Following historic Irish referendum, campaigners call for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland
· Historic referendum shows clear support for women’s access to safe, legal abortion care in Ireland.
· However, in Northern Ireland, abortion is effectively banned and every day 3 women from Northern Ireland will travel to England for abortion care or resort to illegal online abortion medication, risking up to life imprisonment.
· A UN body has declared that the UK government is violating the human rights of NI women due to current abortion law.
· A coalition of charities from Northern Ireland and Great Britain, lead by the MP Stella Creasy, are calling for reform to protect women and improve access to care.
Following an overwhelming vote in support of repealing the 8th Amendment of the constitution in Ireland, campaigners are calling for the UK government to now bring forward legislation to reform abortion law in Northern Ireland.
Currently, abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. In 2016, 724 women from Northern Ireland accessed abortion care in England and Wales. Women who are unable to travel are increasingly resorting to online abortion medication – risking up to life imprisonment. In the last 2 years a number of women have been through the courts for the use of abortion medication bought online, and a mother is currently awaiting trial in Belfast after purchasing pills for her young daughter.
In February of this year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) declared that the UK government was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by the restrictions placed on abortion. CEDAW recommended that abortion should be decriminalised by the removal of sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA). While ministers have argued that abortion is a devolved matter, the UK Government has responsibility for ensuring all parts of the UK meet their obligations with regards to international conventions and treaties, including those related to human rights. Given the absence of a government in Northern Ireland, campaigners believe Westminster has a legal duty to act.
Stella Creasy MP said:
“This weekend 2.5 million Irish women won the basic human right to make choices themselves about their own bodies - those who fought this victory did so because these rights are at the heart of equality. Yet as we celebrate, we cannot rest knowing a million women in Northern Ireland do not have the same choice and that the UN has accused the U.K. government of cruel and inhuman treatment of their own citizens as a result. We cannot let Northern Irish women be left behind -That’s why we will be asking MPs to back legislation to bring the UKs abortion laws into the 21st century and to make sure all our citizens are given equal access to their reproductive rights.”
Cara Sanquest form the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, said:
“All of us in the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign welcome today's result - the people of Ireland have come together and voted yes to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
“People have been fighting for this for 35 years and this is a historic day. The result today shows that the people of Ireland want to provide care and compassion at home. This was a grassroots campaign, with women's voices at the centre.
“Women in Northern Ireland, who do not have access to abortion in their own country, are at the forefront of our minds today.
“Eleven women from the island of Ireland boarded planes this morning to access abortion services abroad. We're looking forward to a swift passing of the legislation, and that the momentum from this result will carry on with our campaign to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.”
Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager for Amnesty International, said:
“The referendum result is a momentous win for women’s rights. This marks the beginning of a new Ireland - one that really does trust and value its women.
“The UK Government can no longer turn a blind eye and deny us equality, they must urgently legislate for reform which must include decriminalization of abortion.
"We cannot be left behind in a corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens.”
Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, said:
"It is time for change across the whole island of Ireland. The UK government must show the same care and compassion towards women that voters in Ireland have done so historically today.
Every day, around three women from Northern Ireland travel to England for abortion care or illegally seek pills online – risking up to life in prison. The UK government cannot continue to try and absolve itself of their responsibility to these women. While ministers can say that abortion is a devolved issue, human rights are not, and the collapse of the NI Assembly means that the power to right this wrong lies solely in Westminster.”
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Following the horrific use of chemical weapons by President Assad against civilians in Eastern Ghouta last weekend, there has been much speculation as to what action the world will take to challenge this latest breach of international human rights law. For seven years now, Syrians have been stuck between the brutality of the murderous death cult of ISIS and President Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs to repress those who oppose his dictatorship. This has led to seven million Syrians fleeing their homes as well as the deaths of half a million innocent people.
Along with many other MPs I have repeatedly challenged the Government to work with international agencies including the UN to protect civilians and hold Assad – and his Iranian and Russian backers- accountable for these actions. Separately to this, in 2015 following parliamentary scrutiny of the proposed action I also supported extending air strikes by UK forces into Syria against ISIS which targeted their wealth in oil and training camps – each of the strikes undertaken by UK forces have been documented here and are responsible for substantially diminishing the capabilities of ISIS.
