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Tomorrow the Prime Minister is expected to report to the House of Commons on the Government’s decision to join the USA and France in air strikes against Syrian military targets.

Unfortunately, Members of Parliament have yet to receive any formal correspondence from the Government about the operation that took place, so I - like you - have to rely on the Prime Minister’s public statement and reports in the media to form a view. I think this is wholly unacceptable.

What we do know is that on the morning of 14 April, British, American and French forces conducted strikes on Syrian installations believed to be involved in the Assad regime’s illegal use of chemical weapons against its own people. The strike was launched as a response to the Syrian regime’s latest chemical weapons attack on 7 April in Douma, which killed up to 75 people, including young children. The World Health Organisation has confirmed that it has treated more than 500 patients in Douma with nerve agent poisoning symptoms.

There should be a UN investigation taking place, but this is currently impossible because Russia continues to veto any such attempt at the Security Council. The evidence already placed in the public domain suggests the use of banned chlorine by the Syrian Government and Assad has a long track record of using chemical weapons on his own people throughout this conflict. The 1925 Geneva Protocol and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention ban the use of chemical weapons - Assad has used them on at least nine occasions against the Syrian people.

The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime is an intolerable violation of international norms and cannot go unanswered. The United Nations Security Council has a responsibility to uphold human rights but, once again, the Russian Federation has paralysed the Security Council by using its veto to prevent any agreement on appropriate investigations and sanctions against the Syrian Government.

In this context, I understand why other members of the Security Council chose to act, with support from international allies. The Prime Minister will need to explain why she chose to act without consulting Parliament, as has been the expectation for the past 15 years. Whether or not these air strikes will deter the future use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government remains to be seen, but the Prime Minister also needs to explain her wider strategy to address the humanitarian crisis facing the Syrian people.

The Syrian civil war has already led to the slaughter and displacement of millions of Syrian people. The vast majority of those killed have died as a result of conventional weaponry. Yet the international community has failed to mobilise the scale of humanitarian response needed to safeguard civilians and support those countries on the Syrian border who have faced the brunt of the refugee crisis.

When Parliament returns tomorrow, I want to know what the Prime Minister plans to do, in concert with our allies, to provide the scale of support needed to save the lives of Syrian refugees - whether in Syria, in neighbouring states or those seeking refuge in our own country. The UK has taken only a fraction of the refugees promised. Just 11,000 refugees have arrived in Britain - compared with more than 3.5 million in Turkey, more than one million in Lebanon, over 650,000 in Jordan, 530,000 in Germany and 248,000 in Iraq.

Given we know that the conflict in Syria can not be resolved militarily, of course we need a diplomatic effort to restart the Geneva talks. But the reality is that such a process can only succeed with the engagement and support of Russia. The Russian Federation has a responsibility, as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, to help bring about a diplomatic solution to end the civil war. Until that happens, the war will continue to rage and innocent people will pay the price. If any anti-war demonstrations are taking place, they should be outside the Russian Embassy.

In the meantime, it is now past time for our Government, our Parliament and our international allies to focus on developing a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians. The Government responded with a sense of urgency to the use of chemical weapons, but that same urgency has been sorely lacking when it comes to providing the leadership we need to keep Syrian civilians safe. My friend and colleague Alison McGovern MP, who chairs the Friends of Syria Parliamentary Group, has written an excellent piece which you can read here.

On a more general point, and as someone who campaigned against the Iraq War (and for a time left the Labour Party over it), I really do understand public anxiety over military intervention abroad. As your MP, I take a cautious and sceptical approach to military intervention. I also recognise that, just as interventions like Iraq and Libya are a reminder of the disastrous consequences that can follow such action, there are consequences of inaction, too. Genocides and atrocities in Darfur, Rwanda, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are just a few examples of the consequences of inaction. In time, I fear history will judge the international community harshly for our collective failure to act sooner to prevent Syria from descending into this bloody quagmire.

It is time for all members of the UN Security Council to fulfil their obligation and develop a diplomatic and humanitarian strategy to protect civilians and bring this civil war to an end. There can be no doubt that further inaction will see further loss of life.

The PM Needs to Explain Her Wider Syrian Strategy

Tomorrow the Prime Minister is expected to report to the House of Commons on the Government’s decision to join the USA and France in air strikes against Syrian military targets....

Violent crime in London has been on the rise since 2014 and in recent weeks we have seen too many lives lost on the streets of London to guns and knives.

I've written along with other London MPs to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary seeking an urgent meeting, along with the Mayor of London, to make sure the government acts to tackle this issue.

