Monday, 30 June 2014
Witht eh rise of the right and UKIP, who is standing up for Britain following the European Parliamentary elections?
Labour is committed to representing the UK in Europe but it is also clear Britain's power base in Europe is being eroded by poor representation, by right wing MEPs who take the cash and benefits but whose interest is minimal at best. People who's sole contribution when they do speak is to moan from the sidelines and decry anything positive. MEPs who aren't standing up for you or me or Britain.
Britain's voice is now a weaker voice in Europe.
The Tories have left the mainstream EU Conservative Grouping, the European People's Party and joined the new European Conservatives and Reformists Group, which has dragged them from Euro-scepticism to Euro-extremism. A new group which includes parties from the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands and Latvia. A group which whose only German member party is the minority Party, Alternatives for Germany. The Tories' victory in the 2009 EU elections has proved catastrophic for Britain's national interests.
There is very simple issue which is at play when it comes to Cameron's policy on Europe – he is not governing in the interests of the country, he is running scared of the hard right wingers which make up a large slice of the Conservative Party and Britain has lost out over the last 5 years.
The Polish Foreign Minister has been secretly recorded saying that David Cameron has resorted to "stupid propaganda" merely to appease Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers. This may seem like petty political fighting but it is the reality of international relations – by offending our European partners, Cameron is making it more difficult for anything to change in Europe. He is not building a coalition of support necessary to get the best for the UK.
Indeed, David Cameron is spending much political capital in his attempt to prevent Jean Claude Junker from becoming president of the European Union. However the reason that it is such a battle is because by withdrawing from the European People's Party, the remaining members naturally don't want him to have a say over who takes the top job.
The EPP is the biggest party in the European Parliament, not David Cameron's group. If he hadn't left that grouping he would have a say, but because he is intent on side-lining the UK in Europe, he doesn't.
Britain's lack of power and influence is endemic.
It's symptomatic of the way Cameron has driven a wedge between the UK and EU which serves no useful purpose whatsoever. For instance, the UK has 12.5% of the population of the EU, yet we only supply 4.6% of the Commission's staff there compared to France which supplies 9.7%. If Cameron sincerely cared about British influence in Europe he would try and do something to reverse this – but he doesn't so he won't.
The rise of UKIP has only further isolated Britain. A proud nation with a proud history being turned into the 'European Joker'. A country not taken seriously – just look at the attendance record of UKIPs, they barely turn up. Analysis by VoteWatch Europe analysed their records, which showed that they only turned for 61% of votes – the worst of all 76 parties in Europe.
When they do bother to show up, they sit in a group in the EU which contains the Swedish Democrats (a party which was founded by neo-Nazis) and former members of the French National Front. Farage may appear to be a buffoon with a pint in his hand, but judged on the company he chooses to keep in Brussels, UKIP are clearly not working for the UK's national interest.
Everyone wants reform of Europe, everyone wants it to work better and to be less wasteful – Cameron is arguing with a straw man every time he makes out otherwise. But the volume of Cameron's straw man argument is beginning to raise anxious eyebrows amongst our European allies.
And all of this does matter – it matters because jobs depend on the EU, the living stands of people in Haslingden and Hyndburn depend on the EU, and David Cameron is putting us in a worse negotiating position, in pursuit of a policy to appease the right wing of the Tory party.
It seems extraordinary in an age when girls are outperforming boys at school, going to university in greater numbers and running FTSE 100 companies that pay inequality still exists, but it does, and more worrying still things are going backwards on David Cameron and Nick Clegg's watch.
Since elected four years ago, the government has managed to close the gap by just 0.1% and shockingly, last year, for the first time since 2008 the pay gap didn't just stagnate, it rose.
A few tenths of a percent may not sound like a lot but it makes a huge difference to family incomes. If the Tories and Lib Dems had continued with the progress we were making in Government, women would have an extra £177.30 in their pay packets at the end of the year.
In fact, women have been hit hard across the board. A third of working women are now in low-wage jobs, a record six million women are working part-time where hourly pay is on average a third less than they could expect in a full-time job. And some three-quarters of a million women are now on zero-hour contracts, many of them struggling to get enough hours from one week to the next.
