I am honoured to represent the people of Islington North in taking their concerns and needs to Parliament. We have a vibrant and diverse constituency to be proud of, and I enjoy supporting the good work that we do together.  For many years I’ve fought for basic rights such as affordable housing, health care and education for all, as well as toward protecting our human rights: both within the borough and the UK, as well as for those who struggle and suffer so much in developing countries.

The great changes in our society, from votes for women, anti discrimination laws, support for the disabled, and so on,  all came from ordinary people making demands through their Members of Parliament.  It is not about you, or me, but it is about us.

Together we can continue to ensure Islington remains a borough to be proud of.

27 Nov

Morning star: Ukip Hype Can’t hide Right-Wing Agenda

Falling wages, public service cuts and housing are the big issues that Labour must fight the election on, says Jeremy Corbyn

The Rochester by-election ended as expected with the sitting MP Mark Reckless re-elected, albeit on a lesser vote than he had won previously as a Tory. The newspapers, not surprisingly, called it a triumph for Ukip.

In the course of the campaign Reckless got himself into an odd debate about why, when or how any non-British resident could be deported from the country under a Ukip regime — and he seemed eventually to concede that some Polish plumbers would be allowed to remain here for a bit longer.

The other news from the campaign was the dismissal of my parliamentary neighbour Emily Thornberry following a tweet that she sent, which degenerated into a ludicrous debate about the displaying of flags, personalities and people who drive white vans.

Sadly, none of this encouraged a serious debate about poverty, opportunities and aspirations in Britain.

News that did not make the front pages of the Mail and the Express by Monday was that the weekend opinion polls had shown Labour support increase to 34 per cent, giving it a small lead over the Tories.

I sometimes wonder if we’re not in the midst of a coalition conspiracy to avoid discussion of issues that matter to the majority of people, but instead, reduce everything narrowly into false patriotism, minority-bashing and personalities.

On Monday there was a four-hour strike of National Health Service workers in protest at the pay freeze and privatisation of services, and the transfer of jobs from the NHS to the private sector, with the same people delivering services to the same NHS patients, but on lower wages and considerably worse working conditions.

The NHS is Britain’s most popular institution and service.

Both Ukip and the Tories are committed to dismantling it.

Yesterday, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) held a very effective lobby in support of the universal postal service, which is now under threat following the part privatisation of Royal Mail, as a result of which the stratospherically overpaid CEO of Royal Mail is on £6 million a year.

The CWU is campaigning to defend members’ jobs and positions and a requirement to have an equally priced delivery to every address in the whole country.

Also yesterday construction union Ucatt was lobbying on safety and building sites and blacklisting, while the Public and Commercial Services Union was lobbying to try to prevent the privatisation of the Highways Agency.

All these union campaigns are in defence of people’s jobs and conditions, and all are a benefit to our community as a whole.

The nearer we get to an election it is important to look at these issues as being the most important and not allow the anti-politics party Ukip to gain the upper hand.

I took the opportunity to read through the Ukip website, and aside from the rather odd disclaimer that the 2010 manifesto is no longer applicable, with Nigel Farage claiming he didn’t put it together, its policies do need serious challenging.

For example, Ukip wants to leave the EU but wishes to remain in the European free trade area and European economic area if the principle of the free movement of labour in those two agreements was removed.

It says there should be a large increase in the personal tax allowance, the abolition of inheritance tax, the reduction of tax for people at the top end of the scale and all this without any analysis of the cost of these tax cuts, or of the much greater inequality this would create in Britain, which would surely surpass any of the negative impact of George Osborne’s past four years.

It would abolish the Departments of Energy, and of Culture, Media and Sport. Ukip would reduce the Barnett spending formula under which central government finance is allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, accelerating the disintegration of the UK.

Being generally anti-education, the  party would remove the aspiration of half of school leavers to go to university and remove tuition fees for certain subjects related to industry’s needs but maintain the £9,000 annual fees for all other students.

It’s a relief to know that it supports free schools providing they uphold British values, suggesting that existing schools may apply for grammar school status and select according to ability and aptitude.

Ukip does not answer the interesting question of what would happen if every secondary school were to become a grammar.

Ukip has a great deal to say on the military covenant and insists that any ex-soldier would be guaranteed a job in the police, prison or immigration service, and priority for a council house.  Its NHS policy appears to amount to ending car-parking charges, as well as ensuring that all migrants, before being allowed to pass a very high test for entry into Britain, have private health insurance. Interestingly, it opposes PFIs, so there is a silver lining.

As we well know, Ukip is highly opposed to foreign aid, does not believe in climate change and supports shale gas extraction, as well as nuclear and other forms of carbon-intensive energy generation.  For agriculture, it will leave the Common Agricultural

Policy and allow the British Parliament to vote on GM foods.

Its housing policy consists of protecting the green belt, allowing planning permission to be overturned by local referendums, yet says nothing about homelessness and the private rented sector or the building of council housing.

The significant nasties in Ukip’s manifesto would result in the worst working conditions in the private sector and generally, a deeply discriminating and intolerant society.

In a sense Ukip is the anti-politics party and Farage is presented as the friendly man down the road in a pub.

Its murky relationship with Britain First and support from former BNP activists shows where it is really coming from.

Across Europe there has been a frightening rise in the far-right, with openly fascist parties campaigning in a number of countries, but interestingly, where left parties have taken them on and opposed the European austerity packages, they have grown spectacularly in support, thus Podemos in Spain is now, according to polls, the most popular party in the country.

In Greece, which has been the laboratory of monetarism and austerity in Europe, Golden Dawn is now losing support as Syriza not only gains support, but has also shifted the political debate into providing a left alternative.

In short, people have realised that xenophobia and brutality towards minorities do not improve health services, build schools or homes or get anyone a job.

It just becomes an ever nastier downward spiral of intolerance and discrimination.

We know what the Tories want to achieve and it’s very clear that Ukip is even worse than them and are successfully pulling the Tories further right with every passing day.

The biggest issues facing people in Britain are lowering of wages, worsening of working conditions and the enormous cuts in public services.

