First World War funding for heritage projects available for communities

Grahame M. Morris MP urges local Easington communities to apply for National Lottery money available to mark the Centenary  

Wor WarOn Wednesday 22nd October, Grahame M. Morris MP for Easington attended a House of Commons event hosted by TV historian Dan Snow, to find out how people from his constituency can secure Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) money to help them mark the Centenary of the First World War.

The event showcased just a handful of over 1000 First World War projects taking place across the UK, thanks to more than £60million of investment from HLF.

Grants of between £3,000 to £10,000 will continue to be available throughout the Centenary through HLF’s ‘First World War: then and now’ programme which is enabling people to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage. Groups that need a grant of more than £10,000 for a project can apply to HLF through its open programmes.

Projects on display showed the breadth and scale of First World War stories being explored and shared across the country:

  • in Coventry, young people have been researching the rise and decline of women’s football during and following the end of the War;
  • groups across Hertfordshire have uncovered the stories of those remembered on local war memorials across the county;
  • in Belfast a project has been exploring why Irish nationalists volunteered to fight for the British army during the conflict; and
  • a stone memorial has been created in Derby to recognise the contribution of the very many Sikhs who served in the war

Grahame M. Morris MP, said: “The projects and stories I’ve seen here today have been an inspiration. It’s so important that we remember the impact of this war one hundred years on.   There is still time to apply for money and I would urge anyone in my constituency with an idea for their own project to get in touch with HLF.”

Carole Souter, Chief Executive of HLF, said: “It’s been wonderful to see so many communities take up this opportunity to explore how the First World War affected their local area. So many interesting and unexpected stories have been uncovered, helping us to develop a rich and long-lasting picture of how this momentous conflict touched and shaped every corner of the UK.”

The event also saw the launch of Historypin’s First World War Centenary hub. The hub is a free online space where people right across the UK can share all the historical and contemporary photographs, films and audios clips that have been collected while marking the Centenary of the First World War. It has been developed in partnership with HLF, Jisc, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Imperial War Museums.

More information on how to apply for HLF funding is available at www.hlf.org.uk

Easington MP condemns the Government’s shameful action in blocking a new state of the art hospital for the people of East Durham.

Commons ChamberEasington MP Grahame Morris has hit out after plans for a new state of the art hospital at Wynyard were shelved due to the lack of political support from the Government.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s board has announced they will pause the development work on the new hospital.

The trust unanimously committed to developing a new hospital to meet the future healthcare needs of the people of Hartlepool, Stockton, Easington and Sedgefield, but the board stated the complexities of the approval process are such that without high-level political support it was unable to secure a decision before the end of this parliament.

Chief Executive Alan Foster said: “The new hospital is a fundamental part of our integrated health and social care strategy for the 21st century. When the momentum: pathways to healthcare programme was launched it was one of the three strategic aims of the programme, and it still is.

“However a general election is now looming and the board recognises that any new government is likely to wish to review all new developments in the light of its own priorities. As a result, there will inevitably be further delay in the completion of a new hospital. The board has therefore decided to pause the development work on the new hospital.

After hearing the announcement Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “It is clearly a political decision and the Government should be ashamed of themselves for failing to support new state of the art health services for people in East Durham, and the North East.

The Tories have undermined the plans for the new hospital from the day they were elected. They withdrew the £464 million the previous Labour Government ring-fenced for the project, forcing the Trust into an expensive PFI, and to downsize the hospital by a third.

It took Monitor eight months to consider the proposals, instead of the promised six weeks, and the Treasury has purposely delayed the process to block the building of the new hospital. The lack of political will from this Government for the new hospital has been truly reprehensible.

Under this Government our health service is rapidly declining, with rising waiting times, a crisis in A&E and patients denied access to treatment. Despite having some of the highest levels of deprivation and health inequalities the Prime Minister does not believe we should have access to the same levels of high quality health services enjoyed in the rest of the country.

It is no wonder that David Cameron refuses to show his face in East Durham. In four years, he has blocked investment in our schools, there are huge disparities in transport infrastructure spending, and now he refuses to support our new hospital.

