Monday, 29 December 2008

Nearing the end of the year...

It has been great to meet so many people during the past year whilst I have been out and about in the constituency. A way of listening to your concerns.

The strong message I am hearing throughout the constituency, is that it is time for change. As the Government’s disastrous economic policies bite, people are increasingly worried about their jobs, their homes and their families. Like them, I want to see a change for the better and that means a Conservative government. I am ready, willing and able to serve the people of Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow, so let’s have the election now.

As we move into 2009, I want us all to be able to hope and dream of better times. I want to help build a stronger society locally where people work together in communities, sharing responsibility, trusting and supporting each other. I want to create a future where people believe that anything is possible – a future where everyone is given the support, skills and opportunity to be the best they can be. I want to give more people power over their lives, I want to make families stronger and society more responsible and I want to make our community safer and greener.

I wish you all, no matter who you are or how you vote, a very happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year. I look forward to meeting many more of you in 2009 and beyond...

P.S. Thanks for reading my blog!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Boxing day comes early for youngsters at the Brentford Towers

Brentford Towers Residents Association began their festive celebrations in style last week by taking young people off the street and into a makeshift gym at one of the tower blocks on Green Dragon Lane. The Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing class, involved bringing two external instructors from St Mary’s University to give Brentford’s young people a lesson in self defence and fitness.

It is encouraging to see that local people are finding new, great ideas of how to improve their own community and taking responsibility for making it happen. This was an excellent initiative and really benefited the young people who took part. We should try and do more of them elsewhere in the Borough.

Well done to Jane Griffith, chairman of the Residents Association at the Brentford Towers. A great example to others.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Save a London Park please!

Please vote in Boris Johnson’s new initiative, where Londoners can vote for the park they think should get GLA funding.

Two parks from the London Borough of Hounslow have made it onto the shortlist and could get a grant of up to £400,000 to make the park cleaner, safer, greener and nicer places to visit. It is important that we get the maximum funding possible as good parks make such a difference to living in a city.

Redlees Park:

The aim for Redlees Park in Isleworth is to make the park fun, welcoming and a high quality environment for local people. A grant would help to improve the entrances, display sculptures by local artists, provide local history information, develop a trim trail, develop facilities for young people and re-open the toilets!

Crane Valley Park:
The Crane Valley Park is a valuable wildlife corridor through west London on Hounslow Heath. A grant could help more people to enjoy this interesting area with improved footpaths and cycle routes, resting points with attractive carved benches, new signage, a new footbridge across the river, improved wildlife habitat and increased staff presence to help people feel safe.

Voting closes on 30th January 2009 and you can vote online, request a postal vote or vote by text
Web: visit
Text: text 'parks' and your full London post code to 62967 to vote for your nearest park
Post: call the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100 and request a form.

Photo - Mary in Redlees Park in Isleworth at the Urban Games this summer with Cllr Lin Davies, the Mayor of the London Borough of Hounslow and Cllr Pam Fisher

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Brown’s Tax Bombshell

The Government has published their Pre-Budget Report. Their new tax and spending proposals show their plans for higher taxes and record levels of national debt. It includes:

- above inflation hikes (4.5%) in council tax which will be forced on local authorities from this April
- National Insurance will be increased for workers and for local firms
- National debt will hit £1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion pounds)
- Plans are being drawn up to increase VAT to 18.5%

I am extremely concerned about record levels of debt, higher council tax and higher National Insurance on families and businesses. How do we differ, you may ask? Our plan is to:

- freezing council tax for two years by cutting wasteful Government spending
- reducing employment costs for small businesses by cutting National Insurance and a tax break for new jobs
- getting credit flowing by guaranteeing lending to business

We need to find long term solutions to this economic crisis as the impact of this recession will be felt by individuals, families and businesses for the next 4-5 years.

Monday, 1 December 2008

We must learn from Baby P

The damning inspectors report was published today into the sufferings of Baby P.

Baby P died aged 17 months, although he was on the child protection register and had been seen by professionals 60 times. Incredible that a mother could inflict abuse on her own child. Baby P had over 50 injuries but yet nothing was noticed. This horrific abuse is yet another example of 'a broken Britain' as this case is not alone.

It brings up some serious questions about what we expect and demand from our public servants. We need to understand what happened, what went wrong, who was responsible, so that we can learn from it and make sure it never happens again.

The inspectors found systemic failings within Children's Services and Haringey Council must take responsibility for this. If only something had been done earlier by someone. A life might have been saved.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

An End to the Borrowing Binge

David Cameron warned yesterday about the Labour borrowing binge which will eventually have to be paid for through higher taxes.

We have always been the low tax Party ... and so it was great to hear the Leader talk about fiscal responsibility and permanent funded tax cuts with the Conservatives. We are in a recession right now, but we want recovery as quickly as possible. We therefore need to start managing public spending better so that we can get the economy back on that road to recovery.

As a Party, we are now not going to match the Labour unsustainable spending plans for 2010 and beyond. It is not affordable. We need to stop the growth in spending or there will be huge tax rises in the years to come.

There is a clear choice between Labour and Conservative. Labour with more economic mismanagement and the same old short-term policies....or the Conservatives with a long-term vision which is more responsible, more balanced with new ideas for the future.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

We will remember them ...

Today I was in Isleworth for the Remembrance Day service, organised by the Isleworth branch of the Royal British Legion.

We marched to the War Memorial on Twickenham Road, led by the Pride of Moray pipe band. It is now 90 years after the end of the first world war... and young and old were there today to remember the many men and women who gave their lives for their country ...

"When you go home, tell them of us and say -
For your tomorrow we gave our today."

The service finished with singing:

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home.

May all those who are serving their country right now be kept safe and return home soon to their loved ones.

How important it is for us to support our troops and the work they do.

Photo: Mary laying a wreath at the War Memorial on Twickenham Road

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Good news for Gordon at the Glenrothes by-election

A good result for Labour at the Glenrothes by-election this week... but then it would have been a disaster for them if they had lost. This was on Gordon Brown's home territory and if they couldn't win here, all would have been lost.

So what will the Prime Minister do now? Will he be brave enough to call an election in June 2009?

He has managed to recover a little in the polls over the last few weeks as some people think he has has shown leadership over the economic crisis. But how mistaken they are.

