Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Justice must be seen to be done. Violence is all to common and all to often celebrated by young males.

It is often said that as well as justice being done, justice must be seen to be done. For the public to have confidence in the system, they need to see that where someone has been the victim of crime, they are compensated and the offender punished. 

However the flipside of this is the deterrent effect of justice – I would argue that as well as justice being seen to be done, it also needs to be seen to deter. People do not commit crimes – in part – because of the punishment regime which exists, however if they do not 'feel' the deterrent effect of it, then what good is that incentive in the system? Every time a lenient sentence is given out, or a sentence which appears short without good reason given clearly, it sends a system to the violent and criminal that they can basically get away with it.

I was recently contacted by someone who works for a local charity which works with offenders and young people to educate them in the risks of getting involved in violent confrontations. It is hard for them to swallow when stories abound in the media about violent individuals who barely feel the force of the law, despite committing life-destroying crimes. 

So when you read reports such as this one about a man beating his pregnant girlfriend, after having served a custodial sentence for manslaughter, gets an 18 week sentence, it is difficult to see how the deterrent effect of prison is being communicated.

I want to see a renewed look at this. Whereas Chris Grayling has spent his time making headlines for all the wrong reasons, I want to see the system function better as a deterrent, and function more visibly in the interests of justice.

"Who is protecting the vulnerable and the poor?"

Dear Mr Jones, Did you know that 4 of your constituents every day lose their life savings through a scam or rogue trader? One trading standards service in a London authority recently told me that on average 4 residents a day call to report a major financial loss to criminal activity of this kind. They lose not only their life savings and the means to live independently, but also the confidence to do so. A victim of doorstep crime is two and a half times more likely than non-victim peers to be in residential care or have died two years later.

These rogue traders and scammers target the most vulnerable in our society. Yet the resources allocated to protect them have been slashed during this parliament. A recent workforce survey by the Trading Standards Institute and the National Trading Standards board shows that on average trading standards budgets across England and Wales will have been cut by 40% over the lifetime of this parliament. Staff numbers have been cut by almost half since 2009. 70% of trading standards services will stop or limit some services, including proactive consumer education initiatives and consumer advice.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Support the Treat Me Right campaign today!

To Mr Graham Jones MP,

Today marks the launch of the MS Society 'Treat Me Right<http://www.treatmerightms.org.uk/about/>' campaign, which calls for everyone with MS to be able to access the right treatment, at the right time, no matter where they live.

For the more than 100,000 people living with MS in the UK, the right treatment can make a huge difference to their lives, from helping control relapses to managing symptoms.

Access to MS treatments is however abysmally low, with the UK ranked 25th out of 27 European countries on the use of disease modifying drugs. Many people also struggle to access treatments specifically licensed to help with MS symptoms.

New medicines are on their way but unless barriers to accessing medicines are addressed, too few people with MS will benefit from them.

People often face difficulties in accessing MS specialists and a lack of information about the treatment options available to them. In addition, not all treatments have been approved for the NHS by national appraisal bodies, meaning that funding is often an issue. Unless these drugs are given a positive recommendation, there is no obligation for them to be prescribed by healthcare professionals. Having to navigate local funding systems creates anguish and stress, which in turn can exacerbate the symptoms of MS.

In order to address these barriers, we are calling for:

1. All licensed MS treatments to be available on the NHS to everyone eligible for them
2. Regular reviews of treatment and care by MS specialists for everyone with MS
3. All people with relapsing remitting MS invited to talk with a specialist about their treatment, in light of new disease modifying drug (DMD) options in 2014
4. Accessible information about treatment options, and support to be equal partners in decision-making about their treatment and care

Over the course of the campaign, we need your support to help improve access to MS treatments. As a Member of Parliament, please help to support the campaign by:

* Signing EDM 1274<http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/1274> entitled 'MS Week'
* Signing up to the campaign at www.treatmerightms.org.uk/sign-up/<http://www.treatmerightms.org.uk/sign-up/> and pledging your support
* Sharing the campaign with colleagues, and sharing your support on social media using #treatmeright

We hope you will join us in fighting to improve access to MS treatments. If you have any further questions about MS or the MS Society, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for your support,

Georgina

Senior Public Affairs Officer, MS Society

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Poll reveals public support for FOBT restrictions

A new YouGov poll commissioned by the Campaign for Fairer Gambling revealed the growing public discord towards FOBTs earlier this month, as it was revealed that 70% of Brits back calls for restrictions on the addictive roulette terminals.

