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.