Author Archives: Richard Graham

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP asks Minister to tackle Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

Richard Graham MP has met with Minister Tracey Crouch to support calls for Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) to face stricter regulations. Richard urged the Minister to consider reducing the maximum stake on a single bet from £100 to £2: “I can see no benefit to anyone from having such high stakes”, said Richard.

In October 2016 the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a review of gambling machines and social responsibility measures including looking at FOBTs. The government has pledged to publish its findings soon in response to campaigners who want to see the maximum stake aspect in particular addressed.

Richard said, “local resident and taxi driver Hussain Vorajee has spoken to me both about his gambling addiction and the wider issue of the severe social impact these FOBTs can have on families. Fixed Odds Betting Terminals allow people to put £100 every 20 seconds into this machine, with the average user losing £1,200 a year. Some customers don’t have much money and the shops are often in poorer areas, adding to the issue.

There are choices involved: no one is forced to gamble, but gambling can become an addiction and we should help those addicted or likely to be addicted. It’s time to be responsible about gambling and that’s why I’ve asked the Minister to have this stake reduced.”

Hussain Vorajee wrote to Richard with his concerns over machines. He said, “I’m pleased that Richard has agreed to take up this cause. Gambling addictions can ruin lives, as I know, and these machines should be better regulated.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

Fixed Odd Betting Terminals are electronic machines, sited in betting shops, which contain a variety of games, including roulette. Each machine accepts bets for amounts up to a pre-set maximum and pays out according to fixed odds on the simulated outcomes of games.

The Gambling Act 2005 regulates gambling in Great Britain. The Act classifies FOBTs as B2 gaming machines. Up to four machines can be sited on betting premises. The maximum stake on a single bet is £100, the maximum prize is £500. There are 34,388 B2 machines in Great Britain (Gambling Commission statistics, May 2017). The gross gambling yield from B2s was £1.8 billion.

A survey by the Gambling Commission found that a third of the 1.45 million people who used the machines were at risk of becoming addicts.

Richard recorded a video on this issue: https://www.facebook.com/richard4gloucester/videos/1059233537546735/

Below photos show Richard at a Responsible Gambling Week reception in Parliament and with Hussain Vorajee.

END

What’s going on in Burma?

Published 24/10/2017

I’ve been guilty of over optimism, partly influenced by respect for a remarkable woman, and have taken time to believe the full ghastliness – which is still emerging – about what is going on the Muslim areas of the Burmese state of Rakhine, close to their border with Bangladesh.

But after last week none of us can be in any doubt about what has happened. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) journalists published their rapid response mission report, and fellow MPs reported back from their visit on the plight of the Rohingya muslims.

The story is horrific, almost in the same league as the genocide in Rwanda at the turn of the millennium, or even in Cambodia during their civil war.

Fellow Trade Envoy Rushanara Ali highlighted there are now up to a million Rohingya muslim refugees from Burma in Bangladesh. She quoted from the UNHCR report of atrocious sexual violence, torture and executions of the Rohingya Muslims – mostly by the Burmese military, alongside the destruction of religious and cultural buildings. The UNHCR claimed this amounts to a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

Three of my Conservative colleagues who have been out there, and others in last week’s debate, highlighted that the responsibility for these atrocities is with the Burmese military, and that the new democratic government cannot avoid some responsibility for not visibly doing much to prevent this.

And therein lies the intellectual difficulty. For the government is now run by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Oxford educated heroine whose voice and integrity, while under solitary arrest, held the military dictatorship to account – eventually obliging them to allow elections which led to her forming a civilian government under a military President.

Many of us supported and cheered Aung San Suu Kyi all the way. William Hague led the way on getting EU sanctions lifted. She addressed the joint Houses of Parliament: opened New Labour’s new offices; and of course was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But right now Aung San Suu Kyi stands guilty of not speaking up at all for the Rohingya Muslims of Burma, a community which FCO documents confirm have been there for centuries, and of acting at least as an apologist for the military regime.

This is not the way the story was supposed to go. All of us are shocked and all of our eyes are being opened.

Foreign Ministers’ responses are now robust. They’ve suspended our defence education programme and banned military visits, called for a civilian body to oversee the return of the Rohingya: given an extra £30 million of aid and helped secure a six month extension to the UNHCR mission. We’ve led on galvanising the international community around a five point plan. As Minister Mark Field said, genocide ‘looks like an increasingly accurate description of what has happened.’

But the government is also realistic that Aung San Suu Kyi ‘treads a very fine line between international condemnation and Burmese public opinion, which overwhelmingly supports what the security forces are doing’.

It is hard to avoid concluding that the relations between different communities in Burma – Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus – are riddled with mutual fear, mistrust and, sadly, hatred. It may take years before this improves significantly, with even greater bitterness passing down generations: and the risk is – as Rushanara put it – that there will be more atrocities because the military want them.

It is no good pretending that the UK has much control over what happens in Burma, but we can show leadership on encouraging her democratic leaders and hold a candle to what the military has done, and we’re now doing so.

For those of us who sort of hoped that everything would be resolved by the elections and Aung San Suu Kyi’s role this is a sharp wake up call. It is also a reminder, in the year of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary, that violence and major domestic atrocities are not yet a thing of the past within all of South East Asia.

It calls into question too the role of China, the major foreign player in Burma, very close to the military and with a record of brutality towards Muslims in Xinjiang.

But this is not the moment to walk away from engagement with Burma, leaving China and Russia to be the only foreign influences. It is even more important that the UK works with ASEAN members to help Burma forward.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP says pans for more social housing should “rocket boost estate regeneration in Gloucester”

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has welcomed announcements from the Prime Minister to create a ‘new generation of council houses’.

During her speech at Party Conference Prime Minister Theresa May outlined plans to increase the affordable housing budget by £2 billion to more than £9 billion, encourage councils as well as housing associations to bid for this money and allow homes to be built for social rent well below market levels in areas where the need is greatest.

The Prime Minister said, “whether you’re trying to buy your own home, renting privately and looking for more security, or have been waiting for years on a council list, help is on the way.”

Richard welcomed the announcements saying, “Gloucester has the 7th highest housing stock growth of any city in the UK. I have supported both the concept of more social housing and putting it into practice – including work being done on Black Dog Way, St Aldate’s Church and in Tredworth on the old Norville Site. More needs to be done and that’s exactly what Gloucester City Homes, both councils sand I are looking for with the Estate Regeneration plan in Matson and Podsmead. The Prime Minister’s announcements should help rocket boost what we want to achieve in Gloucester.”

David Orr of the National Housing Federation also welcomed the news stating, “Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for the nation. In the aftermath of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the Prime Minister said that we as a nation have not paid enough attention to social housing. Today, she is right to make a bold break with the past and commit to building the homes we need most – genuinely affordable homes for those on the lowest incomes.”

NOTE TO EDITORS

The government’s announcement built on a £10 billion extension to Help to Buy and new protections for people renting from a private landlord announced on the Andrew Marr Show.

Proposals were also outlined in the Housing White Paper published earlier this year to ensure councils release sufficient land for housing and give them new powers to require developers to actually build homes once they’ve been given planning permission to do so.

Richard visiting the Black Dog Way construction site with Project Manager Les Fryer. The site will deliver around 98 new flats with a mixture of general needs rent, shared ownership and flats for people with learning disabilities.

 

 

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