Freedom Bill: I had hoped to blog the passage of the Bill through its committee stage – but studying for it and taking it through meant that there was no time. Suffice to say it was well debated and argued. Basically on the key points Labour would put everything in it virtually back where it was under them: ie retaining innocent people on the DNA data base, continuing to take children’s fingerprints without parental permission, making over 9 million people be registered and monitored continually – even if they are a parent volunteering to read to children and are supervised and many other measures. Hopefully the Bill will come back for report stage in the very near future.
YMCA Hornsey Fun Run: A great pleasure as always to give the awards for the adult races. This year I was joined by Andrew Thornton of our local Crouch End Budgens. Not only did his Andrew and his team win the unaffiliated prize – but I have to say – the way our local Budgens is part of our community is fantastic – and we are very fortunate to have such a community minded business in what is a very competitive market locally for our custom. As for the event – as always – a huge thank you to the YMCA for all the effort hey put in to this great local annual event; thank you to all those who ran.
Highgate Society AGM: The Society’s AGM was held on Wednesday evening at Highgate School. It started with a talk on the Localism Bill and how that will affect (or not) everyone. In fact – members of the Highgate Society lobbied me during the course of the Bill to ask that I try and get the part that forgot about places like Highgate changed. In the Bill local people will be able to put together a neighbourhood plan. Of course – the bugbear in Highgate – is that it is split between three boroughs and it looked like these neighbourhood plans would not be allowed cross borough boundaries. At the time I met with the appropriate minister and was able to report back to the Highgate Society members who came to my advice surgery that there would be a positive outcome to their request. So – new members come onto the Council – and the very very valuable work that the Highgate Society does on behalf of all our community will go on thanks to so many people who volunteer their time to protect and fight for our area.
Mr President: Yes – I did go to hear President Obama speak. It was a fantastic occasion – the two Houses of Parliament gathered in the great Westminster Hall to listen to the American president. It was a first. American Presidents have addressed smaller groups of parliamentarians before in the Royal Gallery – but never this! What did I think? I thought the first half of his speech was what you would expect – flattering to Britain and reassuring us of our importance to America and our now better cemented relationship. The second half was more inspiring – with that magic Obama has to raise our hopes and aspirations for a better world – combined with an intellectual rigour on the world situation. It was a privilege to be there – but the serious work of sorting out both our economies, the Middle East , Afghanistan – and supporting the fluttering Arab Spring are the real work of our countries and others.
Re the Freedom Bill, you conveniently left out that in exchange for banning clamping you are proposing to place the liability for private parking tickets with the registered keepers of vehicles. You have ignored all requests that you step back from this illberal and dangerous move that is the opposite of protecting freedoms, despite hundreds of responses to the public consultationasking you to do so. The private parking industry has largely built a business by aping the look and feel of local authority tickets in an attempt to fool motorsist that such tickets have validity. Now the government wants to help these rogues to our money by in effect legitimising their disreputable activities, which routinely include using inadequate or non existent signage, refusing all “appeals” no matter how valid and sending intimidatory letters making all sorts of intemperate and unlawful threats. It is all to easy to see how the dodgy companies will present this provision as “under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2011, you [name of keeper] are responsible for the private parking charge and must pay it” courtesy of your great “freedom protecting” coalition.
Regards the so called nationwide independent appeal that you have stated in Committee will be in place before you bring in the keeper liability provisions (but which mysteriously does not appear in the latest draft of the Bill) do you really expect anyone to believe that the BPA, the biggest cheerleader for the private parking industry which has made little or no effort to stamp out all kinds of unacceptable practices by members, to provide an independent appeal mechanism upon which motorists can rely? This is like expecting turkeys to vote for Christmas. The BPA as the trade association for the private parking industry is hopelessly conflicted as anyone with an ounce of sense will realise. However to give the BPA some credit their negotiators have clearly run rings around the government’s representatives on this provision.
As a voter who has voted for you in the past I have to say that unless you reverse this ill thought out sop to the private parking lobby I will look elsewhere in future. Possibly to someone who does not do the right thing (ban clamping) only to replace it with something worse (legitimisation of private parking tickets).