Category Archives: International

MP Votes to Recognise Palestine

Palestine

On 13th October, I voted to recognise Palestine as a state.

Palestinian statehood is not a gift to be given but a right to be recognised and that is why since 2011 I, and my Labour colleagues, have supported Palestinian recognition at the United Nations.

I fully support two states living side by side in peace, and recognised by all of their neighbours and it is clear that the events of recent months only underline the dangers for both Palestinians and Israelis of a resumption of violence and bloodshed.

Labour is clear that this conflict will only be resolved through negotiations. However after decades of diplomatic failure there are those on all sides that today question whether a two-state solution is any longer possible.

That is why Labour believes that, amidst the undoubted despair and the disappointment, the international community must take concrete steps to strengthen moderate Palestinian opinion, encourage the Palestinians to take the path of politics, reject the path of violence, and rekindle hopes that there is a credible route to a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel achieved by negotiations.

We are clear that Palestinian recognition at the UN would be such a step. That is why Labour called on the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in 2011 and in 2012 to commit Britain to supporting the Palestinians’ bid for recognition at the UN, not a means of bypassing the need for talks, but as a bridge for restarting them.

Labour’s consistent support for the principle of recognising Palestinian statehood, as part of continuing steps to achieve a comprehensive negotiated two state solution, is why I voted to support the principle of Palestinian statehood.

This motion does not commit Labour to immediate recognition of Palestine but it does reaffirm Labour’s support for the principle of recognising Palestinian ‎statehood. The timing and the mechanism by which Palestinian statehood would be recognised will continue to be a matter decided by Labour in Government.

You can read the debate in full here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm141013/debtext/141013-0002.htm#14101322000001

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International Day of the Girl 

Dame Anne Begg MP is today supporting International Day of the Girl, a UN-led campaign to raise awareness of gender inequalities and abuse suffered by girls around the world and this year’s theme is “Empowering adolescent girls: Ending the cycle of violence”.

The Labour Party has made stopping violence against women and girls a key priority for their programme for Government. Earlier this year, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP announced that a Labour Government would bring in new legislation to give better support to victims of violence and bring perpetrators to justice. And in the summer the Party appointed Seema Malhotra MP as the first ever Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence against Women and Girls.

The Labour Party has committed to:

  • Introducing a new Commissioner of Domestic and Sexual Violence to sit at the heart of Government and ensure victims voices are being heard
  • New national standards for policing to drive up performance across the board
  • Introducing compulsory sex & relationship education in all state-funded schools, so young people are taught that no form of violence in relationships is acceptable
  • A new £3million annual fund for refuges supporting victims of domestic violence
  • New FGM Protection Orders to stop children suspected of being at risk of FGM from being taken abroad

Dame Anne said: “I want girls in Aberdeen South growing up knowing they won’t face discrimination because of their gender and never fearing violence will be used against them. That is why it is important that we continue to fight for gender equality and continue speaking out against violence and discrimination – in our local area, but also across the country and internationally too.

“This is an incredibly important cause and that’s why a Labour Government – and a Labour MP in Aberdeen South – will make it a priority.”

Seema Malhotra MP, Shadow Minister for Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls said: “The global level of violence girls in our country is horrific. All too often rape and violence are used as weapons of war and in many countries discrimination against girls is deeply embedded in the national culture. International Day of the Girl is an important moment where we can stand side-by-side with women and girls across the world and say: ‘we will not stand for this. We want change.’

“And we need change in our country too. Teenage girls and young women are now the most likely group to be victims of domestic violence, thousands of girls are at risk of FGM and NUS report a growing number of sexual assaults at university.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to this growing violence. That is why Labour is putting this issue centre stage in our plans for Government.”

You can find out more about the UN International Day of the Girl at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/girl-child

MP Votes Against Air Strikes in Iraq

There is no more important decision a country can take than to commit our armed forces to military action and I can assure you this is not a decision that I, or any Member of Parliament, take lightly.

I know that the appalling brutality of ISIL – including taking British aid workers hostage and their campaign of atrocities against people of all religions and nationalities – will have shocked many people in our constituency and across Britain.

As you know, the House of Commons was recalled on Friday 26th September to consider whether the UK should agree to the request by the Iraqi Government to join the coalition of countries – including those in the region – that are taking part in air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. After carefully considering both sides of the argument, I decided to vote against the Government’s proposal for our air force to join air strikes in Iraq against ISIL.

I believe we must focus on wider political and diplomatic strategy in the region – in particular providing ongoing support for an inclusive and democratic Iraqi Government that can combat ISIL and restore stability and security.

