Friday, 31 October 2014


The NHS is one of our greatest achievements but it’s struggling under a Tory-led government which wasted billions on an unnecessary top-down reorganisation.

One of the issues that local people regularly talk to me about is their struggle to see a GP. The nurses and doctors that serve our area do a great job but under the Tories one in four people now wait a week or more for a GP appointment. Our fantastic nurses and doctors know better than anyone the pressures our NHS is under and we need to do more to support them.

Because if your child is ill or if your elderly parent has been injured, you want to know that they will be seen and treated as soon as possible.

That’s why Ed Miliband has today announced that the next Labour government will create a £2.5 billion a year NHS Time to Care Fund to save and transform our health service.

We’ll support 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 more GPs, 5,000 more careworkers and 3,000 more midwives. By appointing these additional staff, our doctors and nurses will have the time they need to care properly for patients, as well as transforming services in communities and at home.

The next Labour government will balance the books by the end of the next Parliament so the Time to Care Fund will not be paid for through more borrowing or by raising taxes on everyday working people.

Instead, the money will be raised from a tax on houses worth over £2 million, a co-ordinated crackdown against tax avoidance, and by ensuring tobacco companies contribute towards the costs they impose on the NHS.

The Tories haven’t just destabilised our health service; they’re holding it back from meeting the challenges of the 21st century as well. We need a world-class health and care service that is equipped to address the modern challenges that come from an ageing population, more people living with chronic conditions, the rise of mental health, and a higher premium on preventing illness.

The NHS is going backwards under the Tories so there has never been a better or more important time to care about its future. Only Labour can be trusted to protect the NHS and with the Time to Care Fund, we’ll ensure we have a health service fit for the 21st century.

Supporting the launch of Dogs Trust Chip My Dog website

This week I went along to the launch the launch of the Dogs Trust Chip My Dog website at the annual Dogs Trust House of Commons Reception.

The Dogs Trust are the UK’s largest dog welfare charity I am delighted to support the Dogs Trust and help the charity launch its Chip My Dog website. I am supportive of the charity’s microchipping campaign and greatly welcomed the Government’s announcement on the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England from April 2016. Compulsory microchipping will make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners and cut unnecessary kennelling costs for Local Authorities. I urge my dog-owning constituents to get their canine companions microchipped and visit to find out more about this vital component of dog welfare before the new law comes into force.

Clarissa Baldwin OBE, Dogs Trust CEO, says:
“Microchipping has been at the heart of Dogs Trust activities for a long time and we’re now looking forward to an exciting few years during which it will become compulsory in England, Wales and – we hope – Scotland. will be the portal for all microchipping questions and we hope it will ensure that no dog is left unchipped when the laws change.
Whilst only the size of a grain of rice, a microchip can be a highly effective means of reuniting a lost dog with its owner. Results from our recent Stray Dog Survey showed that just over 10,000 dogs were returned to their owners for this exact reason. However, it is vital to update your details! Just as you would tell your bank you’ve moved house, so too should you inform your database. Sadly without up-to-date information a microchip on its own is redundant.” 
The website is a unique “one-stop-shop” for all microchipping queries. Members of the public are now just a click away from a wealth of information on this important element of dog welfare, including:

· Details of free microchipping activity across the UK via a quick and easy postcode search
· Advice on how to update microchip details with a click-through function to UK databases
· Guidance on the upcoming change of law in England and Wales
· Advice on what to do if you have lost or found a dog
· Frequently Asked Questions on all elements of microchipping

To find out more about when the roaming Dogs Trust teams will be in your area or learn more about the benefits of microchipping visit

Dogs Trust is the UK’s leading dog welfare charity and has a network of 19 Rehoming Centres in the UK and one in Dublin. The charity cares for over 16,000 stray, unwanted and abandoned dogs each year. Dogs Trust has a non-destruction policy, and will never put a healthy dog to sleep. The charity is working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Tories dithering puts the UK’s crime fighting abilities at risk

Back in June of last year I spoke up on the floor of the House of Commons in favour of the European Arrest Warrant making the case for the UK's continued participation, an important agreement that helps keep the UK safe from criminals and terrorist threats.

This issue has returned to the top of the political agenda as the time limit for the UK's commitment to remain within the EAW is running out. It has also risen to the top of the political agenda because David Cameron has dithered in putting a vote on the European Arrest Warrant in front of the Commons running scared of his back benchers, UKIP and the result of the Rochester and Strood by election.

