November 2014 Report

Parliamentary Business

Modern Slavery Bill

On 4 November, I was pleased to see the Modern Slavery Bill complete its passage through the House of Commons.

Whilst it isn’t perfect, the bill is an important one as it puts in one place a number of measures to safeguard victims of human trafficking. It also toughens the penalties against those who exploit vulnerable people trafficked from abroad or within the UK.

The bill is currently in the Lords. It needs to become law before the election.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria, the country which sees the highest number of people trafficked or put into slavery, this is an issue of great concern to me.

The bill does not go as far as I would have liked it to. Regrettably, it only has effect within England and Wales and does not compel UK firms to ensure that there is no element of slavery within the supply chain of goods and services sold here.

It also fails to deal with the problems caused by the coalition’s 2012 changes to the visa system for domestic workers. Those changes effectively ensure that any foreign domestic worker who has been the victim of exploitation will be removed from the UK rather than given some protection.

I am concerned that this could actually hinder the chances of making successful prosecutions. Without witnesses to the abuse and instant removal of victims, how will courts be able to prosecute abusers?

I also supported Fiona McTaggart’s amendment to the bill which would have criminalised the purchase of sex. This would have offered a number of safeguards to men and women in the sex trade.

Regrettably, this amendment was not supported in the Commons. I hope that a member of the Lords might reintroduce it.
Further details of the bill can be found here.

NHS (Amended Duties & Powers) Bill

On Friday 21 November, I was in Parliament to support this private member’s bill, which was introduced by my friend and colleague, Clive Efford MP.

The creation of the NHS was one of the greatest achievements of any UK government in the 20th century. Regrettably the current Government’s confusing and expensive reforms, which even David Cameron and George Osbourne now appear to be trying to distance themselves from, have done much to undermine our health service. The reforms are overly bureaucratic and have cost twice as much as predicted. That money would have been better spent on patient care.

Clive Efford’s bill seeks to safeguard the NHS and ensure that it is run for the benefit of the public. The bill received overwhelming support from the House of Commons. 241 members voted in favour of it whilst only 18 voted against.

Regrettably, as the bill is a private members’ bill it stands little chance of completing its passage through Parliament, particularly as it seeks to overturn an important element of the current Government’s policy. However, I will await further developments with interest.

Tenancies (Reform) Bill

Housing policy is one of my key priorities as I recognise how difficult it is becoming to find somewhere decent and affordable to live locally. Excessive renting and buying prices make

Renting and buying prices are simply excessive for many. On Friday 28 November, I attended the debate on the Tenancies (Reform) Bill. It aims to give tenants more security in their home by ending retaliatory evictions, and raising standards in the private rented sector. Unfortunately, as this is a private members’ bill, it has little chance of success between now and the General Election in 2015.
There are a number of MPs who will always try and “talk out” any Private Members’ Bill. In order to stand any chance of success, the sponsors of a bill must always ensure that there are at least 100 MPs present who are willing to vote for a guillotine on debate. This allows for a proper vote to be taken rather than just having the vote postponed to another day.

Regrettably there were not 100 MPs present to force a vote. As such the bill now has a very uncertain future.

Government bills are more likely to become law before the election and so I have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable MP to request that provisions on retaliatory eviction go into the Consumer Rights Bill.

We must do all we can for tenants in the private rented sector. Tenants have the right to live in a home that is properly maintained. We need to ensure that landlords adhere to proper standards.

More than 75 per cent of households in Hackney South and Shoreditch are now rented, which is almost double the national average. With one in three of these households being rented in the private sector, there are now more people that rent privately than own their home.

I’d like to see greater certainty for tenants in recognition that tenanted properties are peoples’ homes. I support my own party’s proposal to reform the private rented sector by introducing three year tenancies with the opportunity to agree rents over this period.

Under this proposal, those that require short term contracts will still have that option open to them, but all renters will also have the option of a more stable, 3 year contract. All tenants will have the option of ending their tenancy with one month’s notice after the first six months, just as they do under current legislation.

Such reforms will benefit both the tenant and the landlord by creating a more stable and secure rental market. Tenants will have the security to settle in their home and predictable rents so that they can manage their finances.

Publish what you pay rules

On 25 November, I was a member of the House of Commons committee that formally approved rules for the UK that will compel oil, gas and mining companies registered in the UK to publish full details of the payments they make to foreign governments such as taxes, royalties and licence fees, on an annual basis wherever they operate in the world. This would include payments at project level.

Similar rules are already in place in the US and Norway. The measures received all party support and will ensure that the UK is compliant with new EU rules.

I believe that the measures are important as they will offer people the chance to monitor how billions of pounds of company funds are dispersed. They should also reduce corporate waste and reduce corruption and tax avoidance throughout the world.

Parliament week

On 17 November I took part in a live question and answer Twitter session as part of Parliament week- the week of dedicated events to get people across the UK involved with Parliament and democracy.