- Public borrowing has gone out of control

- He did not save in the good times so we have no reserves to support us now

- He created the Monetary Policy Committee and the Financial Services Authority but did not give them the power they needed to hold Banks to account

- Pension funds have been raided

- Government expenditure has increased dramatically since Labour came to power

- So much money has been wasted on failed government projects

The British people deserve change ...and a change for the better.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Result - America votes for Change!

Barack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States of America.

I watched the results as they were coming in and then listened to Obama's victory speech at 5am. I was moved. It felt like a special moment in time. America was making history. Obama had actually defied history, achieved the impossible and made dreams come true. This had been the dream of so many people, including Marthur Luther King when he made his famous speech "I have a dream...". Many thought it would never happen.

But what Barack Obama has done, is given his country renewed hope and optimism. His response to the challenges that lie ahead has been, "yes we can". He has united so many Americans by getting them to believe in themselves, believe in change and believe that they together can make their country better.

America has proven to the world that it is a nation eager for change. We now need to do the same. We need change for the better in Great Britain.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

US Elections... 6 days to go

Will the US electorate make history and vote for their first black President?

The Gallup polls now have Barack Obama on a 9% lead. But on the actual day of voting...will voters actually put a cross in his box?

Colin Powell, Secretary of State during George W Bush's first term as President, has announced that he is endorsing Barack Obama, calling him a "transformational figure". He says he has been impressed by Obama's steadiness during the last few weeks and disappointed by the negative approach of the McCain campaign. I agree.

Time for change in the US? Time for change here also!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Recession hits

Brown has at long last admitted that a recession is likely in Britain.

Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, already said that this was the case on Tuesday... and most people across the country, and certainly in the city of London, could have told Gordon Brown that weeks ago.

But at least now the Prime Minister is facing the reality of the situation. We are entering our first recession in 16 years. The year ahead will be as bad as the early 90s and many people wil lose their jobs. Mervyn King also said that the British banking system had been closer to collapse earlier this month than at any time since the start of World War I.

What is a recession? Technically, it is a decline in a country's domestic economic output or GDP for at least two consecutive quarters. There have been signs of a widening economic crisis:

- Oil fell below $70 a barrel
- The pound fell to to $1.620, its lowest level against the dollar since September 2003
- Consumer spending is falling (National Institute of Economic and Social Research predicte by 3.4%)
- Business investment is down
- Private housing investment down due to falling house prices and difficulties in financing mortgages
- Rising unemployment

If the government's £50bn banking bail-out does not succeed, the recession could be even deeper and longer.

What is clear from the last few weeks .... the complete and utter failure of Labour's economic record. The PM borrowed and borrowed, and racked up the biggest government deficit in the developed world. Now we have nothing when times get tough.

Our economy is broken and we must fix it. What can we do to help? We need to rebuild an economy that is built to last.

Our solution is about fiscal responsibility, financial responsibility and a balanced economy:
- Fiscal responsibility - the Government must live within its means
- Financial responsibility - you cannot build an economy on debt
- Balanced economy - as you cannot rely on unsustainable growth in a few areas to increase prosperity for everyone.

To repair the broken society, we need need social responsibility. To repair the broken economy, we need economic responsibility.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Managing an Economic Crisis

This is a strange moment in time. Never did I think we would get to a point where we would be 'nationalising' banks in this country. It goes against my Conservative principles. Given though, that we are in the middle of a global economic crisis with a frozen money market around the world, I can live with short term 'recapitalisation'.

The IMF has warned that we are close to financial meltdown. Something had to be down quickly to try and recover the economy and avold an even deeper downturn in the financial markets. The Conservatives are therefore supporting the government on the recapitalisation plan. To do nothing would have been the wrong thing. Exceptional circumstance require exceptional steps.

The important task now is to create a plan for the future. In a free enterprise system, the banks play an important role in creating and stimulating a strong and vibrant economy. We need to strengthen the banks - get them lending to each other again, get them lending to business owners and home owners again. We will not be able to turn the economy around until we strengthen the balance sheets of these banks. We need to though address the systemic failure we have seen in the banking system so that we manage these issues more effectively in the future. We need a significant review of capital rules, liquidity and access to markets. The global regulatory arrangements also need to be looked at.

Should CEOs of failed banks keep their jobs? Well, that is down to the boards of these companies to decide. Mistakes have been made and risks have been taken...and CEOs are responsible for this. Banks should not have been taking irresponsible risks.

Should they be receiving huge bonuses? I believe people can earn good salaries and bonuses if they perform well. If the organisation has not performed...then they do not deserve a bonus.

We do need to help families and businesses at this difficult time. Many people are currently worried about their savings, their mortgages and their jobs.

Gordon Brown promised us that he would get rid of boom and bust. Our current situation shows that either he does not know what he is talking about and/or he cannot deliver what he promises. He encouraged a borrowing binge through our enormous budget deficit. If he wanted to cut taxes right now to recover the economy...he can't. The cupboard is bare.

We all can learn from this ...

Friday, 10 October 2008

An afternoon at Brentford Football Club

Last Saturday I went to the Brentford vs Macclesfield match at Griffin Park.

The team were so much better than the last time I had seen them during last season. They played like a team and even although they had a few near goals, they won with 1:0.

At half time, I was presented with a football and had a photo with the girls team. I also had to do the first penalty shoot-out.... my first ever...and in high heel boots! As you can imagine, I did not show any great skill. However, the girls were fantastic.

Thanks to everyone at Brentford Football Club and the Community Sports Trust, who do an amazing job in creating opportunities in sport. They do so much to help young people feel part of a team, see themselves develop and improve their skills and build commitment and enthusiasm which can inspire others.

Photo: Mary with the Brentford U12's and U14's Girls FC at half time

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Community sports in Redlees Park, Isleworth

Last Saturday I went to the Urban Games at Redlees Park in Isleworth.

What a great event! About 300 youngsters, age 8-15 years old, had signed up to this free multi-sports event...where they got the chance to try out and get coached in a range of sports. This is an annual event organised by Hounslow's Sports Development Team.

The aim of this event was to give taster sessions in thirteen different sports ranging from football and rugby to canoeing and BMX racing. All sessions were linked to a local club, who were on hand to coach the sessions and provide information on how young people can join these clubs and thus promote lifelong participation. The aim was to provide young people with improved motivation and general fitness and an increased willingness to take part in sporting activities outside of school hours. It also aims to encourage young people to mix with people from other estates, thus improving the social cohesion within the local community. Unforunately I was not allowed to join in the different sports!

