This week (12-18th February) is Heart Unions week in which we highlight and celebrate the important work that trade unions do every day to offer people a voice at work. I’m showing love to our public sector workers who are working with their unions to end the pay cap in the public sector.
On Saturday I popped down to "The Place" in Fallowfield for Hate Crime Awareness Week. It was useful to speak to local residents about what hate crime is and how to report it. A big thank you to all involved!
On February 9 I met the students and staff of St Agnes Primary School. It was a very inspiring visit. I’m so proud of the work they’re doing with Unicef on the rights of refugees. I was also able to give them the letter I received from the Immigration Minister in response to their video on Refugee Family Reunion http://twitter.com/Afzal4Gorton/status/962004415761797121
I Joined Louise Haigh on the front bench for Labour's response to Police Grants debate on February 7 to press the government on its plans to push through another £100 million real terms cut to our police. With 21,000 fewer officers, 17,000 fewer police staff, and 6,000 fewer PCSOs than in 2010, the Government is putting the public further at risk. The first duty of government is safety and security of citizens, yet ministers provided just half of the funding counter-terror chiefs requested to meet the demand.
On the centenary of women's suffrage it is important to remember us of the hard won nature of the struggle to extend the franchise and the value of participatory democracy to all groups in society. We still have some way to go before our parliament is fully representative of the country it serves, and marking the centenary both highlights the progress we have made to date and the distance we still have to travel on the road to full representation. To mark the occasion I wrote an article for Eastern Eye pointing out the need for British Asian women in particular to make their voices heard https://www.easterneye.eu/vote-women-centenary-asian-women-must-make-voices-heard/
On Kashmir Day (February 5) I spoke at an event to celebrate Kashmir as well as highlight the ongoing struggle for self-determination. It was great to see so many people turn out to express solidarity with Kashmir including Moston councillor and Labour National Executive Committee member Yasmine Dar.
On February 2 I visited the Google Digital Garage on King Street. The "Garage" provides free digital coaching for everyone in Manchester as well as essential career building mini-courses such as "How to build a CV" and "How to write a Cover Letter"
I had a very productive meeting with the Chief Crown Prosecutor, Martin Goldman, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor, Ian Rushton and Head of Complex casework, Howard Gough at the Crown Prosecution Service on Jan 26. We covered a wide range of topics from terrorism prevention to joint enterprise and community engagement.
It was great to see the Town Hall lit up in purple last Friday in support of the WASPI - Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign. I stood alongside The Lord Mayor, fellow Labour MP’s, local councillors and trade union colleagues from across Greater Manchester in solidarity with #WASPI women and their demands for a fair pension. Special thank you to Wendy from Greater Manchester WASPI for organising this great event.
This government's record on house building is pitiful. Helen Hayes MP for Dulwich and West Norwood and I pressed the Minister on why he will not adopt Labour's plan that would allow Councils to build 80,000 council homes.
On January 19 I joined the North West Labour Party in welcoming BAME members from across the region to take part in a Democracy consultation, one of a series of events the Party is hosting across the country, to look at how to better engage our members so as to build a strong Labour movement. This particular session focused on how to better engage BAME members to ensure better representation across all levels of the Party. It was encouraging to see so many young BAME activists come forward with fresh ideas on how to strengthen the Labour movement.
