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Newsletter of Bob Blackman - MP for Harrow East 
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Since the last edition I have,

 ~  continued my schedule of regular campaigning around Harrow East.

 ~  met Jeremy Child from Harrow Mencap to discuss disability related issues and their future programme of events for this year.
  ~  took a walk in the local postman's shoes in Stanmore by helping with a delivery round. I met Andy Cullinane, the Royal Mail Delivery Manager, for a briefing before setting out on a round with local postie VJ Gami. Royal Mail is currently transforming its operation, which means every part of the process from collecting, transporting, sorting and delivering the mail is being improved to increase efficiency.
 ~  continued my work on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee and the Backbench Business Committee.
  ~  joined in with the SCVP Family Fun Day at Kingsbury High school. Shri Chandana Vidyapeeth is a Jain School for children and adults run by Veerayatan UK and the event is held yearly to raise money for charity. This year's theme was 'One World', demonstrating that Jains all across the Globe are united in promoting and practicing the principles of Mahavir Bhagwan.
 ~ made a visit to Bluebird Care, a family run business providing home care for hundreds of Harrow residents. They employ 114 people locally and provide an excellent service of tailor made care from their base in Wealdstone. Is is so important for those in need of care services to be treated with respect and to be afforded dignity as they are assisted both with long-term care and short-term respite. Bluebird Care is a sterling example of how to provide a service for the elderly, those suffering with mental or physical illnesses.
 ~  continued my programme of events for the Bob Blackman Business Breakfast Club
  ~  headed to Ladbrokes in Edgware to place a charity bet of £50 in aid of St Luke's Hospice. Unfortunately my horse fell at the third fence, but there's always next year!

~ attended North London Collegiate Founder's Day Celebrations.

 ~ attended a meeting of the British Jews APPG to discuss developments in Jewish Education.

 ~ had a private meeting with the High Commissioner of India.

 ~ joined CF India for a panel discussion on the upcoming Indian election and its impact on UK-India relations.
  ~  had a productive meeting with Michael Kissman, the UK Communications Director for Tesco Plc, regarding the proposal to open a Tesco Metro on Whitchurch Lane in Edgware. I recently received a petition with signatures from over 400 local residents objecting to the plans.
 ~ was the Guest of Honour at the Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary Concluding Ceremony, held in Birmingham recently.

  ~  visited a new employer who has opened their office in Harrow creating 32 jobs. Ardour World are commodity brokers who specialise in recycling metal. 
 ~ continued to hold surgeries in my office in Harrow for individual cases and for groups.

 ~ discussed funding for the redevelopment of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore with Rob Hurd, the Chief Executive.

  ~  supported your Wealdstone Candidates, Paul Greek, Nicola Blackman and David Ashton, in their campaign for the clock in Wealdstone to be fixed. The clock has four faces and they all show different times... none of which are correct. 
 ~  had meetings with various colleagues, constituents and charity representatives to discuss the issues that matter to our area.
 

Website of the Week
I recently attended Cancer Research UK parliamentary event to discover more about the power of research which, every week, saves more than five times as many lives as there are seats in the chamber of the House of Commons.   

This astonishing fact means over 2,800 people will survive cancer every week thanks to research. Every year around 29,000 people in London and more than 330,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to research, survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years. This means that 45 per cent of those people will survive the disease for more than 10 years.

To find out more about how to support this excellent charity, please visit their website for more information.
 

Easter Adjournment Debate


Before the Easter Recess, Members were given the opporunity to speak in the House on issues of concern to their local constituencies. Here is my contribution:

Bob Blackman (Harrow East, Conservative): The key point behind these debates is the opportunity to raise a range of issues that might apply not only to Members’ constituencies, but to things of international and national importance. I shall raise some issues related to my constituency that are creating great turmoil. As we approach the most holy week of the Christian calendar, it is appropriate that we consider some of the things that are happening in my local area.

First, there is the good news. My constituency already plays host to the first state-sponsored Hindu primary school in the country, which has operated very successfully for a number of years. I was pleased to be present at the laying of its foundation stone and have supported the school since its inception. So this week we had the really good news that the country’s first state-sponsored Hindu secondary school will be sited in my constituency, on the Whitchurch playing fields. I trust that that decision will be endorsed tonight at Harrow council’s cabinet meeting and we can look forward to the redevelopment of the site in keeping with what is required. It will be the biggest free school in the country and one where parents of Hindu faith will be able to make a choice about their children’s secondary education. That is something we should endorse across the House.

