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Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute

GUEST BLOG: Evelina Griniute, student at St. Mary’s Catholic High School, gives her view on the EU Referendum result

My name is Evelina and I am currently completing my work experience placement at the Toby Perkins’ Constituency Office. I am a Year 10 student at St. Mary’s Catholic High School who studies Geography, History, German and Latin, in addition to my mandatory subjects, as humanities and languages are what I find most interesting. I have always held an interest in politics, enjoying nothing more than researching political topics and debating them with friends and family. Seeing the impacts that decisions have on people is fascinating from my point of view and this is also where my aptitude for humanities most likely stems from and which caused me to consider doing my work experience placement in an MP’s office. As a young person whose future will be greatly affected by Britain’s choice to leave the EU, I am intrigued to explore the impacts the decision will have on my generation and the opinions of young people around the UK on the subject.

My personal opinion is that Britain should have remained in the EU though, unfortunately, I was not old enough to vote. The way I see it is that while the EU has its faults, we are stronger within it and it is easier to fix the problem from within than run away from it completely. The EU offers the security and feeling of unity that 78% of young people said they would miss as well as all the trade benefits that allow European countries to compete with top global producers such as China and the US. We were comfortable as we were and Brexit has caused an unnecessary panic.

Most voters aged 18-24 shared this view, with 72% voting to remain. It is disappointing to know that young people who wanted Brexit the least have to live with the consequences for the longest. It results in more

Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute

Toby with work experience student, Evelina Griniute, in the constituency office

expensive and harder to attain places at European universities, decreased opportunities to work abroad in EU countries under the same terms and more difficult travel around Europe which is problematic for those who wish to take gap years and so on . A weaker economy with a weaker pound sterling also means young graduates who have just begun work, and are therefore receiving less money, will be stretched even further.

The votes however, are what they are and now people will handle the situation as best as they can. I remain optimistic that Britain will emerge through the uncertainty.

 

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Toby TUC

Toby Perkins MP backs the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ campaign to protect terminally ill workers

On Monday 18th April, Toby Perkins attended a cross-party event in Parliament to support the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ campaign which is seeking to change the law to provide additional employment protection for terminally ill workers.

Dying to Work was set up following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

Toby Perkins, the MP for Chesterfield, said: “People battling a terminal illness deserve choice and shouldn’t be forced to undergo stressful HR procedures with the risk of losing the positive stimulation and distraction of work. Furthermore, it is shocking to think that if people with terminal illnesses are dismissed or forced out of their jobs that their loved ones will lose the death in service payments that the employee has planned for and earned through a life-time of hard work.”

In addition to support from across the political spectrum, the campaign has also been endorsed by a number of trade unions and charities, including Breast Cancer Care and Second Hope.

Furthermore, the company, E.On have today (Monday 18th April) become the first company to sign the Dying to Work voluntary charter to provide support to their employees and the campaign in a ceremony in College Green.

Toby Perkins MP continued: “I am proud to back the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign and why I will be encouraging businesses in my constituency to sign up to the TUC’s voluntary charter to help ensure that the current law is changed.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Worrying about your job should be the least of your concerns when you receive a terminal diagnosis.

“It’s fantastic to have this event in Parliament as a chance for MPs from all parties to show their support and get involved in this campaign to make terminal illness a protected characteristic.”

Toby TUC“Hopefully now more employers will now follow E.ON’s lead by signing the Dying to Work Charter and we will see further action in Parliament to deliver this vital employment protection for terminally ill workers.”

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Apprentice Video Screen Shot

Tories hand millions to wealthiest councils – but there’s only cuts for Chesterfield

Apprentice Video Screen Shot

Labour MP Toby Perkins has accused the Government of a stitch-up after the Chancellor today handed hundreds of millions of pounds to the wealthiest Tory councils whilst offering nothing to Chesterfield.

