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  • Nov 26, 2015:
    • Syria | Women and Equalities | Commons debates

      I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and for early sight of it. There are understandable knee-jerk reactions on both sides to the horror of Paris and of Beirut. There will be those who say, "Intervene"; those who say, "Intervene at all costs"; and also those who say, "Do not intervene no matter what the evidence points to." The Prime Minister knows that the Liberal Democrats have set out five criteria against which we can judge this statement. On that basis, may I press him on two particular points? The Prime Minister recognises that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL. He has already heard that he will need to give much more evidence to this House to convince it that the ground operations that are there are sufficient and have the capability and the credibility to deliver on the ground, which is what he knows needs to be delivered. What role will Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the other Gulf states play in delivering this victory, if that is the direction in which we choose to go as a country and as a House? There is also a reference to humanitarian aid in this statement. He will know that no amount of aid can help an innocent family dodge a bomb. There is no reference in this statement to establishing no-bomb zones or safe havens to protect innocent civilians if this action takes place. Will he answer that question?

    • Schools: Emergency Services | Department for Education | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Education, on how many occasions emergency services have attended schools because of snow or ice related incidents in each of the last three years.

    • Schools: Closures | Department for Education | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many school days have been lost to snow closures in each of the last three years.

  • Nov 18, 2015:
  • Nov 17, 2015:
    • G20 and Paris Attacks | Oral Answers to Questions - Health | Commons debates

      I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. I join him and colleagues on both sides of the House here today in expressing solidarity, compassion and sympathy to the people of Paris and Beirut, especially the injured and families of those who have lost their lives, and in condemning the terrorists who seek to attack us. They detest our diversity, our freedom and our generosity of spirit, and we let them win if we compromise on any of those things. It is critical that any UK military involvement in Syria should focus on civilian protection and political transition, alongside crushing ISIL; otherwise we will repeat the mistakes of the illegal and counterproductive Iraq war. So does the

      Prime Minister agree that long-term stability in Syria must be part of the strategy against ISIL, and will he confirm that any plan brought to Parliament by the Government to use our armed forces there will specifically address that?

  • Nov 16, 2015:
  • Nov 5, 2015:
  • Nov 3, 2015:
    • Gender Recognition | Ministry of Justice | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, if he will reduce the (a) bureaucratic burden and (b) cost of the fee structure for the gender recognition certificate.

    • Gender Recognition | Ministry of Justice | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans he has to review the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the application criteria for the gender recognition certificate.

    • Humanitarian Aid: Refugees in Greece and the Balkans | Oral Answers to Questions - Justice | Commons debates

      I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) who has quite rightly asked this question today. Like her, I recently visited Lesbos, where I found very similar things to those that she observed. Some 94% of those presenting on the isle of Lesbos are independently attested to be refugees fleeing war and persecution. It is not that there is anything wicked about being an economic migrant, but those people were clearly running away from war, fear of death and instability for them and their children. It is shameful that we as a country are not taking a single one of the people in those camps at the moment.

      Last week, I asked the Prime Minister about this, but he dismissed my call for the UK Government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe. He inaccurately claimed that there were worries that some of the children would be taken from relatives. The UNHCR has since confirmed that these would be children with no identifiable family, so I repeat: will the Government now work with Save the Children to take in 3,000 unaccompanied children who may otherwise face abuse, trafficking and exploitation?

  • Nov 2, 2015:
    • Housing and Planning Bill | Commons debates

      It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke). I politely differ from his colleague, the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson). As a Member of Parliament for a constituency in the north of England, where the average house price is 12 times the average income, I would say that this is clearly a national problem. Of course it varies in different areas, but we have a national emergency, even, in housing. Millions of people suffer daily from poor housing, or from the uncertainty of not knowing where they will be living from one month to the next and whether they can send their children to the same school one term after the next. Across the country, we have soaring house prices several times higher than a median earner can afford, and a rental sector in which many people spend over half their income on rent.

