Letter from Westminster - Paul Rowen MP

March 30, 2009 12:00 AM

Rochdale MP Paul RowenThis week has been the last week Parliament has been sitting before the Easter recess and the legislative programme has been very light. I've had two oral questions - the first to the Defence Secretary and the second to the Prime Minister.

I asked the Defence Secretary about France rejoining the NATO command structure and whether we would now see closer working to improve security and resolve issues like Cyprus which still remains split between the Greek and Turkish sides.

My question to the Prime Minister, I used to raise the money which the Christie Hospital had in an Icelandic Bank -£6.5m and which was to be used to develop new radiotherapy centres in Oldham and Salford.

I was pleased that Gordon Brown has agreed to meet officials from the Christie and I've been in touch with them about getting the meeting as soon as possible. I hope we can see some positive developments as I know that may people from Rochdale have benefitted from the services that The Christie Hospital provide.

This week has of course been dominated by the publication of MP's allowances which is an annual event and yet more damaging revelations about the expenses of certain Cabinet Ministers. I support the stance taken by Nick Clegg and David Cameron that the three party leaders need to get together to sort the issue out once and for all.

Last Thursday I attended a party at Westminster Cathedral Hall to celebrate the 30th anniversary of David Alton's election to Parliament.

It was great to see so many people I knew there especially Frankie Mulgrew, Dales younger brother. He is currently training for the Priesthood and told me he was off to spend some time in Kenya.

I'm currently organising with Terry Mason a fundraiser at the India Lounge on 7th May to raise money to help build a Primary school in Marigat. If you would like to come tickets are available from my office, please call on 01706 712 186 or email me at paul@paulrowen.co.uk.

On Sunday I attended the Bangladesh Association and Community Project's celebration of Bangladesh's independence. That was earlier in the week and we have a fine tradition of celebrating each nation's national day (including England) by raising the flag outside the town hall. Recently, we also raised the Irish Flag for St Patrick's Day and I look forward in April to raising the flag for St George's Day.

I'm delighted also Mayor-elect Keith Swift and Councillor Farooq Ahmed are going to Bangladesh in a few weeks to look at developing links.

On Tuesday I attended the Inland Waterway's Association Parliamentarian of the Year Award at which Waterways Minister Huw Irranca Davies was the guest speaker. I sat opposite him and was delighted at his commitment and that of MPs of all parties to canal restoration.

I raised the continuing issues around maintenance of the Rochdale Canal which I have been discussing with several people including John Kay and Councillor Peter Evans. It really is an advantage to be properly briefed by people like John and Peter when you get an opportunity to meet Ministers.

Yesterday morning, I was due to record a piece for BBC Radio 4's - Women's' Hour with Asma Akhtar about her dreadful experiences in Pakistan. She and her remaining two children are lucky to be alive and I applaud her determination to speak out.

This week I have a meeting with residents in Spotland at St Clements and am attending the Heartbeat Ball at the Town Hall and the Music Society Halle Orchestra Concert at the Middleton Arena.