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  • Alok Sharma supports new Government education programme on caste
    of the number of constituents who have come forward to talk with him or with anyone else Surely a few cases means a few cases too many If we base our understanding of discrimination on numbers we will not get very far Alok Sharma I understand the sentiment the hon Lady expresses but is she suggesting that the Government should legislate to protect people from every conceivable form of discrimination We know that class discrimination exists as do other forms of discrimination but we follow other approaches for those rather than legislation Mr David Ward Bradford East LD Is my hon Friend not concerned that most ordinary sensible people probably believe that caste discrimination is already illegal and that if we do not go ahead with this we will be sending out a message that it is acceptable and that claims against it are not supported by the law Alok Sharma Of course it is unacceptable As I said earlier any form of discrimination is unacceptable but we need to ensure that the remedies we have available are used and ultimately there has to be an evidence base for legislation Mr Khalid Mahmood Birmingham Perry Barr Lab If a carer was to refuse to care for an individual because they were of a lower caste how does the hon Gentleman think that would be remedied Alok Sharma I took part in a debate on Radio 5 live this morning and that was one of the examples that came up Clearly it is unacceptable I do not know the details of the case and I do not know whether there is a remedy under workplace legislation but to continue with the theme I think that we need to ensure that there is an evidence base I welcome the work that the Government are proposing on education One of the points made by a caller to the Radio 5 live debate this morning was that much of the time employers do not understand caste discrimination That could form part of the education process As I understand it certainly based on my reading of the debate in the other place the Government have not closed their mind to legislation They said that an evidence base is needed and that additional work is being undertaken John Hemming Does my hon Friend accept that were the Government motion to pass this issue would not return to the House of Lords and could not be subject to a further amendment but it is possible to deal with it through a statutory instrument There is general agreement that the Lords proposal is not an acceptable solution that would solve the problem properly Alok Sharma My hon Friend makes an interesting point As the Minister said this is a complex issue and there is not necessarily a common view about how we need to deal with it That is why the proposal to have education as a first step is absolutely right I welcome the fact that Talk

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  • Alok Sharma speaks in special debate to pay tribute to Baroness Thatcher
    the original architect of the modern British aspiration nation She believed in people working hard and being rewarded for it She believed in education as a great leveller She believed in helping entrepreneurs business and the private sector to create the wealth to pay for our public services She believed in respect for the rule of law Those are all values espoused by many immigrant communities such as the one I come from My parents started their own business in the late 70s As anyone who has run a business or tried to run one knows it is pretty hard work when it first gets started My parents certainly went through some pretty tricky times but the one thing of which they are absolutely certain and I am absolutely certain is that if it were not for the economic policies that Margaret Thatcher and her Governments followed they would not have prospered and without them I would certainly not be here today Americans often talk about the great American dream and I can say that Margaret Thatcher inspired the great British dream What she said to all of us whether we were from the working class or were immigrants from wherever it might be was that it was possible for each and every one of us to reach to the stars in Britain That is something of which I am incredibly proud Margaret Thatcher is someone to whom my family and I have an enormous debt of gratitude and there are millions of families like mine up and down this nation who feel exactly the same way It was because of Mrs Thatcher that I got involved in the Conservative party That is why I like many other colleagues started delivering leaflets for the Conservative party at the age of

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  • Alok Sharma backs Government’s work to increase diversity on corporate boards
    get better or does he think that Government and business should send a much stronger message about boards needing to be made more diverse Alok Sharma I thank the right hon Gentleman for his comments let me come to that point shortly I am also pleased that last year the Government introduced a set of draft regulations that will require listed companies to set out the gender breakdown of their work force at board level in senior management and in the work force as a whole Normally those of us on the Conservative Benches are not particularly keen on huge amounts of business regulation but this is a good regulation which would not be burdensome but helpful in shining a light on companies and getting them to focus on increasing diversity and in particular improving the gender balance on corporate boards Indeed the regulations which are due to be introduced have already been implemented in a number of other jurisdictions across Europe so this is nothing new At the end of last year the Secretary of State who is now in his place urged head hunting firms to break down the number of individuals they place in senior positions by gender Again that is extremely good news The right hon Member for Leicester East Keith Vaz made the point about work force diversity Gender balance is one measure of work force diversity but ethnicity is another Championing diversity should undoubtedly be about improving both The hon Member for Streatham Mr Umunna pointed out that just as there is under representation of women at senior levels on boards there is