I am concerned that patients in East Durham are in the worst possible situation with the majority of hospital services being transferred to an outdated, inaccessible and cramped site at Stockton, North Tees.

The Health Trust must begin to prepare plans to return hospital services to Hartlepool if the proposals for a new hospital are going to be suspended indefinitely. 

The Tories have abandoned the North East, starved us of investment, and hit the most vulnerable in society with massive spending cuts in vital public services.

It is clear to everyone in the North East, you can never trust the Tories with the NHS.”

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s board promised to keep their position under active review in the light of national developments and will continue to work closely with local NHS commissioners and with its partners in local government to improve the integration and quality of care for local people.

 

 

Save UK Rail

Durham Train StationThe North East has a long and proud connection to the railways. In 1825, George Stephenson’s engine – locomotion, became the world’s first steam locomotive to carry passengers, and the public railway was born. In the years following thousands of miles of rail track were laid connecting every part of the UK, as the industrial revolution became driven by steam.

The railways today remain an essential part of our national infrastructure and their success or failure inevitably has an impact on the strength of our economy. However, too many people have been priced out of rail, and those with no option but to commute by rail face excessive year on year fare rises, overcrowding and little sign of improvement despite billions of pounds in subsidies provided to the train operators. According to the report Rebuilding Rail, the cost of a privatised railway has been £1.2 billion a year more, than had it remained in public ownership. 

The Northern Rail franchises (North Rail and Transpennine Express), serving a population of around 15 million people, are the latest to be put up for tender under the flawed franchise process. However, prior to the bids, the Government conducted a consultation on how the service should be run. They set out various expectations, including the introduction of Driver Only Operation, whereby there will be no guards or conductors, undermining rail safety, “more modern ticket retailing”, a coded message for ticket office closure and staff redundancies, and an increase to fares, to help pay for better services, despite Government plans to remove existing provisions.

I have previously accused the Conservative Government of taking an ideological approach to railways as they reject any suggestion to return this vital service back into public ownership. However, recent research shows that UK rail services are under state-ownership, they just happen to be the French, German and Dutch states. 

Following the decision to award the Scotrail franchise to Dutch state-owned firm Abellio, research has shown that 20 of the UK’s 27 private rail services are owned by foreign state-owned or backed railways. The UK suffers from some of the highest rail prices in Europe, with profits taken out of our railways subsidising lower fares and better services for European commuters.

It is time for Parliament to act, and we require an urgent inquiry into our railways and the dominance of foreign state owned companies providing these services. The Labour Party have promised to take action calling for a UK state owned rail company allowing them to bid for rail franchises. Currently, Directly Operated Railways, the UK publicly owned company which took over the East Coast Mainline when National Express abandoned their contract, have been banned from bidding for the franchise as the Government seeking to privatise the line. However, failed operators, who let the public down and failed to honour their contact are not excluded from the process. 

My preferred option would be to return our rail network into public ownership as the franchises expire.  I believe Directly Operated Railways can deliver a better service and value for the taxpayer as they have shown on the East Coast Mainline.

As with health, and energy, the railways are too important to fail due to the catastrophic effect failure would have on the public and our economy. No matter how much or how often private companies fail in any of these sectors, the Government will always bail them out, as we have seen twice on the East Coast Mainline. This is an example of the Government privatising the profits, and nationalising the risk.

As the home of the railways, I want a government who will strengthen services in the north not undermine them. The franchise process fails the nation, but the Government’s rail strategy fails our region.  The importance of the railways as a driver for national growth is such that David Cameron is willing to commit at least £50 billion to High Speed Rail. However, the North East is not included, with high the speed line ending at Leeds. In fact, a consultation document by HS2 and Network Rail suggests by 2033 journey times from Durham to London would be just 11 minutes faster; we are likely to lose direct services to London, and we can expect slower times to major Scottish cities, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow as direct trains are replaced with stopping services.

On this basis, I cannot support HS2, which will be a waste of taxpayers money, fail to improve rail services in the North East, and are likely to contribute to exacerbating the economic imbalance between the North and the South.

