November 2013 - Fabian's Newsletter
Leeds North East Constituency
November 2013 Newsletter
The so-called Lobbying Bill, better known as the "Gagging Bill" passed through all its stages in the Commons earlier in October as the House resumed after the long recess. In spite of huge efforts by us as the Labour Opposition, with good support from a number of Liberal and Tory rebels, we failed to amend or stop the Bill. So it's now up to the House of Lords - the unelected Chamber of our National Parliament - to try and stop this appalling piece of legislation from actually getting onto the statute book I have had more letters, emails and phone calls about this measure than anything else in this Parliament. Keep up the pressure!
More information on the Lobbying Bill and the objections that were raised can be found on the BBC News Web site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24726053
Chapel Allerton Hospital Department of Rheumatic and Skeletal Diseases
It's rare that I am invited to attend an event in the constituency without being asked to speak, but this visit was an occasion to listen and learn about the brilliant work being done in Leeds for the sufferers of a very painful condition called Ankylosing Spondulitis which affects the spine. I discovered to my surprise that two of my Parliamentary colleagues suffered from the condition. The staff at the unit were first class and Leeds is now one of the leading centres in the UK for research into this debilitating disease.
More information on Ankolyisng Spondulitis can be found at http://www.nass.co.uk/
Roundhay School Open Morning
Roundhay High School held its annual open morning on Saturday 5th October and invited the Ward Councillors and I to attend. It was packed with parents and children hoping to secure a place at what is now one of the best performing and most multi-cultural schools in Leeds. Headteacher Neil Clephan asked me to say a few words to the staff at the end of the event as well as to share lunch with them. It's good to see our high schools doing so well, especially when they are under such attack from the Government.
The web site for Roundhay School can be seen at http://www.roundhayschool.org.uk/our_school/ofsted/
Formerly known as Yell, this company publishes the Yellow Pages. A constituent came to see me to complain about the way in which small investors in Hibu had been conned out of their money whilst the Directors had capitalised on the huge cash reserves the company was sitting on. I promised to arrange a meeting with Business Secretary Vince Cable and invite any MP who has constituents in the same position. It appears that this is a big issue and many MPs have been approached by constituents wanting the Government to take some action over what they perceive as fraud. This has echoes of the Equitable Life scandal.
Diabetes UK Leeds Branch Meeting
I was invited to talk to the Leeds Group of Diabetes UK about my life as an MP living with Type 2 Diabetes. I was diagnosed four years ago now. The meeting took place at West Yorkshire Playhouse on the evening of Monday 7th October and was well attended by people from all backgrounds and of all ages. We had a very lively and interesting discussion and there was a good deal of criticism and concern of the present Government's health policies.
International Development Committee
As Parliament returned on 8th October, so the work of the IDC of which I have been a member since February, started again on 9th with evidence from the Secretary of State, Justine Greening. Whilst credit should be given to the Coalition for achieving what Labour started - spending 0.7 percent of GDP on Development Aid, I felt that Ms Greening appeared to have little passion for the fight against world poverty. It was almost as if she was carrying out her duties reluctantly, if competently and I and colleagues on the committee felt it was a great shame. Ending poverty should be the prime goal for all elected politicians. The committee's work continues, however, and our next visit abroad will be to Burma, one of the poorest nations on earth.
More information on the work of the International Development Committee can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/international-development-committee/
APPG for Heart Disease
Yorkshire MPs of all parties converged on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Heart Disease to hear and question Sir Bruce Keogh, the Chief Medical Director of the NHS in England and the man who tried to shut down the Children's Heart Surgery Unit at Leeds General Infirmary. As we know, he failed but it would appear that he hasn't given up and a new review into Children's Heart Services is being launched. However, Yorkshire MPs will be as effective as last time and more vigilant too, especially with the help of our own redoubtable Councillor John Illingworth who led the fight against closure so effectively last time.
Sinai Synagogue City of Sanctuary Event - 10th October
Muhammad Nayyer, a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, came to the Sinai Synagogue on Roman Avenue to speak to members of the Jewish Community. I was invited as local MP to attend. It was Mr Nayyer's first ever visit to a Synagogue and he gave a fascinating and moving talk about the way in which his community had been persecuted in Pakistan, forcing him and his family to seek refuge in the UK. He was from a middle class professional background and it was heartbreaking to hear his story, but pleasing that he and his family were now living safely in Leeds.
New Pastor at the New Testament Church of God
Following the sad death of well-respected Pastor Bailey from the New Testament Church of God on Easterly Road, the Rev Robert Parry has been appointed to take up the Ministry. Pastor Bailey had in fact become a Bishop in the Church and I attended and spoke at his funeral service in Leeds Minster in August. Bishop Bailey will be greatly missed, not just by his congregation but by the whole community. He regularly sent me parishioners who had problems which needed the help of an MP and allowed me to use part of the church free of charge for my monthly Advice Surgeries. He was a good friend to so many and I am sure that Rev Parry will ably take fill the void created by his untimely death from cancer.