To read the House of Common’s debate in full, go to: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140926/debtext/140926-0001.htm#1409266000001

MP Calls for Strategy to Build Peace

I joined around four hundred protesters to condemn the recent spiral of violence that has engulfed Gaza, southern Israel and the West Bank, which is continuing to bring untold suffering to innocent people. This spiral of violence that reinforces the insecurity of the Israelis and the humiliation of Palestinians has only lead to further suffering.

The scale of the suffering in Gaza today must be fully and frankly acknowledged. Because the life of a Palestinian child is worth no less than the life of an Israeli child.

The international community must offer immediate support to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza today. But we know that a humanitarian response, while necessary, is not itself sufficient. Ultimately the underlying cause of this latest crisis is the failure over decades to achieve a two state solution for two peoples. So although the urgent priority must be securing a ceasefire, the ultimate goal must be not just an end to the war, but a strategy for building the peace.

That is why I am calling for an end to the terror, the occupation and the seven year blockade.

You can read more information about the protest at http://aberdeentuc.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/fourth-week-of-aberdeen-protest-to-end.html

Anti-Slavery Day – 18th October

On Anti-Slavery Day, Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, urged individuals and organisations to respond to a consultation on the proposed Human Trafficking (Scotland) Bill which would introduce the most comprehensive legislation in the world to combat modern day slavery.

In March, Dame Anne jointly hosted an event raising awareness among professionals and individuals in the North East of the signs of human trafficking. Following on from this, she added her support to the proposals which have been put forward in the Scottish Parliament by Jenny Marra MSP.

The Bill would introduce wide ranging changes to the current response to human trafficking in Scotland by introducing a proper definition into Scots law, making it illegal to criminalise victims of trafficking in our courts, and creating a dedicated survivors’ service for victims.

Dame Anne said: “Men, women and children of all nationalities are victims of modern day slavery and it is happening right now in Aberdeen.  

“Victims are often terrified of the authorities, fear deportation, face language barriers, and are very much hidden in our society. That’s why it is vital that everyone is alert to the signals of trafficking and campaigns such as Anti-Slavery Day help to achieve this.

“The Bill being proposed by Jenny Marra would not only protect these victims but would make it clear that Scotland is a no-go area for traffickers and I would encourage everyone to submit responses to the consultation to ensure that this Bill has the opportunity to progress through Holyrood.”

The consultation is open until 6th December and the document can be downloaded at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/gettinginvolved/67134.aspx. Responses can be based on questions within the document, although additional comments are welcome, and should be sent direct to Jenny Marra MSP at Room MG.14, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh EH99 1SP.

Exhibition on Modern Day Slavery

Dame Anne Begg MP attended one of the most dramatic and distressing exhibitions ever promoted in the House of Commons highlighting the hidden nature of Modern Day Slavery.

The exhibition, built by students from the Central St Martin’s College of Art, depicts the four different kinds of slavery hidden away in our society.  Curtains, doors, drawers and tea chests concealed the stories and photographs of survivors.

The survivors who shared their stories with the Human Trafficking Foundation to create the exhibition attended the opening.  Among them was Cristina, a Romanian girl sold by her mother into prostitution in Birmingham when she was 16 and who narrowly escaped being snatched from her local authority care home by her traffickers.  There was also a man, duped by a job advertised in Hungary, and on arrival here forced to work without pay, compelled to open a credit card account operated by his slave master, forced to claim benefits for non-existent children.

No one knows the real numbers involved.  Yet, the Serious Organized Crime Agency knows that at least 2,000 victims are found each year.  However, they believe that is the tip of the iceberg and that for every victim found, another ten remain hidden.  The Human Trafficking Foundation concludes there must be up to 20,000 slaves in the cities, towns and villages of the UK.

Of these victims that have come to light, 6% are known to have come from Scotland.

Dame Anne visits House of Commons exhibition
Dame Anne visits House of Commons exhibition

MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne said “Due to recent local press coverage on this issue this week, we are all aware that there are deeply traumatised people who have been trafficked to the UK and abused living in Aberdeen.

“That’s why I recently held an event on International Women’s Day to raise awareness of human trafficking and I want to ensure that everyone in Aberdeen is more alert to the signs of modern day slavery.  I hope students in schools, public service workers, the police, as well as those in private business will join me in this task.

“In parliament, I have already tabled a question to the Minister asking that frontline staff are fully trained to recognise the signs of human trafficking. I want to see modern day slavery put at the top of the political agenda.”