The priorities should be to improve our connectivity to major lines and rail services, and we continue to work towards a new rail stop at Horden, Seaview. I would like the Government to get behind these plans, which are a tiny fraction of the cost of HS2, but would see our communities connected to neighbouring cities, and the UK rail network, helping us to create new economic activity and opportunities for our former mining communities.

We need a national plan for rail to make it accessible and affordable to everyone. A service which is run in the public interest, and does not subsidise commuters in Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin. We need a rail service which supports efforts to rebalance the UK economy and does not exacerbate the economic divide.

 

GRAHAME MORRIS MP WECLOMES PLAN TO GIVE THE LOCAL COMMUNITY MORE SAY IN WHERE NEW HOMES GO AND FIRST TIME BUYERS IN THE AREA PRIORITY

HoCEasington MP Grahame Morris has heralded sweeping reforms announced by Ed Miliband to tackle the housing crisis. Labour’s plans will help that people in East Durham have greater say over where new homes are built and ensure that first time buyers from the area are given priority access rights when these houses go on sale.

David Cameron’s Government has presided over the lowest levels of house-building in peacetime since the 1920s and home ownership has declined to its lowest level in 30 years. By 2020 the average deposit for a home in the UK could be £72,000 and many first-time buyers are seeing their dream of homeownership disappear.

The independent Lyons Housing Report launched today (16th October 2014) sets out a comprehensive housing plan – the first of its kind in a generation – to meet Labour’s commitment of building 200,000 homes a year by 2020 and set a course for doubling the number of first-time buyers over the next decade. As part of this, local communities will be given the power to build the homes needed locally in the places people want to live and first time buyers from the area will be able to get priority access rights when these new homes go on sale.

Grahame Morris MP, said:

“Too often, people don’t feel that the right kind of homes are getting built in the places they want. Developers seem to be in control rather than local people and the community doesn’t feel that the current housing system works for them. Labour will change that.”

“If we are to tackle the housing crisis in our area, people in East Durham must be given more say over where the new homes needed locally are built and the power to ensure that first time buyers from the area are given priority access rights when these houses go on sale.”

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“There has been a systematic failure to build the homes our country needs. Too much development land is held as a speculative investment when local people need homes. Too often the trickle of new developments that get completed are snapped up before people from the area can benefit, undermining support for much needed further development. And, for too many young families, the dream of home ownership is fading fast.

“Only Labour has a plan to build the homes that our country, our local communities and our families need. As Ed Balls has said, the next Labour government will make housing a bigger priority within the existing capital settlement for the next Parliament. We will get Britain building again by insisting local authorities have a plan to meet the need for housing in their area – and that the big developers play their part rather than hold land back. 

“But we will also make sure that communities get the benefit from new home development by guaranteeing that where communities take the lead in bringing forward additional developments, a significant proportion of homes on those sites cannot be bought by anyone before first-time buyers from the area have been given the chance. This is not only a fairer system, it is also one which will encourage local communities and local authorities to support the development that our country so desperately needs.”

Easington MP Calls for Parliament Inquiry as Research Shows Three Quarters of UK Rail Services are Foreign Owned

Network Rail

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, has called for parliamentary inquiry as new research shows three quarters of UK rail services are now owned by foreign state owned companies

Following the decision to award the Scotrail franchise to Dutch state owned firm Abellio, new research from the rail union RMT research shows the growing domination of foreign state owned rail companies over the UK’s railways.

Twenty of the UK’s twenty seven private rail contracts, the equivalent of seventy four per cent, are now owned by foreign state owned/ backed railways with the vast majority being from France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The UK’s privatised railway has the highest rail fares in Europe and MPs from the RMT’s Parliamentary group have called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into concerns foreign state owned companies are sucking profits from the UK privatised rail industry so that passengers in foreign states are benefiting from lower fares and better services at the expense of UK passengers.

In fact, a German Transport Ministry spokesperson has openly admitted such a strategy in relation to its state operator Deutsche Bahn. “We’re skimming profit for the entire Deutsche Bahn and ensuring that it is anchored in our budget – that way we can make sure it is invested in the rail network here in Germany”.

