As a regular traveller myself, I share the concerns about the appalling state of the upholstery. Here’s the latest update from Tfl:
Thank you for your email on 9 June about the refurbishment of our Bakerloo line trains.
We do have 36 trains on the Bakerloo line, with seats being changed at 3 or 4 carriages at a time (we have the equivalent of 7 trains completed so far). All carriages are to be completed by the end of the year.
As well as a plan to also improve the ambiance of the carriages over the next few years, by 2020 we will have installed wheelchair bays in selected carriages and destination displays for our customers.
At the end of this month Mark Wild takes over as Managing Director and I know he is very keen to see an end to the old seating on the Bakerloo line.
London Underground & London Rail
As a regular traveller myself, I share the concerns about the appalling state of the upholstery. Here’s the latest update from Tfl: Dear Karen, Thank you for your email on...
Best wishes for a very happy Eid
Karen Buck MP
Best wishes for a very happy Eid Karen Buck MP
Voters in Westminster declared an overwhelming preference for remaining in the EU in the recent referendum, and as someone who campaigned for ‘Remain’ I was saddened and disappointed by the outcome. Britain’s place is in Europe however imperfect its institutions. I fear the damage Brexit will inflict on the economy and on London. I am angry at the ugly and deceitful nature of aspects of the ‘Leave’ campaign - from the infamous UKIP poster to the promise (now dropped) that leaving would free up £350m a week for the NHS. On top of this, like others, I am sickened by the reports of xenophobic abuse and worse that have occurred in recent weeks.
It is obvious that ‘Leave’ campaigners had no proper plan and that the alternatives (and their costs) were not properly set out before the public. Membership of the EEA may offer the trading options we would prefer but this would almost invariably come with conditions, including free movement, which proved unpalatable to many voters. No perfect option exists. Meanwhile, uncertainty has already hit investment and the value of the pound and there are clear signs of economic slowdown.
I am afraid it may not be clear for a while exactly how we can secure the best outcome. However, there are some key points that can be made now:
- The position of European nationals living in the UK must be guaranteed. People’s lives, jobs and families cannot be left in limbo. I’ve raised this in Parliament and was pleased that our Parliamentary motion forced the government to withdraw their opposition, even though this is not legally binding.
- There must be zero-tolerance of racial abuse and harassment. The Mayor of London has taken the strongest possible stand on this, but we can all play our part.
- The British people should have another say- but it would be wrong to ‘re-run’ the referendum. I understand why there are calls for an early 2nd referendum but I am deeply cautious. There may well be some signs of ‘buyer’s remorse’ but could anyone really predict the outcome of a re-run? Anyway, we simply cannot just dismiss the verdict of voters in such a huge democratic exercise, nor the fears and the sense of cultural and economic alienation apparent in parts of our country. We have to take forward the debate about our future relationship with Europe (for there will be one) in a way that listens to the genuine concerns of the voters in the majority of constituencies across the country who opted for ‘Leave’. We must try to build a new consensus.
Meanwhile, there are decisions to be made, such as when the Government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the process which, once triggered, makes Brexit a matter of law. The assumption must be that once the Article 50 notification is given, the UK will be out of the EU in two years or less, with all that implies for trading and other arrangements that have to be renegotiated. Parliament has a huge role to play in this and there should be a vote in Parliament before Article 50 is triggered. Parliament must be involved - across parties and with representation from both ‘Leave/Remain’ sides - to oversee the options and negotiating strategy for the next stage. I don’t want to see Article 50 invoked before Parliament has agreed what the future arrangements will be. We now need time to do the planning which the ‘Leave’ campaign so scandalously failed to do. There should be a further opportunity for the public to have a say on the proposed new relationship with Europe, whether at an election or via a referendum. None of this is going be easy but this is now the challenge and we will rise to it.
At the end of this letter I have drafted a survey to get a broader view on thoughts and priorities. If you could help me by completing it, I would be very grateful.
