The pace is quickening over possible UK military intervention in Syria.

I have set out the worries I have about bombing, and explained why I think there needs to be a proper peace process. To tackle ISIL on the ground there also needs to be local ground forces capable of doing the job. I have put these points directly to Ministers, and they are seeking to improve their responses to these legitimate concerns. We also need to redouble our security at our borders and strengthen our intelligence at home, as some extremists may be in our own community, where we wish to proceed by arrest, trial or deportation. I have asked for this, and the government has announced measures to improve our internal response.

I think we all agree that ISIL are a dangerous and violent group who do pose a threat to us in the UK as well as to many in Syria and Iraq. That is not in contention. Nor do most worry about killing violent men who have themselves already murdered people and plan to murder more, if there is no safe means of arresting and prosecuting them in the normal way.

The issues that remain relate to how UK bombing alongside French and US bombing that has been happening for some time will make the difference, who finds the targets and directs the bombers, who will act as the ground force needed to carry out the task of removing ISIL from Syria, who amongst the warring factions are our reliable allies if we intervene, and how will the peace process progress.

I would be interested in constituents views on all this as we approach a possible vote on the UK joining the allied air action.

Today, I dopped by Esher Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to talk to their Manager Linda Wheatley, (new) Deputy Manager Sarah Waite, and meet some of the client advisers (as pictured, with Michelle and David, below).

I have huge admiration and respect for the role and dedication of our local CABs, as early warning radars for local social problems, and I know the period before and immediately after Christmas can lead to a spike in demand for their services. 

The team briefed me on a few of their concerns, including social housing - and particularly the lack of available and affordable housing stock for elderly people looking to downsize. We discussed local court reforms, and access to justice. I pointed to the positives from this week's Spending Review, including investment in housing, and very high local levels of employment. We also discussed debt and related financial issues. I was very grateful to Linda and her team for taking the time.

Quoting approvingly from a book that is "the bible of the far, far, far, far left" is clearly political insanity - so says the Guardian piece on John McDonnell's approach to the economy debate yesterday. Not my words. Read the piece.

26th November 2016

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): The Prime Minister was commended, rightly, for not lashing out militarily after the provocation of the atrocities of Tunisia, but he is wrong now to ignore the real threat—the ISIL plan—which is to escalate a regional war into a world war between Christians and Muslims. Would not our action now repeat what we did in 2003, when we deepened the divide between Muslims and Christians, which is ISIL’s strategy? The great threat is home-grown terrorism, and is it not likely that the Prime Minister’s action will increase recruits to jihadism, here and elsewhere in the world?

The Prime Minister: I know the hon. Gentleman deeply wants to have the peaceful world that we all dream of. In that we have something in common, but ISIL have taken action against us already. They were behind the murder of the people on the beach in Tunisia. They are behind the plots in our country. They butchered our friends and allies and our citizens in Paris. As for the battle between Muslims and Christians, that is what we want to avoid. It is by working with Muslim allies to stop this radicalisation, stop this extremism and stop ISIL that we prevent that clash from taking place. ISIL butcher Muslims in vast numbers, and that is why they have to be stopped. We cannot subcontract that work out to everybody else; we should be part of it.


This week, George Osborne proposed a 19% cut to Short money - public funding for Opposition parties. Taxpayers will now pay less to subsidise politics. This is a direct result of what UKIP has done in Parliament.

As the only MP for a party that got almost 4 million votes, I was entitled to a vast amount of public money. We felt that taking the full whack simply wasn't right. Instead, we decided to reduce the amount we received unilaterally.

We proved it is possible to do more with less. We showed the Government that other Opposition parties can do the same.

Of course, the other parties don't agree. Not the Lib Dems. Not the Greens. And certainly not Labour. New politics? We're the only party doing anything different.

The Commons will probably have to vote on the cut. If so, I'll be voting for it. It looks like most other Opposition MPs will vote against. Once again the Westminster cartel will try to take as much money from the taxpayer's pocket as it can get.

