Jan 20 2007

Knife Crime – Open Letter

Dear Editor,

Our local Labour MPs seem to have all the wrong priorities.

They have voted in support of closing local post offices, in favour of detaining suspected terrorists without charge for up to 42 days, yet seem unable to come up with measures to halt the growing menace of knife crime.

We need practical measures to bring terrorists to justice. We want to see terrorists charged, tried, convicted and put behind bars. The Government narrowly won a vote to detain suspects who have not been charged with any offence whatsoever. Innocent people could be detained unjustifiably. Why has the Government decided on 42 days? In all the cases where suspected terrorists have been detained, either charges have been made or the suspects released well within the existing limits. The Government has not been able to demonstrate the case for this draconian measure. The lesson of internment without trial in Ireland proves that this type of measure creates martyrs and is ineffective.

18 young people have already lost their lives this year alone to knife crime. Reports suggest that 1 in 4 young people carry knives for “self defence”. Many of the stabbings have taken place in or near to licensed premises. The only certain way of stopping people from using knives is to prevent them from being carried. Educating young people on the tragic results of using knives in fights is one method but the carrying of knives as concealed weapons can only be eliminated by clear and unambiguous punishments.

There should be clear, mandatory prison sentences for all those caught carrying knives, there should be a mandatory prison sentence for anyone who uses a knife to endanger another human being and that the sentences should be rigorously enforced. Young people will then understand that they will be severely punished if they choose to carry a knife.

The Government also needs to provide the police with enhanced powers of stop and search. The bureaucratic workload of form filling needs to be reduced to allow police more time to help remove the growing menace of knives in our society. These measures require pressure from MPs for appropriate legislation, not hoping that society will change by itself without strong intervention.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Blackman

Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Harrow East

Jan 19 2007

Calls for more support for Harrow’s charities and community groups

Plans to cut red tape, promote charitable giving and get more people involved

Bob Blackman, prospective parliamentary candidate for Harrow East, haswelcomed important new proposals from Conservative leader, David Cameron, to help boost the work of charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups across Harrow. A series of practical policies seek to strengthen the voluntary sector, cut unnecessary red tape and get more people involved in local charities and local community groups.

The Conservative policy proposals include:

  • Simplifying the Gift Aid system to reduce the bureaucratic burden on charities and promote more charitable giving
  • Replacing the Big Lottery Fund (BLF) and with a Voluntary Action Lottery Fund; the BLF has attracted criticism for giving grants to controversial causes and spending money on government services rather than funding voluntary good causes.
  • Creating a network of Social Enterprise Zones to boost social investment in deprived communities.
  • Cutting unnecessary red tape and form-filling.
  • Establishing a one-stop funding portal for significant government grants, to help voluntary groups through the confusing ‘jungle’ of different state grants.
  • Enabling the voluntary sector to compete on an equal footing with the private sector to provide services.
  • Promoting co-operatives, to allow local communities to run, and own, community assets and set up new government-funded schools.

Bob Blackman said:

“I welcome these new proposals to help boost local charities and community groups across Harrow by cutting red tape, encouraging more charitable giving and helping social enterprise to provide local services.

“The social challenges we face today are every bit as serious as the economic challenges Britain faced in 1979. The big dividing line in British politics today is about the role of the state. Gordon Brown believes in top-down state control; Conservatives believe in bottom-up social responsibility.”

Notes to Editors

The Conservative Party’s Voluntary Action in the 21st Century Green Paper was published on 3 June 2008.

The policy proposals include pledges to:

1.       Simplify the Gift Aid system to reduce the bureaucratic burden on charities.

2.       Work with charities to sponsor a debate on whether it is possible to establish a new social norm around charitable giving.

3.       Direct support for volunteering through grassroots volunteering organisations not government quangos.

4.       Prioritise development work in ‘charity deserts’ to establish new volunteer-led organisations where none previously existed.

5.       Support efforts to establish regular volunteering as a social norm – leading by example by giving central government employees an annual entitlement to at least eight hours volunteering.

6.       Reduce the burden of regulation on volunteers – improving the system for Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks and clearing up the confusion over benefit rules.

