Showing posts from August, 2007

Victims have human rights too.

The advocates of our existing human rights legislation promised us that these laws would ensure that the rights of everyone would be taken into consideration, including the right of law-abiding citizens to be protected from crime. The decision of the Asylum and Immigration tribunal that the killer convicted of the murder of head teacher Phillip Lawrence should not be deported to the country of which he is a citizen, Italy, at the conclusion of his sentence is depressing evidence that this law does not always work as it was intended. Because the murderer came to Britain at the age of 5 and speaks only English, the court found that his human rights would be infringed by returning him to the country of his birth. I would have considered that the argument used by the tribunal would be reasonable in the case of someone convicted of a less serious crime, one which did not clearly identify him as a danger to the public. But in the case of killers, rapists, and other highly dangerous individua

On the health impact of Cannabis

One of the problems with the way drug policy is debated in this country is that it very many of the comments you hear on the subject either understate or overstate the health risks involved with drugs. Politicians occasionally get asked whether we have ever taken illegal drugs. In my case I have never had either the desire or the opportunity: unusually for someone of my age, I managed to spend five years at University without ever coming into contact with any drug other than alcohol or nicotine. There was a reason for this. Within weeks of arriving at Bristol University, I entered a debating championship in which contestants could be asked to speak on subjects which might bear no relation to their actual opinions or knowledge, and I was assigned to speak against a motion calling for the legalisation of cannabis. For the first nineteen years of my life up to that point I had taken little interest in drugs policy. I had heard advocates of legalising cannabis argue that the effects of tha

On photographs ...

One of the ongoing problems for anyone involved in politics, especially for those of us who have the misfortune not to be as photogenic as, say. Robert Redford, is to find photographs we can use which combine being recognisable, make us look like normal human beings, and are not too unflattering. A further problem is that residents are getting more sophisticated in spotting when an image does not look quite right. There have always been a few idiots who put out doctored photographs - the Lib/Dems in Marshalswick and Sandridge were particularly prone to issuing Focus leaflets with badly altered photographs which any reasonably alert resident could spot - but a few people in all parties have been caught doing it. I've always found badly faked images to be an irritating insult to the electorate whoever does it, but unfortunately from time to time perfectly genuine photographs can look as if they were created using Paintshop or a similar programme. I recently found to my disappointment

Whitehaven Car Parking Strategy

At yesterday's meeting of Copeland Borough Council, my colleague Alex Carroll asked for and was given an assurance that local residents and businesses will be given the opportunity to comment on and contribute to the work which the council is doing to develop a "car parking strategy." Alex, myself, and other Whitehaven councillors regularly get our ears bent by local residents who are very unhappy about traffic and parking issues in the town. (Obviously I am aware that parking is also a very hot issue in many other parts of the constituency, such as Seascale, Keswick, and quite a few other towns and villages.) Local Conservatives in Whitehaven are currently running a survey to find out the views of residents about traffic and parking issues. We originally started this with a view to feeding into a review of parking enforcement which the council is running, but are extending it to cover the parking strategy. I would be very interested to hear the views of local residents a

Have your say on Health

The long-awaited public consultation on the future of Health services in Cumbria is now expected to be launched on or about 19th September. The consultation document, "Close to Home" which is due to be issed by the NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) for Cumbria on that date is expected to cover all health issues in the county. This would include the future of West Cumberland Hospital, Millom Community Hospital, and Mary Hewetson Cottage Hospital in Keswick: it will also cover GP and dental services. The consultation will last some 13 weeks. Doubtless as a result of the mauling which successive NHS leaderships have received in public meetings in Whitehaven and elsewhere in Cumbria, the Primary Care Trust has decided to go for an Open Day format in which people can drop in to speak to NHS representatives on a 1:1 basis, instead of public meetings. This makes it all the more important that everyone with an interest in the future of our local hospitals and health services should come a

Memorial Service: 60th Anniversary of the William Pit disaster

I have just returned home from an immensely moving ceremony which commemorated the 60th anniversary of the William Pit disaster on 15th August 1947 in which 104 miners lost their lives. This was the last and worst of 14 explosions and many other fires and other disasters during the 151 years that William Pit was open. The total number of men, women, and children killed in the mine between 1804 and 1955 was over three hundred. As was mentioned this afternoon at the ceremony and in this week's Whitehaven News, the explosion at the William Pit in August 1947 killed 104 men and left 89 women widowed and 230 children fatherless. Of the men down the pit at the time just three survived. In a small and tightly knit community like Whitehaven the impact was absolutely devastating. Just how powerful the impact was, and also how the whole community rallied round, was demonstrated by the numbers who turned out even sixty years later for today's ceremony. I did not attempt to count how many

Here we go again

Last time Britain was hit by Foot and Mouth Cumbria was the worst affected county. Both farming and tourism suffered extremely badly, to such an extent that even now some farms and businesses are even now still recovering. Even if the present outbreak is contained, it has potential to do vast damage which the countryside can ill afford, through loss of exports. I support David Cameron's call for practical action to control the problem. We need to make sure swift measures are taken both on farm footpaths and on livestock burial to help enforce the foot and mouth exclusion zone imposed around a Surrey farm. As David said after a farmer reported that walkers were seen crossing farmland within the zone, all steps should be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Speaking after talks with NFU leaders in London, David Cameron said: "Of course we want the countryside to be open for business, but within the exclusion zone it's very important that people don't actually wal

A University for Cumbria

Today the new University of Cumbria was launched in Carlisle. This represents a huge opportunity for the county, especially in respect of employment and health services. To attract a broader range of jobs we need to improve the range of skills, and a local university will help us to do this. It also begins to open the door on something of vital importance which was completely impossible without a strong University involvement: developing our District General Hospitals as a Teaching hospital. This is not something which can be done overnight. But if local councils, PCT and the new university can all commit ourselves to the long-term aim of setting up a teaching hospital in Cumbria, we will have taken a step towards providing our hospital services with a more secure future.