Lack of housing leads to homelessness and a forced reliance on the insecurity and dangers of the private rented sector.

It’s up to Labour to ensure that, as we approach the 2015 election, there is a real choice and we’re not going to be repeating the Tory attacks on welfare. Labour should pledge a policy of building sufficient council houses and bring in very strict control of the private rented sector including the cost of renting itself.

Tomorrow, there will be a private member’s Bill to prevent revenge evictions by landlords who terminate the tenancy of anyone who complains about their physical conditions to the environmental health service.

This important measure will dramatically improve conditions in the private rented sector and give greater security to all tenants.

Last week the Tories didn’t show up to oppose another private member’s Bill to end privatisation within the National Health Service.

While it is unlikely that either of these Bills will become law before the general election, it is nevertheless important to recognise that politics can mobilise people when the political system is seen to be delivering for their needs.

Failure to articulate the aspirations of ordinary people plays into the hands of Ukip and its anti-politics xenophobia.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

27 Nov

EDM 565: Immigration checks on Private Sector Tenants

Main content

  • Session: 2014-15
  • Date tabled: 26.11.2014
  • Primary sponsor:                                                                 Corbyn, Jeremy
  • Sponsors:Total number of signatures: 1
    Corbyn, Jeremy

    That this House notes the introduction on 1 December 2014 of the pilot scheme of the requirement for private sector landlords to conduct immigration checks on their tenants; believes that this will lead to new fees from letting agents to all of Britain’s nine million private tenants on moving to conduct these checks; considers that almost no undocumented migrants will be caught, as they will move into illegal tenancies, and in so doing will create a new market for illegal and exploitative landlords; further notes that this requirement will encourage discrimination in the lettings process; and further believes that it is morally objectionable to remove from any person access to shelter, just as it would be to remove access to water or to emergency medical care.

24 Nov

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  refer to the Help and Advice Section of this website for details of forthcoming Advice Sessions, which are usually held once a week.

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

20 Nov

Morning Star: Discrace of the Narco State

The Escalating human rights abuses in Central America are caused by the insatiable appetite for drugs in the US, writes JEREMY CORBYN

On 26 September 43 students boarded a coach from their college in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero in Mexico. They never completed their journey.  What exactly happened remains unclear but it appears that the first six were shot by police after the bus was stopped.  The outrageous disappearance of these students comes on top of the thousands who have disappeared in Mexico in the past 10 years as part of the “war on drugs.”

From the Mexican government’s point of view the situation has gone from bad to worse.  Police instructed to search for the missing students have discovered more and more unmarked graves.  Every new horror is then DNA tested, but so far none of the missing 43 have been found.

These newly discovered graves are very often the bodies, often burnt, of desperate Central American migrants trying to cross Mexico to get to the United States in order to survive economically, and send money back to their families in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The 43 students who lost their lives were on their way to a demonstration and apparently the mayor of Iguala ordered police to prevent them from travelling because he thought they were going to heckle his wife who was due to speak at an event.

He and his wife were subsequently arrested in Mexico City, but huge questions remain over the link between the police and Mexico’s notorious narco gangs.

Suspicions have been raised about the inability of Mexican federal authorities to either protect people or to unmask the culprits of this atrocious attack.

Demonstrations have been held all over the country and last Saturday at the famous Universidad Nacional Autonomia de Mexico (UNAM) was met with robust and brutal action by police.  While the stories of disappearances in Mexico are now gaining more publicity internationally, it is important to look at neighbouring countries too.

In Honduras there have been 60,000 homicides since the start of this decade. Honduras has a population of just eight million — giving it one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Looking more deeply into the figures, it’s also clear that individuals who stand for justice are in greater danger than anyone else.

Since the coup of 2009, 29 journalists, 74 lawyers and 90 LGBT people have been killed.

Additionally 92 activists in the Bajo Aguan area have been killed in land disputes, as farmers have lost their land to a World Bank-funded modernisation programme.

In the case of neighbouring Guatemala there is a similar history of human rights abuses but, like all countries in Central America, many of the population rely on family remittances from the US.

The growth of nationalism and anti-immigrant feeling in the US has enabled the Obama administration to deport over one million people since he came to office.

There are 1,000 people per week arriving back in Guatemala, so that’s 1,000 families losing any remittance income, and 1,000 more people competing for work.

Fundamentally, Central American human rights abuses result from the insatiable appetite for Class A drugs in the US.  The very well-funded and organised narco gangs are able to corrupt police forces and the whole political system.

And it’s the poorest, most vulnerable and most politically active who suffer the brunt of this.

This year’s Latin American conference will be held on November 29 at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS. You can register via www.latinamerica2014.org.uk.

THE Ebola crisis has brought out the best and the worst in people.

Many have volunteered to go and work in Sierra Leone and other affected countries, including Liberia and Guinea.

Six-hundred NHS workers volunteered to go, and notably there was huge, prompt and very effective support given by the Cuban medical service fighting this crisis.

The wider lessons of the Ebola crisis are that a total lack of access to medical care for the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world eventually affects us all  — and the issue has to be dealt with by examining the way in which African people and economies have been treated by the rest of the world since independence.

What we don’t need is yet another lecture from Bob Geldof with patronising comments about Africa and African people and a refusal to recognise that Western exploitation of the continent is at the heart of the problem.

The campaign group Liberation was founded as the Movement for Colonial Freedom while Fenner Brockway, Tony Benn and many others worked in Parliament to support African independence movements and crucially expose the lies and hypocrisy of the British military actions in Kenya in the 1950s, when castration, mutilation and concentration camps were the British punishment against the Mau Mau.

This weekend Liberation is holding a conference on Africa’s challenges today which will both examine the history of Africa since independence but also the current challenges of gender inequality and a World Bank-inspired economic model which seeks to privatise public services and export natural resources.

TODAY’S Rochester and Strood by-election is surrounded by talk that Ukip might win a parliamentary seat, this time with Tory defector Mark Reckless as its candidate.

