April 2018 E-Newsletter
The treatment of the ‘Windrush generation’
Westminster is one of the most diverse areas in the world. Being both inner city and the heart of a successful global metropolis, it has always been one of the ‘areas of arrival’ for new communities - from Ireland, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Bangladesh - and a place where people from all over the world base themselves for work, study and leisure. We have one of the largest numbers of nationals from other EU countries living here, and many people are here for both the short and long term from all points of the globe. Whilst no society is perfect, and the financial squeeze on public services and affordable housing has taken its toll, I think we can be genuinely proud of our history of tolerant co-existence, and recognise the massive benefits, economic and cultural - there are in being an open city. Amongst many other examples, our NHS and care services rely on the contributions of doctors, nurses and other workers from abroad and would not function without them.
Yet we do now also have to confront head on the fact that hate crimes have risen in the last two years, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia and that many EU nationals feel less welcome than before the referendum. Very recently it has also become clear that the government’s ‘hostile environment’ in respect of migration has led specifically to some shocking examples of deportation and denial of services to long-standing residents from the Caribbean (the ‘Windrush generation’) and more generally to a risk that people in need are being denied the ability to get health care, access housing and so on. There must be rules governing immigration and these should be enforced so people have confidence in them, but this needs to be done with sensitivity and common sense.
I am horrified by these developments, not simply because of the incredibly harsh treatment being meted out to many older people who have lived and worked in this country for years in the firm belief that this is their home, but because the signals are sending ripples of fear far wider and that is deeply sad.
- Supported the letter to the Prime Minister in defence of the ‘Windrush Generation’ which you can see below
- Contributed to the Parliamentary statement on Windrush
- Continue to be delighted to try and answer individual questions and wherever I can help people of all communities with concerns or practical problem
- I am also concerned that EU residents who have been seeking reassurance about their future status and the process of confirming this after Brexit, will be even more anxious and I will be raising this in Parliament as well.
I remain as concerned as ever - more so, as the clock ticks down - about the risks of a ‘hard Brexit’ and the damage this will do Britain. I have always been clear that there must be a meaningful vote on the final deal. That means it cannot be a ‘Hobson’s choice’/’take it or leave it’- the draft withdrawal agreement as presented or no deal, meaning the hardest of departures. If Parliament rejects the deal, Parliament must then determine the way forward in the first instance but this could well mean a further public vote, either in the form of a referendum or another General Election.
I believe as many options as possible should be left on the table to help us resolve this exceptionally difficult situation we are now in and I am absolutely not ruling anything out. It is, however, now hard to see when, practically, a second referendum could actually take place on the final deal. The Article 50 negotiations are likely to go down to the wire and we cannot have a referendum on a negotiation that is still taking place. Neither are the EU 27 going to give the UK an extra 2-3 months outside the Article 50 process to hold a second referendum (as you may know, I voted against triggering Article 50 last year because I was so concerned by the constraint it impaired). There will simply be no opportunity for a referendum to take place on the final terms of withdrawal before the UK has left the EU. It is my belief that only Parliament is in a position to have the final say on the final deal and, as a result of Amendment 7 being passed, we’ll now have one.
I would not support a deal which did not meet the tests we have set:
Our six tests for Brexit and the final deal:
- Does it ensure a strong and collaborative future relationship with the EU?
- Does it deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as we currently have as members of the Single Market and the Customs Union?
- Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities?
- Does it defend rights and protections and prevent a race to the bottom?
- Does it protect national security and our capacity to tackle cross-border crime?
- Does it deliver for all regions and nations of the UK?
Let me emphasise again I am absolutely not ruling anything out, and there must be a public say in what happens next.
Many of you wrote to me about the conflict in Syria and I have written a response which you can see here.
I also contributed to the Parliamentary statement pressing for tougher action to be taken against the Syrian regime and its backers in respect of sanctions and access to the international banking system.
I wrote about anti-Semitism last month, making clear that my view is that anti-Semitism is racism and has no place in our politics. I have now met with some of our local Rabbis to pledge my support to the community and to hear their concerns, and I am extremely grateful to them for this dialogue. I am pleased to serve as a Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Jews and a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism. We have to be judged on actions not just words, but language does matter, of course, and I agree with what Jeremy Corbyn said in his Evening Standard article;
“When members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties we must recognise them as we would those of any other community. Their concerns are not “smears”."
You can read the whole article here.
I took part in this ‘Radio 5 Live investigates’ special on short lets last week:
Holiday Letting Fire Safety
5 live Investigates
Senior fire officers are warning of potential safety risks as more and more people let out their houses to tourists through Airbnb and other short term letting websites. The National Fire Chiefs Council says fire and rescue services are not aware of how many short term rental properties are operating in their areas, making it hard for them to assess possible risks. It says some of these properties are being used in effect as small hotels, but if fire officers don't know where places are they can't inspect or give owners advice to ensure buildings are safe.
