Well – it’s been quite a stunning week.
Last Saturday we (Department of International Development) held a Youth for Change event on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and Child Early and Forced marriage (CEFM). Young people came and took over DFID for the day.
And then on Tuesday – we had the Girl Summit 2014 – which brought leaders, activists and campaigners from all over the world to unite in the fight against FGM and CEFM.
At the Youth for Change event – which I hope you read about in the papers – there was an amazing program ranging from mentoring sessions for young people to TedX talks! At the end of the day – the Youth Advisory Panel (who had been instrumental in designing the day) did a wonderful performance demonstrating how life is now for many girls across the world – and how it can change!
And you will notice in the photos – that there are quite a few boys involved. This is all of our business and men and boys have a role and responsibility. And it was fantastic at the end of the day when Nick Clegg and I sat and talked with the Youth Panel to hear boys talking about these issues openly – no embarassment and no hesitation. The world really can change – and it is young people who are the agents of change.
The Girl Summit 2014 itself – saw the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Secretaries of State for Home Office and DFID all take to the plenary stage to demonstrate the commitment of the UK government to eradicating FGM and CEFM within a generation – and I hope that message rang out loud and clear across the country – and indeed the whole world.
I am particularly proud of the announcement Nick Clegg championed and made on the day – that all frontline professionals working in the public sector will have compulsory training on FGM. This has been such a missing link on tackling FGM in our country. Tippy toeing around cultural eggshells inhibited addressing this issue for far too long – and even now – it is a sensitive issue – and frontline workers (teachers, health workers, police and social workers) need to feel confident so that they can intervene to detect a child at risk at the earliest stage – and hopefully prevent FGM from taking place. This now will happen.
There were speeches and dancing. There were panels and questions. There were round tables and spotlight sessions. But of all who took part – my special praise goes to those brave girls and women campaigners – who have been cut and who have spoken out to break the silence so that girls in the future will not go through what they went through.
It is these girls’ and women’s life stories and life efforts that were the catalyst for FGM and CEFM now being top of the political agenda.
To all the girls and women – who educated me and made me take this on as a mission – I thank and salute you.
The short points are these:
- where are we going to plant more forests?
- is it agreed that such a forest has to be of commercial use - ie containing timber that can used by businesses as in Kielder Forest?
- and to what extent does government need to subsidise this planting, or can the market provide?
- do any constituents object to more forestry?
For my part I would welcome further forests in Northumberland.
There is a Forestry Summit to be hel;d at Egger in Hexham, on August 4th, and I shall be there.
Water management is a Cinderella subject for Manifesto writers that should in 2015 come to the political ball. We both have too much of it at time of flood, and too little of it in times of drought. There is nothing new about this. All my lifetime we have alternated between difficult floods in winter and water rationing in hot summers. Some say this is going to get worse. That’s even more reason for us to get better at preventing these extremes of outcome.
Fortunately solving the one can help solve the other. If we had more areas of ground where we could capture and hold water during times of flood, we could have more reservoir capacity for times of shortage. The water industry is reluctant to build more reservoir capacity to avoid shortages in rare hot years. It takes this view partly because it always has in mind very large units, and partly because the regulatory system makes financing such projects difficult.
Maybe we need a series of smaller projects attached to rivers which are flood prone, capable of taking water in in wet periods and putting it into the water system at times of shortage. Some of this could be part of the new housing projects around the country, as housebuilding adds to the risk of flash flooding as more of the land that absorbs water naturally is put under tarmac and concrete. Over to you, Environment Agency.
The period during the First World War was the bleakest period in European history. The scale of killing was horrific. Technology had advanced to make this perhaps the first "industrial war" with the use of chemical weapons, machine guns and powerful artillery but battleground tactics had not evolved to deal with the new realities that modern warfare had brought and there was perhaps a different attitude to human life.