To motivate them, Jenny Copnall was there and spoke to them all. She is the British Cross Country Mountain Biking Champion.

This is a brilliant example of community action and creating opportunities for young people to get more interested in sport and health. We need more events like this.

Well done to everyone involved!

Photo: Mary with Cllr Pam Fisher, Cllr Lin Davies and Jenny Copnall (British Cross Country Mountain Biking Champion)

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Day 3 & 4 of Party Conference

Day 3 of Party Conference I went back to work in the city. Given I am a banker and this is the one of the toughest economic periods I have ever seen ...I couldn't really stay away! Then I headed back to Birmingham in the evening.

On day 4 of Party Conference, David Cameron made his main speech. I was sitting on stage along with many of my fellow candidates and members of the Shadow Cabinet. David's speech was detailed, thought provoking and visionary. He tacked the critical issues:

1. The Economy - in this financial crisis, we must put our differences aside and work together with the government in the short-term to ensure financial stability. They have already taken up our idea of increasing the protection for depositors to £50,000.

2. Afghanistan - we back our troops there 100%. We are going to stop sending young men to war without the equipment need and do all we can to keep our country safe.

3. Responsibility - personal, professional, civic, corporate. Our responsibility to our family, neighbourhood and country. Our responsibility is to behave in a decent and civilised way, to help others. We will only be a strong society if we are a responsible society.

4. Experience - Gordon Brown talks about his economic experience. The problem is, we have actually experienced his experience. We’ve experienced the massive increase in debt. We have experienced the huge rise in taxes. We experienced the folly of pretending that boom and bust could be ended. This is the argument we will make when the election comes. The risk is not in making a change. The risk is sticking with what you’ve got and expecting a different result. There is a simple truth for times like this. When you’ve taken the wrong road, you don’t just keep going. You change direction.

5. How we got here - Gordon Brown made two mistakes - he took away the Bank of England's power to regulate financial markets and he became a spendaholic.

6. How do we get out of this financial mess:
a) sound money - rein in government borrowing, review spending programmes, reform inefficient public services
b) low taxes - we will cut taxes when it is responsible to do so and when we've made government live within its means
c) enterprise - it is entrepreneurs who create jobs, not governments. Support business and industry

7. Long term mission is to repair our broken society. When times are tough, its not a bigger state we need, it is better, more efficient government. More than that, we need a stronger society. Trusting people and sharing responsibility.

8. We need to clean up politics and put an end to expenses issues - expenses and allowances that would never be allowed in the private sector. Also put an end to MPs voting on their own salaries.

9. Have a referendum on the European constitution.

10. NHS - we will give patents an informed choice about where to go for their care so doctors stop answering to Whitehall and start answering to patients.

11. Social reform - we currently have a broken society. 2m children are brought up in households where no one works. Some housing estates in Britain have a lower life expectancy than in the Gaza Strip. 27 kids murdered on the streets of London this year. A gun crime every hour. A serious knife crime every half hour. A million victims from alcohol related-attacks. To resolve this, it needs:
families - support flexible working, back marriage in the tax system
schools - can help give children a second chance so we will establish 1000 new Academies and allow for new schools to be set up

12. Welfare - we will end the something for nothing culture. If you don’t take a reasonable offer of a job, you lose benefits. Go on doing it, you’ll keep losing benefits. Stay on benefits and you’ll have to work for them.

We will give hope, broaden the horizons and build aspiration of the poor and the marginalised. It will be Conservative means that will fight poverty, extend opportunity and repair our broken society.

We are a changed and a united Party.

We will get through these difficult times due to the work you do, the families you raise, the jobs you create, your confidence and your determination. We can bring the country together, in the hope, belief and knowledge, that better times lie ahead.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Day 2 at Party Conference

I spoke out at the Conservative Party Conference today in Birmingham against the Government’s plans for Heathrow expansion.

I was delighted with the announcement made by Theresa Villiers, the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, who told the conference that the Conservative Party were against all plans for a third runway and instead proposed the development of a high speed rail link.

This will make a tremendous difference to those who live locally. We have listened to local residents and their concerns about noise, pollution and congestion. The quality of life of local people is more important.

This also creates clear blue water between Labour and the Conservatives. We will stop any plans for a third runway, whereas the Labour government are determined to expand Heathrow whatever the cost. Labour has ignored the impact of a third runway on people who live in local communities and has fudged an economic argument that does not stack up.

We need a change of government now!

Day 1 at Party Conference

I arrived at the 2008 Conservative Party Conference today in Birmingham.

George Osborne (Shadow Chancellor) held a session on ways to ease the pain of the economic downturn, Liam Fox (Shadow Secretary of State for Defence) spoke about the need to honour our Armed Forces, and David Cameron promised to use the week to show how we will take Britain forward.

This evening I went to a dinner hosted by Cancer Research UK. 285,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer this year. At least 2m people have been cured or are living with cancer but 1 in 4 people will die from the disease. Cancer continues to touch many people's lives.

We therefore need to:
a) provide access to world-class cancer services and treatment - 11 out of 12 European countries fund new cancer drugs and it would only cost £400m per year to get the UK up to the European average.
b) detect cancer earlier
c) prevent more cancers
d) tackle the unfairness of cancer inequalities
e) protect the UK's position at the forefront of international research

The priorities are to find ways to :
1. reduce smoking (1/4 of the population still smoke and 450 children start smoking every day)
2. diagnose cancer earlier so that people have a better chance of survival

We also need to address the issue of the postcode lottery.

Cancer will affect us or someone we care about one day... so it is incredibly important to continue making improvements in screening and available treatments.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Gordon gloom could spell end for Keen

...this is the headline in The Hounslow Chronicle this week...

Channel 4 News' survey of voters in 60 marginal Labour constituencies found there was a swing of 12% in favour of the Conservatives. The YouGov poll, which did not include seats where Labour's main opposition is the Liberal Democrats, found only 1% of those questioned said they rated the Prime Minister's performance as excellent. A further 59% believe Mr Brown's performance to be poor, bad or dreadful.

