Thursday 11th February

 

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):

If the money for democracy is cut and if the ermine-clad pantomime of the House of Lords is further bloated, contrary to what the Minister just said, is it not likely to bring shameless hypocrisy into disrepute?

John Penrose:

There were an awful lot of negatives in that question, but I think that I get the hon. Gentleman’s drift. I take his point on the concerns about the overall size of the House of Lords, but it is important for us not to forget that it has managed to reduce its total costs. As I mentioned earlier, there are ongoing cross-party discussions on how to address its overall size. I encourage their lordships to continue those discussions and, with any luck, to produce proposals shortly.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):

When can we debate the warning given by a senior Japanese industrialist to the Foreign Secretary that the continuing financial fiasco of Hinkley Point is damaging the reputation of Britain internationally, and threatening further investment? Can we not recognise that the problems at Hinkley Point are terminal, and change to the practical technology of tidal power which is clean, British, free and eternal?

Chris Grayling:

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government’s policy is not to put all eggs in one basket. We have probably done more than any previous Government in pursuing renewable energy in this country, be it wind, solar or tidal, but we believe that we need a mix of generation for the future, and that will include nuclear.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):

On Sunday, I witnessed the seven-day working at a Welsh hospital, where a clinic was held in Nevill Hall for the convenience of patients and to get maximum use of an expensive gamma camera. The Secretary of State constantly denigrates the work of the Welsh health service, but will he pause to congratulate the Welsh and Scottish Governments, who avoided the misery of the strike and will also avoid the poisonous legacy of resentment that he will face from junior doctors?

Mr Hunt:

The Welsh and Scottish Governments may have avoided the difficult decision that we are taking in the NHS in England, but the longer they go on avoiding the issue, the longer they will have higher mortality rates at weekends, which we are determined to do something about.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab):

As has been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), there were no strikes in Wales yesterday. However, on the point made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), there was an increase of 10% in the budget, equivalent 135 places for nurse training, which is so critical for cover. That may be what led to a communication that I received from a junior doctor in England who said, “Could we have your Minister for Wales, please?” What does it say about morale in the NHS in England when, in football and rugby parlance, the Minister has lost the confidence of the changing room?

Mr Hunt:

I think that is the first time in living memory in this House that a Welsh MP has got up and said that they think things are better in the Welsh NHS. Just look at the waiting times that people face for basic operations on the NHS in Wales—far, far longer than in England. We will take no lectures about how to run the NHS from Labour in Wales.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab):

This is a worthwhile report. It identifies EVEL as a foolish piece of legislation that will, perversely, live up to its acronym and accelerate the process of the break-up of the United Kingdom by putting up barriers between the four countries. It has already created great resentment by creating four classes of MPs.

Does the hon. Gentleman rather regret following the addiction, which has become an incurable one in his party, of blaming Labour Governments for everything that has ever gone wrong? The suggestion is that the Labour Government of 1997 was remiss in not taking account of the West Lothian question—the expression was coined in 1977 by Enoch Powell, after a speech by Tam Dalyell—but no party has tried to come to grips with it. It really is an imaginative rewriting of history, trying to get some kind of retrospective justification, to suggest that it was a live issue in 1997, when it was not. Have we not followed a large number of ad hoc, piecemeal decisions by this House by making another, even more piecemeal, decision?

Mr Jenkin:

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, to all members of the Committee who have contributed to the report. It is a pleasure to work with them. I do not entirely share his view that this is a “foolish piece of legislation”, because we do not use the word “foolish” in the report and it is not legislation. We do not blame the Labour Government for everything, but I did just point out that the former Labour Prime Minister has expressed such a regret.

The fundamental point is that we must end this ad hoc approach to constitutional reform. We must take a much more comprehensive approach. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on that point.

