The Queen’s Speech
The Queen’s Speech was a tale of two countries. The Prime Minister sought to set out a vision of a country going forward, but the reality for many of us is a country that is frankly in reverse gear. In Parliament, I raised numerous concerns of Rochdalians including, housing, climate change, schools and the cost of living crisis, where I pointed out that I have not personally had such a large number of emails on an issue such as this before.
What is frustrating is that there are things that the Government can do. For example, increasing the national minimum wage by 50p to £10 would yield in the order of £900 a year. Even after tax, that uplift would go some way to paying the increased energy costs. It begs the questions as to why the Chancellor didn’t do that? There are also many things the Government can do to create jobs and skills. It seems so obvious that a crash emergency programme of home insulation would be part of moving the nation in the right direction, but that simply wasn’t there is in the Queen’s Speech.
Broken Tory promises leave pensioners under the cosh
Recent figures have revealed that 1,298,911 of working pensioners in the North West are set to be an average of £2,300 worse off over the next two years because of three broken Tory manifesto commitments. In their 2019 General Election manifesto, the Tories promised to ‘keep the Triple Lock’ on State Pensions, ‘not to raise the rates of National Insurance’ and to ‘introduce new measures to lower energy bills’. Instead, we’ve seen the biggest real-terms cut to the State Pension in fifty years, hiked taxes and allowed energy bills to soar.
The Prime Minister has abandoned his promise to help Britain’s retirees with the cost of living crisis. By breaking the triple lock, the Conservatives have imposed the biggest real terms cut in the state pension for 50 years and clobbered pensioners with more tax, on top of soaring energy bills and rising prices. People deserve the security of a good pension and the respect of politicians, not broken promises. That’s what Labour will continue to fight for, in Rochdale and around the country.
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Cost of living crisis
I have called on government to act over the spiralling cost of living crisis with an emergency budget, as figures show that families in Rochdale and across the country will fork out an extra £10bn on petrol, compared to just this time last year. This is a savage extra cost for people in Rochdale.
Labour’s plan would help households through this crisis with up to £600 cut off energy bills, funded by one-off windfall tax on the booming profits of oil and gas producers. We would turbocharge our transition to clean transport so never again are the British people left so exposed to unstable foreign oil.
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The UK government needs to move faster and harder on economic and diplomatic sanctions against President Putin’s barbarous regime. Too often we have lagged behind the EU and US while some promised measures have yet to even be implemented. For years the Conservatives have cosied up to Russian oligarchs, allowing their dirty money to pollute the UK economy, our politics and institutions. It is inexcusable that the government still has not acted on the recommendations of the Russia Report, or fixed Companies House which allows oligarchs to shield their ill-gotten gains.
The invasion of Ukraine has highlighted that many of the Conservative’s strategic assumptions about foreign policy have been misguided. The government’s Integrated Review of foreign policy wrongly de-emphasised the importance of European security, while billions of pounds of the defence budget has been lost in mismanagement and waste. In government, Labour would negotiate a new UK-EU security pact and halt planned cuts to the British Army.
Prime Minister Johnson’s moves to fill the gap of Russian energy have so far been to look for new authoritarians from which to buy oil. It is short-termist, ill-judged and not learning the lessons of Putin. Fossil fuels empower the worst sorts of dictators. The only true form of energy security is through clean energy, which is why Labour would invest £28bn per year in a green recovery. The government has also made shamefully slow progress on Ukrainian refugees. The British public have shown strong support, but shambolic Home Office bureaucracy is letting everyone down.
I recently met with the Ukrainian Ambassador, Vadym Prystaiko, at a packed Labour Friends of Ukraine meeting. We made very clear that the whole Labour movement stands with Ukraine.
UK/EU Parliamentary Assembly
Following Brexit, it was agreed to set up a joint Parliamentary assembly between the European Parliament and the UK parliament. I am a member of that body, and attended its first meeting in Brussels. I was able to raise the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol with Maroš Šefčovič (European Commissioner). Boris Johnson has not got Brexit done, despite his promises. The last thing we need is a trade war with Europe if, in his normal style, the PM decides to break the international agreement which he himself co-ordered.
Labour’s Green New Deal
I welcomed Ed Miliband to an online discussion with local Labour members about Labour’s Green New Deal. Ed answered some interesting questions on how we can deliver the investment in home-grown British renewables, nuclear, and energy efficiency. We need to cut bills, whilst tackling the climate crisis.
New homes in Hill Top Park
Rochdale is in need of many more high quality, environmentally friendly homes which are within people’s financial reach and affordable to maintain. I welcomed the development in Hill Top Park in Kirkholt. I strongly welcome the developer’s commitment to the construction industry of the future, both in terms of investing in apprenticeships and the skills of the future, as well as investing in the new technologies for better homes. In the end, a house is not just a building, it is someone’s home and part of community. Getting it right at the design and building stage is the first important step.
Kinder Trespass Anniversary
On the 25th of April, we celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Kinder trespass, which was led by people from the Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire areas. I attended the commemoration in Hayfield. This has a personal note for me because my mother, her brother and her sister were part of the mass trespass. This was an important protest which highlighted that the fact that a vast majority of people were denied access to areas of open country, and undoubtedly contributed to the eventual creation of the UK’s first national park in the Peak District by the-then Labour government. I’m now calling on the government to extend the right to roam, which allows anyone to wander in open countryside. The move would cover more landscapes and recreational activities, which in turn would help improve the public’s connection to nature whilst opening up the mental and physical health benefits.
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UCU’s fight for fair pay
I joined cross-party MPs and Peers in writing to university bosses about University and College Union (UCU) members’ fight for fair pay, pensions and working conditions. Universities must understand the importance of investing in their workforce, not only to ensure staff are fairly rewarded, but to futureproof higher education in the UK. By failing to put staff first, the education of students and the reputation and future of British universities will be damaged.
The funeral of Shireen Abu Aqla
The scenes at the funeral of the journalist Shireen Abu Aqla were shocking in their disregard and disrespect. Her murder must be investigated, as Palestinians demand, by independent international bodies and not by the Israeli authorities. The truth must come out.
Rochdale local elections
My congratulations to all Labour candidates elected in Rochdale, and add my thanks to theirs to everyone who played their part for their hard work and dedication during the campaign.
At the beginning of the month, Muslims in Rochdale and all over the world celebrated Eid. I joined everyone in that celebration by sending a strong and warm greeting to all those who celebrated Eid, and you can watch my message here.
Ukraine: UK Military Support
Russia has significant cyber-attack and cyber-defence capabilities. I asked Ministers if we can provide assistance to the Ukrainians so that they can adequately defend themselves against such attacks.
Human Rights in Colombia
The Colombian peace process was a major event, lowering levels of violence which had existed for four decades. But it is not finished yet, too many people, trade unionists, human rights defenders and environmental campaigners are still being killed. The UK is the United Nations designated support nation for Colombia, and I expect our government to work harder to make the peace process work for everyone.
📺 Watch my contribution in full on the Westminster Hall debate on human rights in Colombia
The gap in life expectancy between people living in the richest and poorest areas is once again growing. I asked the Health Minister what he is going to do to narrow that gap.
Rwanda asylum plan
Priti Patel’s proposals to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is an unworkable, unethical and shameful policy. Israel tried something similar, but it abandoned the scheme. Sadly, this seems to have more to do with Priti Patel’s personal ambitions than with coming up with something that is practical.
Rochdale Grooming Gangs
The Home Secretary has previously talked big on the need for exemplary punishment for the perpetrators of violence against women and girls, yet members of the grooming gang in Rochdale still haven’t yet been deported, despite her promises to do so.