Catherine West MP

Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green

My week

There are times in history that feel like a tipping point. Whether it’s the #metoo movement saying enough is enough or the overwhelming Irish backing for a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion that has focused attention on the need for women in Northern Ireland to receive the same. It was a powerful moment in the House of Commons on Monday night when I joined MPs across the house to stand in support of Stella Creasy’s application for an emergency debate on the subject. I also took part in the debate on Tuesday, because we cannot stand by while women and girls in any part of the UK are criminalised or put at risk for accessing basic healthcare. You can watch my full speech here: https://goo.gl/AUR494

Theresa May’s attempts to rush through the EU Withdrawal Bill next week make a mockery of the notion that Brexit was ever about parliamentary sovereignty. This legislation will have a huge impact on our country for generations to come and it will shape the human rights, workers' rights, consumer and environmental protections that we'd be left with post-Brexit. It’s clear the Tories don’t want us to properly debate the Lords’ amendments, instead they want a rubber stamp for their plans, whatever the impact on our community.

They will not get this from me nor from Labour. In tabling Labour’s own amendment demanding “full access to the internal market of the European Union”, Keir Starmer has made it clear once more that Labour will vote against any Brexit deal that doesn’t maintain these benefits.   From everything we’ve seen so far of the Prime Minister’s negotiating ineptitude it’s impossible to believe any deal she comes back with will protect jobs, our economy and the global, tolerant values our community holds so dear.   That’s why it’s so crucial the final deal is put to a people’s vote and I’m supporting a cross party amendment that calls for this.

I’ve also put my name to Labour MP Mary Creagh’s important amendment to give the new Environmental watchdog the teeth it needs to be effective. The Tories’ current proposals are pathetic, but that’s no surprise given their attitude to the environment – which they demonstrated again this week by giving the misguided, expensive and environmentally damaging plan for a new runway at Heathrow the go ahead. It won’t get my vote in Parliament. Air pollution around the airport is already above legal levels of nitrous oxide and Heathrow exposes more people to aircraft noise than Paris CDG, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. A third runway would mean an extra 200,000 people affected, exposing 124 more schools and over 43,000 more school children to unacceptable levels of noise. I’m much more convinced by the argument for Gatwick, which would be quicker, cheaper, less damaging to our environment and unlock more potential for much needed housing development.

On Wednesday, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling on their annual cycle ride from the Dutch Embassy to Parliament to mark the launch of Bike Week 2018. I love cycling; it’s free, good exercise and often the quickest way to get from a to b on London’s congested streets. But too many people are put off because of safety fears. The Government has just closed their call for evidence on their cycling and walking safety review and I hope they’ll take on board the sensible recommendations Cycling UK have put forward. That includes making 20mph the default speed in built up areas, improving driver training, creating consistent design standards for new highway systems and shifting the way the transport budget is allocated so more goes to cycling, walking and safer streets.

I spent the latter part of the week in Geneva in my role as a member of the International Trade Committee.  The Select Committee heard from the UK Mission in Geneva and experts at the World Trade Organisation about how WTO trade rules work in practice and how disputes between countries are resolved. It was a fascinating trip but confirmed my view that the UK is better off in a strong trading block of over 500 million in the EU than going it alone where the US, China and others could well force a worse trade deal onto the UK, leaving us and many of our businesses considerably weaker. The committee also met members of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) on the interplay between Aid budgets and trade and on how trade should be made fairer for developing countries.

Over the weekend, I cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of the fabulous Crouch End Festival (find out what’s on and get involved here https://www.crouchendfestival.org) and joined the Greek Orthodox Community of St Barnabas in Wood Green to commemorate the founder of the Cyprus Church St Barnabas and celebrate the annual Cyprus Day. 

My week in Parliament 04/06/18

There are times in history that feel like a tipping point. Whether it’s the #metoo movement saying enough is enough or the overwhelming Irish backing for a woman’s right to...

