Press Releases

Response on Cherry Groce inquest verdict

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Commenting on the verdict of the inquest into the death of Cherry Groce, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“In pursuing justice for their mother and fighting to ensure they received legal aid to be represented at the inquest into her death, my constituents – the family of Cherry Groce – have been completely vindicated by the jury’s findings.

“It is a disgrace that my constituents – all innocent victims of a grave injustice – have had to wait almost three decades to get to the bottom of what happened that fateful day in 1985 when their mother was shot by the Metropolitan Police.  That Cherry Groce never lived to hear the jury’s findings today compounds the injustice my constituents feel.

“The findings of the jury are very welcome and resounding.  The staggering ineptitude and incompetence of the police at the time – who should have called off the raid they carried out and did not properly check who lived in the home – are astonishing.  The family now deserve nothing less than a full, proper, formal apology on behalf of the Met by the Commissioner for what happened.

“Much progress has been made with regard to police community relations since the 1980s. But cases such as this and ongoing injustices surrounding issues like stop and search and deaths in police custody, highlight there is still a long way to go before we reach the levels of trust in the Police that we all want to see.”

ENDS

Chuka: Police Must Film Every Stop & Search in Lambeth

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Lambeth MP Chuka Umunna has called on the Metropolitan Police to extend a body worn camera pilot to the borough, arguing that increased scrutiny of stop and search actions is necessary to ensure trust between the police and those in his Streatham parliamentary constituency.

Mr Umunna has written to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, asking him to extend a Metropolitan Police pilot in which officers are equipped with body-worn cameras that can be switched on to film their interactions with members of the Public.

The pilot, launched in May this year, is operating in the London boroughs of Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Brent, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Havering, Hillingdon and Lewisham. During the pilot officers are using the cameras to both collect evidence in incidents such as domestic abuse and public order but also for potentially contentious interactions such as the use of stop and search.

Mr Umunna argued that introducing the pilot to Lambeth, which has had an historically poor relationship with the Police in comparison to other areas, would help to build trust between the Police and the people he represents, particularly with regard to the relationship between the police and the black community in Lambeth.

Research collated by the House of Commons library has shown that a black person is at least six times more likely than a white person to be stopped and searched.  Lambeth has a high black population. Over 25% of people in Lambeth identified themselves as black in the 2011 census.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“When people are the victims of crime, or witness to crime taking place, we need for them to feel able to trust the police in order to build a safer community, so we need to act to resolve anything that corrodes this trust.

“Some of the distrust comes from what has happened in the past, but whilst we have come a long way from the dark days of the 1980’s, there is much more that still needs to be done, particularly around stop and search.

“In my view, the Met should record every stop and search in Lambeth, both because it will help increase trust in the police and because it will help ensure the Police are accountable should they fall short of that trust.”

 

Chuka writes for the South London Press on the Living Wage

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Chuka Umunna MP wrote the following column for the June 30 edition of the South London Press:

Pay; Promotion; Politics; Safety; Security; Family; Community; Society; the Elderly. Ask most people in my South London constituency to put these in order of how important they are for them and it’s a safe bet that politics will come out bottom of the list.

And that’s as it should be – people rightly care far more about their jobs, families, local community and society, ahead of how much they care about the latest ministerial pronouncements or the ins-and-outs of party politics.

The time people most care about politics is when it impacts most on these more important priorities. The creation of our local SureStart centres by the last government, say, or the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance.

That’s why the focus for politicians must be on making sure that government helps where possible, does not act where acting would make things worse, and that when government does act it acts in the best possible way.

Pay needs to be a huge part of that focus, because getting people better paid jobs has a huge effect on the other things that people think is important, our ability to look after our families, share experiences with our children, and have a sense of security in the future.

It’s for these reasons that the fact that pay has fallen by £2300 since 2010 in my constituency is such a concern, and needs government to act to help where it can, and stop doing things that are making things worse.

One of the Campaigns that’s been most successful during my time as an MP has been the campaign for a living wage, and I think that is because it is a campaign focused relentlessly on ensuring that pay works for more people in our society – that more people earn a wage that means they can have a reasonable standard of living, instead of working constantly but not earning enough for the basics.

That campaign’s not been a political campaign purely focused on government, but a civil society campaign working with some of our most important institutions, like the Church of England & our businesses, charities and local councils. It shows the best of our society where we can all recognise that we rise and fall together and that we can also work together to improve things. The Archbishop of York, launching the Living Wage Commissions final report this week, called it a “beacon of hope for millions of workers”.

