11 Sep

How to contact me:

If you have a parliamentary or policy matter you’d like to speak to me about, please:
email me on corbynj@parliament.uk or telephone 020 7219 3545

For problems of a more personal nature (ie housing, benefits, immigration etc) please email as above, or  see below for a list of forthcoming Advice Sessions.

Forthcoming Advice Sessions

Monday 15th September, 10 – 12 noon
Mildmay Library, 21-23 Mildmay Park, London, N1
No appointment necessary but please be prepared to wait

Friday 19th September, 4 – 6 pm
Old Fire Station, 84 Mayton Street, London, N7
No appointment necessary but please be prepared to wait

Thursday 25th September, 10 – 12 noon
Caxton House, 129 St. John’s Way, London, N.19.
Appointments only, please ring after 21st September to book

Friday 3rd October, 2 – 4 pm
Local Office, 86 Durham Road, London, N7
Appointments only, please ring after 28th September to book

Monday 13th October, 10 – 12 noon
Mildmay Library, 21-23 Mildmay Park, London, N1
No appointment necessary but please be prepared to wait

If you prefer, you could write to Jeremy with details of your problem.  His address for casework is: Jeremy Corbyn MP, 86 Durham Road, London, N7 7DU.  Please telephone 020 7561 7488.

29 Aug

Morning Star Welcome to the Nato-Fest

As Nato leaders gather this week in Wales, JEREMY CORBYN explores how the military alliance finds ever new ways to justify its seemingly endless expansion


Looking at government websites about the forthcoming Nato leaders’ conference at the Celtic Manor golf club, one could be forgiven for assuming it was some sort of gourmet festival.

The leaders of 60 nations will descend on Celtic Manor hotel, be treated to a sumptuous dinner at Cardiff Castle hosted by Prince Charles, visit a warship in Cardiff Bay, and enjoy all the best hospitality on offer.

The chef has been named, the roads closed, the security fences built and demonstrations planned. To counter this (presumably unwelcome) intrusion, there will be Nato-themed exhibitions and culinary delights.

There is no encouragement of the BBC or other media to discuss the actual role and purpose of Nato, its effects on our foreign and defence policy, or its role in conflicts around the world.

To get the whole mood off to a good start there was a big display of NATO-themed photographs in Parliament which was designed to encourage MPs to better understand the peaceful role and purpose of the organisation. This curious display of images of warplanes and warships was designed to assure everyone of the military alliance’s commitment to peace and democracy.

It would be nice if, instead of this superficial pastiche of reality, there could be serious debate about the organisation and its real purpose.

Let us look back to 1945 and the end of WWII and the start of the Cold War. The United States was somewhere between isolationism and a continuation of the anti-Soviet obsession that began with the Russian revolution and the Western interventions to try to prop up the ailing Tsarist forces.

The military success of the Nazis in western Europe in 1940, the subsequent invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and the entry of the US into the war led to the alliance of the US with the USSR and Britain defeating their common enemy. In parallel there was an even closer alliance of Britain and the US as Churchill and Roosevelt discussed the post-war world.

The United Nations was founded with its curious structure which gives veto powers to the big five in order to ensure that they all remained members.

Three years later the Cold War was in full swing with the Berlin standoff setting the Western powers against the Soviet Union in central Europe. Nato was established to cement a transatlantic anti-communist alliance centred in western Europe and strongly supported by the British Labour Foreign Secretary Ernie Bevin.

For all its magnificent achievements on the domestic front, the Attlee government was pursuing neo-colonial wars in south-east Asia, cracking down on growing independence movements in African colonies and secretly developing its own nuclear weapons.

The Nato charter of 1949 draws heavily on the role of the United Nations but has the crucial and clinching Article 5 by which an attack on any one of its member states is an attack on all. It did however limit operations to the north Atlantic and European areas north of the tropics.

This Cold War military alliance was met with the establishment of the Warsaw Pact in 1955, and thus Europe and the world embarked firmly on another 35 years of an ever-ratcheting arms race.

The original member states of the US and western Europe — including the dictatorship in Portugal — were joined in 1952 by Turkey and Greece which suffered periods of military rule, as well as the abuse of human rights of their citizens. Undeterred by this minor inconvenience to the rhetoric of being a democratic alliance, their membership was unchallenged.

By the end of the Cold War in 1990, Nato had 16 members, having being controversially joined by Spain in 1982. The end of the Cold War should have been the decade of peace as the Warsaw Pact wound up, and the possibility of demilitarising Europe was, for a short time, a real possibility.

However, taking advantage of the unipolar world of the 1990s, Nato and the US cast around for new opportunities, and potential enemies to justify this vast military expenditure.

For all his image as a Vietnam War opponent, President Bill Clinton was the main force behind the Nato strategy of the 1990s. Many in Europe wanted a reduction in US military presence and of Nato. The French government at that time favoured a closer relationship with eastern Europe and Russia.  Clinton had other ideas. On his first trip to Europe he announced that Nato enlargement was “no longer a question of whether but when and how.”

A few days later with its normal abuse of language the leaders launched the Partnership for Peace programme to entice central European countries to join Nato. It soon became apparent what kind of peace they had in mind.

Not long after this the war in former Yugoslavia and the atrocities at Srebrenica enabled Nato to supplant the UN forces and become embroiled in a 78-day bombardment of Serbia.

At the end of that conflict, in 2001, Noam Chomsky analysed the whole war and concluded that the real “winners” were Western arms manufacturers and that “the US was able to enforce its domination over the strategic Balkans region, displacing EU initiatives at least temporarily, a primary reason for the insistence that the operation be in the hands of Nato, a US subsidiary.”

Not long afterwards the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan observed that the Nato action represented a threat to the “very core of the international security system” that the UN charter was designed to support.

Nato grew rapidly and within eight years had been joined by a further 12 central European and Balkan states.

Without too much fanfare Nato went global post-2001 in the wake of September 11. Initially it coyly described its involvement in Afghanistan as “out of area” and justified because it was the source of the problems faced by its members.

The Nato-created force Isaf is still very much in operation and after 13 years of occupation Afghanistan remains desperately poor for most people and deeply unstable.

This untenable logic — with Nato involved in an occupation thousands of miles from Europe — was corrected at the fateful 2010 Lisbon summit.

In a massive 54-clause statement of intent, Nato became a high-spending, global military alliance that gave itself the authority to intervene anywhere in the world to further its members’ “security” and energy interests. It also continued to press for former parts of the Soviet Union to become Nato members.

Prior to Lisbon there was a requirement that all member states spend at least 2 per cent of GDP on “defence.”  At that time only the US, Britain, Greece and Estonia met that figure. Now the Nato average is 3 per cent but most comes from the US. Total military spending by Nato member states is well over $1 trillion (£603 billion).

As they meet in the opulent surroundings of Celtic Manor, the heads of government will be greeted with a letter from David Cameron in which he opens with a request that relations with Russia be “reviewed.”

No talk here of the problem of Nato’s eastward expansion which had so angered Russia and caused President Putin to claim he had been lied to about Nato’s long-term intentions.

Not to be deterred, Cameron then goes on to support the need to offer “Defence capability” to Afghanistan.

His core proposal is that Nato should develop a global security network that “promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law” and invites 33 other countries to attend and become partners.

Seemingly oblivious to the huge social spending needs of all member states Cameron once again asks that all governments spend more on defence.

This weekend there will be a demonstration in Newport on Saturday and a counter conference in Cardiff City Hall on Sunday.

Surely the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Syria and Ukraine are a signal not for more military spending but for the need to look at the causes of conflict, the denials of human rights and the global grab for oil and other resources.

More spending by an alliance that already has enough nuclear weapons to destroy our whole planet is the last thing the world needs.

Nato has been very adept at endlessly reinventing itself as some sort of force for peace. The reality is the opposite, as the people of Afghanistan have found out to their cost.

Published August 28th 2014
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

8 Aug

Morning Star: The answer Must Be Peace

A century after WWI started, lessons must be learnt that war will only bring more war, says JEREMY CORBYN MP

This week started with a gathering of the “great and the good” at a memorial service for World War One in Glasgow, before they hightailed it to London for a reprieve in Westminster Abbey. 

The idea that WWI was fought for peace and liberty borders on the absurd, when 20 million died and it ushered in a century of industrial warfare.

We’re still paying the price for the victors’ justice agreed at Versailles in today’s wars in the Middle East and north Africa.

While the focus has been on the WWI commemorations and Gaza, we should not forget the huge losses of life continuing in other long-running conflicts.

Drone bombs are still raining down on villages in Pakistan and Afghanistan causing random deaths, while the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 is seen in the break-up of the country and the growth of Isis — now called the Islamic State. In the north of Iraq sectarian violence is now forcing hundreds of thousands of Shia, Christians and Yazidis to flee their homes or face death as the forces of religious extremism take hold.

The terrible loss of life in this conflict is a consequence of western policies over many years. It is a bitter irony that since the US invasion the population of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.5 million to less than 400,000.

Meanwhile in Libya, only two years after we were told that Nato’s war was a necessary and short-lived intervention in order to bring about stability in the country, a civil war is raging.  Massive bombardment by Nato-led forces led to death and destruction, huge social divisions and now an all-out civil war, to the extent that every Western embassy has been closed and all foreign nationals have been requested to leave the country by their governments.

The consequences don’t stop at the borders of Libya, as the huge arms supplies obtained by various opposition forces spread over into Mali and other countries.

Less publicity is given to the ultimate victims of all the wars, as thousands of refugees attempt the perilous journey in dangerous boats from Libya to Lampedusa in order to escape and gain a place of relative safety.

There is a brief “ceasefire” in Gaza as the victims’ families try to bury the dead — 1,875 Palestinians died, 9,567 were injured and 67 Israelis (64 of them soldiers) died. Oxfam now reports that 500,000 people are unable to stay in their own homes because of the damage and danger.

It is beyond parody that the US expresses its regret over the deaths and yet provides another £300m to Israel to replenish its stocks of weapons in case it decides to restart the bombardment.

Once again, this country and the European Union are donating to rebuild a Gaza destroyed by Israel, which it has done several times before.

While the talks are going on in Cairo, with the rather odd arrival of Tony Blair (what positive role could he possibly play in any of this?), the fundamental issue of the plight of Palestinian refugees, the occupation of the West Bank, the settlements and the siege of Gaza have still not been addressed by Israel and its allies in the US.

I hope there is a massive turnout at the national demonstration tomorrow assembling at midday in Portland Place outside the BBC in London. The route passes by the US embassy to Hyde Park.

The marches and public meetings are having an effect as more MPs join the call for Parliament to be summoned to discuss Palestine and more countries either withdraw their ambassadors or suspend relations with Israel.

One would have thought that in a week in which we commemorate the 20m who died in WWI and the 300,000 who died as a direct result of the nuclear weapons dropped on Japan in 1945, and seeing the carnage in all the theatres of war at the present time, there would be a realisation that a policy of war does not bring peace.

Not so in the case of Barack Obama who has not only replenished arms supplies to Israel despite calls for an investigation into Israeli war crimes over the recent events in Gaza, but he has also presided over a huge increase in the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region to rival China, and now turns his attention to Africa.

Not to be outdone by China’s hosting of a conference of African leaders, Obama called his own in Washington and ended by pledging several hundred million dollars to build military alliances with African countries, and supplies of US weaponry.

The only people licking their lips at the news this week will be the arms and aircraft manufacturers.

The reality is one of increasing poverty among the young and poorest in Western countries and growing inequality in the less developed countries, as economic growth favours the better off and impoverishes the poor and landless.

Surely the summer months, of all times, should be a period of contemplating a different global strategy rather than eternal wars and threats of nuclear rearmament.

