In an interview with The House magazine last week, the new Conservative Vice-Chair for Women, Maria Caulfield MP called for a Parliamentary debate on reducing the 24-week time limits for abortions and criticised moves to decriminalise abortion and repeal the century-old laws which still treat abortion as a criminal act.
As the MP who moved the Bill to decriminalise abortion in March last year, I want to set the record straight and correct some misplaced concerns in her article. The decriminalisation of abortion would not have anything like the impact which she states, and the claims she makes on late-stage abortions up to 24 weeks do not match with the scientific evidence.
“MPs did not look like me, and they didn’t sound like me, so I didn’t think it was a possible career path,” says Chi Onwurah, 52, who has been the MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central since March 2010. Elected the first time she ran for office with a 40% majority, the Labour MP and now shadow minister for industrial strategy attributes much of her popularity to the fact she is not a career politician – she previously had a successful career as as an engineer and consultant in Denmark, France, the US and Nigeria.
Her childhood self would have been thrilled at her current job. “I would have been really, really happy if someone had told me I would end up here.” she says. “I would have thought they were having me on.”
Nearly 20 years ago, the Good Friday agreement was signed by the UK government, the Irish government and eight of the political parties in Northern Ireland. After decades of violence and bloodshed, during which more than 3,600 people were killed, it provided the basis for the relative peace and development we have seen in Northern Ireland since. The invisible and open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is, as the Irish government has said, arguably “the most tangible symbol of the peace process”.
Against that background, the UK’s exit from the EU undoubtedly presents a significant and unique challenge. That challenge has been on the prime minister’s desk for 20 months, but we are still waiting to hear how she intends to overcome it. The dilemma facing Theresa May is one of her own making. The red lines she laid out in her Lancaster House speech last January – including no customs union and no membership of the single market – are incompatible with the commitments she made later in the year to protect north-south cooperation and to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
On Good Friday 1998 I was on the way to Wales for the weekend when the news came on the radio that an agreement had been made in Belfast – something I never thought would happen. I was overjoyed.
The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement stopped me ever being a political cynic and may ultimately have led me to becoming an MP.
I am one of the millions of British-born children of Irish immigrants. Growing up in London during the 70s and 80s wasn’t easy. The violence and murder in Northern Ireland and on the streets of British towns and cities hung over communities and fuelled anti-Irish sentiment here.
From the East Coast franchising to scrapping rail electrification schemes, and much more besides, this past year has seen a raft of failings on the watch of the current Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. That’s why I applied for this debate with the support of other backbench MPs from all main parties. During the three hour debate, the Secretary of State must come to the House of Commons to answer for these failings.
There are four key questions.
First, in the wake of the East Coast debacle, he needs to answer questions about our rail franchising system.
If the economic challenges posed by Brexit loom large for Britain as a whole, they are even starker for northern England. There’s rarely been a more relevant time to ask not what the country can do for the North, but what the North can do for the country.
Westminster spends much of its time debating supply-side, micro-economic issues, such as education and skills, where the objective is to make people and communities ready for jobs in sunrise industries that we assume are coming. However, can we now be certain that those opportunities will arrive?
Diabetes affects 4.5 million people in the UK, more than any other serious health condition. The complications of diabetes include strokes, heart failure, heart attacks, lower limb amputations, renal problems and early death.
The number of people living with diabetes is rising fast, and every day around 700 people are diagnosed. With 10% of the NHS budget being spent on diabetes and its complications every year it’s important that we talk about treatment, prevention and the future of diabetes care.
The ‘sharing economy’ is a description which gives good vibe. Who can oppose the idea of new opportunities for people to use their own assets to generate some extra cash, all facilitated by digital technology? And yet, all is not what it seems. The rapid growth of the short-let or ‘nightly booked’ accommodation sector – including, but by no means limited to, Airbnb – has a positive side, of course, and I am certainly not amongst those wanting to bring it to an end.
However, alongside the owners renting out a spare room, or letting their flat for a few weeks while they are on holiday, there is another reality – that of an increasingly professionalised arm of the hospitality industry operating without effective regulation and leaving the problems for others to deal with.
Over the last five decades, the American Consumer Technology Association’s annual jamboree has grown to become the world’s largest tech show: attracting over 190,000 visitors and 4000 companies, with 7,460 reporters filing 59,969 reports over the course of four days in Las Vegas. In the process, it has achieved an almost mythical status – from unveiling the first-ever home VCR (Philips 1970) to Bill Gates’ resignation from Microsoft in 2006, and has included cameo appearances by the likes of Jay-Z and Barack Obama.
As a fully qualified geek (Electrical Engineering degree, 20 years in tech – before it was cool) and the shadow minister for Industrial Strategy Science and Innovation, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to venture to Las Vegas while on a family holiday to the US’ west coast; hoping, against all hope, to see the progressive future of a technology-enabled, more equal world.
After nearly twenty years of peace it’s easy to take progress in Northern Ireland for granted. Questions about the incompatibility of Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement are dismissed as the latest obsession of the unreconciled Remainer. But fears about what Brexit means for Northern Ireland are genuine and need answers.
Those wanting greater control and enforcement of rules on immigration after Brexit imagine the reinstatement of a hard border on the island of Ireland will help. It won’t. The common travel area has allowed citizens of both countries to move freely, give or take the occasional interruption, since 1925. We need to remember that the border was dismantled not in response to an EU treaty, but in order to achieve peace. The watchtowers, checkpoints and guns were removed because that is what was agreed in the Good Friday agreement, not because both countries are EU members. Having said that, there is no doubt that aspects of EU membership helped remove some of the obstacles to the softening of the Irish border.