Anthony Steen, Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation said: “What is amazing is that trafficked children, unlike adults, are offered no special care in spite of what they have been through.  They have no safe haven since in local authority care hundreds of trafficked children go missing each year.

Dame Anne stands up to prejudice by signing Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment

This week Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, signed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, in doing so pledging her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who died during the Holocaust.

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

In signing the Book of Commitment, Dame Anne paid tribute to those who perished during the Holocaust and honoured the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured, through the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Outreach programme.

In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. This year, people will also be encouraged to honour those communities that have been destroyed by genocide and reflect on the importance of coming together to oppose prejudice and hatred.

Dame Anne said: “Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

“I know that Multi-ethnic Aberdeen Limited (MeAL) and Aberdeen City Council, along with University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen College, Aberdeen Schools, Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation Synagogue and Shmu FM, have organised a series of events between 21st and 27th January to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and I would encourage all constituents to join them in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that Dame Anne is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day this year. It is vitally important that we both remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge all forms of hatred and bigotry.”

Air Passenger Duty’s effect on Aberdeen

Dame Anne Begg, MP for Aberdeen South, highlighted the negative impact air passenger duty (APD) is having on Aberdeen during a debate in the House of Commons.

A report released by Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports warns that APD could cost Scotland more than two million passengers a year by 2016, costing the Scottish economy £210 million in lost tourism spend per annum.

Dame Anne said: “It is clear by the 800 emails that I received from my constituents that the impact of APD is deeply felt by people in Aberdeen. We depend on air travel as there is no electrification of the railway line north of Edinburgh and it is highly unlikely that high speed rail will ever reach us.

“Passengers leaving Aberdeen are often connecting to routes via hubs like Heathrow. However, APD and the congestion caused by the lack of a third runway are making it difficult for Heathrow to compete with hubs such as Schipol, Paris or Frankfurt. Travellers are therefore choosing these airports where taxation is charged at a much lower rate or, is in fact, not levied at all.

“In Aberdeen, we have a lot of business travellers who want to be connected to emerging markets. Whilst I would like to see more direct flights from Aberdeen, it is crucial to the UK airlines that those travellers choose to fly via Heathrow and not other European hubs.”

Kincorth Academy asks World Leaders to “Send my Friend to School”

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Today Dame Anne Begg MP wrote to the Prime Minster, David Cameron MP, after receiving a number of colourful medals from S1 and S2 pupils at Kincorth Academy highlighting the issue of access to education for children across the world through the “Send my Friend to School” campaign.

Dame Anne is pleased to be able to display the work in her office and the vibrant medals will draw the attention of visitors to the problems experienced by children across the world in accessing education. The ‘Send my Friend to School’ campaign chose the theme of medals to tie in with the Olympics highlighting that whilst not all of us are world classed athletes, the race to ensure that all children can attend school by 2015 is one we can all take part in.

Therefore, Dame Anne has written to the Prime Minster to ask that he take action to ensure that all children have access to education by 2015. With 67 million children still denied access to education, pressure on world leaders needs to be maintained to ensure that this goal is met by 2015.

Supporting World Water Day

This year I will be marking World Water Day by putting my support behind international charity WaterAid’s Water Works campaign.

Living in Aberdeen South a ready supply of safe water is a necessity that we are lucky enough to take for granted. Preventable diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation are the biggest killer of children in Africa, and illness and hours spent collecting water from distant sources keep children out of school and prevent adults from earning a living. Safe water and sanitation transform lives, improve health and lifts communities out of poverty.

Earlier this month we learnt that the world has met a really important target in the fight to improve water access – the UN’s Millennium Development Goal on Water. This is welcome news, showing that aid is working and that we are making steps toward eradicating poverty.

However, there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone has access to safe water. 783 million people are still without even basic water services and progress towards the UN’s target for proper sanitation is far too slow – it will currently take around 350 years for everyone in Africa to have access to adequate sanitation. Not having these essential services traps people in a cycle of poverty, so we in the UK and other countries need to concentrate our efforts on bringing water and sanitation to all.

This World Water Day, I am proud to support international charity WaterAid’s campaign, Water Works. Campaigns like this one really do save lives and that’s why I have been supporting this cost for the past twenty years. Therefore, I want to highlight the life changing impact of safe water and sanitation ahead of the vital High Level Meeting on water and sanitation that is happening in Washington DC next month. The UK Government is critical to the success of this meeting and our Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, plans to attend.

You too can put your support towards this campaign at www.wateraid.org/waterworks.