It would be very helpful to have your thoughts and responses to my survey below:
Voters in Westminster declared an overwhelming preference for remaining in the EU in the recent referendum, and as someone who campaigned for ‘Remain’ I was saddened and disappointed by the...
I appreciate that a number of organisations and campaigns, including the 'Don't Spy on Us' coalition, have expressed a range concerns over this Bill.
I have long supported in principle the aim of delivering an up-to-date and comprehensive legal framework to enable the police and security services to have the powers they need in the digital age to prevent and investigate serious crime. However, I have also consistently believed that strong powers must be balanced with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties. It is clear however that huge changes in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and the Snowden revelations also highlighted that a clearer legal basis, greater transparency and more tightly drawn definitions of all powers and capabilities are also needed.
Keir Starmer MP, who leads for Labour on this issue in Parliament, led a campaign to get a number of concessions from the government during the Commons stages. You can read his argument for modifying the bill here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/15/investigatory-powers-bill-labour-law?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_
In addition, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and we produced a report on the Bill two weeks ago. You can read this on the JCHR webpage or here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtrights/104/10402.htm
Some of the key changes to the Bill included:
* the introduction of a new overarching privacy requirement, ensuring privacy is at the heart of the Bill;
* a requirement for Judicial Commissioners to scrutinise the decision to issue a warrant, not just the process;
* an agreement that NHS records should only be accessed in very exceptional circumstances;
* and a commitment to introduce further safeguards for journalists and lawyers.
I accept that the bulk powers in the Bill are very wide and given the breadth of these powers, I completely accept that the way that government agencies will operate in putting them into effect needs to be properly supervised and reviewed. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has also accepted our calls for an independent review of the bulk powers, and has confirmed that this will be led by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC.
It is also welcome that the Government has committed to working with my Labour colleagues to find an appropriate threshold for accessing communications data and internet communication records (ICRs), ensuring they can only be used when investigating serious crimes.
I accept that the Bill is not perfect and needs further changes, but also that not to have supported it overall earlier this month would have denied us these additional safeguards and left us with much weaker legislation. I believe we are now significantly closer to having a balanced, modern, world-leading framework for the use of investigatory powers that the country needs in the digital age.
I appreciate that a number of organisations and campaigns, including the 'Don't Spy on Us' coalition, have expressed a range concerns over this Bill. I have long supported in principle...
I share the concerns of many constituents about the government’s plans to move The Land Registry into the private sector - and am pleased to confirm that I was a joint signatory to the letter published recently in the Guardian :
As you may be aware, the Government announced its plans during the Autumn Statement in November 2015, as part of its wider aim of securing £5 billion of corporate and financial asset sales by 2020. The Government recently consulted on these proposals and is currently analysing the feedback received. In 2014, the Coalition Government consulted on very similar proposals but abandoned its plans. Only 5% of respondents to the Coalition Government's consultation thought that privatisation would boost efficiency and effectiveness. Despite deciding against privatisation only two years ago, the current Government is again planning to sell off the Land Registry.
I appreciate there are widely held concerns about the Government's proposals - from across the House of Commons, from the Public and Commercial Services Union and also from the Competition and Markets Authority and the former Chief Registrar at the Land Registry. I am also aware that over 301,000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition calling for the Government to drop its plans for selling off the Land Registry. This clearly shows the strength of opposition to the Government's proposals. In addition, 65 MPs from across the House have signed a letter calling on the Government to drop its plans.
I strongly oppose the sell-off of the Land Registry. I believe that privatisation is unnecessary, un-evidenced and unwanted. I am also concerned that this short-term privatisation will have long-term consequences. For example, I believe it could undermine confidence in Land Registry data, jeopardise its independence from commercial interests, and erode pay, terms and conditions for Land Registry staff. In addition, I believe privatisation will undermine the trust of homeowners, mortgage lenders and solicitors, and put at risk the essential neutrality, quality and transparency that the Land Registry offers. Privatisation would result in charges for property data and a new private monopoly that will only drive up costs for consumers.
Integrity, impartiality and accountability are all at risk of being overridden by profit. I am also very concerned by reports that the companies considering bidding for the Land Registry have links to offshore tax havens.
Land Registry is a well-run organisation which regularly receives a customer satisfaction rate of well over 90%. It provides an important public service and returns millions of pounds in profits to taxpayers. Indeed, the Land Registry has made a surplus in 19 of the last 20 years, and it paid back £120 million to the public purse last year. The proposed sell-off is therefore a short-termist measure that will hit public finances in the long term.
I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns that have been raised about its proposals. My colleague, the Shadow Housing Minister, has pledged to oppose the privatisation when it is brought forward as part of the Government's Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill.
I will follow this issue closely and continue wherever possible to oppose the Government's plans.
I share the concerns of many constituents about the government’s plans to move The Land Registry into the private sector - and am pleased to confirm that I was a...
I know from the emails that I have received on this issue that many people, pharmacists and patients alike,are concerned by the Government's plans to cut pharmacy funding by £170 million. I also appreciate the concerns have been raised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Pharmacy Voice and the National Pharmacy Association about the impact of the Government's cuts on the quality, safety and access to care for patients. I share these concerns and am pleased that my colleagues in the Shadow Health Team have spoken out against these cuts and are calling for a more integrated approach to primary care funding.
Pharmacies play a crucial role in our community. They have a significant impact on patient care and provide an essential service in dispensing both medication and the essential information and advice that can prevent people from having to visit their GP for common health problems. The Government say that pharmacies should take on more responsibility, in order to relieve pressure from other services. However, at the same time the Government is cutting funding for pharmacies. It is concerning that a recent YouGov survey has found that more than one in four people who would normally seek advice from their community pharmacy would visit their GP instead if the pharmacy was closed, thereby piling additional pressure onto already overstretched GP services.
The Government's plans are therefore contradictory and introducing cuts on this scale to community pharmacy services will not improve primary care outcomes. I am concerned that pharmacies will find it harder to provide the safe, good-quality services we all want to see. Indeed, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned that the proposed cuts will have a substantial impact on pharmacy business owners, their employees, and locums.
I know that many pharmacists and patients are concerned by the Government's plans. This was demonstrated by a petition presented to 10 Downing Street on 24 May 2016 and signed by more than 1.7 million people in support of local pharmacies. A further petition to Parliament, which calls on the Government to stop its cuts to pharmacy funding, has been signed by over 63,000 people. If this petition receives 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.
The Government has consulted with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and other stakeholders on its proposals, and the public phase of the consultation ended on 24 May 2016. I hope that the Government will listen carefully to the concerns that have been raised by organisations such as RPS, Pharmacy Voice and the National Pharmacy Association and also the large number of people who have signed petitions against the Government's proposals, before announcing its final decisions. The Government expects to publish its final decisions in July 2016 and I will follow this closely.
The NHS is under enormous pressure and I am very concerned that the only way the Government will achieve its planned £22 billion worth of efficiency savings in the NHS will be by cutting staff, cutting pay and closing essential services such as community pharmacies. I believe that a different, co-ordinated approach to planning and investment is needed across primary care to ensure that patients get the most out of the NHS and pharmacies.
I know from the emails that I have received on this issue that many people, pharmacists and patients alike,are concerned by the Government's plans to cut pharmacy funding by £170...
We’re on the eve of the EU referendum - and it will probably be the most important vote you will cast in a generation. Yet, truthfully, it’s been a dispiriting few weeks, marred by hysteria, myth-making and half-truths - such as the ‘Leave campaign’ doubling the amount the UK pays for EU membership and then painting the false figures on the side of its bus , to take just one example.
This referendum - like others before it, is also increasingly about something more and different than the specific question being asked. It is as much about how people feel about identity in a fast-changing world (including the impact of migration), who are the winners and losers in a globalised economy and the effects of austerity since the worldwide crash- as it is about membership of the EU. That makes the debate much more complex and more deeply emotional. Critically, June 23rd can’t be the end of a vital conversation.
Yet the risk is that a vote for exit from Europe on the 23rd WILL mark an end. The die will be cast and the consequences will have to be lived with. I don’t want us to take that risk.
