My speech on the Reports into Investigatory Powers debate

Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 3:46 pm, 25th June 2015

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate and to follow the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who brought to bear his experience of the absolutely vital nature of communications data to securing the prosecution of those who are serious threats to our nation. I thank him for that.

The homework for this debate was “A Question of Trust”, the Anderson report; and “Privacy and Security”, the ISC’s report. The third bit, the report by the Royal United Services Institute, has not come out yet, so we are having the debate before all the homework is available to us.

I want to focus on the element of threat covered in the Anderson report. His remit was to focus on the threats, the capabilities required to deal with them, the safeguards on privacy, the challenges of technology, and issues relating to transparency and oversight. Two of those five issues relate to threat. Interestingly, the responses by groups and organisations interested in this subject—I have read at least two, including one from Liberty and one from Big Brother Watch—hardly alluded to the threat element at all; they focused entirely, and perhaps understandably, on privacy. To some extent, Mr Anderson gave them some cover for that, because, to quote him directly,

“claims of exceptional or unprecedented threat levels—particularly if relied upon for the purposes of curbing well-established liberties—should be approached with scepticism.”

However, he did not go on to spell out what those well-established liberties were, particularly in relation to the internet and communications data, which are still new to our society. He went on to ask what are the uniform views of the law enforcement community.

The Government could help him in establishing what those views are. The Minister might well want to comment on that.

The threat is of course enormous, and it is not just terrorism, alarming as that is. Members have alluded to at least two other elements: they include internet pornography and, perhaps most emotionally, the whole business of sexual exploitation of children. It is hard to believe that after everything that has happened in Rotherham, with all the reports on that, and in other cities across our land, anyone could imagine that that threat is not serious.

I therefore share to some extent the amazement of Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer, who, after a decade as the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, was shocked when his own party leader vetoed the Communications Data Bill in the last Parliament. He implied that the veto was a political decision rather than one based on the merits of the case. I hope that the Minister, who is perhaps not renowned for his libertarian instincts, but who is renowned for his staunch support of the liberties of our people, will touch on how vital that Bill is as part of our armoury to face the threats.

There is a lot of agreement between the Anderson report and the Intelligence and Security Committee’s report. First, on the complexity of the existing number of laws, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) says that the laws are virtually incomprehensible, it is surely time for a single, united Bill. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) says that he has his own concerns as a member of the ISC about the way in which different agencies might be able to “arbitrage” between different Bills, I think we can all agree that the Government are surely entitled to conclude that it is time for one overriding umbrella Bill.

Secondly, the two reports were not exactly the same on the issue of reform of the commission system, but it seems to me that everyone agrees that it would be simpler and clearer to have a single commissioner with overall responsibility.

There was a difference of opinion on warrants and whether they should be subject to judicial authority or continue to be the responsibility of Ministers. Mr Anderson raised two interesting points. The first was that, whatever the system is, it must have public confidence. I am not really aware that the current system does not have public confidence, but perhaps that should be explored. Secondly, he intimated that a system of judicial responsibility would make co-operation with US technology companies easier. I had not heard that before. It seems slightly improbable, but perhaps the Minister will comment on it, because it is clearly an important issue.

Thirdly, the Anderson report—and possibly the ISC report—mentioned the domestic right of appeal. I am sure that the Minister will want to say something about that. Instinctively, I feel that it is a good idea, and others probably do, too.

There was less agreement between the reports on some of the other elements. I have touched on the Communications Data Bill. Clearly there is a need to make a strong operational case, but none of us should be in any doubt about the critical role that such data

play in the prosecution of serious threats. I hope that elements of the Bill will be incorporated into the eventual law.

There was also a question mark over whether the framework for interception of external communications needs to be compliant with the European convention on human rights. That is an interesting question in itself and in relation to other activities the Government are pursuing. The Minister might want to comment on that.

There were areas of agreement in the two reports we were invited to study that the Government can take forward. There were some queries of the Government’s own responses, which they may wish to mull over and respond to. Mr Anderson also raised other question marks and issues that will need to be considered further before the final Bill emerges.

There is clearly a significant lobby group focused on liberty issues, which we all understand and all think are important. However, I want to finish by emphasising that, when we consider the details of the new law, the new commissioner, the right of appeal, the collection of third party data and so on, I hope that this House and the Minister will bear it in mind that, if a terrorist blows someone or something up, or if young girls are groomed, exploited and damaged, it is not the libertarians who will clean up the pieces, but the families of those physically or mentally scarred, the emergency services and the communities around them. It is that threat that our agencies strive against. Our task—balancing the privacy, carrying the quiet majority with us—is surely to give our agencies the tools to do the job. Those tools, by common consent, are currently not in the best shape, and in reshaping them let us never forget the vital task for which we must design them.

