Saturday saw the arrival of the Olympic torch pass through Bury as part of its nationwide tour. Thousands turned out to welcome the torch and fortunately the rain kept away!
On Thursday I was fortunate to be allocated a ticket to attend the address by the Burmese democracy campaigner and politician Aung San Suu Kyi in Westminster Hall. The address was to both Houses of Parliament and it is a rare honour accorded to very few. Since I was elected just over two years ago tthis was the fourth such address the others being by the President of the United States, The Pope and earlier this year Her Majesty the Queen.
Aung San Suu Kyi was softly spoken and she spoke with a dignity which reflected the stoical way she has dealt with the political situation in her home country. She reminded us all of the need never to take our democracy for granted.
At noon last Wednesday the Procedure Committee released its long awaited report on the sitting hours of the House of Commons. I stress the House of commons because although it is often reported that we were investigating Parliament sitting hours we could of course only concern ourselves with the House of Commons. The House of Lords determine their own calendar and sitting hours.
The number of days we sit is a contentious issue. The problem is that half the population think their MP is on slacking if they are seen in their Constituency asking why they are not hard at work in Parliament. On the other hand there are constituents who complain their Member of Parliament spends too much time in Parliament and ought to be available to attend their village fete.
A similar dilema faced us with the actual hours we sit on the days that the House of commons is sitting. Most people are generally agreed that on a Monday M.P.’s should start at the current time of 2.30 which gives time for Members from all parts of the United Kingdom time to get down from their constituencies.There is much more controversy over the other days of the week. I have found that broadly speaking there are two strands of opinion. One which is more usually found among M.P.’s whose constituencies are near enough to Westminster to allow them to travel home in the evening even when on a Monday and Tuesday when the finishing time is typically between 10pm and 11pm is that the House should sit normal office hours. The other school of though which is more often articulated by Members who live in London during the week but have to leave their families behind in the Constituency is that the House should sit as long as possible because otherwise Members are left kicking their heels in the evenings. If you put five M.P.’s in a room and ask them their preferred option you will probably get five different views.
The one problem which I discovered whilst sitting on the Committee was the effect on the staff of the House. The Staff who prepare for the House and all its many Committees have to start preparing all the papers several hours before the House actually sits and earlier starting times would result in very early starting times indeed for all the House staff.
The full report can be found here
What do you think?
The crisis in the Eurozone continues. The seeds of the crisis were sown when the single currency was created. It was always going to be difficult to determine the rate at which countries would join the Euro. As the years have passed the stresses inherent in different countries with separate and often diverging economies have become ever more apparent. The setting of a single interest rate across the Eurozone has inevitably meant that for some countries the rate was too high and for others the rate was too low.
Of course all these stresses were supposed to be contained by the Growth and Stability Pact. However it was never strictly enforced and deficit budget became the norm. Countries with weaker economies were able to get away with this for a while whilstever the markets believed that the stronger Eurozone Countries would be prepared to bail out ( in other words take on responsibility for the debts of ) the weaker Eurozone Countries. To an extent this is what has repeatedly been happening as the various bailout mechanisms have been created. Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Spain have all been assisted. The problem is that the medicine doled out by Brussels has not cured the patient. The problem these countries had was too much debt. Making those debts bigger is not the answer. The markets know that. This week 100 billion euros was pledged to ‘bail out’ ailing Spanish banks a move that became essential as creditors pushed up the costs Spain had to pay to borrow more money. The move worked…. for about a day after which the costs pretty much returned to where they were.
The problem throughout the Eurozone (just as in the UK) is that countries have too much debt, economies that are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the tiger economies of the Far East and the growing economies of Brazil, Russia and China.
There is no easy solution.
The Fiscal Union Treaty proposed by the Eurozone countries is in essence a beefed up version of the Growth and Stability Pact. A leap towards the Eurozone countries becoming a single Country with financial decisions being taken centrally and individual nations losing their independence. I suspect that whatever the outcome of the latest Greek General Election tomorrow Brussels will do all it can to prevent Greece leaving the Euro. The Greek economy appears to be in such desperately poor shape that whatever happens I fear the hardship currently being suffered by ordinary Greeks will continue for many years to come.
I am no expert when it comes to flowers. I tend to be reduced to describing them by their colour and size( big yellow/ little white that sort of thing) but the displays at the St.Anne’s Flower Festival on show last weekend were pretty spectacular. It was a pity the weather was not better on the first two days, although I was told it was good for helping to maintain the displays in good condition.
Back at Westminster two of the new sessions Bills the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill and the defamation Bill have received their Second Readings and will now go off to be considered in detail in committee.
With the House of Commons not sitting in the past week I have had the opportunity to do more work in and around the Constituency. On Monday I had a meeting with local dairy farmers and representatives of the National Farmers Union about various farming issues and in particular the effects of falling farm gate milk prices.
I have also visited Rowe Hankins Limited a local Company which once it has finished recruiting will have increased its workforce by about a third in the last couple of years up from 45 to 60. Importantly they are predominantly a manufacturing Company. They work within the rail industry providing high tech solutions to help improve safety, efficiency and reliability. of trains and light rail networks. More information can be found at their website here www.rowehankins.com
This special Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend there are lots of events taking place some specially arranged to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and others such as the World War II weekend and the Hawkshaw Gala where CeeCee and I spent a couple of hours earlier today are annual events.