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2015 June

30 Jun


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Regional Airports:Written question – 3445

June 30, 2015 | By | No Comments


Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick

(Poplar and Limehouse)

Asked on: 22 June 2015

Department for Transport

Regional Airports


To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the reason is for the time taken to allocate funding under the Regional Air Connectivity Fund; and when an announcement of the launch of the new air links under the Fund will be made.


Answered by: Mr Robert Goodwill

Answered on: 29 June 2015

The Government announced last year financial support for two public service obligation routes, Dundee – London City and Newquay Cornwall – London Gatwick from the Regional Air Connectivity Fund.

In addition to this the Government undertook earlier this year an initial application stage for airlines to bid for start-up aid funding. The Government will announce after the July Budget how we will take this forward.


30 Jun


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Early day motion 192 – WILD ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES

June 30, 2015 | By | No Comments

Session: 2015-16

Date tabled: 25.06.2015

Primary sponsor: Fitzpatrick, Jim

Sponsors: Amess, DavidBlackman, BobDodds, NigelDowd, JimDurkan, Mark

That this House notes that a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses was included in the manifestos of the Conservative, Labour and Green parties at the recent general election, showing the unified support across the House on this animal protection issue; recalls that 94 per cent of respondents to a Defra public consultation supported a ban and the House of Commons voted unanimously in favour of such a ban in 2011; further notes that currently two circuses with fewer than 20 wild animals are touring England and Wales; notes that a deadline of December 2015 was included in the Government’s draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill; notes that the UK has fallen behind 31 countries which have introduced similar national measures; notes the work of Animal Defenders International highlighting circus suffering in the UK and currently assisting the Peruvian government to enforce a ban; and calls on the Government to bring forward this manifesto commitment at the earliest opportunity


30 Jun


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Early day motion 145 – HOMES IN LONDON

June 30, 2015 | By | No Comments

Session: 2015-16

Date Jim signed: 18.06.2015

Primary sponsor: Khan, Sadiq

Sponsors: Coyle, NeilThornberry, EmilyStreeting, WesFoxcroft, VickyLucas, Caroline

That this House believes London is facing a chronic shortage of genuinely affordable and social housing; expresses concern that the Government’s proposals to force councils to sell off large numbers of their homes, allow the sale of housing association properties through right-to-buy before replacement homes are built, and lower the welfare cap to £23,000 in London will make this crisis worse; further believes that the result will be the social cleansing of London; and calls on the Government to rethink plans to force councils to sell off homes, intended in part to subsidise right-to-buy discounts, and instead to prioritise the building of the homes Londoners need, including for social rent and for first time buyers and to make a commitment that no housing association or council homes be sold under right-to-buy until new like-for-like homes for social rent have been built in the same numbers and in the same local authority area.


26 Jun


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Fitz Weekly – 26 June 2015

June 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

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26 Jun


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Local MP pledges to end the ovarian cancer postcode lottery

June 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

1541 Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, has signed up to a new campaign to end the ovarian cancer postcode lottery, launched by national charity Target Ovarian Cancer.

Mr Fitzpatrick pledged his support for the new campaign in parliament this week after Target Ovarian Cancer released a new report highlighting the regional differences between survival rates of ovarian cancer, awareness and participation in clinical trials.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “More needs to be done to ensure that all women with ovarian cancer get the support and care that they need, regardless of where they live. I have pledged to make sure that is happening in East London.”

Annwen Jones, Chief Executive for Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Whilst cancer doesn’t discriminate by address, this new report clearly shows that women with ovarian cancer are facing a life-altering postcode lottery. Women with ovarian cancer should be able to access the best standards available, no matter where they live in the UK.

“This is why we’re launching The Ovarian Cancer Postcode Lottery report today and calling on all MPs to make sure that women with ovarian cancer are getting access to the best treatment and care possible. We need to stop women needlessly dying because of where they live.

“The most important thing is that women know what to look out for. That is why we need a national awareness campaign so that every woman knows the key symptoms which are having a bloated tummy or tummy pain, needing to wee more often/urgently and always feeling full.”

For more information and to read the report visit www.targetovariancancer.org.uk

25 Jun


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Dogs: Imports:Written question – 3114

June 25, 2015 | By | No Comments


Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick

(Poplar and Limehouse)

Asked on: 18 June 2015

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Dogs: Imports


To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, how many dogs entered the UK from each country for (a) non-commercial purposes under the Pet Travel Scheme and (b) commercial purposes under the Balai Directive 92/45/EEC in 2014.


Answered by: George Eustice

Answered on: 24 June 2015

The information requested is attached.

Data requested PQ UIN 3114 (PDF Document, 141.47 KB)

Link: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2015-06-18/3114/


25 Jun


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Leasehold Reform and Housing Association Ballots

June 25, 2015 | By | No Comments

Extract from Hansard:

Watch online: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/414292a3-a936-434e-91f6-19e85b68cdb3?in=11:00:00

Westminster Hall

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Leaseholders and Housing Ballots


11 am

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered leaseholders and housing association ballots.

It is a pleasure to see you presiding over this debate, Mr Owen, and to see the Minister in his place. I and others have had an ongoing, constructive dialogue with him on these matters—on some of them, at least—as will become clear in due course. The title of the debate may be slightly misleading, as I intend to cover leasehold reform as a separate but connected matter to housing association ballots. I have advised the Minister’s office of that, and I am sure the Minister has been forewarned about the shape that my contribution will take.

I raised these matters on 6 March, in the dying days of the previous Parliament, and I welcome the opportunity to put them on the ministerial radar early in this Parliament, although I know the Minister is already aware of them—of the leaseholder issues, in particular. I and others are grateful to the Minister and his officials for arranging a meeting on 8 June about leaseholder matters with the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), me and representatives of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. The hon. Gentleman has led on these issues for some time, and I am pleased to be assisting his significant efforts. Mr Martin Boyd and Mr Sebastian O’Kelly, campaigning as the LKP, have made much progress in engaging with the Government, securing charitable status and ensuring that millions of leaseholders have a voice and access to an organisation dedicated to advising and assisting them.

I do not want to labour this point, as I know the Minister’s officials are examining many of the anomalies and weaknesses that we have identified in the existing legislation on leaseholders, but the matters that concern us include the problems with retirement homes and the issues of commonhold versus leasehold and property ownership. Tribunal procedures are supposed to be relatively informal, but can become expensive if the defending freeholder brings high-powered barristers against local residents who are trying to get redress against problems they have identified.

There is also the issue of unscrupulous freeholders and predatory property management companies. The sector is doing a lot to improve its image and the professionalism of property management services, but there are some predatory organisations that prey on vulnerable people and take a lot of money unfairly. There is the issue of forfeiture, which we have discussed in depth with the Minister. There are also recognition issues. Leaseholders often find it difficult to get their association recognised by their property management company or freeholder because of difficulties in securing numbers, identifying the owners of properties and the like.

We have also talked to the Minister about the different roles and responsibilities of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Ministry of Justice. This policy area has implications for both Departments, so we must look at how well those arrangements are working. I know the Minister is well aware of all those issues, as they were reinforced in our

24 Jun 2015 : Column 282WH

previous meeting. I acknowledge that he has tasked his officials to examine them and to report back. We look forward to continuing our discussions on those issues in due course. If, however, the Minister has anything new he wishes to add, his comments would be welcomed by all who take an interest in leaseholding. I fully accept that his officials have done a lot of work on this matter, and, given that we have had a recent meeting, there is probably not a lot to report back.

The hon. Member for Worthing West, ably assisted by Ms Katherine O’Riordan, has organised another roundtable discussion on leasehold reform on 9 July, to which the Minister and his officials have been invited. They will be very welcome. Such successful forums, which have been taking place in recent years, allow people to share information and experience on these issues.

On the issue of housing association ballots, the Minister may be less informed about the concerns I raised on 6 March; the Deputy Leader of the House responded to that debate, although I am sure he reported back to the Minister. The Minister’s officials will have read Hansard and will be aware of the questions I was asking.

As the Minister knows, hundreds of thousands of tenants in recent decades voted in stock transfer ballots to leave local authority control—i.e. to move the management of their properties from the council to a housing association. Thousands—probably tens of thousands—of my constituents are among those who agreed to do that. The driver was that housing associations are able to modernise and refurbish run-down council properties and raise them above the decency threshold for homes because they can raise the finance, while the rules prevent councils and council housing organisations from doing the same. New kitchens, bathrooms, windows, central heating and security measures were installed. Many of the schemes, including a number in my constituency, were very successful, although not all were.

A number of issues arose. Some are ongoing, such as the quality of work and the materials used, the fact that some people have been overcharged for the work, and transparency. There were recently two contradictory reports on the schemes: theEvening Standard reported on bribery and corruption at a housing association in Hackney, while Inside Housing reported on a positive contract in Brighton that created hundreds of apprenticeships and new jobs. There are different experiences of schemes in different parts of the country. A number of other issues were raised, including the costs and service charges and the appeals procedures. Many tenants were able to resolve such issues with the assistance of their registered social landlord. The Government changed the regulations to level the playing field, in terms of transparency, accounting and information, but not all the concerns were addressed.