The growing domination of UK railways by foreign states is also demonstrated by additional research which shows that Dutch state firm Abellio now operates a network in Britain over two and a half times the size of the one in Netherlands.

Grahame Morris MP said:

“We are made to suffer the highest prices in Europe and have experienced substandard services for decades. Often, the very same operators that are using British commuters as cash cows are foreign state-owned companies that then hold down fairs and improve services back in their own countries.”

Mr. Morris added: “The TransPennine route is operated by a French state owned company. This means that if I travel from Newcastle to Liverpool I am subsidising the travel of passengers in Bordeaux and Lille. That British commuters are expected to both suffer the failure of rail privatisation as well as subsidise commuters in Holland, Germany and France adds insult to injury.”

Easington MP welcomes new user friendly tool to assess the challenge of keeping a pet

Commons ChamberEasington MP Grahame Morris has welcomed the new science-based tool called ‘EMODE’, which assesses the difficulty of keeping a particular animal.

The new user-friendly EMODE ‘tool’ classifies animals as Easy, Moderate, Difficult or Extreme in terms of how challenging they are to keep.

Thousands of animal species are now sold as pets through licensed outlets, and there are growing concerns regarding the way in which all animals are promoted, managed in shops, and kept.

Local authorities and private purchasers often face a raft of serious problems because animals are commonly mass-marketed and mis-described as ‘easy to keep’, resulting in vast numbers of pets languishing in poor conditions and dying prematurely.

There are increasing numbers of domestic and exotic pets being abandoned at rescue centres or released into the environment potentially resulting in both welfare concerns and causing damage to ecosystems at great cost to the public purse. There are also serious and growing concerns about public health and safety risks linked to, notably, exotic pet-keeping, with many animals being described as ‘Trojan horses’ of infection in the home.

Grahame Morris M.P., said,

“I welcome any means to improve animal welfare and to help the public make a reasoned and informed choice as to whether they can manage to care for their pet.

Too many animals are being abandoned or left at rescue centres by owners who were unaware of the responsibilities which they were taking on and are unable to cope with the demands and needs of their pet.

I hope the new EMODE system will be embraced by all those who care about animal welfare, and is used as a tool by Local Authorities when considering which animals can be sold locally”

EMODE has been welcomed by European and global organisations, including Eurogroup for Animals, which is the leading voice for animals at EU-level, International Animal Rescue, and World Animal Protection.

What the Tories really think of the Minimum Wage

David Cameron’s welfare minister has advocated treating those most in need differently by paying them below the national minimum wage.

Lord David Freud, talking amongst friends at Conservative Party Conference, said he thought there was “a group” of disabled people who are “not worth the full wage”.

Lord Freud is not the only Conservative seeking to undermine the minimum wage:

In 2012, Andrea Leadsom said that businesses with three employees and fewer should be exempt from minimum wage, as well as regulation like maternity and paternity rights. Leadsom said:

“I genuinely think we do need to do more for growth . . . above all we have to focus on deregulation.” She continued: “No minimum wage; no unfair dismissal; no maternity or paternity rights; no national insurance or employer pension contributions; a flat rate of tax; no red tape,”

Leadsom also argued that the “massive hurdle of regulation” was daunting and meant people were put off self-employment by the complexity of setting up a business
Times, 24 May 2012, www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3424472.ece

Tory MP Dominic Raab called for the minimum wage to be suspended for 16-21 year olds www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2011/11/dominic-raab-mp-small-firms-and-start-ups-are-being-stifled-by-red-tape.html

“Why not suspend the minimum wage for 16 to 21 year olds working for small businesses, in order to give them a foot on the ladder? The talented and hard-working won’t stay on the bottom rung for long, but they must first be given the chance to work.”

Tory Philip Davies MP said that disabled people should be allowed to work for less than the minimum wage. He said it should be allowed for disabled people to be paid less than the minimum wage, arguing it was a “hindrance” to jobseekers.

