Why I am supporting the campaign for ALL police widows and widowers to keep their pensions for life

Like every MP I’ve been lobbied by my local Police Federation on many things since 2010. I haven’t agreed with them often. But this week I have a debate on an issue where I do agree with a campaign led by police widow Cathryn Hall and supported by the Fed.

Her campaign is primarily an issue of fairness. Before 2006, police widows, widowers or surviving civil partners would automatically lose their pension if they remarried or lived with a new partner.  This effectively compelled them and their dependents to choose between future financial security, but loneliness at home, or the opportunity for happiness if they wish to marry or cohabit, but with the financial loss and security that the pension provides. But society and our perception of fairness moved on and the new scheme in 2006 recognised this.

All new recruits since 2006 and anyone who transferred to the new scheme now knows that should the worst happen their loved ones will receive their pension for life, irrespective of whether the survivor remarries or forms a new partnership and it applies to unmarried but cohabiting partners too.

But the new regulations did not apply retrospectively to those who had either left the service before 2006 or had died before that date. All those not able to benefit from the regulation change were effectively prevented from re-marrying or obtaining a real family life. The idea of not doing so because of financial incentives must be wrong. The commitment of marriage has enough obstacles without adding a financial penalty to them. For those, like Cathryn Hall, who have remarried the financial disadvantage relative to later widows and widowers must be frustrating.

Last November a very similar rule was amended so that from April this year all widows and widowers of our Armed Forces could remarry or live with a new partner without losing their pension. A precedent has (in my view rightly) been set for further change.

For what is true for soldiers, sailors and airmen and women is also true for our Police. Having to deal with the consequences of a husband or wife killed in the course of duty is no less ghastly because it was on the streets of one of our cities rather than a dusty path in Helmand Province.

So my debate Wednesday calls for the Police Minister to consider the case: to acknowledge the case of fairness for this small group who didn’t benefit from the 2006 change and the precedent of our Armed Forces widows and widowers. The opportunity for the government is to allow this relatively small group to keep their pension regardless of whether they re-marry or not, is a good one. Treating the widows and widowers of ALL those who are killed in uniformed service generously, without caveats, is surely the right thing to do – and this government has a good track record of supporting good causes.

Category: Richard Graham

The case for yes as long as..

In the run up to an election everyone gets asked are you in favour of this yes or no. But life is rarely as simple as yes or no. Let me give a recent example.

The Let Britain Fly Campaign recently emailed me asking if I was in favour of expanding our airport capacity. That is code for letting Heathrow or Gatwick (or both) having another runway. There are other demands from regional airports as well.

The argument for is based on Britain’s long expertise, strong demand and current constraints on expansion. It’s predominantly economic and jobs led, and a powerful one. Visit Britain argues that 22 more Chinese tourists create one new job. The argument against is about environment and quality of life: noise and air pollution above all. It’s also powerful, and particularly if you live close to a big airport and don’t work in a related job. But the two arguments needn’t be mutually exclusive.

As a former airline manager, I want to see the UK continue to lead on aviation, air traffic control and aerospace development. As a passionate believer in sustainable transport (ie do more on our feet, bikes, buses and trains) I don’t want fragile eco systems destroyed by aircraft. And as an optimist about the power of science to find new solutions, I see a great role for more eco friendly R&D.

What might seem apparently contradictory positions can work together. I believe we can have more visitors, tourism – especially from the Far East – and growth in general – as well as more green research led solutions that cause less pollution and noise; and more bus and train connections from airports that reduce car traffic.

So my reply was:

“Yes I support the general expansion of airports – so long as the airports and aviation sectors continue to develop much more fuel efficient aircraft, start running aircraft on biofuel and do more through ATC and other means within the control of airports to reduce carbon and noise emissions. Including train links currently too often lacking. The case is persuasive when it is at least net neutral on carbon emissions/air pollution.”

Encouragingly the reply from Let Britain Fly was:

“Thanks very much for your considered and thoughtful response. I broadly agree with the sentiments you have expressed in regards to sustainable aviation.”

As we get into election season there will be lots of e mails flying around saying: are you for or against immigration, Europe, austerity, the NHS, cycling, cancer research, Palestine, nuclear weapons and a bundle of other things. The truthful answer from ANY candidate should often be ‘Yes but..’ or ‘Yes – so long as..’ or ‘No, however..’ Our world is too often too impatient for this. We want yes/no answers without the rationale.