The Daily Mail soon picked up the story – which also discovered that nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) said the £100 maximum stake that can be bet on each spin should be restricted – with 60 per cent of those polled saying it should be slashed to only £2. Only 6 per cent said the current level at which customers can bet was ‘about right’.

You can find out more about the YouGov polling on our website, including a copy of the results and our accompanying press release.

Local authorities join forces to curb spread of betting shops

Over 60 councils have joined forces to demand the Government changes the planning law to stop the spread of betting shops. At present, betting shops are classed as A2 financial services, which means they are in the same planning category as banks and estate agents.

If successful, the Local Works campaign to put betting shops back in their own planning use class would enable councils to refuse new planning applications from bookmakers. Local Works, which amassed the support of the 63 local authorities from across the country, said that the clustering of betting shops – particularly in poorer areas – has become a significant problem for many communities in recent years.

The initiative was supported by many high profile councils, including Brighton & Hove, South Tyneside, Nottingham City and Northumberland County.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Hospital statistics on dog bite incidents

Dear Mr Jones, You may have seen that the annual hospital statistics on dog bite incidents have been released today.

The RSPCA has made the following points in response to these statistics reminding people that education is key to reducing the number of attacks on people, especially children.

The RSPCA is concerned but unsurprised to see that the annual number of admissions to hospitals for dogs bites and strikes released by the HSCIC has again increased. The Government has said it will use dog bite statistics to measure the effectiveness of the new law which comes into force in May but we don’t expect this trend to change while the law does nothing to prevent these sorts of dog bites and attacks from happening in the first place.

My visit to Axiom (precision engineering) Ltd. in Altham



Yesterday afternoon I visited Axiom Ltd in Altham. They are a precision engineering firm and have major contracts with BT and other national and international companies. I was delighted to hear that they are currently expanding and have acquired new premises to increase capacity and meet customer demands.

Craig and Gregg as joint MDs are also committed to helping local young people into work and I met Sam from Great Harwood who joined the firm last year from the Job Scheme that I have supported with the Job Centre plus. Sam is training on new machines and learning new skills daily, Axiom should be proud of how they're supporting local young people.

I wish the firm every success in the future and I look forward to seeing them expand further.

Visiting the famous Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co in Haslingden



Yesterday morning I went to see Andrew Holt at Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co in Haslingden. Using a recipe from 1879 the family firm have become the most feted black pudding company in the UK and have won awards in Europe for their puddings.

Andrew has also developed vegetarian black pudding and sells across the UK to supermarkets, independent butchers, markets and the restaurant and catering trade. The firm's plans for expansion include a new kitchen area where they can develop new lines and attract local chefs to try their produce.

We have some fantastic businesses and products available in this part of Lancashire and it's great to see a family firm putting Lancashire on the map.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

My visit to James Dewhurst Comapny on Altham Industrial Estate.

Yesterday I visited James Dewhurst on Altham Industrial Estate. They employ over 200 people in their precision fabrics business and export all over the world. You'll find their products in car seats, flooring, roofing, wind turbines, military clothing and insulation products and their UK manufacturing is done in the constituency.


It was an excellent opportunity to speak with Malcolm Blackwell the Group CEO about their plans for the future, the business in America and how they can help other business and young people in Hyndburn and Haslingden find work and apprenticeships with them.

I'd like to thank the firm for allowing me to visit and I look forward to seeing their apprenticeship and other developments grow in the future.

Propaganda on the rates; Pickles needs to look closer to home...

