Tuesday 28 February 2017

Rubbishy aftermath of Sunday's Spurs match at Wembley Stadium

This is published with the permission of the author who outlined the impact of the recent Tottenham match.  First published the website NextDoor:

This morning after Sunday's event I got my picker stick out, didn't need a carrier bag as one had thoughtfully been left in my hedge and started picking up the rubbish left by yesterdays fans. I had 3 beer cans, three coffee cups, Lucozade bottle, 2 cigarette packets, a half eaten sandwich, half a kebab left in it's box and a half filled plastic beer mug. 

All this was strewn alongside my hedge or in my front garden. I also had a large black plastic bag half filled with beer cans left on the corner of my property, which I suppose is better than being left individually. So from 2 events in one week I've collected two carrier bags full of rubbish and a black plastic bag full of beer cans. Living on a corner I've collected all this just from the front and alongside my property. And this is only outside one house a stone's throw away from the stadium. So much for Brent's extra rubbish collections on event days!

PS I don't get this usually from American football fans or concert goers, only football supporters.

PPS No I don't dislike football, I support a club, it's just football attracts the worst fans and sadly it's football fans that are going to be coming to all these extra events.

Maybe if this is going to be the norm I should ask Brent Council to supply me with plastic bags.


Confusion over Brent Tory groups merger

Responding to jibes from Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt about the two Conservative groups on the Council and which one was the true Conservative, Cllr Kansagra, deputy leader of the Conservative Group, admitted that the public and councillors were 'fed up' with the existence of two groups and the extra time and resources this took up.

He said that councillors and the public might be pleased to hear that there were proposals in the pipeline that there may be one Conservative Group in the future. Turning to Labour councillors he said, 'You will be happy with this - we will tolerate it!'

The Conservative Group currently has four members and the Brent Conservatie Group two members. Labour has 56 councillors and there is one Independent.

However it appears things are not that straightforward. Responding to a query from me earlier today, Cllr Warren said: 'That statement from Cllr Kansagra was as much a surpise to me as it was to you!'

He went on, 'Politics is very unpredictable....but as of today nothing has been put forward to me about mergers.'

A merger would makes things more straighforward for the Conservatives when it comes to selecting candidates for the 2018 local  election.

Dodgy goings on with Spurs application to increase events & capacity at Wembley Stadium?

Residents have been in contact about two aspects of the on-line consulation on removal of the cap on the number of events held at Wembley Stadium and more full capacity events LINK.

The first is the fact that on at least two occasions the link has been unavailable clearly affecting the public's ability to comment.

The second is puzzlement that submissions by the public that clearly object to the proposal are classifed as 'Neutral' - see below:

Please see comments below one of which suggest that if you do not choose Support, Object, or Neutral when submitting a comment online the system defaults to Neutral to the Neutral category. If this has happened to your comment it might be worth contacting the Planning Officer to state your position.

4 Park Lane, Wembley, HA9 7RZ (Neutral)

I strongly object to the proposals. It would add to the traffic gridlocks, sometimes hooting of horns late in the evening - not to mention increased air pollution! And difficulty using public transport. Also, residents having the nuisance of having to plan theirs lives around the events. The behaviour of hooligans is also unbearable - I came home once to find a brick had been thrown through my bathroom window! A small tree got broken in half once on an event day - and then there is urinating everywhere. And parking becomes impossible of corse. - As the stadium is a national stadium it should not be used for anything else. - I therefore strongly object to the variation of condition 3 and the removal of condition 33 of 17/0368.

8 Village Mews, London, NW9 8SZ (Neutral)

I strongly object to this and don't think residents have been taken into consideration here.

Roads are already highly congested and Brent should be thinking about minimizing this instead of making matters worse. Whether I drive or take public transport on an event day my journey time is doubled sometimes tripled. I am unable therefore to travel within the local vicinity on event days.

Looking at other comments it is clear there is strong opposition, so it is hoped you take these concerns into consideration and think again of the impact this will have to residents, roads, traffic and the environment.