Here, we need a 4% swing - so about 3600 additional votes, taking into account some small boundary changes. However, a week is a long time in politics! Anything can happen between now and the General Election and although I find the opinion polls encouraging, I do not take winning for granted. My priority right now is to meet as many local residents as possible, listen to concerns and issues and communicate clearly what the Conservative Party will do for people who live here. It is important that everyone knows what I believe in, what I stand for and what I will do for them.

As I go round the doorsteps meeting people in Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow, they are saying the same things to me - "it is time for a change...and a change for the better".

1. They feel we need strong leadership in these difficult times and Gordon Brown is not providing it. He is indecisive, as was seen this time last year, when he decided not to call a General Election. The country cannot afford another eighteen months of a divided Labour Party, a weak Prime Minister, and a Government driven by self-interest rather than the national interest. We need an election to get the strong leadership and change the country needs.

2. They are fed up with a cabinet and Labour Party that seems to be divided and that has no vision. What we need right now is a clear sense of direction and a Government able to lead us through these difficult economic times.

3. They feel Labour has failed them in not improving education, not improving healthcare and in not taking control of crime. Since the start of the year, 26 teenageers have been murdered in London alone. They have lost the personal details of almost half the population. As taxpayers, we constantly seem to be paying for more and achieving nothing.

4. The more people look at the arguments we are making, the policies we are developing and the vision of the future we are offering, the more they understand the scale of change we will bring. We are setting the political agenda across the board: from our long-term plan to fix the country's finances to our proposals to tackle the causes of poverty and extend opportunity to all school-children. We will
- give people more opportunity and power over their lives
- make families stronger and society more responsible
- make Britain safer and greener

But there is absolutely no room for complacency. I will fight for every vote until polling day, to deliver the change Brentford & Isleworth really needs.

Monday, 15 September 2008

My responses to the Guardian

1. Perception: Do you consider yourself to be a progressive?
Yes, I am progressive. 'Progressive' is about supporting new ideas and social change. I will always listen to new ideas as we often have to look for new solutions to issues as society changes over time. We do, though, have to learn from the past and use history and experience to help make decisions for the future.
Two of the most progressive ideals are social justice and equal opportunities. I believe in social justice. It is wrong to turn a blind eye to a society which is broken by the injustices of family breakdown, drug and alcohol addiction, failed education and serious personal debt.
These are the new 'five giants' of our age. I am a progressive because I will work to harness the power of the state, voluntary organisations and social enterprises to work with the people to fight this multiple deprivation which is plaguing our country. Labour believes society's problems can only be solved by the state. That has failed. Society's problems can only be solved by people in local communities.
I have also campaigned for many years for the Conservative party to get more women in parliament but strongly believe it should be done so based on merit. I believe in creating opportunities for all - no matter who they are or where they come from. I believe in rehabilitation of offenders and working with them to change their behaviour and supporting them on their release so that they do not reoffend. I want to see additional help for those from more disadvantaged backgrounds to get the best education possible, so that they can aspire and achieve their dreams.

2. Tax: Should David Cameron offer more tax cuts than he has outlined already?
The Conservative party has always been a party of low tax and always will be. I want people to keep more of the money their hard work has earned them. However, with an extremely tough economy ahead of us for the next year, I do not think David Cameron can promise any unfunded tax cuts right now. No-one knows, not even the MPC, how bad the economy will get in the months ahead and therefore it would not be right for David to promise something he cannot deliver. We need to set an example of living within our means. Stability has to be the key right now. The aim will be to cut taxes when the time is right.

3. Tax: If yes to the above, do you think they should be funded by (a) cuts in public spending, or (b) increases in other taxes
I will always believe in low taxation! We will find money when the time is right to do so, by tackling the current waste of public spending that takes place in government.

4. Tax: Should so-called "green" taxes increase?
As a party we will try and rebalance taxation - shift the burden of taxation away from 'good' things like families and on to 'bad' things like pollution and carbon emissions, so that overall taxes do not increase. Also, I want to live in a community with a good quality of life. In my constituency that means fighting to stop the expansion of Heathrow, and the pollution, noise and congestion that goes along with it.

5. Tax: As a share of GDP tax is currently around 37%. After four years of a Conservative government would you expect it to be:(a) substantially lower – at least 2 percentage points(b) slightly lower(c) much the same as it is now(d) higher
It is difficult to say right now as the economic outlook is uncertain. It is uncertain because of the global impact and the credit crunch but also due to the mess that Gordon Brown has made of the public finances. Looking forward, we cannot write the 2014 budget now. What I am concerned about is how to ease the tax burden on hard-working families who are feeling the pinch now. We have already announced some policies which help hard-pressed families, eg cutting stamp duty for first-time buyers on purchases up to £250k, raising the inheritance tax threshold to £1m and ending the couple penalty in the tax credits system. This is a real difference to what Labour have done. Some of their tax rises have been extremely regressive, eg abolition of the 10p tax band and the increases to road tax.

6. Europe: On balance has Britain lost out or gained from its membership of the EU? If it has lost out, should it withdraw?
The EU has succeeded in bringing the countries of Europe together to ensure peace and prosperity in a once-troubled continent. The single market and the enlargement of the EU were promoted by Margaret Thatcher. We now have free movement of services, people, workers and goods. But the EU should not have pretensions to intervene in every part of our lives. It should concentrate on doing less, but doing it better. I would want to repatriate some powers back to the UK so that we are more in control of what we do. I would like the EU to do more on free trade with the third world so that we can support countries like Mozambique to be economically self-sufficient. The EU should concentrate on making a difference where they can: global warming, global competitiveness and global poverty.

7. Family: Which of the following statements most reflects your view:(a) The tax system should be reformed to recognise and promote marriage(b) The tax system should help parents regardless of their marital status We will aim to help all parents - but we need to address any current issues, eg it is not right that in our benefits system couples receive more money if they live apart. In this way, we will be recognising and promoting marriage.

8. Abortion: The House of Commons recently voted to maintain the upper limit of 24 weeks on abortion. Do you believe it should be reduced? If yes, by how many weeks?
Yes, it should be reduced to 18 weeks. A baby can be born and survive from about 20 weeks.

Interview by Alexandra Topping

Friday, 12 September 2008

A Good Woman makes all the Difference

I think John McCain would definitely agree with this!

The polls have changed in his favour since Sarah Palin became his running mate. They are a real threat now to Barack Obama becoming President.

Not long to go now...