What a momentous and joyful Saturday.  First the news that the people of Ireland have resoundingly rejected the eighth amendment and women will at long last have the right to choose.  Second, the wonderful news that Andy Tsege has finally been pardoned and will be returning home to his family in London after four long years in jail in Ethiopia.  I’ve been calling for his immediate release for so long now, first as a Shadow Foreign Minister and more recently as a back bencher, and this day is long overdue.  

With the news all too often bleak these days, these two fantastic results show what can be achieved by the power of campaigning.  Reading the hashtag #hometovote on Friday was incredibly emotional.  So many women and men travelling across the world back to their home of Ireland to cast their vote so that no more women would ever be forced to travel the other way for an abortion.  The fight now must be for the law to be amended so that the one million women of Northern Ireland receive the same reproductive freedom as the rest of the UK.  I strongly support changing the UK law to allow this. 

On Tuesday, I took part in the debate on the Serious Violence Strategy where I highlighted the rise in school exclusions and the correlation between this and youth crime.  Every school in Haringey is good or outstanding, but like the rest of the country we’re seeing exclusions rise, which means too many young people don’t have the opportunity to benefit from the excellent provision.  I’d like to see more done to tackle this.  I also expressed my concerns over cuts to youth services and ongoing cuts to our vital Police.  I’m still pushing for a date for my meeting with the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid and I’ve launched a petition calling on him to cancel the further £325 million in cuts the Metropolitan Police is expected to make by 2021.  Please sign and share it here

http://www.catherinewest.org.uk/sign_my_petition_stop_the_cuts_to_our_police

On Wednesday I hosted a meeting in Parliament of the Reclaiming Education Alliance, to look at Labour's ground breaking pledge in our 2017 manifesto to create a National Education Service.  With a wide range of speakers, the meeting looked at what would need to happen to bring that about as well as the benefits of both early years education and investment in later life learning.  It's an incredibly important topic that has my full backing  

North Middlesex Hospital have launched an important new “Bluebell” support service for bereaved parents aiming to offer a safe, supportive, multi-lingual space for parents dealing with the most tragic of losses.  The All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss has shown through their work that too many parents are left to struggle, so I was very pleased to attend the launch at North Mid and hope their service proves to be a successful model that can be rolled out elsewhere.

I chaired a local meeting at Hornsey Parish Hall on Thursday about the NHS and its future with speakers including Roy Lilley, Professor Sue Richards and Dr Yannis Gourtsoyannis.  We discussed the challenges it is facing under years of sustained under funding by this Conservative Government and how we can protect Labour’s finest legacy for future generations.  I also attended Haringey’s Annual Council to wish the new Council Leader Cllr Joe Ejiofor and his new Cabinet well.  Now in year eight of Tory cuts, it is a tough time for Councils, but I hope the new team will redouble efforts to demonstrate Labour is on the side of all people in the Borough and communicate that clearly.

Catherine

My week in Parliament 21/05/18

What a momentous and joyful Saturday.  First the news that the people of Ireland have resoundingly rejected the eighth amendment and women will at long last have the right to...

Launching the Mayor's Young Londoners Fund

The actions taken by the Israeli Government against Palestinian protestors this week were appalling. In the bloodiest day of this conflict since the 2014 war 58 Palestinians were killed including six children and a baby of 8 months old, and the number wounded has risen to over 2,700. This use of excessive and in many cases lethal force is not simply disproportionate, it is wholly unjustifiable. It destroys efforts to restart the peace process, and fuels the cycle of hatred and resentment between both peoples.

The response from the UK Government to the ongoing crisis in Gaza and in the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been limp and inadequate, especially with regards to the reckless actions of President Trump. His deeply insensitive and provocative decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem has set the peace process back years. I want to see the UK Government challenging the US President on his actions and helping to lead the international community to secure a lasting peace in the region. In addition, we must have an independent and impartial UN-led inquiry into this most recent outbreak of violence. I have already entered the ballot for next Foreign & Commonwealth Office oral questions to raise these matter with the Secretaries of State.

With every school in Hornsey & Wood Green having their per pupil funding slashed under this Government, it is particularly galling to see the Tories announce this week that they’ve found £200 million for their vanity project of expanding grammar schools. Evidence from all corners show that grammar schools hold back social mobility, and less than 3 per cent of pupils attending them are on free school meals. Read the article I wrote last year on why grammar schools are not the answer. Children are being let down, especially those with special educational needs or disabilities where there is a funding crisis. That’s where funding should be focused, not just for a lucky few.  