Chesterfield Council has suffered some of the highest spending cuts since 2010, but has received nothing at all in today’s announcement. Meanwhile, leafy Surrey – one of England’s wealthiest shires – today gets a hand-out of £24m despite suffering far fewer cuts in recent years and suffering less of a squeeze on public services than Chesterfield. Indeed the top 27 recipients of today’s grants are all Conservative controlled councils.

Tory MPs became alarmed when they realised their constituencies might soon see cuts similar to those imposed on the rest of the country, and threatened to vote down the Government’s planned cuts until Communities Secretary Greg Clark announced a £300 million ‘transitional grant’. The Government have refused to say where the extra money comes from.

Labour analysis shows that £255 million of the grant – 85% – goes to Tory councils. Areas where Labour runs the council receive just £17 million, despite suffering the harshest cuts since 2010 and having higher levels of deprivation.

Toby Perkins MP said:
“Chesterfield has seen some of the harshest cuts over recent years with local services severely impacted. It is therefore shocking and scandalous that today we have seen the Conservative Government hand out millions to rural Conservative councils whilst leaving Labour councils like Chesterfield without any additional funding at all.

“Unbelievably the top 27 Conservative councils receive £202 million whilst 175 councils receive nothing at all from the Government. Chesterfield has been unfairly neglected by the Tory Government, and I will be writing to the Communities Secretary to seek an urgent explanation from him.”

Steve Reed MP, Shadow Minister for Local Government, said:
“The Government is covering up where this money has come from and won’t explain why almost all of it is being handed to Tory councils just weeks before council elections across the country.

“Councils that have already been cut to the bone since 2010 are getting nothing but more cuts. The Tories have picked millions of pounds from taxpayer’s pockets to buy off their own MPs when faced with a rebellion in the House of Commons.

“This is a blatant misuse of public money in a shameless attempt to buy votes and buy off Tory MPs.”

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toby parliament

Why I have chosen to vote against air strikes on Syria

 

I have just stepped out of the Chamber of the House of Commons where I have listened to the cases made for and against extending airstrikes to Syria. Yesterday I attended a briefing by the secretaries of state for Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home Office and DFID, plus one from the Shadow Foreign Secretary. I also met with Muslim MPs, read through a tremendous amount of expert opinion and read through many hundreds of representations from constituents and party members.

 

I have concluded that I am not yet convinced of the case that the Prime Minister has made that extending air strikes to Syria will make us safer and thus I will be voting against the government motion tonight.

 

The two key objections that I have been unable to satisfactorily overcome in my mind, are:

 

  1. That the ground forces (claimed to number as many as 70,000) who are crucial to consolidate gains by aerial bombardment, are unreliable, hugely disparate and have changing allegiances, most of whom would rather fight Assad than ISIL at the moment. And;
  2. That the political transition is anything like advanced enough or that airstrikes on ISIL alone will support rather than cause to falter that process.

 

The Government hope that by embarking upon a process of political transition started by 19 countries including Jordan, Iran, Russia and China, they can end the civil war and persuade the ground forces to join the campaign against ISIL. If that political process continues from the current small but encouraging steps then I am much more likely in the future to be persuaded that air strikes would be a good idea.

 

I have no doubt that there is a legal basis for the air strikes being proposed, and I regret that I feel unable for us to fulfil our international obligations proposed by the UN resolution, but sometimes the wisest way to help your friends, neighbours and allies is to convince them that an alternative strategy might deliver on their agreed aims. I am also convinced that little that we do in Syria will make a difference to the level of hatred that we will face from ISIL and their supporters here, we are under threat and will be after our vote tonight, regardless of the outcome.

 

I want to thank everyone who took time to write to me on this subject, and for the dozens of sympathetic and appreciative comments about the dilemma that faced me. I have never thought that the case was an open and shut one and envy those who enjoy certainty about what to do when faced with a hostile and murderous death cult and the peculiar and particularly bewildering set of circumstances that currently pertain in Syria.

