Andrew Smith MP

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Andrew Smith has called for the British Government to play a full and fair part in resettling those who have been forced to flee the extreme violence in Syria, as well as in searching for a resolution to the conflict, as well as helping refugees from other oppression and violence. He very much welcomes the public support for the refugees voiced locally and across the country.

This is the message Andrew conveyed to the well-supported demonstration in Oxford on Sunday 6th September:

Please convey a strong message of support and solidarity to the demonstration today.  I am unable to be there because I was already committed to visiting a riding centre for local disabled children this afternoon.

I believe Britain has a clear moral duty to take significantly more refugees.  I am heartened by the hundreds of emails and letters I have received from constituents urging the government to do more.  I have received more representations on this in the last few days than on any other issue ever.

I have already written to the Prime Minister to take this up.  A year ago I questioned in the Commons the criteria the government were using to admit Syrian refugees, and I campaigned for action to stop refugees drowning in the Mediterranean.   We can and must do so much more to help our fellow human beings fleeing real horror and in need of sanctuary.

I will work with the City and County Council and local support organisations to ensure the people of Oxford can play our part in rising to this challenge, and providing the practical support refugees need.  The plight of those fleeing terror and persecution touches our hearts, and demands action.  With the strength of support being shown today, we can make a real difference, and bring hope and help where there was despair.  Thank you all.

Andrew says: “I have pressed the need to provide sanctuary for more refugees with the Government on numerous occasions, and their response has been very disappointing, as I am sure you know.  While the Prime Minister's announcement that the Government could accept up to 4,000 refugees a year is an improvement on the number accepted so far, it is a very small commitment compared with the need or with the much larger numbers of people Germany is taking.

I strongly welcome Yvette Cooper's call for each local authority to appeal for places for refugees, and I understand that my colleagues on Oxford City Council are already planning to take this up, as well as liaising with the County Council in respect of the particular needs of unaccompanied children.

You can be assured that I will continue to do all I can to ensure a more effective response to this massive humanitarian need.”

Andrew voted for the below motion, which was defeated bt 311 votes to 259 by Conservative MPs whipped to oppose it:

That this House recognises the funding the Government has committed to the humanitarian initiatives to provide sanctuary in camps for refugees across the Middle East; calls for a greater international effort through the United Nations to secure the position of such displaced people; recognises that the Government has committed to accepting 20,000 vulnerable people from camps in Syria over the next five years but calls for a Government report to be laid before the House by 12 October 2015 detailing how that number can be increased, encompassing refugees already in Europe and including a plan for the remainder of this year to reflect the overwhelming urgency of this humanitarian crisis; further notes that refugees arriving in European Union territory also have a moral and legal right to be treated properly; and, given the pressure on Southern European countries, further calls for the UK to play its full and proper role, in conjunction with European partners, in providing sanctuary to our fellow human beings.

Refugees must be helped, says Andrew

Andrew Smith has called for the British Government to play a full and fair part in resettling those who have been forced to flee the extreme violence in Syria, as well as in...

On Thursday 10th September Andrew called for an end to indefinite immigration detention in a debate in the House of Commons. His speech is below, and you can watch a video of the speech too.

"It is a pleasure to follow such powerful speeches. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) makes a very good point about due process, which is why increased judicial oversight is one of the recommendations of the report. There is a lot of concern about the issue in my constituency, especially with Campsfield being so close. That concern is felt by people of all parties and none. It is encouraging and heartening how broadly concern is being expressed today across the House.

We owe a vote of thanks to those who served on the panel and produced this excellent report. I wholeheartedly endorse its recommendations. It is worth underlining that the panel members came from across the parties and included a former Cabinet Minister, a Law Lord and an independent inspector of prisons. I hope that from this report comes the momentum for real change. As the report says, piecemeal tinkering with the system is not enough. The Shaw review is very welcome. However, by specifically excluding the decision to detain within its terms of reference, the Government are seeking to avoid the most important question.

The truth is that immigration detention simply is not working. The report concludes, and I agree, that the detention system is “inefficient, expensive and unjust”, so real change, not least the introduction of a time limit, is essential. I hope that following this debate the Government will commit to forming a working group to implement this and other recommendations of the inquiry.

