You can find out what I have been up to in Parliament and my work in Lewisham, or read my latest blog posts below.
Thank you for all your emails regarding the medicinal use of cannabis and the case of Alfie Dingley.
The law around drug use is a sensitive issue and I recognise that there are a range of strongly held views on this matter. I have enormous sympathy for anybody with a physical condition seeking the most effective pain relief and I know that several organisations are campaigning for changes in drugs laws, specifically the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.
As you may be aware, there is already a regulatory process in place to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs such as cannabis, to be developed and subsequently prescribed and supplied to patients.
On 20 February, there was a statement on the very subject of medicinal cannabis in the Commons. You can read the full transcript in Hansard: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-02-20/debates/5C18DA05-4AF4-408A-A7C2-67F3E84133CC/MedicalCannabis. As you will see from the transcript, this is an issue which is gaining traction and I suspect it will return to the Commons again before long.
Members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on drug policy reform are calling on the government to assist with Alfie's plight. I very much welcome the Home Office’s recent announcement that it is considering allowing a medical cannabis trial to treat Alfie’s a rare form of epilepsy.
Thank you for all your emails regarding the medicinal use of cannabis and the case of Alfie Dingley.The law around drug use is a sensitive issue and I recognise that...
This morning I visited the picket line at Goldsmiths to support UCU workers who are striking against changes to their pensions.
Universities UK plans to close the defined benefit portion of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and replace it with a defined contribution scheme. This is very concerning as I know it would significantly reduce the security of retirement income for academic staff in many UK universities and that further erosion of USS benefits could reduce universities' ability to attract and retain staff in an increasingly competitive sector.
I understand that talks between Universities UK and the UCU resumed last week and I hope that a satisfactory outcome can be negotiated. Although the Government has dismissed intervening (viewing universities as autonomous institutions responsible for their own pension provision) I believe that it should step in to review the situation and urge Universities UK to work with University and College Union to find a better solution.
I have written to the Minister for Universities (Sam Gyimah) to outline my concerns and to urge the Government to act, as well as writing to the Warden of Goldsmiths.
This morning I visited the picket line at Goldsmiths to support UCU workers who are striking against changes to their pensions. Universities UK plans to close the defined benefit portion...
As some of you may have heard, my younger sister had an accident recently and broke her neck. Thankfully she is on the mend now, but it was a very worrying time for our family.
At Business Questions on Thursday 1st March I took the opportunity to praise the wonderful NHS workers who have been looking after my sister. I also raised the issue of all the extra hours the doctors and nurses were putting in before and after their shift and called for a debate on NHS working hours.
You can watch me ask my question below and read the response I received from Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House, in Hansard.
As some of you may have heard, my younger sister had an accident recently and broke her neck. Thankfully she is on the mend now, but it was a very...
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about the East Coast mainline franchise.
On February 5th the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, announced that the East Coast Franchise, currently run by Stagecoach and Virgin, had run out of money and overbid on its contract. He said the Government was ending the current contract early and considering options to put a new successor in place within months. I think it is unacceptable that the Transport Secretary has effectively awarded Stagecoach and Virgin a £2bn taxpayer bailout, as I believe franchise failure should mean forfeit.
In addition, the Government has said it will not restrict Stagecoach from bidding on current and future franchises and that Virgin Trains will continue to run the West Coast partnership.
The Government’s policy is effectively propping up a crumbling system of rail privatisation. Recent figures from the third quarter of 2017-18 showed that Virgin East Coast had its lowest punctuality levels since 2010-11. The Government is currently rewarding failure and it is taxpayers and passengers who are paying the price.
It is unacceptable that we currently pay some of the highest rail fares in Europe for increasingly unreliable and overcrowded services. I believe we should prioritise public service over private profit which is why at the 2017 General Election I stood on a manifesto which pledged to bring our railways back into public ownership, as franchises expire, or through franchise reviews and break clauses. I believe this would deliver real improvements for passengers.
The National Audit Office has announced that it will investigate the Government’s handling of the franchise to date, and is expected to report its findings in spring 2018. In addition, the Commons’ Transport Committee is also holding an inquiry on the failure of the East Coast franchise. Written submissions are being accepted until 26 March 2018.
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about the East Coast mainline franchise. On February 5th the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, announced that the East Coast Franchise, currently...
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention.
I share your concerns and agree that more needs to be done about this. No child, no matter what their nationality or where they are in the world, should be subjected to physical or psychological violence, blindfolded, painfully restrained, or subjected to coercive force or threats.
In 2012, the independent Children in Military Custody report outlined no fewer than 40 recommendations for how Israeli authorities should improve the way they deal with arrests, interrogations, bail hearings, sentencing and the investigation of complaints. However, over half a decade later, only one of these recommendations is believed to have been implemented.
The recent arrest of Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has served to highlight these issues once again. I believe it is time for the UK Government to step up and demand that Israeli authorities not only implement the remaining recommendations of the Children in Military Custody report, but also respect their ongoing obligations under international law – in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There should also be an independent investigation into reports of ill-treatment of young people in Israel’s military detention system and I believe the UK Government must call for this immediately.
Without this kind of insistence on basic protections for the rights of Palestinians, we will never make the progress we all want to see towards a long term, sustainable peace in the Middle East. I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government on the actions it is taking.
Update 28th February 2018
I submitted a written parliamentary question on this issue and have now received a response from Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (128173):
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to the recent arrest of Ahed Tamimi, if the Government will seek the establishment of an urgent independent investigation into allegations of ill-treatment of young people in Israel's military detention system. (128173)
Tabled on: 19 February 2018
Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors in military detention remains a human rights priority for this Government. While we do not have plans to establish an investigation, we have repeatedly and publicly called on Israel to fulfil its international legal obligations. Israel should implement the protections and due process that children are entitled to under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a State Party. We continue to closely follow the case of Ahed Tamimi and, while it is ultimately a matter for the Israeli authorities, we have raised our concerns with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK and the Israeli Ministry of Justice.