 

I can assure you that those of my colleagues who have reached a different conclusion do so equally solemnly and also believe in their hearts that voting for these airstrikes is the right thing to do. Regardless of the outcome of the vote I hope that colleagues will in future be able to respect that there is no monopoly on morality and that everyone faced with these most difficult of choices has to answer to their own consciences for that choice.

I have made my choice and I will vote, with hope but without certainty, for that tonight.

 

 

 

 

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The choice on Syria- BLOG

This article was written for the Derbyshire Times ahead of the vote on airstrikes in Syria:

This week I will be faced with the most difficult decision I have faced in the five and a half years that I have been an MP, namely whether to vote to extend airstrikes against ISIL from Iraq into Syria.

I have received many representations on the subject and I read them all. Recent polling shows that whilst a majority of both Labour voters and the General public support airstrikes, Labour Party members don’t- which is always difficult given that I answer to both constituencies.

Last Friday members of Chesterfield Labour Party met to discuss the situation. And whilst numbers were small, the prevailing mood against airstrikes was clear. The strongest reservation was the fear that our contribution would be both minor over there whilst creating further instability over here, this is reinforced by the fact that previous interventions have not led to lasting peace.

The contribution we will make is likely at this stage to be around 4-8 war planes, a small part of a large global effort. I have to balance up the fear that we may support action that will further muddle an already chaotic situation with our obligation to play a role in support of a UN resolution that calls on all governments to take all actions they can to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Whilst our bombing campaigns in Iraq have been targeted and have not led to civilian casualties, that is another fear.

And then there is the questions of how far and what the scope of our involvement should be; part of ISIL’s strength comes from them being the main opposition to Assad’s brutal regime, a plan for Syria that helps Assad causes me real doubts. though ISIL have a clear and stated aim to attack and kill us, Assad doesn’t and any action to destabilise him would bring us into conflict with the Russians, with goodness knows what consequences.

There seems to be a widespread view that ISIL won’t ultimately be defeated militarily without the use of ground forces. The make-up of these forces (and their commitment to joining an anti ISIL alliance) will be a key consideration that I will be seeking clarification on this week.

People have raised with me the question of non- military steps that could be taken to degrade ISIL. These include cutting off their funding sources, identifying who they are selling oil to and preventing them doing so and attempting to more successfully counter their propaganda against the West. All of these are important, though hard to do, I will be attempting to discover what steps have been taken to do this already and why it hasn’t been successful.

I am also very conscious that some of the logical steps that we could take against less ideological enemies are unlikely to have much impact here. Their ideology states that they are already at war with us, we have seen aid workers beheaded, people slaughtered in the most barbaric manner imaginable, gay people thrown from the roof, indiscriminate terrorist atrocities and terrorist plots against the UK foiled. They have killed far more Muslims than westerners but their hatred of all who do not share their warped ideology is established and limitless.

The strongest arguments in support of the action is that we are a part of the global community (as an internationalist I feel this strongly) and that we have a UN resolution and a specific request from the socialist French government and many other global allies to join this campaign.

The UN resolution, signed not just by the permanent members but by the entire Security Council calls on all members to take all available steps to defeat ISIL, it is beyond doubt that these actions would be legally justifiable. I also feel that having offered our solidarity to the French particularly, in the wake of the terrible atrocities, it is difficult to turn our back on that commitment when they have asked us to make that solidarity mean something.

It is also clear that our airstrikes in Iraq have made a tactical difference, they have succeeded in containing ISIL and stopping their advance and have pushed them back into their heartlands.

I can’t hide from the fact that there is also a political element to this question. One email I received summarised it perfectly. To paraphrase, it said this: “The world is imperfect, and terrible things happen. Wherever we intervene (Iraq, Afghanistan) we conclude we shouldn’t have, and wherever we don’t (Rwanda, Cambodia, Zimbabwe) we conclude we should have. Whatever we do here, many people will argue afterwards that things would have been better if we’d done the opposite.

