February 2014 Fabian's Newsletter
Leeds North East Constituency
February 2014 Newsletter
A sincere thank you: A very warm "thank you" to constituency Labour Party members who have unanimously reselected me as the Labour candidate for Leeds North East in the general election that will be held in May 2015. I am greatly honoured that you have expressed continued confidence in me and chosen me to fight to continue as your representative at Westminster for another Parliamentary term. If re-elected, I will continue to work to the best of my ability for every constituent, regardless of how they voted, or whether they voted at all. I hope and trust that ours will be in the party of the next government and thus better able to fight for fairness justice, and equality, values that have been somewhat neglected by the present coalition administration.
Lighting the Chanukah Candle at Donsithorpe: It was a moving experience once more for me to be present at the lighting of the Chanuka Candle at Donisthorpe Hall on Sunday the 1st December. Also present at this annual event, held with many residents in attendance, was Andrew Brown the Chair of the Donisthorpe Trustees.
Donisthorpe Hall in Moortown offers various levels of care to its elderly residents in a culture of Jewish traditions and values. The Chanukah Candle celebration commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean revolt some 2180 years ago.
Visit to the Supreme Court: The previous Labour government established the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom. It began work in 2009 and is housed at the Middlesex Guild Hall in London. Prior to being set up, the final level of judicial appeal had been to the Law Lords operating in the House of Lords in Westminster. I visited the court on Tuesday 3rd of December together with fellow members of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. The establishment on the Supreme Court in the UK was part of a further process of separating the judiciary (police, court and prison systems) from the legislature (Parliament which passes the laws). Clarity over the various functions of the Executive (the government) the Legislature and the Judiciary and their separation is at the heart of the concept of the Rule of Law and democracy. In the UK we have a more confused system than in some other countries. My colleagues and I found the visit helpful in seeing this relatively new body at work and to inform our discussions on what further changes might be appropriate in the future.
Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU): The Union was founded in 1889 and is an international organisation of parliaments working worldwide for for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. On the 4th of December I had the honour of being elected treasurer of the British Group of the IPU to which many Members of Parliament belong. I have been a member of the executive committee for a number of years. Linked to the long democratic history and traditions of UK government, Members of Parliament are frequently involved in supporting other countries as they seek to introduce and establish the organisations and structures that enshrine representative and accountable democracy. Since 2010 I have taken an active part in the work of the IPU which has stemmed from my long-standing interest in foreign affairs. It has included the opportunity for me to visit some countries at interesting stages of their democratic development, including, for example to Croatia last year.
British Chamber of Commerce Istanbul: Many constituents will be aware that, over the years, I have taken a close interest in Turkey, a secular Muslim country with a population of some 76 Million people at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East and now right next to the ciivil war raging in Syria. I went to Istanbul on December 14th at the invitation of the British Chamber of Commerce, an organisation whose members come from those UK firms with strong trade links with Turkey. This is a country whose economy has grown strongly in recent years. The event was their first ever annual dinner although the Chamber was founded as long ago as 1887. I was honoured to be asked to be their guest speaker in the light of my work as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Turkey at Westminster.
Hospice and palliative care for young people: On 18th of December I made a particular point of attending the House of Commons debate on this topic that was led by Stewart Andrew the Conservative MP for Pudsey. I was particularly concerned to see that the wonderful work of National Council for Palliative Care and the Help the Hospices movement was recognised. Their work has been invaluable to organisations such as St Gemma's in the constituency and to the facility for children, Martin House, in Boston Spa. My short intervention in the debate is recorded in Hansard and can be seen at the link below.
Links: Hansard record.
Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC): On Wednesday 18th of December I attended the meeting convened in order to take evidence from Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills. The committee met a second time on 8th of January. This time it was the turn of the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to be grilled. I was particularly concerned to know about the export of chemicals that had been sent from the UK to Syria. These chemicals are the recipe ingredients for the fabrication of weapons of mass destruction such as Sarin. It is a sad truth that wherever there is conflict there is always money to be made. If someone wants weapons to fight with, then somewhere in the world there will be individuals or governments willing to sell and make much profit in the process. UK companies have sold the regime led by Bashar Al-Assad £10,000 worth of these chemicals. Small beer financially but momentous in terms of anyone who has been killed or maimed by weapons manufactured using these chemicals
Links: Committee proceedings.
Bishop John Packer - farewell and thank you: The end of the Christmas festival was marked by the retirement of John Packer the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ripon and Leeds. I attended a service of thanksgiving for his ministry at the cathedral in Ripon on January 5th. He and I have shared platforms campaigning for the humanitarian treatment of people arriving as refugees to the UK from persecution and threats to their safety in their own countries. Together we have argued for the right for asylum seekers to be able to work legally while their applications for residence are heard. Bishop John's retirement coincides with the amalgamation of the dioceses of Wakefield and Bradford with the existing diocese of Ripon and Leeds. I extend my very best wishes to John on his retirement and to the work of the newly appointed Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines - the present Bishop of Bradford - who will head the enlarged diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales.