Almost a year on from the Grenfell tragedy, the Prime Minister has finally agreed to the call from survivors, bereaved families and the public that a panel of experts should sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick. It shouldn’t have been such a struggle. The Prime Minister has to build public trust in a process that many are sceptical of, and there has to be community confidence. Many Grenfell residents felt they weren’t listened to before the fire when they spoke out about their safety concerns. It is imperative they are listened to now. I attended the Westminster Hall Debate where this was debated at length and I praised the role the Speaker has played, together with the Parliamentary Chaplain Rose, to bring Parliamentarians together after something so dreadful.

I’m delighted that the St Ann’s Hospital site in Haringey will be the first purchased by the Mayor of London’s brand new City Hall Land Fund, and that half of all the new homes built will be genuinely affordable. I’ve been arguing for years that the original planning permission for the site was unacceptable, with a pathetically low 14% affordable housing, and I’ve been a strong supporter of the active St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART) campaign for a community-led development. We desperately need homes that local people can actually afford to live in, and this deal will provide hundreds of genuinely affordable homes as well as a much-needed new mental health facility. It shows what a Labour Mayor can achieve for London – and I hope it’s the only the first of many such schemes across the capital.

In the constituency, I held a useful meeting with the Head of St Thomas More Catholic School where we discussed concerns over rising violent crime levels and gangs. It’s an issue I’ve already raised in Parliament and the previous Home Secretary Amber Rudd promised a meeting. I’m pursuing this with the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and I’ll be using it to urge him to cancel the further £325 million in cuts the Metropolitan Police is expected to make by 2021.  

It’s certainly timely that the Mayor of London has launched his Young Londoners Fund to help tackle youth violence this week. Community groups, charities, youth centres and schools can apply now for a share of £15 million of funding (deadline Monday 9 July). I hope lots of groups across Hornsey & Wood Green will apply and joined David Lammy MP and Joanne McCartney AM to help promote it at the Selby Centre on Thursday.

Finally, I had a wonderful morning in the glorious sunshine cheering on the Crouch End fun runners. Well done to everyone who took part, and thanks to the YMCA which not only provides a fantastic gym but also a lifeline to vulnerable youngsters.

My week in Parliament 14/05/18

The actions taken by the Israeli Government against Palestinian protestors this week were appalling. In the bloodiest day of this conflict since the 2014 war 58 Palestinians were killed including...

President Trump’s reckless sabotage of the Iran Nuclear Deal highlights once more his erratic and unpredictable approach to policy decisions, which risks plunging the Middle East into chaos and conflict. It’s extremely worrying that he would seek to destroy a deal that is shown to be working with little apparent thought for the potential consequences. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came to the Commons on Monday to give an urgent statement on the situation. I questioned him on reports from earlier this year when Donald Trump said the US would develop a batch of smaller nuclear weapons and, reportedly, asked his Foreign Policy Advisor why the US does not use nuclear weapons. It is never in the interest of any country to use nuclear weapons and his words show an alarming lack of understanding of the gravity of the decisions he is making. Despite US opposition, It is imperative the UK Government works with the EU and other partners to try and find a way forward that keeps the Iran Nuclear Deal on track and avoids a descent into conflict.  

On Tuesday, I met with representatives from the 3 million campaign to discuss the potentially catastrophic consequences of the immigration exemptions in the Data Protection Bill. The Bill prevents anyone going through the immigration process finding out how much of their data has been collected and held onto by private companies and public authorities, leaving them unable to challenge the information the Home Office holds. This would be worrying at any time, but particularly alarming coming at a time when Home Office decision making is so discredited. I voted for an amendment which would have removed this exemption – but with the Tories refusing to back down it was defeated. The 3 million campaign are now crowdfunding to challenge this in the courts – and they have my full support.

