Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Warm Home Discount - fuel poor failing to claim the £135 allowance

In Hyndburn in the Winter 4,340 children could be living in a home that cannot afford to turn the heating on, according to The Children’s Society which has carried out extensive research into the condition of homes where children live in poverty. The cost of keeping a home adequately warm for an average family of 2 parents and 2 children is now estimated by the Society to be £1400 a year. Many families, in my constituency and nationally, have been unable to receive support for this large but necessary payment.

The Warm Home Discount was introduced in April 2011 and meant that the ‘Big Six’ Domestic energy suppliers had to provide £135 (expected to be enough to pay a typical families heating for a month) towards energy bills for low income, vulnerable households. Low income pensioners rightly get this amount deducted from their energy bills automatically because they are in the ‘core’ group to receive this discount. But other non-‘core’ groups need to apply for supplier help and in these cases the energy companies are not obliged to provide discount in every case, so they do not.


Monday, 24 March 2014

New FOBT levies must be used to help problem gamblers


In this week’s budget George Osborne announced that the Government would increase taxes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals from 20% to 25%. This may seem on the face of it as if the Government is taking action against what has been described as ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’.  However a reliance on treasury revenue from such addictive gambling machines risks creating a perverse incentive.

The Government is putting the treasury in a position where the nation’s finances are balanced – in part – on the backs of problem gamblers. 25% of £1.6bn profits could be quite a hard habit for the Government to break,  where the incentive to reduce the use of FOBTs conflicts with the revenue that comes from them and from problem gamblers. The 5% increase in the levy equates to around £80m with initial figures for William Hill – one of the big five - suggesting a further £16m in taxation.  

Raising taxation on FOBTs may make them less profitable, less desirable but with a Fixed Odds return guaranteeing profits, and with 75% of that still be retained by bookmakers it is hard to see how this will reduce the numbers of machines in the UK. Action is required to deal with the harm they cause to individuals and communities.

Adrian Parkinson, Consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, said: “This increase in Gross Profits Tax (GPT) on FOBTs to 25% may well aid the treasury, but does little to deal with the many issues created by these machines as problem gambling research, education and treatment will not see any of this revenue.“

There is a moral question the treasury must answer. The Chancellor made no simultaneous announcement that the money raised would be used to tackle problem gambling. There is only one NHS problem gambling clinic in the UK and despite the new levy it appears that this will remain the case. The money raised from problem gamblers is not being used those help those vulnerable people but instead be consumed into the treasury budget.

In fact “We may also see a rise in the aggressive marketing of these products from the bookmakers, who will now be desperately trying to attract even more customers. This increase in tax will not be passed on to the FOBT gambler, so is unlikely to act as a deterrent in any way” according to Adrian Parkinson, Consultant for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hollow promises aren’t enough to solve the biggest housing crisis in a generation.

What we heard at the Budget this week was totally out of touch with hardworking people facing a cost of living crisis. David Cameron says the economy is recovering, but for most people, there is no recovery at all.

On housing for example hard working families really needed the Government to take action and build more homes. The growing housing shortage is central to the cost of living crisis but David Cameron has refused to take the action.

We know that the growing housing shortage is central to the cost of living crisis with home ownership sadly out of reach for many ordinary people - however hard they work. Others are struggling with rents that are rising at twice the rate of wage increases, or housing waiting lists that have hit record numbers under this Government.

George Osborne promised to build more homes in this week’s Budget, but those promises will seem hollow after 4 years in which he has done nothing to boost housing supply. Along with David Cameron, he has presided over the lowest levels of house building in peacetime since the 1920s.

Labour is calling for a Help to Build policy to boost housing supply and tackle the cost of living crisis, alongside a reformed Help to Buy scheme.

Dealing with the housing crisis will be a major priority for the next Labour Government and we’re committed to getting 200,000 homes a year built by 2020. This will include building a new generation of new towns and garden cities.