   Eric Pickles has once again been handing out his latest edict on Town Hall Pravda's on the rates.

At the same time David Cameron has been sending out letters to millions of businesses talking up Tory policies. 1.9million in fact. I have been contacted by businesses in the constituency registering their disapproval of the content of the letter.

Cameron is accused of using public funds for Tory spin. Top officials and the election watchdog are now set to investigate whether David Cameron's letter to businesses promoting the new employment allowance amounts to taxpayer funded "Tory propaganda".

I have written to Eric Pickles to agree with him and ask him what he is going to say and do about 'propaganda' emanating from his own party at taxpayers expense?

It all smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism ahead of elections: a different set of rules apply to privileged Tories.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Care Quality Commission acts on behalf of concerns over care at Oswaldtwistle home

On the 7th March I received a copy of a letter sent anonymously to The Accrington Observer raising concerns about Mimosa Health Care an their White Ash Brook care home in Oswaldtwistle

I have made enquiries and received a reply from the Care Quality Commission following their inspection.

Looking after elderly people is something that should be done with care and compassion. It is sad that the highest of standards are not held always up by private care home owners.




Should libraries have be able to lend ebooks in the same way as printed books?


Dear Mr Graham Jones MP, Did you know that libraries are not able to lend ebooks in the same way as printed books?

Over 85% of published e-books are not available to borrow from public libraries in the UK, often because publishers refuse to supply them, impose heavy restrictions on their use or charge very high prices.

Ebook sales accounted for 29% of the total UK book market in 2013, but only 0.4% of all books borrowed from public libraries in 2012-13 were ebooks.

Public libraries provide everyone with the opportunity to read, and access information and knowledge. As the way we read changes so must the way libraries lend books.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Accrington rail campaign: get us back on track

I have raised the issue of the new £8m Accrington to Manchester rail line having no trains several times in Parliament. I am delighted the Accrington Observer has taken up the campaign to pressurise the government into finding at least one train to enable the line to begin offering a service.

Manchester is a growing metropolitan area with not just better paid employment on average, but different and varied job opportunities in the city centre and crucially job opportunities within companies that offer good career prospects.

This line is vital. East Lancashire is becoming part of the Greater Manchester economic region. It's not just links to Manchester Airport but the Odsall Curve (linking Victoria and Piccadilly stations) to be completed in 2018 will offer direct rail and airport links.

I have already made the case to Network Rail and the Rail minister that the East Lancs line should after 2018 go straight through to Piccadilly and onto the airport.

Such developments represent huge opportunities for growth in Hyndburn. Bringing skills and investment to the northern arc of Manchester competing with crowded Cheshire as well as connecting people of East Lancs to services, jobs in the city and regional transport hubs.

The government are promising a train this December. I will continue to keep up the pressure to ensure that a diesel engine arrives sooner rather than later…

Here are the latest three replies from the minister following my inquiries.








Monday, 21 April 2014

World Health Day, Getting Malaria?

To mark World Health Day, I got involved in the Getting Malaria? event held by Malaria No More in Parliament. This experiential event inspired, engaged and thanked supporters of all political parties for backing UK action to fight malaria.

(Bizarrely I came home from Africa recently and was accompanied by a mosquito hiding in my luggage. It was quickly squashed a few miles from Manchester Airport with a ballast of blood. Alarming to think it may have been carrying malaria.)

It gave me an opportunity to find out more about the transformational difference being made to millions of people around the world thanks to UK leadership and increased global action to save lives from malaria, one of the world’s most deadly yet preventable diseases.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

The botched sale of royal mail leaves Britain hundreds of miillions of pounds worse off

This week the National Audit Office (NAO) released a damning report into David Cameron's botched fire sale of Royal Mail. The report revealed that the taxpayer was short-changed by hundreds of millions of pounds after the share price rose by 38 per cent on the first day of trading, and 70 per cent over the following six months.

Labour opposed the privatisation and warned the government that it was drastically undervaluing Royal Mail’s property assets. It is now clear that ministers could have raised far more money than it did and the public has lost out thanks to their incompetence.