Britain's Generals are often singled out for criticism although, to be fair, they did try to find new approaches to end the war earlier, from the ill-fated landings at Gallipoli to the invention of a primitive tank. Nevertheless, the scale of sacrifice is apparent through the names listed on memorial stones up and down the land and the war touched every community and virtually every family. I take one of my Christian names from Charles Botterell, my Great Grandfather who fought in the war and suffered ill health as a result of his shrapnel wounds.
It was hoped in the immediate aftermath that it would be the war to end all wars so that at least the huge sacrifice would have achieved something lasting. We know now that it wasn't. However, so traumatic was the war that it changed society forever. Huge social changes followed. The anachronistic class structure started to fall apart, women got the vote and society became more equal. The pain of the war drove political changes too with the advent of communism and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia while at home the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party as the main opposition party.
I have always argued that after any painful conflict, we are in danger of learning the wrong lessons so that the agony of one conflict leads us to make different mistakes which cause a new conflict. That was as true then as it is now. After the Great War there was an entirely understandable resistance to war or spending on military hardware. As a result, Britain was ill prepared to deal with Hitler and he interpreted the strong reluctance for war among Britain's political class as weakness.
But next week, we should quietly remember the extraordinary bravery and the tremendous burden carried by a generation of young men a hundred years ago and the loved ones who grieved their loss.
Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey takes a further step forward in progressing a pedestrianisation scheme for Farnham
Following the recent victory in his referendum on pedestrianisation, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey has ensured that momentum is not lost by securing the involvement of leader of Surrey County Council, David Hodge in finding a viable pedestrian-friendly plan for Farnham.
Two local colleges have secured impressive Ofsted results. Stockton Sixth Form College and Stockton Riverside College have both welcomed significant improvement.
Each has had a change of leadership in recent years and the new Principals are setting high standards. Stockton Sixth Form College’s Joanna Bailey said she is “exceptionally proud” of the result and shared the news with James on his recent visit to speak to politics students.
At Stockton Riverside similarly impressive progress is being made. James visits regularly for meetings with Principal Phil Cook and has welcomed the improvement. Governors, teachers and students have worked hard to secure better ratings and we want to congratulate them on their success.
Championing education has been one of James’ priorities as our local MP. He secured special funding for refurbishment and building works at Grangefield, Ian Ramsey and Mandale Mill Primary Schools and, thanks to the government’s Free Schools programme, Ingleby Barwick is now getting a badly needed a new secondary school. When Conyers in Yarm converted to an academy James took the Education Secretary to mark the occasion and he has attended concerts by Egglescliffe School’s superb musicians in London to show his support.
As we report on good jobs news and local investment in our economy it is important our schools give children every possible chance to succeed in the future. Where there are difficulties James is in talks with staff to offer support but equally, where things are going well, we are proud to recognise and praise achievement.
[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
Order. As we are fortunate to have the Prime Minister with us, and as the summer recess is approaching, which means this might be the last occasion upon which he is with us before the House rises, I am keen to accommodate the interest of colleagues, but if I am to have any serious chance of doing so, I will require brevity. Perhaps the textbook example can be provided by the author of “How to be a Backbencher”, Mr Paul Flynn.
Will the Prime Minister use the Newport NATO summit to galvanise the new-found unity of NATO states to act strongly against the belligerence of Putin?
It is good that the NATO summit will be held in Newport. I think that the opportunity to demonstrate the unity of NATO, and indeed its original purpose, which was to provide collective security, could not have come at a better time.
The hon. Gentleman’s book must be due for a further reprint.
This Early Day Motion will appear on tomorrow's Order paper.
Newport NATO Declaration
That this House hopes the Newport Declaration from the 2014 NATO Summit will include a realistic non-triumphalist assessment on NATO’s role in Afghanistan and a welcome for the new strengthened unity of NATO nations in resisting the belligerence of Putin’s incursions into neighbouring states.
They won't like it at the Foreign Office. Not only has the new Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, given a straight answer to a straight question. He's said that he would be prepared to vote to leave the EU if things don't change.
