The North East LEP has done great work, but does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that in rural Northumberland we need the LEP to support rural connectivity and economic regeneration projects such as The Sill and the Gilsland station rebuild?
Deputy Prime Minister
If those issues are not covered by the growth deal that has already been entered into, they are precisely the kind of items that my hon. Friend and others locally may wish to push for in the successor rounds, because devolving control over transport investment decisions is emerging as one of the common themes in all the different growth deals across the whole country.
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 14 October 2014, c152)
At the peak in 2007 130,000 mortgages a month were being issued. House prices were rising, new buyers came into the market. The rise in interest rates and the credit crunch which the authorities organised in 2008-9 changed all that. Banks had to throttle back on new loans. Some individuals struggled to meet their mortgage payments. The number of new mortgages slumped to 30,000 at the worst in 2008.
There has been a reasonable recovery this decade. By January of this year the monthly rate of new mortgage approvals was running at 76,500. £18.5 bn was lent. By this September the figures have fallen back a bit. 61,000 new mortgages were arranged, with a value of £15 bn. This is still well above the low point, and well down on the high point of the bubble in 2007.
Home ownership is a good aim of public policy. It is far better to look forward to your old age knowing by then you will own your home and not face a rent bill. Owning a property will be cheaper than renting the same kind of property over a typical adult lifetime. Ownership also gives you greater flexibility about use,adaptation and decoration of your home, subject to planning rules for the bigger changes. It is also 0ften easier to switch homes and move locations if you own, than if you are a tenant in social rented accommodation.
Homes are less affordable today when comparing prices with incomes than forty years ago. Part of this reflects social change. Two earner couples are more common now, and greater account is taken of both incomes in mortgage calculations. Part of it means young people have to wait longer, save more, and achieve higher earnings levels before they can buy their first home. Some get round this by buying property jointly and sharing.
The Mortgage Market Review has required those advancing money to be properly trained, to take full account of the affordability of the mortgage for the individual, and to stress test the mortgage asking what would happen if interest rates rose. Some say this has held back mortgage lending in recent months as people adjust to the new system. Others say this is a welcome, as it should make it more difficult for people to take out unaffordable levels of new debt.
To have a healthy first time buyer market there also needs to be a sensible balance between new home construction and additional people seeking accommodation.
Not since the 1970s has Britain had such a mediocre government.
Cast your mind back to that sun-lit May morning four years ago. What was it that the Coalition promised us, and what has actually happened?
"We'll come together in the national interest to sort out the public finances", Clegg and Cameron told us. Since that press conference in the Downing Street garden, our nation's public debt has almost doubled. If getting government borrowing under control was really what brought them together, they have taken their eye off it. Government borrowing last month was ten percent up on the year before.
Ministers pushed through costly NHS reforms. None of it has actually improved health care. Many folk cannot get to see a GP, and no one seems to be in charge.
Energy policy continues to be built on expensively subsidised renewable targets. To meet our renewable obligations, poorer people have been priced out of heating their homes. Businesses have been made less competitive and there are fears a winter blackout.
Instead of cutting immigration, it's back up to where it was under Gordon Brown. Our armed forces remain over stretched and under resources. Localism, which was supposed to give local people decide on planning, turns out to be a sham. Using the language of the free market, ministers intervene in the economy in the interests of crony corporatism.
"But what about the government's welfare reforms?" you ask. "And what about Michael Gove at education? Surely ministers have got some things right?"
To be fair, not even Ted Heath's government got everything wrong. Yet a lot of this administration's welfare reforms were in fact pioneered by that uber Blairite minister, James Purnell. Much of the rest, such as universal credit, has yet to actually happen.
As for Gove at education, he is no longer at education. Rather like Ted Heath and the unions, this government runs shy of vested interests.
Just as Ted Heath promised a radically new approach to the economy, Clegg and Cameron promised a different kind of politics. Last week we saw government whips use the same old Westminster tricks to sabotage the Recall Bill. A measure designed to allow voters to hold MPs to account will do nothing of the sort.
