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Statement on the killing of protesters in Gaza

55 people killed by live fire in one day and over 2,770 wounded. It was the deadliest single day in Gaza since Israel’s attack in 2014. Hospitals in Gaza, already at breaking point from shortages of essential medical supplies report more abdominal, chest and head wounds than from shootings of demonstrators buy the Israeli military in previous weeks.

The respected Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, had it right when they said yesterday that the use of live fire ammunition against Gaza demonstrator’s evidences “Appalling indifference towards human life on the part of senior Israeli government and military officials.” If human rights defenders in Israel can see this, why can’t the US Administration? The response of the White House in absolving Israel of all responsibility for yesterday’s deaths is as reprehensible as it is short sighted.

Of course Hamas will seek to exploit events on the border with Israel, but thousands of people do not put themselves in harm’s way because of manipulation by Hamas or anyone else. They do so because they have been dispossessed for 70 years, under occupation for 50 years and under a blockade that has turned Gaza into a gigantic prison camp for eleven years. Like many other MPs, I am disappointed that UK ministers have been so reluctant to speak as clearly as B’Tselem about what is happening in Gaza.

It is imperative that the UK government supports the call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and EU Representative Federica Mogerini for an independent and impartial Inquiry into events on the Israel and Gaza border. Anybody found to be in breach of International law – whoever they are – must be held accountable.

We also need answers about UK arms exports to Israel. Last year, the UK issued licences for the export of sniper rifles and other weapons to Israel. When I asked UK ministers to investigate the uses to which those arms are being put, however, the reply I received inexplicably said that the UK “do not collect data on the use of equipment after sale”. If true, this means that UK ministers don’t have the first idea whether UK weapons are being used to shoot demonstrators in Gaza. What will it take for the UK to enforce its own rules on the export of weapons to places where they could be used for internal repression or serious violations of international humanitarian law?  In the light of what is going on in Gaza, the UK should suspend arms exports to Israel.

Relocation of Channel 4

Today the House of Commons debated the relocation of Channel 4. In March Channel 4 announced its 4 for All the UK Plan to increase its presence across the country and create a new National HQ and two creative hubs outside of London.

Our region deserves its fair share of investment from the UK’s national broadcasters. Moving its headquarters to Birmingham would also be a smart and forward-looking choice for Channel 4.

Channel 4 prides itself on being a broadcaster that looks to the future. If Channel 4 want to reflect the UK of tomorrow, they should look to the West Midlands of today and the massive reservoir of talent in our young and diverse population and select the West Midlands as its new headquarters.

Channel 4’s mission has always been to disrupt, challenge, pioneer and fight for new voices to be heard. In the West Midlands, that is what we do. It’s time for C4 and our region to get closer.

April’s newsletter

Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter!

Space prevents the newsletter covering all of what I have been doing over the past month. However, hopefully it provides a flavour of some of the local issues I have taken up as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on Northfield Leisure Centre, the Windrush Generation and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.

Best wishes,

Richard

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Figures reveal rising food bank use

In recent years, the rise in the number of people requiring the support of food banks has been alarming and the past year has been no different.

Figures released yesterday by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, reveal that food banks provided record levels of emergency food supplies last year. The Trust provided 1.3 million three-day food packages for people in crisis, with almost half a million of these packages going to children.

In the West Midlands, between April 2017 and March 2018, almost 60,000 three day emergency food packages were provided to people facing crisis by the Trussell Trust, over 20,000 which were for children.

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Question to Prime Minister on military involvement in Syria

Decisions about the circumstances in which UK forces should be sent into action are amongst the gravest that any government can take. In a modern democracy, government also has a responsibility to listen and the elected Parliament should not be cut out of the process that precedes those decisions being made. Yesterday I stressed to the Prime Minister the importance of Parliament being consulted before taking military action and the urgent need for a broader international strategy to help protect civilians from the kind of carnage inflicted on Aleppo and Eastern Goutha over the past year.

You can see the statement I put out over the weekend in response to the US/UK French airstrikes here.