 

 

Additionally, Tory MPs Christopher Chope, Peter Bone, Mark Field, Adam Afriyie, Douglas Carswell (UKIP) and David Nuttall all signed a Bill in June 2010 calling for employees to be allowed to opt out of the minimum wage
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2010-11/employmentopportunities.html

Recognising the State of Palestine

Recognising Palestine

House of Commons
Monday 13th October
Recognising the State of Palestine

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

I wish to place on record my thanks to the Backbench Business Committee for allocating time in the main Chamber for what is obviously, given the number of Members from all parts of the House who have indicated support, a very popular and timely debate. May I say at the outset that I am happy to support the amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) and various other Members? It has always been my position that recognition of Palestinian statehood should form the basis of any future peace negotiations, and the amendment clarifies that.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Grahame M. Morris: I will, but I suspect I will have to be careful about giving way, given the time.

Ian Paisley: As the hon. Gentleman knows, his party played a phenomenally important role in the peace process in Northern Ireland, one of the world’s most successful peace processes. Why not learn from that experience and, instead of setting the conclusion at the beginning of the debate, wait for the debate and the negotiation to take place in order to reach the conclusion?

Grahame M. Morris: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention but—if he will bear with me—I hope to be able to destroy that argument comprehensively.

I am firmly of the opinion that the day will come when the two-state solution, which I believe is supported by all parties on both sides of the House, will collapse and Israel will face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished. Hon. Members might think that that is controversial, but they are not really my words but those of the then Israeli Prime Minister in 2007.

The two-state solution has been Britain’s stated policy aim for decades, but in politics talk often comes cheap. I have participated in numerous debates in Westminster Hall and in the main Chamber where I have heard speeches delivered by Back Benchers from both sides of the House and from Ministers at the Dispatch Box stating our commitment to a two-state solution—

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): May I say that many people support the two-state solution? Will he also confirm that more than 300 Israeli figures signed a letter on Sunday urging this Parliament to vote in favour of the motion, and they included former Ministers, ex-diplomats and activists in Israel?

Grahame M. Morris: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her intervention. As a friend of Palestine, I earnestly believe that recognition of the state of Palestine is the only way forward, and that it should be the choice of all true friends of Israel. All parties should come together on that basis. Given our commitment to a two-state solution and the fact that an overwhelming majority of 134 nations voted in favour of Palestinian statehood, I was hugely disappointed by our decision to abstain on the issue at the UN General Assembly. We should regret that decision.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): There were no boundaries when the state of Israel was created, so there should be no prerequisite for the recognition of a Palestinian state.

Grahame M. Morris: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should like to make some progress, so that all Members who have expressed a wish to speak have the opportunity to make their own specific points.

The decision that was taken at the UN General Assembly placed Britain not only at odds with the international consensus, but on the wrong side of history. Although this is a cross-party debate—I want to pay tribute to all colleagues from all parts of the House who have supported the motion—I have to say that, as a Labour MP, I was proud when my party opposed the Government’s decision and said that the British Government should be willing to support the recognition of Palestinian statehood. I am proud, too, that Labour is supporting today’s call to recognise Palestine.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) rose—

Grahame M. Morris: I will give way just one more time.

Caroline Lucas: The hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way, and I congratulate him on securing this debate. Does he agree that this is an unprecedented moment? Sweden has already moved to recognise Palestine. If we do not grasp this moment, we will lose a real opportunity to push this matter forward and to move closer to peace.

Grahame M. Morris: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. As the originator of the Balfour declaration and holder of the mandate for Palestine, Britain has a unique historical connection and, arguably, a moral responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine. In 1920, we undertook a sacred trust—a commitment to guide Palestinians to statehood and independence. That was nearly a century ago, and the Palestinian people are still to have their national rights recognised. This sacred trust has been neglected for far too long. As the hon. Lady has just said, we have an historic opportunity to atone for that neglect, and take this small but symbolically important step.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Grahame M. Morris: I would rather not. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to speak later. I wish to make some progress.