After last month's hike in rail fares I made the point that these year on year hikes have not led to an increase in quality of service especially not in Manchester. I cited the example of Levenshulme rail station which experienced flooding and blackouts over the Christmas period and still lacks disabled access. http://twitter.com/Afzal4Gorton/status/951156759766454273
I spoke on a debate on the crisis of Mental Health in our prisons on January 8. Discrimination and stereotyping experienced in prisons can exacerbate mental health problems. Action must be informed by particular risks to the Black and Minority Ethnic prison population. I raised recommendations from reports published by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and Dame Anne Owers
Homelessness in the UK has reached a crisis point and it is a tragedy that so many will spend Christmas without permanent shelter. Last week I joined Smile Aid in handing out food & warm clothing to the homeless in Manchester. In addition to hand-outs Smile Aid focuses on building a humanitarian coalition to tackle social crises and enabling less priviledged members of our society to be employable & self-sufficient. For advice on homelessness call Shelter Manchester on 03445151640
In December I joined Great Places Housing Group at their largest ever development. The Melland Road site will offer over 130 homes for affordable rent, sale and shared ownership. While our country faces a housing crisis and many of my constituents are on housing waiting lists, it was great to visit the Melland Road site and see Great Places’ plans for Gorton. This site will offer over 130 much-needed homes through a variety of affordable tenures and I am confident it will have a positive impact on the local community. I was shown round by Great Places Head of Private Sector Development Ben Townsend and Seddon Construction’s Business Unit Director, Paul Hughes. Ben said he was "incredibly proud of this development, which will not only provide over 130 quality homes for sale and private rent, but also the profits generated will be of great benefit in supporting Great Places’ wider work in communities.” See more at http://www.greatplaces.org.uk/about-us/latest-news/detail/2017/12/22/gorton-mp-visits-record-breaking-manchester-development
In the last week before Christmas I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims for the launch of the "A Very Muslims Merry Christmas" Report. The report highlights the much neglected role of Muslim Charities during the Christmas period. The purpose of the report is to refocus attention on aspects of our British Muslim communities which are not considered newsworthy, not given due credit, and which all too easily slip into the background because too little of this vital charity work is not recorded and disseminated by British Muslim charities themselves. The full report can be viewed here.
Rail services in Manchester and across the North are poor and have been neglected of investment by this Tory government. Many of my constituents have written to me about delays, increasing prices, and generally poor service, particularly at Levenshulme station. Appallingly, this station also has no disabled access. I raised this issue with the minister last week during transport questions and while his response was less than satisfactory, I will continue to press for improved railway services in our local area and across the country. You can watch my question here. I have also written to the rail minister to follow up on my question and ensure that steps are being taken to address these issues.
My Private Members Bill on Parliamentary constituency boundaries had its Second Reading this month and I am delighted to say that it passed unanimously. Constituency boundaries may seem like a technical issue, but they are essential to the public’s ability to hold Members of Parliament to account. They should reflect communities and stay stable over time, so that residents with common issues and existing ties can be properly represented in Parliament. I firmly believe that the proposed boundary changes were gerrymandering on the part of the Tory party, attempting to rig the system in their favour, and were simply making it harder to achieve a Labour Government. My bill is simple, it has four clauses which do five things. It retains the number of MPs at 650; reviews the boundaries every ten years; ensures that all constituencies have the same number of voters within a margin of 7.5%; makes sure the 2 million people who registered to vote since 2015 are included in the boundary review; and fixes the number of constituencies in Northern Ireland at 18. I gave a number of interviews about why I was proposing my Bill, including with BBC Daily Politics, which you can watch here. You can read the full text of my bill here. I also wrote two articles about the importance of proper representation: Huffington Post - Constituency Boundaries May Seem Like A Technical Issue - But They're Essential To The Public's Ability To Hold Parliament To Account Labour List - Afzal Khan: Let’s listen to the voices of two million people left out of boundary review
I had a great time attending Christmas lights switch on events across the constituency and celebrating this festive time of year with local councillors and constituents. Along with the Lord Mayor of Manchester, I watched the lighting up of Levenshulme, Fallowfield and Gorton and attended the Birch Community Centre Christmas market in Rusholme.
As part of Labour's national response to Philip Hammond's Autumn Budget statement, Labour MP's, activists and members took to the streets for a national campaign day centred around our vision of an economy that works for everyone. In Gorton, we held a street stall to hand out leaflets and talk to local residents about what a Labour budget would look like and how every household in Britain would be better off under a Labour government. Tory austerity has hit the most vulnerable in our society the hardest; it’s time we had a budget that works for the many, not the few
I welcomed the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbot MP, to Manchester this month. We had a very productive meeting with Chief Constable Ian Hopkins about the state of policing in Greater Manchester. He stressed that Tory cuts to our forces have gone on too long and they are in desperate need of proper funding. The 2017 Labour Manifesto promised to put 10,000 police officers back on our streets. We also took part in a round table discussion with members of Manchester’s African-Caribbean community and heard from Whalley Range resident, Marcia Hutchinson about the Pipeline Project, a great initiative which is being launched to support African-Caribbean people to become councillors. I will be speaking at the launch event on Thursday December 7th at 7pm.