That’s fine for ‘Do you like spinach/fried mars bars/porridge/mankinis? But the yes/no approach doesn’t reveal much about the candidate and the clarity or confusion of our thinking on bigger issues. So this is the case for voters to want candidates who can do more than just chant ‘Europe good’ or ‘immigration bad’ (or vice versa). Because democracy is only as good as the candidates we choose. Yes or no?

Category: Richard Graham

Record Airbus growth: good for Gloucestershire and Gloucester

The recently published 2014 results for Airbus are very good, and they benefit Gloucester. How?

Gloucestershire’s Messier Bugatti Dowty provides the landing gear for every Airbus and has a supply chain of SMEs around it which provide much work for Gloucester engineering firms. Other subcontractors in our city work directly for Airbus  providing a range of important parts from fireproof insulation to specialist engineering parts.

In 2014 Airbus registered its thirteenth successive year of growth, adding eight new airline customers  and setting a new production record of 629 aircraft delivered to 89 customers world wide. This is good news not just for the 50 odd staff at Airbus at Filton who live in Gloucester, and many others around the county, but also for Gloucester businesses like Darchem, Poeton, Metelec Design Ltd and nearby GE Aviation and Advanced Future Manufacturing.

The average value of the UK content of Airbuses with Rolls Royce engines is about 38% (and without about 25%) and when this is applied to the size of the Airbus forward order book (1,456 net new orders from 67 customers and a total book of 6,386 aircraft valued at US$ 919bn at list prices) this is a major industry for our nation.

So the government’s support for aerospace is therefore critical to a large, hi tech and leading edge manufacturing sector in the UK and part of our re-balancing of the economy away from finance, property and the public sector. The government’s £2billion Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), jointly funded with industry, is critical to keeping the UK at the leading edge. Meanwhile more locally Growth Fund support for e.g. Messier Dowty has been important, as has the expansion of R&D tax credit, capital allowances and funds to training and pay NI for apprentices.

It shows why the many Airbus engineering led sub-contractors around Gloucester are thriving and gives confidence that they will continue to expand over the next few years – increasing jobs and apprenticeship as they do so. British aerospace engineering is leading the world: Airbus thrives, the future business book is strong and Gloucester benefits directly from every Airbus made, as I have seen by visiting them at their plant at Filton (Bristol) and local manufacturers in and around Gloucester.

It is exciting that the first Airbus 400M, made at Filton, has just left to join the Malaysian Air Force and that the first new A350 XWB (for Qatar Airways) recently made its first flight (around the UK).

Two important Airbus clients are Indonesia based airlines Garuda and Lionair, and as the PM’s Trade Envoy to Indonesia it’s part of my role to help encourage both to use British aviation capabilities wherever possible, including Airbus aircraft. I’m also delighted to have helped the UK’s National Air Traffic systems (NATS) to win their first business with Indonesia at Sukarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta.

Gloucester, Filton, Airbus, the Malaysian Air Force and Indonesia: all apparently unrelated words, but in today’s international world more closely related than many might think.

Nor is manufacturing and exporting aircraft across the world so alien to us. It all stems from the Gloster Aircraft Company at Hucclecote, which dominated British military aerospace production for twenty five years before merging into Hawker Sidley. You can see all the aircraft in the excellent Jet Age Museum at Staverton Airport. GAC exports to Finland and Japan were particularly strong in the 1930s, and it was the Japanese difficulty in pronouncing Gloucester that caused the company to brand itself Gloster.

I hope Marketing Gloucester remembers that when Japan comes to play in the Rugby World Cup here next year.

Do let me know of any other Gloucester business links to Airbus at richard4gloucester@gmail.com

Category: Richard Graham

Dementia Video

Very interesting film on dementia and mental health by Shared Syndicate. This is close to my heart because my mother had dementia. Click HERE to watch the video.

 

Category: Richard Graham

Centre for Cities Research report

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In the latest Centre for Cities report there are two key stats on Gloucester: one very positive and the other inexplicably gloomy without more explanation.

The positive figure is our employability rate at 77%, or 7th best in the country’s cities. We should be proud of that.

The negative is the suggestion that we have had a net loss of 8,100 jobs from 2004-2013, putting us at the bottom of the league.

This figure is hard to combine with unemployment figures, which are down 41% on April 2010, and the claimant rate which has halved over that period. There are no statistics on this done by ONS, so the Centre for Cities is extrapolating: and this can only make sense to me if they argue either that we lost huge numbers of jobs before 2010 and haven’t yet created as many: or if we have lost more in the public sector than we’ve gained in business – but that would still not make sense given the unemployment stats.

