Welcome to my newsletter for March. The past month has seen ongoing public strikes with the Government doing very little to seek a resolution to them. We have also seen a lot of political announcements that will have profound impact on the lives of a lot of people throughout the country and in Lewisham East.
Therefore, please see below an overview of my activities over the past month. If you need to raise anything with me, please do not hesitate to contact me via janet.daby.mp@parliament or 02084 614733.
Northern Ireland Protocol
Early last week we were told that Rishi Sunak reached a new deal on the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol. The Windsor Framework cleans up the disorder created by Boris Johnson. It eases customs checks on goods destined just for Northern Ireland. The UK will control VAT and excise rules in Northern Ireland and there will be a new “emergency brake” for Stormont to opt out of EU goods rules.
I and my Labour Party colleagues welcome this breakthrough. It is long overdue. This has been left to drag on for too long causing yet more uncertainty for business. Labour will back this because we need to support businesses and ensure a functioning Executive for the people of Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister says this deal meets the DUP’s tests; they need to now have the space to judge it for themselves. We hope they do so in an openhearted way which really engages with all the challenges in Northern Ireland.
The DUP have said they will judge the protocol on their six tests. I hope they properly engage with it and that power sharing is once again restored in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is using this as an opportunity to cause his successor as PM more problems, by refusing to commit to vote for it. The Conservatives really cannot help but turn everything they touch into a soap opera.
Whilst this deal is good for country, we should not forget that the Government’s Retained EU Law Bill that is going through Parliament right now, will create a cliff edge for vital laws and protections. It is a Bill that is rarely talked about, but it could be very damaging as we navigate our way outside of the EU!
Labour’s 5 National Missions
In February Keir Starmer outlined how the next Labour Government will be driven by five bold missions to build a better Britain. These missions include:
- Secure the highest sustained growth in the G7
- Make Britain a clean energy superpower
- Build an NHS fit for the future
- Break down the barriers to opportunity at every stage
- Make Britain’s streets safe
Each mission will focus and overcome the long term and complex problems holding our country back. For over 13 years the Conservatives have gone from crisis to crisis, often of their own making and they have just applied short term measures in the hope the problem goes away.
With this kind of sticking plaster politics, it is not hard to see why nearly every public sector organisation is going on strike and how the cost-of-living crisis is hitting so many people.
To learn more about Labour’s 5 national missions you can watch Keir’s speech here as well as Keir and Rachel’s Reeves setting out Labour’s mission to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 here.
One year anniversary of Ukraine
On Friday 24th February I joined local people in Lewisham East and people around the UK and across the world to pay tribute to the brave people of Ukraine as we marked one year since Russia’s legal invasion. The human cost of this war has been horrendous. According to the UN at least 8,000 civilians have been killed – with nearly 13,300 injured. But the true number is likely to be substantially higher. Nearly 18 million people need humanitarian assistance, and 14 million people have been displaced from their homes.
What makes this more awful is the fact that this is all down to one man – Vladimar Putin and his warped view of history with his total disregard to human life. As Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs I will do all I can to help him hold Putin to account but also to stand with Ukraine in their fight for freedom.
Türkiye and Syria Earthquakes
I am sure you were as sad and shocked as I was to hear of the earthquakes that have caused so many to suffer across Türkiye and Syria. It is unbelievably tragic that roughly 52,000 people have died and that at least 2.4M people have been displaced because of the earthquakes.
As usual so many fantastic Lewisham organisations responded in generosity and kindness by collecting and sending vital donations to both countries. You can see those organisations here.
You can also donate money through the Disasters Emergency Committee via this link.
Racially motivated assault on a school child in Ashford, Surrey
A deeply disturbing incident took place outside of Thomas Knyvett College in Surrey where a young black child was physically assaulted by three young white children. Personally, I have lost sleep over this incident, and I know many other people have been impacted in a similar way. You can see my intervention a few days after this incident took place here, the joint letter that I organised here and my question to the Education Secretary on this issue here.
My primary concern is for the welfare of the child who was attacked but also to ensure that this is investigated. Since this incident I was approached by a teacher at the school who told me about escalating violence and that discrimination at this school was not uncommon.
