"So many corpses are now being washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean that they have stopped making the news". That's how Fraser Nelson begins his excellent article about desperate people (incl children) seeking refuge in Europe in today's Telegraph. I had decided to write no more on this issue, but this article so closely reflects the view I've taken since the beginning of the Syrian conflict that I just had to draw readers attention to it.

People smugglers work under the radar. They don't issue press releases and photographs to make life easy for the media. They don't want to 'make the news'. They prefer to be out of sight- and out of mind. It's one of the greatest new evils of our time. "It's grown to become a huge industry worth about £4 billion a year. This trade in human lives is greatly helped by the prize dangled by panicked politicians that those who survive the journey, and end up on European soil will be granted Asylum. It's a promise born of compassion, but has helped to lure hundreds to their deaths."

Like Fraser, I consider any criticism of our Prime Minister on this issue to totally misplaced. No country has done more to alleviate suffering in Syria, and across the world than the UK. No Govt has made a greater commitment to international help - in the face of constant enemy fire from UKIP, the Daily Mail and others. No politician I've worked with has shown more compassion to desperate people in foreign countries under threat than David Cameron. Britain is giving £2.3 billion to those fleeing war in Syria. The Royal Navy is doing what we can to save people  from the waters of the Mediterranean when the traffickers promises lead to thousands stranded at sea, or in the sea. The UK has given more aid than the rest of Europe put together.

Fraser uses well researched numbers. Syria has 5 million refugees. There are another 7 million displaced from their homes in Syria, forgotten and ignored by the world. These desperate people don't 'make the news'. In Jordon, there are 600,000 Syrian refugees in desperate need. They don't 'make the news' either. The UK Govt is committed to taking 20,000 refugees from the Syrian border. And last week announced we will take another 3,000 unaccompanied children from the area who are on the United Nations 'at risk' register. This is the far and away the most effective, humanitarian, compassionate response - even though I personally would support an increase in the 20,000. 

If politicians bowed to demands from the House of Lords and opposition MPs that the UK take unaccompanied refugee children from France, I would not be desperately distressed. It may help some people. But I do know it would not be the best response to a truly awful situation. It would be allowing compassion to be overtaken by pragmatism and public pressure. It would be to satisfy a demand "to make the news".

Why London for new Statistics Jobs?

PACAC Transcript

Public Administartion & Constitutional Affairs Committee.
Tuesday 26/04/2016

Andrew Dilnot Chair of United Kingdom Statistical Authority and Andrew Pullinger, the National Statistician.

Future jobs in Newport.

Paul Flynn: Do you think Mr Bean ( Sir Charles Bean author of report on Statistics)has given excessive importance to the location of jobs in the statistics office. It is as easy for me to communicate with my office in these buildings as it is with my office 140 miles away and it doesn’t really matter with modern communications where offices are located. Would you agree with that?

Mr Dilnot: I think our own sense is that Sir Charlie when he did the review for us has analysed the position effectively. He has noted that the move from London to Newport of economic statistics has certainly caused some dislocation as it would have done if it had have been a move from Newport to London. Sir Charlie notes as we do that we are now building up a really exciting centre of expertise in south Wales. As you know Mr Flynn I am from south Wales although I am from the great city of Swansea rather than Newport.

Paul Flynn: None of us are perfect.

Mr Dilnot: What Sir Charlie says is that we should carry on doing that indeed in the data campus that we are building up we will continue to do that. What he also notes, with which I would agree, that it is very important that all of our activities both in Newport and in London are connected into our core users and because of that and because of the concentration of users of economic statistics in London there is also a case for having a London presence. Not as a substitute in any way for our presence in Newport but as a compliment. As a way of helping our large and dominant presence in Newport to be fully engaged with some of the debates that are going on in London. That seems to us to be a helpful way of thinking about it.

Paul Flynn: I’ll take that as an answer for saying yes you believe that location isn’t as important as it might have been.
But aren’t you aware of the magnet of the statistical establishment in London that has always resented, from the time of the relocation, because of the fact that the jobs went outside of London? Does it make sense to try and get people back into polluted Pimlico with sky high house prices with long commuter distances rather than allow them to develop in the glorious broad green acres of Gwent?

Mr Dilnot: I think that is suggesting that these are alternatives and in our view they are compliments. There is no suggestion of moving people from Newport back to London. Indeed we are recruiting more new economists in Newport, we are expecting to recruit about 80 new economists in Newport this year. We are expecting to expand our economic analysis capability in Newport but we are also expecting to build up somewhat of a presence in London to help those working in Titchfield and Newport and London do an even better job than we are already doing.

Paul Flynn: I’m grateful for what you said about the development of the Newport office. Do you think there is a gap in Mr Bean’s report where he fails to appreciate the advantage of relocation in helping out areas where they have seen manufacturing jobs collapse and the arrival of statistical analysis as a brand new career in south Wales? Do you think there should be some more fulsome acknowledgement of how successful that has been?

