The dust has settled on one of the most intense and turbulent few weeks in Parliament of the modern era – I’ve certainly never known anything like it. First and foremost, it is a massive relief that we have not crashed out of the EU without a deal. To have done so would have plunged us into chaos, damaged our security and potentially caused a two year long recession which would have lost the economy billions. Second, I am still sure that it is right that Parliament did not accept Theresa May’s ‘blind Brexit’ deal – a Political Declaration covering Britain’s future relationship which is not legally enforceable and would not survive a change of Prime Minister.
Where does this leave us now? Parliament remains divided and there are deeply held differences of view within our main parties as well as between them. These cannot be wished away – they reflect the divisions within the country that drove the referendum result itself and the subsequent reaction to it. I am in no doubt that many of my colleagues representing leave voting constituencies are trying their hardest to reconcile their own views, those of their voters and the argument that Parliament cannot now block the implementation of a Brexit which secured the backing of 17 million people.
The response to this is that Brexit did, of course, mean different things to different people, with some wanting a clean break regardless of the consequences, others a clean break believing that there wouldn’t necessarily *be* difficult consequences, others still expecting there could be a soft Brexit which kept Britain in an economic partnership but out of the political institutions. And in my view, a version of the latter may well have been possible to agree post-2016 but became increasingly impossible to negotiate once Theresa May’s ‘red lines’ were put in place and the tensions within the Conservative Party made compromise impossible.
I cannot now see a way in which the Prime Minister’s deal can be agreed in Parliament, or an easy means of breaking the deadlock, even allowing for the last minute offer of talks with the opposition. It seems unlikely that she can compromise enough to reach an agreement without tearing her party in two. So there is a real risk that uncertainty will continue – we already know that planning for exit day has cost £4 billion and that the toll on business has been phenomenal. Yet we could be back at the cliff edge in another few months. I appreciate exactly why there is such opposition to a ‘final say’ public vote, but I believe that it remains our only way out of this damaging impasse. We must ask the British people to choose between the only version of the Withdrawal Agreement government can put forward – the best Brexit they can recommend-and the option to remain. Some people will argue that the choice must be between a deal and a ‘no deal’ Brexit’ but no government could possibly present an option which threatens the Good Friday Agreement, peace in Ireland and what has been calculated as a £70 billion hit to the economy. This was the spirit behind the Kyle-Wilson amendment, which I backed when Parliament voted on possible options for a way forward, and the ‘Beckett amendment’.
And, of course, let us not forget that the Withdrawal Agreement was meant to be the easy part!
European elections – and a message to ‘GET REGISTERED TO VOTE’
It now looks likely that there will be elections to the European Parliament on May 23rd and I will, of course, be campaigning for our candidates in that election. A high turnout in that election would send a very important message so before the campaigning actually starts, please take a minute to encourage everyone you know to check that they are on the electoral register. We have a particularly low level of registration here in inner London because of the high population turnover, and young people are particularly at risk of not being registered – it is estimated as many as 1 in 3 young people are not on the register. If there is any chance you may be working or away, please also consider a postal vote.
Please share details of how to register to vote with anyone who may not be on the list – you have until MAY 7th to register
Details are here.
If you are an EU citizen in the UK
The registration process for the European Parliament elections is different to local/devolved government elections. Even if you are already on the Electoral Register you still must follow steps 2 and 3.
Step 1: Register to vote by May 7th:
Step 3: Send the form to your local Electoral Registration Office by May 7th.
Address can be found here.
Breathing easy – what next to tackle the air quality crisis?
Air pollution is now (rightly) seen as one of our most immediate environmental challenges – an invisible killer with a big negative impact on our quality of life.
I equipped myself with a personal air quality monitor in early April, as one of a small team of people to go about our daily lives with a means of checking how good or bad the air is in each place. Unfortunately, the analysis of the results is taking place now so I’ll report on it in my next newsletter, but it was an interesting project- the monitor went with me into the chamber of the House of Commons, my Parliamentary office (pictured), on the tube and the bus, around the constituency and into the BBC studios when I appeared on Sunday Politics.
The project was set up by London Air and the environmental campaign group Hubbub, and I look forward to getting the analysis, which will appear in the next newsletter!
London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone came into effect earlier this month, putting the capital at the forefront of action to tackle air pollution worldwide. And with figures showing more than two million Londoners living in areas exceeding legal air limits – including 400,000 children – it is not before time…
Updates to the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory (LAEI) – which analyses air quality – show that between 2013 and 2016, under the previous Mayor, there were no significant improvements in harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations in London’s air – with some areas actually getting worse. The same was true for London’s schools: in 2016, more than 400 schools were still in areas which exceeded legal limits for NO2. While the number of primary schools in these areas fell slightly – from 371 to 369 – the number of secondary schools affected grew from 81 to 86.