When it comes to supporting women to get ahead this Government has one massive blind spot. Hardly surprising some may say from a Cabinet with just three women out of twenty two full members.
In Government Labour made steady progress to close the pay gap – reducing it by 7.7 per cent and closing it almost entirely for women in their twenties and thirties working full time.
But it's time to close the pay gap once and for all, that's why in government Labour will make achieving equal pay a priority.
We need greater pay transparency so women can see if she's being paid less to stack the shelves than her male colleague to unload them.
We will support the majority of women working in low-wage and insecure jobs to make work pay by substantially increasing the national minimum wage, tax breaks for companies to pay the living wage and ending the exploitative use of zero-hours contracts.
We will support mums who want to increase their hours by giving every working family 25 hours of free childcare for their 3 and 4 year olds - 38 weeks a year – an increase of 10 hours a week on the current offer on top of Tax Free Childcare. Paid for by an £800m rise in the bank levy.
And we'll help parents to juggle work with family life with a Primary Childcare Guarantee, so that that parents of primary school pupils are able to access breakfast and after-school clubs through their school between the hours of 8am and 6pm.
Women can't afford to wait another 44 years for pay equality, and neither can Britain.
Saturday, 28 June 2014
The launch event was well attended with representatives from the armed forces, Lancashire County Council and Rossendale BC. In addition, there were volunteers and local former armed services personnel who use the centre and who volunteer their time in order to make the centre a success.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank VIC and all the volunteers who have made the project possible and who have ensured that the building remains a community asset for the people of Haslingden and the surrounding area.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
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Due to the severity of the condition, she is in receipt of the highest level of Disability Living Allowance – it provides vital support to help her and her family get by and to make the most of this terrible condition.
They were therefore understandably shocked when they received a letter from the DWP telling them that they had to reapply for the allowance – this isn’t a condition which is going to clear up in two years, and sending out reassessment forms to her parents is both insensitive and a poor use of time and money.
I therefore have written to the Department for Work and Pensions to raise this matter – clearly we need to move towards a disability benefits system which actually reflects the condition of the recipient and treats them as an individual.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
I recently received another letter from the Department for Transport regarding the lack of trains for the Todmorden Curve. The Department's view is that the area will have to wait until December before second-hand trains from elsewhere on the network.
It is my firm view, as well as that of everyone I speak to on this matter, that it is farcical that we have a brand new train line which isn't opening because there are no trains. What really sticks in the craw of many in the area is that we recently had a number of trains taken from the region to serve more profitable areas in the south of England.
Hyndburn Borough Council recently passed a Motion calling on the Government to urgently get trains on the tracks as soon as possible. Noordad Aziz, Councillor for Great Harwood was absolutely spot on when he said that the direct train "will provide an economic as well as social mobility injection into the area".
As I have stated many times in the past, a well-connected infrastructure is vital for the economic prosperity and future of the region. This is not just pie in the sky economic talk – the Todmorden Curve will link people in Hyndburn to jobs in Manchester, jobs which are generally more numerous and better paid – even figuring above the national average across the UK. As the table below shows the average earnings in Central Manchester are £5,500 a year above Hyndburn, and £500 above the UK average.
Regular and direct train access will genuinely open up the jobs market to everyone in Hyndburn, bring wealth into the constituency and support further jobs. This is why I incessantly write to the Department of Transport, urging them to do everything they can to get the Todmorden Curve opened before December.
As I made clear in a letter to the MoD this month, with the US expected to purchase 2,400 of these jets, and the UK to purchase 48, this £235 billion programme is incredibly important to the economy of the North West of England and my constituents in Hyndburn.
It was thus obviously very concerning for all East Lancashire MPs who have a significant constituency interest in the production of these aircraft, that it was reported that the US had changed its position on the procurement. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme provides high quality jobs throughout a significant supply chain which employs a large number of my constituents.
Whilst I am pleased with the response, I think it does need to be made crystal clear that this joint project will be seen through to its conclusion – though the letter from the MoD states that the views expressed should not be construed as “carrying the official sanction” of the US, I think a clear restatement of the value of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme would be welcomed across Lancashire.
