Letter #11

Now then, this is a matter I am fuming about – I have signed numerous petitions and called on respective MP’s (when in Northumberland and East Yorkshire – China … let’s say I wasn’t represented).

The fact that our nation’s policy makers are in-debted to the factions that they may have to legislate against is a no-brainer: ‘McDonalds Healthcare’ & ‘Monsanto Bottled Water’, ‘Murdoch News” … (naw wait!) could all be a reality unless these measures are curbed.


Dear Andrew Jones,

In order for the UK to have a true democracy, the interests of the electorate should be at the core of government policy.

As long a big business and the media fund political parties, the interests of their sponsors and a desire to remain in power, prevents a government from fulfilling its duties.

Electoral funding should be minimised. It should be financed with public money, by a process that reflects an equal distribution to either parties or MPs. A process to be decided by parliament, if the motion is agreed.

Media owners hold to much influence over voters. This does not benefit the electorate, but their own interests and is facilitated by their sponsorship of politics.

The same applies to corporations, in which MPs should be allowed no investments, financial (or positional) for life.

Andrew, this may sound like a radical gesture – but it is common sense: I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Backhouse

Andrew Jones – Letter To Kathryn #1

A few weeks ago, Kathryn signed a petition to ask Parliament to ensure the fair breeding and sale of animals as pets. I will try and dig out the petition she signed and paste it in the comments. I was quite shocked to hear back from our local Member of Parliament, Andrew Jones MP,  – he serves Harrogate & Knaresborough. This is what he said:


Dear Ms Backhouse

Thank you for contacting me about the breeding and sale of pets.

Everyone who owns or is looking for a pet will want to know that it has had the best start to life. I entirely share your concern that for thousands of animals born each year to irresponsible breeders, their first weeks can be spent in cramped and squalid conditions without the care and attention that they need.

I am therefore glad to say that the Government is cracking down on the worst offenders by strengthening the licensing system and giving councils the power they need to take action.

These plans will ban sales of puppies or kittens at too young an age, which in most cases will be less than eight weeks. It will also require anyone breeding or selling three or more litters of puppies a year to apply for a formal license. Irresponsible breeders who break these rules face an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison.

They will introduce a single ‘animal activities license’ covering pet-shops, boarding houses and riding stables, to improve the process and make enforcement easier. Pet shops will also need to give customers written information about the animals they buy, with details about the five welfare needs owners must meet around environment, diet, behavior, housing and freedom from pain. This is particularly important when buying exotic pets, which have very specific needs.

With more and more pet sales now taking part on the internet, this market should be subject to the same strict licensing criteria as other breeders and pet shops. Anyone trading commercially in pets online will need to be properly licensed, to help make reputable sellers easily accessible to prospective buyers.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Jones MP

Letter #10

I rely on the NHS – I make no bold claim otherwise.

Without NHS health care I would be dead. Because of the long-term effects of my battle with health, I would not qualify for health insurance. So, once again, I felt moved to write to Andrew Jones MP.

I intend to write a letter a week to Andrew Jones from now on – the Conservative administration is elected but I know of people who have died directly as a result of Welfare To Work schemes.

The Conservative administration have torn England in two with Brexit and threatened the abolition of the Union through their ill-conceived break with Europe. It will be a domino effect, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst I have always believed it is up to an individual to govern himself, I now think that all governments are Systems and Systems kill.

What is May’s Cabinet other than the Big-Business / Industrial-Military Complex – dividing a nation for a share of the profits for themselves?

_________

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

The NHS in England is being dismantled. NHS services – including acute and emergency, children’s, elderly and maternity care – have been deliberately underfunded since 2010. The comprehensive care we’ve come to expect continues to be cut back.

Many services have been handed to private companies such as Virgin, Serco and US giant United Health, hiding behind the NHS logo. Valuable NHS buildings and land are being sold off to property developers, often as a result of the exorbitant costs of paying for new hospitals built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

These are our services and our assets. We the public own them. And polls repeatedly show that most of us want to keep our NHS.

Privatised services cost the NHS and tax payer far more than when provided by our publicly owned and publicly run NHS.

