Conference Tuesday

Another sunny start, walking along the canal to the Conference. I passed 14 locks, several narrow boats, Canal river trust volunteers & a team of council guys on the path clearing ivy & brambles like Dad’s Army in camouflage. Outside the ICC I bumped into two men each disguised as a sun, who represented the Friends of the Earth plugging solar panels for schools – a good cause.

Inside the buzz was from more orthodoxly dressed ministers. Axing the pension death tax, capping benefits, ending tech companies’ tax avoidance schemes & funding another million apprenticeships. These are all important: passing on pension savings will incentivise us all to save. Meanwhile I want to understand how a freeze on working benefits and the arrival of Universal Credit will affect my constituents.

Much was Gloucester related, whether the Canal & River Trust, Heart Radio, different charities like Guide Dogs & the Citizens Advice Bureau – who were celebrating their 75th birthday. All of them play a key role in our city, and Heart is sporting some if our best good causes.

I spoke at a pensions event, never the sexiest subject but so important. I led the debate on annuities earlier this year and we got radical reform. Now I want to see more investment into infrastructure, more innovation from technology and good guidance for all to help decisions on retirement finance options – now helped by being able to pass on a pension. This government has made about 5 million people savers through Auto Enrolment, and getting the next stage of smaller employers enrolled will get us closer to having ten million new savers.

Dodging what looked like a decent Gloucester Rugby scrum of security minders around Boris, I greeted visiting party leaders from Sri Lanka, Uganda and Mongolia, all here to see our ideas for a new Parliament. Over 15,000 people from all the UK and a few hundred visitors as well – sharing key ideas on making sure the country keeps going forward. There was even time for a drink in shirtsleeves with my constituents outside at 9pm, beside the canal. It was almost as good as the Gloucester Quays.


Conference Sunday

Sunday. To church at St James’s Barton & catch up with many old friends. Lunch with my niece by Ross & Anthea gets me to the train to Birmingham on time. New Street permanently under re-construction. Walk from hotel to ICC along canal.

Chair session by VSO on the International Citizen Service, sister of National Citizen Service. Run by VSO and paid by the taxpayer through DIFID, this is a brilliant project that changes lives.

10,000 young so far have been on it: 25 from Gloucester & 67 from Gloucestershire. Aman and Lily were the alumni on my panel with ex DIFID Secretary Andrew Mitchell, Minister Desmond Swayne and VSO Director Brian Rockliffe.

96% of those who go (for 3 months to a developing country to do a specific project with young from there) say it has hugely helped their opportunities in return and 68% are volunteering when they come back.

Years ago I ran small aid projects for the British High Commission in Kenya and it changed my perceptions of aid, money, government, happiness, difficulty and what the individual can achieve – life in one word.

Today our youngsters can learn this at 16 through the NCS, on a great course run by Gloscol: and then later on the ICS run by the VSO. They will never forget the experience: it will change their outlook and make them great, active citizens.

These programmes will be among David Cameron’s great legacies, and EVERY family in Gloucester with children should seize this opportunity.  It’s there for all: there are no class, colour, creed or cleverness barriers at all. All you need is curiosity about the world we live in.

Great to have been able to celebrate this with two outstanding examples of active young citizens at our Conference.

How and why I will vote today

I will support the motion today to respond to the Iraqi government’s request for military help in combating the brutal invasion by ISIL. We will do so alongside a coalition of regional countries and two other permanent Members of the UN Security Council. This is legal action to defend both Iraq’s and our own citizens against a horrific threat – one which has nothing to do with Islam, as the letter from Gloucester Muslims in today’s paper makes clear. See link

But as Ban Ki-moon said, ‘missiles will kill terrorists, governance kills terrorism’ and we will need a detailed coalition plan to help Iraq re-build a nation of tolerance for Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Christians to live in. This will take years and that is the hard work ahead.

Devolution of Powers

The key principle at stake is no responsibility, no vote. If the UK is to give more powers to Scotland then we have also to consider what’s fair for England – and Scottish MPs voting on bills that impact England and perhaps other parts of the UK, but not Scotland, makes no sense. So a Parliament has to sort this out. Gloucester, and all of England, expects.

New bill to end revenge evictions

A new bill is currently going through Parliament that will put an end to ‘revenge evictions’ when landlords evict tenants simply for asking for essential repairs to homes to be made. This is good news and should mean that people aren’t afraid to ask for better standards in the their rented homes and so the Government is fully backing this Bill as long as it effectively targets bad landlords and can’t be used by tenants to stop legitimate evictions.

While most landlords offer a good service to their tenants and the private rental sector is hugely important for providing homes to millions of people it’s key to put a stop to those who don’t live up to their legal responsibilities so this new bill is good news.

4 Questions for the Labour Party Conference

I have put my four questions for the Labour Party Conference out via Twitter.

The questions are:

1: Why did you allow cover ups of the NHS Mid Staffs & Rotherham child abuse scandals?

2: Now that this Government has closed over 700 fake colleges/immigration scams is it time for an apology to the British people?

3: Since the ONS has shown the UK borrowed more than any other Premier League nation from 2004-7 isn’t it time to say publicly ‘we got it wrong’?