Jeremy Corbyn MP 

31 Jul

Morning Star: (Palestine) War – What Is It Good For?

It’s the season for launching conflicts as World War I and the atrocities in Gaza remind us, says JEREMY CORBYN MP

August is traditionally a time of concentrated conflict and when wars have started.

One hundred years ago this week the first world war broke out as a result of a series of dangerous interlocking military alliances, a massive arms race between Britain and Germany, and a competition between European powers for trade and colonial influence all across the globe.

Four years later with 13 million dead and the empires of Russia, Austria, Hungary and the Ottoman in tatters, Britain and France desperately in debt, the real victors of the war were US bank financiers and arms manufacturers.

The first world war was also a major contributory factor to the Russian revolution and the birth of the Soviet Union.

What we should also remember is that at the outbreak of war in 1914 the whole population did not go waltzing down the street to the nearest army recruiting office.

Many instead took to the streets to protest at the waste, the potential loss of life and to proclaim that workers in Britain and France had no enemies in the working-class movement of Germany and Austria. Unfortunately these voices were a minority, drowned out by the drum of chauvinism.

Next Monday the great and the good, led by the Prime Minister, will be in Westminster Abbey commemorating the outbreak of war.

Later that evening there will be a gathering of the No Glory group, also commemorating the outbreak of war and, notably, those who opposed it and the conscientious objectors who were subsequently imprisoned for their principles.

We live in an age of instant communication and relentless media attention to one conflict after another. In real time, we can see schools in Gaza being bombed and the mutilated, bodies of children taken into overcrowded hospitals for whatever limited treatment can be offered, particularly in the absence of electricity and other vital medical infrastructure.

The media in 1914 were kept at arm’s length from the war, and the true horrors of the trenches and the incredible loss of life on all sides was deliberately minimised by a jingoistic press.

War is now the power of high technology, electronically managed weaponry of the richest countries against the poorly armed and, in some cases, virtually defenseless people of the poorer countries in the world.

In 1914 it was industrial-scale warfare against soldiers using the infantry tactics of the 1850s who were mown down by machine guns while entangled in barbed wire.

The conflicts that are eating up lives and creating the bitterness that will be the conflict of tomorrow in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya and Palestine and Afghanistan are well documented, and nobody in the world can be unaware of the horrors that are going on.

There is no one specific cause for any war but there are the general lessons of history where colonialism and short-term political deals drew lines on maps. There are also the unrelenting thirst of the industrial economies of the world for raw materials and minerals.

After the first world war, the lessons were learnt about the horror of chemical weapons and they were indeed outlawed in 1925. More recently, world agreements have outlawed landmines and to some extent the export of weaponry to areas of conflict. They have not however dealt with nuclear weapons beyond the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay made a very interesting and well researched speech on Palestine in which she asserted that the deliberate targeting of civilian populations, attacks on schools, hospitals and places of worship, needed to be investigated as war crimes. She is right.

The recent bombing of Gaza’s only power station and the bombing of a school where some of the refugee children slept next to their parents who died in a pile of rubble are appalling acts carried out by a powerful country against a defenceless people.

While the causes of the conflict go a long way back, the theme of Israeli expansion ever since the 1960s remains unchanged.

The idea of a viable two-state solution is becoming impossible to contemplate when the West Bank is now carved up by Israeli settlements with settler-only roads linking them.

The refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan are now into their fourth generation of existence with Palestinian families dreaming of the possibility of returning home, and Gaza is in its seventh year of siege. Wednesday’s maneuver by the Israelis to create a three-kilometre depopulated buffer zone all round Gaza sounds more like encirclement and pushing the 1.8m Gazan Palestinians almost into the sea.

Last Saturday 60,000 people marched through the streets of London and the demonstrations are having an effect. A number of countries around the world have either suspended trade or diplomatic relations with Israel.

The British government remains obdurate in refusing to recognise the disproportionate attacks on Palestinian people — Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond repeatedly refused to use the word (disproportionate) when invited to on Radio Four to do so yesterday morning.  Another demonstration is due this Friday evening outside the Israeli embassy as well as local protests all over the country this weekend.


 

Liberation was founded in the mid-1950s as the Movement for Colonial Freedom, and was transformed into Liberation on the independence of most former colonies.

Its purpose is to be a catalyst for international solidarity action and at our annual meeting this Saturday we’ll be hearing speeches from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign chair Hugh Lanning and the president of Palestinian Forum in Britain Ziad Elaloul, with a serious discussion about solidarity and prospects for long-term peace for the peoples of the region.


 

Next Tuesday is the anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and at midday there will be an act of solidarity and remembrance of the victims of nuclear war in Tavistock Square in London.

Nine months ahead of the general election it’s important to remind MPs and potential candidates that to spend £100bn on nuclear weapons when we desperately need investment in good-quality jobs in engineering and services is outrageous. Britain has even refused to attend the conferences on the humanitarian effects of nuclear war — is this to ensure ministers remain oblivious to the true realities of the effects of these weapons? The cancers of nuclear fallout are still killing people in Hiroshima.

25 Jul

Morning Star: Middle East: Enduring Injustice

Until Israel ends the occupation there can be no hope for a lasting peace in Palestine, writes JEREMY CORBYN


Seventeen days into the latest round of Israeli bombing of Gaza, and the death list gets longer and longer.

There are now more than 600 Palestinian dead, more than 30 Israeli dead, and water supplies, sewage systems and electricity generators have been destroyed.

There are shortages of vital medical and other supplies due to sporadic closure of the crossings.

Norwegian doctor and activist Mads Gilbert, who has worked in previous conflicts in the Shifa hospital in Gaza, sent a very sad and poignant email earlier this week.

“Ashy grey faces — Oh NO! Not one more load of tens of maimed and bleeding, we still have lakes of blood on the floor in the ER, piles of dripping, blood-soaked bandages to clear out — oh — the cleaners, everywhere, swiftly shoveling the blood and discarded tissues, hair, clothes,  cannulas — the leftovers from death — all taken away … to be prepared again, to be repeated all over.

“More then 100 cases came to Shifa last 24 hrs. enough for a large well trained hospital with everything, but here — almost nothing: electricity, water, disposables, drugs, OR-tables, instruments, monitors — all rusted and as if taken from museums of yesterday’s hospitals. But they do not complain, these heroes. They get on with it, like warriors, head on, enormous resolute.”

Gilbert invited the world’s leaders to visit Gaza and see the situation for themselves, suggesting that if they did: “I am convinced, 100 per cent, it would change history.”

I very much doubt any of them will accept his invitation, but I hope they listen very carefully to what the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said yesterday in Geneva.

Speaking with great caution and making it absolutely clear that she deplored Israel’s bombing as well as rocket attacks by Hamas, she then catalogued the inequality of the situation.

Some 140,000 Palestinians have been displaced so far and the UN calculates 74 per cent of those killed were civilians. Pillay’s fear is that the situation will get worse.

She also said that “Israel has stated that it has alerted Gazans before conducting strikes, including by using telephones, text messages and so-called ‘warning roof knocks’ using relatively light munitions.”

This extraordinary method of claiming to be humanitarian before destroying somebody’s house is dealt with quite robustly by Pillay, who said: “This does not release Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law.

“Any warning to civilians must meet with the requirements of international law, including that this warning be clear, credible and allow sufficient time for people to react to it.”

In describing attacks on the disability centre at Beit Lahiya and al-Aqsa hospital, she said: “These are just a few examples where there seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes.”

She also called for the Gaza blockade to be lifted and pointed out that the arrests of large numbers of Palestinians in the West Bank have contributed to the tensions in Gaza.

It appears that 1,200 people have been arrested and held in detention in the last few days and Israel is extending its policy of punitive house demolitions.

Fundamentally, the issue is the occupation. There are strenuous efforts being made to bring about a ceasefire as demonstrations mount around the world in condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Gaza and the grim mounting death toll.

While US Secretary of State John Kerry is the one who gets all the publicity for this, totally missing from the equation is the so-called Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair.

One can only speculate what he might be doing that can be of greater importance — or is it quite simply that all of his credibility has now gone and so no-one comments?

Already, South Africa has asked the Israeli ambassador to leave its country and the government of Chile has apparently suspended trade with Israel — probably against the wishes of Kerry, who prefers to deal with Egypt as an interlocutor with Hamas and try to sideline the role of other countries.

But even if Israel does offer a ceasefire, without any change in its relationship with Palestine, there can only be temporary lull in fighting and the route to a longer-term peace will be closed.

While the immediate issues between the government of Israel and the Palestinians are very obvious, we should also think of the history of the region, in which the Western powers carved lines on maps for themselves — and the Palestinians, as well as Kurdish and other people in the region, have been the big losers.

More immediately, the prospect or possibility of a two-state solution becomes more and more distant, as since the six day war of 1967, Israel has never attempted to remain behind its original UN-recognised borders, and despite some retreats from Sinai and removal of Israeli forces from Gaza, Israeli policy is still the main obstacle to any peace.

First, the occupation of the West Bank means that the functioning of any Palestinian state would be very limited if not impossible.

Second, the rapid growth of settlements which take water, land and create apartheid-like roads across the West Bank, make normal functioning of life impossible for many Palestinians.

Last, there is the siege of Gaza, which has gone on continuously since the elections of 2006.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Gaza on a number of occasions and it’s very difficult to describe to people what it is like to live with the ever-present fear of a machine-gun killing anyone who approaches the enormous fence between Gaza and Israel, or of the Israeli navy shooting at any small fishing vessel that dares to venture more than a few kilometres from the shore, or the continual drone surveillance of every person’s life.

No wonder Dr Mona Alfarra of the Gaza Mental Health Foundation considers that two-thirds of the population are clinically depressed.

David Cameron in his statement to the House on Monday waxed loud and long about Israel’s right to defend itself, but seemed incapable of understanding the perspective of the people of Gaza, who are well-educated but impoverished, denied the right to travel. More than two-thirds of them are searching for work. It makes people very, very angry.

The demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people have been unprecedented in various locations in most major cities all across the world.

Israel’s isolation and the diversity of those who attended last Saturday’s march through London is marked.

On the hottest day of the year, people’s anger brought tens of thousands — including people fasting for Ramadan — onto the streets.

This Saturday we’ll be lining up at midday near the Israeli embassy to march to Parliament — Muslims, Christians, Jews, humanitarians and people from all ethnic groups, united in supporting Palestine’s right to exist and a ceasefire that guarantees the peace and life of everybody.

Britain bears special responsibility as the former colonial power, a military partner of Israel and a close ally of the US, which effectively bankrolls the Israeli military.

A response by the British government along the lines taken by Chile or South Africa would have a dramatic effect on the whole situation.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North

 

20 Jul

Report (Part 2/Parliament): June 16th – July 19th

Part 2 of Jeremy Corbyn MP June/July Report:  Parliamentary Contributions

Written Questions

AWE, 18 June

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which US establishments were visited by personnel from the Atomic Weapons Establishment under the terms of the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement in 2013; and how many staff visited each such establishment.
Mr Dunne: The information is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Palestinians, 19 June

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what research her Department has undertaken into the humanitarian effects of the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.
Mr Duncan: Israeli movement and access restrictions do tremendous damage to the Palestinian economy; the World Bank has estimated that easing restrictions on Area C alone could increase Palestinian GDP by 35%. In Gaza, Israeli restrictions on movements of goods and people do tremendous damage to the economy and living standards of ordinary people. 80% of the households in Gaza are below the poverty line, and 57% are food insecure. The UN predicts that by 2020 Gaza may no longer be a ‘liveable’ place.

