Busy week of parliamentary and constituency matters: HS2, Boundary review, domestic abuse and local small businesses.
HS2 – Drummond Street: back before the Select Committee.
On Thursday, I was (again) in committee room 4, supporting our communities before the HS2 House of Lords Select Committee. This time I was with the Drummond Street traders, who were pointing out the damage and destruction that HS2 will bring to their area and their businesses. It was good to have Frank Dobson there as their witness – setting out his strong views on this issue!
HS2– Minister refuses invitation to see impact on Camden for himself
On a similar theme, it is very regrettable that the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling has turned down the chance to come to Camden to see just what HS2 will inflict on our community. Instead he has suggested that a Junior Minister should come in his place. This is his reply to my invitation.
HS2 will be the largest construction project in Europe and there is no single issue that will have such a profound effect on Camden – 17,000 people live within 300m of the likely site and construction will not be complete until at least 2033.
So Chris Grayling, as Transport Secretary, should come and see the site at Euston station and appreciate how it will affect my constituents. This is not a matter that should be handed down to a Junior Minister. The Transport Secretary has responsibility for strategic oversight of the whole development, including the interactions with Network Rail and Crossrail 2, and it is the Transport Secretary who should come to Euston so he can understand the damage HS2 will do.
Camden Council and I have been pushing the Secretary of State to visit Euston for many months now. This latest refusal shows once again his lack of concern for how HS2 will affect people in Holborn & St Pancras.
Changing the political boundaries
The review by the Boundary Commission – designed to reduce the number of constituencies in Parliament from 650 to 600 has drawn a storm of criticism. Much of it has focussed on the politics, which will probably deprive Labour of 20 seats.
I am very concerned by the impact on local communities – especially for me the prospect of Holborn and St Pancras Highgate, Bloomsbury and Holborn & Covent Garden wards where I have been working with local people on a whole host of important issue.
As I told the Ham & High, I do hope that the Commission will listen to local concerns about the impact of these changes and decide the boundaries fairly.
Protecting women who have suffered abuse
The scale and examples of domestic abuse are – continually – shocking. Its an issue I confronted as Director of Public Prosecutions and one I will continue to confront as an MP. Last week we had an important debate about how our family courts let down victims of domestic abuse. In my speech, I drew attention to the relative progress in our criminal justice system and asked why it had not been carried across to the family courts. Here is the Guardians coverage.
And you can read what I said in full here.
Supporting small business
Across Camden small businesses are facing similar pressures: squeezed by ever-increasing rents and pressurised by landlords keen to re-develop the properties.
On Friday I had the chance to see two very different groups of people, all of whom are trying to run their businesses in Camden.
The first were a group of people who have been working in the Soho area.
Kindly hosted by Ken Wright at the Phoenix Artists Club, the meeting was organised by Mathew Jaffa of the Federation of Small Businesses.
Ken spoke passionately about the need for government to work with business and not just impose increasing regulations and red tape on them. He explained just how hard it was to meet all the requirements and how costly it was to have all the inspections that are required.
Housing for staff was also an extremely difficult issue. Councillor Sue Vincent, who represents the area agreed, saying that much of the problem lay with developers who use ‘land banking’ to drive up the cost of property.
I asked Ken and the other businessmen and women to draw up a list of points so that we could see how best to address them, and said we would meet again to assess progress.
From there I went off to Hatton Gardens – the traditional home to the jewellery business.
Ilana Belsky, one of the last diamond polishers and Sarah Herriot, a designer, explained how their crafts were being driven out of the area by sky-rocketing rents.
“We have probably only two years to save this trade,” Ilana explained. The arrival of Crossrail has driven up demand for office-space and the jewellers who made this their home are being forced out. It is a trade consisting of many crafts, from cutting and polishing gems to engraving and enamelling, the two jewellers explained. “If it is fragmented it will die.”
I agreed to consider what might be done if they drew up suggestions for action, after which Ilana kindly showed me just how the ancient craft of diamond polishing is done.
More next week!