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The Article 50 Brexit Bill

A number of constituents have contacted me recently regarding the triggering of Article 50.

As you will be aware, the Government lost a court case that would have allowed them to trigger Article 50 without consulting Parliament; and has introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, also known as the ‘Article 50 Bill’, in order for it to receive the approval to start formal proceedings on leaving the EU.

I campaigned to remain in the European Union because I think it is our best hope for jobs, security and peace in Luton South, but I accept the result of the referendum. Parliament explicitly gave its approval to an Act last Summer that set up the legal framework for the referendum vote, and it would be wrong to pretend it is only ‘advisory’.

The Article 50 Bill will pass through a number of parliamentary stages (the opportunity for Members to vote will be at Second Reading, Committee Stages, and Third Reading). It would be wrong for me to pretend that I feel leaving the EU is a wise course of action, and had we not passed legislation in 2015 that allowed for a referendum, I would certainly be voting to remain.

But for the reasons I’ve already outlined, I feel it would be wrong to try and block its passage. As such I will not be voting against at the Bill. I will instead abstain at second and third reading.

It is vital that the UK secures the best exit deal from the EU in the negotiations that will follow the triggering of Article 50 – one that protects jobs, living standards and workers’ rights – and I do not believe the Government should be given a blank cheque for the high risk approach it has chosen to take.

For that reason, I will vote to support amendments to the Bill designed to ensure that the Government sticks to a number of principles throughout the exit negotiations, as the legislation goes through its committee stages next week. These will include securing full tariff-free and impediment-free access to the Single Market, protecting workers’ rights and confirming the legal status of EU citizens currently in the UK.

I will also support amendments to ensure robust and regular parliamentary scrutiny of the progress being made on negotiations, and to provide a meaningful vote on the final deal before the Government agrees it with the EU.

These amendments are intended to improve the process, ensure Parliament is able to hold the Government to account throughout the negotiation, and seek to ensure the Prime Minister secures the best deal for the whole country.

Parliament rarely chooses to give its judgment to all voters on a single issue through a referendum. But when it does, we have a responsibility to protect the reputation of our democratic institutions and uphold the will of the people, even when we disagree.

Petition: Compensation for Thameslink Passengers

Petition: Compensation for Thameslink Passengers

The government has announced an enhanced package of compensation for users of Govia Thameslink Railway’s Southern Route, after delays and cancellations that have made the service unusable. However, it has no plans to extend this to Thameslink customers, who have suffered in the same way.

Gavin is campaigning to make sure that

  • every Season Ticket holder is refunded at least one month’s ticket cost
  • delay repay becomes active after 15 minutes, not 30 minutes as is presently the case

Thameslink

In order to comply with Parliament’s rules on presenting petitions, we need to verify you are a constituent of Luton South – which is why you must fill all the fields below.

Gavin will keep you up to date on his progress through you filling this form.

Petition: Compensation for Thameslink Passengers

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Applications for 2016 Summer School are now open

Gavin Shuker is calling  for local young people and local charities to apply to his Summer School.

The School has so far trained over 80 young people interested in politics and campaigning. This year the programme will run from 25 July- 19 August 2016 and will include a day in Parliament, sickness a three-day residential course and three weeks working with a charity in Luton. The young people will gain an insight into political life and will have the opportunity to meet high profile politicians.

Applicants to the programme should be aged from 18-24 at the time of the Summer School. They do not have to be members of the Labour Party but have to be interested in politics. There is no cost to participants although they will have to arrange their own accommodation in Luton if they do not live in the town. All accommodation and most meals during the first week residential course are covered.

For those applying who require accommodation, ampoule this is available from at the University of Bedfordshire for a fixed cost and we have a limited bursary to help in the most difficult of circumstances. Contact us for more details.

We particularly welcome applications from women and those of ethnic minority background.

Please apply by filling out the application form here. The deadline for applications is Friday 6 May.

Gavin  is also calling for local charities to apply to take part in the Summer School. The charities that participate will have access to the enthusiasm and skills of 8 young people for a period of three weeks to assist with a campaign of their choosing. In the past groups have organised awareness and fundraising operations in the town centre.