The UK’s EAW opt in (we've always been in but exercised a temporary opt out') must be decided by December 1st. I know that people in Hyndburn expect nothing short of a Government which delivers fully on its first responsibility to the British people – keeping them safe from harm.

There are reports that 80-100 Tory backbenchers will oppose the EAW and make as one Government minister said. ' a safe haven for criminals' ' and the new 'Costa Del Crime' if those Tories succeed in blocking the UK's opt back in.

I strongly believe in retaining the European Arrest Warrant to help keep our communities safe, protect our borders and stop criminals fleeing justice. Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary has written to the Home Secretary to make it crystal clear that Labour will support the UK remaining part of the EAW.

It is important that we continue to have this power. Last year over 1,000 foreign criminals were deported under the European Arrest Warrant. These were issued most often for drug trafficking, murder, fraud, child sex offences and rape. We need to cooperate with partners in Europe to ensure people who have committed these serious crimes do not get away with it.

Moreover, senior police officers have been clear about how important the European Arrest Warrant is in enabling them to deport foreign criminals without going through a lengthy extradition process. Removing it would make it easier for criminals to come to our country to evade justice and would create more bureaucracy for our police. It would also make it more difficult for us to bring British citizens who have committed crimes back to our country to face justice. Last year, 14 British citizens were brought back to Britain using the European Arrest Warrant – something which would be a lot more difficult and a lot more bureaucratic without the EAW.

Unfortunately, the Tories are completely split on this issue – and not just on the backbenches. The Prime Minister described the European arrest warrant as “highly objectionable”, yet the Home Secretary recently strongly came out in favour of the EAW and is fighting for the UK to stay in it.

The Tories must not be soft on crime and must not sacrifice one of the police’s most important tools simple because it has the word ‘European’ at the start of its name. There are around 3,600 organised crime groups active in the EU, involved in drugs, human trafficking, online child exploitation and theft. Cross-border crime is a reality and we need the 21st Century tools to meet this challenge.

There have been some high-profile successes for the EAW, and we should not risk this ability.

For instance fugitive teacher Jeremy Forrest, who fled to France with a schoolgirl, was extradited to England on an EAW issued in September 2012. Or in 2005, when an EAW enabled the UK to quickly extradite from Italy a fugitive bomber, Hussain Osman who had attempted to carry out a terror attack in London. Or in 2012 when Jason McKay was extradited from Poland within two weeks for murdering his partner.

Under the old extradition arrangements, it would have taken several years to get him back to face justice for a murdered woman.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

We need to put fans at the heart of football’s future

Last week Labour unveiled plans to give football fans a voice in every boardroom and buy a significant slice of the shares when the ownership of their club changes. As a passionate fan of football at all levels, I believe that it is in the long term interest of both fans and the clubs themselves, to have a strong voice representing the paying fans in every boardroom in the country.

At my own club Blackburn Rovers there has been boardroom turmoil and the instability has led to poor decisions leading to Rovers inevitable relegation to the Championship. I stood with other fans two winters past in the freezing cold on a 24 hour protest to protest at the cloak of secrecy that shrouding the club and the obfuscation around bizarre decisions that undermined the clubs long and historic tenure in the Premiership.

The clubs has some stability now under the management of Gary Bowyer but questions remain of the clubs financial standing going forward and there still remains a deep concern over future decisions that may be taken in the boardroom too which the fans have received no communication on.

It's not just the Rovers. There have been some notable events in recent years which have really alienated the fans – to name just a few:

Supporters’ interests and identity being ignored: from clubs being relocated away from fan-bases (Coventry) to team colours and names being changed to satisfy traditions on the other side of the globe (Cardiff, Hull);

Debt and insolvency: which have seen some of our oldest football clubs (Portsmouth, Leeds, Birmingham) forced into administration. 36 football league clubs (exactly half the total number of members) have gone into administration since 1992;

Unsustainably high ticket prices: despite record turnover, average ticket prices in England and Wales remain amongst the highest in Europe - only this week, the BBC’s Price of football survey showed how average prices have risen at almost twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011.

There are many, many more examples.

Last week, my colleague Clive Efford, Labour’s Shadow Sports Minister, launched the proposals for the biggest legislative shake-up in the governance of English and Welsh football clubs since the advent of the game.

