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Backbench Business — Summer Adjournment

Part of Child Benefit Entitlement (Disqualification of Non-UK EU Nationals) – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East 3:59 pm, 22nd July 2014

The benefit of these Adjournment debates is that they give Members in all parts of the House the opportunity to raise a range of issues. For once—for, probably, the only time—I agreed with every single word that was said by Chris Bryant about both football and Russia.

I intend to raise a range of issues during the time that is available to me. Let me say first that yesterday in Westminster Hall I initiated a debate on the second largest e-petition that we have received in the House, asking for Diwali and Eid to become public holidays. I support that proposal, and also believe that Rosh Hashanah should be added to the list. Ensuring that we held a debate on the issue certainly livened up the public.

This year saw the creation of the all-party parliamentary group for British Hindus, which I chair. The issue of caste legislation has caused deep upset and hurt in the British Hindu community. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research looked into the issue of caste discrimination back in December 2010 and found no evidence of its being a problem, but British Hindus who are now second and third generation have been immensely offended by the idea of caste being enshrined in legislation when it has nothing to do with their lives or community in this country. That is one issue that I believe we shall take further when we return after the recess.

I am, however, pleased that Hindus are better represented in Parliament than ever before, with more events taking place here which bring the community right to us. For example, the National Council of Hindu Temples has just launched the British Board of Hindu Scholars, which is intended to foster a better understanding of India’s vast academic heritage here in Britain. I was pleased to lend my support to that project, along with other Members of Parliament, and I wish its chairman, Satish Sharma, every success. I have also had meetings in Parliament with members of Hindu groups such as the Redbridge Hindu association, which voiced its deep concerns about violence against Hindus in Bangladesh.

While I am on the subject of international affairs, I cannot but mention what is going on in Gaza, and what has led to this terrible humanitarian tragedy. We must not forget that three Israeli teenagers were brutally murdered, and that responsibility lies with the despicable terrorist organisation Hamas. We must remember that the Israeli Government accepted every single proposal for a ceasefire, and Hamas refused because it regards a ceasefire as a surrender. We in Britain must ensure that not a single penny of taxpayers’ money goes to Hamas or its supporters, and I shall continue to press Ministers on that. We must ensure that Israel’s security is safeguarded.

I also want to raise some local matters. The 25 acres of Whitchurch playing fields are now being protected for the public good following a threat to turn them over to private developers. I am delighted that Harrow council has approved the application by Avanti Schools Trust to build the largest free school in the country. It will be a faith school based on the Hindu ethos. The project will reach the planning permission stage when we return after the recess, and I trust that Harrow council will grant that permission. Krishna Avanti primary school, which is nearby, is already a free school, and has been an overwhelming success. The high educational standards have created a huge demand for places. Once the new site is established, the school will accommodate 1,680 pupils from reception to year 12, and I think that that is something that we can all applaud.

Another new free school in Harrow, sponsored by the London Diocesan Board for Schools, is to be a bilingual primary school. It is on course to open, and to relieve the enormous pressure on primary school places. I look forward to the progress of that project through its various stages. We also have the Heathlands multi-academy site, which will provide a further 750 secondary school places and 150 places in the sixth form, thus combating the great need for school places in the borough of Harrow.

Those who have had the opportunity to visit my constituency may have travelled there on the Jubilee line and reached Stanmore station. If they have done so, they will have faced Mount Eiger: the steps that lead from the platform to the street. One has to be extremely physically fit to alight at that station, but many of my constituents are elderly or suffer from various ailments. There is a desperate need for a lift to be installed at the station. However, there are even more serious issues connected with the car park.

The car park is filled up all the time, and I have led the campaign for 10 years to get a second, or even a third, layer on this car park to ensure it can be used by all travellers. The fact is that the Stanmore car park is used as the car park for Wembley stadium, although perhaps after England’s lack of prowess at the last World cup we should not have to worry about that too much. We will continue at a local level to lobby Transport for London and the Mayor of London to have this lift put in and to improve the car parking facilities.

Continuing my little tour of my constituency, I want to mention the new development of 120 flats at Anmer Lodge in Stanmore, which I raised, as those who were present may remember, in the Easter Adjournment debate. The project is clearly far too big for the area, and will be a very dense development in an area of widespread housing. The development of Stanmore broadway and the opportunity to have a Marks & Spencer store are welcomed by many residents, but the position of the development presents an unacceptable challenge.

Recently I took the Secretary of State for Health to the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in Stanmore, where we discussed the redevelopment of the site. Over the last 35 years Governments of all persuasions have promised that the buildings will be replaced. We are still waiting. We are campaigning, and the medical staff do a brilliant job in portakabins and Nissen huts. I am determined that we rebuild that hospital for the benefit of patients and the medical staff who do such a diligent job in their area.

Moving on to Edgware, we once again have the issue of Barnet football club—an issue the Deputy Leader of the House will recall. The lives of my local residents in Edgware have been plagued by Barnet football club coming to the Hive. The club acts in a bizarre manner: it just decides what it is going to do and then tries to get retrospective planning permission for its oversized stand and floodlights. That was rejected and an enforcement notice was issued, but the club threatened all sorts of legal action and eventually the council backed down. Not only did the club do that, but it introduced London Broncos to the site, and that move was so successful that London Broncos has lost every single match in the super league and has been relegated for the first time in its history. Barnet football club begins its second season in my constituency, and we will see what happens to it in the season ahead.

The Hive is not the only addition on Whitchurch lane in my constituency. We also have a Tesco Express being set up, which is opposed by many residents, and this is probably going to be one of the areas where Tesco has sought to get permission but has backed off. The pressure from local residents is clearly beginning to tell.

In closing, I will briefly take us to two other high streets. The first is Burnt Oak broadway, which is cleaned by Brent council and by Barnet council, but Harrow council leaves it neglected. The other is Harrow Weald high street, where once again Harrow Weald residents have been suffering because the local bank branch is going to close later this week. We have campaigned against that: we have called on NatWest not to do it, but once again it has refused.

I end on the issue of the hated “no right turn” on Kenton road. I am all in favour of turning right and it is regrettable that the councils of Harrow and Brent cannot get their act together and remove this hated “no right turn” off the Kenton road, which local residents want so they can access their properties and the local area.

Finally, I wish you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and all Members and members of staff a thoroughly good summer, and I look forward to hearing about some action from my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House in reply to this wonderful speech that I have made.