|Electoral Commission, Extradition Treaty 2003 and UK-US Extradition Treaty|
|Tuesday, 21 February 2006 15:46|
Last week was half term for my children, and
for most schools in London. Unfortunately, the officials at the House of Commons
managed to organise our recess in the week following half term!
I began the day with a visit to the Electoral Commission. They have recently launched a campaign to promote involvement in the democratic process by providing accessible information about how and when to register, how to vote, and the date of elections, to raise interest in the upcoming elections. The deadline for registration in London is 13th March, and if you register by this date, you will be able to vote in the local elections on 4th May. You can download a electoral registration form for Wandsworth Council here.
I am involved in a campaign to highlight the unfairness of the Extradition Treaty 2003 between the US and the UK. At the moment, the United States can make extradition requests to the United Kingdom without having to provide prima facie evidence about the case. However, the same is not true in reverse, and this points to an inequity in the extradition law. This has affected a constituent in Tooting, Babar Ahmad. There is now a cross party alliance on this issue, which includes Boris Johnson MP. I attended a meeting with Boris, who also has a constituent affected by the Extradition Treaty, along with Babar Ahmad’s family.
On Monday, I also attended an extremely interesting meeting to launch a book called ‘The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict’ from the the Young Foundation. The book is a study of residents in Tower Hamlets, conducted over 12 years and there is a good article about the book on the Guardian website.
The Identity Cards Bill was debated in the House of Commons, which considered amendments made by the House of Lords. The Commons accepted the recommendation made by the House of Lords that before Identity Cards become compulsory there will need to be fresh primary legislation with both the Commons and the Lords approving this. I made an intervention during the debate , and was with my good friend and colleague, Dawn Butler MP, when she also made an intervention that had been causing me some concern
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has a weekly press conference each Tuesday. He had agreed to raise the case of Babar Ahmad in the press conference at City Hall. Last Tuesday, Babar’s father, Doug Jewell from Liberty and myself shared a platform with Ken, highlighting our concerns with the Extradition Treaty.
Tuesday was one of the highlights of my time as an MP so far. During the Health Bill debate in the afternoon, the House of Commons historically voted for a complete ban on smoking in all pubs and clubs. Labour MPs had a free vote on the issue, and I recently wrote a column about banning smoking for the Wandsworth Borough News which you can read here. I was a bit confused by the stance taken by opposition MPs over the smoking ban. For example, the Conservative Health spokesman, Andrew Lansley MP, made a number of criticisms to do with ‘nanny state’ and the ‘rights of the individual’ (seemingly overlooking the conclusive evidence about how damaging smoking is for people’s health). These were the same sort of objections made when wearing seatbelts was made compulsory more than 30 years ago. I pointed this out to him during an intervention in the debate.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons discussed the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Terrorism Bill. The House of Lords’ main concern was around the offence of ‘glorification of terrorism’. The publicity surrounding this has been predicated on misinformation and misunderstandings. During the debate, I made a number of interventions to seek assurances from the Home Secretary as to the real remit of the clause. My intervention is here. The Home Secretary confirmed that to be guilty of this offence one must glorify terrorism with the specific intent to induce others to emulate the terrorist act. Additionally, he confirmed that Lord Carlile (a Liberal Democrat peer) would be reviewing the six year old definition of terrorism. Click on these links to see my interventions: intervention one; and intervention two.
On Thursday, I attended a careers convention organised by our local Connexions office aimed at 13-19 year olds. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of education, training and career opportunities and to provide young people with practical information such as qualifications required, alternative related careers and any barriers they may encounter. The event was a huge success, with over 600 young people attending, and over 70 organisations representing different organisations and occupational areas.
In the afternoon, I attended the launch of the In patient Carers Support Group at the Seacole Ward in Springfield Hospital. This is a new initiative where the Hospital will hold monthly meetings for carers. This enables carers to meet other carers and also health professionals. The service Director of South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust made the important point during his short speech that a partnership approach between the health professionals and the carers was crucial in treating patients with mental health problems. He also confirmed that the Government had committed record sums to carers’ initiatives such as the one that had been launched at Springfield.
As a result of concerns about commuter safety at stations in London, Dawn Butler MP launched a Safer Stations campaign. The Evening Standard adopted this campaign and organised a photograph of other supportive MPs outside the House of Commons, which is here. This was published along with a quote from me in Friday’s Standard.
In the evening, I chaired a public meeting to discuss the UK-US Extradition Treaty. Also on the platform were Boris Johnson MP; Vince Cable MP; Sally Ireland from Justice; James Welch from Liberty; and Gareth Pierce (solicitor) and representatives from families effected by extradition to the USA, including Babar Ahmad’s father. The meeting was a huge success with a large turnout from the public and the media.
On Friday, I was one of the guests on the Daily Politics programme, along with Colonel Bob Stewart.
On Saturday, I attended my usual appointment only surgery at Tooting Library.
I also spoke at a ‘Unite Against Fascism’ Conference at Congress House. The BNP got 4.2% share of the vote in the most recent General Election and fielded 119 candidates. They have 19 councillors in all parts of the country, and in the upcoming local elections, it is vital that people are not complacent about the threat that the BNP represent. More information about Unite Against Fascism is here.
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