When the news is horrific, when worries are great, we should not turn away, though it is not necessary to take in news more than twice a day.
The role of the member of parliament includes listening – to constituents, to colleagues and to outside experts. On occasion I speak, trying to be helpful and aiming to do good.
On Monday, the House of Commons heard a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development minister’s urgent briefing on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. After the official Labour response, I spoke.
“The House will welcome the bipartisan support for what the British Government are trying to do. Most of us know that our direct power in the area ended more than 70 years ago. I put it to those who want a simple ceasefire that a permanent end to violence would be helped by people around Israel recognising its international boundaries and by Israel ensuring it could withdraw to its own boundaries and stop the aggressive settler activity outside its own areas in the West Bank.”
Earlier that day, on a national issue, I had told the Housing minister that the massively important reforms in the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill must be approved, preferably with improvements, in this parliament. There are no serious party disagreements, partly because I have always worked in partnership with good Labour and Liberal Democrat colleagues.
It was a busy day. Tim Loughton MP and I were successful in bringing forward the government plans to prepare for overdue compensation for the life-changing and life-ending impact of the infected blood scandal.
Noting the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, I supported the joint meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union with the United Nations Human Rights Office, meeting campaigners from Ethiopia, South Sudan and Myanmar/Burma, with representatives of isolated tribal people in South America and of women in Columbia. We are One World. We should celebrate and defend the rights defenders, including brave journalists.
I am also dedicated to safeguarding the future of broadcast television and radio service for people across Arun, Worthing, West Sussex, our south-east region, England and the United Kingdom. Social media has its place: I believe that should be additional to the public service broadcasters, not an alternative.
With senior MPs led by Bob Blackman, we planned how the available compensation for Equitable Life policyholders might be allocated. My loss was small. Others had their retirement years destroyed by regulatory errors. We believe the Treasury should act.
The Advent weeks have started. Because of my role as parliamentary warden of St Margaret’s by Westminster Abbey, I joined Evensong at the Abbey before a young chorister switched on the tree lights. Then I went to my college’s choir for carols at St Marylebone’s Parish church where there is this memorial:
“So the last shall be first, to commemorate all those whose lives and stories have not been told here in past centuries including the victims of greed, cruelty and exploitation” followed by these words: “and the first last”.
It was fun and an honour to meet Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, the retail optometry shop. I remember the battle for people to be able to buy reading glasses off the shelf. Specsavers are working with the Big Issue and other homelessness services to improve access to care, including better sight and hearing, This matters most for those who maintain benefits without a permanent address..
Remove barriers; create long-term solutions. Eligibility for free eye tests and glasses could include homeless people. If NHS glasses are broken, lost or stolen during homelessness, free replacements could be offered.
It should be possible to fix the General Optical Services rules that require the optometrist to give 48 hours' notice before visiting two patients at home or in a Home, with three weeks before seeing three patients.
Overcome the fear of change: fix issues; improve services; and help the weakest to gain good service.