also under representation of those from non European ethnic backgrounds He gave the figure of 5 7 To break that down even further research by Cranfield university showed that only 4 4 of board members in FTSE 100 companies are ethnic minority male while only 1 3 are female Indeed of the 48 male directors from minority backgrounds only eight are British As has been pointed out the census showed that the proportion of people from non white or ethnic minority backgrounds is currently around 14 The all party group on race and community has just published a report it came out at the end of last year on ethnic minority female unemployment Let me set out what it uncovered by quoting briefly from the executive summary Discrimination was found to be present at every stage of the recruitment process when assessing applications during interviews at recruitment agencies and also in the workplace itself Strikingly it was estimated that 25 of the ethnic minority unemployment rate for both men and women could be explained by prejudice and racial discrimination Discrimination based on name and accent was also uncovered both in data received and from personal testimony In addition it was found that discrimination based on both gender and ethnicity is taking place in job interviews I think all hon Members today would agree that that is incredibly worrying I appreciate the

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  • Alok Sharma leads debate on cycling safety
    the Department published for the first time ever local authority data on cycling based on responses to the active people survey I hope that the Minister will tell us how often he expects these data to be published so that we can start to gauge the trend in cycling across individual local authorities This should over time prove to be a powerful tool in helping to focus on which authorities are good at encouraging cycling and which need to try harder Regarding the earmarking of 2 of the Highway Agency s annual budget for next generation cycle routes my hon Friend the Member for Lewes was understandably hesitant about adopting a specific figure but mentioned that the Department was undertaking a stocktake of Highway Agency routes to consider what might be possible in future Perhaps my hon Friend the Minister has an update on that stocktake and what this may mean for improved cycle routes Mr Barry Sheerman Huddersfield Lab Co op The hon Gentleman might know that I am chairman of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety Will he include in that stocktake the fact that we must go back to having targets for accident reduction whether in respect of cyclists or other category of road user including pedestrians We have in the past two years renounced targets but we know that if there are no targets across Europe casualties start to increase Will he make a plea in his speech for getting back to targets so that we can get accident reduction for cyclists and other road users Alok Sharma Reading West Con The hon Gentleman has eloquently put on the record his views on targets I am sure that the Minister will give us his thoughts and those of his Department on that point On improving training for cyclists and motorists my hon Friend the Member for Lewes also talked about the work of the Department s Bikeability initiative among other matters as well as noting that he had established a cycle safety sub committee of the stakeholder forum I understand that my hon Friend the Minister has in recent weeks led his Department s THINK Cyclist campaign I am grateful for the work that he is doing to improve road safety but it would be useful to have some feedback on and his view of the work of the new safety sub committee With regard to sixth issue in The Times campaign the 20 mph speed limit my hon Friend the Member for Lewes noted in February that he had already taken action to make it easier for local authorities to introduce 20 mph zones and a 20 mph limit Does my hon Friend the Minister have any update on the number of new 20 mph zones introduced in the past 12 months by local authorities If he has I hope that he will provide that in his response The Times campaign s seventh manifesto point relates to encouraging businesses to follow the lead of Barclays in London and back cycling schemes and initiatives There is universal support in the House for this idea My hon Friend the Member for Lewes said that his Department would send out the message to encourage this Will the Minister update us on whether the Department has had any traction in this respect with other potential business sponsors The manifesto s final point calls on every city to appoint a cycling commissioner to champion cycling friendly reforms Clearly this is a matter for local authorities but I understand that my hon Friend the Member for Lewes wrote earlier in the year to the leaders and chief executives of each council across England encouraging them to consider whether someone in their organisation should take a lead role on cycling I hope that my hon Friend the Minister provides some feedback on the responses that he has received and on the number of local authorities that have appointed a cycling champion I have asked my hon Friend to respond to a range of issues but I also want to put on the record that I know having talked to him that he is committed to improving road safety for cyclists His Department has provided 600 million through the local sustainable transport fund to support local authorities in their use of transport to lever growth and cut carbon locally Many of the 96 projects have a cycling element My hon Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham Rehman Chishti mentioned a number of other funding streams that have come on line from the Department and I am sure that the Minister will give us a full view on everything that his Department is doing to provide further funding to help cycling and cyclists Rehman Chishti On road safety and cycling safety the figures that I have from the DFT say that in 2011 111 people were killed in cycling incidents and 3 085 were seriously injured Does my hon Friend have any evidence showing how many of those incidents whether fatality or serious injury could have been avoided if those persons were wearing a cycling helmet Alok Sharma I will talk about an independent report