In the House of Commons this month I highlighted human rights abuses going on in Syria. The government recognised that horrific crimes have been committed during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. This tragedy must be brought to an end and the perpetrators held accountable. You can watch my intervention here.
This month I met with students from Greater Manchester who attend the University of Salford. As part of the Three Faiths Forum 'ParliaMentors' scheme, they will be shadowing me over the next year and finding out what the work of an MP entails. The students first visited me in Manchester where they had the chance to see how my constituency office works and ask questions about my role as an MP. Later in the month, I welcomed them to Westminster to show them around Parliament and allow them to see what goes on in the House of Commons.
This month I took part in UK Parliament Week, which gives people a chance to engage and explore Parliament with the hopes of empowering them to become more involved in government decision making. As well as taking part in events in Westminster, I visited the Disciples of Hope Life Ministry in Manchester Gorton and spoke to the community there about ways they can engage with UK Parliament and how they can ensure their voices are heard.
This month's 'Meet Your MP' coffee morning was held in Whalley Range. I talked to residents about what I'd been up to in Parliament since being elected and my role as Shadow Immigration Minister. There was a great turnout and some really interesting questions from constituents on issues such as Brexit, housing and policing. I was very pleased that the ward councillors were also able to join me to talk to residents about the work our Labour council is doing locally and how we can work together as a team to tackle the issues which constituents are concerned about. Thank you to everyone who attended and joined in the debate. I hope these monthly “Meet your MP” events – which will move from ward to ward – will be a chance to discuss the issues I have been working on, both in Parliament and locally, on behalf of the people of Manchester Gorton. But most importantly I want to listen to constituent’s views and concerns, and understand how I can best represent them in Parliament.
Manchester has a proud history of leading science and innovation. The birthplace of the world's first commercial computer, Manchester is now the UK’s second largest creative, digital and tech hub and is home to 6000 of these companies. During Brexit questions I asked the minister what she is doing to ensure that Manchester's international science and technology industry is not cut off from top talent as a result of Britain exiting the European Union. You can watch my intervention here.
Greater Manchester Citizens, UNISON and Care Workers for Change organised a community vigil outside Bupa Gorton Parks Care home this month. I joined UNISON members, councillors, faith groups and local community members to stand in solidarity with care workers and to call on Bupa to pay a real living wage. Social care is a vital public service and both care workers and patients deserve dignity in social care. It is only right that the staff who care for vulnerable people are paid a decent living wage. Bupa makes millions of pounds in profits every year and they can afford to pay their staff more. We all hope that they will commit to paying their staff a real living wage. I raised the issue of social care in Manchester in my first PMQ's and is an issue I know matters to the people of Manchester Gorton.
Labour North West Regional Conference was a great success and a chance to come together as a region to discuss how we move forward as a Party. I caught up with members, councillors, trade unions and MPs from across the North West abd took part in panel discussions, workshops and talks covering everything from diversity to preparing for government. On Saturday, Diane Abbott and I ran a training session on ‘Building a Diverse Party’. We discussed why diversity is so important and ways we can increase BAME membership in The Labour Party. It was great to hear what members thought about these important issues and to listen to new ideas about how we can ensure BAME representation not only in our membership, but in leadership roles too. It was great to catch up with reps from The CWU, Unite the union and USDAW over the weekend to talk about what they've been up to and the campaigns they're leading. I was glad to see to see a motion for a Total Eclipse of the S*n in the North West moved by CWU officer, Cllr Brian Kenny on Saturday. I also took part in a the 'Preparing for Power' debate with Paul Nowak (TUC), Angela Rayner MP and Debbie Abrahams MP and spoke at the Equalities Reception with Cat Smith MP and Margaret Greenwood MP.
