I am really pleased to be able to promote this year’s CavFest,
which will be taking place in West Didsbury tomorrow! The festival has in the past raised as much as £9000 to support music and art in the school. From new guitars to installing a new kiln, the money raised by previous festivals has given pupils at Cavendish Primary many opportunities they would not have had otherwise.
I completely agree with the idea behind CavFest- that the opportunity for development in music and art strongly enriches a child’s education and so I think that investment in music and art from an early age is essential. Anything that helps to develop a child’s creativity and imagination is something to be encouraged and so I hope that this year’s CavFest will be just as successful as in previous years.
This year’s festival has a fantastic line-up including Badly Drawn Boy who has been called the ‘Chorlton-cum-Springsteen anti-superstar’ and recently won the Mercury Award for his music. Other bands playing at CavFest 2013 include The Rainband, hotly tipped by Liam Gallagher and Johnny Marr, who, as well as playing at CavFest this year, have played at Glastonbury. The festival continues to attract a wide range of talent from Manchester and beyond and is a must-attend for anyone in the area!
Tickets are £20 adults, £15 students, £5 children (5-15) and 1p for the under 5's. For 10 hours of entertainment and 13 acts! I hope this year’s festival attracts as many of you as previous years and continues to provide the funds to inspire children at Cavendish Primary School in music and art.
||Good Times Soul Club (DJ Set)
||The Lazy Maybees
||The Cornelius Crane
||Dawn Acton (DJ Set)
||The Slow Readers Club
||The Whip (DJ Set)
||The Minx Band
||Clint Boon (DJ Set)
||Badly Drawn Boy
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg used his speech to Liberal Democrat conference yesterday to announce that all pupils at infant schools in England are to get free school lunches from September 2014, with equivalent funding for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In addition, disadvantaged students at sixth form colleges and further education colleges in England will also be eligible for free school meals also from next September.
Money is also being provided for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but as education is a devolved issue, it will be up to those running schools there to decide whether to spend the money on free lunches.
Free school meals were one recommendation in The School Food Plan
, commissioned by the Government and launched in July by Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent.
They found that in pilots where all children had been given a free school dinner, students were academically months ahead of their peers.Henry Dimbleby took to Twitter
to describe the announcement as "Amazing ground breaking news."
I always enjoy Party Conference. It is a chance to meet old friends, meet charities and organisations and lobby hard on the issues you care about.
For as long as I can remember, I have always attended with my close friend and fellow MP Mark Hunter. We would search out a pub to watch the City game together. My thoughts are with him and his family following the untimely death of his wife, Lesley.
At this conference, I am chairing fringe meetings on Trams and Metrolink and setting up a Lib Dem “Friends of Football”. I visited Glagsow Cathedral as part of my DCMS responsibilities, and I helped organize a football game with Scottish MP’s. We lost 4-3 (we were robbed) and I managed to pull my hamstring.
During conference so far, I have met with Manchester Airport, ITV, BBC, SKY, The Football League, Sustrans, World Vision UK, Prostate Cancer UK and CAMRA. I also had a meeting with Adam, a 15 year old deaf boy, who talked to me about his experiences coping with deafness.
One of the biggest debates at conference is our Tax policy for the next election.
We promised at the last election to raise the poorest out of Income Tax altogether by raising the threshold to £10,000. In Government we have delivered this pledge.
That’s taken 14,000 Manchester workers out of paying income tax at all, and given a £700 tax cut to 133,800 local workers.
This is good but I and the Lib Dems want to go further. We should promise at the next election that if you are on the minimum wage, you should not be paying any income tax.
We have delivered on other tax policies. We have changed capital gains tax, closed tax loopholes and taxed the bankers. This has resulted in billions of extra tax revenue to the Treasury.
There is, however, a down side. It was a mistake to cut higher rate tax from 50p to 45p. Don’t get me wrong, I remember that Labour had a 40% tax rate for 12 years 11 months of their 13 years in power. I also remember that the Tories actually wanted to reduce the top rate of tax to 40p, and that we stopped them as part of the budget negotiations.
The problem is that slashing income tax for people earning over £150k is rightly unpopular with millions of people who hear “we’re all in it together”, but then see income tax cuts for millionaires, while benefit and wage increase are capped at 1%
It does not matter that all the tax changes mean that the richest are actually paying more – nobody really understands the closing of tax loopholes or capital gains tax, while the rate of income tax is very easy to understand.
We should continue to point out that reducing the 50p rate was the Tory priority, not ours, but everyone knows that a skint Government has delivered a tax cut for millionaires.