AWE, 23 June

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what facility rekit projects have taken place at the Atomic Weapons Establishment under the scope of the Nuclear Weapons Capability Sustainment Project; and what the cost of each such project was.
Mr Dunne: The term rekit is used by the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) to mean the replacement or modernisation of process plant and/or equipment within an existing facility, including upgrading of building services. The following is a list of major facility rekits that have or are taking place at AWE. There are also a number of more minor rekits underway which are not listed.

Depleted Uranium Upgrade
Beryllium Facility
Plutonium Capability Programme (A90)
Enriched Uranium Facility (A45)
Explosive storage and processing Facility
Salts Sustainment
Facility for assembly/disassembly of Warhead
The information relating to individual rekit costs for each facility for the years 2003 to date is not centrally held and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

London, Tilbury and Southend Railway Line, 14 July

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the new trains due to be introduced during the new franchise agreement with NXET Trains Ltd for rail passenger services on the Essex Thameside line will be equipped with accommodation for a train guard.
Stephen Hammond: The procurement of new trains is being carried out by NXET Trains Ltd under European Union Procurement Regulations and has not yet begun. Decisions about this procurement are a commercial matter for the operator.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with NXET Trains Ltd about minimum levels of (a) on-train, (b) station and (c) ticket office staffing levels in each year of the new franchise agreement for rail passenger services on the Essex Thameside line; and what current staffing levels are in each such category on the line.
Stephen Hammond: Staffing is a matter for the operator; as such no discussions have been held between the Secretary of State for Transport and NXET Trains Ltd and minimum levels of staffing have not been specified.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with NXET Trains Ltd over plans to make staff more visible at stations on the Essex Thameside line during the term of the new franchise agreement for rail passenger services.
Stephen Hammond: The standstill period for the Essex Thameside franchise competition has not yet concluded, as such the Department has not signed the new franchise agreement and we are not able to confirm this information at this time. An announcement will be made shortly once the agreement has been signed.

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what safeguards there are in the new franchise agreement on the Essex Thameside line with NXET Trains Ltd against unsafe reductions in staff over the life of the agreement.
Stephen Hammond: Staffing on the franchise is a matter for the operator. The operator must act within the regulatory environment of the railway, which includes safety obligations under their license to operate (granted by the Office of Rail Regulation).

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many new (a) automatic ticket gates and (b) ticket vending machines will be introduced at stations on the Essex Thameside route under the terms of the new franchise agreement with NXET Trains Ltd for rail passenger services.
Stephen Hammond: The standstill period for the Essex Thameside franchise competition has not yet concluded, as such the Department has not signed the new franchise agreement and we are not able to confirm this information at this time. An announcement will be made shortly once the agreement has been signed. There is already a gate at every station on the franchise and all stations have ticket vending machines (with the exception of West Ham, which is managed by Transport for London). Additional ticket validation will be provided at Dagenham Dock to support step free access at that station.


Oral Questions and Debates

Business of the House, 19 June

Jeremy Corbyn: The Leader of the House will recall that a couple of weeks ago I asked him about the mutual defence agreement with the United States. Will he give us an opportunity for a full debate about it, so that we can examine the details of this agreement?
Mr Lansley: I will ensure that either I or a Minister in the relevant Department writes to the hon. Gentleman about that matter. However, he will have noted, if he was in his place, that a debate on defence spending will take place later today. I am sure it would not be regarded as out of order for him to make the points he wishes to make then and to ask that question again.

The UK’s Relationship with Africa, 19 June (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: The number of Members wanting to speak shows how important it is to have a debate on Africa. I hope that a general discussion on Africa will become at least an annual event, because it is a way of drawing attention to a number of subjects. I will be brief, because we do not want to take time out of the next debate.

In any debate on Africa, we should have some thought for our role in Africa in the past, with the colonisation, slavery and brutality, as well as the incredible wealth made by British companies and families from colonial Africa right through to independence in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. In such debates, I always remember the prescient remarks of the former Member for Tottenham, the late Bernie Grant when he spoke about the African reparations movement and the need for justice in Africa. He was talking not just about money, but about justice in attitude towards Africa, as well as in trade and aid arrangements.

Owing to lack of time, I will restrict my remarks not to the whole continent, but to one area—the African great lakes region. I am a vice-chair of the all-party group on the African great lakes region. I have a considerable diaspora community from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in my constituency, as well as numbers of refugees from other conflicts in the region. The Minister will not be surprised that I raise such matters, but I hope that he will help me in his answers, or at least correspond with me afterward. Next year, the year after and the year after that, there will be very important elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, which I will consider in order.

We discussed the Democratic Republic of the Congo at some length in a recent Westminster Hall debate. Suffice it to say that its history is one of the most appalling brutality and exploitation, first by forces under King Leopold’s control in the 19th century, later by Belgian colonialists and then, following independence and the death of Patrice Lumumba, by a series of brutal military Governments. That has left the country with very limited infrastructure, while the majority of the population is extremely poor and life expectancy is very low. State organisations have very limited reach in any part of the country.

The death rate as a result of the internal conflict in the DRC and the fighting in the east is of almost First World War proportions. The number of people who have died in conflict in the DRC in the past 20 years runs into the many hundreds of thousands. The motive force behind much of that conflict is a combination of local determination and the huge mining interests in the DRC, as well as the other huge natural resources in the country, such as the forests.

One piece of good news—very little good news has come out of the Congo over the past few years—is the protection of the Virunga national park through the ending of oil exploration projects there. I hope that that is a permanent feature and that there is continued protection of that park. Other Members have referred to the protection of natural resources in respect of ecology and the ecosystem. Such protections are best enforced through local participation and support, rather than through quasi-military control.

As a result of the conflict in the DRC, the UN set up MONUSCO, which is the largest UN peacekeeping operation in the world. Its mandate is due to end fairly soon. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline in his response, or perhaps in correspondence, what the British Government’s attitude is towards that. What does he think of the performance of MONUSCO over the years?

I have been an election observer in the DRC and have made separate visits to the DRC, mainly on behalf of constituents. We have to look at the performance of the DRC Government, the use of EU and British aid in the DRC, and the human rights that exist there. The abominable treatment of women, particularly in the eastern DRC, where rape is a routine weapon of war, is appalling by any standard anywhere in the world. It is uniquely bad in the eastern DRC.

Although I recognise that there is now much greater world attention on all these issues, there is a big question mark over the transparency of the mining operations, what happens to the huge amounts of money that are made out of those operations and the very limited amount of tax income that the DRC Government get as a result. There is no reason why the DRC should be such a poor country. There are legitimate and important questions to ask.

Much European Union aid has gone to the DRC. One of the monitoring reports states that the EU “needs to be more demanding of the Congolese authorities when monitoring compliance with the conditions agreed and the commitments made.”

It asks for the strengthened “use of conditionality and policy dialogue”, and for “time-bound” and “clear” conditions to be placed on aid, particularly EU aid, in future.

Anyone who meets any member of the DRC Government or anybody from the opposition groups will find that the conversation turns rapidly to relations with Rwanda and the strong allegations about Rwandan forces, and indeed forces from Uganda and other countries, operating in the eastern DRC. There are legitimate questions to put to the Rwandan Government about the behaviour of their forces and agents in the eastern DRC. Although an agreement was reached recently on a peace and reconciliation process, that has to be monitored carefully. Only a week ago, on 11 and 12 June, there was fighting between Rwandan and Congolese forces in which there was an exchange of fire.

Meg Hillier:
 I recently had the opportunity to visit Rwanda with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. My hon. Friend might go on to talk about the challenges for Rwanda in having a nation with the problems of the DRC on its doorstep, such as all the refugees coming into Rwanda. It is a difficult situation to manage and stability in the region is an issue.

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. She is right that it is an extremely difficult situation to manage.

The genocide that happened to the people of Rwanda is one of the most abominable pages in the history of the planet. One can only have a sense of sympathy and horror at what happened to the lives of so many people during that genocide. One would support peace and reconciliation efforts and the development efforts in Rwanda. I accept that it is a well-run country in comparison to many others in Africa.

However, I have serious concerns about the treatment of opposition figures and the freedom of expression in Rwanda. In particular, I am concerned about the pursuit of opposition members by President Kagame and, of course, the death of Patrick Karegeya in South Africa on New Year’s Day this year. We have legitimate questions to ask of the Rwandan Government.

I will quote the International Development Committee:

“On our visit we met with human rights NGOs, lawyers and journalists in Kigali. They explained how difficult it was to have a mature discussion about human rights with the Government. A recent ‘genocide ideology law’ had made it difficult for journalists or human rights groups to express any concerns. Tensions were building up under the surface because people were unable to speak openly. The press reported that the Government of Rwanda was attempting to assassinate Rwandans in exile in the UK and that the Metropolitan Police were investigating this.”

Very serious concerns are being expressed about Rwanda. Given that Britain provided £45 million in aid last year, which is more than half the budget of the Rwandan Government, there are legitimate questions to be put.

Lastly, I have some questions about Burundi, which I hope the Minister will help me with when he responds. I visited Burundi as part of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation some years ago. Although it has had far less publicity than Rwanda and the DRC, the genocide that happened there and the poverty of its people are very serious issues that have to be addressed. They can be addressed partly through aid, but there are also issues with human rights and the freedom of expression. There are concerns about the freedom of expression of journalists and opposition figures in Burundi.

There are also concerns about the conduct of the upcoming election. The report made by Mary Robinson, the special envoy of the Secretary-General of the UN to the great lakes region of Africa, noted that she was “very concerned about the constraints on political space and civil liberties which hinder the efforts of the opposition, civil society, and the media, in the lead up to elections in 2015. Burundi has made commendable progress in overcoming a history of conflict, but that progress risks being lost if action is taken to undermine the electoral process and prevent the full participation of all stakeholders.”

The African great lakes region has enormous resources and enormous potential. It has a dreadful history that includes how it was treated by its colonial masters and the genocide that happened after independence. I hope that we can put appropriate supportive pressure on it to bring about a more democratic, pluralistic society that has much greater respect for the human rights of the people of the region. The waste of human resources in war and conflict is appalling. The loss of life and the treatment of women are appalling. We should at least be able to make our views on those matters known in an appropriate way to the Governments of those three countries.

Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, 24 June (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: I am pleased that we are having this debate on UK relations with Saudi Arabia. I was fascinated by the contribution of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), who seemed to manage, towards the end, to draw an equivalence between the social and economic problems and human rights issues that we face in Britain and those in Saudi Arabia.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that more than almost any other country in the world, Saudi Arabia has virtually incalculable financial wealth and that, unusually for the rest of the world, it has a large number of public executions. The death penalty is rife, discrimination against women is systemic, migrant workers are denied any access to representation and frequently face deportation if they protest in any way, and the legal reforms that have been introduced do not apply to 1.5 million domestic workers.

I hope that in his visits to Saudi Arabia as a guest of its Government, the hon. Gentleman is able to raise those issues robustly. I hope that he reminds them that since Saudi Arabia has become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it has had a responsibility to accept the universal declaration of human rights, which includes the rights to free speech, representation, freedom from discrimination against women, religious freedoms, trade union freedoms and press freedoms. A large number of responsibilities go with that, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s group will make representations to that effect.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the canard of visits to Saudi Arabia. I freely admit that I have not been to the country. I would be happy to visit on an independent basis. It is possible for parliamentarians to go on an independent basis through the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as he is fully aware. I find it odd that he says that the only way for MPs to visit is as guests of the Saudi Government, but no doubt he, my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Katy Clark) and I will form a delegation, and we can robustly engage on matters of human rights. I am sure that he will be utterly convinced by the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend and me about the need for serious engagement on human rights abuses.