On Europe, at least Ted Heath had the virtue of consistency, even if he was consistently wrong. Mr Cameron has flipped from Heathite acquiescence to mere flops.
First ordered his own MPs, on a three line whip, not to vote for an In Out EU referendum. Now he puts the prospect of an In Out vote, and the faux offer of real change, at the heart of his re-election bid.
A few months ago, Number 10 told us they were opposed Jean Claude Junker as European Commission President. A couple of weeks ago, he ordered his MEPs to vote for the Junker Commission. How long before he tells us he was against Euro Arrest Warrants all along?
Of course, there is one big difference between this administration and that of Ted Heath, and that is the economy. Output is up and unemployment is down. But so it seemed under Ted Heath during the Barber boom, too.
They might not call it that, but with the government spending £100 billion a year more than they take in tax, we are living through the largest Keynesian spending stimulus in our history. Record low interest rates mean a massive monetary – as well as fiscal – stimulus. Like the Barber boom, will it last?
Osbrown economics may yet turn out to be little more than reheated Heathism.
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I am a strong supporter of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, who recently launched their strategy for 2013-2025. It is an impressive document and makes some important points about the disease.
Most significantly, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, with about 50,000 new cases every year. For men, there are about 400 cases per year. With breast cancer making up about a quarter of all the cancer cases in the UK, it is obvious that advances in preventing, treating, and curing this disease would save many lives, and save the NHS many resources.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is focussing on a five-point plan :
- To realise the potential for preventative drugs, but also to promote the value of a healthy lifestyle in general. It’s estimated that 40% of cases could be avoided if the sufferer had adopted a healthier lifestyle.
- If prevention is not possible, early diagnosis is key. It is vital that women check themselves regularly, and report anything unusual to a doctor.
- Breast cancer is being treated more effectively than ever. This is good news, but cells can become resistant to certain drugs over time, and research must continue to find new and better treatments.
- Metastatic breast cancer – cancerous cells moving round the body, and spreading the cancer to other organs – is a significant problem. Almost all breast cancers deaths are as a result of this process and it must receive greater focus.
- Encouraging supportive communities and raising awareness is key in increasing public knowledge of the disease and raising charitable funding against it.
I am proud to be associated with the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Committee locally, who work so hard to raise vital funds and increase awareness.
Stockton South MP James Wharton has welcomed the decision by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust to suspend work on its plans to close North Tees and Hartlepool hospitals for a new hospital at Wynyard.
James has conduced a poll of constituents over the past 3 months and can now reveal the findings for the first time:
76% Opposed the plans
8% Unsure of the plans
16% Supported the plans
(2,673 replies were received)
James said: “The Trust has not convinced the public to support these plans and without public support such significant reconfigurations cannot be carried through. People have told me in overwhelming numbers that they do not want this scheme and many will welcome the decision to suspend work.
Scrapping the Wynyard Hospital plan was one of the first things the new government did, but the idea lived on. This process has taken years and cost a fortune. The Treasury has been clear that more information would be needed before any money could be approved and the Trust has now decided it cannot provide it.
This is a suspension rather than cancellation but the Trust now needs to turn its attention to North Tees and the investment it needs. I was born in North Tees Hospital and I understand what it means to our community. We need to invest in it and upgrade facilities to provide top quality care. The Trust should immediately start planning to use some of the hundreds of millions it had earmarked for Wynyard on North Tees so that local people get the care they deserve.”
As everyone is aware, the Prime Minister plans to negotiate a better deal for Britain in Europe, and then to put that new deal to the British people in an in-out referendum before the end of 2017. That’s because Conservatives believe the British people should decide our future in Europe. The European Union (Referendum) Private Member’s Bill would have put this referendum onto the statute book.
But Labour and now the Liberal Democrats have blocked it.