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The crowds gathered in Boston Manor Park

It was a lovely day at the Brentford Festival this weekend in Boston Manor Park. The weather forecast did not look great...but thankfully it turned out fine (although in the photo my hair looks rather windswept!).

The organisation of the event was impressive and everything seemed to go like clockwork. There was something for everyone including our colourful Conservative stand. There was face painting for children, a dog show, live music, good food, funfair, arts, crafts and a range of stalls. Thanks to Jim for an excellent cup of tea and homemade cakes (I had more than one)!

I really enjoyed the Festival. These events are excellent to be able to meet and talk to local people - not just from the constituency, but also from the surrounding area. It is a day, where the community can come together, have fun, meet others and enjoy a day together.

The day for me finished with the Linden Gardens street party in Chiswick. Another fabulous evening, where everyone in the street had pulled together and organised food, drink, a slide show of years gone by and ending with a superb fireworks display. Well done to Ollie and the other residents in Linden Gardens. I hope it is the first of many!

Photo: Mary with Nowell Anderson, Cllr Barbara Reid, Cllr Lin Davies and John Davies at the Brentford Festival

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Worst economic crisis in 60 years

In the UK, house prices are now falling at double digit rates, and over the weekend the Chancellor fired a stark warning shot about the severity of the downturn. Alistair Darling told the Guardian, that the UK faces its worst economic crisis in 60 years and said the downturn would be more "profound and long-lasting" than most had feared.

According to Nationwide, UK house prices fell for the tenth consecutive month in August, down almost 2% since July. The annual rate of decline accelerated to 10.5%. This is the fastest (and only double digit) decline since Nationwide started collecting monthly data in 1991. With mortgage approvals continuing to slide in July (to 33k), it looks like further price falls are on their way.

House prices are falling at their fastest rate in 18 years, leading to fears of a wave of repossessions. Mortgage lending has slowed dramatically due to the credit crunch while key indicators have suggested that the economy could be poised to go into recession. A member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee has said that radical action was needed to ensure the crisis did not get worse and warned of a sharp rise in unemployment. There is no growth at all right now, which technically means we are close to a recession. Inflation is rising, unemployment is rising, the cost of living is going up and people are nervous about jobs. Britain is ill prepared due to money not being put aside for a rainy day. Gordon Brown has borrowed far too much. It will be many months ...and probably another year... until there is good news on this front.

So what should we do now?

1. We need strong, clear leadership from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. They need to speak with one voice instead of the Chancellor saying it is the worst economic crisis in 60 years and Gordon Brown saying it is not as bad as we think. We don't need a disfunctional government right now. It does not bode well for economic recovery. They need to tell us how they are going to get us out of this mess.

2. We need a vision for the future on how we resolve this economic downturn. George Osborne is proposing to:
a) Help people with current economic problems e.g put fuel duty down when the oil price goes up
b) Take first time buyers who need a mortgage out of stamp duty so that they can get on the housing ladder
c) Help low income families to get direct debit rates for gas and electricity bills
d) Reorganise public finances so that we never again borrow recklessly in a boom and are more prepared for a slow down in the economy.

In summary, what we need is a new government that does have a vision and speaks with one voice. We need a change for the better ... a Conservative government.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Olympic Success

Chris Hoy and Team GB have done an incredible job in Beijing. Chris received three gold medals and in his words ... is now "shattered"! I am not surprised. The training regime is intense - both physically and mentally. We will never know how much they suffered along the way to achieve what they have.

They will be an inspiration to many across the country. They show that it is possible to achieve dreams. That it is rewarding to work hard and achieve your 'maximum' ... be the best you can be. The commitment is huge and there is much sacrificed along the way. But with the goal in sight, it is worth it in the end.

We can all learn from them. When the going gets tough, we just need to take a deep breath, visualise the dream again, find the inner strength and step forward with renewed vigour and determination. The impossible can then be made possible.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Are A-levels getting easier?

A-level results are out today. I remember the feeling (just!) of anticipation and nervousness as I opened the dreaded brown envelope.

The overall UK pass rate this year is 97.2%, which is the 26th year in a row it has risen. But are they getting easier or are students just getting smarter? I am not sure anyone knows the answer to this but we should be questioning if A-levels are the right educational assessment method. Is something broader needed so that students do not just specialise in three subjects? An English Baccalaureate is already being considered.

It is also interesting that there is a regional divide with results, with the South East of England getting the most As and the North East getting the least. Although this may be explained by the large numbers of independent schools in the SE, it does though highlight how important it is to ensure excellent education is made available for all children. We need to make the most of every individual talent, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Refuge speak out on increase in Domestic Violence

I was glad to see that domestic violence was given a headline this week. Too often, this is an issue that is ignored... but it is incredibly important, both locally and nationally.

The first women's refuge was opened in Chiswick and the charity, Refuge, have done tremendous work in trying to bring about change to support victims of domestic abuse.

The stark reality is that two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. Talking about it reminds women (and some men who are also abused) that they should be aware of the subtle signs. Jealousy, possessiveness and criticism can be indicators of future domestic violence, whether it is emotional, sexual or physical.

Be aware if your partner is:
- charming one minute and terrifyingly aggressive the next
- excessively jealous and possessive
- stopping you from seeing your family and friends
- constantly criticizing you and putting you down in public
- controlling your money
- telling you what to wear, who to see, where to go and what to think
- pressurising you to have sex when you don't want to

Are you starting to walk on eggshells to avoid making him angry?

Please don't ignore the early warning signs...

Friday, 1 August 2008

Tackling crime on our streets

31,500 prisoners have been released early this year, including thousands of violent offenders. Is this the way to tackle crime on the streets of London, especially at a time when knife crime is increasing?

I believe that we have to:

a) have a long term plan to deal with the causes of crime - unless we understand and solve the root causes, we will never reduce crime on our streets

b) create a process of rehabilitation for young offenders to stop them committing knife and other crimes in the future - the reoffend rate is high and we need to work with these young offenders to make them face up to their issues and create a process for skills building and support back into the community

c) reduce police bureaucracy so that more police officers are out on the streets trying to prevent crime taking place - then we will feel safer

This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed now before it incresase even further.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Barack Obama making his mark

Senator Barack Obama has just returned to the US from his world tour. He appeared to have made his mark on the world stage ...but it will be interesting to see how it is viewed by Americans themselves.