15 Hillside Drive, Edgware, HA8 7PF (Neutral)

We live and work very near to Stanmore and Cannons Park Underground Station, the A41 and the M1 Edgware exit. Whenever there is any event on at Wembley Stadium, the whole area grinds to a halt. The roads become impassable and journeys around this area almost impossible. There is just not enough space for the amount of cars on the road to travel or the availability of parking places. Together with the noise and nuisance levels of hundreds of various football or rugby fans, the request for additional events is unacceptable for the residents living anywhere near Stanmore or Cannons Park Underground stations or the M1/A41 or A1. If there are visiting fans from the North of England, then the additional traffic on the M1 turns the area to one large car park - absolutely nothing moves and a 10 minute journey can turn into an hour.

We already have to contend with additional traffic and congestion when there are any events on at Allianz Park in Copthall Stadium Mill Hill and any events at The Hive in Edgware.

Therefore we strongly object to any additional usage of Wembley Stadium and to any football club having their games held there or having a residency there.

68 Beverley Gardens, Wembley, HA9 9RA (Neutral)

'Condition 3' was put in place for a reason - to prevent local residents from suffering the great disruption and inconveniences caused to local residents when up to 91,000 people descend on Wembley Stadium. Yet it is now proposed that an extra 31 such events are allowed to take place. And not just any events, but football matches, with their supporters, some of whom have a tendency towards rowdiness, drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.

WNSL has tried to say that it will try to mitigate any problems by 'working closely' with TfL and the Met Police etc. But with a large football crowd those problems can only be 'managed' not removed completely. On match days, residents will still have problems getting home (or leaving it) by train or car, problems picking up their children from school, problems accessing the Civic Centre, or be unable to have friends round.

I therefore object to this application. At the very least, THFC matches should be restricted to 50,000 seats. After all, their existing stadium only accommodates 36,800 and their new one will only be a 61,000 seater.

I also feel that by allowing this application for THFC to use the Stadium, a precedent will have been set that will allow future applications to be 'nodded through'.

49 Linden Avenue, Wembley, HA9 8BB (Neutral)

I feel that the application is not pragmatic to the overall functions of Wembley. I believe that the current situation is bad enough and does not need to be exacerbated any further. There is enough congestion in Wembley on event days. We as residents of Wembley do not feel any benefit from the stadium events. We feel that we are made to surrender our parking spaces to people who do not live in Wembley. We cannot have visitors around because of the congestion. Life in Wembley is already bordering on depressing. Please do not make it worse. I strongly object!

99 Grasmere Avenue, Wembley, HA9 8TG (Neutral)

This area is already very busy and too much traffic.

I object.


Monday 27 February 2017

Brent Council to decide on 3.99% Council Tax rise and £2.3m cuts tonight

Brent Council will vote on the 2017-18 budget tonight.  The proposal is for a rise in council tax of 3.99% (2% adult social care and 1.99% general increase) along with cuts of £2.3m in 2017-18 and another £2.1m in 2018-19.

Full details on Council agenda HERE

The meeting is at 7pm at Brent Civic Centre

Brent Council to debate US travel ban this evening

A cross party motion on the US travel ban is to be debated at tonight's meeting of full Council. The motion reads:


This Council unanimously condemns recent unjustified and inhumane efforts by President Donald Trump to ban the men, women and children of predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and objects in the strongest terms to the principle of any nation imposing arbitrary, discriminatory travel bans. 

This Council holds that racism and xenophobia, for which there can be no place in civilised society, be challenged at every turn, and that the politics of hate and fear must always be robustly confronted and comprehensively rejected. 

This Council draws attention to the recent commemoration of Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day and implores President Trump to heed urgent warnings against allowing the catastrophic mistakes of our collective past to be repeated. 

This Council celebrates our borough’s proud diversity and is testament to the immense and invaluable contribution afforded by the universal human right of global migration. 

While recognising the need to prioritise national security, this Council calls on the UK government to continuing setting an international example of enlightened compassion, ensuring that our words are more than matched by our actions via a guarantee that this country will always be as much a place of sanctuary as it is a land of opportunity.

Sunday 26 February 2017

Stanmore meeting on air quality with Caroline Russell

West London stands up to racism - Tuesday 28th February

From West London Stand Up to Racism

West London Stand Up to Racism have organised a Public Meeting in Ealing on Tuesday 28 February at 7.30pm with a fantastic line up of speakers.