A further incident of a racial attack soon came to media attention in a school in Kent. This suggests that these individual racial attacks are possibly more frequent than we realise.
I am leading a parliamentary debate on racial discrimination in schools. I will call on the Government to intervene urgently and address the discrimination that children experience schools across the country.
Getting Election Ready – Voter ID
Following the passing of the Elections Act 2022, from 4 May 2023, voters in England will be required to show photo ID in local elections, Police & Crime Commissioner elections, UK Parliamentary by-elections, and recall petitions. From October 2023, this requirement will also apply to UK general elections.
It is estimated that 2 million voters do not have valid photo ID and will be required to apply for a Voter Authority Certificate. Organisations including the Electoral Commission, Local Government Association and Association of Electoral Administrators have all warned the Government that there is insufficient time to safely introduce voter ID requirements for May’s elections.
I am concerned of what this will do for voter turnout, especially in areas with already low participation in elections. As a result, I will be asking what the Labour Party is doing nationally and within the London Region to ensure that the doorstep script and training is being adapted to accommodate new voter ID requirements.
Primary School Dinners
Earlier this month I was delighted to hear that Sadiq Khan’s announcement of a £130m emergency scheme to provide every primary schoolchild in London with free school meals in the next academic year.
This emergency funding will help around 270,000 primary school children and save families in London around £440 per child across the year. This is absolutely the right thing to do during a cost-of-living crisis. I know how much this will mean to struggling families who are not eligible for free school meals despite being on low incomes.
Before this is implemented, I will liaise with the Mayor to ensure that schools in Lewisham East are fully briefed on the specifics of how this scheme will be delivered and funded in a way that builds upon existing processes for free school meal funding.
Hostage Aid Worldwide
In early February I caught up with my constituent Anoosheh Ashoori who was detained in the notorious Evin Prison in Iran. After tireless campaigning from myself, his family and Amnesty International he was released almost one year ago.
He came to Parliament alongside Hostage Aid International, who deliver essential support to those affected by kidnapping and illegal detention, to award me a certificate of recognition for the part I played in securing Anoosheh’s freedom.
We were joined by my colleague Fabian Hamilton, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Latin America and the Caribbean. Labour has rightly pledged to legislate for a new legal right to consular assistance for those held hostage abroad. As part of the Shadow Foreign Affairs team, I will continue to look for ways to help secure the release of hostages and ensure that they are properly supported.
Late last week I was informed by the Rail Minister that there will be a partial and limited reversal of the timetable change that has caused so much disruption to people travelling into central London. From 22 May there will now be a direct off-peak service to Charing Cross on the Bexleyheath Line, which will run hourly, Monday to Saturday.
Whilst it is good that the Government and the train operator acknowledge that the current situation is untenable, it nevertheless shows that the timetable that was imposed upon train users was flawed and does not work. Despite repeated warnings of overcrowding, and the imposition of changing at London Bridge it was implemented without consultation.
The change is welcome, but this does little for many across the constituency who are putting up with poor service every day. There is a petition calling for Southeastern metro services to be incorporated into TfL’s Overground network. I would recommend that you sign it, because now Southeastern and the Government do not understand the scale of the problem.
Downderry Primary School visit
It was a pleasure to visit Downderry Primary School where I met with the children in Years 5 and 6. I also met their fantastic head teacher and was given a tour of the school.
It is important to me that I meet as many students and staff across Lewisham East as possible. This is so I can hear about issues affecting their schools and hear their views on what is happening in Lewisham and in the country. I also want to relay what I can do for them in Parliament. Young people are our future, and it is important they are represented in the corridors of power.
Air Quality Grant
Air pollution is something that is increasing impacting all of us. Whilst ULEZ will help us to tackle it, there are many other ways we can fight for clean air. That is why I was delighted to hear that Lewisham Council was successful in its application in this year’s award of Defra’s Air Quality Grant Scheme.
This funding will allow Lewisham Council to carry out projects in the local community to tackle air pollution and reduce emissions affecting schools, businesses, and residents.
I congratulate the Mayor Damian Egan and all those who supported and submitted this application.
Thank you for reading this newsletter.