One of my Parliamentary roles that is perhaps less directly relevant to the East Worthing and Shoreham constituency is as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.
Twice a year the Tibetan Parliament, in exile, meets in session in a modest building in Dharamsala in Northern India, where 45 MPs come together twice a year to legislate for the Tibetan community around the world and scrutinise the work of the Tibetan ministers appointed by the Sikyong (Prime Minister), an American lawyer Dr Lobsang Sanjay.
We were invited to send a delegation and so, with SNP colleague Chris Law and Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, we made the long journey to this former British hill station known as ‘Little Lhasa’ where most of the Tibetan refugees are based and new monasteries, convents and schools have been set up to replace those still being destroyed in Lhasa.
They are an amazingly gentle, welcoming and resourceful people considering everything they have been through, and it was right that we went to deliver our message of solidarity from the many MPs at Westminster and supporters around the UK and we will continue to shine the spotlight of scrutiny on the Chinese in our debates in Parliament and meetings with ministers.
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We were lucky enough to have a meeting with the Dalai Lama despite him having just returned from a gruelling 17-day European tour. He is an incredible, inspiring and energetic man despite his 83 years and we spoke at length about China, President Trump and even Brexit. He is also an irrepressible giggler.
But most of all he is concerned about climate change and the environmental damage being done to the Tibetan Plateau which supplies water to 45 per cent of the world’s population, and that does affect all of us, even in East Worthing and Shoreham.
As I write we have yet to find out the decision of Adur’s planning committee on the New Monks Farm development and I hope my extensive submission jointly with a large number of local environmental groups, covered in the Herald last week, has been taken on board by councillors. But if it has been approved by the time you read this then that is not the end of the process as I have written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, responsible for planning as well. Congratulations to councillor Lavinia O’Connor, who I gather has been selected as the Labour parliamentary candidate for the next general election. I look forward to some respectful and constructive debate about what is best for East Worthing and Shoreham and the country at large over the coming months and years.
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