Constituency Newsletter for February 2022
Welcome to my February Lewisham East members’ newsletter. Happy Lunar New Year to all who celebrate! January has certainly been a busy month in Parliament, but February is set to be a busy month ahead for Lewisham as Friday 28th January saw the start of Lewisham’s year as London Borough of Culture for 2022. This will be a brilliant opportunity to showcase all the wonderful people and initiatives that make Lewisham a vibrant and exciting place to live and work.
This is my monthly round-up of how I’ve been representing you in Parliament. It will cover Partygate, unsafe cladding, HMOs, and other issues concerning constituents.
Weekly canvassing is well underway ahead of the Local election in May. I would appreciate it if you can put canvasing dates in your diary, to show your support to your local branches. To find out more see your branch emails or visit http://events.labour.org.uk/
Partygate and Sue Gray’s Report
On 31st January, Sue Gray finally submitted her report to 10 Downing Street and the results are damning: she identified 16 different parties that took place in Downing Street during lockdown and highlighted “failures of leadership and judgement” at No 10.
During the Prime Minister’s statement to the House on the results of the interim report, I pointed out to him that while he argues the Labour Party and the public should move on from this scandal so the Government can focus on issues such as the situation in Ukraine, his planned call with Russian President Putin had to be cancelled as he addressed the House about Sue Gray’s report. This is a perfect example of why Boris Johnson must resign – he is tarnishing Britain’s reputation around the world and his continued irresponsible behaviour is a distraction from the important work of governing.
Unsafe Cladding and Parkside
I have been continuing to work to hold the Government to account on their plans to address the widespread issue of unsafe cladding and the serious impact it is having on leaseholders. I have been working with residents of Parkside, a Peabody development which has unsafe cladding and other fire safety concerns. I met with Peabody to raise the concerns of residents that costs for remediation work to the unsafe cladding on their buildings will be passed on to them. I will continue to keep dialogue between residents and Peabody open to ensure that further financial burden is not placed on leaseholders.
I also raised the issues at Parkside with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, during his statement to the House on his plans for building safety on 10th January. He has agreed to review the case of the Parkside development with me directly.
Homes of Multiple Occupation
On 27th January 2022, I raised with the Leader of the House, Jacob Reese-Moggs, the fact that in Lewisham family homes are being converted into HMOs, which are increasingly becoming new homes for vulnerable people and families. This is a growing concern for my constituents and for other communities across our country. I requested that there be a debate on this important issue in Government time.
I want to make constituents aware of the fact that Lewisham Council are currently consulting on proposals to introduce landlord licensing for private rented accommodation in certain parts of Lewisham. The proposals would ensure set standards for private rented properties and help tackle issues like overcrowding, poor property conditions and rogue landlords. The deadline for contributing to the consultation has been extended to 20th May 2022, so please do contribute your thoughts and suggestions.
Update on Anoosheh
I am continuing to work with the family of 67-year-old Anoosheh Ashoori, who has now been unfairly imprisoned in Iran for four years, to gain his full and permanent release from prison. Much like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh has been imprisoned as a result of a grossly unfair trial and his physical and mental health have been severely impacted. Anoosheh must be granted diplomatic protection like Nazanin and the Government must ensure it is effectively utilised for both.
IOPC Report on Charing Cross Police
I was shocked to read the details of the IOPC Operation Hotton report on the behaviour of Metropolitan Police officers in a now disbanded unit in Charing Cross. There should be no place for this kind of behaviour amongst police officers and I support Sadiq’s word to Dame Cressida Dick that she and the Met are on notice. I was very encouraged to receive reassurances from Lewisham Police that the conduct of these officers does not represent their values and they are working hard to ensure bullying, and discrimination does not exist in any part of the Met and to rebuild trust in the Police.
Levelling Up Announcement
On Thursday 3rd February the Government announced their long-awaited plans for “levelling up” the country, but the reality was a disappointing mixture of pre-existing policies, no new funding, and an actual ancient history lesson! There is a real need for equality of resources and opportunities for people across the UK, but this Government is simply not doing enough. Labour would introduce concrete policy to create good jobs, decent wages, and genuinely affordable housing to truly level up the UK.
On the same day the Government announced their plans to tackle the growing energy crisis which includes what amounts to a loan of £200 on all energy bills from October that will have to be repaid later. The Chancellor refused Labour’s calls to scrap VAT on energy bills, despite the price cap for gas and electricity bills rising by a record £693 (54%) from April. Labour’s plan to keep energy bills low would save households £200 of their bills, with extra targeted support of £400 to those most in need, through a one-off windfall tax on North Sea oil and gas profits. I spoke in defence of Labour’s plans during a debate on the windfall tax, sharing the story of the constituent I met recently who was wearing a winter coat and a blanket to keep warm. This energy crisis is causing misery and deprivation for people in Lewisham and the Government must do more.
Uyghur Tribunal Judgment
On 20th January 2022 I spoke in a debate on the Uyghur Tribunal’s judgment which found beyond reasonable doubt that the People’s Republic of China was responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and torture in the Uyghur region. I asked whether the Government would follow the example of the House of Commons, which unanimously agreed in April 2020 to a motion declaring that Uyghurs in Xinjiang were suffering crimes against humanity and genocide. The Government must play a leading role in recognising the atrocities being committed against the Uyghur people and breaches of the United Nations convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. The Government must also ensure that companies rid their supply chains of cotton from Xinjiang forced labour camps.
As ever, please contact me and my office (via the details at the top of this letter) if you are experiencing any problems or you need help with. I am always happy to consider raising issues to the Government or other bodies on my constituents’ behalf.