This week, I have been focused on a mix of issues, locally, nationally and internationally.
One of the roles that I have in Westminster is to chair the All-Party group for Sudan and South Sudan. News of fighting between the two military factions in Sudan is heart-breaking. On Monday, I joined colleagues in the Commons chamber for a Ministerial Statement. The fighting has been strongly condemned by leaders from across the African continent and the international community, as well as MPs from all sides of the UK Parliament.
People in Sudan are already in an extremely precarious situation. At least 15 million people, or around one third of the population, were already facing food insecurity before this latest violence. Unless a ceasefire is achieved rapidly, millions are likely to suffer through lack of access to humanitarian aid.
Fighting and atrocities in Sudan is not new. This year brings the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Darfur. Systemic attacks led to over 2.5 million people being displaced and at least 400,000 people died. The President at the time became the first person ever to be indited by the International Criminal Court for Genocide, but he has still not been brought to trial.
Atrocities have continued with growing intensity over the past 18 months. More than 400 people have been killed in the past few days of fighting. Many overseas nationals, including British citizens have been unable to get to safety.
Russian malign actors are present. The Wagner Group has historic links to the military. Sudan’s wealthy gold mines are controlled by Russian owners and a deal has just been signed for a new Russian naval base. Without stability, more people will be displaced, leading to further migration. This is likely to impact on Western Europe and the UK.
It is extremely important to keep this situation in the public eye. Over the past few months, the All-Party Group has been conducting a mini-inquiry into the situation in Darfur. We are due to launch this report in Parliament next week.
Nationally, I have been looking at the insurance industry. The sector is a major employer in locally, over 3,000 jobs in Chelmsford are related to insurance and many of Chelmsford’s commuters also work in insurance. I met last week with industry heads in London. In Chelmsford, I visited QBE where I learnt more about the international insurance businesses that is underwritten from their office locally.
This week, the Government introduced new laws which will make it easier for countries like to UK to make sure that large multinational companies pay a fair share of taxes. This is obviously very important, but to make it work we need to make sure that other countries also implement the new rules. The UK is the world leader in insurance and a huge contributor to tax in the UK. If other countries do not hold up to their promises, this could impact UK competitiveness and local jobs in this sector. I quizzed the finance minister, asking her to make sure that we have plans ready, just in case they are needed.
I also had the chance to question the Transport Minister in Parliament. It is good that we now have nearly £15 million being spent on repairing our potholes and 12 extra crews of pot-hole menders working on Essex roads. I also asked the Roads Minister for an update on funding for the new Army and Navy junction and was pleased to hear that he hopes for a positive result.
In Chelmsford, I met with pupils at Springfield Primary for a hugely energetic and diverse question and answer session. I was extremely impressed by their wide range of interests and care for the local area. The children had also been working on a stunning art project and the school was decorated with huge models of marine life that they had prepared. One child told me of his concerns about litter in the local area. I have asked the children to help design posters to remind people to take their litter home.
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