Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Hyndburn Superloo - well done to the Daily Star for reporting the story accurately

SPENDING a penny costs £18 a time in a town’s “superloo”.

(Tory) Councillors signed a £28,245-a-year deal to rent it until 2023, thinking they would get their money back by charging people 20p a visit.

But town hall twits positioned it less than 4ft from a free public toilet.

In a whole year only 1,520 people used the facilities – earning the council just £304.

Just to break even, the toilet would have to be used 386 times a day – roughly once every four minutes right round the clock.

And to make matters worse, the loo’s water supply was accidentally turned off – but nobody noticed for weeks.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Hacked Off: Briefing on the Press Charter

From: john@hackinginquiry.org [mailto:john@hackinginquiry.org]
Sent: 26 April 2013 14:48
To: JONES, Graham
Subject: Hacked Off: Briefing on the Press Charter

Download Document(s): PressRoyalCharter.FINAL.pdf 
Dear Mr Jones, Please find attached a briefing setting out the key failings of the press charter published yesterday and supported by some sections of the press.

The press charter has many weaknesses which the briefing explains in more detail however key issues include:
The press charter fails to implement Lord Justice Leveson's proposals for the processes required to establish both an independent Recognition Panel and an independent press self-regulator

The press continue to act in their own interests and have ignored numerous independent polls conducted over the last year which demonstrate 75% of the public support an independent press regulator

The press has ignored the democratic will of both Houses of Parliament which has been expressed supporting a Leveson-compliant Royal Charter. The Leveson Charter was delivered through cross-party consensus and implements Lord Justice Leveson's recommendations
I hope you find this briefing helpful. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes,
John Dickinson-Lilley
Head of Government and Parliamentary Relations
Hacked Off

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Remembering Workers Memorial Day & 68 lives lost at Moorfield Colliery in 1883

Workers Memorial Day at the pit head of Moorfield Colliery where 68 men and boys lost their lives in a terrible pit disaster.

ON THE morning of 7 November 1883 a terrible explosion ripped through the underground workings at the Moorfield Colliery, Altham.

The explosion resulted in the death of 68 men and boys, with numerous more receiving serious injuries. Over the following years many of them died prematurely as a direct result of their injuries.

Moorfield Colliery, locally known as Dickie Brig Pit, Altham, near Accrington. Sixty-eight men and lads lost their lives, fifty three were injured, and ninety-five children were left fatherless. It remains as the biggest and worst disaster ever to have hit North-East Lancashire.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Improving rolling stock in East Lancashire

I intend to raise the issues in this letter in the coming days with LCC and Northern witrh regard to the East Lancashire line, the franchise renogotiation and the new upcoming Accringtion to Manchester direct communter line.

Stroke Association Action on Stroke Month, May 2013 - Pledge your support today

Dear Mr Jones, May 2013 will be the second Action on Stroke Month, and we invite you to pledge your support here: http://www.stroke.org.uk/strokemonth/pledge

Every year an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke. That's one person every five minutes. Around a third of strokes will prove fatal and around half of all stroke survivors are left with a long-term disability including physical, communication, emotional and psychological issues.

Progress has been made in stroke research, prevention and care but there is still so much more that can be done to help prevent strokes and improve the quality of life for stroke survivors and their families after stroke. Action on Stroke Month is about raising awareness of stroke and the impact on stroke survivors, their carers and families. It’s also about standing together for life after stroke, and ensuring that every stroke survivor gets the support they need to make their best possible recovery from stroke.

Across the country, many community events and activities are being planned for Action on Stroke Month, to reach out to stroke survivors and demonstrate the services and support that is available to them. Your pledge will help raise awareness of stroke and let supporters in your own constituency and across the UK know that you are fully behind the great work that is being done for stroke survivors, their families and carers.

Acre in Rossendale - a village seeking recognition

I have been sent correspondence regarding the post codes for the village of Acre in Rossendale. A concern about the loss of the identity of the village. I thought such a historical correspondence was worth publishing.

Thanks for your letter of support - I have now sent them off to Royal Mail's Major Address change department and shall keep you updated as to the outcome of the consultation.

Non UK nationals claiming benefits

Last week I received a response to a Parliamentary Question from the Department of Work and Pensions regarding the numbers of non-UK Nationals who claim various benefits, and the answer should concern everyone, regardless of what you think about the rights of foreign nationals to claim benefits here.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

David Cameron is dividing Britain with his millionaire’s tax cut

Families are now losing £891 a year while David Cameron gives an average tax cut of £100,000 to millionaires.

This is the wrong choice, it is unfair and is totally out of touch with people on modest incomes who are struggling with the rising cost of living.

Cameron had a chance to make amends this week, when Labour proposed measures to make taxes fairer and to ease the squeeze on living

But instead, the Tories voted against:
  • cancelling the millionaire’s tax cut and the raid on family tax credits
  • a temporary VAT cut bringing back the 10p tax rate, paid
  • for by a tax on properties worth over £2million
  • cracking down on tax avoidance by companies who earn from us but don’t pay their way
This sends a clear signal to the whole country about whose side David Cameron is on and who he expects to pay for his Government’s failure to get the economy back on track.

