Taiwan death penalty, Brexit, Mo Haque, Parliament Hill School, Air Pollution, & Cable Street 80.
Apologies for the delayed weekly update: things have been a little busy!
I have worked for the abolition of the death penalty for many years and the week before last I led a delegation to Taiwan to try to persuade the government there to re-introduce a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step to abolition. I say, re-introduce because for a short period 2004-8, there was a moratorium before executions resumed. We met the Vice President, senior politicians and campaigners and, I’m glad to say, we were warmly received. Time will tell but I am hopeful that the stay on executions since last May will hold and a return visit next year may see a formal moratorium.
Back at home last week...
Democratic scrutiny of Brexit
... we had a critical week in the debate about our future relationship with Europe.
I was asked by Jeremy Corbyn to lead Labour’s response to referendum and we were immediately able to force the Government onto the defensive.
In the House of Commons on Monday I pressed the Conservatives on their response to the referendum, since it has become clear that they want us all to be kept in the dark until the final deal has been done.
This is completely unacceptable.
During the referendum the Brexit campaigners argued that they would return sovereignty to our Parliament. They appear to have turned their backs on this commitment. Now they wish to keep us all in ignorance until the final deal is done.
As I said on Monday, “It seems that the Government wants to draw up negotiating terms, negotiate and reach a deal without any parliamentary approval. That is not making Parliament sovereign. That is sidelining Parliament.”
I called on the Government to clarify the terms on which we will leave. You can see a clip of this here:
And you can read the full speech:
Forcing a Government U turn
I am pleased to say that we have managed to force the Conservatives onto the defensive. Aware that she had a potential revolt from her own party, Theresa May had to accept the need to have “full and transparent” parliamentary scrutiny before triggering Brexit. This came as we demanded answers to 170 questions about leaving the EU.
This is not just some squabble in Whitehall. Leaving the EU will have severe repercussions for all of us. The Bank of England accepts that inflation is likely to rise – reflecting a rise in the prices of the goods we import. From the fruit and vegetables we buy to the fuel in our cars, there will be cost increases. Living standards will be squeezed.
Camden, one of the most multi-cultural of areas, has direct and close links with Europe. More than one in ten of our residents hold EU passports. This rises to 17% for professional, scientific and technical industries, 14% of financial and insurance services and 10% of information and communications.
Our hospitals and universities, our banks and other financial companies, are dependent on the talents they have brought to London.
In the months ahead it will be my job, and the task of the team I will lead, to make sure we get the very best deal that we can. It is shaping all of our futures and cannot be negotiated without public scrutiny. That means open, democratic debate. Nothing else will do.
EU public meeting
This Tuesday I will be holding a Public Meeting at St Pancras Church, Euston Rd, London NW1 2BA which will start at 19:30. I will be joined on the panel by Sarah Hayward, Leader of Camden Council and fellow Camden MP Tulip Siddiq.
Please come if you can! Full details here:
Mo Haque cancer campaign in Parliament
I was very pleased to be able to host a meeting on behalf of Mo Haque, who is having to fund his cancer treatment after NHS funding ran out. His community and friends have rallied round, raising more than £130,000 towards the cost of the drugs he so badly needs.
You can support his appeal by donating here:
Clean air campaign
On Tuesday evening I was at the Primrose Hill community centre where around 60 local residents met to discuss how to clean up Camden’s air.
Among the measures Camden is adopting is a ‘turn off your engine’ campaign, for parents dropping off their children at school. You can read more about this from the CNJ:
Parliament Hill School
On Friday I visited Parliament Hill, meeting the head, Susan Higgins who explained the challenges the school is facing from the new syllabus, which will come in from September 2017. “These are challenging times,” she told me, “with huge curriculum changes and very tight deadlines to bring them in.”
The school is also fighting to retain its staff, despite its great record, since the sky-high cost of housing is eating into teacher’s salaries.
I then went on to meet pupils in classes 11 and 13, who were keen to engage in a lively discussion about everything from the European Union to systems of voting.
The battle of Cable Street – 80 years on
I want to congratulate the large contingent from Holborn and St Pancras who went to celebrate and remember how the fascists of Oswald Mosley were defeated eighty years ago.
The far right are a constant menace and we have to unit to resist them, as our parents and grandparents did all those years ago.