Mr Dilnot: I think Sir Charlie’s report has been fulsome about the development while I also recognise there was a dislocation effect with the move from London to Newport the same would have been true of a move from Newport to London. That did have an effect on our capability for economic statistics but Sir Charlie recognises that we are now building from strength to strength.

Paul Flynn: How many jobs will be created by Mr Bean’s report in Pimlico?

Mr Pullinger: We are expecting it will probably be up to 100. But we have already got a reasonable size group in London already and that includes the regulatory element and the production.

Paul Flynn: You don’t see Newport’s growth as a surrender to the London establishment?

Mr Pullinger: No it is not a surrender. It will enable the whole organisation including the Newport and Titchfield elements to be more successful because it will connect us particularly to this place and to the Whitehall space.

Paul Flynn: I’m baffled. How can it make you better connected, it makes no difference now. We are all wonderfully connected by the miraculous technology we have got. The idea of a location in an area is a very old fashioned one but it suits the statisticians and the journalists and the think tanks to feel that we are all cosy together in London and it doesn’t matter what happens out in the sticks in Scotland or in Wales.

Mr Pullinger: I will give you one very specific example. I would love to second more people from other organisations, potentially from including this place, to help me in ONS on various projects and vice versa. That has proved very difficult when we have had to find people prepared to if they are London based spend some time in Wales or Wales based to spend some time in London. Just the logistics are very difficult. So I am trying to reduce the barriers to us getting the best people. As Andrew has said we have developed Newport and we will continue to develop it as a go to place particularly as a place for smart statisticians and economists and increasingly for digital people. That really is starting to work but there is a complimentary opportunity for us here, quite a small amount in the grand scheme of things, to enable us to get access to some of the great people. I’d love to have some of my former colleagues from the HOC Library work with us for a year or two but there are relatively few of them that would spend a year or two in Wales. They would spend a year or two in Pimlico.

Paul Flynn: What was rather dispiriting about Mr Bean’s report was his failure to reflect what the Lyons Review said and what others said about the fact that staff from Pimlico have resettled in Wales, reluctantly many of them, but have stayed there, retired there. They have found it has been a great success and enriched their lives by moving out of London. Why wasn’t that positive value in this, apart from doing wonders for the local economy, reflected in Mr Bean’s report?

Mr Pullinger: Well I think it was acknowledged but if it wasn’t acknowledged enough lets acknowledge it now.

Paul Flynn: Mr Bean is part of this London establishment of statisticians. He is part of this world of greedy people who want to have everything in London. I mean you are not part of it I’m sure and Mr Dilnot has the great advantage of having been born in Wales. But isn’t the metropolitan magnet exerting an excessive pull towards London again and isn’t this a retrograde step?

Mr Dilnot: Let me say briefly, I think not. I think the review was clear that we should continue to develop Newport. That it would be foolishness to think of moving the Newport establishment back to London. We are not thinking of doing that. We are allocating substantial resources from a small budget to enhance the level particularly in economic expertise in Newport. We are very excited about Newport but we also thing that we can make the Newport and Titchfield activities even more successful and even more attractive if we somewhat build up a presence in London.

Paul Flynn: Personally I am deeply grateful for the value of the work of both of you. I have been watching this subject for many years in this House and it is a great improvement on what it was.


The Brain Tumour Debate in Parliament last week was a very moving and positive one. It involved excellent interventions from across the House, and strong, clear commitments from the Government to look to redress the balance in funding, towards this vital cause.

In my view, every type of cancer research is incredibly important. However at the moment there is an imbalance. Funding may be increasing, but this needs to de directed more towards investigating brain tumours. However to do this the applications need to be better, the charities and hospitals need to work collectively with centres of excellence, and we have to make the case to the clinicians who allocate funding better. I'm a survivor, and it’s vital that more people can state that in the years to come.
The full debate and closing comments from the Health Minister, George Freeman MP, can be found here, and are worth a read: http://goo.gl/x93fdF

It woukd be ridiculous to join a football club but state you do not wish to play or watch football. It would be even odder to complain about the consequences of other club members playing and watching, leaving you on your own at club events. Yet the UK government thinks it sensible to belong to an international organisation based on the Euro and free movement of people, whilst not wishing  to do either of those things. It’s even stranger  to then demand a lower club subscription because you disagree with the main purposes of the club and its spending patterns.

It will  be increasingly difficult to maintain the semblance of UK independence and self government as the EU comes to take over more and more aspects of our lives and laws. The UK already finds it difficult to stay out of Euro area bail outs, willingly helping with the Irish one and unwillingly being dragged into the short term Greek loan. Regulation of the City is increasingly settled in the EU in ways designed to assist the Euro area.

The Treaty architecture does not make a proper separation of Euro decision making and budgets from the wider EU. The UK will be dragged more and more into the huge transfers of money that will be needed to enable the  poorer and less economically successful countries to survive within its austerity driven policies. There is no proper legal Treaty based opt out from the regional transfers and economic promotion policies the Euro area needs.