Category: Richard Graham

Why we need to speed up adoption procedures

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has written to me outlining why we need to speed up the bureaucracy of adoption procedures – and I know all the examples in Gloucester where the points she makes are absolutely right.

So let me share this with you:

All children deserve a loving stable home

Despite dramatic improvements during the last Parliament, which saw a record high in the number of adoptions, the adoption system is still highly fragmented. Our adoption reforms have simplified the adoption system to encourage more people to adopt and make sure children are placed swiftly with a family where this is in their best interests. This Bill establishes powers to tackle inefficiencies in the current adoption system and ensure more children are found loving, stable homes.

Giving children the new start they need 

Each day spent waiting in the care system when they could be with their new family is a day wasted. Around 180 agencies recruit and match adopters, and the majority of agencies operate on a very small scale. Over 3,000 children are still waiting for permanent families, despite there being enough approved adopters across the country.

The measures in the Bill will lead to the consolidation of adoption services and councils working together as regional adoption agencies. This will give local authorities a greater pool of approved adopters with which to match vulnerable children successfully first time; make vital support services more widely available to adoptive families; and ensure recruitment of adopters is better targeted. It gives the Secretary of State the power to direct local authorities to consolidate their adoption services by directing one or more local authorities to have certain adoption functions carried out on their behalf by a named local authority or adoption agency.

I think this would make a real difference, and look forward to supporting the bill.

Category: Richard Graham

Why we need to speed up adoption procedures

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has written to me outlining why we need to speed up the bureaucracy of adoption procedures – and I know all the examples in Gloucester where the points she makes are absolutely right.

So let me share this with you:

All children deserve a loving stable home

Despite dramatic improvements during the last Parliament, which saw a record high in the number of adoptions, the adoption system is still highly fragmented. Our adoption reforms have simplified the adoption system to encourage more people to adopt and make sure children are placed swiftly with a family where this is in their best interests. This Bill establishes powers to tackle inefficiencies in the current adoption system and ensure more children are found loving, stable homes.

Giving children the new start they need
Each day spent waiting in the care system when they could be with their new family is a day wasted. Around 180 agencies recruit and match adopters, and the majority of agencies operate on a very small scale. Over 3,000 children are still waiting for permanent families, despite there being enough approved adopters across the country.

The measures in the Bill will lead to the consolidation of adoption services and councils working together as regional adoption agencies. This will give local authorities a greater pool of approved adopters with which to match vulnerable children successfully first time; make vital support services more widely available to adoptive families; and ensure recruitment of adopters is better targeted. It gives the Secretary of State the power to direct local authorities to consolidate their adoption services by directing one or more local authorities to have certain adoption functions carried out on their behalf by a named local authority or adoption agency.

I think this would make a real difference, and look forward to supporting the bill.

Category: Richard Graham

Why does your vote in Gloucester matter?

Why is your vote important to me?

Your vote matters because it will determine the direction of Gloucester.  In 2010 I pledged to focus on jobs especially for the young: on regeneration across the city and on protecting front-line health services. So what have we achieved in those five years?

  • We have halved unemployment and doubled the number of apprentices: record numbers of new businesses and a record amount of investment in the city.
  • Tougher exam scoring but better results across the city: the first brand-new secondary school in Gloucester for a generation
  • Regeneration and several hundred jobs in the railway triangle
  • Gloucester City Homes converted into a charity and committed to building 100 new homes – the first new social homes on the city estate for a generation
  • Doubled the number of Health Visitors and created more integrated adult care: employed more than 400 additional staff in our Hospitals Trust and won £20m Smart Care software: won 2 additional funds for more GP appointments.
  • Created more festivals and won 11 Heritage Lottery Fund wins
  • Improved the C&G and Walls roundabouts
  • Funded a new Bus Station for 2016
  • Funded an additional entrance & new car park for the Rail Station
  • Built a new cinema, several new restaurants & increased visitors to the Gloucester Quays by 70%: enabled new hi tech Tidal Lagoon & Cyber Centre HQs and the creation of the first Gloucester Brewery for 60 years.

