11 March 2011

News from Andy Slaughter, Hammersmith's hardworking Labour MP

Andy Slaughter MP has just sent out his latest newsletter -  a good, if worrying, read.

Not a Healthy Outlook

Last November the local NHS wrote to me to say they were predicting cuts of £1bn from the North West  London budget over the next three years. Coming six months after the election promise that Cameron would “cut the deficit not the NHS”, this sounded incredible - particularly as cuts of that order are the funding equivalent of closing one of our local hospitals.

 In fact when I saw the head of Imperial College Hospital Trust last week he assured me that they were committed to keeping all three hospitals –Hammersmith,  St Mary's and Charing Cross - open, but were at a loss as to how they could find cuts of 8-10% which they were predicting. 

So this week I went to see the Primary Care Trust who provide the funding for the NHS locally and they could not offer me much comfort. The PCT itself is being wound up in 2013 and what funding is left  will pass to local GPs. They did tell me that they intend at last to build the White City Health centre by that time, although they also confirmed the closure of the Milson Road Health Centre. 

There are serious issues to be addressed in the local health service: inpatient cancer care is moving from Hammersmith to Charing Cross, there are likely to be doctors and nurses made redundant and the decision to make the most fundamental changes in the way the NHS is run is going to be a massive distraction. It seems to only have the aim of allowing the private sector to take over large parts of our NHS.

But none of these issues were highlighted in the front-page polemic on H&F news this week. Instead it identified the move of Oncology services from Charing Cross to St Mary’s. I’m reluctant to see any services moved out of Charing Cross despite assurances for its future and the expansion of some areas of work. But why is this one issue of concern to the leader of the council Stephen Greenhalgh rather than all the other cuts and privatisations that his government is making. Perhaps we should ask the emeritus professor of vascular surgery at Charing Cross, Professor Roger Greenhalgh. 

Air Passenger Duty

On Wednesday I joined with  MPs including Diane Abbott and Fiona Mactaggart in lobbying Treasury Minister Justine Greening for reform of the Air Passenger Duty (APD).

The tax, which was introduced by the previous Government, was designed as an environmental measure and places an additional levy on air passengers.

Many constituents especially those with family in the Caribbean have voice their complaints against the duty, because the charges are determined by distance to capital cities rather than actual distance flown. This means for example it's a lot cheaper to fly to Hawaii or Los Angeles than it is to fly to the Caribbean, despite their being thousands of miles further away.

Before the election I found rare common ground with the Tories on their pledge to replace APD, with a per plane tax and a new banding system however now they are in power it looks as if their pre-election promises have come to nothing.

Given that the Government will not lose any revenue by charging for actual distance travelled and by charging by plane could make things cheaper for low cost passengers on fuller aircraft I can't see what is stopping them and we pressed the minister strongly to include these changes in the budget.

Welfare Reform Bill 

On Wednesday I spoke in the debate in Parliament on the second reading of the Welfare reform Bill – the biggest shake up of the welfare state since its inception. I have received a large number of emails from my constituents who are worried about the proposed changes especially to Disability Living Allowance and wanted the chance to put some of those concerns to secretary of state Iain Duncan Smith.

Unfortunately Duncan Smith appeared to be unable to answer any of the questions put to him by me or other MPs invariably answering the questions with 'I'll get back to you" or words to that effect.

People with autism, visual impairments, deafness, cancer sufferers all look set to lose out from a £1bn cut to disability benefits, and I have written on each of their behalf to the Government for clarification, but it is outrageous that in their zeal to do away with the welfare state they have put the savings in the budget without working out the detail of their proposals.

You can read my interventions here and here and see the Secretary of State’s response here.

The Future of Youth Justice

There was consensus between the parties when we discussed the future of young people in custody on Tuesday, although this did not extend to how the system should be funded. Replying to the debate from the opposition frontbench I welcomed the approach from MPs of all parties who understood the need for an intelligent approach to stopping youth offending and re-offending but pointed out that that very day the Youth Justice Board had announced it was cutting its funding by 29%. You can read my speech here. 

The day before a key note speech from Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Lord Chancellor (i.e my boss) made much the same point about the Government's proposals on sentencing as a whole. How are they going to replace prison with effective rehabilitation when they are cutting the Ministry of Justice by a higher amount than almost any other department? You can read his speech here. 


I took part in a live radio debate on local Hammersmith station ONFM.

I was on the judging panel of Cash 4 Clubs a SportsAid  initiative handing out over £50,000 in small grants to sporting organisations around the country that promote both mainstream and niche sports, with much of the funding comes from local firm BetFair.

I was the speaker at dinner to mark the 85th anniversary of the Hammersmith Rotary Club held at the Polish Centre in King Street. The dinner was attended by over 100 Rotarians from all over London, including Stephen Pound MP and former MEP Michael Elliot.

I met the leaders of the Albanian community in London and embassy officials in Parliament.

I spoke at a meeting sponsored by CAB and the all party group on legal aid opposing the cuts in debt advice.

I had my photograph taken with Sir Steve Redgrave to promote Fair Trade Fortnight.

I chaired a meeting at Shepherds Bush Police Station for residents who are increasingly suffering the effects of anti-social behaviour from Westfield shopping centre two years after it opened.

I met representatives of Prosper Palestine, a new organisation campaigning against the importation of goods from illegal Israeli settlements and to allow the export of Palestinian goods.


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