The government rushed the sale through, got poor value for money and the British public has been left short-changed by £750 million.

David Cameron’s botched fire sale shows once again how he stands up for the wrong people. He sold off Royal Mail on the cheap to try to help plug the financial hole he made in the British economy. With ordinary people in Haslingden and Hyndburn facing a cost of living crisis, it’s time for David Cameron to explain why he is asking hard-working people to pay more, while he is prepared to sell Royal Mail for less.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Hard working Britain deserves to be better off

In a speech this week, Ed Miliband heralded the biggest devolution of power to England’s great towns and cities in a hundred years as the next stage of Labour’s plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

By ending a century of centralisation, a One Nation Labour Government in 2015 will hand control of around £20 billion to City and County Regions over the course of its first parliament. The change will mean putting local communities back in control, more and better economic growth and jobs, and public services that better meet the needs of local people.

Ed Miliband knows the way to make a real difference in people’s lives is to make sure the economy works for working people, not just a few at the top. That means creating decent, secure, well-paid jobs so we can all benefit from the recovery. The changes he announced this week are an important part of Labour’s plan.

There was once a time when working hard meant being better off, but under David Cameron’s Tories that’s no longer the case.

David Cameron boasts about the recovery, but hardworking people are facing a cost of living crisis that will continue because the link between growth of our economy and family living standards has been broken.

Working people are £1600 worse off under the Tories, and most of us feel like we are running to stand still as prices continue to rise. The prospect of a better life for our children – a foot on the housing ladder and a wage that does more than put food on the table – seems sadly remote.

Hardworking Britain deserves better than this.

Tackling the ongoing cost of living crisis will be the central purpose of the next Labour government. Ed Miliband will build an economy that works for working people and has an economic plan to ensure we can earn our way to higher living standards.

David Cameron can’t solve the cost of living crisis because he puts a privileged few before hardworking families. The key to tackling the cost of living crisis is by winning the race to the top with an economy that works for everyone, with new high skill jobs, not a race to the bottom on pay and living standards.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ed Balls: Why Labour won't stop talking about the cost of living crisis

Ed Balls has written for the Guardian on the cost of living crisis the government fails to address and Labour’s ideas to mend the broken link between the wealth of the country and people's own finances.

Over the coming weeks we can expect ministers to start telling us that the cost of living crisis is over but for most families in Britain today such a declaration, on the back of a handful of economic statistics, will only confirm just how out of touch this government is.

Labour will continue to set out radical but credible policies to earn our way to higher living standards for all, not just a few and tackle this deep-seated cost of living crisis. We will make work pay and tackle insecurity by strengthening the minimum wage, incentivising the living wage, ending the abuse of zero-hours contracts and expanding free childcare for working parents.

This is in addition to Labour’s policies to:
• Reform our uncompetitive banks
• Reform the energy market including a price freeze for families and businesses
• Create more good jobs
• Devolve economic power to Britain's towns and cities
• Boost vocational education
• Get young people into work
• Cut business rates
• Introduce a British Investment Bank
• Increase house building to at least 200,000 a year

To read Ed Balls’ article please see the link here - http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/14/labour-party-cost-of-living-crisis

Latest foodbank figures top 900,000: life has got worse not better for poorest in 2013/14, and this is just the tip of the iceberg

  • 913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to 346,992 in 2012-13
  • Figures are ‘tip of the iceberg’ of UK food poverty says Trussell Trust Chairman
  • 83% of foodbanks report ‘sanctioning’ is causing rising numbers to turn to them
Foodbank figures trigger biggest ever faith leader intervention on UK food poverty in modern times.



Over 900,000 adults and children have received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163 percent rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year. Despite signs of economic recovery, the poorest have seen incomes squeezed even more than last year reports The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network. More people are being referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks than ever before.