Londoners, especially young people, need action.

You can read about it in the article here.

(Picture: Press Association)

 

The Government Must Tackle Violent Crime

Violent crime in London has been on the rise since 2014 and in recent weeks we have seen too many lives lost on the streets of London to guns and...

It was great to join residents and local Councillor Debbie Kaur-Thiara to get stuck into helping to clean up the Aldborough Hatch area. Cllr John Howard's mum Jackie stood in for him and managed to find and report a suspected gas leak while doing her bit.

60 sacks of rubbish were collected by volunteers on a cold morning, which just highlights the brilliant community spirit in the area.

I'd like to thank the Aldborough Hatch Defence Association for organising the spring clean!

You can read more here.

(Picture by Ron Jefferies)

Aldborough Hatch Spring Clean

It was great to join residents and local Councillor Debbie Kaur-Thiara to get stuck into helping to clean up the Aldborough Hatch area. Cllr John Howard's mum Jackie stood in...

Today I challenged the Chancellor over his rosy and complacent Spring Statement. The reality is that our public services, our NHS and our police desperately need investment so they can do their work effectively.

The Chancellor also barely mentioned Brexit which all scenarios show will have a negative effect on the money available to spend on the services we all rely on.

You can watch my contribution here.

I also wrote my alternative Spring statement for the New Statesmen and set out some of the issues the Chancellor should have addressed. You can read that piece here.

(Picture by Getty Images)

Quizzing the Chancellor on the Spring Statement

Today I challenged the Chancellor over his rosy and complacent Spring Statement. The reality is that our public services, our NHS and our police desperately need investment so they can...

Last night I attended a community meeting with senior police officers, local councillors and Jas Athwal - Leader of Redbridge Council.

First of all some good news. Many of us have been worried by reports of aggravated (i.e. violent) burglaries. The Police had some good news on that front: arrests have been made and that type of burglary has stopped.

Since January 1st, over 130 arrests have been made, the top four targets are behind bars and the number of burglaries in our community have dropped significantly.

Of course, there is no room for complacency. The Police issued the following advice:

  • Make sure you double lock your doors.
  • Use a Faraday pouch or tin for keyless cars and place steering locks on your steering wheel. This has a big deterrent effect. Ghost immobilisers are more expensive, but effective.
  • Alarms are effective, especially zoned alarms where you can put an alarm on downstairs during the night.
  • Police treat attempts to open doors at night as attempted burglaries, so where you see this, please report them.
  • Sharing CCTV footage on Whatsapp and social media can prejudice trials, so please don't do that.
  • If a crime is happening dial 999. If something has happened and you want to report it, ring 101.

A few other things. We know 101 is a problem. 300 extra operators have been recruited, so hopefully that will help improve the service.

Police are frustrated that residents aren't feeding in intel on drug dealing to the Police. Please do. Don't assume Police know all the drug hot spots or houses where drugs are being dealt. Even if they do, your intel will be useful.

Finally, we know many of those involved are young offenders being treated too leniently by the courts. I will be taking up this issue in Parliament. It's a shame the Justice Secretary didn't bother to meet with us when he came to Redbridge recently for a photo op and interview with the local paper. We need tougher sentencing and tariffs.

Burglary Update

Last night I attended a community meeting with senior police officers, local councillors and Jas Athwal - Leader of Redbridge Council. First of all some good news. Many of us...

Yesterday I attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in my capacity as vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, talking with diplomats, politicians and NGOs about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. You can watch my video report here.

I first visited Geneva soon after my election as part of the successful campaign to secure a UN resolution to bring about an end to ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka - as well as a process of truth, justice and reconciliation following the atrocities committed on both sides during the Sri Lankan civil war.

The Sri Lankan Government signed up to that UN resolution and made a number of important commitments - including a commitment to involve international judges and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of alleged war crimes. But, as I said in Geneva, progress has been too slow and in some cases the Sri Lankan Government simply refuses to comply. Reports of ongoing human rights abuses continue to emerge.

Yesterday, I met with representatives from the EU, India, Germany, Canada and Macedonia - as well as our own mission and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. I urged them to keep up the focus on human rights in Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council; to press for a time-bound commitment to the full implementation of the UN's resolutions on Sri Lanka; to push for the establishment of a UN OCHR office in Sri Lanka to monitor progress; and to heed the UN High Commissioner's call to look at how universal jurisdiction might be applied to bring those responsible for human rights abuses to justice.