Reckless, like most of Ukip, is obsessed with immigration. Unfortunately, such xenophobia is permeating the whole political debate in Britain.  Calls to halt benefit payments to any EU national legally residing in Britain, deport those who are unemployed and so on are both short-sighted and very dangerous.

Compare this with how easily overseas billionaires investing in the London property market avoid tax.

It’s also worth considering that other EU member states could take retaliatory action by denying British nationals living in other parts of the EU access to welfare benefits.

Depressingly, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves has gone some way in the same direction by putting forward proposals in the Mail Online that she would limit benefit payments to EU migrants.

She continued by saying: “Low-skilled migration is too high, overall migration from the EU is too high,” thus playing straight into the hands of Ukip and the Tories.

TOMORROW will see a private member’s Bill put forward by Clive Efford MP, who will try to stop privatisation in the NHS and exempt it from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The support for this Bill is huge and welcome but we need to go a bit further on TTIP.

Last Monday, David Cameron, who had already called for a rocket booster to be put under the TTIP talks, bizarrely claimed that the British economy would benefit by £10bn through this highly secretive trade deal between the European Union and the US.

We should not only be very wary of such claims but recognise that the agenda of TTIP is the privatisation of public services, the destruction of the European-style welfare state and a weakening of employment protection legislation that has been so hard fought for by generations of trade unionists.

At yesterday’s Prime Minister’s question time David Cameron announced his pride in the fact that this government has cut £83 billion from the welfare budget, claiming that 500,000 more people are in work than three years ago.

He failed to mention that the new jobs being created on the back of the tsunami of public-sector cuts are on lower wages, often on zero-hours contracts and with much worse working conditions, thus creating the next generation of impoverished pensioners.

In the run-up to the general election Labour must abandon attempts to ape the Tories on immigration or benefits.

Ed Miliband, in his fightback speech last week, delivered a welcome defence of the NHS and an attack on inequality, zero-hours contracts and insecure employment.

For all the complaints made by Myleene Klass about the alleged inequity of a mansion tax, we should remember that there are more than 660,000 people who are currently being penalised by the bedroom tax.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

7 Nov

In Parliament: US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement Debate

Jeremy Corbyn: It is a pleasure, Sir Roger, to serve under your chairmanship. The debate was called for jointly by me and the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who will speak after me. I am grateful to him for supporting the application to the Backbench Business Committee for today’s debate. For the record, I should explain that he and I hold a slightly different view on the security of the world that has been brought about the presence of nuclear weapons. We have debated this in town and village halls up and down the country on many occasions. No doubt we will continue so to do. I am grateful to him for being prepared to speak, and he is doing so in the spirit of Parliament.

I want to put on the record my thanks to Ben Folley, parliamentary officer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, for the huge amount of work he has done in preparing information, and to Dr David Lowry, who works for my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) and who is a renowned expert on these issues.

My first question is: why do we have to debate something as fundamental as a mutual defence agreement with the United States in time allocated by the Backbench Business Committee? The answer is that Governments of all hues—this applies to my party, as well as the coalition Government and previous Conservative Governments—have been reluctant to have parliamentary debates on this subject. Indeed, this is the 20th anniversary of the debate on the Consolidated Fund held in 1994, which was started by Alan Simpson, then a Member, at 1.56 am on 15 December. Only two other Members took part at that time of the morning, so it was hardly parliamentary scrutiny.

I welcome this debate, but there cannot be a vote because it is an Adjournment debate. However, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) has tabled a motion, supported by me and others, which could lead to a parliamentary vote on the mutual defence agreement. I hope that it will.

It is interesting that parliamentary scrutiny of the mutual defence agreement and nuclear weapons has been in short supply going back to the end of the second world war. The National Archives in Kew has a document, “Extracts from a memorandum on the Atomic Bomb from Prime Minister Clement Attlee, 28th August 1945”, which states:

“The only course which seems to me to be feasible and to offer a reasonable hope of staving off imminent disaster for the world is joint action by the USA, UK and Russia based upon stark reality. We should declare that this invention has made it essential to end wars. The New World Order must start now.

All nations must give up their dreams of realising some historic expansion at the expense of their neighbours. They must look to a peaceful future instead of to a warlike past. This sort of thing has in the past been considered a utopian dream. It has become today the essential condition of the survival of civilisation and possibly of life on this plant.”

That was Prime Minister Attlee’s view in August 1945, just after the first nuclear weapons had been exploded at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Seven years later, there was an explosion in Australia by Britain when its first H-bomb was detonated. There was an interesting programme last night on al-Jazeera that showed the return of lands to the indigenous people who were driven off them because of those nuclear tests. The nuclear test veterans are still with us, and are still suffering as a result of the tests.

The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made a statement to the House of Commons on the detonation of that weapon on 3 October 1952. He explained that the temperature at the centre of it was nearly 1 million degrees and the damage it caused, and said that the Government were grateful to the Australian Government for allowing the test. He concluded:

“All those concerned in the production of the first British atomic bomb are to be warmly congratulated on the successful outcome of an historic episode and I should no doubt pay my compliments to the Leader of the Opposition and the party opposite for initiating it.”—[Official Report, 23 October 1952; Vol. 505, c. 1269.]

That was the same Clement Attlee. I am a great admirer of Clement Attlee’s domestic record, but not of a large part of his international record. During questions, Samuel Silverman asked the Prime Minister to explain “the total cost of this experimental explosion, and will he bear in mind that to some of us it is no comfort at all to realise that both major parties in the State are equally responsible for this colossal folly?”

The Prime Minister said that everyone is equally responsible:

“Even if one sits below the Gangway, one does not escape the responsibility.”

Silverman then asked:

“What about the cost?”

Prime Minister Churchill—this is fascinating—then said:

“As to the cost, I have said before, as an old Parliamentarian, that I was rather astonished that well over £100 million should be disbursed without Parliament being made aware of it. I was a bit astonished. However, there is the story, and we now have a result which on the whole, I think, will be beneficial to public safety. As for the future, I think we must be guided by the precedents established under the last régime as to detailed accounts and the way in which the expenditure is recorded.”—[Official Report, 23 October 1952; Vol. 505, c. 1271.]