During this same time period the international community has not been able to agree how to tackle the behaviour of President Assad and so he has continued to act without consequence. These latest chemical weapon attacks and the horror and barbarism they represent highlight the impact of this on the people of Syria.
I want to be clear the above analysis does not justify or provide support for the action taken by the Prime Minister. It highlights the importance of securing democratic consent for UK involvement in military action, irrespective of the actions of the American or French Governments and for seeking a long term political solution to this crisis to secure peace and safety for all the Syrian people.
Instead of recalling parliament on Friday 13th April ahead of any proposed action, the Prime Minister and Cabinet chose to involve UK military in air strikes in Syria unilaterally, using the prerogative of the executive to justify this decision. Consequently, as parliamentarians we have had no access to any details as to why those sites were targeted, how the Government believe this intervention in Syria will aid in securing long term peace and security for civilians or why the Prime Minister felt she did not need to secure democratic consent.
This is in direct contrast to previous interventions- including the decision to extend air strikes in 2015 when we were able to debate this matter as evidence was presented to parliament, briefings were offered to MPs about the intentions behind a course of action and a clear process set out for holding Ministers accountable if civilian casualties were to occur.
Whilst this action has now happened, many of you have raised with me differing questions and concerns. The Prime Minister has agreed to face parliament when it returns on Monday 16th April. As a backbench MP I will only be able to ask a single question in this session and so I have set up a short poll for Walthamstow residents to feedback on which of these questions they wish to see prioritised. Below I have also compiled a short round up of what we know so far as a background brief for Walthamstow residents.
Please note to participate in this ballot you must be a resident of Walthamstow. I will consult this poll ahead of any parliamentary debate on Monday and will keep this poll open until this debate begins.Read more Share
Walthamstow Town Centre Update: Clarification From Council on Increase in Affordable Provision and Timing of Viability Assessment Publication
In my last update of March 20th 2018, I shared with residents the Mayor's decision on this matter. I stated that I had requested further information from his office and the Council as the update from the Mayor stated that these plans had been amended but did not provide full details as to what this would entail. You can find this update here.
I have now received the following clarification from the Council regarding the statement that was made regarding the additional provision of affordable housing in this letter. I have also received an update about the timing of the publication of the viability assessment for this proposal. The Council have provided me with the following two statements for residents:
“Given the complexity of the viability appraisal and the fact that parts of this will need to be redacted for commercial reasons a summary statement is being prepared by the developer Capital &Regional. Following sign off by the Council this will be provided with the more detailed document and will assist interested parties in understanding the purpose and content of the viability appraisal itself. We expect to be able to publish the full assessment shortly after the Easter break”
“A financial contribution of £7.28 million has been agreed as an additional section 106 obligation falling to the developer of the Mall, to be utilised to deliver additional off-site affordable housing at affordable/social rent levels in Walthamstow. The financial contribution is in lieu of a further 10% affordable housing (calculated in terms of habitable rooms) being provided within the development. The ambition is to deliver these additional units through the Council’s new build affordable housing programme.”
I hope that this update and the clarification it provides as to what additional affordable housing will be generated by this change and where it will be placed is of interest. I will of course also share the viability information as soon as it is made available to me by the Council to enable residents to scrutinise these decisions accordingly.
As part of keeping residents updated on the Walthamstow Town Centre Development proposals, regular updates have gone out to all those who have requested these on this subject. The below message regarding the Mayor of London's decision on this development was sent to residents on Tuesday 20th March 2017.
Apologies for the third email in one week, but have just received this from the Mayor of London's office regarding the Walthamstow Town Centre Development- as you will see the Mayor has given this development approval and as part of this the amount of affordable housing in the proposal has been increased to 30% from 20%.
The Mayor states " This increase will be secured through an additional £7.3m from the development that will fund new council homes for genuinely affordable rent in Walthamstow." I have no doubt that many of you will have questions about what this means and so I have asked for further information on this part of the new plans from both the Council and the Mayor's office which I will share as soon as it is available. I have also again requested the viability statement which covers the nature of the 'exceptional costs' also mentioned in this release.