Many of you may have read the recent Adver article about my work as Solicitor General, and only last week I met members of the Christ Church Breakfast Club to talk about the role and how I work on my Ministerial tasks as well as doing my constituency casework and dealing with local issues.  In short, I am kept very busy.  This week, I will be conducting two cases in the Court of Appeal where I am seeking a r

Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 10th February 2016

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Dear Mr Jones, I am delighted to be able to share with you the Family and Childcare Trust's report In for a pound. This looks at the relationship between levels of staff pay and the quality of childcare and is the first in a series of short reports looking at quality in childcare which we are publishing over the next few months.  The research indicates that there is a strong
I am backing the Hexham BID Project = an exciting government backed initiative to promote, expand and enhance the business opportunities in the Town. But we need Hexham businesses to get involved. Full details are found here and set out in more details below: http://reviveandthrive.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Hexham-BID-FAQ-1.pdf

1. Marketing and Promotion - To market and promote Hexham as a centre for retail, leisure and tourism, including better use of digital and mobile technologies, and extending cultural activities, festivals and events. To include comprehensive and coordinated marketing, promotion and events campaigns for the town and support for the development of a Hexham Loyalty scheme.
2. Town Pride - To take pride in Hexham by building on its fantastic heritage and creating a more attractive town for workers residents and visitors. This would be delivered through improvement works designed to raise standards of appearance, accessibility, cleanliness and security throughout the town and will include action aimed at improving signage and linkages within the town.
3. Business Investment - To invest in people and businesses to enable Hexham to build upon its reputation for high quality services and goods. To deliver high quality customer services and an effective network across the town. This will include a series of initiatives to achieve business excellence, better business networking and deliver cost savings for individual businesses linking into the Hexham Business Forum and Tynedale Business Network. Work will be undertaken to build upon the two newly created Enterprise Hubs operating in the town and the benefits that could be accrued in attracting and supporting new and existing businesses.
4. Vibrant Markets – To invest in and build upon the Hexham Markets as an excellent way of bringing people into the town, and enabling new traders to test out their idea before committing to permanent facilities. This may include the purchase of new stalls and equipment and is linked to the Business Investment and Marketing and Promotion themes.
The BID will only deliver additional projects and services. The BID will not duplicate or replace services provided by public bodies but will, in particular, work with Northumberland County Council, Hexham Town Council, Northumbria Police and other relevant service providers to ensure their continued delivery of high quality services.

The EU does wish to supplement or even rival NATO, and does wish to work towards a European army, navy and airforce.
In their defence paper in July 2015 they called for “EU owned dual use capabilities and a proposal to explore how capability needs could best be fulfilled by assets directly purchased, owned and operated by the Union”. They have not got there fully yet, but the direction of travel is clear.
In the meantime The EU has created a naval force in the Mediteranean to pick up economic migrants and asylum seekers exposed to dangers at sea. It also has another naval force tackling piracy off the Horn of Africa.
The EU began by pooling iron and steel manufacture, then the sinews of war. It has moved on to some joint defence procurement, and to the creation of a defence and aerospace industry crossing frontiers to make member states interdependent in the production of weaponry.
The EU has created an EU defence force, with a rapid response army and a common command headquarters. The Eurocorps, called “a force for the EU” has a “permanent operational multinational structure capable of being deployed at very short notice” with up to 65,000 troops. At the core of it is a joint Franco German force. It has seen action in Bosnia, Kosovo and twice in Afghanistan. So far it has usually worked through NATO.
The UK has been wary of this emerging force, but has nonetheless gone along with various collaborative projects, especially with the French. The UK has also joined in various joint weapons and aircraft programmes. UK Ministers often have to argue against further EU involvement or control of military matters. Meanwhile our security is guaranteed by our own forces and by our membership of NATO. It is noteworthy that we belong to Five Eyes, the enduring and successful intelligence gathering and sharing alliance with the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand out side the EU.
The UK wishes to avoid the creation of an EU army and navy directly under the control of the EU where member states have no say in whether to participate or not. The NATO alliance is founded on the principle that each member state decides whether to back a NATO military intervention or not, and if so with how many personnel and with how much weaponry and supplies. The EU has a habit of moving from voluntary co-operation to legal requirements in other areas. The UK is keen to avoid a situation where British troops could be put in danger against the wishes of the UK people and Parliament.

Brilliant news for Brexiteers: yesterday ICM showed Leave ahead for the first time since 2013. It also showed that 17% of voters are still undecided. So it was great to get together yesterday with Eurosceptics from all parties to make the internationalist, optimistic, engaging case for voting Leave.

Yesterday the Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman hosted a fantastic event called the Good Life After Brexit. 

It brought together speakers from across the spectrum: Labour MP Graham Stringer, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr., Conservatives Steve Baker, Bernard Jenkin, David Davis, Liam Fox, and John Redwood, UKIP leader Nigel Farage, and Vote Leave's Matthew Elliott.