So I will explore with the Centre for Cities next week how these various incompatible figures add up. I am absolutely confident there are more jobs today in Gloucester than there were in 2010.

Category: Richard Graham

New legislation to protect horses

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Last week I played a key role in a new Bill that will tackle the problem of fly grazing by granting more powers to land owners, local authorities and bodies such as the RSPCA to protect horses that have been abandoned on private or public land.

The Bill, known as the Control of Horses Bill, received support from a number of non-governmental organisations and charities including the Country Land and Business Association, the Countryside Alliance, World Horse Welfare, the RSPCA, the NFU, Blue Cross, Redwings, HorseWorld and the British Horse Society who all agree that this issue is critical.

I sat on the committee that scrutinised the Bill and pointed out that horses have been fly-grazed on private land every year for the past four years on the outskirts of Gloucester. Foals have died and animals have suffered severely, but the RSPCA has been unable to act.

Legislation is not the answer for every problem. But it can help in certain circumstances. I volunteered for this Bill Committee because the number of fly grazing incidents where owners put their horses on other peoples or public land and leave them there – oblivious to their welfare especially during the frequent winter floods on Sandhurst Road, which caused foals to die two years ago – means changes are needed. Landowners and the RSPCA need to be able to take action to prevent such horses suffering badly or dying.

I am delighted the RSPCA has led on uniting all charities with an interest in the countryside behind these changes. Now, with a fair wind and suitable help in the Lords, we can get this onto the statute book by the end of March. Anyone who cares for horses in Gloucester will be pleased.

Category: Richard Graham

UK ranked most prosperous country in EU

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Britain is the most prosperous EU country, according to new research which ranks nations on eight indicators, including wealth, health, education and personal freedom. The annual Prosperity Index, compiled by the Legatum Institute think-tank, ranks the UK in 13th place, one ahead of Germany and eight ahead of France.

“The United Kingdom is leading the way among the major EU states, particularly in being a world leader for entrepreneurship and personal freedom”, said the Legatum Institute’s James Barty. “We should take heart from being ranked in the top 20 in six out of the eight categories, including health and education.” (From a Financial Times article)

Category: Richard Graham

Fund available for SME Manufacturing companies for skills training

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Suzanne Hall-Gibbons has drawn my attention to the following opportunity available to SME engineering firms:

This funding is open to any small or medium sized company (under 250 employees) that employ people in engineering occupations. Its aim is to help companies grow and become more productive through investing in the skills of its current and future engineers.  Please also pass on to anyone in your supply chain that may be interested.

The funding is open to applications from 12 December 2014 to 27 February 2015.  If you wish to apply you will need to register on the BIS e-Tendering Portal first.  Once you have registered you will then need to complete an application form.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/employer-ownership-improving-engineering-careers-smaller-companies

Bit more background:

A £10m pot to allow small and medium-sized engineering companies to develop the skills of their workforce has been opened to applications.

Engineering businesses in England with fewer than 250 employees can apply for a share of the first £2.5m of the £10m fund to develop innovative company-specific training.

The match-funded cash pot forms part of a £30m initiative for investment in skills.

Two previous tranches of funding have been provided under the project to improve engineering careers and develop female engineers.

This final round has been designed with smaller businesses in mind, with the minimum funding threshold reduced to £10,000.

Skills minister Nick Boles said: “A company’s greatest asset is its people and making sure they have the right skills is vital in supporting the long-term economic plan.

“This funding gives employers the power to unlock the full potential of their workforce by designing and developing training catered to their specific needs. I encourage all small and medium sized engineering firms to consider how they could use this funding to take their business to the next level.”

Tim Thomas, head of skills and employment policy at EEF, added: “We are delighted that this scheme has now been opened to SME employers and that the minimum grant, which a company would need to match with their own money, has been dropped to £10,000.

“This makes the scheme far more accessible and reflects more realistically the amount many smaller companies may be able to invest in skills and training. It recognises the fact that many SMEs want to do more and provides solid support to help them achieve this.”

Category: Richard Graham

Letter to the Editor: My views on immigration

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Mr Roberts (letters 26 Nov) asked my views on immigration.

