During the festive season, I love shopping in our local stores for presents. From the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green to the delightful delicatessens in Highgate – there is a big enough range to get gifts for everyone!
This year, the Haringey Lib Dems and I have worked hard to support and promote independent traders – through our campaign for cheaper high street parking and our independent shops competition.
And to round off the year, I’m happy to promote the following special offers from some of our best loved independents:
- Crocodile Antiques in Muswell Hill are offering two mugs – with pictures celebrating Muswell Hill shops throughout the ages (example here) – for £10
- Dunns Bakery in Crouch End are offering a box of 8 assorted mince pies for £6.99 (usual price £9.30), and a free jar of our homemade brandy butter with Christmas orders over £50
- Little Paris are offering 10% off orders over £40. Customers can accept the 10% off, or give it back to Little Paris, who will then use the money to donate gifts to the Haberdashery coffee shop for their secret santa. The Haberdashery are open over Christmas, and on Christmas Day they will be providing dinner and secret santa presents to around 30 elderly and vulnerable local residents.
This Saturday (14th) Crouch End will also host a Christmas Craft Fair, with over 30 stalls, a brass band, school choirs, tombola, mulled cider, cakes and more!
And on Sunday 15th at 10am, Pickled Pepper Books in Crouch End are having a party to celebrate the first snow of winter – winter story telling, puppets, party games and crafts.
Happy shopping – and remember that buying gifts locally can make a big difference to our high streets and traders!
Following an article in this week’s Banbury Cake which ran the headline “Baldry won’t rule out taking pay rise”, North Oxfordshire MP, the Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry, has sent an email to Group Editor of the Oxfordshire Newsquest Group in which he has said that he is “staggered by the lack of professionalism and simple care and courtesy” in the article.
The full text of the email is below:
EMAIL TO SIMON O’NEILL
For over thirty years I have had what I hope has been a constructive professional relationship with the Newsquest Oxfordshire Group.
As against that background, I am staggered by the lack of professionalism and simple care and courtesy in the article in the Banbury Cake of Thursday 12 December with the headline:
“Baldry won’t rule out taking pay rise”
I can only assume that the Newsquest Oxfordshire Group either keeps no records at all of previous stories or has a complete lack of any collective memory.
You may recall that this story about IPSA’s recommendations on MPs’ pay first surfaced some several months ago when I made it clear to all the local media that I would not be taking any pay rise and I would give any pay increase to charity.
I could not have been clearer.
You reported that fact at that time.
The Banbury Guardian reported that fact at that time.
The Banbury Guardian remembered that they had reported that fact at that time as is clearly demonstrated by the piece this week on the Banbury Guardian website which makes that point very clear:
I and my team go out of our way to try and respond swiftly and promptly to requests from your journalists for comment frequently on stories which have absolutely nothing to do with my constituency.
There is no longer a dedicated journalist for Banbury or a dedicated journalist for Bicester but that notwithstanding I always, as with every media outlet, do my best to respond promptly.
If I recall correctly, this story broke again on Monday when I immediately compiled a statement to the press and put a copy of that statement on my website and a link to that article on my Twitter account. I also did a radio piece for both BBC Radio Oxford and Banbury Sound in which I made it clear that I wouldn’t take a pay rise.
Moreover, following my interview with BBC Radio Oxford on Monday they sent out a Tweet which I then retweeted and which said “#Banbury MP @TonyBaldry has told @BBCOxford he won’t be accepting an 11% pay rise for MPs.”
Your journalist emailed me at 12.01 on Monday and I went back him almost by return of email with my comments and then reminded him that some months ago I had already made it clear that I would give away any pay increase to charity.
Therefore for you to run a story two days later saying “Baldry won’t rule out taking pay rise” is at best sloppy and unprofessional and at worst straightforwardly disingenuous.
Moreover, in the piece your journalist asserts “Sir Tony would not comment on what he would do with the increase.”
The only reasonable inference from that sentence’s construction is that I had been asked the question and had refused to answer it. That is clearly not true because I could not have asked it more clearly in my email to your journalist.
So for that I would welcome a specific apology because it gives the impression that I was unwilling to address this issue which is simply untrue.
I note that you have invited readers to write or email me at the House of Commons. Can I make it clear that all those who write to me following this article will receive a copy of this email so they can be aware of the complete lack of professionalism of the Newsquest Oxfordshire group?
If your journalist had bothered to go to my website and undertake a search on my website for something like “IPSA” it would have enabled them to see my previous entry on this from July this year which made it abundantly clear that I was going to give any pay increase to charity.