What was great about it wasn't just the variety of people who came together. It was also the message. 

To win the referendum, we need to reach out beyond die-hard Eurosceptics to people who may never have thought about the EU before. We need to counter the scaremongering of David Cameron and co. in Project Fear.

That means presenting the positive case for voting Leave: making sure people understand that we will have better trade links abroad, more money for our public services, real control of everything from energy to banks to fish stocks, and  genuine freedom.

The ruling elites fear Brexit because they fear the people.

Eurosceptics need to show the British public that this is our opportunity to take back control of our country and our lives.

Let's make sure we take it!

The Feeding Birkenhead campaign, co-ordinated by the town’s MP Frank Field, today announces its latest programme to prevent hunger amongst children during the school holidays.

Further to my recent blogpost on the HS2 Promoter's Response to Select Committee Report and HS2 Resident Commissioner's Third Report I thought it may be of interest for local residents to have sight of the letters I have sent to Deborah Fazan, HS2 Residents' Commissioner, and Minister for Transport Robert Goodwill MP.

My letter to Deborah is here and my letter to Robert can be viewed here.

I shall ensure that copies of the responses that I receive are uploaded to my website for constituents to read.

MP for Redditch, Karen Lumley, was very happy to welcome her friend and Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership, Andy Street, to Redditch last Friday evening (5 February 2016).

Andy, who is also Chair of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), was the guest of honour and speaker at an event organised by Karen at the Masonic Hall, Easemore Road. The dinner was attended by local business people, councillors, two MEPs as well as members of Karen's Business Leaders group and all were richly entertained by Andy who gave up his time to talk about his career at John Lewis and his experiences as Chair of the LEP.

Said Karen afterwards: "It was lovely to welcome Andy to Redditch again. He is such an inspirational speaker and full of positive energy and serves as a wonderful example to everyone in business."

Karen welcomes Managing Director of the John Lewis Partnership, Andy Street, to Redditch on Friday.

Saturday 6th February marks National Libraries Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the value that libraries bring to our communities.

It’s not just the contents of the bookshelves that hold so much importance and value, the buildings themselves are vital hubs in our towns and cities; centres that bring people together to share experiences and knowledge.

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Please find my monthly report for January 2016 here.

Following the success of the 2015 Waverley Para Games event last March, Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey announced today that the date for the third Games has been confirmed for Friday 18th March 2016.

Games set for third Waverley Para Games on Friday 18th March at Charterhouse Club, Godalming

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Speaking at a meeting organised by Caroline Spelman, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, in the House of Commons on Wednesday 3rd February, Sir Tony Baldry, Chair of the Church Buildings Council, gave a briefing on Festival Churches.

The Church of England has some 16,000 churches nationwide.

As a consequence of history, not least the medieval manorial system, the majority of our church buildings are in rural areas.

Many are now in multi-parish benefices which sees a number of church buildings not necessarily being used for weekly worship, but where the church is still a local icon, a community asset, and bears witness to a physical Christian presence in that community.

Festival Churches are about trying to ensure that churches remain open.

Festival Churches are not about wanting to close churches, or even to “mothball” churches.

Festival Churches are about trying to ensure that churches can remain open, and that they can generate the financial wherewithal to do such things as pay for their insurance, and pay for essential maintenance, such as the clearing of the guttering and other immediate care of the building.

So a Festival Church is a church which will encourage as much of the whole community to come together to celebrate church festivals, such as Christmas, Easter, Harvest Festivals, local Festivals, other Festivals, such as Mother’s Day, Remembrance Sunday, and also to ensure that there is an open church for people in the local community to celebrate rites of passage, such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

A Festival Church will also often be available for appropriate community uses, which gives opportunities to strengthen the connections to the church building and congregation with the wider community and sometimes it will see the responsibility and technical ownership of the church being handed on to a Trust – to make it local, Diocesan or indeed National – which can manage the church building on behalf of the PCC.

To enable us to share ideas and give substance to this initiative which has now been endorsed by General Synod, it is proposed to set up an Association of Festival Churches, and support their development with advice, resources and materials.

Let me give some actual examples, showing the range of possibilities and how the Church Buildings Council is supporting local initiatives – and I stress that all Festival Churches are local initiatives.

Toller Fratrum St. Basil in the Diocese of Salisbury and in the county of Dorset, which is a single building Trust.

One of the cases which illustrated the possibilities for Festival Churches is this tiny, Grade Two Star rural church.