A One Nation Labour Government would make different choices from the Tory-led Government, with different priorities about who we stand up for, and different ideas about who to stand up to.

One Nation Labour’s policies are about ensuring everyone plays their part in rebuilding Britain.

The Tory-led Government has taken Britain backwards.

It’s only with everyone pulling together that we’re going turn things around.

ASBO's; Tories are soft on crime, and soft on the causes of crime

Figures released today have revealed that Hyndburn has the 13th highest rate of anti social behaviour in the country. A shameful statistic given the sterling work done by the Police in teh face of collasall budget cuts and huge reductions in numbers of police officers.

A detailed breakdown obtained by Freedom of Information Requests from Shadow Home Office Minister Gloria De Piero and research by statisticians from the House of Commons Library has revealed new figures, which show in Hyndburn local authority there were 6,170 anti-social behaviour incidents recorded by the police in 2012 – that is a rate of 76.4 for every 100 residents.

This once again highlights the reason that the Government is completely wrong to scrap the ASBO. The Police don’t want it scrapped, and the public don’t it scrapped. Too often the media focused on the 50% who breached their ASBO not going to prison but with the ending of the ASBO the 50% who previously did go to prison will now not do so. We've gone form a 50/50 chance of going to prison to no chance.

The figures also paint a revealing picture of the scale of the anti-social behaviour problem at a police force wide area, with Lancashire police force recording 91,053 incidents of anti-social behaviour in 2012 – the fourth highest in the country, and an average 62.3 for every 1000 residents.

I believe the ASBO worked, and so do the police. But this Government does not listen to the police, the victims or anyone who has experience of tackling crime.

Critics who thought the ASBO was soft on crime have got the worst of all outcomes, they have had it replaced by something which is weak, and which carries no criminal sanction for a breach. The Government’s new so-called ‘community trigger’ only requires a police response when someone has complained 3 times. This is not good enough – people have the right to have their complaints about anti-social behaviour dealt with right away.

This Government is effectively abolishing anti-social behaviour enforcement. The Tories are soft on crime, and soft on the causes of crime.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Free housing advice for residents

Dear Mr Jones,

Every 15 minutes, a family in England faces losing their home. That is why today we are asking all our contacts and supporters to share a simple message to let as many people as possible know we're here with free, online advice - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As an MP we feel you are well placed to pass the message on to your community and we hope you can help.

Please tweet our message to your constituents:

I'm passing it on for @Shelter, to let everyone know about their free, online advice at http://shltr.org.uk/1i #ShelterHelp

And share our online advice pages on you website and Facebook page.

Hundreds of thousands of families are affected by the rise in living costs and recent welfare changes; help us urge anyone who is worried to seek early expert advice.

Many thanks,

Ellie Robinson
Public Affairs Officer

Shelter, 88 Old St, London, EC1V 9HU | 0344 515 2052 | 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Woodnook - update

Things are progressing in Woodnook. Labour's regeneration scheme following a decade of broken Tory promises is now at the structural engineer's stage. An assessment is being made of the integrity of each property and where structurel works are required. The fire damaged properties on Booth Street for example. PlaceFirst, a national pension company are working with the Labour Council to bring 80 fully modernised, enlarged properties (2 into 1's) back in to use for affordable private rent, guaranteeing their maintenance for the next forty years. This innovative scheme has attracted national attention and featured heavily in the trade press and is a feature of the BBC's One Show.

I am proud of the role I and Clare Pritchard played in developing this particulalr scheme and it demonstrates that Labour has kept promises to residents (unlike the Tories) and is on the side of ordinary hard working people.

My letter to the Trustee's of Agapao International

To Claire Dilworth, Trustee of Agapao, daughter of Louise Chicot.

I write without wishing to add to the issue but with a deep concern over the activities of Agapao. I have received your Facebook comments and I am sure you share a deep concern for the charity and Louise.

As you will appreciate there is grave concern that the Mary Hindle Centre will not be returned to public use/access. Community Link have shown some indication that they may want to take it on.

My own view is that it is unacceptable if it is sold and the trustees can enhance the charities credibility by beginning the process of handing over to another Haslingden community group.

No-one wants to question the charity but a failure to begin the hand back process of the building and a lack of accountability in Uganda have drawn quizzical interest from those wishing to ensure that motives and outcomes are conducive with the charity's stated aims.

My personal advice is that the transfer of the building will answer most of the questions and relieve much of the stress which has been built up at the charity and in the community. I would be more than willing to help with the transfer.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The return of the heartless Tory Milk Snatchers

Lancashire's Thatcherite Tories snatch milk away from Lancashire's under 7's.

Back in the 70's it was 'Margaret Thatcher the Milk Snatcher' when she removed free school milk from older primary school children. Now her Tory Party colleagues running Lancashire County Council have followed in her footsteps and axed milk for the under 7s'.

