Letter from Parliament - Paul Rowen

Date published: 04 April 2008

Each week on either the Friday night or Saturday morning I hold an advice surgery at various locations throughout Rochdale. Nobody needs an appointment and I'll see anyone. You can find a list on my website or call my office on 712186 for a list.

It is one of the most important roles of a Constituency MP.

The cases that I get are varied from health to housing, tax to immigration and many others issues. Many of the cases people seek my help for is heart rendering and I am only too please to help.

So it was last Friday night, a young women with her daughter came to see me at ASDA in Rochdale. They were homeless, living in a B & B in Manchester. Mum was struggling to keep her job and get her daughter to school. Her story is typical of the scars of people who see me every week asking for re-housing.

I thought of that young woman on Monday when the House of Commons had the report on the third reading of the Housing and Regeneration Bill. The Government like to paint a picture that everything in the garden in rosy. However on this occasion, the Labour back benches would have none of it! Former Minister and Labour Oldham MP Michael Meacher said: "In 2006, 1.6 million households were on casual waiting lists, in addition about 100,000 households are homeless and in temporary accommodation."

London MP John McDonnell was even more blunt, he said: "There are 700 children living in bed and breakfasts, 11 years after the election of a Labour Government!" These figures are startling - since 1997, only 2,500 council homes have been built, not locally but nationally. It is a national scandal! I was pleased that over 30 Labour backbenchers joined us and voted for amendments to improve the bill.

On Tuesday, the Government introduced its latest Counter Terrorism Bill. We did not oppose its second reading because it contained many things like post charge questioning that we have been asking for. More controversially, it seeks to increase sentence without trial from an already high 28 days to 42 days. I expect a large Labour rebellion when this is discussed.

On Good Friday, as well as joining the annual Walk of Witness round town, I met Sheila Acton and the hard working committee members of Syke Community Base. They have been treated very badly by the Local Strategic Partnership and I have written to the Chairman Mohammed Naeem to tell him so. Sheila, however met Council Leader Alan Taylor and Executive Director of the Council Andy Zuntz. I’m delighted that the Council is backing this excellent organisation. We also need to look at other organisations affected by the decisions of the LSP.

Last Thursday in London, I met with Sir Peter Ogden of the Ogden Trust to handover over a painting of Sir Cyril to the National Liberal Club. We discussed the £1,000,000 which the Ogden Trust is donating towards the new Six Form College.

This Wednesday morning I came back early to attend the funeral of Joyce Haynes at St Thomas’ in Kirkholt. Joyce was well known to many people for her work as the Chair of Hilltop Primary School and the Stroke Association being but a few examples. More importantly, I knew her as my ‘Auntie Joyce’ – she has been friends with mum since I was born. With typical Joyce humour the final music played as the coffin left the church was “In the Mood”. She was a real Rochdale character!

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