Charities wishing to apply should send a short application, information pills of no more than 500 words, outlining the work that they do, details of the campaign they would like the Summer School participants to be involved in, and the support and advice they could provide for the young people during the three weeks. All applications should be sent to Farah Hussain at [email protected]

Voting against Syria airstrikes

17525193386_b693508e4a_oI wanted to explain why I will be voting against the extension of airstrikes in Syria in the House of Commons tonight.

ISIL are a truly appalling terrorist group and it is clear that they pose an extremely serious and growing threat, find both to the people of Syria and Iraq, ask and to British citizens at home and abroad. There is, of course, no easy solution to the threat ISIL pose, and that posed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and Britain cannot solve these problems alone.

In my view, any military action to suppress the activity of ISIL will only be successful if there is a credible regional force that is willing to fight on the ground. The Prime Minister has asserted that there are some 70,000 so-called moderate troops in Syria – and expects that this Anti-Assad force will willingly team up with the Pro-Assad forces to combat ISIL. I am highly sceptical on both these points.

There is no more important decision a country can take than to commit our armed forces to military action and this is not a decision that I, or any Member of Parliament, takes lightly. To be clear, military action always means loss of life, including innocent life. Given that, the test that needs to be met is whether proposed action has a credible chance of making things better and save lives.

In my view, the government’s proposed action does not pass this test.

For that reason – and regardless of the whipping arrangements of my party – I have long planned to vote against, and will do so at 10pm on Wednesday night.

The values of cooperation; the values of the future

Gavin Shuker’s Parliamentary report to the Cooperative Party Annual Conference, 18 September 2015.

Conference – if the last twenty weeks have taught us anything, it is that a week is a long time in politics.

As the chair of the UK Parliamentary group – as representative of both our party and movement – I want to say this: there has rarely, if ever, been a more important time for our movement to be represented on the political spectrum.

All of us will share the sense of disappointment that comes with a lost election; a lost opportunity to put cooperative values into action – in government.

But it is a particular disappointment to lose so many at Westminster, who did so much to ensure our movement was recognised.

We as a Group are deeply saddened to see them leave Westminster: Meg Munn, Linda Riordan, Andy Love, Tom Greatrex, Ian Davidson, Mark Lazarowicz and Gemma Doyle – each of these were faithful servants of both their constituents and our party.

And let us pay particular attention to the work of Cathy Jamieson, my predecessor; and of course of Ed Balls. Few get the opportunity to put cooperative values into practice in government; even fewer leave the cooperative mark on the country. For this and many other unseen acts, conference, they deserve our thanks.

But we’ve been pleased to welcome Kate Osamor, continuing the tradition of a Co-operative presence in Edmonton and building on Andy’s and Lord Ted Graham’s legacy; and Rachel Maskell in York – elected in May and already a Shadow Defence Minister. I know we will benefit from their experiences and skills as this new Parliament progresses.

Labour leadership and mayoral selection campaigns have been arduous for the candidates, their teams and the selectorate alike. Two of our Group members have stood up and put themselves forward for important roles in our sister party and indeed the country. You have heard from the both today and saw why they would have been such worthy winners.

While we did not get the result we were hoped for at the election there is much to report on. And let us start by reflecting on the resounding success of the Keep it Co-op Campaign. Whether it was online and in the press, working to mobilise members or attendance at key meetings we sought to play our part, convincing the wider movement of the value of a party of cooperative values, advocating for the cooperative ideal to change our country.

Parliamentarians including Jonny Reynolds, Chris Leslie, Lucy Powell, Luciana Berger, Lord Kennedy and Baroness Thornton, pushed local community energy, mutual financial services, the role of social enterprise, credit unions and co-operative housing – and resulted in a Labour manifesto with a thick purple streak throughout.

Meg Munn fought an incredibly tough fight for important amendments to the Deregulation Bill. Over many months she pressed and harried the Government to understand the barriers that hold back co-operative nurseries; and the work was taken up by Baroness Glenys Thornton in the Lords. Although the Government remained unpersuaded, this work increased the profile for co-operative values in education and developed many new friends for the sector.

But elsewhere, the last Parliament demonstrated that even in opposition, we can succeed in changing laws and pressing the Government into mutual action.

The Energy Act won new support for community energy; and servicemen and women will benefit from the development of a new Credit Union facilities for the Armed Forces.