I will look forward to the opportunity of a correction in next week’s Banbury Cake of equal prominence and in the mean time, do not be surprised if for the foreseeable future I and my team are not rushing to respond to emails or requests from your journalists because what is the point if they simply ignore them!
I am copying this email to the Editor of the Banbury Guardian and the News Editor of Banbury Sound and to those at BBC Radio Oxford because I don’t want there to be any scintilla of a suggestion that I have told them one thing and you another.
Last May GWENT'S Crime Commissioner Ian Johnston told the Argus the Gwent force may not be recording crime properly. He believes in some cases officers are logging incidents as less serious ones, which are not recorded as crimes, because of pressure from above.
There was no sign of ‘pressure from above’ in the review of the statistics published today. On the contrary the investigators report:
‘The review found no evidence among investigating officers that high interest in crime statistics by their superiors affected their decision-making. The fact that there is no evidence of overt influence on crime recording is significant and the people of Gwent, the police and crime commissioner and chief constable can have confidence in Gwent Police’s crime figures."
The previous Chief Constable was pressurized to resign by the Police and Crime Commissioner. The only serious charge against her made by the PPC was that she was manipulating the crimes statistics. This review exornerates her and an apology is due.
The report confirms a massive 90% satisfaction rating of the police from Gwent Crime victims. The new Chief Constable Jeff Farrar strongly backed the accuracy of the figures on Wednesday. He suggested an independent person should be responsible for crime figures.
Mr Farrar said: “When the service is judged by an inspection process that uses a league table, or when it’s judged by a media headline, there’s an inevitability that can drive the wrong behaviour.”
Mr Farrar said the internal review found that there were two reasons why crime statistic rules weren’t followed – either because officers through they were helping the public deliver a service or had a lack of knowledge or understanding of the rules.
Last week I went to a meeting with farmers and the police in a barn near Hertford, to hear about the Policing challenges and how the Hertfordshire Police are tackling criminals in the rural area. It was good to see the Chief Constable and to hear his plans. He also showed some new equipment. The Police and Crime Commissioner has suggested that we should have a strong focus on local policing in Hertfordshire and that we should improve central services, but also increase the Police precept by 10p per week, in order to keep and improve this local focus. David Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner, is asking for public views on this and I would suggest that all constituents might want to respond on this important issue. David’s website is at www.hertscommissioner.org
I have many tales to tell of Graham's faith, kindness, drive and compassion. I have never talked at length with anyone who has been able to articulate as well his sense of Christian faith; he has been exceptionally helpful to me as a church leader in so many ways. Justin Welby is the only clergyman who has impressed me more than Graham Usher, which is high praise. It has been a great pleasure and a privilege to get to know Graham over these last 5 years and he will be sorely missed in Northumberland.
My abiding memory, however, is finding him at my bedside when in hospital after my operation in. 2011. We talked and prayed together in a small high dependency unit - surrounded by fellow patients, many of whom were moved to tears by his presence and words. He has been a source of solace for many people in Northumberland at many times. I will miss his counsel and Christian guidance very much. But the people of Dudley and the Black Country are very lucky. I shall be there at the inauguration of Bishop Usher on March 25th. in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Here is how the local Dudley / Black Country paper has reported his appointment:
I have had the following reply from West Berkshire Council to queries raised on behalf of constituents over road maintenance and standards of road works and road cleaning:
(email from West Berks highways)
Reading Rd, Building site next to Tesco
Following the trenching works in May 2013, a warning notice was issued in July 2013 informing Thames Water that the temporary reinstatement was failing. A proposal from Thames Water to permanently reinstate the trench was received on the 7 August 2013 and then cancelled on the 8 August 2013. Following a formal defect notice on the 23 October 2013, Thames Water carried out a reinstatement on the same day, however, following a telephone conversation with Thames Water, it was established that the reinstatement they had undertaken was permanent. As the reinstatement was not to the appropriate standard, a second defect notice was issued yesterday and we will continue our dialogue with Thames Water to ensure that this trench is permanently reinstated to the appropriate standard.
Reading Rd – j/n Hollybush Lane
I can confirm that the Reading Road from the Goring Lane double roundabouts to Hawksworth Road and Holybush Lane from Reading Road to the joint near the Leisure Centre is still provisionally programmed for
2014 as detailed in previous emails. Arrangements have also been made for the junction to be inspected and any defects found will be actioned in accordance with Council policy.
Sweeping of c/way junctions.
Loose material (buckets off it) in every bell mouth
I can confirm that an officer from the Council’s waste team and the Street Cleansing Supervisor from our contractor Veolia conducted a joint visit of the site in question on the 2 December 2013. During their inspection, they found some build up of detritus (e.g. leaves, stones
etc) but nothing that required a sweeper to be deployed to clear prior to the scheduled cleanses over the next fortnight.