Hammond is not just the first Foreign Secretary to say that exit is an option. Hammond has made it clear that the current terms of our EU membership are not in our interest.
There could be some interesting conversations with the Sir Humphrey's in his department this morning. It will be interesting to see if Hammond remains resolute, or if he begins to buckle to the views to the big Whitehall bureaucracy.
Ever since David Cameron announced plans for an in/out referendum in 2017, our Foreign Office has followed what you might call the "Wilson strategy". That is to say they intended to engineer a bogus renegotiation, like Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The Prime Minister, they hoped, could then wave this new deal at the public in 2017 – and then persuade them to vote to stay In.
At the same time, Britain's permanent representative in Brussels – Ukrep – has organised meetings for Tory MPs in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere to try to soften their Euroscepticism. Mixed results, apparently.
The failure to block the appointment of Jean Claude Juncker has caused real alarm in King Charles street. Stopping him was a key part of the Wilson strategy. "Look! We blocked that unreconstructed federalist! We can get a new deal", they wanted ministers to be able to say.
For the Wilson strategy to work, our government needs partners willing to go along with the smoke and mirrors trick. But by 26 to 2, the rest of the EU showed that they are not even willing to pretend to make concessions.
Philip Hammond's position has now become the default position for most Tory MPs: vote to leave, unless there is a substantially new deal.
Hammond, like most, is a little vague about the detail in any new deal. The Prime Minister has already specifically ruled out a Swiss type of trade only arrangement. Indeed, Mr Cameron has made it clear that he is not even seeking arrangements that would apply distinctively to Britain, but rule changes applicable to all.
Great. As Hammond says, without substantive change, the chances of exit grow. The longer there is a lack of detail about any new deal, the more mainstream the out option becomes.
This article first appear for the Telegraph.
Yesterday, Carlsberg announced that they will not proceed with a planning application to build a new distribution centre on land between the Brackmills industrial estate and the village of Great Houghton.
Carlsberg are a welcome addition to Northampton, being one of the largest employers in the area, and have always had a very good relationship with local communities. However the plans for the new distribution centre were causing a great deal of concern in neighbouring villages, especially Great Houghton.
I recently met with residents, members of the Action Group and Parish Councillors in Great Houghton to discuss this proposal and concerns were raised regarding the increase in traffic on already congested roads, the affect this would have on air, noise and light pollution, whether there would be a risk of flooding and whether the claim that more jobs would be created was accurate. Residents were very clear that they support the existing Brackmills site but the greenbelt 'buffer' between Brackmills and Great Houghton is extremely important. There is great concern that if this development were to go ahead the character of the village could change forever.
Whilst Carlsberg have announced that they will not pursue this development any further, Roxhill Ltd. who are the developers working on behalf of Carlsberg, have not yet said whether they will consider reviving the application with a view to finding a new tenant. I will be meeting with Roxhill very shortly and will be explaining the concerns of the community and insisting that the area in question is not appropriate for development.
Carlsberg have announced that this decision has been taken after a 'thorough analysis of the economic and business case' and that Carlsberg 'will continue to explore options for the future national supply chain solution'.
Whilst developments which aim to create jobs are important, they must be appropriate and in keeping with the local area and take into account the thoughts, feelings and concerns of local residents.
It has been a difficult period for Medway Maritime Hospital after being placed into special measures in the wake of the investigation by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh. There is no doubt that this has been a stressful time for everyone involved with the running of our hospital. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff who have worked tirelessly in the face of strong criticism to help bring about the small but significant improvements which we have seen to date. In order to ensure that hospital staff and management continue to deliver the necessary changes and improvements which we need it is important that our whole community shows Medway hospital and its staff that they have our support. They need to know that they are valued, and that the wider community believe in them.
Let’s show them that we do!
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about hospitals in special measures, and the next steps for rolling out a new inspection regime in the social care sector.
