Letter from Parliament: Tony Lloyd MP
Date published: 19 November 2023
Tony Lloyd MP at the Remembrance Sunday service at Rochdale Cenotaph
The latest column by Rochdale MP, Sir Tony Lloyd.
Israel and Gaza
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has provoked enormous response and distress across all communities in Rochdale. Both local Labour councillors and I have received thousands of representations of concern. The continued bombardment of civilians, innocent Palestinians, has led to over 11,000 deaths and of these over 4,000 children.
We have all seen in the news the pictures of premature babies turned out of their incubators because electricity is no longer available. We have also seen dead bodies, unburied, lying around in hospitals. Electricity, food and water supplies have been cut off. This isn’t destroying Hamas, it’s destroying the capacity for innocent Palestinians to live lives that are other than awful. This on top of the weeks-long bombardment of Gaza which makes Gaza city look like an earthquake zone.
And, like an earthquake zone, the level of deaths and injuries is impossible to imagine. No one will forget the atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel, but no one can pretend that the response of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Force can be justified, either morally or under international law. That is why we demand a ceasefire.
From the very beginning of the conflict, Rochdale Council Leader Neil Emmott and I, on behalf of the Labour Councillors, demanded cessation of violence amongst innocent civilians.
With that background I met, along with Deputy Council Leader Daalat Ali and local Labour Councillors, with the Rochdale Council of Mosques to discuss our mutual concerns.
We reiterated our mutual demand for immediate ceasefire to stop the killings of innocent Palestinians, children, women and men, to allow resumption of the supplies of food, water and power, but all this as a prelude to a longer term process designed to prevent conflict and lock in peace for the medium and long term.
We are very concerned by reports of rising Islamophobic and anti-Semitic threats, abuse and assaults in the UK.
We would urge anyone affected to report these crimes to GMP but we condemn any hate speech or act of hate crime of any kind. You can read our statement here.
Unfortunately, I was unable to vote on the ceasefire motion as I was in hospital receiving chemotherapy. My position is clear: I will continue to work towards pressuring our government for a ceasefire to safeguard innocent civilians and achieve peace. My ambition was to travel from the hospital to London in order to vote. I always recognised that this could prove impossible and, as it turned out to be on that date, it was impossible to arrange a proxy vote at such short notice.
No human soul can witness the brutal events in Gaza without demanding an end to the violence. Attack upon attack on innocent Palestinians, children killed or left without parents. The UK government should join the growing demand globally for a ceasefire now and I have written to the Prime Minister calling on our government fulfils its obligations under the Geneva Conventions, condemn the killing of all civilians and supports all measures required to prevent further killings.
We must, as a nation, use our influence to ensure international humanitarian law is applied. I spoke about this on the World at One programme on BBC Radio 4.
I also met with Rochdale Labour Councillors to discuss the humanitarian situation in Israel and Gaza and the need for a ceasefire. More needs to be done to support civilians there and ensure they are protected.
There must be humanitarian access to Gaza to ensure the supply of food, water, medicine, and electricity. Lisa Nandy, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Minister for International Development, has called on the UK Government to work to bring critical humanitarian aid closer to the frontline.
This must work towards establishing safe evacuation corridors within Gaza and engaging with other UN member states to leverage increased funding for UNRWA — which provides crucial support to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and across the wider Middle East. All combatants must respect humanitarian workers, UN facilities and journalists and ensure they do not come under attack.
As a nation, the UK must use its influence to ensure international humanitarian law is applied. In the end, it's a call to Hamas and a call to Israel that stopping violence is the way forward.
Many of you will have seen in the news the appalling vandalism of Rochdale's Cenotaph (which was cleaned quickly by our council before Armistice Day) and I spoke about this on BBC Radio Manchester. It is important the destructive level of all wars is recognised, including what we're seeing in the Middle East, because what we want in the end is peace. Part of that peace is respecting each other and the ceremony at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday was observed in a respectful and respected way.
The King’s Speech and the Cabinet reshuffle
The King’s Speech shows the Tories have turned their back on the people of Rochdale. There was nothing to bring down bills, nothing to deliver better jobs and it reneged on net zero commitments. In other news, Suella Braverman has now been sacked twice as Home Secretary, as Rishi Sunak orchestrated another Cabinet reshuffle at the beginning of the week. Suella Braverman should never have re-appointed her in first place. Stirring up hatred has consequences.
David Cameron also made a surprise return to government. It was only a few weeks ago that Rishi Sunak said David Cameron was part of a failed status quo. Now he’s bringing him back as his life raft. So much for PM Sunak’s claim to offer change from 13 years of Tory failure. We don't just need a reshuffle — we need to get rid of this awful government.
