Tag Archives: Lyn Brown

They are us

3 May

West Ham MP Lyn Brown spoke in yesterday’s Windrush debate in parliament:

I want to talk about trust and how it has been violated, and I want to start with the cases of my constituents Gem and Jessica, both of which I raised in Monday’s debate in Westminster Hall.

Gem arrived here from Jamaica, Jessica from Dominica. Both have worked here, paying taxes and raising families, for nearly 50 years, and both have fallen victim to the Government’s hostile environment. Jessica has served our community in West Ham, working for a charity helping refugees and migrants, so what an irony that in March she was fired from that job because she could not prove her right to work. The lesson of the Windrush scandal is that the hostile environment strategy is, in and of itself, a breach of trust. The betrayal of people like Gem and Jessica will not end until that strategy changes.

The hostile environment violates the rightful, reasonable, normal expectations that the people of Britain share. We expect not to be treated with suspicion, like criminals, without very good reason. We expect not to be threatened with destitution, or to be divided from our families or communities, without very good reason. We expect that our voices and our contributions to our country will not be dismissed by our Government without extremely good reason. But those expectations were violated for our British Windrush citizens—their trust was violated. These citizens were stopped at the GP reception, the police station, the bank counter, the workplace, the jobcentre—all those places became hostile environments for Jessica, Gem and many others.

Papers are demanded—papers that many do not have—and when Windrush citizens cannot produce these papers, they are plunged into a nightmare of hostile demands and constant suspicion, and behind it all is the threat of deportation and the destruction of their lives, with jobs, housing and healthcare yanked away. We all know the consequences: homelessness, detention, depression, mental illness, suicide and bereavement. People like Jessica and Gem have been denied the decent, dignified, fair treatment that all of us have a right to expect. They have been treated like criminals without reason and denied redress without reason. Legal aid, tribunals, access to justice—all cut. Their trust in their country has been breached and cannot easily be restored.

There is massive anxiety in my community about immigration removal flights that may have British Windrush citizens on board. In particular, I am told of flight PVT070. I have asked about this in recent days, as have my colleagues, but despite ministerial assurances, anxieties remain. Can Ministers at the Home Office imagine just how badly they will have further betrayed the trust of generations if they fail to get a grip on this and British citizens are again deported?

Let me finish by echoing what my right hon. friend Mr Lammy said. The Windrush generation are British. They have always been British. Recognising their rights is justice. It is not generosity. I am tired of hearing that “they” came here to help “us”. In the community in which I grew up, there is no “us” of which Gem and Jessica are not a part. The Windrush generation did not come to help “us”; they are “us”. In serving our country all their lives, they have helped to build the communities that we share.

On Monday, in Westminster Hall, I spoke about how personal this is—and it is. Lucy and Cecil are my brother-in-law’s parents. They are good people. They are Windrush people. Lucy served for decades as an NHS nurse. They and their family, including me, are furious about the way in which the Government have treated British citizens. Sometimes when we are in this place talking about personal stuff, we struggle to find the right words and the right tone, but I hope that I have done them justice today.

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A prayer for Owen Smith

26 Jul

Another day in the Labour leadership contest, another open letter.

This time it’s backing Owen Smith MP in his fight against Jeremy Corbyn. Eight Newham councillors have signed:

  • Cllr Andrew Baikie
  • Cllr David Christie
  • Cllr Ian Corbett
  • Cllr James Beckles
  • Cllr Jo Corbett
  • Cllr Mas Patel
  • Cllr Patricia Holland
  • Cllr Quintin Peppiatt

In addition, both Newham MPs, Lyn Brown and Stephen Timms, are among those who formally nominated Smith.

UPDATE (19 August 2016)

Councillors Salim Patel, Aleen Alarice and Alan Griffiths have now added their names to the list of signatories

A national disgrace

7 Jul

West Ham MP Lyn Brown spoke yesterday in the debate on the future of EU nationals living in the UK:

The Government’s refusal to guarantee the status of our EU residents is, quite frankly, an utter disgrace.