Let me give all readers an update and a summary of a longer article that I wrote on this, and the EU, which is on my website: http://richardgraham.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Time-to-Trust-the-People.pdf

I make four main points:

Firstly we’re all immigrants at some point – whether into our street, ward, city, county or country. Gloucester has had immigrants from Roman (& North African) legions, Norman monks, Welsh traders, RAF bases and children of the Empire (Jamaican and Gujarati especially) for donkey’s years. All have helped shaped the city’s structure, buildings, shops, music, religions, curry houses or rugby team. So an immigrant to me isn’t a swear word. He or she is a person. My family are immigrants here from Cirencester, and my wife Anthea before we married from Kenya. Look no further than the current mock Mayor of Barton for what a first generation immigrant can contribute and achieve.

Secondly an uncontrolled level of high immigration isn’t problem free. You need more school places, housing, GPs appointments, jobs and infrastructure in general. There can be language and community cohesion problems. And let’s not pretend all immigrants are angels anymore than all are devils. A lot of police time is taken up too. So when Labour, as Lord Mandelson put it, sent out search parties all over Europe to find immigrants, and immigration exploded 1997-2010, that left real problems for us to deal with. Just trying to hide the worst problems – like sex gangs – under the carpet, as some in the Labour establishment did in Rochdale, was criminally irresponsible. That must never happen again.

Thirdly this government has closed down over 700 fake colleges that acted as immigration scams under the previous government, tightened up on throwing out criminals like Mr Pavslin who beat up his pregnant Gloucester girlfriend, and has reduced non EU immigration by a third. But it does need to do more about EU citizens who come here for benefits not work.

So lastly I completely support the Prime Minister’s intention to prevent the payment of UK child benefit to EU children not here, to restrict the ability of migrants to stay here without a job and British taxpayers to support them if they don’t. There is a polish male who has been sleeping rough in the city centre for years. It is good that individuals who know him give support and help, and that our churches give free meals available to all. But it is also time he went back to family, friends and state support systems in his own country. Poland would expect no less of a Gloucester man sleeping rough in a Polish city.

I hope that most readers will agree with my views. But some will find them too strong (let them all in) and others too weak (kick them all out). What we should agree on is that there is only one way to resolve the big issue of our membership of the EU and immigration: a re-negotiation and a referendum. My party is pledged to provide that.

In the run up to the elections constituents will want to know my views on different issues and all Citizen readers are welcome to sign up to my e news and contact me on richard4gloucester@gmail.com

 

 

Category: Richard Graham

Millie’s Trust debate: paediatric first aid – 15th December

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Yesterday I spoke in the ‘Millie’s Trust’ debate about paediatric care. It happened because more than 100,000 people signed a petition to make paediatric first aid training in nurseries compulsory after 9 month old Millie choked to death while eating mashed Shepherds Pie in a Cheadle nursery in 2012.

I believe that every parent in Gloucester would have wanted me to be there and speak in a debate that clearly demonstrates people power.

It was a remarkable session, with an outstanding speech by Mark Hunter, Millie’s MP. Three of us, plus Minister and Shadow Minister, stayed for the whole debate. Importantly Millie’s parents, Joanne and Dan Thompson, were also there.

This was my opening speech:

“I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter)—not just for securing the debate, but for his calm and measured argument.

This debate marks yet another milestone in democracy. A while back, the tragic death of a nine-month-old child would not have led to a giant petition, signed by over 100,000 people, being considered by Parliament, with the chance perhaps to change the law. Although that would not have happened but for changes in parliamentary procedure, it is above all the result of the remarkable reaction and leadership shown by Millie’s parents, the Thompsons. Joanne is motivated by the purest motive that any of us parents could hope for—to make something positive out of profound tragedy, and light a candle in the darkness.

Although many of us can think of other recent examples of constituents campaigning successfully on issues dear to their hearts, today’s starting point must be to recognise both the very sad circumstances of Millie’s death and the positive reaction of Joanne and her husband afterwards in founding their charity. The heart of today’s debate is whether it should be mandatory in law for everyone working at nurseries to be given paediatric first aid training, or whether the law should stay where it was when the Childcare Act 2006 was brought in, under which it is mandatory that someone on the premises is trained, but not everyone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) made a case for first aid training for every individual in the United Kingdom. He has a point: it is right that we should all go on a course. It is one of the best things I have ever done—I did so fairly recently, and no doubt far too late in life. However, that does not necessarily mean that to do so should be mandatory, thereby having rules, regulations and punishments attached to it—that people should be fined or there should be some other punishment for not going on a first aid course. I am not sure that today is the moment for a discussion of whether we should legislate that everybody should go on a course.”

