The EU is a destructive force in European politics. I have lost count of how many governments have been toppled by the economic policies the Euro demands. The French government is the latest casualty, with President Hollande dismissing his Ministers following the opposition of some of them to the austerity policies they are forced to follow to comply with EU and Euro requirements.

If a policy of business  tax cuts and spending cuts is to work in France, as it could, it has to be accompanied by an easy money policy from the Central bank and banking system. If you are going to reduce the public sector you need to help augment the private sector.  In the Euro area they have decided instead to run a tight money policy by demanding ever more cash and capital from commercial banks to support their lending, and declining to take any offsetting special monetary measures as the US, UK and Japan have done. Ministers complaining about the policy have been dismissed so the President can find more compliant pro Euro Ministers.

Meanwhile, a different kind of EU policy has helped destabilise the government of Ukraine by heightening the disagreements between the pro EU and pro Russia factions within the country. The overthrow of the previous elected President helped trigger a chain of bad events. Now the most recently elected new President has his way and is going to require early elections to a new Parliament. He says he cannot work with the current representatives from the Donbass region who are too pro Russian for his liking.

The Presidential election was brought forward by almost a year, and the new President was elected without any votes being cast in the Crimea, and with most of the polling stations in the Donbass region unavailable. His intention to hold Parliamentary elections on October 26th 2014, three years before the end of the current Parliament’s full term, will also presumably lead to an election in which the most  pro Russian parts of the country will be unable to vote. Clearly the Crimea is now under Russian control and will not participate at all.  How many of the people in the Donbass region will this time have peaceful access to a polling station? If the pro Russian part of the population does not feel they can have a proper influence on the election it does not augur well for the restoration of Ukrainian unity and peace.

These are yet more reasons why the EU should do less and be more mindful of national and local democracy. Democratic government only works if the consent of all the people to the method of government is maintained. This has been broken in the Ukraine, and is being strained in parts of the Eurozone whose economic performance is poor.

Just spoken to the better together team in the Borders and we have been asked to spend the day in Hawick in the borders this Saturday. There will be opportunities to canvass or simply deliver leaflets. This campaign is apolitical, cross party and a with a simple message to the Scots - please stay! There is also a public meeting taking place in Hawick on Saturday of which more layer this week on the blog.
If you have not signed up and want to come at this late stage - we leave Hexham at 9.45 sharp Saturday but please let me know if you are coming - email me on guy.opperman.mp@parliament.uk


During August the Shadow Cabinet has been setting out the choice between the Tory threat and the Labour future. The Tories and Lib Dems claim they’ve fixed the economy but things are still tough for hardworking families. Labour has been setting out a better way – the Labour future - Action on the cost of living, with a freeze on energy bills, expanded free childcare, an increase in the minimum wage and a lower 10p starting rate of income tax to help millions of people on lower and middle incomes, action on the NHS and for schools. I joined Rupa...

 

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Had a great meeting with a new Bristol group named Grandparents for a Safe Earth. As a fully qualified grandfather of seven children, who enthusiastically shares their aims, I have joined the group. One of the members is a school friend of mine from St Illtyd's in Cardiff. His idealism has survived shining bright since the forties. There will be parliamentary opportunities to advance the causes of these inspiring activists. Their inspiration is the Gray Panther movement.


WHO WE ARE

“The old, having the benefit of life experience, the time to get things done & the least to lose by sticking their necks out, are in a perfect position to serve as advocates for the larger public good.” “we must act as the elders of the tribe looking out for the best interests of the future & preserving the precious compact between the generations.” (Maggie Kuhn who launched Gray Panther).

GRANDPARENTS FOR A SAFE EARTH

We are a network of grandparents and elders who care deeply about the world our descendants will inherit. We have learned that the current plans of energy companies and governments will, if not radically changed, put our grandchildren’s future at risk. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlooks for 2011 and 2012, if all the worldwide coal and other infrastructure planned for 2017 is actually built, then world temperature will rise to a level regarded as unsafe for human life. The 2013 Outlook states that under present government plans world-wide, world temperatures are on a trajectory to increase by 3.5 C. https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/WEO2013_Executive_Summary_English.pdf

 


According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report for 2013, climate change is being caused primarily by human actions emitting CO2 into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGI_AR5_SPM_brochure.pdf

OUR AIMS: 

Our primary aim is to promote policies and actions which reduce these emissions. Whilst actions to reduce CO2 emissions are vital at all levels of human life, we are particularly focussing upon the
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structural levels of finance, politics, business and media, especially the investment by banks in fossil-fuel industries and the involvement of governments world-wide in subsidising these industries. The World Energy Outlook for 2013 estimated that these subsidies amounted to $544bn in 2012.