The only way that we can disassociate ourselves from this top rate Tory tax cut is to commit to reintroducing it. It is the right thing to do.
Opponents of the 50p rate argue that it does not raise any money, or at best, very little. This is only because of systematic tax avoidance on an industrial scale. Rather than take the view that people will simply avoid paying it, HMRC should do their job properly and actually collect the tax that is due.
I also believe that the party should introduce a Mansion Tax on homes worth more than £2 million. It is a myth that this would lead to a mass exodus of wealthy people leaving the country.
What these two changes would show is that the Liberal Democrats are commitment to fairness on tax and the better off paying a greater share than they currently do.
The compromise we made so that we could deliver a tax cuts for millions of low paid workers should not be one we make again.
Here is my column in today's South Manchester Reporter. It was written before the Government committed another £52million in humanitarian aid, and before Russia's offer to put Syria's chemical weapons under UN control.
Decisions about whether Britain should get involved in military intervention abroad divides opinion, but we can all agree that the pictures from Syria show the tragic consequences of conflict.
My view has always been that any intervention in Syria needs to be from the international community and not unilateral action by America, with or without the support of other countries including the UK.
While I have been deeply frustrated by the failure of the international community to persuade the Russians of the need to apply the necessary pressure on Assad, action without UN Security Council approval would, in my opinion, be counter-productive.
I was therefore disappointed that the Prime Minister rushed to recall Parliament to gain parliamentary approval for action against the Syrian regime without approval from the Security Council in response to evidence of a chemical weapons attack in August, particularly when you consider that UN weapons inspectors had not completed their work.
In response to widespread political opposition from Liberal Democrats, some back-bench Conservatives and Labour, the motion to grant Parliamentary approval for military action was shelved, and instead an alternative motion was agreed, condemning the use of chemical weapons, not ruling out legal intervention, but making it clear that there would have to be a further vote in Parliament before there could be any UK involvement.
Labour’s amendment was almost identical to the Government motion, including not ruling out legal military intervention. The Labour amendment was defeated, but the Government motion was also, rejected.
I voted for the Government motion, but I certainly would not have voted for it, had it been a motion to commit the UK to military intervention.
I had been attempting to speak in the debate, but unfortunately I failed to be called by the Speaker on this occasion.
Some people have questioned why I voted for the Government motion, when I have made my opposition to military action clear.
I voted for the motion to ensure that there was a vote in Parliament on whether the UK should be involved to allow MPs to make that decision.
In fact, by the motion being defeated, under the Royal Prerogative, the Prime Minister could have subsequently committed the UK to taking part in military action, because Parliament had rejected the need for MPs to have a vote.
I remain committed to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, and I remain convinced that Russia holds the key to bringing this conflict to an end.
Yesterday I was very proud to have been able to host the Wear it Pink
Campaign in Parliament. The event was an awareness raising mission for the Wear it Pink Day, which this year takes place on the 25th
October. The charity is encouraging everyone to sign up as early as possible so they can personalise their fundraising packs and get entry into a prize draw.
Wear it Pink is the biggest pinkest fundraising day of the year, raising money to support breast cancer research. Last year, hundreds of thousands of you got together, put on something pink and raised over £2.1 million to fund breast cancer research.
Here in South Manchester, rugby club Old Bedians will be swapping their traditional blue and white shirts for pink in their first home game of the season, in a bid to raise money
for the Christie Cancer Hospital. So I encourage you all to get on down to Old Bedians Sports Club, Millgate Lane, Didsbury this Saturday 14th
September from 12.30pm to cheer on the club in a special Barbarians game before the 1st
XV and 2nd
XV play at 3pm.
Alongside the rugby matches there will be a raffle with prizes supplied by local traders and a BBQ with the clubhouse open from 1.30pm. Donations are welcomed online and can be sent via the Just Giving website
So whether you make it to the games on Saturday or not, I urge you to sign up to the Wear it Pink Day, joining me and thousands of others in raising money for a worthy cause.
Today sees a critical report from the Audit Select Committee on plans for the High Speed rail link to Manchester. As a strong support of HS2, I want to make the case for HS2 on economic growth and jobs grounds for Manchester. I also want to argue for HS2 on rail capacity grounds (easy given some of the over-crowding on our local network) and on the grounds that HS2 will weaken the demand for UK internal flights.
Taiwan's High Speed Rail link is a good example of a High Speed Rail link that delivers on all these grounds..