Whilst he was in the UK, he met with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.

David Cameron said he had a "very positive" meeting with the US presidential candidate on Saturday, discussing a range of glocal issues, including Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. They naturally also talked about the underlying issues with the US and the British economy and how to manage them going forward.

If Senator Obama became the next President of the United States of America, he certainly would make history. I do not agree with all his political views but I admire him as a person and as a politician.

Will he win? He is someone who has presence, charisma, confidence and can inspire many around him. If he has real substance to his vision and policies and can show he can lead, then he may be able to take the American people with him.

Would he make a good President? Only time will tell......

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Local Labour call for Council Tax cuts

I have heard through the grapevine that a leaflet is being delivered locally by the Labour Party which says "Ann Keen says cut the Council Tax". If this is true... I can hardly believe it!

Is this the same Labour Party who had control of Hounslow Council for over thirty years and did not cut Council Tax?

Is this the same Labour Party who have been eating into our reserves for the last ten years and taken us so much into so much debt as a country that we have nothing left for a rainy day?

Incredible! Do they think the public is so stupid not to see through their pathetic political headlines?

Let them practice what they preach first.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Conservatives 15% ahead

A new ICM survey for The Guardian has the Conservative Party on 43%, Labour on 28% and the tax-cutting LibDems on 19%.

It could be a long time though between now and a General Election... so I will make no predictions on what will happen in Brentford and Isleworth! What it does tell us, is that the public are disillusioned with Labour and Gordon Brown, as they do not have any real vision for the country or any new ideas to resolve the long-term challenges and the difficult time we face ahead.

60% of voters also told ICM that they were planning to cut their own spending. Maybe Gordon Brown should take their advice and instead of continuing to borrow...should try and keep spending under control.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

MPs' expenses published

Good news to see that Conservative MPs taking a lead in Parliament and publishing their expenses yesterday.

I have always believed that it is important for there to be increased openness and transparency on MPs' expenses and allowances. It is tax payers' money and they have a right to know what it is being spent on.

The information published shows a list of staff, what they do, which family members are employed, office running costs and expenditure incurred whilst away from their main home.

Hopefully this will be a start to rebuilding trust in our politicians again.

Maybe Labour will now do the same..... including Ann Keen.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Cameron Direct in Brentford

David Cameron visited us on Monday at Brentford School for Girls.

It was great that local residents were given a chance to meet the Leader of the Conservative Party and ask him questions. Lots of questions were raised by the audience of over 200 people. They quizzed him on Heathrow, MPs allowances, crime, ID cards, fuel prices, polyclinics, inflation, schools, Iraq, Zimbabwe, prisons and which Labour front bencher he most admired!

During the question and answer session David Cameron commented, “I’m here to show you that politics can make a difference, that we do want to listen, to understand what’s important to you and to show you that with your help we can make a difference.”

I was delighted that David came to the constituency. It is not often that people get the chance to question a future Prime Minister and find out what he really thinks and feels. Lots of great questions were asked and he answered them with passion and honesty, showing clearly what he believes in and what he is going to do for the country.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Cameron Direct in Brentford


Come to Brentford School for Girls, Boston Manor Road, Brentford, TW8 0PG on Monday 7th July, 7.45pm-8.45pm and put your questions direct to David.

To book your place, please email

The event is free but places must be booked in advance. Everyone who lives in Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow are invited to apply.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Happy 60th birthday to the NHS

The NHS and medical science has certainly changed over the years ... since my mother was a sister in the Royal Infirmary and since I volunteered in my local hospital on Saturday mornings when I was in school (and that was some time ago!).

What does remain the same though is the skill of caring for patients and the commitment and dedication of nursing staff. Their aim as ever is to give the best care possible no matter who you are or where you come from.

Wishing the NHS a very happy 60th birthday and a big thank you to all those who work there!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Nelson Mandela speaks out on his 90th birthday

I was greatly encouraged this week to hear Nelson Mandela beak his silence and condem the "tragic failure of leadership in Zimbabwe". Jacob Zuma, the south african ANC president, last week also spoke of “compelling evidence of violence, intimidation and outright terror” by Mugabe.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, pulled out of the presidential election race due to the violence and intimidation that was being shown to opposition supporters, who have been beaten and killed.

What can be done so that we do not witness another genocide in Africa?

The African leaders are instrumental in putting pressure on Mugabe, although only 23 of the 53 states in the African Union have democratic governments. Mandela’s successor in South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki, has said nothing as he is Mugabe’s chief supporter. Mbeki has told other African leaders that Anglo-American imperialism was attempting to overthrow Mugabe and has insisted to the world that he was involved in “quiet diplomacy” to solve the crisis. He insists that that only Africans can solve African problems.

But does this mean that we therefore sit back and do nothing? Absolutely not!

The British and the US motion at the UN security council has said that the 29th March first round of the presidential election (in which Morgan Tsvangirai won the most votes) was “the only legitimate basis” for a Zimbabwean government. Thereafter, the G8 and EU have insisted that they cannot accept Mugabe’s government as legitimate.

Tougher sanctions though are required NOW before Mugabe's henchmen brutalise, maim, rape and kill more people. What is happening in Zimbabwe right in front of our eyes is alarming and disturbing. Mugabe is destroying his own country and his own people.

- we need to apply every economic measure and political measure to isolate Mugabe completely
- we need to encourage every other nation to isolate Mugabe too
- British companies need to stop trading in Zimbabwe
- there should be global sanctions against Mugabe and his illigitimate and dangerous regime
- we should be showing real leadership, speaking out daily against the attrocities that are taking place

This is needed now ... today ...not next week.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

1st birthday present for Gordon Brown

A fantastic result yesterday at the Henley by-election!

The Conservative candidate, John Howell, won with 19,796 votes, with a 10,116 majority - a 3.5% swing to us.

A win here was expected ...but what wasn't, was Labour losing their deposit! On Gordon Brown's first anniversary in Downing Street, Labour come in a disastrous fifth, behind the British National Party and the Greens.

70% of the British public are now dissatisfied with Gordon Brown's performance, according to polls. David Cameron commented "All sorts of people are looking at the Conservatives and saying 'yes, this is an alternative to the government that we can believe in. There will be no complacancy, no triumphalism. We could argue forever about the disasters and incompetencies of the last year of government but what's important is that at a time when British families are facing high prices at the fuel pump or everytime they do a family shop the government isn't helping. I think the most important thing about the Prime Minister is that he was in charge of the econonmy for ten years- he didn't put money aside so now during the bad times the cupboard is bare."