It is astonishing that, with all the austerity at the end of the second world war, the then Prime Minister managed to spend £100 million of public money without telling Parliament, and apparently without discussing it with his Cabinet, which resulted in the entirely secret development of a British nuclear weapon, the first of which was exploded in 1952. We still had for some time the pretence that Britain had an independent nuclear deterrent.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I commend the hon. Gentleman, and the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) on the other side of the Chamber, for helping to secure this debate through the Backbench Business Committee. Does the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) agree that it is unacceptable for a UK Government of any party to wish to spend £100 billion on through-life costs for Trident renewal, and to do so in a way that is not open and transparent, maintaining the historical tradition of being secretive, and not being prepared to face the consequences of their decisions? It seems that the UK Government will not even turn up at the international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Vienna in December. Does he agree on both those counts that UK Governments of all political persuasions have acted totally unacceptably?

Jeremy Corbyn: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I agree with his points. The secrecy surrounding anything to do with nuclear weapons is completely unacceptable. The fact that the British Parliament has barely debated the mutual defence agreement—I will come to that in a moment—since its existence is serious. The huge expenditure on Trident, at £100 billion, is enormous by any stretch of the imagination. It is my belief—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the British Government have no intention of attending the international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Vienna at the beginning of December. I hope I am wrong about that, and I hope that they will attend, because it would simply not be right not to attend.

On scrutiny, the US is a major military and industrial power; that is obvious. It is a very wealthy country—that is equally obvious. The President must send a message to Congress to ask it to approve and renew the amended treaty, and it must debate, vote on and approve it the matter. We have no such transparency in the British Parliament. The Prime Minister or any other Minister still has the ability to use the royal prerogative to override Parliament in this respect, and to approve the treaty, if that is what they want to do. That is why I was so determined that we should have this debate and why I have raised the issue on so many occasions.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I add my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. He is talking as though he is surprised about the lack of scrutiny. I am not surprised in the slightest, because if we had any decent level of scrutiny, it would be very clear that replacing Trident is a complete waste of money.

Jeremy Corbyn: I am basically a very optimistic person—in our line of work and with my view on politics, Sir Roger, you have to be an optimist, otherwise you would be very sad. I am optimistic that every Government want to consult Parliament and want Parliament to approve of things, but we have to face the reality that the lack of a written constitution and of a clear delineation of power, particularly on foreign affairs and treaty matters, means that the Government of the day, whatever party it is, does not have to consult Parliament on agreeing a treaty—or, indeed, on going to war—unless we change the relevant legislation. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a war powers Bill before Parliament, but I do not have much hope of it getting through Parliament, despite my inevitable optimism on all these matters.

Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): Might my hon. Friend not want to question why the Liberal Democrats, who seem to be exerting some influence—undesirable, I would say—over the Trident renewal programme, do not seem to have managed, or even tried, to exert that influence to get this issue debated? Nuclear policy has been debated, as I will say later; my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) made Labour’s position very clear. Why does my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) think that the Liberal Democrats have not insisted on having a debate?

Jeremy Corbyn: The shadow Minister invites me into a difficult situation. I cannot speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, nor would they want me to. They apparently wanted a Trident review, with no like-for-like replacement. The review took place, and it is a matter of record and of history.

On the question of this debate, I do not know what pressure was or was not applied by particular Ministers. I know that a number of Back-Bench MPs on both sides of the House believe, as I am sure the hon. Member for New Forest East would agree, that parliamentary scrutiny of all things is important; that is why we are sent here as Members of Parliament. As for the view of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) on nuclear weapons, he and I have a slightly different history on this matter, and we have debated it.

Mr Spellar: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there was a Trident review. It came to the self-evident conclusion that if we are to maintain the nuclear deterrent, continuous at-sea deterrence is the only way of doing so, in spite of many fanciful schemes that have been dreamt up by the Liberal Democrats. He has a perfectly straightforward, long-standing and honourable position of being opposed, but where does he think that the Liberal Democrats now stand on the issue?

Jeremy Corbyn: Well, it is—[Interruption.] My friend the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) helps me in this. It is an unfair question. I do not know and I cannot tell, but I hope that the Liberal Democrats and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley will come round to the view that nuclear weapons are unsustainable, expensive, dangerous and immoral, and that the world would be a much safer place if the five declared nuclear weapon states stood up to their obligations under the non-proliferation treaty and took steps towards disarmament. This debate is not solely about Trident; it is about the mutual defence agreement. Nevertheless, there is obviously a close connection.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman and I have a very different opinion on nuclear weapons. I understand that the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) will come forward with a different point of view. When it comes to nuclear weapons, I think that if a country has them in their possession, they become a deterrent, and I believe that, by their very existence, they prevent wars in places where there could be wars. That is my opinion, and I believe that it is the opinion of the vast majority of my constituents and the people I speak to in relation to nuclear weapons and nuclear power. What wit does the hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) give to the opinion of my constituents who tell me that nuclear ownership is a deterrent?

Jeremy Corbyn: The way I suggest the hon. Gentleman deals with the issue is simply this: there are five declared nuclear weapons states, which all happen to be the five permanent members of the Security Council, and there are three other states that have nuclear weapons that we know of for sure—India, Pakistan and Israel. Then, there are questions about North Korea, which has some nuclear explosive capability. That leaves a very large number of other states that have no nuclear weapons. A considerable number of states have voluntarily given up nuclear weapons, such as South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, and there are others. If weapons of mass destruction were ever used, they could only create an environmental disaster where they go off and an economic disaster across the whole planet—and possibly an environmental disaster for the whole planet with a nuclear winter. They are something that we should not, could not and never would countenance the use of. However, every state, by possessing nuclear weapons, clearly does countenance their use, otherwise they would not possess them. I think security comes from disarmament, not from rearmament, and this is also going to cost us a great deal of money.

The hon. Gentleman and I might not agree on that, but that is a view I strongly hold. It is not just my view, but that of millions of people around the world who do not wish to live under a nuclear umbrella, because they fear it could become a nuclear cloud.

