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Letter from Parliament - Paul Rowen MP

October 30, 2008 12:00 AM

Reporting Back - Paul Rowen MPLast week we discussed the Human Embryo and Fertilisation Bill, a very controversial bill on which MPs had a free vote. I had been very heavily lobbied on the topic from both sides, but as a member of the All Party Pro-Life Group I supported amendments put forward by my very good colleagues Jim Dobbin, John Pugh and Ann Widdecombe.

I was very disappointed however that the government, having promised two days of debate, cut that to a half a day. It meant that some very detailed amendments to the bill were never even discussed. It is rumoured that the PM ordered this to be cut to one day.

Still it was good to see Ruth Kelly, former Transport Minister and MP for Bolton South voting with us. The bill has now gone back to the House of Lords and should receive Royal assent in the next few weeks.

It was because of this bill I was unable to attend the Pennines Planning Committee that was discussing the Crook Hill Wind Farm. I was pleased that the committee rejected the application and I sent a representative from my office to formally object on my behalf. I am also pleased that the Council's Regulatory Committee, chaired by Councillor Pat Flynn agreed with the Pennines Township and turned it down. However this is likely to go to a Planning Inquiry and could be fast-tracked under the Government's new Planning Act - very disappointing and I will be doing my utmost to stop this happening.

Following this I spoke in a debate on Work and Skills. This was in the light of the steepest rise in unemployment in 17 years with the numbers of job seekers in Rochdale up 29% since Christmas. In these circumstances I asked the Employment Minister, Tony McNulty MP, for Job Centre Plus to be more flexible in supporting people with training to get a job. I quoted the example of a constituent who wanted to train to be a driving instructor but who was refused support by the Job Centre.

On Friday I was pleased to visit Springhill High School to speak to a group of Year nine pupils. I was very impressed with the searching questions they asked. Andy Kennedy, their teacher, has just returned from twelve months voluntary work in South America and is keen to form links with schools over there. I fully support this.

Following this I had a very heavy advice surgery at the Town Hall.

On Saturday night I attended the annual Dinner of the Pakistan Welfare Association. This group was formed back in 1960 and its President Mr Pasha I have known for over thirty years. The theme of the dinner was Community Cohesion and I spoke about what we in Rochdale have done to become a beacon council for community cohesion. I know that my colleague Councillor Mohammed Sharif is continuing this excellent work on the Council.

This week I spoke in a debate on Rochdale Canal. I am seriously concerned that the government's cut to the grant to British Waterways will mean that essential work is not carried out. I also raised the issue of the lack of a water supply for the canal. This causes problems especially during the Summer.

As this week is half term I've had a number of visitors to the House of Commons including Councillors Irene Davidson and Brenda Kerslake as well as Crea Lavin and my cousin Adele and her daughter Becky.

On Thursday night I attended St Gabriel's production of Godspell and tomorrow I am due to visit the new Fusilliers Museum in Bury with Edmund Gartside, that has been supported by our Council.

On Saturday I am attending the Festival of Remembrance Service at Rochdale Town Hall. My ex Fusilier colleagues Peter Clegg and Tom Bailey are busy at the moment with the Annual Poppy Appeal. As always I hope you give generously, the Royal British Legion do a fantastic job.

This week, two transport stories have dominated the news - the first was the excellent news that was confirmed of a Kingsway Metrolink stop. I know that Council Leader Alan Taylor has been pushing hard for this confirmation. I know that the Kingsway partnership is able to provide up to £1.4million towards the cost of this stop. Alan has been busy negotiating for the best possible deal for our Borough from the Transport Innovation Fund Bid.

The other news was the draft publication of the ballot paper for December's Referendum. Despite claims to the contrary, the ballot paper makes two references to the congestion charge, before going on to ask people whether they support or oppose the congestion charging and transport investment proposals.