It was a privilege to serve for 17 months as the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties. Obviously in any government, even more a coalition government you cannot win all of your battles or achieve everything that you would wish. But as one of the ministers for prisons, I am really proud of the achievements we made to reduce reoffending and to stop small mistakes which people make in their youth from holding them back from employment later. We also hugely improved the chances for women and young people to be rehabilitated when they were in prison. But there is a bigger challenge for the criminal justice system in England and Wales, as in many other countries of the world. Far too many people are sent to prison when they really need treatment for mental illness or for their addiction to alcohol and other drugs. We should aim to cut our prison population over the years ahead by about half - from the record 90,000 who are in prison today. Of course, dangerous and repeat offenders have to be locked up. But often, prison is the worst punishment for minor offenders and those addicted or unwell. Whole families suffer, children often pay the heaviest price and we condemn society to criminality passing from one generation to the next. This madness must end.
Michael Paul published Conflict Resolution and Prevention in My liberalism 2015-06-15 11:39:03 +0100
I have worked in conflict prevention and resolution ever since I was a school prefect! And a student union president! It's what I tried to do often as a lawyer in practice - stop people going to court, rather than encourage them, or settle cases rather than fight them. But it's also what I have done internationally all of my adult life. From my teens I campaigned against apartheid and for recognition for Palestine. In my twenties, I smuggled books into Poland for Solidarity. And in my time in parliament, I have worked for peace and justice in South Africa and Zimbabwe, in Israel and Palestine, in Sri Lanka, in Cyprus and for Gibraltar. I am proud to have been one of the co-founders of the All Party Group for Conflict Issues which has gone from strength to strength, and proud that we persuaded all political parties in this country to make conflict resolution and prevention a higher priority in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, and the Department for International Development. The saving in government spending around the world when people jaw-jaw rather than war-war is beyond calculation. My commitment to this cause will never reduce.
I decided that I was a Liberal during the general election campaign of 1966. Living in the south Wales constituency of Pontypridd I had already decided that I wasn't a Conservative. Conservatives always seemed to me to support the status quo rather than challenge it, and I heard and saw no commitment to bridging the economic and social divides of south Wales, in the cities, the mining valleys, or anywhere else. I wrote to all the main parties asking them to send their election manifestos. To be fair, all three major parties replied. (This was an early lesson in how important it is to respond to political enquiries.) Harold Wilson was the Labour Prime Minister in power and although Labour then, as always had some good policies, too many decisions seemed to depend on whatever could be negotiated between government and the unions. The unions certainly appeared to be hugely - though understandably - influential, but there appeared to be a Labour bias not just in favour of the workers but also against small and big business and management. Nearly everything appeared to be dictated by pragmatic solutions rather than principle. The Labour manifesto did not change my views about those things. By contrast, pretty well everything in the Liberal manifesto I found I agreed with. The five dominant themes then have remained the dominant themes of liberalism and liberal democracy ever since. Liberalism is internationalist more than nationalist. Liberalism is environmentalist and requiring us to be stewards of our world to pass it on with as little damage as possible. Liberalism is on the side of the individual and wants individuals and communities to have more power and government less. Liberalism supports civil liberties and human rights of everybody on an equal basis. And Liberalism doesn't have a prejudice in favour or against the public sector or private enterprise or voluntary activity. Where public ownership is best, such as the National Health Service, it must be strongly defended; where private enterprise benefits citizens more, then this should be encouraged.
So I became a convinced Liberal as a teenager, campaigned for liberalism from then on and formally joined at the beginning of my 2nd year at university - when the Liberal student representative knocked on my door. (Another reminder, if you don't ask people to join, they often don't!) My liberalism has not wavered from that moment onwards. And it is the liberalism of Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge - unswervingly social liberalism of the type that created the state pension and National Insurance and believing that laws should be made by elected representatives, not those appointed, or hereditary. It is the liberalism of the mixed economy with the state intervening where appropriate to make for greater equality and redistribution of wealth. And it is the liberalism of perpetual attack on the five giants of want, disease, ignorance, squalour and idleness and their later successors. My liberalism is part of a European and global Liberalism which is seeing more people and more parties joining the Liberal family all over the world, gaining influence and taking power. My liberalism is a liberalism of hope based on community politics and a belief that our communities are both those on our doorstep and those on the other side of the world.
Do you remember when the Tory government tried to close Guy's hospital? You gave me the privilege of leading the campaign, fighting for a cause that meant so much to people in our community.
Do you remember when Labour tried to close the A&E at Guy's and together we made sure there was an Urgent Care Centre?
I have always fought for our NHS and I always will.