It’s beginning to feel like Windrush is just the tip of the iceberg, as I have now started to hear from constituents who are having their further indefinite leave requests turned down or delayed simply because of minor tax return irregularities. It’s something investigative journalist Amelia Hill has highlighted in The Guardian. The Home Office is operating in such a cavalier manner because of a culture developed when Theresa May was Home Secretary that all too often seeks to demonise migrants as criminals and dismiss people who have lived here for decades as outsiders. It is wrong and it must change.

Labour forced an Urgent Question in the Commons on the Learning Disabilities Mortality Review (officially produced in December but sneaked out by the Government during the Parliamentary recess and in the midst of the local election campaigning to try and avoid Parliamentary scrutiny). Seven years after Winterbourne and five years after Connor Sparrowhawk’s avoidable death, the report’s findings are stark and deeply disturbing; with failings found in one in eight deaths, from abuse to delays in treatment. It’s a sad reflection of the way people with learning disabilities are treated in society and the lack of consideration given to their needs. The Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt demonstrated that lack of respect in person when he walked out of the Chamber directly before the Urgent Question began so he couldn’t be challenged directly. The Government has got to do much more to support the needs of people with learning disabilities, ensure people can access care close to home and promptly review all cases. Change is not happening quickly enough and vulnerable people are paying the price.

I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting on contaminated blood where intense discussions took place on the independence of the Inquiry. As one of the biggest NHS scandals of all time, it’s essential the terms of reference are clear and to the highest specification.

Finally, I was very sad to hear of Tessa Jowell’s death over the weekend. Her impact has been profound: establishing SureStart, one of Labour’s proudest legacies, helping to bring the incredible 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to London and latterly fighting for better treatment options and funding for brain cancer research. I hope the additional funding she fought so hard for will help other people live longer and live better. Wouldn’t it be a fitting legacy if the Government also provided the investment to the SureStart children’s centres that Tessa worked so hard to create, instead of continuing the decline that has seen 500 close their doors since 2010?  

 

Catherine

My week in Parliament 07/05/18

President Trump’s reckless sabotage of the Iran Nuclear Deal highlights once more his erratic and unpredictable approach to policy decisions, which risks plunging the Middle East into chaos and conflict....

The ink wasn’t even dry on my last blog before Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary.  She was right to, but this situation arose because of a deliberate Government policy, pioneered by Theresa May, to create a “hostile environment”.  It is an approach that has caused terrible hardship for those caught up in it and helped fuel xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment that continue to plague some parts of society.  I want to see the new Home Secretary Sajid Javid abandon this inhumane and cruel “hostile environment” once and for all and the Prime Minister Theresa May held to account for her part in this scandal.   She seems determined to let everyone else take the blame and shamefully ordered her MPs this week to vote against the public release of documentation relating to the Windrush scandal.  This begs the question – what has she got to hide? 

Hundreds of people from Hornsey & Wood Green (the third highest in the country) signed the Windrush petition calling for the government to stop all deportations, change the burden of proof and provide compensation for those affected.  I was in the Westminster Hall debate on Monday to make this case and you can read my speech here.

I’ve been calling for Public Registers of Beneficial Ownership in the Overseas Territories since I was first elected and I signed Margaret Hodge & Andrew Mitchell’s successful amendment on Tuesday which set a firm date for their introduction.  It’s a fantastic victory, which I welcomed in my speech during the debate.  UK territories should not be contributing to the spread of “dirty money”, yet the Panama Papers exposed the complex web of ownership of thousands of off-shore companies.  By forcing transparency, these arrangements will now be open to much-needed public and media scrutiny. 

Haringey Labour fought incredibly hard in the local government election on 3rd May, gaining 55% share of the vote and in some wards gaining 300 more votes for Labour than in 2014. Losing sitting Councillor, Liz McShane, was a blow as her hard work and sunny disposition will be sorely missed. Haringey Labour and the new council must redouble efforts to demonstrate Labour is on the side of all people in the Borough and communicate that clearly.