4: Give us one good reason why Scottish MPS should vote on laws that don’t apply to Scotland?

The questions and any answers I may receive to them can be seen on Twitter at @RichardGrahamMP

Unemployment falls in Gloucester again

Wednesday’s unemployment figures show the number of jobseekers in our city is at the lowest level for several years and is 34% less than before the last election with youth unemployment down 45%.

I campaigned on ‘Jobs, especially for the young’ and together government and business have made great leaps forward in offering real, long term opportunities – which more than 4,000 new apprentices in Gloucester have benefited from.

There is more to do which is why my 11th Jobs Fair is on Nov 14 and will have a special focus on people with disabilities. Helping the longer term unemployed, of whatever age, build skills and confidence also remains a key challenge.

Latest FSB survey shows strong confidence

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) latest survey shows small business confidence at a record high. Every sector – from construction to retail – is reporting a positive outlook for the next three months. Three fifths of those surveyed are expecting to grow in the next year.

Job creation is also strong, with small firms’ hiring intentions at an all-time high. This is a very important leading indicator – if SMEs are hiring, our school and university leavers have much better prospects. In general the jobs market is much better and I hope all those looking will join me at my Blackfriars Jobs Fair on Friday 14th November.

Political parties and religious groups in the Gloucester Carnival and on Gloucester Day

This is the mail I sent to Council Leader Paul James, reflecting constituent concerns, on the parades at the Carnival and on Gloucester Day. It is for the council to decide if they debate and what they decide:

Dear Paul,

As you know both on the day of the Carnival and on Gloucester Day I received a number of complaints about the inclusion in parades of political parties and groups promoting Christianity.

One constituent put it to me that since both events are supposed to celebrate our city’s cohesion and togetherness why do we encourage or allow groups to parade who divide rather than bring together?

I’ve reflected on this because we’re a tolerant open city and want to encourage as many groups as possible to participate on these two main days. There is no reason why legitimate political parties and faith groups should not have their chance to promote their causes on both days. They should be able to – and do – have stands in the park on carnival day or on the Four Gates during Gloucester Day.

However it is also true that the parades should be fun and a cause for celebration, of real and imagined uniforms, dressing up and charities, and not necessarily an opportunity to promote particular parties or faiths.

And if the city allows one faith or party to parade it can scarcely complain if any or all want to. I do not, for example, want to see the BNP marching in our parades but if we allow one party to do so we have no easy way of preventing others. Nor currently could we object to any religion or sect under the sun wanted to parade, which might be equally controversial.

So let us avoid turning the Carnival and Gloucester Day parades into a divisive affair, with different parties and faiths competing for attention. I believe any legitimate group should be able to organise a stand to disseminate their views but only those whom the council allows should participate in the parade.
That allows you to consider banning both party political and faith promotion from the parades and I encourage you to consider a city council motion to this affect as soon as possible.

Best regards

British Armed Forces Learning Resource 2014

Here is a copy of a letter sent to all Headteachers in Gloucester to highlight new material about the role of our Armed Forces

Launch of the British Armed Forces Learning Resource 2014

Can I draw your attention to and highlight the launch of the new British Armed Forces Learning Resource 2014. This is a free, high quality resource available to all schools and aimed at educating students about the role of the British Armed Forces.

This has been developed to be used in History, English and Citizenship lessons for Key Stages 1–4, as well as older students. It will enable students and teachers alike to understand the key role our Armed Forces play both here and abroad, their current operations and what it is like to be a part of either the Royal Navy, British Army or the Royal Air Force.

It includes different perspectives, lesson ideas, areas for discussion and links to other publications and information.

I very much hope schools in Gloucester will take the opportunity to make use of this fantastic new resource and help educate the younger generation on the importance of the role of our Armed Forces.

More detail is available via:

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Richard in Parliament

  • 26 Sep: Business of the House: Iraq: Coalition Against ISIL
    There have been many good speeches today, some at different volumes. I only wish to contribute three main points, first on the justification of military action, secondly on the question of ISIL and Islam, and thirdly on the longer-term plan. On the first point, I have always believed that there are only two ways to justify military action: the first is self-defence and the second is...
  • 11 Sep: Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills: Regulation on Business
    What steps he is taking to reduce regulation on businesses.
  • 11 Sep: Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills: Regulation on Business
    One of the Government’s most encouraging steps has been to speed up payments by Government to suppliers that are small and medium-sized enterprises, but the Federation of Small Businesses and others estimate that the problem of late payment by businesses to businesses has increased significantly. Will my hon. Friend therefore work with business groups, such as the CBI, to encourage all...
  • 11 Sep: Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills: Topical Questions
    The Secretary of State rightly highlighted the importance of re-shoring to revitalising our manufacturing and rebalancing our economy. Innovative companies such as Gloucestershire’s Future Advanced Manufacture Ltd discussed with aerospace customers how to manufacture locally parts previously made in the far east, and has done this with success. Does he think that there are more...
  • 11 Sep: Written Answers — Work and Pensions: Personal Independence Payment
    To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the average waiting time was for a personal independent payment assessment by Atos in (a) England, (b) the South West and (c) Gloucester over the last 12 months.

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