I think it’s important that government works to support the living wage campaign. It’s particularly important for the area I represent, where there are many people earning less than the living wage, and where some of our local communities, like our local Latin American community, are disproportionately not earning the living wage.

That’s why if elected next year, Labour will introducing Make Work Pay contracts, so that every employer who moves to offer a Living Wage to those on less than that wage a tax break; The saving this brings to government through less money being paid out in in-work benefits, isn’t kept only by government but shared with companies as well.

It’s not just on the living wage where we need to act to help people’s pay and prospects, but it is a very important part of it. And what people get paid at the bottom of the pay spectrum effects not just those people, but also has an impact on the ability of our businesses to grow and for everyone to get on at work.

It’s easier for everyone to achieve prosperity if there are less people in poverty, and that’s one of things that I think politics can help achieve.


Fantastic News on the Megabowl

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Chuka Umunna MP said:

“It is fantastic news that London Square have exchanged and should complete on the purchase on the Megabowl. Getting the Megabowl redevelopment built has been one of my top priorities for the local area and this news has been a long-time coming.

“The Megabowl has been too long an eyesore and I’ve lost count of the number meetings I’ve had to try and get this development going – I know local residents will be pleased that we finally seem to be getting back on track. ”

 

Dr Abbas Khan, Six Months On: Local MP & Family Speak Out on Need for Justice

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Six months after the death of British doctor Abbas Khan at the hands of the Syrian regime, the Doctor’s family and his local MP have said that what happened to him must never be forgotten so that justice can be done whenever the opportunity arises.

Dr Abbas Khan travelled to the region on humanitarian grounds in late 2012, before his capture by the regime inside Syria in November 2012. He was held in captivity until his death on December 16 2013.

Dr Abbas Khan’s brother Afroze Khan said :

“Six whole months since our brother’s death we are no closer to the truth of what really happened to him. Abbas showed great courage and fortitude in the presence of tyranny and we do not want his story to be buried in Syria or forgotten in Britain.

“Abbas made a selfless act to help others with no regard to the risk to his own life. For this he was imprisoned, tortured and in an act of sheer cruelty murdered just when freedom was in sight.

“On this day we ask that Abbas’s sacrifice be not forgotten and that there be a ceaseless pursuit to grant him and his family justice.”

Dr Abbas Khan’s sister Sara Khan said:

“The loss of my brother has left an indelible scar for us all and nothing can ever bring him back or help us recover from the pain we have suffered, however, this does not mean we will allow the perpetrators to walk freely and we will fight till justice is done”

Dr Abbas Khan’s local MP, Chuka Umunna said:  

“The treatment of my constituent, Dr Abbas Khan, who was tortured and eventually killed whilst in the hands of the Syrian regime, was a heinous act which should never be forgotten and for which justice is required.

“There seems to me no doubt that people within Syria know more than what they are saying now of what exactly happened to Dr Khan, who killed him, and who gave the order.

“Whilst the tragedy that engulfs the country could mean the path to truth and justice is longer and more arduous than most; that means only that we must not let up in our pursuit of justice.”

 

Chuka’s Speech at the PRS 100 Year Celebration

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

Chuka gave the following speech this evening at the PRS 100 Years of Music Celebration.

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Thank you Robert for the kind introduction.

Now…Your members include unbelievably cool people like Soul2Soul, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards.  So it leaves me wondering: why on earth have you asked not one but two politicians to speak tonight!

How can we follow these guys?  I haven’t got any rock and roll stories to tell, I can’t recount any spaced out escapades….and, if I could, I wouldn’t be telling any of you tonight! ….You can bet there will be a Daily Mail journalist lurking somewhere in our midst.

But, seriously, thank you inviting me to speak – to be a part of your 100 year anniversary celebration tonight.

From 199 members in 1914 to more than 100,000 now.

From garnering £1,500 of income for members in your first year to more than £600m just last year,  You go from strength to strength.

So this is special night for a special organisation.

And I am so pleased to be able to celebrate with you for three reasons.

First, you know, PRS are technically amongst my constituents.  I am proud to have PRS headquartered in my constituency.  I work hard for all my constituents, particularly when they help boost my local economy.

Second, as Shadow Business Secretary, I have been clear that, in looking to grow our economy in the future, we have to pick sectors which will do this.

We might occasionally pick up a few too many null points at Eurovision, but our music industry contributes £3.8 billion to the UK economy – only the US music industry is bigger.  You are renowned around the world.

Your sector – music – with its prolific and inspirational songwriters, is a gold medal winner for UK industry.