Taiwan's High Speed Rail links the two most populous Taiwanese cities, with further stops between the 2 cities. At the southern end high speed rail is linked via light rail to the airport (connections are made without leaving the high speed rail terminus).
High Speed rail was not universally supported during the planning and construction phase (sounds familier?). In fact during the first few years ridership was not high enough for the line to make an operating profit. Yet, just five years later Taiwan’s High Speed Rail link is profitable, popular, building extra stations and evaluating options for expansion.
When you ask about this turnaround, the same answer comes back, convenience. The journey that takes several hours by car can be completed in around 1.5 hours by train, and there are convenient connections to locations across both cities by light rail when you arrive. You can even check luggage in for the airport at the High Speed Rail station!
This journey is similar to the situation of high speed rail between Manchester and London. The journey by car takes between 4 and 5 hours (when avoiding the rush hour), but high speed rail will deliver you there in just 68 minutes, and both ends of the line will have excellent light rail or underground connections to the rest of their respective cities.
President Ma referred to the line as ‘bringing Taiwan together’. Taiwan managed to build this impressive high speed line with 100% private money, backed up by Government cheap borrowing.
This popularity has led to a dramatic reduction in internal flights – with all the obvious environmental benefits this brings, such as a huge reduction in CO2 emissions.
The advocates of HS2 need to be making the case for HS2 as strongly as those opposed to it are. At the moment, that is not happening.
Job creation in the UK is one of my local key priorities, and a national priority for the Coalition. Already over 1m extra jobs have been created since the Coalition took over.
During our visit to Taiwan I wanted to build relationships with Taiwanese government and businesses that have created jobs in the UK, and have the potential to create thousands more. We visited businesses such as GW Instek who provide security surveillance services for Manchester Royal Infirmary, and HMP Leeds to name just a few of their UK projects.
This compliments the local work to create and sustain jobs and growth in Manchester – like the July ‘Manchester Jobs Summit’
I hosted to bring the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to Manchester to talk to local businesses leaders about job creation, offering more apprenticeships and ideas to boost growth in Manchester.
Today I met with President Ma as part of building those relationships. The meeting was covered widely by the local press.
He took the time to meet us and we discussed the deepening relationship our two countries have. He explained how Taiwan’s investment in the UK is their second highest in Europe, and trade reached a record $6,500 million last year. Youth exchanges are now popular too.
From just 36 Taiwanese students studying in Britain in 1976, the UK is now the second most favoured location for overseas study after the USA – with 15,000 students studying in Universities across the UK. This sustains thousands of jobs in the UK, including many in Manchester.
Our visit to Taiwan is primarily to learn more about the regeneration benefits of light rail, but it is clear that there is a real appetite for British expertise in heavy rail, nuclear technology, and renewable electricity technologies. Several agreements have been signed over the last couple of years which will mean more jobs in the UK as a result.
Whisky is a serious thing in Taiwan, in fact it is the second largest by value in the world. Japanese whisky is doing well in Taiwan due to historical ties. Now Scotland is rightly famous for the quality and variety of whisky produced, and has a strong presence in the market, but there are clearly more opportunities for sales here and the creation and protection of jobs in the UK.
Taiwan’s tourist industry is currently small, but developing at pace due to the removal of the need for visas. It is in fact the UK that is benefitting from Taiwanese tourism.
As President Ma said of Taiwanese visitors to the UK ‘We love the UK history and are serious shoppers!”
For decades in the UK, successive Governments have failed to back light rail schemes when local authorities have proposed them as solutions to their local transport needs. As a result, many local authorities (thankfully not Manchester) have shied away from proposing light rail schemes.
Since 2010 I have been the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group in Parliament, whose purpose is to promote the benefits light rail schemes such as Metrolink to Government.
As part of this evidence gathering I have this week led a visit to Taiwan – seeking evidence to present to government that light rail can offer huge regeneration benefits in addition to the reducing congestion and emissions. The Capital, Taipei, has a hugely successful light rail scheme which carries up to 2 million people per day.
Taipei’s light rail system was the world’s most reliable for four consecutive years (and now is still rated in the top three). Through meeting with the people who planned, built and delivered the system we learned it has already taken a massive 30% of total journeys made off the city’s roads despite only half of the planned lines having been completed. And, once built, it is profitable despite charging fares from less than 45 pence. (Fares have also not risen in 15 years!)
Part of the success of the scheme is how everyone feels comfortable using it. Food, drink and chewing gum are not allowed – meaning it is clean and free from food smells. Even the plastic coin tickets are recycled!
