First of all, many congratulations to Councillor Abigail Marshall Katung on her nomination by the Labour Group to be the next Lord Mayor of Leeds.
Can I also take this opportunity to record my deep sadness at the death of my friend and parliamentary colleague Tony Lloyd. He was an outstanding MP, a trade unionist, an internationalist and a passionate advocate on behalf of his constituents whom he served with such distinction for so long. But above all else, Tony was a thoroughly good and decent man, and the warmth of the tributes and the sadness expressed at his passing by MPs from all parties in the House of Commons this week was a sign of the deep respect and affection in which he was held.
The Crisis in Gaza
The crisis in Gaza continues to worsen. Along with many others, Labour is now calling for an immediate truce to allow for the release of hostages and prisoners and enable more humanitarian supplies to reach the Palestinians trapped there, as well as hopefully lead to a sustainable ceasefire. The fighting must cease.
The level of death and destruction we have seen over the past weeks has been intolerable. Far too many innocent Palestinians, including women and children, have been killed in Israeli military operations, and this must come to an end. Israel must not blockade Gaza. They need to comply with international law by protecting innocent lives and deal with the humanitarian crisis. The pictures we have seen from inside the hospitals of Gaza – with no anaesthetics for operations – and of the lack of food and water are truly shocking. Civilians, hospitals, schools, and refugee camps must be protected and cannot be targets for bombing.
Similarly, the Red Sea cannot be blockaded by the Houthis who have been firing missiles at international commercial shipping and in the direction of Royal Navy and US Navy vessels. They have been warned to stop doing this, and action has now been taken, including by the RAF, to take out their missile launch sites.
Finally, I deplore Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of any move to establish a Palestinian State. As Keir Starmer said, his comments were unacceptable and were wrong and “Palestinian statehood is not in the gift of a neighbour. It is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people. It’s also the only way to a secure settlement and a secure future.”
The Rwanda Bill was finally passed in the House of Commons, despite Labour’s opposition and that of a number of Conservative MPs, albeit for completely different reason. It is a hugely expensive con that will do nothing to deter boat crossings. The House of Lords is now considering it and will undoubtedly seek to amend it!
Missing School Children and Mental Health
Across the Autumn and Spring terms this year, over 1.5 million children (or one in five), were persistently absent from both primary and secondary school, more than double the number who were absent during the same term five years ago. A child is deemed persistently absent if they miss 10 per cent of lessons or more, and severely absent if they miss over 50 per cent of lessons. These figures are shocking. The Conservatives have allowed the absence crisis in schools to spiral out of control and have no plan to get children back. Labour’s plan will tackle the reasons children are out of class, with mental health counselling, breakfast clubs and a register of home-schooled children, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.
The health of our children and young people is determined by far more than healthcare. Family income levels, education, housing and the presence of a stable and loving family all influence young people’s wellbeing. Children and young people from the poorest 20% of households are four times more likely to have serious mental health difficulties by the age of 11 than those living in more affluent households, and poverty levels in West Yorkshire are much higher than the England average. The Child of the North report also indicates that our children missed more schooling during lockdown, as well as being more likely to be in care and lonelier, than children in other areas of England.
Post Office Horizon Scandal
The Horizon scandal is one of the most terrible injustices our country has ever seen. After huge pressure, including the impact of the ITV drama ’Mr. Bates v the Post Office’, the Government has finally announced that it will bring forward legislation to remove all of the convictions and to compensate all of those affected. This cannot happen soon enough.
Work as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
We are now at a crucial moment in the negotiations to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland. For nearly two years the people of Northern Ireland have been without a government or their Assembly which they elected 20 months ago. I hope very much that the DUP will now do the right thing and return to power-sharing, not least because the alternatives really don’t bear thinking about.
Political and Parliamentary Activity
- Meetings with various stakeholders in connection with my Shadow Cabinet role
- Meetings with the US and Spanish Ambassadors
- Addressed the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference on 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement
- Meeting with the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Civil Service
- Meeting with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
- Meeting with the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland
- Discussion with Mark Drakeford (the First Minister of Wales)
- Spoke at a Yorkshire and Humberside Labour Party fundraiser
- Visit to Northern Ireland
- Attended Shadow Cabinet
- Meeting with the Canal and River Trust
- Visited Fortrea medical safety trials facility in Holbeck
- Visited Involve in Hunslet
- Meeting with Temple Newsam councillors are about the new boundaries
- Speaker at Mark Sewards fundraiser in Morley
- Campaigning in Hunslet and Riverside and Middleton Park
- Regular column for South Leeds Life
- Advice Surgeries