Stephen hosts the launch of FaithAction’s report on social isolation

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As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Faith and Society, Stephen has held a reception in Parliament to celebrate the release a report on tackling loneliness. The report was written by the group’s secretariat, FaithAction.

As evidence of a “loneliness epidemic” in the UK has come to light in the past few years, the event discussed the level of need that exists in local communities. As the report mentions, over nine million people say they feel lonely and one in ten say that they have no close friends. It acknowledges the brilliant efforts of faith groups in reaching out to the isolated and bringing them into a thriving community.

At the event, Minister for Loneliness Mims Davies expressed her gratitude to these groups for the impact they are having on the isolated population, whilst Tim Farron MP encouraged unity amongst different faiths. The authors of the report also presented an overview of their findings and gave some encouraging examples of individuals whose lives had been changed by their local faith community.

Speaking after the event, Stephen said “Far too many people don’t belong to any community and this is at the heart of the loneliness epidemic. I am delighted by FaithAction’s research which shows faith groups’ remarkable efforts to tackle this problem.

“The All-Party Parliamentary Group would like to see even more involvement from faith based organisations and will continue to encourage Local Authorities to support their services.”

Stephen responds to Health Secretary's long term plan for the NHS

Stephen has voiced concerns about the future of the NHS following a statement to the House of Commons by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock. His statement followed the announcement of the long term plan in June last year.

In his statement, the Health Secretary outlined proposals in the areas of cancer care, mental health services, and staffing over the next 10 years, saying “…we are determined to make sure that the Long term Plan fulfils its potential to transform the Health Service for the better.”

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “While the aspirations for improving patient care NHS England outlined today are welcome, the reality is the NHS will continue to be held back by cuts and chronic staff shortages.

“I was also disappointed to see the plan failed to fulfil the government’s plan for social care that continues to be delayed.”

Stephen joins TOEIC students to deliver a letter to the Home Secretary

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Last week, Stephen joined Migrant Voice and former TOEIC victims in their campaign against the Home Office’s 2014 decision to revoke thousands of student visas. A letter was delivered to a representative of Home Secretary Sajid Javid outside the Home Office, calling on him to issue a statement outlining actions to remedy the situation.

The letter was signed by 100 TOEIC students, who expressed the ‘lifelong mark of shame’ which the accusations have left them with. As well as denying access to their education, the 2014 decision has left many with severe mental health conditions. The letter appealed to Sajid Javid as their ‘last hope’.

A recent National Audit Office report into the issue found that while the Home Office had acted vigorously in 2014 to prosecute those involved in cheating, they should have ‘taken an equally vigorous approach to protecting those who did not cheat but who were still caught up in the process’. Evidence hearings held over the course of June as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on TOEIC - chaired by Stephen - have cast further doubt on the reliability of ETS’ evidence. So far, 3600 former students have been successful in appealing the decision to revoke their visa.

After delivering the letter, Stephen said: “The decision to revoke thousands of visas without a full investigation was a major failing on the Home Office’s part. Five years on, students who did nothing wrong are still waiting to put their lives back on track. The Home Office must now act to address the grave injustice they have suffered.”

Stephen hosts Parliamentors Graduation

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On 12 June, Stephen hosted the graduation of the Faith and Belief Forum’s 2018-19 ‘Parliamentors’ Programme in Parliament. The event marked the end of a year-long leadership programme during which university students of different faiths work together to create social action projects, while being mentored by parliamentarians.

At the event, Baroness Warsi spoke of the value of faith as a guide in public life, while Manchester student Sonia spoke of the value of dialogue rather than debate in creating meaningful social action projects. Tim Mortimer, Parliamentors Programme Manager, and Michael Sternberg QC, the Faith & Belief Forum's Chair of Trustees, highlighted key achievements of 12 years of the programme.


Over the year, Stephen mentored a group of Queen Mary students who arranged collections at QMUL to support the local Whitechapel mission. They also ran workshops in local schools to prepare students for their next steps out of education.


Stephen said: ‘It has been a delight to mentor the Queen Mary students over the past year. They and the wider ParliaMentors cohort are young leaders who have very bright futures ahead of them. I commend the Faith and Belief Forum for the way this programme empowers students of different faiths to create change and develops them in leadership.’

Stephen beats swords into ploughshares

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On Sunday 16 June, Stephen spoke at the Bonny Downs Community Gardens as part of a community action against knife crime, alongside US justice activist Shane Claiborne and Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and Waheed Khan, Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police in Newham. The event involved beating guns and knives into garden tools and was part of the launch of the Red Letter Christians UK network.