Though I stand by my decision to vote against intervention against Assad in Syria in 2013, the appalling refugee crisis that has followed our choice not to stop Assad bombing his own people demonstrates that inaction can also have appalling consequences.

It appears pretty certain that, whatever I vote, the motion in support of airstrikes will be won. After the vote is won, airstrikes will take place and bad things will happen, the public can change their mind, but my vote will last as a matter of public record forever, I will need to answer for that vote and so I will read and consider representations that party members and constituents make as a part of that process. I can only promise that I will not vote lightly, or probably with any certainty that what I vote is the right decision either way, it is easy when you are certain, to think that the conclusion that you have come to is the obvious one, I see this as a very difficult balance but I will do my best to approach this question with an open and curious mind.

 

 

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Toby Perkins questioning the Prime Minister in the debate on Monday

Update on Syrian Refugee Crisis

Toby Perkins questioning the Prime Minister in the debate on Monday

Toby Perkins questioning the Prime Minister in the debate on Monday

The last few weeks of media coverage have been dominated by the devastating global crisis we have seen in recent months in regards to the situation of refugees crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. I have received a large number of emails, letters and social media messages asking me to ensure Britain plays a full part in helping people in peril.

Like everyone, I was horrified to see the picture of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up dead on a Turkish beach. And whilst that photograph became an iconic snapshot of the whole appalling tragedy, other human catastrophes occur every day, the desperation and suffering that these people have gone through is unimaginable.

Huge numbers of people are dying trying to cross the Mediterranean to Southern Europe from war-torn Libya and Syria. But millions more are stuck in refugee camps in Jordan, Libya and elsewhere. Lawlessness in these countries means that there is little authority to control the flow; some of the militias controlling the country are profiting from the perilous trade.

This is indisputably one of the worst human tragedies since the war and the desire to see Britain play its part in alleviating the suffering is widespread.

I welcome the steps the government has taken thus far in their approach, however, I strongly believe that more substantial, immediate action is needed, given the scale of the crisis we face.

My colleague Yvette Cooper secured a three-hour emergency debate yesterday, to analyse in detail what the government has proposed and to discuss what further humanitarian role Britain can make. I spoke in the debate and made clear to the Home Secretary that Chesterfield is fully pledged to supporting those who are seeking refuge.

Below is a link to the question I asked David Cameron on Monday about how the government can do more to harness the huge desire amongst British people to play our part to alleviate suffering of desperate Syrian refugees, as well as the speech I made yesterday:

Monday’s Question: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/a472a129-39b4-4c22-a8f4-f0785e2cf856?in=17:41:58&out=17:43:00

Yesterday’s Speech: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/85646ce6-0ade-44cc-834a-6d4ea7e61e09?in=16:21:15&out=16:25:11

Speech 8/09/15 – Check on delivery:

I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the shadow Home Secretary, for securing the debate, and for the tremendous way in which she has led the fight. Labour Members are of the view that the Government’s response is inadequate, but the Government have responded more generously than they did a few weeks ago. The shadow Home Secretary deserves great credit for getting the Government at least to take the steps they have taken.

The tragic death of Alan Kurdi is a bucket of cold water over the whole of our nation and the Government. It was the moment at which public opinion changed and when people said we must do more. We recognise that the appalling suffering of those refugees is a moment in history. History will look back on our generation, and on this Parliament and this Government, and ask what we did when we faced this appalling moment. I believe that we are failing to live up to our historical role as a place of safe haven, and to live up to the incredibly proud role that Britain has played over many years to support refugees, whether that is the 10,000 of the Kindertransport in the late 1930s, the 300,000 Poles who came here after the second world war or the 42,000 Ugandan Asians who came to Britain after the historic situation there. When history looks at our generation and our current response to this appalling situation, it will judge us badly for the failure to take more refugees.

In the Government’s response, they not only fail to appreciate the suffering that people are experiencing, but underestimate the capacity and desire, which the harrowing pictures have evoked, to help people. I said yesterday to the Prime Minister that if ever there was an opportunity for him to make the big society something that means something to people, this is it. People all over our communities are saying that they want to make a difference.

