News from Bob Blackman MP

The Homelessness Reduction Bill Makes It Through the Commons Unopposed
My Private Member's Bill on reducing homelessness saw its Report Stage and Third Reading on Friday 27th January in the Commons, following 14 hours of close scrutiny at Committee Stage. Although some amendments were tabled by the opposition benches, these were withdrawn during the debate, giving the bill the best possible chance of success in going forward.
On 24th February, the Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords under the able stewardship of Lord Best. Once again, it received widespread support and passed without amendments. While it is not yet through all the necessary stages in the Lords, all being well it stands a good chance of receiving Royal Assent within weeks, which will be an immensely proud moment for all involved.
Since my last edition, I have continued my programme of street surgeries all around the constituency and I have been doing my part as your representative in Westminster.

Here are a few of the events and engagements I have taken part in recently:

Just before Christmas, I made my annual visit to the Stanmore Delivery Office to thank our local posties for their hard work during Royal Mail’s busiest period. I was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Derek Squires, and was introduced to the people pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver the Christmas mail in the Harrow East area.
I enjoyed attending the Conservative Friends of Cyprus New Year's Reception and 'Vasilopita' cutting ceremony. The cutting of the Vasilopita is an annual Cypriot tradition to bless and bring good fortune for the year ahead. Whilst Cypriot families and communities across the UK mark this occasion, this was the first time it was marked in Parliament.
Harrow School's Palmerston Society kindly invited me to join them for dinner and discussion on political subjects of the day. The society is named after the Old Harrovian and 19th century Prime Minister, Henry John Temple 3rd Viscount Palmerston and is run by their 6th Form boys.
I celebrated the Indian winter harvest festival of Lohri with communities from Jammu & Kashmir at an event including a ceremonial bonfire and drumbeats alongside traditional songs from the region. The programme was organised by the Voice of Dogras, who kindly presented me with an image of the Clock Tower of Old Jammu City.
The St Panteleimon Greek Orthodox Church on Kenton Road held a fabulous community lunch for Harrow Senior Citizens and I enjoyed coming along, at the kind invitation of Father Salapatas, to join in with the New Year celebration and to speak to everyone attending.
I made a visit to India as part of a delegation of Members from the Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group. I had the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who called for raising a “collective voice” against terrorism, extremism and radicalisation.
I was able to specifically highlight the potential security threat to India as a result of Chinese developments in the South China Sea and I also presented a letter to the Prime Minister requesting that he announce 26th October as the official Jammu & Kashmir day, following the example of most of the other states of India who celebrate founding days.
Further to this meeting, the delegation toured India’s Parliament House and held interactions with the Foreign Secretary, and Standing Committee on External Affairs and Defence. I also took part in a briefing organised by Confederation of Indian Industry exploring growing commercial and business engagement between India and the UK.
We visited the School of International Biodesign at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and The Energy and Resources Institute followed by an industry visit to the Maruti factory. We also managed to pay a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra.
I led a cross-party delegation of MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Justice for Equitable Life Policyholders in a meeting with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Kirby. Substantial amounts of money are still owed by the Government to victims of this scandal and I believe this debt needs to be settled.
I did everything I could to make sure that Holocaust Memorial Day would be properly commemorated in Parliament by tabling an Early Day Motion to honour holocaust survivors, by taking part in a Holocaust Memorial Day debate in the chamber and also by signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment.

Friday 27th January marked the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history. Thousands of commemorative events were by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country.
On that theme, Belmont Synagogue hosted a Holocaust Memorial Day Event for students from local High Schools with survivor Susan Pollack speaking about her experiences in a series of workshops, and I attended to support it. I'm pictured here with two Year 8 students from Hatch End High.
The Executive Committee of the Brent Indian Association kindly invited me to participate in a flag hoisting ceremony in celebration of the 69th Anniversary of India’s Independence. The triranga (three colour) flag was raised and the National Anthems of India and Britain were observed.
I was treated to a tour of the newly upgraded Aspire Leisure Centre in Stanmore by Brian Carlin, the Chief Executive, and staff member Dean Tearle. I was particularly impressed by their new advanced hoisting system installed to assist people with mobility issues in getting changed to access the pool area, and also their new all-in-one Dyson sinks.
I paid my annual visit to the Firm Foundation night shelter in Harrow, which is run by this excellent local charity to help single homeless men through the coldest months of the year. I was happy to learn that, this year, the charity has also been able to open its doors to single females who have become homeless too.
Ealing Council has formed a partnership with QED Sustainable Urban Developments Ltd to create 34 new accommodation units for local people in urgent housing need and they invited me to come and see the project first hand.
The development provides studio, 1 and 2 bedroom emergency accomodation, built out of shipping containers, that can be used by the council to house homeless families and vulnerable people temporarily while more permanent accomodation solutions are found for them.
Given that, in 2014/15, London councils alone spent £663 million on hostel or bed and breakfast emergency accommodation, I found it really interesting to visit this development and see the viability of this sort of idea as a way to ensure that people are not having to move frequently in ways which are detrimental to work and schooling commitments before they are able to find suitable long term housing.