We have a stall at this meeting.




Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton

Sabby Dhalu, Co-convenor Stand Up to Racism

Mohammed Kozbar, Vice President Muslim Association of Britain

David Rosenberg, Jewish Socialist Group

Dr Shahrar Ali, Home Affairs Spokesperson, Green Party

Ealing Town Hall (Liz Cantell Hall), New Broadway, W5 2HL

Friday 24 February 2017

Brent group launched to promote a London National Park City

A North Brent Residents Assocation and Parks  Group Forum was set up this week to further cause of making London a National Park City. The move has been supported by ward councllors in Barnhill, Northwick Park, Kenton and Kensal Green with John Billam Tenterden Parks and Neighbourhood Group taking the lead.  The initiative has been supported by Cllr Southwood, lead member for the environment. More endorsements by wards councillors are required to set up London as a National Park City.  It requires all councillors in a ward to support the application.

National Parks are special places where people work together to protect natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage. As well as looking after these things, National Parks promote the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities by both residents and visitors. They also create new business opportunities in hospitality, travel and other sectors. Making London a National Park City would be to apply these same principles to all communities and areas in London.
A declaration to make London a National Park City is a belief in Londoners working together to:

1.      Make London greener 

Improving the richness, connective and biodiversity of London’s habitats 
Improving London’s air and water quality, year on year

2.      Make more of London’s outdoor heritage 

Improving health and connecting 100% of London’s children to nature 
Ensuring 100% of Londoners have free and easy access to high quality green space

3.      Make a new National Park City identity for London 

Inspiring new business activities 
Promoting London as a Green World City
Sir Terry Farrell has described the idea as being “one vision to inspire a million projects”. It is a large-scale and long-term vision that is achievable through lots of small and everyday actions. Many of these things are already happening, but there is the potential for so much more. What makes a National Park City very different from a rural National Park is the number of people who live in the capital. Every Londoner has the potential not only to enjoy London as a National Park City, but actually contribute to making it a success.
A National Park City would be privately and commercially funded. No public sector funding is needed. It will not cost the council anything, but the council will be able to leverage the National Park City to attract new investment. A National Park City status would not mean restrictions for planning permissions. A National Park City would want to conserve London’s ability to grow, develop and remain the dynamic city it is.
London can become a National Park City once two-thirds of councillor teams (436 of 654) have declared their support. So far 218 teams have already declared their support.

You can add your indidivual support HERE

Greens: Cressida Dick appointment will erode trust between communities and police

The Green Party has criticised the appointment of Cressida Dick as the next Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Shahrar Ali, Green Party Home Affairs spokesperson, said:
The appointment of the new commissioner by Amber Rudd is an insult to the memory of de Jean Charles de Menezes and adds further injury to the still grieving family.

It’s vital that the officer heading up the Met is trusted by Londoners – and we’re deeply concerned that Cressida Dick’s role in the shooting of De Menezes will further erode trust between local communities and the police.
Far from exonerating her the IPCC report of 2007 criticised her actions in failing to clarify the meaning of her STOP order to armed police. Dick will struggle to command the confidence of the citizens she would serve whilst the campaign for her accountability remains unaddressed.
Sian Berry, Green London Assembly member, said:
This is a very controversial choice. Assembly members will want questions answered about the lessons the new Commissioner learned after the Jean Charles De Menezes shooting.

This was the most serious and shocking single mistake the Met has made in the last 20 years. For the Mayor to appoint the officer in charge on that day to run the whole of the Met when community cohesion is his priority for London does potentially put this at risk.

Londoners must have complete confidence in their police force and its leaders – I will be questioning the Mayor about this appointment.

Thursday 23 February 2017

I, Daniel Blake, Community showing, Saturday 25th February

Community screening of Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake in Kilburn 2pm Sat 25 February

Kingsgate Community Centre, 107 Kingsgate Rd, London NW6 2JH

Fully wheelchair accessible Entry by donation, no one turned away for lack of funds.   All welcome. Refreshments available.

Please arrive early if possible to make sure you get a seat.

