Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

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The stories that have been emerging in recent months about our Government’s treatment of people from the Windrush generation are horrifying. They arrived here to help rebuild communities like West Ham after the devastation of World War II, and they have contributed in so many ways throughout their lives.  Our Government is repaying many of them with hostility, threatening them with imprisonment and deportation simply for failing to possess documents that were never freely offered and never previously required.

The ‘hostile environment’ strategy that Theresa May set up as Home Secretary, has been a disaster for so many citizens and vulnerable individuals.  It treats people like criminals. The Windrush generation has been caught up whilst just going about their daily business, applying for jobs, housing, going to the doctor, seeking help from the police, using their banks, applying for benefits, or simply accessing their hard earned pensions.  Suddenly, out of the blue, they receive threatening letters, telling them they are no longer accepted in our country. Imagine it - after fifty years, living in Britain, bringing up their families, being part of all it is to be British to be told to leave. The word betrayal does not seem strong enough to describe these actions by our Government.

This has massively impacted on our communities. Our friends and neighbours are fearful of reporting crime, going to the doctor – anything that brings them to the notice of officialdom.  What an awful way to live after years of service to a country that no longer wants to recognise your contribution. It just wants you gone. It labels you as a criminal, as someone who has been getting something for which they not entitled. Imagine the shame, the humiliation, the fear and the righteous anger that this has caused.

The indignities that many of the Windrush generation have faced have been told in our media and the Government’s response has been truly disgraceful. They tell our friends and neighbours to ‘Go Home’, they patronise them with tips about how to sound and act Jamaican, criminalise, imprison, and deport, only to concede that Britain was actually their rightful home all along.

Even now, the Prime Minister repeats the Home Office mantra that ‘no-one should fear deportation who has a right to be here’. She is so wilfully out of touch with the effects of her strategy that she thinks this is reassuring! But to the many people who have justifiably lost all faith in the Home Office, these words will sound hollow at best and at worst like just another threat.

This has to stop. The Labour Party is demanding that the Government offer a fast, free and effective service to all those affected, providing the necessary documents to ensure they can continue to live here free of threats of deprivation, detention and deportation. The Government must act fast to change their own procedures, accepting that not everyone has extensive documentary proof of the years that they have lived and worked in our communities.

The Government also needs to apologise to each and every Windrush citizen who has been abused by their policies. I think we need to see compensation paid to refund the legal costs of those who have been forced to defend themselves, and to those who have lost jobs, housing, benefits, or access to healthcare when they needed it. Anything less will be an even further betrayal.

Statement on the Windrush generation crisis

The stories that have been emerging in recent months about our Government’s treatment of people from the Windrush generation are horrifying. They arrived here to help rebuild communities like West...

I am thoroughly delighted to return to the Front Bench in Parliament, doing a job tailor-made for me:  Shadow Minister for Social Inclusion and Social Mobility.

I’m based in the Treasury, under John McDonnell, absolutely the best place to be, and which, especially when in Government, holds much power and influence.

Every new job is daunting, but I’ve spent some months talking to experts and academics about the approach the next Labour Government should take.

I don’t just want to talk to Professionals.  I’ve begun travelling across the country, meeting people to discuss what their town or city needs, to improve the life-chances of everyone.

My first visit was to Leigh, near Manchester.  The local MP invited me to listen to community leaders, small businesses, healthcare officials and council officers, as they described the challenges in their local community and what they needed to make life fairer.

I’ve always known that local people know best.  They know what goes on where they live and how to put things right.  Whitehall and Westminster don’t automatically understand.

Governments should learn to ask the right questions and listen carefully to the answers.

I’ve been given much food for thought on how the Labour Party can transform Governments, to ensure communities have the power and resources they need to create opportunities for all.

Unfortunately, this Government chooses not to listen.  Their priority is a destructive austerity regime, leaving us with a low-growth, low-productivity economy.

Real wages are lower than in 2010.  They’re unlikely to improve much over the next five years, lengthening the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s no surprise that almost 1,500,000 more children are expected to be pushed into poverty by 2022, due to this Government’s policies.

This Government’s idea of social mobility is to create what I call a “grammar school” society.  A few can get on, but most can’t; the few allowed to succeed are held up as false beacons of equal opportunity.

We must change that and create a just society, in which our talent and hard work allows everybody to fulfil their potential.  I’m eager to make that happen.

Newham Recorder Column: Social Mobility

I am thoroughly delighted to return to the Front Bench in Parliament, doing a job tailor-made for me:  Shadow Minister for Social Inclusion and Social Mobility.

Last week the environment secretary, Michael Gove, finally admitted he wants to ban shock collars for dogs and cats.  About time.

Six separate research studies all confirmed the severe impact of shock collars on dogs.

One Government study in 2011 showed that even if the manufacturers’ instructions are followed to the letter, dogs are traumatised by having to wear them.

These barbaric devices give pets electric shocks through metal prongs which contact the neck, causing pain, creating fear.  Put simply, a dog can’t understand why it is being shocked.  It causes real distress.  It’s cruel and wrong.  Leading welfare, veterinary training and behaviour organisations all call for a complete ban.

Fully 74% of the British public want shock collars banned.  Around a third believe they are illegal already.  Wales banned them in 2010 and, in January, the Scottish Government announced it will ban them, too.  Surely, a UK-wide total ban is a no brainer.

Gove, the Secretary of State responsible, wants them banned, but they still might not be.  Media rumours abound that the law may be blocked, simply because one Tory minister is reported to use electric collars on his cats, to prevent them leaving his garden.  Seriously?  A cabinet member can block legislation, because he wants the right to mistreat his pets?  I can’t believe even this Government is in such a mess that this rumour can be true.  If true, it is a shameful disgrace.

Tory Governments are not good for animal welfare.

The number of pets surrendered to rescue shelters by people who cannot afford to keep them has increased alarmingly, while animal welfare charities lose funding.  Puppy farms and ‘backyard breeders’ seeking quick cash continued to produce ever more dogs, but there are scant resources available to charities or the Police to enforce proper standards.

Labour will bring animal welfare up-to-date and ban shock collars.  We will increase maximum sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty, improve accessibility to vets for those on low incomes and ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

It’s time the Government grew a backbone and took some action.

Newham Recorder Column: Banning Dog Collars

Last week the environment secretary, Michael Gove, finally admitted he wants to ban shock collars for dogs and cats.  About time.


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