Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Installation Of Temporary Classrooms at Bar Hill Community Primary School

If you've been out and about during the day today you will probably have noticed the massive crane by the Primary School.

During the day contractors have been installing new temporary classrooms into the Primary School to allow the flood damage to the school during the recent heavy rains (which was substantial - YouTube clip) to be repaired, without having to be rushed, and for the school to open as usual for the new term.

My understanding is that the construction on the green is just temporary (to protect the surface from the weight of the crane) and will be gone soon.

The plan is for the mobile classrooms to be removed when the flood damage has been completely repaired, by Christmas at the latest.

Michael Moore MP: Will you help protect UK aid?

Britain is the only country in the G7 to meet the UN target for international aid spending. Next year we’re at risk of spending less on international aid. Take a look at some of the reasons below and then say you’ll back our campaign to project the UK aid:

If we want to continue meeting the target year after year we have to get 100 MPs to the Second Reading of my Private Member's Bill on 12th September.

Labour, Conservative and SNP MPs all support the idea - add your name and say you’ll help get your MP there.

Thanks for your help,

Michael Moore MP

Driving down the deficit and repairing the economy

Figures released today by the Office of National Statistics show that inflation fell from 1.9% to 1.6% in July. The rate fell more than was forecast, with economists expecting it to fall to 1.8%.

Commenting on the latest inflation figures, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: 
"The fact that inflation has been below the Bank of England target for seven consecutive months shows that subdued inflation is now becoming the norm as the economy recovers. Eliminating the deficit fairly, and repairing the UK economy remains central to the role of Liberal Democrats in Government. 
"These encouraging inflation numbers should give businesses the confidence they need to deliver the investment required to boost productivity. Rising productivity is the only route to sustainable increases in living standards."

Cambridge MP wins Home Office battle over heavy-handed action against Studio Cambridge

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has won a battle with the Home Office to get a leading language school’s licence reinstated after it was suspended for no reason.

Studio Cambridge, the city’s oldest English language school for overseas students and an official TOEIC test centre, had its powers to issue visas revoked after another TOIEC centre was found to be offering fraudulent exams.

Despite making no formal allegation against Studio Cambridge nor presenting any evidence, the Home Office took away its licence for two months while carrying out a review.

Julian fought the move calling on the UK Visas and Immigration department (UKVI) to review the decision.

He had also raised concerns about the reputational damage inflicted on the school as a result of the decision.

And he had to intervene when an international student was detained at Heathrow Airport having been refused entry to the UK because of the action taken against Studio Cambridge.

Julian’s action led to Studio Cambridge receiving a formal apology from UKVI which acknowledged that there was “no complicit behaviour on the part of Studio Cambridge”.

Malcolm Mottram, Managing Director of Studio Cambridge claimed that he was certain the process would have taken much longer without Julian’s input.

“We are, of course, pleased to be exonerated,” he said. “However, we are disappointed that the UKVI publically suspended our licence, causing us considerable reputational damage, without any allegation being made or evidence offered.

“We are very grateful for the tremendous support we were given by Julian. He believed in us from the beginning and fought to have our case reviewed. That it has taken the UKVI nearly two months to undertake a very simple review is a disgrace; but without Julian’s help we are sure it would have taken longer.”

Julian said: “This was incredibly damaging not only to Studio Cambridge but also to our international reputation as a world leader in education for overseas students.

“Each time a student is refused a visa under these circumstances it builds a poor reputation for the UK and discourages students from seeking to study in the UK. This means we are in danger of missing out on the world’s brightest and most capable students who contribute to our academic reputation for excellence.

“These students are highly important for our local businesses not only in the money they bring in for accommodation providers and other service industries but also for our future economic success in attracting the best for our companies.

“It is incredible that the UKVI can come down in this heavy-handed way without any evidence to seriously hamper a school’s business and threaten its reputation.

“Clearly, we need to make sure that our immigration system is run properly and that schools which are targeting students in a fraudulent manner are rooted out and dealt with; but there is no excuse for the behaviour meted out to Studio Cambridge.”

Monday, 18 August 2014

Report shows that Oxford to Cambridge rail line has real potential

New study supports economic case for investment in East West Rail ‘Central Section’ rail link

The East West Rail Consortium has published a report that shows that extending the East West Rail line from Oxford to Cambridge has real potential. It shows that the delivery of attractive new rail services between key locations could deliver substantial economic benefits and support significant growth in the East West Rail corridor.

The report concludes a study by Atkins Consultants and is the first step towards developing an outline business case for the East West Rail ‘Central Section’.

Working closely with the East West Rail Consortium and Department for Transport, Network Rail will now lead the next phase of work which will consider and examine the engineering, operational and planning feasibility and cost of several potential route options.

The aim is to establish a scheme with a robust and convincing business case that can be submitted to Government in 2016 to secure inclusion of the scheme, subject to funding availability, in the 2019-24 investment plans for the rail industry.