This is something I have long called for in numerous debate in Parliament on Football Governance. There are too many fans who believe that their own club is ‘getting away from them’, that it is the property of an unresponsive board who are not interested in the history and culture of the club – indeed it often appears that they are not interested in anything beyond the long term value of the club, and the advertising space they can sell.

The answer is accountability to the fans – both in terms of a voice on the board, and ownership of the club. The evidence is that under the current system, consultation with the fans is often an afterthought – indeed 90% of the fan groups involved in Labour’s consultation agreed that their own clubs did not take fans into enough consideration regarding major decisions.

The plan, which has been drawn up in consultation with 95 football supporters’ organisations, and which are fully in accordance with European competition and procurement law, would require supporters to come together to form a single accredited trust in return for the right to:

appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s board of directors;
purchase up to 10 per cent of the shares when a club changes ownership, if they so wish.

Supporters made clear during the consultation that this is the only way to ensure those running clubs share information, power and responsibility with them. Labour's proposals mean fans could hold the owners of their club to account on all issues on and off the field including ticket prices, shirt sponsorship, ground naming rights, and changing the colour of the strip or the name. I am sure Newcastle United and Cardiff City fans will be very interested in these aspects of the propsal.

I am sure everyone can think of many examples in recent years of decisions made by the owners of English clubs have made decisions which have absolutely flown in the face of the fans, been met with active protest on the terraces and outside, but have ultimately not led to any change in direction.

Some have expressed concerns that the changes could lead to deadlock in the boardroom, however if you look to the examples of notable clubs in Germany, which have 51% fan ownership, you see some of the best-run clubs in Europe. Moreover, the proposals that Labour is putting forward would strengthen governance – by putting Supporters Trusts on a legal footing, and requiring them to meet certain standards . This would ensure that these potential directors received training and were prepared to take up this important position.

It is time we trusted the fans, and enabled them to take some control back over their clubs.

It is therefore vital that we restore this link of accountability which should connect every club to its fans.

These plans will not solve every problem with the game by any means – but they are about empowering fans, bringing our clubs closer to the people, and giving the people who make the clubs what they are, a say.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Non League Football and the need to upgrade grass roots football facilities

On the 4th of September the House of Commons discussed the future of non-league football - an issue close to my heart, and something I have always taken part in myself.

The debate covered issues ranging from concerns around the ownership and internal governance of teams, the transparency of both teams and the Football Association and whether non-league games should be VAT exempt as they are in the Netherlands.

I raised what I consider to be the most important matter in the sustainability of non-league football at a grass-roots level, and that is the funding of facilities and related falling participation. These issues are incredibly closely related in places like Hyndburn - for instance, Great Harwood FC would most likely still exist if there had been the kinds of excellent facilities in the area that ensure generation after generation of participation in the grassroots game. Passion for the game is alive and well, but there is still a gap in terms of facilities.

Following the debate the FA wrote to each of the MPs who took part in the debate. The letter stated: "Graham Jones mentioned the need to look at how facilities for grassroots football at a basic level is funded. He will be glad to know that the Chairman's FA Commission's next report - due out in mid-October - will provide a full examination of our grassroots facilities and how we intend to reinvent the investment model".

I await the release of the report in October, and will be looking closely to ensure the best interests of grassroots football are being represented by the FA.

Government changes to home energy efficiency leave Hyndburn cold

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): I believe this is the first time I have served under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter, in what I hope will be a constructive debate. I want to focus on the effect of the Government's changes to the energy companies obligation on domestic energy efficiency and the local schemes to improve efficiency in my area. I welcome the opportunity to discuss those things with the Minister.

When the ECO was devised, the architects of the scheme aimed to improve the energy efficiency of dwellings exactly like those in Haslingden and Hyndburn. However, since the last time I spoke in the House on the subject, the help provided for home energy efficiency has been significantly reduced. In terms of energy efficiency, Hyndburn has some of the poorest-quality housing stock in the country, with 45.1% of all dwellings built before 1919, which is well above the English average of 23.6%. Terraced properties of that age tend to have hard-to-treat cavities. It is estimated that 90% of such stock has a cavity of some sort that can be insulated, but doing so is costly and requires a subsidy. 

