This has been one of the most difficult and distressing weeks I have experienced in parliament.
The debate and vote to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the EU has dominated business. At the start of the debate, which ran over Tuesday and Wednesday, Labour’s spokesperson, Keir Starmer, explained how painful the Labour party, with our long internationalist tradition, is finding the process. There is a real feeling of sadness on the Labour benches.
I’ve written at length this week about my decision to abstain in the vote that took place on Wednesday, and to fight hard during the remaining stages of the bill’s passage through parliament for improvements that can protect the interests of my constituents. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read my speech and my explanation of what I’ll be doing next here: http://www.kategreen.org/latest_brexit_update.
Meanwhile, the European Scrutiny Committee, of which I’m a member, had a very interesting session with the former ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, who controversially resigned over the Christmas holiday. You can watch the session on parliament TV at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/0d6145fa-5329-426d-8300-8eda8f215184
Brexit wasn’t the only event in parliament this week to cause anger and dismay on the Labour benches. On Monday, we devoted over 4 hours to discussing President Trump’s outrageous decision to ban nationals from 7 countries from entering the US, something which Labour utterly opposes. Along with our strong criticism of the President, MPs queued up to complain about the disgraceful and feeble response of the UK government.
It isn’t good enough for Boris Johnson to come to parliament and deny that this policy discriminates against Muslims. The seven countries affected have largely Muslim populations. It’s wrong for the Prime Minister and the government to continue to cosy up to Trump, and appalling that he’s to be afforded a state visit. And if Boris Johnson can’t understand that discrimination, prejudice and fuelling hatred against particular groups replicates exactly how the appalling actions of the Nazis against Jews started in the 1920s and 1930s, he’s being wilfully, wickedly blind to the danger of this situation. You can read a transcript of his statement to parliament and the subsequent debate at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-01-30/debates/70D7676A-311F-4EA2-9425-C0B1B4443A26/USImmigrationPolicy#contribution-94401B1E-0928-4C05-96D6-1EAEDDFE635A.
At least, in a week of such darkness and religious intolerance, it did give me pleasure to join MPs of all parties in supporting World Hijab Day.
Another group of people who suffer repeated stigma and discrimination (and were also persecuted by the Nazis) are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. I’m a member of the all-party group of MPs that campaign for fair treatment for this group, and on Wednesday, I was very pleased to introduce a short debate on their disproportionate representation and poor experiences in the youth justice system. Astonishingly, the government doesn't actually know exactly how many young Gypsies and Travellers are in youth custody institutions, because they don’t collect the information. I’m pressing for proper monitoring of this group, and will be keeping up the pressure on the minister. You can read a transcript of the debate at https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-02-01/debates/E4E42C1C-0552-4F98-A6A5-A17483F5960C/YouthJusticeSystemGypsiesAndTravellers#contribution-90622F21-891E-47A1-97EE-CFBAE7CE13EC.
I also spent time in parliament this week on a committee which is considering a bill to implement the Istanbul Convention on tackling violence against women and girls into UK law. And I’m delighted to report on this one that we’re making progress. The minister gave a positive response to the bill, and it now proceeds to its next parliamentary stages. I’m hoping the UK will be fully signed up to this international convention in the near future.
Dealing with so many difficult, distressing matters in Westminster made being back on the constituency last Friday a special pleasure. Huge thanks to St Matthews Primary which, along with Moss Park Infants, are becoming a Unicef ‘Rights Respecting’ school, and who showed me all the work they were doing for their Rights Week. This is a great initiative which the children clearly really like, which introduces young people to notions of respect for and the rights of one another. The children had some great ideas about what that means in practice, and I very much enjoyed meeting them.
I was also pleased to meet the heads of the Catholic primary schools in my constituency, to discuss their concerns about the government’s proposed changes to the schools funding formula. In Trafford, some schools gain, but many lose, and I’m doing all I can to fight the unfair changes. In the next few weeks, I’ll be meeting heads of other primary and secondary schools, and I’m also very keen to head from parents, teachers and governors. More information about what the new formula could mean for your local school, and information about my campaign, are at http://www.kategreen.org/kate_s_campaign_against_school_cuts.
Finally, thanks and congratulations to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association for the invitation to your charity fayre last Sunday. The Association has been doing great work in raising money for local charities, including Stretford foodbank. Thank you to everyone involved for such a warm welcome, and for all your efforts.