OUR VISION STATEMENT:

We hold to the principle that ‘the organism which destroys its environment destroys itself’ (Gregory Bateson).

We want the Earth’s eco-systems to be kept as intact as possible, thus giving security and well-being to those who follow us.

We want to leave behind us social structures and cultures which acknowledge our primary dependence upon the Earth. We want these structures and cultures to promote:

  •  the full dignity of children, women and men;
  • the intrinsic value of all life on Earth;
  • policies which take account of the needs of future generations;
  • relationships based upon co-operation and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Unknown-2OUR METHODS OF WORKING:

Wherever possible, we will seek to co-operate and enter into dialogue with others, including those who we consider to be putting short-term financial interest before that of the planet and future generations. If all other actions fail, we are prepared either to take direct action or to support our colleagues who do that. Such actions will always seek to be in a spirit of non-violence and respect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This morning I unveiled a memorial stone to Captain Douglas Reynolds, on the hundredth anniversary of the action that led to him being awarded Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.

In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War there will be many events around Britain and the rest of Europe. There will be further anniversaries to mark down to 11 Novemeber 2018, a hundred years after the Armistice on the western front that now sets the date for our annual Remembrance Sunday event for all conflicts.

The government is supporting a wide ranging programme of events over the next four years. These include battlefield tours for schools, where children will also be learning to play the “Last Post”. The Communities Department is providing memorial paving stones to be laid in the communities of origin of the recipients of the Victoria Cross.

There were 628 Victoria Crosses awarded to 627 individuals, as Noel Chavasse was the only man to be awarded twice. Over the next four years memorial stones will be laid across the British Isles, 361 in England, 16 in Wales, 70 in Scotland and 35 in Ireland, which at that time was all within the United Kingdom.  The remaining 145 memorials will all be laid at the National Memorial Arboretum on 9 March 2015, Commonwealth Day.

This Commonwealth group reminds us of the fact that the war was the first truly global conflict. It was a clash of European empires, drawing in colonial soldiers from around the world. I have visited the memorials in Ypres in Flanders, where the name Singh is more common than Smith or Williams. There was also combat at sea and on land around the world.

Some people may ask why are we commemorating a war that is now outside the life memory of everyone. I think it is right that we do so.  The First World War touched the lives of every community and family in a way not seen before.  The wars of the nineteenth century and before were fought in the main by regular soldiers and sailors. The war from 1914 – 18 was a total war, particularly after conscription was introduced in 1916. As so many men were in uniform, the role of women was also changed profoundly, working in the fields and munitions factories. After the end of the war, the British social order was never the same, with the ‘ruling class’ weakened by taxes, the end of deference and the universal franchise.

I hope the paving stones and various events will rekindle an interest in the war in every community.  There are war memorials in every town and many workplaces and schools, listing the names that could be brought to life by research.  I hope to discover more about my great-grandfather Stephen Davies, who served and survived physically but died in a mental hospital years later.

Today’s event in Castle Park, Bristol, was to commemorate the sixth winner of the VC, the first from Bristol.  Captain Reynolds was awarded his VC for an action on 26 August 1914, just three weeks after the war started. He led his men to recapture a gun at Le Cateau, Belgium Mons. He survived this episode but was killed by gas poisoning in February 1916 and is buried at Etaples. His VC is on display at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich.

The next Bristol memorial stone will be laid on 20th November, the centenary of the VC being awarded to Thomas Rendle.  The other six Bristol VCs are Frederick Room (1917), Hardy Falconer Parsons (1917), Daniel Burges (1918), Harry Blansard Wood (1918), Manley Angell James (1918) and Claude Congreve Dobson (1919).

Bristol has one of the very best commemorative programmes in the country over the next four years. See http://www.bristol2014.com for more details.

 


Dear Graham Jones, I thought you’d appreciate an overview about projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in Hyndburn. HLF is committed to providing MPs with information and advice about our funding in their constituencies and I would be very happy to meet with you, provide opportunities for you to visit an HLF funded project in your constituency or supply you with further information about

markreckless (2)It is an honour to represent the Rochester and Strood constituency since being elected as our MP in 2010. I enjoy the opportunity to assist many of my constituents with a wide range of problems. I am sometimes able to use my position to assist constituents personally in situations where the constituent feels they are being treated unfairly by intransigent bodies or powerful individuals. Whist I am not successful in all of my efforts on behalf of constituents, I always try my best to deliver the best possible outcome.n

I was elected to represent my constituents in Parliament – not government in my constituency. Much of my time is spent dealing with local constituency matters but, as a Member of Parliament, and particularly as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I also have the opportunity to focus on some of the big national issues which are of importance to my constituents – immigration, crime, policing.