Because of the age of the stock in Hyndburn, 50.2% of category 1 hazard properties are so designated because of excess cold, and for category 2 hazard properties the figure is a staggering 78.5%. The housing health and safety rating system states: 

"If the score produces a Category 1 hazard, for example if there is a high risk of serious health implications" such as damp— "from exposure to cold then the Authority have a duty to take action. If there is a Category 2 hazard, for example there is risk that exposure to cold may have an adverse affect on health, the Authority may take action." 

Hyndburn borough council therefore has a duty to take action on properties where excess cold is a category 1 hazard, but such is the scale of the problem that that legal duty cannot simply be a matter for a small district council. 

My constituents face having to live in homes that were designed a century ago, with no thought for thermal efficiency. Hyndburn borough council undertook a comprehensive housing condition survey in 2009, which noted that the rate of thermal comfort failures was 24.5%, compared with an English average of 18.3%. My constituents, therefore, are the very people to whom the ECO can offer most, but Hyndburn borough council's warm homes energy company obligation scheme has come under threat before it has even begun in earnest. Moreover, the businesses in the green economy in my constituency that were innovating and creating jobs as a result of the ECO are now concerned about their futures. Indeed, 49 of the 149 schemes nationally have been cancelled. 

As I have said, nine out of 10 stone terraced properties of the sort that are prevalent in Hyndburn have hard-to-treat cavities that would benefit from the ECO. For that reason, the ECO presented a particularly welcome opportunity to my constituents and to local councils across east Lancashire to tackle insulation, fuel poverty and the UK's climate change obligations. The most recent Government statistics state that 5,088 households in my constituency are living in fuel poverty, which equates to some 13.1% of homes. On the alternative measure, which is based on the number of households forced to spend more than 10% of their household income on energy, there are 6,712 such households. The fact that 17.3% of households struggle to heat their homes is a tragedy, and it comes as no surprise that the poor live in the older terraced stock. There is a direct link between the age and condition of the housing stock and the high levels of fuel poverty in my constituency. 

I raised that issue in the Energy Bill Committee in June 2011, and the then Minister, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), told me that the ECO would

"play a huge part with regard to harder-to-treat properties."

My question to the new Minister is simply this: what has happened to that aspiration? Is it still an aspiration, or was it only ever an aspiration? My constituents would be right to feel let down by the Government's domestic energy efficiency policies.


As I have indicated, my constituency has an incredibly high number of hard-to-treat properties. Plenty are in the private rented sector, where there are excessive problems, and many are owner occupied. Thanks to the roll-back of the ECO, my constituents who are in most need will miss out. When that is coupled with the Government's record on place-based housing regeneration, the outlook is depressing.


Even more galling is that despite the Prime Minister's claim that cutting levies would save consumers £50 on their energy bills, four of the big six energy companies refused to pass on the full £50 reduction to customers on fixed-price deals. Not only did those customers not receive insulation, but they did not receive that discount, lamentable though it is in comparison with the savings that would result from energy efficiency measures. In January this year, the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle, said that for the energy companies not to pass on the full savings to consumers "would not be acceptable". However, no action has been taken to ensure that the 3.8 million people on fixed-price deals do not miss out on that saving.

In response to the consultation on the future of the ECO, the Government openly stated that energy companies were "likely now to be in a position to make greater savings than they had originally projected in December". 

When the Government make no effort to recoup those savings for consumers, the result is more money for the energy companies. In attempting to kick the long-term problems of the cost of energy, market failure and domestic energy efficiency into the long grass, the Government have effectively cut the energy companies some slack, with no noticeable reduction in prices for millions of people and at the cost of thousands of much-needed domestic energy efficiency projects, such as those in my constituency. 

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I apologise for missing the first two minutes of the hon. Gentleman's argument, and I congratulate him on securing this important debate during energy week. Although great progress is being made, I accept that there are gaps that the Government need to address. The hon. Gentleman is talking about cavity wall insulation, but surely his

constituents would be entitled to and eligible for boiler replacement under the affordable warmth element of the ECO.

Graham Jones: Yes, they would, but the terraced properties in my constituency seep heat. We need to look at energy conservation; it is not enough simply to lag the loft. There is no point in having a new boiler without also implementing a range of measures to capture the heat that it generates. If we continue to allow heat to flow out of stone terraced properties with semi-solid walls, we do a disservice to those properties. They will remain energy-inefficient. I accept that there are some modest improvements that can be made, but the main beneficiaries of insulation and energy efficiency improvements will be householders who live in properties with hard-to-treat cavities. 