Stephen spoke of the biblical picture of beating swords into ploughshares, and under the guidance of blacksmiths, joined the community in using knives seized by police to create garden tools and a sculpture for display in the gardens. A liturgy shared at the event concluded with the words, "We beat these knives from death to life”.


Stephen said: “I was delighted to be a part of this effort to stand up against rising knife violence in our community. Seeing weapons physically being transformed into garden tools was immensely powerful. I hope it will serve as an enduring reminder that love is stronger than hatred”.


At the event, Dr Sally Mann, minister at Bonny Downs Baptist Church and spokeswoman for Red Letter Christians UK, announced the launch of Newham's first and only knife surrender bin later in the summer. Knife violence in the UK was recorded at all-time highs in 2018, and Met police data showed Newham had the highest number of murders of any London borough last year.

Stephen calls for a Public Vote on Brexit

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Today in the Chamber, Stephen questioned the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union about cabinet discussions on the prospect of holding a People's Vote.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay dismissed the idea and insisted that the Government would not change its position on this.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen Timms said: 'The answer from the Secretary of State was very disappointing. The Government promised that Brexit would mean the exact same benefits as being in the EU, frictionless trade and an extra £350 million per week for the NHS. It is clear now that none of these features will materialise and so it is more important than ever that whatever deal emerges is put to the people in a confirmatory vote, which also gives the public the option to remain'.

The exchange took place in DExEU Question Time in the House of Commons this morning.

Stephen meets Richard Ratcliffe

Earlier, today, Stephen met with Richard Ratcliffe who is continuing his hunger strike in support of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Nazanin - an Iranian-British dual national arrested on holiday in Iran in April 2016.

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After three years of imprisonment in Iran on charges she vehemently denies, Nazanin began a hunger strike to demand her unconditional release. Richard joined the hunger strike in solidarity with his wife and to raise the profile of her plight. Their five-year-old daughter Gabriella is also unable to leave Iran and return to the UK.

Sitting outside the Iranian embassy, Richard and Stephen spoke about the need for increased pressure on the Iranian government. Following the meeting, Stephen said: “The situation that Nazanin and Richard face demands the full and immediate support of the British government. This case must be seen as a priority by our future Prime Minister, and the Iranian authorities must understand that the continued imprisonment of Nazanin is not acceptable. I support Richard in his continued struggle to secure the release of his wife, and the return of his daughter to the UK.”

Stephen attends climate lobby

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Today Stephen attended the ‘Time is Now’ climate lobby, which involved over 16,000 people from across the UK, asking government to pursue climate action. The lobby was organised by The Climate Coalition.

Although Parliament has recently passed legislation for a Net Zero emissions target by 2050, The Climate Coalition – including many prominent faith groups, such as Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, and CAFOD – are campaigning for a 2045 target instead.

Stephen enjoyed meeting representatives of local climate groups and members of faith organisations. Speaking after the event, he said: “As the lobby suggests, the time really is now to take environmental action. I hope the environmentally regressive policy decisions of this government will be reversed as soon as possible. It is important that the UK now grasps this opportunity to lead the way, and one way it can start is by phasing out fossil fuels and embracing renewable energy”.

Stephen Timms supports Guide Dogs campaign

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Stephen Timms MP supported a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners at an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs.

On Wednesday, 19 June, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Westminster Hall in Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event, Stephen spoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals.

Although it is generally against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out of four assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.

Speaking after the event, Stephen said: ‘It was disturbing to hear how common these incidents of discrimination are for assistance dog owners. No one should be turned away on their local high street because of their assistance dog. I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to tackle the ignorance that causes access refusals, and make sure businesses are held accountable when they occur’.

Taxis and minicabs were the worst offenders, accounting for 73% of those reporting refusals in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54%), newsagents (42%) and high street shops (36%) were also common.  The Guide Dogs organisation is now calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers. It also supports changes to equality legislation to make it easier to take early action against businesses who refuse access.

Stephen holds Minister to account on cuts to Youth Services

On Monday, Stephen Timms asked Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins to acknowledge the problems caused by drastic cuts in youth service funding since 2010.

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During the exchange, Stephen pointed out that the London Borough of Newham has recently appointed 30 additional youth workers to deal with the problems associated with this shortfall. In her response, Victoria Atkins thanked Stephen for the work he has done in promoting youth services.

Speaking after the exchange, Stephen said: 'The Minister's response was full of warm words, but it failed to recognise the damage done by cuts to youth services over recent years. These cuts have been devastating to the fabric of our local communities and I call on the Government to reverse them without delay'.

The discussion came as part of an Urgent Question on Violent Crime tabled by Jim Fitzpatrick MP.

