Many of you will know that I'm working hard to try to get a better deal for our iconic black taxis, raising the issues that affect them in Parliament.
The Department for Transport is delayed in it's publication of a 'task and finish group' report on Taxis and Private Hire. I've been pressing ministers to get this report published, because it will give us a clearer idea of the issues facing the trade and where the government might be willing to act.
The numbers in my question below represent the different times this report has been used in answer to questions by MPs and Lords, often with the promise of 'soon'.
We now know ministers will receive the report next month, but I am just as frustrated as I'm sure you will be that they have said it will be published in 'due course'!
I'll continue to keep an eye on this, and other developments. It's about time the government made this report public.
Picture: Associated Press/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Many of you will know that I'm working hard to try to get a better deal for our iconic black taxis, raising the issues that affect them in Parliament....
This week I attended a Tamils for Labour
event in Parliament to mark Mullivaikkal. The events of the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war were among the most bloody and barbaric. We have a responsibility to honour the memory of the deceased and the disappeared and to continue our quest for truth, accountability and reconciliation.
Year after year I have travelled to Geneva to make sure that the international community holds the Sri Lankan Government to account. They made a commitment to involve international judges and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of war crimes committed during the civil war. Now they must deliver.
It is to the eternal shame of the international community that we looked the other way while innocent people were subjected to unimaginable acts of violence and terror. We owe it to you and to all the Tamil people never to look away again.
As people gather today with the British Tamils Forum in solemn and loving memory of those who are lost, as Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils and the Member of Parliament for Ilford North, I give you my word that I will work relentlessly to make sure that the commitments made to the international community by the Government of Sri Lanka are honoured.
You can read the Tamil Guardian story here.
This week I attended a Tamils for Labour event in Parliament to mark Mullivaikkal. The events of the final weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war were among the most...
Yesterday was the bloodiest day of violence on the border between Gaza and Israel since the recent wave of protests began. 59 Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli forces, including six children. Some 2,771 people were reported injured, including 1,359 by live ammunition, with 130 people in a critical condition. Since the end of March, 97 Palestinians, including twelve children, have been killed by Israeli forces during the course of the demonstrations.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, has expressed his profound alarm at the “sharp escalation of violence” and the “high number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests”. According to Save the Children, over 250 children were shot with live ammunition.
This morning, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, appeared on the Today Programme to defend these actions as necessary to protect Israel’s border and laid bare a series of statements made by Hamas leaders - even in recent weeks - seeking to incite violence against Israel and Israelis.
There can be no justification for Israel’s actions yesterday. None. The idea that Israel’s only options in response to a scenario that was entirely foreseen were to do nothing or to fire live ammunition is absurd. As the executive director of B’Tselem - an Israeli human rights organisation - has argued: “defending the border is not a licence to kill.”
To attempt, as some have done, to portray of tens of thousands of protestors as armed Hamas combatants is deeply disingenuous. There can be no doubt that there has been incitement to violence and those choosing to exploit these protests for their own ends. Nor is there any real doubt that there were armed combatants among the protesters. Violence is their method and the destruction of the State of Israel is their aim. We know what they stand for. But here is an uncomfortable truth for those defending the actions of the Netanyahu’s Government: Hamas has no better friend or recruiting sergeant than the present Israeli Government.
The failure of political leadership - Israeli, Palestinian and American - is contemptible. Today marks 70 years since the creation of the State of Israel - a day of celebration for Israelis who are proud of the great many achievements of their young state with ancient roots. For Palestinians, it is the Nakba - an anniversary of loss, displacement and ultimately occupation. For the international community this should be a moment of profound reflection of our collective failure to bring about two states for two people, where both Israelis and Palestinians can grow up surrounded by peace, security and opportunity.
Instead, we see the unedifying spectacle of the United States of America opening an embassy in Jerusalem for no other reason than the vanity of its President and an appeal to his evangelical base - emboldening reactionary forces in Israel, putting the prospects of peace further away. As John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, has said: “Deaths in Gaza [are the] result of utter disregard of Messers Trump and Netanyahu for Palestinian rights and homeland. By moving [the US] Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump played politics, destroyed US peacemaker role.”
While this jamboree takes place, 2 million Palestinians in Gaza continue to live in an open air prison, trapped under a blockade by Israel and Egypt that has been in place for the past 11 years. So men, women and children have chosen to march. They are marching against the conditions they endure - not living, existing. Every international NGO focused on humanitarian existence has raised the alarm of a systems collapse in Gaza: everything from health care, to sewage management, schools and energy are at breaking point and unable to provide essential services. Less than 4% of the water is drinkable and over 60% of the sea water is full of sewage.
Friends of Israel, including the British Government, have a responsibility to speak up. The current trajectory of Israeli and American policy offers no path to peace and a two state solution. It is a path that will only lead to the further oppression and humiliation of the Palestinian people and, ironically, it will only serve to undermine Israel’s founding principles as a democratic state and put Israel’s longer term security at risk.
There are progressive elements on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who can bring about the future that a majority of both peoples still want to see. We saw how close they came to success under Rabin. We see those elements at work through NGOs and coexistence projects in Israel and Palestine and here in the UK. They are undermined by those who act as apologists for these actions of the Israeli Government and those who amplify reactionary voices on both sides of the conflict.
After 70 years and decades of missed opportunities, the international community must reflect on the human consequences of placing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the ‘too difficult box’. A new generation of political leadership is required in Israel and Palestine and a new mindset is required here: one that doesn’t see the key divide as choosing between being pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine, but as between siding with reactionaries or progressives or between peacemakers and warmongers. It shouldn’t be hard to choose.
You can see my contribution to today’s Q&A on Gaza in the House of Commons here.
Yesterday was the bloodiest day of violence on the border between Gaza and Israel since the recent wave of protests began. 59 Palestinians were reported killed by Israeli forces, including...