It’s not enough just to make promises on housing - we need action to deliver the new homes Britain needs. People need a recovery for the many, not just a few at the top.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Working parents are worn out by the cost of living crisis, whilst the government confirms no help with childcare in this parliament

This week’s Budget announcement on childcare confirmed that David Cameron has no plan to help parents with the rising cost of childcare before the next election. This is not good enough for hard-pressed families who have seen the cost of childcare spiral by 30 percent since 2010 – five times faster than wages.

David Cameron has cut support for children and families by £15bn since he came to office. And he’s now confirmed that no help will arrive until after the election. This is too little, too late.

By 2015, David Cameron will have taken away up to £15 billion in support for children and families, turning his back on working parents as they struggled to make ends meet. Nearly four years of Tory Government have left the average working family £1600 worse off.

Far from lifting people out of tax as they claim through changes to the personal allowance, we’ve seen a staggering 24 Tory tax rises, including the VAT hike since 2010.

Britain needs a Labour Government to expand free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week for 3 and 4 years old and to cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes with a lower 10p starting rate of tax.

This week’s Budget could have made a real difference to hardworking parents, but it failed to deliver for all but the privileged few at the top who will keep their £150,000 tax cut.

This Budget didn’t offer much to hard working families, but it certainly told them something.

David Cameron and George Osborne can’t deliver a recovery for the many because they only stand up for the privileged few.

Labour will balance the books in the next Parliament, but we will do it in a fairer way including reversing the £3 billion tax cut for people earning over £150,000 – a recovery built by the many, for the many.




Friday, 21 March 2014

This budget showed you are worse off under the Tories with no action to deal with the cost of living crisis most of us face

This week’s Budget did nothing to help hard working families deal with the cost of living crisis people face.

The Chancellor boasted about how well things are going, but it was a totally out of touch Budget for hardworking people in Haslingden and Hyndburn who are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

After nearly four years of the Tories, wages are £1,600 a year lower and as a result hardworking families are not feeling any economic recovery at all.

David Cameron and George Osborne can’t deliver a recovery for the many because they stand up for a privileged few. They cut the top rate of tax for people earning over £150,000, while everyone else is worse off.

We need a recovery for the many, not just a few at the top. Britain needs a Labour government that will freeze energy bills until 2017, cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes, expand free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds and get more young people back to work.

Labour will deal with the cost of living crisis head on. We would:

· Freeze energy bills until 2017 and reform the broken energy market.
· Introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get young people and the long-term unemployed back to work
· Expand free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week for 3 and 4 year olds
· Cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes with a lower 10p starting rate of income tax
· Cut business rates for small firms and get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020
· Balance the books as soon as possible in the next Parliament, in a fairer way including reversing the £3 billion tax cut for people earning over £150,000.

Electricity North West have won a top national award for their crackdown on metal theft

After leading the campaign in Parliament to change the laws alongside the Energy Networks Association I am delighted that the toughness of the new legislation shows that taking a robust, no nonsense approach to crime works.

Electricity North West have scooped a national accolade for our successful fight to crack down on dangerous metal theft in the region.

After trialling new pioneering technology and working with local police forces, British Transport Police and other partners, Electricity North West have helped to reduce metal theft crime by 50 percent and the number of crimes by more than 300 this year across the north west.

The National Metal Theft Awards, organised by the National Metal Theft Taskforce, crowned Electricity North West as the winner of the crime reduction category due to our tireless commitment in putting a stop to thieves stealing metal from substations and overhead powerlines.

We also celebrated two milestones in our metal theft crackdown last year, including 20 arrests during a Greater Manchester Police raid at scrap metal dealers and the sentencing of five men for more than 20 years for stealing from the power network.

Two opportuities for young people ..

Community Union bursaries for young people into higher education

I saw this tweet earlier this week from Community Union. I'd encourage any Union member or their family who thinks they may be eligible to follow the link and read the application form. 

Community Union (@CommunityUnion) We're offering 20 bursaries worth up to £4500 to help a member or their child into higher education community-tu.org/what-we-do/bur…



An apprenticeship with an MP

I am highlighting The Parliamentary Academy, Parliament’s first apprentice school, which recruits non-graduate apprentices to work in MP’s offices for a year. It will be with an MP of a Party of your choice.


