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Don’t expects objectivity. All MPs believe their own favourite campaigns are important - that’s why we pursue them.
The Timing of this election aims to get the Tories off the hook of the 5-year promises they made in 2015 on the Triple lock and no tax, VAT or NI rises. They want to jump now before a giant sinkhole opens up in the road ahead into which the economy will fall in a tailspin. The falsehood about Brexit ignores the full support given to the referendum decision by both Commons and Lords. That's settled. We all want the best deal for Britain.
Jamming the revolving door from ministerial office to retirement riches has been a major campaign of mine for the past 12 years. At last we are on the brink of a breakthrough with a Select Committee report on the futility of Governments to police the most potentially corrupt element in our political system. It not just the public’s anger at an incontinence of greed by former politicians, it’s the likelihood that deals are done while ministers are in office, not in the best public interests but in order secure a retirement sinecure or hacienda in Spain. Some of these deals are worth £billions
While there is no accusations against the individuals involved, the Public Administration Committee wanted to ask George Osborne about a meeting he had with Blackrock while he was Chancellor and the subsequent decisions he made to change the law and deliver a bonanza to Blackstone. He is now employed on a part-time basis by Blackrock at a salary of £650,000. This may be perfectly proper but it is galling that snap election has got him off the cross-examination planned. As the senior Labour MP on the select committee I want to continue that campaign. The press has generously acknowledged my role-especially Private Eye. I know of no other MP who has campaigned on this with the persistence that I have.
Ed Davey agreed an extraordinary generous deal with EDF to buy the dearest electricity in the world with the price guaranteed for 35 years. When he lost his seat he took a job with firm that does EDF’s PR work. It might be perfectly in order but the public would like to hear that from him. I cannot see that happening unless I am re-elected. Human nature being what it, there is a great vested interests among politicians in not losing the possibility of retirement riches. The costs to the public are probably enormous. The present watchdog to prevent absues is run by the Great and the Good to serve the interests of the Great and the Good. Not the rottweiler needed, just a blind pussy-cat without teeth or claws.
All MPs have their own priorities and passions. By choice, I have long been a campaigning backbencher. I have worked to make killer Bully Bars unfashionable, to expoes the futility of drug laws, for dignity in dying, for assumed consent for organ donations and fore environmental reforms of clean air and sustainable renewable energy.. Some of them successful, others still work in progress. For the next few weeks I will try to convince my constituents that my roles in parliament are so vital and unique that they deserve their votes.
Please give me a ring and I will explain further.
This morning I had the privilege and honour to attend the boathouse opening and naming ceremony of the new Shannon Class lifeboat at Swanage. As you'd expect, the turnout was high, all coming to see the immaculate new boat and smart crew. The boat is named George Thomas Lacy after a man of the same name. George served in the RN and it was his interest in the sea that led him to becoming a lifelong supporter of the RNLI, leaving a significant legacy in his Will. He died in 2006, aged 94, so sadly did not witness today's poignant ceremony. After the initial speeches, the Rev Tony Higgins took the short and touching Service. The boat, station and crew were all blessed, before the boat was launched down the new ramp after a count of 10. Coxswain Dave Turnbull then manoeuvred her smartly around before returning to the new boathouse to be lifted back out, ready for the next occasion. I met and chatted to many of those attending, before having to say my farewells and hop back on my motorcycle to Weymouth. I refuelled on the way over, wolfing down a sandwich, and met up with Mike Byatt, a former Labour councillor, who is now standing for us in a by-election for W&PBC. He is the most charming, intelligent and able man, and we were soon knocking on doors and listening to the many views of those we met. Another interesting session, where the feedback was mainly positive.
The formal statement from the EU 27 after their Brexit discussions this week had some sensible and positive points in it. They talk of their “wish to have the UK as a close partner in the future”. They ask for a single financial settlement but do not put any figures in it. They wish this to include sorting out the shareholdings we have in the European Investment Bank and the ECB which must be our credits. They say they are ready “to initiate an agreement on trade, to be finalised and concluded once the UK is no longer a member state”. They want agreements that go wider than trade, to include security. They seem to accept in principle reciprocal rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.
They make much of how unified the EU is and will be over their negotiating position. The UK is not trying to cause division, as we are well aware that it is easier if there is one negotiator for them and they will all sign up to anything the central team agree. They seem unsure that they can hold it together as single voice and view, so they tell the other member states that they are not to talk Brexit with the UK individually. This seems both petty and unenforceable. A willingness to talk to partners is important, but does not mean the EU position will automatically fall apart. It might just be better informed and better reflect its member states views.