Opposition parties are furious with George Osborne for this. They accuse him of being underhand. But it isn't the Chancellor who needs to explain himself. It's them. Opposition MPs need to explain why they expect working people across Britain to fork out more hard-earned cash for spinners and spads in Parliament.

Is politics really as expensive as these politicians make out? Do spin doctors really need six-figure salaries at the taxpayer's expense? The comrades Chairman Corbyn has been hiring don't even believe in private property.

Cutting the politics subsidy is a little Christmas bonus for the taxpayer. You'd have to be a turkey not to vote for it.

REDDITCH MP Karen Lumley has welcomed new figures showing the increase in housing supply in Redditch where there have been 340 new houses built since last year.

The official statistics show that the Conservatives' plan to make home ownership an achievable dream is working in Redditch and across the country. With a 25 per cent increase in housing supply since last year, there are now 170,690 more new houses available for people who want good quality homes, both to rent and buy. These figures show a positive move towards the aim of creating a million new homeowners by 2020.

Karen said: "These figures are excellent news, showing the number of houses available in Redditch has risen, giving a boost to the number of homes available for hardworking families and individuals.

"We want to give hard-working people the security and stability of owning their own home, with Government initiatives already having helped 230,000 people buy a home since 2010. We want to go even further and double the number of first-time buyers compared to the last five years and deliver 200,000 new Starter Homes at 20 per cent discount to first-time buyers under 40."

Anyone aspiring to own a home of their own should visit to see what Government help may be available to help them buy a home of their own.

Last night, Tracey was the key note speaker at an event for cardiac risk in the young. Joining representatives from the national charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) at a parliamentary reception. 

Last night, Tracey was the key note speaker at an event for cardiac risk in the young. Joining representatives from the national charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) at a parliamentary reception.

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It is now almost 20 years ago that US president Bill Clinton and UK prime minister Tony Blair launched the progressive governance movement and called for a 'third way' in response to the challenge of globalisation.
George Osborne ought to draw up a “plan B”, should universal credit turn out to be nothing more than an expensive fantasy.

Tony Baldry, Oxford, 373 and Chair of the Church Buildings Council

I concur with everything said by Bishop John in his excellent speech and I will thus try not to repeat any of the points that have already been made.

Our purpose has to be to ensure that our church buildings are blessings and not burdens.

We want all our churches to thrive,

To ensure that church buildings can connect with the communities that they serve.

That we can celebrate their beauty, their history, their sense of place, continuity, and sense of the sacred.

But the challenges of caring and maintaining some 16,000 parish churches are many.

So, for example, a couple of weeks ago, I was visiting a church on the Northamptonshire/Leicestershire border to consider the future of a church of 600 sopranos – Soprano Pippistrelle Bats !

But what made me slightly weak-kneed was this magnificent, Grade One, Medieval, Listed Church – with some wonderful medieval stained glass and an organ that had come from the Palace of Whitehall in the time of King Charles the First – was served and was supported by a community of just ten houses. And, as a consequence of history, not least the medieval manorial system, there are significant numbers of Listed Church Buildings in Dioceses such as Truro, Exeter, Hereford, Norwich and elsewhere, with magnificent church buildings serving comparatively small communities.

The Bishop of London and I went and saw the Chancellor and requested money for church roofs.

We reminded the Chancellor that he had said of the previous Government that they had failed to repair the roof while the sun was shining, and that we had quite a lot of roofs that needed repairing and we hoped that the sun would shine on our request. We were extremely grateful when the Chancellor gave us £55 million for the Church Roof Fund.

The first tranche is helping repair and restore 372 church roofs, but I have a note from a Landmark Listed Church in the Diocese of Lincoln that had been awarded a grant, saying that they weren’t sure that they could proceed with the project because they are a community of just 70 people, i.e. that was the total number of the community, not the size of the congregation, and they were not confident that they could afford the annual costs of insurance.

For reasons of history, the majority of our church buildings are in rural areas, serving about a fifth of England’s population.

So the challenges are many, and there is no one single solution.

