Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dangerous legal highs available in local shops?

This letter has been edited for confidentiality. It highlights the fact that legal highs, in this case 'Black Mamba' are dangerous and apparently on open sale locally.

I think it is important to warn people of the dangers of the lunacy of drugs, legal highs and other concocted chemicals made up in 'back street' premises by greedy, ruthless, uncaring gangs. 

People involved in providing drugs are the lowest of the low. Lacking intelligence, compassion or both they fail to understand the misery caused by this industry, both in the foreign fields where democracy is often replaced by violence or death; and on the their own doorstep where families suffer the horrors of addiction, broken homes, wasted youth, ill health and early death.

Dear Graham,

My family have recently have had a terrible experience due to a legal substance known as 'Black Mamba'. I feel very strongly that you should be aware of the effects of this substance and request that it be classified as a controlled substance.

On Friday 26th November our 17 year old son went to a friend's house party in Accrington, he was offered a smoke of a substance and was told that it was legal. As it was legal my son decided to try it and had 1 inhalation. Immediately he started to have very strong effects, his perceptions altered, he felt he needed to grip hold of something tangible to make sure he was holding on to the real world. 

At one point he was bent over with his hands immersed in soil in the friend's garden, he said he was hallucination and it was hugely overwhelming for him. His limbs became very rigid and he could not walk or move unaided. 

He stopped talking and was in a barely conscious state. His body temperature reduced dramatically and his skin colour became grey/green. 

His friend then called me and told me how unwell my son had become. All these events occurred within 30 minutes. My husband and I then immediately took our son to the hospital, I cannot praise the hospital staff enough as they were so helpful, understanding and non judgemental. They had not had a patient before who had smoked this substance so were a little unsure what to do for the best. After a sugary hot drink, wrapping him up in blankets he started to vomit.

After this he started to come round. He was kept in hospital overnight for observations and then was discharged. He has not suffered any adverse effect since apart from embarrassment and being grounded for being so stupid as to put an unknown substance in his body.

I have contacted Trading Standards as legal highs are available from shops locally.  I have contacted my Community Police Team also to inform them about our experience as they may be able to warn and help others. I have also contacted the Health Minister.

I think that the effects are so strong and adverse that it should not be freely available. My husband and I have been researching the substance; 7 teenagers had to receive medical attention in Cumbria recently due to the effects of Black Mamba. There may well be many others who are not able to get to hospital or their friends are too afraid to get help.

Thank you for taking the time to read this but I felt that it is an important issue and needs action taking on it.

Constituent, Accrington

Osborne's £5million task force won't stop metal theft.

Yesterday in his Autumn statement, the Chancellor announced the creation of a £5 million task force to tackle metal theft. It is just a sticking plaster.

While I welcome the fact that metal theft is at least on the Government’s radar, they still shows an apparent unwillingness to legislate and seriously tackle this problem.

Stretching the British Transport Police isn’t going to solve the problem of metal theft, and £5million though nothing to sniff at, isn’t going to scratch the surface of this plague.

It's hurting but it's not working - Osborne set to borrow £158 billion more

Yesteday was judgement day for David Cameron and George Osborne.

After a year and a half in government, we now know that their reckless gamble with our economy had catastrophically backfired.

With prices rising and unemployment soaring families, pensioners and businesses already know it’s hurting.

And with billions more borrowing than planned to pay for rising unemployment, today we find out the truth - it’s just not working.

Click here to share Labour’s alternative

The Government’s independent budget watchdog said today that the Government will break its promise to balance the books by the time of the general election.

George Osborne is now set to borrow £158 billion more than planned a year ago – the bill for the economic failure, higher unemployment and bigger benefits bill his failed plan has created. And it means £37 billion more borrowing in future years than the OBR’s verdict on the more balanced plan Labour set out before the election and this Government ripped up.

As we warned, trying to cut spending and raise taxes further and faster has been utterly self-defeating.

It didn’t have to be this way. Yesterday was an opportunity for the Government to change course and adopt Labour’s five point plan for jobs.

But instead David Cameron and George Osborne are clinging on to a failing plan – and they’re so out of touch they have decided to hit families hard by cutting tax credits, while refusing to repeat the bank bonus tax as Labour has called for.

Today, we need to show people there is an alternative. Click here to share Labour’s five point plan for jobs

George Osborne should listen not just to Labour but also to the IMF and change course now. Labour’s five point plan for jobs would not fix things overnight – but it is a better way to help hard-pressed families, create jobs and support small businesses. And by getting our economy moving again, it will also help to get the deficit down – and do so in a fair way. Because it cannot be right to borrow tens of billions of pounds to keep people on the dole, when we could be investing to get people back to work.