We still have masses to do and your vote matters because you can vote for more of that change in Gloucester or go back to the old days – of boom and bust and sharply increased youth unemployment, the second worst secondary school results in the country, our manufacturing crippled and the prospects for our city at best uncertain.

Or you can vote to keep Gloucester on the UP.

It’s your decision: it matters, and I hope you will be voting for me on May the seventh.

Category: Richard Graham

My thoughts on defence and security issues

Some constituents have asked me about my and our position on defence and defence issues.
So here is a short summary – do e mail me on richard4gloucester@gmail.com if you have further queries.
There is more global uncertainty at the moment than at any time in my 35 years working life. We face both man made and natural threats alike. These include ghastly civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the military brinkmanship of Putin along European borders, domestic terrorism threats, an increasing likelihood of a Greek exit from the euro, an earthquake in Nepal and a volcano in Chile.
This calls for a calm and proven approach. This is not the time to ditch the ultimate insurance policy – our nuclear submarines. Nor is it the time to prevent GCHQ from nailing terrorists because of concerns about ‘snooping’. After working in William Hague’s team for 4 years I know how many near misses there have been.
We plugged the £38 billion black hole inherited in the defence budget and now need the best hi tech equipment for our Armed Forces. That means a strong and growing economy to pay for our £163 billion ten year programme. This includes the two aircraft carriers, new Type 26 frigates and A400Ms from Filton.
It is right that we have the biggest defence budget in Europe and the second largest in NATO, for defence of the realm is any nation’s top priority. Over the next five years dealing with terrorism will continue to be one of our country’s most difficult challenges, and my experience as a diplomat and in Parliament and government on these issues will be very relevant.
Category: Richard Graham

Three new changes to help make life better…

There are three changes made by the government this week which I think could make a difference to you or your family life: here they are –

1. Lost or stolen mobile

First, mobile users will no longer risk receiving 5 figure bills if their devices are stolen. The 5 major network providers: EE, 02, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have signed up to a measure of a £100 “liability cap” on bills that will be activated if the phone is reported lost or stolen within 24 hours of it going missing. If the providers breach this new laws they will face fines of up to £5000.

For more information please see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32005851

2. Protecting fans from ticket fraud

Secondly, the government has backed new legislation to protect fans from fraud in the secondary ticketing market. The proposal will still allow fans to resell unwanted eg gig or sports tickets but to ensure that those buying the tickets from reselling companies such as Viagogo and Seatwave will know the precise details of the ticket they are purchasing (row, seat, face value, age restrictions, its original seller), which are currently not legally required. They will also help to stamp out the sale of both counterfeit tickets and speculative tickets being sold on the secondary market.

For more information please see: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/feb/25/touts-suffer-blow-government-backs-regulation-secondary-ticketing

3. Parking in council owned parking places

And third, drivers in England will now get a 10 minute grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parking spaces.   Other changes, expected to take effect later this month, include:

  • guidance for councils reminding them they are banned from “using parking to generate profit”
  • a right for residents and businesses to demand – by a petition – that a council “reviews parking in their area”
  • new powers for parking adjudicators so they can “hold councils to account”
  • protection to stop drivers being fined after parking at out-of-order meters
  • a ban on the use of CCTV “spy cars” except in no-parking areas such as bus lanes and near schools

For more information please see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2981794/10-minute-let-avoid-parking-ticket-month-new-law-let-overstay-meter-without-fine.html

Category: Richard Graham

My last speech in this Parliament – focusing on economic strength and social justice

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): Today’s debate focuses on work and pensions—the two issues that are at the heart of this Government’s mission to ensure that everyone is better off working and everyone is better off saving. Neither of those things was remotely true in 2010 and both are much closer to being true today. It is vital that Britain allows this Government to finish the job of making both those crucial philosophies true.

The first part is about ensuring that universal credit is rolled out and implemented effectively everywhere. That means that, finally, the tax credits that have prevented so many people from working for longer than 15 hours will no longer prevent people from doing so and that many of my constituents will have the chance to benefit from having full-time jobs.

At the same time, we need to get the spirit of the triple lock, which has brought security so effectively to those on the basic state pension by giving everyone £950 more than they were getting in 2010, into the world of annuities, which have been liberated, so that those who need and want them can have them, but those who do not want them do not have them. The small income that many of my constituents generate from their savings should not be taxed, so that there is an incentive to save. The means-tested pension prevented many people from saving, because they could see that their neighbour was better off not saving. We must not allow that world to continue.