produced for the Department for Transport in 2009 which demonstrated that the use of cycling helmets absolutely makes a difference in reducing fatalities and injuries Let me come on to that later Mr Peter Bone Wellingborough Con Is not it absurd that Members of Parliament still pretend that wearing a cycle helmet increases the risk Alok Sharma My hon Friend as ever makes a good point There is clear evidence that using a cycling helmet whether as an adult or a child reduces the risk of injury I will talk about cycle helmets but in this debate there is almost a gulf between those hon Members who believe that cycle helmets should be made compulsory and others who do not Organisations out there have similar or differing views as well My hon Friend is right it has been concluded in independent reports and reports produced by the Department that wearing a cycle helmet makes a difference in terms of improving safety I was talking about the contribution that the Minister and the Department have made He is also committed to supporting Bikeability cycle training for the remainder of this Parliament which is welcome I am pleased about that good news However I shall return to my central theme All hon Members who are supporters of cycling want cycling to be put at the very heart of transport policy I hope that the Minister will tell us apart from all the funding streams and all the work that is going on how cycling will be or is already a central part of his Department s policy Proper provision for cyclists on the road is not just something that cyclists want Hon Members will know that the AA recently undertook a survey of its members and 62 of the 20 261 AA members who responded to it said that there are not enough cycle lanes An increased number of cyclists on busy roads is leaving many motorists feeling insecure about how to interact with cyclists The majority view is that clearly defined cycle lanes would be good news for both motorists and cyclists That means a lot more than slapping down a few white lines intermittently along the pavement as happens unfortunately in my home town of Reading Ahead of this debate the Mayor of London s office was in touch with me I am sure that it was in touch with other colleagues as well setting out the Mayor s commitment to making London even more of a cycling city The aim of the Mayor s cycling strategy is to increase cycling by 400 by 2026 from 2001 1evels I understand that record levels of investment in cycling over the past four years have supported the cycling strategy with investment levels now approaching those of other leading European cycling cities A number of European cities have significantly higher per capita spending on cycling than we do in many of our cities It will be interesting to hear the Department s view on that and on how the situation can be rectified Alongside the Mayor s flagship schemes of Barclays cycle hire cycle superhighways and biking boroughs a range of complementary activities has led to a 70 increase in cycling in the capital over the past four years Many of our cities towns and local authorities can learn from the example of London and no doubt Members will have other best practice from their own areas to share The second part of the debate relates to the wearing of cycle helmets which can be a controversial subject but I have no wish for a particularly emotional debate We need to be dispassionate in discussion and to debate on the basis of evidence rather than emotion I asked for the debate today because I was prompted by a recent meeting with the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust a national award winning charity based in Reading The trust is committed to saving young people s lives by promoting safer cycling and in particular the use of cycle helmets The organisation was founded in 1988 by a paediatric nurse who through her work saw the devastation that head injury can cause not only to the child but to the whole family Since the charity s conception it has grown in drive and commitment to be an advocate for the child and young person It also provides a community service by highlighting the need for safer cycling practices that incorporate the distinctive needs of children and young people The charity is a national resource working with parents teachers police road safety officers Departments and health care professionals by promoting and providing educational programmes in schools on the need for helmet use and safer cycling practice throughout the United Kingdom The trust has worked successfully with the Department for Transport in the past and it recently submitted another proposal for a project that aims to complement the Bikeability programme It would engage with areas in need which may not be part of training programmes due to social challenges and work with young people to develop their understanding of road safety and self safety As part of its proposal the trust wants to work in local communities to develop partnerships and to draw on local private sector organisations to provide safety packs to children who because of the cost might be without helmets lights and reflector bands or without access to training I hope that the Minister will agree to meet representatives of the trust and me so that we can explain to him in detail the objectives of the latest proposal and that we will secure his personal support for the project The Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust is absolutely committed in its advocacy for children and young people to wear cycle helmets I very much share that view and the statistics on serious injuries to cyclists bear out why wearing a cycle helmet is so important especially for children In 2011 just over 3 000 seriously injured road casualties involving pedal cyclists were recorded by police In addition almost 16 000 incidents of pedal cyclists being casualties in slight accidents were recorded Of the 3 000 serious injuries 349 casualties or 12 of the total were children aged nought to 15 However according to NHS statistics almost 9 000 emergency road traffic hospital admissions last year involved pedal cyclists so there is a threefold understatement in police recorded injuries compared with NHS admissions One reason for that is that not every injury or incident takes place on a road it can be off road in