Camden Momentum is organising this community screening, which follows the vigil on 25th January for Lawrence Bond. LINK

Disabled People Against Cuts, Gill Thompson and WinVisible will be speaking, followed by discussion.

CNWL lecturers threaten action to achieve an independent investigation into college fraud

University and College Union (UCU) members at the College of North West London are calling on the college's Governing Body to put into abeyance public consultation on the possible merger with Westminster College, pending an independent inquiry into a fraud carried out at the college by a subcontractor and the publication of its findings. LINK

The union has given notice that if guarantees are not forthcoming by Thursday March 2nd they will seek Regional Office support for the declaration of a trade dispute with the college.  The branch express the hope that if a trade dispute is declared that it could be resolved through negotiations without having to resort to lawful indistrial action.

Backing the unanimous decision of his branch members for an independent inquiry, Indro Sen, suspended Branch Secretary, said.
When students are 10 minutes late, managers instruct the class teachers to monitor their attendance. When teachers do not dot the "t) and "i" in their marked work, they are monitored by their managers and some end up under capability procedures, but when a fraud as large as £356K can take place under the very nose of SFA auditors, borough police chief, Governors and senior management teams, who monitors their performance?
Only an independent public enquiry can get to the bottom of this. Can any students' life chances be said to be in safe hands unless each and every sub-contractor is thoroughly checked out on the Government declared Sub contractor list and those checks are made public for students to see what they are getting into. Until such time, Mr. Boles should consider putting the levy scheme into abeyance.
Sen, a popular maths teacher awaits a decision of the dismissal panel into his fate. Two of his students had this to say about him and are  attending the Public meeting on Friday 24 February 2017 at Willesden Library at 6pm. Speakers include Hank Roberts the Copland High School whistleblower:
Hello Sen,
I am sorry to hear that you have suspended for helping others. You are great teacher and we are with you on this difficult moment. I will be coming to the meeting on Friday and also my colleagues are coming as well. I will see there .
With kind regards

Hi Sen,

You probably dont remember me, your classes were always so rammed with students! But I certainly remember you and your teaching style, you helped me make sense of so many concepts that surpassed my understanding in school. I was in your weekly evening adult maths classes almost 4 years ago, you gave me a chance to retake my maths GCSE when most other collages turned me away. I passed because of your teaching. And due to that; I'm now a specials needs teacher in Harrow. I love what I do, and I'm eternally grateful to those that helped me get here - you being one of them.

I'll be there to support you on Friday, I stand by what your doing and respect the fact that you refuse to back down. It must feel like it'd be so easy to give up the fight - but don't. The world needs teachers like you.

My thoughts are with you

I can reveal that the sub contractor concerned. Keyrail,  also had contracts with Focus Training and Development of over £100K  but my enquiries came to dead end when it turned out they had gone into voluntary liquidation on November 29th 2016.  It appears that there is no way to find out if a similar fraud was perpetrated on them. This puts the spotlight on the SFA, who holds all records, and could investigate any potential fraud.

Duffy condemns 'folly' of failed Kingdom littering contract

In an email to fellow councillors, Cllr John Duffy, has raised key issues about the Kingdom littering contract, LINK which he expects to be officially deemed a failure by officers:
I am sure you are aware about the way the Issuing of the £80 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) contracts was given to a company by "word of mouth" tendering. I am sure you remember my objections at the time because the contract showed complete disregard to Equal opportunities, VFM [Value for money] and the terms and conditions of excising agreed staff /posts. The officers also failed to make any attempt to negotiate and allowed to company to collect £46 for every FPN issued by them whether they were paid or not. 

It's clear now a March report to cabinet will say the contract has not been successful and costs too much and will try and cancel the contract. Unfortunately the contract will have cost us over £100k, which could have been spend on other enforcement activities or environmental improvement. It seems crazy to me that when Brent is now identified as the sixth worst Local Authority for fly tipping in the country. Which is an all time low. So Instead of dealing with fly tipping we gave this private contract over £202K (Brent received £27K) to issue 4000 PFN to fag -butt litter outside tube stations and Bus stops. This contract was the lead members folly (which we will all have to pay for ) and was against my advice and costings at the time. 

I asked the CEO to carry out an independent investigation, but she has refused. However she did release information to me about income from the contract. The information shows we have paid £11k for 160 tickets that were written off by the council because of reasons like they were issued to the incorrect address or incorrect person. The 160 includes 25 that were written of because the person had Mental Health Issues.  

Firstly let me thank the council officer who did not send these 25 cases for prosecution (presumably after seeing the CCTV) and saved Brent council the shame of taking people who have Mental Health issues to court. However in our efforts to maximise the profits for the private company , we still paid them £46 for every ticket issued including the residents with Mental Health Issues.

In my opinion this payment was not only morally wrong is was also illegal. In the report that was sent to both the Cabinet and Scrutiny Committee in part 4.10 of the report under responsibilities to be undertaken by the contractor , they were not to issue them to persons under the age of 18 or those suspected of suffering from mental health issues.

I am asking the CEO and head of legal to confirm

(1) Is the payment to the contractor legal, if so why.
(2) if not what steps are they taking to redeem the money. 
(3) What penalty will the contractor pay for issuing tickets to persons with mental health issues.

I am also concerned many more FPNs were have been given to persons with Mental health issues , but were paid by them. I believe we should review all the CCTV evidence ( whether they paid or not) as the % of mental health cases in the non payers is approx. 15%,. If that is reflected in paid tickets it could be as high as 500 tickets which were wrongly issued.

I hope the CEO and Legal officer will treat this issue with the importance it deserves. I believe the CEO should get back to all council members ensuring them the issuing of FPN to persons  with Mental Health Issues has stopped.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Wembley residents rise up against Spurs plans for increased matches and capacity

Traffic flow: Red-not good, Yellow-slow, Green-OK (16.51 Feb 21st)
After a poorly attended and advertised consultation event at Challkhill Community Centre earlier this month, attended by Tottenham Hotspur and the Football Association, it appeared that there would be little opposition to plans to increased the number of major and full capacity events at the Stadium during Spurs' tenure:
 As approved, [planning] condition 3 stated that for two years following completion of the stadium, subject to the completion of specific improvement works to Wembley Park Station and construction of roads known as Estate Access Corridor and Stadium Access Corridor, the number of major sporting events held at the stadium in any one year was restricted to no more than 22 (to exclude European Cup and World Cup events where England/UK is the host nation), and the number of major non-sporting events to 15. After this, additional events over and above this were permitted subject to the number of spectators being limited to the capacity of the lower and middle tiers of the stadium. 

The proposal would allow for up to an additional 31 major sporting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC) events between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018. A major event (which may or may not include THFC) would be considered to be an event in the stadium bowl with a capacity in excess of 10,000 people
A glance at the consultation page LINK now shows that opposition is building. Most of the objections centre on the impact on the quality of life of nearby residents of increased number of events and capacity in terms of traffic density and pollution, crowded buses, overground and tube lines - basically a curtailment of residents' freedom to move easily around their own area. A particular concern is congestion between Forty Lane/Wembley Park, Wembley Hill Road and Wembley High Road where traffic often grinds to a halt.   Other concerns are over littering and the alleged anti-social behaviour of Spurs fans.  In answer to the suggestion that 'you have chosen to live near a major international stadium - it goes with the territory' residents respond that they acknowledge the contribution the stadium makes to the vitality of the area, a reasonable amount of disruption is to be expected but that these proposals go too far and breach undertakings previously given.

I sense that there are wider concerns underpinning some of the objections. Residents feel out of control of the development of their locality and, moreover, that when they do express a view they are ignored. Residents are pitted against an alliance of the Football Association, anxious to maximise income to pay off the costs of the new Wembley Stadium, Spurs keen to finance their new stadium, US owned Quintain  wanting to maximise profit from what increasingly looks like speculative and unfettered development and Brent Council wanting to maximise income to make up for the local government cuts imposed by central government.

Brent Council fails to champion the needs and interests of local residents and instead is an ally of the football and developer 'big boys'.  This was not helped recently when Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, and Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, took part in Quintain's public relations blitz over the Tivi private rent build at Wembley Park  - ignoring the fact that the apartments are in no way affordable to local people.