It is clear that immigration detention is used too frequently. The Home Office is detaining more people than ever, with 32,053 people entering detention in the year ending June 2015, an increase of 10% on last year. There is general agreement across the House that detention for administrative purposes should be used only in rare circumstances when it is absolutely necessary, but that is not happening. Figures from 2013 show that the UK detained 30,418 people that year while Germany detained 4,309 people, Belgium detained 6,285 and Sweden detained 2,893. As has already been pointed out, Germany received four times as many asylum applications as the UK in that time. That shows that there are workable alternatives to detention.

A high percentage of those detained in this country are released, receive temporary admission or are granted bail—49% in the most recent relevant immigration statistics. That must raise the question why they were detained in the first place. Furthermore, as has already been said, immigration detention is expensive. In 2013-14 the annual cost of running the immigration detention estate was £164.4 million. There are cheaper community-based alternatives available, and there are certainly better uses for the money.

Most importantly, indefinite detention is unjust, which is why the Labour party committed to ending it in our manifesto. People are being detained for far too long. The most recent immigration statistics show that 187 people had been in detention for a year or longer and 29 had been in detention for two years or longer in the year ending June 2015. That is totally unacceptable. A time limit should be imposed. The 28-day limit suggested in the report, which would bring the UK into line with others in Europe, seems sensible. Of course, we need to ensure that that does not become an automatic period of detention, but the alternative of no time limit at all is simply not working and cannot continue.

Many of my constituents are involved in supporting detainees in Campsfield immigration centre, including in the bail observation project, which has done important work monitoring bail hearings. Its two reports have found many barriers to release on bail and difficulties in challenging ongoing detention.

Since the report was published there have been other concerning developments—some have been referred to already—such as publication of the report on Yarl’s Wood by Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons. He called it a place of national concern and joined his voice to the call for a time limit. Worryingly, the Government’s consultation on reforming support for failed asylum seekers seems to aim to remove accommodation provision for those bailed out of detention, and I fear that the result would be more people detained for longer and at greater expense.

There have been far too many scandals about the conditions in detention centres. There have been enough calls for reform from campaigners, experts and former detainees. Every death in detention, such as those of Ianos Dragutan and Ramazan Kumluca in Campsfield, is one too many. There have been enough Government reviews. This time let us end this cruel and shameful practice by bringing an end to indefinite detention and looking at international best practice and community-based alternatives. In the past I have made many representations about the detention of children, and the previous Government made important progress in that area by radically changing how families with children are detained. It is now time to make such systematic reform to the use of immigration detention as a whole. I urge the Government to act on the report."

Andrew calls for end to indefinite immigration detention

On Thursday 10th September Andrew called for an end to indefinite immigration detention in a debate in the House of Commons. His speech is below, and you can watch a...

Consistent with pledges Andrew made during and before the General Election, and in line with his long-standing opposition to hunting and killing foxes with hounds, Andrew is doing all he can to stop the Hunting Act from being repealed or weakened.  The government has just postponed the vote on the wrecking amendments to the Hunting Act, but Andrew would have voted against them.

Andrew said: "In many ways it shows the weakness of the government’s position that it has decided to proceed by advancing such wrecking amendments while in theory (though not in practice) keeping hunting with dogs illegal, rather than proposing openly to re-legalise hunting, which seems to be its true objective.

The postponement of the vote on their proposals, which the government has just announced, also demonstrates the weakness of their position: the great majority of the British people support the ban, and many of the Government’s own MPs are having to listen to the voices of their constituents on this.

Should there be any future opportunity to do so, I will support any amendments which would effectively strengthen the Act in line with accordance with suggestions that the League Against Cruel Sports have made – to insert a “reckless” provision, prohibit the use of dogs below ground, and increase the range of punishments available to the courts.

The Act is working well, but could be strengthened in these areas to make it even more effective.

Andrew backs Hunting Ban


Oxford East MP Andrew Smith met some of the scientists that are helping drive the UK economy at an event held by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics in Parliament on Tuesday 7 July.

He met with scientists to talk about UK success stories from research in both chemistry and physics, where innovations and companies have developed from work that began in university science departments. These successes from the UK’s science base are now creating jobs and economic growth across the UK.

The event highlighted the importance of long-term government funding to science and the benefits it has on the UK economy. The UK science and innovation system produces 15.9% of the world’s most highly cited publications, with only 4.1% of the world’s researchers.

Andrew said: “It was great to meet researchers from Oxford University, who are at the cutting edge of science innovation. There was plenty of evidence that physics and chemistry are contributing a great deal to our economy and also a clear message that science is an excellent career choice for young people to consider.”

Andrew supporting science in Parliament

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