That is because public health systems don’t seek profits. They don’t need to pay dividends to shareholders. They don’t have the added costs of private sector loans. And they don’t have to pay the management fees that private companies charge.

A public NHS also doesn’t have privatisation’s heavy marketing and contract administration costs of extra lawyers, accountants and management – at least £4.5 billion annually on one estimate and rising. Just cutting them, not NHS services, would go a long way to cover the shortfall between government underfunding and the NHS’ needs over the next 5 years.

These huge commercial costs and the chaos caused by the ongoing NHS fragmentation are the direct result of privatisation. This is endangering the quality and safety of our public healthcare.

Privatisation isn’t just bad for the tax-payer. It’s bad for our health.

The Bill was presented to Parliament in July 2015 by Caroline Lucas MP with the cross-party support of 77 MPs. It is backed by the Green Party and the SNP, as well as by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and other Labour MPs, one Plaid Cymru and one Liberal Democrat MP.

Please do what is right and defend our NHS. The National Health Service has been one of the UK’s greatest achievements. For 65 years it has provided a cost effective, universal health service, free at the point of need to all people irrespective of their background, circumstance or ability to pay.

Yet over the last 25 years, this founding vision has been slowly but surely eroded. The final blow was the Health and Social Care Act 2012, forcing a commercialised model on the NHS in England.

I believe that campaigning to reinstate the founding vision is critical. For more information, please visit http://www.nhsbill2015.org/ to see a far more articulate account of the reasons people should not have to choose between being healthy and bankruptcy Andrew Jones.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew

Letter #9

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

The Leave Campaign promised that Brexit would not mean stripping EU citizens of their rights – and polling shows the British public overwhelmingly agrees. Yet still the Government refuses to reassure EU citizens as to their rights to remain in the UK.

There may not be much that opposing sides of the Brexit debate agree on, but this issue has inspired support across political lines.

Last week in an amendment to the Brexit Bill, the House of Lords demanded that the Government guarantee the rights of EU nationals.

Reports* from Parliamentary committees and advisors have called for the Government to do the right thing and protect EU citizens’ right to remain. The British public, so divided on Brexit itself, agree – with 77 per cent of those who voted to leave the EU and 84 per cent of the UK public agreeing Brexit wasn’t about stripping EU nationals of their rights (survey by Common Vision).

Yet the Government continues to use people as bargaining chips in their Brexit negotiations.

Meanwhile around 3 million EU nationals living in the UK (and many UK nationals living abroad) watch nervously as politicians play fast and loose with their future.

As the vote moves to the House of Commons, I am writing to you as my MP to ensure that EU subjects are not treated as bargaining chips in an ill-thought out game. Andrew, please write back to me and say ‘together, we will stand up for EU nationals and ensure that fairness and human rights are at the heart of the negotiations.’

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Backhouse

* Reports are found here –

1) https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201617/ldselect/ldeucom/82/82.pdf
2) https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/695/695.pdf

Letter #8

After Kristallnacht 2017, I felt moved to write to my MP. A small measure I know – but, at the minute I am protesting within my means. I also sent a Tweet to Trump – something I had not done before, but, felt I needed to do.

Well, I have written to Andrew Jones MP, in the interests of democracy I will publish his reply in the comments section.


Dear Mr Jones MP,

The reason I am writing to you is regarding the recent visit of our Prime Minister to the White House, Washington DC. In siding with Trump, May, the leader of your party has sided with hate. There are photographs of May holding Trumps hand, and by doing so, she is tacitly saying she does not have a problem with his behaviour.

This is morally corrupt. In recent changes to the National Curriculum, our schools now teach ‘British’ Values. One of these British Values is ‘mutual respect for the tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith’.

Where does this fit in with last night’s re-enactment of Kristallnacht? We cannot sit idly by as Trump tramples the rights of those with different faiths and beliefs.

I believe that it is the job of Great Britain and the current Government to stand up for the rights of the oppressed the world over. Unfortunately, due to recent legislation from Capitol Hill, the trampled and oppressed are now people with differing faiths from Trump & Pence’s Evangelical right-wing bigotry.