I joined members of Unite the union and The Communication Workers Union on the picket line outside Rusholme First Manchester Bus Depot this month where drivers are on strike over unfair pay. Unite said - "The Rusholme drivers do exactly the same job with the same commitment to passenger safety as their colleagues across Greater Manchester – and when they are driving within the City Centre, they are even overlapping on the same routes." It is unacceptable that drivers who work in a depot on the other side of the same city are paid as much as £5000 less per year and I fully support the drivers. First Bus Group are one of Europe’s biggest and most profitable bus groups and can afford to pay their workers a fair wage. I stand in solidarity with Unite the union members in their strike and hope that First will give their drivers a fair deal. Watch more here.
On November 3rd, Jim McMahon's Votes at 16 Private Members Bill will be debated and voted on in Parliament. I'm proud that the Labour Party is supporting the campaign because we believe our young people deserve a say in their future. You can add your support to the campaign by signing our petition - labour.org.uk/votesat16
It was an honour to attend the Pride of Gorton awards this month and see so many local residents and community groups recognised for the huge difference they make to our local area.It was a wonderful evening attended by local councillors, residents, members of Greater Manchester Police, the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Manchester, with entertainment provided by students from Wright Robinson College choir.
It was great to meet members of Refugee Action to learn more about their #LetRefugeesLearn campaign. I spoke to Anteneh and Ana from Manchester about the positive impact English lessons have had on their lives. Learning English is a gateway to work, study and getting to know your neighbours. It is also instrumental to refugees’ mental health and staving off isolation and loneliness. I addressed the vital need for investment in ESOL courses in a Westminster Hall debate this month, you can read my contribution here.
During Prime Minister's Question Time this month, I challenged the government on the issue of social care as I know this is important to so many of my constituents and a vital resource which is currently being stripped away under this Government. Since 2010, Manchester City Council has had its annual social care budget cut by £32 million. By March 2018, the Government will have taken £6.3 billion out of social care. Labour have committed to investing £8 billion in social care, a desperately needed investment. I asked the Prime Minister whether she would commit to matching this investment in next month's budget. You can watch the Prime Minister's response here.
I had a great time at North West Young Labour Conference where I caught up with my former colleagues from the European Parliament, Theresa Griffin and Julie Ward, and met young Labour members from across the North West.The conference was a brilliant opportunity for young members from across the region to come together to discuss policy, plan campaigns and get to know each other. Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Cat Smith MP, lead a lively debate on lowering the voting age to 16 and I took part in a panel debate on Brexit with our North West Labour MEPs.
This month's 'Meet Your MP' coffee morning was held in Rusholme at Birch Community Centre. I talked to residents about the process of setting up my office, what I'd been up to in Parliament since being elected, and my role as Shadow Immigration Minister. There was a great turnout and some really interesting questions from constituents on issues such as Brexit, housing and policing. I was really pleased that the ward councillors were also able to join me to talk to residents about the work our Labour council is doing locally. Thank you to everyone who attended and joined in the debate. I hope these monthly “Meet your MP” events – which will move from ward to ward – will be a chance to discuss the issues I have been working on, both in Parliament and locally, on behalf of the people of Manchester Gorton. But most importantly I want to listen to constituent’s views and concerns, and understand how I can best represent them in Parliament.
This month Parliament voted to pause and fix Universal Credit by 299 to 0. A vote that has been completely ignored by the government. Universal Credit will be rolled out to 400,000 people over the winter, and nearly 7 million over this parliament, despite the pilots showing that huge problems with the system will push claimants into debt and homelessness. I spoke in the debate on Universal Credit, highlighting the closure of Longsight Jobcentre and the risk of eviction and homelessness from higher levels of debt among UC claimants. I urged the Minister to recognise the damaging effect this roll out will have on my own constituents and asked that the government act now to pause and fix Universal CreditYou can watch my intervention here.