These are not just achievements chalked up, or even left to the ages on vellum – but real change in peoples’ lives.

So we find ourselves in opposition again; with the task to renew. We know there is big job of work for the Parliamentary Group to carry out.

I am delighted that in the new Labour leader’s top team, six members of our own top team are in the new Shadow Cabinet. We are represented at that table by Lucy Powell, Seema Malhotra, Luciana Berger, Jon Ashworth, Angela Smith and Steve Bassam.

Another five serve in shadow ministerial roles.

We’ve been active already.

We’ve already sought amendments to the Finance Bill to try and ensure that Government recognises the important differences between the mutual finance and the rest of the banking sector. The Building Societies inclusion in the Banking Levy will not only hurt their ability to lend to the mortgage market but deny them capital they cannot raise in the same way as others. This work will continue in the Lords.

Mutual rail amendments to the Scotland Bill already pursued in the Commons will be revisited in the Lords.

And it looks possible that co-operative and community led housing will need Parliamentary support if it is to escape the clutches of the new extension of Right to Buy within the new Housing Bill.

Co-operative Schools has sought our support within their work on the Schools Bill.

The Enterprise Bill will allow us to press the case for increased business support for our sector and the need for Government departments to actually understand coops.

And Community energy faces a Government who seems intent on pulling the rug from under it.

We will be active on all of these issues, and more.

I hope we can contribute, as MPs and Peers in an equally important way. In a debate where we do not have all of the answers.

The past twenty weeks have shown us there is an enormous desire for Westminster not just to be an island of political debate; but neccessary, but insufficient component of a far larger, deeper, and diverse movement for change.

Our own Stella Creasy’s deputy leadership campaign asked members what they would do, rather than telling the membership what she would do. The new leader of the Labour Party has called for a debate that is open, inclusive – and focussed on the ideas that will make our people in our country more equal; empowered, and provide them with a dignity in their lives and their communities.

Right across the country – in local government, in national assemblies, in workers cooperatives – we are showing that power is best utilised by the many and not just the few. There can be no rolling back into a stale old debate of the past.

I feel confident that, as your representatives in the Palace of Westminster, we won’t allow that to happen.

Because, conference – the values of cooperation – of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity – are not the of past; they are the future.

Let us resolve to enact them and make them real in communities across our land.

Let us build that future, together.

DFID – moving on

Jeremy Corbyn has been elected with the most incredible mandate, no rx chosen by our whole movement, democratically elected, and the Labour Party has the leader that it wants. There can be no question about his legitimacy to lead.

In the past five years I have had the enormous privilege of serving our party in frontbench roles – first in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and for the past two years in the Department for International Development.

I’m extremely grateful to Ed Miliband for taking the risk of appointing me, especially as it made me the youngest frontbencher in the Labour team for much of the last parliament. I hope I will have the opportunity to serve again.

Being on the frontbench and doing it well – even in a junior role – is an enormous commitment. It requires almost unlimited time, with few resources – and public loyalty. On those few occasions where I have felt uncomfortable with our collective position, I have been struck by how willing my colleagues have been to listen to my concerns, accommodate them, and even, in a handful of cases, change that position. I concede that I was extremely fortunate to have a party leader with whom I shared a very similar political outlook.

Looking down the line, I can see a number of issues where that need for collective responsibility would become a tension, and I certainly don’t want to be a headache for our new leader. I want to see him lead and succeed. Beyond that, the additional responsibility has prevented me from being as present for my daughter – in particular – as I would like to be, and at two years of age, I know we will never get that time back.

So I let it be known that I’d like to step back from the DFID team during this reshuffle. It gives Jeremy the opportunity to promote another MP to a crucial role during an exciting year for International Development. In this case, the brilliant Mike Kane MP will take over my role, as Dianne Abbott takes over from Mary Creagh. I will of course be on hand to do everything I can to help my successor.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has managed just fine without me in a shadow ministerial role, and will continue to do so in the future. For now I’ll be working just as hard to make sure my constituents are well represented, the worst excesses of the Tories are curtailed, and that Luton remains a Labour town in 2020.

Monday’s vote on the Welfare Bill

On Monday the Tory government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill came before the Commons for its second reading. This stage allows for debate and a vote on the principle of a bill before it passes to the committee stage, where its provisions are examined in detail, and eventually a third and final reading.