With the European Union (Referendum) Bill coming third in the ballot, it was always going to be very difficult to pass it. But until now Sir Tony and the Bill’s other sponsors had hoped that Liberal Democrat colleagues would play fair by granting this Bill the critical money resolution it needed to proceed into committee – as they did for a similar Bill last year which Tony Baldry also sponsored.
It had also been hoped that the Liberal Democrats might make the Bill a government Bill which would have guaranteed its safe passage through the Common.
The Liberal Democrats refused.
The Liberal Democrats asked instead that the Conservatives give them permission to go ahead with a measure – the Affordable Homes Bill – which would cost up to £1 billion and unravel the Government’s welfare reform programme. The Conservatives could not support this because it would have simply meant more borrowing, more debt and more people on benefits rather than in work.
So, because the Conservatives insisted the Liberal Democrats stick to their previous promises on cutting the deficit and reforming welfare, they sabotaged the European Union (Referendum) Bill.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ message is clear – they do not trust the British people to decide our country’s future in Europe. And UKIP can’t deliver a referendum at all. For those who want an in-out referendum they have to work hard to secure the Conservative majority government which will deliver the in-out referendum.
Ed Balls was in town today. I completely understand the anger of former Labour voters who feel betrayed by the Blair and Brown governments he served – to say nothing of the Miliband shadow cabinet. Many are finding the same warm welcome in UKIP I did, where they will never be taken for granted. But I must pull Mr Balls up on one point. He said in Rochester & Strood that I want to let corporations loose on the NHS. I don’t. UKIP’s health policy is clear – defend and fund the NHS.
My father was a doctor. My mother was a nurse. My brother is a doctor. I’ve been working closely with the staff at Medway Hospital to get it out of special measures, which is one reason why Strood GP Dr Juneja was good enough to endorse my NHS record. I’m doing the work on the ground. That, not misrepresenting opponents, is how patients get higher standards.
Jill Seymour MEP is one of UKIP’s stars on the party’s front bench and it was a real pleasure today to welcome her back to Rochester & Strood for the second time already. The other parties are rounding-up the camera crews for their big names, who get out of a car, offer the old clichés, and disappear back to London again at the very first opportunity. Jill and I tried to do something more useful.
We went to the Tory ghost road at Riverside, Strood built at £13 million expense in a predictably doomed green attempt to stop people driving to work as they wish, and now silent all day save for the odd (mainly empty) bus. What a shambles. The Tory council won’t open it to cars. Conservative-led central government won’t open it. UKIP, when we get the chance, will drop the nonsense and open the road. Jill said it well today – ‘for that much money, I’d have expected a motorway – and a long one’.
The volunteers generously showing up at the UKIP campaign shop at 30 Rochester High Street are a mix of all backgrounds, all ages. I’m grateful to each. Our youngest is Jonathan Woods from Rainham. You’d never imagine listening to him talk about why he’s helping out with UKIP that he’s only 14. You can watch him explain himself here, he’s already a terrific advocate for his community and his country and I really appreciate the support of all the Woods family:
Not only has she written a book discussing why UKIP really matters – and it’s well worth a look, you’ll find it here, but Suzanne Evans has won a deserved reputation with the People’s Army for leading from the front with real passion, generosity, and tirelessness.
She was in Rochester & Strood today to support my campaign, and I really appreciate it. Joining UKIP means finishing up on the same side as people like Suzanne, and I can’t understate how much I’m glad that’s now the case.
Some of the dedication UKIP receives is no less inspiring. Caroline Stephens is our prospective parliament candidate for Stroud and I can’t overstate how impressed I am by her commitment to the cause. She’s able to join the local cohorts volunteering because she makes a 300-mile trip each weekend. All I can say is that I salute her and I thank her.
She’s not the only one by any means. This is the UKIP team from Leicestershire, who got off the bus outside our campaign shop today – a Monday too! – without our even knowing they were making such an effort. They brought their own supply of pork pies too!