People are saying that they want to make a difference. They are saying, “Please let me know how I can help.” Councils in Derbyshire have offered to act as reception centres for refugees. The Labour council in Chesterfield has said that it stands willing to do whatever is needed to support people in that terrible situation. The Government underestimate the capacity in our country to make a stand in the once-in-a-lifetime atrocious situation that we face.

The Government should explore the far greater potential that there is among proud Britons who are standing ready and willing to help people in their hour of need. In our history, when the world has needed heroes, Britain has so often come forward and shown how truly great our nation can be.

Let us not let this generation, when the world is expecting so much of us, be the one that lets our country’s reputation down. Let us not be the ones who, when we tell our children and grandchildren about the roles we played, have to look down at our shoes and say that when this country was needed we did not do what

we could. There is more we can do. We should be taking more refugees. In all our communities, we know we can do more. Let this Parliament and this Government be the ones to say we will do more. Let us lift what we are doing right now.

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3627086678

Blog: The Future of Mental Health Services

New research by YoungMinds, a leading children’s mental health charity, has shown that since 2010 a total of £85m has been lost from the budgets of mental health trusts and local authorities, with £35m of these cuts coming from mental health services for children and young people in England.

Mental health is an urgent national policy issue, particularly when it comes to the care and support we provide to children and young people.  Mental ill health will soon be the biggest burden on society both economically and sociologically, costing around £105 billion per annum.  By 2030, the World Health Organization predicts more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem.  But we spend a fraction of our overall health budget on mental health. Mental health research only receives just 6.5% of total funding in the UK compared with 25% for cancer, 15% for neurological diseases and 9% for cardiovascular conditions.

These are figures which should make every politician sit up and take notice.

There are a number of areas in which our mental health provision needs to improve:

  • Stop neglecting child mental health – a recent report by the independent Mental Health Taskforce showed that only 6 per cent of the mental health budget is spent on children, even though three quarters of adult mental illness begins before the age of 18. Since 2010, the underinvestment and poor delivery of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services have led to a growing number of young people being placed in adult wards, and many sent hundreds of miles for hospital care as a result of bed shortages. This not only puts young people at risk but has a negative impact on their rehabilitation and recovery.

I am regularly contacted by concerned parents who feel their children are not receiving the support they need for their mental health and that this is having a negative effect on their education, physical health and quality of life.  Going forward we need better provision of talking therapies for children and a better understanding of how to identify and respond to mental health in schools. Before the election the Tories pledged to increase funding for children’s mental health services, Labour will be making sure that they honour that pledge.

  • Early Intervention – since 2010 there have been a cutbacks in early intervention and prevention services, including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Early Intervention in Psychosis Services and the Early Intervention Grant which funds Sure Start services. This short-sighted approach by the government means that people are not getting the support they need when they first develop ill mental health and it ends up costing the NHS billions down the line when these people eventually reach crisis point. I firmly believe focusing more on early intervention services will achieve better outcomes for patients and create long-term savings for the NHS.

To ensure we have early intervention for our children and young people, we need to properly train our teachers to deal with mental health issues, so that mental health needs are identified sooner and children receive the treatment and support they need as soon as possible.

  • Talking therapies – there is a limited availability of counselling services in Chesterfield even though they can provide the kind of lower-level, preventative intervention that can stop problems subsequently becoming more serious. It is completely unacceptable that some of my constituents are having to wait almost 6 months before they can be seen by a counsellor, by which time their needs can have increased significantly and the treatment they need be more extensive and costly. A Labour government would have introduced a maximum 28-day wait once a patient has been referred for talking therapies.

