Thank you to the many constituents who have written to me to express your horror and revulsion at President Putin’s attack on Ukraine. The situation is desperate, and our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people. Watching civilians fleeing their homes in fear of their lives is deeply distressing, and constituents have been asking what we can do to help. The Disasters Emergency Committee has opened an appeal, and you can find more information and donate at: https://www.dec.org.uk/appeal/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal
The UK government should also do more to welcome and support refugees. It’s a terrible irony that this war has happened just as the appalling Nationality and Borders bill is making its way through parliament. Labour has been fighting many of the bill’s provisions, and now we are also pressing the government to make arrangements to receive Ukrainian refugees as a matter of urgency. But instead, we had the shocking spectacle of the Immigration minister suggesting they should apply for seasonal work visas so they could come and pick fruit. Utterly impractical and cruel.
We also want more action on applying sanctions to Russian oligarchs and businesses. I’m pleased that we passed emergency legislation this week to allow for more sanctions to be imposed. But why is it taking the government so long to act when other countries have managed to sanction so many more oligarchs than we have? And will the Conservatives return the dirty donations they’ve received from Russian donors?
On Wednesday, the Ukrainian ambassador was in parliament to attend Prime Minister’s Questions. Applause isn’t allowed in the chamber (a weird rule when no one seems to object to yelling and shouting), but MPs gave him a standing ovation anyway – and even the Speaker said it was a sign of how deeply we feel. Later that day, I wrote a message in the Book of Solidarity that we have in parliament, expressing the strong support for Ukraine that constituents have shared with me.
The Nationality and Borders bill isn’t the only vicious piece of legislation going through parliament now. Labour fought hard during a long and very late night on Monday to challenge provisions in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill from banning ‘noisy’ protests to draconian powers to destroy Travellers’ caravans at unauthorised encampments. But we are pleased that Labour amendments have forced the government to take action on spiking and on fast tracking public protection orders that allow for the dispersal of protests outside vaccination clinics and schools.
It’s been nice to see organisations returning to parliament as covid restrictions ease to talk about their work. This week, I attended a briefing about cancer waiting times in the North West, joined Marie Curie at the launch of their Daffodil Appeal, and – my personal favourite – popped in to a very special reception to mark World Book Day. I do my best to get along to events that are important to my constituents, and while it isn’t always possible due to my other commitments, if you know of a charity or organisation that is coming to parliament, and you’d like me to meet them, do let me know. And by the way, the lifting of restrictions means tours of parliament have also resumed, so get in touch if you’d like to make a visit!