Holocaust Memorial Day 2017

Text of a speech I made at the Imperial War Museum to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2017:

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important day in our calendar, and my view, it is growing in importance.  It is a moment to stop and remember the very worst that human beings are capable of; to live for a moment once again with the devastation of that fact; to be humbled by the actions of those who were courageous enough to take a stand; and to make a new commitment that we will not allow it to happen again.

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Rail Fail

Hundreds of local residents have contacted me to express their concerns about both the current performance of local train services run by Southeastern, Southern and Thameslink (the latter two collectively run by Govia Thameslink Railway), as well as proposals from Govia Thameslink Railway which would see key services via West Dulwich and Sydenham Hill withdrawn altogether in 2018.

Please help me in campaigning on this issue by sharing your experience of using local train services here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/DaWNRailFail 

I have written to Charles Horton, the Chief Executive of GTR, on behalf of local residents on a number of occasions to raise the impact that the unacceptable level of service is having on local residents. I have also written repeatedly to Paul Maynard MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport and his predecessor, to call for the Government to set out what steps they are taking to hold GTR, and the associated franchises, to account.

I am a founding member of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Southern Rail and have signed an Early Day Motion which urges the Government to strip GTR of its franchises as soon as possible. In my view suburban rail services should be transferred to Transport for London (TfL) to run, and I recently called for this during a debate in Southern Rail in the House of Commons, setting out the impact that the current failures are having on my constituents.  You can watch my contribution here: http://tinyurl.com/HHSouthernRail1216 TfL has a proven track record and much higher levels of customer satisfaction. I am dismayed that the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has indicated that he does not wish the transfer to TfL to happen, particularly as a leaked letter indicates that this is for narrow partisan reasons. I have written to Theresa May to insist that this issue must be considered again by the government given that Mr Grayling has clearly prejudged the issue. 

The current situation is completely untenable. Please be assured that I will continue to campaign on a cross-party basis alongside other MPs from London and the South-East for change to be introduced to our rail services as a matter of urgency.

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The Autumn Statement - A Catalogue of Missed Opportunities

Yesterday’s Autumn Statement was characterised as much by the things that were absent from it as by its content, and it is clear that the government’s economic strategy is in tatters. 

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An Excellent Education for Every Child – Not Just the Few

I want every child in Dulwich and West Norwood to attend a good or outstanding school.  I believe fundamentally in the power of education to enable people to reach their full potential and to help address disadvantage.

I am hugely proud of Labour’s achievement in transforming the quality of education in London since the election of the 1997 Labour government, and of the many fantastic local schools in my constituency.  These schools take a diverse intake of pupils and produce great results, regardless of a child’s background. This is a huge contrast with Kent, for example, which has grammar schools and where performance is very mixed, and where in some schools just 6% of children achieve five GCSEs grade A-C.

I am dismayed at Theresa May’s announcement that the Tories want to expand the prevalence of grammar schools in the UK.  Personal experience, across three generations of my family, supports what all of the evidence on grammar schools says – that while they can deliver a good education for a small proportion of children, this comes at the cost of consigning many more children to ‘failure’ at the age of 11, and that they are neither necessary nor effective at delivering the objective of an excellent education for all.

My dad and his brother were bright working class boys in Liverpool, the sons of a bus driver and a part time doctor’s receptionist, who lived in a privately rented terraced house with no bathroom and an outdoor toilet.  Both of them passed the eleven plus, went to the local grammar school and became the first people in their family to go to university.  Both of them became public servants who rose to the top of their professions, my dad in local government and his brother in the NHS. But my dad and his brother didn’t need a grammar school to realise their potential, they just needed a great education of exactly the kind provided by so many of the schools in my constituency. 

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The Refugee Camp in Calais

Over the past year, more than two thousand constituents have written to me about the refugee crisis – as an issue of concern it is surpassed only by the response to the EU referendum result.  A few months ago, a local resident called Eileen came to my surgery on a Friday morning.  She told me that she had been volunteering at the refugee camp in Calais, and that she wanted me to visit Calais with her, because she thought it was important for her MP to see the situation there. 

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Brixton Arches Planning Application - Statement from Helen Hayes MP to Planning Committee

The Brixton railway arches are home to approximately 50 businesses in my constituency, and support approximately 150 full and part time jobs.  The majority of the businesses have been in the arches for a very long time, and the owners and staff are drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds.  The arches are integral to the identity of Brixton town centre, the businesses serve our area extremely well, and they are a key part of the community in Brixton.

Network Rail has, for a long period of time, not been a responsible landlord.  The businesses report having had a very poor response when they have contacted Network Rail about leaks, blocked drains, infestations and other problems, and many have had to pay themselves for works for which Network Rail should have taken responsibility.  I would like to place on record how regrettable it is that this historic neglect has now led to a situation where significant major works are necessary.

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Chilcot Report

Last week saw the long-awaited publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.  The report was rightly commissioned by Gordon Brown under the last Labour government in 2009 to investigate the events leading up to the war in Iraq, the military action itself and the aftermath of the war. It is very rare that such a detailed retrospective review is undertaken of a key decision made by Parliament and Sir John Chilcot must be commended for the rigour of the inquiry that he led.

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Southern Railway Emergency Timetable

Southern Railway have this week announced that they will be implementing an emergency timetable from Monday 11th July, which will result in the cancellation of 341 services across their network. I have today written to the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, about the entirely unacceptable impacts that the emergency timetable will have on my constituents. Please see the full text of my letter below. 

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EU Referendum Result - Latest Update

I have received well over a thousand emails from local residents who have signed the petition for a second EU referendum, or who are requesting that Parliament votes to reject the referendum result.

I am therefore writing again to clarify that I would not vote to trigger Article 50 unless a second referendum had been held.

I have always been passionately pro-European, and I campaigned very hard for the Remain campaign both in my constituency and elsewhere in the months leading up to the referendum.  Whilst I don’t believe that the EU is perfect, I am absolutely certain that we are better off remaining within it and working from within to make it fit for purpose for the 21st century.  I am proud that this support is shared by so many local residents in Dulwich and West Norwood and that Lambeth and Southwark voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining in the EU on 23rd June. I share the devastation that many residents feel about the referendum result.

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Local Train Services - meeting with the Rail Minister and Chief Executive of Govia Thameslink Railway

Every week I am contacted by residents frustrated at the terrible rail services in my constituency. I regularly travel to Parliament by train and so I know exactly what the thousands of local commuters from our area have to put up with. 

The performance of Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), the franchise which also now includes Southern, is simply not good enough.  Too many passengers are made late for work, left stranded, forced to travel in unbearably crowded conditions or find themselves unable to board trains during peak times because they are full.

Today I met the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, and the Chief Executive of GTR, Charles Horton, to discuss the unacceptable levels of service that my constituents are experiencing.  I was absolutely clear with them that the current situation is unbearable and is causing untold misery for my constituents on a daily basis – whether it is parents struggling to get home in order to put their children to bed, or people consistently being made late for work through no fault of their own.

I strongly believe that Transport for London should have responsibility for running suburban rail services in south London, and I am pleased that consultation took place on this recently.  TfL has much higher levels of reliability and customer satisfaction than any other rail operator in London, and I hope that the government will listen to the strong support for this proposal expressed during the consultation and press ahead with this transfer.  But the current situation is intolerable and we need improvements immediately. 

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