Of course the EU is far from perfect- there’s much more we need to do to improve how it works. We as politicians haven’t done well enough in either explaining the value of negotiated agreements and compromises in our national interest, or setting out clear, measurable goals for improvement. Meanwhile, the continuing fall-out from the global financial crisis on the one hand, and the implosion of Syria and the wider refugee crisis on the other, have added to the challenge of promoting European co-operation as a force for good and order in a tough world.
Yet I believe that it is. I’ve been campaigning to vote remain, and I’ll carry on until polls close on the 23rd. And here’s why:
European co-operation emerged out of the ashes of the worst wars in human history. We should be proud of our recent history of peaceful compromise - and we can’t take it for granted. Watch this video by former Prime Minster Gordon Brown.
We pay into Europe, of course, but it’s a tiny proportion of our national wealth, and we get far more back in investment and trade. £26.5 billion is invested in Britain by EU countries every year. The EU is Britain’s biggest export market: almost half of all of Britain’s exports go to the EU. Exports to the EU are worth £227 billion a year to the British economy. Trade would continue if we vote to leave, but we would still have to follow EU rules when we do business there. Meanwhile, we would have given up our say in the making of those rules. Surely it is better for Britain to have a seat at the table and a say in making the rules?
Millions of British jobs are linked to EU membership. Independent research by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research shows over three million British jobs are linked to our trade with Europe. If EU countries buy less of our goods and services, UK jobs are put at risk. Above all, it will be our young people whose future is most at risk. The young are most pro-European in their outlook - we, the generation who are their parents and grand-parents, must think about their interests.
British workers benefit from EU agreements on workers’ rights - fought for by Labour - including the right to holiday pay, paid maternity and paternity leave, anti-discrimination laws, equal pay and protection for agency workers. Leaving would allow this or a future government to cut back on employment, social and environmental protections. This would be a race to the bottom and erode rights we now take for granted.
From organised crime to protecting the environment, the challenges we now face don’t respect national boundaries but require international co-operation. For example, Thousands of criminals, including terrorists, have been arrested under the European Arrest Warrant. Britain has also taken a lead in a range of environmental campaigns in Europe from climate change to air pollution. The EU enables European countries to form “one negotiating bloc” which amplifies British influence in climate discussions.
Being in the EU enhances Britain’s global influence and allows us to take our place at the top table. The ‘soft power’ of the EU has been a major factor in locking human rights and democracy into the politics of the continent. And at a time of continuing instability, from the Ukraine to the Middle East, we need more co-operation, not less.
Voting to remain is a positive choice- giving us the opportunity to benefit from our membership but also the scope to keep working to make things better. A ‘Leave’ vote is unlikely to be something we can change in my lifetime. So please- do use your vote, make your voice heard and let’s make the next steps we take as a country forward, not back.
How much do you really know about the EU? Just for fun, take the MORI quiz…
We’re on the eve of the EU referendum - and it will probably be the most important vote you will cast in a generation. Yet, truthfully, it’s been a...
The Labour Party recently used an Opposition Day to hold a debate on the Government’s Schools White Paper.
The White Paper set out plans to require all schools to become academies by 2022. It also proposes that schools should no longer be required to reserve places on their governing boards for elected parent governors. I believe that these plans are deeply flawed. The debate provided an opportunity to air the concerns of parents, communities, heads, teachers and others and called on the Government to put the proposals on hold. Such was the public disquiet with these proposals (which did not appear in the Conservative manifesto during last year’s general election) that the government has now been obliged to draw back on the intention to require universal Academisation by a specific date. However the intention in the long run to make all schools become Academies remains.
I am concerned that the Government’s plans for all schools to become academies constitute a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system. We need to build a school system that provides an excellent education for all children regardless of school type and there is no evidence that academisation in and of itself leads to school improvement. There are outstanding academies and excellent community schools, but also poor examples of both. Furthermore, the vast majority of schools affected by this policy will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated good and outstanding.
During the debate I was able to raise the particular point that, with schools facing a 7/8% cut in real terms funding over the next 4 years (and possibly more in London if planned changes to the distribution of funding go ahead) this is the worst possible time to be diverting time, energy and anything up to £1 billion on structural change.
The pressing problems facing schools today include teacher shortages and morale and major overhauls of curriculums, exams and assessment. We should not be diverting money and effort away from these issues, which are far more relevant to raising standards than whether schools operate under the auspices of an academy or not. In addition, I believe that the option to do away with parent governors from school governing bodies is a highly retrograde step which will reduce the genuine involvement of parents and communities in local schools.
So ‘thank you’ to all those who wrote to me about this very important issue and please be assured that my colleagues and I will continue to oppose the Government's plans and do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.
The Labour Party recently used an Opposition Day to hold a debate on the Government’s Schools White Paper. The White Paper set out plans to require all schools to become...
Dear Ms Buck
The Star, 38 St John’s Wood Terrace, London NW8 6LS
I am aware that the Property has recently re-opened with the same estate agents occupying the ground floor. An enforcement notice in respect of the use of the site has not been served because the unauthorised use ceased and it became a vacant public house, which is not a breach of planning control. A planning enforcement inspection has recently been carried out, which confirmed that it is no longer a vacant public house and is being used in breach of planning control – although this is disputed by the owner.
A Public Inquiry is due to be held at the City Council’s offices on 7 June in respect of the appeal the owner has lodged against the City Council’s refusal of their Certificate of Lawfulness application from last year. The Planning Inspector’s decision on this appeal will clarify whether an estate agent use of the Property is lawful or not. It is therefore likely that the formal service of an enforcement notice will be held in abeyance pending the formal determination of that appeal, which should be shortly after the Public Inquiry.
I trust this clarifies matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any queries.
Westminster City Council
Dear Ms Buck The Star, 38 St John’s Wood Terrace, London NW8 6LS I am aware that the Property has recently re-opened with the same estate agents occupying the ground...
I consider these latest proposals to be profoundly misguided on several levels. They will be an expensive (£1 billion plus) distraction from the continuing task of raising educational standards. They will reduce accountability still further, by making the Secretary of State in Whitehall effectively to be in charge of all of the country’s schools (in what has been described as the “biggest land grab since the dissolution of the monasteries”). And the stated intention to remove parent governors from the system displays a shocking attitude to parents and communities.
The initial academies programme, designed to boost schools in the poorest and most challenged neighbourhoods- was something I supported. Looking around at our local secondary schools, I believe that programme to have been a success, and to have contributed (along with other measures, including the ‘London Challenge’ and additional investment) to a genuine transformation in the quality of education.
There is , of course, always room for improvement, and I strongly supported measures discussed before the last election by my party to strengthen accountability and to ensure that problems that do arise (and problems arise in any system) can be picked up and dealt with effectively and as locally as possible. None of our thinking was based on either all schools becoming academies, nor forcing schools to change their status where they do not wish to convert. While there are some great academies, there are also some excellent community schools. Indeed, the vast majority of non-academy schools affected by these plans will be primary schools, over 80 per cent of which are already rated as good or outstanding. There are also examples of both academy schools and local authority maintained schools that perform poorly- confirming the fact that neither changing the name nor the management structure of a school is necessarily sufficient to transform outcomes. I am concerned that the evidence suggesting that academy status leads to improved standards is mixed. A report by the House of Commons' Education Select Committee during the last Parliament (in January 2015), for example, found that current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall, or for disadvantaged children. Ofsted have also reported recently that the academies programme is not bringing about rapid improvement and, in some cases, has led to decline.
Meanwhile, our schools are currently facing a number of difficulties, including reduced budgets, a shortage of teachers and not enough good school places. London looks likely to face a substantial reduction in funding under the Government’s new schools funding formula. The Government's plans will not solve these serious problems and constitute a costly and unnecessary reorganisation of the school system.
I believe the focus should be on improving standards across all types of schools and I am very concerned that the Government's plans will divert resources, time and effort away from this task.