Two Hundredth Anniversary of UK - Nepal relations: The links between the UK and Nepal run deep and we are often reminded of them by the distinguished presence in the British Army of the Gurkha regiments. On the 6th of January I was honoured to be invited to a reception at the Nepali Embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens that celebrated 200 years of UK Nepal relations - a great way to mark two centuries of our shared history.
Meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: MPs belonging to both the Labour Friends of Israel and the corresponding group of Conservative members had the opportunity to meet Avigdor Lieberman on 8th of January and I went along to hear him speak. The Moldovan-born (formerly USSR) statesman who is sympathetic to Moscow has had a chequered political career and I particularly wanted to hear his stance on the many aspects of concern surrounding the political and defence situation in the Middle East.
HS2 Briefing: Yorkshire Labour Group MPs met with Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creigh on 14th of January. I suppose it is inevitable that controversy surrounds this vital project but we now have the rather strange position of Wakefield Council arguing against it while surrounding authorities such as Leeds are strongly in favour. I have a detached sympathy with some colleague MPs who, themselves, see the new line as vital yet have to support objections by some of their constituents whose homes or businesses might be profoundly affected by the route. My approach over controversial proposals is to study the issues very carefully, listen to people and then be clear about how I would vote on the matter. I try always to help constituents to put forward their objections effectively to the appropriate bodies even if I am not able to share them.
Further Education in West Yorkshire: Another briefing of a different kind was offered to me along with other West Yorkshire MPs on 13th of January by the Principals of Leeds City College and Leeds College of Building. We met Peter Roberts and Ian Billyard at a dinner in Parliament where they were able to inform us of the developments of their respective institutions which now provide further education for thousands of students, full and part time throughout the region and form a vital element in the means by which our young people can gain vocational and academic qualifications for their future careers.
Lord Mayor of Leeds's Charity Cycle Ride: Councillor Tom Murray, the present Lord Mayor, who also lives in the Leeds NE constituency is planning a charity cycle ride this summer in aid of LOFFTY otherwise known as 'Leeds Offers Fun For The Young'. Since I have undertaken charity cycle rides myself in recent years, I was pleased to be asked along to a meeting on 16th of January to discuss Tom's project and to give some advice. The plan is to stage a ride linking Leeds with its twin cities in Europe. The ride will start at Dortmund in Germany, go on to Lille in Northern France and then head to Leeds via the Zebrugge and the North Sea ferry to Hull (I am not too sure where that is!).
Pennine Events, is the organisation making arrangements for the ride which will take place from 28th of April until 5th of May 2014. I want to take part myself, if I can, and I plan to undertake the section from Lille back to Leeds. I hope many people will be able to take part. More information can be found at www.lordmayorcycleride.co.uk
Nurturing young democrats at Roundhay High School: I am always saddened when I discover the general level of apathy about politics in the UK and this is one reason why I try to visit schools in the constituency as often as I can. I try to make a contribution to the citizenship education of pupils, by speaking to them about the work of an MP and what goes on at Westminster. On 17th of January it was a privilege to be able to meet members of the Year 12 politics class, one of the largest group of pupils the school has had choosing the subject at Advanced Level. It took the form of questions and answers and gave me a real grilling.
I was also delighted to learn that the dedicated professional work of the head teacher and staff at Roundhay School had been recognised by the government OFSTED inspectorate which graded the school as outstanding in every aspect of its recent inspection. When I was in the school I could clearly see why.
Retirement of Keiran Preston OBE: The same day as I was at Roundhay was also the occasion when Keiran Preston left his job as Chief Executive of the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (METRO). Born and educated in Leeds, Keiran joined the Passenger Transport Authority after 25 years of service to Leeds City Council and then went on to direct METRO for over 20 years. During that time, and under his direction, METRO has brought about substantial improvements to transport in our region. New rail routes have been introduced, bus stations substantially improved and with fare structures and travel cards simplified. METRO owns none of the transport infrastructure, yet it has been able to improve getting about, maintaining services at unprofitable times of day and promoting major infrastructure investment. I am very grateful for everything that Keiran has been able to achieve and I wish him a long and fulfilling retirement.
Sikh lobby at Westminster: 1984 was marked by one of the most distressing events in the history of the Sikh community. The Golden Temple in Amritsar was invaded by Indian government troops seeking the leaders of an uprising and there was an alarming loss of life with 500 or more civilians killed. The Sikh community worldwide was outraged by the armed incursion. Fresh controversy has now arisen as it has emerged that the UK government offered the advice of the special forces to the Indian government in preparation for the raid on the Temple. A mass lobby of Sikhs took place at Westminster on 22nd of January which was received by 20 MPs at a meeting that I chaired in my capacity as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Sikhs.