It stands in an isolated position in a farmyard and was served by a vicar who had sixteen church in his benefice.

However, there was a small, but extremely committed community and congregation.

This church is now looked after by a local Trust – the Friends of St. Basil – and the congregation celebrates the Festivals of the Church under licence from the Bishop.

Achieving this, however, was a some protracted legal process and it became clear that it was necessary to set up a national support body for such churches which could advise on how to achieve workable solutions in the easiest possible way.

This is to be the role of the new Association of Festival Churches, helping with legal advice, how to engage with the community and how to celebrate the Festivals, and the particular strengths and values of each local church and locality to keep these wonderful church buildings as the hub and focus of rural life.

Another example is St. German’s Priory Trust, in the Diocese of Truro, in the county of Cornwall – again a single building Trust.

Five years ago, the ancient church of St. Germanus, a large Grade One Norman building on the site of the Saxon cathedral of Cornwall, and the seat of a Suffragan Bishop was facing possible closure.

The PCC was responsible for four rural churches, of which St. German’s was by far the biggest and most historically significant but also the most expensive and difficult to maintain. It was simply too big to be the Parish Church of a village.

This indeed had been a problem ever since the Reformation ! when the village took on the Priory Church following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Four hundred local people signed a petition against closure and the Bishop set up a Working Group to find a way forward.

This Group was supported by the Church Buildings Council who advised that a Trust could be set up to look after and develop the building as a community resource and tourist attraction, complementing its renewed role as a place of worship.

The Chairman of this Working Group, Martin Edwards, became the first Chair of the Trust and Martin is here today if you want to hear more of his work, for which he is about the awarded the Cross of St. Piran by the Bishop of Truro.

Thirdly, of these examples, is the Norwich Diocesan Churches Trust, which is a regional, indeed, national Trust, where the Bishop of Norwich took the initiative to set up this Trust to avoid a situation where a number of much loved, isolated, rural churches could fall out of use because of a lack of local resources to do the daily grind of looking after a church such as organising insurance, maintenance and inspection.

As the Bishop of Norwich put it, such a loss of churches would “flatten the spiritual landscape of Norfolk”, and lose what often is the only community building in the village.

The Diocesan Trust takes that daily grind off the shoulders of the congregation and allows them to concentrate on using the churches for Festivals, weddings, baptisms and funerals as well as community events.

The first church to be leased by the Trust is South Pickenham All Saints, a Grade One Norman round tower church near Swaffham, and there are several more in the pipeline.

Matthew McDade from Norwich Diocese is here if you would like to grab him for a chat about the important work of this Diocesan Trust.

And I suspect that over time we will see different examples emerging in different parts of the country.

There is no one single solution.

There is no “one size fits all”.

But we hope with the Association of Festival Churches that those who want to take forward such initiatives can give each other mutual strength, share ideas and be given support by Church House.

More details about how we in the Church Buildings Council and Church House hope to help Festival Churches can be found on the Church Care website. A flyer can also be downloaded here: Festival Churches Flyer – February 2016.

Rt. Hon. Sir Tony Baldry

Sometimes I start to write about what's niggling at back of my mind, knowing full well that it's not a popular viewpoint with my constituents. But sometimes it has to be done. This is one of those sometimes.
Today my inbox has been inundated with emails inspired by a lobbying group called 38 Degrees. Two campaigns and over 200 emails. Now let us set aside the fact that my experience of this lobbying group is that it operates in a deceitful and underhand way. And let us set aside my view that the involvement of this group actually damages the causes to which it's name is attached. Let's just consider the two issues involved, and the impact this sort of campaigning has.

The first mass of emails asks me to support a strong independent BBC. No bothering to ask me what my view is. Just assuming that a strong independent BBC is something that wouldn't have crossed my mind. Most of these emails are polite. But some are not. Several references to my "Tory mates at Sky etc.". Reality is that I am an enthusiastic member of the BBC APPG and it would be difficult to find a greater supporter of a strong independent BBC than I am. Yet the emails keep pouring in.

The second campaign has been about pressing me to attend a debate at Westminster tomorrow to discuss mis-shape vegetables and out of date fruit - re-appearance of the bent cucumber debate. Now, I totally agree with the aims of this bill before the House of Commons. But it's a Private Members Bill which may not even be reached and with no chance of reaching the statute book unless the Govt decides to run with it as a Govt Bill. So ok. But let's just consider the consequences if I were to respond by going to London. Firstly, I would have to cancel my entire day in Montgomeryshire to spend 8/9 hrs on the road or train. 