I'll be supporting the Parliamentary Academy Apprenticeships scheme. The project is about encouraging people from non-university backgrounds into working in Westminster or MP's offices. 

Politicians and our staff should be representative of our constituencies and taking on young people from all backgrounds is part of this. If you're a young person interested in finding out some more about the scheme then please email me or contact my office on 01254 382283.



The scheme stemmed from a desire to broaden access to entry level jobs in Parliament by creating positions for young people who have chosen not to go to university. Apprentices on our scheme work in an MP’s office 4 days a week and train fortnightly at Westminster Kingsway College for a Level 3 NVQ in Business and Administration.

The real advantage of the scheme is that the apprentices train as a cohort so they can share their experiences of working with different MPs and peers, rather than working in isolation. We also arrange monthly masterclasses where we invite people who work in politics (journalists, think tanks, special advisers) to give apprentices an insight into the different roles available to them later in their career.

The apprenticeship programme has gained cross-party support, placing apprentices with MPs from all three major parties.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

This budget proved you’re worse off under the tories

George Osborne's budget has done nothing for families in Haslingden and Hyndburn. 

The Chancellor boasted about how well things are going, but it was totally out of touch with hardworking people in East Lancashire who are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

After nearly four years of the Tories, hard-working families are on average £1,600 a year worse off and not feeling any economic recovery at all.

David Cameron and George Osborne can't deliver a recovery for the many because they stand up for a privileged few. They cut the top rate of tax for people earning over £150,000 while everyone else is worse off.

We need a recovery for the many, not just a few at the top and that requires action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Labour will:

Freeze energy bills until 2017 and reform the broken energy market.

Put young people back to work, with a job the young unemployed have to take – paid for by a tax on bank bonuses

Expand free childcare for working parents to 25 hours a week for 3 and 4 year olds
Cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes with a lower 10p starting rate of income tax

Cut business rates for small firms and a plan to get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020

Balance the books in the next Parliament, in a fairer way including reversing the £3 billion tax cut for people earning over £150,000.

The Budget proved you're worse off under the Tories. There was no action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis facing hardworking families who are on average £1,600 a year worse off under David Cameron.

The Chancellor claimed talked about how well things are going. But millions of working people on middle and lower incomes in Haslingden and Hyndburn are not feeling any recovery at all while those earning over £150,000 a year have been given a tax cut.

The Tories can't deliver a recovery for the many because they stand up for a privileged few, not hard-working families.

Britain needs a Labour's government which to freeze energy bills until 2017, cut taxes for 24 million working people on middle and low incomes, expand free childcare for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds and get more young people back to work.



Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

FOBTs; ineffective legislation & ineffective powers. My meeting with the Gambling Commission

Last week I met with the Gambling Commission. They are a statutory body with statutory powers to amend regulations and guidance which covers gambling in the UK.

The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) chaired by Sir Chris Kelly, are a quasi responsible charity set up by the Gambling Commission to advise on gambling strategies.

The work of that Board is undertaken and paid for by the Responsible Gambling Trust. Essentially the gambling industry who make voluntary payments to fund resource the RGT/RGSB work.

Clearly there is a tail wagging dog question.

The RGT and the RSGB could not do their work without donations from gambling companies who sit on the RGT board. The RGT is chaired by Neil Goulden of Gala Coral Group as well as other gambling executives and CEO's.

The alternative to this voluntary funding arrangement a (agreed at £5million minimum) by gambling companies into gambling strategies, gambling aware research, help for problem gamblers is a national levy imposed by the Secretary of State which would detach the gambling industry and make the fund truly independent. The Gambling Commission insist there is no conflict of interest though that may be disputed or true today, that tied relationship still exists.

There are several pieces of research that are being undertaken which are relevant to FOBTs.

It is a dogs breakfast as each of the studies is independent of the others with some overlap but no strategic framework.