I can also confirm that the scheduled cleanses will be jointly checked to ensure that they are completed to the appropriate standard and that spot checks will continue to ensure these levels are maintained.
Jaques Lane/Bottom Lane.
I can confirm that Jaques Lane from Folly Lane to Bottom Lane is provisionally programmed for 2014 for resurfacing as discussed at the Sulhamstead Parish Council meeting. We will also continue to maintain the slow and uneven road signs and monitor the site on a routine basis to ensure it remains in a safe condition.
Philip Hammond, the defence minister, this week abandoned one of his proposals to overhaul defence procurement.
Ironically an attempt t0 bring more choice and competition into the system has been defeated by a lack of choice and competition. Only one bidder came forward to run the procurement process.
I am sorry to see this setback, but am sure it will be just that: a temporary setback.
Britain cannot afford for Hammond not to press ahead with change.
For decades, Whitehall has been monumentally useless at converting billion-pound defence budgets into weapons.
It is not just a case of the MoD not having enough expertise and personnel, or enough bright lawyers. Those are symptoms of the malady, not the disease itself.
The problem with defence procurement lies in the way that successive governments have consolidated the defence sector. Firms were encouraged to merge. Giant consortiums were formed. This might have achieved economies of scale in the defence industry, but it has had one very serious consequence.
In any market, when you restrict supply, the seller sets the terms of trade. This is what has happened in defence.
Defence production costs have soared. Squillions have been spent on second-rate options, delivered late.
Add in some of the protectionist ideas that corporatism inevitably breeds, and you end up with one of the largest defence budgets in the world, but serious shortages of kit. Aircraft carriers without aircraft. Helicopters that cost twice the price of the better alternatives. Loitering munitions programmes that ought to have been wound down. UAVs that contain yesterday's technology, when we have spent enough on them to have today's.
We need to start spending our limited defence budget in the interests of our armed forces, not the contractors. We should certainly never spend the defence budget as a giant job creating scheme.
Hammond is seeking to make many long overdue changes. Off-the-shelf procurement is becoming the default. Various vested interests that have their paws all over defence spending are being reined in. Various parasitical corporate interests must be taken on and broken.
The sooner Hammond presses ahead, the better.
James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): Unemployment in my constituency is 21% lower than it was at the time of the last election. We have had a 90% increase in apprenticeship start-ups, manufacturing output is up and business activity is at a 32-month high in the west midlands. Does the Prime Minister agree that, due to the hard work of my constituents and people across the country, the Government’s long-term economic plan is working and delivering benefits to every region of the United Kingdom? read more »
I visited the hospital recently and chatted to staff in A&E. They were buoyant, which is reassuring. They should be praised highly for doing a hard job in very difficult circumstances but it is natural to worry about the added pressures they are facing.
The Tories have totally mismanaged a reorganisation of the NHS that they promised they wouldn't do. There have been cuts to social care budgets and the number of nursing jobs are down by 6,642. Inevitably the number of patients waiting over four hours to be seen has more than doubled across the UK and ambulance queues, trolley waits and delayed discharges are also up.
On top of all that, we are heading into winter, which always puts more pressures on A&E departments and, locally, there is the closure of Chase Farm's emergency department to add to the burden.
The BBC has devised a clever little tool to allow us to see how our local hospitals are fairing week by week. It will be interesting to see the outcomes for the North Mid. Already, this week, patient numbers in A&E are up and so too are queuing ambulances.
Instead of sitting and watching as a crisis unfolds, however, it would be good if the Government accepted responsibility and developed an urgent plan to relieve the pressure. Here's waiting. (No pun intended.)
Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC):
During his autumn statement, the Chancellor said that “people should expect to spend…a third of their adult lives in retirement.” Given that life expectancy in some communities in my country is only 75, what does the Prime Minister think would be a fair retirement age in a Welsh context?
The Prime Minister:
The point my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was making is that this should be assessed independently but it is right to set a guide—an expectation—rather than just having Ministers announce from time to time what retirement ages should be. If the point the hon. Gentleman is making is that we need to tackle health inequalities better in our country and that we need ring-fenced budgets for public health, as this Government have brought in, then I would agree with him.
Karen along with Diamond Buses Commercial Graduate Sarah Lewis was delighted to present the Prime Minister, David Cameron, with a copy of the Redditch Monopoly Board and a copy of his favourite music record, sent by Vintage Trax in Redditch.