The background to the issue lies in what the hon. Gentleman mentioned at the beginning of his speech: the strategic and economic role that Saudi Arabia plays in the rest of the world. It is the biggest purchaser of arms from this country, and one of the biggest purchasers of arms from the United States, of any country in the world. It has a dubious economic relationship with BAE Systems and others, to the extent that the Serious Fraud Office went to enormous lengths to investigate the al-Yamamah arms contract. Apparently, the investigation was on the point of revealing a lot of corruption, and possibly prosecutions, when the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair—[Interruption.] The then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, intervened, as he had the prime ministerial power to do, and stopped the investigation. Those are extremely serious issues.

These matters have been raised many times in Parliament. On 23 January this year, in a debate in this very Chamber, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on human rights, of which I am a vice-chair, pointed out that although the Foreign Office human rights report was slightly stronger than in previous years, it still remained weak, and that she wished there would be something rather stronger.

The papers and reports produced by the Campaign Against Arms Trade point out that arms sales to Saudi Arabia seem to colour all issues affecting relations with that country; I suspect that the Foreign Office’s “softly softly” approach on human rights and the interference in the SFO inquiry and many others are heavily influenced by the prospect of Typhoon aircraft and other materials being sold. The revolving door of lobbyists from the armed forces, including retired armed forces officers, and of course the influence of our own royal family on exports seem to override everything related to concerns about human rights abuses.

Any other country in the world that did not have the economic clout of Saudi Arabia would be strongly condemned by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham and many others, but it is the economic relationship between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world that heavily influences views on human rights.

Daniel Kawczynski:
 The hon. Gentleman seems to imply that somehow selling Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia, which obviously provides very important jobs in the United Kingdom, is somehow inappropriate. As a sovereign nation, Saudi Arabia needs to protect herself. She is in an extremely unstable and difficult region, and is potentially threatened by Iran. Are we to leave this very important country defenceless?

Jeremy Corbyn:
 The position of Saudi Arabia in the region is interesting, and I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised the issue. I am sure he would have been concerned, as I was, by Saudi Arabia’s military incursions into Yemen, and perhaps even more concerned by the role that Saudi Arabia played in Bahrain, supporting the King against protesters through the use of Gulf Co-operation Council forces that went into Bahrain—indeed, those forces continue to support the Bahrain royal family. I am pleased that relations with Iran are improving. I hope that the human rights situation in Iran will improve in parallel with those relations, and that any negotiations with Iran are as strong on human rights as they are on nuclear processing or any other issues.

However, the hon. Gentleman must be aware of the very deep concern expressed by many about the volume of funding—some, apparently, from Saudi sources—that has become available to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant forces. Again, those forces have incalculable levels of funding compared with many other groups; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has raised the involvement of Saudi Arabia in the war in Syria on a strategic level with the Saudi Government during his visits there. There is a desperately dangerous situation in the whole region and Saudi Arabia is a very important part of that entire calculation, so surely we need a coming together rather than the funding of more military actions in other countries.

Daniel Kawczynski:
 The hon. Gentleman will know that Saudi Arabia warned Tony Blair repeatedly against intervention in Iraq; he also knows perfectly well that Mr Blair, despite all the Saudi misgivings, chose to intervene in that country—

Mr James Gray (in the Chair):
 Order. I think that we are drifting rather wide of the topic under consideration, which is human rights in Saudi Arabia.

Jeremy Corbyn:
 Thank you, Mr Gray. I think the question is really about the relationship that we choose to have with Saudi Arabia. Is it to be one whereby we see Saudi Arabia simply as a purchaser from Britain and an exporter of oil, or are we going to have a constructive relationship in which, hopefully, there will be improvements—

Mr James Gray:
 Order. Having asked one hon. Member to stick to the subject, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could now return to the very specific issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia, leaving other matters of international concern to one side.

Jeremy Corbyn:
 Mr Gray, my next sentence was about the question of human rights in Saudi Arabia. In conclusion, I want to draw attention to the problems facing migrant workers in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not alone in its region in having vast numbers of migrant workers who have very limited rights; the economies of most Gulf countries rely almost entirely on migrant workers. I have been involved in UN discussions on migrant workers’ rights, and in the various charters on migrant workers and the International Labour Organisation standards. The number of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia is absolutely enormous and they come from many different countries. Altogether there are 9 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

The 2005 labour law in Saudi Arabia changed the relationship of some migrant workers through the alteration of the kafala sponsorship system, which ties migrant workers’ permits of residency to their employer, but it specifically excluded the 1.5 million domestic workers who are the most vulnerable migrant workers and suffer the highest levels of abuse.

I hope that in this debate we have been able to draw attention to the issues of concern. My hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran made very strong points, and quite rightly so, about the discrimination against and ill treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. She drew attention to the princesses’ situation as an example of how women are treated in Saudi Arabia and I absolutely support her on that. I also draw attention to the plight of migrant workers, the motor of the economy of Saudi Arabia. They clean the dishes, clean the floors, operate in the offices, work in the factories, deliver the oil and do all the other things, and yet they are denied any rights. If at any point they protest about their conditions, they find themselves on a plane home. It is not surprising that the Governments of the Philippines, Thailand and many other countries have protested about

the treatment of their citizens in Saudi Arabia, and we should do the same, on behalf of the people who provide such a great service and who work so hard for such little reward in a country that is incredibly wealthy.

I am pleased that I have been able to contribute to this debate. I hope that we will continue to return to these issues and that the Foreign Office will have a much more robust attitude on human rights in relation to every country of the world, irrespective of its wealth.

Private Rented Sector, 25 June (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: I am pleased that we are debating the private rented sector. I suspect there will be many more such debates between now and the general election, because the situation requires urgent intervention, and in many respects a change in the law.

Like some of my colleagues who have already spoken, I represent an inner-London constituency, and we are facing the most acute housing crisis that I can remember, both in my time as an MP and before that as a councillor in a neighbouring borough. When I hold a constituency advice surgery—as we all do—I am frequently there for five or six hours, and 90% of the cases are about housing. Such cases are desperately sad: it is frightening to hear about what people are going through and the trauma of families being upheaved and forced to move out of the borough from one private rented property to another and another and another, with all the disruption that causes to their children’s education, their health and family relationships, and the damage it does to the community as a whole.

The ward where I live has a population turnover of almost 30% per year, which makes any kind of community cohesion much more difficult and voluntary organisations less well populated, and affects all the social infrastructure that is so important in our societies. We must consider the desperate housing need, not just in inner-city areas but in the country overall.

Frank Dobson:
 Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest problems is that these constant moves often involve children? It is clear from the research that a child having to shift from one school to another—sometimes two or three schools in one year—is about as damaging to their educational opportunities as can be imagined.

Jeremy Corbyn:
 My right hon. Friend makes a strong point with which I absolutely concur and which I understand well. It works like this: a family is in receipt of local housing allowance, and the landlord puts the rent up way beyond what the allowance enables them to pay; they do not have enough other income—either from a low-paid job or from other benefits—to make up the difference, so they have to move. There is no possibility of their getting another private rented property in the same community, so the council is forced to do its best by hassling various agents all over the place to try to find somewhere for them to live—my council does that all the time, and Camden council does much the same thing. The family is perhaps found somewhere to live in Enfield, Barking or wherever. They are there for six months, they have the temerity to complain about the conditions, the tenancy ends, and they get moved again. The children either have to be uprooted from one school to another in another borough, or make a long journey to return to their original borough—such as Camden or Islington—and try to maintain themselves at the same school. What kind of life is it for a seven or eight-year-old child to be dragged on a bus or train for an hour every morning to get to primary school and has to change time and again? Ask the teachers how the kids suffer because of that.

My borough is doing its best to provide as much council housing as it can. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) kindly visited our borough last week, and she will have seen the excellent quality of our new build. Indeed, it is rather better quality than the current private sector new build: larger rooms, better accommodation, and more energy efficient—very good quality stuff. It is difficult to find land to build it on and expensive to do, but the social investment is enormous, as is the return for the whole community.

The message from the Government is that we should increase council rents to 80% of market value. That would be totally unaffordable for people who live in our existing council properties, and would mean that they could not accept even if they were offered them. We must maintain the social rented model and address the problems of housing in this country, essentially by building a lot more council houses.

Some 200,000 or more new households are created every year, and the number of new properties being developed in the country is around 100,000 per year. We are all into the science of managing shortages. Councils are doing that, as is everybody else, and the only safety valve is the private rented sector. The only safety valve in that is ever-increasing rents and the huge profitability that exists within that sector. We therefore need to do two things; the first is to support local authorities to build council housing.

I do not support the sale of council houses or big discounts on their sale, particularly in areas with enormous housing shortages, not because it makes a lot of difference to residents, if they remain living in them, but because later the properties might be sold on or rented in the private rented sector. The highest rent I have come across so far—there might be more in the pipeline—for a former council flat is £660 per week. For the person living next door in an identical council flat—possibly even in better conditions, because the council tends to look after things quite well—the rent would be about £100 to £120 per week. How can anyone possibly justify that discrepancy?

I support the Opposition Front-Bench team’s proposal for the regulation of letting agents and for the enforcement of much better conditions and much longer tenancies. In areas of very high housing demand—in London and other cities such as Oxford and York and in the centres of other cities—rent rises are huge. I have no idea where the Residential Landlords Association gets its figures from, but it claims that in the 12 months to March 2014, the rent increase in London was 1.4%. I tried this figure out on people in my community, but I only got as far as “1.4” before they started laughing. They said, “That must have been last week’s increase.” I have no idea where these figures come from, but these things are very important.

We seem to be presiding over a cowboy mentality among some, although not all, letting agents who think it okay to stick some scruffy piece of paper in a window saying, “No DSS allowed here”—they are a bit out of date: the Department of Social Security was abolished a long time ago and is now the Department for Work and Pensions; perhaps they should be educated about that. However, should anyone be allowed to say, “If you’re on benefits, you’re a second-class citizen and you cannot even apply”? Also, the “Panorama” programme has exposed the racial profiling that goes on, presumably under pressure from landlords saying they do not want any Muslims, blacks, Jews—or any other group they care to identify. To his credit, the Minister correctly agreed with me that this is criminal activity, completely wrong and has to be outlawed. I hope there will be serious prosecutions where it can be proved, as a lesson to others that we will not accept race discrimination in the housing market.

I hope that the House will support the motion. I do not know whether the Government will support it—I seriously doubt it—but I hope we can have not just the regulations outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East but even longer tenancies. I also think there is a case for rent controls, particularly in areas of very high housing demand such as London. If we do not manage the private rented sector, control rents and build more housing in London, it will become a totally divided city: a city divided between those lucky enough to get social housing through councils or housing associations, those rich enough to buy and become owner-occupiers, and the rest, who will be spending all their earnings and savings on excessive rents. It will lead to labour shortages and economic decline in our big cities. We need regulation and a determination that we, as a nation, will solve the housing crisis and give all our kids somewhere decent and safe to live.

Prime Ministers Questions, 2 July

Jeremy Corbyn: May I take the Prime Minister back to the question of the private rented sector in Britain? Across London, there are thousands and thousands of families—people in work and on benefits—who are frightened of rent increases, frightened of short-term tenancies and frightened of the consequences, for themselves and their children, of being evicted or forced to move out of the area in which they live. What is happening in central London is social cleansing, and it is coming to the rest of the country. Will he give me an assurance that, in addition to any regulation of the agencies, serious consideration will be given to the need to bring back rent control to protect people and ensure they have somewhere secure and decent to live?
The Prime Minister: Where I would agree with the hon. Gentleman is on the need for greater transparency in the work of letting agents in terms of fees. There is a need for alternative options, which we have put forward, for longer-term tenancies, but in the end we must allow customers to choose what they want. Where I part company with him is on the idea of introducing full-on rent controls. Every time they have been tried, wherever they have been tried in the world, they have failed. That is not just my view; it is also the view of Labour’s own shadow housing Minister, who is on the record as saying that she does not think rent controls will work in practice. Perhaps he might want to have a word with her before coming to me.