It has been a long term aim of the East West Rail Consortium to improve rail connections within the region by re-instating the former ‘Varsity Line’ between Cambridge and Oxford. This would provide the rail infrastructure for train services to run from East Anglia to Oxfordshire (and beyond) with connections to all national mainline services to the north, west and south of England.

Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for East West Rail said:

“There’s no doubt that we need this railway - linking Norwich and Ipswich through Cambridge to Oxford and Reading has huge benefits; that’s why I’ve pressed for it for years. But the route is hard to find, and people have quite rightly been asking which route would be taken, how much it will cost and when it will finally happen - this study helps us to answer those concerns. I am delighted that Network Rail will now take forward the next phase of route design and produce a business case.”

Bob Menzies, Service Director for Strategy and Development at Cambridgeshire County Council and Chair of the East West Rail Central Section Steering Group, said:

“Now that the Western Section between Oxford, Bedford and Milton Keynes is going ahead, we are working to develop the business case for the Central Section to complete the missing link. To do this, we need to identify a route that will deliver the greatest benefits to support the case for investment.

“The good news is that this study shows there is significant economic growth potential that could be unlocked through new rail services and that the Government is providing funds for Network Rail to undertake the next vital phase of feasibility work to identify a preferred route.”

“The former line between Bedford and Cambridge has been dismantled, the land sold and sections used for other purposes, including housing. This means that we are looking at constructing a brand new stretch of railway. Several routes have been considered in the past but until now there has not been clear justification for investment.

“This is why we commissioned Atkins to identify where the greatest economic benefits could be realised through improved transport links. The study considers forecast population growth, employment levels, economic activity and planned growth as well as a review of existing and forecast transport requirements.”

Graham Botham, principal strategic planner at Network Rail, said:
“We welcome the exciting opportunity to unlock the economic growth of the region though improving rail services and the infrastructure that may be required to support these. We look forward to working with the Consortium to explore the role that rail services can play in facilitating growth of the economy".

The East West Rail Consortium was formed in 1995 with the objective of promoting and securing a strategic railway connecting East Anglia with Central, Southern and Western England, to include the re-instatement of a Cambridge to Oxford rail link and a line to Aylesbury. The Consortium was established by Ipswich Borough Council who provided the chairman until 2005; a role now undertaken by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The Central Section Steering Group comprises officers from Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Norfolk County Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton Borough Council and Hertfordshire County Council; Network Rail and Department for Transport.

In July 2012, the Western Section of East West Rail, promoted by the East West Rail Consortium, was included as a ‘mandatory scheme’ in the Department for Transport’s ‘High Level Output Specification’ which sets out the Department’s plan for the rail industry for 2014 to 2019 to be delivered by Network Rail and will form part of the national strategic rail network. The scheme involves re-constructing and upgrading sections of disused and under-used railway in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire for new passenger and freight services to operate between Bedford and Oxford (and on to Reading), Milton Keynes and Oxford (an on to Reading) and Milton Keynes to Aylesbury (and on to London Marylebone). The scheme is being funded by the Department for Transport with a contribution from local authorities in the Consortium.

Additional links below;

News release

Central Section Intro Page

Explanatory Note

East West Rail Central Section Conditional Outputs Statement August 2014 – Executive Summary

East West Rail Central Section Conditional Outputs Statement August 2014 – Final Report

Free access to national museums and galleries

Liberal Democrats would maintain free access to national museums and galleries under manifesto plans announced today.

The party would ensure free entry and continue to make this a condition of government funding.

Museums and galleries play a crucial role in the cultural life of the UK, attracting millions of visitors each year and the Liberal Democrats want to see that continue.

Commenting Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said:
"Our museums and galleries are some of the best in the world. They are a source of inspiration and education for millions across the country. 
"The fact that attendance is at record levels and that last year was the first time a majority of people had visited a museum or gallery shows that free access is a policy that works. 
"The Liberal Democrats are now committing to maintain that free access in the next parliament so people from all backgrounds and income groups can make use of these great institutions without concerns about the cost. 
"The Liberal Democrats believe in offering opportunity for everyone in order to build a stronger economy and a fairer society. This is another way of making sure as many people as possible have the opportunity to get on in life."

Tackling homophobia on the football terraces

Liberal Democrat Minister Stephen Williams has called for homophobia on the football terraces to be met with the same zero tolerance as racism.

The Bristol West MP called for football clubs, the FA and the police to tackle anti-gay abuse with the same vigour as racial discrimination.

Gay rights charity Stonewall said seven out of ten fans have reported hearing homophobic slurs at matches.

Sign our petition if you agree that homophobia should be met with zero tolerance.

Stephen Williams said:
"We need to stamp out homophobia on the terraces with the same vigour that we banished racism. 
"It isn’t acceptable that footballers still feel the need to hide their sexuality out of fear of abuse. 
"I want homophobia to be treated with zero tolerance just the same as racism and I want clubs, stewards, the police and FA to work even harder to achieve this aim."
He added:
"Football clubs in England and Wales have done a frankly remarkable job at cracking down on racism since it was rife in the 1970s. 
"With the occasional exception that draws deserved criticism from fans up our game is leagues ahead of many of our European neighbours when it comes to integration."