Another point that has seemingly been absent from the debate on the changes is that the energy companies' revenue streams are protected by inefficient, uninsulated houses. Rather than reducing the use of gas through greater energy efficiency, the energy companies have a perverse disincentive to support energy efficiency because they are making profits from selling so much gas to my constituents. 

There is concern in the cavity wall insulation industry about the effects of the changes. Isothane, a company in my constituency that produces cavity wall insulation, stated to me recently that the cavity wall industry is effectively "at a standstill" due to the changes. That was after the company had prepared itself for increased demand under the ECO. The carpet was pulled from under the company after it had been encouraged to be part of the green revolution. Job losses across the industry, which has a strong base in the north-west, make for sad reading. 

Twelve jobs have been lost at Isothane Ltd in Accrington in my constituency, which I have been told may have a further impact, with job losses in Dukinfield in Manchester. There have been job cuts at Viscount Insulation in Blackburn and Castleford. There have been 85 job losses at Home Insulation Services in Preston, and 600 jobs went this summer at Domestic & General Insulation as a direct result of the Government's policy changes. Many smaller companies have also laid off workers whom they had previously hired after the Government talked up the demand that would be created by the ECO and green deal schemes. I am afraid those job losses will not be the last. The majority of people in the UK would rather know that the levies are supporting a growing green economy and creating long-term financial and environmental savings, rather than simply being handed back to the energy companies without cast-iron guarantees that they will be passed on fully and without exception. 

Guy Opperman: Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his speech, I will give him a slightly contrary view. In my constituency in Northumberland, which has similar properties—old stone buildings—the expansion of the energy sector is something that I welcome and applaud. Organisations such as the Centre for Green Energy and the multitude of biomass and other green and diversification suppliers are showing that there is a future for that type of energy.

Graham Jones: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comment, but he cannot deny that job losses have occurred due to the changes. Changes bring uncertainty, and I am sure we all agree that there should be less change and more consistency, because that will lead to more jobs in the sector. If we chop and change our energy efficiency policy, we will find that companies are reticent about entering the market because they are unsure about the future. Certainty is the bedrock of business, as I am sure he would agree. 

I will conclude by asking the Minister a number of questions. Does she recognise the job losses that have directly resulted from rolling back the ECO? How many jobs does she estimate have been lost nationally? What does she see for the future of this important industry? The Government predicted that there would be 35,000 people working in the sector by 2015-16. Does she still seriously expect that to happen? What future plans does she have for areas with a prevalence of hard-to-treat walls and cavities, such as mine in Haslingden and Hyndburn, and clearly those in Hexham, which will no longer be economical under the changes to the ECO scheme? It seems obvious to many people that hard-to-treat, cold and damp properties are in most need. Why has that not been reflected and prioritised in Government policy?

Finally, has the Minister investigated where the remaining ECO money is being spent? The green deal home improvement fund opened in June and shut five or six weeks later in mid-July. Where has that money been spent? My constituents did not get an opportunity to apply for that money, and it included measures such as solid wall insulation. What happened to that money, and where was it spent? What proportion of that fund, the ECO and other schemes was spent on properties that are most in need? 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter. 

This debate comes at the start of big energy saving week, a joint campaign between the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Citizens Advice and the Energy Saving Trust that will highlight the support available to help people keep warm this winter. It was good to see so many parliamentary colleagues at yesterday's launch. During the last big energy saving week, 300,000 consumers received help and advice through events, by phone or online. This year we and our partners want to make big energy saving week even bigger than last year.

The independent review of fuel poverty enabled us more fully to understand the problem and to measure fuel poverty effectively. That has helped us to put in place policies that can target assistance at those most in need, which the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) spoke about earlier. We already have strong policies working on the ground, such as the ECO, the warm home discount scheme and the big energy saving network, but we recognise that the most vulnerable may still need extra help.

To highlight the Government's commitment to making a real and lasting difference on fuel poverty, we have tabled draft regulations to create a new fuel poverty target in law. We want to ensure that as many fuel-poor homes as reasonably practicable achieve a minimum energy efficiency standard of band C by 2030. We have also consulted to help us to prepare for a new fuel poverty strategy. 

Graham Jones: I welcome the Minister's comments, but I asked a fundamental question. How does she anticipate that constituencies such as mine in Hyndburn, which have a considerable mass of such fuel-poor people and hard-to-treat and uninsulated properties, will be addressed in the next five and a half years? 