The chief inspector continues to have strong concerns about Medway NHS Foundation Trust—an organisation with long-standing difficulties, care failures and high mortality rates going back to 2005. He recognises some progress, including the recruitment of 113 nurses, but has concerns about the sustainability of those improvements.
Let me turn to the special measures regime. We welcome the improvements at some of the 11 hospitals and pay tribute to the staff, but it is a concern that four are showing only limited signs of improvement. One trust, Medway, has barely shown any, but how can that be after a year in special measures? Does it not raise questions about whether the regime is providing enough support to improve? A CQC inspection published last week found a catalogue of concerns at Medway—patients on trolleys overnight without appropriate nursing assessment, medication given without appropriate identification of patients, and insufficient nursing levels with an over-reliance on agency staff. The Secretary of State claims that all the problems are long-standing ones, but the CQC found that happening right now. The trust has been in special measures for one year. How can there have been no improvement, what is he doing to help Medway to improve, and given its worrying lack of progress, will he report back to the House at the first opportunity?
Mortality rates at Medway are not as elevated as they were in 2005, but does the Secretary of State believe that the astonishingly well paid interim managers have made any sustainable improvements, and will he expand on how University Hospitals Birmingham will help us to drive improvements at Medway?
To be frank with my hon. Friend, the situation at Medway is still troubling. It has made some improvements to maternity services and has about 100 more nurses, and the dementia unit has made progress, but we have not had the stability of management and leadership that will be necessary to sustain improvement. It always takes a very long time to make such improvements. We will therefore work hard to do that. I hope that the partnership with UHB will be a part of that change, because Julie Moore is one of the best chief executives we have in the NHS. I will work closely with my hon. Friend, because I know he takes a great interest, to ensure that we get the lasting changes we need at Medway.
This week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published information about its #LightsOut campaign. The campaign is about encouraging people to turn off their lights for an hour between 10pm and 11pm on Monday 4 August in recognition of the 100 year anniversary of the First World War. I understand that many local authorities, national organisations and landmarks are planning to take part in the initiative. According to the DCMS press release, #LightsOut has been inspired by Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of the War “the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not seem them lit again in our lifetime.” Support for the campaign can also be demonstrated by signing up to the DCMS Thunderclap which is an online platform which will send an automatic message of support to people via Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr at 10am on 4 August. With its 100 year anniversary, it is extremely important that we remember the First World War and those that sacrificed so much fighting in it. I encourage my constituents to take part in the campaign and sign up to the Thunderclap.
So the Prime Minister has announced a review of the Dickens dossiers – a year after the Home Secretary announced a review, of the Dickens dossiers.
Does this sound illogical to you? It certainly does to me.
Whether the PM wasn’t aware of the previous inconclusive review, or he didn’t have confidence in the previous inquiry doesn’t really matter.
The point is that the missing Dickens Dossiers are only a tiny part of bigger allegation that powerful people avoided being investigated for child abuse.
The only way that we will establish the facts as to whether any of these allegations stand up, is through an overarching national inquiry into historical cases of organised abuse. Only a national inquiry will examine whether the police followed up leads and were not pressured by other agencies or politicians to pull back from proper investigations.
One thing I know for certain: the current police team investigating complicated and diverse allegations of abuse linked to politics are utterly dedicated, but overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information that needs following up.
If the PM and Deputy PM are serious that the police should be the only agency to look at these historic cases, then they should ensure that a much larger number of investigators are adequately resourced. Seven people at the Met are not going to crack this.
Unlike the Shadow Secretary of State, I do not think this a dry debate at all. Debates about the constitution tend not to jokey or light hearted. But as someone who is deeply embedded in Welsh politics, I find a debate about a Bill concerning the future governance of my nation hugely interesting.
