Thangam In Parliament

By March 2019 it will be almost half a century since the UK joined the European Economic Community. Leaving the EU will affect this country in fundamental ways, many of them unpredictable.

I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling whether we would remain members of the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) – and if not, how we will function outside it.

Question on membership of the European Aviation Safety Authority

By March 2019 it will be almost half a century since the UK joined the European Economic Community. Leaving the EU will affect this country in fundamental ways, many of...

Yesterday the Prime Minister came to the House of Commons to answer questions on the ongoing conflict in Syria, and her decision to commit British Forces to military action over the weekend.

There are 5,636,302 known refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This is in addition to the people internally displaced within the country, and those who continue to be under siege. All these people are victims, caught in Syria's tragic and ongoing proxy war.

I asked her to put the Syrian people first in any response. At a time when Syria is once again at the forefront of international attention, we should reconsider how we help vulnerable refugees, and the support we offer overstretched countries like Lebanon, where Syrian refugees now make up a quarter of the population. It is time to re-evaluate what we can do as a country to take our share of those who have had to abandon their home to flee war and persecution.

Next week, the Prime Minister will be attending a conference in Brussels on the future of Syria and the region. I asked her to use that opportunity to bring nations together, looking at every possible option to help those driven from their home in this ongoing and complex conflict. Whatever action we may or may not take in Syria, the UK has a moral responsibility to help provide sanctuary to those who have been forced to flee. This would be true leadership.

See her response below:

Question to the Prime Minister: Will the UK help millions of Syrians fleeing war?

Yesterday the Prime Minister came to the House of Commons to answer questions on the ongoing conflict in Syria, and her decision to commit British Forces to military action over...

Yesterday I used Home Office questions to ask Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes about the Government policy on welcoming refugees. I will also meet with her next week to discuss refugee integration and family reunion, in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees. I’ll report back on this.

Imagine making a long and dangerous journey across Europe to escape the horrors of war – only to find that your mother, sister or son were still in harm’s way. This is the reality for many of the refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, who find it hard to integrate in the UK or get on with their lives when they are separated from their families.

Last month I helped ensure the Refugee (Family Reunion) Bill pass its second reading. If made into law, this would make it easier for refugees to be reunited with their families. But there is still more to do to turn it into law. In response to my question, the Minister committed to looking again at the Bill. This is real progress - the government opposed it at second reading.

Changing the law around family reunion is only one part of improving life for refugees, but the cross-party support it has received sends a positive signal. I will be discussing this further with Caroline Nokes. Watch this space!

The Immigration Minister agrees to look again at the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill

Yesterday I used Home Office questions to ask Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes about the Government policy on welcoming refugees. I will also meet with her next week to discuss refugee...

Since Caribbean people started moving to the UK in the late 1940s, they have made a huge contribution to the UK’s economic and cultural life. Their presence has particularly enriched Bristol.

So I find it particularly disgraceful that some African-Caribbean elders in my constituency are being treated like second-class citizens, accused of being in the UK illegally after living here for many decades. As a result, some are being threatened with deportation. Others may unfairly lose their jobs, or be denied access to medical treatment, housing and benefits.

Many of these people – the so-called ‘Windrush Generation’ – would have travelled on their parents’ passports and may have lost birth certificates and other documents confirming when they arrived in the UK.

People that arrived in the UK before 1973 have an automatic right to remain, so in these cases people are fully entitled to remain in the UK. They have been living here and working for many years, as valuable members of the community. In many cases, the state willingly accepted their contributions over a lifetime of paying taxes and national insurance, but they suddenly hit problems when they reach retirement age and claim a state pension.

The problem is a result of the Government’s hostile environment policy, which requires employers, landlords and others to carry out documentary checks to confirm whether an individual has the right to be in the UK.

Together with my caseworkers, I have been working to try to resolve some of these problems. And the requirements are sometimes very onerous. The Home Office asks them to provide documentary evidence: at least one piece of documentary evidence for every year spent in the UK, sometimes as much as four pieces. This can be almost impossible. Schools and doctors’ surgeries will have closed over the years and documents will have been destroyed. Legal advice is expensive so they may not be able to access the help they need.

I asked Home Secretary Amber Rudd: Why should the onus be on these honoured citizens to prove their right to reside in the UK? I believe the burden of proof should instead rest with the Home Office. See her answer below.

Why should the 'Windrush Generation' have to prove their right to live in the UK?