Mr Leech: I add that the countries that own nuclear weapons have all been involved in wars since having nuclear weapons, so it has not stopped them from ending up in some sort of conflict.

Jeremy Corbyn: Indeed; those countries have all been involved in conflicts, and we have come near to the use of nuclear weapons in the case of Korea and in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Clearly, their existence poses a threat. When the House debated Trident renewal in 2007, many Members took the view that Britain’s security depended on having nuclear weapons. If that was the case, someone could argue for any country in the world developing nuclear weapons on the basis that that would guarantee its security.

As I have explained, the reality is that the vast majority of nations do not have nuclear weapons and do not want them. Although some are under a nuclear alliance such as NATO, many are not and do not possess nuclear weapons, yet have massive natural resources. Many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are part of nuclear weapons-free zones. That is my view.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): I appreciate that I will have the opportunity to speak after the hon. Gentleman, but I want to take him back to the point made by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). The hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn)said that if nuclear weapons were used, there would be dire effects on the environment and on the planet, but does he not recognise that people who believe in deterrents believe that the nuclear deterrent is constantly in use, because the use resides in the possession, which results in the deterrent effect on any other power against using such weapons against this country?

Jeremy Corbyn: The hon. Gentleman and I have debated that view, and I simply do not agree that they provide security. Yes, they are in existence every day and therefore clearly are potentially a threat to somebody, but it did not do the USA much good on 11 September 2001. Nuclear weapons were not much help on that occasion; nor are they much help in dealing with poverty, environmental disasters and people who are forced to flee and seek refuge elsewhere.

My purpose today is to debate the mutual defence agreement and that, of course, is central to Britain’s nuclear relationship with the United States. I turn to the history of the agreement. The USA had the McMahon Act, which did not allow the sharing of its nuclear or defence information with any other state, notwithstanding the provisions of the NATO treaty of 1948. Britain, which had a very close relationship with the USA throughout the 1940s and ’50s, could not legally share a relationship of nuclear information with the USA. The McMahon Act was then amended, and straight after the amendment was agreed, the mutual defence agreement came into being, by which information and technology is shared between Britain and the USA.

An interesting legal point relates to the use of testing facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment Aldermaston and plutonium, which it would be completely illegal to use or test in the USA. I would be grateful if the Minister said whether there is any testing involving plutonium or potential uses of plutonium at AWE Aldermaston, because it is a significant part of the issue.

The mutual defence agreement has been amended a number of times in its history and was most recently renewed, on a regular 10-year cycle, to allow arrangements for the transfer of special nuclear materials and non-nuclear components. The treaty was last extended in 2004 and will be extended a further 10 years from this year. As I have explained, the US Congress debated it earlier; we were not able to debate it.

The next issue relates to what I have just said about the use of AWE Aldermaston, but also to the legality of nuclear weapons and the relationship of the agreement to the non-proliferation treaty, which is the result of an initiative by a previous Labour Government to try to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The treaty has two central themes. One is that all states that do not possess nuclear weapons and that sign the non-proliferation treaty agree not to possess them, take them on board or develop them. The other is that the five declared nuclear weapon states—Britain, France, China, Russia and the USA—agree both to take steps towards disarmament and not to allow the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So it would be interesting to know how Israel managed to get hold of its nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities.

It would also be interesting to know how this Government or any other Government can justify nuclear rearmament within the terms of the articles of the non-proliferation treaty. In a legal opinion released in July 2004 for Peacerights, BASIC—the British American Security Information Council—and the Acronym Institute, Rabinder Singh, QC, and Professor Christine Chinkin of Matrix Chambers concluded that

“it is strongly arguable that the renewal of the Mutual Defence Agreement is in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.

I would therefore be grateful if the Minister said in his reply to the debate what the legal process is in the evaluation of the mutual defence agreement and how he believes that it is compatible with our obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is coming up for its five-year review in May 2015—unhelpfully, during the general election period in this country. Will he explain exactly what power and what finance have been used, in advance of the Trident replacement programme, to ensure that the British Government have that money available, even though there has been no main-gate decision, which is due to be taken in 2016?

I shall quote from written evidence given to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs by Nick Ritchie of the Bradford disarmament research centre:

“The UK is entirely dependent upon the United States for supply and refurbishment of its Trident II (D5) submarine-launched ballistic missiles… The missiles themselves are produced and serviced in the United States by Lockheed Martin. The UK does not actually own any individual missiles, but purchased the rights to 58 missiles from a common pool held at the US Strategic Weapons facility at the Kings Bay Submarine Base, Georgia. British Trident submarines also conduct their missile test firings at the US Eastern Test Range, off the coast of Florida.”

The obvious point is that the claim that Britain has an independent nuclear deterrent must be treated with the utmost caution, if not derision, when what is quite clear is where the technology comes from, the relationship with the mutual defence agreement, the expenditure involved and the testing facilities that are available for Britain to use in the USA.

Dr Lewis: There is a question of independence in terms not of manufacture, but of control. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is entirely a matter for the United Kingdom Government whether the deterrent would be fired, as opposed to used—fired in response to a nuclear attack on this country—and that the United States could do nothing to prevent that from happening?

Jeremy Corbyn: That is indeed a very good question. I hope that the Minister can assist the hon. Gentleman with the answer, because it is fundamental. We have been told all my life that we have an independent nuclear deterrent in Britain and that we can operate independently. The mutual defence agreement should not have been necessary in 1958 if that was the case. It clearly was the case before 1958. Whether it was after that, I doubt, and it certainly was not the case at all after Polaris came in during the 1960s. That was a US import, as is the current technology. Could Britain fire off a nuclear weapon independently of the United States? No, I do not believe that it could. I believe that it would require the active participation of the US military and US Administration to undertake that. I simply do not believe that it is an independent nuclear weapon. I hope that this debate begins to raise more of those extremely important questions.

