Tony Colman MP for Putney writes

In this week's diary for our MP covers a tribute to Hugh Jenkins, the vote on top up fees, the Putney Hospital site & the IDC.......

Hugh Jenkins

Hugh Jenkins, Lord Jenkins of Putney, died this week at the age of 95. This was not of course entirely unexpected but it was nevertheless very saddening to me personally. Hugh, as long-term residents of Putney will know was my predecessor as Labour MP for Putney. He was succeeded, of course, by David Mellor and then by myself.

When I first became the Labour candidate for Putney, Hugh spoke at the meeting which adopted me. I vividly remember him, during the election campaign in April 1997 when he was 88 years of age, walking up and down Putney High Street with a loud-hailer in support of my election. Again, in the adoption meeting for the 2001 election when he was 93 years he spoke and it was very moving to hear him at that advanced age, with unimpaired intellect, grappling with the connection between old and new Labour. Hugh had a distinguished record as Arts Minister in Harold Wilson's government when Labour were returned to power in 1974 and I am very glad to note that the abolition of museum charges, introduced by Hugh and overturned by a subsequent Conservative government, has since been reinstated by the then Culture Secretary in the 1997 - 2001 Labour government. All Hugh's many friends will mourn his passing, but give thanks for his long and fruitful life.

Top Up Fees Vote

As I am sure you are aware the result of the HE Bill vote on Tuesday 27 January was a very narrow victory for the Government. I voted against the Government.

I did so because I oppose the principle of top-up fees and I believe that they are not in the interest of Putney residents. The vast majority of opinion I heard from Putney constituents supported a vote against the HE Bill as it finally stood.

In the weeks before the vote I met with Tony Blair, Charles Clarke and the Whips to discuss the implications of the new Higher Education Bill. I made it clear to them the views and concerns of Putney constituents. I still have concerns over variable fees and I do not believe they are in the best interests of Putney residents. I simply do not believe that the £3000 cap will hold for the foreseeable future. I have spoken to a number of Tory MPs who told me they secretly agree with the Government's Bill. They want the marketisation of Higher Education which will follow from the introduction of variable fees and they would lift the cap if they were elected to office.

As a principle I believe that all qualifying young adults should have equal access to the best universities. Universities should not just be for the very rich or the very poor; entrance should be on ability, not the ability to pay. For this reason I voted against the Government.

The Government needs to realise that the issue of variable fees will not go away - and I expect the Report stage of the Bill to be the point when variable fees are defeated assuming all forces opposed continue to unite.

Putney Hospital Site

On Thursday 29 January I had a productive meeting with Veronica Cotterill and Helen Walley of Wandsworth Primary Care Trust to discuss the future of the Putney Hospital site. I am very pleased that the PCT will be going ahead with the next stage of a business plan for a new Primary Care Centre for the Putney Hospital site. I am hopeful of my concerns on access, on guarantees to local pharmacies and on key worker housing being met.

International Development Committee

As a member of the DFID parliamentary oversight committee I visited Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia /Somaliland this month. Even in Somaliland, it is impossible not to bump into Putney residents, who included the Leader of the Opposition (lost by 300 votes in the presidential election last year), the Chair of the Electoral Commission and the lady who heads up the main NGO. I would be very happy to talk about my visit with interested groups in the constituency. Putney has such a multinational community it is important that I understand different groups concerns, especially, in this case, the views of the large community of Somali refugees in Putney. The report I worked on Palestine will be issued by the House of Commons next Thursday (5 February) and will be available on the House of Commons website:


Tony Colman MP

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January 9th, 2004

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