this to the attention of the Foreign Secretary and again urged him to resolve the IMS debt owed to Iran. I have also written to him, following unanswered questions in my January debate.
Parliament – Uber Judgement and Workers’ Rights
Last week, the High Court ruled that Uber drivers should be classed as “workers”, therefore entitled to the minimum wage, sick leave and holiday pay. These are small rights which are sadly denied to far too many “gig economy” workers. Myself and Labour colleagues encouraged the Government to ensure Uber take heed of this judgement, and take steps to enforce this for other zero hours workers.
I will be holding my usual constituency casework surgery on Friday 12th March, 10am-12pm, over Zoom. My Stop and Search Surgery will be happening on 8th March, 12-2pm. To secure a slot for either of these, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief summary of your concerns including your full name, postal address and contact number. Please attach any relevant documents.
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