Over the bank holiday weekend I have been speaking on a number of these issues on local and national media and some of these are reproduced below. If you have an opinion, let me know by leaving a comment below or get in touch.

On Crime

On Prisons

On Islamic Extremists

On Border Controls

Frank says the results on Universal Credit are particularly worrying because so far the reform has involved only single people and couples with relatively straightforward circumstances.
UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN

One of my priorities since being elected has been to bring new industry to Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and to get unemployment down. Last week I met local staff at the Job Centre in Redruth for one of my regular meetings to discuss progress.

The news is really encouraging. Over the last twelve months the job market has been transformed with strong growth now returning. The fall in unemployment has accelerated and this year has seen the biggest drop in unemployment since records began. The number of people claiming Job Seekers Allowance in Camborne and Redruth, once running into thousands, is now down to the hundreds and has fallen by a third since the same time last year. Nationally, there are now 1.8 million more people in work than there were when Labour left office.

The most encouraging thing is that youth unemployment has fallen dramatically. One of the most depressing things about the first decade of this century is that, even though there was growth in the economy, young people struggled to get work and, all too often, we're left languishing on benefits. Youth unemployment was actually going up under the last Labour government even when unemployment in the wider economy was going down. Work is learnt at a young age and a major priority for this government was to create opportunities for young people.

When the various work experience schemes were introduced a couple of years ago to tackle youth unemployment, there were some who denounced them but they have been a huge success. In hundreds of cases, when young people have been given the chance to have a few weeks work experience, they have learnt new skills. They have also often been so impressive that employers have gone out of their way to find paid positions for them. In addition to the work experience schemes, the government has also had grant schemes in place to encourage employers to offer apprenticeships and other paid work to young people.

The focus now is on wage progression. Now that we have managed to get so many people back to work, often for the first time in their lives, we want to see them progress to higher pay initially and ultimately move on to develop a pathway to a career.

Worklessness is at the root of poverty which is why it had to be tackled. It is not just about the money because those who work have to live to a tight budget too. It is about self-respect, a sense of purpose and being part of a team. For all these reasons, work can be the cure to many other social problems and it is why shaking up the benefits system so that work always pays was the right thing to do.


I used the 'Politically Speaking' column in the County Times last week to share my thoughts on the foreign affairs issues causing distress to many of my constituents. In particular I repeated the call I first made two weeks before in my column in the Oswestry and Borders Chronicle that Parliament should be recalled. I accept the case for recall is now lessened because it's only a few days until MPs are back in Westminster anyway. Now I call for House of Commons business to be changed to allow a foreign affairs debate during our first week back. My article follows;

One year ago Parliament was recalled from summer recess to consider what Britain should do in response to the gassing of innocent civilians in Syria by their President, Bashar al-Assad. It was thought that Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama were seriously contemplating military action to punish Assad. It was the most difficult issue I have faced since being elected MP for Montgomeryshire in 2010. After much discussion with, and advice from many constituents, I decided that the case had not been made for a military strike against Damascus. I could not see how it would improve the situation, or what clear purpose dropping bombs and firing missiles would have. But I did agree with David Cameron that we should not completely 'close the door' on intervention if circumstances in Syria changed.


After a long impassioned debate, I was on the losing side of the vote. The House of Commons decided to completely rule out military intervention no matter what. I thought that was the wrong course, and a very bad day for world peace. I felt that forces of evil would have been watching, and realising that the NATO powers were no longer willing to even consider acting to prevent the worst atrocities of evil regimes against innocents. And sadly, that is where we are today.


In Syria, around 200,000 people have been killed, with perhaps another 8million made refugees. It's likely that many of these will have been gassed. Because Western media is banned, this reign of terror hardly features on our news channels - a shocking and disgraceful failure of our free press. On the border of Eastern Ukraine, a Russian war making machine is gathering, almost certainly to invade the free country of Ukraine, no doubt on some trumped up pretext of a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission. Its likely thousands of innocents will die. In Kurdistan in Northern Iraq, whole populations of minorities are being slaughtered simply because they are who they are. Christians are being given the choice of converting to Islam, fleeing the country or being killed. Yazidis are being treated even worse, reported to be being buried alive in their hundreds. The barbaric cruelty of the Islamic State (Isis) knows no limits.


