Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Improving Kew Bridge Station

I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.

London 2012 Olympics

I recently invited local schools to join me in a visit to the Olympic Park in East London. I was joined by Chiswick Councillors Todd, McGregor and Oulds, as well as the School Sports Partnership based at Isleworth and Syon School, Chiswick Community School and Brentford Football Club.

The visit was arranged since I was part of the Olympic Bill Committee in Parliament. The bill made a small number of technical amendments to the advertising and trading, ticket touting and traffic management provisions of the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. The Bill also introduced measures to extend the powers to seize unauthorised and fake merchandise and raise the find for Olympic ticket touts from £5,000 to £20,000. During the debate, I raised the issues of the lessons London can learn from other hosting countries, how the traffic conventions during the Games will be enforced, as well as their impact on non-Games related traffic.

Having seen how much has already been achieved at the Olympic site with just a year to go until the Games, I believe the London Olympics and Paralympics provide us with an outstanding opportunity to showcase the best we have to offer to the world. Londoners, who have contributed to the success of the Games, should be encouraged to get involved as much as possible, either through attending or volunteering. Let's make this the best Games ever, showing the best of what London and the UK can offer. Let's also do all we can to create a really strong, lasting legacy and use this for getting more young people involved in sport, creating stronger communities, great team spirit and a healthier nation.

Nominate an Olympic Torchbearer!

With just over a year to go before the London 2012 Olympics, I want local residents to consider nominating someone to be a Torchbearer for the Games. Do you know someone truly inspirational or someone who always strives to do their best? Out there are ordinary people doing extraordinary things - people from all walks of life and from all over the UK. I need your help to find them.
The Olympics' organisers are looking for truly incredible individuals whose personal stories will inspire millions of people watching the Olympic Torch Relay - in their community, across the UK and around the world.
It would be great to see a representative from Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley or Hounslow carrying the Olympic Torch in the Relay. I really do hope that local residents will consider who they think deserves to take part and then nominate them. I believe that the London Olympics and Paralympics provide us with an outstanding opportunity to showcase the best we have to offer to the world - and that should include the people of our local area. If you know someone who has inspired you to do something you never thought possible, someone who always tries to be the best that they can be, someone who makes a real difference in their school or local community, someone who has shown what it means to be a real friend, a person who shows respect for other people and knows the importance of fair play, in essence, a person who truly represents the Olympic spirit - then please nominate them.
If you think you know someone who has what the organisers are looking for and really deserves to represent the UK in the Torch Relay, nominate them at:
Nominations close at 11.59pm on 29th June 2011.

Monday, 6 June 2011

One Year On!

I can hardly believe that a year has gone by since the General Election! It's been an incredibly busy year, balancing the workload in Parliament with responding to residents' emails and letters and getting out and about in the constituency.

I've met some wonderful people at my Advice Surgery and elsewhere and seen the fantastic work that is going on in businesses, schools and voluntary organisations across Chiswick, Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley and Hounslow.

It will be a challenging year ahead for many I know. I strongly believe, that working together, we can create a better and stronger local community for us all.


The early highlight of the year was stopping the 3rd runway at Heathrow. Throughout the year, it has been great to be able to make a difference, however small, in helping individual residents resolve their problems.


The lowlight so far was hearing about planned closures of Day Centres and other key local services but I am positive about continuing to work with local residents, campaigners and Hounslow Council to find a solution.

Top three issues during the past year

  1. Economy - working with businesses and people who are worried about their jobs and the impact of budget cuts

  2. Crime - understanding residents' concerns about crime hotspots and significant issues locally such as domestic violence, drug-related crime and knife crime

  3. Heathrow - confirming the continuation of runway alternation and campaigning to reduce the number of night flights

Top three challenges for the year ahead

  1. Welfare reform - getting people back into work, giving people the confidence to find a job and encouraging entrepreneurship

  2. School provision - supporting efforts to increase the number of school places in both primary and secondary schools

  3. London 2012 Olympics - working to ensure a successful Olympics, address transport issues and secure a lasting legacy in our area

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Night Flights at Heathrow Airport

