PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester History Festival speaker Nat Saye says seeing the liberation of Belsen means no Holocaust denial is ever credible

 

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95 year old Nat Fiennes, Lord Saye & Sele, told a Gloucester History Festival audience of his wartime experience as one of the first British army officers to see the Nazi concentration camp of Belsen after its liberation by the British in April 1945.

The former Rifle Brigade adjutant recounted: “We went into lots of huts and camps. The smell was appalling, and there were rows and rows of people inside. You couldn’t tell whether they were dead or alive: they might have been either. And then outside we saw a tractor and trailer with heaps of bodies on it, and a German sitting on top of the bodies smoking a cigarette. Close by there was an enormous pit and in it perhaps 500 bodies, but it may have been a thousand, I don’t know. It was a very large number of bodies.”

When the British Army arrived at Belsen, prisoners were dying at a rate of 500 a day as a result of starvation and a typhus outbreak. The soldiers discovered 10,000 unburied bodies and a further 13,000 people died even after help had arrived when the camp was liberated.

Lord Saye went on to add, “If you ever come across anyone who denies the Holocaust, send them my way because I know: I saw Belsen”.

History Committee Chair and Gloucester MP Richard Graham commented, “When I was young the WW1 survivors never talked about their experiences – it was all too ghastly for them – and we were none the wiser. Lord Saye’s generation from World War 2 prefer not to talk about some things too – of his battalion of 800, over 500 were killed or wounded – but recently some of the remaining survivors, including Nat Saye, have done so. That first-hand experience of Belsen makes the point so vividly for those studying World War 2 today.

That is exactly what the Gloucester History Festival can do – as it did too with the Battle of the Imjin River – bring the events of the past alive vividly, with powerful lessons for us all.”

Education Green Paper – Grammar Schools and More

Prime Minister Theresa May was once Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and it is her understanding of the dilemmas ahead that guides the new Green Paper.

It asks big questions: How can the independent sector support state schools? How can universities increase school attainment levels and thus their intake from different backgrounds? And lastly, how can more selective schools (grammar schools) become part of the equation again?

I’ve always felt strongly about independent schools supporting state schools. That’s why I encouraged Beaudesert Park School in Minchinhampton to work with Widden Primary in Gloucester, so that urban pupils had the chance to go and see what a rural school looks like and enjoy their facilities, while Beaudesert pupils get to visit a mosque and see what a multi-ethnic school looks like. The exchanges have been a success, and all around the county there is more to be done.

Many independent schools have charitable status exempting them from business rates due to ‘public benefit’ rules. The paper asks if this should include a certain proportion of students receiving a bursary or scholarship, or a partnership with a state school.

On Universities, our University of Gloucestershire played a big part in turning around Finlay Community School, which was placed in ‘Special Measures’ by Ofsted in 2006 and was then rated Outstanding in 2011. This was only after Conservative county councillors refused to accept officers’ recommendations to close the school and the University took over responsibility for monitoring and improving it. The paper asks if this sort of support should be a requirement for all Universities, in exchange for being able to set tuition fees.

One question that will also need to be clarified is whether supporting a University Technical College, like the one we’re bidding for in Gloucester (for health and social studies), will count towards this. The University of Gloucestershire has been a key leader on this project and I expect that to continue when the UTC opens.

On grammars, research from the Sutton Trust found that around a fifth of grammar school pupils come from outside the 36 local authorities areas with grammar schools. This is even more so the case in Gloucester, showing demand for them in neighbouring cities like Swindon and Worcester. The green paper outlines potential criteria for setting up new grammars, including taking into account pre-existing schools and geography. We have four great grammar schools in our City and so it is unlikely that we will get any more, especially when the paper includes funding options to allow existing grammars to grow.

But the most important aspect of this paper for Gloucester, in my opinion, is the opportunity for grammar schools to take a higher proportion of pupils from lower income households. We have a higher percentage of free school meal pupils in Gloucester than neighbouring constituencies, and our grammars should be identifying those with talent at nearby primary schools.

The paper also mentions partnering with non-selective schools, or establishing primary feeder schools in areas with a higher density of lower income households. Both of these are positive ideas, and the latter is part of Crypt’s plans to create a new primary.

So the paper offers real opportunities for anyone to offer their thoughts on specific issues, and I hope constituents will copy me in on their replies. It’s a wide topic, not just about more grammar schools, and all of us who want the best education for students should contribute. I certainly will.

 

Link to the Consultation.