In Britain and the United States, our Governments are waking up to the reality that we cannot turn our backs on the world. For evil to prosper all it needs is for good people to do nothing. President Obama has been forced to act to save the lives of innocents being crushed before the Islamic State. The UK is also sending humanitarian aid to save Christians trapped on Mount Sinjar. The UK is also sending Tornados to help with surveillance work. I fully support all this, but it does seem very little, very late. We must always retain the hope that it turns out not to be too late.


Two weeks ago I called for Parliament to be recalled to debate these issues, alongside the Gaza crisis, which has featured prominently in the British media. Thankfully, as I write this column for the County Times the ceasefire in Gaza is holding. We can only hope the worst of the violence is over. Over the last few days, several news channels have contacted me, asking me to go to London to share my views on recall on national television. But I've left that to other MPs who live nearer, and who now share my opinion. I am desperately keen to return to Westminster though, not for TV interviews, but to take part in a recalled House of Commons debate. We are on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, with innocents being killed on a massive scale. It seems now to be accepted that Parliament would indeed be recalled if Government decided to embark on military action. Personally, I believe MPs should be given the opportunity to represent the views and concerns of their constituents, even without any decision to put "boots on the ground". Because doing nothing could be an even worse option, we should be recalled to Westminster immediately.

In this month's issue of Prospect magazine I debate prisoner voting with Liberty boss, Shami Chakrabati.

It's a lively discussion, which you can read in full here.

Here is a copy of an email I have sent to local residents this afternoon, about the situation in Gaza. please do get in touch if you are a local resident and want to discuss this further. 

The conflict and subsequent humanitarian crisis in Gaza has left over 400,000 civilians struggling to find food, water, or shelter.

That’s why the UK government has been one of the largest humanitarian aid donors to date. The Department for International Development – where I am a minister – has provided:

  • £6m for basics (shelter and cooking equipment)
  • £3m for healthcare
  • £3m for the Rapid Response Facility
  • £2m to the Disasters Emergency Committee

We have also released a further £3m for emergency food, helping around 300,000 people in serious need. This brings the total supplied by the UK to £17 million. We will remain at the forefront of the relief effort for civilians.

In terms of the conflict itself –the urgent priority of the Lib Dems in government is to help stop the bloodshed with an unconditional and immediate ceasefire and work towards a long-term sustainable peace.

Many local residents have already contacted me to express their views on the conflict. There is an understandable strength of feeling about the situation, which is causing so many people so much misery and hurt.

I take all views seriously – so if you wish to contact me about this, or any other matter, please do. I will respond and pass on any opinions to the Foreign and Defence secretaries.

P.S. You can find out further information about the work of the Department for International Development – in Gaza and other areas – here.

So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
The ongoing fire at the Averies Recycling site at Marshgate has been the talk of Swindon for four weeks now.  You can hardly avoid it, as much of the town has been affected by the smoke and unpleasant smells since…

Jeremy Hunt, MP and Anne Milton, MP meet with Network Rail to discuss the proposed repairs to the B3000 New Pond Road Bridge near Godalming

On Friday 8th August at Waverley Borough Council Offices Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey and Anne Milton MP for Guildford chaired a meeting with Network Rail and Surrey County Council in order to raise the widespread concerns about the proposed repairs to the bridge on the B3000 at New Pond Road.

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  MP on local fact-finding mission as she scrutinises crucial new legislation on modern day slavery   Member of Parliament for Norwich North, Chloe Smith, will meet Norfolk charities and...

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This week I received notification that the Hundred Parishes Society website which can be found by visiting http://www.hundredparishes.org.uk, has been officially launched. The Hundred Parishes Society is an organisation which has been set up to increase awareness of just over a hundred administrative parishes, some of which are in my constituency, and which fall within an area of approximately 450 square miles of northwest Essex, northeast Hertfordshire and southern Cambridgeshire. The website provides information about each of these parishes so that people in the area can enjoy and care for the places in which they live.

This part of the country is largely unknown apart from by those who live in the region but in fact each of these parishes retain a unique character which is enhanced by attractive belts of countryside. This makes the region a very pleasant place to live and work. The area boasts an interesting stock of over 6,000 listed buildings and I am pleased to see that the Society’s website has a section on local attractions, walks and events taking place throughout the year. The website also includes historical details about each of the parishes which will interest history enthusiasts. I am a firm supporter of the Society’s work and I hope that my constituents will visit its website and support its cause.


