Julie Cooper MP for Burnley and Padiham

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the UK this week comes just a few days after he announced the construction of 5,500 new settlements in the West Bank in direct opposition to UN Security Resolution 2334.

His visit was a perfect opportunity for Theresa May to raise the UK public’s increasing concerns over the stalling of the peace process. Yet once again she struggled to tell hard truths to our closest allies, instead choosing the easy path. As Prime Minister she is once again putting trade over the promotion of human rights and the right to self-determination and freedoms that we all believe in.

The continued building of settlements is not simply a question of housing but is rather a sinister way for the Israeli Government to undermine any hopes of a future Palestinian State. For each new settlement built cuts the size of a future Palestinian State, until there will be little land for Palestinians to call their own.

I am fervently committed to a two state solution which will recognise a Palestinian State and an Israeli State along the 1967 lines. The British Government along with the outgoing Obama Administration in December supported the adoption of UN Security Resolution 2334, which called for a freeze on all settlement building and condemned all measures ‘aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem’.

It’s clear as day that the new announcement by the Israeli Prime Minister is in direct defiance of UN Resolution 2334 and in breach of international humanitarian law as well. The Prime Minister should stand by Britain’s vote at the UN Security Council and condemn the announcement of new settlements and press the Israeli Prime Minister to reconsider and restart the peace process. For the alternative is continued instability in the region and renewed violence and bloodshed on both sides.

Yet we cannot pretend that we live in normal times and that the announcement of new settlement in the face of the UN is not related to the election of Donald Trump as President of the US. For the first time we have a US President who, along with key advisors, has donated to the building of settlements in the occupied territories. The Bet El settlement comprised of 1,300 families in the Binyamin Region of the West Bank received $10,000 from the Trump Foundation in 2003 and $38,000 from the foundation of his key advisor and son-in law Jared Kushner in 2013. I find it difficult to believe that these prior donations will not influence US policy on Israel, and in turn allow the Israeli Prime Minister to believe he can continue to undermine the peace process and build settlements with impunity.

That is why I am deeply disturbed to also hear that the Israeli Parliament yesterday passed legislation that would retroactively legalise 3,800 settlements built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. This legislation is not only in violation of international law but it will lead to an escalation that will no doubt lead to further instability and chaos. While the legislation will be challenged in the courts, it is unmistakable that Israeli politicians are emboldened by what they see as a US Government that is more sympathetic to settlement building.

It is increasingly clear that a Trump Administration will abdicate America’s long commitment to a two state solution and a resolution to one of the oldest territorial disputes in modern times. That is why it is vital that the British Government take up the mantle and use our diplomatic clout to get the two sides talking once more. We have a historic responsibility to both parties to ensure that the two sovereign states have a viable future. Both the Palestinian and Israeli people’s fates are inextricably intertwined, neither can succeed without the other. They rely on each other not only economically but also for security. Israel will never be stable and Israeli citizens will never be safe until the issue is fully resolved.

Since coming to office Theresa May’s Government has managed to offend and alienate our allies across Europe. The only friends she has made are President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, both of whom have increasingly isolated their respective countries on the world.  Is that the company we as a country want to keep?  

The Labour Party has always been committed to the promotion of human rights and to speaking out against injustice wherever we see it. In that spirit I will continue to speak out against the grave injustices many Palestinians face on a daily basis, as well as the need for this Government to take seriously human rights across the world. We cannot stand idly by while our allies float international law and seek to undermine international institutions. Nor can we stand by while another generation of Palestinians are marginalised and forced off their land.

While I accept that it will ultimately be down to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reach an agreement, I do not think we should stand idly by while any hopes for talks are slowly dismantled. If this Government is truly committed to a two state solution then we must speak out, for if we wait it will slip away.