It is the job of Britain to stand up for our values and for the rights of Muslims here and all around the world.

Yours Sincerely,

Andrew

Letter #7

As a member of Amnesty International I receive emails asking me to sign petitions. This one chimed with me. Being on a low income, I would not be able to represent myself in court if I was attacked.

The response will be in the footer.

___________

Dear Andrew Jones,

I am disappointed to see the latest evidence suggesting that the reforms to legal aid introduced by the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012 have had a significantly negative impact on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

I am writing to urge you immediately to conduct a review of those effects – recalling in particular that the government previously promised a review would be carried out.

On 11 October, Amnesty International released ‘Cuts That Hurt’, a report which examines the impact of civil legal aid cuts on access to justice in England. The changes essentially reversed the previous position, meaning that instead of being generally available in civil cases, subject to the merits of the legal case and the means of the person, legal aid is now generally not available, other than in a few narrow areas. There is also an ‘exceptional case funding scheme’ which aims to provide funding where refusal would breach the applicant’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Amnesty International’s report looks at those changes. It details some of the ways in which the loss of legal aid has made it substantially more difficult for people to access the legal advice and assistance that they need. It sets out how the cuts have led to a loss in early specialist legal advice and resulted in a reduced and uneven provision of free legal assistance across the country. It also examines the exceptional case funding provision and finds that inherent failings mean that the scheme does not in practice provide the promised safety net for vulnerable or disadvantaged people who are struggling to navigate complex legal processes and effectively advocate for their rights.

The report concludes that the cuts to civil legal aid have had a particularly serious and disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and marginalized people in the UK, who already experience the most obstacles in accessing justice and effectively claiming their rights. That includes vulnerable children, and also parents trying to resolve family disputes. The report also makes some not exhaustive suggestions for the kind of changes which Amnesty International believes could improve the situation.

I am concerned about ordinary people like myself and others whose access to justice is at risk. I join Amnesty International in respectfully urging the government to conduct an urgent review of the impact of the LASPO cuts on access to justice and protection of human rights, in particular for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew

Letter #6

Below, you can read the letter I have just fired off to Andrew Jones MP (Harrogate & Knaresborough Conservative Party MP). It seems bizarre that I am having to write about the subject matter – Whaling – in 2016 (nearly 2017).

Greenpeace was founded to help highlight the plight of the whale. That was decades ago. Yet, we are still having to campaign to help protect them.

In the interests of democracy, I will publish the reply at the foot of the post.

_________

Dear Mr Jones,

The matter I am writing to you about is an old matter – yet it is just as pressing today as it was thirty years ago. After thirty years, the global ban on whaling is under threat and I am requesting that you ask George Eustice MP to stick by the Conservative Party’s pre-election promise to oppose commercial whaling.

Over the past three decades, many whale populations have slowly started to recover. But, some countries are seeking to exploit this fact and restart commercial whaling. In your party’s pre-election manifesto, the Conservatives said “We will oppose any resumption of commercial whaling.” Please ask George Eustice to stick by this commitment.

On October 24th members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will be meeting to discuss the future of whale conservation.

For a long time the UK has been a world leader in whale protection – now George Eustice must stick the Conservative’s election promise and reject any threat to the ban on commercial whaling.

It’s also vital that that the UK government support measures for further whale conservation – such as the proposed South Atlantic whale sanctuary. George Eustice must do the ethically sound thing and stick by the party’s pre-election commitment. I hold zero sway in Parliament but you have a seat there, Mr. Jones – please voice the concern of a constituent to Mr. Eustice.

Yours,

Andrew

Letter #5

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

Thank you for your continued correspondence – it is nice to see democracy in action. Belonging to the Mother Of All Parliaments seems a daunting task. A task that does not always go the way of sense. Brexit was such a case – however, it was democratically chosen by the British public so I bear witness.

However, in the run-up to Brexit, the move to dehumanise and undermine the positive contributions made by migrants, refugees and minorities in every community has been gathering pace for some time. Violence. Vandalism. Hate speech. Racist slogans on t-shirts. In the last few days reported hate crimes in Britain have increased.

