A few weeks ago, I went to Calais. I talked there with about 20 refugees. I heard their stories of harrowing risks, dangers fled, and desperation for their children.
I have to tell you, not a single one of them mentioned benefits.
They wanted to come to Britain to be safe, to work, to contribute.
They see our country as a place of opportunity, a place to make the most of yourself, a place where you can be the best you can be.
Because you don’t risk everything clinging to the bottom of a truck if you’re looking for an easy life.
I met a 14 year-old boy who had broken both of his legs trying to board a lorry, he was in a wheelchair pushed by a boy who was 11. Both had lost their parents, both were alone.
After the second world war, Britain offered homes to up two thousand children whose parents had been murdered in the Holocaust. I know this because around 300 of them came to my constituency to recuperate and became known as the Windermere boys. In all the UK provided homes to 700 such children.
That was all who were left alive to take up our offer.
On Wednesday 26th August the Mayor is making a planning decision as to whether to approve the Enderby Cruise terminal in Greenwich.
Local residents have been fighting against the building of the new terminal, and have continued fighting despite the application being approved by Greenwich Borough Council. As only the Mayor has the power to overturn this decision, Wednesday is the final chance for local residents to be protected from the noise and significant air pollution that would result from the opening of the terminal.
In last week’s budget the government announced that maintenance grants for poorer students would be replaced by loans from 2016/17.
These grants are targeted at families on incomes of less than £25,000 with a decreasing amount available for households on incomes up to £42,620.
Latest figures from the student loans company show that around 4,600 students in Tower Hamlets are benefitting from this grant, worth up to £3,300. A total of around £13 million for the most disadvantaged Tower Hamlets students in the previous academic year.
Local liberal democrats have said that this was a plan their party had to block whilst in coalition.
Sixteen-year-olds in Tower Hamlets could soon vote for their local councillor after the Liberal Democrats embarrassed David Cameron in the House of Lords this week.
Lib Dem peers tabled an amendment to a bill to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to choose their local councillors.
The amendment was supported by Labour, which meant the Government was defeated yet again in the House of Lords – a major headache for the Conservative Party.
It means unless the Tories can overturn this amendment in the House of Commons, under-18s in Tower Hamlets could be eligible to vote in local elections as early as next year.
The move is part of the Liberal Democrat campaign to allow 16- and 17-and-year olds to vote in the EU Referendum and general elections.
Today’s budget added the removal of housing benefit from under-21s to worrying recent developments in Tory housing policy.
The new ‘Right to Buy’ is already asset-stripping housing association houses without properly providing replacements, entrenching inequality in the housing market even further. The new policy of preventing under-21s from claiming housing benefit is now going to put a home out of reach of thousands of young men and women at a critical time in their lives, and even threatens to put people out of homes they already live in should they have the misfortune to lose a job or an income, however temporarily.
The Liberal Democrats will use £2.5 million from a fine imposed on a bank for rigging the Libor rate to investment in London's air ambulance service.
This money could be used to buy an additional helicopter, provide 24/7 emergency, or upgrade helipads at hospitals – although it is up to local groups how they spend the cash.
It is part of wider Liberal Democrat plans to divide £50m, from the £227m fine levied on Deutsche Bank, equally between Britain’s 20 air ambulance trusts.
Air ambulances save hundreds of lives each year but rely almost solely on donations from the local community.
On the penultimate day of the election campaign, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said “you face the biggest political decision of your life”.
With the polls neck-and-neck and no party likely to hold a majority in parliament, voters face the prospect of a new government lurching to the extreme left, the extreme right, or breaking up the country unless they vote Liberal Democrat to anchor Britain to the centre ground.
Nick Clegg said only the Liberal Democrats will provide “stability, unity and decency” after Polling Day, highlighting six ‘red lines’ that must be agreed to as part of any coalition negotiations in the next government. These key policies will benefit millions of people across the country by creating a stronger economy and fairer society with opportunity for everyone.
The Liberal Democrats outlined six 'red lines' during the election campaign covering: education, the economy, tax, health, public sector pay and the environment:
- Invest an extra £2.5bn in education – benefitting 11.5 million pupils aged 2-19
- Invest £8bn a year by 2020 in the NHS – benefitting 53.9 million people in England
- £2.7bn of pay rises for public sector workers – benefitting 5.4 million workers
- Cut taxes by £400 for working people - benefitting 30 million individuals
- Introduce a 'stability budget' in the first 50 days – benefitting the entire UK population
- Fight climate change and protect nature - benefitting the entire UK population
Today, Elaine Bagshaw has signed up to show their support for Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign.
The campaign is about empowering people with a learning disability and their families to have their voices heard by their local MPs and candidates in the lead up to the May 2015 General Election.
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK but many feel they are not listened to by those in power and the issues they that are important to them – like hate crime, better healthcare and education – are often not talked about.
Elaine Bagshaw said:“People with a learning disability and their families are as much a part of our society as anyone else and deserve to have their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. I am listening and I hope that many more MPs and potential candidates will do the same by getting on board with Mencap’s Hear my voice campaign.”
Elaine Bagshaw is the latest to confirm support for the campaign and joins over 700 other candidates who have signed-up to say they are listening to the voices of people with a learning disability on the new Hear my voice website: www.hear-my-voice-org-uk
Through the website, people with a learning disability and their families have a space to share their experiences with their local MP and, in return, MPs and candidates can show their support by signing-up to say they are listening.
Jan Tregelles, Mencap’s chief executive, said: “It is encouraging to see so many MPs listening to people with a learning disability and their families about the problems they face and the change they want to see in the next Parliament. They are the experts in what matters to them, so prospective candidates should be listening to what they have to say when they are out on the campaign trail.”
Lord Brian Rix, Mencap President, said:
“There are 1.4 million people in the UK with a learning disability and 6 million more family members and carers connected to them. However they often tell us they feel they are not listened to by politicians and subsequently many of the challenges they face go unheard and unresolved. We are asking Members of Parliament and prospective candidates to listen to what people with a learning disability and their families have to say.”
The campaign has also given rise to a Manifesto, which explores the issues that matter most to people with a learning disability and their families and on which they want to see action from the next UK government. These include improving healthcare for people with a learning disability, ending disability hate crime and improving support in education.
Liberal Democrats will raise an extra £6 billion a year by tackling tax avoidance, and use it to balance the books by 2017-18.
In Coalition Government, we have made huge progress in clamping down on tax avoidance and evasion already, but there is still a minority of wealthy individuals and companies who actively seek to avoid paying their fair share. This cannot be right. We will take tough action against corporate tax evasion and abusive avoidance strategies.