I was referring a few moments ago to the activities at AWE Aldermaston. Stanley Orman, a former deputy director of the AWE, said in 2008 that

“we also devised a technique…of imploding a non-fissile plutonium isotope. Now because it was plutonium the laws in the States would not allow you to implode this even though it was non-fissile, because it was plutonium. So again the American scientists would come across and use our laboratories because they couldn’t use theirs.”

If that is the case, one has to ask this question. Why is this treaty so one-sided that the USA is unable to do some testing in its own jurisdiction and therefore does it in ours, when the mutual defence agreement has received very limited parliamentary scrutiny, apart from today?

Angus Robertson: Has the hon. Gentleman any idea why our colleagues in the United States of America deem it unacceptable to conduct such tests there, but somehow we find it acceptable that they should happen here in the UK?

Jeremy Corbyn: I have many criticisms of the USA, but one thing that I find interesting and admire to some extent is the relative openness of its parliamentary system, compared with ours, and the ability of individual Members of Congress and the Senate to get legislation through. Indeed, legislation prevents such tests from happening in the USA. That is not the case in this country.

Angus Robertson: Just for the record, for people who might be watching this debate and who have not been following the proceedings in the United States, what were the reasons why American law makers opposed such tests being conducted in the United States? I ask that just so that we can understand on what basis UK Governments of both political persuasions have found it acceptable for that happen in the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn: Nuclear weapons have been tested in the USA. They were tested there in 1945, towards the end of the second world war. I am thinking of the Manhattan project. There was the Nevada test range. Since then, there has also been considerable testing, including underground testing, and there are therefore deeply polluted and damaged lands in the west of the USA in particular, just as much as there are deeply polluted and damaged places in the Pacific such as the Marshall Islands or, indeed, in Australia.

There has not been any nuclear testing in the UK itself. We have always done that somewhere else and polluted somebody else’s environment rather than our own. I suspect that the motives behind the legislation that the hon. Gentleman refers to in the USA come from concerns about the environment and health of people, particularly in the western parts of the USA. Indeed, talking to the Western Shoshone people, one can only admire how they have stoically campaigned against nuclear weapons when they have suffered so much because of that.

The Austrian Government have invited every nation in the world to come to Vienna in December to take part in a conference on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons. This will be the third conference. The first was held in Oslo; it was hosted by the Norwegian Government. The second was held in Mexico, hosted by its Government. As I said, the third will be hosted by Austria. The last conference was attended by 135 nations, and 155 nations have now signed up to this conference. The Government of New Zealand, which is iconic in giving up nuclear weapons and devices, have headed up an invitation from those 155. Can we really be so discourteous to those 155 countries as to say, “We do not want to come.”?

Angus Robertson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. He mentioned the fact that the first of those conferences was hosted by the Government of Norway, a member of NATO that now provides the Secretary-General of NATO. Norway, no doubt, will be attending the conference together with other NATO member states and more than 100 other countries. Given the commitment of other NATO countries, other allies and other friends, if they think it is important to turn up at that meeting, it would be much more than a discourtesy if we did not. Why are the UK Government not prepared to join the majority of other states that have taken their responsibilities seriously in understanding the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons?

Jeremy Corbyn: The Government must answer for themselves, if they have decided definitely not to go to the conference. It would be discourteous not to attend, but the answer I received from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) during Foreign Office questions a couple of weeks ago indicated that he thought the conference was one-sided. Yes, it is a one-sided conference. It will consider the humanitarian effects of what nuclear explosions do, and what they have done in the past. I met the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands in New York at the NPT review conference in May. He witnessed a nuclear explosion as a child, and his community has been devastated by successive testing. The community are now taking out an International Court of Justice action against the nuclear weapons states, Britain included, because of the damage that has been done to the community and the islands. Surely, if supporters of nuclear weapons are so confident that those weapons are safe, reliable, usable and so on, they will not be afraid to attend a conference to discuss the humanitarian effects of those weapons on the environment, pollution and the welfare of the entire planet. I quote from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons:

“The UK is badly out of step with the majority of countries in the world. As one of the few countries with nuclear weapons, the UK has a special responsibility to understand the risks and consequences of its own weapons. By refusing to participate in the conferences on the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons held by the governments of Norway and Mexico, the UK gave the impression that it doesn’t care about the catastrophic effects its weapons could have on environment, climate, health, social order, human development and global economy.”

I could not put it better myself, and few others could.

We are debating the MDA at last, and I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee and to the House for giving us the opportunity to do so. I hope that there will be an opportunity to debate and vote on the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion and others that calls for the rejection of the MDA because of its secrecy, because of its transfer of technology of weapons of mass destruction between two jurisdictions and because it will be used as a basis for the renewal of the Trident system. I believe that Parliament will have to vote on the renewal of Trident in 2016, and that will commit us to expending £100 billion on yet another generation of weapons of mass destruction. There has to be a different way to run the world. There has to be a different way to use our technology, resources and skills rather than the highly secretive world of nuclear weapons. The MDA represents all that is wrong about the nuclear relationship between Britain and the USA. That is why I have raised the subject today, and I hope that we can promote a serious public debate about nuclear weapons and their safety.

6 Nov

In Parliament: Iran Debate

Intervening on Diane Abbott in relation to the case of  “Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British resident who is subject to imprisonment, apparently for a year, for going to watch a men’s volleyball match” :

Jeremy Corbyn:  I apologise for missing the first part of the debate. I was part of the delegation to Iran, and I constantly raised issues of human rights and human rights concerns. Does my hon. Friend agree that as appalling as this case is, it is unfortunately not that unusual in Iran, and that any future relationship with Iran must include a tough human rights dialogue to insist that it signs up to and obeys all the human rights conventions and has a genuinely independent judicial system, so that such appalling travesties of justice cannot continue?

Ms Abbott:  It is very important that any negotiations with Iran have a human rights component.

6 Nov

Morning Star Column: Secrets, Lies and the Bomb

Today’s debate in Parliament is a rare chance to put Britain’s hidden world of nuclear weapons under scrutiny, says JEREMY CORBYN

Today for three hours there will be a debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall on the US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA). This debate has been jointly sponsored by me and Julian Lewis MP.

