February 2014 Report

Parliamentary Business

Immigration Bill

The Government’s immigration bill was always a basket of dog whistle issues designed to convince voters that the Government was being tough on immigration.

I sat on the bill committee and pressed in particular for public health to be protected by allowing easy access to diagnosis of illnesses. Under the bill treatment to HIV and TB is free but restrictions in access to health support at primary care level (GPs) could well mean that diagnosis is either unlikely or likely to be late in the day.

I also secured a promise from the immigration minister that the Home Office would provide a mechanism which allows people in the middle of renewing their immigration status to prove they have rights to work and access services. This is an important breakthrough for hundreds of constituents and thousands nationwide who lose jobs because of Home Office delays.

When the Bill returned to the House of Commons, where all MPs get the opportunity to speak, the shambles continued.

Tory backbencher Dominic Raab, supported by members from all sides of the House, tabled an amendment that would have increased the power of the Home Secretary to deport foreign criminals at the end of their sentence when they had committed the most serious crimes. The needs of any children of the individual would have still been paramount in any decision. Confusion reigned in the House of Commons when Theresa May spoke against the amendment but the Government abstained (did not vote either way).

I am in favour of deportation of those who do harm to Britain. I supported the Raab amendment and was keen that this was discussed in Parliament. I listened closely to the arguments and concluded that despite his assurances his proposal was not legal so in the event did not support it.

The debate on this and other measures dominated the final stages of the bill so there was not an opportunity for MPs to debate or vote on the access to healthcare for those who need it. I remain concerned about the impact on public health and will continue to press this issue.

Internet connectivity

I have again urged the government to improve broadband connectivity. While billions of pounds have been spent on rural broadband roll-out, many parts of the country are still not connected.

Although the lack of fast, rural broadband gets a great deal of publicity, there are also problems in cities. Hubs of the technological industry, such as Shoreditch, suffer from a lack of internet speed and the existence of not-spots.

I will continue to press the Government and industry providers on this issue to ensure greater superfast broadband connectivity in Hackney. Please contact me if this has been an issue for you as I am keen to map Hackney’s problem areas.

Housing debate

I pressed the Minister for Communities and Local Government about the increasing challenge of growth in the private rented sector in Hackney in a recent Westminster Hall debate.

House prices in Hackney continue to increase, meaning there is little opportunity for local people to own their own properties.

Property prices in March 2013 show the average flat in Hackney costs over £350,000 which puts it out of the reach of even highly paid individuals. We need a wide range of people to be able to both live and work in London. In addition to more social rented housing, we need solutions to allow affordable house purchases and long term private rented options.

I continue to press the Government on this issue and work with the shadow housing minister to ensure that this is a key issue in all party manifestos at the General Election.

I will be holding a housing summit in the coming months to discuss problems and solutions for Hackney. Please email meghilliermp@parliament.uk if you are interested in attending.

GCSE grades

I challenged the Prime Minister on GCSE requirements which are preventing many young people in Hackney from gaining places at the top UK universities.

Many universities will not accept hard-working Hackney students with a C grade in mathematics at GCSE level. This is even when they might have other excellent grades and top A level predictions. Often the university will offer to reduce the A level grades needed but will not negotiate on the B grade at GCSE.

Overseas students are often offered additional support to bring their maths and English up to scratch before starting a degree. I am working to ensure that British students also receive support when it’s warranted.

Refurbishment of Parliament

With many vital restoration and repair works happening in Parliament, this month I once again called for the temporary relocation of Parliament to allow for the modernisation of the Palace of Westminster. A move would also be an opportunity to modernise Parliamentary working practices.

Other matters

New flood maps

Following the recent bad weather, I have been monitoring the flood risk in Hackney.

The Environment Agency has published new maps showing areas of the country at risk of flooding. In Hackney the areas of risk are in and around Clapton Park. For more details visit the website below and search using your postcode.

For more information, visit here

Mental health care crisis

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is reviewing mental health crisis care in England. It is asking for people to respond and share their experiences of mental health crisis services in their area.

Hackney has a higher incidence of mental health issues than England as a whole. To ensure that mental health services continue to improve, please respond to the questionnaire before April.

To take part, visit here

The Bevan Prize for Health and Wellbeing

The Bevan Prize is offered every year to one individual and one organisation that have made a significant contribution to the NHS over the previous 12 months.

Nominations for the prize are open to the public until Wednesday 20 April 2014. Nominations are welcomed for a wide range of professionals and organisations. This could be healthcare professionals or organisations, academics or voluntary groups.

To find out more or to nominate visit here

Centenary of the First World War

The start of 2014 marks the final countdown to the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. The effects, causes and reasons for the war are still being argued about now. This anniversary should give us time to reflect on how the war has shaped the last 100 years.

The Heritage Lottery Fund is making £1 million available per year until 2019 for local communities to explore, conserve and share their First World War heritage. There is an opportunity to use these grants as a way of deepening the understanding of the impact of the conflict.

