It’s been a busy week of participating virtually in Parliamentary proceedings. On Tuesday I spoke during a debate on the Trade Bill to support the Lords Genocide Amendment which deals with trade agreements made with states accused of committing genocide. The Government have said that genocide determination is a matter for judges, not politicians, but international law is a slippery creature and requires support from accused states to make the investigations that are necessary for legal determinations. We know enough about the atrocities being committed in China’s Xinjiang province to take action. We must not agree to trade deals when we know that there is a risk of human rights abuses being committed through supply lines. Perpetrators of genocide should not be rewarded. They must know that actions have consequences, and an increasingly belligerent China needs to see that the British Government will not simply stand by and watch, without taking action. The modest import and export restrictions linked to forced labour abuses that were made by the Government last week are welcome, but they do not deal with the specific charge of genocide. A heinous crime in taking place in China and and Britain cannot stand aside and watch it happen.
Also on Tuesday, I had an article published at Politics Home about discrimination in the car insurance industry. As anyone who has ever had to obtain cover will know, the world of car insurance is complex and tricky, with small variations in age, job title or address often making a massive difference to your premiums. There has long been a nagging suspicion that if you have a demonstrably ethnic minority name that is reflected in a higher price to pay for your premiums, and since becoming the MP for Birmingham Ladywood I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents who’ve had a similar experience. Last year, I held a roundtable with representatives from the industry. Insurers strenuously deny allegations of direct discrimination based on ethnicity, however there is a possibility that indirect discrimination may be at play and that is why I have written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to ask them to formally investigate disproportionate insurance premiums for Black and minority ethnic communities.
This week I added my name as signatory to the McPartland Smith Amendment, which has been put forward to insert a new clause in the Fire Safety Bill to prevent leaseholders from being liable for remediation costs. I have been campaigning on this issue for some time in support of leaseholders in Birmingham Ladywood and have been horrified by the impact, financially and psychologically, on those who are trapped in buildings with unsafe cladding and have had little to no support from the Government. The Government, along with the building industry, must step up to their responsibilities and address their failures on the cladding scandal.
I met this week with Birmingham Councillor Sharon Thompson and the exempt accommodation working group. We spoke to councillors from wards with high numbers of this type of accommodation and received updates on the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government pilot. We will soon be starting our More than Minimal campaign to ensure that there are adequate support systems in place and regulated within exempt accommodation. The current definition of the minimum support in law currently allows rogue providers to get away with providing the absolute bare minimum. It is unacceptable that vulnerable people are left without support while housing owners gain financially.
I was pleased to speak with Birmingham Live this week about dodgy and dangerous messages in WhatsApp groups that are driving people to refuse the Covid vaccine. These messages usually discourage the most vulnerable from getting vaccinated and we must raise awareness that this vaccine is safe; it has been tested and passed rigorous safety trials. Our Black and Asian communities and white working-class communities have already suffered from the inequality exacerbated by this virus. We cannot allow this inequality to be further compounded by a failure to tackle misinformation and pernicious rumours from anti-vaxxers.
If there are issues you want to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or by calling 0121 661 9440. My team and I are of course subject to many of the same challenges and restrictions as other families in Birmingham Ladywood at the minute, but we will do everything we can to help constituents in these difficult times.
Keep your social distance, stay safe and healthy – and please, keep washing your hands!