The School and Nursery Milk Alliance have stepped into the debate and backed my campaign opposing the cuts to school milk.
Milk off the menu for Lancashire schoolchildren- Lancashire Evening Post
"Lancashire is one of the few remaining authorities still offering school milk - free for under fives and those on free dinners- but it is not a legal requirement. Parents of five to seven year olds currently pay £6 a term to help cover the cost.

Government changes to school funding mean schools now have to source their own supplies and claim back subsidies. For some, the paperwork is a step too far. They say they don’t have the resources to deal with the administration and have told parents there won’t be any more milk.

One disappointed mum said: “I understand that the government has made significant council budget reductions but I find it disgusting that children are suffering. Some poor children will have no breakfast and depend upon that milk.”. "
Lancashire's Tories are letting Lancashire's children down. Milk is an important nutritional part of a child's diet. The SNMA state in their letter that "The health benefits of milk are well recognised, contributing to teeth and bone health and contributing to the fight against obesity, particularly child obesity". Quite frankly its a disgrace that the government cuts are being directed at 5 to 7 year old's and it flies in the face of every promise David Cameron and George Osborne have made about not cutting the deficit off the backs of the poor.

The SNMA in their supporting letter express concern about Government changes to school funding that have contributed to LCC's decision.

However in a Parliamentary answer the Government minister tried to blame it on the EU;

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Education; (1) how much funding for milk in schools in Lancashire (a) his Department and its predecessor and (b) Lancashire county council provided in each of the last five years;
(2) how much funding for milk in schools in Lancashire (a) his Department and (b) Lancashire county council plans to provide in 2013-14. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 26 March 2013, c1105W)

David Heath (Minister) (Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat)
In respect of the EU School Milk Scheme and the National Top-Up for English primary schools it is not possible to provide reliable data at the level of individual counties. It is for Lancashire county council to provide if possible any details of the claims and payments they may have received or made.

It is not possible to say how much funding may be provided as the level of funding under these schemes is driven by consumption at participating schools.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Nuisance Calls - Gov't has no plans to further protect bombarded consumers

Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether she has given consideration to consolidating the responsibility for dealing with nuisance calls entirely in either Ofcom or the Information Commissioner's Office. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 17 April 2013, c425W)

Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)

As the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, I have considered the possibility of allocating responsibility for nuisance calls, texts and e-mails, to either Ofcom or to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). However, this is unlikely to make much difference unless enforcement of the existing regulations is carried out effectively.

FOI on LCC Horsemeat scandal - 2nd source of adulterated meat

Thursday, 18 April 2013

An early bid for the Aerospace Technology Institute

I have today written the Department for Business Innovation and Skills making an early bid for the Aerospace Technology Institute which was announced in the budget earlier this year, to be located in or around the constituency.

The North West, and Lancashire in particular has a great industrial base in defence and aerospace manufacturing on which to build, and I believe it would be an endorsement of the region and if the government are serious about rebalancing the economy, then the heart of east Lancashire would be a priority site.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Hyndburn Homewise hit by huge cuts from Lancashire's Tory County Council

Lancashire County Council recently gave the contract for undertaking minor home adaptations in Hyndburn to the Keir Group, having removed it from Homewise and St Vincent’s.

‘Minor adaptations’ refers to the Council services for people who own a home or rent privately, to make small adaptations to disabled peoples’ homes, such as through installing hand rails, alterations to steps, or widening of doors and paths.

The contract has been taken from two local not-for-profit organisations which have a track record of delivery, and putting people first, and given to the Keir Group, which is a large for-profit organisation. This signals a disappointing shift away from community involvement in service delivery.

FOBT's - The case against them

I am aware that the Association of British Bookmakers is currently driving a campaign called “Back Your Local Bookie”, arguing that betting shops are “under attack”, and asserting that thousands of shops and therefore jobs are at risk. Calls to support this campaign are being targeted at industry employees and betting shop customers.

However, the current media and political interest is in FOBTs, which operate in betting shops. There has been nothing to indicate that this interest is derived from a specific attack on the betting industry. It is centred on concerns about FOBTs, in particular the relationship between problem gambling and high stakes gaming.

Public and political concern about FOBTs have resulted in comprehensive research being commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust, and FOBTs have been incorporated in the current Triennial Review of stakes and prizes by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.

A recent report published by NatCen based on the 2007 & 2010 British Gambling Prevalence surveys showed that there has been an increase in the number of 16-34 year olds gambling on FOBTs in betting shops (9% to 14%). Gamcare report that 28% of all calls they receive are related to FOBTs.

A secondary analysis based on the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Survey found FOBTs to be the only gambling type that remained significantly and positively associated with problem gambling. Therefore, we should welcome a sensible debate on the issue of FOBTs. Hugh Robertson, the Minister responsible for gambling at the Department for Culture Media and Sport has already said, “Common sense suggests there is a problem with these machines.”

There are no calls for FOBTs to be removed from betting shops. Only a sensible argument for the B2 casino content, where it is possible to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds, to be brought in line with all other Category B machines and capped at £2 per spin. This may impact on some B2 content, but B3 game content would still operate with a prize payout of £500. When B2 content was first introduced to betting shops, revenue transferred from over the counter business and fruit machines. If restrictions are imposed on B2 content, revenue will reverse to traditional betting products and also B3 content whilst, crucially, ensuring vulnerable people such as problem gamblers are protected.