PRESS RELEASE: Richard Graham MP welcomes the government’s support for the Hinkley Point C power plant

Richard said, “I think it’s absolutely right that the government has decided to go ahead with this project. Hinkley Point C is a key investment in UK infrastructure and energy capacity providing 7% of Britain’s electricity that helps secure our future energy needs. And as the first nuclear power plant here for over 20 years it will grow our skills and ability to lead in carbon free and domestically sourced nuclear energy.”

“The economic benefits, especially for the west of England are considerable – this will bring 40,000 jobs and will benefit supply chains. I encourage both the LEP and EDF to use Gloucester’s Growth Hub to promote the business and job opportunities of this project.”

“It is also quite right that the government has regulations in place about the security of such vital infrastructure. Whilst there will be no Chinese involvement in the day to day operations of the nuclear plant, this investment will give Chinese nuclear companies valuable experience of UK corporate governance and how nuclear energy is regulated in the West. This is good for them, for us and for the future safety of nuclear energy in the world.”

 

PRESS RELEASE: Richard Graham MP’s statement on the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Financial Announcement

“Clearly this is disappointing news and the hospitals trust senior management will need to look at how this problem arose without the audit team picking up on it. However, there is still enough time in the year to sort this out, make sure that the accounting assumptions are in line with best practice, and that the new Chief Executive steadies the ship financially as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile I’m reassured that the new Chief Executive, Deborah Lee, has made it clear that there will be no cuts to current services and she is absolutely committed to continued further improvements to the speed at which patients are seen in A&E. The percentage of patients being seen within 4 hours of arriving at A&E has already increased from 77% to 91.9%.”

PRESS RELEASE: MP Urges Home Insurance Flood Victims to attend Public Meeting

Gloucester MP Richard Graham is encouraging any city residents who have been impacted by floods or have struggled to get home insurance due to flood risk to join a public meeting with Flood Re, the national re-insurance scheme for high flood risk areas on Saturday (tomorrow) at 2pm at the Guildhall.

Richard said, “if any of my constituents are struggling either to get home insurance, or has seen a very sharp increase in the cost of their home insurance, due to flooding then do come to Saturday’s meeting at the Guildhall to see if and how Flood Re can help.”

The meeting and Q&A will be at Gloucester Guildhall, 23 Eastgate Street, Gloucester GL1 1NS starting at 2pm and the MP will be there.

Question on Grammar Schools and Education White Paper

Richard Graham MP

I welcome both the process and the breadth of the debate launched by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. We have four historic grammar schools in Gloucester, and for some time I have very much wanted to increase significantly the numbers of free-school-meal pupils who attend them, as well as the numbers of pupils who live closest to them. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that those issues and, indeed, options for how best to achieve them will form part of her Department’s subsequent White Paper?

Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Education

I will be keen to see my hon. Friend’s response to the Green Paper and the consultation document. It very much sets out these issues, and we will take account of the responses that we get. As he knows, many of the children at his local grammars are from outside his local area. That suggests that there is broader demand from parents, and we should respond to that.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP pushes for better service ahead of imminent decision on Cross Country Trains

City MP Richard Graham has met with the new Rail Minister to push for more CrossCountry Trains at Gloucester station ahead of decisions on the new Inter City service franchise.

Richard has been campaigning for years for more services between Gloucester and Bristol and Birmingham and believes this is the crucial moment: “I met the new Rail Minister Paul Maynard to ensure he was fully aware of my case for far more trains on the Birmingham-Bristol Intercity service to stop at Gloucester than the current 3 out of 63 trains per day.” Gloucester’s MP noted this service provided no practical service for Gloucester commuters to either Birmingham or Bristol.

“We are a growing city with ambitious regeneration plans including station improvements and a new carpark”, Richard said, “and we need a decent public transport system to drive this growth. It’s time to reverse the crazy decision made by Labour in 2006 to reduce the number of trains serving our city and create a much better real Inter City service that includes the City of Gloucester.”

Richard added that the Minister is in “no doubt about the strength of our case and I very much hope this is reflected in decisions when the franchise details are announced soon.”

Statement on the Boundary Review

“These are preliminary proposals followed by a 12 week consultation and only coming into force in 2020. It is the first stage of a redesign which recognises the disparities in votes between constituencies.

I’m delighted that the Boundary Commission has recognised the importance of the River Severn as a boundary and not proposed that voters in any part of the Westgate Ward should vote in the Forest of Dean (or West Gloucestershire as proposed) constituency. That is due to my successful 2011 campaign to recognise that Gloucester’s city centre is in fact on the northern tip of the constituency, because of the role of the River Severn.