The ERSA 2017 Employability Awards are now open for nominations. The awards aim to celebrate and champion best practice in employment support, so if you know of an individual, organisation or an employer in your constituency who deserves recognition, please nominate them using this form. The award categories are:
  • Disability and Health Employment
  • Youth Employment
  • Innovation
  • Partner of the Year•Adviser of the Year
  • Team of the Year (new for 2017)
  • Large Employer of the Year
  • Small or Medium Employer of the Year
  • Significant Achievement
  • Lifetime Achievement
DEADLINE: Friday 17th March

Some of my most recent contributions in Parliament can be found below:
Prime Minister's Questions: 1 March 2017
I used the opportunity of a question at Prime Minister's Questions on 1st March to highlight the intimidation suffered by Jewish students as a result of so called "Israel Apartheid Week" and urged the PM to make sure education institutions take action to protect students against anti-Semitism. [Hansard Text]
Debate on the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli Settlements
"The motion before us is a curate’s egg - good in parts. At its heart, there is a false assertion. As hon. Members have said, the only way in which this crisis in the middle east will ever be solved is by face-to-face negotiations between the Palestinian leaders and the state of Israel. As we all know, this area of the world has had a long history of being occupied by empires down through the ages. The Ottoman empire ruled the area until the time of the first world war, when the British mandate came in, and the reality is that the west bank was annexed by Jordan in 1950. To call it occupied territory is of course to suggest that a country once existed, but it has never existed. That is the real dilemma in this whole problem..."

Question on the Housing White Paper
"I welcome the White Paper’s measures to combat homelessness, but part of the solution is direct commissioning of housing. The progress on direct commissioning is not very good so far. What action can my right hon. Friend take to make sure that that is speeded up so that homes are provided for the people who desperately need them?"

Homelessness Reduction Bill: Report Stage & Third Reading
"We should get back to the fact that this Bill is about reducing homelessness and is entitled the Homelessness Reduction Bill. At some stages during the hon. Gentleman’s rather lengthy speech, I began to wonder whether we were moving off on to the whole policy of housing. I think we should confine ourselves to this Bill, rather than broadening out to the wider aspects. I accept absolutely that one person sleeping rough on our streets at any one time is a disgrace; I have regularly gone on record to say that that is a national disgrace, as, equally, is the fact that we do not know the exact level of homelessness in this country. I start from that principle..."

Point of Order: HET Book of Commitment
"On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that Members from across the House have the opportunity to sign the book of commitment for Holocaust Memorial Day. I am pleased that more than 200 right hon. and hon. Members have signed the book, but that does mean that more than 400 have not. May I, through your good offices, draw to the House’s attention the fact that the book is available for signature at the bottom of the Members’ Staircase between 2 pm and 4 pm?"

Debate on Human Rights Violations in Kashmir
"No one in the debate has yet mentioned that 19 January 1990 was an evil day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir - the day when 65,000 Hindus were forcibly expelled from the Kashmir valley by Islamic jihadists, under the slogan, “Die, convert or leave”. They forced only the men out. They said, “Leave your women. We will convert them, we will rape them and we will make them all Muslim.” One of the sad facts of this largely forgotten area of conflict is that it has a religious element as well as the aspect of where people wish to live..."
Read more online, here.


If you have any issues or concerns which you feel I could help you with, please don't hesitate to get in touch using the contact details below:
Please remember to include your full name and address, even if you've written to Bob before!

To discuss a case, report an issue or make a surgery appointment, please contact Bob's office in Harrow, on 020 8421 3323
For diary, media or tour enquiries, please contact Bob's office in Westminster, on 020 7219 7082

Write to:
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
209 Headstone Lane, Harrow, HA2 6ND

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