Karen said: “I was absolutely delighted to hand the Prime Minister, David Cameron his Christmas present today which was of course the Redditch Monopoly Board. The Prime Minister informed me that his children are huge fans of Monopoly and that this Christmas he will be playing the Redditch version with his young children! The interest generated has just been incredible and I would like to thank all those who have supported this, including Diamond Buses. There has been interest from all over the world, which is just incredible. Redditch is a very proud town and over a 500 copies have been ordered or snapped up already. I also presented the Prime Minister with a copy of his favourite record, by The Jam which was kindly provided by new local start up, Vintage Trax. It is a wonderful way to promote Redditch and it really is fantastic that the Prime Minister is so enthusiastic about it.”
During the summer I asked local businesses across Wirral West to let me know their biggest concerns and what they’d like help with so I could tell the chancellor to help shape his Autumn Statement.
Pretty much all asked for support with business rates so I was delighted when George Osborne last week unveiled a package to help small businesses with a focus on reducing business rates. He has extended the Small Business Rate Relief scheme until April 2015, and provided a new £1000 discount on business rates bills for two years for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000. This will help local shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants. Those facing bills lower than £1,000 will pay no rates at all. The Chancellor also capped business rates which were due to increase by 3.2 per cent in 2014/15, to 2 per cent as well as introducing a new reoccupation relief which will see businesses which set up in retail premises that have been empty for a year or more receive a 50% discount on their rates bill for 18 months.
Thanks to everyone who took part in my surveys, the Government listened and responded. This help for our high street means 8,000 businesses in Wirral will benefit from the overall package.
Local small businesses and individuals also asked for continued support with fuel costs. So I’m delighted that fuel duty rises were also cancelled, and by 2015 petrol will be 20p per litre cheaper than it would be under Labour, saving the average household £300 per year and a small business with a van £1,000. These latest reductions in taxes will offer support to small businesses and local shops which are so vital for our community.
I am glad to have a chance to say a few words in tribute to Nelson Mandela. Edinburgh was one of the
I am glad to say that when the freedom of the city was proposed some years later, shortly before the 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh, the council agreed unanimously that it should be offered to Nelson Mandela, and President Mandela, as he then was, found the time to accept the award in person when he attended that Commonwealth meeting.
Although that freedom of the city came late, I can say with pride that we did not have to wait as long for the support given by many of the people of Edinburgh to the Anti-Apartheid Movement. Like many communities up and down the country, many people in Edinburgh gave their support in many ways to the campaign against apartheid.
I want to mention three groups in particular. First, the Scottish trade unions, particularly the National Union of Mineworkers, headquartered in Edinburgh, played a leading role—similar to that played by the union in Wales, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Dr Francis)—in the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Scotland.
As in Wales, the Scottish churches played a leading role in the movement.
I should also mention the Scottish academics and students, not least those of Edinburgh university, who were at the forefront of the disinvestment campaign, in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) also played an important part.
Edinburgh also became home to many exiles from South Africa during the apartheid years, no doubt because of those historic links and solidarity. In many cases, they were political activists who would, of course, have faced heavy penalties if they had conducted that activity in South Africa. They took part in, and inspired others to join, anti-apartheid campaigns in Edinburgh and elsewhere. Some of those South African exiles still live in Edinburgh. Although they will no doubt be in mourning, they will also be immensely proud of what Nelson Mandela did in his life for the country and for the world. As one of Edinburgh’s representatives in this Chamber, it is a great privilege and honour to have been able to offer my tribute to him today.
Mark was shown round the office by local Delivery Office Manager, Max Seaward, and was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering all the cards and parcels in the Rochester area in the run-up to Chrismas.
Speaking after his visit, Mark said:
“It was great to meet the dedicated, hard-working Royal Mail postmen and women at my local delivery office and to see first hand just how much effort they are putting into delivering for people at this time of the year.
Postmen and women do such an important job at this time of the year. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”
“Christmas is the busiest time of the year for Royal Mail. Our people pull out all the stops throughout the year to ensure mail is delivered quickly, but even more so over the busy festive period. We are grateful that Mark Reckless MP came along to see the hard work which goes on behind the scenes.
Our people do a fantastic job at this time of the year to ensure that friends and families stay in touch through their Christmas greetings and gifts. We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings!”
For further information on Royal Mail’s Christmas services and last posting dates – Click Here
Fresh Start Project founder, Andrea Leadsom MP, and I have penned a column for the Sunday Times, explaining how we can revise our relationship in a way that is good for both Britain and the EU. You can access the article here.