I believe the strength of feeling against the car crash Brexit the Tories are leading us into had an impact on voting here and in other strong remain areas like Kingston upon Thames and Richmond – where the Tories were roundly defeated.  I have consistently stated that I believe leaving the EU is a mistake and was one of a number of MPs who voted for an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill calling for a second referendum.  I’ve signed 28 amendments in the EU Bill including those in support of Customs Union and Single Market membership, environmental and human rights protections.  I will continue to stand up for my constituents and argue that the people should be given a final say on the deal that Theresa May brings back from Brussels.

On Friday I enjoyed a Shabbat meal with Rabbi Baruch Epstein and guests at the local Chabad in Hornsey. It was a delicious meal and a good opportunity to connect at a local level with the Jewish community. Whilst disciplinary processes to deal with anti-Semitism continue at the national level, at local level, developing understanding, respect and community cohesion is vital.

I joined Mayor Steve Mann and Jennifer Mann, Cllr Ahmet, Cllr Carlin and our Deputy Mayor Joanne McCartney at a football tournament in Wood Green to celebrate the life of Brother Alli from Wightman Road mosque. It was a terrific day with bright sunshine and provided a full day of fun for youngsters.

Finally, it’s Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week, aimed at raising awareness of the number of women who experience mental health problems during pregnancy or post-natally.  I’ve co-signed a letter to the Health Minister calling for the GP contract to be amended so it includes a separate maternal check as well as the baby’s six-week postnatal check.   Too many mothers report that a discussion about their emotional and mental wellbeing is either forgotten or is done in a hurry at the end of the baby check appointment.  The evidence suggests that adding this new requirement to the contract would significantly help improve maternal mental health for a very modest investment of around £20m per annum, against a total estimated £8bn in costs stemming from the adverse consequences of perinatal mental illness.  It’s by no means the only answer but it would be a good start. 

My week in Parliament 30/04/18

The ink wasn’t even dry on my last blog before Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary.  She was right to, but this situation arose because of a deliberate Government policy,...

“Courage calls to courage everywhere”. It was an absolute joy to stand in Parliament Square on Tuesday morning alongside trade unionists, women’s rights campaigners, elected representatives and community leaders for the unveiling of a statue to Millicent Garrett Fawcett - the first statue of a woman (and the first by a woman) in Parliament Square. Seeing Millicent Fawcett finally up on that plinth, is a reminder of the battles women have fought – and still fight - to have their voices heard and contribution acknowledged. I hope Mary Wollstonecraft, who did so much in the fight for gender equality, will be next for the honour of a statue. You can join me in supporting the campaign here: http://www.maryonthegreen.org

As each day passes, yet more of the Windrush generation are coming forward with heartbreaking stories. I was in the Chamber to hear the Home Secretary’s urgent statement in Parliament on Monday, but it still feels like this is being treated as an “administration” problem. It is much more than that. The Government need to realise that it is their decision to pander to bogus immigration targets that has led to people who have been here legally since they were children losing their jobs, benefits, access to healthcare and sometimes even their homes. Responsibility lies firmly with Theresa May, whose approach first as Home Secretary and now as PM has shown a callous disregard for people’s lives. Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s lack of knowledge of her brief and false suggestion that the Home Office didn’t set removal targets make her position also untenable.

The Government must restore the immigration protections which were removed in 2014 and confirm the rights of the Windrush generation as British citizens. We must be told what deportations have already happened and the Government must make apologies, pay compensation where necessary and invite anyone who has been deported in error back to the UK immediately. There will be a Westminster Hall debate and an Opposition Day debate on the issue this week, where I intend to raise these issues in person.

In Defence Questions on Monday, I raised the issue of cleaners pay. Watch the video here. It is unacceptable that many Government Ministers don’t know how much their cleaners are paid, so can’t tell me if they are receiving a living wage. I will continue my fight to obtain a firm commitment from all Ministers to ensure that cleaners in all departments based in the capital are paid the London Living Wage.

On Wednesday, I took part in Labour’s Opposition Day debate on cuts to schools’ funding. Every single primary and secondary school in Hornsey & Wood Green has seen per pupil funding slashed under this Government. At the same time, we’re seeing class sizes increase and, for the second year running, more demoralised teachers leaving than joining the profession. Labour’s motion, which I supported, called on the Government to ensure every school receives a cash increase in per pupil funding in every financial year of this Parliament. Despite the Tories own election manifesto pledging that no school would have its budget cut, the reality is very different.

