Member of Parliament for Hackney South and Shoreditch. Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
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I share the concern that many you have about the threat of massacre in Kobani.
During Prime Minister’s Question Time on 15 October, I asked Prime Minister David Cameron what the government was planning to do to help residents of Kobani. I also raised the matter in a meeting with the Foreign Office minister.
Since then we have seen the Turkish government agree a corridor to allow support to reach the fighters defending their town. Many women have taken up arms in order to defend their families from attack.
This is an issue that I will continue to monitor. The international community must ensure that it assists the Kurds in their battle to protect the people of Kobani from ISIS.
The government has put forward controversial proposals for the recall of MPs. Many people believe the proposals are too timid whilst others do not believe that they should be enacted at all.
The idea behind recall is that a by-election can be triggered if a set proportion of an MP’s constituents petition for their removal.
I support the principles behind the right to recall, but only when the MP has done something wrong.
I believe that some amendments tabled for the bill would have given too much power to well-funded interests, who could attempt to unseat MPs simply because they disagree with the way they have voted on a particular issue, perhaps on a matter of conscience such as voting against the death penalty.
I agree with my party colleague Frank Dobson MP “far from empowering the electorate, this system would be open to abuse by vested interests and most likely deployed to hinder social progress.”
The government bill as it stands however will struggle to gain the public’s confidence as the power of recall is very much in the hands of MPs and the triggers for a recall limited.
As a member of Parliament’s public spending watchdog, I have seen how many large international companies avoid paying tax in the UK.
In October, members of public accounts committees from other countries met in London to discuss this and other issues with charities and businesses.
I chaired a group discussion specifically on the tax avoidance carried out by multinational corporations. This has been estimated to cost the world’s poorest countries an estimated $160 billion per year.
As a result, developing countries lose three times as much to tax havens as they receive in aid in one year.
We really need to see international agreement and a clampdown on this issue as soon as possible.
There is some progress internationally but it needs concerted action if we are to see a long term change.
On 16 October I spoke in a debate on cycling in the House of Commons.
I highlighted the steps that Hackney Council has taken to encourage cycling locally. These initiatives have been effective as our borough has the highest percentage of people cycling to work out of any in London at 14.6 per cent. The London average is just 7 per cent.
The full debate can be found here
I am also a vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cycling and was a co-author of its report – Get Britain Cycling, which was published in 2013.
I recently pressed Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on how he intended to ensure that the NHS would receive the extra £20bn investment that it needs to modernise. His response was evasive and failed to answer the question.
The extra investment required has been set out in an excellent new report from the new Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens.
The five year plan aims to take greater advantage of science and technology to communicate with patients and carers. It calls for the NHS to evolve to meet new challenges including longer life expectancy and complex health issues.
The report calls for greater attention to overall health (illness prevention) is needed rather than short term diagnosis that just places a focus on symptoms rather than causes. The report recommends that the number of GPs in training is increased and that GP surgeries are enhanced to do more for more patients. This recognition of the importance of primary care is welcome.
It is a bold and interesting report that shows our NHS could be improved and work more effectively for the benefit of everybody.
The full report can be found here.
The second report of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission was published on 20 October 2014.It highlights the disappointing prospect of the 2020 end child poverty target failing to be met.
Child poverty is a key issue that I feel committed to because poverty affects 42 per cent of children in Hackney South and Shoreditch (according to the Child Poverty Action Group). This is the ninth highest rate in the country.
The report concludes that the next government will need to adopt radical new approaches if poverty is to beaten and mobility improved. These are stark findings that must be kept paramount leading to the General Election.
The commission’s report can be found here.
NHS England approved proposals to transform cancer and cardiovascular services in north and east London.
These proposals will affect heart and cancer services in our part of London. Under the plans cardiovascular (heart) services will be consolidated to one new unit in St. Bartholomew’s hospital. Cancer services will also be consolidated into specialist units under the management of University College London Hospitals. Different hospitals within that group will focus on offering the best service possible for various cancers.
Provided that that the changes are managed carefully with safeguards as services are transferred between sites, this should improve local health outcomes.
For more information visit
I paid a visit to Graeae Theatre this summer, and was impressed by the work they do to break down barriers for disabled artists. Their original productions boldly place disabled performers centre stage.