In a few cases, the offer promised by some housing associations to entice council tenants to vote for the stock transfer were never fulfilled. In such cases, tenants were powerless to have their complaints resolved. After they have voted to hand over their property to the new landlords, there was and is no mechanism to vote to sack the housing association for poor performance.

Such a sanction exists for the regulators—the Homes and Communities Agency and the housing ombudsman, following complaints of failures, can order mergers and takeovers of failing housing associations, but residents

24 Jun 2015 : Column 283WH

are powerless. Incidentally, leaseholders who exercised their right to buy their council property are powerless and voiceless, as they have no vote when the estates in which they live are transferred unless the local housing associations included them in the consultations, as good registered social landlords did. The Government have introduced a welcome cap on charges, which is a positive change.

My main question to the Minister is about the rights of housing association tenants and whether they should be empowered to sack poorly performing housing associations. Leaseholders in the private sector, despite the anomalies in the recognition procedure, are entitled to a ballot if their property management company lets them down, and they can vote to award their contract to a new company. If it is good enough for the private sector, why cannot it work in the public sector? It is an essential element of consumer protection that customers who are disappointed with a purchase are able to ask for redress, return the goods, seek compensation or purchase alternative products elsewhere, but those who live in housing association properties cannot. I was going to say “social housing”, but of course council tenants can switch initially by stock transfer ballot, which I mentioned. They have an initial choice, but then are locked in; having transferred, they have no further rights.

Obviously, the Minister will publish his housing Bill in this Session; I am not sure when, but he might be able to indicate the timing, even generally. Just as an aside, but an important aside for many of us, I should say that there are real concerns, which have been expressed publicly, about aspects of the Bill, such as the sale of housing association properties under the Government proposals and the economics of whether there will be like-for-like replacement. That issue has been raised by a number of people.

The second anomaly, for me and others in Tower Hamlets, is that of requiring higher-value council properties to be sold. Both those elements will have a huge negative impact on Tower Hamlets; as an inner London borough, all our property is very expensive. However, the three, four and five-bedroom properties, which are absolutely essential for the kind of community we have, are particularly expensive properties. If they go from the social housing stock, that will create major difficulties for local people.

In conclusion, and to go back to my main question about tenants getting control of their estates, may I ask the Minister whether he would be prepared to consider an amendment to his Bill to allow housing association tenants, with all the appropriate safeguards that would be required, to vote to transfer the management of their properties from one housing association to another, or to return to arm’s length management organisation or council housing control?

This is a big issue for many thousands of my constituents. As I say, I have raised it before and it has got quite a bit of interest, because it would be a brand new right for housing association tenants. Clearly, the Government have housing associations in their sight for reforms, and I am eager to hear whether the Minister is interested in this one. I am very grateful for the opportunity to raise these matters and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 284WH

Albert Owen (in the Chair): I call the Minister to reply, and I welcome him back to his place.

11.12 am

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): Thank you, Mr Owen, for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for my first appearance in Westminster Hall in this Parliament. I appreciate your comments.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) on securing this debate. Both he and my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) work very hard to raise issues for leaseholders and tenants generally; the hon. Gentleman’s particular interest is issues that affect the residents of Tower Hamlets. It is to both their credits that they continue to represent their constituents’ and the wider interests of people across the leaseholder sector. I am keen for us to find some common ground and a way forward, and I appreciated the chance to meet them both a couple of weeks ago; the hon. Gentleman referred to that meeting.

I know that the hon. Gentleman in particular has looked to explore the possibility of creating a new power that, as he outlined, would allow tenants of an underperforming housing association effectively to sack their association. I will express my specific views on that matter in a few moments, but I will say now that we would like to find a solution to the concerns that have been raised within the current framework of powers. That is achievable.

It is, of course, important that tenants are protected and sufficient safeguards are in place. The Localism Act 2011 gave tenants and their representatives the power to hold landlords to account. It enabled recognised tenant panels to play an important role in resolving complaints at a local level, and that was an important development. As the hon. Gentleman outlined, some of the changes have recently led to a big step forward, and we feel that that is right.