Although Taipei residents were initially reticent to back the building of over a hundred kilometres of light rail, they now enthusiastically support and use the system due to its convenience. This has resulted in a tripling of land values around the stations and a significant increase where lines are built since the properties are now considerable more desirable. In areas of regeneration the benefits have been even more dramatic.
The success of the system, known locally as the MRT, is now a great source of great pride to Taipei’s citizens – offering architecture, leisure space and services, public art and so much more.
If the success, pride and profits were not enough, life expectancy is now 4 years greater since the MRT was built. Obviously there have been many other improvements in air quality – but taking 2m passenger movements per day off the roads has have a massive impact.
I would like to extend my thanks to everyone we have met in this friendly and fascinating country, particularly to the Government of Taiwan, who invited us to visit and funded our stay .
I have written to Manchester City Council urging them to support calls for a street to be named in memory of local ambassador for Manchester culture, Tony Wilson.
Tony died in 2007 and was well-known for his promotion of Manchester’s music scene as popularised in 24 Hours Party People. He was also a regional presenter on Granada Reports, The Politics Show, Xfm Manchester, BBC Radio Manchester and Channel M, and was one time owner of the Haçienda.
Despite being over six years since his death a fitting memorial to ‘Mr. Manchester’ has yet to be given.
My letter seeks to add momentum to the renewal of calls to honour Tony by former Haçienda DJ Dave Haslam and presenter Terry Christian.
My letter to Sir Howard Bernstein, says,
“I sincerely hope that this time, Tony Wilson, the man who helped put Manchester on the map will have the favour returned. It is six years since his death but his legacy to Manchester will live on for generations and generations.”
In July 2012, Manchester Liberal Democrats proposed that Manchester should recognise and develop Manchester’s musical heritage,
Lib Dem leader Cllr Simon Wheale said,
“Manchester has a rich musical heritage and ambassadors such as Tony Wilson have raised the profile of the City around the world.
A musical heritage plaque scheme with a Tony Wilson Street would not only be a brilliant tribute, but also attract tourism and boost the local economy.”
I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the important events and votes in Parliament last week concerning Syria. I want to assure you that I did not vote for military action in Syria.
There has been a great deal of confusion and misinformation surrounding the recall and vote on Syria in Parliament last Thursday, which has been badly misreported and oversimplified in the media, so I wanted to make sure that people knew exactly what had happened.
My view has always been that any intervention in Syria needs to be from the international community and not unilateral action by America, with or without the support of other countries including the UK.
While I have been deeply frustrated by the failure of the international community to persuade the Russians of the need to apply the necessary pressure on Assad, action without UN Security Council approval would, in my opinion, be counter-productive, providing the perfect opportunity for Assad to gain sympathy through anti-American (or anti-west) sentiment.
I was therefore disappointed to hear that the Prime Minister rushed to recall Parliament to gain parliamentary approval for action against the Syrian regime without approval from the Security Council in response to evidence of a chemical weapons attack on the 21st August, particularly when you consider that UN weapons inspectors were in Syria investigating the incident and had not completed their work.
In response to widespread political opposition from Liberal Democrats and some back-bench Conservatives and Labour MP’s, the motion to grant Parliamentary approval for military action was shelved, and instead an alternative motion was agreed, condemning the use of chemical weapons, not ruling out legal intervention, but making it clear that there would have to be a further vote in Parliament before there could be any UK involvement.
The Government’s intention was to ensure cross party support in condemnation of the chemical attack, but unfortunately the Labour Party, having originally agreed to support such a motion, then chose to submit an amendment.This amendment was almost identical to the Government motion, including not ruling out legal military intervention (see below). The Labour amendment was defeated, but the Government motion was also rejected.
I voted for the Government motion, (see in bold below) but I certainly would not have voted for it had it been a motion to commit the UK to military intervention.
That this House:
Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;
Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;
Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;
Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;
Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity, and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;
Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the Arab League on 27 August which calls on the international community, represented in the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;
Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;
Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus, and, whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;
Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken, and notes that before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place; and
Notes that this Resolution relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.