KICK at Dojo's
Former Community Constable Dave Brook has bought the Dojo Gym in Chapeltown and has set up KICK (Karate for Inner City Kids). He held a presentation event in October for local kids and their families and invited a number of well-known kick boxing and martial arts personalities including Silvio Simac of 'Transporter 3' fame. As always, Dave organised the event impeccably and there was a huge number of parents and children present.
Carnival Awards Dinner
Every October, six weeks or so after the Leeds West Indian Carnival takes place on the last Monday in August, a special Awards Dinner is held at the the West Indian Centre to honour the participants and to celebrate the hard work and creativity that goes into Carnival. Arthur France, veteran Carnival Committee Chair was there as well as Susan Pitter who has returned to Leeds from Jamaica to take up a more active role as Arthur edges towards retirement (though I doubt that he will ever retire). It was a joyous occasion with great Caribbean food as usual.
Meeting HM The Queen
Every Parliament, HM The Queen holds a reception at Buckingham Palace for backbench MPs and their spouses/partners. The reception for this Parliament was held on October 15th and I attended. Guests are presented to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh and then they circulate amongst the MPs. At this event I spoke to the Queen for the first time when she asked me about the new Earl of Harewood (David Lascelles) and how he was getting on and then wanted to know about the set of Emmerdale (which is in a secret location in the grounds of Harewood House) and whether it had been rebuilt following the fire a couple of years ago. I can't believe that she actually watches Emmerdale, but it was interesting that she knew all about it.
Westminster Russia Forum
I was invited a few months ago to give a talk to the Westminster Russia Forum, a group which meets regularly near Parliament to discuss issues which affect Russia and the UK. I spoke to the group later on the same evening as the Buckingham Palace reception and my talk was on the subject of the Middle East, Russia and the UK. About sixty people attended and the meeting took place in a pub in Milbank. If you would like to know more about the topics I addressed, please look on my web site at http://www.leedsne.co.uk/westminster-russia-forum
Black History Month
Sharon Hamilton invited me to speak at a Unison Black History Month conference at the West Indian Centre on Saturday 19th October. The event was well attended and I spoke about diversity in British society and how it has changed over the past thirty years.
Question Time at the Synagogue
Laurence Saffer, the former Immigration Solicitor and now a Judge, organises regular 'Question Time' events at the North Leeds Synagogues. The format is very similar to the BBC show of the same name, though the panel normally comprises three local politicians, one from each party. This event was at the BHH Synagogue on Street Lane on the evening of Sunday 20th October and as well as me as local Labour MP, Elmet Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke and Liberal Democrat Leader Councillor Stuart Golton participated. The event was chaired by Sue Baker and was attended by about eighty members of the community.
When he was International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell set up ICAI - the Independent Commission on Aid Impact. It runs on a shoestring and its task is to assess the impact of the money we spend in aid on the countries which receive it. In other words, to ensure that our money is properly and efficiently spent on relieving the poorest people in the world. ICAI is accountable to the International Development Committee and I have been asked to take over the Chair of the Sub-Committee which is responsible for its work. More information about the work of the International Development Committee can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/international-development-committee/
Turkish MPs Visit
A small group of Turkish MPs came to Westminster for a few days to visit and exchange views on a number os issues, including the crisis in Syria which is affecting Turkey greatly. As Members may know, I chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Turkey and my equivalent in the Ankara Parliament was amongst the visitors. Also present was a young and brilliant MP, Aykan Erdemir from the CHP, the Turkish equivalent of the Labour Party which is currently in opposition. He impressed everyone with his knowledge and grasp of regional and international politics and I am sure will become the CHP's Leader one day.
Politics Show I made one of my regular appearance on the Yorkshire Politics Show last month. The subjects discussed included privatising the East Coast mainline which is currently owned by the taxpayer, and has returned more than £800 million in profits to the Treasury, as well as parking in Leeds and Sexual Health in Scunthorpe which is also being privatised and is now run by Virgin!
During the course of one week I had dinner with President Grimsson of Iceland, met with Icelandic Central Bank Governor Mar Gudmundsson and had a very interesting and useful discussion with Icelandic State-owned electricity company, Landsvirkjin about the UK buying sustainably generated Icelandic electricity.
Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan
Jordan is a country of just six million people and yet it now has more than a million Syrian refugees who have flooded across its borders to flee the terrible civil war there. I met with the Jordanian Minister for International Co-operation, Ibrahim Saif, who told me about the crisis in graphic terms. The largest Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is now the fourth largest city in that country and yet is has no infrastructure, sewerage, clean water supply, hospital or waste disposal facilities. Jordan is creaking under the weight of open of the world's biggest humanitarian disasters and desperately needs our help, as well as assistance from every other country in the world. I spoke to Alan Duncan, the junior International Development Minister who had just met the Jordanian delegation and he seemed alarmingly complacent about the problem. It was hard to believe that he had just had the same conversation with the Jordanian Minister. We must do more.
With my very best wishes to you all.