Caste Discrimination, 9 July (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: I will be very brief so that the Minister will have plenty of time to reply. First, I pay enormous tribute to the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr Holloway) for securing this debate, for the way in which he has spoken on this subject today and for his willingness to grant me a few minutes of his time. I am very grateful for that.

I am one of the trustees of the Dalit Solidarity Network and a member of the all-party group for Dalits, the chair of which is Bishop Harries, a Member of the House of Lords. Together with the director of the Dalit Solidarity Network, Meena Varma, I have been to the United Nations in Geneva to raise issues of Dalit discrimination in India and many other places, but also, clearly, in this country.

I will briefly put on the record the enormity of the situation. Around the world, 260 million people are Dalits —scheduled castes. They suffer grievous discrimination, terrible poverty, appalling levels of crime committed against them and, in most of India and Nepal and other places, appalling standards of living. Every week, 13 Dalit people in India are murdered. Five Dalit homes are repossessed every week. Three women are raped every day. Eleven Dalits are beaten every day. A crime is committed against Dalit people every 11 minutes in India.

The Ambedkar constitution is an excellent document. Dr Ambedkar was himself a Dalit. It absolutely outlaws discrimination and has some provision for protected employment for people of the scheduled castes. It is a very effective document, but raising these matters with the Indian Government or Indian high commission is extremely difficult; they are quite resistant to having good discussions about it.

As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, discrimination also exists in this country. There are roughly 1 million Dalit people in Britain. As a result of both the case that he brought up, which was one that we raised in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, and the debates that took place in advance of the Equality Act 2010, we are in a situation in which we are relying on the Government now to introduce regulation to put it on the face of the law in this country that it would be illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste.

In getting to this position, the Government of the day in 2010, the then Labour Government, with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) as the Minister leading on the Bill, accepted an amendment put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) that required the Government to undertake research on caste discrimination in this country. That research demonstrated clearly that there is serious discrimination, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said, in terms, that the British Government had an obligation to introduce the legislation. The Minister, I am sure, will tell us that consultations are taking place. I agree with consultations; everything should be consulted on, but there should be a limit to the time in which that is done. I am very disappointed that, at the moment, the introduction of the regulation will take us past the end of this Parliament and into the next Parliament. I would like to see something done in this Parliament and I hope that the Minister will give us good news on that.

My final point is that it is never popular to stand up for people who have been grievously discriminated against. I am really pleased with the way in which a number of Members have raised the matter today. Discrimination is wrong in any circumstances and against anybody, and people should be treated with dignity and respect. Our purpose today is to get into British law that clear declaration; at the same time, that will give us the moral authority to talk to others about it. I hope that the Minister will agree to introduce regulations quickly. Above all, I hope she will agree to attend a meeting with the members of the all-party group, which I am sure others could also attend, so that we can have a longer discussion about the matter. The time has come to act and not delay.

Housing Supply, 9 July (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: I am pleased that we are having yet another debate on housing, and I hope there will be many more between now and the next election.

There is clearly a housing crisis facing very many people in this country. Basically, the problem is that 200,000 new households are being created every year through population growth or people choosing to live alone. New house building comes nowhere near to meeting those demands. Thus the shortage is dealt with by rising property prices, rising private sector rents and greater demand on social housing—or, at the other end of the scale, increasing homelessness, rough sleeping, overcrowding, underachievement in schools, and desperate poverty among many people who deserve somewhere decent to live.

I hope that we can look at this debate on the basis of the needs of the entire population. I am particularly concerned about those who are really up against it in inner-city communities such as the one I represent. I am very proud to represent an inner-London constituency. It is a place of growing division, I am sorry to say, because of the housing situation. House prices are rising very fast. The number of owner-occupiers is now well below 30% and falling fast. The number of council properties is increasing only as far as the council is able to find land to build and develop council housing, which is the most secure and affordable form of housing available to people. The remaining provision comprises the private rented sector, which has limited regulation and tends to be very expensive.

The strategy adopted by this Government, through the Department for Work and Pensions, on limiting the local housing allowance but not controlling rents means that large numbers of private tenants, who are often in work—as well as some who are not in work but have right of access to the local housing allowance—cannot afford to remain in those properties and are therefore decanted out of the area. That is happening not just in central London but in the central and more expensive parts of every town and city in the country. Frankly, there is a process of social cleansing going on. That is the effect of the overall housing shortage and the very great increases in costs associated with it.

I have raised with the Minister a specific concern about the development of new properties in former industrial or office buildings under what are known as permitted development rights. The Government decided that they would lift the planning restriction applied to permitted development rights on former office buildings. That means that a local authority has no control over what happens to a former office building, which can then be converted into housing. In some cases, it might be entirely appropriate to convert an office block into housing if there is no longer any requirement for an office block or likelihood of anybody wanting to use it as such. The problem is that if the local authority has no say in the matter, it has no opportunity to try to protect local employment, as it might sometimes wish to protect. Moreover, the local authority has no power whatever to insist that a proportion of the dwellings created are available for social rent. I do not like using the phrase “affordable rent,” because most of the “affordable” rents in London are not at all affordable to anyone on an average income or below.

Yesterday, the all-party group on the private rented sector had a very interesting meeting about access to housing for under-35s. We took evidence from Crisis, the National Union of Students and a company called Essential Living, which is backed by $200 million of equity funding from American pension funds and is very keen on developing the larger-scale private rented sector in London. It says that at some point in the future it wants to develop some kind of affordable rented model, but it is very unclear what that model is. It has bought into an office block in my constituency called Archway tower and turned it into, I think, 120 flats marketed at people earning more than £80,000 a year. It does not require local authority permission to do that; it is only building control and any external work to the building that need to be passed by the local planning authority. Requests have been made of the company to contribute to the social needs of the area by providing a proportion of those properties for social rent. Its responses have been polite and well informed, but the answer has always been the same: it says no, it will not do it.

When I say to the Minister, therefore, that there is a need to intervene in the development of the private rented sector, I do so not only because I want to see the continuation of the diverse mosaic of London’s communities, but, quite simply, for the sake of the survival of the economy of this very big city, which, indeed, will affect that of other very big cities. I pray in aid the London chamber of commerce statistics on the numbers of people who are finding it difficult to afford to buy or rent anywhere to live in London. There is a growing problem of labour shortage, and the same applies to other parts of the country.

Mr Stewart Jackson: I am rather puzzled by the hon. Gentleman’s comments about his constituency. Given the paucity of greenfield and urban exception sites available to build new estates in boroughs such as Islington, I would have thought that he would welcome permitted development rights, to enable the cumulative release of more housing of all types and perhaps even affordable housing for his constituents and people across London.

Jeremy Corbyn: Uncharacteristically, the hon. Gentleman does not seem to have been listening very carefully. I did not say that I was opposed to the conversion of vacant office blocks or industrial premises into housing. My point is that if there are jobs to be protected—this could apply anywhere in the country—the local authority should at least have a say, so that a rational decision could be made. Secondly, any development has to have a sense of social responsibility, so at least a proportion of those properties should be available for affordable social rent rather than market rent, which is completely unaffordable for the majority of people in my constituency.

When the Minister replies to the debate, I hope he will reflect on the ways in which permitted development rights are actually militating against the housing needs of those people who are most desperately in need of somewhere safe, secure and affordable to live.

Gaza (Statement), 14 July

Jeremy Corbyn: The tragedy of the loss of life in the whole region surely stems ultimately from the occupation of the west bank, the settlement policy, and the current siege of Gaza. What practical steps has the Foreign Secretary taken to criticise Israel for its collective punishment of the people of Gaza, the destruction of water supplies and sewage plants, and the killings of large numbers of civilians, and what sanctions does he now propose to take against Israel for acting against international law in punishing a civilian population?
Mr Hague: I go a little further back in my analysis of the root causes, or, as the hon. Gentleman puts it, the ultimate causes, in terms of Israel’s policy. The ultimate cause is the failure to bring about a two-state solution, and there are failings on both sides in that regard. There is the failure to take opportunities in negotiations, and there is the failure by Hamas to adopt peaceful principles that would allow the world to welcome it into negotiations. Those failures exist on both sides, and therefore, for us, it is not a question of sanctions on one side or the other; it is a question of our effort to bring about a viable peace process, and that is where we must continue to place our emphasis.

Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (Business of the House), 15 July (Debate)

Jeremy Corbyn: I acknowledge your entreaties to be very brief, Mr Speaker. We would not normally be discussing timetable motions at any length at all, but this goes to the very lifeblood of what Parliament is about.

The Bill has been introduced in a big hurry. There has been no public consultation, no parliamentary scrutiny and very little public debate. It is a major piece of legislation that has global implications for what this country does. It relates to the surveillance of everybody’s telephones, internet and everything else. It is a massive intrusion into people’s lives. The Government are doing a great disservice to Parliament in insisting that we debate the whole of Second Reading by 5 pm, amendments by 9 pm and Third Reading by 10 pm, for the Bill to go to the Lords and come back here again on Thursday all done, and then have a sunset clause that goes on for two years.

This is not an appropriate way for Parliament to be treated and every MP should think very carefully. Why we are here? We have been elected to hold the Executive to account and to scrutinise legislation. This timetable motion is a travesty of what scrutiny of legislation should be about. I, for one, will oppose the timetable motion, so that we have a proper opportunity to scrutinise and debate the Bill.

Jeremy Corbyn: Will the Home Secretary reflect again on the intervention by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis)? If a foreign Government who are routine abusers of human rights passed the same legislation through their Parliament, could they then intervene on an internet service provider based in this country to obtain data on their citizens, in the same way that the British Government take that power for themselves in another jurisdiction?

Mrs May: The power that we are taking is to be able to serve a warrant in relation to somebody who is based overseas. There would be implications for anyone attempting to apply to serve something into the UK in relation to the operation of that under UK law.

Clauses 4 and 5 make it clear that RIPA applies to all the companies that provide communications services to people in the United Kingdom, regardless of where those companies happen to be based. The final clause contains the sunset provision, which means that the legislation will expire at the end of 2016. I recognise that a number of Members have suggested that this sunset clause should be at an earlier stage. I say to them that the reason it has been put at the end of 2016 is that we will have a review by David Anderson which will report before the general election. It is the intention that a Joint Committee of Parliament will look at his work and that of the Intelligence and Security Committee. It will then be necessary to put the required legislation in place. If anyone stops to think about that timetable, it is clear that it could not be completed by the end of this year.

Jeremy Corbyn: I support amendment 2, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson), who made his case extremely well. Surely the issue is simply this: Parliament is here to scrutinise what the Executive do and to try to represent public opinion. We need to take advice from the public, organisations, lobby groups and so on, but all I have managed to find was an interesting and quite useful briefing from Liberty that came in yesterday—all credit to Liberty for getting a reasonable briefing together in a very short time—and a series of articles in The Guardian and one or two other newspapers.

But this Bill has massive implications in relation to the ability of the state to dip in and out of people’s telephone and e-mail accounts. Because it takes on itself a global reach, it has huge implications all around the world. If we are to take the global reach to dip into e-mail accounts all around the world, what are we to do, as the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) said in an intervention, when an unpalatable regime decides to do the same and pitches up in a British court and says, “Well, you’ve taken these rights unto yourself. Why shouldn’t we do exactly the same?”? The implications of the Bill go a very long way indeed.

I am always suspicious when the House is summoned in an emergency and told, “This is an absolutely overriding, desperate emergency, so we’ve got to get this thing through all its stages in one day,” and Front Benchers from both sides of the House get together and agree that there is a huge national emergency. I am sorry, but what is the emergency?