particular for children and I will focus on that as I progress Furthermore of the 9 000 emergency road traffic hospital admissions more than 3 000 were of children aged nought to 15 35 of the total The understatement in police recorded injuries compared with NHS admissions for children in connection with cycling injuries was therefore tenfold That demonstrates that when children are involved in accidents a lot of the time they do not happen on the road or the highway but off road Children may be cycling with friends in the playground or in woods and we must bear that clear distinction in mind when we discuss cycle helmet usage as potentially compulsory for children as opposed to adults Mr Russell Brown Dumfries and Galloway Lab I thank the hon Gentleman for securing the debate I am sure that anything we can do to make cycling safer would receive broad support although I draw to his attention the attempt by the former Member for Carlisle Eric Martlew to introduce a private Member s Bill The manner in which he and the Bill s supporters were attacked was absolutely unbelievable yet beneath it all were people with a genuine desire to see children cycling safely whether on roads on footways as toddlers in playgrounds or elsewhere We need to do something to tackle that to see a definitive decrease in the number of injuries Alok Sharma The hon Gentleman makes a good point and he makes it passionately It is vital that we see a reduction in injuries and fatalities not only for children but for adults I will come to the 2004 private Member s Bill but we have moved on since then because there is more evidence As I said at the start of the debate however there is clearly a chasm between those who believe that wearing helmets should be mandatory and those who do not Members might remember a few weeks ago when Bradley Wiggins tweeted on the subject In my view he is an absolute god but even Bradley Wiggins came in for quite a lot of stick and he of course then made further statements about his views on the compulsory wearing of helmets Yet we cannot get away from the fact that wearing helmets saves lives and cuts down on injuries Mr Sheerman Is the hon Gentleman aware that when we organised the seat belt legislation some 28 years ago a passionate group attacked us for undermining individual liberty Many made the argument that wearing seat belts would make people drive faster and therefore kill more people The proud record is that we have saved many lives over that 25 years Alok Sharma The hon Gentleman makes a very good point and I will come on to that That Bill eventually became law because of the courage of Members in the House at the time and it is now second nature for us to wear seat belts There is no question but that wearing seat belts saves lives and there is no kind of negative impact Mr Bone My hon Friend is generous in giving way I wanted to reinforce his point According to emergency departments that see children 90 receive injuries from non vehicle related accidents We always hear Oh it s because you are going to be knocked over by a car but most accidents do not involve a vehicle and are cycling accidents alone Alok Sharma I thank my hon Friend for making that point and for reinforcing the fact that we are discussing wearing helmets not only on roads but off road We were discussing the understatement in police records compared with NHS records of injuries and why that could be One of the key reasons for children is that many such injuries take place off road as my hon Friend has just pointed out The total figure for cycle related hospital admissions however includes only patients who occupy a bed Those who attend A and E are not included in that 9 000 That of course does not include any gap between unreported and reported incidents involving only slight accidents so the total number of cycle related injuries receiving hospital treatment is likely to be much higher than any of the statistics that I outlined suggest It is appropriate that the debate about cost includes not just the human and social cost but the financial cost of cycling injuries and fatalities We must look at the broader picture and the larger figures Head injuries ranging from fatal skull fractures and brain damage to minor concussion and cuts are common in cyclists I understand from the information published by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents that hospital data show that an estimated 45 of child cyclists admitted to hospitals have suffered head injuries That is a high percentage indeed Undoubtedly some of those injuries would have been reduced or may not have occurred if a cycle helmet had been worn A recent Transport Research Laboratory report which was published in 2009 and commissioned by the Department for Transport reached several conclusions about the efficacy of wearing cycle helmets It concluded that helmets assuming that they are a good fit and properly worn are effective in reducing the risk of head injuries They are expected to be effective in a range of accidents particularly the most common accidents that do not involve a collision with another vehicle but as my hon Friend the Member for Wellingborough said are falls or tumbles over handlebars The report concluded that a specialist biomechanical assessment of more than 100 police forensic cyclist fatality reports predicted that between 10 and 16 of fatalities could have been prevented if the cyclists had worn an appropriate helmet Those who do not believe that we should have compulsory wearing of cycle helmets say that at the end of the day helmets will not save lives It has been shown conclusively in an independent report produced by the Department that in some cases they do Most interestingly the report concluded that cycle helmets would be particularly effective for children I could go into the reasons for that but I am sure the Minister if he has time

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  • Alok Sharma backs Plymouth Brethren application for charity status