Dan Hannan, a Conservative MEP of wit and erudition I’m proud to call a friend, put out a good tweet today. It was about the European Arrest Warrant. Actually, that was one of the reasons I’m now in UKIP. This EU arrest warrant makes any British liable to be hauled up in court in any of the other twenty-seven countries trapped in the European project. To put it mildly, they don’t all match the standards of British justice – and British citizens have been caught up in some truly shocking cases. Dan said: ‘There scare-stories about criminals evading justice without the EAW are hysterical. There were extraditions agreements in place before 2004’, the year the EU enlarged so fateful. Dan, you’re right on the money.
I’ve long been a believer in democracy not just in the way every decent person is, but in a way I think I can fairly call radical – believing not only in getting power back from Brussels to Britain, but from London to local communities, and in engaging people again in a process that should always have been theirs from the start.
This is John Turner. He’s never voted before. He never felt any of the old parties listened to people properly. He’s seventy-three years of age and he’s voting for the first time – for UKIP, and for me, it’s quite a humbling thing to be able to say.
Here’s a blog from my recent visit to Somalia. I went in my capacity as Minister for International Development, and UK Ministerial Champion for tackling violence against women and girls abroad.
When you think of Somalia, you probably think of Black Hawk Down, Al Shabaab terrorism and piracy. But if you’re born a girl in Somalia, you face so many other risks, both severe and everyday.
Decades of war and humanitarian crises have given Somalia a reputation as one of the worst places to be woman or a child in the world. Girls and women suffer disproportionately from violence and instability. One in 16 women will die during childbirth, and 1 in 10 will die during her reproductive years. Whilst data is scarce, it is thought that 98% of Somali women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
Last week I became the first DFID minister to spend a night in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. I was there in my capacity as the UK’s ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls overseas, as part of a fact-finding and awareness-raising tour to break the silence on an issue that can no longer be taboo. So far my tour has taken me to the United Arab Emirates to tackle the issue of gender-based violence in refugee camps, and I am now in Bangladesh, where two-thirds of girls are married before their eighteenth birthday. All countries suffer from violence against women and girls. We’re all located on a spectrum of violence, and we must help and learn from each other to end it.
Back to Somalia. There is a nascent movement in Somalia to end FGM, and the Federal Government of Somalia as well as the governments of Somaliland and Puntland, committed to eliminate the practice at the Girl Summit the coalition government hosted in London in July. But new research suggests that while there is widespread support in Somalia for ending the most extreme and medically egregious form of FGM, known as ‘pharaonic’ ‘type III’ or infibulation, the majority of Somalis still supports ‘sunna’, which can involve anything from a small nick to the full removal of the clitoris, removal of flesh, or stitching. People are also now going to medical facilities to undergo FGM, with the help of health professionals, in the belief it is more hygienic. So we’ve got a long way to go.
But my visit confirmed that there is reason for hope. I met ministers, religious leaders, NGOs, men, women and girls who were all committed to ending FGM. Every one of them had the same message: ‘sunna’ is not OK, and they will not have won until they have eliminated all forms of FGM.
I talked to girls from an amazing girls’ club in Somaliland. Formed to provide vocational training and address gender-based violence issues in their community, its members were eloquent and open. They had succeeded in breaking the taboo of talking about FGM – even with the men in their families and communities.
And I heard about Somalia’s efforts to tackle gender-based violence in conflict, including the development of a sexual offences bill.
But one particular issue seems hardest to tackle, and that is domestic violence. It affects so many women across the world: 2 women a week are killed by their partners or ex-partners in the UK, and 1 in 4 women in the UK suffers domestic violence at some point in her life. In Somalia, there are no data on domestic violence, but in a place where the prevalence of FGM is so high, we can assume that domestic violence is happening in everyday life.
I asked a group of women at a maternal health clinic whether they had suffered domestic violence. Silence. But when I asked whether they knew any women who had been beaten by their husbands, every one of them put up their hand.
The girls’ club told me that the right to beat one’s wife was a widely accepted social norm. But when I asked whether they felt it was a good social norm, they were vehement in their answer: absolutely not.