The Gambling Act 2005 states one of its objectives is to protect young and vulnerable people. The implications of stakes up to £100 mean FOBTs are in violation of that objective and therefore the law, so it is my duty as a legislator to argue in favour of restrictions, which is what I will continue to do.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lancashire County Council - Horsemeat scandal - What is being done to protect LCC taxpayers and consumers?

I have today written to Lancashire County Council about the horsemeat which has been supplied for County Council services.

My office submitted a Freedom of Information Request asking about whether Oak Farm Foods (the company which supplied adulterated beef products containing horse DNA) had any contracts with other LCC services. The FOI request revealed that Oak Farm Foods does supply a number of care homes, however the processed beef products have been withdrawn.

Lancashire County Council has been caught up in the horse meat scandal. Horsemeat has also been found in cottage pies supplied to 47 schools in Lancashire. These have been withdrawn.

It is important that Lancashire council tax payers and residents have faith that appropriate action is being taken to ensure this issue does not reoccur and that the Council is compensated for the adulterated meat, breach of contract and any non disclosure. The meat company having known about horsemeat adulteration prior to notifying the County Council.

Tory run LCC have previously refused to name the schools involved or the supplier but were exposed by the Daily Mail.
"It is understood the supplier involved, Oak Farm Foods in Ireland, has been supplying the ready meals for at least the past six months. There are also suggestions that the pies and other products made by Oak Farm have been supplied to schools and other outlets across the UK and Ireland."
It appears it may have come via Catering giant Compass Group and Whitbread, one of Britain's largest hotel chains, have found horse DNA in products sold as beef, it has emerged. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21476140

Things took a twist yesterday.The Irish government have released their report into the horsemeat scandal with some useful details around the Lancashire schools issue.

Oak Farm Foods is the UK division of Dawn Fresh Foods, the Fethard, Co Tipperary-based convenience food company. The report says that QK Meats – who supplied the mince to Dawn Fresh Foods to make the cottage pies – first tested positive for horse in June 2012 but did not tell anyone. They also continued to use the same Polish suppliers.

This is the link to the report: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/publications/2013/EquineDNAreport140313.pdf 
Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has slated the "inexcusable" delay by QK Meats in Naas in notifying his department of its discovery of horse DNA in imported meat until weeks after the Europe-wide crisis broke.

Speaking in the Dail on the release of an official report into the horse-meat scandal, Mr Coveney criticised QK Meats, which is part of the Queally family's food empire, for "knowingly withholding information about problems in the supply chain".
Yet Lancashire County Council have nothing to say about the matter. From a dithering Tory-led government to a dithering Tory local government.
Labour's shadow minister Mary Creagh

QK meats, Ireland had positive test for horse on 27th June 2012 yet continued to buy Polish beef for 400 EUR a tonne cheaper than Irish beef. They (who supplied horse to birds eye and Lancashire Schools) failed to test other products and inform Irish govt of positive DNA tests for horse. Inexcusable. They supplied horse meat in cottage pies supplied to 47 UK schools recalled 8th March. Hope Lancashire children get justice from all this.
There must now be a clear case for Lancashire County Council to consider legal action against QK Meats and Dawn Fresh yet it I fear it be a long wait before aqny action is taken by County Hall.

LCC taxpayers’ money has been used to buy a contaminated and fraudulent product. The Council may not have a legal responsibility to check and guarantee the quality of the meat, but it is imperative they act decisively and transparently on behalf on Lancashire residents when processes have been shown to fail.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Raising the Participation Age - Lancashire's Tories letting parents & young people down?

This year is the first year that the Government’s changes to the age at which young people must be in education or training. This new policy, called Raising the Participation Age (RPA) will affect everyone in year 11 and below, and will mean that after the age of 16 young people must either remain in full time education, such as in a school, college or home-based learning; or they must begin an apprenticeship; or they must enter part time education or training if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering (which is defined at 20+ hours a week).

I would expect that most children and parents have received careers guidance about their September options. That secondary schools were aware of what options are available and where every child will be going to. Getting the right sort of education is vital.

Having spoken to heads and senior college staff I became concerned about the delivery of this policy at local level, and have been attempting to get information from the County Council for several months now. In itself the most worrying aspect as they seem unable to provide straight answers. I have written to them four times asking the same unanswered questions.

I first contacted LCC in December last year asking for the numbers of students that would be entering each of the post-16 streams (education, work-based learning, apprenticeships etc.). I received an incompetent reply Lancashire County Council providing me with information about last year’s school leavers across Lancashire rather than Hyndburn. Last year’s numbers are wholly irrelevant as this year, further education is mandatory and LCC must have a revised plan for increased numbers of children and the required increase in the quantity of suitable places.

I then wrote to Lancashire County Council more plainly asking how many places there are on offer so that each pupil in Hyndburn had a place in education or training at 17. I subsequently received an answer of how many children were leaving each school with no reference to whether this was last year or this year.