As a member of the Members Advisory Group for the First World War Commemorations and a trustee of the War Memorials Trust, I hope Hackney residents will fully get behind the centenary and remember those from around the world lost in the war.

For more information visit here

Loans for businesses

The British Bankers Association has launched a new campaign, the Better Business Finance programme.

Research carried out suggests that only 37 per cent of small and medium sized businesses planning to apply for finance bank. In reality, approval rates are actually much higher at 67 per cent.

The research identified 270,000 businesses that wanted to apply for finance but never ended up doing so.

There are many successful small businesses in Hackney and I frequently hear from them that they have found it hard to secure bank finance. Please let me know of your experiences.

For more information visit here

London Overground capacity

Due to the ever increasing demand on the London Overground service, work is to be carried out to extend trains from four carriages to five, to allow a 25 per cent increase in capacity.

This work is being carried out by Transport for London to enhance accessibility and reduce queuing for Overground services.

Some services will be affected during the improvements but it is hoped that disruption will be kept to a minimum. Efforts will be made to carry out most work during the day in order to prevent noisy work in the evening when people are trying to sleep.

A 24 hour helpline for residents who are concerned about the proposals has been set up on 0845 257 7878. Alternatively, people can get in contact via email at enquire@tfl.gov.uk

Digital Democracy Commission Update

Readers of last month’s report will recall that I am a member of the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission. In the past month the commission has been on a fact-finding visit to Shoreditch and held its second full meeting. The Shoreditch visit included a roundtable discussion with tech companies including Buzz Radar, Affinitext, Sparkl and Sibdocity.

If Parliament is serious about modernising its working practices and embracing new mobile technology there’s no better showcase in the world than the innovative tech sector in Shoreditch. The day gave the Commission just a glimpse of what’s possible for Parliament to do to interact more effectively with the public.

The objective of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy is to consider, report and make recommendations on how parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom can embrace the opportunities afforded by the digital world to become more effective in representing the people, making laws, scrutinising the work and performance of government, encouraging citizens to engage with democracy, facilitating dialogue amongst citizens

The Commission aims to consider the implications for Parliament if it is to become more relevant to the increasingly diverse population it seeks to serve.

The Commission welcomes comments, ideas and written information on any aspect of digital democracy and what it might mean for different citizens in the UK. The aim is to listen to the widest possible selection of ideas and voices.

Please or email any thoughts to digitaldemocracy@parliament.uk

Government Digital Strategy event

I am very keen to ensure that local businesses, particularly those dealing with information technology, are able to engage properly and do business with Government.

This year’s Public Sector Show will be held at the ExCel centre on 13 May 2014. The event will have a strong focus on the way in which Government works or does not work properly in a digital medium.

The event is being held to promote the commitment of these organisations to bring many digital services up to the Digital By Default Service Standard which will come into force in April 2014.

To book a free ticket, go to here or for more information, go to here

The Skills Factor 2014

Young Chamber is an organisation that works to improve links between young people and businesses. It is working with BT Education and has announced that The Skills Factor will be running for its fifth year.

The competition encourages entrants aged between 12 – 19 years old who can demonstrate that they have the business skills, initiative, discipline and creativity to enter the world of work.

This competition is free to enter for all young people in school or college. For more information visit here or email info@youngchamber.com

Big Lottery Fund award for Federation of London Youth Clubs

The Big Lottery Fund has awarded the Federation of London Youth Clubs £9,944,800 to help young people in London who have been unemployed or out of education for at least 12 months.

One of the biggest problems faced by young people in Britain is a lack of job prospects. It is important that programmes such as Talent Match are being funded to help those aged 18-24 who are struggling to find job opportunities.

To find out more visit here

Hackney Issues

Improvements to Hoxton Hall theatre

Hoxton Hall, one of the rarest surviving musical halls, has been awarded a Theatres Trust small capital grant. Every year five awards are made to community theatres.

Hoxton Hall, a Grade II listed building, has received £5,000 towards its conservation, restoration and modernisation’ project. This will allow work to be carried out to strengthen its upper balcony and create new and accessible performance formats.

Secure cycle parking at Hackney Downs

Abellio Greater Anglia is about to finish the installation of a new secure cycle compound at Hackney Downs rail station. As a cycling enthusiast, I believe that this is excellent news for bike users in Hackney.

The new compound will be able to store 32 bicycles on 16 two tier racks, which will be located at the station entrance, adjacent to the current cycle storage facilities.

I have written to Transport for London asking when similar measures can be installed at East London line stations.

Hackney Quest

Earlier this month, I visited Hackney Quest, an organisation which has been providing support and programmes for young people in Hackney since 1988.

This organisation has done a lot to offer support to young people and their families through its various projects. The family support run by Hackney Quest is a vital resource for local families.

Hackney Quest is looking for two new trustees, one treasurer and one general trustee. Someone working in marketing or communications would be ideal.

If you are interested, please let me know or visit here