Last weekend, I spoke to an Italian woman who has lived and worked in Britain for 30 years. She has made Britain her home. She has raised her family here. Her children were born here and they are working here. She was in tears when she told me of her worry that she and her family were about to be deported. It absolutely broke my heart.

There are 3 million EU nationals living in the UK. Just like my constituent, they have jobs and homes, and are concerned about the future for their families. These are families who have entered the UK legally, made their homes here, paid their taxes, and have made a wonderful contribution to our country. The very least these families deserve is to have certainty about their future.

The Home Secretary has said that these people’s lives will be a “factor” in the forthcoming negotiations over our exit from the EU. She has implied that the rights of EU citizens living here cannot be guaranteed because the Government need to seek guarantees about the rights of UK citizens living on the continent. It is appalling; people’s lives should not be treated as a bargaining chip. The Government’s strategy is not only heartless—it is inept. We do not want the other 27 member states to threaten the rights of the 1.2 million British nationals living on the continent, so why are we starting negotiations by threatening the rights of EU nationals living here?

I can only presume that the Home Secretary’s focus is not really on negotiations with the EU. Her tub-thumping, I presume, is designed to court the votes of the right-wing Tory membership—an olive branch after, and I say this gently, her low-profile support for the remain campaign. Using people as bargaining chips in EU negotiations is one level of insult; using them as pawns in a Tory “Game of Thrones” is quite another. A Prime Minister with any sense of responsibility could have stopped this happening. By resigning from office before settling the most basic questions about leaving the EU, this Prime Minister has left our exit strategy to the vagaries of a Tory leadership contest. The rights of EU nationals, the speed of our exit, and our future relationship with the EU are all factors in the Tory leadership campaign. This leaves 150,000 Tory party members in a position of disproportionate influence.

The failure to make a commitment to EU nationals comes with grave consequences. Racists and xenophobes are feeling emboldened and are spreading poison within our constituencies. I am ashamed to say that, in my constituency, a residential block was sprayed with a swastika and the word “out” in large, bold letters. I know that Members across the country have had to deal with similarly vile incidents. There has been a 57% increase in hate crime since the referendum. A straightforward and clear message that EU residents are valued and welcome to stay for as long as they like would put racists back in their place. The destructive idea that there may be forced deportations would be rubbished in an instant.

If the Home Secretary is too busy to act, the Prime Minister should do so. I know he wants to run away from the responsibility for our leaving the European Union, but it was his referendum. He should have made sure that plans were in place for the immediate aftermath, no matter what the result. By abdicating his responsibility, the Prime Minister has left us all at the mercy of a Tory leadership campaign that is making us lurch to the right. It is our neighbours and friends from elsewhere in the EU who are suffering the most.

It is a national disgrace.

Wreckless Robin

6 May

Wreckless Robin

The phantom leafleter of Forest Gate struck again last night, delivering a pre-election message to local households.

Previous examples of the phantom’s work:

Dear Lyn Brown MP

1 Sep

Guest post by Caroline Tomes

Dear Lyn Brown MP,

Your role as an MP is to represent the views and concerns of your constituents, both those who did and did not vote for you. There are many ways to obtain this information, and I for one am glad to see my local MP engaging with Twitter and other social media.

One of the challenges is in assessing whether information you obtain is representative of your constituents.  The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is a useful reminder about the importance of survey design. And I have some very real concerns regarding the surveys you have hosted recently on your website. 

You had a survey online asking for local views on healthcare. This was the first question:
 
Lyn survey pic1
 
Now there is nothing wrong with asking for people’s general opinions of health services (although I do wonder why you feel the need to repeat the work which Healthwatch Newham aptly do). However the response options are limited to ‘excellent’ ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’, thereby preventing any negative feedback. This is ridiculously biased, and any results from this question will be inevitably skewed.

Do you not care if someone is ‘unsatisfied’ with their healthcare?

After I highlighted the poor question design you claimed something had gone wrong with the website ‘download’ (although the source code suggested the issue was with the survey design rather than things not being displayed). Either way, I was glad to see the healthcare survey taken off your website and hope you’ve deleted any data from this flawed survey.

