After weeks of horrifying news, we finally had something to celebrate this week as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri have finally returned to the UK after years of unjust imprisonment. This long-awaited news brought a palpable lift to the mood in the Chamber, and highlights why we do what we do in the House of Commons on behalf of our constituents. In this week’s Business Questions, I paid particular tribute to my Honourable Friends the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn- Tulip Siddiq MP, and the Member for Lewisham East- Janet Daby MP, who have tirelessly campaigned for the safe return of their constituents. We welcome Nazanin and Anousheh home with great joy.
However, whilst this is indeed a reason to celebrate, the devastating consequences of Putin’s illegal attack on Ukraine remains at the forefront of our minds. The Labour Party stands with our allies, including NATO, and in complete solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Putin. Though the sanctions package announced so far contains good measures, questions remain around enforcement. The body responsible for dealing with this – The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation – has issued just six fines in six years. I called on the Chancellor to tell us what he is doing to ensure sufficient resources to properly enforce sanctions. This is urgent, not least because we are now seeing implications for our own national security.
Working people across the country are being hit with the worsening cost-of-living crisis. Labour market figures published earlier this week revealed the true scale of the crisis. Bills are rocketing while wages are stagnant. Yet the Conservatives are choosing to increase National Insurance at the worst possible time. This will hit 27 million workers hard. I called on the Chancellor to scrap this disastrous Tory tax rise at the Spring Statement next week. Labour are on the side of the working people. The Government are not.
Whilst ignoring the cost of living crisis here in the UK, the Prime Minister went to Saudi Arabia to seek an increase in oil production, despite the appalling human rights record of the regime. Despite the PM’s claim that he is engaging the Saudis on human rights, three more people were executed during this visit. Going cap in hand from dictator to dictator is not a long term plan.
The Government must bring their energy security statement forward urgently and look again at Labour’s proposal for a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas. This would cut household energy bills by up to £600. The government should not be forcing people to pay the price for over a decade of mistakes made in Downing Street.
Thursday 17th March was also St Patrick’s Day. You can watch the Parliamentary debate on this here.