In a debate in Parliament yesterday, during Noise Action Week, I challenged the Government to ban night flights at Heathrow airport on the grounds of health and quality of life factors for local residents.
New research from Warwick University published in the European Heart Journal in February this year studied the impact of hormones and chemicals caused by chronic lack of sleep in the body. They concluded that: "If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke."
The World Health Organisation and the HYENA report from Imperial College London also found that, even if people don't wake up, there is evidence that noise from night flights causes immediate increases in blood pressure.
The impact of night flights on the lives of those living under the flightpaths of Heathrow airport is something we must take seriously. Stronger enforcement of current quotas is required, together with higher fines for consistent offenders. As we prepare to set new night flight agreements for 2012/17, we must also give full consideration to reducing or eliminating night flights, especially between the critical 11.30pm and 6.00am period.
I also urge the Government to work with BAA and the airlines to ensure effective noise mitigation, such as insulation and double glazing, for those who are worst affected by the noise of aircraft at Heathrow.
I hope that the Government's current consultation on the future UK aviation strategy marks a positive step forward in relations between the Government and the aviation industry. I want us to ensure that Heathrow airport continues to thrive and, at the same time, takes into account the quality of life of those who live around the airport.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Tiffin Club 2011

"Memories of India" has won a place in the Regional Final after I selected the restaurant to represent Brentford and Isleworth in the prestigious Lyca Tiffin Cup 2011 competition.
The national competition is held each year to find the best South Asian restaurant in the country.
This year 60 restaurants were nominated. "Memories of India," having won a place in the regional final, will battle with other restaurants from the same region to become one of the national finalists in the Lyca Tiffin Cub 2011 Grand Final.
Within the next few weeks, a mystery diner will visit the restaurant and judge whether it deserves to represent the region.
I am delighted that my nomination for "Memories of India" has been accepted. I hope that "Memories of India" will be chosen to represent our region in the Grand Final of such a prestigious award. I am sure everyone in Brentford and Isleworth will be supporting our restaurant.
Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Tiffin Club, tells me he is delighted with the nomination of "Memories of India" - it will really put Brentford and Isleworth on the culinary map.

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Dangers of Level Crossings

I recently spent a day with a team from the British Transport Police in Chiswick. I visited the level crossing in Grove Park Terrace to find out about Operation Galley - London South's initiative to reduce non-compliance at level crossings. Operation Galley involves a specially adapted British Transport Police van, which is able to monitor vehicles and pedestrians crossing the level crossing. I was shown how the operation is conducted, as well as being given a full tour of the newly built vehicle which was sponsored by Network Rail. The new van allows the British Transport Police to immediately issue a fixed penalty notice of 3 points and a fine to drivers, and an on-the-spot fine for pedestrians, who chose to cross the level crossing once the yellow lights are flashing.

I would like to pay tribute to all the hard work that the British Transport Police does in ensuring that our railways are kept safe, both for staff and rail users.

In July last year I was concerned to hear about a bus failing to stop at the level crossing in Bollo Lane, just outside my constituency. Although one passenger was showered with glass when the back window of the bus was broken by the descending barriers, miraculously no serious damage was done. But I am well aware that this was pure chance. Drivers who fail to heed signals at level crossings put not only themselves in danger, but endanger the lives of train passengers also. I therefore very much welcome this new initiative by the British Transport Police and Network Rail to catch and prosecute drivers who do not obey signals at level crossings.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Overcrowding at Turnham Green Tube Station

Following concerns raised about serious overcrowding at Turnham Green Tube Station during the rush hour, I have been liasing with Transport for London (TfL) to see what can be done to improve the situation. Following correspondence from my office in Westminster, TfL have now confirmed that they are planning to add an extra Ealing Broadway-bound District Line train to the timetable during the evening rush hour. The extra train, which will be incorporated into the timetable in December, has become available due to TfL's cancelling of the Earl's Court to Olympia shuttle service during weekdays.
In addition to this, I am continuing my work to put pressure on TfL for the Piccadilly Line to stop at Turnham Green Tube Station more frequently. The Piccadilly Line currently only stops at Turnham Green during the early morning and late in the evening.
Whilst I very much welcome the addition of this extra District Line train during the evening rush hour, I would like TfL to look into what can be done to tackle overcrowding at Turnham Green Tube Station during the morning rush hour too. The Eastbound platform is often seemingly dangerously overcrowded and commuters often have to wait for a number of trains to pass before they can even squeeze on to a train. As a result, I have written to TfL to highlight the issue of platform and train overcrowding at Turnham Green. A solution to this, of course, would be to get the Piccadilly Line to stop routinely at Turnham Green Tube Station.