How long can the Prime Minister last?

Monday, 23 June 2008

Raising money for cancer

Cllrs Barbara Reid, Lin Davies, Paul Lynch and I attended a great event last week in memory of Premila Bhanderi. She was a former Hounslow councillor, who lost her battle with multiple myloma three years ago.

Her two daughters, Aarti and Jyoti, organised the Summer Sensation charity event at the Indian Gymkana Club in Thornbury Avenue in Osterley.

It was a fabulous evening, raising lots of money and enjoyed by everyone. Premila's daughters are great role models for what can be done in the local community - bringing people together to make a difference. She would be really proud of them!

Photo: Aarti Bhanderi, Mary, Jyoti Bhanderi, Cllr Barbara Reid and Cllr Lin Davies

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Yet more violence in Zimbabwe

The extent of Robert Mugabe's determination to stay as president of Zimbabwe is seen in his latest comment - "the MDC will never be allowed to rule this country - never ever...only God who appointed me will remove me, not the MDC, not the British."

On Saturday there was a story in the newspaper about a poor woman who was raped by ten soldiers, beaton, kicked and threatened with her life. She still refused to tell them anything about the MDC. Incredible courage!

I do hope that Morgan Tsvangirai has the strength to continue to fight Mugabe. The Zimbabwean's need him to do to it as they desperately need democracy.

How lucky we are that we have freedom and democracy. We take it so much for granted.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

We want to say no too!

A few days ago Ireland gave a resounding 'no' to the Lisbon Treaty (or the Constitution). Already Brussels has said that Ireland must vote again. Why can't the EU understand that no means no.

The Lisbon Treaty was created following the rejection of France and Holland to the EU Constitution in 2005. Labour promised us a referendum on the constitution and have reneged on this. British people need to have their say and once and for all stop this consistent loss of control to Europe. Because Labour have already ratified this in the House of Lords this week, 50 veteos could be lost for our country.

I want us to get a chance to say 'no' too.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Strand on the Green raising money

Last weekend I was at the Strand on the Green school fete.

There was a fabulous crowd of people there as usual. I bumped into Cllr Peter Thompson and his family amongst the crowd - everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves in the sunshine. It was different to last year when the heavens opened mid afternoon.

The food was excellent... I arrived just in time for lunch! Cllr Sam Hearn was helping at the burger stall but I headed for the excellent Thai food with Cllr Paul Lynch and his wife.

Well done to Mark Newton and the school staff, as well as the parents and locals who make this event a great success every year. Hopefully lots of money was raised for the school!

Photo: Mark Newton (Head of Infant School) with Mary and Cllr Paul Lynch at Strand on the Green school in Chiswick

Monday, 16 June 2008

Good ideas can come from young people

I am in Russia this week and today met with the Youth Government of Moscow.

The Youth Government is a group of bright young students/ graduates from the Universities of Moscow who have been selected to shadow the official Moscow government. They shadow the mayoral ministerial team, are consulted on all key policy areas and present their views weekly at the main city government sittings.

When the Mayor and his ministers have their three week holiday in the summer, the Youth Government take over!

Fascinating way of getting young people more interested in the political process and showing that good ideas can come from anyone, no matter what their age, background or experience. These young people are the best ones to ask about youth issues and solving youth crime!

Photo: Mary (centre) with fellow Leaders Quest colleagues and members of the Moscow Youth Government

Friday, 13 June 2008

Visiting the Chiswick Sea Cadets and the RNLI

Dr Liam Fox MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Cllr Paul Lynch, Cllr Sam Hearn and I visited the Chiswick Sea Cadets and the RNLI this week.

The Chiswick Sea Cadets were established in 1997 (not a good year for me politically or for several members of the then Conservative government!). At T S Stork we met some of the young cadets. They are aged between 11 and 18 and learn about boatwork, seamanship, canoeing, marine engineering, swimming, first aid, parade training, leadership and safety awareness. This is a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn some great skills that they can use in years ahead.

Also at Chiswick Pier is the RNLI. Chiswick is one of four lifeboat stations on the Thames and gives a 24hr response service on the Thames. Wayne Bellamy and his team do a fantastic job covering the stretch between Richmond half tide lock and Battersea. Not many people could say that since 2002, they had saved the lives of 640 people. They are real local heros.

Photo 1 - Chiswick Sea Cadets (PPO Pearce OiC and PO Flann) with Dr Liam Fox MP and Mary
Photo 2 - RNLI Lifeguards with Dr Liam Fox MP and Mary

Monday, 9 June 2008

A Community Weekend

There was a party atmosphere in Chiswick this weekend with lots of community events, including:

- Bedford Park Festival
- Sutton Court Residents Open Gardens
- St Michael's fundraiser on Elmwood Road
- the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden Open Day.

The sun was shining and there was a great atmposphere at all the events. Lots of work by local people had gone into making them a huge success.

What made these events special, was that they were all community initiatives. Individuals had taken the initiative on a voluntary basis and had made a real commitment to make a difference locally. This was community spirit in action ... and greatly enjoyed by all who participated.

Well done to everyone involved. We need more people like you!

Photo: Mary with Cllr John Todd and Cllr Gerald McGregor at the Bedford Park Festival in Chiswick - Cllr Paul Lynch was there too but lost him in the midst of all the stands! Thanks to Margaret Chadderton for taking the photo.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Another bad day for the PM

Yesterday, the Prime Minister had another bad day!

It was PMQs in the Chamber and Gordon Brown had thirty minutes of misery as he tried to rebuff questions and argue his point without much success. Cameron attacked him on his home territory - taxes - but Brown did not seem to know the answer. It was a perceived strength being neutralised.

Why is it that some politicians are arrogant enough to believe they can lead when they obviously cannot? A leader is someone who not only has the intellect and experience to lead, but also has presence, passion, vision and an ability to inspire. Gordon Brown has none of these qualities.

The real question for Labour MPs is ....should he stay or should he go?

Monday, 2 June 2008

Do we care? I do...

It seems incredible that so far in 2008 14 London teenagers have been killed, 11 of them through knife stabbings. During 2007, 26 teenagers were murdered in the city.