I hope the below is of interest and kind regards
Tuesday 20 March 2018
Mayor and Council boost affordable housing in Waltham Forest
- Mayor hands over former Webbs industrial site to housing associations for 100 per cent affordable scheme
- Sadiq and Waltham Forest secure new council homes through Mall plansafter listening to local community
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today further underlined his commitment to working with Waltham Forest Council to deliver more genuinely affordable homes for Londoners as two major developments took important steps forward.
Sadiq has handed over the Webbs Industrial Estate site in Walthamstow to Catalyst and Swan Housing, who will deliver around 330 new homes - all of which will be affordable. The homes will be targeted at first-time buyers through shared ownership, one of the Mayor’s favoured housing delivery schemes in his £3.15bn Homes for Londoners programme.
The Mayor instructed the Greater London Authority to purchase the site in July 2016, and then agreed a sale to Catalyst the following August with the provision that all homes delivered there would be affordable. The site will also become home to a creative hub providing more than 3,000 square metres of new affordable workspace and artist studios, retail space in the heart of the Blackhorse Road area, and a green link which will provide easy access to Blackhorse Road station.
Today the Mayor has also approved plans for redevelopment of The Mall shopping centre in Walthamstow with more than 500 new homes. The plans were recently approved locally with 20 per cent affordable housing – but after listening to the local community, and by working closely together over recent weeks, the Mayor and Waltham Forest Council have boosted this to 30 per cent. This increase will be secured through an additional £7.3m from the development that will fund new council homes for genuinely affordable rent in Walthamstow.
The level of affordable housing has been scrutinised in detail by the Mayor’s planning team, who agreed that this is the maximum amount which can be provided. The site is subject to exceptional costs – including complex foundation works to keep the shopping centre open during construction and to avoid damaging the nearby Victoria line tunnels and Walthamstow Central station. The Mayor and council worked together to boost the number of genuinely affordable homes for rent.
The plans to redevelop Walthamstow Mall, approved by Waltham Forest Council planning committee in December and now approved by the Mayor will bring 200 million pounds of private investment, 8,000 square meters of new retail space, 350 new permanent retail jobs and a new children’s play area.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Today is an important day in the delivery of genuinely affordable homes in Waltham Forest – an area of the capital which has seen significant pressure on housing and a sharp rise in property prices in recent years – and we have listened carefully to the local community.
“Through these two developments, Londoners will soon be able to benefit from hundreds of new genuinely affordable homes, including those that the council will look to build through their own homebuilding programme.”
Waltham Forest Council Leader, Cllr. Clare Coghill said: “The Mayor’s decision to approve the redevelopment of the Mall in Walthamstow will radically improve the town centre, replacing the existing town square and shopping centre which is tired, underused and not good enough for our residents.
“A new and expanded Mall will give a significant boost to the area, including creating 350 new permanent jobs as well as giving our residents the opportunity to shop in the borough rather than going further afield, which has a detrimental effect on our local economy.”
In 2016, the Mayor instructed the GLA to buy the former Webbs Industrial Estate, now known as Blackhorse Yard, with the intention of finding a development partner to build more new and genuinely affordable homes for Londoners. The site had stood derelict for seven years.
The site attracted a City Hall record of 13 bids, with Catalyst selected as preferred bidder. Catalyst will work in conjunction with Swan Housing Association and C.F. Møller Architects.
Notes to editors:
- Shared ownership is one of the Mayor’s favoured housing delivery schemes in his £3.15bn Affordable Homes Programme for 90,000 homes, alongside London Living Rent and London Affordable Rent. Shared ownership homes allow a home buyer to purchase a share in a new home, and pay a regulated rent on the remaining, unsold share.
- The Mayor also recently secured an additional £1.67 billion from government, which will fund 26,000 further homes including those based on social rent levels.
- For more information what the Mayor is doing to tackle London’s housing crisis, visit: www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homes-londoners.