Stephen visits Brampton Academy

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Stephen visited Brampton Manor Academy in East Ham today, and talked to students about the challenges of his political career as part of their ‘Speaker’s Day’.

The aim of Brampton Manor’s ‘Speaker’s Day’ is to broaden the career aspirations of students. The students benefited from hearing Stephen speak about his career prior to becoming an MP – he did mathematics at university before moving into telecommunications.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “It has been a huge privilege to serve as MP here for such a long time, a job I thoroughly enjoy, and I was delighted to be able to share my experiences with the students at Brampton Manor.”

Stephen attends onshore wind reception

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Stephen has attended a reception in Parliament hosted by RenewableUK about onshore wind. It coincided with the Government’s announcement of legislation supporting a Net Zero emissions target by 2050.

Onshore wind expansion is an important part of the policy recommendations which have been given to government as part of reaching net zero emissions. However, in order to make this happen the sector requires action to overcome the current barriers they face, including planning permission and the cuts to subsidies which have happened under the Conservative government.

Stephen welcomed the announcement of the Net Zero target and the ambition of the onshore wind sector, “I look forward to the government adopting the relevant policy measure to ensure onshore wind is able to realise the full potential of benefits such as employment and productivity.”

Stephen meets with Spanish exchange students

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Stephen has met with a group of children from Doña Mencía de Velasco school in Spain, who were visiting on an exchange with a Spanish class at Sandringham school. They came to the UK to meet with the students in Newham, explore the city and discover more about British culture.

The students, who have been learning English since they were three, were given a tour of the Houses of Parliament. They were able to watch a debate in the chamber before partaking in a lively Q&A session with Stephen.

The children asked questions such as “….what are your goals for the future of Newham?” and “…what inspired you to become a politician?” They even asked Stephen what his favourite sandwich was!

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said “I was pleased to see the Spanish students engaging with their visit and was impressed by their questions. It is encouraging to see such enthusiasm about politics within the younger generation. I wish the Spanish class at Sandringham a brilliant trip when they visit Spain in a couple of weeks.”

Stephen meets with the Renewal Programme

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Stephen has met with Ruth Bravery and Arnold Ridout from The Renewal Programme in Newham, to discuss the work they are doing in the local community.

Renewal is a local charity that offers services in five different areas: housing, education, young people, immigration and carers. They help around 5,000 people a year.

Stephen and the team at Renewal discussed a number of projects they are currently running, such as their weekly foodbank, which feeds around 1,000 refugees each year. They also talked about their two hostels, which provide supported accommodation for over forty homeless people.

On top of the incredible work that Renewal is already doing, they are also a founding member of One Newham. This organisation’s vision is to establish a strong Voluntary and Community Sector in Newham, by managing contacts and grants on behalf of a number of local organisations.

After the meeting, Stephen said “I am impressed by the commitment Renewal has shown to Newham and am grateful to the staff and volunteers, who have demonstrated that investing in the lives of vulnerable people can have a significant impact on the local community.”

Stephen visits the Magpie Project in Forest Gate

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Stephen has visited The Magpie Project, a local charity that supports mothers and under-fives that face homelessness or are in temporary accommodation.

Based in Forest Gate, The Magpie Project is run primarily by volunteers and provides a number of services to vulnerable mothers and children. These include practical advice, sessions with health specialists, free lunches and play times, as well as a range of courses and classes. The charity also supports families without the basic essentials, by providing nursery bursaries, free travel, nappies and clothes.

The Magpie Project has already had a significant impact on families in the local community. Last year, they supported nearly two hundred mothers and their children. One project Stephen and the volunteers discussed was the distribution of around sixty baby carriers to mothers that could not afford to buy their own. They were also hosting a food bank on the day of Stephen’s visit and several volunteers were busy preparing crates of food gifted by local stores and households.

Following the meeting, Stephen said: “In the face of rising child homelessness, The Magpie Project offers hope to a number of families in Newham. I commend their commitment to helping under-fives in the local community grow and enjoy their childhood, despite their insecure housing, and look forward to supporting them further in the future.”

Stephen backs calls for diabetes support

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Stephen has backed calls from leading charity Diabetes UK to create new national standards for diabetes emotional and mental health support, and to increase support available to people in East Ham who live with diabetes.

Recently published research from the charity revealed that the relentless nature of diabetes can impact people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, ranging from day-to-day frustration and low mood, to specific psychological and mental health difficulties such as clinical depression and anxiety.