In March I launched Labour’s Agenda 2030, which is our plan for building a better balanced, sustainable economy – A key plank of that plan is to back our strongest sectors and those what will inspire future success.  So I pledge to you this evening, if we are elected, we will back you.

Of course, in this age, your creative success spills over into the rest of the economy and creates genuine wealth for our country, both in financial terms and in cultural terms for other sectors too.

Finally, I am here because I love my music.  Though as I child as a cathedral chorister, I was part of the choir that sang the theme tune to the Mr Bean TV series, I don’t pretend to have any great musical talent….

But it is so important to me.  Music is part of who I am; it is part of who we are and it brings us together.

The first ever gig I ever went to was at the Brixton Academy to see Soul II Soul. I still remember “Back to Life” as if it was yesterday. It was this fusion of Soul, House, Garage, classical music and other genres – it represented the emergence of a really distinct British Soul sound. In the audience were people of all backgrounds, ages and colours.

What Soul II Soul’s music did was bring together people of all creeds, colours, backgrounds.  The group’s moto is: “a happy face, a thumping bass for a loving race”.

At a time when some people in our country are trying to set different groups in society against each other, the role music has in bringing us together has never been so important.

So PRS’ work in protecting your interests, ensuring those creating music get paid, is vitally important.

Every week I tweet a couple of tracks of the weekend. Sometimes the artists reply and tweet me back. A couple of weeks ago it was “We are family” by Sister Sledge – they tweeted me back saying they were glad to be giving me so much joy after so many years, which was pretty cool.

But a couple of years back I tweeted a De La Soul track and got a reply from De La Soul too. As well as saying thanks, they told me I’d got the wrong link and twitter handle.  I got told off by some of my heroes! I changed those links pretty damn quick!  I’ve since drunk the PRS Kool Aid and promise it is a not mistake I will make again.

So congratulations on 100 years, long may your work continue.  We’re right behind what you’re doing.  Have a great evening.

Thank you.

Fantastic News re Wandle Housing and the Streatham Hub

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Earlier today, Chuka received confirmation from Wandle Housing Association that the purchase of shared ownership properties at the Streatham Hub will go ahead with the sale of the properties at the reserved prices.

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“This is absolutely fantastic news. I met with my constituents this morning who were treated disgracefully by Wandle on this matter. My constituents should never have been put in this position but I am pleased at least that this is now resolved and residents will be able to move into their new properties soon.”

Wandle Housing Association have issued the below update on the Streatham Hub: 

Wandle would once again like to apologise to its prospective purchasers for the anxiety caused by the recent communication in relation to the shared ownership properties at Derry Court, Streatham High Road. We are sorry that we have caused distress to the families involved.

During the course of this week, Wandle has been working extensively to explore all the options available to help those affected to continue with the proposed purchase of their new home.

Following discussions with our advisers and the GLA, Wandle were made aware of an option which would allow the purchase to go through at the original reserved price despite current higher valuations. We are pleased to advise that today, we have been granted permission by the GLA to go ahead with the sale at these prices.

Had we known this from the outset we would have approached the situation very differently. We are very sorry for the uncertainty this situation has caused to our prospective purchasers this week. We remain committed to ensuring that all of those involved will still be able to proceed with the purchase of their new homes.

Wandle is contacting all prospective purchasers today to inform them of this decision.

Chuka Umunna Speech at the Muslim Council of Britain’s Annual Muslim Leadership Dinner

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Chuka Umunna MP gave the following speech on Monday 12th May 2014 at the Muslim Council of Britain’s Annual Muslim Leadership Dinner.

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Assalaamu alaykum.

It is wonderful and a privilege to be here to be asked to speak to you this evening.

Not least because I am able to celebrate the work of the Muslim Council of Britain, but also because I was asked to speak about the Muslim Community’s contribution to our economy. As requested, I will speak about the economy and our future, but first I would like to speak more broadly.

Many members of the Muslim community – my constituents – tell me about their perception of increasing Islamophobia within our society. I hear it every time I visit the wonderful South London Islamic Centre which – along with other Mosques – I am proud to have in my constituency. There is a rising sense of fear and victimisation. Let us be frank: too often stories of crimes reach headlines far more rapidly if the perpetrator happens to be Muslim than if from another religion. And even if the story reaches the headlines when the perpetrator is a white person, the description rarely mentions their faith.

Perpetrators should be defined by their crimes; crimes shouldn’t be defined by the faith of their perpetrators. If that becomes the norm then your faith becomes defined by one perception.A false perception only encouraged when media channels invite people who claim to represent your community but simply distort your faith – and have no mandate to speak on your behalf.