Amber Rudd: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wants me to get straight to the point and address his key questions. I have a few minutes, and I would like an opportunity to set out what the Government are doing. 

We recognise that improving domestic energy efficiency helps consumers to control energy bills, thereby reducing fuel poverty. Of course, it also contributes to our challenging carbon reduction target, which is, by 2050, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 80% below 1990 levels. To drive up domestic energy efficiency, we have put in place a long-term programme that reflects fundamental underlying challenges. Much of the easy energy-efficiency work has been done. Nearly all homes have at least some loft insulation, although many could benefit from a top-up, and most of the easiest cavity walls have been filled. We need to move away from a culture of unsustainable grant dependency to a different, market-based approach. Our long-term aim is for consumers to be motivated to improve their homes and to be ready to meet some of the costs, with real, effective help for the most vulnerable. That is good for all bill payers, as subsidy will go where it can have the most effect; and it is good for our economy, as innovative businesses will enter the market and develop better, cheaper products.

Guy Opperman: In private meetings and in meetings with my constituents, I have spoken to the Minister about oil companies having a 500-litre minimum limit for delivering to people who are off-grid. If the Department were to change that minimum delivery to a lower figure, it would have a massive impact on people who are particularly fuel-poor and off-grid. Could she please look at that and get back to me? 

Amber Rudd: I thank my hon. Friend for that comment. He has raised the matter with me previously, and I will get back to him. 

I do not want to try the patience of the hon. Member for Hyndburn, so let us move on to the ECO, which is the particular element of support that he has asked me to address. We have made changes to the ECO, and the vast majority of customers pay for the ECO as part of their energy bills. With bills rising, it was right to review the impact of the policies on household costs and to ensure that the benefit of the ECO is directed where it can make most impact. This much is clear: we have not reduced the element of the ECO aimed at helping low-income and vulnerable households. Approximately two thirds of the ECO that is currently collected goes to the fuel-poor, which, overall, is the same amount as was previously set, despite the reductions. The hon. Gentleman talks about the Government cutting the energy companies some slack, but we have felt obliged to cut taxpayers some slack. At the same time, we have ensured that the people who are most in fuel poverty, the vulnerable, are still being given the assistance that was pledged. Dedicated fuel poverty activity within the ECO stays at the original level of investment of £540 million a year reaching 230,000 households, and we have extended activity on the same scale to 2017. 

We are also making the ECO easier and cheaper to deliver, and we have extended the carbon saving community part of the ECO to cover the bottom 25% of areas on the index of multiple deprivation, extending it to more households in low-income areas. That will not only help more hard-pressed families; crucially, for the first time, extending the obligation to the end of 2017 will give industry and other partners maximum certainty. The hon. Gentleman discussed business's need for certainty. We have delivered that by extending the obligation to 2017. 

Graham Jones: I appreciate that the Minister is giving way on her time. I generously admit that the carbon savings target for individual households was reduced, rendering the scheme worthless in that it could not actually be used, but how will the community target have an impact on district councils such as mine? It was essentially designed around local authorities, but small district councils such as mine are cash-strapped, and the shire does nothing. How can local district councils such as mine help community schemes meet the community target? It is not happening. 

Amber Rudd: I urge the hon. Gentleman's council to consider what it can do within the current ECO arrangements, which as I said have been extended for the next two years.

Turning to the green deal home improvement fund, which I also urge his council to consider, he is absolutely right. The green deal home improvement fund opened in June and was closed at the end of July, such was the take-up. It was more popular than any of us had expected. We had always said that the pot of money available was limited and that once it was gone, it was gone, but we did not anticipate that demand would be so strong, and we have acknowledged that that was not ideal for householders, industry or local authorities such as the hon. Gentleman's, which might have promoted the scheme to residents. 

However, the good news is that we have sourced additional funds and will reopen the green deal home improvement fund next month. We are working closely with industry, local authority and other partners to get their views on how the first phase worked and their ideas on how we can improve the scheme.

Graham Jones: Can the Minister ensure that authorities such as mine that are deprived according to the index of multiple deprivation—our district council has challenges in trying to bid for the money quickly; they will inevitably be slow out of the blocks, because they do not have scale and size—are prioritised and given first dibs on the fund? That would be helpful in meeting some of the concerns that I have outlined.