Landlord and tenant issues are often local issues. Clearly, the range and seriousness of those issues can vary, and it is right—absolutely right—that tenants are offered a level of protection at the national level as well. However, I am firmly of the view that, where possible, the issues themselves should be sorted out locally using the framework that we have put in place.

If it is clear that complaints cannot be resolved locally, obviously they can be referred by tenants to the housing ombudsman. When the ombudsman finds in favour of a complainant, they can order the landlord to pay compensation or take other steps to provide redress. Furthermore, it is open to the ombudsman or tenants to raise concerns directly with the regulator.

We would not want tenants to jump directly to the ombudsman; as I said, our view is that the vast majority of these issues can and should be resolved locally. The Homes and Communities Agency has a regulatory function, but it does not have the responsibility or power to mediate in or resolve individual cases. However, it will investigate where there is evidence of a breach of regulatory standards, and—in relation to landlord and tenant issues—serious harm. In extreme cases, it has far-reaching powers to intervene where there is evidence of serious mismanagement.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 285WH

It may be helpful to give the House examples and outline the kinds of approaches that the regulator takes when issues are raised that it judges to be serious. I provide them to demonstrate how seriously the regulator takes its role. In February this year, it was found that a provider broke consumer standards owing to the poor quality of emergency repairs for many tenants over a very long period. A regulatory notice was published, representing the first time that such a finding had been made for widespread service failure. In April, the case took a further step forward when it was found that the underlying cause of the emergency repairs issues was a failure of corporate governance. As a result, the provider in question is now focusing on addressing the issues, and rightly so.

If non-compliance is not addressed, the regulator has statutory duties to intervene formally, which could lead to interventions in the management structure of a particular provider. It is right that the powers available to the regulator should be used only as a last resort. I provide that information to reassure the hon. Gentleman, and others who may read the debate in Hansard, that where issues are serious the regulator can and will take appropriate action.

Having outlined the current approach and the potential impact on housing associations, I want to spend a moment outlining some of the wider options available to housing association tenants themselves. Although it would not be legally possible for tenants to be given the right to sack their housing association, they have other routes to explore that would hand them a much greater degree of control.

Housing association leaseholders in blocks of flats have the right to manage. That enables a group of leaseholders to take over the management functions of their properties. The hon. Gentleman may draw a parallel with his proposals for tenants to have the power to sack their association. One area on which we might slightly disagree is my view that the power of right to manage is enough. The substantial, important difference between the approaches is that under right to manage the properties would still be owned by the housing association, which is different from the ability to manage them and ensure that repairs are done properly. I do not think it possible to draw a complete comparison in the way he outlined today and in previous debates. Leaseholders can also buy the freehold of their blocks of flats—known as enfranchisement—subject to certain criteria. Doing so would give them even greater financial and legal interest.

We have set out a clear policy ambition, which the hon. Gentleman outlined, to give housing association tenants the right to buy their homes to match the social housing opportunities in council housing at the moment and to ensure that everyone in social housing has the same right to buy. Tempting as his invitation to outline the details of the Bill this morning is, he will appreciate that I must ask him to bear with me until we publish the Bill and outline the details behind it in due course. I am hopeful that after the Bill receives Royal Assent, housing association tenants will be able to take the opportunity to move into home ownership.

I will touch on a couple of other points that the hon. Gentleman raised. He asked how the policy would be implemented, as did other hon. Members in an Opposition day debate in the main Chamber a couple of weeks ago. I will be very clear: as we have said all along, there must

24 Jun 2015 : Column 286WH

be one-for-one replacement. I am pleased that the reinvigorated scheme has one-for-one replacement; I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will excuse me for highlighting that we have seen the numbers move from one in 170 under the previous Labour Government to one for one under the reinvigorated scheme. Councils have three years to provide the replacement. If they have not done so by the end of those three years—although the indications at the moment make me confident that they will—the money, with interest, comes back to the HCA, which will provide the homes. It will be one for one.

I must stress our view that a new power to allow tenants of an underperforming housing association to sack their housing association is, with the framework already in place plus what we are looking at with the housing Bill, unnecessary and unworkable. A solution to the concerns raised must be achieved within the current framework. The hon. Gentleman has tempted me to accept an early amendment to a Bill that we have not yet published; I am sure we will discuss his idea later in the year when the Bill is introduced. My officials and I will happily liaise with him on that, but as tempting as his pitch was—and it is probably the first I have had so far—I suspect that we are on a slightly different page.