Thursday’s debate and vote on a motion saying Britain should stay in the customs union post Brexit wasn’t binding. Nevertheless, I hope the fact it received such strong support, including from pro-European Conservatives sent a message to the Government to drop their ridiculous red line. Remaining in the Customs Union is absolutely vital for the UK economy, for jobs, and for avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. There is a growing majority in Parliament who share my view, and I’ll continue to make the case as we draw closer to the important votes next month and into the summer.

With over 200 MPs from all parties signing my letter calling on supermarkets to eliminate plastic packaging, I challenged Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom on Thursday on what action is being taken across all industrial sectors to reduce plastic pollution. Watch the response I received here. More than 40 large companies have announced that they’ve signed up to a pact to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years. That’s great, but it’s only the start. More action is needed, with new legislation if necessary, to ensure that unnecessary plastics are eliminated from consumer products and to work towards a comprehensive framework to tackle existing plastic pollution in our environment.

I'm pleased we’ve seen a conclusion this week on one of the longstanding disciplinary cases against a Labour Party activist.  As I wrote in my last blog, the process of dealing with allegations has been too slow with decisions taking too long.  It’s essential this changes if the Jewish community are to feel confident that the Labour Party is absolutely determined to root out any anti-Semitism within our ranks.

Finally, I’m proud this week to have taken up an honorary position as one of the new Vice Presidents of London CND. I’ve long campaigned against Trident both on a moral and a cost basis and will continue to do so in this new role https://www.londoncnd.org/latest/2018/4/20/introducing-london-cnds-vice-presidents

My week in Parliament 23/04/18

“Courage calls to courage everywhere”. It was an absolute joy to stand in Parliament Square on Tuesday morning alongside trade unionists, women’s rights campaigners, elected representatives and community leaders for...

Parliament returned from Easter recess this week, with Syria top of the agenda.  Nobody could view the horrendous images of death and suffering, including young children, from a suspected chemical attack without feeling appalled.  Seven years into a brutal conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions, there is a pressing need to restart genuine negotiations towards peace

I am concerned about the Prime Minister’s decision to join Donald Trump in launching air strikes in advance of any independent report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) or any renewed UN investigation.  You can read my full statement here

I believe the Prime Minister should have brought the decision to Parliament for scrutiny, rather than jumping to the timetable of Donald Trump’s late-night tweets.  I strongly support Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a ‘War Powers Act’ to ensure that the PM consults Parliament before deploying our military in major interventions. 

Also on Monday, my colleague David Lammy secured an urgent question on the Government’s heartless, incompetent attitude to children of the Windrush Generation.  It is utterly shameful that British citizens who have built their whole lives here and contributed to our society for decades are living in fear of deportation.  I co-signed a cross party letter urging the Government to get a grip on the growing crisis and wrote this article for the Times Red Box on how the hostile environment that Theresa May and successive Tory Governments have deliberately pursued has taken us to this place. 

On Tuesday, I participated in an important Parliamentary debate about anti-Semitism in the UK.  Brave colleagues Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth spoke powerfully about their own horrific personal experiences.  On one occasion Luciana Berger MP received over 2,500 violent, abusive messages in just one day.  Since 2013, four people have been convicted of anti-Semitic abuse and harassment directed towards her.  Three of those, from a far-right persuasion, were imprisoned. 

It is disgraceful and abhorrent.  Anti-Semitism must always be challenged in our country, our community - and in the Labour Party.  It goes against the fundamental values on which our movement was founded – values of social justice, solidarity, dignity, diversity and equality.  

That means action, including implementing the Chakrabarti report recommendations in full.  I’m very glad that Labour’s new General Secretary Jennie Formby has made tackling anti-Semitism within the party her top priority and, crucially, pledged to speed up the process of dealing with allegations.  It is clear that the current system is too slow and decisions are taking too long.  That has to change.  The Jewish community must be able to feel that the Labour Party is a safe home. As Luciana so eloquently said “one anti-Semitic member of the Labour Party is one too many”. 

