Business starts today with questions to the Home Office and I was lucky in the ballot coming out at Number 8 so a guaranteed slot and an opportunity for me to ask about the progress being made on immigration. The main business is the Second Reading of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill which introduces the necessary domestic legislation required to enable the U.K. to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
I am scheduled to chair a debate in Westminster Hall on the issue of grouse shooting which is being held following the receipt of petition signed by over 100,000 people.
After attending some meetings in my office yesterday morning and dealing with some surgery matters I spent some time in the Millgate doing a bit of shopping. Despite spending half the year in London I never dream of doing my shopping down there I much prefer to shop locally. In Tottington or Ramsbottom where I can and if not then Bury. When the new Rock Triangle was being built I received many complaints that it would spell the end for the Millgate but I have to say considering all the problems facing the high street such as from internet shopping the Millgate seems to be thriving. Hardly any empty shops. Some new ones have opened since I was last in for a good look round and most importantly it seemed pretty busy to me.
Yesterday evening I attended a sell out dinner to raise money for Bury Society for Blind and Partially Sighted People at The Red Hall Hotel. The Mayor and his consort, the Leader of the Council and lots of other generous supporters attended and helped raise over £3,600 to help those without sight or with sight problems in our town.
After a long debate yesterday the Homelessness Reduction Bill promoted by my colleague from Harrow East passed its Second Reading and will now proceed to be considered further in Committee. The bill will not of itself solve the problem of homelessness but it will help local authorities focus on helping everyone. In particular single homeless people who have no special priority will, in future, be entitled to help and advice. There are many reasons why people become homeless. A change in financial circumstances perhaps because of unexpected redundancy or as a result of ill health. Perhaps because of relationship breakdown. Sometimes those facing homelessness have fallen victim to addiction to drugs or alcohol. There are many complex reasons but in a civilised society we should be doing more for our fellow citizens than allowing anyone to be homeless. Hopefully this bill will be a step in the right direction.
The first Bill for consideration today is the Homelessness Reduction Bill. The Bill seeks to remove the present unfairness which discriminates against single homeless people. It also includes new measures to help people who are in danger of being made homeless. It is not a magic bullet but it will help to reduce the number of homeless people on our streets.
Yesterday there was another debate on Concentrix and their role in the verification of tax credit claims. There was also a debate on the situation in Yemen. Both debates were chosen by the opposition Today there is a debate on the mental health of young people which was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee.
Yesterday, I chaired a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir which was addressed by the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Mr Sardar Masood Khan who gave an excellent summary of the current issues facing this divided territory.
On Monday the Health Service Medical Supplies Bill received its Second Reading The Bill aims to allow the Government to control the cost of unbranded generic drugs and ensure the government has the powers to collect the necessary information to correctly reimburse those who dispense medicine. The overall objective is to ensure that our NHS secures better value for money from the estimated £15.2 billion spent on medicines last year.
Yesterday the Criminal Finances Bill also received its Second Reading. The Bill amends the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002; makes it easier to seize the property of terrorists and creates new offences to cover cases where a person associated with a company or partnership facilitates the commission by another person of a tax evasion offence.
Both these Bills passed unopposed. As expected yesterday the Secretary of State for Transport announced there will be a new runway built at Heathrow and whilst I understand the necessary processes have to be followed I hope the project proceeds as quickly as possible.
Reports suggest that the (very) long running debate over how the Country should expand its airport capacity in the South East will finally end today when the government announces a decision on what will happen. To be fair to Theresa May having only been in post a few weeks she has been positively speedy on the issue compared to the years of consideration which has gone on before. Whenever the decision is made it was always likely to be controversial.
My concern is how the expansion of airport capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick will affect Manchester airport and how economy in and around Manchester and the wider North West. Whatever the government decide it will be years before any new runway is open for use. In the meantime I would like to see more being done to encourage airlines make use of Manchester airport which has plenty of spare capacity and has ambitious plans to expand its facilities over the coming years.