I hope that the outline I have given has been useful. I again congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this issue to the attention of the House so early in the Parliament; he has made sure that the concerns and thoughts of leaseholders have been aired. I am keen to ensure that tenants know how to resolve their local concerns and that they fully understand and appreciate the powers and opportunities they have. I have to make it clear—the hon. Gentleman will already know this—that I cannot intervene in such matters personally, but I recommend that hon. Members and residents involved in such situations write directly to the regulator if they feel that any regulatory standards are, unfortunately, not being met.

Albert Owen (in the Chair): I am grateful to the Minister. Under the new procedures in Westminster Hall, the Member who brought the debate has a right to reply, should he wish to.

11.21 am

Jim Fitzpatrick: I thank the Minister for the information he has given, which I am sure we will look at very closely. I know that my local authority, Tower Hamlets Council, is closely engaged in this process. I am not sure whether local councils have a role to play, but because the affected tenants are residents in the borough the council has a moral, if not legal, obligation to engage, and I know it is looking to speak directly to certain housing associations.

I note what the Minister had to say about the Bill. We will look at tabling an amendment in due course and would be grateful if he would consider it at the appropriate time. As he said, we are having ongoing discussions, which will continue, and I look forward to future meetings in due course.

Question put and agreed to.

11.22 am

Sitting suspended.

24 Jun 2015 : Column 287WH

23 Jun


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London City Airport – Jobs Fair

June 23, 2015 | By | No Comments


London City Airport got in touch with me this week regarding a jobs fair they will be holding on Saturday 11th July at the airport between 2PM-5PM which may be of interest to my constituents. Please take a look at the attached flyer for more info:

London City Airport Jobs Fair Flyer

22 Jun


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Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Air Quality (Glasgow)

June 22, 2015 | By | No Comments

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab) rose—

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab) rose—

Mr Speaker: The question is certainly not about Poplar and Canning Town or Denton and Reddish, but about Glasgow.

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am glad that you recognise my Glasgow credentials, Mr Speaker, because sometimes my classic cockney accent confuses people.

I welcome the Minister to his place. In any such discussions with Glasgow, I ask that he takes into account river traffic. The Thames is busier than the Clyde, but vessels on the Clyde do contribute to emissions. Will he ensure that he remembers that addition?

Rory Stewart: Among the different sources of nitrogen dioxide emissions, river traffic is indeed a substantial emitter. Glasgow City Council and officials from the Department will take that into account.


22 Jun


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Cervical Cancer: Health Education:Written question – 2000 + 1998

June 22, 2015 | By | No Comments


Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick

(Poplar and Limehouse)

Asked on: 10 June 2015

Department of Health

Cervical Cancer: Health Education


To ask the Secretary of State for Health, if he will request Public Health England to extend its planned symptoms campaigns, as part of the Public Health England Marketing Strategy for 2014-17, to include cervical cancer symptoms.

Cancer: Health Education:Written question – 1998


Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick

(Poplar and Limehouse)

Asked on: 10 June 2015

Department of Health

Cancer: Health Education


To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what discussions Ministers in his Department have had with Public Health England on the types of cancers that it will include in potential local pilot tests within the Be Clear on Cancer programme; and whether it is proposed that cervical cancer will be included in that programme.


Answered by: Jane Ellison

Answered on: 18 June 2015

Earlier diagnosis is essential to improving cancer survival and Be Clear on Cancer (BCOC) campaigns, which aim to raise awareness of the symptoms of specific cancers, and to encourage people with symptoms to see their doctor promptly, form an integral part of the Public Health England Marketing Plan for 2014-17 which was published in July 2014.

The decision on which cancers should be the focus of BCOC campaigns is informed by a steering group chaired by NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cancer. Membership of the group includes primary care clinicians and representatives from the Department; Public Health England (PHE – Marketing team and the National Cancer Intelligence Network); NHS England; NHS Improving Quality; Cancer Research UK; Macmillan Cancer Support; and other stakeholders. A number of factors are taken into account when deciding which campaigns to develop and run, with one of the main criteria being the number of deaths that could be avoided through earlier diagnosis. The focus for national campaigns so far has therefore been on bowel, breast (in women over 70), bladder/kidney, lung, oesophageal and stomach (oesophago-gastric) cancers.

PHE has announced that a repeat of the national breast cancer campaign for women aged 70 and over will run in the summer from 13 July to 6 September 2015. Decisions on further BCOC campaign activity in 2015/16 will be made in due course based on evidence from previous campaigns.

PHE working with the Department, NHS England and other partners will continue to keep these campaigns under review and work with relevant experts to see what might be done to tackle other types of cancer.


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