Static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare, especially sanctioning, are significant drivers of the increased demand. 83 percent of Trussell Trust foodbanks surveyed recently [see notes below] reported that benefits sanctions, which have become increasingly harsh, have caused more people to be referred to them for emergency food. Half of referrals to foodbanks in 2013-14 were a result of benefit delays or changes.


Exhibition of Local Artwork, Churchfield House, Great Harwood.

David Cameron promised to clean up politics, but he has failed

People are right to be appalled by the actions of Maria Miller and David Cameron this week. Maria Miller should have resigned a week ago over transgressions with her expenses- you can’t have one rule for Cabinet Ministers and a different rule for everybody else.

But the truth is David Cameron was too slow to act, and that failure has undermined trust, not only in his policies but in politics as a whole.

Politics really needs to change. We must change the system which oversees standards in Parliament if we are to restore confidence in politics. Labour is pushing for a quick reform on this but the Tory-led Government is resisting.

In opposition, David Cameron promised to clean up politics and make a difference.
I don’t think this is what most people had in mind.

Labour will bring in a new approach to immigration

David Cameron is failing on his net migration target and numbers have gone up. Illegal immigration is getting worse, but the number of fee-paying overseas university students has fallen for the first time in decades, cutting the investment they bring into Britain.

I know people in Haslingden and Hyndburn want to see tough action on immigration which is exactly what Labour is determined to do.

We want stronger border controls – including proper exit checks so we know who is here and who isn’t, and action taken about the hundreds of thousands of people who overstay their visas.


Dear Mr Jones, How can Big Lottery Fund best help communities and people most in need?

From now until July we are inviting people to add their voice to a UK-wide conversation to help us answer this question.


The Guardian video: "FOBTs: the crack cocaine of gambling"


Dear MP, The Guardian last night released a video entitled "FOBTs: the crack cocaine of gambling", the most comprehensive and insightful film on fixed odds betting terminals to date. You can watch it here.

The video features:
  1. an interview with a drug dealer who uses FOBTs to launder the proceeds of crime
  2. a former addict who has lost everything to the machines
  3. the chief executive of the company that produces FOBTs avoiding questioning
  4. shop staff disclosing how FOBTs have changed the nature of their job, and why their pay structure is irreconcilable with social responsibility
The Prime Minister is expected to announce proposals to restrict fixed odds betting terminals very soon. The Campaign for Fairer Gambling is calling for a reduction in the maximum bet per spin to £2, which would bring them into line with other easily accessible gaming machines in Britain such as fruit machines.

At present on FOBTs it is possible to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds on casino games, the most popular being roulette. Betting shops are limited to four FOBTs per shop, which is why multiple outlets are opening in "clusters" on the high street.

Restricting the maximum stake per spin to £2 would reduce the incentive for bookmakers to open in clusters, would better protect the player from harm and would return the focus of the betting industry to racing and sports betting, which should be their core business. However, FOBTs currently account for more than half of their profits.

Find out more about our campaign at stopthefobts.org

Regards Campaign For Fairer Gambling

David Cameron is the worst prime minister on living standards since records began

David Cameron will go down in history as the Prime Minister who cut people’s living standards over the course of this Parliament.

Hardworking people are £1,600 a year worse off under Cameron, and according to statistics he is now officially the worst Prime Minister on living standards since records began.

No other Prime Minister comes close to overseeing the disaster for living standards David Cameron has overseen – of more months of falling wages than any other Prime Minster on record.

David Cameron can’t solve the cost of living crisis, because he puts a privileged few before hardworking families. He won’t freeze energy bills because he stands up for the big energy companies, not consumers.

Hardworking people are crying out for change. They need a Prime Minister with a long term plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and build an economy that works for working people.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Government votes against a freeze on bills for households in Haslingden and Hyndburn

Thousands of households across Britain were this week denied an energy bill freeze when the Tories and their Liberal Democrat allies blocked Labour’s call to freeze energy bills until 2017, which would have saved the average household £120.

David Cameron had the chance to put hard-working people before the big energy companies. But once again hard-working people will rightly be asking why they have been left out in the cold, while David Cameron stands up for a privileged few.