There was a court decision some months ago, about which the Government have since done very little and made very few statements. There has apparently been an interesting debate between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party in the coalition. In the interests of public scrutiny, we should be given the minutes of the discussion between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister, and of all the sofa discussions that have no doubt taken place. I thought that sofa politics ended with new Labour, but apparently it still goes on in Downing Street. We need to know the nature of that debate.

What is the objection to a sunset clause that would bring the—to me—very unpalatable Bill to a conclusion in six months’ time? Such a clause would at least give lawyers an opportunity to make a detailed case, and the Government an opportunity to explain their case a bit better. It would give the Home Affairs Committee a chance to discuss it, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights a chance to examine it, which we as Members of Parliament would also be able to do.

In an age of social media, it is interesting to see the numbers of people
following the debate online and live. They are interested in social media, privacy and communication, and they all have views and opinions. I have no idea what all their views and opinions are. All I know is that as an individual Member of Parliament, I, like all colleagues in the Chamber, must vote on this piece of legislation without having the chance to reflect or consult.

This is not a good day for Parliament. It is not a good advertisement for Parliament. It is not a good advertisement for democracy. The very least that we can do is to agree that this wrong-headed piece of legislation will expire by the end of this year and force the Government to come up with something more palatable, more carefully thought out and more sensible in respect of the protection of privacy and civil rights for all. That is why we were elected to Parliament. We should be given the opportunity to do our job, and should not have to lie down in front of a steamroller and accept something that we know in our hearts to be ill thought out and wrong.

(Westminster Hall) Middle East and North Africa (Debate): July 17th  2014

Jeremy Corbyn (speech):  I apologise, Mr Sheridan, because I may not be here for part of the winding-up speeches, as there is a ministerial meeting with the all-party group on the African great lakes region at 4 pm.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) on obtaining the debate. I am sure that when he applied for it and I supported the application, we assumed that it would be about the entire region and north Africa; inevitably, however, in view of the crisis, Gaza and the west bank will dominate the debate. I have recorded relevant interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, having visited Israel and Palestine nine times over the years.

My last visit to Gaza was depressing in the extreme, because I saw a place surrounded by a 1 km wide no-go zone. Anyone who ventures into that zone, whether a farmer or anyone else, will automatically be shot by machine guns placed on the fence between Gaza and Israel. Any fishing boat that goes more than a very short distance from shore will be shot at by Israeli naval vessels, and every day, all the time, surveillance planes, drones and so on fly over the Gaza strip. The people there live under siege and have done for a long time.

I know people in the Gaza Community Mental Health Foundation and Dr Munah Farah well. Their estimation is that at least two thirds of the population of Gaza suffer medical stress from the way they live, with constant food and water shortages, and constant insecurity of supply. That has been happening to those people not for just a few months but for many years. They live in an open-air prison, created and continued by the state of Israel. That is the cause of the deepest anger and frustration among ordinary people in Gaza. We would be angry and frustrated as well, if it was done to us.

Mrs Ellman: My hon. Friend describes a distressing situation; but does he recognise that it arose after Israel removed all its settlers and soldiers in 2005, only for Hamas to take control of Gaza and intensify rocket attacks on Israeli civilians?

Jeremy Corbyn: My hon. Friend has made that point many times. Israel withdrew its unwelcome settlements in 2005, as she points out, but it maintained border control and surveillance. It is not just that there has been bombing recently; there has been regular bombing by Israeli jets of targets along the Gaza strip. I make my point again: no one should live in an open-air prison, facing such horror and continued destruction.

Mr Djanogly: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jeremy Corbyn: No, I will not give way again, because of the time.

Jocelyn Hurndall is a brave woman whose son Tom was shot in Rafa by Israeli troops while he was trying to defend children whose homes were being demolished by Israeli defence forces. In response to an interview given in The Independent by Daniel Taub, she wrote:

“Mr Taub, there is only one Gaza, currently being bombed to pieces by the might and sophistication of Israel’s military”.

She went on to say, in respect of the Israeli victims of any rockets that are sent:

“Fortunately, Israel has the infrastructure, funds and basic materials to build bomb shelters for its people. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank continue to suffer: an internationally recognised, illegal military occupation, extreme provocation brought about by settlement-building on Palestinian land in spite of international condemnation, the utter thwarting of prosperity due to closed borders and blocked coast, grossly disproportionate civilian deaths and injuries, the destruction of thousands of homes, and a lack of food, water and medical supplies.”

She describes the situation for people in Gaza.

When there are protests in the west bank, Gaza and, indeed, all over the world about Israel’s actions, surely it is time for the rest of the world to recognise that what is being done by Israel is illegal—it is collective punishment. Settlement building all across the west bank is illegal. It is very hard to see how the much vaunted two-state solution could even be dreamed to be possible given the level of settlements. I will use the word that others get very upset about: a sense of apartheid that has developed in the west bank, where there are settler-only roads, settler-only water supplies and there is settler-only occupation of land. That is the reality of life there.

Yes, there is opposition by Palestinians. Ever since there was an attempt to bring about a unity Government that involved Hamas as well as Fatah, Israel has upped the ante no end on a military basis. However, it is not true to say that everyone in Israel is supportive of Netanyahu or some of the extremists in his Government, or of the far extremists who want to see Israel occupying a large but so far unspecifically identified area. A week ago in Israel, there was a large demonstration of both Palestinians and Jewish people against the policies of the Israeli Government. Indeed, I draw Members’ attention to the Jews for Justice for Palestinians website, which lists eight very interesting points on how peace could come about, including by mutual recognition, by the ending of illegal settlements, and by the rest of the world ensuring that international law is carried out so that Israel is forced to accept that law just as it thinks everyone else should.

We are not going to solve this problem today, but the reaction of the British Government, and of all Governments, to incidents of illegal activity around the world has been rather strange and disproportionate. We have placed sanctions on Russia because of the activities in Ukraine and Crimea; Israel is in breach of a large number of UN resolutions, and it is clearly in breach of international law on both collective punishment and the settlement policy, but no sanctions whatever have been proposed.

In looking for a long-term peace, I urge that we look also at our own historical involvement in the region and the surrounding area. After the first world war, the area was divided up in the interests of the west. The forerunner of that action, the Sykes-Picot agreement, was done in secret and only revealed some years later through files kept in Moscow, and that was followed by the mandate system and the division of the whole region. Israel was established in 1948, and the 1967 war expanded its territory no end. Netanyahu’s policies seem to put no limit on Israeli expansion.

We need to be very serious with Israel about its breach of international law, its expansion policy and its treatment of people. I am critical of anyone who wants to bomb anyone else—I do not see that as a solution—but if a people are kept imprisoned and denied work, hope and opportunity, then consequences follow. Those consequences are great bitterness, great conflict and horrible loss of life. In the past few weeks, 200 Palestinians have died in Gaza, and sadly one Israeli has been killed as the result of one rocket landing. This is wholly disproportionate. It is a horrible way forward, and the demonstrations around the world show just how isolated Israel is and just how isolated are those Governments who think that they can keep on and on apologising for Israel’s behaviour rather than pressure it to do something different. Such Governments are becoming out of touch with the feelings of an awful lot of ordinary people all over the world. Today’s debate gives us the opportunity to say that, at least.

Early Day Motions (EDM) Jeremy has been the Primary Sponsor of:

EDM 153: Debate on US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement, 19 June

That this House notes the expiration later in 2014 of the 10-year extension to the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA); understands that the role of MDA is to improve UK atomic weapon design; believes that the extension of this bilateral treaty undermines US and UK commitments under Article I and Article VI of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, which states that each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty shall not transfer nuclear weapons or explosive devices and shall pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament; is concerned that the Government does not see a potential conflict of interest between the MDA and the NPT; and urges that a debate be held in Government time on any proposal to renew the MDA prior to ratification.

EDM 169: Medical Assessments Work and the Department of Works and Pensions,
24 June

That this House believes that medical assessments for the Work Capability Assessment, the contract which Atos recently relinquished, should be brought back in-house; recalls that the failure of this contract, which was ended with keen agreement by Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), follows a long history of criticism of the process and the company by politicians, press, public and DWP for their delivery of the healthcare contract, in particular the Work Capability Assessments; further believes that the current situation, with the contract yet to be granted, provides the opportunity for the Government to take responsibility and full control of the process by bringing the work and staff back in-house so that it can be delivered by the DWP; welcomes the benefits that in-house delivery would bring including the Department having direct control over processes and staffing and staff being able to work closely and interchangeably between core DWP work and those currently delivering the Atos contract, while recognising that this would go a long way to repairing the reputation of DWP medical assessment work; is concerned that awarding the contract to another private sector supplier could lead to a repeat of past mistakes, particularly as public spending cuts result in companies delivering contacts by making cuts to maintain profit margins; and urges the Government to stop the expensive bidding process now, bring the work and staff in-house, and take responsibility and control for improving the process for everyone concerned.

EDM 170: Imprisonment of Journalists in Egypt, 24 June

That this House condemns in the strongest possible terms the court case and sentences of the Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt: seven years for Peter Greste and Mohammed Fahmy and 10 years for Baher Mohamed, all of whom are suffering needlessly; condemns also the 10 year sentences in absentia for Alaa Bayoumi, Anas Abdel-Wahab Khalawi Hasan, Khaleel Aly Khaleel Bahnasy, Mohamed Fawzi, Dominic Kane, Rena Netjes and Sue Turton; notes the lack of respect these unjust sentences show for the democratic system; notes also the invaluable role these people carry out in briefing the international community regarding what is happening in other corners of the world; and calls on the Government to do everything in its power to convince the Egyptian authorities of the travesty of this case and the damage it is doing to the democratic process.

EDM 213: Bahrain Justice System, 3 July

That this House notes the lack of reform in the administration of criminal cases in Bahrain despite the acceptance of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report in 2011; is concerned by the failure of the Bahraini government to implement a number of the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry specifically to address the culture of impunity and inequality of Bahrain’s justice system; further notes the 2014 Human Rights Watch Report that highlights the continued prosecution and conviction of defendants, including human rights activists, political figures and medical personnel, on charges based on the exercise of rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; is further concerned by the harsh sentences given by court judges for insulting the king and the ratification of recent penal code amendments in February 2014 that increase the sentence for such charges; expresses disappointment at the inadequacy of Bahrain’s attempt to investigate and prosecute security personnel accused of torture and calls on the Government of Bahrain to hold human rights offenders accountable; calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners including Ibrahim Sharif, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Hassan Mushaima, Naji Fateel and Abdulwahab Husain; is further concerned at the failure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to list Bahrain as a country of concern in its 2014 Human Rights Report; and further calls on the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to condemn human rights abuses in Bahrain and list it as a country of concern in order to promote accountability and transparency within Bahrain’s justice system.

EDM 246: Collective Punishment of Palestinians, 9 July

That this House notes that once again Palestine’s Gaza region has come under attack by the Israeli Defence Force; further notes that in this wholly unequal cycle of violence 490 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, and three Israelis; further notes that in this current attack Defence 4 Children International Palestine report that eight children have been killed and Palestinian writer and health worker, Mona Elfarra, reports the, not unusual, targeting of health centres including the European Hospital East of Khan Younis where many were both suffering and sheltering; and calls on the Government to do everything within its power to bring about an end to the collective punishment of Palestinans and the occupation that is a virtual death sentence for them.