Hounslow: 'Transport Borough of the Year'

I would very much like to congratulate Hounslow Council on being recognised by the London Transport Awards 2011 as 'Transport Borough of the Year.'
The Council, which won the 'Most Improved Borough' Award in 2008, has continued to improve the transport infrastructure of the Borough, and it is heartening to see that all the hard work that has been put in by both the current and previous administrations has been recogninsed. In 2009, the Conservative-led Council succeed in making Hounslow outer London's first 'Biking Borough,' by co-planning and hosting the successful Skyride in Brentford. The event attracted a staggering 11,000 participants.
I wish to pay tribute to the Council's previous and current Lead Executive Member for Environment, Cllr Barbara Reid and Cllr Corinna Smart, who have done a sterling job in attracting investment in infrastructure and worked hard to help revitalise transport across the Borough.
I do hope that the Council will use this award to spur them on to even greater successes in the coming years.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Referendum on the Alternative Vote

On Tuesday 3rd May I will be taking part in a public debate on the Alternative Vote (AV) Referendum. The event will be chaired by Chiswick resident Michael White, the Associate Editor and former Political Editor of The Guardian.
Representing the YES to AV campaign will be Mike Tuffrey AM, a Liberal Democrat politician and Member of the London Assembly. He was leader of the Lib Dem Assembly Group from May 2006 until May 2010. He will be joined by former Councillor Serge Lourei, who was leader of Richmond Upon Thames Council until 2010. He was a councillor for Kew for 28 years and is co-ordinating the YES campaign in Richmond.
Representing the NO to AV campaign, I will be joined by Councillor Adrian Lee, a Chiswick Councillor representing Turnham Green ward. He was first elected to the London Borough of Hounslow Council in 1998.
After each speaker has put their point across, the debate will be opened to questions from the floor and the public will get a chance to ask questions about the issues in the referendum.
I am delighted that such a frank and open public debate has been organised in the local area. I very much look foward to being able to help the public understand more about the important issues involved in this referendum.
Time: 8pm, Tuesday 3rd May 2011
Place: Chiswick Memorial Club, Afton House, Bourne Place, Chiswick W4 2EL

Supporting the London Fire Brigade

I was recently invited to visit Chiswick Fire Station to find out more about their work in the local area. I was interested to meet active firefighters and to hear about the challenges they face in both preventing fires and fighting them.
No only is the local Fire Brigade on call 24/7 to deal with fires as they occur, but they work hard to raise awareness of preventing fires. Firefighters regularly visit schools to teach the students about fire prevention and safety, as well as providing a smoke alarm fitting service in the local area. The London Fired Brigade (LFB) carries out statistical modelling to determine which areas in London are most at risk of fire. This is done to ensure that community safety work is targeted where it is most needed.
The staff at the Fire Station also talked to Mary about the importance of sprinklers in preventing loss of life and valuables in a fire. There is clear evidence that installation of sprinklers can be effective in the rapid suppression of fires. In buildings that are fully protected by sprinklers, they can control 99% of fires. Sprinklers also greatly improve the safety of firefighters tackling a fire - they are effective in reducing the risks of flashover and backdraft conditions.
It was very interesting to meet the firefighters and the Borough Commander, to hear about their efforts to improve fire safety in the local area. I am delighted to be able to help support the London Fire Brigade's excellent work by sending out information leaflets to those of my constituents who live in high-risk areas. I do hope that these constituents will consider the matter very carefully and take up the LFB's offer of a home fire safety visit and possibly a free smoke detector. They really do save lives.

The Issue of Turbans At Airports

Following discussions with the Gurdwara in Hounslow, I wrote to the Minister for Transport in order to clarify the Government's position on the searching of men wearing turbans.

The Government has introduced new procedures for screening religious headgear, which particularly affects Sikh men wearing turbans - considered sacred in the Sikh religion. Since June last year, officials from the Department for Transport have been engaging with the Sikh community about alternatives to hand-search for use with religious headgear. This has led to the establishment of a European Commission-approved trial of alternative methods for screening headgear. The trial uses hand-held metal detectors and explosive trace detection and is underway at a number of UK airports who have volunteered to participate.