Labour will not let the Government kick the problem of rip-off energy bills into the long grass.

As the recent price freeze announcement from SSE shows, Labour's freeze plan is possible - despite what David Cameron says to the contrary.

A Labour Government will break up the big energy companies, create genuine competition and make tariffs simpler and fairer. And until these reforms kick in, we will put a stop to unfair price rises by freezing energy bills until 2017, saving the average household £120.

Working people are worse off under the Tories

This week Parliament has been debating David Cameron and George Osborne's Budget. Labour has been highlighting the lack of action to address the cost-of-living crisis, which will see working people worse off at the end of this parliament than they were at the beginning.

Working people are £1,600 a year worse off under George Osborne because wages have fallen in real terms.

Analysis of figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that households are already £900 a year worse off as a result of the tax and benefit changes since 2010.

While millionaires have been given a huge tax cut, millions of hard-working people have seen their taxes go up.

There have been 24 Tory tax rises, including the hike in VAT hike which has cost families with children an average of £1,350 over the last three years.

Labour has a long term plan to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. We will cut taxes for 24 million people on middle and lower incomes by introducing a lower 10p starting rate of tax. And we will freeze energy bills, cut and then freeze business rates for small firms, and expand free childcare for working parents too.

These are the policies that the next Labour Government will put in place to help us earn our way to better living standards for all. The real issues that ordinary people face have been ignored by David Cameron and his out-of-touch Government for far too long.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Only Labour’s energy price freeze will do

With working people £1600 worse off under the Tories, Ed Miliband is right to keep pushing for Labour’s energy price freeze.

David Cameron has refused to do anything to help hard pressed bill payers because he refuses to stand up to the big energy companies as always putting a privileged few before hardworking families.

But David Cameron's argument against Labour’s energy price freeze was totally demolished this week when one energy company, SSE, announced a price freeze for its customers – proving that Labour’s price freeze is possible, not to mention being the right thing to do.

Labour welcomes the price freeze for SSE customers, but the customers of other energy companies also need action now.

A full price freeze will only happen with a Labour Government –because unlike the Tories, we understand the pressures ordinary people face and will deal with the cost of living crisis head on. That’s why Ed Miliband has announced plans to freeze gas and electricity bills until 2017, while we reform the broken energy market.

With energy bills up almost £300 since the election, David Cameron should do the right thing now and start standing up for hardworking families instead of a privileged few.

Monday, 14 April 2014

No action on cost of living means social security bill is going up, not down, under the Tories

Ed Miliband called for an overall cap on social security spending last year - and in the House of Commons this week I voted for a cap.

But far from having a grip on the public finances, David Cameron and George Osborne have spent £13 billion more on welfare than they originally planned. Their failure to tackle low wages, deal with the cost-of-living crisis and get more homes built means that under the Tories the social security bill is going up instead of down.

A Labour Government would do things differently. Where this Government has failed, Labour will make different and fairer choices to keep the social security bill under control and tackle the root causes of spending.

We’ll introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get young people and the long-term unemployed back to work. We’ll scrap the Bedroom Tax – it is unfair and the evidence shows it may end up costing more rather than saving money. We’ll stop paying the winter fuel allowance to the richest five per cent of pensioners. And we’ll get more homes built and tackle the low wages which have pushed up spending on benefits.

Last week’s Budget proved you are worse off under the Tories, with no action to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Wages are down £1,600 a year since David Cameron became Prime Minister.

Britain needs a Labour Government to freeze energy bills until 2017, to put young people back to work with our jobs guarantee, to expand free childcare and cut taxes for working people on middle and low incomes. We have a long term plan to tackle the cost of living crisis head on.

David Cameron is throwing taxpayers money down the drain - under the Tories we have had the slowest recovery for 100 years, breaking their promise to balance the books by 2015 and borrowing £190 billion more than they planned – and nearly a million young people are still unemployed. He can’t build an economy that works for everyone because he puts a privileged few before hard working families.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Why the government couldn't care less about young people.

