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2013 September

19 Sep


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Wear it Pink

September 19, 2013 | By | No Comments


This year I will be taking part in Breast Cancer Campaign’s biggest (and pinkest) fundraiser, Wear it Pink Day.

Over the last 10 years wear it pink has raised a £23 million and on Friday 25 October 2013 people will come together in schools, colleges and businesses throughout the country to raise vital funds for Breast Cancer Campaign’s lifesaving research.

Most people have been affected by cancer in some way or another. Every year in the UK around 50,000 women and around 400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly 12,000 women and 80 men die from this disease.

This is why we need to support Breast Cancer Campaign’s fundraising efforts so they can continue to fund research which will one day lead to a cure. So join me, wear something pink and donate £2, it’s really as simple as that.


03 Sep


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September 3, 2013 | By | No Comments

I would like to thank everyone who helped out with my #GetBritainCycling speech. Here’s what I said in the debate yesterday. Everyone who submitted comments by email or on jimfitzpatrickmp.org will receive a full response this week.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mike Thornton). I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) and the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), the co-chairs of the all-party group, of which I am a member, on the report. It is sponsored by The Times, which I congratulate too. I should declare that The Times is still in Wapping in my constituency, so there is a little bit of self-interest there. Other national newspapers—The Guardian and The Independent—have been trying to catch up and are supporting the campaign. My comments will be made as a Londoner and as a London cyclist, and will not necessarily reflect issues in other parts of the country.

I invited my constituents, through the social media of Twitter, Facebook and the East London Advertiser,to contribute to the debate by raising issues that they thought I might want to mention. I was staggered by the response—more than 50 people e-mailed or tweeted issues that are of importance to them. I am very limited for time and cannot name them all, but I will list some of them. Before doing that, I want to thank the cycle firms in my constituency, in particular Bikeworks, a social entrepreneurial group that does great work and made a running repair to my bike in half an hour last Wednesday morning to get me back on the road, and also Halfords and Evans, which are national organisations that support cycling in Tower Hamlets and in the community.

I will run through the list of issues raised by my constituents: keeping cycle routes clear when there are roadworks and parking problems; cycle superhighways not being up to the necessary standard—my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali) raised the incident of the Aldgate East fatality—with just a coat of paint on a road and nothing more; and lower speed limits, an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North. Cycle training and education in schools was mentioned by several hon. Members. That is critical. I am doing an Industry and Parliament Trust Fellowship on logistics. I spent some time with TNT, which trains its postal delivery people to ride bikes. When they have down time, they partner local schools to train the kids there. If TNT can do it, the question to the Minister is this: is Royal Mail doing it? There must be other companies out there that could contribute, too.

Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): Royal Mail is doing that. It has a cycle workshop in my constituency, which maintains 500 bicycles used by the Royal Mail in the Greater York area.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the extra time he has given me; I knew that somebody would respond positively on behalf of Royal Mail.

Questions have been raised about HGVs and the fear factor, a road deaths investigation board and improved statistics on serious injuries and fatalities. The Home Office and the Department for Transport have always resisted a fatalities inquiry board for road traffic fatalities because there are just too many of them, but we have to raise the bar and look more seriously at investigating more thoroughly the fatalities on our roads.

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Other issues raised include: congestion charging and road closures to force traffic to surrender more space to cyclists; advanced stop areas; earlier green lights for cyclists; blitz enforcement of transgressors—whether car drivers or cyclists—in advance areas; cycle storage; and mandatory helmets. I know that many people are opposed to making helmets mandatory. I am in favour, but it is not going to happen. The evidence against it coming from Australia and America is somewhat time-limited. If we get our kids using helmets in schools, they will graduate into wearing them.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): No one who is favour of cycling should be against encouraging people to wear helmets, but will my hon. Friend accept that the overwhelming evidence—not just in Australia, but from all over the world—is that where cycle helmets have been made compulsory the impact on cycling has been negative, and therefore the overall public health impact has been negative?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I hear what my right hon. Friend says and there is a cultural question here. I am sure we all watched the 100th Tour de France this year. All the way down the decades of historic footage, none of the cyclists were wearing helmets. Every Tour de France rider now wears a helmet. That is professional leadership. They are in the game of minimising and mitigating risk, and they give a lead to all cyclists.

Dr Huppert rose

Jim Fitzpatrick: If I have time at the end I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I want to get through the points raised by my constituents.

The last two negatives raised related to fatalities and punishment to fit the crime. We all hear tragic stories from constituents about punishments that do not fit the crime. On the conversion of wider pavements, Boris Johnson certainly has that in London, particularly on the Embankment.

What I find fascinating is the counter-culture that comes through from my cyclist constituents. They complained about bad cycling behaviour and said that the cycle demographic in our country is mainly young, white, aggressive and male. That is why we do not “go Dutch” and why many people are put off cycling: they see a race track and do not want to join it. We need to address that problem, and the only way we are going to do so is through enforcement against those who cross red lights and pedestrian crossings.