How can the Council make balanced decisions on behalf of residents if they are firmly in the arms of Spurs, the FA and Quintain? How can Sadiq Khan make balanced decisions using his call-in powers over major developments?

I publish below just one of the contributions to the consultation site. Consultation closes on March 2nd 2017.

1. There is already substantial disruption to the area surrounding Wembley Stadium caused by the large numbers of people that descend on the area, especially during football matches. It stands to reason that almost doubling the number of events would result in a substantial INCREASE in disruption to the immediate and surrounding areas.

2. When football events are held at Wembley Stadium, fans do not respect the area, local shopkeepers or residents, leaving the area considerably dirty with excessive littering that isn't cleared up for several days following any event.

3. Traffic disruption caused by events is already difficult to bear, both in the immediate Stadium area and in adjacent areas such as Kingsbury, Blackbird Hill, A406, etc. The area and the existing road transport infrastructure just cannot cope with more events. Brent Council has failed to improve this - there's no money left.

4. Public transport is not usable on match days. Trains are packed (i.e. passengers cannot get on trains until matches have started) and fans are often drunk or behave badly (personally witnessed a drunk fan urinating on a Jubilee line platform). Regular users of public transport are shut out by hoards of fans who don't really show any consideration for local residents using public transport regularly. Over 50% of visitors to Wembley Stadium events (higher for football events) use LUL and Mainline Rail services - the existing infrastructure can barely cope on non-event days, let alone on event days.

5. The report states that THFC fans are "generally well behaved with no history of regular fan related violence at home or away over the past 10 years in domestic and European competition." This is simply INCORRECT. See here: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/429227/football-hooligan-racism-abuse-chelsea-tottenham-wembley-tube-station-capital-one-cup
I do not wish to have more events that create opportunities for further bad behaviour, especially for fans that have no affinity for Wembley or consider this their "home" base.

6. Air quality - all air quality monitoring locations are some distance away from the stadium, presumably to skew the results and provide a favourable outcome for THFC. It would be better if some monitoring sites were closer to the stadium.

7. Noise pollution - I simply disagree with the assessment that because the proposed changes are only for a year or so, the increase in overall noise pollution should be borne by residents. This is just silly. More events = more noise. There's no justification for that. The absence of mitigates beyond "continued monitoring" is equivalent to kicking the can down the road when nobody will pay attention. Locals are not stupid so show greater consideration please.

8. The assessment of the effects of the proposed changes (Socio-economics: moderate beneficial; Transport: minor adverse; Air Quality: Not significant; Noise: negligible) and the judgement of their cumulative effects as "no change" is purely subjective. There is simply no empirical evidence carried out by INDEPENDENT assessors to verify these. If you are paying the so-called experts (for the avoidance of doubt, Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners is acting on behalf of the applicant), of course they'll give you the answer you want! Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

Furthermore, the additional creation of c.31k jobs is highly speculative and there is no guarantee that these would be filled by local residents or if there's any local benefit whatsoever. Many of the companies used to provide catering and stewarding services bring in staff from other areas of London/the UK so there's NO BENEFIT whatsoever to the local economy.

9. The benefits of the proposed changes do not pass onto local residents. c.67% of the anticipated additional expenditure would be on travel and transport in getting to/from the stadium. Only 1/3 of the anticipated benefits would likely accrue to the local area, of which Wembley Stadium would stand to gain a large share. I'd be interested to learn more about how the £43.5m and £14.5m figures area arrived at and the assumptions behind them which, interestingly, are nowhere to be found in the report(s) made available.

10. Brent Council should conduct its own in-depth report to verify each and every claim made by the applicant. This should be made available to all Brent residents to read and then make their own minds up.

I would also highly recommend holding a public meeting for residents to ask questions of the applicant and the Council before a decision is made.

Then of course there is the expectaion that Chelsea will follow Tottenham at Wembley - the precedent will have been set.

Jenny Jones condemns inflammatory 'vile rhetoric' of referendum campaigns

I thought it worth publishing in full the speech made by Green Party peer, Jenny Jones, on the EU Withdrawal Bill, in the House of Lords:

My Lords, one of the deep delights for me in your Lordships’ House is the fact that we have such deep divides in opinion and yet we can still stay polite. That was the position that I found myself in during the referendum campaign, when I was campaigning to leave the EU. I found myself in some unsavoury company at times, with some people with whom I share not a single view, apart from the fact that the UK would be better off outside the EU.

