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Letter from Parliament: Tony Lloyd MP

Date published: 05 December 2018


Following the Holodmor Memorial service that I attended in November with Rochdale’s Ukrainian community, I attended a Holodomor exhibition in Parliament this week which showed, in graphic detail, how serious the famine really was.

For those of you who don’t know, the term Holodomor refers to the brutal artificial famine imposed by Stalin’s regime on Soviet Ukraine and primarily ethnically Ukrainian areas in 1932-33. What is terrible, is that this was not only a man-made famine but even worse, that it could have been prevented, but decisions were made not to.

Shocking statistics show that at least 5 million people died as a result of the famine, and at its peak, 28,000 people lost their lives each day in June of 1933.

 

Rochdale remembers Holodomor victims 85 years on
Rochdale remembers Holodomor victims 85 years on

 

After her visit to the European Union, the Prime Minister reported back to the House of Commons for an update on her deal. She received very little sympathy from rebel MPs in the Conservative party and from MPs across all other parties in parliament. 

I attended another ‘Labour Towns’ meeting which, as I have mentioned previously, is a forum for Labour MPs (in the North, Midlands and some in the South of England) to discuss common problems affecting our local town centres, particularly the increasing pressures the retail industry is facing, and looking at solutions to keep town centres viable.

The small remedies the government has implemented (e.g. business rates relief) help but they need to go further. An example of other simple solutions is that when a bank is closed, if they cannot be persuaded to change their mind, there still needs to be accessible cash machines in the local area.

The Charities Aid Foundation held ‘Giving Tuesday’ in parliament, which I was more than happy to support. Giving Tuesday is an annual event, but the foundation tries to support charities to increase their impact all year round. I pay tribute to all people across Rochdale who donate to local charities, as well as national and international ones.

An urgent question was raised in parliament regarding the current situation in Ukraine, following Russia’s decision to attack 3 Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea, and the increased levels of aggression from Russia towards Ukraine. This situation is worrying and this all began when the Ukraine talked about joining the EU.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims launched a new report named ‘Islamophobia Defined’. From hate crimes on the street to discrimination faced by British Muslims in employment, from demonizing media articles to attacks on other communities perceived to be Muslim - this inquiry heard evidence on a wide range of issues which we define collectively as Islamophobia. To tackle an issue, it must be accurately and fully defined and that’s why this inquiry centred around the discussion on a working definition.

It was great to celebrate ‘Lancashire Day’ in parliament on 27 November - the date the ‘Red Rose’ county first sent representatives to Parliament in 1295. The event celebrated the county’s best local producers, who offered a selection of chocolate, cheese, award-winning gins, and even Bowland-reared snails! 

Another meeting was held to discuss the current forms of modern slavery and human trafficking. It surprises people that horrendous acts like this are still ongoing in our midst. The police are doing a lot to challenge it, but we need to do much more as a country to tackle this issue head on and bring criminal gangs to justice and hopefully end modern slavery in our society. 

 

Tony at the Rochdale Training awards
Tony at the Rochdale Training awards

 

 I was invited to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) event in Parliament to discuss the cyber threat to the UK and to hear about what the government is doing to mitigate these risks. Whilst cyber security may seem ‘techie’ and something which doesn’t concern us as everyday people, this is the modern way that ordinary people are more and more likely to be hit by criminals. Therefore, the UK needs to act fast to ensure we educate talent to keep us ‘cyber safe’, now and in the future. 

There is a campaign ongoing to investigate the strategic case for restoring commuter rail services between Rawtenstall and Manchester. This is something which I am supporting as it would help travel between Heywood and Rochdale.

The ‘Justice for Colombia Peace Monitor Report’ was launched last week. The JFC Peace Monitor mobilises international support for the implementation of the peace agreement (which is hopefully putting an end to a decades’ long civil war), through regular delegations to Colombia. This has been based upon the peace process between the UK and NI – what is important in these situations is to remember the underlying causes which caused unrest in the first place.

I met with Eamon Gilmore, a friend of mine and former leader of the Irish Labour Party and Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland. Not only to discuss the above peace process, as Eamon has acted as European Union Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process since October 2015, but this was also a chance to discuss the relationship between the UK, Northern Ireland and The Irish Republic.

Back in Rochdale, I met with the Governor of Buckley Hall prison. Buckley Hall is a training prison which holds adult male prisoners. I know some complain about tax-payers’ money being spent on those who have committed crimes, but it was encouraging to hear that at Buckley Hall a lot of work is done to rehabilitate offenders, and this has shown a reduction in reoffending rates. Inmates undertake full time jobs in the facility and are encouraged to tackle the problems which led them to commit crimes in the first place – a lot coming from care homes, abusive childhoods and drug/alcohol problems. Rather than have these men in a reoccurring cycle of crime, it is much better for us all to rehabilitate offenders so that our streets are safer. I therefore congratulate those working at Buckley Hall for the great work they are undertaking.

 

Tony met with Rochdale Foodbank volunteers
Tony met with Rochdale Foodbank volunteers

 

It was good to join Iain Wight, Chair of Trustees of Rochdale Foodbank, and other volunteers at Tesco at Sudden who were collecting food and goods for the Foodbank. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm of volunteers and Tesco staff members towards this good, if sadly necessary cause. Rochdale Foodbank helped over 400 families last month so if you do have a chance please do consider donating, especially fresh fruit and vegetables which the foodbank often find themselves short of.

It was also fantastic to attend Rochdale Training’s Annual Awards celebration which commended engineering and business apprentices for their achievements in the past year. The amount of young people helped into work through apprenticeships by Rochdale Training is excellent and we should do our utmost to let people know about the work that they do.

World Aids Day was also held last week, and it is inspiring to hear that what was once a death sentence to so many in our country, is now a disease which many can live with and continue to live a healthy life. I admire the bravery of my colleague, Brighton MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who spoke out in the House of Commons about his diagnosis with the disease and I support his wise words ‘live in knowledge than to die in fear’. Whilst medical advances in the UK are saving many lives, it is a huge injustice that Aids is still a huge killer in the rest of the world, due to the lack of medical care and life saving medicines in third world countries.

At the weekend I visited Calder Valley, to spread Labour’s message of rebuilding Britain. Labour’s 5-point plan is to ban ATM charges and stop bank branch and post-office closures, improve local bus services and provide free bus travel for under 25s, deliver free public wi-fi in town centres, to establish a register of landlords of empty shops in each local authority. And finally, to introduce an annual revaluations of business rates, ensure a fair appeals system and a review of the business rates system, bringing it into the 21st century. 

I also attended Littleborough’s Labour Party members’ meeting, here we discussed a wide range of issues, from local to national and international ones – including the war in Yemen. However, the biggest concern was rightly, the impact of austerity and universal credit, which is causing huge damage to people within our community.

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