The former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the current Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), who is not in his place, told the House that the two-state solution might become impossible if a settlement were not reached within a year. That was in 2012—two years ago. I am pleased to see that the Minister is listening attentively, as I expect him to stand at the Dispatch Box and tell us that we support a two-state solution and that we encourage all parties to return to negotiations. I advise him to keep hold of his speech, because he will soon have another opportunity to use it given the failure of so many similar initiatives.

It is now more than 20 years since the Oslo accords, and we are further away from peace than ever before. An entire generation of young Palestinians—the Oslo generation—has grown up to witness a worsening situation on the ground. We have seen a significant expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, heightened security threats to both sides, punitive restrictions on Palestinian movement, economic decline, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza of catastrophic proportions and the construction of an illegal annexation wall through Palestinian land.

It is clear that both Israel-Palestine relations and our foreign policy are at an impasse, which must be broken. We hear a great deal of talk about the two-state solution. Today, through validating both states, Members will have the opportunity to translate all that principled talk into action, but we should be under no illusions—today might be a symbolically important step, but it will not change the facts on the ground. The continuous blockade of the Gaza strip will not relent and the day-to-day reality of life under occupation will not change for the ordinary Palestinians. Opponents of the motion will use the well-worn argument that statehood should come through negotiations and not unilateral action.

Let us make no mistake about this: to make our recognition of Palestine dependent on Israel’s agreement would be to grant Israel a veto over Palestinian self-determination.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Grahame M. Morris: Let me finish this point, and then I will give way for the last time. We have had a huge debate on giving up sovereignty to the EU. British people may or may not disagree with that argument, but they and their representatives here in this House would feel that it was completely wrong in practice and in principle if another sovereign state, be it Israel or any other country, determined our foreign policy.

Mr Djanogly: Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan involved bilateral negotiations and agreement on both sides. Why does the hon. Gentleman think that it would work now unilaterally?

Grahame M. Morris: The evidence of history is why. Twenty years of negotiations have failed, so we need to move things on. I firmly believe that we can all rally around this effort, and that that would achieve the desired results.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con) rose—

Grahame M. Morris: No, I am afraid I will not give way.

Recognition is not an Israeli bargaining chip; it is a Palestinian right. It is one that has to form the basis of any serious negotiations. Indeed, the lack of equity between Israel and the Palestinians is a structural failure that has undermined the possibility of a political settlement for decades. As it stands, Israel has little motivation or encouragement—perhaps little incentive is a better way of putting it—to enter into meaningful negotiations. The majority of Israeli Government politicians flat-out reject the notion of a Palestinian state. There are currently no negotiations and, as Secretary of State John Kerry admitted, it was Israeli intransigence that caused the collapse of the latest round of talks.

Israel has been unwilling to offer a viable Palestinian state through negotiations. If the acceleration of the illegal settlement enterprise had not already proved that, in July Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu once again ruled out ever accepting a sovereign Palestinian state in the west bank.

Andrew Percy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?

Grahame M. Morris: No, I will not give way.

Let me be clear: to make recognition dependent on negotiations, as some Members advocate, is to reject the two-state solution. Some argue that by recognising Palestine, we would undermine negotiations or somehow incite violence, but it is the systematic denial of rights that incites violence and emboldens those who reject politics. The knowledge that Britain, once again, is refusing to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people will serve only to validate those who reject diplomacy and to demonstrate the futility of the efforts of moderates on both sides.

Rejectionists in both Israel and Palestine—those who oppose any type of political settlement—will be delighted to learn that the British Parliament has refused what the vast majority of states have already accepted. Members should bear that in mind before they cast their vote. Those Palestinians who have pursued the path of diplomacy and non-violence for more than 20 years have achieved very little. We need to send them a message and give them encouragement that it is the path of peace and co-operation, and not the resorting to force of arms, that will actually lead to a lasting and just peace. It will also send a message to Israel that the British Parliament believes that its illegal settlement enterprise, which has pushed the possibility of a two-state settlement to the brink of collapse, has no validity whatsoever and that the international community is resolute in its opposition to the systematic colonisation of Palestinian land.