This might sound an odd combination as I am passionately opposed to nuclear weapons in any shape or form – and Julian Lewis holds a very different view of the world, believing in the strategic importance of such weapons.

However, we are debating the Mutual Defence Agreement between Britain and the United States for the first time in more than 20 years.

This agreement was signed in 1958 by the then British and US governments and is supposed to be the subject of a 10-yearly review, with a process put through both parliaments.

In the relative transparency of the US congressional system they debate a message from the President and approve or otherwise his proposal. In the case of Britain, it’s all bound up with a miasma of secrecy surrounding anything to do with nuclear weapons and the power over Parliament held by the Prime Minister in his exercise of the royal prerogative relating to treaties.

In 1994 Alan Simpson, former MP for Nottingham South, secured a bizarre late-night discussion on this under the consolidated fund procedure, a quaint and archaic parliamentary process by which MPs could raise any subject they like that related in some way to government expenditure.

No debate was granted in 2004 but after several months of badgering ministers and the Leader of the House over this, the backbench business committee granted this debate.

Separately, a motion has been tabled to the House led by Caroline Lucas, and supported by five other MPs for a formal rejection of the amended MDA.

At the end of the second world war the US discharged two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These two weapons killed 300,000 people and maimed many more.

They were the product of the work of the Manhattan project, a huge British and US nuclear research operation conducted with the utmost secrecy throughout the war.

At the end of the war, following Germany’s surrender, there was an unseemly rush by the US and the USSR to capture German scientists working for the nazi war machine who could be useful in developing nuclear weapons or rocket systems.

Germany under Hitler was thought to be close to developing nuclear weapons.

The post-war world was full of UN-inspired hope and a general revulsion against war but this did not stop a number of countries developing their own forms of nuclear weapons, often in secrecy from each other, with the US developing a whole new range of weapons.

The USSR exploded its first nuclear bomb in the late 1940s and Britain decided to develop its own independent nuclear weapon.

The British development was so secret that even the Cabinet was denied knowledge of it by PM Clement Attlee and there was no word of it in Parliament.

Indeed, in a bizarre twist, in 1952 Winston Churchill, who was then prime minister again, made a statement in the House of Commons in which he revealed the nuclear test that had just taken place on the Monte Bello Islands off the coast of Australia, and for the first time, publicly announced that Britain had already spent £100 million on this secret weapon, and that Parliament had been denied knowledge of this.

One suspects that his feigned concern about this was actually a sneaking regard for Attlee’s ability to maintain such an astonishing level of secrecy for something so dramatic. Secrecy has indeed been the watchword of all things nuclear since then.

The explosion in Australia which prime minister Churchill reported was one of the nuclear tests from which the veterans still suffer.

He went on to explain how they had hoped that nuclear fallout would not affect populated areas. This strange admission ought to be used as the very basis for British participation in the next humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons conference in Vienna next month.

Under the McMahon Act the US was prevented from sharing nuclear information with any other country including Britain or indeed any other member of the Nato alliance.

With unseemly haste the McMahon Act amendments were followed by the MDA of 1958, which led to the sharing of nuclear information and research possibilities and capabilities.

Later, the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) specifically prevented the export of nuclear technology or weapons outside of their own jurisdictions as a way of stifling proliferation. Both the US and Britain claim that the MDA is not in contravention and does not undermine the NPT, a matter hotly contested by many international

The amendments to the existing MDA which are now part of the treaty, approved by the US but not yet by Britain, are to allow collaboration in the purchase of submarine nuclear reactor components and the involvement of US contractors in the British nuclear reactor programme, and also, the sharing of intelligence and information to, allegedly, prevent the spread of nuclear weapons technology.

Existing areas of co-operation include nuclear warheads and modernisation of the current British Trident system, as well as reactor design and exchange of special nuclear materials. It also includes research into the stewardship of warhead stock piles.

Big questions need to be answered by ministers such as, what is the legal compatibility of the MDA with the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Second, what transfers of special nuclear materials have taken place between the US and Britain over the past 10 years and how much this has cost?

Third, I think we’re all entitled to know exactly what work is being undertaken at AWE Aldermaston on the development of the new Trident warhead, even though the maingate decision on Trident is not due to be taken for another two years.

There have been conferences on the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons held so far in Oslo and in Mexico, hosted by their respective governments, and the last one was supported by 135 states.

The attendance showed a serious and decent worldwide concern about the effects of nuclear weapons on life, our environment and, indeed, if ever used, on the world’s economic and physical sustainability.

To their shame, the five declared nuclear weapon states, also being the five permanent members of the security council, refused to attend.

The New Zealand government has issued an appeal on behalf of an increased number of participants expected in Vienna, this time from 155 member states, urging all countries to attend.

Despite repeated requests and invitations to do so, the last answer I received from the Foreign Office on this was that they were concerned about the one-sided nature of the conference.

Irony is a great British virtue and the Foreign Office uses it to excess. If it is one-sided to want a nuclear-free world and to seriously examine what happens then a nuclear explosion takes place, then surely they ought to be in Vienna to find out.

The nuclear test veterans who were deceived about the effect of the explosions in 1952 at the very least deserve an answer, as do those people on the Marshall Islands and all over the Pacific who suffer the effects from atmospheric testing.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

4 Nov

In Parliament / Child Abuse

Jeremy Corbyn:  I commend the Home Secretary, particularly for her earlier remarks about assessing the credibility of the accusations rather than the credibility of either the accuser or the accused. That is a very important starting point. She also seemed to indicate that there would be a degree of interim reporting, which I welcome, because this is clearly going to be a massive undertaking. Does she envisage that the whole inquiry could turn into almost a standing commission? That might not be a bad thing, because it might be necessary in the longer term.

Finally, in my own borough there have been complaints about Islington children’s homes in the past and the council has investigated them. The council is in a very different place now, but nevertheless it welcomes the inquiry and will co-operate with it. As the Home Secretary is fully aware, many of the children who were abused in children’s homes also went to homes in other parts of the country—in some cases to the Channel Islands. It is therefore very important that the inquiry is able to investigate across local authority administrative areas and, indeed, across jurisdictions to ascertain what happened, tragically, to many very vulnerable young children who were taken to homes in the Channel Islands.