The reply failed to answer this basic question; what options have pupils been given for September and what plans are in place to ensure they are offered a suitable place of their choice.

I spoke to some of the schools and they did not recognise the numbers at all that were quoted. I spoke with senior staff at the college and they were concerned that no contact had been made with them - the primary providers of 16-18 education.

This is a big issue. There are clearly going to be more young people expecting places than in previous years as it is mandatory for children to stay on in further education.

I then wrote again, asking for clarity about exactly what the numbers were, and I received a response from the council which provided a table of school leavers in July 2012 and where they went onto. Those leaving in 2012 were not subject to the RPA in which begins for students finishing school in July 2013

This is level of misinformation or obfuscation is unacceptable. It would appear that Lancashire County Council is failing to manage the Raising of the Participation Age.

Parents must be given absolute clarity about where the places are for their kids. Young people will be wanting to make a decision soon and I do not want to see them suffer due to local government incompetence.

Concerns about this policy were first raised to me by teachers and parents who were worried about the relative lack of awareness that this policy was coming into force this academic year. This is a big change, a very important change to a lot of young people.

Delivery of this policy is a legal duty of Lancashire County Council who have now to ensure young people are given the best and most suitable education of their choice.

I am concerned that insufficient planning has been done, that the Government has brought in a policy that is not properly thought through at the delivery end and that the Secretary of State has taken his eye of the ball, and that LCC is not prepared for this change.

I have written a fourth letter and on the 11th April received a holding reply. These are not difficult questions; how many young people are leaving school in July; how many places and where are there available; what careers guidance has been offered parents and pupils?

As a consequence of the failure to address concerned questions by April 2013 I want to know what careers guidance has been given so far and what guarantee's are there that every young person will be able to stay on, on a course of their choice? We do not want young people pushed on to courses they do not want to do. These are real concerns.

Any failures by Lancashire County Council will result in young people and parents suffering. If the council cannot even tell me how many places there are, and where they expect young people to go then it is shambolic. If there isn't a thorough plan - and I want to see one - then the result will be serious disappointment in September for some parents and young people when the change will come into effect.

Nuisance Calls Advice Line receives over 50,000 calls every month

Nuisance calls have become a common annoyance in modern life. Every constituent I raise this issue with has had experienced of repetitive cold calling to their landline, to their mobile phone, the most recent epidemic of harrassment companies trying to recover PPI money or urge people to make compensation claims for personal injury.

News reports state that the BT’s Nuisance Calls Advice Line receives over 50,000 calls every month. It is unacceptable. People should not have suffer a plague of unwanted calls and texts.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is operated on behalf of the Communications Regulator Ofcom. Companies are banned from making nuisance calls to people who have signed up their number to the TPS, and it has had some success in reducing nuisance calls – however this appears to have been undone in recent years because of the ability of these companies to get around the rules. The problem is that the TPS can only deal with cold calls from the UK.  Many now come from abroad. Moreover recorded messages and live calls are treated differently.

The question remains: how can these calls and any future technological telephany be prevented? These nuisance companies can be fined over £250,000 if they are proven to have broken the law. However this is either not happening often enough, or it is not a sufficient a deterrent to stop direct marketing companies from persisting. In some cases the law is not being broken, in which case it needs to be changed.

Many people have cited the fact that the responsibility for this area of regulation is split between the ICO and Ofcom and the divison is leading to nuisance calling is increasing, not decreasing.

I would like to see something directly done to tackle this, and I will be writing to the Government about this.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Hacked Off and the new system of press self-regulation

From: john@hackinginquiry.org [mailto:john@hackinginquiry.org]
Sent: 12 April 2013 14:19
To: JONES, Graham
Subject: Hacked Off and the new system of press self-regulation

Download Document(s): Hacked Off six allegations rebutted.doc

Dear Mr Jones

We are writing to you to correct the record about the Hacked Off campaign and the potential impact of the new system of press self-regulation.

In the weeks since the all-party agreement on the new Royal Charter there has been a systematic campaign of misrepresentation in the press, both of how the new system might work in practice and of Hacked Off. Despite our efforts to have numerous distortions and factual inaccuracies corrected in various newspapers, we have rarely been allowed to set the record straight.

This is regrettable and ironic, given the claims by national papers to represent a plurality of opinion. This barrage of misleading propaganda – with almost no counterweight – has obliged us to take the unusual step of writing to every member of both Houses of Parliament to counter some of the more outrageous myths.

We attach, and include below, rebuttals of six allegations that have been repeatedly levelled at the new scheme which Parliament debated and approved, and at us. These are not arguments that have been reflected in media coverage so we would be grateful if you could spare the time to read them. In each case we provide links to further information should you wish to find out more.

After seven public inquiries in 70 years, and innumerable promises from the newspaper industry to put its own house in order, Parliament has, for the first time, been able to take action that meets the expectations of victims of press abuse and the needs of the public. These are moderate measures in line with the recommendations made by Lord Justice Leveson after his year-long inquiry and deliberations.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - Gambling Commision replies

I have just picked up Graham’s posting of 9 April about the 'Back your local bookie' campaign. He mentions that “the Government scrapped the Gambling Prevalence Survey ....... Therefore we have lost the best and most objective means of knowing the scale of the problem.”