      There is a need for Government, first, to show that they understand this emergency, and then to show the ambition to make real change that improves people's lives. However, this Bill is disappointing and unambitious at best, and brutal and counter-productive at worst. It does not make a significant attempt to tackle the housing crisis or show any signs of being written by anyone who even understands that crisis. Instead, it is an all-out assault on social and affordable housing at the very time when those homes are most needed. It seems to be driven by a narrow, dogmatic belief that home ownership is the only thing that matters in housing, and it demonstrates a total absence of any grasp of the real issues facing families in housing need in in Britain. It will have long-term consequences in breaking up communities through selling off homes, and those consequences will be damaging and irreversible.

      The Bill barely even addresses those crucial issues and certainly does not tackle them. It forces councils to sell off higher-value homes and makes no commitment to replace homes sold off under the extension of right to buy to housing association tenants. It allows developers off the hook from providing affordable homes and instead prioritises so-called starter homes that were not affordable in the first place and certainly will not be after their first owner. While it has positive aspects on rogue landlords and speeding up planning processes, it is mostly an eclectic jumble of initiatives that miss the point of the housing emergency before us.

      Access to housing is fundamental to our liberties, our opportunities, and our hopes for the future; that applies to every person here. We therefore need a positive vision for housing that meets existing needs and gives security to the most vulnerable. We need more homes of all tenures-affordable homes that must live up to their name and be genuinely affordable. We need an ambitious plan that increases home-building to 300,000 properties a year, that is forward-thinking, and that sets us up for the low-carbon future that is essential for the sustainability of our planet.

      The Liberal Democrat vision is based on understanding this emergency and having ambitions to solve it. It is a vision of 10 new garden cities strategically placed where new communities can grow and thrive; of empowering councils to manage their housing stock effectively, enabling them to borrow what they can and build what they need; of stimulating private sector investment in housing through the creation of a housing investment bank; of supporting and sustaining rural communities to ensure that young families can afford to continue living in the place they call home; of strengthening local communities by bringing empty homes back into use; and of tackling the excessive second home ownership that damages communities in rural areas such as the west country and Cumbria.

      Instead of that, this Bill will cause the break-up of communities as homes sold off under right to buy and the forced sale of council homes are lost to local people. Its provisions will significantly reduce the number of social and affordable homes, leading in turn to a rise in homelessness and adding to the already huge waiting lists totalling 1.6 million people. With more people in expensive temporary accommodation or in the private rented sector because there are not enough affordable homes, there will be extra costs for the housing benefit bill.

      The flaws in this Bill are clear and the unintended consequences are extensive. Britain needs a radical, ambitious, compassionate housing policy that addresses the needs of supply and affordability and strengthens, not dismantles, communities. This Bill is worse than a wasted opportunity. It will inexcusably make the housing emergency worse. That is why we will oppose the Bill tonight and speak up for the millions for whom the housing emergency is not a political issue, but a daily reality.

  • Oct 30, 2015:
    • Undocumented Migrants: France | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to her joint declaration with the French Minister of the Interior of 20 September 2014, how much funding her Department has contributed to the Joint Intervention Fund announced in that declaration.

  • Oct 29, 2015:
    • Data Protection: Internet | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps her Department is taking to protect the security and privacy of citizens' online activity.

    • Undocumented Migrants: Calais | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the joint ministerial declaration on UK/French co-operation in tackling ongoing illegal migration in northern France and across Europe, issued on 20 August 2015, what support the Government has provided to the government of France for dedicated facilities for people claiming asylum, in order to draw them away from the frontier in Calais, as announced in that declaration.

    • Undocumented Migrants: Calais | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the system for removing (a) vulnerable people and (b) victims of trafficking to places of safety from the migrant camps in Calais; and how much funding her Department has provided to improve that system.

    • Undocumented Migrants: Calais | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how much funding has been allocated to supporting people in migrant camps in Calais since August 2015

    • Undocumented Migrants: Calais | Home Office | Written Answers

      To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of accommodation and support available to vulnerable migrants in Calais; and what steps she is taking to ensure such migrants are appropriately cared for.

  • Oct 28, 2015: