Back at work after the festive break, and let me wish you a Happy New Year.
Plenty to get stuck into! We are already campaigning for Sadiq Khan, Labour candidate for the Mayor of London in May and attacking the Conservatives over their handling of the floods, housing and much, much more.
It was great to see that Camden Council Leader Sarah Hayward, Councillors and Labour members joined the protest outside Parliament on Tuesday, when the housing bill was being debated.
This is a noxious bit of legislation, which will knock a hole in plans to deliver housing for those in our community who are most in need. I have written to the Camden New Journal explaining my views of the desperate need, and what this bill will do.
Here is a taste of what I had to say:
“The Housing and Planning Bill - before Parliament again this week –will make a bad situation worse by implementing a ‘voluntary’ right-to-buy deal struck with some housing associations allowing more affluent tenants to buy their rented property at a discount. The result will not only be a further reduction in much-needed housing stock, but also a punitive levy imposed on councils to pay for this extension of the right to buy scheme.
Camden Council fears having to sell a significant part of its much needed housing stock to foot the bill. Shelter has estimated that, across the country, up to 113,000 further council properties will have to be sold to pay the levy.
Anyone who thinks that is a good idea should come to my next advice surgery and look those desperate for better housing in the eye and tell them that they will have to wait even longer for their basic housing needs!”
During a very late sitting on Tuesday night, I joined Sadiq Khan and others in the lobby to vote for Labour’s amendments intended to ensure houses are treated as ‘homes’ for Londoners not ‘assets’ for foreign investors! Our efforts were sadly defeated by a disinterested government.
There is so much to object to in this Bill, that we have secured a second day’s debate to be agreed in the next few weeks. I will keep you posted.
Backing Sadiq on fares
Talking of Sadiq, this is one of the main planks of his campaign.
He is calling for:
- Freeze fares: All TfL Underground, DLR and Overground fares will be frozen for four years, paid for out of existing TfL budgets and efficiencies.
- Cut bus fares: A first year cut and then a freeze in bus fares, and a change to the way ticketing works so that a single journey ticket is valid for a full hour including changes.
It is a popular message. On Monday Labour members across the borough leafleted commuters as they were going back to work. Cllr. Jenny Headlam-Wells was with the team at Kentish Town tube.
On Wednesday, I led for Labour in the debate on the welfare of women in immigration detention in Yarl’s Wood. The evidence of repeated failures to provide adequate health care to women in detention supported my central point that if the government cannot sort the situation out, the real question is whether Yarl’s Wood is actually fit for purpose. You can read the debate here.
Investigatory Powers Bill
Meanwhile the Investigatory Powers Bill is still in pre-legislative scrutiny stage. When it emerges in February/March, I will be leading for Labour on the issue. This week I spoke at a packed event at Kings College, London emphasising that the police and security services should only get the powers they seek if there are robust and effective safeguards against abuse.
Refugees on our doorstep
On Friday I am travelling to Calais and Dunkirk to see at first hand the conditions under which the refugees are living. From what I hear Calais is bad, but Dunkirk is far worse.
Next week I will let you know what I find.
This is part of my brief as Labour spokesman on refugees and immigration. Over the next few months I am planning to travel around the UK to meet local communities and get a feel for how these issues are being tackled.
Anyone wanting to contribute to the debate should contact me at email@example.com