That is our mission. It is what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) called free market economics with a social conscience. In my words, it is getting the economy right in order to improve lives. That is the mission that this Government have been on for the past five years and it must continue.

How does it feel on the ground in my Gloucester constituency? Youth unemployment went up by 40% under the previous Government and it has gone down by almost 60% under this Government, from 760 to 345. There were too many families with two generations, if not three, in which no one was working, meaning that there was no role model. Some 2 million children across the country were growing up in those households.

Today, we have 5,900 new apprenticeships in Gloucester, which is more than double the pace under the previous Government. That is not about statistics, but about opportunities for individuals. People who come from backgrounds that meant that they never imagined they would be able to get a job and that they faced a future on benefits are getting the skills that they need for a lifetime of opportunities. In terms of social justice, there is no better individual story than that of Beauty—a Nigerian woman who was trafficked to this country and who, with help from a number of us, was given the chance to stay in this country and is now training to be a nurse in a hospital in Gloucestershire. That is the mission.

Interestingly, only today, I read the best indicator I have come across of business confidence in the south-west of England. It stated:

“Turnover and profit growth are expected to remain steady”.

It said that there were good prospects for jobs. However, there was a but: the prospect of a new Government makes many business leaders nervous about their long-term prospects. It is no surprise that businesses are nervous.

23 Mar 2015 : Column 1201

They should be, and so should parents because the shadow Business Secretary announced recently that the Labour party would axe the level 2 national vocational qualification from being considered an apprenticeship. That would be a disastrous blow for the many people who leave school at 16 or 17, start with a level 2 and go on to improve the level of their apprenticeship.

We need a Government who are fiscally responsible—as the Budget was—and who produce specific instances of improving the lives of our constituents. I was delighted with the encouragement for tidal lagoon power and its first historic opportunity to develop marine energy from Swansea bay. The company is headquartered in Gloucester and is a £1 billion project. Opportunities in the future with three or four further tidal lagoons will offer thousands of jobs in south Wales and around Gloucestershire. There was also encouragement for my plan for the redevelopment of Gloucester railway station. That was confirmed by the announcement this morning by the Department for Transport that we will be getting a new station car park with up to 240 new places and a new entrance to our station on Great Western road, linking our hospital and the station directly for the first time. That will come in 2016.

I also welcome the announcement by the Chancellor—we await the full details—that the campaign that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) have been running for justice for police widows has been accepted by the Government. That is a good example of where a stronger economy allows for social justice and for the Government to make decisions that improve the lives of those who, through no fault of their own, were victims of an historical injustice.

Some things remain to be done, and we await the details of the retirement guidance on savings. That is critical and we must work to ensure that it is good. We must continue with auto-enrolment and to reverse the decline of those with pensions and savings. We might consider a new ISA for care. Yes to 3 million apprenticeships —deeper, broader and perhaps more for the over 50s. The hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) said there have been five wasted years, but they were not wasted. We must now build on those years to ensure that we go forward with an even better, stronger economy, helping those who have less.

Category: Richard Graham

Road improvements in Gloucester

Everyone knows about a road which needs improvement: few of us know what the plans are for repairs.

So here they are… If you think there are other roads near you which should be a priority please flag them up to your county councillor and copy me on richard4gloucester@gmail.com.