Rami Aysha is described by New York artist and writer Molly Crabapple as the most “badass journalist” she has ever met. He’s certainly very brave and has the bullet wounds to prove it. He’s also been illegally imprisoned and tortured. Right now he’s heading back home to an uncertain future.
His plight is documented on the Reporters without borders website.
Earlier in the week, I asked someone familiar with his case to provide more details about his experience. You can see the text below is written by someone who does not use English as a first language. Despite the translation, the potency of the story is not lost.
If we all acknowledge an interest in where Rami is right now, and tomorrow, the day after and the day after that, then it is less likely bad things will happen to him.
So if you get the chance to tweet or blog about the plight of Rami Aysha I’d appreciate it.
Anyway, Rami’s story:
1. After the Syrian revolution and the turning point from peaceful demonstrations into military operations; he was the first to be covering this turning point and he did with other colleagues a big documentary that was broadcast on channel 4. Since then he started to be curious about how the FSA will be able to get weapons to fight the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
2. As the days and months passed he did several reports about the weapons smuggling and weapons flooding over the Lebanese-Syrian boarders and it was published in TIME Magazine, and he also did the only documented weapons trafficking report over the boarders for TF1 the French TV and it attracted a lot of attention in France and the region.
3. As time passed he was able to reach to the main traffickers who led him to the main weapons suppliers in the country and he was surprised to know that they are some Hizballah corrupt members who are selling weapons for the Syrian opposition only because of money especially that Hizballah is the only party in Lebanon who has weapons and its warehouses is full of weapons.
4. On the 30th of August 2012 he went with one of the traffickers to film him while getting weapons from some affiliated Hizballah members -he went with a camera and was taking photographs a distance from the scene when he was caught by Hizballah members and kidnapped from the middle of the street and badly beaten and tortured in one of their prisons, they even broke his camera on his head. For his good luck one of the traffickers was an officer and that’s when they were forced to hand us all to the Lebanese Intelligence.
5. When he arrived to the Intel department he was tortured as well and they were swearing at him and continued torturing him and kept him without any arrest warrant. Then he was transfered to the military police and kept there for one week without any arrest warrant and the investigations with him were about the nature of his work and who did he meet and where do he go and had nothing to do with his case. Then he was transferred to the military tribunal and kept there for a week without any arrest warrant as well and when the judge saw him he refused to release him and was sentenced to jail for 27 days.
6. All the investigations revealed that he was only doing an investigative report about arms trafficking yet the judge -since he was Hizballah affiliated- refused to release him and now he sued under the article 72 weapons and his accusations are purchasing weapons. While facing the judge he literary told him “go solve your problem with Hizballah and I will release you directly”. Note: military tribunal, army and intel are controlled by Hizballah and thats why he is being sued now otherwise in other courts he would have been released long time ago.
7. On 20th of November he left the country for 2 weeks time and made an appeal for the judge to postpone his trial from the 25th till the 8th of December but he refused the appeal and he was sentenced in absentia for 6 months so when returns back to the country on the 8th, he will be arrested directly at the airport and sentenced to prison until the judge appoints another trial for him and knowing the military tribunal and Hizballahs control to it, he may spend days, weeks, or the whole period before he is released.
Of course bills are still disproportionately high for households in Cornwall and this historic injustice comes from that fact South West Water looks after water quality over a vast coastline but deals with a relatively small population. That said the £50 rebate that was introduced in April this year has been a very welcome start and for the average Cornish household their bill actually fell this year by 7.3%. The price freeze announced last week is another step in the right direction.
Whilst water is important, we also need to look at other ways to cut the cost of living which everyone agrees is a top priority and when I am out knocking on doors in the constituency the subject is never far away. The scrapping of the fuel duty escalator by the government was vitally important for a county like Cornwall because many people who work cannot rely on public transport and have no option but to use their car and our businesses have to transport their goods hundreds of miles to market which is a major cost. Just filling up can be a worrying cost for families and I have always argued for fuel costs to be as low as possible.
When it comes to the cost of energy the government have also very recently announced a range of measures that will lead to a £50 cut in the average household bill which are coming into effect soon. The recent hikes in energy bills have caused a real shock and this cut is absolutely critical to help people deal with this extra burden. It is difficult because energy prices here are largely controlled by wholesale energy prices around the world but suppliers need to be transparent at how they can keep costs down and the government can work with them on this. Progress has been made but it is clear that for now and in the future new approaches need to be looked at.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032
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|Fireworks go up, as the lights come on|
Two years ago, they starred in a Channel 4 documentary on Britain's greatest Christmas Lights, and you can read about them this year in our very own Bristol Post.
|every year, the Brailsford Bro's add more and more lights!|
|Very proud. My first Christmas Present. I'm going to wear it in the House of Commons. Shhh...|
Now the Brailsford Brothers hope to smash the £20,000 mark in raising money for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal.
|Gromit's had a big year, this year. But still found time to support @brailsfordxmas|
Each year, the spectacle gets bigger and better -this year it was almost hard to get to see the house for the crowds, and as the count-down went off, the fireworks went up. Amazing! We are also now lucky to have some really brilliant local talent performing to get us all in the festive mood.