We need to find ways to make the maintenance of our church buildings viable, hence why we are discussing how we can widen the sharing of the burden – more Friends Groups – in some cases, passing on the responsibility of maintenance to Trusts, or making it easier for churches to rent out or lease out part of a building they no longer require, so sharing the building with other community uses.

Sometimes the solution may be Festival Churches, but can I reinforce the point made by Bishop John the idea of Festival Churches is to keep churches open – and to keep churches open for now and future generations. It is to draw together the local community on a number of times a year, in acts of worship, to ensure such churches are there, open for worship, but also, hopefully, to encourage the community to help raise the money needed to pay the essentials such as insurance and to clear the guttering and to maintain the basic fabric of the church.

And with all our church buildings we are seeking to try to ensure that our churches are open as much as possible to serve their communities in as many ways as possible.

As places of prayer, worship and contemplation, but also churches across the country, every day, provide a huge range of social enterprise and community services.

And in all of this, we have to find a sense of balance.

Between those who understandably want every piece of heritage, every ecclesiastical artefact, every church treasure maintained to the highest possible standards and who would canonise George Gilbert Scott, and on the other hand, those who equally understandably from their perspective, argue that the millions that we spend on maintaining church buildings could be better spent on the Church’s wider mission and that we could equally well, like Moses, worship God in tents.

The Church Buildings Council somehow has to help square the circle so that we have the capacity to simultaneously both support refugees and maintain rood screens.

In policy terms, it doesn’t make much sense having one part of the Church, i.e. the Church Buildings Council, responsible for churches that are open and another part of the Church, i.e. part of the Church Commissioners responsible for churches that are contemplating closure, closing or have closed. And it does seem sensible to have a single entity dealing with all church buildings.

It is, I think, important to stress that these proposals are all subject to consultation and I think everyone who is part of the Working Party very much hopes that as many people as possible will read our Report and contribute to the consultation.

Sir John Betjeman served on the Oxford Diocesan Advisory Committee for 32 years and Betjeman observed that

“ . . our churches are our history shown in wood and glass and iron and stone”.

And more prosaically, Betjeman observed:

“He ordered windows stained like red and crimson lake. Sing on with hymns uproarious ye humble and aloof, look up, and oh how glorious, he has restored the roof”.

Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 25th November 2015

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Clwyd West MP, David Jones, has called on the Government to introduce a ban on the importation of lion trophies from Africa.

Speaking at a debate at Westminster Hall, David Jones drew attention to the rapid decline in lion numbers.  In the 1960s, some 200,000 lions roamed the continent of Africa.  Recent assessments indicate that that number has now declined to fewer than 15,000.

Urging the Government to impose a ban on the importation of lion trophies, David Jones said:

“The truth is that trophy hunting is a nasty, despicable business that contributes to the depletion of lion numbers. I believe that ideally it should be stopped and that our Government could do much more to help to stop it. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to call on the British representative on CITES to help to end the promotion of the concept of “sustainable” trophy hunting. That concept has been promoted for more than two decades, but there is nothing to show for it in terms of lion conservation.”

He continued:

“I would like to mention the loathsome practice of the so-called canned hunting of lions, which is practised mainly in South Africa. Lions are reared from tiny cubs by paying volunteers who are recruited by agencies, some of which are based here in the United Kingdom. The volunteers believe that they are contributing to the conservation of the species.

“As the cubs grow, they are made available to be petted by visitors and even rented out as accessories at wedding ceremonies. As they grow further, they are used for lion-walking safaris, which are priced at about $200 per participant. When they become too large and dangerous, they are placed in enclosures to be visited by the paying public as though in a properly managed zoo. When they attain the right size, they are offered to trophy hunters to be shot in enclosures at a price of up to $50,000.

“Finally in this chain of profitable exploitation, their bones are exported to the far east where they are used in traditional Chinese medicine. That is the most disgraceful and revolting abuse of an important and beautiful creature, and it was extensively revealed in a recent film, ‘Blood Lions’. British trophy hunters participate in that disgusting practice, and I believe that the Government should at least ensure that they are prevented from returning to this country with the spoils of their activities.”

Responding, Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said:

“For DEFRA, trophy hunting is a serious issue. We have to ensure that when hunting takes place, at the very least it does not involve the kind of activities that my right hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd West mentioned. Therefore, I use this opportunity to state that the Government will ban the importation of trophies into Britain unless we see very significant improvements in what is happening in Africa…  As an interim measure, we will look closely at quotas and at international verification.

“The Government have already moved to take Benin and Ethiopia off the list of countries from which we are prepared to import lion trophies, and we will be moving against Zambia and Mozambique. We are working with our European Union and American partners to make it very clear that, unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the hunting industry and of those countries, this Government will move to ban lion trophies.”

The Minister went on to say that he intended to complete the assessment process in a timeframe of no more than two years.

David Jones commented:

“I am very pleased to have received this commitment from the Government.  Trophy hunting is a sordid business that is threatening to consign lions to a life behind fences.  The lion is the British national symbol, and I am pleased that the British Government is now intending to take more action to protect it.”

Cold homes are a scandal. I see young families onto breadline in private rented properties across Haslingden and Hyndburn and my heart aches. I go home and worry about the cold weather the conditions these young children grow up in. Of course it is not just families freezing, it is also the elderly too who suffer the cold.In Hyndburn we have a very high proportion (over 50%) of energy inefficient

 The preview evening for an exhibition of atmospheric landscapes and seascapes by Jeffery Courtney drew guests from surrounding towns and villages to the Bygillian art gallery in Bourne End on November 6. .

 Several stunning seascapes and landscapes in the exhibition illustrated his passion for water and light, with sunrise and sunset paintings attracting considerable interest.

Mr Grieve was in attended a preview evening of Jeffery Courtney's new collection at the Bygillian Gallery in Bourne End.

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The atrocity in Paris last weekend has horrified people across the globe.  It is clear this barbaric attack has underlined all decent people’s rejection of terror and violence and reaffirmed their commitment to live in an open and free society. It has reinforced everyone’s intolerance of violence and extremism. The freedoms we enjoy were won at great cost and should not be surrendered in cowardice. Our way of life is worth defending. Those of us on the centre right of politics believe […]

Jeremy Hunt, who is a long standing supporter of the work of Helen Arkell, spoke about his own familial experience of dyslexia and the excellence of the work of the Centre. Addressing the assembled audience, Mr Hunt highlighted some of the exciting new initiatives the Centre is making including a programme, starting in January 2016, to support more individuals - both under 16 as well as students and adults in the workplace.

Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey and Minister of Health, visited the Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre to meet some of its many supporters and staff and unveil the new website that will be launched imminently.

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Many constituents have raised concerns with me about the compensation arrangements available to those who are directly and specially affected by the construction and operation of the proposed high speed rail line from London to Birmingham. Since the announcement of the line-of-route, a key concern of mine has been to ensure that homeowners wishing to sell up and move away can do so quickly, fairly, and with a decent compensation package. For those who are affected by HS2 this is of absolute paramount importance, and I have been doing all that I can – along with other Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected – to secure the best deal for local residents.

The Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) was never popular, and the criteria for applications for compensation being granted were onerous at best. Local residents, campaign action groups, myself and others worked hard to replace EHS with something that would be more viable, with a greater emphasis on HS2 Ltd being sympathetic to the plight of the local communities their high speed rail line was running through.

The latest scheme for people like those in South Northamptonshire is the Need to Sell (NTS) scheme, which was created to make the compensation process more accessible and easier to understand for all involved. However, as many residents will be aware, the intention hasn't quite matched the outcome and the scheme still falls short in a number of areas.

Recently the Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee wrote to me, and other MPs, to invite us to submit evidence on the effectiveness of the NTS scheme against EHS and to highlight areas where improvements could be made. In consultation with homeowners along the line-of-route and our fantastic campaign action groups, I have written a full response to the Chairman to outline the concerns that were shared with me. I have attached a copy of this letter below.

