Campaign response: Take racial injustice seriously - 13 July 2020
Recently some constituents have written to me regarding structural racism and inequality facing people of BAME background.
Clearly the situation in the US and allegations of US police officers applying excessive force in response to protests have been concerning to many. Where there is an opportunity for Parliamentarians to debate the matter of racial equality, I will be of course be happy to do my best to speak up on behalf of constituents.
Let me be very clear: Black lives matter. There is no if’s or but’s to this statement. I am assured that the Prime Minister has made this very clear at the Despatch Box in June when the crisis in the US first came to light.
Whenever black people in our constituency have stepped forward to raise their concerns about how they are being mistreated as a result of their race or ethnicity, I have always gone out of my way to listen to them and take action on their behalf where possible, and I intend to continue to do this as long as I have the privilege of serving as your MP. If any constituent has any specific concerns regarding cases of racial injustice or inequality of any form, I would ask them to not hesitate in getting in touch with me to bring them to my attention.
I would go even further in saying that all lives matter. Racism anywhere of any form must be condemned. I will always seek to help and support all constituents whatever their race, colour, gender, religion or sexuality.
The right to peaceful protest is a key tenet of any democracy and I have spoken in favour of this essential right to be respected in places where there is clear state suppression of protest and dissent, such as Hong Kong. I do not condone the use of force against unarmed, peaceful protestors.
Some of these demonstrations in the US are by and large peaceful and lawful. But where protests turn violent and out of hand as a direct result of the actions of protestors, there are reasonable steps that I believe any democratic and law-abiding society need to take in order to prevent damage to property or people.
What is also clear is that unlike places such as Hong Kong, the US has a criminal justice system that allows for police officers to be held accountable and even prosecuted for their actions taken against civilians.
I also note that the Secretary of State for International Trade has now stated the following on this issue:
“UK takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust and transparent export control regimes in the world. We rigorously examine each export licence application on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
The Consolidated Criteria provide a thorough risk assessment framework and require us to think hard about the impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. These are not decisions we take lightly, and we will not licence the export of items where to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria
We publish information of all export licences issued, refused and revoked on a quarterly and annual basis as official statistics on GOV.UK. The most recent publication was in April, on licences issued until the end of December 2019.”
Therefore, I disagree with constituents that we need to suspend the above export licences to the US. But I can assure them that I continue to monitor the situation in the US closely and ensure that my position on this matter is informed by latest developments.
I fully respect the right of black people or people of any colour to protest here in the UK.
I also care about their health and wellbeing just as much, and so I was alarmed to learn from a recent PHE report that confirmed BAME people are indeed statistically at greater risk of contracting the virus.
Therefore, while I fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this matter and the desire that many have to show solidarity with African Americans in the US, for the sake of their health and wellbeing, I would strongly urge anyone thinking of breaking lockdown and taking to the streets here in the UK to consider the current dangers brought on by Covid-19 and the potential public risks involved in mass rallies. We do not want to see any more people, particularly members of the BAME community, falling ill or dying from Covid-19 as a result of being exposed to the virus during these protests.
The situation in the US is radically different to that of the UK and I am pleased that we have not seen anywhere near the same degree of accusations of brutality and excess force being lodged against our police officers. British police officers are not themselves complicit in the murder of George Floyd and I am concerned to read recent reports that a number of them were attacked by supposedly peaceful protestors. Our police are our valued key workers, who are doing their very best to keep us all safe under the present circumstances.
Thank you again to constituents for writing to me about this important matter.
Campaign response – Abortion laws; Domestic Abuse Bill; Domestic Abuse Bill amendments - 8 July 2020
In the run up to the Report Stage and the Third Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in the Commons on Monday, a number of constituents have written to me regarding New Clauses 28 and 29 – attempts by members of the opposition to make sweeping changes to abortion laws. NC29 would repeal 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, removing almost all current legal safeguards on abortion, up until when a child is capable of being born alive, with a ceiling of 28 weeks. NC 28 sought to allow both medical and surgical ‘DIY’ home abortions to take place on a permanent basis in any location if a woman is in an abusive relationship.
I was very pleased to hear the vast majority of my parliamentary colleagues speaking out against these amendments during the debate at Report Stage. In particular I would highlight the below contribution from my colleague and fellow pro-life campaigner Fiona Bruce MP, whom I believe has summed up very well the importance of the bill and the dangerous approach that the pro-abortion lobby is taking:
“This is a domestic abuse Bill; it should not be hijacked by those continuously campaigning on another issue and constantly looking for opportunities in this place to add badly worded amendments to Bills with unforeseen implications and complications.
We have already seen the outcome of such an approach with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. This House should, I hope, be very wary of repeating that. I support the Government’s endeavours to tackle domestic abuse: let us ensure that that is the focus of this Bill.”
In the end, NC29 was rightly deemed out of scope by the Speaker while NC28 was withdrawn by Diana Johnson, the MP who tabled the amendment, after government ministers made a commitment to a public consultation on the issue of home abortion.