Protecting our economy, businesses, jobs and family finances is more important than trying to protect a failed plan.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Congratulations to Labour Councillors in Hyndburn

Tomorrow DCLG will announce that Hyndburn's Labour Council has been successful in bidding for the full £2.35million it bid for from the Government's exit HMR fund (Transitional Relief Fund).

I know it's been a very demanding for Councillor Clare Pritchard the Cabinet member and the Leader, Miles Parkinson. I have led a Parliamentary campaign here in Westminster with the Housing Minister and his officials to add weight to the enormity of the housing issue in Hyndburn and the parlous state the Council's accounts were left in.

6 HMR areas were asked to bid for a total of £30million with bids totalling a far higher figure of £44million. For Hyndburn to receive it's full amount which I believe is higher than comparable Councils across East Lancashire is testament to the hard work the new Labour Council have put in.

Picking up from the chaos left by the last Conservative administration has been an enormous challenge. £2.6million promised to Woodnook that did not exist. £2.4m of unfunded legal commitments in West Accrington that would have seen the Council in effect made bankrupt and £2m promised to the townships.

The £2m townships fund and other small funds have been corralled together to meet the governments demand for match funding of any Transitional Relief to total £2.35million.

That with the Governments £2.35m should pay off the legal commitments in West Accrington, pay of any shortfall in the purchase of properties around Augusta Street, and allow the Council to complete a small programme in Woodnook.


Graham Jones MP Welcomes hard-won £2.35m HMR Transitional Relief Money for Hyndburn

Following a year of campaigning, Graham Jones MP has welcomed the news that Hyndburn Borough Council is to receive the full amount of funding from the Government HMR exit fund – officially known as the Transitional Relief Fund.
“This has come as the result of 12 months hard work. I have led a Parliamentary campaign here in Westminster to add weight to the campaigning which has been led by Labour Councillors in Hyndburn. The fact we are to receive the full £2.35 million we bid for shows that we have gone some way to making the Housing Minister and his officials properly recognise the size of the housing problem in Hyndburn.”
6 Housing Market Renewal (HMR) areas were in competition for a total of £30 million in Transitional Relief Funding, with total combined bidding in the end reaching £44 million. Hyndburn Council successfully received the full £2.35 million which it asked for. Graham said:
“For Hyndburn to receive its full amount – which I believe is higher than comparable councils across East Lancashire – is testament to the hard work that the newly elected Labour Council have put in. I know it has been very demanding for Councillor Clare Pritchard and Council Leader Miles Parkinson, but we are all very pleased with the outcome.”

The funding is particularly important given the state that the Council’s finances were left in by the previous Tory administration. Graham said:
“Picking up from the chaos left by the last Conservative administration has been an enormous challenge. They promised £2.6 million for Woodnook that didn’t exist; they left us with £2.4 million of unfunded legal commitments in West Accrington and £2 million of unbudgeted spending on the townships fund.”
Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey MP said of Graham’s efforts:
‘Ministers abandoned Hyndburn, dashing the hopes of local people for better homes and jobs. Today, following a year-long campaign led by Graham Jones, the Government has retreated, restoring to your local community that which was committed by a Labour Government.

Sadly, not all the communities in England that lost out have won justice in the same way. But Hyndburn has, thanks to Graham’s tireless efforts. I have seldom seen an MP fight so hard and long to put right a wrong. He is a credit to the people of Hyndburn’.

The recent 'Water Works campaign' raises an issue of vital importance.

Globally, an estimated 2.5 billion people still live without effective sanitation and the Department for International Development estimate that this causes over 2 million avoidable deaths each year.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

NSPCC 'All Babies Count' Campaign

NSPCC have launched ‘All Babies Count’, a new campaign aimed at ending cruelty towards vulnerable babies. In the UK today, 198,000 babies under 1 year old have parents who are affected by domestic violence, substance misuse or mental health problems, and more shockingly, 23 children under 1 are killed each year.

There are many complex reasons why babies are abused, and no simplistic explanation as to why this happens are available. However, three parental factors increase the risk to babies: mental illness, domestic violence and substance misuse. The government has stated that it understands the importance of early intervention, and this campaign aims to make it a reality.

The campaign calls on the Government to ensure that resources are available to support vulnerable babies, by securing a 1% year on year increase in the early intervention grant, this is an affordable yet meaningful allocation of resources being spent on something which could mean the difference between life and death.

The campaign also calls for the Government to make Local Health and Wellbeing Boards responsible for providing support for vulnerable babies and potentially risky parents. This would provide a coordinated response to the needs of these babies and the parents who could put them at risk without intervention.