Amber Rudd: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that suggestion. We are keen to get the green deal home improvement fund absolutely right. I will take his suggestion back to my officials. We are getting a lot of contributions on how to ensure that the new green deal home improvement fund is correctly launched in order to get the maximum benefit for communities, particularly the most vulnerable communities, who have been suffering.

I hope that we can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the green deal home improvement fund will be an additional source that his council can access to help the people who need help, particularly with solid wall insulation, as he said. I recommend that his council contact my Department to find out more about a previous fund called the green deal communities fund. His council might be interested in finding out about its best practice. It had particular success in going street by street, door to door and working with community leaders to build trust among householders so they could use the fund.

I wanted to take a few minutes to comment on the private rented sector; I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has a particular interest in that area. 

Graham Jones indicated assent. 

Amber Rudd: That is good. We want to support and encourage landlords to make improvements to their properties and empower tenants to request them. That is why, on 22 July 2014, we launched our consultation on energy efficiency regulations for the private rented sector. As a result of our proposals, from April 2016, private tenants will have a right to request consent for energy efficiency measures, which may not be unreasonably refused by the landlord. From April 2018, private rented properties will need to achieve a minimum energy efficiency standard before being let to tenants, except where certain exemptions apply. 

Graham Jones: I am grateful to the Minister; she is being very helpful. I point out to her for the record—she may or may not wish to comment—that I sat on the Energy Bill Committee in 2011 when that proposal was introduced. I voted against it, because I thought that the dates should be brought forward to 2011 from 2018. For seven years, people in the private rented sector have had to suffer. The Government are not doing this today; it was in the 2011 Energy Bill. I wanted that to be a matter of public record.

Amber Rudd: I think I can accept that as cautious support for the proposals, although they are less timely than the hon. Gentleman would like. He may rest assured that my Department is committed to delivering them, and we will use our best endeavours to do so. 

I point out that although the hon. Gentleman's constituents may be able to access the green deal home improvement fund, green deal finance is also available and is now picking up. It is also an important element for the private rented sector, where the electricity bill payer is normally the tenant, who contributes towards the cost of improvements through savings on their electricity bill. Tenants will benefit from a warm, healthier home while landlords will gain improvements to their property. The ECO and incentives announced as part of the autumn statement 2013 provide additional funding support for landlords to make improvements. Landlords took advantage of both the green deal cash back and home improvement funds, and nearly 115,000 households in the private rented sector have benefited from the ECO measures so far.

I point out to the hon. Gentleman that with the arrival of smart meters, which are now being rolled out, constituents will hopefully be able to control their use of energy and heating more effectively and efficiently. We are also making good progress on encouraging the take-up of local renewables. The number of installations, mainly of solar photovoltaic panels under the feed-in tariffs, now totals more than 590,000. The domestic renewable heat incentive was launched in March this year, and 10,000 homes are already being rewarded for switching to biomass, ground or air source heat pumps and solar thermal technologies. 

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate and agree that although he has certain frustrations that the ECO is not reaching some in his community, this Department is leading many other initiatives to assist everybody, including his constituents, to have warmer homes for less. It is an ambitious long-term programme. We are making progress and learning what works best. The scale of the funds that we have made available shows our determination to improve homes, reduce bills and fuel poverty and meet our carbon reduction commitments.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Campaign for the North

A new group has been established 'Campaign for the North' which has just launched it's consultation document. It calls for a federal solution to the question of devolution it the UK including offering voters in the North the same 'Devo Max' settlement that Scottish voters are being offered.

I have long said this would be the best answer to the challenges that face the north. Cities that are disconnected by road and rail but all striving for an airport. A north that see's disproportionate spending in the London. It's time as part of Labour's commission to look at a federal solution rather than a dogs breakfast offered by the Tories which allows London to continue to make decisions in the north.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Launch of the Hyndburn Advice Network

With funding from the Big Lottery, a partnership has been created between Age UK Lancashire, Hyndburn CAB, HARV, Lancashire Women’s Centre, Maundy Relief Trust and Scaitcliffe Community Centre.  In addition we have representation from Hyndburn Borough Council as Councillor Kerry Molineux is on the Project Board.