Why Theresa May Needs to Speak Out Against New Settlement Building in the West Bank

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The fact that families are still having to choose between vital necessities such as food or heating their homes is an appalling reality. Fuel poverty describes the epidemic in which people are having to pay more than 10% of their annual income on heating their homes. That amount of money is utterly ridiculous and it unfortunately leaves families with even less income to support themselves in many of the other necessary aspects of their lives. Those who fall victim to fuel poverty are much more prone to issues such as avoidable illnesses and even winter deaths.

In the UK there are still over 4 million households which are living in fuel poverty. Currently in Burnley 5,147 households, accounting for 13.5% of the total population, fall under this category. On average residents in the North West spend £352 more than other areas of the country.

We cannot continue to let families live with this unnecessary burden, who have to choose between heating and eating. That is why on the 17th of February I will be joining with other Labour colleagues to support Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, which seeks to help raise awareness to the fuel poverty crisis in this country. Fuel Poverty Awareness Day is supported by the National Education Association who offer advice for those families affected on how best to heat their homes in the winter whilst conserving energy.

Without the necessary interventions needed to deal with the cold home crisis, the NEA estimates that within 15 years the overall effect will be 125,000 premature deaths and £22 billion will be spent by the NHS in treating these entirely preventable and life-threatening cold-related conditions. These are horrific prospects that I refuse to let happen on my watch. There are simple measures that can be taken to make a major difference in our community.

I urge anyone affected by fuel poverty to copy the following link which will take them to a video by the National Education Association which will offer tips on how to stay warm at home this winter: http://www.nea.org.uk/advice/the-heat-is-on/

 

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day

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Last night I joined with parliamentary colleagues and the Labour frontbench to vote in favour of the 2nd reading of the Bill to trigger Article 50 and begin the process for Britain to negotiate exiting the European Union. I said the following:

“Since the vote nearly seven months ago, a shadow has been cast across this country. The decision to leave the EU has weighed heavy on us all. It has divided communities, workplaces, families and political parties. The campaigns were not our finest hour. I campaigned to remain in the EU not because I thought the EU was perfect but because I did not want the UK to close its doors and shut itself off from the rest of the world. I want us to work with our European neighbours to find common solutions to the multitude of problems every developed country faces, from a rapidly aging population and its impact on our healthcare and pensions system to the co-ordinated action necessary to tackle climate change and terrorism.

My constituents voted 66% in favour of leaving the EU, and I respect that decision. Some voted to leave because of concerns over immigration and fears that this was negatively impacting on the availability of jobs and local services; some voted out because they thought it would mean more money for the NHS; and for some, the referendum was an opportunity to register their discontent not just with the EU but with the direction the country was travelling in as a whole. While globalisation has brought wealth and economic growth, it has also left many people behind. In Burnley, people have seen manufacturing jobs decline and wages stagnate while bankers pay themselves million-pound bonuses and the rich increasingly find ways to dodge paying tax. They have been told consistently by the Government that the UK is the fastest-growing economy in the G7, and yet they have not seen that growth. They do not see more job opportunities or wage increases; all they find is that things are getting harder.

Because I respect my constituents and the democratic process, I will vote to trigger article 50, but I will not vote blindly for a Brexit deal that leaves my constituents poorer or worse off. First, the deal must protect jobs, which means access to the single market. Some 5,000 people in Burnley work in manufacturing and many of our biggest employers are European. It is vital that these jobs be protected. Secondly, workers’ rights must be protected. I am proud that past Labour Governments have championed workers’ rights. Thirdly, Burnley receives £5 million a year from EU funding. This money is vital, and has helped us to expand. The Government must commit, beyond 2020, to replacing that investment.

These circumstances were not of my making, but I believe that we must now seize the moment and all work together to do our very best to achieve a deal that will serve the interests of all our people and, in so doing, begin to heal the divisions in our country.”

You can watch my speech here (copy & paste the link): http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/6c20216a-6561-414d-8ad9-2d3a0036cab1?in=16:27:11&out=16:30:02

Why I Voted To Trigger Article 50 (To Start the Negotiations for Britain to Leave the European Union)


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