Linda Irving from LCC has just replied to my enquiry. She's been to look at the traffic lights at the junction at the top of Abbey Street. She says that there never are audibles on a junction because a blind person would never know which direction the audibles were coming from. Instead there are 'cones' on the box where we press the button that blind people are trained and know to use which indicate when it is safe to cross. The only time audibles are used are on independent traffic lights – not junction lights.
Friday, 20 June 2014
It says a lot about the Tories’ inept approach to running the economy that they are celebrating the recovery when 850,000 young people are still unemployed and millions more are feeling the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis.
The Tories take a sink-or-swim approach to Britain’s jobmarket, an approach that would leave too many on the career scrapheap, not paying taxes and claiming benefits. The financial cost of a young person who spends a year out of work is over £2,000 a year in lost earnings, tax, and extra benefits. That is a huge waste of taxpayer’s money and young potential.
Thursday, 19 June 2014
"But we do a huge disservice to the victims of knife crime if we give the impression that this alone will solve the problem. Much more needs to be done to ensure people are made aware of the consequences of carrying a knife and to divert people away from this destructive lifestyle.”
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
The days of a safety vetted, Council enforced Taxi and Private Hire services are under threat if the amendments go through.
Currently the law limits private hire vehicles to operate and take passengers booked from within the borough in which they are licensed. These laws are set to be abolished under the new Bill which has been rushed through with little consultation ‘under the radar’.
Because local councils cannot take enforcement action against taxis licensed in other areas this free for all will only increase the number of taxis in Hyndburn from authorities who take a 'light touch' approach' to condition, age and mileage of a vehicle, and the licensing of drivers.
I have received representation form Hyndburn's Labour Councillors and Councillor Chris Fisher who is a former chair of taxi licensing committee has written to me on the matter with his concerns.
Next Monday I will be voting against these changes.
“The proposals today have not been properly deliberated by the trade and the time scale has not allowed for any consultation to take place to form a response.
We are firmly against these proposals being attached to the De-Regulation bill as we believe that this will firmly endanger the safety of the travelling public. They will lose their right to chose which operator they wish to travel with because they call operator A who is their preferred choice and operator B turns up. The customer may have experienced a whole number of problems with the other operator. Surely they call a specific operator as they feel the operator is both reliable and safe to travel with. If they wanted to travel with another operator why didn't they call them.
By being able to pass jobs from one operator to another, the role of the local licensing enforcement would almost be impossible due the amount of different cars from other areas in their authority due to fares being passed from one company to another”
Hyndburn Cllr Chris Fisher, Ex chair of the Taxi and Private hire judicial committee
“I think I can speak for all Labour Councillors in Hyndburn on this subject and we are all appalled and outraged by how this bill is being rushed through little regard to enforcement provisions and public safety.
This goes to show that Tory MP’s in Westminster have no idea or care about anything outside of London and the further away from the capital the the more . The implications of this Bill to the traveling publics safety is outrageous.
It will mean that if you book a ride from your chosen trusted firm in Hyndburn, you might find a Blackburn, Burnley or even a Leeds registered private hire pulling up at your door. For all we know these alien private hire and hackney vehicles from other authorities could potentially be bogus or driven by an illegal driver, and local enforcement teams have no powers to check them meaning the public would never know if they legal and safe to use.”
These alien private hire and hackney vehicles from other authorities could be bogus or driven by an illegal driver, and local enforcement teams have no powers to check them meaning the public would never know if they legal and safe to use.”
The public unaware of this will just get in. Do you know what a Leeds private hire looks like? Neither do I, however don’t think for one minute I am exaggerating about a Leeds PHV turning up on your door. Look what happened when the law changed allowing hackneys to roam the country as Private hire vehicles. The plague of Rossendale Hackneys spread rapidly. Over 2000 Rossendale registered hackneys can be seen operating as Private hire, in nearly every borough in the UK.
So how does this effect Hyndburn residents. In a nutshell it means that any issues or complaints arising while using a vehicle from another area will need to be directed to the licensing authority who licensed it, even if the individual concerned took an A-B journey within Hyndburn.