MPs have called for all properties operating in this way to be registered.
The Short Term Accommodation Association, the professional body for the short let sector, says it has adopted the safety standards of the residential long let industry. It says in instances where those standards are not being met it addresses them with urgency.
You can listen here.
I’m also about to host a roundtable with Airbnb and other providers to urge all those which don’t automatically enforce the 90-day limit on hosts to join Airbnb in doing so.
Tackling the latest rise in serious youth violence
There has been a sharp rise in violent crime and serious youth violence in the last year, not only in London but across the country. Worryingly, three young people have been stabbed in North Westminster in the last two weeks. The reasons for this, some 6 years after the last such peak, are complex- some of it at least may be linked to the development of ‘country lines’, which is the term used to describe how London-based drugs suppliers sell Class A drugs in other parts of the country. I attended, and contributed to, the City Hall summit with the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary, which discussed not just policing but prevention and access to mental health services for some very damaged young people. It would be wrong just to say that cuts, including cuts in policing - we have over 21,000 police in England since 2010 - are responsible for this latest problem, since we had higher police levels during the last crisis. However, I firmly believe that having reduced Safer Neighbourhood Police teams and Youth Services make dealing with it much harder.
Scandal of closed children’s centres
More and more evidence comes forward about the importance of ‘early help’ for families and children, and how it prevents problems further down the line. Sadly, our Children’s Centres have, like our youth clubs in Westminster, had their funding cut dramatically. This one in Westbourne is closed and padlocked, despite it having served one of the poorest wards in the whole country
Local round up
Several patients of this surgery contacted me about their concerns, including lengthy waits for appointments. I took this up with the Clinical Commissioning Group and have had this response:
The Clinical Commissioning Group are aware of issues at this practice, including in the recruitment of a salaried GP – an all too common feature these days I’m afraid because of the workload and day to day pressures, particularly in central London. They have followed up with the surgery who is fully aware of the problems with waiting times for routine appointments and is urgently recruiting a further salaried GP. Unfortunately there has been a combination of sickness absence, maternity leave and staff annual leave which together have all coincided to compound the staffing issues at the practice. The Practice Manager is confident that employing another salaried GP will ease the problems they are experiencing but the CCG will continue to monitor the situation. As in all cases, we do recommend that patients raise formal complaints with the practice, if this hasn’t been done already, so that these can be investigated and recorded. This also helps NHS England in its performance monitoring role of general practice.
Meeting the new Lords Chief Executive
I was really pleased to meet Guy Lavender, the new Chief Executive of the Marylebone Cricket Club last week. We talked about making sure the neighbouring community remains happy with the impact of the club, and the commitment to extending outreach and community access to sports facilities.
Lisson Green Estate Residents
Together with Church Street Ward councillors, I attended the annual meeting of the Lisson Green Tenant’s and Resident’s Association in early April. These meetings are always well attended, but unfortunately this year after the call centre was introduced last summer, the change in contractors and the closure of a number of estate offices, there were many more complaints than usual about City West Homes and the repairs service.
Supporting the Westminster Young Foundation
The Young Foundation was set up after Westminster Council withdrew all financial support from the Youth Service, and is exploring new ways to try and get investment into this vital area. I was delighted to co-host (with Mark Field MP) a reception for the Young Foundation in the Jubilee Room in Parliament, where businesses and funders were invited to hear about the good work being done and the very high levels of need in the borough.
Getting ready for Universal Credit
It’s been great to work closely with local advice providers and others to share information and try and get everyone well prepared for the roll-out of Universal Credit, the new benefit replacing many existing benefits this summer in Westminster. I’ve been organising meetings jointly with Mark Field, with the latest one also involving a number of housing providers, as the housing payments system has caused a number of problems in other areas as it starts and we want to avoid those as much as possible. We’ll be meeting again with the DWP soon to carry on this preparation.
It is absolutely essential that anyone moving onto Universal Credit who finds themselves in difficulties gets advice as quickly as possible and my staff and I will work together with the agencies involved to do all we can to help.
Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau
21a Conduit Place, Paddington, London, W2 1HS
Tel: 0300 330 1191
Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
For finance, benefits and debt advice
10 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0QP
Tel: 0207 2590 801
May 3rd is Local Election Day
Please don’t forget to use your (3) votes on Thursday May 3rd in the local council elections. These elections are crucial in deciding who represents you on Westminster Council so don’t miss your chance to have your say!
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome.
Karen Buck MP
Promoted by Robert Atkinson on behalf of Karen Buck MP at 4G Shirland Mews, Maida Hill, London, W9 3DY