Finally, the NSPCC is calling on government to undertake biannual Early Intervention Reviews, so that it could better understand how its policies are effecting the provision of these services.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Get Connected, charity aimed at helping young people who feel that they have nowhere else to turn

As an MP I receive a lot of correspondence from young people in Haslingden and Hyndburn concerned about the future and about the way things are going in their lives.

It is currently one of the toughest times it has been to be young in recent memory. On top of the problems young people face, youth unemployment this week rose to 1.02million.

That is why I want to promote Get Connected, a charity aimed at helping young people who feel that they have nowhere else to turn. They help young people through difficult times and provide support and advice when things look bleak.

They run a free and confidential phone line as well as a web chat and text service for anyone aged up to 25 years old. You can talk to them about any issue.

Their phone line is open from 1pm to 11pm every day on 0808808 4994, you can text them on 80849 or you can visit their website at

I am supporting the consumer Focus and Citizens Advice heating bills campaign

I am supporting a new awareness campaign led by Consumer Focus and Citizens Advice, aimed at letting people know where they stand legally, should they have problems covering the soaring cost of energy.

With winter just around the corner, lots of constituents have contacted me expressing their concerns about energy prices and it is incredibly important that people know their rights should they be unable to pay their bills. It is clearly worrying that the number of people with debts on energy bills is set to rise and these people need to get the right help.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft

On Tuesday I will be introducing a bill to the House which will go some way to cracking down on the crime of metal theft.

Metal theft is endemic in this country. There have been 6 fatalities and over 50 serious injuries this year alone, plus the disgusting story recently regarding the theft of a war memorial. The reason that this war memorial was stolen, sold and scrapped, is because the regulatory framework surrounding metal recycling is so weak, that in combination with the soaring international price of metal – it effectively creates incentives to steal.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

28 Days to send your Boundary Commission submission to save parliamentary seat of Hyndburn

Hyndburn has had an MP since 1875. The Government's proposals to change the boundaries in favour of the Tory Party are almost coming to the end of the consulation period. There are just 28 days left.

There are two arguments that are being made. Save Hyndburn as a seat. The Labour Party are the only party to keep Hyndburn together, including Padiham to make up the required numbers.

We have made the case that the regional map can be redrawn protecting many historic boundaries including Hyndburn.  We will carry campaigning for this with the rest of the North West who have been adversely affected as the preferred option.

However we also have to mindful the Boundary Commssion may reject that and that leaves a problem in Accrington where the Boundary Commissions proposal is perverse. It puts West Accrington in East Accrington and vice versa. For those affcted there is a sense that we have to make both cases.

The Boundary Commission are likely to be minded to reject alternate politically motivated boundaries (Labour/Tory/LibDem) which offer no flexibility to the Commission.

West Accrington is made up of Church, Central and Spring Hill which should be kept together and East Accrington of Baxenden, Barnfield, Peel and Milnshaw which also should be kept together - as natural communities.

The Commission have swapped Baxenden and Central and this makes no sense at all. Baxenden spans two wards, Barnfield and Baxenden and the village will be in two constituencies. Central has long had community links that span Church and Spring Hill both at local County and neighbourhood level.

Please take the time to fill in the online form and campaign for a unified seat of Hyndburn and secondly point out the error of the Boundary Commission in getting Baxenden and Central the wrong way around.

The text to submit could be something like this...

The Boundary Commission’s proposals only divide Hyndburn, but divide Accrington in a way that divides streets and neighbourhoods that share common identities and importantly structures. Parts of East Accrington (Baxenden Ward) are included with West Accrington and parts of West Accrington (Central Ward) are included with East Accrington creating a sense of confusion and that slices through every social, community and local government tie that exists as well as geographically leaving two islands disposed into other communities.

It is important to stress these two wards are of the same size. Switching these two wards, Baxenden and Central makes every sense.

