[Below is the latest round-up of news from the Edinburgh North and Leith MP at Westminster. We print it here in full, undedited and without comment.]
The House of Commons is back in session, after the short break to allow MPs to attend their respective party conferences. It is likely to be a session dominated by economic and financial issues, given the UK and international situation. I’ve taken part in some of the discussions and debates in Parliament on these issues, most recently the debate on an EU referendum – you can read my speech here http://bit.ly/u4IIV5 – but there are also many other national issues being debated, as you can see from this report.
I’ve been involved with a number of ongoing local issues as well, and there are more details of those elsewhere on this website and my blog.
The coalition government is pressing ahead with a large number of changes to the benefits system, and I’ve been working with a wide range of local organisations who are concerned about what is being proposed. I’m particularly concerned about the likely effects on disabled people, and I supported the local ‘Hardest Hit’ rally in Edinburgh, as you can see here http://bit.ly/sZruBh
Traffic, safety and transport issues
I recently spoke in debates here at Westminster on a number of transport issues which will affect Scotland such as High Speed Rail, and access for disabled people to public transport.
And before our conference recess, I was pursuing several issues that have real implications for people here in Edinburgh. I highlighted the risks to road safety if the UK Government goes ahead with the current plans to allow much longer HGVs on Britain’s roads.The UK Government is planning to allow an increase in the maximum length of HGVs by over 2m to 18.75m.
I pointed out that allowing longer lorries could see traffic at standstill as they negotiate narrow streets around Edinburgh or try to turn, posing a real danger to the safety of pedestrians, other drivers and cyclists.
You can read more on this here.
Attempt to restrict right of Scottish MPs to vote in Parliament
The important implications issues like these have for people in Edinburgh and Scotland more generally highlights the need for Scottish MPs to be able to speak and vote on Bills on devolved issues such as transport, the effects of which don’t just neatly stop at Berwick.
A Private Member’s Bill recently aimed to restrict our right to vote in Parliament and I pointed out the many practical objections to what was being proposed. You can read the speeches I made in the debates on the Bill here.
At the end of the debate, the Bill was defeated.
Ship-to-ship oil transfers
As you may know I have been campaigning over a long period for tougher safety rules for oil transfers between tankers at sea. In 2007 there were proposals to carry out transfers in the Firth of Forth and I introduced a Bill to make sure that there were proper safety rules in place.
This led to the introduction of new safety regulations under the last Labour Government but in one of its first acts, the Coalition decided to delay implementing them while another review took place.
It has just announced that they will be delayed again – for the third time in a year. This time the pretext is almost farcical - UK Government’s desire to cut red tape – never mind the cost of continual reviews and consultations which all reach the same conclusion.
I called on the Government to finally legislate on the issue – you can read what I said here.
New rules for language schools to hit Edinburgh
The introduction of new regulations for schools and colleges teaching English as a second language will also affect Edinburgh – there are 11 in North Edinburgh and Leith alone.
Language schools are part of the small business sector and are a real success story, contributing almost £2 billion annually to the UK economy. Under new rules, schools will see the costs of inspection and accreditation multiply. The UK Government’s stated aim is to cut red tape and axe quangos but just as with oil transfers at sea the reality seems to be rather different.
You can read more on this here.
I recently spoke at a meeting organised by Edinburgh University’s Stop AIDs campaign. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the epidemic. I first became involved with the issue when I was a councillor in the early 1990s.
There has been real progress since then but AIDS continues to wreak devastation in developing countries. Last year global funding to fight AIDS fell for the first time and I have been calling on Government to renew their commitment to tackling the disease.
Extending benefits of healthcare technology to world’s poorest
In September I spoke at a conference on the need for action so that people in developing countries benefit from advances in medical technology by ensuring it is affordable and meets the real needs of people rather than donors or healthcare corporations.
It brought together medical experts, engineers, and NGOs, to highlight the pitfalls but also showcase new innovations which could transform people’s lives for the better. These included motorcycle side cars adapted as ambulances, hearing aids that use solar power rather than expensive batteries and mobile phones that monitor heart rate.
You can find my speech here.
Anthony Nolan stem cell register appeal
One of the great medical advances in this country over the last 40 years has been the Anthony Nolan stem cell register which matches people willing to donate their blood stem cells or bone marrow to blood cancer patients who desperately need transplants.
I have been publicising its new campaign for young men aged 18 – 30 to join the register. 70% of patients will not find a matching donor from within their families and currently 1600 people in the UK are in need of a stem cell transplant.
If you think you can help visit http://www.anthonynolan.org/What-you-can-do/save-a-life/Your-spit-could-help-save-more-lives.aspx
Keeping in touch with local organisations
During the recent short recess, I was able to visit a large number of local groups and events in different parts of the constituency, almost 30 in total! The groups are doing good work – but many, unfortunately, are being affected by local and central government cuts, as well as the general economic situation and increasing unemployment in particular. I’ve attended meetings where local people have expressed concern over cutbacks and other unpopular policies which the local City Council have been attempting to force through. And I’ve continued to attend a lot of local meetings since the Parliamentary session restarted.
Not all the news is discouraging though – a lot of late summer festivals and similar events, for most of which the weather seemed to hold! You can find more information about these local meetings and events, and my activities in Parliament, elsewhere on this website or on my blog at http://marklazarowicz.blogspot.com
And of course, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit one of my weekly advice surgeries on Fridays in the constituency – no appointment necessary, details on my website.