On Monday, the Minister for the Middle East made a statement on the
humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, and the implications of the
conflict there for regional security.
Twenty-one million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance and seven million are one step away from famine. Yemen imports 90% of its food andthree quarters of that comes via the ports at Hodeidah and Salif.
Following an attempted missile attack on the Saudi capital Riyadh by Houthi rebels on 4 November, the Saudi-led coalition temporarily closed Yemen’s ports. This was to strengthen the UN-mandated arms embargo amid reports that Iran has provided the Houthis with ballistic missiles.
I unequivocally condemn the missile firing and understand the Saudis’ anger over it. However, the strengthened blockade risks making an already dire humanitarian situation even worse, as supplies of food,medicine and other humanitarian goods have ground to a halt. Water and sewerage systems in major cities have also stopped operating because of a lack of fuel.
The Minister expressed deep concern about the situation in Yemen and called on all parties to ensure immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies through land, air andsea ports. However, as the crisis in Yemen keeps getting worse, I believe we need urgent action, rather than yet more good intentions from the Government.
In my view, if the Government cannot show its influence with the Saudis by persuading them that ports should be opened up to humanitarian supplies then it is time for a change of approach. I believe it should suspend the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, pending the outcome of an independent, international UN-led investigation of potential violations of international humanitarian law on both sides of the conflict. The Government should be taking appropriate action to bring this conflict to a peaceful, negotiated resolution.
BUDGET 2017: a Tory Government out of touch with reality
Wednesday’s Budget offered nothing to tackle the issues that matter most to people in Brightside and Hillsborough.
Crucially, there was no increase in spending for our vital public services. The Chancellor provided no extra funding for mental health services facing higher demands; no mention of how to cope with the social care crisis; and not a word about helping our struggling police services which since 2010 has seen a 36% cut in funding in South Yorkshire.
With our NHS struggling to cope in the coming winter months, the Budget did not provide near enough the levels of funding so that our NHS has the resources it needs to provide an excellent service within the waiting time targets. NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens has said £4bn is necessary immediately to sustain the levels of demand – yesterday’s announcement did not come close to this.
While the Chancellor cracked jokes with his fellow Tories, the Budget was unraveling the dire reality about the state of our economy: lower projected growth, faltering productivity, lower wages and rising debts. This is the record of Tory austerity.
There was a lack of energy and real direction in this Budget. It is clear only a Labour Government will provide the investment needed to support our public sector and get our economy growing sufficiently.
The Chancellor has not done near enough to stop the misery that the current rollout of Universal Credit is causing.
The Government are still offering a desperate choice to those moving on to Universal Credit– wait 5 weeks to receive support or take a Government loan, going further into debt to make ends meet.
Labour is calling on the Government to pause and fix UC. In particular, we are calling on the Government to:
i. Reduce the six-week wait for payment, so that it lines up with the way people are paid, with all applicants to receive fortnightly payments if they so choose.
ii. Ensure everyone has the opportunity to have their rent paid directly to the landlord, to stop the spate of pre-emptive eviction notices that we are now seeing.
iii. Allow households to have split payments instead of just one going predominantly to the male, so setting back women’s financial autonomy.
iv. Change the monthly assessment for self-employed workers to a yearly one, to account for volatile working patterns.
v. Restore the work allowances slashed from UC in 2015.. Hammond should also end the freeze in social security payments, and ensure all children are supported through UC, not just the first two.