Last night I contributed to one of several debates on the Queen’s Speech taking place over the course of this week. In my speech, I highlighted climate change, refugee policy, and putting justice at the heart of international trade agreements as issues which should be top priority for the government as we think about our place in the world over the coming months and years. I have written more broadly about my thoughts on Theresa May’s threadbare programme here, but you can read or watch my speech in last night’s debate below.
The people of Bristol West are, mostly, remainers and proud of it, and we want the closest possible relationship with the EU, but my constituents also want me to press the Government on global concerns—climate change, trade justice and the refugee crisis. Climate change is a clear and present danger, and global temperatures have risen to 1° warmer than pre-industrial revolution levels. Change across the world is accelerating and our commitment under the Paris 2015 agreement is to limit further rises to no more than 1°. We need carbon dioxide emissions to peak before 2020 and fall to zero by 2070 by weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, and we need to press our international ally across the Atlantic also to honour its commitment.
An unprecedented 63.5 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on refugees, I spend a lot of time on refugee policy, but only a fraction of refugees ever come to the UK. The global system is broken. Designed for cold war circumstances, it leaves refugees either trapped in their own country or stuck for years in camps in neighbouring countries, without work. Small wonder that some will, out of desperation, risk very dangerous journeys to other shores.
This is also economically and geopolitically dangerous. If refugees are not allowed to work and cannot provide for themselves, they also lose skills and experience, which will be necessary to rebuild their own countries post-conflict to help return them to stability.
In Uganda, refugees are allowed and supported to work or to start businesses. We have much to learn from other countries about responding to refugees, and we also have much to contribute.
The Secretary of State referred earlier to doing trade deals for the benefit of one country only. On behalf of the people of Bristol West, I urge him and his colleagues to think more widely and about least-developed countries in particular, and to integrate environmental protection, workers’ rights, human rights and the impact on developing countries into all trade deals.
In conclusion, we in Bristol West want the Government not to become so distracted by Brexit that they neglect vital action on climate change, we want reform of the international refugee system, and we want trade agreements to contribute to, not detract from, social justice, because this beautiful planet and everything and everyone on it, from humans to microbes, cannot wait.