I am writing to reassure Graham that we are continuing to monitor both participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Britain. We have “decoupled” the two aspects as follows:
· Participation data is captured through quarterly omnibus surveys which are publish on our website omnibus_survey_data.aspx

· Problem gambling prevalence (comparable with that from the previous Prevalence Surveys) is now being captured through the Health Survey for England and the Scottish Health Survey. The results will be published later this year health_surveys.aspx

Please do contact me if you would like any further information.

Yours sincerely

Julia Mackisack
Board Advisor
Gambling Commission
Victoria Square House
Victoria Square
Birmingham B2 4BP
0121 230 6542

Rights of work are not for sale - Unions Together

for sale: your rights at workDear Graham , Do you remember the 'shares for rights' scheme? It's George Osborne's cunning plan to put our rights at work up for sale.

In exchange for a few shares in the company, businesses will be allowed to force new employees to give up some of their key rights at work (including quite important ones, like not getting sacked, or being entitled to redundancy pay).

After steamrolling this back-of-an-envelope plan through the House of Commons, it finally came a cropper in the House of Lords, where Labour Peers successfully won a vote to remove the whole 'Employer Owners' section of the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

New Windfall Fund to be launched on Saturday 13th April

The Windfall Fund will be launched at our new premises on Broadway in Accrington on Saturday 13th April 2013 from 11.00am to 3.00pm.

The Windfall Fund is a community benefit fund that has been established from proceeds from the new 12 turbine wind farm on Oswaldtwistle Moor. It is being provided by EnergieKontor and managed by Prospects Foundation on their behalf.

Community groups throughout Hyndburn will be able to apply to the Fund towards environmental projects within the Borough. Groups will have to be formally constituted and have their own bank account to be able to apply.

Come along to the launch and find out more about our 6 themes of environmental sustainability (Biodiversity, Energy, Sustainable Transport, Waste & Recycling, Local Food and Raising Environmental Awareness) and how your group/organisation might be able to benefit.

Application forms, criteria and guidance notes etc will be available to download from our website (www.prospectsfoundation.org.uk) from 13th April 2013 and the first closing date for applications will be Friday 10th May 2013.

So start planning and come along to the launch to find out more!

For further information contact
Note new telephone number 01254 230348

Alison Silver
Windfall Fund Co-ordinator
Prospects Foundation
54 Broadway

01254 230348

'Back your local bookie' campaign defends FOBT's

The highly controversial Fixed Odds Betting Terminals labelled the 'crack cocaine of gambling' by the Daily Mail have are being defended by the British Association of Bookmakers under the title, 'Back your Local Bookie'. These machines make huge profits for bookmakers.

The point is this; the case being put against FOBT is not a case per se against bookmakers. Most of the critics of FOBT's back their local bookmaker. This is a completely misleading campaign by the ABB. It would have been far more accurate to have called the campaign 'Back FOBT's in Bookmakers (they make huge profits)'.

A fun bet on the horses or football can be quite enjoyable. My predecessor Ken Hargreaves MP was liked a bet and whilst I cannot speak for him, I am sure he too would have had concerns about addictive/problem gambling and the wider impact it has on less wealthy families including children.

The campaign to bring to end these gambling machines as they currently stand is a powerful one. They take £100 per spin, the spin lasting as little as 20 seconds and the games on the machines are notorious for being highly addictive.

These machines were allowed by the last Labour Government in the 2005 Gambling Act.

I have written back to constituents making the following points;

Thank you for contacting me regarding Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) and the related campaign by the Association of British Bookmakers.

I appreciate there is a long history of betting shops in many communities around the country and I know that some high street bookmakers and the Association of British Bookmakers are concerned that any change to the maximum stakes and prizes of FOBTs could affect their livelihood.

As you know, the Government recently launched a consultation on the 2005 Gambling Act and the level of stakes and prizes for FOBTs. I know that this consultation - which closes on 9th April 2013 - will provoke strong opinions on both sides and that the Government has suggested that people should continue to be allowed to stake £100 per turn on FOBTs, with a maximum prize of £500.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Great Harwood Farmers' Market gaining momentum thanks to Gaskells & Labour Councillors

Great Harwood Farmers' Market is really starting to take off and Sunday's event was the best attended so far. The photo above was taken in the early morning showing log cabins provided by Hyndburn Borough Council. There is just a £10 charge per stall whether a trader takes a log cabin or brings their own tables.

It has Labour's policy to focus on markets and thanks to Gaskells efforts and Hyndburn's Labour Councillors, the Sunday market is beginning to be a real success in Great Harwood with more stalls than ever.

The log cabins have really enhanced the market particularly on inclement days and they have certainly done that. There are now 3 with a further 7 on their way. It is hoped that these will be shifted around the borough to other towns in due course. Thanks must go to Labour councillors and Labour leader Miles Parkinson who has made this happen.