Sir Bob Russell: “I should point out to my hon. Friend that I was not saying that there should be first aid training for every person, but that it should be part of the school curriculum. Clearly, over three generations everybody in the country would then be a trained first aider; others could—this is the example he has set himself—go voluntarily for training. However, if parents are entrusting their children to a nursery, it should be mandatory for the staff to have specific training for the needs of the role that they may be called upon to perform.”

Richard Graham: “My hon. Friend is right to differentiate between the two. The point I was going to make was that the fact that I went on a first aid course about two years ago does not necessarily make me that competent to attend to someone in a life-or-death situation today, let alone at some point in the future. Although it is a great idea that everybody at school should learn first aid, again, that will not necessarily make them competent to act in a life-or-death situation. As other hon. Members pointed out, the stress of that situation, the possibility of panic and the absence of recent and up-to-date experience of handling dummies and so on, will be crucial.

That brings me to the key points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle. He rightly touched on the fact that the number of children in child care is rising and on the need for care for the most vulnerable—this point will be especially relevant to the Minister, whose son cannot be much older than Millie was at the time of her death in 2012. The case that has been made today for mandatory paediatric first aid training for everybody working in child care is therefore a powerful one. The coroner concluded that, first, the ambulance service should carry paediatric equipment for such a situation and, secondly, that there should be a national review.

Joanne and her campaign for Millie’s Trust have already achieved the first objective, which other ambulance services around the country may want to consider. I shall certainly write to my own ambulance service in Gloucester. The second objective is open for the Minister’s response, and I hope he will bear in mind the already remarkable achievement of the trust in having trained several thousand teachers for free. This is a fantastic objective, and the number of teachers who have already been trained is fantastic.

I do not know the precise cost of ensuring that every person in every nursery is trained, and I hope that it would not increase the cost of the child care provided to so many of our constituents around the country. I hope that it will be absorbed by the nursery as a necessary part of providing that trust in child care that all of us who are parents would expect.

Today’s debate is an important step in recognising what an individual has done on behalf of her own child and her own family situation, but it has much wider applicability across the land to all of us who are parents and to everyone who puts their children, with trust, into a nursery school. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle made a strong case that is the stronger for having been measured and reasonable. I hope that the Minister—a reasonable man and a young father to boot—will be able to give us some reassurance about the national review as quickly as possible. I suspect that all of us here today hope that that review will lead to mandatory provision of paediatric first aid.”

Later I intervened twice on the Minister – first to clarify whether a review would take place:

“In a sense, there are two slightly different issues. I think the hon. Member for Stockport (Ann Coffey) was close to implying that, had everyone received paediatric training in the nursery where Millie, very sadly, died, these events would not have happened, but I am not sure that any of us here today is in a position to make that judgment. However, on the wider point, many of us feel that future tragedies would be much less likely if everybody did receive paediatric training, so will the Minister respond to the call for a review, which the coroner, in effect, made?”

The Minister replied:

Mr Gyimah: “I can commit to a review next year of how the requirements have been strengthened and how they are bedding down in the nursery sector. I welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. None of us can say what would happen if there was another situation on the ground, but we do have the coroner’s response, and I can commit to a review.”

And then secondly to ensure that mandatory training of all nursery staff would be included in the review:

“The Minister has helpfully confirmed that the national review will go ahead, as the coroner wanted. To avoid any doubt, will he confirm that it will include consideration of moves to make it mandatory for everybody working in nurseries to receive paediatric training?”

Again the Minister confirmed:

Mr Gyimah: “My hon. Friend is fast bringing me to the end of my speech—I was going to address that right at the end. Yes, when we have a national review, we will look at making this mandatory.”

I believe that at the end of the debate the Thompsons had achieved their main aim of a Review, which will include the option of mandatory paediatric first aid training for all staff who work in nurseries. Now it’s about the timing of the Review.

The full debate can be read here

I was very encouraged to get this response from  Jade Dobson who works at the GRH:

“I have been corresponding recently with our MP for Gloucester Richard Graham regarding the debate and I’m pleased to say that not only did he attend, he also spoke out at length during the debate in favour of a change in law to protect our children.

The debate was an important step in seeing a change in the law and it’s heartening to know we are being supported locally with this.”

Thank you Jade. As you say it’s not the end, but it is the end of the beginning. Changing the law because of Millie is now a possibility, and perhaps more than that.

Category: Richard Graham