Fuelled by years of hostile rhetoric coupled with divisive campaigns, we are now seeing racism and xenophobia on the rise on our streets and in our communities on a local and National level. Local leaders, such as yourself, must condemn these actions immediately and do everything in your power to make people safe and welcome.

I am asking you to stand against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes. In Britain. In 2016.

The EU Referendum, the London Mayoral campaign, and the language and imagery used around the refugee crisis have been marked by scare stories and myths. Now we’re seeing verbal and physical abuse hurled in public places, community buildings defaced with racial slurs, and abhorrent slogans on t-shirts. Fair enough – these are not inclusive of Harrogate, but on a National level.

I am calling on you, Andrew Jones MP, to stand against racism in all its forms. People from all walks of life have found themselves bearing the brunt of a society where racism and xenophobia has become more prevalent. Many of my friends and other loved ones are unsure of their future, their family’s future and the security of their jobs and homes.

They all need to be urgently reassured that they’re safe, protected and welcome here, in Britain.

Please act now to reassure people that they are safe and welcome – this is urgent.

In just a couple weeks, local councils across the UK will go on recess for the summer. We need our local communities to start the fight back against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes now.

Yours sincerley,
Andrew B_________

Letter #4

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

As you may be aware from our previous correspondence, I have a passion for Human Rights and environmental campaigns – it is about the rights of the Munduruku people and the plight of the Amazon that I am writing to you now. As you will be aware, the Olympics will start in Rio de Janerio in a month’s time. As TV crews arrive from hundreds of countries, those in power will want to look like world-leaders, not world destroyers.

Like most people, I am in awe at the sheer magnitude of the Biodiversity that exists within the Amazon Rainforest. Andrew Jones, are you happy for the Amazon to be sold to the highest bidder? To see bulldozers obliterate the heart of the rainforest? I hope not – that’s why I’m counting on you to take urgent action by putting pressure on the Brazilian Government before they give the green light to the bulldozers.

Unless we get our act together as one voice, Brazil could give the go-ahead to the destructive Tapajos dam right in the heart of the Amazon. The dam would make Indigenous People, called the Munduruku, homeless and threaten thousands of species. Despite the fact that solar and wind would do the job of a dam, without the damage.

By joining together with thousands of voices from Berlin to Birmingham and back to Brazil, can you show Brazil’s government that people from across the world won’t stand idly by and watch this happen.

When Greenpeace, and campaigners from across the world, drew attention to deforestation caused by the soya industry, governments and huge corporations saw the error of their ways. Since that people-powered campaign, a ban has protected the Amazon from this destructive industry. Now, can you join us and save the Amazon from this new, frightening threat.

Thanks for taking a stand,

Andrew

In the interests of democracy, I will print Andrew Jones MP’s letter in the comments section of this post. I am still to hear back about the letter I wrote concerning Belén – I don’t think it bothers him. If this letter has piqued a thought in you feel free to copy it and send it to your own MP – if not then please sign this petition to express your interest.

Letter #3

I am a white, middle class man. I have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body. However, people listen to white, middle class men – so – if I can gain that bit more freedom for oppressed women around the world then it is worth a go. I had been contacted by Amnesty International about the case of “Belén” and I was close to tears. So, I am badgering Andrew Jones MP … again.

Dear Andrew Jones MP,

I really hope that you do not mind me contacting you so frequently, but – the subject I am writing to you about today has me close to tears. Imagine if, at a time of medical need, your doctor called the police. You had committed no crime – all you’d done was arrive at a hospital and ask for medical assistance that you were perfectly entitled to.

But now you must endure years in prison.

This is the experience of Belén* in northern Argentina: Imprisoned for a miscarriage.

In March 2014, the then 25-year-old Belén went to a state hospital in San Miguel de Tucumán, a city in Northern Argentina, complaining of severe abdominal pains and heavy vaginal bleeding. At the hospital, a doctor told Belén that she was 22 weeks pregnant and experiencing a miscarriage. Belén says she had no idea that she had been pregnant. She was kept in hospital for care.

