|Simon Mayo show on Radio 5|
|Saturday, 30 December 2006 12:25|
On Monday 16th October, I attended
Chestnut Grove Secondary School in Balham to address Year 11
and 6th form students about citizenship. I talked about the role of an MP and
the importance of young people getting involved in politics. In 2005, only 34%
of 18-24 voted in the general election. This was down on the previous elections,
which was 37% for those aged between 18-24.
In the afternoon, the Public Accounts Committee examined financial management in the NHS. The NHS in England spent £69.7 billion in 2004-5, rising to £76.4 billion in 2005-6 and £92.6 billion by 2007-8. Healthcare therefore remains the fastest growing area of public expenditure. We examined the backgrounds to the deficits in the NHS, their causes and impacts and how some NHS bodies have recovered financial balance. A transcript of the proceedings can be found here.
On Wednesday 18th, I met Peter Gabriel to discuss the "Phones for Africa" campaign which was launched in parliament. The campaign encourages people to donate their old, unwanted mobiles which will then be reconditioned and reused in African nations. Sending your unwanted mobile phones to developing countries can not only help protect our environment from hazardous waste and toxic chemicals, but can help people in developing countries do business and keep in touch with their families. I will be collecting old mobile phones at my advice surgeries and in my constituency office. Alternatively, phones can be sent to the freepost address – FREEPOST Fonebak Vodafone Africa. I have an old phone at home which I will be donating – and I’m sure there are many others in Tooting who have one as well. More information about the campaign here and a photo here.
I participated in the Simon Mayo show on Radio 5 in the afternoon, straight after PMQs with Ed Vaizey MP and Don Foster MP.
In the evening I had a meeting with the Bangladeshi High Commissioner to discuss his concerns particularly about climate change, and the harm that this is causing in Bangladesh. There is a real concern that rising tides, caused by environmental neglect could lead to millions of Bengalis being displaced by their homes being flooded. The Secretary of State for Environment, David Miliband is aware of this issue. I was really pleased by the publication the following week of the Stern report. This was commissioned by the Chancellor last summer, and the report sets out the economic case for bold and early action on climate change. The conclusion is that the costs of inaction will be far greater than tackling climate change now. The Government has put tackling climate change as one of the main international priorities, and also has put into place the building blocks for an effective response to climate change. Existing measures and policy frameworks, and those being taken forward following the Climate Change Programme Review, the Energy Review and in the DfID White Paper are in line with Stern’s recommendations.
On Thursday 19th I did a short interview with the NUS about higher education and attended the APPG meeting on maternity. In the evening, I had the pleasure of playing host to Dennis Skinner in Tooting at an evening entitled "An evening with Dennis Skinner" (photo here.) The evening was a huge success with Dennis sharing stories about his life as a miner, life under the Tories and a reminder of all the things a Labour Government has done since 1997.
On Friday 20th, I hosted a launch in Parliament to celebrate the fact that screening for genetic disorder sickle cell is now offered to all newborn babies in England alongside other screening tests as part of the standard ‘heel prick test’. The testing process will not just identify children with the disorders but also those who are genetic carriers. Newborn screening identifies about 300 babies a year in England who would otherwise be at very high risk of severe complications, stroke and, in some cases, death if the correct treatment is not administered. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who has been involved with this project for some years now also spoke. I am a big admirer of the Archbishop, from his work with the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the Damiola Taylor review as well as this role as Archbishop. A photo from the event is here.
In the afternoon, I attended St Mary's Primary School in Balham to open their new playground and to award them the Artsmark Gold certificate. Artsmark is a national award scheme managed by Arts Council England that recognises schools with a high level of provision in the arts. Artsmark Gold is the highest level of achievement a school can attain. It was also a great pleasure to open the new playground at St Mary’s - I tried out the climbing wall with some of the pupils and we all agreed that it is great fun and a big improvement for the school. Exercise and fresh air are crucial for the healthy development of our youngsters. The newly refurbished playground will make playtimes even more enjoyable, and hopefully encourage more pupils to be outdoors.
I then visited the Audiology Department at St Georges Hospital. The Audiology Department provide a diagnostic service to people of all ages encountering problems with hearing, balance and tinnitus. They also provide a hearing rehabilitation program that includes fully comprehensive hearing aid service, counselling and tinnitus habituation training. Since 2004, they have been fitting digital hearing aids to adults and children as part of the NHS modernisation programme. 7500 children and adults each year are now served! I met the wonderful staff and some patients as well as trying out some of the facilities offered. I have agreed to make some representations to the PCT and Department of Health about some issues the Department have and that have also been raised by the RNID. A photo from my visit is here.
On Saturday I attended my usual appointment surgery at Tooting library.
In the evening I attended the Diwali celebrations at Sivagum Hall organised by the local Bengali community and on Sunday I attended an event at Samaj Hall in Tooting Broadway organised by the Tooting Business Network. Diwali is a Hindu festival, known as the "Festival of Lights". It symbolises the victory of good over evil, and lamps are lit as a sign of celebration and hope for mankind.
On Sunday, I attended a Churches Together service at St Anselm’s Church in Tooting Bec. There were representatives from all the churches in Tooting and Balham at the service for One World Week 2006.This is an annual opportunity to join a world-wide movement of people taking action for justice locally and globally. It was founded in 1978, and over the years it has been bringing people together to learn about global issues, and to take action locally on things which have an impact on the whole world. The highlight of the service for me was the drama by young people at St Anselm’s who reminded us that we must not let 2005 be the year of Make Poverty History and then forget about it now. I have little doubt that those at the service will ensure we continue to make progress in cancelling debt and continuing to give aid.
On Monday 30th, the Public Accounts Committee examined the delays in administering the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England. Following agreement among EU Ministers in 2003 to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the EU's Single Payment Scheme replaces 11 previous subsidies based on agricultural production with a single annual payment conditional on farmers keeping their land in good agricultural and environmental condition. The implementation of this has been a fiasco and the National Audit Office confirmed that the implementation has not provided value for money. There have been delays in paying farmers, the Agency encountered difficulties implementing the scheme. The difficulties in making payments have caused significant distress to a minority of farmers and undermined farmers' confidence in the Agency. To see the transcript of the evidence click here.
On Tuesday, I attended a conference at Wilton Park in Sussex where I spoke on a panel with speakers from the USA and Germany.
I also attended the City of London School for Girls to speak at a conference with student delegates on Street Child Africa. Currently in Africa there are a few national governments addressing the very real needs of street children and there simply is not enough money to go around. You can find out more about the valuable work of Street Child Africa on their website. The Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn, also spoke at this conference.
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