However, I’ve always been aware that because our constituency had over 5% of the upper limit of voters, something would have to give. The Commission’s proposal has two elements: the return of Longlevens residents to my constituency of Gloucester and Quedgeley voters being asked to vote in the constituency of Stroud.

Quedgeley has bounced to and fro between Stroud District Council and Gloucester City Council over the years, and as I understand it there is no plan proposing council boundaries be altered at the moment. It is sad to see a proposal for Quedgeley voters to transfer to Stroud, with a disconnect between where voters vote for local and national elections. So I will be discussing this with colleagues.

Few people living in Longlevens would choose to vote in the Tewkesbury constituency and I’m delighted the Boundaries Commission proposes to give them back the right to vote for a Gloucester MP – as in council elections. The more residents that write to the Boundaries Commission to say so the better.

But the proposal is swings and roundabouts and the reverse side is that constituents in Quedgeley would not be able to vote for an MP in Gloucester. I don’t welcome that and will be talking to residents and councillors there to get their reactions. It is business as usual at least until 2020 and I will continue to help ALL constituents in Quedgeley.”

The Finance Bill 2016

Back in Parliament this week not least to pass the Finance Bill through a midnight session on Monday. Why does it matter?
Basically this is Parliament’s chance to approve or disapprove the government’s spending plans. The detail mostly reflects previous announcements, but there was a detail that highlights how this government is for the many and not the few.
In the last Autumn Statement the government closed a loophole which private equity managers had used to use to disguise some forms of income so they didn’t have to pay tax for some time (sometimes ever).These performance-based rewards, known as ‘carried interest’, are now counted as income making them fully taxable: and therefore the tax rate on private equity much more fair.
The latest Finance Bill reduces basic rate and capital gains tax to encourage investment in companies instead of property – but the Bill keeps the previous higher rate for carried interest and chargeable gains to make sure that taxes are paid fairly by everyone.
I know from a private equity accountant how unfair many in the industry themselves thought this was – and now something which a Labour government allowed for all 13 years of its time is abolished. By the Conservatives.
In 2014-15 HMRC brought in £26.6 billion from tackling tax evasion and avoidance. That funds, for example, a big chunk of the Education budget. And the principle of fairness is hugely important. So I was glad to help see the Finance Bill through.

Gloucester’s Exam Results and Jobs: More skills and more in work

Richard opening the Performing Arts building at the University of Gloucestershire with students

Richard opening the Performing Arts building at the University of Gloucestershire with students

We’ve now had A level and GCSE results, university applications – and all the usual photos of pupils jumping for joy. Were results up, down, or the same and how is that translating into jobs?

Nationally there was a real effort to avoid any grade inflation, but overall our local students have done very well and should be proud. There was good news at many schools – including record ever A level results for example at the Crypt.

With 424,000 students accepted into UK universities and colleges so far, there’s already been an increase of 3% in the numbers of undergraduates nationally, and an increase of 9% in applications to the University of Gloucestershire.

There were also more acceptances nationally for mature students and the gap between male and female undergraduates has reduced. Interestingly too – and contrary to what some claim – the proportion of English 18 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds applying has gone up 7% since 2009.

At the same time many more school leavers are taking up apprenticeships – both Ribston and St Peters specifically referred to this in their comments on results – and the combination of more students taking up both undergraduate and apprenticeship opportunities should mean better skills levels, and in time higher paid jobs. Average wage levels are up 2.3% nationally so far this year.

Better results in exams from pupils all over Gloucester and an increase in jobs available has resulted in steadily improving youth unemployment figures (now nearly a quarter of what it was in 2012 at just 2.6%, see graph below).

This is all encouraging. Remember meanwhile if you haven’t yet got the University offer you want then make sure to read the UCAS advice on Clearing open until 20 September.

Also good apprenticeships are sometimes only marketed on employers’ websites, especially public services like the NHS. Glos Care Services in particular are hiring more and our Hospitals Trust has a big programme. Do check out the NHS careers websiteGlos Jobs, and the Gov.UK apprenticeship search engine.

There’s always more to be done which is why the move of our University’s Business School from Cheltenham to Gloucester, our bid for a new Gloucestershire Health University Technical College and a pilot training Nursing Associates programme through higher apprenticeships is good news.

Then there is Glos Engineering Training’s bid for funds to train more engineers for the food and beverage sector. What else do you think we could do more of to increase our skills, and therefore chances to get good jobs? Do let me know what you think about this at richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

Best regards

Richard

 

 

 

 

 

Youth unemployment rate in Gloucester (%)

Youth unemployment rate in Gloucester (%)

 

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