Medical staff found a foetus in a hospital bathroom and claimed it was Belen’s, without any physical evidence that she was connected with the contents (they did not analyse the DNA to establish a connection with Belén, for example).

A nurse brought a box containing the foetus to Belén’s bedside, claiming it was ‘her son’ and insulting her, Belén says.

The hospital staff reported Belén to the police, claiming that she had induced an abortion, rather than had a miscarriage. Abortions are illegal in Argentina.

The next thing Belén knew, she woke up in the hospital bed after surgery surrounded by police, who subjected her to intrusive physical examinations of ‘private parts of her body’.

The medical professionals hadn’t proven Belén’s relation to the foetus and they had failed to protect her right to patient confidentiality. Belén was charged with inducing an abortion.

Belén was held in pre-trial detention for over two years, awaiting a trial for abortion. The prosecutor changed her charge to aggravated murder for the premeditated killing of a close relative – a crime that carries prison sentences of up to 25 years (whereas the maximum sentence for a woman initiating her own abortion is one to four years in prison).

On 19 April, Belén was found guilty of murder and sentenced to eight years in prison. Her sentence was confirmed on 3 May.

Belén’s layer appealed the sentence and requested Belén be released on bail while the appeal is heard. However, her request was rejected, and Belén remains in prison despite the appeal. A decision on this is expected in June.

Please call on Argentinian authorities to free Belén immediately and to drop the charges against her for suffering a miscarriage.

The case against Belén is entirely based upon the foetus found in the hospital bathroom.

‘My client has always been linked…with the so-called ‘found foetus’, despite the fact that according to the evidence the foetus was found before she entered the hospital and despite considerable confusion in the files over whether there were one, two or several foetuses, whether it was a male or female foetus…whether it belonged to someone else.

‘This supposed link, first turned into a suspicion by medical staff, then into an accusation by police, then into a supposed forensic link after the fact, then it became a matter of record and finally a legal case, and ALL without a shred of evidence.’

Belén’s lawyer, Soledad Deza

Belén’s case is making waves. She is one of many, unfortunately, but her imprisonment has mobilised a campaign for justice on her behalf.

‘Belén’s case matters to all of us. It has been publicized in hundreds of articles in the national and international media and it’s being widely shared on social networks. Belén’s lawyer petitioned for her release. Attached to the appeal were more than 30 pages listing people and organizations who support Belén.

‘We care about her because we know about her. We care because, like the women of “Las 17” in El Salvador, Belén epitomizes the violence with which patriarchy is imposed by our states, even to the point of putting women in prison because, they suspect, they have not fulfilled the duties expected of a “good woman”.

‘We care because we know that Belén has not had an adequate defence and from the moment she stepped into the hospital, was in fact condemned by her own doctor, a doctor who violated his duty to protect patient confidentiality by reporting her.

‘We care because it is an almost absurd example of how criminal law is applied selectively, imprisoning the poor who are considered guilty even when there is no evidence. And if they are women it’s even worse.’

Fernanda Doz Costa, Amnesty Americas Researcher

Her appeal could be heard in the district’s Supreme Court in the coming weeks, which is why now is the time to show Argentinian authorities that around the world, we stand beside Belén and demand her freedom.

The Argentinian woman, who has not been named and is known by the pseudonym of ‘Belén’, has been sentenced to eight years in prison under the country’s laws on abortion. Please, Andrew Jones MP, do all that is in your power to tell Argentina to free Belén now and put further pressure on Argentina to change their archaic laws that restrict women’s freedoms.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Backhouse

In the interests of democracy, I will publish his response, up on my site, below in the comments. Thank you for reading – and if you want to copy the above letter to forward on to your MP then feel free.

Letter #2

I am in the process of writing a letter to my local MP, Andrew Jones – this time about British Cluster Bombs being used against civilians in Yemen. Cluster bombs are an illegal weapon, banned under international law since 2008. Amnesty International uncovered a British-made BL-755 – a particularly nasty model, which consists of a large bomb that opens mid-air to scatter 147 smaller explosive bomblets across a wide area.

What is a cluster Bomb?