As a member of the Speakers’ Digital Democracy Commission, I am keen to explore ways in which technology can improve access and make it easier for people to interact with politicians.

Some of the key concerns to come out of the session were related to the potential of digital democracy including a reduction of voter apathy, increased accessibility for disabled voters the future of online voting.
For the past 12 months the Commission has heard from thousands of people with ideas and thoughts on how to open up parliamentary democracy, I am glad the live Twitter session gave me the opportunity to directly join in conversation with others on the matter.

If you would like to know more visit

Other matters

Global Health

On 26 November, in my role as a chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, I was pleased to help launch our report on mental health.

The report considers what the UK is currently doing to improve mental health globally and also whether UK expertise and resources could be more effectively used to meet this challenge.

The simple message of this report is that progress in development will not be made without improvements in mental health. Mental illnesses cause more disability than any other health condition; bring enormous pain and suffering to individuals and their families and communities; and can lead to early death, human rights abuses and damage to the economy. Improving mental health is therefore a vital part of a successful development programme.

You can read the report and find out more about the work of the APPG here.

As a member of the APPG on global health I was also keen to challenge recent recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO). It has published a list of 100 core health indicators that it intends will be the basis for all future international health comparisons. However, our APPG felt that more needed to be done to recognise the importance of surgical outcomes such as financial protection.

The Lancet has now published an open letter from us to the WHO, World Bank and USAID urging them to include 3 surgical indicators which can be really pivotal for surgical care globally. I very much hope that the WHO will take this on board.

Stand Up Be Counted

At the last General Election only 44 per cent of 18-25 year olds voted. Many decisions taken since then by government, such as tuition fees, have evoked distrust among young people.

Sky News has launched an initiative called Stand Up Be Counted to encourage voting. It is available online and on smart phones, and offers young people the chance to comment, share and post their views on key Issues leading up to the May 2015 General Election next year.

18-25 year olds can log in to upload videos and blog posts and to engage in topics being discussed on the site.

Further information can be found here.

Hackney Issues

Homerton station update

Ongoing work on Homerton Overground station has been progressing well and the foundations for the extended platforms are currently under construction.

As passenger numbers are lowest during Christmas there is a planned suspension of train services for essential work from 21:30 on Wednesday 24 December through to the end of Thursday 26 December
It is likely that further excavation and foundations work will be required at night between December 2014 and late January 2015.

For further information visit

The Big Advice Survey

Hackney Community Law Centre is encouraging everyone who cares about the future of advice in the UK to take part in The Big Advice Survey, which launched recently. The survey is national but will be conducted at a local level.

It looks at how we deal with problems in our daily lives and where advice fits in. It also explores the potential for alternative ways of delivering advice services as well as a range of other areas, e.g. the relationship between advice and health and wellbeing.
The survey has been created and promoted by individual Citizens Advice Bureaux and Law Centres as well as a diverse range of other organisations.

I would encourage as many people as possible to take the survey, which can be found here.

Here East

Here East is commercial space in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on the fringe of Hackney Wick. It is being developed by iCITY, the company selected by the London Legacy Development Corporation to deliver a legacy from the former Press and Broadcast Centres.

Construction works have now begun to transform the buildings for full occupancy, and there will be a number of community consultation events in the future. They will shortly host the Business Select Committee at the Here East site.

Dates are being identified and I will track future progress.

Free junior kit for all accredited football clubs in the area

There is a new initiative McDonald’s UK launched this year to support grassroots football in Hackney South and Shoreditch and the rest of the UK.

McDonalds has renewed its partnership deal with the UKFAs for four years, enabling them to provide better coaching, support and recognition for accredited clubs. Each year over the next four years, McDonalds will give away brand new team kits to every UK FA accredited club with a junior team. It will be rolled out across the country, via the official kit suppliers, Nike and Adidas.

Accredited clubs with a junior team will be able to take advantage of this opportunity when the ordering sites open in early 2015.

To order visit

Rededication service

Since 2012 there has been ongoing work to the St Mary of Eton Church and its associated buildings. The last stage of reconstruction has been finalised, and on 23 November the Bishop of Stepney led a service of rededication to mark this achievement.

I congratulate the Church on its regeneration, and hope the parish benefit from the changes for generations to come.

Lloyds Bank community fund

Organisations in Hackney South and Shoreditch that make positive impact on local communities have been given grants of between £500 and £3,000.

The Lloyds Bank community fund collated a total of 1.5 million votes that were cast in branch and online to compile a shortlist of good causes across the country. Over 700,000 people will benefit either directly or indirectly from the good work of the organisations will be able to deliver as a result of receiving a Community Fund 2014 Award. The community groups from Hackney South and Shoreditch to receive an award were: The People’s Kitchen, City and Hackney Mind and City and Hackney Carers Centre

I congratulate them on this success. Helping communities thrive in this way is crucial to delivering services that help the Hackney South and Shoreditch prosper.

For more information visit