Welcome to my May Newsletter. It has certainly been a busy month for me representing you and every other local constituent.
Below you will find my monthly round-up of my work as the MP for Lewisham East.
Coronation of King Charles III
Saturday was a historic day for our country as we witnessed the first coronation in the UK for over 70 years. Like many across Lewisham as well as millions across the country and indeed the globe I watched the coronation.
Despite the weather, it was fantastic to see local communities come together to celebrate this special occasion. I attended a party at St Mark’s church where I tried on a crown and had some delicious cake. On Sunday it was also great to attend a street party in Grove Park with amazing residents.
Communities in Lewisham love coming together. This weekend provided a great opportunity for local people to see and socialise with one another. It is important that we see and speak to others, especially when the cost of living is creating so much hardship.
I was however distressed to see reports of various police arrests throughout the bank holiday. For instance, the Metropolitan Police arrested three people from Night Starts, which is an organisation associated with Westminster City Council, who hand out rape alarms. The police were concerned they would disrupt the coronation.
The Public Order Bill, which I and my Labour colleagues voted against, has given the police more powers to arrest protesters. This week I will be writing to the Home Secretary to call for an investigation to take place regarding what happened over the weekend.
Imprisonment for Public Protection Debates
In late April there was a Parliamentary debate on sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP). These sentences allowed offenders who posed a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public to be detained in prison until they no longer posed such a risk.
In 2012 the Government abolished IPP sentences, but the change was not retrospective. On 31 December 2022, there were still 2,892 IPP prisoners in custody. The Justice Committee, on which I serve on, published a report last year, criticising the Government. It found that IPP sentences caused acute harm to those serving IPP sentences, with the prospect of serving a sentence without an end date causing higher levels of self-harm.
During the debate, I stated that nine people serving IPP sentences committed suicide and that the total number of people serving IPP sentences who have taken their own lives stands at 81. You can read my speech here.
Universal Free School Meals
As someone who used to receive Free School Meals, I am passionate that children who need a free school meal are given the chance to have one.
Recently I contributed to a debate on Universal Free School meals where I discussed the importance of good quality school meals for children and also for the Government to address the gap between what schools are given for free school meals and what they cost. This is because often schools are not given enough funds to provide free school meals. You can read my interventions here and here.
Hostage Aid Worldwide
In late April I met with my constituent with Anoosheh Ashoori who was detained for over 4 years in Iran to discuss how best to stop state-based hostage-taking.
We were joined by Bambos Charalambous, Shadow Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, Fabian Hamilton, Shadow Minister for Peace & Disarmament as well as Richard Ratcliffe, husband of former hostage Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, alongside representatives from Hostage Aid Worldwide, Amnesty International and Redress.
State based hostage taking is a recent tactic used more frequently. However, the UK and many other countries’ response has not been fit for purpose. I have therefore been working with experts and my Labour Colleagues to identify how best to meet this new foreign policy challenge.
Situation in Sudan
I am sure you have all been concerned as I have been about the escalating violence in Sudan. The scenes of conflict and war has been extremely hard to watch.
As Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Lammy, Shadow Foreign Secretary I have shared information with my Parliamentary colleagues regarding the ongoing crisis. For instance, I have circulated messages to fellow MPs on how they can directly contact the Foreign Office on the UK’s operations helping British nationals in Sudan.
The Government initially got off to a slow start with several missteps in evacuating British nationals. However, thousands have now been evacuated and I pay tribute to the civil servants and armed forces who helped to make this happen.
Sickle Cell APPG – 5 priorities
As Chair of the Sickle Cell and Thalassemia APPG I am committed to make sure the recommendations of the ‘No One’s Listening’ report are implemented. The report found “serious care failings” in acute services for sickle cell patients and evidence of attitudes underpinned by racism.
I have therefore worked with professionals to come up with the following priorities that the APPG will be campaigning on so that the treatment and care of Sickle Cell patients improves:
- Trusts/Emergency Departments meeting 30-minute pain relief requirement set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
- Mandatory Sickle Cell Disease training for Health Care Professionals
- A medical alert by Emergency Services to Sickle Cell Disease teams when a Sickle Cell patient is admitted
- Address lack of staffing and capacity for Red Cell Exchanges
- Better engagement from Local Haemoglobinopathy Teams
On Stephen Lawrence Day, I joined Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Keir Starmer, Sadiq Khan & colleagues for the Stephen Lawrence 30th Anniversary Memorial Service. It was a very powerful service to remember Stephen, who was murdered due to the colour of his skin.
Bringing justice to Stephen’s killers remains an ongoing issue and many lessons have not been learnt fast enough. Therefore, playing my part to end racial hatred will continue to form a core part of Parliamentary duties.
Thank you for reading this newsletter.