There are still some less helpful statements from the EU point of view in the official words. We are told at the beginning “Citizens who have built their lives on the basis of rights flowing from the British membership of the EU face the prospect of losing their rights”. It is difficult to see how this can be true, as the UK has made clear it wishes to ensure full rights to stay and work in the UK for all EU citizens who have legally done so, as long as UK citizens get the same treatment. Further down the document it implies that will be the EU’s view. We are told a trade agreement cannot be discussed until the leaving agreement has been hammered out, yet they also say there can be talks about it in parallel to the second phase of the leaving Agreement. They also say nothing is agreed until all is agreed, so the UK could require preliminary agreement on trade or countries in the EU at risk of high farm tariffs might want the EU to sort that out. Clearly the EU wants to run the risk of damaging its exports to the UK by tariffs.
The language on Ireland, Cyprus and Gibraltar is not as inflammatory as some reports or interested parties seem to suggest.
All in all it seems to me to be a working document that the UK can respond to. Both sides accept the UK will be leaving the EU, its internal market and customs union. Of course the UK should pay its bills on leaving, but no-one has set out any bill with financial and legal credibility that goes beyond our regular contributions up to withdrawal date.
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express, you can read this week’s (Which will be my last until after the General Election) below:
General Election Called
On Tuesday I went into the House of Commons expecting a normal day of meetings and catching up on correspondence, then at about 10am news circulated that the Prime Minister was about to make a statement.
There was much speculation about what it could be, yet there was not long to wait as at 11:15am Theresa May announced the Government wished to call an election for Thursday 8th June 2017. Given the challenges ahead, as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU, it is right that the Government seeks a new mandate from the British people.
A strong and clear mandate in both seats and votes will give certainty not just to our Government, but to other nations looking to agree deals with us. The Government’s small majority in parliament and the crucial fact that negotiations with the EU would reach their most difficult stages in the run up to a 2020 election all create uncertainty.
Unlike in the past when Prime Ministers could simply hop in a car for a trip to the Palace to call an election the Fixed Term Parliaments Act meant a vote of MPs was needed. I was one of 522 who voted in favour, with only 13 voting against.
The debate over the next 6 weeks will be significant as there are big choices to be made in the next parliament, which will be the most significant since the one elected in 1970 that took us into the then Common Market.
As with the Referendum there will not be an opportunity to demand a re-run the next day if your vote has been wasted on a protest or not used and the result is not what you wished. I therefore hope all in the bay will engage in the election debate and make a positive choice on Thursday 8th June as to who should take our bay and nation forward.
What Happens Now?
The calling of an election means the operation of my office here in the bay and at Westminster is very restricted.
The letters “MP” and the Portcullis Symbol have to be removed or covered at the office in East St, plus my staff can only pick up matters of very urgent casework. The daily drop in sessions with my team will be suspended throughout the election period
The Westminster office will be closed entirely for the period of the election with me having no access to it. I also cannot use House of Commons stationary to respond to queries during the election period.
If you need my help over the next few weeks the best contacts to use are 01803 214 989 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The first round of voting in the French Presidential Election took place on Sunday with the final two candidates chosen for the run off in two weeks’ time.
France appears a different country to the one that in 2012 elected the Socialist Party’s Francois Hollande, with him not standing and his party’s candidate finishing a distant fifth. The final two, Marine LePen and Emmanuel Macron, could not have more contrasting reputations and the debates taking place in France over the next two weeks will be fiery to say the least. The result will have an effect on the UK as France’s next President will be a key figure in the Brexit negotiations.
Many pundits are predicting a clear win for Macron in the run off, yet given the experiences of political predictions over the last 12 months anything could happen.
It was a pleasure to attend the St George’s Day Parade by Torbay Scout’s held at the Princess Theatre.
The uniforms and badges may have changed over the last century but it is clear the essential ethos of being a scout has not. The movement in the bay not only helps hundreds of children have a great time, but also does great work to support local good causes.
One issue that was highlighted though is that the movement is limited not by the numbers of children wanting to take part, but by a need for more adult helpers to cater for them. It would be great to see more come forward.
Familiar Face Not Standing
As I was writing this column news came through that my predecessor, Adrian Sanders, has confirmed he will not be standing in the forthcoming General Election.
Whilst (Unsurprisingly) we did not agree on everything I enjoyed my debates with Adrian prior to the election in 2015 and it will seem strange not to see him on the hustings this year given he has stood in every General Election since April 1992.
I wish him and Alison all the very best for their future.
My next surgeries will be on Saturday 29th April from 11am till 1pm at Paignton Library and Information Centre and Friday 5th May St Peter’s Centre, Queensway, Torquay.