Many of my Tamil constituents bear the scars - physical and mental - of the brutal and bloody Sri Lankan civil war. Many fear returning to Sri Lanka and worry for their families. Yesterday I met a group of Sri Lankan women whose husbands and children went missing and have never been found. It was heartbreaking.

Just this week we've seen shocking reports of violence against Sri Lanka's Muslim minority and a state of emergency declared by the Sri Lankan Government in response. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils stands in solidarity with Sri Lanka's Muslim community against this appalling intimidation and violence.

I want to see truth, justice and reconciliation for all the peoples of Sri Lanka. I will continue to do everything I can as a Member of Parliament to keep up the pressure.

Trip to the UN

Yesterday I attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in my capacity as vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils, talking with diplomats, politicians and NGOs...

Today has been a victory for campaigners for common sense. The Government has bowed to demands to remove a 'luxury car tax' from the new zero emission taxi. The Government will bring forward the exemption of the new electric taxi from Vehicle Excise Duty from April 2019 to next month.

This is a measure that will help save cabbies who buy the new vehicle £1,550 - helping the trade do its bit in reducing air pollution. Londoners will be seeing more cleaner, greener cabs on the streets of London and I support this step in the right direction by the Government. I hope this great result shows that the taxi trade has a strong voice here in Parliament that is delivering results. 

Watch me discuss this important victory here.

Government Electrifies Cabbies’ Green Revolution

Today has been a victory for campaigners for common sense. The Government has bowed to demands to remove a 'luxury car tax' from the new zero emission taxi. The Government will...

Today is World Book Day - a nightmare for those parents who have to get kids dressed up for fancy dress at school, but a great way to celebrate reading.

It's also a great time to celebrate our libraries, too. As a kid, local libraries fed my hunger for reading. I couldn't get enough of it. They're especially important for kids from working class backgrounds like mine, but walk into any Redbridge library and you see them full of people of all ages and backgrounds.

I'm especially proud that, in spite of deep cuts to local government, Jas Athwal - Leader of Redbridge Council - and his team have kept every single one of our libraries open! They've also invested in them, with new facilities at South Woodford library and events and activities at libraries across the borough.

So here’s to World Book Day, our local Council for valuing and protecting our libraries, and the brilliant parents, teachers and librarians to encourage kids to read!

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day - a nightmare for those parents who have to get kids dressed up for fancy dress at school, but a great way to celebrate reading....

I promised residents I would take your concerns about burglary to the House of Commons. Yesterday I spoke in the Police funding debate and lambasted the government over the damaging cuts they are making to our police forces.

I know residents are concerned about burglary at the moment, so I made it very clear that the lack of police is causing utter misery for people in our area who are having their possessions stolen. I hope I did you justice.

You can watch me put your concerns to the Government here.

The Government Should Cut Crime, Not the Police

I promised residents I would take your concerns about burglary to the House of Commons. Yesterday I spoke in the Police funding debate and lambasted the government over the damaging...

After knocking on doors this morning, I attended a HUGE public meeting about burglary in Clayhall. So many people turned up that the meeting had to be moved to the playground. Jas Athwal - Leader of Redbridge Council, local councillors from Redbridge Council, Redbridge Neighbourhood Watch listened to residents' concerns, shared advice and information about the spate of burglaries and agreed some points of action.

As you may have read in the Ilford Recorder this week, I have ...raised the issue of burglary in person with the Mayor of London, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the Borough Commander covering Redbridge and, on the floor of the House of Commons, with the Policing Minister.

As a result, Operation Mexico has been launched - a specialist burglary unit in our borough. This has led to a number of arrests in recent weeks.

More needs to be done. As I said today, the only way we can really tackle burglary is through more visible police officers on our streets. Since 2010, £600 million has been cut from the Met's budget by the Government - £400 million more is set to follow by 2021. I won't stand for this. I will be campaigning constantly on police cuts.

Locally, I welcome Jas Athwal's confirmation that the Council will be looking at what resources it can deploy. The Council isn't responsible for policing, but he's looking at what support the Enforcement Team can supply and is also looking into CCTV coverage.

I was disappointed by the lack of senior police representation today. We will be following up on this.

Can I ask residents with concerns about burglary or specific examples of cases that have been poorly handled to contact me on wes@redbridgelabour.org.uk.

I'd like to thank everyone who came along today, but also a special thanks to the Clayhall Community Centre team for their hard work in putting it on at short notice.

Rest assured this is a big priority for me.

Clayhall Public Meeting about Burglary

After knocking on doors this morning, I attended a HUGE public meeting about burglary in Clayhall. So many people turned up that the meeting had to be moved to the...

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