I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament this week about this issue, highlighting that it would be good for all airports to be involved.

I fully recognise the sensitivities involved in implementing the new procedures for screening religious headgear and do not underestimate the importance of this issue to my Sikh constituents. I would like to assure them that the engagement and discussion with the Sikh community will continue and that the Government will continue to work to find the right solution to this issue. If this trial is successful, I hope that it will be rolled out to cover all UK airports.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Continuing the fight for Chiswick Day Centre

I recently met with supporters of the Chiswick Day Centre, including a GP and Councillors John Todd and Gerald MacGregor, to discuss options for the future of the Centre.

The Supporters Group felt very strongly that it was important to keep a day centre in Chiswick, especially with an ageing population. The Day Centre is likely in the long term to save money on healthcare as without this support, elderly people could deteriorate more quickly. The Group believe that more elderly people would definitely attend the Day Centre if they knew that they could make use of it.

The facilities offered by the newly-refurbished Day Centre are excellent and it seems a tragedy to get rid of such a superb resource. I believe the Chiswick Day Centre is an underused community resource which should be used to support many elderly people in the local area and their carers for many years to come. I do hope that their views will be taken into account as part of the consultation.

A large number of constituents have written to me about their support for the Day Centre, requesting that their points of view be listened to during the consultation, which is due to end on 30th April 2011.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Pupil Premium

New figures show that disadvantaged children in my constituency are set to receive £1.4 million this year under the Coalition Government's new "Pupil Premium."

The Pupil Premium is a new policy promised by both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats before the General Election last year. It is an extra lump sum of cash which follows every disadvantaged child and is received by schools, allowing them to provide additional support such as one-to-one tuition and extra pastoral care.

The Government has announced that in the year from April 2011, the Pupil Premium will be worth £430 for every pupil on Free School Meals, £430 for every looked-after child, and £200 for every child who has a parent in the Armed Services. This means that in the Brentford and Isleworth constituency this year 3,230 children overall will benefit from an extra £1,389,000.

This is good news for children in our area. The gap between the academic performance of children from deprived backgrounds and their peers is too wide and has been ignored for too long.

In the last month, reports estimate that a third of children in Brentford are living in poverty. The Pupil Premium will tackle this disparity head on, providing targeted funding for those who need it most. This could mean extra one-to-one tuition or more pastoral support.

In these tough times, the Pupil Premium will deliver a massive boost to the education of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children locally.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Mayor of London's Outer London Fund

I have just written to Hounslow Council to urge them to apply for funding from the Mayor of London's Outer London Fund for the renewal of town centres.

Last week the Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced a £50 million fund to boost regeneration and rejuvenate town centres at the very heart of local London communities. This fund will revitalise projects or get new schemes off the ground at exactly the right time for communities concerned about the future. The money offered will go a long way to support the establishment of local business districts and the improvement of retail, leisure, culture and arts provision. It will bring vibrancy back into communities, providing more secure features for those who live and work locally and above all improving the quality of life of many.

A major step forward to stimulate economic growth in London's vital network of Outer London town centres, this fund will specifically target those boroughs which benefit less directly from the 2012 Games and Crossrail and will accelerate a pan-London economic recovery advancing job opportunities not just for a few but for many.

The announcement from the Mayor's office of a fund to benefit Outer London's key community hubs is to be welcomed by all those living locally. I sincerely hope that Hounslow Council will consider applying for a grant to fund regeneration of key local urban centres, including Brentford High Street and Hounslow Town Centre.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Threatened Closure of Chiswick Day Centre

On Saturday I joined residents in Chiswick to highlight the threatened closure of Chiswick Day Centre in Bridge Street. At an event held at the Crown and Anchor pub on Chiswick High Road, round the corner from the Day Centre, I met with a number of residents who use the facilities currently offered by the Centre, as well as their families, carers and local volunteers.

The event was organised to show support for the threatened Day Centre by Laura Ware and Pauline Hart (who organises and runs Pensioners Alone At Christmas). It had a 1940's street party theme, including music performed by the "Swingtime Sweethearts." Residents enjoyed singing along to wartime favourites, as well as an old-fashioned "High Tea." The get-together gave me the opportunity to speak to local residents directly affected by the proposed closure and hear their concerns over what will happen in the future.

