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Showing posts from September, 2014

Japanese Knotweed in Yardley - campaign Launch

A group of residents who are concerned about the growing problem of Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) have asked me to assist in launching a campaign to bring it under control.
The following photographs are of Morden Road, the River Cole in Stechford and the River Cole near Larch Walk. A lot of the banks of the River Cole in Stechford are being taken over by Knotweed. The council have sprayed a bit of it, but a much more strenuous effort is needed.
Not only does Knotweed undermine biodiversity, but also it can do a lot of damage to properties nearby.





part sprayed by council


All above in Stechford near River Cole


Morden Road

Larch Walk

The Twitter debate about local benefits tourism

Followers of my twitter feed will have noticed a discussion between the local Labour candidate and myself about the way in which she was rehousing people living in Sandwell in Birmingham so that they could claim more benefits.  Specifically to claim more council tax benefit.

This was based upon a speech that she gave on the subject of Children and Families with no recourse to public funds at a City Council committee in 2013.

She explained how she didn't rehouse anyone living in the refuge she managed in Sandwell into Sandwell itself, but instead housed them in Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton.  She said that this placed an even greater burden on Birmingham's resources.

She is now claiming that she was not doing this for reasons of finance, but instead because of safety issues.  According to what I have been told, however, she made no mention of safety and merely mentioned differential rules in terms of benefits.

Debates on Twitter are in public, but are constrained by the…

Results of ISIL survey

There will be a vote later today on the following motion. I am currently in Birmingham, but will soon catch a train to London in order to vote on the motion. I opposed military action against Assad and opposed the 2003 attack on Iraq.

The wonders of modern technology enabled me late last night to send out a survey (including the motion) to those constituents of mine who subscribe to my electronic newsletter.  For some reason those with hotmail accounts were blocked, but many others did get the newsletter and a lot have responded.  I will put an analysis of the responses later.

THIS IS THE MOTION
That this House:
Condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing;
Recognizes the clear threat ISIL pose to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK…

Proposed e-Conference e-Public Meeting on Devolution in England

There does seem to be some interest in the question of devolution for England.  I am, therefore, trying to find out if there is sufficient demand to run an e-Conference or Q&A session on the issues for Constituents (and if there is space in terms of time for anyone else from Birmingham.

If you are interested in this please email tom.lister@john.hemming.name
You would need a Skype video account to be able to ask questions or make statements.

Scotland and Alienation

Quite a few people are unhappy with politics. In Scotland this has resulted in 45% of the country voting for independence with all of its potential problems.  I see that as being in part driven by increased alienation from politics more generally.

I am in the end pleased that they have voted to remain part of the UK although I don't like the Barnet Formula.   I also support proposals to strengthen devolution in England based upon City Regions.   The city region of Greater Birmingham is a much better approach than the previous concept of Government Office Regions.  It also allows the Marches to either have a devolved area of their own or to do things around the counties that exist.

It is, however, crucial that attempts to push Coventry into the Greater Birmingham area are resisted.  Coventry is part of its own smaller city region and forcing it into the Greater Birmingham (which obviously includes the Black Country) immediately creates a conflict of interest.   Coventry sits with …

James and Dana Haymore prosecution - council drops case

I am pleased to be able to say that the prosecution against the Haymores has been dropped by Essex County Council.

Although the council is relating this to them going to the USA, they did this in July a few days after the plea hearing.  In fact they faced substantial costs in fighting the case merely to travel back to the UK.

I wonder if this outbreak of common sense on behalf of the council arises because of the first Not Guilty finding relating to Kerry Capper on Friday.

It remains, however, that the rules need to change.  However, this is a clear success for the Parents Want a Say Campaign Group.

Here is Dana Haymore's statement:
"We are so happy with the decision the County Council has made to drop the case. We feel it is the right decision. No parent should have criminal charges brought against them for doing what is in the best interest of their children. Parents' roles are to know and love their families individually, better than any government does collectivel…

Ashya King and Kerry Capper (over 100 UK refugees in Ireland)

One key element of life is looking at trends in the way things are happening.   Both of the above cases were in the news last week.

I don't know enough about medicine to take a view as to whether Proton treatment is appropriate for Ashya King.   However, it is quite clear that:
a) The doctors should not have threatened an Emergency Protection Order merely because they were being questioned by his parents. b) The Courts are too ready to give EPOs when requested to do so. c) Such decisions and the over used power to prevent parents from being in contact with the courts are at times damaging to the children. d) The only way the family could in practise get a second opinion was to be in the words of Brett King "Refugees" from the UK.
It will take some time to work out where else in the process of issuing an arrest warrant and the arrest of the parents things went wrong.  Clearly if Naveed King had not been as capable as he is at dealing with social media etc their side of th…

Spare Rooms and Housing Benefit

When I took over as the House of Commons co-Chair of the DWP parliamentary policy committee in May I had two top priorities. One was to make some changes to the Spare Room Rent (aka Bedroom Tax). The other was to reduce the number of wrongful sanctions.

After a while I persuaded the party to adopt my proposals for automatic exemptions for people who need spare rooms for reasons relating to disability and secondly that people who wish to move should not have to pay until they have refused a reasonable offer.

I am pleased that once those had been put into the manifesto the opportunity came for Andrew George to press for those in a PMB.  Today the Private Members Bill passed its first hurdle.  (a second reading)

It is difficult to get PMBs into law.

In practise these changes create a better environment for many people, but change the situation from a payment through Discretionary Housing Payments to one relating to Housing Benefit.  Even in cases where people are moving they have been…