It’s through young leaders such as these girls that we can really change the future. If these girls refuse to cut their daughters, the cycle ends. If these girls speak out against domestic violence, it can end too.
Through them, we can break the silence, and stop violence before it starts.
I think this is good news for the country but particularly for Cornwall, where we have been especially blighted by these ugly solar developments. Last year alone, 67% of new solar developments could be found in the West Country and Cornwall planners have been inundated with applications from developers hoping to take advantage of energy subsidies. During my time as MP I have been contacted numerous times by residents opposed to these developments and I have supported their cases all the way to the Planning Inspectorate.
In the next few decades food security is going to become an increasingly important issue with a growing world population and demand for food growing. Farming is what our farms are for and it is what keeps our landscape beautiful but crucially it produces the food we need. It makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels here in Cornwall where once there were fields of crops or grassland for livestock to graze.
Some developers have attempted to claim that farming can continue underneath solar panels but I think these are sham arguments which developers just advance to try to get around planning guidance. There is no doubt that land covered in solar panels is, for all intents and purposes, lost to agriculture. Crops need sunlight to grow and if fields are smothered in solar panels, there is no light left for crop production and it is not possible to get tractor access to manage the soil. In addition, when it comes to the idea of grazing sheep or other livestock, while developers talk this up, in reality they are concerned that livestock will damage their expensive panels. Many write into their agreements that farmers can't use the land themselves but that only the energy company's sheep can occupy the land. I don't know whether they think they have specially trained solar friendly sheep or something but none of it sounds very plausible.
We do need to diversify our energy supply and there could be a role for some solar panels, but on roofs not on prime agricultural land. Solar panels are best placed on the 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial rooftops where they will not compromise the success of our agricultural industry and I hope that a more innovative approach along those lines could remove the threat to our Cornish landscape.
George Eustice can be contacted at email@example.com or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.
You can read the article here. I also discussed the issue on Radio 4's Today program, accessible here (from 1 hour, 33 minutes).
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South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt meets with Surrey County Council Leader in Farnham to discuss pedestrianisation of the town centre
Following the victory in his referendum on pedestrianisation in June, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey, met on Friday 19th September with leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodge and County Councillor for Farnham Pat Frost in order to press ahead with establishing a viable pedestrian-friendly plan for Farnham and what the next steps might be for developing a scheme.
That this House;
Condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq, including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christian and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis it is causing;
Recognises the clear threat that ISIL pose to the territorial integrity of Iraq, and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support;
Further recognises the threat ISIL pose to wider international security, and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and it's murder of a British hostage;
Acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq, including countries throughout the Middle East;
Further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq and it's citizens, and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq;
Notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign, and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament;
Accordingly supports Her Majesty's Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including use of UK air strikes to support Iraq, including Kurdish security force's efforts against ISIL in Iraq;
Notes that Her Majesty's Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations;
Offers it's wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.
The Home Secretary appointed Fiona Woolf to chair the child abuse inquiry on Friday. Since then, a number of people have asked for my views on the matter, some of them quite high profile survivors.
I’d never heard of Fiona Woolf until I saw the announcement but I know her type – successful, rich and married to a big Tory.
A number of survivors are concerned she’s too close to the establishment and seems to have some kind of social or informal links to Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary who was recently interviewed under caution by the police.
Believe me, I understand the concerns of survivors but I’m supporting the appointment all the same.
The way I look at the situation is this:
A year ago, there was no chance of an inquiry.
Theresa May has done the right thing despite considerable internal pressure not to act. She has also listened to concerns of many survivors and MPs by assembling a panel of people who do not share the background of Fiona Woolf.
I’m desperate to see the inquiry get moving because I’m now convinced that members of organised criminal networks have evaded justice – and that some very powerful people need to be exposed.
As soon as the inquiry starts to take a look at documents as well as testimonies of survivors and former police officers,I believe the weight of evidence will be so great that even more will have to be done.
