Welcome to this month’s Lewisham East newsletter.
This month we celebrated many religious holidays. This included Easter Sunday, Passover, the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi, the Hindu festival of Hanuman Jayanti as well as the Tamil New Year. We also very recently had Eid-ul-fitr where Muslims celebrated the end of Ramadan. I wish everyone who celebrated any of these days all the best. I am privileged to be the representative of such a diverse and tolerant area.
In April there was a two-week Easter Parliamentary recess, but I did not stop working hard for my constituents. When Parliament returned there was a lot of late-night voting. This is because the Government tried to get a lot of Bills passed before the close of the parliamentary session. These Bills included: the Nationality and Borders Bill, the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Elections Bill and the Judicial Review and Courts Bill.
These pieces of legislation will have a determinantal impact on the way of life for all of us. Unfortunately, they were passed. This is despite the House of Lords tabling some very sensible amendments (many of them from Labour) which, if accepted would have improved these pieces of legislation. The harmful measures in these Bills included: the government no longer being forced to inform people if their citizenship is being removed; limiting people’s ability to protest; imposing voter ID which will supress voter turnout and limiting the ways that public can legally challenge Government decisions. The Building Safety Bill was also passed, but it could have done much more to protect leaseholders from facing unaffordable costs to remediate unsafe cladding.
In this Newsletter I will discuss the Local Elections results, the Government’s cruel Rwanda refugee policy, building safety in Lewisham, local fostering provision and my recent visit to the Lewisham Polish Centre.
If you would like to raise anything to my attention, please do get in touch with me and my office (via email@example.com). I will always raise issues on my constituents’ behalf to the Government or other bodies.
Immigration policy under the Conservatives
I was shocked and appalled to learn of the Government’s announcement that asylum seekers who cross the Channel to the UK will be given a one-way ticket to Rwanda. This policy announced by the Home Office is unworkable and unethical. We have seen in Australia that offshoring is expensive and does not work. It is not right that people seeking asylum are posted off to another country thousands of miles away.
It was equally distressing to see that the Nationality and Borders Bill was passed and has now become law. Clause 9 of this legislation gives the Government the ability to strip people of their British citizenship – even if they were born here. Additionally, the authorities can do this with no notice. Furthermore Clause 11 could create differential treatment of refugees as it would move most refugees claiming asylum in the UK to a new, lesser status with fewer rights. By doing this the Government is saying that one person’s life is more valuable than another person’s life. This is a clear breach of the 1951 Refugee Convention, of which Britain was a founding member.
I am also concerned about reports of delays in the processing of new passports. Many people are being left in limbo as they wait for their passports to be given to them. I therefore called on Government Ministers to address the backlogs in the Passport Office. The Government is running down the Passport Office and it should be given the resources it needs to do the job properly.
Building safety in Lewisham
In April the Building Safety Bill was passed. During the debate on the Lords amendments to Bill, Labour criticised the Government on how large sections of the Bill have been completely rewritten since it was first introduced to Parliament. Labour also challenged the Government on the duties placed on the Building Safety Regulator, protections for leaseholders in buildings below 11 metres in height, protection for leaseholders in enfranchised buildings, and the proposed leaseholder cap.
During the debate I spoke about the anxiety of residents of Parkside. I urged the housing provider Peabody and developers Rydon and Ardmore to accept the full remediation cost. They must also work with the residents towards achieving the best outcome for them. I stated that my constituents desperately need to know that no additional cost will be passed on to them. It is deeply disappointing that they have not been given that reassurance.
Fostering in Lewisham
In a debate I spoke about fostering in Lewisham. Lewisham has the second highest number of looked after children in London. I drew on my experience as a manager in fostering. I discussed the challenges of retaining foster carers and how carers feel that they are not being valued enough. I also pointed out that the cuts to local government funding under the Conservatives have had an adverse impact on the support that social workers can offer foster carers. This has negatively impacted on their ability to continue fostering.
I intend to speak up further for foster children and foster carers in Lewisham in the weeks and months ahead.
Visit to the Polish Centre
Last month I had the privilege to visit the Lewisham Polish Centre with Ellie Reeves MP. We met the Chair, Agnieszka Lokaj. We then welcomed one of the first families from Ukraine to come to Lewisham after Putin’s invasion. They shared their experience of this conflict, and we discussed the help needed for refugees. I am proud that Lewisham was the first Borough in the UK to be recognised as a Borough of Sanctuary. The Government and other London Boroughs ought to follow Lewisham’s lead and give sanctuary to those fleeing war in Europe.
Not long before I visited the Polish Centre it was announced that I was on a list of 287 current and former MPs that are now banned from entering Russia This will not stop me to call out against and doing all I can do stop Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, these sanctions have strengthened my resolve to help Ukraine.
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter.