Supporting Human Rights Day 2011

Today is International Human Rights Day. I joined members of the Bristol branch of Amnesty International at Broadmeand Baptist Church where they were running a 24 hour marathon letter writing session.  This also marks the 50th anniversary of  Amnesty International and about 60 branches around Britain and others around the world were gathering together to help prisoners of conscience.

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A new way to tackle unfair tax avoidance

We all know that times are tough for Government finances.  In order to bring Britain’s enormous budget deficit under control there has to be a mixture of increasing tax revenue and restricting the growth of spending.  Tax revenues are most easily increased by rises in the rates of various taxes.  So the Coalition Government has raised the rate of VAT to 20%, implemented a 50% tax rate on incomes above £150,000 and also imposed 2% national insurance contributions  on salaries and bonuses above £42,500.

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Autumn statement protects the vulnerable and safeguards our economy

Just back from the House of Commons, where I praised the Coalition Government for boosting the incomes of the poor despite the terrible economic circumstances.   Prior to the statement there was speculation that the Chancellor would fail to give the unemployed and pensioners an increase that matched the current high rate of inflation.  In fact out of work benefits  will get a 5.2% increase and the state pension will go up by £5.30 a week.  In response to a question from me the Chancellor also confirmed that the Coalition will continue to raise the income tax threshold in the next Budget, giving all basic rate tax payers a tax cut and lifting more of  the low paid out of tax altogether.

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Protecting children from smoke in cars

Two reports out today have sparked a debate on how best to protect children from the affects of adults smoking in cars.  The cross party group that I chair has called for government consultation on the various options.  The BMA, the doctors’ union, thinks the answer is a total ban on any smoking in cars.

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Tackling homophobic bullying through education

Earlier this week I listened to one of the most moving speeches I’ve ever heard.  Bereaved parent Roger Crouch told a silent audience at the Speaker’s apartments about the suicide of his 15 year old son Dominic. He’d taken his own life by throwing himself off a car park roof after suffering homophobic taunts at his school in Cheltenham.

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Brussels hysteria and Bristol reality

Last week the Westminster bubble expanded with a lot of hot air about Britain’s future in the European Union.  The current crop of Conservative MPs has a Eurosceptic majority, with a substantial hard core advocating complete withdrawal .  They form a curious alliance with the left of the Labour party, egged on by a hysterical tabloid press.

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Chancellor confirms action on tax avoidance

Chancellor George Osborne confirmed to me at today’s Treasury Questions that the Coalition Government is cracking down on various tax avoidance schemes.

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Good move on Royal succession, but let’s disestablish the Church

A small step into the modern world as Prime Ministers of the sixteen countries where the British monarch is Head of State have agreed in principle that a first born girl can succeed to the throne, even if a brother arrives later.  This is good news for future princesses and now they can even marry a Roman Catholic…

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Now is not the time for an EU referendum

Just back from the Commons chamber where I witnessed for over two hours the spectacle of the Prime Minister and then the Foreign Secretary walking the tightrope between economic reality and their Tory backbenchers’ political posturing.

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Goodbye Edmundo Ros

News of  the death of Edmundo Ros has sparked a childhood memory.  The first records I can remember playing at home in the early 1970s were from my mother’s collection of 78s.  For all the young people reading this, 78 rpm records were pre LPs, pre CDs!  They were quite heavy and had to be handled carefully, being made of brittle plastic.  Anyway, my longest memory of a pop song is “Mr Cukoo” by Edmundo Ros and his orchestra.  We also used to sing his “Yellow bird” in infant school.

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