The right to statehood has already been accepted by the Government, who have said that they reserve

“the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.

If they do not do so urgently, I contend, and many informed commentators would agree with me, that any hope of a two-state solution, the only viable solution, will disappear altogether. Instead, Israel will continue its crusade towards the morally repugnant and politically untenable one-state solution that, in truth, could be maintained only through even greater brutality and effectively through apartheid rule—a fate so bleak that any true friend of Israel would oppose it.

In conclusion, during the assault on Gaza the leaders of all the main political parties told Members in this House that the life of a Palestinian child is worth just as much as the life of an Israeli child. Today, we can show that we regard both peoples as equal in dignity and rights not just in death but in life. I urge Members to support the motion and to recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.

Recognise Palestine

A youth holds-up a big Palestinian flag during a protest against the controversial separation wall in Ramallah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am happy to support the amendment. It has always been my position that recognition of Palestinian statehood should form the basis of any future peace negotiations, which this amendment clarifies.

“The day will come when the two-state solution collapses and Israel will face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.”

These Mr. Speaker, are not my words, but the words of the then Israeli Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] in 2007.

The two-state solution has been Britain’s stated policy aim for decades, but in politics talk often comes cheap. We have heard countless speeches delivered from the dispatch box stating our commitment to a two-state solution, but, so far, this commitment has been in words only

The decision to abstain at the United Nations General Assembly, when the overwhelming majority of 134 nations voted in favour of Palestinian statehood, was both a disappointing and utterly shameful act.

Not only did it place Britain at odds with the international consensus, it placed us on the wrong side of history too.

I was proud when Labour opposed the Government’s decision and said that “the British Government should be willing to support the recognition of Palestinian statehood”. And I am proud too, that Labour are supporting today’s call to recognise Palestine.

As the originator of the Balfour Declaration and holder of the Mandate of Palestine, Britain has a unique historical connection and responsibility to the people of both Israel and Palestine.

In 1920 we undertook a “sacred trust of civilization”, a commitment to guide Palestinians to statehood and independence. That was nearly a century ago and the Palestinian people are still yet to have their national rights realised. This “sacred trust” is one that we have for too long neglected.

Today, we have an historic opportunity to atone for that neglect, and take this small but symbolically important step.

The former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt. hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks), told the house that the two-state solution might become impossible if a settlement was not reached within a year.

That was in 2012. Two years ago.

I’m sure the House is familiar with the definition of insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. There could not be a more accurate characterisation of Government policy. The two state solution is disappearing before our very eyes, yet the Government seems determined to pursue the same policies that have failed for as long as we can remember.

I expect we will hear the Government minister stand at the dispatch box and tell us that we support a two-state solution and encourage all sides to return to negotiations. If we do, I advise he keeps a hold of his speech, because he will soon have another the opportunity to use it.

[During a statement on Gaza earlier this year, I was struck by the comments of the Rt. hon member for East Sussex who said he had heard the same statement every year; and for 30 years, nothing has happened.]

It is now more than twenty years since the Oslo Accords and we are further away from peace than ever before.

An entire generation of young Palestinians – the Oslo generation – have grown up to witness a worsening situation on the ground.

We have witnessed a significant expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, heightened security threats to both sides, punitive restrictions on Palestinian movement, economic decline, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza of catastrophic proportions and the construction of an illegal annexation wall through Palestinian land.

It is clear that the Israel-Palestine relations are stuck at an impasse, as is our foreign policy, and both of those impasses must be broken.

We hear a great deal of talk about the two state solution. Today, through validating both states, Members will have the opportunity to translate all that principled talk into action.

But we should be under no illusions, today might be a symbolically important step, but it will not change the facts on the ground.

Israel will continue to kidnap Palestinian children during night time raids, forcing them to sign confessions in a language they don’t understand.

The cruel and illegal blockade of the Gaza strip will not relent.

And the humiliating and dehumanising day to day reality of life under occupation will not change.

Opponents of the motion will use the well-worn argument that statehood should only come through negotiations, not, as they like to say, through “unilateral action”.