  • Parity of Esteem – This needs to be more than just a political slogan. Real action needs to be taken to so that mental health is given parity of esteem with other areas of health. This means improving diagnosis, increasing mental health awareness across all NHS departments and commissioning the right services to deliver the parity of esteem agenda. Mental health patients should have equal access to the most effective treatment possible, equal consideration regarding waiting list times and the equal regard and consultation as other service users. And the delivery of our mental health services needs to have an equal focus on improvements in the standard of care and a commensurate allocation of resources.

The cuts to mental health funding we have seen over the last five years were the first time the mental health budget had been cut in over a decade. The government focused on short-term savings that left patients without the help or early support they needed and that will cost the NHS billions in the long-term.

Together with improving services, we also need to start changing society’s attitudes towards mental health. This government has relegated mental health to the sidelines and once again made people feel stigmatised and less likely to talk about or address their mental health issues.

3627086678There can be no short-termism in our approach to mental health. People need help as early as possible, for as long as needed and individual to their needs.

This is the right thing for patients and for the long-term viability of our health services.

If you would like to read more about the research carried out by Young Minds please click here http://www.itv.com/news/2015-07-27/revealed-tens-of-millions-slashed-from-mental-health-budgets/

Please also visit the ‘Labour Campaign for Mental Health’ facebook page to read statements on mental health from the Labour leadership candidates https://www.facebook.com/labourmentalhealth

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Toby at the recent 'Medieval Market'

Blog: Chesterfield Town Centre – why we should be optimistic about the future

Just as bygone Christmases are remembered as snowier, and summers more sunny, so anyone who can remember Chesterfield market from years ago will tell you it was a much busier, bustling place. I have had many constituents contact me over the last few years to lament the reduction in the size of the market and fewer shoppers visiting our town centre. Whilst there is an element of truth about it, we still have much to be proud of.

Town centres and markets across the country have all experienced a decline, over many years and for many reasons, including because of our economy going in to recession and consumers shopping habits changing dramatically; also the growth of online shopping, development of out-of-town retail parks, diversification of product availability in supermarkets, increasing number of budget retailers, people having less disposable income and various other factors.

To stop the decline and start to grow again, our town centres are going to have to fundamentally change and adapt to the new retail landscape and offer more than just shopping to attract people in. This is something city centres have been doing for a number of years with reconfigured layouts and new attractions, such as urban beaches, big wheels, food festivals etc and is something that our towns need to replicate on a smaller scale.

Chesterfield has been one of the more resilient town centres in the East Midlands and has a much lower shop vacancy rate when compared to nearby towns such as Mansfield and Ashfield. One of the reasons for Chesterfield’s resilience, and why we should remain optimistic about the future of our market and shopping centre, is the Labour-run Borough Council’s willingness to invest during tough economic times and to innovate and adapt to the modern retail climate.

Following on from the recent £4m refurbishment of the Market Hall, which has provided improved retail spaces together with modern business units, the Council has been working with local businesses and stakeholders to develop a ‘Town Centre Masterplan’ together with an event-driven market place. I have been impressed by the recent ‘Artisan Markets’ and ‘Medieval Market’ that have been held and are bringing people in from miles around.

The Council’s ‘Masterplan’ is being finalised and will focus on modernising the layout of the market so that it is more accessible, has improved sightlines, better cover for bad weather and has additional space for other attractions and events.

With the right planning and will to improve, we can make the most of our beautiful town and its advantageous location.

Toby at the recent 'Medieval Market'

Toby at the recent ‘Medieval Market’

Chesterfield is one of the gateway towns to the Peak District and the improvements being made in our town centre will hopefully increase tourism and provide a boost for our hotels, guest houses, cafes, pubs and shops. And with the planned £400m Peak Resorts development being created near Chesterfield, we will see more jobs being created and more opportunities to increase visitor footfall in our town.

There is a lot of work to be done, but we should feel optimistic about the future for our market and town centre businesses.

Please click here to read more about about the Council’s ‘Masterplan’:

http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/grassroots/chesterfield-borough-council-agrees-masterplan-for-future-development-of-town-centre-1-7374517

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

Surgeries

I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk to make a booking.

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