Sir Bob's Diary 26th July 2014


Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell has a Diary published each Saturday in the "East Anglian Daily Times" (usually Page 41 or thereabouts).  It is always illustrated with a photograph.  The following is what appeared last Saturday.

The House of Commons is now in recess for the summer. We sat on just Monday and Tuesday this week. I spoke twice on each day including a direct challenge to the Prime Minister raising the question of "war crimes" by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

I have a busy diary until MPs return in September including several advice bureaux for residents. National newspaper reports that MPs are "on holiday" do not necessarily apply to all Members of Parliament!

Sir Bob Russell working hard for Colchester's residents

This week's diary is longer than usual as it includes the space usually occupied by the Editor's "writing wrongs" column.

An omission from the diary published last Saturday, namely that on the afternoon of Friday 11th July I met a local mother at my constituency office who is campaigning at national level on the subject of Group Strep B so that expectant mothers are tested to ensure that their baby does not have this life-threatening infection.

I went to Ardleigh Reservoir on the Saturday afternoon for 9th Colchester Scouts' sailing day and barbecue. In the evening my wife and I were at Colchester Institute for the Festival Finale Concert of the Rotary Club of Colchester's annual music and dance competition.

Commemoration

On Sunday morning, at St Peter's Church, I attended a civic service of Commemoration for the Centenary of the Outbreak of the First World War.

I spent Monday morning at my constituency office, including spending time giving the final touch to the front garden ahead of the judging during the week for Anglia in Bloom. I then caught the train to London for Defence Questions during which I asked about the Defence Fire and Rescue Service.

This was followed by a statement by the Foreign Secretary (Rt Hon William Hague MP, his last Parliamentary event in that role before the Cabinet re-shuffle) about the deteriorating situation in Gaza. He declined to say "yes" to my direct question: "Will he confirm that the actions of the Israeli political and military leaders constitute war crimes?"

After tea I served on a Statutory Instrument Committee about Financial Services & Markets Act 2000 and Orders dated 2014. Later in the evening there was a local government reception.

Gurkha Welfare

There were two events on Tuesday morning for All-Party Parliamentary Groups, starting with First Aid (of which I am Chairman) and then one for Gurkha Welfare (in support of former Gurkha soldiers and their families). In the afternoon there was a meeting of the Defence Select Committee which lasted more than three hours.

Sir Bob Russell and a Ghurkha

I attended a reception by the national charity Booktrust which encourages parents and others to read to children; and then one to mark the 50th anniversary of the Construction Industry Training Board. At tea-time was the weekly meeting of Liberal Democrat MPs.

In the evening I went to a dinner for the Parliamentary Road Passenger Transport Group at which I discussed with one of the companies operating in Colchester specific concerns over services in the town.

Reshuffle

Throughout the day and into Wednesday there was considerable activity, and media interest, in Cabinet and Ministerial changes which were much more extensive than had been predicted. All involved Conservative Ministers in the Coalition; there were no changes in Liberal Democrat Ministers.

On such occasions there are winners and losers. I have long held the view that experience of life and ability are not necessarily in every case the pre-requisite of being made a Minister!

As with changes I have witnessed over the years, some Ministers with whom I had a working dialogue were suddenly no longer there. I recall one Blair Government re-shuffle when five middle ranking Ministers with whom I was at the time engaged in a specific matter in their respective departments were moved or sacked, leaving me to start all over again with five new Ministers. This time there are two changes which I consider to be positive rather than negative; I have already contacted them.

First on Wednesday was the Speaker's Committee on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority on which I serve as the Lib-Dem representative. Attending his first meeting in his role as Leader of the House was William Hague who less than 24 hours earlier was Foreign Secretary, so it was a surprise to find myself sitting next to him!

Next was the annual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, followed by an interview with a national polling organisation.

Forces TV

After Prime Minister's Questions I met a reporter from "Forces TV" to discuss general matters and a specific campaign on which I am currently engaged (details of which will emerge in due course).

Later I attended a reception by ovarian cancer support charity Ovacome; and then one to promote Hitachi Rail Europe's new locomotive manufacturing site in the North-East.

In the afternoon I did an interview with Heart, the commercial radio station which covers Colchester, about continuing investigations into two brutal knife murders in the town.

After dealing with e-mails I attended receptions by travel association ABTA for the launch of their "manifesto for jobs and growth in tourism"; defence manufacturer BAe Systems and others in support of building new ships for the Royal Navy; and with the Campaign for Better Transport who want to improve public transport.

I also visited an impressive exhibition by The Royal Mail featuring stamps to be issued to commemorate the First World War (1914-18), the first of them next month.

The final event of the day was a reception by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

On Thursday morning I sat on a Statutory Instrument Committee to consider an Amendment to the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order 2014.

I welcomed three constituents to the Houses of Parliament, one of them the Chairman of Colchester Liberal Democrats (Honorary Alderman Jenny Stevens) with whom I had a working lunch reference matters in Colchester.

At tea-time I hosted a Parliamentary reception for Home-Start for the launch of its manifesto highlighting its welfare work for families with young children. The proceedings were chaired by ITN news broadcaster Mr Alistair Stewart. I am a Patron of Home-Start in Colchester.

Youth Awards

On my return to Colchester I was able to attend the final hour of the annual Colchester Youth Awards held at Colchester Institute, which has been running for ten years. There are seven categories for which young people can be nominated. As with entrants in past years, I was impressed by their talents and achievements.

I held an Advice Bureau for residents on Friday morning, with my wife as receptionist. At lunch-time I did a live interview with LBC, the London-based commercial radio station, about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine following the shooting down of a passenger plane.

Sir Bob Russell is the only non-Conservative MP in Essex and Suffolk.


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