Mary Creagh MP

Working hard for Wakefield

Mary Creagh's speech at Islamic Relief's Ramadan dinner

Thanks very much indeed for that introduction, and that’s definitely the first time Thomas the Tank Engine has ever had a round of applause, someone had better call the Daily Mail right now.

Your Excellencies, Lords, ladies and gentlemen…

I want to thank you for inviting me here tonight, and thanks to Jehangir for his very powerful speech, and to Zac for his very powerful speech as well.

We’ve had many battles in the House of Commons, but Zac and I are usually on the same side so I don’t know what that says about him or what that says about me. But we’re definitely both coming from the same place on the environment.

Ramadan is an important month – a time of spiritual reflection.  Of putting faith into action.

Abstinence from food and drink reminds us of the suffering of the world’s poorest people.

We remember that when our fast stops, theirs does not.

Our fast is a choice, theirs is enforced.

I was talking with my neighbour last week about how long the fast will be this year – a full 19 hours.

So I’m hoping that the weather stays cool, that there’s going to be some rain, and it isn’t going to be too hot for all of you. So good luck with that.

Tonight we celebrate the work of Islamic Relief and the generosity of British Muslims.

The spirit of Ramadan mobilises thousands of volunteers, mosques and community organisations - and  we’ve heard about that in Jehangir’s speech.

In this holy month, the British Muslims will raise in excess of £100 million pounds for those in need.

This year’s Ramadan message is  ‘Share your relief with those who need it most’.

Last year’s Ramadan saw Islamic Relief raise £20 million pounds.

Let’s hope we can do even better this year.

Islamic Relief, the world’s largest Muslim charity, now operates in over 40 countries regardless of race, colour, religion, political affiliation or gender.

Yours, was the first charity I visited when I became Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

You deliver aid to the world’s most vulnerable people in the world’s most dangerous places.

I pay tribute the tireless staff at Islamic Relief.

I know how hard they work and what a difference they make.

And a special thank you goes to Shaheda Dewan and her team for organising tonight’s event.

I hadn’t realised you operate with everybody like you operated with me; very persuasive.

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I want to touch on the YouGov poll Jehangir mentioned in his speech.

Your poll shows that it is not an easy time to be a  Muslim in the UK.

I want to convey a message of solidarity and support – we in the Labour Party, and across all parties in parliament hugely value your contribution to our national life.

And I am proud and delighted that my colleague Shabana Mahmood who is here with us this evening has been promoted.

She is the first Muslim woman MP to serve in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet.

I know from my home city of Wakefield what a positive contribution the Muslim community makes to British society.

That should be recognised and celebrated.

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Now I share your ambition for a better world.

The UK is the first G7 country to meet the United Nations commitment to spend 0.7% of National Income on aid - a  tremendous act of solidarity with the world’s poorest people, and we worked across party lines to develop that promise to the world.

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If we wish to end the abuse of power, to end inequality in education and health,

to end the waste of worklessness and transform our world, we must rise to the challenges of globalisation, technology, and migration.

We have a duty to deliver not just charity but justice for the world’s poorest people.

We know that without a thriving economy, without small businesses and private sector investment: there will never be a world without aid.

We know that there is no better route out of poverty than a job.

But not just any job.

Not work that enslaves people.

Not work that keeps children out of school, trapped in poverty.

Everyone in this room shares the passionate conviction that people should have decent work, decent pay, and the freedom to join a trade union.

Two years ago, the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh shocked the world.

Over eleven hundred people died that day, crushed when their factory collapsed.

We cannot wait for another Rana Plaza disaster to clean up fashion’s dirty secret.

Shoppers need to know that the people who made their clothes have decent work and can live decent lives.

There must be no more fashion victims.

We need partnership between governments, companies and NGOs, to raise factory standards, tackle child labour and ensure a decent wage for workers.

More of the world’s poorest people are living in fragile and conflict affected states.

The crises in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen and the Central African Republic have created the largest refugee crisis since World War Two.

Fifty five million people need our help.

I was also concerned to see your poll showing a fall in support for taking in refugees.

Over the past 2 years we have seen a huge tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean.

People fleeing conflict in Syria, Libya and Eritrea are putting their lives into the hands of the traffickers because the world is turning away in their hour of need.

The UK government was wrong to withdraw from the Mediterranean rescue force saying that it acted as a pull factor.

But it was right to realise this mistake and to participate in the new Mediterranean rescue force.

We pay tribute to the UK’s armed forces who are engaged on that task.

The United Kingdom has a proud history of helping those fleeing persecution.

Yet we have offered safe haven via the United Nations to fewer Syrian refugees than Germany, Austria, Canada, Sweden, France and Australia.

The government has resettled just 187 Syrian refugees under the UK’s own special scheme.

We urge the government to work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to offer safe haven to the children of Syria. We heard again from Jehangir of the plight of the Rohingya people in South East Asia where they are fleeing persecution and oppression.

Boatloads of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries.

Ultimately these challenges can only be tackled through focussing on the difficult long-term tasks of peacebuilding and nation-building.

So to finish I want to look to the future, perhaps with a little more optimism.

The Sustainable Development Goals will be finalised in September and a new global climate change deal will be agreed in December.

With the right leadership, ours is the generation that can end extreme poverty, reduce inequality and tackle climate change.

We can move to a world beyond aid, and enable people to secure justice instead of charity.

As the global village becomes smaller and more connected, we are in this room because we passionately believe we must build a world where power, wealth and opportunity is in the hands of the many, not the few.

2015 provides a unique opportunity for the world to think bigger and do better.

For ourselves, for our children and for the world’s poorest people.

That is a thrilling opportunity.

We must not let them down. I know Islamic Relief will play its part in that, and I wish you Ramadan Mubarak.

Thank you.

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