This column appeared in the Advertiser yesterday. For some reason, they left the words in Bold out of the column, even though I was under the word limit for the […]

When I get responses like the ones below it always hardens my resolve to get to the facts. Though outrageously arrogant, and lacking in any transparency or semblance of accountability, the response below has hardened my view that there is something wrong with the culture of this particular part of the NHS.

You are entitled to see the deliberations of the remuneration committee, and an organisation that values public scrutiny would respond to the request to see the emails. I will appeal, of course.

Dear Mr Watson

Further to your email dated 21st July 2014, please find the Trust’s response below.

The East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST) is invoiced by the West Midlands Ambulance Service for £16,598 per month.

Regarding your request for the minutes and correspondence concerning this decision, unfortunately the Trust is unable to provide you with this information. The minutes of the Remuneration Committee are confidential and cannot be released. While the correspondence is held in individuals’ email accounts, many of those including the Chair, HR Director and Trust Secretary have since left the Trust and their accounts closed. As a result the Trust has calculated that this would take longer than eighteen hours to extract and collate the information you require and therefore would exceed the appropriate limit as defined by the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 and as such we are unable to answer this part of your request.

Any details discussed in the Board minutes will be available on the EEAST website, and can be found here:

http://www.eastamb.nhs.uk/Board%20papers/board-papers.htm

The Rome Statute is the founding document for the International Criminal Court. It is the ICC which enforces International Humanitarian Law. Because the USA and Israel have not ratified the Rome Statute it does not have any enforcibility in terms of the behaviour of those two nations. In the long term we need to strengthen the Rome Statute. As far as Europe is concerned a pre-condition for
The Government has announced that schools in some of the least fairly funded local areas in the country will benefit from a £390 million cash boost in the biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade. The schools budget in Buckinghamshire will increase by £18m. Schools in Wycombe should see their per pupil funding increase by £264. There has long been an unfairness in the funding system which meant that local schools were not receiving the funding they deserved. This […]

It's quite something when Gordon Brown's former spin doctor, Damian McBride, attacks you as a Labour party leader for being ..... well ... a bit .... pointless.

After years of coveting the top in 10 Downing Street, Gordo was infamous for not really knowing what to do with it. Having finally prised Tony Blair out the door, Brown muttered something about values. Grinned foolishly on youtube. Wandered around Suffolk on his summer holidays pretending to enjoy it. And then lost the subsequent election.

No one really seemed to know what a Gordon Brown premiership was for, least of all himself.

Miliband's policies by contrast are a "great, steaming pile of fudge", says McBride.

Worse, the coterie that surrounds him are "dysfunctional". Perhaps that means that when they throw Nokia's at one another the way Gordo was alleged to have done, they keep missing?

It's not just McBride who doesn't think Ed Miliband is up for it. According to this rather amusing website, www.JustNotUpToIt.com , dozens of Labour party members across the country are starting to ask what Ed Miliband is for.

"This is all just Westminster bubble silly season stuff" various left leaning pundits will say. "Its childish and puts people off politics" they will sternly inform us. "Time to focus on the real issues"

I'm not so sure. I have just spent the past week going from door to door in one of the more Labour leaning wards in my part of Essex. If there was one constant that keeps coming up its doubts about Ed Miliband from once Labour leaning voters.

No. I wasn't able to tell them what Ed's about either.

When James was first elected he fought a tough campaign to secure a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) here on Teesside.  The LEP is a body which supports economic growth and local businesses.  Initially the old Tyneside based Regional Development Agency was to be replaced with a single LEP for the North East.  In the past this meant money was often sent further north and our needs neglected, what has happened Teesside Airport being a clear example of the results!  This time, thanks to James’ hardwork and support from across the area, we secured our own local body.The Evening Gazette and others backed James’ campaign and Conservative Ministers agreed.  Since then our LEP has been hard at work supporting Regional Growth Fund bids, which have brought over £100m, and working up a “City Deal” scheme.

The City Deal gives decision-making powers to local partnerships and will result in £28m of investment.  David Cameron visited Tetley’s in Eagleslciffe with James in December to announce that it was going ahead, now the official signing has taken place.

Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, presents City Deal

Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, presents City Deal

The plans will create 3,500 jobs and help to secure the skills base we need for the future.  They include proposals for an innovative waste heat network which will see heat from heavy industry used to power nearby homes and businesses.  Local firms will also get access to a new business hub offering advice and support.