I declare my enthusiastic support for the Wales Bill. It is a significant step forward in the devolution process, even if there are aspects with which I do not agree. In this disagreements I may be in a small minority, but I should refer to them alongside my general support for the Bill, putting my opinions on the record for the benefit of anyone in my constituency and indeed the rest of Wales who might want to know what they are.
I have listened to most of the debate; I missed some of it owing to other meetings. My general impression is that Labour’s position in particular is thoroughly confused. Clearly, Members on this side of the House are pleased that Labour will be supporting the Wales Bill—that is a positive move—but the contributions of many Labour Members suggest that they just do not accept the principle of financial accountability underlying the devolution of income tax raising to the National Assembly for Wales. Some of their language has sounded more as though they oppose the Bill than being in support of it.
The Plaid Cymru contributions have been ‘churlish’—that is the word that I will use. During this Parliament it was a Conservative Secretary of State who introduced, with very great determination, the Bill that created law-making powers in Wales. I do not believe that it would have been introduced if it had not been a Conservative Secretary of State; I think that a Labour Secretary of State would probably have chickened out. It was a Conservative Secretary of State who established the Silk commission, which has done very good work. Like several other Members, I commend it for its work. It is a Conservative Secretary of State who has introduced this Bill. I perfectly accept that it does not go as far as Plaid Cymru Members may want—one would not expect that—and, indeed, there are differing views on the detail of the Bill across all parties, but nobody can disagree that granting tax-raising powers to the National Assembly for Wales, and the borrowing powers that go with them, is anything but a huge constitutional step forward. On that basis, it might have been at least fair of Plaid Cymru to congratulate the Conservative party on taking us down the road, not as far as it would want, but certainly in a positive direction.
Mr Llwyd: The hon. Gentleman said that he had been in and out of the debate, and I accept that—so have I. My colleagues were generous about various parts of the Bill, but nevertheless there are parts about which we are concerned, and that is the nature of politics. Do not call us churlish because we find fault in some way with the Bill. That is just politics, is it not?
Glyn Davies: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He has been a friend for a long time. It is reassuring that he has decided to intervene and say how supportive he is of what the Conservative Government have delivered in the past few years. I shall read today’s debate in Hansard to pick out all those individual bits that he speaks so enthusiastically about.
There are several elements to the Wales Bill, the most important one by a long way being the tax raising powers and the commensurate borrowing powers that go with them. There will be continuing debate about this matter. It may well feature in the manifestos of the various parties leading up to the next general election, and I believe it will be revisited in the next Parliament. That is naturally the way of things with constitutional issues when. There will be a next step in this process, and I look forward to being a part of it after the next general election.
Another issue that is causing a lot of excitement is the removal of the ban on dual candidacy. Labour today is describing this change as political gerrymandering. If there has been any political intent to gerrymander, it was on the part of the Labour party when it introduced the ban. No independent body in Wales, including the Electoral Commission, thinks that it is any way partisan to scrap the ban on dual candidacy. It was brought in by the Labour Government in this place with the support of Labour in Cardiff, with the view that it would benefit the Labour party in Wales, and it is truly ironic that it did not. The Opposition should welcome what is a right and proper constitutional change being brought in by this Government.
Personally, I am not in favour of a referendum. In general, I do not like them. Political parties should tell the people what they intend to do and if the people vote for them at a general election they can carry it out without a referendum. I accept that I am in a minority in relation to a referendum on tax-raising powers in Wales. The Silk commission recommended one and there was a referendum in Scotland before tax raising powers were introducing. On this specific issue, I will have to sneak back into my box rather quietly.
I am also not in favour of introducing a five-year term between Assembly elections. Again I might be in a minority. I generally think that four-year terms are right for Parliaments. We have a five-year term here at Westminster, and I realise that there is a lot of support for a five-year term for the National Assembly. Again, that involves another little box that I will have to crawl into.