At 10.00am tomorrow morning, I am at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital meeting the NHS Hospitals Trust to discuss the future of NHS care for Montgomeryshire constituents, plus patient concerns that have been raised with me. I then have to move sharpish to reach Llanidloes High School by 12.15 for a session with the very active and opinionated Sixth Form. I think engaging with young people to be important work. Then it's a TV interview for Byd ar Bedwar about access to broadband in Montgomeryshire. Hoping to make it to my Welshpool office to sign off some letters and hopefully make it to a Sports Awards Ceremony at Theatre Hafren. Every single one of the 100 plus emails asked (mostly but not all politely) to cancel all of my programme to travel to London. 

Like all MPs, I like to receive letters/emails from constituents sharing their concerns, asking me to help where I can. Some are long and detailed, outlining often serious problems. Only point I make is than when I have 200 emails a day, inspired by a lobbying group, I either have to give up doing everything else or employ someone to do it - which rather defeats the objective.
No idea how this photo of Dan Biggar found it's way into this blog pits, but he's such a fantastic No 10 that I decided to leave it. Even if nothing whatsoever to do with the post.



Economic regeneration and job creation has always been one of my first priorities and over the last five years we have seen some positive steps forward.

The Kresen Kernow archive project, being built in Redruth, is well underway and you can now tour the smart, new walkways and public spaces. I campaigned hard to make Redruth the location of this project, which will not only safeguard the historic brewery site, but also create new jobs, kick-starting the wider regeneration of the town.

These are also exciting times for Hayle, where the development of South Quay will transform the landscape and local economy. The new Asda has been up and running since 2014, and once finished South Quay will play host to new restaurants and housing which will revive the harbour area.  Meanwhile, the new Marine Business Park has just been completed at the far end of North Quay and plans are finally starting to develop to build new housing and retail space on the remainder to compete the regeneration. 

I am now looking at a number of new projects throughout the constituency. The success of superfast broadband and facilities like the Pool Innovation Centre and Barncoose Gateway has attracted new businesses and start-ups to Cornwall and there is a demand for additional work space in the CPR area. One reason I lobbied so hard to secure funding for the creation of the East-West link road, was that it would unlock derelict mining land in Tuckingmill for development, and I want to see this land used so that new industries can move in and create skilled, well paid jobs for the area.  That is why the idea of a new Fibre Park linked to Cornwall College has so much potential to build on what's been started in the computer software industry.

Other sites on my list include Avers roundabout.  It has been a derelict eye sore for too long and it's time to get that end of Redruth sorted out.  Once the archive is complete and the new developments around Tolgus begin, Avers roundabout will become an important gateway site.

Tracey has shared her views on the Kent County Council Consultation concerning the Blue Bell Hill site. 

Tracey has shared her views on the Kent County Council Consultation concerning the Blue Bell Hill site. 

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The Prime Minister has announced that a striking and prominent national memorial to the Holocaust will be built in the iconic Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
I'm pleased to announce the launch of my Independent Shop Awards 2016. Independent shops are what make the constituency of Stratford on Avon so great. Following the success of last years Shop Awards, I wanted everyone to have an opportunity once again to show your appreciation for your favourite independent business. Follow the link below to nominate your favourite in one or all of the 6 categories - best shop, cafe, restaurant, hotel or bed and breakfast, village shop, or pub. Anyone can nominate, and of course businesses can self nominate. Judges will look at customer service, the quality of the product, locally sourced produce and shop front appearance. Nominations will close on the 18th March 2016, and the awards ceremony for the winners will take place in April. If you want to keep Stratford on Avon special, support local businesses, and tell me why you think they’re great - get involved today! http://bit.ly/1VuqB31     ...
High Wycombe has been selected as one of nine new areas to receive assistance to tackle gang and youth violence. I welcome this intelligence-led preventative work and High Wycombe will benefit from tailored support from experts to better understand the nature of gang-related violence and exploitation, identify opportunities for collaborative working and share effective ways of tackling local challenges. This support falls under the Ending Gangs and Youth Violence Programme which has already helped 43 areas nationally. Whilst I am advised that we […]
"May I ask the prime minister to reject the view that sees terrorist acts as always being a response or a reaction to what we in the West do? Does he agree that such an approach risks infantilising the terrorists and treating them like children, when the truth is that they are adults who are entirely responsible for what they do? No one forces them to kill innocent people in Paris or Beirut.