The overall aim of the Hyndburn Advice Network (HAN) project is to improve the level and quality of advice for the people of Hyndburn.  The key partners are working together with the wider advice and information community to improve the level of provision available and the referral process between groups.  Hyndburn CAB is the lead organisation and has a project team comprising:

Jill Myers - Project Co-ordinator
Catherine Haseley - Generalist Outreach Adviser
Rachael Brodie - Volunteer Recruitment and Development Worker

To help promote the project and give Clients easier access to advice and support, a website has been developed that will go live on Monday 20th October 2014. The website provides information for Hyndburn residents in an easy to read format with links to external websites for further detail on specific topics.  It has up-to-date news items as well as more detailed Big Issue pages. 

A directory of local advice, information and support services, the Hyndburn Handbook can be accessed via the site.  You will find that your organisation has been listed in this directory with a clear link to your own website.  The subject areas have been identified from your site.  If you would like us to change these or edit your details please contact Jill Myers, the Project Co-ordinator to discuss this.  She can be contacted on 01254 304122 or

Catherine holds advice sessions at each of the partners’ venues and Rachael helps partner organisations identify their training and development needs for both staff and volunteers.  We are increasing the skills and knowledge of staff and volunteers working for key partners through targeted training.

Client referrals are made between the key partners and we are hoping to extend this process to include other agencies. In the longer term we are aiming to establish a network of advice and information agencies, both statutory and voluntary, that will continue to work together after the lifetime of the project.  This network will ensure that a Client’s needs are addressed effectively by making appropriate referrals with the provision of services by many different agencies appearing seamless to the Client.


Friday, 17 October 2014

Putting football fans back at the heart of how the game is run

For many of us, football clubs embody the meaning of community spirit: sticking together, staying loyal come rain or shine and through the highs and lows.

Today, Labour is announcing plans to put football fans back at the heart of how the game is run – will you tweet your support?
Share on Facebook instead

For too long, the game has taken our loyalty for granted. Owners have treated fans as cash cows. They've hiked ticket prices, loaded clubs with unmanageable debt, and even moved the grounds far beyond their local roots, all without any consultation.

As a Co-operative Party MP, I've worked for many years to ensure that fans, and the supporter's trusts that represent them, have a much greater say over how their clubs are run.

Today Labour Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford MP has promised that under a future Labour & Co-operative government, supporters trusts will have the right to:

  • Appoint up to a quarter (and at least two) of the Club's directors
  • Buy up to 10% of shares when a club changes ownership

As members of the Co-operative Party, we should be hugely proud of our role in putting fan ownership on the agenda. It's just one of many ways that we're ensuring that co-operative and mutual principles are at the heart of the next Labour government – so let's make sure we shout about it.

Tom Greatrex MP
Labour & Co-operative
Rutherglen and Hamilton West 

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Why should people pay to call the Police on 101

How many people are aware that when they dial the police on the new 101 number they are paying 15p per call? Whilst the government says this is to act as a deterrent against it being used inappropriately, the 999 number remains free. Dialling the police is more often to report criminality or suspected criminality. Placing a charge on civic duty whilst offering a free service isn’t logical. In fact in the last conversation I had with my Chief Super-Intendant he made the point that ridiculous calls are made through to 999.

From: Written Parliamentary Questions and Answers
Sent: 15 October 2014 16:09
To: JONES, Graham
Subject: Written answer to your WPQ 209287 received from the Home Office

The Home Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (209287):

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how many complaints have been received on the charge for using the 101 non-emergency police number in the last three years. (209287)
Tabled on: 10 October 2014

Mike Penning:
The Department has received 49 complaints about the charge for using the 101 police non-emergency number in the last three years.
Research by Ofcom shows that a small fixed charge does not deter people from calling the service and reduces the likelihood of it being used inappropriately.
The latest Crime Survey (published July 2013) shows that use of the 101 number has increased since 2011.

The answer was submitted on 15 Oct 2014 at 16:08.

Fwd: You won't believe what they said about disabled people:


The cruelty of this is almost hard to believe.

David Cameron's welfare minister has been recorded saying that some disabled people — and this is a word-for-word quote — "aren't worth the full wage". That's the *minimum* wage.

In fact, he even suggested that they should be able to work for £2 an hour. That's right — £2 an hour.

To even contemplate something so backward, so ignorant...if we hadn't seen this so many times before, it would seriously beggar belief.

If you believe as I do — and as Labour always will — that disabled people are as worthy of fair pay as anyone, help us make sure the Tories can't get away with this — share now:

Share on Facebook

Tory minister - some disabled people are not worth the full page

Just when you think they can't sink any lower...


Kate Green MP
Labour's Shadow Minister for Disabled People