There has been an overall improvement recently – in the first three months of 2016, 43 monitoring sites in London recorded hours exceeding their legal limits for NO2, with 13 exceeding their annual limit (18 hours). So far in 2019, just 10 monitoring sites have recorded hours with pollution levels above the limit, while none have breached its annual limit.
But a recent study by King’s College London looking at the overall rate of improvement in NO2 levels across London found that, compared with legal pollution limits, if the trend of inaction seen between 2010 and 2016 continued it would take 193 years to reach legal compliance (3).
More positively, the ULEZ is would help reduce this to just six years, meaning London’s air would be within legal pollution limits by 2025.
You can see the interactive air quality map of London here.
A reminder about the ULEZ
Charges for ULEZ will be £12.50 for most vehicles including cars, motorcycles and vans (up to 3.5 tonnes) and £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries (more than 3.5 tonnes) and buses and coaches (more than five tonnes).
Because hourly NO2 exceedances are almost exclusively due to traffic, these improvement suggests that the cleaning up of the Transport for London (TfL) bus fleet and drivers complying with the ULEZ ahead of its introduction are already having a significant positive impact on air quality.
The Low Emission Bus Zones have had a major impact on pollution levels: Putney High Street has exceeded legal limits for just four hours so far in 2019 – compared to almost 400 the same period in 2016, or a reduction of 99 per cent.
The LAEI is the key tool for air quality analysis and policy development in London. Before this latest update, the most up-to-date figures available were for 2013.
The updated LEAI data is available to view via the London Datastore: data.london.gov.uk/air-quality/.
To find out more about ULEZ – including checking if a vehicle is compliant – visit: www.tfl.gov.uk/ulez.
And here is a piece about it from the Evening Standard.
The threat posed by global warming has once again risen to the top of the agenda, with David Attenborough’s masterly programme last week, the protests in London and the attention that has been won by Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish climate activist. (I was in Parliament to hear her speak this week and it was incredibly powerful). Britain may have achieved more than many countries – we were the first in the world to legislate for action with the Climate Change Act in 2008 – but the challenge is an exceptional one. People need to feel that change is possible, and that they and national governments, can still, even at this late hour, avoid catastrophe. No one is well served by hopelessness. But at the same time we must recognise the scale and urgency of the issue.
So I am backing the call to declare an environment and climate emergency
Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary declared a national climate and environment emergency in the House of Commons and challenged Michael Gove to do the same. The announcement follows a wave of motions passed by local councils declaring a climate emergency and a call to action to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperatures by radically transforming our economy.
‘Climate Emergency’ is an internationally recognised declaration being used around the world to publicly declare concern over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings. The IPCC’s recent Special Report, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise in global temperatures would cause.
Last week it was revealed that the UK will miss almost all its 2020 nature targets, with 14 out of 19 biodiversity targets currently not being met by the Government.
“Labour is calling for the House of Commons to declare an environment and climate emergency. Species decline, habitat destruction and climate change are progressing at an alarming rate under this government, risking our food supply, landscapes, infrastructure, and public health.
“We need urgent action to prevent and reverse ecological catastrophe. A Labour government will kick-start a Green Industrial Revolution, with investment in clean transport and energy creating hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country. And we will bring forward a fully-resourced plan for nature to restore and enhance our natural world.”
“Even if every individual takes steps to limit their carbon footprint, the planet will continue to warm at a dangerous pace.
“If we are to seriously consider any realistic chance of keeping global temperature below the limit of 1.5 or 2 degrees and sea levels from rising, we need radical action from the government. It’s clear that our environment isn’t safe in Tory hands.
“Austerity has had a serious impact on our natural world, with vital agencies such as Natural England having their budgets slashed in half and staff morale at an all-time low.
“We need political leadership to change our laws, taxation and infrastructure. The UK, along with the rest of the world is facing a serious environmental and climate crisis. But this government has stuck its head so far in the sand that even children are taking to the streets to protest. “
Serious youth violence and working with the police
The escalation of serious youth violence across the whole country in the last couple of years (many of the biggest surges in violent crime have been outside the capital, though London has also been badly affected) has left everyone horrified and desperate for a solution. Two weeks ago a young man was murdered in NW8, and whilst we have thankfully escaped the worst of the crisis, there have been enough incidents to cause serious alarm. There is not a single cause – although the rise in ‘county lines’- drug supply lines starting in the biggest cities and supplying smaller towns all over the country are a part. We are struggling with the massive reduction in police numbers since 2010 – London now has the lowest level of policing for two decades – and of course the collapse in support for prevention and diversion services, from youth clubs to Children’s Centres and holiday/after – school programmes, doesn’t help either. Together with local Labour councillors, I am continuing to push to get support back in to these vital services. We also called a public meeting earlier in the month to let residents of one of the most affected areas have their say and hear how the police are responding.
