Friday, January 23, 2009

This week

Monday - attended the Bangladesh All-Party Group, at which Pola Uddin and others who had observed the Bangladesh elections reported that they were efficiently run, orderly, and completely free of political interference. Unfortinately there was some violence afterwards, and there has been even more at the upazila - local authority - elections this week.

My old comrade from the Welsh Guards David Saunders and his wife Trish came to lunch and sat in the gallery for questions.

Tuesday morning, attended the LibDem Home Affairs and Justice team meeting, as I'm leading in the Lords on the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill. The Second Reading was to have been next Monday, but has been postponed to February 11 because the Banking Bill has overrun.

There was a Question (by Peter Blaker as usual) on Zimbabwe, The Minister, Mark Malloch-Brown, agreed with me that theb SADC mediation was finished, and it was time for the AU to step in, when they have their summit meeting next week. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of Zimbabwean failed asylum-seekers in limbo, because they can't be sent back there, yet the Government refuses to allow them to access services or to work. Maybe this is a ,atter we can address in the Borders Bill.

Early evening, I attended a British Library-sponsored seminar on 'Digital Britain'. Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the BL, called for a coherent UK national digital strategy to include mass digitisation of content and digital literacy skills. The figure of 17 million people unconnected was bandied around, but some speakers thought it wasn't sensible to aim for 100% literacy. There would always be the very old, who didn't want to know what IT could do for them, but hard to reach goups such as young Afro-Caribbeans or Muslim women needed an individually targeted approach.

Wednesday morning, EU Select Committee, with two sets of witnesses giving evidence for our inquiry on the Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU's system for cooperation between member states in coping with either natural or man-made disasters, either in or outside the EU. Our usual weekly Party meeting 14.00 to 15.00. John Bercow's meeting on speech, language and communication problems at 17.00, then home to change for dinner at the Fishmongers.

Thursday, meeting with Daniel Wheatley and Barney Leitch of the Baha'is to discuss recent developments in Iran, and what the All-Party Group should be doing about them.

Later, an appointment at King's to discuss greenlight photoselective vaporisation of my prostate, a minor operation which they will do after an examination to see exactly what the size and shape of the prostate is.

Fridat 09.00, meeting with Alison Harvey of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association to discuss the Borders Bill, followed by a meeting with Lord West, the Minister in charge of the Bill. Then attended the debate on Matthew Oakeshott's Bill to provide that any Member of the Lords should pay full English taxes, whether s(he) lives in Britain or not. You'd think that was pretty obvious, but teh Tory leader, Strathclyde, made an intemperate speech against the idea.

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