Below is the latest update I have sent out to residents in Walthamstow about the proposed redevelopment of Walthamstow Town Centre- it contains the further details of information provided by Waltham Forest Council about the public services impact of this development. If you are a local resident and want to receive these updates directly please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update to Walthamstow Residents sent Saturday March 17th 2018
As someone who has emailed me about the proposed development of Walthamstow Town Centre, please find below the latest update of information I have received about this development. Please be aware this is a long email - you can find the last update I have sent out on this matter on my website here which sets out my concerns about this development and the information residents have access to on which to assess it. This email is a follow up to this one and my request for further detail from the Council on specific points.
Further to my previous correspondence to local residents regarding the proposed town centre developing, residents will know that I have proposed four tests to assess whether any proposed development is of a standard suitable for Walthamstow. One of these tests relates to the impact of any development on local public service provision. This test is as follows:
“With any major development can come investment in supporting services- whether money provided for healthcare and education facilities or for physical and environmental improvements. Our local voluntary and community organisations are struggling to find premises in our community due to the high rental costs of our limited office space too. No development in Walthamstow should stand alone- it has to make an active contribution to supporting the wider provision of services and community services residents require and supporting its impact on our area.”
In a previous update, I noted that the Council had stated they had been provided with an update from the local healthcare service providers as to their assessment of need in our local area, and had also undertaken this in relation to schools:
“The number of children likely to be living in the proposed development is anticipated to be fairly low given the mix of the units and the quantum of larger family size units being proposed as part of the development. The education department were consulted and they have advised that there would be a sufficient number of school places within the local Walthamstow area to serve the additional child population that would arise due to the scheme. Further to this the WFCCG were also consulted and have advised that there are sufficient doctors’ surgeries within the local area to cater for future residents within The Mall development. In these respects, there would not be a strain on public services.”
Following this, I asked for further details of this statement and the Council have now responded to me with the following statement,
“Given the likely property type provided through the new development it is not anticipated that the development will put significant pressure on local school places. The table below sets out that there is significant surplus capacity at primary and secondary school level, and that there will be surplus capacity across local schools at all year group levels even after the anticipated increase in the number of school aged children linked to the Mall development is taken into account.
|Walthamstow Region||Year Group|
|Estimated development yield||6||4||4||3||3||3||4||3||3||3||3||3|
In regards to proposed pressure on local GP practices, the Council have provided the following statement after seeking advice from WFCCG,
Short to Medium Term
There are a number of GP practices s in the vicinity of the development. North of The Mall, Forest Road Medical Centre has capacity. Around The Mall, The Firs Practice, Queens Road Medical Centre and, slightly further away, Grove Road Medical Centre have recently been successful with NHS Premises Funding to enable them to be more compliant and have increased capacity. Works should commence and finish by March 2018.
WFCCG have been working closely with LBWF to ensure the re-provision of St James Medical Centre which continues to face exponential growth due to the regeneration in the area. The medical centre, which is located in the heart of Walthamstow, is in need of significant modernisation. The new St James Medical Centre will operate as a health ‘hub’, which will offer multiple health services in a fit for purpose build. As part of this process WFCCG will undertake an engagement exercise in the area to gather the views of residents. This will be used to help plan appropriate healthcare for the future.”
I hope this information is of interest in understanding the Council’s statements on this particular test – I am still awaiting further details as to when the viability assessment that they have committed to sharing will be made public too, to enable residents to consider what possibility for alteration- if any- there is to these plans. As soon as I have this information I will also share it with those who have been in touch and please do feel free to share this update with other residents interested in this matter.
With kind regards
In the summer of 2017, Sainsburys announced it was withdrawing from Fairtrade and setting up its own range of ‘Fairly Traded’ tea in place of Fairtrade certified tea, a decision that will impact an estimated 229,224 farmers and workers.
The Fairtrade model has been developed over the last 25 years and core to Fairtrade are the principles of producer empowerment through the control of the financial investment - the Fairtrade Premium, and independence, underpinned by fully transparent, industry endorsed, standards of certification. In contrast the Sainbury's scheme is self certified and the Fairtrade Foundation are clear it does not meet their own standards.