The Cabinet Secretary has now produced a detailed report. It has shown that the Indian government did seek military advice from the UK government and that a member of the British armed forces undertook this role. The advice given was that armed suppression of the Amritsar uprising should be a last resort and there was no involvement of any kind by any UK army personnel in the operation that subsequently took place. The report also confirmed that there had been no commercial dimension or interest in the provision of advice and that Parliament had not been misled over any issue.
Moortown Park takes shape: I met with local councillors on the 24th of January where we reviewed the progress to create the new urban park in Moortown on the site of the former Yorkshire Bank playing fields.
It is a real pleasure to see this project taking shape. The picture is an artists impression of the park when complete.
Holocaust memorial day: The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Tom Murray, led a moving event at the Town Hall on January 26th which I attended along with Councillors, religious leaders and members of the community. I am saddened by the fact that, once again, I was the only local MP to attend.
The event was marked with an outstanding contribution by Chris Butler, the Chief Executive of Leeds and York Partnership NHS. He gave a speech at the event which highlighted the experiences of the victims from home to imprisonment, from family and community to estrangement, from wholeness to torture and degradation and finally their journey from life to death.
To read the whole address - Click here
On these occasions I cannot fail to remember members of my own family who perished in the Holocaust and it so very important that we all continue to realise the danger that lurks below the surface when racism takes hold. I think that it is important that MPs, perhaps more than others, remember that and ensure that our society always remains vigilant to the dangers posed by racial hatred.
Overseas development discussions in Paris: On the 28th of January, I was able to go to Paris to be part of a meeting between the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the French government Overseas Development Organisation. The common agenda was support to African governments who face considerable challenges including poverty, economic development, the rule of law and terrorism. Both the UK and France have a colonial history in Africa and are committed to supporting democracy and development in states which continue to have close links to us through culture, language, education and trade.
Meeting with the Turkish Network of Students: On Wednesday 29th of January I chaired a meeting that included Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss academic and writer who is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, Ziya Meral a London-based Turkish researcher who is is an expert on Turkey, Middle East, human rights and religious freedom and Nervana Mahmoud, blogger and writer on Middle East issues together with members of the Turkish Network of Students in the House of Commons. I gave an address and we discussed the current political developments in Egypt where the government of the Islamist-leaning Muslim Brotherhood has been deposed by the leaders of the Egyptian Army. The President, Mohammed Morsi was removed from office and is currently imprisoned. New elections are scheduled before 18th of April. at which the victor is widely expected to be Abdel el-Sisi an army general who appears to be winning the support of a majority of the Egyptian population. For some further information on developments in Egypt Follow the link below.
Links: BBC web page on developments
Visit of the Cypriot High Commissioner: It was a red letter day for the Greek community in the constituency on Sunday 2nd of February when the new Cypriot High Commissioner Mr Euripedes Evriviades came to Leeds to visit the community at the Greek Orthodox Church in Harehills Avenue for the service of the Feast of the Three Heirarchs led by the Orthodox Archimandrite and with the Rector of Leeds the Rev Tony Bundock My wife, Rosy, and I were also present. A lunch was held afterwards in the Community Centre next door with over 200 people present. I had met Mr Evriviades earlier at Westminster on 21st January in the company of the Leeds Greek Honorary Consul, constituent and friend Charles Kyriacou. Mr Evriviades has held a large number of diplomatic positions in the Cypriot Foreign Ministry including Ambassador to Moscow and Tel Aviv.
It was a privilege for me to get to know the Greek community in the constituency when I was fist elected. The Church of the Three Heirarchs is the only Greek Orthodox church in Yorkshire and serves a vibrant community of approximately 500 families, many of whom originated in the Greek speaking part of Cyprus. More information about the church community can be found at the link below.
Link: Greek orthodox community in Leeds
Other activities: In the past two months I have spoken to students at Cardinal Heenan High School, participated in a 'Question Time' at Allerton High School appeared on the Politics Show, been interviewed by Radio Leeds on their 'Meet your MP' broadcast and supported Councillor Sharon Hamilton at her fund raising race night.
Election time is here again: In May we will again go to the polls to elect our local Councillors and our representatives to the European parliament. Please help me in doing all you can to encourage people to take part and to vote. Whatever cynicism we might entertain from time to time about politics and politicians, it is apathy and a disinclination to vote that gives extremists a disproportionate say. I wonder how much the apparent relative profile of UKIP arises from supporters of traditional parties who just have not bothered to turn out to vote. If anyone is able to help with our Labour campaign, particularly to help deliver leaflets, please do give a little of your time. If you send me a message with your name, address and contact to email@example.com, I will readily put you in touch with party workers in your area.
With my best wishes.
Labour MP for Leeds North East.
Copyright © 2014 Fabian Hamilton MP, All rights reserved.
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