    church Alok Sharma raises concerns that this decision could set an unwelcome precedent Alok Sharma Reading West Con I congratulate my hon Friend on securing this debate there is clearly huge interest among hon Members In Reading we have three gospel halls run by the Brethren that do very good public works Does my hon Friend agree that the case goes wider than the Brethren The Charity Commission could be setting a precedent which is something that none of us wants Does she agree that we need to be careful to ensure that there is fairness and that we do not set a precedent that we will regret Fiona Bruce I absolutely agree Some smaller Christian denominations are seriously concerned I know who they are but they do not wish to be named for obvious reasons There are hundreds if not thousands of independent free Churches that potentially also have cause for concern but incidentally do not have the resources to appeal as the Brethren have to the tribunal Hansard Alok Sharma MP Reading West The Reading West constituency embraces parts of two local unitary authorities Reading Borough and West Berkshire Reading Battle Kentwood Minster Norcot Southcote Tilehurst and Whitley

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  • Sharma demands apology for Labour’s record on grade inflation | Alok Sharma MP - Member of Parliament for Reading West
    Circuit Lane Surgery Securing infrastructure fit for the 21st Century Sewage problems in Theale Supporting Heathrow Airport Tackling overcrowding on trains Tackling potholes in Reading West Past Campaigns Exporting for Growth Seminar Battle Health Petition Boosting primary school places in Reading Delivery of Purley Bund Flood alleviation for Keswick Close and Ogmore Close Flood alleviation for Kingsley Close in Whitley NatWest Branch Closure in Pangbourne No to Pincents Hill Development Number 33 Bus Route Number 33 Bus Route Survey Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Southcote rat infestation The Reading Futures Fair Underwood Road Precinct Development Visitor Parking Permits Letters Gallery Contact Links Sharma demands apology for Labour s record on grade inflation Speaking during an Opposition Day debate on secondary education and GCSEs Alok Sharma demands an apology from the Opposition for their record on grade inflation Alok Sharma Reading West Con Labour made a real difference to our education system there is no doubt about that However at the same time as grade inflation was on the rise we were dropping in the international league tables on maths English and science Should not the hon Gentleman be apologising for the disservice he has done to our young people or is he now championing mediocrity once again Hansard later in the same debate Stephen Twigg I absolutely acknowledge that there is grade inflation in the system Hon Members Ah and I have said that previously The Ah s are very welcome but it is not something that I have not said before and I have said today that we will support measures that root out grade inflation We will support sensible reform of the examination boards because there is a good argument that a kind of competition to the bottom has contributed to grade inflation Printer friendly version Sign

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  • Disability Benefits and Social Care debate | Alok Sharma MP - Member of Parliament for Reading West
    on trains Tackling potholes in Reading West Past Campaigns Exporting for Growth Seminar Battle Health Petition Boosting primary school places in Reading Delivery of Purley Bund Flood alleviation for Keswick Close and Ogmore Close Flood alleviation for Kingsley Close in Whitley NatWest Branch Closure in Pangbourne No to Pincents Hill Development Number 33 Bus Route Number 33 Bus Route Survey Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Southcote rat infestation The Reading Futures Fair Underwood Road Precinct Development Visitor Parking Permits Letters Gallery Contact Links Disability Benefits and Social Care debate Shadow Minister avoids answering Alok s question on the Labour Government s record Alok Sharma Reading West Con The right hon Gentleman is talking about the cuts perhaps he will tell us how he would reform the budget I believe that the Government s reforms are very sensible Will he also tell us how many Remploy factories were shut down while Labour was in power Mr Byrne I invite the hon Gentleman to intervene on me again when I talk about Remploy in more detail Interruption No Remploy forms an important part of our motion and it is right that we should have an informed debate on the matter I

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  • European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 - debate | Alok Sharma MP - Member of Parliament for Reading West
    in Reading West Past Campaigns Exporting for Growth Seminar Battle Health Petition Boosting primary school places in Reading Delivery of Purley Bund Flood alleviation for Keswick Close and Ogmore Close Flood alleviation for Kingsley Close in Whitley NatWest Branch Closure in Pangbourne No to Pincents Hill Development Number 33 Bus Route Number 33 Bus Route Survey Save the Bath Road Reservoir Campaign Southcote rat infestation The Reading Futures Fair Underwood Road Precinct Development Visitor Parking Permits Letters Gallery Contact Links European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 debate Alok Sharma backs the Home Secretary s motion that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights the right to a family life should not be used to avoid deportation but in cases involving children he urges that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration Alok Sharma Reading West Con I welcome the motion and I hope it will have the support of all Members across the House but can my right hon Friend give me an assurance that in cases involving children the best interests of the child will be a primary consideration in any decision that is made Mrs May I shall come on to speak in more detail about the best interests of a child The best interests of a child are covered by the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 and we are bringing that into the family rules Hansard Alok Sharma Will the right hon Lady be supporting the motion this evening Everything that she is saying suggests that she supports what the Home Secretary has set out Yvette Cooper I think that we need action to deport more foreign criminals That includes more practical action through the UK Border Agency The Home Secretary and the Minister for Immigration need to explain

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