However that wasn’t the only biased survey on your website. Your local business survey on the Olympics includes the following question:

Lyn survey pic2
Now where do I start?

Survey design faux-pas #1: leading questions; suggesting the Olympic Games had a positive impact.

Survey design faux-pas #2: the scale is biased and it also doesn’t make sense.

It’s just a terribly written question. For example: what would you select if you felt the Olympics had a big negative impact? What is the difference between impact two, four or six? I’m not sure what responses you’ve had to this survey, but I’m very confident that you won’t be able to use this information in any meaningful way.

I enjoy being a Newham resident. I’ve encountered many friendly local people, and the diversity of ethnicities and cultures makes Newham an exciting and vibrant place to be. That said; not everything is perfect here. For starters, Newham is currently the most deprived borough in London*, the TB capital of Europe, and I do wish there were more bins / fewer chicken bones in the local parks where I walk my dog.

I’m also pretty concerned that 100% of Newham’s elected representatives belong to the Labour party. Not because I necessarily disagree with that party politics but I strongly beleive that a one-party dominant system is just not healthy. Which is why it is so very important that any local surveys you conduct are unbiased and are representative of Newham people. 

With the forthcoming general election next year, I’m going to need a lot more convincing that you care about the real views of local people to get my vote.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
Caroline
 
Caroline Tomes is a PhD researcher at UCL, public health professional and Newham resident. You can follow her on Twitter @carotomes

*Correction: originally published as ‘most deprived ward in London’. Edited to amend ward to borough.

Newham’s NHS crisis

9 Jan

West Ham’s MP Lyn Brown spoke yesterday in a debate in parliament on NHS services in London. I’m not normally a huge fan of Lyn’s, but the speech is very good. It makes some excellent points about health inequalities and their impact on local people. It also touches on concerns about the future of A&E services at Newham General. It is worth reading in full:

I want to reflect on some of what my hon. Friend [Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North] said at the beginning of her speech and on the sentiments of a letter to The Guardian before Christmas from GPs, emergency doctors and nurses, midwives, physiotherapists, psychotherapists and NHS trusts. Their plea was for a page to be turned in the way we talk about the NHS. We need to talk about the failures in patient care, but we must also recognise that we have some extraordinary abilities in the NHS to reach and look after our communities as well as they do. Sadly, I have been close to the NHS in the past three years, and I have seen excellence and the pits. However, in general, the people who work in our hospitals do a fantastic job.

I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments of that letter because I fear that the driver for the relentless daily trashing that the NHS receives comes from base political motivation—the softening up of public opinion so that marketisation and privatisation become acceptable. It will not be acceptable. It is not acceptable now and I do not believe it will ever be acceptable, so let us just stop it.

I am not the only one to mistrust the motivation and outcome of the coalition’s top-down, unwanted and wasteful reorganisation of the NHS. I did a survey of my constituents — I like to find out whether my impressions are the same as theirs — and 97% of those who responded said that the NHS would undoubtedly get worse under the new system. When they were asked about their main concern, 60% thought that the money intended for NHS staff and services would end up as profit for private companies. My constituents are very astute.

I want to turn to local circumstances.

In 2006-08, life expectancy for men in Newham was 75.8 years, lower than the London average of 78.2 years. In the same period, life expectancy for women was 2.3 years below the London average at 80.4 years. Even within my borough, there are variations that make the local situation much more complex and challenging. Life expectancy in some wards is 8.1 years shorter than in others. That is massive.

In primary care, the recommended ratio of GP provision is 1.8 GPs per 1,000 of population. In Newham, the ratio is appalling and equates to not much more than half that, at 0.56 of a GP per 1,000 of population. It is small wonder that in my survey, 35% of respondents reported that it is never easy to get a GP appointment, and just 10% said that it is always easy. Many practices—too many—are operated by single GPs, so it is no surprise that the patient experience in Newham is the worst in north-east London.