This year was a bit special for me- as Lee and Paul gave me my first Christmas present - my very own Brailsford Lights hoodie which I will wear with pride! I've been dared to wear it in the Chamber at the House of Commons. So shhh... watch this space... and don't tell the Speaker...
If you missed the lights - turn-on, don't worry! You can enjoy the festivities again on Christmas Eve, and the lights are on every day until January 3rd between 5-10pm.
You can also donate online at www.brailsfordlights.co.uk
Or by texting rixy88 and £1, £5 or £10 to 70070.
Big news yesterday as my EU (Referendum) Bill passed the last of its House of Commons stages. Many commentators predicted this could never happen. They claimed it would get bogged down by procedure and talked out. Despite the best efforts of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs to do that we were able to battle though.
Conservative MPs gave up a number of Fridays and showed great discipline in not rising to the bait and temptation to speak and drag out debates even further. For my part I sat at Third Reading for three days worth of Friday sessions with minimal contributions – anything I said would simply have drawn things out longer and made it more likely the Bill would run short of time.
Lord Michael Dobbs will now be taking the Bill through the House of Lords, for which support I am extremely grateful. Whatever happens to my Bill in the Lords (and it faces significant challenges) it has played a part in shifting the debate. I believe a referendum on the UKs membership of the EU is now inevitable. Whether it comes sooner (because of this Bill and a Conservative government) or later, I have no doubt it will happen. Whether you believe we should be in, or out, this is good news for democracy.
The BBC coverage is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25156342
PROOF OF EVIDENCE OF DOMINIC GRIEVE QC MP
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.
Jeremy Hunt cut the ribbon to celebrate the return of Haslemere Hospital’s 16 inpatient beds following its £2.3m revamp.
Jeremy Hunt cut the ribbon to celebrate the return of Haslemere Hospital’s 16 inpatient beds following its £2.3m revamp.
When the result of the division on the Government motion was announced I was stood at the back of MPs crowded at the entrance to the Commons. So I didn’t see the Labour whips move to the position where the winners of the vote get to shout out the result. The stunned silence quickly gave way to tasteless Labour cheers. Low politics had collided with complex diplomacy.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy PM had recalled Parliament to stage the first defeat of the Coalition. And I was on the losing side with them. Everyone seemed pretty stunned by the result. It may have been avoidable if Ministers had been able to invest more time in winning over sceptical colleagues, like the Obama Administration is doing with Congress. But that would have depended either on Labour shrugging off the shadow of Iraq or some Tories embracing internationalism over isolation.
So where does this leave Britain’s place in the world? In the short term, just a bit muddled. But pretty quickly we have to decide whether our future foreign policy is predicated on Britain being an outward looking international player or a shrunken hulk of isolationism. There are those on the right of the Tory party, haunted by UKIP, who want Britain to withdraw from the European Union and don’t seem to place much value on the US “special relationship” either. Bizarrely, some of the same people want to increase defence spending and renew Trident.
Labour are desperate to put the spectre of Iraq behind them. But Syria is not Iraq. Assad has weapons of mass destruction and is prepared to use them. When we voted on Thursday it was not at the last moment with hundreds of thousands of UK and US troops poised at the border, as in March 2003. There had been no “dodgy dossier” or partial advice from the Attorney General. The Coalition Government cooperated with the Opposition on the motion and promised a second vote ahead of any military strike against Assad’s capability to use chemical weapons again. Unlike 2003, the government was proposing joint action with a Democrat US President, with a Socialist French President on board too. Labour MPs might think that the defeat of the Coalition’s motion was smart domestic politics, covering up Miliband’s lacklustre summer and putting distance between them and the Blair legacy. But I think they will soon regret ignoring the case for humanitarian intervention. It’s a long way from the spirit of the socialist international brigades and Spanish civil war posters saying “if you tolerate this, then your children will be next.”
I voted with the government because I am a liberal internationalist. I want Britain to play a full role in an enlarged European Union. The EU’s newest member is Croatia. Macedonia is next in the queue. In the mid 1990s I was ashamed that the Major government did not do more to restrain Milosevic’s ethnic clensing in Bosnia. I applauded Blair for acting swiftly when people were burned out of their villages in Kosovo.