My priorities for the NHS are clear. I will fight to provide the £8bn a year extra the NHS has said it needs to secure it's future and I will fight to end the inequality between mental health services and physical health services by providing £3.5bn over the next six years for mental health treatment. Care should also be closer to home, by integrating health and social care.
But I am fighting to lessen the strain on the health services in other ways too.
Poor quality housing is one of the biggest drivers of ill health. With more high quality affordable homes for the people in our community, we can have a healthier and happier community.
Unemployment is one of the greatest causes of stress in our society, and that means people are forced to go to the doctors for for medication. I fought to create 6,000 apprenticeships in Southwark over the last five years so that young people have a bright future in work and are not stressed by the thought of joblessness. The only way to secure the health of young people in Bermondsey is to have an MP that will fight for a stronger economy that creates opportunity for everyone.
The elderly have benefited from a cap on the price of care - making sure that the older generation do not have to sell their homes to be looked after. Pensioners are also better off now than ever before because of the 'Triple lock guarantee' that I fought for in government.
The cycling and pedestrian bridge that I am fighting for from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf will encourage people who work in the City not to use public transport - a healthier lifestyle choice.
Labour may pay lip service to the NHS but they can't commit to the level of funding it needs because they don't have a credible economic plan over the next five years. They will still be borrowing and paying off the interest payments on our national debt by 2020, which means there won't be any extra money for our health services.
The only way you can have a properly funded, secure NHS is to pay off our national debt by 2017/18.
I have a record of fighting for your NHS in our community and the only way you can make sure I continue to fight for it is by voting for me on May 7th.
Everyone in our community knows what the single most important issue is - I hear it on the doorstep from young people, professionals and pensioners alike.
We need more affordable homes.
The only way to make sure this happens is to vote for me on May 7th. You need more than warm words, however, so I have a plan that will provide more affordable homes in our local area.
1. I want all new developments in London to consist of 50% affordable housing, not 35% as it is now.
2. New homes should be advertised locally first, rather than being advertised in places on the other side of the globe before any local resident hears about it.
3. The public should have right of appeal against Southwark's Labour Council when it breaks it's 35% promise.
4. Housing policy should be based on public need not private demand.
5. Allow councils to seize homes that have been left empty for a long time so they can rent them out to locals who need a home. This would end the scandal of wealthy investors buying property only to leave it empty.
6. Developers should publish their calculations on how much affordable housing they can provide (known as their Economic Viability Assessment). At the moment there is not enough transparency and I will fight for that to change.
On top of this, I believe there should be housing for key workers in London and I will fight to build 300,000 homes a year across the country. I will also fight for young people so they can afford deposits on a rented property when they leave home, by providing them with a £2,000 government loan.
Labour never tell the whole story when it comes to affordable homes. They have sold out to the big developers. You only need walk around the Elephant and you'll see the full story. One the Elephant? Zero affordable homes. The Heygate? Less than 100 compared to over a 1000 previously.
The only way to stop the affordable homes scandal in this community is to have an MP who will fight for you and stand up to Ed Miliband's Labour council and take them on every step of the way.
Cut £50bn less than the Tories, borrow £70bn less than Labour.
That is what I am fighting to do and it is the only way to the stronger economy and fairer society with opportunity for everyone.
Since 2010, 6,000 apprenticeships have been created in Southwark, unemployment is at a record low in our community and there are more people in work across the country than ever before.
I have fought to give 132,000 people in Southwark an £825 tax cut, and the only way to make sure that people on the minimum wage won't pay income tax at all by 2020 is by voting for me on May 7th. People who earn the least in our society should pay less in taxes and those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest burden.
Investing in infrastructure is just one way I will fight to create more jobs in our area. I have been fighting for a new cycling and pedestrian bridge across the Thames from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, a Bakerloo Line extension from Elephant & Castle to New Cross, and a new pier too. All of these will create new jobs in construction, tourism and business.
You won't hear the full story from Labour on the Bakerloo Line. I fought behind the scenes in government so we could have the funding it needs, and I won that fight for you. I will always be in your corner, and fighting for you is the only way I know.
Labour left us in a catastrophic position in 2010, paying £125million every day on interest payments. I'm sure you remember the note they wrote saying "there's no money left." This community was left with record youth unemployment, and far too many local residents claiming job seekers allowance. The people of Bermondsey do not have short memories.
They still haven't learned their lesson and Ed Miliband still refuses to say sorry for the role he played in the economic mess his Labour government left behind.
Voting for me on May 7th is the only way you can keep me fighting for a stronger economy and fairer society with opportunity for all.