5.8% of 16-17 year old's in Lancashire are still not in Education or Training. The figure in Hyndburn is higher, 7.8%. Back in 2008 legislation was passed making training or education compulsory from September 2013.

In my view this was important milestone but the Conservative/LibDem government have watered down regulations around enforcement, fragmented responsibilities for 16-18 years old's between schools, shire councils and  Education Funding Council and have displayed negligence towards young people.

I recently received a letter from a Minister which just highlighted this Government’s dismissive attitude to young people. The issue is the new legal duty (legislated for back in 2008; Educations and; Skills Act) placed on local authorities to ensure all young people aged 16-17 are in education or training. A policy better known as Raising the Participation Age, or ‘RPA’.

Concerned about NEETs in Hyndburn and across my local authority Lancashire, I wrote to the Minster after House of Commons library figures for the first term (Sept – Dec 2013) of this new policy which showed there remains an alarmingly high number of young people as NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training). Far from the 100% mandated, the national figure of those in employment and training is just 94.2%.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Higher living standards for the many, not just a few. Video

The Labour Party (@UKLabour)
Higher living standards for the many, not just a few. That's what the next Labour government will fight for: youtube.com/watch?v=VzxXm7…

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Backing Usdaw’s campaign to stop the Universal Credit disincentive to work.



This week I joined Usdaw activists in the House of Commons on their campaign to persuade the Government to change Universal Credit rules that mean working people will only be allowed to keep 24p in every extra pound they earn.

Shopworkers trade union leader John Hannett believes that the huge 76% claw-back of additional earnings from workers on Universal Credit is unfair and a massive disincentive for people to look for ways to increase their income and work their way off benefits altogether.

Usdaw are right to highlight this problem with the Government's Universal Credit and I hope Ministers will listen and act before the scheme is fully rolled out. Many working people will be clobbered by this 76% marginal deduction rate for taxpayers on Universal Credit. That will put off claimants from working longer hours and potential second earners from working at all, perpetuating the poverty trap for families on low pay.


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

NORTH WEST PRIVATE SECTOR HOUSING BENEFIT CLAIMS UP 53.8 % FROM 2008 TO 2013 AS PUBLIC FUNDS TO LANDLORDS SOAR FUELLING “BUY TO LET” EMPIRES

NORTH WEST PRIVATE SECTOR HOUSING BENEFIT CLAIMS UP 53.8 % FROM 2008 TO 2013 AS PUBLIC FUNDS TO LANDLORDS SOAR FUELLING "BUY TO LET" EMPIRES

The recession did not hit "buy to let" landlords now renting out a million more properties than in 2008 and it is far cheaper to build social houses for rent to stop £9 billion a year lining the pockets of the already wealthy says GMB

In the North West in November 2008 there were 142,751 private sector housing benefit claimants costing the Exchequer £1,735.2 million. By November 2013 this number had increased by 53.8% to 219,536 and costs had increased to £2,654.2m. The additional costs were £918.9m.

The numbers of private sector claimants in Preston grew 100.1% in the same period. Next was Wigan up 95.3%, followed by Manchester 93.3%, South Ribble 90.3%, Salford 88.7%, Warrington 81.8%, Carlisle 78.5%, Bury 76.5%, Bolton 72.8% and Stockport 72.6%. Set out in the table below are the figures for all 39 local councils in the region ranked by the % increase in the numbers claiming housing benefits.


If you love football you will hate this- Jim Murphy MP

Dear Graham, If you love football you will hate this.The treatment of migrant workers is no longer the ugly secret of the beautiful game – we know the truth and football has to act.



As you know Qatar is to play host to the 2022 football World Cup. Last week I travelled to Qatar with the International TUC as part of a special Sunday Mail investigation into the treatment of migrant workers in the tiny Gulf State. I thought you might be interested in what I and others on the visit learnt.

