“Street lights provide safety for all, so will the Minister responsible for Road Safety confirm that turning off street lights at midnight results in added road safety risks for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians?” That was the question I put during Transport Questions in the House of Commons on Thursday.
I was confident that the answer must be “yes” – but to my amazement the Minister (MP for Scarborough and Whitby, Yorkshire), said “some local authorities have shown that switching off the lights does not detract from road safety.”
This is ridiculous! I will continue to argue against the decision of Essex County Council to switch off most of the street lights in Essex from midnight.
The rest of my diary starts from Friday October 10 when I held an Advice Bureau. My wife was receptionist. In the afternoon I attended a graduation ceremony at the Town Hall for students from Colchester Institute.
On Saturday morning I joined colleagues for campaigning. At lunch-time I went to the former bus station where Colchester Morris Men introduced their new costumed “animal” – the dog “Black Shuck” of East Anglian folk legend. He replaces “Wilbur”, a Dalmatian costume which my late father made 56 years ago for which this was its last appearance. I then drove to Galleywood for the annual meeting of Workers’ Educational Association branches in Essex. I am a Parliamentary Patron for the WEA. In the evening I went to The Victoria public house, North Station Road, for an event by locally-based charity The Robin Cancer Trust. which is raising funds to focus attention on mediastinal germ cell tumour which attacks the reproductive systems of young men and women.
A busy Sunday started at breakfast time with an interview (from my home) with Radio Five Live about the worsening situation of the Ebola disease possibly coming to the UK and also about the breaking news that a dozen British soldiers were training Kurdish forces in Iraq against the so-called Islamic State terror group. This was followed by an interview with the BBC TV News Channel (voice only) about the new British involvement in Iraq. Later I went to St Botolph’s Church for the annual Justice Service for the County of Essex hosted by The High Sheriff of Essex, Mr Nicholas Charrington from Layer Marney Tower (and Tymperleys tearoom, Colchester). My wife and I then drove to Clacton Town Hall for a live broadcast early in the afternoon on the BBC TV “Politics Show” programme in the wake of the historic Parliamentary by-election.
I spent Monday morning in my constituency office before driving to London. At the Commons I attended the inaugural Parliamentary reception for oesophageal cancer campaign and a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus. Main business in the chamber was a debate calling for Britain to recognise Palestine as a State, based on a Motion for which I was one of the five co-sponsors.
Tuesday was packed with 12 entries in my diary! First was a breakfast briefing given to the All-Party Parliamentary Armed Forces Group by Air Vice-Marshal David Stubbs. Next was a session for the Committee on the Childcare Payments Bill, to which I have been appointed. During the morning I also had meetings with Intern Aware, which campaigns for people who work as interns, and with EEF The Manufacturers’ Organisation to discuss infrastructure – I raised with them the need to improve the railway capacity between Colchester and London, and to dual the A120 from Braintree to Harwich. Just before lunch I had a question on the order paper for the Deputy Prime Minister. I asked Nick Clegg about the introduction (which he announced the previous week) for the first time of a NHS Waiting Time Standard for people suffering with mental health conditions. I then attended the Chiltern and Aylesbury Vale Food Day. After this was the weekly meeting of Lib Dem Whips. In the afternoon I attended a meeting of the Defence Select Committee. Next I went to a reception by Healthwatch, an independent organisation helping to shape and improve local health and social care services. At tea-time was the weekly meeting of Lib Dem MPs. In the evening I attended a reception by the Association of British Insurers, and then a dinner to support the Police Service Parliamentary Scheme which I did with Essex Police in 2000.
Wednesday was also a busy day, with separate meetings in the morning (with other Essex MPs) firstly with the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner followed by one with Essex Fire and Rescue Service. As a consequence I missed a meeting of the Defence Select Committee. For the first time in my 17 years as an MP, I spoke in Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland – I said that since more people lived in Essex than voted “yes” in the referendum, then in fairness to all people in the UK whatever powers were devolved to Scotland should also be devolved to East Anglia!