My week in Parliament 16/04/18

Parliament returned from Easter recess this week, with Syria top of the agenda.  Nobody could view the horrendous images of death and suffering, including young children, from a suspected chemical...

The Easter break has seen yet more violence on the streets of Haringey.  The tragic death of Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, known to many locally for her youth work, took the total of gun deaths since the start of 2018 to six.  The same night Tanesha died, a 16-year-old boy lost his life in Walthamstow after being shot in the face and news reports suggested London had overtaken New York’s monthly murder total for the first time in modern history.

Every senseless young life lost is a tragedy for their families, their friends and for our community.  I don’t believe there is one simple answer for tackling this epidemic, but it seems blatantly obvious to me (if not to the Home Secretary) that the loss of 21,000 police officers from our streets and the decimation of youth services thanks to the Government’s savage austerity programme all play their part.

On Tuesday, I joined Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, MPs and Council Leaders from across London to discuss what more can be done.  The Home Secretary talked about a new £40 million fund for the Serious Violence Strategy, but I want to know if that is a change to the £325 million planned reduction the Metropolitan Police faces by 2020?  I have submitted an official question to find out the answer.  Crucially, I’d like to see us exploring the joined up public health approach Glasgow has taken to violent crime.  Education, youth services, social services, the Police, mental health services, the community, local authorities all working together and creating an attitude shift that has seen the city transformed and violent crime dramatically reduced over the past ten years.

In more positive news, I’ve been pushing for almost three years now to secure the long-term future of the Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) service at Whittington Health and open it to new patients.  Since I first started campaigning on the issue, I have heard from people all across the country whose lives have been devastated for years by chronic bladder conditions and utterly transformed by the care of Professor Malone-Lee at the Whittington.  The clinic’s reopening cannot come soon enough for the many others desperately waiting to be seen.  I’ve now received news that the Whittington Board has agreed the clinic’s reopening to new patients and that recruitment will start shortly for a new Consultant.  This is extremely welcome but the work isn’t over.  There is a huge backlog of patients, including children, and it’s essential that they are now seen in a timely manner and that the appropriate resources are provided to enable this.

My week 4-11 April 2018

The Easter break has seen yet more violence on the streets of Haringey.  The tragic death of Tanesha Melbourne-Blake, known to many locally for her youth work, took the total...


Catherine campaigning for a properly funded NHS

With London known as a key cog in the wheel of money laundering, I attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption on Monday. I met with the cast of McMafia, a BBC drama documenting the global criminal underworld. We discussed how vital London is for global corruption and what can be done to tackle it. I wrote about the issue for The Guardian, urging Prime Minister Theresa May to introduce a public register of beneficial ownership of UK property.

Afterwards, I met in Parliament with Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek Finance Minister, to discuss Democracy in Europe. The discussion focussed on how Britain can best have a progressive influence over European democracy. While decisions ahead remain difficult, I believe that a close relationship with Europe is the best course of action for our prosperity and development and will continue to push this issue in Parliament.

Having written and campaigned against plastic waste, I have become the Vice Chair of the new All Party Parliamentary Group on the prevention of plastic waste. At the inaugural meeting, we discussed how we can work with the industry and public bodies to help reduce the devastating wastage that currently takes place, with dire consequences for the environment.

On Tuesday I chaired the Westminster Higher Education Forum, where we discussed the future of UK science and innovation in light of Brexit. I continue to believe that our higher education sector is one of our top exports and should be protected by the Government. That can start by removing international students from the migration target, but also commiting to programmes such as Horizon 2020.

Later in the day I met with the Federation of Small Business to speak about small housebuilders and how they can help the sector provide the homes our country desperately needs. In London the price and availability of housing needs improving, and small businesses have a key role to play in its provision.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming, which I founded, met on Wednesday to talk about outdoor swimming and the restoration of lidos. We welcomed Chris Romer-Lee to present on the Thames Baths project, and Dennis Freeman-Wright, Head of Facilities at Swim England, provided advice relating to the building and restoring of facilities.

