Since Parliament has come back from recess and prorogation, this has continued. I was appalled at Suella Braverman’s comments on refugees, gender ideology, people who are homeless, protesters, the police and actually I am disturbed by most things that she says. It was right that she was sacked. The Conservative Government is unable to focus on what is needed for our country and their reshuffle which has brought David Cameron back into Government will change nothing. People are struggling with the cost of living and this is not just because of different priorities but because they are truly incapable.
This week the Government announced their legislative agenda in the King’s Speech. However, it turned out to be a damp squib. In the debate on the King’s Speech, I highlighted the Government’s record of failure and how they should have focused on things people need help with. This includes the cost of living, education housing and their health. You can read my speech here.
The current Covid inquiry tells us that when we have a Tory Government we get unprofessionalism alongside a lack of strategy and vision. The pandemic exposed the inequalities that 13 years of Tory Government have embedded in the UK. Whilst many of the details of what happened in Downing Street during the pandemic are shocking, it is only right that those responsible are held to account.
As many of you will know, after the summer recess I was appointed as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Youth Justice. Championing and advancing the rights of children has become one of my top priorities since becoming a Member of Parliament.
I used my first outing at the despatch box to tell the Government that the delay in implementing a new prison education service has negatively impacted re-offending rates. You can watch my exchange with the Prisons Minister here.
Despite my new responsibilities, my commitment to Lewisham East is unwavering. Whether an issue impacting residents is international, national or local, it is my duty to raise these in the corridors of power in Westminster. Therefore, please see below on what I have been doing as the Member of Parliament for Lewisham East.
Situation in Israel and Gaza
I know you all will have been shocked and saddened by the events in Israel and Gaza over the past month. I was disturbed by the brutal acts of terror committed by Hamas on 7 October as well as the daily horrors we have witnessed in Gaza since. This is a complex humanitarian disaster that unfortunately has no long-term easy fixes. Every country has a right to defend itself, but this must be in accordance with international law.
In the Commons Chamber, I have stated that human suffering in Gaza is unimaginable, and a humanitarian pause for aid is desperately needed to save lives. Whilst getting aid into Gaza is important it must be properly administered and I called on the Government to support organisations like UNICEF so the innocent children of Gaza are protected. You can read my exchange with the Minister here.
I have had nearly a thousand pieces of correspondence from across Lewisham East on this matter and I recognise the strongly held views in the local community. I will continue to closely monitor the situation and urge the Government to help end suffering on both sides.
Discrimination in Schools
I am sure many of you remember the deeply disturbing incident that took place outside of Thomas Knyvett College in Surrey earlier this year where a young black child was physically assaulted by three young white children.
Following this I organised a debate in Parliament on racial discrimination in schools which you can read here. As a result I met with the Schools Minister to discuss this issue. In 2012, the Government said schools no longer had to record racist incidents. I told the Minister that this continues to be the wrong decision, and that this will not be the last time I press the Government on this.
Our Armed Forces personnel from the UK and Commonwealth work tirelessly to protect our country and keep us safe. We must continue to remember their enduring sacrifices. Therefore, I was honoured to plant a tribute in the House of Commons Constituency Garden of Remembrance on behalf of Lewisham East. I also attended Remembrance events throughout the weekend.
District Heating Networks
For years I have campaigned on behalf of my constituents on district heating networks who are paying over the odds for their energy. In response the Government passed the Energy Act. Yet this legislation has not gone far enough.
The Act allows for the Secretary of State to bring in a price cap, but only at their discretion, and it does not mandate them to do so. This therefore does not guarantee price parity for heat network customers compared to those with traditional heating methods who are protected under the current price cap.
You can watch me hold the Minister to account on this issue here. However, I am not satisfied with her pre-written response.
I am sure many of you are concerned that the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan had to race to the border to beat a deadline for undocumented foreigners to leave the country. Over recent months I have raised in the Commons Chamber the need for the Government to address problems related to the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy. The people impacted have gone through a lot. I then raised the specific cases of a number of constituents which you can watch here. There can be no more excuses. Ministers must fix their failing Afghan schemes.
The Cladding Crisis
For too long the Government has failed to tackle the Cladding crisis. There are many buildings under 11 metres who have had no support from the Government but are expected to pay for fire safety defects that were not their fault. You can watch me press the Minister on this issue here. Whilst his reply is encouraging, the Government’s approach supporting people living in under-11 metre buildings.
Black History Month
October marked Black History Month. This is the time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black communities and acknowledge the inequality they still face. As a result, I hosted a talk with American Academic Derron Wallace on “the culture trap.”
Following this I organised a Parliamentary launch of the Lancet’s publication on the need for a global strategy to improve outcomes in Sickle Cell Disease. Sickle Cell disease is particularly common in people with an African or Caribbean family background which has been neglected for years by policy makers.
Labour will introduce a Race Equality Act to tackle structural racial inequalities. This includes plans to tackle the disproportionately low rates of pay experienced by ethnic minorities and organisations not acting on pay data could be fined.
Ticket Office Closure U-turn
On Monday 31st October the Government announced it would be cancelling plans to close ticket offices across the country. This comes after industry watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch stated that they opposed the closures due to the impact on passenger accessibility.
When plans were made public in early July, I along with Vicky Foxcroft MP and Ellie Reeves MP wrote to the Transport Secretary. We demanded to know whether this would lead to staff redundancies and greater safety concerns for vulnerable passengers such as the elderly and disabled.
Whilst this U-turn is welcome news, it shows that the Government’s plans were flawed & they should have listened to myself and local people when they first announced them. Rather than wasting everyone’s time, the Government should have been working with Southeastern to improve customer experience for local people.
Community Bike Ride
I was delighted to attend the Lewisham Community Bike Ride, hosted with Lewisham Cyclists. It was great to see councillors, the police and local people take part. Going out and getting on your bike brings with it so many health benefits. The bike ride also allowed everyone to enjoy our fantastic local parks as well as encouraging people to use bikes as a viable mode of transport!
London Philanthropic Orchestra
I recently spent a wonderful evening listening to the London Philanthropic Orchestra at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Lee. It was a great initiative to raise money for Lewisham Foodbank and I thank them for organising this. The London Philanthropic Orchestra was founded in 2019 to bring both professional and amateur musicians together, to raise money for charitable causes. If you were not able to attend but would like to donate to Lewisham Foodbank then you can do so using this link here.
Downham Games Fest
Last month I attended Downham Games Fest at the Downham Health and Leisure Centre. Many people from underrepresented backgrounds are at risk of not getting involved in the creative industries. It was therefore great to learn more about the “Do I look like a gamer” campaign that confronts stereotypes & promotes inclusion & diversity in gaming. You can learn more about this iniative here.
Manor Park Friends Autumn Fete
I was joined former Lewisham Councillor Jim Mallory at the Manor Park Friends Autumn Fete. It was a brilliant afternoon and a great chance to meet and interact with local families. Quaggy Waterways Action Group is a fantastic group that protects and promotes the River Quaggy. They stress the importance of safeguarding our waterways, environment, and biodiversity whilst highlighting how rivers can bring natural beauty to our area.
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