People complained about cyclists who disregard the rules by wearing earphones; running red lights; crashing pedestrian crossings; not signalling whether they are turning left or right; not warning when they are overtaking; riding on pavements; using mobile phones; speeding on the Thames path; not ringing to alert pedestrians or other cyclists that they are overtaking on tow paths; swearing at pedestrians—some cyclists, like some drivers, think that they are entitled to a free run at the road; not dismounting in foot tunnels; not having lights; not having bells and not wearing high-visibility clothing. Cyclists are not perfect. We have to give a lead to

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cyclists to say, “We should show a better example in the way we behave, to ensure that drivers behave in the way we want them to.”

In conclusion, my wife Sheila and I visited Amsterdam and Copenhagen recently. There is less racing, more sensible cycling and a much wider demographic; there is a different culture. We must have that more varied cycling demographic in our country. My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State recently asked two questions of the Government. First, why do we have annual road and rail budgets to 2021, but not one for cycling? Secondly, why do we not have cycle safety assessments, similar to economic and equality impact assessments, for all road schemes?

My final question is about something that is raised in the report—I am not quite clear about the Government’s response—which said that we should have champions.

Dr Huppert: The issue with cycle helmets is that although they might save some lives, the countervailing loss of life from people not cycling and being less fit massively outweighs that. Indeed, one academic analysis suggested an extra 250 or so deaths a year net.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am grateful for that intervention. That discussion needs to be had, and I am happy to ensure that we are raising it tonight.

My final question to the Minister is this. The report says that we should have national, regional and city champions. It is not clear from the Government’s response whether he is the national champion or not. If he is not, he should be. When will he recruit his regional and city-wide teams?

02 Sep


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September 2, 2013 | By | No Comments

I have been humbled and proud to receive so many messages of support regarding my stance on Syria. For those of you who missed it here’s my Commons speech below:

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan). She is obviously thinking hard about how to vote later, and I know that a lot of right hon. and hon. Members feel the same way.

I wish briefly to address the words of the corrected motion and the intent behind it, then I will turn to the Opposition amendment. First, however, I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Foreign

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Secretary on effectively putting the brakes on a Government who were heading for military action this weekend. Of that I think the House can agree there is no doubt. My right hon. Friends have served the country and the Commons well through their actions, especially over the past 24 hours, and I hope that the Opposition will continue to lead in the same way and act as a restraint on the Government.

This is not the debate that the House expected to have, it is certainly not the debate that No. 10 was planning, and it is not the one that the media predicted would happen, but there have none the less been some excellent contributions. Despite the fact that there will be another debate and vote next week, this has been a useful exercise in testing the issues at stake.

I turn to the motion, which I have real problems supporting. That is not because I am a supporter of President Assad—I am not—but neither do I support the jihadist element of the Syrian Opposition that has been referred to in many contributions today. The wording of the corrected motion is important. The first and second paragraphs are straightforward in their commentary and condemnation. The third introduces the requirement of military action, and the fourth, fifth and sixth are very instructive. The fourth notes

“the failure of the United Nations”.

That is the softening-up line. The fifth notes

“that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime…and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action”.

The sixth mentions the “wide international support”, including from the Arab League, for action from the international community.

The right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) said that tonight’s vote was not really important, because the important vote would be next week. I say to the Liberal Democrats in particular that if we get another debate and a vote next week, I predict that those words will come back to haunt them. The Conservatives are boxing them in by saying, “You’ve got to support military action, since the UN has failed, and we don’t need it anyway. We’ve got legitimacy, because the Attorney-General says so, and we’ve got international coalition support. It’s only the Russians and Chinese who don’t support it.”

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that the general secretary of the Arab League has tonight said on CNN that it shies away from backing western intervention, and that it would intensify anti-US feeling in the region? Those of us who have been sitting here all day have had a chance to google.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that information to the House. It clearly demonstrates the fragility of the international coalition lined up behind the attempt to intervene militarily in Syria.

The Opposition amendment, it is fair to say, is at least more open and honest. However, from my reading it essentially endorses the same principle: if we address certain issues and if certain conditions are met, military action can happen. I do not believe that it should happen under any circumstances. The Opposition amendment is stronger and clearer, but whereas the

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Government motion is explicit in its direction of travel towards military action, the Opposition amendment states that we will go there if the conditions in six of the paragraphs it lays out are met. My concern is about the end game and the exit strategy. There have been many excellent contributions to the debate—

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): Paragraph (e) of the Opposition amendment refers to

“precise and achievable objectives designed to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria”.

What are those “precise and achievable objectives”?

Jim Fitzpatrick: I have exactly the same difficulty as the hon. Gentleman—I do not know what they are either. I do not think that they are identifiable. I do not think that they are achievable. My objection, as I was saying a moment ago, is that there is not an exit strategy or an end game. There have been many contributions to the debate in which colleagues have said, “If we do this, that will happen. If we do not do that, this will happen.” Only one thing is absolutely guaranteed: nobody knows what will happen if we go down the road of military action. We have seen that too often in recent decades. The difficulty I have is the fact that we do not have an exit strategy.

In conclusion, and for the hon. Gentleman’s information, I have problems with both the Government motion and the Opposition amendment. Ultimately, I do not believe that either is able to achieve the honourable ends that both sides of the House want. I am opposed to military intervention in Syria full stop. To be honest and consistent on both questions, I will vote in the No Lobby against the Government motion and against the Opposition amendment.

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP