This week in Parliament was a busy one with dozens of key votes in the Commons, including amendments to the Building Safety Bill, the Elections Bill and the Policing Bill, about which more than 190 constituents wrote to me expressing their concerns. Labour tabled vital amendments to the Policing Bill to stop Conservative efforts to criminalise the right to peaceful protest. I voted in favour of these changes. However, it was sad to see the Government try to silence local communities in this way, forcing the Bill through unchanged. In votes for the Building Safety Bill, Labour once again pushed to cap cladding costs as low as we could for leaseholders who should in no way be made to pay for this crisis. Sadly, the Government defeated our amendment which would have ensured no leaseholder would have to pay anything but a nominal sum for cladding costs.
Nevertheless, over the past two years, we have made great improvements to this Bill, and this is a great credit to the leaseholders and campaigners I have worked with across Birmingham who have held ministers feet to the fire, including at the Birmingham Cladding Scandal Summit I organised the other year. While we didn’t get all the concessions we wanted this week, the government has said it will continue to engage with leaseholders and seek to make improvements through secondary legislation to address their concerns. We will hold them to it.
Finally, the Elections Bill also returned to Parliament. This is a Bill which will cost taxpayers over £120 million to enforce, put through at a time when the Government can’t seem to find the money to fund services to tackle crime or help ordinary people cope with the cost of living. This Trumpian bit of legislation risks denying millions of people their right to vote by requiring voters to produce photo ID at polling stations. All of this, we are told, is to tackle the issue of voter fraud. Yet at the last general election, there were – count them – zero cases of voter fraud in Birmingham. In fact, across the whole of the UK in both the general and council elections that year there was precisely one conviction for personation. This law is a solution in want of a problem. What it does do however is disenfranchise thousands across Birmingham, and worse, hands the government ultimate power over the previously independent Electoral Commission, which is supposed to hold executive power in check. I have personally voted against these measures at least four times, and my Party has every single time it has had the opportunity. Sadly however, due to the size of the government’s majority, it won every vote.
By ramming these measures through, the Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress. We must not let them get away with it.
Next week, we will have our chance to send a message to Boris Johnson and his government at the ballot box. By voting Labour at the local elections, you are telling the Conservatives that you won’t tolerate a government that ignores the cost of living crisis, repeatedly breaks the law, rolls back our democratic rights and freedoms, and acts as if there is one rule for them, and another for the rest of us. If you want to help our campaign, please get in touch by clicking the button below.
We need an emergency cost-of-living budget
This week I backed calls for an emergency budget to help residents across Birmingham, Edgbaston cope with the spiralling cost of living. As people across Quinton, Bartley Green, Harborne and Edgbaston received their pay packets this week, they will have seen Tory tax rises eat into their take-home pay, just as more and more people start to feel the pinch of rising energy, food and fuel costs. New analysis produced by Labour this week has revealed that families across Britain will fork out more than £10 billion more on fuel costs compared to this time last year. The Conservatives have done nothing to get to grips with the crisis, ignoring Labour’s fully costed plan to help people with energy bills, and instead ploughing ahead with their National Insurance Tax rise on working people. Confronted about this earlier this week, Rishi Sunak branded helping people who are struggling “silly”.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor have buried their heads in the sand for too long. They pretend the economy is booming while turning a blind eye to the real challenges people face. A vote for Labour next week is a vote for a real plan. A plan that would levy a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas companies that have been making so much unexpected profit they call themselves a “cash machine”, and put that money in people’s pockets to help with energy costs. We’d also would ramp up home insulation, saving households as much as £400 on their bills, and scrap the Tory national insurance tax increase.
Challenging Priti Patel's comments about Sikhs
Over two months ago now, footage emerged online of the Home Secretary Priti Patel giving a speech at an alt-right US think tank, where she levelled an inflammatory attack on British Sikh groups, comparing them to antisemitic right-wing terrorists. Her comments rightly caused considerable alarm in the Sikh community.
This week I wrote to the Home Secretary about her remarks, since she has ignored pleas for clarification from the community and even MPs for nearly eleven weeks now. I pointed out to her that a report on Sikh extremism that was commissioned and then cited by her own department calls her comments out as nonsense. As the minister responsible for our national security, Priti Patel should not be waging these divisive political attacks on the Sikh community with no evidence to back them up. We have already seen what this can lead to with the West Midlands 3, with an extradition order signed off by the Home Secretary against three innocent Sikhs, which was thankfully thrown out of court last year. Sikhs will not be pawns in the Home Secretary’s political games.
Preet Kaur Gill MP
Birmingham Edgbaston covering Bartley Green, Edgbaston, Harborne and Quinton