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Letter from Parliament – Paul Rowen MP

Date published: 22 January 2009


Barrack Obama's inauguration as President of the United States has obviously been the biggest news this week - worldwide. For a black man to become President of the most powerful democracy in the world when sixty years ago his father would have been refused service in a café in Washington is progress indeed. All of us I'm sure wish him well in what is a most difficult task.

Back home the news cannot get more gloomy. Unemployment increased by 131,000 - now nearly 2 million - and is up in Rochdale. Many of these include staff at Woolworths, which closed at the start of the year. In December I asked the Job Centre how many vacancies it had - 132 and unemployment of nearly 3,000!

Offering people training is not in my view enough. As Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, said a couple of months ago we need job creation schemes and we need to do more to protect jobs that already exist. In recent weeks I've had meetings with a number of local employers who have expressed the same concerns to me. Bailing the banks out yet again is not the answer. As John McDonnell MP said we should now be nationalising RBS. I'm afraid I found the Prime Minister’s answer on this less than convincing at PMQ's.

Christmas now seems a long time ago. However Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 6 January 6 and last Saturday I was delighted to attend the traditional Ukrainian Christmas meal in the Ukranian club on Mere Street together with Councillor Angela Coric and the Mayor. Walter Duczak and his team are to be congratulated on organising an excellent event.

On Friday I attended a Rochdale Inner Wheel Charity Fundraiser at the Bella Vista, with an Italian theme. I had excellent fun with John and Sue Kay and his friends answering questions on Italy.

This was followed by an evening enjoying "Annie" at Bamford Chapel. This was an excellent production with packed houses on both nights. The young people were a delight to watch. I wish I could sing as well but anyone who saw me singing on the BBC before Christmas will know that is not the case!

This week I attended a meeting with Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive councillors and officers to discuss what to do following the congestion charge referendum. We had an excellent discussion and have agreed that further work needs to be done. This was followed by a meeting of the All Party Light Rail which Teresa Villers MP, the Conservative Transport Spokesperson spoke at. It was good to see Roger Jones, the former Chairman of the PTE at the meeting which was attended by over 70 people.

On Thursday we should have had a vote on the application of Freedom of information Act to MPs and their expenses. I have made my position very clear - MPs are not above the law and I would have voted against the government motion exempting MPs. However following a hammering in the media, the Government withdrew the motion.

I was delighted on Thursday night to be invited to the Ukrainian Embassy to watch Anna Kecyk being awarded Ukraine’s highest medal for her work on the Rochdale Lviv twinning link. I signed the twinning agreement for Rochdale Council back in 1992 and I am delighted for Anna - well deserved.

I am pleased also that Council Leader Alan Taylor is making a steady recovery following his recent operation.

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