Let us make no mistake about it, to make our recognition of Palestine dependent on Israel’s would be to grant Israel a veto over Palestinian self-determination – a veto which Israel will exercise in perpetuity.

Recognition is not an Israeli bargaining chip, it is a Palestinian right – one that has to form the basis of any serious negotiations.

Indeed, the lack of equity between Israel and the Palestinians is a structural failure that has undermined the possibility of a political settlement for decades.

As it stands, Israel has little motivation whatsoever to enter into meaningful negotiations.

With a complete disregard for international law, Israel is taking everything it wants through force of arms with total impunity, made possible, in part, by the diplomatic shield afforded it to it by Britain, the EU and the United States of America.

The majority of Israeli Government politicians flat-out reject the notion of a Palestinian state. There are currently no negotiations and, as Secretary of State John Kerry admitted, it was Israeli intransigence that caused the collapse of the latest round of talks.

Israel has demonstrated itself unwilling to offer a viable Palestinian state through negotiations. If the acceleration of the illegal settlement enterprise hadn’t already proven this, in July Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again ruled out ever accepting a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.

Let me be clear, to make recognition dependent on negotiations is to reject the two-state solution.

Some will argue that by recognising Palestine, we would undermine negotiations or somehow be an incitement to violence.

But it is the systematic denial of rights that incites violence and emboldens those who reject politics.

The knowledge that Britain, once again, is refusing to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people will serve only to validate those who reject diplomacy and to demonstrate the futility of the efforts of moderates on both sides.

Rejectionists in both Israel and Palestine, those that oppose any type of political settlement, will be delighted to learn that the British Parliament has refused what the vast majority of states have already accepted. Members should bear this in mind before they cast their vote.

Those Palestinians who have pursued the path of diplomacy and non-violence for more than 20 years have achieved precisely nothing.

We need to send the message that it is the path of peace and cooperation, not a resort to arms, will actually lead somewhere.

And it will send the message to Israel that the British Parliament believes that their illegal settlement enterprise – which has pushed possibility of a two-state settlement to brink of collapse – has no validity whatsoever and that the international community is resolute in its opposition to its heinous colonisation of Palestinian land.

The right to statehood has already been accepted by the Government, who have said they “reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace”.

If they do not do so urgently, any hope of a two-state solution – the only viable solution – will have disappeared altogether.

Instead, Israel will continue its crusade towards the morally repugnant and politically untenable one state solution that can only be maintained through even greater brutality and apartheid rule – a fate so bleak, any true friend of Israel would oppose it.

This summer, during the assault on Gaza, the leaders of all the main political parties told us that that the life of a Palestinian child is worth just as much as the life of an Israeli child. Today we can show that we regard both peoples as equal in dignity and in rights, not just in death, but in life too.

Easington MP praises Citizens Advice on World Mental Health Day

Commons ChamberEasington MP Grahame Morris has marked World Mental Health Day by praising the invaluable work of the Citizens Advice Bureau on improving the nations mental health.

On World Mental Health Day, Grahame Morris MP echoed the call of Citizens Advice staff and volunteers by urging people to seek advice for their debt, benefits and employment problems.

New national research from Citizens Advice finds:

  • 2 in 3 Citizens Advice clients feel stressed, depressed or anxious as a result of the problem they came to the charity for help about
  • Almost three in four people (73 per cent) seeking debt help from Citizens Advice said their money worries were making them feel stressed, depressed or anxious
  • After debt problems benefits are the issue second most likely to damage people’s mental health (67 per cent)
  • Employment problems are third most likely to cause people distress (65 per cent).
  • After getting advice, 4 in 5 people said they felt their mental wellbeing improved as a result of the help they received from Citizens Advice.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, said:

“Citizens Advice provide an invaluable service in our communities helping with a range of issues which cause or exacerbate existing mental health problems. People need to know there is support available and they are not alone.

World Mental Health Day provides an important focus to help promote and raise awareness of mental well-being, as well as reaching out to those who may not otherwise engage with the available health and social services.”