The findings, published in the report “Too often missing: Making emotional and psychological support routine in diabetes care”, show that diabetes is much more than a physical condition. Stephen joined Diabetes UK at a parliamentary event, as the charity launched its campaign to make the emotional and psychological demands of living with diabetes recognised and provide the right support to everyone who needs it.

Stephen said in support of the campaign: “The demands of living with diabetes affect people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, but mental health support is often missing from diabetes care. And when diabetes cannot be well managed, the risk of dangerous complications increases.

“We need diabetes care that includes emotional and psychological support to help people improve both their physical and mental health, reduce pressure on services, and save the NHS money.”

Stephen hosts wall of answered prayer reception

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The winning design and location for the Wall of Answered Prayer has been announced in Parliament at a reception hosted by Stephen. Snug Architects shall be designing The Wall, which will be located near Coleshill Manor, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The project involves building a “national landmark of hope” and will be made up of a million bricks. Using an app, visitors will be able to hold their phone up to a brick, and read the answered prayer attached to it. The site will also have a prayer room, café, bookstore and park.

The Chief Executive of the project, Richard Gamble, described the building as a “national landmark about Jesus in the heart of the nation.” He is confident that the Wall will preserve our nation’s Christian heritage, whilst boosting the economy by attracting tourism.

Due to be completed in 2022, the Wall will be the first landmark to be crowdfunded. It is estimated that it will be seen by 500,000 journeys each week, including those on the M6, M42 and HS2.

Speaking at the event, Stephen, who is the Labour Party’s Faith Envoy, said “this project is a striking affirmation that something new and admirable is happening in the church. It is a reflection of the fact that many people in Britain have experienced an answer to prayer.”

Stephen responds to the National Audit Office's report into TOEIC

Stephen has responded to the National Audit Office’s report following its investigation into the Home Office’s response to cheating by international students in English language tests.

An investigation by the BBC’s Panorama programme revealed that some test centres were allowing students to cheat in order that they passed their English language test. The then Home Secretary, Theresa May, reacted by revoking or curtailing thousands of students' visas.

The NAO’s report acknowledges that many innocent students were caught up in the scandal. They have been left for years with no resolution to their case. They have been stripped of the right to study, to work, to find accommodation and to access banking and NHS services.

Speaking about the report, Stephen said: “The National Audit Office has confirmed – as many have been pointing out for years now – that “those affected might have been branded as cheats, lost their course fees, and been removed from the UK without being guilty of cheating”.  And, on top of the NAO’s analysis, there is real doubt if a recording held by ETS is really the one for that applicant. Thousands have been unfairly penalised, with catastrophic consequences for many. 

“The Home Secretary has promised an oral statement to Parliament about this scandal.  He must now give those affected, who remain in the UK, a chance to clear their names – for example, by offering them a fresh English test.”

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, added: “When the Home Office acted vigorously to exclude individuals and shut down colleges involved in the English language test cheating scandal, we think they should have taken an equally vigorous approach to protecting those who did not cheat but who were still caught up in the process, however small a proportion they might be. This did not happen. ”

Stephen presses Minister on help for TOEIC victims

Stephen asked the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade yesterday about educational funding arrangements for TOEIC students.

For those students who are given their British visas back, Graham Stuart MP agreed that he would expect their universities to help them with the cost of tuition fees.

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “This is an important concession today from the Government. It would be totally unreasonable to expect students in this position - many of whom have already paid thousands of pounds in savings for their education - to have to pay the fees all over again on their return to university. I am grateful to the Minister for his agreement that those students who have been the victims of false allegations should be helped financially by their universities.”

The exchange took place in a Westminster Hall debate yesterday about the Government Report on International Education Strategy.

Stephen welcomes London City Airport's new Community Fund

Stephen has welcomed an announcement by London City Airport that it has launched a new £75,000 Community Fund. The airport hopes the fund will provide a financial boost to local community groups, charities and organisations, with a focus on East London.

Grants, ranging between £300 to £3,000, will go to initiatives that enable positive and significant change within the community and that represent inclusive and diverse communities across 13 different boroughs.

The airport is seeking applications specifically from groups that either:

  • build stronger, safer and healthier communities

  • create more sustainable and greener communities

  • raise aspirations of East Londoners

  • or create pathways into employment

The application process, details of which can be found here, has been developed so it is deliberately straightforward - to attract grassroots organisations and smaller charities.

Speaking after the launch of the fund, Stephen said: “I welcome this contribution from London City Airport to the local community. The Airport is a vital source of good employment in the area. I am pleased it has taken this new initiative, to offer much-needed funding to organisations doing a great job in our part of London.”

Prospective applicants with questions or queries can contact the Community Fund directly.