But let us not forget what the Bill will do if, as I hope it will, it receives its Third Reading today. This Westminster Parliament is granting to the National Assembly for Wales the power to raise taxes, including a significant proportion of income tax — delivering financial accountability. In future a Welsh Government will be accountable to the people whom they represent. There is further to go, but this is an important principle. A Bill put forward by a Conservative Secretary of State is making a significant contribution to the process of devolution in Wales.
A cross-party group of us has written to the Mayor, Metrobus, and the leader of South Gloucs council calling for a substantial rethink on the Metrobus project. Here it is.
From Kerry McCarthy MP, Charlotte Leslie MP, and Councillors Daniella Radice, Lesley Alexander, Estella Tincknell, Gill Kirk, Claire Hiscott, Bill Payne, Wayne Harvey, Rob Telford, Tim Malnick, Gus Hoyt, Charlie Bolton
We the undersigned call on you to reconsider elements of the Hengrove-Northern Fringe metrobus project.
We believe that low carbon efficient public transport AND local, accessible food and places to grow it, are both a vital part of the future to Bristol’s position as both a sustainable city and the ‘Green capital of Europe’.
We support any action that can be taken to ensure that Bristol and South Gloucester local authorities find innovative and collaborative solutions to transportation and congestion challenges, without compromising the excellent and valuable work that is producing food from some of our best land.
As such, we call on you to devise and implement alternative public transport solutions which will NOT result in the loss of ANY Grade 1 agricultural land along the M32 corridor, specifically at Stapleton allotments, Feed Bristol, Sims Hill, or on any former market-garden sites. Any proposed transport solution should look first at brown field sites, and should resolve rather than cause congestion in the local area. It should not compromise the use of high quality agricultural land by important and effective charities, community groups and local people, for the benefit of all. We note the proposed changes you suggested at cabinet on 1st July but need to be convinced that these make any meaningful difference to the land affected.
We are also concerned about the proposal to run a section of the new road across Stoke Park. This historic piece of landscape is valuable not only as the ‘green lungs’ for North Bristol but also because it contains ancient woodland, rich meadows full of rare species and a number of heritage buildings.
We believe the loss of such land is utterly incompatible with Bristol’s ambitions to be a Green Capital, and we urge you to think again.
Today I helped start work on the new bridge that will unlock the bend in the River Avon earmarked for Bristol’s new arena. As Communities Minister I also announced £6million for further works and site acquisitions in the Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.
Many blokes think it would be fun to drive a bulldozer or crane, well today I got in the cab of a huge excavator, ready to dig out the foundations for the new bridge opposite Temple Meads station. Tempting as it was to pull a lever and cover assembled journalists with mud, I let the professional digger driver make the actual hole. But I’m delighted that work has at last started on this huge site. Seven years ago I took to the airwaves to criticise the South West Regional Development Agency (a Labour govt quango) for pulling the plug on arena plans. The Coalition government is funding the new bridge to the tune of £11.5million. It will be unlike any other bridge over the Avon or the the harbour. It will be Bristol’s first Garden Bridge, tree lined and with places to sit. As well as space for motor vehicles it will have provision for pedestrians and cyclists.
Once the Mayor secures an operator for the Arena work will start on the “island” itself. But the arena will occupy just over a third of the site. There will also be other businesses and hundreds of new homes.
As well as supervising the digging of a big hole, I also announced an additional £6m government support for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. This was part of £23m of funds from my department announced today for four enterprise zones. The Bristol money will help unlock further land and buildings for development in the Cattle Market area of the zone, which will become the new centre of Bristol’s burgeoning creative and media industries.
So two sets of good news for Bristol and further evidence that the Coalition Government is investing in building a stronger economy for Bristol and the country.
First published by The Observer Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most confident civil servant […]
The post Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute appeared first on Rory Stewart.
Royal Mail is doing everything possible to continue to deliver the mail to the affected areas, but access is no longer possible to some addresses. We understand that this must be a very difficult time for affected customers.
