December 2013 - January 2014 Report

Parliamentary Business

Government contracts

I led a debate about opening up government contracts to small businesses.

In Hackney South and Shoreditch we have many innovative companies that do not have fair access to government contracts. Too often these contracts are won by large companies because of barriers in the system for smaller potential contractors.

This often means the tax payer is not getting value for money. This issue has carried on directly from the work that I have done on the Public Accounts Committee. I will continue to press the Government to support smaller businesses to secure government contracts.

I am hosting a meeting in Hackney with the Head of Government Procurement. If you are a business with experience of bidding for contracts or interested in doing so please contact matthew.mccracken@parliament.uk.

UK schools world ranking

Recent international school league tables place the UK 26th in the world.

The PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results measure performance in the non creative subjects, so are not a full picture but a measure that is important in assessing the UK’s position in world education.

I emphasised to the Secretary of State how impressive the results were in Hackney and if Hackney’s results were mirrored nationally, the UK would be third in some international league tables.

Nigeria

I have been chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Nigeria since 2010 and I often raise issues on behalf of the 4000 plus Nigerians living in Hackney South and Shoreditch.

In December I spoke in Parliament to raise questions over the trade agreement between the Prime Minister and President Goodluck Jonathan.

I am keen to emphasise that trade and investment in Nigeria should not just be solely in oil and energy, but the trade agreement between the two countries must involve a whole range of economic sectors.

Modern-day slavery

Slavery targets the most vulnerable people in societies, very often children. I witnessed this first hand when I visited Nigeria last year as part of my work with the APPG on Nigeria, which is the main source country for trafficked people into the UK.

The House of Commons debated this issue in early December. Calls for action received support from all sides of the House. The Government has committed to look at legislation on this issue.

The UK already has a National Referral Mechanism which should allow for the sharing of intelligence between agencies in this country. In the debate, I asked the minister why this wasn’t as effective as it should be and he assured me that this was currently being reviewed by the Government.

Universal Credit

I have continued to press the Government on the impact of the Universal Credit, which aims to combine most welfare benefits into a single monthly payment.

I questioned the minister about concerns over those in the employment support group. This is for people who are unemployed but have other barriers to entering the workforce such as a disability, long term health problem or have been long term unemployed.

The Government is behind its own timetable on delivery and announced a further delay before Christmas. This leaves people on the employment support programme at the back of the queue for support.

Care Bill – clause 118

The Care Bill received its second reading (the debate on the main principles of the Bill) on 16 December.

I have particular concerns about clause 118, which would extend the powers of unelected NHS Trust Special Administrators (TSA) to move or close services without public consultation. It was such an administrator who made the decision to close A&E services at Lewisham Hospital which have since been successfully challenged.

If Clause 118 becomes law, the ability to question such decisions would be removed from local people. This could make it far easier for NHS services to be closed or moved away from areas of need.

I will vote against this clause at the first opportunity.

Gender Equality Bill

I sponsored this Bill which aims to promote gender equality, through development assistance and humanitarian assistance to countries outside the United Kingdom.

Women are very often the key drivers of development worldwide, but they continue to face discrimination and inequality in many of the poorest countries in the world.

This Bill could make a real difference in helping to support women in the poorest parts of the world.

Victim Support in London

Funding for Victim Support in London is under threat. London has 20-25per cent of the nation’s crime but only 15 per cent of the population.

The Government intends to change the way that national funds for the service are allocated so that they are allocated per person. This would mean that London would receive only £12 per victim whereas other parts of the country would get £22. With the extra costs of service provision in London, this is obviously going to cause a dramatic reduction in assistance in what is already a highly stretched service.

Crowdfunding and the FCA

I spoke in a recent debate concerning the regulation of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a growing economic sector, and while it’s important to have regulation, it must not stifle creativity and growth.

In Hackney South and Shoreditch, there are many excellent examples of business that have started through crowdfunding.
I spoke in a debate on this issue and emphasised to the minister the success of crowdfunding in Hackney.

Commission on Digital Democracy

I am delighted to have been asked by The Speaker of the House of Commons to serve on The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. The commission aims to modernise Parliament and make it more accessible to all.

Other matters

Broadband

Broadband
Late last year I met with BT, Ofcom and EE to discuss broadband provision in Hackney South and Shoreditch.

Three bits of good news followed. EE announced that the world’s first 300Mbps 4G network would be switched on in Tech City, giving businesses in the area access to the fastest mobile internet speeds in the world. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced that the Connection Vouchers scheme, to help small and medium sized businesses install superfast broadband, will be rolled out across all of London by spring 2014 and Ofcom published new proposals requiring BT Openreach to meet new minimum performance standards for installations and repairs, including providing appointments for line installations within 12 working days.