Helping the economy to create the jobs we need for the future is one of James’ key priorities as our local MP.  Back when he campaigned for our LEP in 2010/11 we could not have predicted just how significant and successful it would be.  With so many millions of pounds brought to Teesside, the return of steelmaking to Redcar (which closed under Labour) and the new Hitachi train factory in Aycliffe there are real grounds for optimism.  We need local MPs who deliver for our community, not just talking a good game but making a difference.  James does not just turn up at election time but works hard on our behalf all year round.  Regardless of politics, we can all celebrate the benefits this investment will bring.

I was delighted to support Bedfordshire’s bid for funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership for investment in, among other things in the area, dualling the remaining parts of the A421 between Milton Keynes and Bedford. Such ...

A cross-party group of us has written to the Mayor, Metrobus, and the leader of South Gloucs council calling for a substantial rethink on the Metrobus project. Here it is.

From Kerry McCarthy MP, Charlotte Leslie MP, and Councillors Daniella Radice, Lesley Alexander, Estella Tincknell, Gill Kirk, Claire Hiscott, Bill Payne, Wayne Harvey, Rob Telford, Tim Malnick, Gus Hoyt, Charlie Bolton

We the undersigned call on you to reconsider elements of the Hengrove-Northern Fringe metrobus project.

We believe that low carbon efficient public transport AND local, accessible food and places to grow it, are both a vital part of the future to Bristol’s position as both a sustainable city and the ‘Green capital of Europe’.

We support any action that can be taken to ensure that Bristol and South Gloucester local authorities find innovative and collaborative solutions to transportation and congestion challenges, without compromising the excellent and valuable work that is producing food from some of our best land.

As such, we call on you to devise and implement alternative public transport solutions which will NOT result in the loss of ANY Grade 1 agricultural land along the M32 corridor, specifically at Stapleton allotments, Feed Bristol, Sims Hill, or on any former market-garden sites. Any proposed transport solution should look first at brown field sites, and should resolve rather than cause  congestion in the local area. It should not compromise the use of high quality agricultural land by important and effective charities, community groups and local people, for the benefit of all. We note the proposed changes you suggested at cabinet on 1st July but need to be convinced that these make any meaningful difference to the land affected.

We are also concerned about the proposal to run a section of the new road across Stoke Park. This historic piece of landscape is valuable not only as the ‘green lungs’ for North Bristol but also because it contains ancient woodland, rich meadows full of rare species and a number of heritage buildings.

We believe the loss of such land is utterly incompatible with Bristol’s ambitions to be a Green Capital, and we urge you to think again.


In politics you get very used to promises and pledges; there's always a lot of talk and if something goes wrong, the emergency response is often to have yet another meeting or 'write a report '. It always reminds me of a certain scene in The Life of Brian ( fans will know which one I mean). Recently the national papers exposed not just my thighs in a picture of me in my old work outfit of a red swimming cozzy, but the fact I used to work on Cornish beaches as a surf life guard. In that line of work, talk cannot replace Action. So it is especially good to see actual physical action happening in re-opening the Lamplighters Pub. In a welcome break from paperwork, Cllr Wayne Harvey and I rolled up our sleeves and got busy in renovating the pub. Still a long way to go, but great to see Kathie and Dominic Gundry-White actually getting something done and bringing our pub back to life! 

First published by The Observer Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most confident civil servant […]

The post Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute appeared first on Rory Stewart.

Royal Mail is doing everything possible to continue to deliver the mail to the affected areas, but access is no longer possible to some addresses. We understand that this must be a very difficult time for affected customers.

Royal Mail is doing everything possible to continue to deliver the mail to the affected areas, but access is no longer possible to some addresses.  We understand that this must be a very difficult time for affected customers.  With immediate effect and until further notice, we will waive the charge for new 3 month Redirections requested by customers in flood affected areas.  If any of your constituents fall into this category, the following  details o

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Today (22 January) the coalition government's controversial 'Lobbying Bill' returns to the House of Commons after it has been debated and amended in the House of Lords. The government has been forced to make concessions in response to the strength and breadth of opposition. It is nevertheless likely that the Government will seek to overturn at least some of the amendments made in the House of Lords which have gone some way to improve this ill-considered Bill.

It has already had to drop its proposals to cut the total that charities are allowed to spend on campaigning in the run-up to a general election and concede that the election period is specified as the period from the day after the referendum here in Scotland rather than a full 12 months.