The answer was submitted on 27 Feb 2018 at 17:36.
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention. I share your concerns and agree that more needs to be done about...
I received a number of emails from constituents ahead of the second reading of Geoffrey Robinson MP's Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which took place in the Commons on Friday 23rd February.
I agree that more needs to be done to ensure that as many people as possible in the UK receive the transplant they require and I therefore fully support the move for an opt-out system in England. Transplants save and improve quality of life and currently there are around 6,500 people waiting for an organ transplant across the UK.
An opt-out system has already been introduced in Wales and the Scottish Government has also announced its intention bring forward similar legislation following a public consultation in which 82% of respondents supported the move.
In December last year, the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation on its proposals to change the legal default on consent for organ and tissue donation to opt-out. I am pleased that the Government is allowing anyone with a view to take part in the consultation, which will run until 6 March 2018.
More widely, I believe that medical and healthcare professionals must be involved in the process of designing any changes to the system. It is also important that the Government works closely with community groups to ensure that cultural and religious views are considered before any change is introduced.
I am pleased to report that the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill passed its second reading and will now proceed to committee stage.
I received a number of emails from constituents ahead of the second reading of Geoffrey Robinson MP's Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill, which took place in the Commons on Friday...
Many people have contacted me recently regarding care for people with dementia. Improving the quality of social care is a vital part of providing dignity in older age and support for people living with a long-term condition.
However, the Government has no plan on this issue and is failing to take the immediate action required to find a long-term and sustainable solution to social care funding.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Budget failed to offer any additional funding nor make any mention of social care entirely. In December, the Government confirmed that it will not implement its plans for a cap on care costs in 2020, and has also delayed its green paper on social care until summer 2018, despite promises that this would be published by the end of 2017.
The Alzheimer's Society have expressed the feeling of many that the Government is neglecting social care and that people with dementia will rightfully feel betrayed and abandoned as a result.
At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto that promised an extra £8 billion to tackle the funding gap in social care, including an additional £1 billion for the first year. This would have extended publicly funded social care to thousands of people in highest need.
I can assure that I and my Labour colleagues will keep up pressure on the Government on this issue and I hope the Chancellor will use the upcoming Spring Budget to provide the required funding for social care.
Many people have contacted me recently regarding care for people with dementia. Improving the quality of social care is a vital part of providing dignity in older age and support...
I’ve recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding education and care for people with autism.
All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education. A recent report published by the National Autistic Society and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism found that 70% of parents of children with autism say that support was not put in place quickly enough for their child. Additionally, fewer than 5 in 10 teachers say that they are confident about supporting a child on the autism spectrum.
The report recommended for the Government to develop a national autism and education strategy by the end of 2019.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to deliver a strategy for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) based on inclusivity, and embed SEND more substantially into training for teachers and non-teaching staff.
The manifesto also set the ambition to make our country autism-friendly and committed to make sure autistic people are able to access the whole of their community.
I can assure that I and my Labour colleagues will press the Government to act on this issue and urge them to carefully consider the recommendations of the report by the APPG on autism.
I’ve recently received a number of emails from constituents regarding education and care for people with autism. All children with autism deserve access to high quality, full-time education. A recent...
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, which is due to have its second reading in the Commons on Friday 16th March.
I very much agree that more needs to be done to reunite families and I share concerns about the efficiency of the processes in place for those who are entitled to join family in the UK, particularly children. As we know, unaccompanied migrant children are highly vulnerable to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse.
As you may recall, during the passage of the Immigration Act 2016 in the last Parliament, a number of attempts were made to review the rules around family reunion for refugees including options for extending the criteria. It is incredibly disappointing that the Government rejected these proposals and reiterated that it has no plans to extend the family reunion criteria.
The manifesto I stood on at the 2017 General Election promised to produce a cross-departmental strategy to meet our international obligations on the refugee crisis, and I hope this is something that the Government will consider. I believe we need effective action to alleviate the refugee crisis and continue to uphold the proud British tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees.
I am planning to be in Parliament for the bill on March 16th and will continue to follow the Government’s response to the refugee crisis closely.
Thank you to everyone who has contacted me regarding the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill, which is due to have its second reading in the Commons on Friday 16th March.I very much...
Today I have written to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, to express major concerns about the current state of funding for mental health services. You can read my letter in full below.
I have also sponsored an Early Day Motion tabled by my Dulwich and West Norwood colleague, Helen Hayes MP, which outlines our concerns and calls on the Government to take action.
I am aware that there is currently a lot of concern in the constituency over mental health provision for children and young people in particular. This is a crucial issue and I totally agree that supporting children’s mental health should be a priority.
In recent years, referrals to CAMHS have increased by two-thirds nationally and the number of young people presenting to A&E units with psychiatric conditions has doubled, yet two thirds of young people referred to specialist mental health services by their GP receive no help and a third are not even assessed. Despite repeated commitments by our Prime Minister to address this issue, the reality remains that mental health services are inadequate.
Funding arrangements for CAMHS are complex with funds mainly coming from the NHS (via the CCG) and the council. Due to huge cuts to its budget from central government, Lewisham Council has been forced to cut its funding to Lewisham CAMHS by £94k this year and plans to cut £150k over the next two years.
I will be attending a public meeting tonight to listen to people’s concerns and also raised this at a recent meeting with council offices and the other Lewisham MPs. It is vital that young people are able to access appropriate support and treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. I will continue to lobby the council and central government to ensure that this happens.
Today I have written to Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, to express major concerns about the current state of funding for mental health services. You can read...