Last Friday, Stephen Timms welcomed a delegation Parliamentarians from eight different Commonwealth countries to East Ham. The politicians – who came from Hong Kong, Falkland Islands, Malawi, Solomon Islands, St Lucia, Tanzania and Uganda – were in the UK attending the sixty-third Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Westminster Seminar on Parliamentary Practice and Procedure.
The group met Stephen at Newham Dockside, the headquarters of Newham Council. Stephen introduced them to the borough along with Council officers, Shona Elliot and Jemima Olchawski. They highlighted the history of borough and drew attention to the opportunities afforded to Newham by the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.The group then visited Ascension Church in Custom House, which was one of the venues of NEWway Night Shelter. NEWway was established last winter in response to the rising levels of poverty and homelessness in Newham. The Parliamentarians met with the project’s co-ordinator, Jonny Adams, as well as one of the shelter’s former residents, Steven. Steven was referred to the NEWway in November but has now been found long-term sheltered accommodation in Leytonstone. The project - supported by local churches from across Newham - finished for the year at the end of January having provided 1,139 warm beds for the night to 61 different guests with 23 of those guests being permanently resettled.
The delegation then travelled to London City Airport, where they met Chief Executive, Declan Collier. Afterwards, the Parliamentarians were given a tour by the terminal building by Marketing Director, Jeremy Probert, and Liam McKay, Head of Public Affairs. Jeremy and Liam spoke about the importance of the airport to Newham, which currently employs 2,000 people – many of whom are local residents. After lunching at the café in Thames Barrier Park, the Parliamentarians visited Sandringham Primary School, where head teacher Robert Cleary led an assembly on the Commonwealth. The school’s choir sang to the delegation before they were given a tour where they were introduced to some of the children and parents.
Speaking after the visit, Stephen said: “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to show the Commonwealth Parliamentarians around East Ham. One of the group, an MP from the Falklands Islands, had been here before whilst she was a student in the 70s and remarked just how much had changed.
“A recurring theme of the day was that London is “moving east” and that the Newham will be at the front of the capital’s plans in the coming years. It is clear that this is the case: we have Stratford International, Westfield and, of course, the Olympics. On top of this, in the coming years Crossrail will open, the Royal Docks will be regenerated and an Asian Business Port – situated opposite London City Airport – will be built, bringing with it 20,000 jobs.
“I would like to thank everyone who made the day possible including Newham Council, NEWway, London City Airport and the teachers and pupils of Sandringham Primary School. They made the delegation feel welcome and showed what a tremendous place Newham is. I was extremely pleased to hear that the Parliamentarians would like to visit us again should they ever come back to London!”