Royal Mail is doing everything possible to continue to deliver the mail to the affected areas, but access is no longer possible to some addresses. We understand that this must be a very difficult time for affected customers. With immediate effect and until further notice, we will waive the charge for new 3 month Redirections requested by customers in flood affected areas. If any of your constituents fall into this category, the following details o
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.”
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.
What’s in the small print of the Small Business Bill?
Who wouldn’t be in favour of small businesses, enterprise and employment? It’s motherhood and apple pie, and the title of a new Bill debated yesterday in the House of Commons.
I’ve always argued the Government could be doing much more to support small businesses, create job opportunities and improve working conditions. This Bill therefore contains some welcome provisions.
For example, it introduces a new independent Pubs Code and Adjudicator, for which Brighton businesses and many residents have long campaigned. This will go some way towards securing more investment in our local pubs, fairer treatment of landlords and ultimately fewer pub closures.
But scratch beneath the surface of this Bill and you find far more to be worried about than to applaud.
Here are five of the major ways I think it needs improving:
- Protecting workers’ rights
The Bill is supposed to tackle abuse of zero-hours contracts and clamp down on employers who fail to pay the national minimum wage.
Millions of workers are trapped in poorly paid, highly insecure jobs.
Many people in work struggle to make ends meet due to low wages or insufficient hours. Oxfam’s recent ‘Breadline Britain’ report showed a 54% increase in use of food banks.
So it’s worrying that the Government’s proposals are riddled with exemptions, loopholes and a lack of sanctions or enforcement mechanisms.
I am opposed to zero hour contracts and have long campaigned for people to be paid properly. We need a living wage, not just the minimum wage.
- Helping small businesses through procurement
The Bill will give Ministers new powers to centralise procurement rules. That could create problems for small businesses, social enterprises and charities who want to provide goods and services within their local areas.
- Ditching deregulation
Ministers continue to pedal the myth that regulation is bad for business, ignoring the evidence of benefits even when presented by the corporate sector. As a letter to the Chancellor from business leaders in 2012 set out, environmental regulations do not have to be a burden on business. "Quite the reverse, well designed, smart regulation can reduce business costs and drive innovation and growth," the letter stated. 
Yet this Bill wants future governments to set a deregulation “business impact” target for each Parliament and to report annually.
There’s no evidence that UK businesses are “excessively” or “unnecessarily” burdened by costs associated with existing regulations and no evidence that we need targets of the kind proposed.
Minister are also ignoring the enormous benefits of smart regulation – to our society, our environment and – crucially - to the economy.
I am calling for this section of the Bill to be scrapped in its entirety.
- Ending export finance for projects that undermine human rights and the environment
The Bill contains provisions to help UK firms grow their exports, which is welcome news for many companies.
But it could also allow taxpayers’ money being used to underwrite arms sales to repressive regimes and fund dirty energy projects overseas.
The Coalition Agreement contained a commitment to “ensure that UK Trade and Investment and the Export Credits Guarantee Department become champions for British companies that develop and export innovative green technologies around the world, instead of supporting investment in dirty fossil-fuel energy production.”
I think the Bill needs amending to include a “prohibitions” list, ruling out funding for projects that undermine human rights and environment protection overseas.
- Stopping secretive company ownership
Only 9% of the British public believe that company ownership should be allowed to be kept secret.
This Bill is an opportunity for the UK to lead the way globally when it comes to company ownership transparency. This has lots of benefits, including helping to prevent people hiding criminal activities behind shell companies.
Secret ownership structures are also at the heart of tax dodging, money laundering, corruption and even terrorist financing. It’s been estimated that, due to tax havens, developing countries may lose $120-$160 billion annually in tax revenue – greater than the entire global aid budget.
But the proposals lack bite. There’s nothing to ensure data is kept up to date and accurate; the sanctions for non-compliance are not serious enough to make a difference; and exemptions need to be kept to an absolute minimum.
The Bill is back in Parliament later this year and do post comments below if you have anything you’d like me to raise in the debate.