john hemming plus brummieA link in The Brummie, the most useful West Midlands aggregator site, led to an article in this week’s Post by Jonathan Walker  with a promising title: ‘MP John Hemming is often a beacon of truth’.

Overlooking the patronising introductory jibes, Mr Walker rightly said that John Hemming, Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, ‘marches to the beat of a different drum’. More should join him.

Some of his campaigns are described:

School holidays: Mr Hemming is chairman of a campaign group called Parents Want a Say, which opposes the increasing fines for term-time absence following the law introduced in September 2013; headteachers are now to receive new guidance on when they are allowed to authorise pupil absence. Jonathan Walker misleadingly describes John Hemming’s campaign on the school holiday issue as asserting ‘that parents should have the right to fly their children off for a fortnight in Malaga during term time’. He failed to list serious implications for parents – one being that many have work commitments which do not permit them to take a holiday between school terms.

Family law courts: at first this MP’s claims about family law courts were dismissed; he charged that these courts were making decisions in secret about child welfare – often taking children away from parents, with parents denied proper representation and without the welfare of the child properly taken into account. However, in 2009 the Labour government announced family courts across England and Wales were being opened up to journalists as part of a government bid to boost public confidence in the system. Furthermore, in January 2014 rules were changed so that judgments in the family courts and the Court of Protection were to be be publicised unless there are “compelling reasons” not to do so. John Hemming chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Family Law and The Court of Protection set up to address the concerns raised by the public and professionals working within the family justice system.

Highlighting massive electoral fraud: as a councillor, when he warned that electoral fraud was taking place in Birmingham, West Midlands Police named the inquiry into his complaints “Operation Gripe”. But he was right. In 2005, election Court Judge Richard Mawrey found six councillors guilty of carrying out “massive, systematic and organised” postal voting fraud – one had the finding reversed on appeal.

Energy security: he was a lone voice in parliament, highlighting the fact that the UK lacked sufficient gas storage facilities – and could actually run out of gas in a cold winter. Later, Malcolm Wicks, Energy Minister at the time, admitted the UK’s winter gas supply was “uncomfortably tight”.

appg peak oil and gas

As chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas, he commented on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil’s report into TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas), co-authored by Shaun Chamberlin: “We urgently need to have a system in place to mitigate the economic and social consequences of peak oil. I believe TEQs provide the fairest and most productive way to deal with the oil crisis and to simultaneously guarantee reductions in fossil fuel use to meet climate change targets.”

John Hemming’s role in promoting global environmental welfare, which might well prove to be the most important of all our concerns, deserves far wider recognition.