The market is something positive which is growing in popularity and will help with future investment with Pennine Reach on the square and the Towngate Clock Heritage Bid. HBC are aiming for Towngate to become a real focal point again and restore it to its full glory.

This is on the back of a campaign to build anew Health Centre which has begun and the development of Great Harwood Town Hall as fully modernised business units which are now all fully let.

The next Farmers' Market is on Sunday 5th May and anyone wishing to set up a stall can contact the Town Centre Manager on 01254 380980.

Government isn't taking international metal theft seriously

A subject I have raised on many occasions and I have recently received this reply from the Treasury. I am concerned that the Treasury are keen to end funding for the national metal theft task force.

The NMTTF has been a huge success seeing; increased cooperation, data sharing and best practice; it has been highly successful in targeting the major criminals who manage to avoid the use of scrap metal yards through the export market.

Why New Homes Bonus is unfair

I have spoken and written endlessly about this. Councils have their budgets slashed and get a payment back dependent on how many houses they build.

My concerns summarised are;
- builders build houses based on market condition, not Councils making the link to Council funding unfair
- wealthy southern councils have a housing shortage, northern mill towns a depopulation issue (net 800 people left Hyndburn latest census)
- no one wants to build houses in Hyndburn
- social housing was stock transferred undermining Hyndburn Council's ability to rebuild
- evidence shows the more new build houses = more empties somewhere else in Hyndburn
- demolishing actually counts as minus 1 for the New Homes Bonus (it's net new additions)
- two-into-ones also count as minus one
- councils have little powers to take over land banked land and have no money to build.
- the new homes bonus payment per net addition paid to Councils can be spent by the council on anything. 
You can see from the table that no new homes were built which means once again Hyndburn residents are paying a higher council tax receiving poorer services to subsidise executive homes being built in the south and elsewhere.

No wonder the north doesn't like the the Tories.

Inspire the House 'Kids Count' nomination pack

Dear Graham, Please find attached the nomination form (email graham.jones.mp@parliament.uk for form) for Kids Count 'Inspire the House' which will be taking place on 24th June on the Terrace Pavilion, reception starting at 7.30pm with awards to follow at 8.15pm.

Do you know an inspirational young person or community group that you feel deserves to be recognised for their contributions to an individual or community? If you think that you know somebody who deserves to be recognised then please complete the Kids Count Inspiration Awards nomination form (attached).

This is a fantastic chance to publicise the inspirational work that some young people are engaged in. I hope you are able to give as much support to this event as possible.

Best, Nigel Evans MP

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Tories reward millionaires instead of helping working families

David Cameron and his Tory-led Government for giving millionaires a tax cut on the same day that millions of working families pay the price of Tory failure.

April 6th is Tory Millionaires Day; the day the top rate tax cut comes into effect and 13,000 millionaires get an average £100,000 tax cut. But while they are rewarded, millions more are struggling to get by, with prices rising, wages falling and tax credits cut.

People in Haslingden and Hyndburn are finding it hard to deal with the rising cost of living but Cameron and Osborne have demonstrated exactly where their priorities lie by choosing to hand out cheques to millionaires instead of helping working families in our area.

We need action now to support families and get the economy moving again. That's why Labour is calling for a 10p tax rate to help working people on low and middle incomes, funded by a mansion tax on properties worth £2 million. And we would use a bank bonus tax to guarantee jobs for 100,000 young people.

George Osborne is borrowing a staggering £245 billion more than he planned as a result of his failing economic policies – he’s the only person who still believes his plan is working.

Have you been affected by government cuts to things like tax credits, child benefit or the bedroom tax?
Take Labour’s cost of living survey at https://www.labour.org.uk/costoflivingsurvey


Friday, 5 April 2013

Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week. Support the petition.


Graham -- There's a new petition taking off on Change.org, and we think you might be interested in signing it:
Iain Duncan Smith: Iain Duncan Smith to live on £53 a week.

Yesterday in response to welfare reforms, Iain Duncan Smith said that he could live on £53 per week. Dom is calling on him to prove his claim.

Sign the Petition

This petition calls for Iain Duncan Smith, the current Work and Pensions Secretary, to prove his claim of being able to live on £7.57 a day, or £53 a week.

On Monday's Today Programme David Bennett, a market trader, said that after his housing benefit had been cut, he lives on £53 per week. The next interviewee was Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who was defending the changes. The interviewer then asked him if he could live on this amount. He replied: "If I had to, I would."

This petition calls on Iain Duncan Smith to live on this budget for at least one year. This would help realise the conservative party`s current mantra that "We are all in this together".

This would mean a 97% reduction in his current income, which is £1,581.02 a week or £225 a day after tax* [Source: The Telegraph]

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Mummy tax

Dear Graham,

Not that long ago, David Cameron promised to lead the most family friendly government ever.  Yet, this weekend he'll be giving a huge tax cut to millionaires with one hand, while cutting support for new mums with the other.

We need your help to spread this message – because not enough people know the price ordinary families are paying for David Cameron's failure    

If you're currently receiving statutory maternity pay (or expect to soon), but you're not one of the 13,000 lucky millionaires to get an average £100,000 tax cut on Saturday, David Cameron now thinks you can afford to get by on even less. By 2015, statutory maternity pay will be £180 less than it would have been if it had been uprated with inflation.