As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if I can be of help on this or any other matter.

Andrea Leadsom MP's response to the HS2 Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Need to Sell Scheme

Last Sunday, along with thousands of others throughout the county I attended Remembrance Sunday services.  This year I was in Camborne in the morning and then at Illogan in the afternoon.  Once again there was an incredibly strong turnout despite the weather.  In particular, it was great to see all of the various cadet groups out in force along with the Scouts and Brownies.  All making the effort to pay their respects to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

There were other events including a "Live on" event with performances from the Military Wives Choir, the Bev Lin Dance School, singer Andy Marshall, a wonderful poem about the Poppy read by seven year old Poppy Stevenson and the band from HMS Seahawk.  Care for Casualties also organised a firework event in memory of David Curnow, the local soldier who was so tragically murdered in Redruth earlier this autumn and his father, Mike Curnow, delivered a very poignant reading at the Illogan service this year.  The incident has caused great shock locally and there is huge sympathy and support for his brave family and what they are going through at the moment.

Earlier this year marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and I recently held discussions with David Spencer Evans who lives locally and is the founder of the Spitfire Heritage Trust.  You learn something new every week and it turns out that, during the last war, the people of Lesotho (or Basutoland as it was then called) donated enough money to build two squadrons of Spitfires to help us at a time of great peril.  It is a reminder that the whole empire got behind the UK during the last war and the Spitfire Heritage Trust have been working on a project to build a replica Spitfire to be presented to the people of Lesotho in recognition of their role.  It is great to see such good work being led here in Cornwall.

I have always and will always live in Wales. Wales has much in common with England - a prosperous South East, large parts recovering from an industrial past, and largely overlooked rural areas. But Wales has one unique USP. We have the Welsh Language (Yr Iaith Cymraeg), the Language of Heaven. It is special. I'm not sure that our friends in England, Scotland and N Ireland fully get that. I once won the bardic chair at the Montgomeryshire YFC Eisteddfod (where English Language entries were allowed) with a treatise on the future of the the Welsh Language. I shared a widespread view at the time that it was doomed to continuous decline, and eventual demise as a spoken language. I was mistaken. The establishment of S4C in 1980, along with an early 190s Education Act has made the difference.
S4C was born to the Conservative Govt led by Margaret Thatcher. It was a quite difficult birth. As important as the establishment of the Channel was, the very generous budget agreed was equally important - linked to an inflation-based formula which lasted until the link was broken by the Public Bodies Act 2011. In 2010 the incoming Coalition Govt was faced with the challenge of establishing control over the calamitous state of the nation's public finances. I represented my party at committee stage of the Bill, and will never forget the experience - 1100 emails and protestors shouting at me. In my view, there was no alternative, as the Prime Minister who oversaw creation of S4C may well have observed! 
Let's talk money. S4C has three main funding streams beyond that which it raises in revenue. Much the largest contribution comes via the BBC from the Licence Fee - about £80million per annum. This is supposed to come without editorial strings. The second largest funding stream is also from the BBC, in the form of  broadcast content to the value of around £20 million per annum. None of this is supposed to impact on S4C's independence! 
The third income stream (and the point of this post) is the £6.7 million per annum coming from the Department of Media, Culture and Sport. I do and will continue to plead that this is not reduced. I accept that DCMS is likely to face very difficult choices, as the Chancellor finalises his Autumn Spending Review to be announced later this month. Every budget head will have it's champions. But a reduction in the DCMS contribution would be very unwise penny pinching.
Let's consider the reasons why. Breaking S4C's inflation linked funding in the Public Bodies Act 2011 was a big deal. So big that the Act specifically states that S4C would continue to receive "sufficient finance" to deliver a Welsh Language channel. A bit woolly - but hopefully more than a temporary 'sop' to persuade me and others to vote for it. Words in acts should mean something.
Another reason is the 'Independence' of S4C. To have the BBC providing all of the funding for S4C would seriously question how independence could be maintained. He who pays the piper etc...... And the BBC is far too dominant in Welsh media already.
Let me add a third reason. If DCMS reduces it's already relatively minor contribution further, the case for devolution of broadcasting could well become unchallengeable. I do not think many in the political or broadcasting world support that. And I should add that I am hugely proud that I learned to speak Welsh. Thousands of young people are speaking Welsh as their first language with pride. S4C has played a big part in the renaissance of Welsh. Let's not return to the 'dark days'
When the debate about establishing S4C was raging in the Conservative Party in 1979/80, the wise Willy Whitelaw advised Mrs Thatcher to look on it as an "investment in social harmony". So has proved. Let this investment continue.


 Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights Harriet Harman has written to Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, setting out several issues which the Committee is likely to take an interest in.

More here incl letter to Michael Gove.

 Questions which the Committee is keen to explore include:  

  • Can the Government confirm that it has officially ruled out withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?

  • Is the Government ruling out ending the UK obligation under international law (ECHR Article 46) “to abide by the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in any case to which they are parties”?

  • What consideration has been given to the possible impact of changes to human rights framework on Britain’s standing abroad, and role of the Foreign [and Commonwealth] Office in the consultation?

  • What are the proposals – and budget - for wider public consultation?

  • What approach will the Government take to consultation of devolved institutions and ensuring that views of different parts of the UK are heard?


Committee Chair Harriet Harman said:

“In the first six months, Government proposals have gone from a Bill in the Queen’s Speech, to “proposals” to “a consultation.” The timescale has moved from the first 100 days to “this autumn” and then “in a few months’ time.” There is no more clarity about the government’s plans than there was back in May: we have no indication as to whether the Govt intends to publish a White Paper, draft clauses or indeed a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny. It’s essential that such a vital issue is widely scrutinised and debated – and not just by politicians and lawyers. 12 weeks is not enough.”



#HRA and #BoR


The government produces an annual statistical report of the numbers of children that are looked after by local authorities as at the end of March. This comes from the SSDA903 return produced by local authorities. They compare this number to the number of children adopted from care each year. That, of course, is a statistical error as they are comparing numbers of children to numbers per year.
Quietly and surreptitiously Osborne is marking out his pitch for the leadership,   The trouble is, it’s thoroughly bad pitch.   By denigrating opponents of privatisation he has set his face against the 70% of the population who earnestly want rail re-nationalised, a proportion so large that it must include nearly half who’re Tories.  ...
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Rory Stewart MP met with local producers in Penrith last week to discuss the upcoming ‘Cumbria Day’ in London, which he is organising along with fellow Cumbrian MP’s; John Stevenson, Sue Heyman, Jamie Reed and Tim Farron. It would be the second event of its kind, celebrating Cumbrian business, and in particular, it’s speciality food […]

The post RORY STEWART MP CHAMPIONS CUMBRIAN PRODUCERS appeared first on Rory Stewart.

Often, when faced with a queue 30+ people deep, which will of course mean a considerable wait, many abandon the idea completely, instead waiting for a moment when they pass another nearby branch which is likely to be far less busy. Doing business at the window-less, chair-less, underground bunker in Churchill Square is not a pleasant experience.

Therefore, over the summer I was concerned to hear about plans the Post Office has to close the branch on Western Road in Hove. The Post Office is currently considering merging it with the branch on Melville Road, also in Hove.

With regards to today’s news from the High Court, my solicitors, Clifford Chance, have prepared this statement on my behalf: "This petition was part of Mr Ireland's continued campaign of harassment against our client. Our client believes that the p...
Between 2010 and 2015 I was the Minister of State for Pensions and continue to take an interest in pensions issues.  I tweet regularly (@stevewebb1) but occasionally 140 characters doesn't quite do justice to the wonderful world of pensions.   I have therefore relaunched this blog site as an occasional location for pensions thoughts.

Hello. If you are reading this it might be because you want to sign up for my campaign to be deputy leader of the Labour Party. There is a separate site for this which can be found at this Tom for Deputy link.

Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

Make sure you stay up to date with all of James’s news by liking his Facebook page!


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!
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.