I want to start by wishing all my Muslim friends and constituents Eid Mubarak! Two weeks ago I attended a community Iftaar (breakfast) in Thornes Park, co-hosted by West Yorkshire Police and Wakefield charity Penny Appeal. It was held as part of the Great Get Together, in memory of my murdered colleague Jo Cox. The Hepworth Gallery also hosted an afternoon street food market. It was great to see people from across Wakefield coming together to remember Jo, and to show that we have far more in common than that which divides us.
My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the terrible terrorist attack on Muslim Welfare House, near Finsbury Park Mosque in London which left one man dead and several people with severe injuries. I wrote to Chief Superintendent Mabs Hussain, the Police Commander for Wakefield, asking him to step up patrols to reassure our local Muslim community, and provide a visible presence outside mosques. I am grateful for the swift response from the police and to the Jamia Swafia mosque on Park Lodge Lane for inviting me to their event last Saturday.
The event was held to show Wakefield’s solidarity with the Finsbury Park victims and the victims of the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower. As I said in Parliament, this fire was not an act of God, it was a man-made disaster. We need justice for the survivors, and safe and secure accommodation for homeless families who fled with nothing. It was good to see Wakefield’s Penny Appeal charity rushing to help those affected by the disaster. This was in stark contrast to the botched response from the local council and national government. This was a civil emergency, yet money was not released until 3 days after the fire. This is just wrong.
I have had many letters from people concerned about fire safety in our nine tower blocks in Wakefield. I met with Kevin Dodd, Chief Executive of WDH and Chris Musgrave, his operations and fire safety manager last Friday. They told me that our city centre tower blocks are insulated with fireproof panels, finished with plaster, not aluminium. Wakefield’s blocks’ exteriors have not been sent for testing as they do not contain aluminium and are fixed directly to the walls, unlike at Grenfell. Our blocks also have no gas supply. However, I intend to organise a public meeting with WDH, West Yorkshire Fire Service and local councillors to fully brief residents on this issue.
Last week’s Queen’s speech showed that although Theresa May is in office, she is not in power. She lost her majority because of her government’s record of cuts to our schools, hospitals and police. She is now at the mercy of the DUP, and her Tory backbenchers.
There is good news - she is set to abandon her plans to scrap free infant school meals, because she would not win the vote in Parliament. This is fantastic news for families in Wakefield. During the election, parents told me they were worried about these plans because for many young children this is the only hot meal they get in a day. However, the Tories still plan to cut £21 million from Wakefield schools . I spoke out against those cuts in the Queen’s Speech debate in Parliament this week.