Clearly this is going to be confusing and potentially dangerous to the traveling public.”
I think I can speak for all Labour councillors at Hyndburn on this subject and we are all appalled and outraged by how this bill is being rushed through with little consultation and will further frustrate out limited enforcement powers. It is clear the Tory MP’s in Westminster who proposed these points in the bill have no idea or care about anything outside of London or the implications to the traveling public safety.
However it will mean that if you book a ride from your chosen trusted firm in Hyndburn, you might find a Blackburn, Burnley or even a Leeds registered private hire pulling up at your door. The public unaware will just get in. Do you know what a Leeds private hire looks like?
I don’t for all we know It could even be a fake taxi driven by a criminal. Worst of all Hyndburn enforcement officers are not legally allowed to pull them over and check they are legitimate and safe.
Any issues arising while using a vehicle from another area will need to be directed to that licensing authority. Clearly this is going to be confusing, misleading and potentially dangerous to the traveling public.
As you are aware, all licensing authorities have a statutory duty to act in the interests of public safety through enforcement activities, checking vehicles for roadworthiness and vetting the drivers.
Why on earth could they not wait for the law commission’s recommendations to be included, at the very least this would have given extra powers to our enforcement officers to stop, fine and enforce on out of town vehicles, basically do their job and protect our traveling public
Cllr Chris Fisher
Monday, 16 June 2014
Last week at the Carer's event in Westminster I spoke with carers at the ‘speed networking’ Carers Week event. I spent time listening to the issues which affect Age UK and Parkinson's carers.
Photo with Donna O’Brien and Amy Dilley from Parkinsons UK
The Government has been in total denial about the chaos they have created over the passport backlog. Only at the eleventh hour this week did David Cameron acknowledge that the backlog exists and while new measures have now been put in place, many questions still remain.
The truth is that instead of dealing with the problem - which they have known about for some time - the Home Secretary has been fighting with the Education Secretary and the basic business of the Home Office is not being done. Staffing cuts is part of this too. Cameron said extra resources have been allocated to deal with problem, but in truth staffing at the passport office is down by 15% (600) since 2010.
The Government is still refusing to offer either apology of promise of recompense constituents who did everything right, but they may still have to miss holidays and cancel flights.
David Cameron is really out of touch on this. It is totally unfair that hard working people are panicked and distressed when they have saved hard for a well-earned break.
Friday, 13 June 2014
The latest last week a tragic incident where Lauren Johnson a young woman died following a fall from the roof of the Arndale Centre.
My condolences go out to her family and friends and to the emergency services that have to attend such tragic scenes.
While the coroner will no doubt want to conduct proper enquiries into the circumstances of this particular tragedy, we know that over the past few years a number of incidents of suicide have taken place at this location. I have written to the owners and received the reply at the foot of the page.
I am also concerned that we reach out to vulnerable people long before they choose to end their life fatality. I will be writing to LCC to ensure that people at risk are more aware of the services on offer and that no problem is worth the loss of life. That there is help on offer and that help needs to be more widely publicised. Reaching out may be a far more helpful approach.
Parkinson's UK @ParkinsonsUK
Need more info about benefits for carers? Call our free confidential helpline to speak to our trained advisors on 0808 800 0303 #carersweek
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Tweeted by Graham Jones MP
Parkinson's UK @ParkinsonsUK
Elizabeth and Lindy speaking to Graham Jones MP about the importance of supporting carers #carersweek pic.twitter.com/yoxZPlRtG7
For the last three weeks I have had brought to my attention the changes in the Deregualtion Bill which would compound the problems surrounding private hire vehicles in Hyndburn. Notably relation of regulations and watering down or in the worst cases removal of any local enforcement.
Hyndburn councillors and I oppose these changes to taxi and private hire vehicle law because of concerns they could put passengers at risk. Theses reforms are included in the Government’s Deregulation Bill which will be voted on by MPs on 23 June.