A great deal of confusing and partial information about how Labour MPs voted has been going around on social media. It’s important to make clear that on Monday the Parliamentary Labour Party, including me, were united in voting to oppose the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. Labour had tabled a ‘reasoned amendment’, outlining some parts of the bill that we support, but declining to give the bill a second reading because of the many provisions we vehemently disagree with.

Our motion opposing the bill said:

“That this House, whilst affirming its belief that there should be controls on and reforms to the overall costs of social security, that reporting obligations on full employment, apprenticeships and troubled families are welcome, and that a benefits cap and loans for mortgage interest support are necessary changes to the welfare system, declines to give a Second Reading to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill because the Bill will prevent the Government from continuing to pursue an ambition to reduce child poverty in both absolute and relative terms, it effectively repeals the Child Poverty Act 2010 which provides important measures and accountability of government policy in relation to child poverty, and it includes a proposal for the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance which is an unfair approach to people who are sick and disabled.”

But elections have consequences. The 2015 General Election gave the government a clear majority; this motion did not succeed. Despite what some on social media might say, there was never any chance of Labour MPs defeating the Welfare Bill even if every single one of us had been present to vote against.

As a number of my colleagues have pointed out, the reason that we didn’t vote against the entire bill at second reading was because it contains a number of sensible proposals – on apprenticeships and housing costs in particular – that are worth supporting. Moreover, even if we had been successful in voting against the bill in its entirety this would have stopped the legislation in its tracks, preventing any further debate on its (many) weaknesses, but also its strengths. The Tories would have repeatedly held our opposition to these worthwhile measures over our heads, using it to attack us.

It’s also worth noting that a great deal of tax credit cuts the government has planned do not feature in the Welfare Reform Bill. For instance, the changes to tax credit thresholds and taper which mean support will be reduced further and faster as earnings rise are opposed by Labour and will be debated as separate measures this autumn.

But we must be clear that the Tories’ Welfare Bill contains a great deal that we as a party are fundamentally opposed to. Perhaps the most pernicious element of the bill is its trashing of Labour’s proud legacy on child poverty: something I could not countenance.

Following the bill’s second reading, Labour has put down a series of amendments for debate and a vote when Parliament returns to the bill this autumn.

These include: a range of amendments on child poverty and related targets; exempting some of the very most vulnerable from the benefits cap; mandating annual reviews of the benefits cap and the discretionary housing payments; improvements to the bill’s plans to help troubled families; stopping ESA cuts; checks on the quality of apprenticeships; ensuring the government’s four-year benefits freeze is subject to annual review; and adding a range of much needed exemptions to the Tories’ child tax credit restrictions.

It is right that we put forward these amendments and fight for them when they come to a vote in the autumn. But unfortunately, because of the focus of our opponents outside – and the decisions of some inside – our party, the focus of this debate has become the Labour party, not the awful choices of this Tory government.

On Monday I, together with every Labour MP who was present, voted to oppose the harmful measures in the Welfare Reform Bill which would visit even greater hardship on the vulnerable and the young.

I do hope our party will learn that standing united is the only way to fight for the people we serve and represent.

Cooperatives: about the world we want

Today marks the International Day of Cooperatives. In a year that will be crucial for international development – when both the post-2015 development agenda will be agreed upon, find and when legally binding global targets for climate change will be set – it is worth reflecting on the role that cooperatives might play in each of these international blueprints.

As Chair of the Cooperative Parliamentary Party, medications I am deeply proud of the role that cooperatives already play in supporting some of the world’s poorest communities to grow and prosper.

As members, customers or as employees – cooperatives connect with more than one billion people worldwide; they are the source of more than 250 million jobs, and are estimated to shore up nearly have of the world’s livelihoods; and bring in collective revenues of more than US$1.6 trillion – roughly comparable to the entire economy of Spain. Yet often their contribution to international development is overlooked.

Indeed, the cooperative model goes far beyond incomes and job creation – it has proved crucial in securing rural water and sanitation supplies, in improving health outcomes, in sustaining food supplies and in fostering social cohesion.