This might take the form of a bigger police inquiry team, made up of investigators from around the country but managed nationally. Then we really might see some powerful people brought to justice.
To oppose Fiona Woolf will have the effect of further delaying the evidence gathering, leaving survivors in limbo for longer and perpetrators evading scrutiny.
From what I’ve seen so far, we risk losing more with a delay than we do with a chair who has not yet won the confidence of a number of survivors. It’s for her to build trust with them through her leadership of the inquiry team.
I know enough about the panel members and their expert advisers to be certain that they will not tolerate an establishment whitewash. If more revelations come out about Fiona Woolf then I’m sure they will make their opinions known to Theresa May.
They should be allowed to examine the institutional failings of the past in order to understand how vulnerable children were abused by powerful people who were not held to account.
So, I’m giving Theresa May the benefit of the doubt.
It’s time for this inquiry to get moving. The team leading it should be judged on the tenacity of their research and the strength of their investigations.
I hope you can give them your support in what will be a very distressing inquiry.
Just by way of an update to Monday’s post… Another invite has arrived. WWF are the culprits again!
PRASEG & WWF-UK Event – The economics of climate change policy: what are the overall costs and benefits of the UK meeting its carbon budgets?
Wednesday 10 September 2014, 17:00 – 19:00, Committee Room 6, House of Commons
• Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Labour MP for Southampton Test and PRASEG Chair.
• The Rt Hon Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
• Professor Paul Ekins, University College London
• Matthew Knight, Director of Strategy and Government Affairs, Siemens Energy
• Steven Heath, Director – Public Affairs and Strategy, Knauf Insulation
• Trevor Maynard, Head of Exposure Management & Reinsurance Team, Lloyds Bank
On Saturday 13 September 2014, after an interval of four years, I will be taking part in the sponsored cycle ride to raise money for the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust.
On Saturday 13 September 2014, after an interval of four years, I will be taking part in the sponsored cycle ride to raise money for the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust.
This is an excellent charity under the patronage of the Lord Lieutenant, Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher and the Bishop of Buckingham, designed to help the maintenance of churches of all denominations throughout the county.
This morning I unveiled a memorial stone to Captain Douglas Reynolds, on the hundredth anniversary of the action that led to him being awarded Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross.
In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War there will be many events around Britain and the rest of Europe. There will be further anniversaries to mark down to 11 Novemeber 2018, a hundred years after the Armistice on the western front that now sets the date for our annual Remembrance Sunday event for all conflicts.
The government is supporting a wide ranging programme of events over the next four years. These include battlefield tours for schools, where children will also be learning to play the “Last Post”. The Communities Department is providing memorial paving stones to be laid in the communities of origin of the recipients of the Victoria Cross.
There were 628 Victoria Crosses awarded to 627 individuals, as Noel Chavasse was the only man to be awarded twice. Over the next four years memorial stones will be laid across the British Isles, 361 in England, 16 in Wales, 70 in Scotland and 35 in Ireland, which at that time was all within the United Kingdom. The remaining 145 memorials will all be laid at the National Memorial Arboretum on 9 March 2015, Commonwealth Day.
This Commonwealth group reminds us of the fact that the war was the first truly global conflict. It was a clash of European empires, drawing in colonial soldiers from around the world. I have visited the memorials in Ypres in Flanders, where the name Singh is more common than Smith or Williams. There was also combat at sea and on land around the world.
Some people may ask why are we commemorating a war that is now outside the life memory of everyone. I think it is right that we do so. The First World War touched the lives of every community and family in a way not seen before. The wars of the nineteenth century and before were fought in the main by regular soldiers and sailors. The war from 1914 – 18 was a total war, particularly after conscription was introduced in 1916. As so many men were in uniform, the role of women was also changed profoundly, working in the fields and munitions factories. After the end of the war, the British social order was never the same, with the ‘ruling class’ weakened by taxes, the end of deference and the universal franchise.