The Government’s proposed reforms to the taxi and minicab trade will enable people without a minicab license drive one when it is “off duty”, end annual checks on drivers’ licences, and allow minicab operators to subcontract bookings to firms in other areas.The problem of out of town private hire vehicles plying trade being two fold. Differential standards (which is causing a race a the bottom in standards) and inability to then enforce local standards on ''foreign' taxis.
Despite an ongoing, and Government initiated, Law Commission review of taxi and minicab law, Ministers inserted three last minute reforms into the Deregulation Bill.
The Government plan to:
1. Let people who don’t hold a minicab license drive one when it is “off duty”
2. End annual checks on drivers’ licences
3. Allow minicab operators to subcontract bookings to firms in other areas – without giving local councils the powers they need to enforce against these ‘out of area’ minicabs
The taxi and private hire trade, licensing authorities, unions like Unite and GMB, local councils and charities are united in opposing the reforms, which they say are poorly drafted, badly consulted on and will put passengers at risk. Labour voted against all the amendments at Committee Stage of the Deregulation Bill. We will oppose the changes at Report Stage – which will take place on 23 June.
In short At present minicabs in this constituency are driven by people who have undergone criminal, medical and background checks with the local council. But the Government are threatening to remove these safeguards, and let anyone drive an off duty minicab.
I know many people in Hyndburn, particularly women and those with impaired mobility, rely on taxis and minicabs to get home safely. I’m worried that Minister’s plans will increase the number of rogue drivers on the roads. I’m calling on the Government to abandon these proposals and put passenger safety first.
There has been widespread criticism of the Government’s last minute decision to insert these reforms into the Deregulation Bill at a late stage in the Parliamentary process. Campaigners, industry bodies and unions are also warning that these changes will have severe safety implications, as local councils don’t have the powers to enforce the changes safely.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which campaigns for better personal safety, has raised concerns that enabling anyone to drive a licensed minicab will provide “greater opportunity for those intent on preying on women”.
The Local Government Association has said that “it is imperative that the Government withdraws these plans” to ensure passenger safety.
Labour will be voting against the Government’s changes to taxi and private hire law in the Deregulation Bill on 23 June.
Richard Burden MP, Labour’s Shadow Roads Minister said:
“The Government’s changes to taxi and minicab law are poorly drafted, badly consulted on and could result in real risks to public safety. The reforms mean that people getting minicabs won’t know if the person driving it is licensed to do so, can’t be sure whether it has come from the company they booked with, and won’t know if vehicle and driver have been safety checked.
“The taxi and private hire trade, safety charities, unions and councils are telling the Government these changes will put passengers at risk but out of touch Ministers are refusing to listen. Labour will vote against the Government’s rushed and risky proposals and stand up for the travelling public.”
1. Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles:
The main difference between (referred to in legislation as hackney carriages) and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs or “mini-cabs”) is that PHVs can only accept pre-booked passengers, whilst taxis can ply for trade on the street or from taxi ranks.
2. Government’s reforms:
In 2011 the Department for Transport requested the Law Commission undertake a comprehensive review of taxi and PHV legislation. But in March 2014 the Government inserted three piecemeal reforms to the Deregulation Bill – to (a) allow people who do not hold a PHV license to drive a PHV when it is “off duty”; (b) set a standard duration of three years, rather than one, for taxi and PHV driver’s licenses; (c) enable PHV operators to subcontract a booking to another operator licensed in different licensing district.
The reforms have been criticised by the National Private Hire Association, unions including Unite and GMB, National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers, National Taxi Association, Institute of Licensing Officers, the Local Government Association and safety organisations, many of whom weren’t included in the government’s ‘informal consultation’ on the proposals. The Government’s reforms have been criticised for undermining the Law Commission’s work, damaging the trade and threatening passenger safety.
The Local Government Association
“The consequences for someone entering a vehicle marked for hire where the driver has not been properly licensed and vetted by the council can be severe. Under the proposals, councils will also find it more difficult to revoke licences from reckless drivers who repeatedly put passengers at risk by driving dangerously.
Keeping residents safe is a priority for councils and it is imperative the Government withdraws these plans so that we can continue ensuring passengers are safe when taking taxis and private hire vehicles."