20 Jul

Report (Part 1/diary): June 19th – July 16th

                       Report from Jeremy Corbyn MP mid-June 2014– mid-July 2014

www.jeremycorbyn.org.uk

 

Diary Highlights

June
19th: As ever, housing remains a priority in Islington and, along with Emily Thornberry MP, it was a pleasure to welcome Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister Emma Reynolds MP to Islington to talk about the issues affecting the borough. We also had a good roundtable discussion about the private rented sector.
I attended the Hilldrop Area Community Association Annual General Meeting (AGM). Well done to everyone who has worked so hard to make the community association a success, especially Bob Drinkwater.

20th: It was Employee Owned Business Day and it was nice to be able to visit Harry Robbins who founded ‘Outlandish’ in Finsbury Park. I welcome and applaud this great local company which is hoping to create fulfilling jobs and provide training in Islington and I hope that Outlandish’s model can be replicated in many other areas.
I also visited residents and staff at the Highbury New Park Care Home open day.

21st: To mark the 15th anniversary of the Refugee Therapy Centre’s work in Islington, I visited this excellent local charity and I spoke about the plight of refugees and the issues surrounding securing NHS funding for victims of torture.
I spoke at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity demonstration in Parliament Square. Other speakers included Len McClusky and Owen Jones.

22nd: There was a well-attended open day at Finsbury Park Mosque. This event was held for the local community and it was well-supported by people from local churches.

23rd: I chaired a meeting in parliament on the subject of “Scenarios and perspectives on the future of Central African Republic”, which was hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Great Lakes, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Vision, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Tearfund.

I welcomed a group of constituents into parliament from St Augustine’s Church. They enjoyed their tour and in particular the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, where they met Parliament’s Chaplain, Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkins, who spent some time with them.

25th: I attended Hanley Crouch for a special trustees meeting. There are excellent plans for the new building planned for the Ivy Hall site.

26th: I attended a Finsbury Park Hub meeting on Khat, now an illegal drug which has been the subject of a long debate in the Somali community. This meeting was part of the community education process.

30th: I spoke at a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) protest along with reporters from Al Jazeera and Jim Boujimia from the International Federation of Journalists. The following day I also went to the Egyptian Embassy and attended a 90 minute meeting with the Ambassador, discussing press freedom in Egypt and the imprisonment of journalists there.

July
1st: I was re-elected as Chair of the APPG Mexico at its AGM.

2nd: As part of the local trades unions build-up to the 10 July strikes, I spoke at a rally at Islington Town Hall.

3rd: I attended Islington Community Theatre’s youth performance of “Astronauts, which was written by the actors themselves and focussed on housing and hopes for young people.

4th – 5th: I attended the Parliamentary Network for Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) in Basel, Switzerland where I took part in a discussion with MPs from around the world, including New Zealand and Germany. I spoke about my opposition to the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons.

6th: I spoke at (Clissold Park) Turkish/Kurdish ‘Day Mer Festival’, a radical community event.

7th: As a patron of the organisation, I have regular meetings with Mike Sheriff from Voluntary Action in Islington and it was a pleasure to host the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation meeting on Honour Killings. It was a packed meeting which also discussed female genital mutilation, and I am drafting a parliamentary motion on this subject.

8th: I was re-elected chair of the APPG Western Sahara. We are now arranging a meeting with the relevant minister to discuss our findings following our visit to the region in January.
As a trustee of Elizabeth House, it was great to see young users at the centre give a presentation of their work and activities at the centre’s AGM.

9th: I was re-elected Vice-Chair of the APPG Latin America at its AGM.

10th: I visited picket lines at the job centre and local schools, before speaking at Islington Unison’s rally at the Town Hall and the NUT rally at Trafalgar Square.
Head teacher Paul Campbell is leaving Christ the King School. His hard work has turned the school around and it was a pleasure to attend his leaving do.
Centre 404 on Camden Road held their AGM. I am proud to be one of their patrons. Users and carers attended the AGM followed by a social evening complete with steal band.

11th: I met with constituents from the “Stop Sinai Torture” campaign concerning Eritrean people seeking asylum in Israel.
With just two days’ notice, the Stop the War Coalition called a demonstration attended by 10,000 people on Kensington High Street about the current situation in Gaza. I have tabled an EDM on this issue (see below).

12th: I presented certificates to volunteers at the CND Council at Manor Gardens, where I also attended their summer festival.

14th: Congratulations to Arsenal Ladies on their FA Cup victory! I joined the team at a reception in Islington Town Hall.
I spoke alongside Hilary Benn MP at the APPG Third World Solidarity’s memorial meeting for the late Rt. Hon. Tony Benn. We spoke about Tony’s international commitments.
Following this, I attended an impressively united meeting of Kurdish groups from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey about Dr Ghessemlou who was murdered in 1989.

15th: I was re-elected chair of the Chagos Islands (BIOT) APPG at its AGM.

10 Jul

Morning Star: Mandelson is 20 Years Out of Date

Labour needs to respond to popular anger at inequality, says JEREMY CORBYN


THE papers over the weekend were obsessing over the 20th anniversary of Blair’s election to the Labour Party leadership.

Although Blair’s been vigorous in defending his record, his legacy will be forever tainted by his neocon foreign policies, his deception over the Iraq invasion and the vast amounts of money he has made since leaving office, including £13 million from Kazakhstan and substantial payments from other governments with human rights records that are at best dubious and at worst appalling.

In domestic politics, Blair’s record had two conflicting trends.

The first was, in fact, positive — the introduction of the national minimum wage, development of children’s centres, improvement of housing standards and the establishment of credible and achievable health targets.

The darker side was his rejection of the history and traditions of the labour movement and the favour he showed for the private sector over the public sector. So we saw the encroachment of big business practice and “morals” into public service provision.

Blair punished local government and the health service by refusing access to government funds for many projects, instead insisting on the private finance initiative.

This disastrous funding scheme is a millstone around almost every hospital in the country, many secondary schools and much of our transport infrastructure.

Blair’s duplicity over Iraq and his attacks on civil liberties contributed to Labour’s loss of office in 2010, but the financial crisis sealed the party’s electoral fate.

The 2008 financial crash was correctly described by Gordon Brown as a global crisis, but he failed to see that it was his penchant for banking deregulation and the bank bailout that caused and then exacerbated the crash.

Deregulation, begun under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, largely continued under new Labour to the extent that we have a workforce dominated by short-term contracts, zero-hours contracts and an erosion of workplace rights.

Yesterday morning, for example, RMT members working for the ISS contract cleaning company doing the difficult job of cleaning trains have been told that in future to clock on and off work they must hand over their biometric details. It smacks of a Big Brother Home Office seeking out hard-working people who may not have yet obtained their full immigration status in Britain.

New Labour’s chief lieutenant Peter Mandelson in a recent Progress interview claimed: “Those who don’t give their political loyalty automatically to left or right — whose votes therefore are up for grabs — are a greater segment of the electorate now than they were when new Labour was being created in the 1990s.”

This dubious analysis is the foundation on which he warns Labour about what he terms “any move to the left.

“That is why I get frustrated sometimes when people argue now that the country has moved to the left, therefore if we are more unambiguously left-wing and raise our ideological vigour, we are more likely to win the next election.”

Mandelson then goes on to claim that Labour’s 1992 defeat was because the leadership was too radical.

But in case he hadn’t noticed, poverty, falling wages and growing inequality are affecting people across the board. The energies of the anti-cuts movements needs to be recognised as a force for good, not an embarrassment.

Labour’s Policy Forum meets at the end of the month in Milton Keynes and will begin putting together the basis of the manifesto for the 2015 election.

Popular pressure encouraged Ed Miliband to commit to the abolition of the bedroom tax. Popular pressure brought about at least an acceptance of the need for regulation of the private rented sector.

And interestingly 50 constituency parties have submitted resolutions concerning Trident and Britain’s nuclear weapons as part of the foreign policy debate.

Despite what Mandelson might think, the tide is turning.

Massive industrial action is to be held tomorrow by local authority workers and teachers who have had enough of wage freezes, job losses and the introduction of a later retirement age.

This shows the degree of anger over the government’s austerity policies among those who have suffered the brunt of the cuts and the increased demands on services caused by those cuts.

If ever there was a time for a radical alternative, it has to be now.

NUT leader Christine Blower has said that the teachers’ decision to strike was a last resort. “For teachers, performance-related pay, working until 68 for a full pension and a heavy workload of 60 hours a week is unsustainable.”

Unison, which will have the largest number of people on strike tomorrow, points out that local government workers’ real pay level has fallen by 20 per cent in the past four years.

People are angry at seeing the welfare state constantly under attack and the systematic denigration of those who quite legally and justifiably access benefits.

To add insult to injury, at the same time the government lets major companies including Boots, Starbucks and Vodafone enjoy huge tax breaks.

With a year to go to the general election, we need to ensure that Labour offers a real alternative, with an increased minimum wage, education being returned to local authority control and a housing programme that gives real hope to those who are homeless or in overcrowded accommodation.

None of this is complicated.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

 

3 Jul

Morning Star: Who Mourns for the Palestinians?

A one-sided response to the killing of three Israeli settlers ignores the ongoing oppression of Palestinians, says JEREMY CORBYN MP

“NOTHING can justify these abductions and murders, which we again condemn. Those responsible must be brought to justice … but justice will not be served by Israel seeking revenge by imposing collective punishment, or committing other violations of Palestinians’ rights.”

Thus said Philip Luther of Amnesty International in response to the murder of three Israeli settlers in Palestine. However, retribution is very much the order of the day, as has been widely reported around the world.

Palestinian residents in Shuafat, an Arab suburb of Jerusalem, told Reuters they had seen a teenager forced into a vehicle outside a supermarket on Tuesday night. They identified him as 16 year old Mohammed Abu Khudir.

A few hours later his body, partly burned and bearing marks of violence was found abandoned on the outskirts of the city. In response to this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on all sides not to take the law into their own hands.  A strange choice of words as TV screens all around the globe showed the bombing and burning of Gaza in Israeli air strikes supposedly targeting Hamas positions, despite having no evidence that Hamas had been involved in the abduction of the teenagers.

Netanyahu calls for respect for the rule of law while his government indulges in collective punishment and has been condemned as such in respect of the Geneva Conventions, for past incursions and bombings in Gaza.

Mazin Qumsiyeh emailed his human rights letter from Palestine on June 30. It said: “A sadly familiar scene over the past two weeks here in occupied Palestine: 10 Palestinians (including a seven and 15 year old) and three settlers (16-19 years old) were killed.

“Dozens of Palestinian homes were demolished in the past two weeks, and more than 6,000 abductees languish in Israeli gulags/prisons. 1,500 Palestinian homes invaded without due process. Twelve million native Palestinians still await their freedom from colonial occupation and displacement. And Israeli leaders are promising to ‘do more’ (genocidal mayhem?).

“But the question remains — when will this insanity end? Can it end by negotiations between occupied and occupier, negotiations that have been going on for 22 years while Israel gets $12 billion profit every year from its occupation? (That is not counting the billions from US taxpayers).”

There was a time when the possibility of a two-state solution was a real one, when settlement building in the West Bank had been limited and the concept of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank was just about viable.

Twenty years of mushrooming settlements, the theft of land and water supplies, and construction of settler-only roads shows that the Israeli state has no wish whatsoever to bring about peace, only to steal more land and drive more Palestinian families into destitution and despair.

It’s a very strange relationship between Israel and the US that both the US president and vice-president have retreated from once calling for an end to all settlements to demanding no new settlement building, and in the face of Israeli objections to these concepts, asking for a slowing down of the rate of expansion of Israeli settlements — without ever challenging the principle that settlement building is illegal and wrong.

Even the British government has expressed consistent criticism of settlement building and made some noises about settlement-produced goods.

In observing the renewed horrors that the Palestinians are now going through, Netanyahu seems remarkably unconcerned for the Palestinian people and their rights. However when it comes to the Kurds, it’s a different story.