A study published this month has revealed that the UK has one of the worst records of pollution death of any country in Europe. As many as 50,000 deaths last year in the UK can be attributed to toxic air and man-made chemicals. In Manchester, the air we are inhaling is considered too dangerous to breathe by the World Health Organisation. I raised this issue in the House on October 20th - "Encouraging the use of public transport is key to tackling air pollution. Does the Minister accept that the increase in rail fares at twice the rate of wages since 2010, and the decreased use of buses while the Conservatives have been in office, have made air quality worse?"You can watch the debate here.
Yesterday I attended a Westminster Hall debate on the future of supported housing. I have seen first hand the positive impact supported housing projects can have on the lives of my constituents and it is vital the that the government continue to provide funding for these invaluable organisations.
Along with local police officers, councillors and local residents, I unveiled a plaque dedicated to the memory of all those who were killed or injured in the Manchester Arena attack. The plaque was donated by the wonderful Gorton community who I am proud to represent. Read the MEN article on the event here.
There was an amazing turn out for the The People's Assembly Against Austerity march in Manchester during Tory Party Conference. I joined Manchester Gorton Members, Manchester Councillors and other local MPs on the march. Over 30,000 people from across the UK came together in Manchester to send a loud and clear message to the Tories - we reject your failed austerity program and want an alternative. The Labour Party are a government in waiting and we are ready to deliver a country that works for the many, not the few.
This month it was my privilege to attend my first Labour Party Conference as an MP. Although, of course, being in Brighton could never compare to Manchester, the mood of unity and elation was inspiring. I started conference by watching our shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott’s speech, in my role as Shadow Immigration Minister (you can watch it here). In it, Diane reiterated Labour’s commitment to EU citizens (my article here) and promised that our immigration policy will always be shaped by enduring Labour values. I spoke at two fringe events during conference, one on the government using EU citizens as bargaining chips in negotiations, and the second on the impact of Brexit on BAME communities. There was some fascinating discussion of these important issues at both. Between all these formal engagements it was great to meet up with different groups: the unions, including the GMB, Unite and CWU, and Manchester airport and train operators, to raise my constituents concerns about transport, amongst plenty of others. As Jeremy Corbyn said in his speech on Wednesday, Labour is ready for government. The general election result put the Tories on notice and Labour on the threshold of power. I will certainly carry on working hard to get us there!
I have written to the Prime Minister expressing my outrage at the violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar, asking her to forcefully condemn serious human rights violations, and seeking a full review of the UK military's aid to Myanmar. You can read my letter here. I also raised the issue in the House and called on the government to do more to protect innocent civilians. You can watch it here. "Despite the extensive support— economic, cultural and political—that we have given to the Myanmar Government, we are now seeing that the Rohingya community is in danger of genocide. Does the Minister agree that we need to ask that Government for three things? First, the Government security forces need to be brought under control. Secondly, the aid organisations need to have free access there. Thirdly, the key thing is that the Rohingya need to be recognised as full citizens of Burma."
I held my first 'Meet Your MP' coffee morning in Gorton. Constituents raised lots of concerns about Tory cuts to public services and police. I will continue to work hard to fight these cuts and get a fair deal for everyone in our constituency. I hope these monthly “Meet you MP” events – which will move from ward to ward - will be a chance to discuss the issues I have been working on, both in Parliament and locally, on behalf of the people of Manchester Gorton. But most importantly I want to listen to constituent’s views and concerns, and understand how I can best represent them in Parliament.
I had a great time celebrating the 85th Birthday of The Place on Platt Lane, Fallowfield. As part of their celebrations I stopped by with Neil MacInnes, head of Libraries for Manchester City Council, to thank all the staff and volunteers who work so hard to make this place such a special part of our community. I also signed the original Fallowfield library visitors book which was first used at its opening in 1932.
It was great to see the sun shining for another successful Caribbean Carnival in Alexandra Park. Manchester carnival has brought Caribbean culture to the forefront annually for over 40 years and is the North West’s largest celebration of Caribbean music and carnival arts. The carnival is a vibrant celebration of caribbean music, dance, theatre and costume and it was an honour to be invited to speak. I'd like to thank you to everyone involved who helped make it a huge success as well as Greater Manchester Police who ensured everyone had a safe weekend.