Just call 01803 214 989 or e-mail me at email@example.com to book a slot. You can drop in, but appointments are recommended to avoid a long wait or disappointment.
Robert Buckland MP is inviting people to join him and don their wackiest hat on Friday 12th May to raise funds for families across Swindon living with the effects of brain injury.
Headway Swindon, a local brain injury charity, has organised the event and is appealing to businesses, schools, and community organisations to get creative for Hats for Headway Day as part of Action for Brain Injury Week which runs from the 8th -14th May.
Staff at Headway Swindon have suggested a few ideas of how people can get involved and support the fundraiser, including organising a dress down day or wearing a wacky hat to work and even holding your own mini-competition with a prize for the best or funniest head gear.
Not only will participants be helping out a worthy cause while having fun, but the fundraiser will be part of a nationwide competition run by the national charity with a prize for 'best hat'.
A spokesperson from the charity said: “We want people to know that by taking part in Hats for Headway Day, they’ll be supporting our work to improve the lives of local people affected by brain injury, helping them to rebuild their lives and regain their independence.”
Robert Buckland MP comment: “Headway Swindon is a fantastic local charity who work hard to improve the lives of those living with the effects of brain injury and their families here in Swindon. I am looking forward to wearing my hat and taking part in Hats for Headway Day on 12th May.
For more information about this year's Hats for Headway Day, simply contact Headway Swindon on 01793 674820; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Hayes MP, SE5 Forum, Camberwell Green councillor Kieron Williams and I have been working together to campaign to re-open Camberwell Station which sits on the Thameslink Line and is located on Camberwell Station Road.
This would come as welcome relief to people in Southwark, who have suffered from poor transport links for years, especially following the disappoint of the proposal for the Bakerloo Line extension to only serve Old Kent Rent and with the ongoing Southern Rail chaos.
Helen Hayes MP and I have written to the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling MP to request an urgent meeting to call on the Government to re-open the station.
Find out how you can get involved in the campaign at www.openourstation.uk and sign the e-petition here: www.change.org/p/department-for-transport-re-open-camberwell-railway-station-london-se5
On Twitter you can follow the campaign using the hashtag #CamberwellStation and the campaign Twitter account @OpenOurStation
Karen Lumley, MP for Redditch County, is urging community groups to take full advantage of a new community grant awards competition.
The UK's leading supplier of sustainable timber and building materials, Jewson, gave away a total of £250,000 to local community projects last year – and the same prize fund is available for 2017.
Building Better Communities is a competition which gives local causes the chance to win free building materials for building projects. Applicants can choose to nominate a project for a top regional prize of £50,000, or a share of a bigger £150,000 regional prize fund where they can ask for anything from £500 to £10,000 to spend on building materials.
New for 2017 is the Trade Hero category, which seeks to celebrate construction workers who play a big role in their community. The Trade Hero will win £50,000 worth of building materials to enable them to complete a worthy community project.
Nominations can be made via buildingbettercommunities.co.uk or the Jewson Facebook page at facebook.com/jewsonuk. Nominations close on the 5 May 2017.
Karen said: "As Jewson has a branch in Redditch, it struck me that this was a competition well worth entering. Wouldn't it be great if Redditch communities got to share in the prizes?"
7 April 2017
Dear Mr. Smith,
Submission to the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the Transformation Programme Phase One Consultation
For 32 years I was the Member of Parliament for Banbury.
Banbury is a market town which serves a large catchment area straddling three counties.
The Horton General Hospital serves a similar catchment area of some 150,000 people spread across three counties.
Over the years, the Horton Hospital has faced a number of threats of downgrading.
Whilst I was Member of Parliament in 2008, there were proposals to downgrade paediatric services, obstetrics and gynaecology.
These proposals were referred to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).
The conclusions of the IRP could not have been clearer and the IRP concluded “the Horton Hospital has a positive future as an integral part of the ORH NHS Trust. Appropriate clinical networks must be developed between the three hospitals that make up the Trust, with primary care and other neighbouring hospitals. This will involve change and now is the time for all concerned to agree the best way forward.”
The IRP made six recommendations.
Recommendation 2 clearly stated that “The IRP does not support the Trust’s proposals to reconfigure services in paediatrics, obstetrics, gynaecology and the SCBU at the Horton Hospital. The IRP does not consider that they will provide an accessible or improved service to the people of North Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas.”
Recommendation 4 was that “the PCT must develop a clear vision for children’s and maternity services within an explicit strategy for services for North Oxfordshire as a whole”.
And Recommendation 5 was “the ORH must do more to develop clinically integrated practice across the Horton, John Radcliffe and Churchill sites as well as developing the wider clinical networks with other hospitals, primary care and the independent sector”.