Line 1, leave out from ‘House’ to end and add
expresses its revulsion at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria on 21 August 2013;
believes that this was a moral outrage;
recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons;
makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a grave breach of international law;
agrees with the UN Secretary General that the UN weapons inspectors must be able to report to the UN Security Council and that the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians;
supports steps to provide humanitarian protection to the people of Syria but will only support military action involving UK forces if and when the following conditions have been met that:
(a) the UN weapons inspectors, upon the conclusion of their mission in the Eastern Ghutah, are given the necessary opportunity to make a report to the Security Council on the evidence and their findings, and confirmation by them that chemical weapons have been used in Syria;
(b) compelling evidence is produced that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of these weapons;
(c) the UN Security Council has considered and voted on this matter in the light of the reports of the weapons inspectors and the evidence submitted;
(d) there is a clear legal basis in international law for taking collective military action to protect the Syrian people on humanitarian grounds;
(e) such action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region, and must therefore be legal, proportionate, time-limited and have precise and achievable objectives designed to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria; and
(f) the Prime Minister reports further to the House on the achievement of these conditions so that the House can vote on UK participation in such action, and that any such vote should relate solely to efforts to deter the use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any wider action in Syria.’.
I attempted to speak in the debate, but unfortunately I failed to be called by the Speaker on this occasion, due to the sheer numbers of MPs who wanted to take part in the debate. I have reproduced what I had intended to say in the debate below, which is what I had already said to constituents and what I had said live on the radio.
I have also reproduced a copy of the motion (and the Labour amendment), which makes it abundantly clear that there would have to be a further vote in Parliament before any UK involvement in intervention in Syria.
Some people have questioned why I voted for the Government motion, when I have made my opposition to military action clear. Some MPs clearly did use the motion as an opportunity to highlight their anti-interventionist position. But that was not what we were voting on.
I voted for the motion to ensure that there was a vote in Parliament on whether the UK should be involved to allow MPs to make that decision. In fact, by the motion being defeated, under the Royal Prerogative, the Prime Minister could have subsequently committed the UK to taking part in military action, because Parliament had rejected the need for MPs to have a vote.
I remain committed to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, and I remain convinced that Russia holds the key to bringing this conflict to an end. Unfortunately, as I had hoped to say in my speech, we really must look at long term fundamental change in the structure of the Security Council – it cannot possibly be right that one or more voting members can veto an international solution to a crisis such as Syria, simply for their own strategic, economic and military benefit. This is the case, whether it be Russia and China or America and the UK.
Proposed speech to the Commons
Thank you Mr Speaker
I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate today. Undoubtedly every MP will have received very many emails in the last couple of days and I am no different. I have received many messages and emails, with a wide range of opinions: most have expressed the view that there should be no intervention of any kind, while others have argued that intervention should only be supported with a United Nations resolution. Some have argued that we cannot allow the situation to continue and that there should be some level of intervention, military or otherwise to protect innocent civilians from further chemical attacks, regardless of the existence of a Security Council resolution in support of international action.
Some people have even questioned the validity of the claims that chemical weapons have been used, or which side has used them. Some have even compared comments about chemical weapons with the claims made before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes. This view is wide of the mark – the evidence of the use of chemical weapons is compelling, but we must wait to see the outcome of the UN inspection before making any decision on the use of force.
I had already made my position very clear that a decision on intervention should not be made until after the inspectors have had enough time to complete their inspection. I am therefore pleased that the motion this evening is not to commit the UK to military intervention, when we do not yet know what the inspectors will say, and that it commits the Government to a further vote in the House before there can be any direct British involvement.
While I have grave reservations about any military intervention, there is very little in the Government motion with which I could disagree – in fact if the words “as far as possible” and “the maximum”, in paragraph 7, in relation to United Nations involvement, were removed, I would have no concern about voting for the motion. It certainly does not endorse military action as some on the opposition benches have tried to claim, and if it did, I would have no hesitation in voting against it today.
The situation in Syria is very complex and I would caution against comparing the situation In Syria with Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya and Egypt. Personally I have not come to a definitive view on what action, if any, should be supported, but I believe that any action needs to be supported by a UN resolution. But herein lies the problem. Russia has made it abundantly clear that they will not, under any circumstances, back a United Nations Security Council Resolution. We need to face facts that the United Nations Security Council is completely dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. How have we allowed a situation to remain where one member or more of the Security Council can simply block the international community from protecting innocent civilians, both adults and children, from chemical weapons that are being used in breach international law?
We need to see fundamental change at the United Nations so that the appalling situation in Syria can never be repeated. We also need to recognise that so far the UN security council and the international community has failed the Syrian people. And we need to learn the lessons from other conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and recognise that even the best-intentioned action could make a terrible situation even worse. In my opinion any action that is taken to protect innocent civilians in Syria from further attacks can only be carried out by the international community, and not by the Americans with the support of the UK and France.