Since the tragic events of Grenfell Tower I have been working closely with Manchester City Council and local housing associations to ensure that the safety of all tower block residents is put first. The City Council will ensure that all unsafe material found in tower blocks will be removed and they are keeping in regular contact will all residents who will be affected by this. There are a few buildings in our constituency which are affected and I am receiving regular updates from housing association One Manchester about the status of their work on these blocks. The latest information from One Manchester on fire safety in their high-rise blocks can be found here.
I was contacted by concerned constituents about the closure of Longsight Job Centre. I’ve been informed by Greater Manchester Jobcentre that although the services offered at the Longsight location will now be relocated to the Rusholme Job Centre, this may result in an increased pressure on services. I have written to the Minister for Employment, Damian Hinds, expressing my concerns about this decision and asking him to guarantee that no staff will be made redundant and that services will not be reduced. This week I visited Rusholme Job Centre to meet with senior DWP managers about the closure and relocation of services. I also had a tour of the Centre to see for myself the current situation of the service and meet with people who are using the Job Centre now.
I met with Chief Constable Ian Hopkins to discuss a range of local and national issues. As well as offering my praise to Ian and his officers for the way they responded to the tragic arena attack in May, we talked about how to improve public safety and community cohesion in Manchester Gorton. During the election campaign the Tory’s brutal cuts to our police service were raised with me time and time again. Since 2010 over 2,000 police officers have been taken off the beat locally and now crime is starting to rise again. I will be pressing the government in Parliament to reverse these dangerous cuts and put officers back on to our streets.
The Save Our Schools campaign took their message to Downing Street this month to highlight the funding crisis our schools are facing. Myself and fellow MP’s Mike Kane, Jeff Smith and Caroline Lucas joined children from across the UK as they delivered their SOS message in a bottle to the Prime Minister, calling on her government to fully fund our schools. I later went to visit the children of Stanley Grove Primary School who were involved in the campaign to talk about my role as an MP and was really inspired by their engaging and insightful questions. Every child deserves a good start in life and I’ll fight Tory cuts to local schools all the way.
In July I spoke at Manchester Mega Mela at Platt Fields Park. Manchester Mela is the largest celebration of South Asian culture in the North of England, attracting an audience of over 77,000 people. It was great to see that this year’s event was attended by people from every background and it as a true celebration of Manchester’s diversity and inclusivity.
I had a very productive meeting with the chair of Transport for Greater Manchester, Andrew Fender, to discuss how we can improve transport links across the Manchester Gorton constituency. As many of you will know transport links across the constituency are a real problem. Too many of our bus routes are underfunded and not properly supported. Instead of providing good links for the whole of the constituency, bus companies have creamed the profits off popular routes, while neglecting less profitable ones. I will be meeting with GM Mayor Andy Burnham to discuss how the new powers Greater Manchester will soon have over franchising can be used to improve transport links in our constituency. I will also be pressing ministers to put further investment into Manchester’s transport links, especially considering their broken promise to electrify the Manchester to Leeds railway line.
I was immensely proud to make my maiden speech as the MP for Manchester Gorton. In my speech, I paid tribute to my predecessor, Sir Gerald Kaufman, promised to stand up for the issues that matter most to my constituents and to always put the interests of Manchester Gorton first during my time in Parliament. You can watch my maiden speech here.
I was delighted to have been appointed as a Shadow Immigration Minister by Jeremy Corbyn. It’s an honour to have been asked to serve in this important role and I look forward to making use of my experience working on community cohesion and as an MEP. As we negotiate our future relationship with the EU, it is vital that we have an immigration system which supports our economy, keeps us safe, prevents exploitation and commands public support. I will be working hard along with Shadow Home Office team to develop this agenda in the coming months. You can watch my first appearance in the Commons as a Shadow Minister at Home Office questions here.
This morning I had the huge privilege of saying the oath of allegiance and being officially sworn in as MP for Manchester Gorton. It's a huge honour to represent the people of Manchester Gorton and my home city in Parliament. The hard work is only beginning, but I will be working everyday to get a fair deal for our local area and to make sure your voice is heard in Westminster. You can watch it here