Rochdale schools over £1million worse off next year under Tories
The Conservatives’ staggering mathematical incompetence will see schools in Rochdale’s borough lose £1,878,129 next year. The relationship between families and schools towards the government is at rock bottom – education simply isn’t a priority for the Conservatives. Labour in government will put education at the heart of national life again and rebuild the trust between schools, families and government so that we can drive high and rising standards in our classrooms, supporting children to achieve and thrive.
Scrap the ‘Heart Restart Tax’
I have called on the Government to remove the VAT levied on defibrillators, with VAT adding up to £500 for businesses or community centres.
The use of defibrillators within three to five minutes of a cardiac arrest increases the chance of survival by over 40%. Despite this, public access defibrillators are used in less than 1 in 10 instances.
Local organisations and charities are facing an extra cost when they look to purchase a defibrillator, with a 20% VAT charge on top of the units they buy. Simply put, this is a tax on saving lives.
Defibrillators bought for use by community groups, charities and sports clubs should be VAT exempt to make them more affordable and help to save more lives across the country.
NHS dentistry ‘crisis’
1,250 people were forced to attend A&E at local hospitals last year due to dental decay, as patients find it impossible to get an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need one.
I am regularly contacted by people in Rochdale who tell me how difficult it is to access an NHS dentist. Patients are being forced into A&E with tooth decay as they have nowhere else to turn. Labour will rescue NHS dentistry from this crisis, so people can get an appointment when they need one, providing 700,000 more appointments a year to those in the most urgent need and recruit more dentists to areas with the worst shortages.
Littleborough's Ticket Office Saved
Plans to close train station ticket offices across the UK, including Littleborough, have been scrapped. This is welcome news. Common sense said these proposals put accessibility and jobs at risk. But what a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. Just another example of how this broken government’s time is up.
Black History Month
It was great to join so many people at the Champness Hall in celebrating Black History Month. Well done to the Caring and Sharing charity organisation for a successful event.
Islamophobia Awareness Month
Islamophobia is one of the most widespread forms of hate speech and hate crime. We've got to make sure we stand together against Islamophobia and all hate crime.
Rochdale Labour's Climate Change Day event
Thank you to everyone who came to the recent Rochdale Labour's Climate Change Day event. It was a good event with different topics discussed on what we can do personally, and as a community, to battle against climate change.
Democratic governance and indigenous peoples in Guatemala
I tabled a Parliamentary motion about threats facing democratic governance and Indigenous leaders in Guatemala.
The unexpected but emphatic electoral win of the anti-corruption candidate, Bernardo Arevalo, and his party Movimiento Semilla is being challenged by politically motivated prosecutions and largely peaceful pro-democracy protests are being attacked.
The motion calls on the Guatemalan Government to comply with the resolution of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of 24 August and provide enhanced protection for Bernardo Arevalo and his Vice-President, and asks that it provide greater protection to Indigenous leaders, who face continual police and judicial harassment, stigmatisation, and physical threats.
The UK government must impose sanctions on Guatemalans accused of undermining democracy and press freedom, as the US has done, and to advocate for the inclusion of Indigenous peoples from throughout the world, who are in the frontline of the battle against climate change, at relevant fora, including the upcoming COP 28 in the UAE.
I was pleased to welcome Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to Parliament, who provided an update to Parliamentarians on the situation and the work of the Belarusian democratic movement.
Many will know that the Kremlin-backed Lukashenka regime has played an active part in Russia’s war against Ukraine, but the situation in Belarus continues with mass repressions and nearly 1,500 political prisoners.
I recently protested outside the Belarus Embassy in support of Maryna Zolatava, one of the many journalists given lengthy prison sentences for simply doing their job.
Core School Budget Allocations
A child growing up in an area of deprivation is, on average, likely to do less well through our school system. I raised the point that money does make a difference when it comes to funding, but the government must also get a grip on the problem of deprivation.
Deep Sea Mining
Joining Parliamentarians across the world, I have written to the Norwegian Parliament asking Norway to act to prevent Deep Sea Mining from happening in Norwegian waters.
The full impact of deep sea mining is highly damaging and goes well beyond the areas being mined. The wastewater, sediment and residual metals discharged from ships during mining can flow hundreds of kilometres away from the mining sites which could impact ocean ecosystems. The metals they contain can prove toxic to some forms of marine life and can, potentially, get into the marine food chain.
The noise from mining activities can also seriously impact species such as whales that use noise to communicate.
Tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton
I tabled a Parliamentary motion celebrating the life and career of Bobby Charlton, who recently passed away. He will be remembered for his amazing football skills and great goals but also as a kind and decent gentleman.
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