Mrs May:  I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, especially his remarks on the willingness of Islington council to participate in the work of the inquiry. His idea of a standing commission has not been raised before. Although it will take time for the panel of inquiry to complete its work, I do not want there to be an expectation that it will just carry on because the impact of its report might be lost and, crucially, that would affect our ability to act on its findings. I expect the panel to make interim reports, as I said earlier, so that any necessary actions can be undertaken as soon as possible, and so that survivors and others can see the ongoing work and continue to have confidence in that work.

30 Oct

Morning Star column: Migrants’ Plight

SOMETIMES humanity is in short supply. News has eventually filtered out that in the past 10 months 3,300 people have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Malta or Italy.

The news only emerged when the Italian government said it was downgrading Operation Mare Nostrum, its very effective sea rescue operation which has helped to safety tens of thousands of migrants in small boats on the Mediterranean.

It is being replaced by a border patrol force from the European Union known as Triton, which is a European Frontier Agency patrolling up to 30 miles along the coasts of EU member states, with the aim of preventing any migrants landing in Europe.

In Parliament during Prime Minister’s Question Time yesterday there was a deeply unpleasant competition to be the most anti-immigrant and abusive towards migration to Britain.

The sinister power of Ukip and xenophobia seems to be getting stronger and stronger.

After the second world war, refugee numbers reached tens of millions, mainly in Europe and the Middle East.

The response then, while being far from perfect, was the Geneva Convention of 1951, which guaranteed a place of safety, and the establishment of various UN agencies including UNWRA for Palestinians and others designed to give security to equally desperate people in Europe.

There are now 50 million refugees around the world — the highest-ever number.

The rich and powerful European and North American nations, plus Australia and some south-east Asian nations, are generally putting up more and more barriers and in some cases, such as Australia, physically detaining refugee arrivals.

Some 3,300 have died this year and 6,000 have died trying to cross from Mexico to the US in the past decade.

On Monday the British government announced that it would no longer take part in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay said: “We do not support planned search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean” and we shouldn’t do these things “because it encouraged others to migrate.”  The International Organisation for Migration Director General William Lacy Swing points out: “Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people.

“Undocumented migrants are not criminals but are human beings who need protection and assistance and are deserving of respect.”

He calculates that since the year 2000, 40,000 have died trying to reach a place of safety.

Some 500 died off the coast of Malta in one incident when desperate migrants refused to transfer to an even more dangerous vessel, and were rammed by their traffickers.

In the Australian Parliament recently there was the unedifying spectacle of Prime Minister Tony Abbott warning people not to try to enter Australia.  Its despicable government pays Papua New Guinea to house potential asylum-seekers.

The causes of migration are not hard to find. The bodies being washed up on the beaches of the Mediterranean are from Syria, Palestine, Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, Mali and many other war-torn countries.

The victims have often made perilous journeys to try and reach the coast in order to get to Europe.

The response ought to be one of humanitarian protection of those in danger, supporting refugees when they arrive, but above all addressing the economic and humanitarian crises in the source country.

Instead, it seems the big and wealthy countries are more interested in exploiting natural resources and selling arms.  History will describe the reaction of the richest, most privileged and most powerful in the world during this most desperate decade as nothing short of abominable in its deliberately looking the other way from desperate people seeking help.

THE nearer we get to the general election the more important it is that there be a serious debate about inequality in Britain.

This should not be a difficult subject, as it is very clear that since 2010, inequality in Britain has got considerably worse.

For Labour, it is important to remember the whole purpose of the labour movement — which is about equality of opportunity, provision of public services and, above all, ensuring that poverty becomes a thing of the past.

Famously, the new Labour architect Peter Mandelson said he was intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich in Britain.

Since he strongly supports the general thrust of International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies, he might care to reflect that the International Labour Organisation pointed out that since 2008 there has been a consistent shift of national income away from workers and in favour of the very high-paid, as real wages have fallen in many places.  Indeed, the millennium goals of halving the proportion of absolute poor by 2015 shows that 1.2 billion people still live below the $1.25 per day threshold.

In Britain poverty is measured as those who have an income of less than 60 per cent of the median, which shows 13 million people fall into this category.

Poverty is exacerbated by a combination of low wages, a minimum wage that is not enough to live on and a benefit cap which means that many in high-cost housing areas cannot afford to survive.

This then translates into lower educational achievements and huge levels of health inequality and life expectancy being very low in, for example, east Glasgow, some parts of central Birmingham and east London.

The post-war consensus on both sides of the Atlantic had higher rates of taxation, partly to pay for post-war reconstruction but also, as an act of social policy.

The 1980s era, with Thatcher and Reagan economics, cut taxation for the very richest, encouraged inequality and has left us generations of poverty.

There were screams in every financial paper around the world when Francoise Hollande proposed a 76 per cent top rate of tax in France, while in Britain the Tories reduced the 50 per cent top rate on the grounds that it was easier to collect a lower rate of taxation.

As we move closer to the general election, there has to be a debate about the real levels of inequality and poverty in Britain.

The Tories do not offer anything other than a continuation of austerity, and Nigel Farage proudly proclaims his role model is Margaret Thatcher.

Both will use xenophobic arguments on immigration while at the same time supporting free market economics across Europe, which has a devastating effect on public services and living standards.

For Labour to win an election, we have to offer something far better and far stronger, which does indeed raise tax for the very richest, collects tax from the corporations that systematically sort to avoid it and to remove the benefit cap, whilst at the same time control housing costs. That would be a good start.

Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.

30 Oct

Written Question: Oil: Western Sahara

Jeremy Corbyn:  To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, what representations he has received on consultations held with the Saharawi regarding proposed drilling for oil by Cairn Energy in the waters of Western Sahara.

Matthew Hancock:  I can confirm that neither I nor my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills have received any such representations

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