Please be assured that my colleagues and I will oppose the Government's plans and do all I can to ensure that parents, children and communities are at the heart of decisions on our schools.
Personal Independence Payment ( PIP) Cuts
In the face of the huge public outcry against the budget, the situation with regard to the Government's proposed changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) has now changed. However, there are still many more deep cuts to come, including to other disability benefits.
I believe we must have a social security system which is efficient, fair and compassionate and I appreciate how concerned many people with disabilities and their families have been about the possibility of changes to the eligibility criteria for PIP. I also recognise how vital and valued this support is in helping meet the additional costs that having a disability can bring, such as purchasing equipment, services and support, and in enabling disabled people to live independently.
As you are aware, just two years after PIP was introduced, in December 2015 the Government launched a consultation regarding aids and appliances and the daily living component of PIP, which closed on the 29 January. On 11 March the Government announced it would be changing the PIP assessment criteria, reducing the number of points for the use of an aid or appliance against two out of the seven Daily Living activities assessed - dressing and managing toilet needs. This was confirmed at the Budget where it was set out that the Government would be cutting £1.2 billion in support, meaning that over 600,000 disabled people would lose almost £2000 a year. I was very concerned about a measure contained in the Budget which would further cut support for those most in need when the Budget also contained tax breaks for those who least need them.
It was therefore good that in the week following the Budget the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions had to announce a vital U-turn, confirming that the Government would not be going ahead with the changes to PIP. I also welcome the Work and Pensions Secretary's statement that the Government have 'no further plans to make welfare savings'.
However, I am disappointed that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did not also use this opportunity to also reverse cuts to Employment and Support Allowance Work (ESA), contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Act, which will see the level of support for new claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) cut by around £30 a week from April 2017. I voted against this Bill in its entirety and I believe that this is an unfair and unjust measure, which will hurt vulnerable people who through no fault of their own are suffering from serious illnesses and consequently are in and out of work intermittently.
The Government's welfare reforms must help not hinder disabled people and I believe that the Government is reneging on its own manifesto commitment to protect social security for disabled people through its cuts to ESA.
I hope that the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will now take the opportunity to stand up for a fair and progressive renewal of our welfare state that is there to support people when they need it most.
Investigatory Powers Bill
I appreciate that a number of organisations and campaigns, including the 'Don't Spy on Us' campaign, have continued to express concerns regarding proposed changes to surveillance and data retention laws.
I support in principle the aim of delivering an up-to-date and comprehensive legal framework to enable the Police and security services to have the powers they need in the digital age to prevent and investigate serious crime.
It is clear that huge changes in technology have left our laws governing investigatory powers outdated, and it is important that the relevant authorities have the appropriate up-to-date powers that they need to tackle terrorism, child sexual abuse, serious online crime, and to help locate missing people. The Snowden revelations also highlighted that a clearer legal basis, greater transparency and more tightly drawn definitions of all powers and capabilities are now needed.
Labour did not oppose the Investigatory Powers Bill at its (initial) Second Reading on 15 March 2016. However, there remain a number of important areas of concern with the Bill as it has been introduced and we will be seeking to strengthen the Bill on its passage through the Parliament.
I agree that it is crucial that a new framework for providing these powers to the Police and intelligence and security services which can command public trust by balancing strong powers with strong safeguards to protect privacy and long-held liberties. We need to see stronger privacy requirements in the Bill. The Government must be much clearer about the case for why intrusive powers such as new bulk powers are needed, and for the widening of the definition and potential use of Internet Connection Records (ICRs). There are also concerns around the way the Bill deals with sensitive professions, such as protection of journalistic sources and legal professional privilege, and the Government must look again at this.
This legislation will have major implications for privacy, and how we are governed and policed. It is, therefore, crucial to take time to get it right and why I believe it is important to take a responsible and constructive approach in working with the Government on this issue.
Compulsory Academies I consider these latest proposals to be profoundly misguided on several levels. They will be an expensive (£1 billion plus) distraction from the continuing task of raising educational...