These changes are welcome but they simply make a bad bill slightly better. So far, the Government has refused to accept other amendments such as the one excluding background staff costs from the spending limits and requiring lobbying of special advisers to be included on the statutory register.

I was pleased to see that both of these were passed in the House of Lords despite the Government’s opposition and I and my Labour colleagues will be voting to keep these two Amendments in the Bill if the Government seeks to overturn them.

Charities are already forbidden to campaign in a partisan way by existing legislation on the way they operate and as a spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has pointed out, it is hard to see the problem that this Bill is seeking to solve.

          There are many other things wrong with the Bill. It would have been even better if the
          government had dropped it entirely and rethought its proposals after proper consultation
          with charities, NGOs, and trade unions, but the Commons does at least have the chance
          to make it a little better today.

One of the welcome features of the new expenses system is that constituents can see all expenses claims online here, including everything from claims for rent on the constituency office, office phone bills or standard class rail tickets to Wesminster.

In addition, the subject of MPs' accommodation arrangements in London continues to be the focus of some attention, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide an update on my own arrangements.

When first elected in 1997 I rented a room for a short period but it quickly became apparent that in the longer-term it would be cheaper to have a mortgage and claim the interest.  Over the years I have stayed overnight and claimed mortgage interest on a bedsit or one-bedroom flat in Westminster. 

Under the rules of the scheme, I would be entitled to retain any profit made from increases in the value of such property prior to the 2010 General Election.  But I have made it clear that in my view the purpose of the scheme is simply to give MPs somewhere to live whilst in London and not to provide a profit.   I have therefore said for some years that when I no longer owned a property in Westminster I would return any profit to the taxpayer.  I am now making arrangements to do this.

In October this year I sold my London flat and am now renting (and ceased claiming for mortgage interest in July).    I estimate that I made a profit, net of capital gains tax and legal fees etc. of around £22,000 through increases in the value of the properties on which I have claimed.  I have therefore written to IPSA confirming that I wish to return this sum and asking for details of how I can return this amount to the taxpayer.
Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has welcomed a campaign by representatives of the smaller fishing industry to win a fairer share of UK fishing quotas.

Speaking on the day that Greenpeace and NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association) launched their Manifesto For Fair Fisheries, Tom called on the government to take the lead in supporting small fishing communities. He said the case had now been made for a “radical overhaul” of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK.

Smaller “inland” fishing vessels make up three quarters of the UK’s fishing fleet and employ nearly two thirds of all full-time workers. But they are restricted from catching more than four per cent of the UK fishing quota, with 96 per cent being allocated to the larger industrial fleet.
 
Tom added: “Labour wants reform that tackles vested interests and rewards those who fish more sustainably and selectively, with less impact on the environment. It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry, and which employ nearly two thirds of full-time workers, should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota.
 
“The Government should be taking a lead in supporting our small fishing communities that are the lifeblood of many coastal areas.

“The case has now been made for a radical overhaul of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK. The Government needs to issue a definitive list of who exactly owns the rights to UK quota, and begin urgent talks on significantly increasing the percentage quota allocated to the Under Ten fleet.”
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

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.”

 

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".

But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.

The toll of death will continue to rise.

 

 

We owe it to all those suffering across the Middle East not to repeat the mistakes of the past and condemn the region to yet more bloodshed. We need to ask some difficult questions - and parliamentary scrutiny is vital...

 

The images on our TV, phone and computer screens and in our newspapers, help to convey the horror but really it’s almost unimaginable. Like the many constituents who have written to me in recent days, I urgently want to see an end to the terrible suffering of Iraqis caught up in the brutal campaign being waged by the jihadist Islamic State (ISIL). A campaign that has seen 1.2 million people displaced in Iraq since the beginning of the year; Christians and other religious minorities attacked and subjected to the most horrific abuses of their human rights; mass graves; torture; kidnappings; and tens of thousands mainly Yazidi people forced to flee for their lives to Mount Sinjar and beyond.

 

It is right that the international community has provided urgent humanitarian assistance and in Britain we must do all we can to ensure those in need of aid and refuge get it, without delay.

 

Yesterday I wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to recall parliament because I believe MPs must have the opportunity to debate the escalating crisis in the Middle East and Britain’s position on it.