I have had many advantages in life, but I – and my family – have known discrimination – not just in people’s actions towards us, but also their attitudes. I know how dark and overbearing that cloud of intolerance can seem. But I hope my very presence here today shows that in the grand scheme of things, Britain has managed the increasing diversity of our society successfully. But we can never be satisfied – we can never be complacent, as the increase in Islamaphobia has shown. Moving beyond intolerance to tolerance; then beyond tolerance towards respect and appreciation toward one another. That must be our goal.

So you have my commitment – and that of my Party – to work with you to ensure that our society, in its ever increasing diversity, always seeks to build a future in which all people, with their unique talents, heritage and beliefs, are both valued and free to pursue their dreams, to make their contribution.

Because a friend of mine, who is here today, once said it to me beautifully: “I’m sick and tired of people telling me to integrate – I’m here to contribute”.

And that should be the measure of every person in our society. How they contribute.

And if that is a measure we go by, then the British Muslim community is a community we should be exceptionally proud of – with so many people and organisations in this room who should be celebrated and championed. Not just the financial contribution – though that is significant: adding £31 billion to the UK economy – but far more importantly, the human contribution.

Consider the contributions of people like my friend Sadiq Khan – the first Muslim Minister to attend Cabinet and a former head of legal affairs of the MCB; people like Mishal Husain – one of my frequent interviewers! People like Nazir Afzal at the Crown Prosecution Service; Labour’s own Lord Gulam Noon; sports personalities such as Amir Kahn and our Olympic hero Mo Farah; and so many others. I know you had Rushanara here last year, who spoke about the British Muslim community’s contribution to international development. She now uses that same passion and expertise as part of Labour’s Shadow education team.

So there are the people and then there are the countless organisations that fall under the Muslim Council of Britain’s umbrella – and actually the MCB itself. The MCB plays a major role in the UK’s society and economy. I think of when the MCB organised the World Islamic Economic Forum in London, the first one to be held in a Non-Muslim country. It was the MCB who worked with Ken Livingstone to lobby the Muslim world to back London’s bid for the Olympics. We were able to host the best games in history due to that contribution and so many others. The country is grateful for it.

So the MCB and Muslim community should not only be celebrated, but serve as inspiration to all of our society. Let me give you just one of many examples of this. Take the example of the Better Community Business Network. A group of businesses got together to support local causes, to give back and use their skills to better the communities and societies around them. I know they’ve raised well over a half a million pounds on programmes such as mentoring children and preparing prisoners for release. When this government cut support and counselling for Domestic Violence on the NHS, they stepped in to provide it. That is inspiration for all of us – and a powerful contribution to our society.

And for us in Labour, that is the meaning of One Nation. Some in British politics seek popularity by encouraging division. Divide and rule. Setting up different communities against each other. That is not our way. It is not something that we will tolerate. It is not the spirit of One Nation – which recognises that it is our diversity that makes us stronger and makes our future one of enormous potential.

As our recent race equality strategy sets out, “Labour believes in a vision of One Nation where people of different backgrounds and communities don’t just co-exist, but each share in the successes we build together”.

Because if we build our future on the talents and contributions of all our people – with their varied experiences, perspectives and skills – then there is nothing that we cannot do.

And it is to that end that I launched our Agenda 2030 at the start of March. It is our plan to build a more balanced economy that delivers sustainable and inclusive growth for all communities, for all people.

It is based on four pillars:

1. liberating the talents of all;

2. securing our future through innovation;

3. an active government supporting business; and

4. an outward-looking and open approach in the world.

I sadly don’t have time to explore each in detail, but I just want to elaborate briefly on two of them.

The first is to liberate the talents of all. We will only succeed as a country if we make the most of the potential of all our people. We need to boost the creation of more high-skilled and better paid jobs in this country. As well as investments in education and qualifications, such as ensuring all students study English and Maths until they’re 18 and improving the quality of apprenticeships, we must also take some practical, common sense steps. For example, I know that there is currently a consultation paper out to consider methods of creating Sharia-compliant student financing. We simply must find a way to make this happen.  Rather than being a barrier because we haven’t been creative enough in our thinking, your faith should be an inspiration for education.

The fourth pillar is to have an outward-looking, open approach to the world. This is where the defenders of the status quo have got it so wrong. They are frightened by our increasing diversity. Yet just think of how it strengthens us. Our ability to secure long-term success for all of our people will be reliant on how well we trade and engage with the rest of the world.  Your community strengthens us because of its deep connections with other communities around the world. Not least the burgeoning emerging market economies such as Nigeria, Indonesia and Turkey. That is a source of potential that we must explore and celebrate. How we build on those existing links is something that we want to work on in partnership with you.

