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On The House
Right To Buy is in my blood

THE introduction of the Right to Buy for council tenants was the underpinning of a revolution which enabled property ownership to become a reality rather than a dream for more than two million council tenants all over the country.

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Politicians must do better - for the sake of democracy

ANOTHER election over. No doubt Labour will be pleased they have finally taken Thurrock Council outright for the first time since 2004 and the Conservatives can take comfort that their losses were less than might have been anticipated.

But if I take a message away, it is “a plague on all your houses”.

UKIP and Independent candidates polled well against the established parties, but the simple truth is that the mainstream parties are not inspiring people to turn out and vote.

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Help me to get a new free school

MY POSTBAG this week has been dominated by disappointed parents who have failed to get their child into the school of their choice. Often, siblings are being sent to different schools some distance apart.


Clearly this is going to cause a logistical nightmare for parents trying to take their children to school.

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You could be due PPI cash

THE mis-selling of Payment Protection insurance (PPI) was the biggest scandal perpetrated by the banks on us ordinary consumers.

If you took out a loan or a mortgage at any time over the last 15 years, the chances are you would have been sold PPI on top.

On many occasions people were sold PPI whether they wanted it or not. On other occasions people were told taking out the insurance was a condition of the loan.

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Our health changes will make a difference

FINALLY, the Health and Social Care Bill has become law. There has been a lot of heat spoken about the NHS reforms, so now the measure has passed I want to reassure you by addressing some of the key points.

Firstly, the NHS will continue to provide treatment free of charge for those who need it.

Furthermore, the Government is making sure that despite the need for tough spending decisions, more money will continue to be found for the NHS. Secondly, the Bill gives power to GPs to get the best care for their patients.

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Championing Bosnia's re-emergence

LAST week I went to Bosnia-Herzegovina with parliamentarians from across Europe. It is 17 years since the Bosnian Serbs slaughtered 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica – an appalling act of genocide committed while the world looked on.

The risk is that today the world is allowing similar atrocities in Syria. I am deeply ashamed that this took place in Europe in my lifetime.

I am all the more ashamed when I meet the women of Srebrenica and hear the tales of how their husbands and sons were taken from them and the dignity and gratitude they expr-ess for the interest we show them.

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Police show the true spirit of public service

I HAD the pleasure of spending the evening with the police on the night shift in Grays recently.  I have always had the highest admiration for our police officers. Arguably, today, we are asking more of them than we ever have.


Today we are asking our police officers to be crimefighters, social workers, and everything in between. At the same time, the respect for police officers, and for anyone in authority has declined.  We all call on their services when we need them, but how many of us really do all we can to help them when we have witnessed an offence.

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Not all our problems are bankers' fault

At the risk of making myself very unpopular by siding with a banker, I would like to share with you my irritation that Stephen Hester has been bullied out of accepting his bonus by politicians.  To you and I it is a large amount of money, but he has been brought in on a contract and if he has honoured his obligations he should get the reward.  To be honest, it is a lot less than many footballers get. Ultimately the sooner Stephen Hester sorts out RBS, the sooner the taxpayer can walk away from it and we will all be a whole lot better off.   I want him to do well so we can get our money back and then some. Taking someone’s legitimately earned pay isn’t the best way to incentivise performance.

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Coryton situation is not all doom and gloom

The management has been working around the clock for weeks to address these issues. The conduct of the workers and their representatives in Unite has been exemplary, the Energy Minister Charles Hendry and my East Thurrock colleague Stephen Metcalfe are in close touch with the situation and everyone is pulling together to find a solution.

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Iron Lady was my inspiration

THIS weekend I saw the film The Iron Lady. I make no apologies for my profound admiration of Margaret Thatcher.


In 1979 our economy was the sick man of Europe, dogged by strikes and forced to borrow from the IMF. Within a decade the economy was booming, competitiveness had been restored as the country got back to living within its means, enabling private sector growth.  The film made much of the barriers the young Thatcher faced when trying to work her way up the greasy pole of politics.  But it made the observation that it was class that was her biggest handicap, not being a woman. Thatcher’s great achievement was to overcome the political establishment. That part of her achievement has to be inspiring, whatever your politics.

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