Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 20th July 2017.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Labour, Leicester East 1:45 pm, 20th July 2017

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Liddell-Grainger and I eagerly want to visit his constituency to meet all these house builders with whom he is in dispute. I do not think they stand much of a chance, being up against the hon. Gentleman.

I welcome the presence on the Labour Front Bench of the new shadow Deputy Leader of the House, my hon. Friend Karin Smyth, who will be making her maiden contribution in this debate, and, of course, the ever-present Deputy Leader of the House, who will be winding up. I have to apologise for the fact that, unfortunately, I have an unbreakable commitment in Leicester and might not be able to be here for the winding-up speeches. However, I will read Hansard with great care. I also had no idea I was going to be called so early.

I make no apology for starting this debate by talking about the situation in Yemen. Despite the catastrophic situation within the state, we are currently experiencing an even worse crisis. In the course of Yemen’s civil war there have been well over 10,000 civilian deaths, 19.4 million Yemenis are without access to healthcare, 3 million are now suffering from acute malnutrition, and over 3 million are internally displaced. One child dies every 10 minutes.

Last week the United Nations announced that there were 300,000 cholera cases in Yemen countrywide, in 22 of Yemen’s 23 provinces. If current rates of cholera stay the same, from the time we enter recess to when this House returns on 5 September, up to 225,000 extra cases will be added to that number. The United Nations calls this the worst cholera crisis in the world.

Along with the spread of the disease, there has been the chronic destruction of medical infrastructure caused by the civil war, which has exacerbated the crisis. Despite the assistance given by organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières, Islamic Relief, the Yemen Safe Passage Group, the UNHCR, and the Red Cross, the situation in Yemen is getting much worse. We heard only today that a number of journalists had been prevented from landing in Sana’a.

While we go to our constituencies to do the work that all Members have to do during the recess, we must not forget what is happening in Yemen. I hope that a message from the Front Bench will go back to the Foreign Office that we expect to see Ministers fully engaged in the crisis that continues to unfold.

This week I was elected chair of the new all-party group on immigration and visas, and I am delighted to see the vice-chair of the group here, Bob Blackman. I am also very pleased that Martyn Day was elected as the secretary. The group’s purpose is to raise, on an all-party basis, issues of concern about the way in which our immigration and visa system operates. We all have critical constituency cases involving people who wish to travel, or whose relatives are not allowed to come into the country. For instance, the wedding of a constituent of mine is taking place at the end of August, but the best man is not being allowed to come here. Trying to convince officials who are thousands of miles away is extremely difficult.

I hope this group will, in a measured way, explore these circumstances, especially the role of the account managers and the issue of same-day service. I have a case of somebody who applied for a same-day visa, paid the fee of £500 on top of the fee of £1,000 for their visa, and six months later the situation has not been resolved. It is important that we look at these issues in a constructive way.

I hope that, over the summer, Ministers in the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Home Office will be trying to fashion a plan for the 3.2 million EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. We have heard the Prime Minister’s welcome assurance that they will be allowed to stay, but the process of issuing the necessary documentation could take a long time. There is now a backlog of 100,000 cases at the Home Office. Some of those citizens arrived here without passports because they could enter the UK with identity cards from EU countries. Getting them processed will be extremely difficult.

I hope that those Ministers will also look into the suggestion of a pilot scheme for allowing EU citizens to register at local level. They could take their passports along to the local authority and get themselves checked and registered. That information could then be handed on to the Home Office. The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, Michael Ellis, is a former member of the Home Affairs Committee, and he will be well aware of these issues. I hope that he will pass that suggestion on.

I want to make two quick constituency points before I end. The first concerns the continuing campaign being led by Amy Morgan, a young mother in Leicester whose son, Tyler, was stabbed to death a year and a half ago. Another of my constituents, Isaac Williams, was stabbed to death in April this year. We need to do more to tackle knife crime. I introduced a Bill to increase the length of time people spend in prison for carrying a knife. Statistics show a 24% rise in the incidence of knife crime. That is a huge increase, with 12,074 offences and 2,381 detentions last year. Secondly, I am hoping to organise a meeting in my constituency involving those who have control of our theme parks, following the death earlier this year of my 11-year-old constituent, Evha Jannath. It is extremely important that families who visit theme parks should be as safe as possible.

Speaking as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on diabetes, and as someone who has type 2 diabetes, let me end by issuing a challenge to Members. I want to commend the Pioppi diet, and I will write to the 100 Members who have the most diabetics in their constituencies about this. Of course, we all have diabetics in our constituencies, but the Library has provided me with statistics for the top 100. I think that Doncaster might be on that list, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall ask those Members to take up the challenge of the Pioppi diet, which is named after a village in Italy where people live on average to the age of 97 as a result of their Mediterranean diet. It involves getting rid of sugar, which is a killer, keeping away from potatoes—and, for me, rice—and concentrating instead on the good food that is available around the Mediterranean. We have wonderful farms and food makers in this country, but we do not spend enough time looking at what we eat.

We have a diabetes epidemic in the United Kingdom. There are 4 million people with type 2 diabetes in this country, and 500,000 more—some of whom are in this House today—who do not know that they have the condition. My hon. Friend Jim Shannon is an officer of the APPG, and I am sure that he will be taking up the Pioppi diet challenge—