Friday, 29 May 2009

Our MP Gerald Howarth on expenses

Response to the Aldershot News - Gerald Howarth MP

I hope you will allow me to respond to the recent article in the Aldershot News regarding MPs’ expenses. If any of your readers have felt that I have been arrogant in my reaction, I greatly regret that, as nothing could be further from my intentions.

First, I am deeply conscious of the public concern and anger over this issue. Secondly, I am - and want to be - accountable to my constituents, which is why on official forms asking for details of my employer I always write ‘The electors of Aldershot’.

Like my constituents, I pay a full set of council tax, mortgage costs, repairs etc on my principal home. The Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) enables me to be reimbursed for such extra costs incurred on my Farnborough home, but I have not claimed reimbursement for ‘home improvements’; the extension we had built was paid for by me, as has been the new garden wall. I have been reimbursed for the cost of a small number of household items, including for the cost of a sofa which I bought at the Bentalls clearance sale at their warehouse in Farnborough.

It is clear that the system has been abused and reform is imperative, which is why Sir Christopher Kelly has been appointed to conduct a thorough investigation on which he intends to report in the autumn. In the meantime, David Cameron has taken a lead by requiring all Conservative MPs to submit their claims to an assessment team for review, a process which is still underway. The details of my claims will be published as soon as possible thereafter.

Some constituents have questioned why I do not commute from Farnborough to Westminster. As you correctly reported, I tend to work late at the House of Commons and seldom leave before 10.30 pm, so being less than 15 minutes from the House is a real benefit. Being an MP is not a 9 to 5 job, nor should it be; it’s a way of life but one which has not been forced on me or my colleagues.

Perhaps you will permit me to point out that in addition to serving my constituents I am also Shadow Minister for Defence Procurement in which role I am responsible for monitoring a Government spending programme of some £6,000 million. Unlike the ministers I shadow, I receive no extra income, have no army of civil servants to advise me, have no access to so-called ‘Short’ money paid from public funds to the Official Opposition, and have to rely on my ordinary Parliamentary allowances for office costs and travel to fund those duties. I make no complaint about any of that, but my observation may explain why the annual publication of the expenses incurred by me and my Shadow Cabinet neighbours is higher than others.

I entered public life as a conviction politician committed to helping restore my country’s economic fortunes through free enterprise, and to restoring its status as a strong, sovereign nation and to creating a society based on family values. I did not enter politics to make money.

27th May 09

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

New Web site -

Dear all,

Patients Talking is a free, non profit web site & I am kindly asking our members to spread the word about us in order to help us grow.
If you could forward on our site to 3 people you know that would be most kind.
We are a website that continues to help people share any of their health experiences within a safe and secure platform.

Thank you

Kind regards, Soozi Rowbotham - Founder of Patients Talking
Cllr Clifford comment:
Funny that this should come to my attention just as a resident that has undergone a mastectomy and chemotherapy contacted me. So I have been able to refer them to this new site. One thing I did notice, was how optomistic and happy this wonderful lady was - plenty to complain about, but she chose to tell me just how good the hospital and staff of the NHS have been. I often find in this work that those with most to complain about are the ones that complain least, and those that have little to complain about, complain the most.

Monday, 11 May 2009

GBL - A dangerous new drug used by clubbers

Gamma-butyrolactone, or GBL, is the latest recreational drug to hit pubs and clubs. Doctors say it is killing young people but because traces remain in the body for only up to 12 hours after consumption, the true number of fatalities is unknown.

A cording to the Daily Mail, Dr Sean Cummings, who runs a private clinic in Harley Street, London, specialising in patients with drugs problems, believes GBL is claiming the lives of about six people a year. Scores more end up in casualty every weekend. The latest woman to become a tragic statistic is Hester Stewart, 21, an outstanding medical student at Sussex University - until she was found dead at a house in Brighton on Sunday morning after a party. Next to her body, police found a bottle of GBL.

The chemical is perfectly harmless if used for the purpose for which it was originally intended - as a paint stripper and rust remover for garages or industrial cleaning firms. But for clubbers, a pipette is used to measure 'shots' of GBL which is mixed with water or orange juice, then drunk - just as you might drink vodka. GBL is virtually tasteless and odourless when diluted, but produces a high not dissimilar to ecstasy.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tumble Down Dick update

After an enquiry from a resident, I sent the following letter, that serves as a useful update as to where we are currently:

Dear Resident
We are now able to give you a further update on action being taken to tackle this issue.
The Council have approached the freeholder to establish their current position and whether they are seeking to terminate the lease or take other action to take control of the site.
We have set up a group coordinated by John Edwards the Director for Environment Services to identify and review all options to tackle the issue. Environmental Health had already served a notice to tidy up the site and secure the outbuildings but we now need to get a long term solution.
We suspect that Spirit Inns may well intend carrying out the necessary works to re-open the pub and we will do all we can to bring this forward.
The building is not listed but is a Hampshire Treasure and an important part of Farnborough's history and heritage and we have a duty to do all we can to protect it.
Finally, please be assured the ward councillors are keeping a close eye on this site, and we are aware that our MP Gerald Howarth is also dealing directly with the owners.
Re-opening this building does not necessarily mean the live music venue will re-open, and I am discussing this with fellow ward councillors and others like the Farnborough Society as to how best to achieve this.
I hope this at least brings you up to date and makes you aware of the action being taken.
Warm regards
David Clifford
Empress Conservative Councillor.
"Together we can make a difference"

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Gurkha Justice

Got this email circular from a resident, and thought it worth sharing, as I totally agree:

I'm writing to ask you to support justice. Britain has had no greater friends than the Gurkhas. They have served all across the world in the defence of our Country for nearly 200 years. Over 45,000 died in the two World Wars as part of the British Army. They are still fighting in the British Army today. You may have seen in the media that the Gurkhas have been fighting in Parliament and the Courts. Step by step, things are getting better - but there is a long way to go.
Please take a minute to sign the petition at Please take a few minutes to forward this email to your family members, friends, colleagues and associates. Thank you for supporting a just and noble cause.
Many thanks
Jim Beverley, on behalf of all the grateful British People