Fwd: People’s Millions 2014 is now open for applications

Dear Mr Jones,

The People's Millions is a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and ITV, where the public helps to decide which local community projects received up to £50,000 of Lottery funding.

Since 2005 date the Big Lottery Fund has funded 599 projects through the programme and a total of £31.3 million. In this time over 3.3 million votes have been cast by the public and the programme continues to attract applications from groups who have not been funded by us before.

This is a great opportunity for 76 projects to receive up to £50,000 to inspire, involve and improve their local community. Through ITV coverage across the UK we want to encourage different types of groups to apply for Big Lottery Fund grants and raise awareness of Lottery funding.

Each night for a week in November, those who make the best applications will compete for the public vote on prime time ITV regional news. Whether or not they succeed, the competition represents a great opportunity to mobilise support and publicity behind a local cause. 

Please encourage groups in your constituency towww.peoplesmillions.org.uk or contact the Big Advice Line on 0845 4 10 20 30 or Text Relay 18001 plus 0845 4 10 20 30 (for those with a hearing or speech impairment). The deadline for applications is 16 May 2014.

For further information please visit www.peoplesmillions.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @peoplesmillions and include #pplsmillions in any tweets.

Yours sincerely

Dawn Austwick
Chief Executive

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

David Cameron is putting his party before his country on Europe

David Cameron’s approach to Europe is putting his narrow party interest before national interest, putting at risk growth at home and British influence abroad. He seems to be spending more time negotiating with his backbenchers than negotiating with European partners to deliver real reform. David Cameron’s decision to isolate himself from the rest of the EU means he has no influence in Europe at all. No wonder the business community is worried. The Tories are drifting towards exit, without a thought for what that means for jobs and growth.

Labour believes Britain’s interests are best served by remaining at the heart of a reformed EU, not by leaving the EU. We will make the hard-headed, patriotic case, based on national interest, both for Britain in Europe, and for change in Europe. We want to see change in Europe to make it work better for Britain, and this week we have set out the reforms we will fight for if we win in 2015.

Labour’s reforms will deliver a Europe focused on jobs and growth. On immigration, we will fight for the free, but fair movement of people, with EU migrants expected to contribute to our economy. Under Labour Child benefit would only go to those who live here and residency requirements would be extended for migrants seeking Job Seekers Allowance.

And we would put a stop to EU migration leading to a race to the bottom between EU workers and local workers because the minimum wage isn’t properly enforced and rules on agency workers are full of loopholes. EU rules can stop this and a Labour Government will fight to ensure they do.

But this week we’ve also drawn our line in the sand about giving more powers to Europe. The next Labour Government will legislate for a ‘lock’ that guarantees there cannot be a transfer of powers between Britain and the EU without an in/out referendum.

Labour won’t let party politics get in the way of a better future for Britain- our priority is to tackle the cost of living crisis, save the NHS and get the economy back on track.

LOCAL PEOPLE SHOULD BE MORE INVOLVED IN THE FUTURE OF HOSPITAL SERVICES, NOT LESS

I’ve spoken to local people and many have told me they’re concerned about the future of health services in Hyndburn.

David Cameron promised he’d protect the NHS but worsening patient care and cuts to staffing show that the NHS is not safe in his hands..

Clause 119 of the Government’s Care Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, would give the Government in Westminster the power to go over the heads of local communities and close local hospitals like Accrington Victoria. It just goes to show you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.

I voted to reject clause 119 in Parliament on Tuesday because local people deserve better.

Only with Labour will the NHS be better off. Communities need to be actively involved in decisions taken on the future of local health facilities. That’s why the next Labour government will make sure local people have a formal role in drawing up and deciding on proposals for changes to maternity wards, A&E units or any other health service before they get to the consultation stage.

We will give communities and patients more control over services, and ensure the NHS and the skilled professionals who work in it can focus on what matters: delivering care for you and your family when you need it.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Update on EU Assisted Area Status for Hyndburn

I have been working closely with the local government in Lancashire to campaign for a widening of the Assisted Area Status for wards in Hyndburn.

