SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Parties working together

Sir Peter Bottomley at the APPG report on fixed odds betting terminals
Sir Peter Bottomley at the APPG report on fixed odds betting terminals
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National attention has been concentrated on the Parliamentary discussions before leaving the European Union.

Media rightly give attention to President Trump’s executive orders on refugees and other travellers, and there has been concern about the visit he has been invited to make to this country.

The London Evening Standard accurately reported my view, based on the presumption that the American President does come – ‘Ex-minister Peter Bottomley said the President might learn from visiting parliament. “A set speech on the advice of the ambassador is far more likely to have him saying things he wants to say – rather than speaking off the cuff,” he said.’

The last President to address us was Barack Obama. He said it was interesting that the grandson of a Kenyan cook in the British army could address us as President of the USA.

When he was leaving, he stopped by me to lift and to admire my Statue of Liberty neckwear. He said: “Nice tie”; I replied: “No coincidence.”

Along the corridors of the Palace of Westminster, rooms are being used every day by All Party Parliament Groups (APPGs).

On Monday I could listen at the Maritime group to the presentation on maritime surveillance by the National Maritime Information Centre.

On Tuesday I was honoured to chair the APPG report on the pernicious fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

Our group included Scots Nats, Lib-Dems, Labour, Northern Ireland and Tory MPs.

Another active group is led by the admired Labour MP Frank Field on Hunger.

We are deciding whether a proportion of the money raised by the sugary drinks levy could be used to set up and to maintain a programme of school holiday meals and fun for children.

We also might look at the extent and causes of hunger or malnutrition among the elderly.

The group’s recommendations on benefits and tax credits has been followed by government pilots of our recommendations.

A new telephone service makes it possible to convert a single claim to joint claims, saving the complications of a new claims pack and reducing processing time from eight weeks to eight days.

More families have been helped by a second trial programme to eliminate delays in the processing of Child Benefit.

An enhanced online system used by HMRC verifies new claims without families having to submit a birth certificate.

The loss of the certificate had led to delays and to some families having to use food banks.

The DWP has trialled our proposal for a Yellow Card warning in the sanctions system.

Many more will successfully avoid being sanctioned, preventing thousands wrongly losing their benefits.

I helped to found the APPG on Leasehold and Commonhold.

The officers met this week in advance of the expected ministerial speech that should be the start of a programme of reform.

There have been too many opportunities for abuse and for mistakes that wreck the expectation of quiet enjoyment of a home.

Few of the leasehold scandals have hit local leaseholders, perhaps 10,000 in the constituency.

Some have been hit by the worst problems. There have been too many.

We know what steps will make life better. I am proud to work across political boundaries in the interests of all.

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