Since Caribbean people started moving to the UK in the late 1940s, they have made a huge contribution to the UK’s economic and cultural life. Their presence has particularly enriched...

Yesterday I spoke in the debate in the House of Commons Chamber to mark World Autism Awareness Week. Like all other MPs who spoke, I value the diversity of viewpoints and ways of approaching the world which people with autism bring to public life.

However, due to lack of public understanding, public space is often designed in a way which creates difficulties for autistic people and problems getting into work. Figures from a new survey from the National Autistic Society show ...that autistic people are four times as likely as the rest of the population to experience loneliness.

MPs from across the House discussed different ways of increasing autistic people's access to education, employment and public life.

I focussed on preventing and dealing with loneliness. I also highlighted what my team and I have been doing in Bristol to make our city more autism-friendly and hopefully reduce or prevent loneliness.

in her closing speech, the Government minister assured me she will work closely with the Minister with responsibility for loneliness to ensure the voices and needs of people with autism are included.

World Autism Awareness Week - how can we address loneliness and increase employment?

Yesterday I spoke in the debate in the House of Commons Chamber to mark World Autism Awareness Week. Like all other MPs who spoke, I value the diversity of viewpoints...

On Thursday 29 March 2018 I asked the Minister for International Trade if he would meet with representatives of the creative industries and hear their concerns about Brexit directly.

The clock is ticking.

Since Theresa May decided to invoke Article 50, we now have only one year left before we formally leave the European Union.

I've asked a series of questions to lots of different government departments about how we are going to protect one of our biggest growth sectors - the creative industries - from the effects of any change in our relationship with the European Union.

Today it was the Department for International Trade's turn.

The minister's response focused on (welcome) investment through the Creative Industries Sector Deal (announced yesterday - more details here) and funds to support small and medium-sized businesses in the music industry.

But this is about more than just money.

It's about musicians, theatre groups and artists being able to travel easily and freely across Europe. It's about TV and film production companies being able to shoot across different international locations when they're on tight budgets and tight deadlines.

Money to support our creative sector is always welcome - but so too is security and peace of mind. And that's what isn't yet forthcoming from the government.

 

Thangam Debbonaire

Question 2 - If he will hold discussions with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and representatives of the creative industries on trade in that sector with EU countries after the UK leaves the EU.

 

Greg Hands (Minister for Trade Policy)

Yesterday the Government announced the creative industries sector deal. With a strategy and new money committed to boost our creative industries, trade and investment is a key part of that deal. Exports are booming in the sector, with £9.6 billion in services and £2.7 billion in goods in 2015, making this country a global leader.

 

Thangam Debbonaire

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but the clock is ticking. Representatives of the live performance part of the creative industries tell me of their worries, based on current experience of touring theatre, dance and music outside the EU. Will he, like the DCMS Minister, the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), agree to meet representatives of the creative industries to discuss those significant challenges so that this massive growth sector of our economy can continue post-Brexit?

 

Greg Hands

My colleagues and I are always happy to meet representatives of the sector. The sector’s export growth, and its activity both in the European Union and beyond, is actually growing. Only 34% of the sector’s total global exports are to the EU. A huge amount is already being done outside the EU and, when it comes to things like music, DIT has committed to make about £3 million of grant support available to help music small and medium-sized enterprises to be able to export up to 2020.

You can watch the exchange here:

International Trade Questions: The Brexit Clock is Ticking for Live Performers

On Thursday 29 March 2018 I asked the Minister for International Trade if he would meet with representatives of the creative industries and hear their concerns about Brexit directly. The...

The number of Syrians fleeing the civil war are shocking - more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria. Half of these people are children.

The UNHCR estimates that there are 65 million people around the world fleeing war, disasters and persecution. It is hard to underestimate the scale of this crisis. Imagine the whole population of the UK on the move, in need of food, water, humanitarian assistance and shelter. This burden falls disproportionately on the poorest countries, with 86% of refugees are hosted in developing nations.

Next month, national leaders will meet in London for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM. I asked the Foreign Secretary whether they will discuss refugees and the refugee crisis.

He said they would. And I will be keeping a close eye on proceedings, working with colleagues in refugee organisations to push for a better global response to this global crisis.

 

SPEAKER: Thangam Debbonaire.

THANGAM: Thank you Mr Speaker. Can I ask the Foreign Secretary if the matter of refugees and the global refugee crisis will be on the agenda at next month’s Commonwealth meeting?