Whilst the economy is flatlining, prices are rising faster than wages and unemployment amongst women is going up, David Cameron's solution is to deliver a tax cut for millionaires and a maternity pay cut for new mums.

I believe families shouldn't have to pay the price of the Tory-led Government's failed economic policies. At a time when family finances have been hit like never before, this Government is coming back to new mums for even more. And mums deserve better.

If you believe that, in difficult times, Government should be making it easier for people to get by, not harder, then click here    

With your help we can show people whose side this Government is really on.

Remember to stay in touch via Twitter 

Thank you,

Yvette Cooper

Aid to Pakistan - Should the poor pay for the ills of the rich?

‘Pay your tax or aid stops, MPs tell wealthy Pakistanis' reports The Times this morning.

The Times reports that;
"Britain must cancel a huge increase in aid to Pakistan unless the country tackles astonishing levels of tax avoidance among its wealthy elite, ministers have been warned. In a direct challenge to the Governments decision to send more of the aid budget to Islamabad, an influential group of MPs said that British taxpayers were effectively being asked to step in and subsidise huge rates of tax evasion in the country. "

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Cameron ignores Labour’s call for fairer taxes.

Thanks to David Cameron, millionaires will be getting an average £100,000 tax cut on 6th April – at the same time as working people on modest incomes see their tax credits cut.

This Budget was a chance to boost living standards for ordinary working people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol - The Alcohol Health Alliance

Dear Mr Jones, I am writing on behalf of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) to request your support for the Government's plans to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol.

There are more than 8,700 alcohol related deaths and 1.2million hospital admissions every year in the UK, adding to the pressure on the NHS and frontline staff- not to mention the impact on our nation's health and wellbeing. The health benefits of introducing MUP are objectively evidenced both nationally and internationally. It is predicted the measure will prevent thousands of alcohol-attributable deaths and reduce hospital admissions by tens of thousands- as well as other benefits to society and reductions in crime.

The Government is in the final stages of making their decision on the introduction of MUP. The AHA would therefore be extremely grateful if you would write to the leader of the Labour Party and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health to express your support for the measure. The AHA would be very keen to meet with you to discuss this further and answer any questions you have about the introduction of minimum unit pricing.

10 Tory untruths about welfare

Welfare reform, my arse. Has Jim Royle parked his chair, feet up, telly on, in the corridors between the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions? Employing him as adviser can be the only explanation for the utter rubbish that boils forth from this government on welfare....

Read more at guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/02/ten-lies-told-about-welfare

Roll up for the fun of the Victorian Fair & raise funds for local children & young people in need

Roll up, roll up for the fun of the Victorian Fair.

A traditional fairground, complete with a fortune teller, Punch and Judy, peep show, donkey rides and even a circus ring, will transport families to Victorian times at Oswaldtwistle Mills this summer to raise funds for local children and young people in need.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Protect the minimum wage!

now the government are coming after the national minumum wage. sign the petition.Dear Graham. This weekend, we've seen the Government hit some of the country's most vulnerable families with the Bedroom Tax. Cuts for legal aid have kicked in, making it harder for poor people to get justice. And on Saturday, the Government's tax cut for millionaires begins – with 13,000 millionaires getting a £100,000 tax cut.

But that's not enough for this Government. This morning, we've found out that they're coming after the Minimum Wage too. They have ordered the Low Pay Commission to consider freezing, or even cutting, the National Minimum Wage, if the economy doesn't pick up. Workers earning the lowest legal wage could be paying the price for this Government's failed economic policies.

Today, we've launched an urgent petition calling on the Government to drop this plan, and promise to protect the minimum wage.

Add your name now:

Taxis operating across Borough boundaries

I have received several representations from taxi owners and drivers about taxis, black cabs specifically licensed in one borough but legally plying trade as a private hire (not public hire) in another.

However enforcement officers have found that these black cabs are picking up public hire fares, people from the kerbside when as private hire here in Hyndburn they are only entitled to pre booked fares. A number have been stopped by enforcement officers.

I have written to the Secretary of State Eric Pickles not on the matter of enforcement but on reviewing taxi regulations on this and other matters; the cost of keeping a cap for example which he responds to partially. I welcome the governments review of taxi licensing and wait to see the details of the draft of the Bill due towards the end of this year.

Accelerating Business Growth in East Lancs

Alongside my colleagues in East Lancashire with whom there is considerable common endeavour on these matters, a letter from East Lancs MPs has been sent to the Deputy Prime Minister in support of Pennine Lancashire's Regional Growth Fund bid to support mid sized businesses.

People say we are always falling out: this highlights that there are time when different Party's work together.

It is important that East Lancashire focuses in jobs and growth and promotes the area.

Supporting the National Citizens Service

The National Citizens Service is a great opportunity for young people to experience something invigorating and fun.

Below are the details including contact details for this summers NCS. With a bit of publicity I hope we can get as many young people as possible involved this summer.