7.       Replace the Big Lottery Fund with a Voluntary Action Lottery Fund dedicated in its entirety to the voluntary and community sector – returning the National Lottery to its original four good causes.

8.       Respect the difference between grants and contracts – using contracts, rather than grants, only where there is a clear justification.

9.       Operate a genuine one-stop funding portal for significant government grants.

10.    Set up a funding passport scheme so that voluntary organisations can bypass repetitive grant application and contract tendering bureaucracy.

11.    Draw up model grant and contract agreements to minimise the bureaucracy facing voluntary organisations in seeking funds.

12.    Create a network of Social Enterprise Zones to provide incentives for social investment in deprived communities.

13.    Set up a Social Investment Bank as a wholesaler of ‘patient capital’ to a wide range of social investment institutions.

14.    Allow voluntary organisations delivering public services to earn a competitive return on investment by sharing substantially in the rewards that come from success.

15.    Offer multi-year funding terms on contracts and grant agreements.

16.    Remove the interference and bureaucracy of state funding by agreeing on goals and outcomes, not dictating methods of delivery.

17.    Agree and implement a Co-operative Action Plan – empowering and enabling co-ops to play a much bigger role in running and owning community assets and services.

18.    Create a powerful Office for Civil Society at the heart of government to fight for the interests of charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and community groups.

19.    Ensure proper democratic scrutiny of government policy towards the voluntary sector – led by a new civil society select committee.

20.    Enforce an improved version of the Compact on relations between government and the voluntary sector.

Jan 18 2007

Congratulations to the Irish People

A massive blow against those who would force the EU Treaty on the UK without a referendum.

Bob Blackman, prospective parliamentary candidate for Harrow East, has hailed the result of the referendum on the EU Treaty as, “A great day for Britain and the peoples of Europe. Now is the time to end the old top-down Europe which the Irish have so decisively rejected. The Irish people have spoken.  They have made clear that they do not want a Treaty that takes so many powers from the countries of Europe and gives it to distant institutions in Brussels. Despite all the threats that have been made, they have had the courage to make their own decision. They deserve Europe’s admiration and congratulations.”

Irish referendum

The Republic of Ireland held a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 12 June. Ireland voted ‘no’ by 53.4 to 46.6 per cent on a turn out of 53 per cent – a higher turn out than either the Irish ‘no’ to Nice in 2001 or the Irish ‘yes’ in 2002.

Bob Blackman continued, “The British Government must respect the Irish people’s verdict. Ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in Parliament must be stopped immediately. The renamed EU Constitution should now be finished. Unless it is agreed that this Treaty is dead and buried, it is essential that the British people have their say. There is no justification for the Irish people being allowed their say while the British are denied theirs. Gordon Brown must go to the Commons on Monday to make a statement on what the Government will do next. “

Notes to Editors

House of Lords. The Bill ratifying the EU Treaty is now awaiting its third reading – the final hurdle in the House of Lords – which is due to take place on 18 June. On 11 June the Lords rejected a referendum by 280 votes to 218. If the 65 Liberal Democrat peers had not voted against a referendum, which they did on a three line whip, but followed their MPs in abstaining the vote for a referendum would have been won. On 20 May Lib Dem peers abstained on a vote on whether there should be an in-out referendum on the EU – the subject about which Lib Dem MPs stormed out of the Commons in protest because they were not allowed to vote on it. Lib Dem and Labour peers also blocked a Conservative attempt to write a guarantee of a referendum on any move to scrap the pound into the Bill.

The EU Treaty Bill in the Commons. On 5 March, the majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs voted against a Conservative proposal for a UK-wide referendum on ratification of the EU Treaty. 311 MPs voted against, 248 in favour – a margin of 63. 29 Labour MPs rebelled, voting for a referendum. Three Conservative MPs rebelled.

Liberal Democrat rebellion. 13 of 63 Lib Dem MPs defied a three-line whip to abstain by voting in favour of a referendum. Three Lib Dem front bench spokesmen – David Heath (Justice spokesman), Alistair Carmichael (Scottish spokesman) and Tim Farron (Countryside spokesman) – resigned their positions.  Nick Clegg has not sacked the eight other spokesmen who rebelled.