The IRP gave the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust a month within the publication of the Report to publish a plan including a timeline for taking forward the work proposed by their Recommendations. In fairness, the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust undertook that work which resulted in there being consultant-delivered children’s services at the Horton General Hospital and a consultant-led maternity service.
It is disappointing that within so few years of such clear recommendations from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel that the identical services are again being threatened at the Horton.
It is very difficult for people to understand the Clinical Commissioning Group’s exact proposals because the CCG has chosen to split the consultation process. By splitting the consultation process, the Trust’s proposal and the consultation has become confused.
It is impossible to understand the full implications of the proposals in Phase One, without knowing what will be put forward in Phase Two.
In 2008, GPs and other health providers in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire were very much involved in opposing the Trust’s then plans to downgrade services at the Horton.
There is little evidence that the Trust has sought this time to consult GPs in Warwickshire and Northamptonshire and it is not surprising that some medical services will be considered to be less sustainable if the Trust is ignoring a sizeable part of the Horton Hospital’s catchment area.
It is disappointing that the consultation paper only presents the Trust’s own preferred option.
It gives every characteristic of the Trust seeking to present a “fait accompli”.
It is worth recalling that this is exactly what the Trust with the proposals they put forward last time in 2007/2008, proposals which were described unanimously by local GPs as being “unsafe and unsustainable”.
It seems bizarre that the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust wishes to reduce beds and downgrade services at the Horton General Hospital at exactly the time that Banbury and Bicester are growing rapidly with large numbers of new houses visibly being built and Cherwell District Council’s Local Plan stating that 23,000 further houses will be built in the district between now and 2031.
The IRP concluded in 2008 that the John Radcliffe Hospital is too far and too inaccessible for many of those living in North Oxfordshire.
Nothing has happened in the intervening years to make the John Radcliffe any nearer and less inaccessible.
The Trust, as always, has failed to have proper regard to the inevitable domino effect of their proposals so removing obstetric services will have a knock-on effect on the anaesthetics rota and that will inevitably undermine capacity to provide any acute services provided at the Horton General Hospital.
There has been considerable confusion about the contingency arrangements to be put in place should the Horton Maternity Unit be downgraded to a Midwife-led Unit (MLU).
The pre-business consultation case talked about a static ambulance situation at the Horton General Hospital. However, at a public meeting in St. Mary’s Church at which I was present, it was suggested that this ambulance be removed should the service become a Midwife-led Unit. I understand that at other meetings those attending were told that the ambulance would remain. How are people expected to comment on proposals without having any clarity on how transfers will take place should the suspension of consultant-led maternity at the Horton become permanent.
I understand that in the short time there has been an MLU at the Horton it has been necessary for the static ambulance to be used over forty times.
These are not one offs. These are regular occurrences.
It is very unfair on expectant mothers for them to have to contemplate being moved in labour some distance over some time to the John Radcliffe.
When I was involved, as Member of Parliament, in the 2007/8 discussions, the Horton General Hospital was seeing approximately 1,500 births per year.
I understand that since the suspension of consultant-led maternity at the end of January, there have been just 61 babies born at the Horton – equivalent of just some 190 births a year where mothers elect to use a local MLU. The consequence will be that there will be some 1,300 plus births that will have to take place elsewhere.
Is the John Radcliffe able to cope with this extra demand?
And inevitably the larger the Unit, the more difficult it must become to provide mothers with personalised care.
In the last Report, the IRP observed that “We were disappointed in the limited extent of clinical and systems integration between the John Radcliffe, Churchill and Horton Hospitals and consider that more should have been achieved given the time the hospitals have been within the same Trust. This is relevant to this Review because there is the greater potential to support local services at the Horton Hospital than there would be if the Horton was linked with another smaller district General Hospital . . . the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust’s commitment that the Horton Hospital is an important part of its portfolio needs clear reinforcement in its future strategic documents. The IRP was left with a sense that the Horton Hospital remains a problem to be solved rather than a development opportunity”.
Sadly, nothing seems to have changed in the intervening years and one is still left with the very strong impression that so far as the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust is concerned, “the Horton Hospital remains a problem to be solved rather than a development opportunity”.
Local people and local communities are faced with almost identical proposals from the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust as we were in 2007.
The IRP’s conclusions on those proposals could not have been clearer and I would suggest that nothing has happened in the intervening years either to negate the IRP’s conclusions or to justify the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust seeking yet again to downgrade services at the Horton General Hospital.
The effect of the Trust’s proposals will mean that the Horton will no longer be a hospital in any recognisable sense of that word, but will simply be a random collection of outpatient clinics and medical services, risking further deterioration as the undermining of anaesthetics puts further acute services at risk.