I hope the paving stones and various events will rekindle an interest in the war in every community. There are war memorials in every town and many workplaces and schools, listing the names that could be brought to life by research. I hope to discover more about my great-grandfather Stephen Davies, who served and survived physically but died in a mental hospital years later.
Today’s event in Castle Park, Bristol, was to commemorate the sixth winner of the VC, the first from Bristol. Captain Reynolds was awarded his VC for an action on 26 August 1914, just three weeks after the war started. He led his men to recapture a gun at Le Cateau, Belgium Mons. He survived this episode but was killed by gas poisoning in February 1916 and is buried at Etaples. His VC is on display at the Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich.
The next Bristol memorial stone will be laid on 20th November, the centenary of the VC being awarded to Thomas Rendle. The other six Bristol VCs are Frederick Room (1917), Hardy Falconer Parsons (1917), Daniel Burges (1918), Harry Blansard Wood (1918), Manley Angell James (1918) and Claude Congreve Dobson (1919).
Bristol has one of the very best commemorative programmes in the country over the next four years. See http://www.bristol2014.com for more details.
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!
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.
Today (22 January) the coalition government's controversial 'Lobbying Bill' returns to the House of Commons after it has been debated and amended in the House of Lords. The government has been forced to make concessions in response to the strength and breadth of opposition. It is nevertheless likely that the Government will seek to overturn at least some of the amendments made in the House of Lords which have gone some way to improve this ill-considered Bill.It has already had to drop its proposals to cut the total that charities are allowed to spend on campaigning in the run-up to a general election and concede that the election period is specified as the period from the day after the referendum here in Scotland rather than a full 12 months.These changes are welcome but they simply make a bad bill slightly better. So far, the Government has refused to accept other amendments such as the one excluding background staff costs from the spending limits and requiring lobbying of special advisers to be included on the statutory register.I was pleased to see that both of these were passed in the House of Lords despite the Government’s opposition and I and my Labour colleagues will be voting to keep these two Amendments in the Bill if the Government seeks to overturn them.Charities are already forbidden to campaign in a partisan way by existing legislation on the way they operate and as a spokesperson for the Electoral Reform Society Scotland has pointed out, it is hard to see the problem that this Bill is seeking to solve.
There are many other things wrong with the Bill. It would have been even better if the
government had dropped it entirely and rethought its proposals after proper consultation
with charities, NGOs, and trade unions, but the Commons does at least have the chance
to make it a little better today.
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.
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.
Caroline with Lord Brett McLean, FSB East Sussex Region Policy Chairman
Yesterday afternoon I attended the launch of a Business Manifesto by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). This focuses on the organisation’s new #ibacksmallbusiness campaign.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Brighton & Hove’s economy so I was very pleased to attend to make sure that concerns put to me by constituency businesses were included in the discussion.
I was also delighted to become one of the FSB's parliamentary champions, and will continue to do all I can to support small and micro businesses in Brighton & Hove.
The manifesto covers some issues that already have a high profile in our city.
For example, it recognises the importance of universal digital connectivity, referring to this as “the fourth utility”. Following on from our successful bid for money to improve digital infrastructure, including access to ultrafast broadband, Brighton & Hove's leadership as a major centre for creative and digital businesses looks set to grow still further.
It also calls for a complete ban on energy rollover contracts, which would build on the commitment I won from energy suppliers to give small businesses the choice to opt out of contracts each year.
The manifesto calls for the temporary doubling of small business rate relief to be made permanent, echoing my call for the scheme to be broadened. This would benefit an additional 500-600 businesses in our city, including many social enterprises.
These measures, alongside others that I’m working on with the local business community, such as the call to reduce VAT on tourism and support for apprenticeships, would make a real difference to constituency businesses.
The FSB manifesto is here – http://tinyurl.com/n6szy77
I’m keen to hear what Brighton Pavilion SMEs think about this document so do get in touch with any thoughts and feedback.