Sainsburys met with MPs in September 2017 to discuss this scheme and hear the concerns of MPs that in withdrawing from the scheme not only were the standards Sainsburys set not as good for producers as Fairtrade, they were also undermining the Fairtrade scheme itself. In response a group of MPs took a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority that Sainsbury's 'Fairly Traded' tea was misleading in its advertising by appearing to compare 'Fairly Traded' tea with Fairtrade certified tea.
In March 2017 the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the MPs complaint, reflecting that Sainsbury's scheme is not to the same standard as the Fairtrade Foundation. The MPs involved- Holly Lynch, Stephen Timms, Stephen Doughty and Stella Creasy welcome this decision and call on Sainsburys to rethink their approach to Fairtrade for the benefit of those farmers and workers affected by their decision. Speaking on behalf of the group Stella Creasy said:
‘When Sainsburys came to explain to us why they were abandoning Fairtrade Tea, we warned them that it wasn’t fair to consumers who trust these ethical standards to try to sell them their own tea under a similar name so we’re pleased to see the ASA take action following our complaint.
This ruling should be a wake up call for Sainsburys that backing out of the Fairtrade movement and pretending their Fairly Traded tea is the same won’t wash- the ASA agree how Sainsburys present their products will confuse consumers. Put simply, their ‘fauxtrade’ tea is not the same thing and consumers deserve the right to know.
We hope this will encourage Sainsburys to reverse their decision to stop working with the Fairtrade Foundation and get back round a table to renegotiate- on behalf of our constituents we will certainly continue challenging them to be part of this important scheme which helps food producers around the world’
A number of residents have used social media to contact me regarding the proposed development for Walthamstow Town Centre - I've been providing regular updates for all those who have emailed me about this issue regarding the information I have received and the questions I have put to the Council. If you are a Walthamstow resident and want to receive these directly please email with your name and address to email@example.com.Read more Share
There is a country that taxes British residents, and British companies, when they make money on selling commercial real estate, but doesn’t tax anyone else. That country is the UK. And as the Paradise Papers showed this loophole is widely exploited, with almost every large building in London held by an offshore holding company. Not only is that unfair to British businesses who have to compete with these companies, it costs us billions in lost tax revenue each year.
Last year we campaigned to close the loophole - and we won! From 2019, The Government has agreed to make sure offshore companies holding UK commercial real estate will be fully taxed. But there is a problem: the “Luxembourg Loophole”. It will be easy to avoid the new rules by using “brass plate” companies in Luxembourg. Despite highlighting this to the Government, they have no plans to change this and so prevent companies continuing to avoid this tax. It could be the difference between raising £5bn and £0.5bn a year for our public services.
We need to keep up the pressure on the Government to do better. Please send the below response to their consultation to ask them to act by Friday 16th February 2018.Read more Share
Stella gave a surprise visit to Greenleaf Primary School to announce the winner of the annual Christmas card competition. The winning design was drawn by Jenny Williams aged 10 from class 6LG depicts a scene of celebration and unity, her design will feature on the front of this year’s Christmas card. Stella said on her visit:
'This year, my office received hundreds of beautiful and festive designs from very talented children all across Walthamstow which made choosing just one very difficult. However Jenny's colourful design really stood out. We loved the wonderful Christmas message she had written to reflect our local community. I want to thank all the children across Walthamstow for sending us their designs, we had great fun looking at all the different ideas and designs you came up with. I'd also like to thank the local businesses and organisations without whom this wouldn't have been possible because of their generous sponsorship of this project. The support of Sodo Pizza, Lee Valley Estates, Vinn Garment Care Centre, Yard Sale Pizza, Mother’s Ruin, Today Bread, Incoming Coffee, Riney, The Mall Walthamstow, Bates of London has been brilliant and has made it possible for 4,000 local and national people to receive Jenny's fantastic design.'
Jenny and all the children at Greenleaf Primary School were very excited to hear the card was going to be sent to 3,500 people, including local residents, Members of Parliament and the Prime Minister. The competition was open to all children under 12 across Walthamstow, Greenleaf Primary school won the competition for the first time with Jenny’s entry. Jenny and her family have been invited to Parliament with Stella.