Many of my constituents have contacted me to share their grave concerns over the threatened closure of Chiswick Day Centre, while a number of local GPs have indicated that they are concerned that some vulnerable patients may not be catered for under the proposed new arrangements. The Centre is a vital local resource - not only for those who use it themselves, but for their families and carers, for whom the care offered at the Day Centre provides some much needed respite from caring for loved ones.

I am concerned that the closure of the Day Centre by Hounslow Council has not been properly considered and that the loss of this important part of the community will have a serious and detrimental impact on residents in my constituency.

The recent refurbishment of Chiswick Day Centre would indicate that the Council previously saw the value in maintaining the facilities at this location. If Chiswick Day Care Centre were to close, the nearest centre with comparable facilities will be in Heston - a long way to travel on a daily basis, particularly for the elderly and those without private means for transport.

Hounslow Council is consulting on this proposal until 30 April 2011.

Pot Hole Repair in Hounslow

In response to the abnormal damage to roads caused by the severe weather this winter, it was announced in the Budget last week that the Government has allocated a further £100 million to Local Highway Authorities to repair pot holes and other damage to roads. This is in addition to the £100 million already announced earlier this year. This £200 million of additional funding to Local Authorities is possible because of the savings the Department for Transport is making on its budget for 2010/11. The funding has been allocated based on the Department for Transport's existing formula, which takes into account road length and condition. Hounslow has been allocated £321,467. To promote greater transparency and accountability to local communities, all local highway authorities have already agreed to publish information on their website by 30 September 2011 showing how this additional money has been spent. I am delighted that the Department for Transport has been able to make such significant savings and that they are passing these savings directly on to the public. The maintenance of roads is an issue that local residents feel strongly about and I look forward to Hounslow Council using these funds to make a real difference to our local roads. I have written to the Chief Executive of Hounslow Council asking for clarification on where and when these funds will be spent.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Hounslow Chamber AGM

Earlier this month, I was asked to be the guest speaker at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Hounslow Chamber, at Fuller's Brewery. This AGM was apparently the best attended in recent years, with just under 100 members and guests. I used the opportunity to speak about the importance of entrepreneurship in boosting the economy and how the Government plans to support small and medium businesses.

I was delighted to meet so many businessmen and women and hear their concerns and aspirations for the future. Enterprise and growth are at the top of the Government's agenda and we want to support small businesses and encourage innovation. I have written to more than 600 businesses locally to call on them to take on young people for work experience and apprenticeships. This will benefit the businesses themselves and help equip the young people with the skills they need to secure long-term jobs.

The new President of Hounslow Chamber, Ela Grabinska-Raubusch, spoke of the exciting year ahead for Hounslow Chamber. Plans include the appointment of a part-time CEO to strengthen Hounslow Chamber's membership and improve the sector representing the Borough. 2011 has apparently started very well for Hounslow Chamber and membership is increasing.

Working closely with Hounslow Council, Hounslow Chamber hopes to re-establish the Hounslow Association of Tourism. One of the success stories of the last year is the revitalisation of the Women in Business group.

Women On Boards

Following the publication of Lord Davies' report on Women On Boards, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to put a question directly to the Prime Minister during last week's Prime Minister's Questions. I asked the Prime Minister: "Yesterday was International Women's Day, and today great trade figures and export growth were announced. Does the Prime Minister agree that we would have even better figures if we managed to get more women on the boards of companies across the UK?" The Prime Minister responded: "My Honourable Friend is right to draw attention to today's trade figures, which show a big increase in exports, which is exactly the sort of rebalancing that our economy needs. It is absolutely right that we need to get more women involved in the work force and at board level. In addition, in terms of entrepreneurialism, if we had the same rate of women setting up small businesses as in America, we would have tens of thousands of extra businesses creating wealth and jobs." As a strong believer in the value of having more women at senior levels in organisations, I welcome the report on Women on Boards from Lord Davies. This report summarises neatly the growing body of evidence that points to the fact that companies with women at the senior levels perform better. However, according to a report by the Cranfield School of Management, only 12.5% of directors of FTSE 100 companies are women, and only 7.8% of directors of FTSE 250 companies are women - but there are 52.4% that have no women on their boards. I fully agree with the Lord Davies report that has stopped short of recommending quotas for the number of women on boards - we must promote on the basis of merit and skills. The approach recommended requires companies to consider and report on their policy for promoting women to the senior levels and I believe this is the right way to address the current situation.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Marking International Women's Day in Westminster

On Tuesday 8 March I gathered together female MPs and Peers from all parties in Westminster to mark the centenary of International Women's Day.

We were joined in Westminster Hall by the Speaker of the House of Lords, Baroness Hayman, and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, Dawn Primarolo.

Since its launch in 1911, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike.

I was eager to mark this important day. International Women's Day was founded even before women in Britain were given equal voting rights to men and has been a symbol of women's rights for one hundred years.

We have come a long way since then, but the fact remains that of the 649 MPs currently sitting in the House of Commons, only 144 are women. This is something that I hope will change and I have set up an All Party Parliamentary Group on Women In Parliament to champion this.

We are fortunate in this country that girls and women have good access to education and indeed are outperforming their male counterparts at all stages in the education system - but I believe there is more we can do to encourage and increase uptake of science and technology subjects by women in the UK, both of which are extremely important to the future of the economy.

The global picture is of course quite different. I welcome the role that the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals have played in defining global aims on key issues including access to education for women. In many countries in the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and North Africa, women do not have easy access to education, particularly beyond primary level. It is right therefore that we use International Women's Day to focus on this issue for girls and women across the globe.

Monday, 7 March 2011

International Women's Day

On Saturday, I helped mark the centenary of International Women's Day (IWD) by speaking at an event at Hounslow Civic Centre. The event brought together women from across the Borough, giving them an opportunity to celebrate achievements and diversity in the community.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to address more than 900 women who had gathered to celebrate the fantastic wealth of female talent locally. This year's theme for IWD is about 'providing equal access to education, training and science and technology' which in turn will 'provide pathways to decent work for women.'

We are fortunate in this country that girls and women have good access to education and indeed are outperforming their male counterparts at all stages in the education system - but I believe there is more we can do to encourage and increase uptake of science and technology subjects by women in the UK, both of which are extremely important to the future of the economy.

The global picture is of course quite different. I welcome the role that the Millennium Development Goals have played in defining global aims on key issues including access to education for women. In many countries in the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and North Africa, women do not have easy access to education, particularly beyond Primary level. It is right therefore that we use International Women's Day to focus on this issue for girls and women accross the globe.

We have made significant progress in increasing the number of female politicians but the reality is that it is currently a male-dominated world. There are areas, such as the treatment of women in the justice system and the issue of domestic violence in this country that may not always have been given sufficient focus.

Last week, Lord Davies published a report about Women on Boards. Having worked in the City for a number of years, I am keen to address the issue of giving more women the opportunity to take on senior roles in business.

I have organised a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday in the main chamber to debate women's issues and to celebrate women's achievements to date.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Hounslow Council Cuts

Following pressure from the public and from my office, Hounslow Council has agreed to look again at proposed cuts to libraries and has pledged to keep the majority of youth services as well as street cleansing services.
However, cuts to day centres such as Canal House in Brentford and the Chiswick Day Care Centre look set to go ahead. Canal House is the only council-run centre for those with mental health issues and provides support, counselling and advice for these people. Chiswick Day Care Centre provides a range of services for our senior citizens, with special support for those suffering from Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
I am extremely disappointed that the Council appears to be focused on making cuts to front line services rather than looking outside the box for more innovative solutions to managing the Council budget.
Plans to cut day centres such as Canal House take away vital services for our vulnerable residents at a time when mental health problems in the community are escalating and it's vital that we help people with these issues as early as possible. Without such support, there is a risk that people will be unable to live and work independently and may ultimately require far more support and funding from the council. Chiswick Day Care Centre also provides specialised care, for those with dementia, as well as being a community venue for our senior citizens to meet and spend time with others. This is a vital support network not just for those that use the centre but also provides respite for those who care for them.
I would urge the Council to discuss with local residents how we can use these facilities in a different and cost-effective way so that they are utilised fully and support those who are most in need.