MP CONCERNED ABOUT CLOSURE OF POST OFFICE

 

Westminster, 17 December 2015

Clwyd West MP, David Jones, has written to the Post Office to express concern at the potential closure of the Penmaenrhos branch office in Abergele Road, Old Colwyn.

Owing to the illness of the postmaster, the branch will be closing temporarily on 19 January 2016. The Post Office will now be exploring options to enable the branch to be reopened, but a reduced service may be put in its place.

David Jones said:

“The Penmaenrhos post office serves a relatively large community in Old Colwyn and is an important community asset.

“I have written to the Post Office expressing my keenness to see it reopened, but have said that if there is any danger of closure or reduced service, I would expect to have a meeting with Post Office Ltd in order to discuss all possible options.”

This morning, first thing, I dropped by the Esher and Molesey Royal Mail delivery office. It's an opportunity to see first hand just how busy our local postmen and women get at this time of year.

Mark Peters, the office manager, showed me round, how the systems work, and the kinds of challenges they have to grapple with - from rotweilers to bad handwriting on envelopes. I met a few of his team in the process. Good luck to all our postmen and women at this festive but hectic time!


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

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

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

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Quietly and surreptitiously Osborne is marking out his pitch for the leadership,   The trouble is, it’s thoroughly bad pitch.   By denigrating opponents of privatisation he has set his face against the 70% of the population who earnestly want rail re-nationalised, a proportion so large that it must include nearly half who’re Tories.  ...
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Rory Stewart MP met with local producers in Penrith last week to discuss the upcoming ‘Cumbria Day’ in London, which he is organising along with fellow Cumbrian MP’s; John Stevenson, Sue Heyman, Jamie Reed and Tim Farron. It would be the second event of its kind, celebrating Cumbrian business, and in particular, it’s speciality food […]

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

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

The Haringey Indepedent asked me to outline reasons why people should vote for me… Here’s my response!

“Starting with the very basic – I am local! I grew up in Haringey, went to Highgate primary, and still live in the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green today.

“It’s so important to know the area you want to represent.

“I also have a 20 year record of working with residents and campaign groups to protect and improve our local services.

“If I had to pick the single most important campaign – it would be saving the Whittington A&E from the previous Labour Government’s closure plans. The second I got wind, I posted the information on my website (where it remains today!) and kicked off a massive campaign.

“Joining forces with local residents and campaign groups – I marched, I petitioned, I secured a debate and asked questions in Parliament, and together we were successful and Gordon Brown’s Government backed down. If we hadn’t saved it – I don’t think we’d still have a hospital.

“Nationally, I’ve fought for policies that benefit our borough. The Lib Dems in parliament have taken the lowest paid workers out of paying tax, and introduced the Pupil Premium to get extra money to schools in more disadvantaged areas.

“These measures mean that thousands of low-paid Haringey workers have be taken out of paying income tax altogether, and £13 million extra has been given to our local schools, teachers and pupils.

“In Government, I’ve used my ministerial positions to push a progressive agenda. As Equalities minister, I was the originator and architect of equal marriage. I then moved to the Department for International Development, where I announced a £35 million programme to end FGM within a generation, and protected the aid budget.

“Finally, I would like you to vote for me because there is still more that needs to be done – for all the reasons I got into politics. We need stronger public services. We need to continue to promote fairness and equality. We need to fight for a community where we take care of those less able than ourselves. I’d like to be a part of that work for the next five years.”
Am I the only one who has found that the rise and rise of twitter (and to an extent) facebook has eaten their blog? Despite the best of my intentions, I have ended up posting minute by minute stuff on Facebook and Twitter. Does this say something about our ever diminishing attention-spans as a society? Or just about me not being very good at managing the blogger app on my iphone...?   Who knows.  But be warned - this blog may not be updated as much as it should be. A big blue bird came and ate it up.

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

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

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

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has welcomed a campaign by representatives of the smaller fishing industry to win a fairer share of UK fishing quotas.

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

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

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

 

Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”

 

Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.

 

“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”

 

Starting with a Bang

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

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

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

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

The toll of death will continue to rise.