NHS Plan for north west London is abandoned
For the last seven years, health services in North West London have been developed within a framework called ‘Shaping a healthier future’. This plan included some elements which were highly controversial and some which were otherwise sound – specifically, the desire to improve services to care for more people for longer outside of hospital by improving primary and community services. It has been obvious for a long time that the plan was in danger of being undeliverable because of the cash squeeze on the NHS but we were all surprised (including, it is fair to say, many of the people actually delivering the local health service) when Secretary of State Matt Hancock formally axed it in response to a planted question in Parliament. My colleague Andy Slaughter, the MP for Hammersmith, welcomed the final reprieve for Charing Cross hospitals, the future of which has long been in doubt. However, despite all the thousands of hours of work and the millions of pounds spent on consultants, north west London’s NHS is now in limbo, and there is particular concern about where it leaves St Mary’s hospital. St Mary’s, part of the wider Imperial NHS Trust, needs massive investment in its old and increasingly poor physical infrastructure, and it is now hard to know where this investment will come from. We have a £1.3bn backlog maintenance liability across the Imperial NHS group of 5 hospitals – the largest backlog estate maintenance liabilities of all NHS trusts in England. There have been many instances where the condition of the buildings have impacted upon patient care.
St Mary’s maternity services had to be temporarily relocated due to a lift fault in Sept 18, the Grafton Ward was closed due to significant structural concerns with loss of 32 beds in May 18) and a ceiling collapsed in Thistlethwayte ward yet the redevelopment plans remain on hold.
I raised these concerns both in Parliament on the day of the announcement and on the BBC London News that night and will be continuing to press the Government for a solution. We simply can’t go on like this.
Everyone needs to be able to worship in peace and safety
Easter weekend was shattered by images of the atrocities in Sri Lanka, including the bombs targeted on Christians. In the autumn, I joined the Liberal Jewish synagogue at a Shabbat service in memory of the Jewish worshippers murdered in Pittsburgh. And a few weeks ago, it was time to show solidarity with Muslims in the aftermath of the shootings in Christchurch. All these events – and many others – have rightly sent shock waves around the world. They have, understandably, led to a call for increased security at places of worship. I have been hugely impressed by the work of the CST (Community Security Trust) which works on security for the Jewish community – and it was great to see the CST respond quickly after the Christchurch killings, offering advice and support on how mosques can protect their congregations. Ultimately no-one wants to see places of worship dominated by security arrangements but there clearly needs to be proper risk assessments to reflect different circumstances. I joined a number of other MPs of all parties after Christchurch to support assistance with mosque security.
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Dear Home Secretary
We write as members representing our Muslim constituents to urge the early release of the very welcome additional funding you have announced for security at places of worship. You will recall the matter was raised in Home Office questions on Monday 1 April.
Following the appalling attack in Christchurch last month, we have been speaking to our local mosques, and they are understandably extremely concerned about security, particularly with the approach of the Holy Month of Ramadan, when the community will be highly visible. Many of our constituents will be attending late-night prayers during this month, and feel especially vulnerable when out late in the evening.
While the new funding will make a difference, it is therefore imperative that it is released as a matter of urgency, and that application processes are kept as simple and clear as possible, in order that measures can be taken to improve security in good time before Ramadan. We would very much appreciate an early opportunity to meet you to discuss how this could best be facilitated, and look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.
Kate Green MP
Rt Hon Anna Soubry MP, Chair, APPG on British Muslims
Wes Streeting MP, Co-chair, APPG on British Muslims
Naz Shah MP, Vice-chair, APPG on British Muslims
Debbie Abrahams MP
Rushanara Ali MP
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP
Jonathan Ashworth MP
Ian Austin MP
Rt. Hon. Dame Margaret Beckett MP
Rt Hon Ben Bradshaw MP
Lyn Brown MP
Karen Buck MP
Ruth Cadbury MP
Sarah Champion MP
Vernon Coaker MP
Julie Cooper MP
And 77 others
We are once again failing to invest in our children’s future
Some powerful new statistics show just how deep the cuts in Children’s Services have gone locally:
Parliamentary and local round up
As I have already written, the last few weeks has been dominated by Brexit, but I have also been in the Chamber to press Ministers on the impact of the changes to the NHS plan for West London, serious youth violence and the increase in the number of working families in poverty, as well as many written questions. You can follow what I do here.
Queen’s Park Bangladeshi awards ceremony
It was a pleasure to join the Queen’s Park Bangladeshi association for their awards ceremony and celebration on March 31st. There is a strong Bangladeshi community in North Westminster and I welcome the organisation’s work is promoting activities, helping those in need and playing a part in wider civic life.
International evening Christchurch Bentinck
A reminder that pupils in our local schools have families who have come from all over the world – but they all enjoy the programme of international music and dance, and perhaps especially, the food, which features at this annual event
Thank you for reading and your comments are always welcome.
Karen Buck MP