The below is the final draft of a letter I intend to send to Andrew Jones.

___________

Dear Mr. Jones,

In this letter I am writing to you – well, I am almost embarrassed: The UK is fueling the deadly conflict in Yemen through reckless arms sales to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition – these sales break UK laws and the global Arms Trade Treaty it once championed. I was prompted to write this letter by the information I found on Amnesty’s website – I figure rather than sign a one-size-fits-all petition to the Prime Minister, I would write to you as a human and as a concerned constituent.

Amnesty International’s research team recently visited Yemen to collect evidence of human rights abuses. What they discovered was a UK-made cluster bomb, used by the coalition in a series of strikes on civilians.

At least 16 civilians, including nine children, have been maimed, and two children killed. Many more people are still at risk from thousands of un-exploded cluster bombs left in their neighbourhoods.

On 16 April 2016, in a village around 10km from the Saudi Arabian border, two brothers aged nine and twelve were herding goats in the valley nearby. The nine-year-old boy found two un-exploded cluster bombs and gave one to his brother.

‘I found the bomb and I went and gave it to my brother so he can have one and I had one. He hit them against each other and they exploded and I found myself lying on the ground.’

He survived but his 12-year-old brother was killed on the spot, his abdomen torn open and his arm severed.

On 1 March, “Walid” (children’s names have been changed for their security) another 11-year-old from a nearby area, was also hurt by a submunition, losing three of his fingers and breaking his jaw. His brother, “Samih,” an eight year old, was killed.

Walid told Amnesty International that he and Samih were near the village of Fard, al-Safra directorate in Sa’da, on 1 March when they encountered multiple submunitions while herding goats in a valley. He said that he and Samih were carrying around and playing with submunitions for several hours when one eventually exploded around 1pm, killing Samih instantly and injuring Walid. Amnesty International observed that Walid lost three fingers on his right hand and that he had had an operation to insert steel plates in his left jaw, which was broken in the blast. He also sustained shrapnel injuries to his chest and legs.

“We go down every day to the valley to herd goats, where there are many small bombs. We found four of them in the morning… they were cylindrical with a red ribbon. We carried them with us while herding. At around 1pm, I started to take the red string with my right hand and pull and [Samih] pulled on the other end of it and then it went off and I fell back. [Samih] was hurt in his stomach and he had fallen down too. We didn’t know it would hurt us.”

Based on the description, these appear to be ground-launched “ZP 39” DPICM submunitions, which have been documented by Human Rights Watch in northern Yemen in May 2015.

Cluster bombs are an illegal weapon, banned under international law since 2008.

Amnesty International uncovered a British-made BL-755 – a particularly nasty model, which consists of a large bomb that opens mid-air to scatter 147 smaller explosive bomblets across a wide area. The bomblets eject a stream of molten metal as they detonate, which is designed to pierce metal armour. After this, they explode into more than 2,000 fragments killing and maiming all in the vicinity.

Even if they don’t explode on impact, they become ticking time bombs for civilians on the ground, with hundreds of live, lethal devices left scattered across the drop zone. The bombs are known to be in the stockpiles of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This type of cluster bomb was originally manufactured in the UK in 1970/80’s and likely sold to a member of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition some years ago. But regardless of when this was sold the UK has a responsibility, under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to ensure these weapons are never used.

How many more people must die? I am asking if you can raise a point in the House Of Commons calling on the UK government to stop selling arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition carrying out illegal and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen.

So far, they’ve ignored Anmnesty’s calls. When pressed on the matter, UK ministers have said that Saudi Arabia has provided it with ‘assurances’ of their proper use.

This is unacceptable. Parliament must not ignore the deaths of civilians.

Demand an urgent investigation into the use of cluster bombs and an immediate end to these weapons sales.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew W. Backhouse

___________

As ever, I am not expecting a reply from my MP – although this is democracy in action and in the interests of democracy I will publish his reply up here if I get the opportunity. I have created a category for my correspondence with Andrew Jones MP  – if you want to dip your toe in ill-thought-out policies and leftist rebuke then that is the place to head.