I believe it is the duty of advanced democracies to use their resources to advance and protect human rights around the world. In the main, that should be through peaceful means. Trade agreements, cultural exchanges and a generous aid programme are all part of the mix. I am proud of the fact that the Coalition government will this year hit the forty year old target of 0.7% of our national income being allocated to international aid. We will have almost doubled the budget of the International Development Department in a time of fiscal austerity elsewhere in government.
But sometimes we have to wave a big stick against regimes that are not interested in diplomacy and human rights. That’s why I voted to intervene in Libya two years ago, to avert a massacre by Gadaffi. That’s why I would still vote to support British participation in a surgical strike against Assad’s ability to mass murder Syrian civilians. It would not be about regime change or taking sides in a civil war. It would certainly not be an Iraq style invasion. But it would be about doing what we can to protect the lives of innocent people from the barbarous actions of a brutal dictator.
My conscience is clear after Thursday’s vote. But I am worried about Britain’s place in the world and whether people fearing oppression and destruction will in future look to us for hope and salvation.
Amnesty have launched a new action today to keep the campaign for a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty in the political spotlight as we enter a crucial phase in the negotiations. Last July I attended the first couple of days of the month-long UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty in New York: a frustrating couple of days in which very little progress was made, but useful in that it gave me a real insight into the complexities of trying to bring countries with very different agendas to a state of consensus.
I met David Grimason on that trip, who lost his two year old son to a stray bullet when a gunfight broke out in a Turkish cafe nearly ten years ago. Since then David has campaigned for arms controls, and particularly for tougher controls on small arms, which are responsible for many deaths and maiming, and also for the sexual assaults and rapes at gunpoint to which women and girls across the world are being subjected in ever increasing numbers.
On returning to the UK I kept a close eye on what was going on in New York, with regular updates from Amnesty and others from the global Control Arms campaign. At times things looked to be moving in the right direction, with real hope of progress being made. But at the final hurdle the talks collapsed.
We are now 21 days away from the talks resuming. The UK Government is in theory committed to securing a comprehensive ATT, but that is not enough. The idea of an ATT was first floated by senior figures during the last Labour Government, and over those years a real sense of momentum developed as other countries signed up in spirit to the concept. It now needs real political will and strong leadership from the current UK Government to seal the deal, and get as many countries as possible to commit not just in spirit but with their actual signatures on the treaty.
Amnesty’s action is designed to show William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, and Alistair Burt, the FCO Minister with direct responsibility for the ATT, that the public wants and expects them to show leadership in March. It’s not enough for the UK to turn up to the talks as spectators, or semi-engaged participants. Now is not the time for a half-hearted approach. This could be an historic moment, which will benefit millions of people across the globe by protecting them from the devastating impact of living in countries where arms are freely available and gun violence is a part of everyday life.
I would urge all of you to sign up to Amnesty’s action, and to watch their video – and get your MP to watch it too!
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.
Should Harlow Talking Newspaper be one of the 12 UK charities to benefit from£70,000 worth of technology grants from TalkTalk it will spend its grant on new digital recording equipment.
Jenny Lushington, a volunteer at Harlow Talking Newspaper for the blind and partially sighted, is up against two other regional finalists to be named the East of England’s Digital Hero after being nominated by Harlow MP Robert Halfon.
Harlow Talking Newspaper does such great work in the local community and it would be marvellous if they could receive enough support to be awarded the £5,000 grant.
I have twice volunteered at Harlow Talking Newspapers during my Social Action Week and have been amazed at the efforts that go into producing the weekly recordings which are circulated to many people in the local area.
To vote for Harlow Talking Newspaper go to http://www.talktalk.co.uk/digitalheroes/ and follow the links to the regional entries.
Eleven of the Digital Heroes winners will win £5,000 to put towards enhancing their digital project while one overall winner, determined by a judging panel, will receive a grand prize of £10,000.
All 12 winners also get free broadband from TalkTalk for 12 months.
Jenny has been a volunteer at Harlow Talking Newspaper for the blind and partially sighted since the first edition in 1979, and is now vice chairperson.
She organises rotas of volunteers and still reads out stories from the local newspapers, onto memory sticks which are distributed every Friday morning.
Jenny said: "The Harlow Talking Newspaper runs as an efficient team each person contributing to the whole, so in voting for me you would in reality be voting for the whole team of volunteers who regularly give up a few hours of their time year in and year out to provide a sound recording for the blind and partially sighted people of Harlow."
Voting is open until Sunday, November 18.
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.”