West Accrington is clearly defined as Church, Springhill and Central
  1. It has a neighbourhood management and local government area committee structures which span this area.
  2. There is also a West Accrington Residents Association that covers part of the Central and Church wards.
  3. Its demographic represents the BME demographic with a sense of place and with community structures.
  4. Spring Hill ward wraps all around Central Ward.
  5. The Lancashire County Council electoral division (known as Accrington West) covers Spring Hill, Church and Central.
  6. The urban geography and road network links these three wards together.
  7. Major government programmes such as HMR and new LIFT health centre (ACORN centre) are built around exclusively the West Accrington area and constituents (similarly East Accrington)
East Accrington is clearly defined as Peel, Barnfield and Baxenden (and Milnshaw)
  1. Baxenden village is divided between two wards, Barnfield and Baxenden. The proposals split the village in to two differing parliamentary areas
  2. Baxenden has nothing in common with Church Central or Springhill
  3. The Lancashire County Council electoral division is Baxenden, Barnfield and Peel (known as Accrington South but covers most of East Accrington).
  4. There is no road that connects Baxenden to Spring Hill or any other part of the Darwen constituency which lies wholly within the Borough of Hyndburn, however under the Boundary Commission’s current proposals both wards are in the Darwen and Haslingden seat.
  5. In the village of Baxenden its community structures, both voluntary and at local government level, are connected to East Accrington such as Hambledon Moor to the east of the village and the old clough nature walk to the west, both which encompass the village and exist exclusively in East Accrington.
  6. Major government programmes such as HMR and new LIFT health centre (PALS centre) are built around exclusively the East Accrington area and constituents (similarly West Accrington).
  7. There is no doubt that Hyndburn is at risk of being divided but I would urge the Commission to accept that if such a division takes place it does so with great consideration to the natural social and economic boundaries that exist in Accrington.
  8. I would therefore urge the commission to include Baxenden in the Burnley South and Accrington seat where it naturally belongs and Central Ward in the Darwen and Haslingden seat.

Norgrove report on child welfare is regretful

The Norgrove erport last week led to some debate about childresn welfare. The argument by Norgrovwe in denying esentially fathers rights is to keep the courts free from a tsunami of legal challenges from embittered and embattled parents who put to one side their childrens welfare whilst they rough each other up.

Some fathers hopes of securing equal rights over their children have been potentially dashed with Nogroves review of family law. The Norgrove Family Justice Review has also reject calls to enshrine in law that children should have a 'meaningful relationship' with both their father and their mother. Not exactly in tune with the PM and IDS's belief in stable relationships.

The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy

Last week I spoke up about poor quality developments being the only viable option in low demand or run down areas.

That these poor developments are because of a Brownfield first policy. Where those with priviliged access to green belt want to stop any development on virguin turf. Where a subsequent shortage of housing land forces up Brownfield land values and release of old mills for housing in areas where often private landlords and boarded up properties proliferate.

My point was clear. The Government must consider health and related issues in planning policy. Open space, recreation and self sustaining, thriving communities. No-one will build such a society with these brownfield sites in low demand areas such as Peel.

Following my speech I receieved a very kind personal hand written note from Labour's new Shadow DCLG Secretary of State, Hilary Benn. This was followed by a supportive amendement tavled by the Labour front bench which the Tories defeated last night calling for sustainability using various criteria whould be the basis for any planning applications.

Support my Private Members Bill next Tuesday

I have campaigned recently on Metal Theft. In early summer I met with the Energy Networks Association to gauge the scale of the problem. In September I had a debate in the Commons on the issue. House of Commons Hansard Debates for 06 Sep 2011 (pt 0005) (Scroll to near bottom).

You can support my Private Members Bill to prevent Metal Theft on the 15th November by signing the epetition.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth

Yesterday's growth figures confirm that the British economy has been flatlining for the last year – well before the eurozone crisis of recent months.

Just 0.5% growth in the twelve months since the Tory-led government’s spending review compares to 2.6% growth in the previous twelve months when we were starting to recover from the global financial crash.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Direct Accrington to Manchester rail link to be reinstated.

I  welcome the £8.8m Regional Growth Fund spend on the direct rail link to Manchester which will see the the Todmorden Curve reinstated.

The reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve is something I have campaigned on years, and it is great news for the residents of Hyndburn. This improved connection with Manchester and the South will make Hyndburn a viable part of Manchester’s commuter belt, and allow the area to take full advantage of the economic opportunities this brings.

Average weekly wages in Hyndburn are around £390, whereas they are average £500 in Manchester.

The Curve will be a huge improvement on the bus service, making journeys to Manchester shorter and more reliable, reversing the terrible legacy of the Tory Beeching cuts, which cut Hyndburn’s rail link and doubled commuter times. This decision should go some way to restoring the infrastructural link which existed before 1962.

The Beeching Cuts were the cuts to British Rail made in the 1960s, which resulted in the closure of thousands of miles of train track, and left communities up and down the country unconnected to major economic hubs by rail. Hyndburn’s connection to Manchester was cut in 1962.

The reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve has the potential to bring in regeneration money, as Accrington becomes only 40 minutes away from Manchester. But there is potential for much more. If the council get the town centre strategy right, in particular regarding the heritage funding bid, then there is a fantastic opportunity for Accrington to become an attractive destination.

Provisional timetabling allows for an hourly service between 7am and 11pm. In my conversations, Northern Trains have expressed a good deal of interest in running the service. Pricing, the number of stops and the quality of rolling stock are all issues that need to be considered to ensure this is a resopunding success.