Returning to Parliament: Stephen’s View from Westminster column

The return to Parliament this week has seen some incredibly important business in the House and international events dominating.

On Monday we had the Prime Minister’s statement on both the refugee crisis that has moved so many of us over the summer, and on the direct action taken by the RAF in killing a Cardiff-born extremist who the PM said was involved in a serious and immediate terrorist threat to the UK as part of Da’esh/ISIS.

I called on David Cameron to meet with me and fellow MP Kevin Brennan for Cardiff West to discuss the latter and to discuss what further action we can take locally to tackle extremism and the radicalisation of young people who join this barbarous organisation.

There are clearly many questions that need to be answered over coming days – but it is important that we approach such serious matters very carefully.

I am proud Labour forced a full three-hour debate on the refugee crisis for Tuesday, when we were able to press the government on the belated and in my view wholly inadequate response to the situation we have seen develop.

On Friday is the Assisted Dying Bill – a matter which provokes strong opinions and passions across the House – and next week the Trade Union Bill – which I have described as a sinister attack on democracy and the right to protest, and was slammed by organisations like Amnesty just this week.

Turning back to the Syrian refugee crisis, I have been inundated with emails, letters and social media contact, calling for immediate and substantial action from the UK. I share constituents’ horror and dismay at the tragedies unfolding before us.

I worked on humanitarian issues with World Vision, Oxfam and at the UK Department for International Development before I was elected, including on specific work to support asylum seekers and refugees in Wales, so this is an issue close to my heart.

I’ve been raising my concerns about the current crisis for months – not least because I regularly assist constituents here in Cardiff South and Penarth fleeing conflict and poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia to name just a few. Their stories are often shocking and heart-breaking.

For me it’s an absolute moral imperative that we take action, and do our fair share to help. We have as a country done far too little for far too long.

While I’m pleased the government has been generous in its provision of humanitarian aid to the region, our failure to engage more proactively with European partners to find co-ordinated solutions has been shockingly complacent.

The Prime Minister is now changing direction somewhat, thanks to public pressure, but he is still acting with far too little ambition – far too late.

The reasons for the current situation are many and varied – there is no single easy solution to the many crises that are driving people to take such risks with often tragic consequences.

But the challenges of conflict and poverty demand our action in dealing with the root causes, and our humanity in responding to the consequences.

I know many constituents in Penarth and across Cardiff have already donated clothing, supplies and money for the refugees – others are asking how they can help. I recommend the following link:

http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/blog/1981_heres_how_you_can_help_refugees

You could also consider supporting local charities in Cardiff like:

Welsh Refugee Council:http://welshrefugeecouncil.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

Displaced People in Action:https://dpia.org.uk/

Oasis Cardiff:http://oasiscardiff.org/support-us/

Asylum Justice:http://asylumjustice.org.uk/fundraising/

 

 

* Stephen writes a weekly column in the Penarth Times newspaper. This column appeared in the edition of September 10, 2015.

 

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