CARRIAGEWAY 2014/2015
 
Year District Scheme name Parish Treatment 2014/15 approx scheme length (metres)
14 / 15 Gloucester A38 Cole Avenue (Bristol Road to Podsmead Road), Gloucester Grange and Kingsway / Hempsted and Westgate Inlay surface course (with binder course in running lanes) 970.0
14 / 15 Gloucester A38 Cole Avenue (Podsmead Road to St Barnabus rbt), Gloucester Tuffley Patch binder course & inlay surface course (110mm) 1,000.0
14 / 15 Gloucester A38 Finlay Road, Gloucester Tuffley / Coney Hill and Matson Patch binder course & inlay surface course (110mm) 1,270.0
14 / 15 Gloucester A430 Kingsholm Road, Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Inlay surface course 55/14 800.0
14 / 15 Gloucester A417 C & G Roundabout, Gloucester Barnwood and Hucclecote Inlay surface course (SMA, 65PSV) 500.0
14 / 15 Gloucester B4072 Stroud Road (between Park End Road & Carlton Road), Gloucester Hempsted and Westgate / Barton and Tredworth Inlau surface course 55/14 298.0
14 / 15 Gloucester B4063 Cheltenham Road (Estcourt Road to Oxtalls Lane), Gloucester Longlevens / Kingsholm and Wotton Inlay surface course 230.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Field Court Drive (between School Lane rbt and Overbrook Road), Quedgeley Quedgeley Inlay surface course (reinstate speed cushions) 920.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/8010 Grange Road, Tuffley, Gloucester (Phase 2) Grange and Kingsway / Tuffley Patch binder course 1,710.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/8010 Grange Road, Tuffley, Gloucester (Phase 3) Grange and Kingsway / Tuffley Micro dressing 1,710.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/8011 Tuffley Avenue, Gloucester Tuffley Inlay surface course 55/14 1,230.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/215 Sneedhams Green, Matson, Gloucester Coney Hill and Matson Inlay / overlay surface course 1,173.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/78 Sandhurst Lane (Rivermead Close to A40 bridge), Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Micro dressing 400.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Horton Road (Royal Lane to Mayhill Way), Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Reconstruction (sections only, 600mm depth) 150.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Eastgate Street (Bruton Way to Clarence Street), Gloucester (Phase 1) Hempsted and Westgate Patching and repair channel kerbs 370.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/215 Winnycroft Lane, Matson, Gloucester (Phase 1) Coney Hill and Matson Patch binder course 970.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/215 Winnycroft Lane, Matson, Gloucester (Phase 2) Coney Hill and Matson Micro Dressing 970.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/8009 The Wheatway, Abbeydale – Patching sections only Abbey Patch surface course 580.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 3/8008 Abbeymead Avenue (Church Lane rbt to Heron Way rbt), Gloucester (Phase 1) Abbey Patch surface course 2,310.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Tuffley Crescent, Podsmead, Gloucester Tuffley Inlay surface course
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/80503 Highbank Park, Gloucester – Patching Kingsholm and Wotton Patch surface course 77.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Sweetbriar Street, Union Street & Worcester Parade, Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Micro Dressing 450.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 483050 Awebridge Way, 483027 Drayton Way and Cul-de-sacs, Gloucester (Phase 1) Coney Hill and Matson Micro Dressing 500.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Nine Elms Road / Little Elmbridge (between junctions with Elmleaze and Lavington Drive), Longlevens, Gloucester Longlevens Patch binder course & inlay surface course 520.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Arthur Street and Belgrave Road, Gloucester Hempsted and Westgate Inlay binder course & surface course 300
14 / 15 Gloucester Coney Hill Road (Eastern Avenue to Hawthorne Avenue), Gloucester Coney Hill and Matson Inlay surface course 810.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Estcourt Road service roads (incl Estcourt Close), Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton / Longlevens Inlay surface course (concrete road) 2,290.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Ennerdale Avenue / Paddock Gardens / Richmond Gardens / Lea Crescent / Cotswold Gardens & Paygrove Lane cul-de-sac, Longlevens, Gloucester Longlevens Micro dressing 1,090.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Baneberry Road / Prescott Avenue, (Norbury Avenue to Reservoir) Matson (Phase 1) Tuffley / Coney Hill and Matson Patch binder course 782.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Baneberry Road / Prescott Avenue, (Norbury Avenue to Reservoir) Matson (Phase 2) Tuffley / Coney Hill and Matson Micro dressing 782.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Red Well Road, Matson, Gloucester (Phase 1) Coney Hill and Matson Patch binder course 702.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Red Well Road, Matson, Gloucester (Phase 2) Coney Hill and Matson Micro dressing 702.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Winsley Road, Matson, Gloucester (Phase 1) Coney Hill and Matson Patch binder course 336.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 480537 Alvin Street, Gloucester (Phase 1) Kingsholm and Wotton Patch binder course 300.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 480537 Alvin Street, Gloucester (Phase 2) Kingsholm and Wotton Micro dressing 300.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Linden Road, Gloucester (Phase 1) Tuffley Patch binder course 330.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/80543 Edwy Parade, Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Reconstruction (base, binder & surface course). Consider ‘Retread’. 200.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/80504 Westfield Terrace junction with A38, Longford, Gloucester Kingsholm and Wotton Inlay surface course (junction only) 55/14 15.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/81063 Farm Street, Gloucester Barton and Tredworth Patch binder course & inlay / overlay surface course 60.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/8263 The Wheatridge East, Abbeydale (Phase 1) Abbey Patch binder course 640.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/82043 Trevor Road, Hucclecote – Patching sections only Barnwood and Hucclecote Patch surface course 35.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/85501 Oakbank , Tuffley – Patching sections only Tuffley Patch surface course 161.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/82040 Carisbrooke Road, Hucclecote – Patching sections only Barnwood and Hucclecote Patch surface course 45.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/82037 Green Lane, Hucclecote – Patching sections only Barnwood and Hucclecote Patch surface course 33.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/84076 Armscroft Place & 4/84705 Armscroft Crescent, Gloucester – Patching Kingsholm and Wotton Patch surface course 195.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/85075 Ashcroft Close, Matson, Gloucester Coney Hill and Matson Inlay surface course 100.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/85032 George Whitefield Close, Matson, Gloucester Coney Hill and Matson Inlay surface course 50.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/82015 Insley Gardens, Hucclecote, Gloucester Barnwood and Hucclecote Inlay surface course 110.0
14 / 15 Gloucester 4/80016 Longsmith Street, Gloucester Hempsted and Westgate Inlay surface course 193.0
14 / 15 Gloucester Daventry Terrace, Barton Barton and Tredworth Inlay surface course 50.0