Qatar is a remarkable country. In many ways it is undergoing enormous and positive change. Situated on the edge of the the Arabian Peninsula and twenty times smaller than Britain this increasingly important regional power is home to the broadcaster Al Jazeera, some of the largest gas reserves on the planet and in 2022 the first ever World Cup to be held in the Middle East. Its capital city of Doha is an architectural oasis of jaw dropping beauty. The sun beats off a kaleidoscope of glass skyscrapers which are the equal of anything that New York has to offer. But in their shadow there is another story. It is one that should be told.


Monday, 7 April 2014

NCVO Civil Society Almanac: charities in Haslingden & Hyndburn.

NCVO Civil Society Almanac: charities in your constituency

Dear Graham, The National Council for Voluntary Organisations recently launched the 2014 UK Civil Society Almanac, which gives facts and stats on the voluntary sector, its size and scope, finances and the people that work and volunteer in it.

Charities in your constituency

From this we know that there are 130 charities in Hyndburn with an income of £11.5 million. Together those charities employ c. 200 people in your constituency. Across the UK, there are over 161,000 voluntary organisations with an income of £39.2bn and employing 800,000 people.

Funding and spending

Whilst the financial environment has been challenging, the Almanac reveals that income from the general public, the sector's biggest source of income, grew by 3.1%. With the exception of income from government, the rest of the sector's income sources also saw growth. Voluntary sector spending fell for the second year in a row.

World Health Day

Today is World Health Day – and the focus for this year is "Small Bite: Big Threat" and it focuses on the problems caused by Malaria. As well as being a personal health tragedy, Malaria is also responsible for economic problems and is the reason why so many in the developing world do not live to fulfil their full potential. 

80% of cases and 90% of deaths happen in Africa, so it is naturally the place we are able to see the largest negative impact caused by the disease. The disease costs the continent £8bn every single year, slows growth by around 1.3% in Malaria-high countries and 72% of companies in sub-Saharan Africa have reported a negative impact on their businesses as the result of malaria.

It is important that we think about Malaria in these economic and business terms as well as in terms of the tragedy to the individual and their family. The more we are able to reduce the impact of Malaria, the more the developing world will be able to stand on its own two feet in the fight against it.

The impact on family finances is also devastating, with many families spending around 25% of their income fighting it. How are young people supposed to fulfil their potential if their families are spending such a high proportion of their income combating this disease?

50% of deaths in African schoolchildren are caused by the disease, around half of preventable absenteeism in caused by it and up to 10 million school days are missed as the result of malaria.

However there are some positives to take – child deaths from malaria have halved since the year 2000. This is a remarkable achievement, and it must continue apace.

I will be attending an event this evening in Parliament to hear more about the problems caused by the disease, what we should be doing to prevent it, and the plans ahead of World Malaria Day on the 25th of April.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A Labour government will scrap the Bedroom Tax

On the one year anniversary of the Bedroom Tax, I pledge that a Labour government will scrap the Bedroom Tax which has hit 460 people in Hyndburn, and 354 people in Rossendale. 

Since David Cameron's government introduced the Bedroom Tax low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £720 a year. According to the National Housing Federation two thirds of households hit by the Bedroom Tax cannot find the money to pay their rents and one in seven are at risk of eviction. 

Britain can't afford another year of David Cameron and Nick Clegg's Bedroom Tax. This cruel policy was an attempt to balance the nation's finances on the backs of those who have no choice but to pay it because there is simply nowhere for them to move. What's more is that it isn't even working because the benefits bill is rising – because people are being moved into more expensive private rented housing. 

It's time for the government to ditch the Bedroom Tax, If they don't, then a Labour government will. 

I echo the words of Rachael Reeves, who said: "Over the past year half a million people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax, forcing thousands into debt and thousands more to rely on food banks. It's a cruel, unfair and costly tax which targets the vulnerable, with two thirds of those affected disabled. David Cameron promised the Bedroom Tax would save money, but figures in the Budget show the housing benefit bill is rising, not falling, with a huge £1billion increase over the next five years."