FOREIGN SECRETARY: We will of course be discussing refugees and the refugee crisis.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Questions, Tuesday 27 March 2018

The number of Syrians fleeing the civil war are shocking - more than 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country as refugees, and 6.1 million are displaced within Syria. Half...

British musicians have had a huge global influence in almost every genre. I am concerned that our departure from the EU may make it more difficult for British musicians to tour on the continent, which would be disastrous for these performers. It would also harm our economy – music generates £2.5 billion of export revenue for the UK.

My constituency of Bristol West has an impressive history of musical innovation and world-famous acts. It is vital Brexit does not constrain the reach of musicians in the future.

I asked Margot James MP, Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to meet with the Musicians’ Union to discuss their concerns.

And I am delighted to say she agreed to meet them. I am proud to have been a member of the Musicians' Union in my days as a professional musician, and proud to have been supported by them in general elections. Musicians in my constituency – please get in touch with me and your Musicians' Union rep if you have any concerns or questions about touring the EU after the UK leaves.

Transcript below:

THANGAM: Mr speaker, I appreciate that the minister shares my view that music should be for everyone, but will she agree to meet with representatives of the Musicians Union – I declare an entry in the Register of Members’ Interests to that effect – will she agree to meet with the Musicians Union regularly over the course of the next 12 months, to ensure that their concerns about their members’ ability to tour, are dealt with?

MINISTER: I certainly meet representatives of the music industry, including Music UK. I’ve already held a round table with them, I’d be very happy to meet the Musician’s Union as part of my ongoing work to support the sector.

Debate on Leaving the EU: UK musicians, Thursday 22 March, 2018

British musicians have had a huge global influence in almost every genre. I am concerned that our departure from the EU may make it more difficult for British musicians to...

On Monday 19 March in Education Questions, I asked the government how many children with special educational needs and disabilities they expected would not have Education and Health Care Plans (EHCPs) in place by their deadline of 1 April.

EHCPs are legal documents that describe a child or young person's special educational, health and social care needs, and explains the extra help that schools, local authorities, and health and social care providers will give to a child. However, recent freedom of information requests from campaigners have indicated that across the country almost 21,000 children might not have EHCPs in place by 1 April.

There is no one-size fits all approach that can identify support needs for children with special educational needs and disabilities. But if local authorities are likely to miss the deadline for getting EHCPs in place, it is imperative that the government provides additional support and funding to ensure that the burdens of local government cuts don't continue to fall on children and young people who need proper support packages put in place.

If your child has an SEN statement and hasn't yet been given an EHCP, and you live in Bristol West I want to hear from you. Please get in touch with me in confidence via email - thangam.debbonaire.mp@parliament.uk.

 

Thangam Debbonaire

Can the Minister tell us how many children with special educational needs or a disability will not have an education and healthcare plan by the Government’s deadline of 1 April?

Nadhim Zahawi (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education)

Our aim is that every child will have a plan in time. Those who do not can be assured that their support will be maintained, but most local authorities are on target to deliver the health and care plans.

 

You can watch the exchange below:

Question to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Monday 19 March 2018

On Monday 19 March in Education Questions, I asked the government how many children with special educational needs and disabilities they expected would not have Education and Health Care Plans...

Homelessness has increased, schools are struggling and the NHS is in crisis – but you wouldn’t think it from looking at the Government’s current priorities. Yesterday I asked Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, who coordinates government business, to provide more time to debate these critical issues.

Transcript below:

THANGAM: My constituents are frankly baffled at the way the Government keep pulling business and not replacing it with time to solve the pressing issues of the day: homelessness, lack of funding for schools and challenges in the NHS. Will the Leader of the House work with the Government to provide either Government time or further Opposition day time for us to debate, and hopefully try to solve, some of these pressing issues?

LEADER OF THE HOUSE: As far as I am aware, the only business the Government have pulled was in response to a request from the Opposition on Monday evening. Due to the unprecedented number of urgent questions and very important statements, such as those on bullying and harassment, and a response to the Salisbury attack, the Opposition requested that the Government pull the business that night. That is the only business that has been pulled, so I am not entirely sure what the hon. Lady is talking about.

Question to the Leader of the House, Thursday 15 March 2018

Homelessness has increased, schools are struggling and the NHS is in crisis – but you wouldn’t think it from looking at the Government’s current priorities. Yesterday I asked Leader of...

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