Assisted Area Status means that an area (defined by local authority ward boundaries) is exempt from EU rules preventing state aid – effectively meaning that the British Government can provide assistance to business and the local economy in deprived areas. 

For various reasons such as low pay, levels of unemployment and in particular the large manufacturing sector in the region, East Lancashire is an area which is eligible for a potentially large amount of state aid. The first consultation launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills actually offered a good deal for East Lancashire – it recognised the real need which exists, and I think it is a good basis on which to proceed. 

At the time I wrote to the Minister expressing my support the AAS map as it then stood. 

However it is the view of many in local government in Lancashire now that we should be pushing for the inclusion of further wards into the state aid area. I have come to believe strongly that Worsley, should be included in the ASS area – the arguments which the Government has accepted as a valid basis for the inclusion of other areas can also be extended to include Worsley.

Moreover, I believe that there is significant grounds to look at Church, Central and Milnshaw, which all have a good case to be made. For instance Milnshaw has a 25.6% manufacturing employment levels, 66% employment and 84.5% low-skilled workforce. 

There are population limits as to how many people can live in wards that benefit from AAS aid, however the Government may have 'held back' a certain amount of population designation – if this is the case then I would urge them to urgently look at Worsley as well as the three Hyndburn wards. 

I have written to Michael Fallon, who is the Minister responsible for the AAS consultation and process to once again push the case for state aid in East Lancashire.U

Let’s tax bank bonuses to fund jobs for young people in Haslingden and Hyndburn

Too many young people in Haslingden and Hyndburn are struggling to find work - and not seeing any economic recovery at all. The number of young people aged 18-24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for over a year has doubled under David Cameron, from 28,300 in May 2010 to 56,100 today.

We cannot afford to waste the talents of thousands of young people and leave them stuck on the dole for years on end. It scars their lives, weakens our economy and adds billions to the social security bill.

Labour knows we need a long-term plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and earn our way to higher
living standards for all - an economic recovery for everyone, not just a few at the top. So the next Labour government will get young people and the long-term unemployed in Haslingden and Hyndburn off benefits and into work through a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee.

The Jobs Guarantee will give every young person out of work in Haslingden and Hyndburn for more than 12 months a paid starter job which they will have to take up or lose their benefits.

If the Tory-led government introduced Labour’s Jobs Guarantee today it would make a real difference. 100 young people would benefit in Haslingden and Hyndburn. In May 2010 just 5 young people were unemployed and had been claiming for more than 12months, that figure has risen sharply to 105 according to the ONS.

Unfortunately the Tories and their Lib Dem allies voted down Labour’s proposal to introduce the Jobs Guarantee when we brought it to the House of Commons in November last year. I voted for it because I know it would have a real impact on the lives of local young people.

The Compulsory Jobs Guarantee shows the difference a Labour government would make to the lives of tens of thousands of young people across the country. Only Labour will ensure there is a recovery for the many, not just a few at the top. This way we can all earn our way out of the cost of living crisis.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Why cutting the ECO funding is another attack on housing and jobs in poorer areas like Hyndburn

Here is the transcript of the speech I made in the Commons on Wednesday regarding the Government’s cynical decision to the amount of money the energy companies have to pay to insulate people’s homes. The Government have essentially let the energy companies off the hook, allowing them to continue business as usual in a broken and uncompetitive market.

But this has real consequences on the ground, where now in Hyndburn, people can no longer get their incredibly cold homes insulated. They won’t see their bills go down, and will continue to pay over the odds on their energy bills.

This is a very important issue in the area because of the nature of the housing stock – energy consumers in Hyndburn stand to be hit worse than most of the rest of the UK.
Mervyn Kirk, Director of Operations at Isothane Ltd in Hyndburn who was present in Parliament to listen to the debate wrote to me yesterday  to thank me for an "excellent presentation in the debate at the House on Tuesday".
I invited the Minister to come to my constituency to see these homes, however he did not respond in his speech so I have written to him. I think this is very important – a minister sitting in London making decisions that have a disproportionate effect on Hyndburn should come and see the result of his decision-making.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) on her tenacity and on securing today’s debate.


