We enjoyed an Indian meal and there was traditional Indian dancing and music for entertainment.
Last night Sue and I attended a fund raising dinner organised as joint event by Bury Conservatives and Bolton North East Conservatives. The guest speaker was former model and author Sandra Howard who is the wife of Michael Howard MP the Conservative Party Leader at the time of the 2005 General Election.
The dinner was held at The Last Drop Hotel and I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Sandra who was excellent company. Sandra spoke of how she writes her novels and gave some interesting insights into her busy life.
Andrew Lansley MP the Shadow Secretary of State for Health paid another visit to the Borough of Bury on Thursday evening this time to speak to an audience of doctors, dentists and other health professionals at Whitefield Golf Club in the Bury South Constituency. The meeting was chaired by my colleague in Bury South Councillor Michelle Wiseman.
I was delighted to be able to attend and hear Andrew confirm again that he is determined to change the balance of power in the health service so that our valued General Practitioners who are the front line of the health service will have power to commission services on behalf of their patients. This will mean local Primary Care Trusts being required to provide services that local residents require and that in turn will mean that the Maternity Department at Fairfield Hospital will be able to remain open. I certainly hope so. Local doctors need to be put in control so they have more power and the local health bureaucrats much less power.
This afternoon I attended the Christmas Party organised by the Rotary Club of Bury for a group of Senior Citizens held at the Walshaw Sports Club. I was responsible for quite a bit of the organisation this year and so I was quite relieved that overall the event passed off quite successfully.
The Mayor Councillor Sheila Magnall attended the event and the Senior Citizens really appreciated the fact that they were able to have the chance to meet the towns first citizen. Sometimes those of us who are involved in politics and frequently come into contact with the Mayor can forget how significant an event it is for so many people to have the chance to chat with our town’s Mayor. The guests were served with a Christmas dinner and then enjoyed three games of bingo and a performance of songs and carols performed by the pupils from Tottington High School. On the way home guests were given a Christmas Card and a box of chocolate biscuits.
Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded how lucky those of us are who are not affected by a disability.
At the lunchtime meeting of Bury Rotary Club we had a three speakers from the Speakeasy charity based in Ramsbottom. The charity helps those who struggle with language following a stroke. The fact that two of the three speakers were themselves recovering from strokes was particularly revealing. The charity carries out excellent work and I hope the small donation that Rotary was able to make will make their task a little easier.
In the evening I attended a social evening organised by the Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted People at the Man Yuen Chinese restaurant in Tottington. Whenever I meet with those who are blind or who suffer from severe visual impairment I am always impressed by how positive and optimistic their outlook is. I have to declare an interest in that my wife is a Director ( entirely voluntary I should stress) of the Society and spends alot of time trying to raise funds for it and helping in all manner of ways with the administration of the Society.
I was delighted to note this morning that Grant Shapps the Conservative Shadow Minister in charge of our housing policy has announced that he plans to suspend the use of Home Information Packs -often referred to as HIP’s- within weeks if a Conservative Government is elected.
For those who don’t know I should say that HIP’s are a new idea introduced by Labour. basically the idea is that when someone is selling their home they have to prepare or more typically pay someone else to prepare a Home information Pack for them before they can sell their house. The Home Information Pack contains details about the owners right to sell the property – the title deeds – local search enquiries, replies to enquiries from the purchaser’s solicitors and an energy performance certificate giving details about how energy efficient the property is. The only new bit is the energy performance certificate and these will have to be retained even if HIP’s are scrapped because I understand they are required under European Legislation. The logic is that if the Seller had all this information ready it would speed up the conveyancing process. Now for over 25 years I worked in a Solicitors office where most of fee income came from conveyancing. My wife has personally handled literally thousands of conveyancing transactions and if she thought that these packs would help the clients she would be the first to say so. The fact is they do not. Typically they cost a couple of hundred pounds to put together and they do not solve any of the delays in the conveyancing process. For example if there is some vital document missing that document still has to be found or insurance obtained with the resulting delay that entails.
I can usually tell that a policy is right when by the number of submissions I receive on each side of the argument. In this case I receive complaints about all those making money out of this new Labour piece of added bureaucracy but no complaints from the clients!
If the compulsory element is scrapped then clients will be free to choose if they want one.
Political events today have been dominated by the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech. This is when the Monarch opens the new session of Parliament and sets out the measures which the Government of the day propose to introduce and try and have passed by Parliament. Although it is called the Queen’s Speech the speech is in fact written by the Government of the day so today’s Queen’s Speech was written by Gordon Brown and the Labour Government.
I was up early this morning as I had to be in the studios of BBC Manchester to give a live interview on the Alan Beswick’s Breakfast Show on Radio Manchester.
My view was that, from the advance leaks, the Queen’s Speech looked as though it would be more about what was good for the Labour Party than what was good for the Country.
Some of the proposed measures appear simply bizarre. For example it appears Labour plan to introduce a Bill that would give a legal right to a good education to every pupil. This raises a number of interesting points. Firstly, it seems to me that this is a terrible indictment of Labour’s education policy over the past 12 years. They appear to be admitting that many pupils are simply not getting the education they deserve. Secondly, what does a parent do if they feel their child has not received a good education? What will the process be? What redress will a parent and a child have? Thirdly, for every right there has to be an obligation. So, how will it be decided whether the obligation has been met or not. Fourthly, what sanctions will there be if it is decided that the obligation has not been met.
It all looks like a bonanza for litigation lawyers. This measure simply has not been thought through. The Conservatives proposals for education are for radical reform to allow any suitably qualified organisation to open up new schools. A new pupil premium would mean schools would receive more money for taking pupils from the most disadvantaged areas. Discipline in schools would be improved by giving Headteachers the final say on exclusions.
Finally and incredibly, despite the problem of M.P.’s expenses being so high profile in recent months there is no mention of any Bill to bring into law the proposals of the Kelly report designed to clean up the expenses system.