It is also clear that the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust no longer wish the Horton Hospital to be serving the people of the Banbury catchment area, but rather that anyone living in Northamptonshire, notwithstanding they may only live a couple of miles away from Banbury are increasingly going to be pressurised to use services in Northamptonshire and people living in Warwickshire, again notwithstanding they may only live a few miles away from Banbury, are increasingly going to be pressurised to use NHS services in Warwickshire – this does not seem to reflect any attempt at an integrated NHS provision for patients.
Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry, DL
To download a copy of the full letter, please click on the following link: 170407 STB HGH CCG Submission.
Ed opened a new pedestrian footbridge in Uffington built by Network Rail. He also had a look at a bug hotel built by local scouts as part of the development.
The newly redeveloped station building at Snodland was officially re-opened by Tracey last week after a £1.1Million investment.
Passenger numbers have increased significantly at Snodland since Southeastern's successful High Speed service was introduced in 2009. This coupled with growth and investment in the area, has resulted in the ticket office being reopened for a growing number of commuters, three decades after it was originally shut down
The redevelopment of the station has created a new ‘transport interchange’ at the front of the station with an extended car park and included work in the main station building to reopen the ticket office for the first time since 1986.
Tracey was joined by Southeastern’s Managing Director, David Statham, local councillors, contractors who carried out the work, members of the Railway Heritage Trust and the Department for Transport for a plaque unveiling and a slice of cake.
In the new booking hall, Southeastern who organised the event, displayed picture montages of the work taking place at the station before, during and after the work was completed, as well as having light refreshments provided by a local caterer in Snodland.
With passenger numbers steadily on the rise, up to 40% in some areas, the upgrades to the listed building and forecourt are a welcome improvement to the station.
The station ticket office at Snodland was closed by British Rail in 1986.
David Statham, Managing Director at Southeastern, said: “We are over the moon to be re-opening the station ticket office and upgrading the station building at Snodland. Since the introduction of high speed services the number of passengers using Snodland station has grown significantly and we want to give those passengers who use the station a better experience.”
Tracey said: “It’s fantastic to see that after years of being closed the station ticket office is now in use again for passengers. This is much needed as housing developments in the area are completed, seeing more and more people use the station. This is very welcome investment to the town of Snodland and I’m very humbled to be asked to officially open the station building.”
The work was completed at the end of September and was jointly funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) with £600,000 from its National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP), Kent County Council with £485,000 from its Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF) and the Railway Heritage Trust (£32,000).
Network Rail carried out some of the work at the station and their Route Enhancement manager Mike Smith said: “Our Railway Upgrade Plan is not just about trains and railways, it’s about people.
“The rebirth of Snodland is a great example of how the railway industry can work with local partners to the benefit of the people who make the community and the local economy across Kent.”
Other partners include Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, Kent Community Rail Partnership and Network Rail, which Southeastern is working with to improve facilities at stations across the network.
My father died just over a year ago. I dreamt about him last night. Thinking about him, I’m reminded of two things today: first, that he loved me; and second, that he was – to put it mildly – puzzled by my choice of profession. He never saw the point of parliament, which he thought a ‘giant talking shop.’ […]
The Haringey Indepedent asked me to outline reasons why people should vote for me… Here’s my response!
“Starting with the very basic – I am local! I grew up in Haringey, went to Highgate primary, and still live in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green today.
“It’s so important to know the area you want to represent.
“I also have a 20 year record of working with residents and campaign groups to protect and improve our local services.
“If I had to pick the single most important campaign – it would be saving the Whittington A&E from the previous Labour Government’s closure plans. The second I got wind, I posted the information on my website (where it remains today!) and kicked off a massive campaign.
“Joining forces with local residents and campaign groups – I marched, I petitioned, I secured a debate and asked questions in Parliament, and together we were successful and Gordon Brown’s Government backed down. If we hadn’t saved it – I don’t think we’d still have a hospital.
“Nationally, I’ve fought for policies that benefit our borough. The Lib Dems in parliament have taken the lowest paid workers out of paying tax, and introduced the Pupil Premium to get extra money to schools in more disadvantaged areas.
“These measures mean that thousands of low-paid Haringey workers have be taken out of paying income tax altogether, and £13 million extra has been given to our local schools, teachers and pupils.
“In Government, I’ve used my ministerial positions to push a progressive agenda. As Equalities minister, I was the originator and architect of equal marriage. I then moved to the Department for International Development, where I announced a £35 million programme to end FGM within a generation, and protected the aid budget.
Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”
Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.
“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”