Friday, 14 March 2014

This morning I visited local specialist pneumatic engineering company, Pneumatrol in Oswaldtwistle.




The company employ 84 people locally and trade across the world with their specialist products. Anybody who has been on a London Underground train or even an SNCF train in France will have done so with the help of a Pneumatrol engineered product from here in Hyndburn.


Cameron has no answer to the 2000% increase in long term youth unemployment in Hyndburn

Bank bonuses are on the rise and the wealthiest in our country have been given a tax cut by David Cameron. But young people, who have been hit hardest by the recession, are being left behind.

Too many young people in Haslingden and Hyndburn are struggling to find work and not seeing any economic recovery at all. The number of young people aged 18-24 claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for over a year has doubled under David Cameron - from 28,300 in May 2010 to 56,100 today.

Hyndburn has had the 10th highest rise in long term youth unemployment in the country since David Cameron took office. We have had a staggering 2000% increase since the election.


The Great Train Robbery! East Lancashire train line with no trains... (whilst PMs constituency is looked after)

Like many in the region I was incredibly disappointed to see the news that trains from the region are being taken out of service and sent to serve the Chiltern Rail in the South of England. I raised this in the House last week:

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): May we have an urgent Government statement on the great train robbery? In east Lancashire we have a brand new line with no trains on it, and last week we found out that the trans-Pennine trains are being moved to the Prime Minister’s constituency in the south. It seems to me there is a huge north-south shift, and that the north is being short-changed.

Mr Lansley: I will ask my hon. Friends at the Department for Transport if they will respond directly to the hon. Gentleman on that issue, and he may wish to raise it at Transport questions. As far as I am aware—I stand to be corrected—such matters are governed not so much by Government policy but as a consequence of the way train operating companies and Network Rail behave.

There has been a long-standing and hard fought campaign in the region to get the Todmorden Curve reopened, which now appears to have been undermined by the fact that the TransPennine train fleet will be cut by 13% in 2015, as 9 of 70 trains are moved from the region to go and serve the Home Counties and David Cameron’s leafy Oxfordshire constituency.

We already have an overcrowded service and a 13% cut in the fleet will only compound this.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

New report from Breast Cancer Campaign

Dear Mr Jones, I wanted to let you know about a new report published today by Breast Cancer Campaign, Finding the cures, improving the care. This report explores how more effective monitoring of performance against the NICE Breast cancer quality standard (BCQS) could be used to drive improvements in the standard of care for women with breast cancer.

Google Copycat Websites Update

Graham Jones (Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons); Hyndburn, Labour)

Last weekend I was searching for a V14 form to return a tax disc, I did a search on Google and a copycat website came up offering services that cost money. What efforts are being made by the Government to work with the advertising agencies to try to deal with copycat websites that are ripping people off?

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 12 March 2014, c308)

Francis Maude (The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General; Horsham, Conservative)

My colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and I had a meeting with Google and others last week to address exactly this issue. We are taking urgent steps, with Google and with the Advertising Standards Authority, to address it. It is a real concern, the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it and we are on the case.



Dear Mr Jones,

I am writing to update you following recent discussions between Google and the Government about ‘copycat websites’.

Support our new campaign - Type 1 diabetes: Make the grade

Dear Mr Jones, Diabetes UK has launched its 2014 campaign to improve care for children with diabetes in school.

Type 1 diabetes: Make the grade.

Last year, hundreds of parents told us about the care their children get at school. The response we had from parents of children with Type 1 diabetes was overwhelming.

Their stories painted a worryingly familiar picture. - Over a third said their child’s school care plan does not meet their needs.
- One in seven said their child doesn’t get support from school staff to deal with low blood sugar levels.
- Overall, one in five told us that the care their child is getting at school isn’t good enough.