I also note, I have to say, that the people who formed the rather oily, shady Whitchurch consortium, which was going to take over those playing fields, turn them over to private use and exclude the public from using them, will be shown the door. No one locally will mourn their passing. That is the good and positive news that we can look forward to.

Secondly, there is the bad news. We have a site in my constituency called Anmer Lodge, which was closed many years ago. It belongs to Harrow council; it is a landlocked site in Stanmore and it borders a car park that is associated with a shopping centre in Stanmore and is a district centre. The site has been sold to Notting Hill Housing Trust and last night a planning application was approved not only for a Marks & Spencer superstore, which will be welcomed locally, operating as a supermarket and providing competition to other supermarkets in the area, but for the development of 120 flats—tightly arranged, densely configured and not particularly, in my judgement, well designed—that will lead to a dramatic increase in traffic and degrade the quality of life for residents around the area.

Residents were almost united in the view that the Marks & Spencer supermarket was welcome, and that some housing was welcome as well. We need housing, as my right hon. Friend Mr Lilley said. The problem is that the consultants estimate that the whole development, including 120 flats—likely to involve two cars per household—and a Marks & Spencer supermarket, which will have footfall seven days a week, will generate only about 69 extra car parking visits a day.

From 8.30 to 10.30 in the morning, and from 3 o’clock in the afternoon to about 7 o’clock in the evening, the site is gridlocked, so it is incredible to believe that it will not impinge on the quality of life for all concerned. Regrettably, Harrow council’s planning committee did not see the good sense of all the various local groups objecting to the overdevelopment of this site, and allowed it to pass.

I move on to the issue of Barnet football club and the Hive. Madam Deputy Speaker, you might say, “What is Barnet football club doing in Harrow?” I am a great football fan, as many will know, and a fan of great football as well. Barnet football club was kicked out of Barnet and its Underhill stadium, because of disagreements with the local council and a large number of residents. The club sought a contract with Harrow council many years ago to develop the Hive as a centre for the development of youth football, women’s football and other associated activities, but not for first team matches.

Of course, this did not stop the club. First, it applied for planning permission to complete the stadium on the Hive, and this meant it got planning permission for a new stand, for floodlights and to complete the stadium that had been half-built in the interim. But it then decided to ignore the planning permission that had been given, build a stand that is twice as high as the original permission allowed and put floodlights in that are three times the height of those that were permitted.

I wonder sometimes whether Barnet football club has a solution to the so-called energy crisis in this country, because those floodlights are on all winter, until all hours of the day and night—often until 11.30 pm or midnight—and they light up everyone’s homes throughout the area so that people do not need to turn on their lights. In fact, if they did, they would not see the difference, because the floodlights illuminate their bedrooms, front rooms, dining rooms and kitchens. All local residents complain—quite rightly—that the lights have been operated in an outrageous way.

Barnet football club did not stop there, though. It then decided to use the stadium for its first team matches, despite the fact its contract with the council does not permit the playing of first team matches there until 2015, thinking “Well, what’s a couple of years between people? Let’s just ignore it, because after all we can just carry on and the council will roll over.”

Not content with that, the club then introduced London Broncos to the site, so at the Hive we now have the impact of unrestricted car parking all over residential streets for Barnet football club first team matches; and London Broncos, the rugby league club, who are not doing particularly well in the Super League, who are also impinging on residents every week. Basically, throughout the whole year, the area around the Hive is a nightmare for local residents. The council has failed to implement any controls on parking, so people can park on residential streets wherever they like, whenever they like, and nothing is done about it. It is a real and serious problem.

At the same time Barnet football club has ignored all the rules. The planning application it submitted was rejected, yet it just carried on regardless. To me, Tony Kleanthous and his ilk at Barnet football club deserve to return to Barnet as fast as possible—I wish them well in that—and to get out of Harrow.