The primary care trust, before its abolition, had a clear plan for tackling that challenging situation and I enthusiastically endorsed and participated in it. Now, there are no mechanisms in place to root out poor practice and promote the best. I would like to hear from the Minister how she will ensure that Newham has the number of GPs to which we are entitled, and that we have performance and outcomes that are the same as other areas of London.

Incidentally, I would be interested to hear whether other hon. Members here are experiencing the new phenomenon that we have in Newham: dial a diagnosis. When people contact their GP to arrange an appointment, they are initially offered a telephone conversation with the GP. Is that because GPs must bolster the failing 111 non-clinical service, which is now contributing to the difficulties of our A&E departments? Is it to save money, to sift out or deter patients or to ration GP time? Has there been a risk assessment of what that might entail, and does it contribute to the problems that my community is facing? Again, I would like to hear from the Minister about that.

Another statistic from Newham that should be good news is that the incidence rate for breast cancer is 104.6 per 100,000 of population, significantly lower than the UK average of 123.6. However, disturbingly and distressingly, the percentage of women alive five years after diagnosis—the five-year survival estimate—is, at 75%, also significantly lower than the UK average of 83.4%. The reason in part is the take-up rate of breast screening services, but there is anecdotal evidence of women who were part of Barts hospital’s preventative health services being encouraged to go away and become part of the general population, and to present sometime in the future. That encouragement not to continue to attend for breast screening gave a rosy picture of health needs.

The London Health Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Darzi, has a remit that includes healthy lives and reducing health inequalities. I will be interested to hear what the Minister says in anticipation of the commission’s report, and what assurance she can give that the Government will act on health inequalities.
Let me refer to the Barts health care trust, which is the largest in the country and incorporates Barts, the Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham General hospitals. Our patch is the growing part of London, with growth in population, complexity, the number of homes and, of course, opportunity. I was therefore grateful to hear the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field), who made a well balanced speech, talk about resources being sucked into the large university hospitals in the centre. Even though those of us on the far-flung borders of the east belong to the same trust as one of those hospitals, we experience the difficulties he talked about in relation to Romford.

Rumours abound at the moment that Newham General, as part of the Barts trust, is under threat of reconfiguration—a fascinating new word—to secure the viability of the trust as a whole. When I talked to the trust’s chief executive, he told me that the PFI represented only 10% of the trust’s entire budget and that, given that the budget was large, he did not see the PFI as having major consequences for the delivery of services.

However, there is an accusation that the trust is being a little disingenuous in its public statements that the A&E at Newham General will not be closed. Assurances have been sought that there will be no downgrading without full consultation, but those look weak in the face of a shortage of anaesthetists, for example, who are essential to support a viable emergency service.

Almost half of London trusts are struggling to achieve the 95% standard for patients waiting in A&E. Barts trust is just about achieving that target, but that is because Newham General performs well and helps the trust’s overall performance — a good example of how a local acute hospital catering for a place such as Newham can perform well, while larger hospitals struggle. Given that the future of Newham General’s A&E is under threat, the irony of the situation is not lost on me, and nor will it be lost on my constituents.

In that scenario, it is essential that we maintain Newham General as a fully functioning major acute hospital with a full range of services, including A&E and maternity. Given that we are seeing growth out to the east, it would be irresponsible and downright dangerous for us not to do that. It would also be a complete distraction from the absolute priority of putting in place improved, integrated care services in the community and in primary care.

Finally, I seek assurances from the Minister about the funding formula for CCGs being rolled out across England. In the London context, it is shifting resources from inner-London boroughs, with their younger populations, to boroughs further out, which have older populations.

Newham just happens to have the youngest population in the whole of Europe, apart from some tiny canton somewhere that is almost irrelevant. We will therefore lose substantial amounts, while London as a whole is losing 2.3% of its funding to other areas. I would like reassurance from the Minister that the funding formula will fully take account of deprivation, as the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster said, as well as of our population’s high level of mobility, with the health problems that brings with it, and diversity, with the specific demands that that puts on health care.