I believe passionately that we have made the right decision, but at the same time we have to be absolutely sure that we go about it in the right way. The Bill that the Government have presented to us is simply inadequate. Had there been a decent White Paper with some detail about the things that many of us care about, I would have felt calmer about voting for the Bill as it exists. However, the Prime Minister is approaching these negotiations with a blank sheet of paper. Where are the underlying principles? There are underlying principles in the EU, but where are the underlying principles that we will maintain during negotiations, or are there to be no principles at all?

The Green Party is particularly concerned that the Cabinet will attempt to dump protections for everything from wildlife and the countryside to the social protections that we see as normal in society nowadays. The Government could use a combination of exit negotiations and secondary legislation to do all sorts of things that the majority of people who voted leave would not want to happen. It is wrong to use the referendum result as cover for bypassing proper parliamentary procedure and scrutiny. The Lords has the job of ensuring that a democratic process is followed throughout the different stages of the negotiations.

As somebody who has advocated leaving the EU ever since we joined as a result of the 1975 European Communities membership referendum, I resent people suggesting that I am out to wreck the Bill by seeking to amend it—someone even said that it would be “traitorous”. That is an unpleasant thing to say about people who are trying to improve things. As for threats from the other place to replace the House of Lords with a different sort of Chamber or abolish it altogether, for me, that would be a welcome bonus. I believe that it is time for us to be abolished and replaced by a democratically elected Chamber. For me, therefore, that is no threat at all. However, it is bullying. 

What do we do with bullies? We stand up to them.

I will try to amend this Bill. I have put down five amendments that I feel would definitely improve the Bill and I will support amendments from other Members of your Lordships’ House. It is our job to advise and to reform and improve the sometimes very poor legislation that comes from the other place. My five amendments cover the following areas: transitional arrangements; legal enforcement; environmental regulators; access to justice; and employment and equality protections. These are self-evident. They will ask for detailed plans, lots of preparation and proper funding, which I know this Government have a huge problem with.

I am going to keep my remarks brief because some of what I would like to say is probably best left unsaid. However, before finishing, I would like to add that I also commend the amendment from a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which will protect the residence rights of EU citizens legally resident in the UK on the day of the referendum— 23 June 2016. It is a precautionary but self-evident amendment and it would be cruel not to include it. I cannot see why the Government would have any objections to it being in the Bill.

Finally, although the outcome of last year’s vote was what I wanted, I have not taken a moment’s pleasure from it in the intervening time, partly because of the way in which the campaigns on both sides were conducted and partly because of the conduct since. There has been so much hatred and vile rhetoric, which has inflamed people. I am sure that many of us here have had abuse. That is a normal part of any progressive politician’s inbox but it has now reached levels that are just incredible.

We should take pleasure in issues such as immigration, because it is good for our country: it is good for the economy and it is good for our culture. I also believe that if you accept free trade, then why not accept the free movement of people? When we look at the Bill and vote on it next week, I hope that the Government will understand that we must not lower our standards. Whether it is on food, social protection or protecting our countryside, we must not go down the route of making things worse. In a sense, society is already worse because of the referendum and the Government must do everything in their power to heal as much as possible.

Monday 20 February 2017

Jenny Jones: May wrong to use Brexit to by-pass proper Parliamentary scrutiny

Green Party peer Jenny Jones has come out fighting today against claims that she is out to 'wereck' the Brexit Bill.

She said:
As someone who has advocated leaving the EU for over two decades, I resent people saying I am out to ‘wreck’ the Brexit bill by seeking to amend it Many of us have huge concerns that we will lose environmental and social protections because of the way the Prime Minister is approaching these negotiations.

