|National Holocaust,House of lords reform and political awards|
|Tuesday, 07 February 2006 17:30|
On Monday 30th January, the Council
commemorated National Holocaust Memorial Day. Martin Linton MP,
Cllr Stuart King (Leader of the Labour group), the Mayor, and other councillors
and members of the public, attended an event in the Town Hall. The theme of this
year’s Holocaust memorial event was ‘one person can make a difference’. During
the years of the Holocaust, everyone had to make a choice – to become a
perpetrator, a bystander, or to help those being persecuted. This year’s theme
allowed every person to challenge our own current behaviour and to examine the
moral choices that we can make. Recent atrocities such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Sierra
Leone were also reflected on.
I also asked Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport a question on the help the Government is giving to our elite athletes in the lead up to the 2012 Olympics. You can read this online here. This was an issue that was also explored by the Public Accounts Committee the following week.
On Tuesday 31st, a fellow MP managed to secure an adjournment debate on post Earthquake relief in Pakistan. This is an important issue to local constituents and so I attended the debate and participated. You can read my contributions here. On the same day in Westminster Hall, there was also a debate on House of Lords reform, and again I managed to make a few interventions.
This was also the day when the House of Commons considered the amendments made by the House of Lords to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill. The proposal to bring in a new offence of incitement to religious hatred was in the Labour Party manifesto. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill left the House of Commons late last year with a clear majority in favour of the provisions. The Bill was subject to a concerted campaign outside parliament, where a coalition of evangelical church groups and public figures spread scare stories about how the Bill would lead to the prosecution of comedians, authors, preachers and artists. The campaign was based on a false premise but it was well orchestrated and led to the press mobilising against the Bill. The Bill was passed by MPs, but with vital clauses defeated by the opposition parties. I was closely involved with the Bill from start to finish. Political points were undoubtedly scored in the defeat inflicted by the opposition parties, but there is a wider issue at stake - the Bill that was passed has been significantly diluted and the loophole in the law (that does not offer Muslim, Hindus or Christians the same protection from hatred as followers of mono ethnic religions like Judaism and Sikhism) has still not been fully closed.
On Wednesday 1st, I had the privilege of attending the official opening of the Offender Management Unit at Wandsworth Prison. The unit has been established to assist prisoners with their re-settlement into society. Courses will be provided at the Unit by Learn Direct as part of The Pathways Project, with prisoners receiving training on securing employment and managing businesses. The prison’s Education Department will also run courses on topics including English, Maths, Citizenship and IT. One of the primary causes of re-offending is the failure of prisoners to obtain stable work after release. The opening ceremony was conducted by Lord Ramsbottom, the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, and it was exciting to be involved with the beginning of this initiative, that will hopefully make a significant contribution in helping prisoners to resettle into the community.
In the evening, I attended the Channel 4 Political Awards, which was pre recorded. I was privileged to be nominated for an award as a ‘rising star’. I am slightly uncomfortable with the idea of a politician being a ‘star’, let alone a newcomer being a ‘rising star’. However it was great to have ex spin doctor Lance Price, comedian par excellence Arabella Weir, winner of peer of the year, Baroness Ashton, pollster Peter Kellner and celebrity Big Brother winner, Chantelle on the same table as me. My team in Westminster and Tooting (who are all Fast Show fans) were extremely thrilled that I met Arabella Weir.
On Thursday, I had another of my Just Listening consultation exercises. More information about this is available here. This was at Chestnut Grove Secondary School in Balham. I was extremely pleased to see such a big turnout when the temperature was below freezing, with so many Balham residents making thoughtful contributions to the consultation process.
On Friday, we received the excellent news that waiting lists are at their lowest ever in the history of the NHS. In December 2004, 504 in-patients at St. George’s were still waiting longer than six months, since December 2005 no in-patients have been waiting longer than six months. From December 2004 to December 2005, the total in-patient waiting list at St. George’s has fallen from over 5,000 to 4,641.
There was also another Just Listening exercise at the Earlsfield Library Reading Club. The Club only meets once a month, and is well attended. I was originally asked to spend 20 minutes with them, but their enthusiasm for the consultation meant that we spent more than double that time discussing key issues that were important to them.
On Saturday, I had my usual appointment surgery at Tooting Library.
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