Yesterday, the Prime Minister launched the Government’s Challenge on Dementia – a new initiative to tackle one of Britain’s most serious health concerns. As Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, I believe that our approach to dementia care in Britain is unsustainable, with the figure of 800,000 people who currently live in the UK projected to rise to 1 million within a decade and 1.7 million by 2051.
Aside from the obvious human tragedy of the condition, which affects one in three people over the age of 65, there are serious financial consequences of dementia. Through increased healthcare costs and other expenses, the condition costs the economy £23bn, compared to £12bn for cancer and £8bn for heart disease which, per patient, means that a single dementia patient will cost the economy £27,000 – four times higher than a cancer patient and five times higher than someone with heart disease.
Despite this, research into the condition receives significantly less funding than research into other diseases. The Government’s announcement that it will double dementia research funding to £66m by 2015 is therefore extremely welcome and represents not only a fantastic opportunity for greater research into the cause, cure, care and prevention of dementia, but a greater recognition from Government that this is an issue that must be addressed.
The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was timely as APPG is investigating how to improve the rate of dementia diagnosis. The Group has heard from a range of people involved in the condition, including clinicians, social workers, those with the condition and those working to support them. The Government’s additional commitment to funding an additional £54m to help increase early diagnoses of the condition represents a fundamental appreciation of the importance that early identification of the disease plays in transforming dementia care.
There are important benefits to diagnosing dementia as early as possible and early diagnosis is key to living well with the condition. It means that GPs can work together with patients from an early stage to help plan their care and start treatment to slow down the progression of the disease. This can help to lower the risk of dementia-related accidents and complications, reducing both the probability that a patient will need to go into residential care as well as the overall cost of dementia to the health service.
Despite this, only between thirty and forty percent of those with dementia are diagnosed, with huge variations in diagnosis rates not just across the UK but within counties themselves. In Medway, for example, 44% of those with dementia are diagnosed compared to just 38% in West Kent. Additionally, only five to ten percent of diagnoses are made at an early stage of dementia, meaning that many of the benefits of its early identification are lost.
Some of the evidence that the Group heard suggests that a huge barrier to people coming forward for assessment is that stigma associated with dementia and it is essential that the media plays a role in helping to change the perception of those with the condition. The image of people with dementia on television is one of invalidity and ineptitude while it is often the case that a patient diagnosed early enough can live independently and with a high quality of life for many years. As with many medical conditions in the past, changing the image of dementia in the media to show it in a more realistic light is essential in getting people to visit their GP if they have concerns.
It is also therefore essential that clinicians are appropriately trained in recognising the symptoms of dementia and knowing which services are available to refer patients to. Amazingly, a quarter of GPs say that they do not receive enough training on dementia and it is therefore unsurprising that so many people with dementia slip through the net and get misdiagnosed with other conditions such as depression.
However, we cannot just rely on patients going to see the GP to get diagnosed because they are concerned about symptoms; professionals across a range of fields must work to actively recognise symptoms of dementia when interacting with older people. One of the doctors giving evidence to the Group pointed out that if a patient went into a hospital for an unrelated medical condition, it would be inconceivable for health care professional to notice potential symptoms of cancer and not follow it up, but that is not the case if they spot some early symptoms of dementia. It is only through this kind of proactive approach that we will significantly increase the rate of diagnosis.
While I look forward to the Group’s publication of the report in the summer, it is clear that we must take action to raise awareness about how important early diagnosis is and remove the stigma that stops people going for assessments while ensuring that all our healthcare professionals are properly trained to spot the early signs of dementia. The Prime Minister’s challenge to tackle dementia and improve both diagnoses and care for the condition is extremely welcome and, I hope, represents the turning point in the fight to end the unsustainable dementia status quo.
There are many groups and charities in Kent which can provide support for those with dementia and their carers. For more information, contact my office on 020 7219 2828.
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 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.”
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.
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.
Patcham resident Hugh Woodhouse with Caroline at the Patcham dovecote
I’m looking forward to attending a Carol Service in the beautiful All Saints Church in Patcham this weekend.
I was in the area last Friday and got a real flavour of the strong community for which the neighbourhood is renowned.
As well as visiting the church and the war memorial (pictured below) I shared in a poetry group and had a fascinating introduction to the local history exhibition at the library before visiting landmarks nearby, including the dovecote pictured above, which is a scheduled Ancient Monument built in the early 1600s.
I also had a great lunch in the Coach House!
Patcham’s history includes stories of Suffragettes, who were active in the area, and local resident Elizabeth Dwier took me along one of their marching routes.
Many thanks to Elizabeth and all the other people in Patcham who made me feel so welcome.
Caroline at the war memorial