I am concerned that the Cabinet will attempt to dump protections for everything from wildlife and countryside to workers rights and climate change, by using a combination of exit negotiations and secondary legislation. It is wrong to use the referendum result as cover for by-passing proper Parliamentary scrutiny and the Lords has the job of ensuring that a democratic process is followed throughout the different stages of the negotiations.
 As for abolishing the Lords and replacing it with a democratically elected second chamber, that would be a welcome bonus.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Valentines for the NHS and Charing Cross Hopsital

There were smiling faces on Valentine’s Day, as Save Our Hospitals campaigners presented a huge hand-made card with heart-shaped messages from enthusiastic members of the public to NHS staff at Charing Cross. Messages expressed ‘LOVE’ for Charing Cross Hospital and for the NHS.

Campaigners used the event to publicise the coming mass national demonstration for the NHS to be held in London on March 4th (see http://www.ournhs.info/ ).

Where was “The Beggars Roost”? – a Wembley mystery

Many thanks to Philip Grant for this fascinating guest blog. My late older brother, David, had a lifelong passion for motorbikes that probably started with the 'Wembley Lions.
You were probably living in Wembley during the Second World War, more than seventy years ago, or have talked to someone who was, if you can answer this question. But even if neither applies to you, you may still be interested to know why I am asking.

I deal with email local history enquiries on behalf of Wembley History Society, and they sometimes set some fascinating puzzles. One arrived recently from a lady in the United States. She was looking around a Goodwill store (charity shop), and saw a very attractive coat of arms, hand-painted on a wooden plaque. She bought it, took it home, and then began to wonder what it was, and the story behind it.

The name “Wembley” was almost certainly a place, and she found out that the letters “ARP” stood for Air Raid Precautions, in Britain during the Second World War. By searching online, she discovered that there was someone she could contact who might know more about the history of Wembley at that time, so she sent me a photo of her plaque.

A.R.P. Post 12 Plaque, from Cheryl Hutton
 I have no doubt that this home-made coat of arms came from “our” Wembley, as the lion in the top right quarter is copied from the badge of the “Wembley Lions” motorcycle speedway team. They were based at Wembley Stadium, and were hugely popular during the 1930’s, when they were national champions several times. 
The blue and yellow quarter below it shows an air raid warden’s helmet, gas mask and rattle, so there can be little doubt that the plaque was first made for, and probably displayed at, ARP Post 12, in Sector 8 / 9 of the Borough of Wembley. But where was this, and why did the wardens call their base ‘the Beggars Roost”? Is the chicken (or “rooster”) a clue, and who is the beggar above it on the plaque? I don’t know, and would certainly welcome any information that readers, or anyone they can forward this article to who might be able to help, could provide.

Eighty years ago the Borough of Wembley was a separate local government area, with a population of just over 100,000 people. Even before the war, the local Council was making A.R.P plans, and starting to build public air raid shelters, in response to the threat from Germany. After war broke out, a full-scale air raid wardens service was mobilised, which at its height had 2,500 wardens, 95% of them unpaid volunteers. 

I know, from an elderly neighbour (the son of a warden), that the A.R.P. post for our 1930's-built estate was in the requisitioned garage of a local bungalow. His father was one of the first on the scene when a German "parachute mine" hit a row of shops in Kingsbury Road one night in September 1940, killing two mothers, a baby boy and a seven year old girl, in the flats above. This is an official "war damage" photo of the scene, taken the following day, which shows the sort of event that the wardens had to deal with (thankfully, not too often!).

Bombed shops and flats in Kingsbury Road, 1940

As well as the A.R.P. wardens, first aid and rescue teams were also organised. After the bombing raids started in earnest, in August 1940, nearly all civilians had to undertake "fire watching" duties (around 7,500 of the c. 9,000 bombs which fell in the Wembley area between 1940 and 1945 were incendiaries), so around 25,000 Wembley people in total were engaged in some form of Civil Defence work during the war. The Borough lost 149 civilians killed in air raids, including several A.R.P. wardens, with over 400 more seriously injured.

The “Beggars Roost” plaque, which somehow found its way to the U.S.A. after the war, is a reminder that the bombing of civilians, horrible as it is, is not just something that happens in far-away places like Syria or Yemen. It happened in Wembley as well, and the volunteer men and women of A.R.P. Post 12, and others like it, did their best to protect their neighbours from such atrocities. I hope that, perhaps with your help, I can find out more about them.

Philip Grant.