 

Crucial questions 

 

It worries me deeply that, despite promising Britain will not get involved in another war in Iraq, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have offered to provide weapons to Kurdish forces and have confirmed we are already engaged in activities such as the sharing of intelligence. These decisions are bringing us closer to taking a direct combat role without any proper parliamentary debate and scrutiny.

 

I also see very little awareness of the fact that the states currently coming to the ‘rescue’ of the Iraqi people are responsible for, as Seamus Milne writing in the Guardian puts it, “at least 500,000 deaths, 4 million refugees, mass torture and ethnic cleansing in Iraq over the past decade.”

 

Such an apparent failure to reflect on the consequences of previous actions means that there is also likely to be little understanding of the role that the US-British occupation played in allowing groups like ISIL to flourish. The ISIL leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, joined the insurgency that erupted in Iraq soon after the 2003 US-led invasion. The political structures set up after the invasion were designed to encourage state sectarianism and very little has been done by the West to challenge former Prime Minister Maliki’s discrimination against Sunnis and their subsequent receptiveness to ISIL. Nor was much done to confront ISIL’s extremism when they formed part of the opposition to Assad in Syria. There, they were useful to the West, so blind eyes were turned.

 

And then there’s the ongoing crisis in Palestine. The collective punishment of the Palestinian people, including the recent military attacks by the Israeli army that have resulted in the loss of so many lives - these kinds of human rights abuses must end immediately, as must the rockets fired from Gaza.

 

 What are we trying to achieve?

 

 The US and the UK have supported successive Israeli governments in taking military action against those whose rights to resist occupation are protected under UN law, and this sends a very clear message to the young men over whose radicalisation so many hands are currently being wrung in dismay. That message is that Muslim lives do not count for much. 

 

If we are serious about preventing the march of religious extremism we must not shy away from holding the Israeli authorities fully to account for the state terrorism it commits. We must stop providing them with the means to kill more civilians - that means an immediate end to arms sales, as I proposed weeks ago  - and we must demand an end to the occupation of Palestine. That is the morally right thing to do and it is also in the best long term interest of the West.

 

We also owe it to all those suffering across the Middle East not to repeat the mistakes of the past and condemn the region to yet more bloodshed. More often than not, even when well intentioned, our “help” has made matters far worse. We need to get it right this time and that means asking difficult questions. It is MPs who should be asking those question of the Government, not journalists alone.

 

Perhaps the most important question is what exactly are we trying to achieve? Speaking yesterday morning on the Today Programme the Foreign Secretary asserted that he wanted to contain ISIL, push it back, and to counter the poisonous ideology that it promotes. If that really is his primary purpose then we need to reflect on all the likely consequences of military involvement.

 

Including the fact that there is surely nothing that will please ISIL more than what they will portray as a “crusader-Zionist" military operation around which to mobilise, recruit and propagandise.

 

 Violence begets violence

 

As Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University’s Department of Peace Studies explains:

 

“…a priority for ISIL until the end of 2014 will be to recruit more experienced paramilitaries from across the region. The group will also want to attract volunteers from wider diasporas, though the latter require months of acclimatisation and training to have much impact.

 

In the longer term, ISIL planners are looking to secure and consolidate an Islamist caliphate stretching across large parts of northern Syria and northwest Iraq. This will require increased support from abroad in the form of financial and material aid as well as the boost in personnel.

 

The greatest help in advancing these aims would be open western military intervention in any form, even if restricted primarily to the use of armed drones.”

 

There are no easy answers but this we do know. Violence begets violence.

 

 Building a future 

 

If we truly care about peace we need to focus our attention on offering genuine refuge to those fleeing the conflict – it is disgraceful that the UK has not pledged to offer asylum to Yazidis, Christians and others threatened with persecution.

 

We must focus too on securing an agreement between regional powers, including Turkey and Iran, that would deliver long term stability, justice and an end to poverty in the region. We must hold to account Gulf States like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar who by failing to clamp down on the flow of funds to ISIL have facilitated its expansion.

 

We must do all we can to work with, and properly fund, aid agencies to deliver the best possible on the ground humanitarian assistance.

 

We must redouble efforts to secure an end to the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of Palestine, to secure a fair and meaningful peace that respects the rights of Israelis and Palestinians.

 

It’s essential this all happens within the international legal framework of the UN.

 

And we must focus our attention on genuinely supporting a break with ethnic and sectarian politics in Iraq and Syria in order to allow the development of functioning states that give all people a proper voice. Support does not mean imposing our own version of what we think the people there need. It means listening, taking years if that’s what’s needed to build trust and bridges, build schools and hospitals. Build a future.