On Thursday I was a panelist at a debate on the relationship politicians have with the media and whether this undermines or strengthen democracy. Speaking alongside Kate Proctor from the Evening Standard, Councillor Clive Carter and Simon Aldridge, we talked about President Donald Trump and his use of Twitter, as well as the leaking of information.

I finished the week by meeting with Chocolate Factory 1 artists to talk about local development and how to get studio spaces available for use. The Chocolate Factory is a hub of creativity and home to a number of creative industries, with the resulting collaboration hugely beneficial to both the artists and our community.

Over the weekend I campaigned with the Hornsey & Wood Green Labour Party for a properly funded NHS that serves patients and not profits. A Labour Government will invest in our health service, not lead it into winter crisis after winter crisis.

My week in Parliament 29 January - 1 February

Catherine campaigning for a properly funded NHS With London known as a key cog in the wheel of money laundering, I attended the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption on...


Catherine at the Holocaust Multi-Faith Commemoration

I began the week by meeting with fellow North London MPs, the British Medical Association London Regional Council and the Royal College of Nursing to discuss the North Central London Sustainability and Transformation Plan. We also discussed the impact of the Capped Expenditure Process and access to ‘low priority’ serves and certain drug prescriptions. With increasing austerity, the money guaranteed to the NHS by the Conservatives simply is not enough. Huge numbers of NHS Trusts in London remain in deficit, with morale sinking day by day and patients not getting access to the right care. I will continue to call out the Government’s dismal record and push for greater funding for our NHS.

The debate that I secured in Parliament on Skills in London was held on Tuesday. The skills shortage remains particularly acute in London and has worsened severely since 2010, when further education colleges faced cuts of 50% to their funding. The skills system in the UK is very centralised, leaving London with few tools at its disposal to cope with London-specific issues, such as the higher demand for English as a second language, historically low levels of apprenticeships and the reliance on incoming labour in key sectors. There is a strong case for devolution of skills, especially in light of Brexit, to ensure that people can access jobs and employers can access a highly trained workforce. You can read the full debate, along with my speech, here.

Afterwards I attended the British Group Inter-Parliamentary Union to discuss the role of Parliamentarians in addressing climate change. We heard from Dr. Alina Averchekova, lead of Governance and Legislation at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. I firmly believe that our country should take a lead on reducing climate change, especially in light of President Donald Trump leaving the Paris Accord. It is for that reason that I signed a pledge to divest MPs’ pension fund from fossil fuels.

This week I asked the Government a series of questions over what conversations they have had with their Turkish counterparts over the opening of a new front in the Syrian civil war, which is deeply distressing. As Turkish troops continue their invasion of a Kurdish enclave in north-west of Syria, devastation continues and will likely lead to a surge in the number of refugees fleeing the region. Our Government must put pressure on all sides to cease the violence.

I have also been monitoring the elections in Cyprus, the first round of which ran last Sunday. With no candidate having won an outright majority, the next round will continue this Sunday. I will continue to keep an eye on developments. 

I was able to hold the Government to account on Thursday over the use of disposable plastic packaging. Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove said that there had been a roundtable before Christmas to encourage retailers to commit to reducing demand for plastic. However, this does not go far enough, with the Government failing to assist supermarkets meet targets.

Later in the day I attended a debating competition at Alexandra Park School. It was incredible to see six local schools, all with informed and persuasive contestants, take part in this fantastic competition across a range of topics.

On Friday, I met with Abubakar Ali, representing the Somali Bravanese Community, which is established in London. We spoke about issues affecting the Somali community both in the UK and in Somalia, as well as rebuilding of the Somali Community Centre.

Over the weekend I campaigned in our constituency, listening to constituents’ concerns, before I gave a reading at the Holocaust Multi-Faith Commemoration. It is vital that these atrocities are never forgotten and we continue to hold up human rights for everyone, no matter where they are born.

My week in Parliament 22 - 28 January

Catherine at the Holocaust Multi-Faith Commemoration I began the week by meeting with fellow North London MPs, the British Medical Association London Regional Council and the Royal College of Nursing...

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