Back to Parliament - without a Legg letter

Posted: 16/10/09

As you may know Parliament returned this week. Even though I have never claimed or received any housing allowance, it was still a relief not to receive a letter from Thomas Legg on my return.

There is no doubt that some MPs have made greed. Those that made extravagant claims should obviously pay the price. However, I am slightly concerned by the selective presentation of the issue this week - which focuses on claims for cleaning but ignores the fact that the better off MPs can use the whole of their housing allowance against a large mortgage on which they can make an enormous profit.

Above all, the entire system now has to be over-hauled. MPs from constituencies outside London, required to be in Parliament till ten at night on weekdays, have every right to an allowance towards their housing costs, but the way it has developed in the last thirty years is obviously the wrong way to operate it.

On a separate note (and as expected) the press returned to their scathing coverage of MPs ‘long summer holiday' on our return to the House of Commons.

So I just thought I would run through some of the work I have been doing since July:

I helped launch the new multi-agency advice sessions in Church Street

I held my regular weekly advice surgeries throughout July and again from mid-August.

I spoke at Walterton and Elgin Residents Association Annual General Meeting about the new policing team for the Prince of Wales junction, and the success of the Maida Hill Market

I attended St John's Wood Society Annual general meeting, to learn more about the community response to the planning proposals for the St John's Wood Barracks, Lords cricket ground and the re-build of Quintin Kynaston School.

I joined Iftar and Eid celebrations with the Egyptian Association and at the Al Manaar Centre

I visited All Stars Boxing Club with Richard Caborn, President of the British Amateur Boxing Association to hear their concerns about being required to move from their premises, and the absence of financial support from Westminster and the Mayor of London.

An estate walkabout on and around Wessex Gardens with City West Homes and the Safer Neighbourhoods Association, in response to concerns about anti-social behaviour.

I met with the new Chief Executive of City West Homes to discuss estate management and Major Works, and Westminster's Chief Housing Officer to discuss homelessness and over-crowding

I chaired a roundtable on policing and young people in Queen's Park with the Avenues Youth Club, police, Westminster Council and others.

I met the Westminster Council Strategic Board to discuss local priorities, alongside Westminster South MP Mark Field.

I visited an assembly at King Solomon's Academy and visited the new building

I attended and spoke at the Lydford Estate residents meeting

I went to the launch of the Local Government Information Unit report on over-crowding and discussion on the best way to proceed with tackling this acute local problem

I led an introduction to Parliament for young people from the Westside School, Queen's Park

I met the new Chief Executive of Paddington Churches Housing Association

I continued my ongoing discussions on use of the Elmfield Way site for the benefit of local residents

I visited Maida Hill marker, and had an evening walkabout around Harrow Road with the Neighbourhood Forum

I held a meeting with residents of Ada Court, Maida Vale

I participated in an interview with young people working on the ‘Hidden Heroes' film project for the Octavia Trust

I continued my regular columns for the ‘Wood and Vale' and ‘Paddington Mercury'

I had a meeting with Ian Austin, government minister with responsibility for leaseholders, to discuss concerns about Westminster Leaseholders and Major Works bills

I had various media interviews, including Channel 4 news and BBC London

I had a meeting with the Chief Executive and Chairman of Westminster NHS, to discuss new GP services in Queen's Park, management of other GP practices, the new trauma centre for St Mary's and other issues

I met with local residents affected by summer flooding, and with Thames Water, together with follow up action.

I visited Bayswater Family centre as part of their anniversary celebrations

I continued discussions with the Council and Legal Services Commission over the future of Paddington law Centre

I had a meeting with Westminster Small and Minority Business Council

I had further discussions over the future of Westminster Adult Education Services

I hosted 70th anniversary celebrations for the Citizen's Advice Bureau, and spoke at a meeting on the future for Legal Aid in my capacity as chair of the All-Party parliamentary groups on Citizen's Advice and on Legal Aid

I participated in a Home Affairs Select Committee recess meeting on serious and organised crime.

All this plus answering hundreds of letters and e-mails, and various private and one-to-one meetings with constituents and other organisations