The Germans and others see the so called “single market” as embracing freedom of movement, all the regulations, and the Euro. They think staying out of the Euro allows a country to try to get an advantage through devaluation. There will be more attempts to divert business from London to Euro area centres both by competitive actions and by regulatory creep.  The City will often find itself regulated in ways it does not wish, and in ways which may drive business out of London to non EU centres. The UK government has lost important court cases in recent years over regulations which do send business outside the EU altogether.

I find it difficult to understand why most UK pro EU advocates do not wish to join in with the Euro and free movement. After all, many of them backed the Euro before it was established and told us we should join. They refuse to talk about the wild ride to political union that is the driving force of the modern EU. They are keen for us to stay in as they want us to help pay the bills of their ill fitting single currency. The only logic to joining a football club is you like football.Surely these EU enthusiasts must be disguising their love of the single currency and freedom of movement.

Frank met this morning with management and union representatives.

Yesterday, Tracey joined year 5 students from the primary schools of Wouldham, Burham and Eccles, together with Trenport, in celebrating the fantastic work from the 'Why I Love my Valley Schools Art Competition'

The compeition is sponsored by Trenport and was launched at the schools in January, followed by a creative, very hands-on workshop.  

Yesterday, Tracey joined the primary schools of Wouldham, Burham and Eccles, together with Trenport, in celebrating the fantastic work from the 'Why I Love my Valley Schools Art Competition'

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A bill of £350 million every week for EU membership.  You may have seen this figure often in recent weeks. At a highly conservative estimate, it works out as a net contribution of £8.5 billion a year spent on the EU’s priorities. That’s a net contribution of £23 million every day of the year. Where is this money going? It helps the EU indoctrinate children (£500 million), subsidise three empty airports in Poland (£80 million) and transport 1000 officials from Belgium to France and back (£130 […]
East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group are proposing to change your access to GP services. In short they are proposing to close Accrington Victoria Walk in Centre (known also as  the HAC or Health Access Centre) and replace it with an alternative hub service; and for access to that service to be though your GP and a new GP telephone hub. UPDATE: It has now received the thumbs down from

April is Stress Awareness Month, an important time to increase awareness about how different types of stress might be affecting our health, relationships and work life and what steps we can take to manage it. 

Robert's Weekly Article - 27th April 2016

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It has been suggested to me that the UK's membership of the EEA is separate to its membership of the EU. The EEA agreement is here and the UK is a signatory rather than the EU on behalf of the UK. This actually means that leaving the EU without leaving the EEA has no effect on freedom of movement - one of the big arguments.
I was asked to be one of the MPs to record a monologue to celebrate Stratford's most famous son on the 400th anniversary of his passing ? You can watch my reading from Macbeth, Act II Scene I here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9FswFosVUs...
The great thing about recess is that it allows MPs to get away from Parliament, and catch up with work in their constituencies.

On Tuesday I started off in Constantine where I met volunteers from the Helford River Association where we discussed the issue of boats being abandoned and left to decay. There is often a problem with boat owners avoiding mooring fees by simply tethering their boats to trees on the banks of private land and it can prove difficult to identify the owners.

Then I met volunteers involved in the conservation of the Helford passage and we discussed some of the issues of illegal netting in the river which could pose a threat to diving birds. The Helford has numerous different marine protection designations and it’s good to have such an enthusiastic volunteer network.

This was then followed by a visit to the Mawnan Smith Crafts Workshops, where I met the talented craftsmen based there, ranging from carpenters to jewellery makers and the local blacksmith.  

I also had two meetings last week with local farmers where we discussed a number of issues including TB and the Rural Payments Agency and some of the debate around the EU referendum.

Wednesday brought me back into Camborne, where the main event for that day was a two-hour drop in surgery which I held in my constituency office. Case work is the bread and butter of any MPs job, and it was a good opportunity for anyone to come in off the street and speak with me about any issue that might be troubling them.

On Thursday I had a meeting about the closure of Cardrew Health Centre, which gave me the chance to seek assurances about the new walk in service that will be opening at Barncoose Hospital. I also visited the new memory café at Cornwall College Camborne which is a great project that allows those suffering from memory loss and their carers to come together in a social setting and take part in a number of challenges such as quizzes.

Sir Tony Baldry is to receive a new Award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Langton Award for Community Service.

The Award is named after Archbishop Stephen Langton, who was Archbishop at the time of the signing of Magna Carta.

The Award made from Fairtrade silver will be conferred on Sir Tony Baldry by the Archbishop of Canterbury during a ceremony at Lambeth Palace on 31st March.

For further information click here.

Jeremy Hunt MP for South West Surrey, officially opened the third Waverley Para Games today with a record number of participants taking part. 

Surrey School Children Attendance up by 30%

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It is expected these days that a G20 summit will be a disappointing damp squib. This weekend’s meeting in Shanghai was no exception. But when even the International Monetary Fund and the OECD put diplomacy aside to warn of flatlining global growth and urge fiscal spending to boost demand, it is surely time the world’s […]

I’m aware that Brighton and Hove City Council is currently running a consultation on proposed changes to the local housing allocations policy.  Since housing is by far the biggest issue that residents experiencing difficulty contact me about, I’m keen to comment on some of the proposals being made.

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.

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

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!


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.