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?