I would urge constituents who have written to me about NC 28 and 29 to engage with this public consultation and make their views known to the government directly. More details on the consultation would be published in due course and I will of course keep constituents up to date with the latest developments on this.
We know that the provisions of NC 28 and 29 are completely out of line with where women stand on the issue of abortion.
Recent polling, conducted by Savanta ComRes, on whether time limits for abortion should be increased showed that only 1% of women wanted the time limit to be extended. In contrast 70% of women favoured a reduction in time limits.
Furthermore, a poll from March 2014, showed that 94% of women agreed that a woman requesting an abortion should always be seen in person by a qualified doctor. This current requirement in law would be removed under the abortion lobby’s plans.
I will continue to speak up for greater protection to be offered to the unborn child and their mother, instead of rolling back on existing safeguards.
Campaign response – Please oppose amending the Domestic Abuse Bill to make extreme changes to abortion legislation - 1 July 2020
Thank you to constituents for writing to me about the Domestic Abuse Bill and bringing my attention to attempts by certain MPs to introduce an amendment to bill which would alter our existing abortion legislations very significantly by repealing sections 58 & 59 of the Offences Against Persons Act.
I share constituents’ concerns and completely agree with them that the focus of this important bill should be on protecting those who suffer from domestic abuse. How anyone could argue that the issue of abortion is related to a bill aiming to tackle domestic abuse is simply beyond me. Even if an amendment is tabled to the bill, I trust that the Speaker will be able to exercise his judgement and deem it to be out of scope.
Abortion on demand for any reason beyond the current 28-week ceiling must be resisted and as a pro-life MP I will continue to speak up for greater protection to be offered to the unborn child and their mother, instead of rolling back on existing safeguards. In the unlikely scenario that such an amendment to the Domestic Abuse bill is selected to be voted on by MPs, constituents can have my full assurance that I will be voting against it.
Campaign response – Please support Amendment NC29 and save child refugees - 1 July
Thank you to constituents for writing to me about child refugees and New Clause 29 to the Immigration and Social Security Bill.
This is a matter I have written extensively on – I have been always been clear that we need a new immigration system that is both robust and effective, while being compassionate to those who most need our help.
The UK has a strong track record in protecting and reuniting vulnerable children with their families in the UK. For instance I am immensely proud of us giving sanctuary to thousands of Jewish children and families fleeing from the Holocaust during the War.
And this is a record we have continued to build on: In 2019, the UK received 3,651 asylum applications from unaccompanied children, a rise of 19% on the previous year and the highest intake of unaccompanied children since 2008. Additionally, under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the Government is now close to hitting its target of resettling 20,000 vulnerable refugees affected by the Syrian civil war, with 19,768 vulnerable refugees – many of whom are children – resettled since September 2015. And lastly, we have almost delivered on our commitments in section 67 of the Immigration Act 216, with 478 children relocated to the UK, with the final two arriving once Covid-19 restrictions in Italy have lifted.
At the same time, I have been conveying a view that many in our constituency share to ministers, which is that we must deter those seeking to illegally enter the UK via the Channel from coming here in the first place and apply the full force of the law on human traffickers who are exploiting the situation. Illegal migration of any form must not be encouraged and this is a point I will continue to make.
However, unaccompanied child refugees and other vulnerable refugees are not illegal migrants – these people have not tried to cross borders illegally but have played by the rules and remained in refugee camps and other settings away from the UK. These have to go through a rigorous assessment and often time-consuming process involving multiple interviews with UK Home Office officials in order to ascertain their background and verify their status as refugees.
In January I met with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to discuss these issues and I look forward to working with them and other agencies to ensure that the UK’s policy on child refugees is fit for purpose.
During the current Brexit transition or ‘implementation’ period, the UK is continuing to reunite unaccompanied children with family members in the UK under the Dublin Regulation, and we are continuing to accept transfers in spite of Covid-19. On 11 May, we accepted the arrival of 50 children and other family members coming from Greece to unite with family here. Furthermore, children in Europe with immediate family members who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK will continue to be able to apply to join them under the refugee family reunion rules, Part 8 and Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules, which are routes unaffected by our exit from the EU.
At the end of the transition period, we will no longer be bound by the Dublin Regulation. However, the Government is committed to the principle of family reunion and to supporting vulnerable children.
The UK has now presented a genuine and sincere offer to the EU on a future reciprocal arrangement for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children where it is in the child’s best interests.
A legal text was published on 19 May as a constructive contribution to the negotiations.
Getting a reciprocal arrangement between the EU and UK is in the best interests of the children because it will maximise the number of children reunited with their families.
For the UK to act unilaterally now, as the amendment seeks to do, would restrict and undermine the negotiation now underway with the EU and make it less likely that we secure a reciprocal arrangement.
As such, I will not be supporting NC29 which will only do more harm than good in our negotiations with the EU on the issue of child refugees.
I hope constituents can be assured of the Government’s proven track record on this issue and that they have found my response helpful.