He made an interesting speech last Sunday night to Tel Aviv University’s INSS think tank.

Dwelling on the subject of the collapse of Iraq, Netanyahu decided to give his opinion on the future of the Kurdish people in the region, saying that Kurds are “fighting people who have proved their political moderation and deserve political independence.”

A number of issues quickly arise here, the most obvious being the blatant hypocrisy of Netanyahu and the Israeli government to claim concern for the rights of Kurdish people, whilst Israeli settlers illegally occupy Palestinian land, and the government imprison children and elected parliamentarians and engage in acts of collective punishment of the Palestinian people.

The real motive of Israel is, of course, access to oil from the massive Irbil and Kirkuk oil fields in the Kurdish area of Iraq.

The Kurdish people were initially recognised after the Treaty of Versailles but their putative state was obliterated in 1923 with the establishment of modern Turkey.

The Palestinian people too were recognised at the end of WWI and for the last 50 years their existence has been denied by the Zionist policies of Israel.

As Iraq implodes from a decade of US and British occupation, accompanied by religious sectarian government and the destruction of all of the functions of the state during the desperate days when Paul Bremner was the occupying governor, yet another new force has arisen.

The establishment of the Islamic State in the region, previously called the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, is a direct consequence of this policy. Once again Western arms are flooding in to fight wars in Syria and Iraq in which thousands more civilians will die.

It’s worth asking some very big questions.

As we commemorate the centenary of the first world war, the fundamental instability of the borders that were drawn up at the conference tables of Versailles is now fully exposed.

Those borders were built on the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 in which Britain and France assumed ultimate victory in WWI and, with the destruction of the Ottoman empire, created colonies throughout the region.

Western interests in the region have never been in peace, justice or human rights, but only in their own military advantage and, of course, control of the huge oil resources there.

Immediately, the Palestinian people are the ones in the firing line. As John Wight wrote on the Russia Today website: “No state and no people, regardless of their history, can be given an opt-out when it comes to international law and human rights.

“Justice and security are two sides of the same coin. Israel’s security can never be an excuse for denying justice to the Palestinian people.”

But this view runs directly counter to the policy of the US administration.

Keep a close watch on websites such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War for an update on activities related to the current situation in Palestine.

Jeremy Corbyn; Labour MP for Islington North.

21 Jun

Report (Part 1/diary) March 20th- June 19th inc’

Jeremy Corbyn MP
mid-March 2014– mid-June 2014
www.jeremycorbyn.org.uk

“Arsenal for Everyone” UK Parliamentary Team including Jack Bond and Jeremy Corbyn MP

Congratulations on the outcome of the Council elections to our new Councillors and to those re-elected.

What incredible results were shown in Islington, and London.  Our cohesive society showed it wanted no truck with xenophobia and racism but a society based on respect and support for each other.

The housing issues remain the most important I have to deal with. Children growing up in overcrowded homes under-achieve in school and often suffer ill health; those in the private sector suffer from insecurity, high rents and charges. Too often the homes are badly maintained and have poor insulation.

I support the private rented sector proposals by Ed Milliband but feel they must go further and include rent regulation, at least in London to ensure the maintenance of the diverse and vibrant communities we have.

The NHS is going through a funding crisis with many hospitals deep in debt, some GPs being threatened and increased privatisation of services. The private finance initiative is a millstone around the NHS neck and is a priority for re-payment, over and above all other considerations. Our local Whittington Hospital has agreed to develop an ambulatory care centre, now up and running, and will have a new maternity unit which is good news. Well done everyone who has campaigned to support and keep our local hospital.

The situation in Iraq is dire and the implosion of the Government is a direct result of the 2003 invasion and the sectarian way the country has been led since then. I see no role for Western forces in the current debacle and have said this in Parliament.

On international issues I have also raised human rights in the Congo (DRC). I also attended the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in April.

This report is longer than usual due to the election interregnum and covers the main things I have been involved in locally, in Parliament and in the wider world.

Diary Highlights
March

21st: I met with Islington resident Lisa Perkins who has set up a drug and alcohol programme for people suffering from addiction.

22nd: I addressed the “Stand up to Racism” rally in Trafalgar Square.

23rd: I spoke at the Newroz celebration in Finsbury Park.

24th: It was sad to attend Bob Crow’s funeral, as I set out in my previous report.  Bob will be deeply missed in the labour movement.

26th: I met with local firefighters on the Fire Brigades Union lobby of parliament where I heard about their concerns over cuts to services, changes to their pensions and the risks associated with the raising of their retirement age to 60.

27th: Tony Benn’s funeral was another very sad day but celebrating a life well lived.

28th: I met with representatives from Transport for London (TfL) about the future for Archway Underground station.

29th: It was a pleasure to be invited to the Wiltshire Industrial History event in Chippenham, where I grew up. I spoke about the radical past of the county and read part of my parents’ history of their village and the machine riots of the 1860s.

31st: It was an honour to be a judge in this year’s Parliamentary Researcher of the Year Awards, and to present the award in Speaker’s House. Well done to Delyth Jewell, the overall winner. The work of parliamentary staff often goes unnoticed so it is nice to recognise their excellent work. I also thank my own staff; Nicolette, Ruth, Cat and Jack for all their support!

April

1st:  I attended a local Unison rally outside St Pancras Hospital alongside staff who were protesting against cuts to their terms and conditions, and NHS funding.

2nd:  I chaired a meeting of the People’s Parliament on the topic of tax justice.

3rd:  I spoke at a debate with Julian Brazier MP and Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition about World War One in St James’s Piccadilly which had been organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

4th:  I hosted a regular advice session for constituents.

5th:  CND Council met, I took part in the meeting and updated the campaign on the parliamentary activities.

6th:  I visited residents in the Hillrise area of Islington North, assisting people with their problems.

7th:  I attended a meeting with the management of the Whittington Hospital for an update about our local hospital.

8th:  I chaired a meeting of the Parliamentary CND Group.

9th:  As part of informing my work as a member of the Justice Select Committee I met with Rod Clark, Chief Executive of the Prisoner’s Education Trust to discuss models of rehabilitation.

10th: I attended and spoke at a local event for St Mungo’s who run a centre in Tufnell Park. Given the housing crisis in London our area must do more to address issues of homelessness.

11th:  I travelled to Eastbourne and addressed the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) conference as a representative of the Parliamentary Group, and called for freedom for journalists in jail around the world, including Egypt.

12th:  FA Cup Final Day! I was delighted to see our local team Arsenal lift the trophy at Wembley. (Clarification: The football was at Wembley, I was watching it on TV).

13th:  After watching the London Marathon I joined local councillors in Tollington Ward where I spoke to local residents and assisted those with problems.

14th:  A group of Islington pensioners arranged to meet with me at St Gabriel’s in Archway.

15th:  I attended a regular catch up meeting with the Chair and Chief Executive of the Islington NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

16th:  I met with management at Hilldrop Community Centre.

17th:  I attended an Islington Pensioner’s Forum meeting to discuss Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease.

19th:  I visited local Highbury East residents and assisted them with problems wherever possible.

23rd:  I joined the local Labour team in Hillrise speaking to local residents.

24th:  Emily Thornberry MP, Council Leader Richard Watts, and myself met Islington Communication Workers Union (CWU) representatives to discuss the future of Highbury Corner Post Office.

25th – 29th:  I attended the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference at the United Nations (UN) in New York and addressed a plenary session on behalf of parliamentarians for Non proliferation and Disarmament.

30th:  The rail trade unions held a Future of Rail meeting in parliament which I attended.
I also attended the Latin UK Awards and presented an award to a number of people including Bianca Jagger.


May
1stMay Day Trafalgar Square rally: I addressed the big rally which focused on the recent double loss of Bob Crow and Tony Benn, and I spoke of my memories and the legacy of Tony Benn.

2nd:  I went out in the Hillrise area speaking to residents, and hosted an advice session with a British Sign Language Interpreter. If you know someone who would find that an assistance for an advice session please arrange an appointment in advance by calling the local office.

3rd:  I attended and spoke at the Croydon Trades Council May Day Rally.

4th:  I joined Mildmay councillors speaking to residents and assisting with issues.

6th:  As a member, I attended an Inter-Parliamentary Union executive committee meeting.

7th:  I met with St Mungo’s staff and users to discuss homelessness issues, about which I feel very strongly.

9th:  I met with Bahá’í community members.

10th:  I addressed the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign National Conference closing plenary session.

12th:  It was a pleasure to welcome Pooles Park Primary School students to parliament.

13th:  I spoke at a conference on violence against Sri Lanka’s Tamil women (mostly by the army).

15th:  I chaired an event on Central African Republic at Africa Research Institute.

16th:  I visited Finsbury Park Mosque with Council Leader Richard Watts. Mohammed and his team do a great job in the community and I’m looking forward to their open day.

18th:  Victory parade!  Well done Arsenal for their FA Cup win;  it was fantastic to be part of the celebrations at Islington Town Hall.

19th:  I addressed the PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) Conference on Department for Education issues, mainly cuts and redundancies.
I attended a memorial for Del Singh, one of Labour’s European Parliamentary candidates and Palestine activist who was tragically killed in Afghanistan earlier this year. It was sad to see a life with so much compassion and enthusiasm cut short so cruelly.

20th:  I gave a parliamentary report to UNISON Greater London Regional Council.

22nd:  Local elections day in Islington and I cycled around from polling station to polling station meeting and greeting.

23rd:  It was excellent to be at the local elections count witnessing so many of our local activists winning council seats!

24th:  I went to King Henry’s Walk for a garden event, then on to Park View Estate for their half-term story telling event where I read to the children.

30th:  I met with many local residents at my local office, assisting many with their varying problems.

31st:  I spoke at the Dangerous Ideas Festival, then later at a Labour Representation Committee fringe meeting.

June

1st:  Hornsey Street Festival was a lovely community event – well done everyone who organised it.

2nd:  I met with Stephen Davis, the new director of Business, Arts and Technology at City and Islington College.

3rd:  I visited Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile who are based locally, then I went to the Seventh Day Adventist Centre in Lennox Road.

4th:  I chaired a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Chagos.

5th:  I attended a meeting of the APPG Malaysia and re-connected with my old friend Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister.
I went on to a big Stop the War memorial event for Tony Benn.

6th:  I went to the end of year woodwork exhibition and furniture-auction at City and Islington College.

7thThe Mayton Street Festival was once again a resounding success. Well done Rowan Arts and all those who supported this year’s Holloway Arts Festival.

8thThe Whittington Park “Big Day Out” and the Soul In The City community meal at St Mark’s Church on Moray Road were both fantastic community events which I had the pleasure of attending.

9th:  This week is Carers’ Week and I attended the Islington launch event at the Resource Centre on Holloway Road.

10th:  I met with constituents who were on the National Union of Teacher’s lobby of parliament and they told me about their concerns.

11thCentre404 in Islington held a Wellbeing Day for carers as part of Carers’ Week.

12thHargrave Park Primary School invited me into their school for the assembly and it was nice to meet with the young people and hear their thoughts.
I also attended the art exhibition at City and Islington College and the Annual Meeting of Islington Council.

13thArchway Children’s Centre hosted an art exhibition and I was very impressed, with the art and also with the work they do with local families.

16th:  I hosted an advice session for constituents in Mildmay.

17thThe People’s Parliament hosted a meeting on International Security – the series is a fantastic initiative. I spoke on the kind of foreign policy I would like to see.

18th:  As part of Refugee Week in Islington there was a community event at the Emirates Stadium highlighting the issues refugees face. Thanks Arsenal, Islington Refugee Forum and many local schools who came.

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