Yet – despite high profile acknowledgements of the valuable role the cooperatives model might play in meeting future development aims – in the latest ‘Zero Draft’ (the proposed text of the global agreement that will shape the post-2015 aid agenda) the potential role of cooperatives does not feature. Not even within Goal 8 – which states as its aim to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” – is this crucial form of enterprise referred to.

Cooperatives and mutuals offer a potential to change the way we do business, the way we do society, and the way we do politics. They offer an approach that puts people before shareholders; that prioritises community ownership and offers genuine democratic accountability; and, most importantly, an approach that is based on the fundamental principal of equality. Not power-distributions that are founded on wealth, class, gender or race privilege, but power-sharing that is based on the essential belief that each individual voice should carry the same weight.

In achieving the post-2015 development agenda I believe the embodiment of this principle will prove critical. And at a time when the Tories use of aid money to boost private sector growth is being called into question, cooperatives offer a clear alternative. It is an alternative that I as a Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament – that we all as members of this global community – have a duty to champion. On this day as on every other.

Moving House

My daily walk through Luton often takes me past rough-sleepers who go through the bin at a local sandwich factory looking for food. On the approach to the railway station, I go past regulars queueing outside the JobCentre to look for work. But an hour later I’m in Westminster. Only 30 miles by train, but a world away.

We know the environment we work in affects the decisions we make. As Churchill himself said, ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.’

It’s not a criticism but rather a fact: MPs spend too much time in once place – London – mixing with a largely homogenous group of people. Our capital is a great and vibrant city, home to millions of people and a wealth of businesses, charities and NGOs working on issues of relevance to parliamentarians. But, ultimately, it is only one part of one country.

Frankly – and trust me, I like an easy life (and commute) as much as the next MP – all parliamentarians would benefit from a period of time living and working in another part of the UK.

Today’s report on options for the refurbishment of Parliament provides an opportunity for us to do just this. The Palace of Westminster is long overdue vital repairs and upgrades. If nothing is done in coming years then there may not be a Palace for future generations.

It looks possible that establishment inertia will mean we will either stay put in Westminster and carry out rolling restoration works over thirty years, or decant into other London premises for as long as a decade. Both of these options miss the mark. They are a real missed opportunity.

Much would be gained from taking the bold decision to decamp both Houses to another city for the period of the next Parliament, allowing major refurbishment work to be undertaken all at once with a major saving to the taxpayer.

More than that, moving our Parliament to another city would improve our connection with the country we serve and would go some way towards bursting the ‘Westminster bubble’. It goes without saying that my preference would be Luton, but having already run a fruitless campaign to encourage government departments to re-locate to Luton in 2010, however, I do not hold out much hope!

So why not relocate to Birmingham, England’s second city, or – for that matter – Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds or Sheffield? Each one of them would be grand temporary homes for our nation’s Parliament. They are all cities located towards the geographical centre of our country, and closer to constituencies in the north, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

As well as benefitting parliamentarians by bringing many of us closer to the people we serve, it would spread the economic and cultural benefits of reconstructing a world class building and parliament across far more than just the capital city.

I only hope we can be visionary and bold in seizing the opportunities that this move offers us, and our political life.

Image: Catherine Bebbington/Parliamentary Copyright

Climate change is development in reverse

On Wednesday 10 June Gavin spoke in the House of Commons opposition day debate on climate change.

Climate change is development in reverse.

Rising sea levels, hospital droughts and storms, troche heat waves, approved torrential rains and melting glaciers are already threatening crops, wildlife, livelihoods and the quantity and quality of our water supplies.

But more than that, a changing climate threatens the lives of the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world.

As a global community we are already struggling to adapt to increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns – from the floods in Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico, to record droughts in California, and the devastating typhoons in the Philippines, our world is already experiencing the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

It is one of the gravest challenges to human development that we face.

Impact on the developing world

Global warming slows growth creates new poverty traps for families and communities already struggling to survive.

Failing to tackle climate change will not only to stifle progress on poverty reduction; but will actually cause millions to fall back into poverty. If temperatures continue to rise on current trends to 2030, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia alone face an increase in poverty of up to one third.

And when your very survival is under threat – from failed crops, natural disasters, thriving diseases and conflict over resources – economic development becomes a romantic ideal.

Continue reading Climate change is development in reverse