 

Category: Richard Graham

Smart meter roll-out

I have received several emails from constituents wary of new technology (I’m close to that stage too) about Smart Meters. So I just wanted to share a few points about this which draw on a briefing my researcher had Smart Energy GB.

Britain needs a smarter energy grid both to cope with our increasing use for energy and also to enable lower carbon emissions. Smart meters help achieve this. They are new generation gas and electricity meters which will replace existing meters and are offered to everyone in Great Britain at no extra cost between now and 2020.

At the moment we have a situation where most of us will not know how much our energy bills will be until the bill arrives. Smart meters help us to manage our bills by letting us see the gas and electricity you are buying, in real-time and in pounds and pence. Meter readings will also be sent automatically to your energy supplier so your bills will be accurate and not estimates.

This information will make it easier for us all to compare gas and electricity tariffs and find the best deal  – and we’ve all seen the adverts which suggest the average saving from changing supplier is £200 p.a by visiting websites such as http://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/. But you can only do this with confidence if you know what your actual bill is. So there are real savings to be had from using the info from Smart Meters to help get the right energy deal.

For anyone who pays for energy by a pre-payment meter, new ways to top up will be introduced such as over the phone or online so you won’t need to charge the key or pay higher prices anymore.

Some energy suppliers are already installing smart meters, so my general advice is to get in touch with your energy supplier using the phone number on your bill to see when they will be available to you.

For further information please visit: www.smartenergyGB.org or watch Smart Energy GB’s information video at: http://www.smartenergygb.org/national-rollout.

For my older constituents this probably all still sounds confusing, so I encourage you to call in your children or grandchildren, or a friendly neighbour, for help. Alongside council tax energy bills are one of most families’ biggest bills, so it’s worth thinking about.

Category: Richard Graham

More than 130,000 15 – 17 year olds have taken part in the NCS since 2011.

Last week I joined Headteacher Amanda Chong from Ribston Hall and over 100 other teachers from across the UK to celebrate and promote the National Citizenship Scheme.

Established in 2011 by the Prime Minister to create a more responsible, cohesive and engaged society, NCS brings young people from a range of backgrounds together to face outdoor challenges, learn skills for life and work and make their mark on their community.

This scheme offers an opportunity for young people to see the world and themselves through different – and the 16 year olds that I’ve met after going on the NCS course have left with much greater self-confidence and greater belief in what they can achieve. I’d encourage every teenager of the right age to apply via the Gloucestershire College website (gloscol.ac.uk).

Former Home Secretary and NCS Board Member David Blunkett MP, said: “Teachers can have a transformational effect on the lives of their students. By encouraging participation in programmes like NCS, students not only benefit on a personal level but will also play a part as an active citizen in a functioning society – hopefully that will continue throughout their life.”

Ribston Head Amanda Chong reiterated these words by saying “I strongly believe in the value of an NCS course and promote it to all our students”.

So to all teachers and parents of 16 year olds in Gloucester, this is my simple message: there is a great opportunity for your son or daughter this summer, free of charge. It may change their life: it will certainly give a wider sense of the world than they previously had. Either way it’s an opportunity not to miss. Do encourage them to apply now!

Untitled

Category: Richard Graham