Because what matters is what and how we contribute to our society. Together, we have a common future. Together, we have to relentlessly think about how we can shape that future – to make it one where all of our people have the ability to live fulfilling lives.

Every single one of us has something different to contribute and if we can create a platform for every person to make the most of their talents – then we are richer for it; as an economy, as a society and as a country.

As the old African concept of Ubuntu says – I am who I am because of who we all are. And we are better for it.

Thank you

Assalaam Alaikum

Chuka’s SLP column: ‘Make the right choice and vote’

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Chuka Umunna MP wrote the following column for the April 29 edition of the South London Press:

Far more often than I’d like, people say ‘why bother to vote for a politician?’ In the run-up to the local elections on May 22nd, people ask me why politics even matters – it’s a question that deserves a good answer.

I understand why  people are angry with politicians: The expenses scandal; broken promises; a Parliament with too few women and too few ethnic minorities; politicians on TV from different parties who sound like they’re reading off the same script; jeering in the House of Commons when there are real issues to discuss. All these things turn people off politics, or party politics at least.

I know the deeper problems we have make people angry too: wages falling; costs risings; the very high numbers of people who’ve had no work for years; ATOS tests that don’t respect the seriousness of people’s health conditions; exploitative zero hours contracts that don’t allow for family life; longer waits at A&E; inadequate social care and house prices that seem to spiral ever out of reach.

In large parts, though, these deeper problems are political problems, and rooted in the choices politicians and their parties make. The failure of government to ban exploitative zero hours contracts when Labour has pledged to do so, for example, is a choice. The deep cuts made to council budgets and social care; that too is a choice.

Politicians of all colours have to make difficult choices – for example we’ve said that we’d reverse the further cut in the corporation tax rate, paid by our largest companies, to pay for a cut in business rates to help businesses like those on Streatham High Road. All these difficult choices affect the kind of society that we live in and the reason politics matters is because these choices are made in the political arena by politicians.

I do put a lot of blame on the Liberal Democrats for some of the recent loss of trust in politics and political parties – so many people voted for them because they said they’d scrap tuition fees. But they got caught out promising things that even before the election they knew they wouldn’t deliver. Probably the biggest choice the LibDems made was to sign-up to the ideologically driven spending cuts this government has made, hurting our society as well as our economy. The scale of the local government cuts – made by a Government supported by local Liberal Democrat and Tory councillors here in South London - has been a big part of that.

My borough, Lambeth, has been faced with a 50% reduction in its core funding – savings of £188m required over six years. That choice was made by the LibDems and Conservatives Parties, backed by the MPs and local councillors who put them in office. It affects what the council is able to do, including to help the most vulnerable residents and people affected by other decisions of the LibDem/Tory government, like the dreadful Bedroom Tax.

I think Lambeth Council has done incredibly well in this situation. Working with local groups they’ve delivered the refurbished Streatham Library; secured the Streatham BID; built the Ice and Leisure Centre and are delivering fantastic projects like the new Brixton Impact Hub, to help local entrepreneurs and start-ups. But all of these things have been choices, and hard won amidst opposition from Liberal Democrats and others.

It’s because voting matters that I want as many people as possible to vote in the elections in May 22nd. Whilst I hope you vote, I hope most of all that you vote Labour – because we are not all the same and my party is different. The choices my party makes – in contrast to the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives – will make ours a fairer, more equal, sustainable and democratic society where everyone can meet their dreams and aspirations. It really does matter.

Statement following the news that Ministers have decided to grant legal aid to the family of Cherry Groce

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Chuka Umunna MP said: 

“I had argued from the start that the family of Cherry Groce should be given every assistance to examine the circumstances that led to their mother’s death at the inquest.

“There was a clear public interest in legal aid being granted in this case. It would have been totally unacceptable for the inquest to proceed with the different police parties all being represented at the taxpayers expense but not the victims in this case, Cherry Groce and her family.

“So I very much welcome the decision to grant legal aid which the Lord Chancellor has made – I am grateful to him for making the right call in this case.  All we were asking for was for there to be an equality of legal representation between the police and the family before the inquest. That wish has now been granted.

“I’d like to thank all those who have backed the family’s campaign but the battle for justice is not over. I would ask all those who’ve supported the campaign to keep a close eye on the inquest and the Coroner’s findings when they come.”