I often hear about poor broadband provision in Hackney, and would like to learn more about specific areas of concern.
Email meghiliermp@parliament.uk to let me know if you have had any problems getting internet installed at your property, or with broadband speeds.

Do you have any other concerns about broadband in Hackney, and what improvements would you like to see?

Halve It Campaign

I am supporting the Halve It Campaign, which is aiming, within five years, to halve the proportion of people with HIV who are either undiagnosed or diagnosed late.

Halve It is a collection of experts that is working with various parts of the NHS to reduce the numbers of people with HIV through policy reform and the implementation of good practice.

Halve It not only supports people who are living with HIV, but also those who care for them, providing a very necessary support system. Around 96,000 people in the UK were living with HIV in 2011.

The sooner HIV is diagnosed, the more effective the treatment will be and the higher life expectancy of the sufferer will be.

For more information visit here

Crossrail 2

connection between Wimbledon and Alexandra Palace and include a number of Hackney stations on the line.

Network Rail’s polling of the public show 96 per cent of the 13,767 members of the public consulted strongly supported or supported in principle the creation of Crossrail 2. This project would benefit Hackney, as it would provide faster connections from Dalston Junction to central London. Visit here

London-Stansted-Cambridge APPG

I have been supporting the newly created Parliamentary group on London-Stansted-Cambridge, which aims to support and promote investment in this corridor.

Key priorities include improvements to the West Anglia train line and helping to grow and support the Stansted area to its full potential for local people.

To read the report visit here

Air Passenger Duty and the Caribbean

In Hackney South and Shoreditch we have a large Caribbean community, and air passenger duty is a big concern.

Air Passenger Duty was increased with the aim of helping to combat the environmental effects of air travel, but this has had a detrimental effect on people travelling to visit family in a number of countries and regions including the Caribbean.

Air Passenger Duty is calculated on how far you fly in miles; however it is not the amount of miles to your destination, but to the capital city of the country you are visiting.

This means people visiting the Caribbean are disadvantaged in comparison to people flying to, for example, many North American destinations.

I recently received a letter from The Caribbean Council, believes it is getting some way towards ending this problem for those travelling to the Caribbean, which is news I welcome.

Airports Commission interim report

The independent Airports Commission has just published its interim report. The Commission has stated there is a need for new capacity in the UK aviation sector.

To read the full report, visit here

Cyclists

Following the recent deaths of a number of cyclists in London, I questioned the Transport minister about plans to deal wheavy good vehicles, such as skip lorries, which are exempt from safety measures.

As vice chair of the APPG on cycling, this is an issue that I have been very active on in recent years. In London, there have been six deaths of cyclists in recent weeks, which is just a fraction of the 19,000 cyclists killed or injured in the UK each year.

A major priority in recent years has been to make sure that roads in Hackney South and Shoreditch are cyclist friendly, and recent weeks have been a key reminder of why it is so vital to ensure that cyclists are given the protection that they need on the road.

The RSA group has partnered with the Metropolitan Police to produce a video where cyclists and HGV drivers switch roles to experience how being on the road is from the other perspective.

To watch it, visit here

Rock the House & Film the House 2014

The Rock the House and Film the House competitions have been launched for 2014

These competitions offer up and coming musicians and film makers the opportunity to display their talents, whilst also raising awareness of the importance of protecting intellectual copyright.

Please submit your original work via the links below, I can nominate one entrant for each category. A panel of experts will then judge the winners in each category.

It is a fantastic opportunity for up and coming artists to gain exposure and also win a number of prizes; including equipment, festival slots, recording sessions and radio and TV airplay.

The closing date for this competition is 31 March 2014.

For more information visit here and here

Hackney Issues

Moorfields Eye Hospital

Moorfields Eye Hospital is holding a consultation on moving the hospital from City Road to the King’s Cross/ Euston area.

Moorfields want to establish a stronger link with their research partners at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology by creating a 21 century research facility. The options are either to redesign the hospital at City Road or build a new facility in the King’s Cross/ Euston area.

To contribute your views visit here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the engagement document. The consultation will run until Friday 14 February.

East London Green Jobs Alliance

The East London Green Jobs Alliance is made up of trade unions, and businesses aimed at establishing a greener community in East London. It is offering opportunities for local young people to gain work experience in the environmental sector. It offers a 12 week supported employability programme called ‘Branch Out’.

This would be a fantastic opportunity for a young person interested in working in this field. For more information, visit here

Homerton High Street road changes

Transport for London is consulting on proposals to change the junction of Homerton High Street and Ponsford Street. These include signalled pedestrian facilities on all three arms of the junction, adding advanced stop lines for cyclists and building out the kerbs on the corners to increase pedestrian space.

The consultation runs until 14 February. Send your views in to stengagement@tfl.gov.uk. To view the changes visit here.