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a prominent women’s safety campaign group, has been particularly critical.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
“We are very concerned both about the safety implications of some of these clauses and the way they were inserted into the Deregulation Bill so late into its passage through Parliament.
“We know from the number of sexual assaults in London each year that posing as a legitimate minicab driver is the preferred MO of some particularly dangerous sexual predators. We are very concerned that moves to allow any individual to drive a licensed minicab when it is ‘off duty’ will provide greater opportunity for those intent on preying on women in this way.
We are also concerned about the proposal to require licensing authorities to renew licenses on a three-year basis rather than annually, should they wish to: we think that checks on drivers should be as rigorous and frequent as necessary to ensure that all relevant information is collected before a licence is issued. “
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
The last Labour government got some things wrong on immigration - including not putting proper controls on Eastern European migration. But the Tory and Liberal Democrats’ approach isn't working either.
I’ve spoken to hundreds of people in Hyndburn and many of them have told me that whilst immigration is important for our economy, there also need to be proper controls. Immigration must be controlled and managed so the system is fair for local people and in the interests of Britain.
That’s why Labour has set out a new progressive approach to immigration, which recognises the benefits immigration can bring, and also sets out practical policies to control immigration, address the impact on jobs, wages and communities and make the system fairer for all.
Labour wants stronger controls on borders and on immigration from new EU countries. We welcome overseas students who bring in billions but want more action to tackle illegal immigration.
We also need to crack down on the agencies and zero hours contracts that employers use to exploit immigration and undercut local workers.
Only Labour has the policies to control immigration in a fair way so it doesn’t hit local people or damage economic investment in our country.
To: JONES, Graham
Subject: ANTHONY NOLAN – How many stem cell donors do you have in your constituency?
Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Export companies in the region could benefit enormously from access to Chinese markets, and Weibo offers an example for Hyndburn-based business to connect directly with consumers in China. It is my firm belief that the future prosperity of the area rests in part on how well, and how early we begin to access the growing demand from China. The UK has a very good reputation for quality amongst Chinese consumers, who are hungry for new products produced here - the North West must capitalise on this fact.
If you would like any more information please do not hesitate to get in touch. I have met with many local companies in recent months and I am proud of the manufacturing quality and expertise we have in this part of Lancashire.
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Monday, 2 June 2014
As with the everyone I have spoken to locally about this, I want to see more provision and more services provided in a convenient and patient-centred way. As part of Labour’s plans to improve services for patients and ease pressure on local hospitals, I am fully behind Labour’s new guarantee for patients to be able to see a GP within 48 hours or on the same day if they need to be seen quickly.
GP surgeries across the country will be given an extra £100 million a year to achieve this massive improvement in standards - enough to pay for an additional three million GP appointments every year. It will also ease the pressure across the NHS and could save millions of pounds by reducing the number of patients going to A&E departments.
New figures showed that the proportion of patients getting a GP appointment in 48 hours has fallen from 80 per cent under the last Labour government to just 40 per cent under David Cameron. Under the Tory-led Government a quarter of people now cannot get an appointment with a GP in the same week, adding to the pressure on A&E departments. This simply cannot continue.
People in Haslingden and Hyndburn are fed up of David Cameron’s broken promises to protect the NHS. It just goes to show that the Tories can’t be trusted with our National Health Service.
I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of the funding available for WW2 veterans through our Heroes Return programme and ask for your help in publicising this funding in your constituency.
Through Heroes Return 2, we offer WW2 veterans from the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland grants from between £165 to £8,140 towards travel and accommodation expenses to enable them their spouse and carers to make trips back to places across the world where they served, or make a commemorative visit in the UK.
To date we have awarded over £28 million to more than 57,000 veterans, their widows, spouses and carers, for journeys in the UK, France, Germany, the Middle East, Far East and beyond.
We are keen to offer the opportunity of funding to as many WW2 veterans as possible and would be grateful for your help in publicising this grants programme on your website, through social media, and via any other channels that might be appropriate.
Further details can be found at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn or by calling our Heroes Return helpline 0845 0000 121. You can also follow us on Twitter @biglotteryfund.
Deputy Director for External Relations
Big Lottery Fund