We see these stories so often in the press now that I think people just get used to hearing them and are no longer shocked by them. Does anyone care?

Well... I do.

There is something definitely wrong with our society when children feel the need to carry knives. Why is this happening? This needs to be addressed.

We also need to make sure that existing laws are properly enforced as effectively as possible. Police may, in addition, need to be given greater discretion over using stop-and-search powers.

Lets stamp these knife crimes out now before it gets completely out of control.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Saying NO to expansion ... on a protest march

What a great rally it was today!

Thousands met at Hatton Cross and walked to Sipson.

There we formed a large NO on the ground. This was followed by speeches from politicians across the political spectrum.

People came out in force to show how they felt about the government's plans for a third runway at Heathrow. Some were there because the increased noise and pollution will affect them individually and others were there because they are concerned about climate change and believe we should be taking environmental issues seriously.

Why doesn't the government listen to the people of this country, when they speak with a loud voice on issues that really matter to them? They will be forced to listen when it comes to a General Election!

Photo: Mary with Justine Greening (MP for Putney) on the NO march

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Continuing the fight on Heathrow expansion

Barbara Reid and I attended an Evening Standard debate last week at the RSA on Heathrow expansion.

Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Transport, was present and spoke at the meeting, presenting the government’s case for expansion. She said that she believed that Heathrow was too small, the UK needed a hub airport and that expansion was necessary for economic growth and competitiveness.

I addressed two specific issues directly to her.

Firstly, I told her that her economic argument did not stack up. As someone who works in the financial services banking sector in the city, I believe strongly that the city and the economy will not suffer if Heathrow does not expand. Whenever there is a threat of a recession, companies are immediately more cost focused, and one of the first cut backs they make, is on international travel. The business does not suffer because of this as technology allows communication through email and an increased use of telephone conferencing and video conferencing. Even although business is getting ever more global, there are global ways of working without physically having to be offshoring to places like India has shown us.

I finished by telling Ruth Kelly of the results of my resident’s survey which showed 93% of residents against expansion. I told her that she should listen to those people who are affected by the proposed changes.

I really do care about the economy (not least because my current job depends on a strong financial sector!) as we need a strong economic climate to ensure people have jobs and prosperity. But I do not believe this is an economic debate. I care about local people and their quality of life. This is far more important, than this Labour government’s determination just to do whatever they want to.

I will keep up the fight on this issue on behalf of local residents.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Conservatives win Crewe and Nantwich

Fantastic night last night!

Edward Timpson, the Conservative candidate, won the Crewe and Nantwich by-election with a 7,860 majority - a swing of 17.6% from Labour to the Conservatives.

It is our first gain in a by-election for 26 years and the first from Labour since 1978. The turnout of 58% was higher than expected and Labour got an awful result ...probably due to the terrible 'class' campaign that they tried to run. It backfired dramatically!

Also, the public were sending a very clear message to Gordon Brown and how badly they feel let down by Labour. The 10p tax row is a perfect example of this. The British public believe it is time for a change ...and a change for the better... to the Conservatives.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Healthy Hounslow Campaigners ...making progress

We are making good progress with the fabulous help of our nutritional therapist, Alli Godbold, from Chiswick.

We set out a few weeks ago to lose 40kg by Saturday 5th July. In the first few weeks, we have already lost 10kg. Not a bad start! (I shouldn't really say this since it is a team effort, but Paul Lynch is in the lead at the moment. Well done to him ...although he did have a hair cut and a beard trim so maybe that has made all the difference!)
The money raised from sponsorship will go to the Mulberry Centre in Isleworth, who do excellent work locally for those affected by cancer. We have raised £555 for them so far.

Everyone has made a fantastic effort to eat healthily and take some exercise. It is not easy to change the habits of a lifetime, but everyone has tried really hard and has managed to lose weight. We are on track for meeting our target of 40kg.
Alli is a tremendous support to us all and has been giving us superb advice, guidance and cooking lessons. The chicken curry was really good.

If you would like to get involved please do come and join us by calling 020 8994 1406 or by emailing me on You will feel so much better if you do!.
Alternatively, just send us a donation!

Photo: (from left) Cllr Pam Fisher, Elizabeth Spillane, Cllr Lin Davies, Mary Macleod, Cllr Barbara Reid and Alli Godbold, our nutritional therapist

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Vote on Abortion time limit tonight

"If a baby feels pain as part of a barbaric abortion process - which is what happens post 20 weeks - and if we know that baby could live if it was allowed to be born, then there comes the point when that baby has rights which are of equal parity to the mother's." Nadine Dorries MP

A friend of mine, Nadine Dorries MP, is proposing an amendment tonight, to cut the time limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20 weeks. MPs will have a free vote on this.

The current statistics on abortions in England and Wales are (ONS figures from 2006):
- Under 9 weeks: 54.9%
- 9-12 weeks: 34.3%
- 13-19 weeks: 9.2%
- 20-24 weeks: 1.5%
There are over 530 abortions a day in England and Wales.

I support Nadine on this wholeheartedly. I do believe in the right of women to choose but we also need to look at what is ethically right. Babies are surviving at 24 weeks, even although they are extremely premature, and therefore I would be voting for the reduction to 20 weeks.

Monday, 19 May 2008

A huge step into the unknown...

There was a free vote today in the House of Commons to ban hybrid human animal embryos. The cross-party attempt to ban these embryos though was defeated by 336 votes to 176.

The bill would allow regulated research using hybrid or "admix" embryos, where the nuclei of human cells are inserted into animal eggs. The resulting embryos would be kept for up to 14 days to harvest stem cells. Scientists believe that it may make a difference to research into treatments for cancer and conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

This is one of the many ethical debates that will increasingly take place in medical science. It is one that makes me feel very uncomfortable. We don't have all the answers ... but perhaps we should be doing all we can, within extremely tight controls, to help those who have to suffer illnesses for which we currently have no cure.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Devastating earthquake in China

What horrific scenes in China this week following Monday's devastating earthquake in the south-western Sichuan Province.

Almost five million people have been left homeless and 22,069 deaths have been confirmed and thousands remain missing. There may be as many as 50,000 dead.

I visited Chengdu in the Sichuan Province a few years ago. I do hope those people I met there have all survived. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones, friends and colleagues.