Much has been said about Department for Work and Pensions minister Lord Freud’s recent misplaced comments on the net worth of a disabled person to an employer. In response, Graeae has produced a detailed press release that sets out just how important work is to people with disabilities, and how significant their contributions are.
Case studies are included in the press release, which can be found here.
The Big Lottery Fund is awarding £630,000 of Lottery funding to 36 organisations across England. It will leverage European funding for projects across England that tackle poverty and promote social inclusion within the voluntary and social enterprise sector.
One of these awards is to the London Voluntary Service Council. This is an important opportunity to increase support for local communities and people in need, so I encourage local organisations in Hackney that are voluntary or social enterprise based to find more information “here.“www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/esf
National Centre for Circus Arts
The National Centre for Circus Arts has released a short film showcasing what it is like to work and train there.
Its work has played a significant role in major public events including the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies. Around the year thousands practice in the transformed Victorian power station on Coronet Street. The impressive facility provides space for artistic development, rehearsal and the staging of events. To watch the film click here.
I am also glad to hear about the new scholarship programme that centre is offering which prioritises local families from Hackney and East London. Scholarships will be awarded for a full academic year, and I encourage anyone with an interest to apply online here.
Hackney Picturehouse has announced the introduction of a lounge screen. It offers comfortable viewing with large chairs, cushions and easy access to refreshments.
The launch event for the new lounge took place mid-November, and adds to the unique experience of the Hackney Picturehouse.
Inside Hackney is a new pocket community guidebook hoping to showcase all that Hackney has to offer.
Set to be published in January 2015, the illustrated pages will aim to celebrate everything from the best bars, to the Hackney Empire and marshes. A dedicated section entitled Our Hackney will also highlight a range of volunteering and community initiatives.
The organisers have secured some funding but are looking to secure further funds through crowdfunding with rewards for different levels of donation. For more information and to make a donation of anything from £5 click here.
I recently attended the service to celebrate the 150th anniversary of St Michael and All Angels in London Fields.
The church was first consecrated in 1864 when the parish of London Fields was carved out of the parish of South Hackney (St John of Jerusalem). The church was bombed in World War Two and the current church was built in 1959-60 on the other side of London Fields and was consecrated in February 1961. It incorporates some stunning modern stained glass windows and sculptures.
Congratulations to St Michael’s vicar Daniel Gerrans and to all the staff and volunteers who have helped out over many years.
Transport for London will be extending platform 1 and 2 by approximately 20m further west to accommodate the longer trains.
This work will take place from November 2014 until mid-2015.
The majority of the work will take place on Sundays (between approximately 00:30 and 20:00) whilst passenger services are suspended and power to the railway is switched off. This is to ensure the safety of the site teams working next to and on the railway track.
Hackney Police has adopted a new Code of Ethics introduced by the College of Policing. The code outlines the ways in which the police should work with the public to make London safer.
The principles focus heavily on the importance of public support and emphasise the need for the police to ‘secure and maintain public respect’.
You can read the guide here.
Hackney’s award winning law centre continues to offer an excellent service to so many local residents who are struggling with the effects of the current government’s changes to the welfare and immigration systems.
I was really pleased to learn that HCLC’s Diane Morrison has won the Law Society’s Solicitor of the Year – In House Award. As you will see from the link below, it is an award that is richly deserved.
Congratulations to Diane and also to the many other people who work and volunteer at the law centre. For more information on this achievement click here.
I visited Chigwell court nursing home early October to support Anchor’s campaign for a Minister for Older People.
The number of people aged 85 plus is due to increase from 1.46m to 2.71 by 2030. In Hackney South and Shoreditch 14 per cent of constituents are over 55. The visit to Chigwell court provided the opportunity to support these changes and consider what is currently being done to plan for this demographic change.
I support the need for a dedicated Minister in the Cabinet, as it would ensure greater communication between different Government departments. Without this dedicated post, we risk passive acceptance of a series of crises including the production of an NHS where older people spend unnecessarily long periods in hospital, and workplaces where older people feel forced out due to an underfunding of the social care system.
The leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, appointed Liz Kendall MP as the Shadow Minister for Older People and it is time that this position is established in the Government too.