The other two issues I want to raise briefly relate to the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital and to Stanmore station. The Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in my constituency has been around for about 100 years. Over the past 30 years it has developed as a national and international centre of excellence in the treatment of and recovery from orthopaedic elective surgery. It is a brilliant hospital. The surgeons and medical staff do brilliant work, and recent clients have included Princess Eugenie, who required an operation at a very young age to correct a spinal problem, and the noble Lord Tebbit’s wife, who spent almost a year in the hospital, recovering after the Brighton bombing.

It is a wonderful hospital, but it exists in Nissen huts that were built during the second world war. It has one of the best records of any hospital in the country, and certainly of any in London, on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—it has not had a case of MRSA for five years. One reason for that is that the hospital is exposed to the elements; it has no such thing as the closeted central heating that exists in modern hospitals—far from it.

We have had a plan for the redevelopment of the hospital for many years. The previous Government, on three separate occasions, promised the redevelopment of the hospital but failed to deliver. Prior to the election, I took the then shadow Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr Lansley, to the site and he stated categorically, “If we are elected to government, we will see the rebuilding of this hospital on the existing site during the duration of the Government.” There is one year to go and, as yet, not a spade has been laid in the ground. However, we do have a comprehensive plan: for 300 homes to be put on the site—once again, this is much-needed housing—having freed up some of the land; for a private hospital to go alongside the national health hospital as a centre of expertise and excellence; for not only the Aspire centre, which helps people recovering from orthopaedics and is already there in a modern facility, but a nursing home, which will look after many people who need to be resident at the site; and, crucially, for the rebuilding of the national health service hospital.

Trying to grapple with the intricacies of NHS funding and decision making has been a real eye-opener for me. The number of business cases that hospital trusts and boards have to go through to get proper funding is incredible. We have now reached the stage where NHS London has the business plan from the board, all the figures stack up, as I understand it, and there is a dispute involving the NHS TDA—the appropriately named Trust Development Authority—on agreeing the numbers and confirming the funding and financing. That is despite the fact that one of the first acts of this Government, when we reviewed the capital allocations made by the previous Government, was to confirm the funding available for the rebuilding of this hospital on the existing site. The NHS people who are looking at this—I am talking about officials, not Ministers—are doing a really bad job, holding up the redevelopment of this site. Planning permission was granted for the master plan a year ago, yet we have not made progress with the site. I trust however that with the plan the board has laid out, we will see the start of development this summer of part of the work. I believe there is one last figure to be agreed, of some £20 million, which is in dispute between NHS London and the board, but I trust that over the next few days, having entered a new financial year, that will be signed off and approved. I regularly apply for Adjournment debates on this subject and will continue to do so until we get either the money or an Adjournment debate. I hope we get the money first and then we can have an Adjournment debate celebrating the fact.

Finally, I wish to raise the issue of Stanmore station. The Royal National Orthopaedic hospital is a centre of international excellence, and the nearest station to it is Stanmore. The good news is that life expectancy increases by a year with every stop travelled along the Jubilee line from east to west. Stanmore is at the extreme end of the Jubilee line, which means that life expectancy there is the greatest of anywhere in London. The bad news is that Stanmore has an increasingly elderly population. Our hospital treats disabled people, but our station has no disabled access. So disabled people, be they wheelchair users or people with other disabilities, are unable to come to the hospital by public transport—that is nonsense in this day and age. I have been involved in a campaign for more than 10 years to get a lift installed at Stanmore station. The villain of the piece is the former Mayor of London, who took the lift out of the budget when the station was being redeveloped. That redevelopment has been completed, so getting a lift into the station is difficult now. However, I trust that when the enlightened decisions are taken on rebuilding the hospital on the current site, we will get some enlightened decisions on getting a lift into the station, so that wheelchair users and other elderly people will be able to get from the platforms to the street without having to climb the equivalent of Mount Eiger in steps on the way up.

I will end my speech there, Madam Deputy Speaker, but first may I wish you, and all staff and all Members of the House, a very happy Easter break? We look forward to the opportunity to be out on the streets talking to residents about the issues that matter to our constituents. Given that the Indian elections have started today, we should send out a strong message from this House wishing the biggest democracy in the world every success in having peaceful elections, and I hope that Shri Narendra Modi will be elected as the next Prime Minister of India.
 
 

Published & Promoted by Bob Blackman MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

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