Why I Support Staying IN the EU

SafranLast week I met Gloucester apprentices in a parliamentary reception to celebrate an industry where Britain is second only to the US as the world’s most important manufacturer – aerospace.

Today 38 per cent of the value of every Airbus, including RR engines, is Made in Britain. But will happen in the future if we pulled out of the EU? We simply don’t know.

The Leave campaign cannot explain what tariffs the EU would have to pay on our exports or us on theirs. Some Brexiters don’t want free trade with the EU at all.

And uncertainty is bad for business so investors are sitting on potential investments, sterling has dropped, which will cause more inflation; and our growth has faltered.

The independent IFS said Brexit means “slower growth, more austerity or higher taxes” – so less to spend on health, as the NHS Chief Executive has warned.

Some say there is more to life than money. I agree, and today we need more partnerships, not fewer: more co-operation on terrorism, the environment, energy, human trafficking, fraud, cyber and defence. That’s also why all our closest allies – the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – want us to stay IN.

Gloucester is not little England. We’re proud of all our heritage, especially the Roman and Norman. We know the EU is far from perfect, but if we want the best chance of jobs for our children, welfare for the weak and an NHS we can afford then we are Stronger In.

Intervention on EU Free Trade Agreements

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right on two points that in my view no one should be in any doubt about. First, trade is absolutely critical. All the countries with which I and all the other trade envoys deal are in no doubt that we will do much better with them by being within the European Union rather than outside it. I am also in no doubt that the 53 agreements that the European Union has entered into would take a very long time to replicate—if, indeed, that could be done at all. Lastly, on inward investment, I am also in no doubt that a wave of foreign direct investment that could come here is being held up at the moment as a result of uncertainty.

Helipebs Visit

Do watch my brief video on my visit to Elmbridge based company Helipebs, winners of a Queen’s Award for International Trade. Thanks to Geoff, Andy, Ron and all the team for hosting me.

A417 Air Balloon Solution Nudging Forward

With Stroud MP Neil Carmichael, Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson and County Council leader Mark Hawthorne at the air balloon roundabout

With Stroud MP Neil Carmichael, Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson and County Council leader Mark Hawthorne

Our campaign to sort out the A417 at the Air Balloon and the Missing Link has moved a step forward.

The GCC is investing a million pounds for research by Highways England to establish the best route for any new road. This should get consensus on the detail of the best route and move decision making forward helpfully.

My aim remains a spade in the ground in early 2020.

Kingsway Surgery Public Consultation

More progress on Kingsway’s new GP surgery – a public consultation at the Kingsway Sports Pavilion by ASDA 4.30-7pm Friday, 24th May.

Residents can see artists’ impressions of the new surgery and ask questions to Rosebank surgery reps or advisors. I would also encourage questions about the next steps on the temporary surgery’s progress.

Your Kingsway councillors, Jennie Dallimore and Richard Cook, and I will continue to work with Rosebank GPs, the developer, the NHS and both councils to make sure we overcome any obstacles.

Getting this new surgery (and a temporary surgery beforehand) up and running is our most important aim for Kingsway, and it will also have a great and positive impact on the other parts of Quedgeley.

The speed of progress will always be slower than my natural impatience would like, but this is a big and complex project, and it’s good that residents will get a closer look at plans next week.

A Great British Energy Opportunity Inches Forward

Tidal-lagoon-at-Swansea-Bay-credit-Tidal-Lagoon-Swansea-BayThe government’s announcement of a Chairman to get on with a review into tidal energy is good news for Gloucester – where Tidal Lagoon Power is headquartered – Wales (host for most of their proposed tidal lagoons) and the UK (because this could generate up to 10 per cent of our nation’s energy needs).

I know Charles Hendry, former Energy Minister and fellow Trade Envoy well, and have no doubt he will deliver a timely and incisive report. I hope this then leads to a government response in time for an announcement in the Autumn Statement.

Basically we need to know if the technology can deliver, whether the plan is safe, environmentally acceptable, economically beneficial and can make a significant difference to our energy needs. And then lastly what is the right price at which such energy should be bought by the Grid.

The big picture seems obvious: this is a huge game changer in energy, locally financed, manufactured, created and produced – and putting us in a good position to export our skills later. But the research has to be confirmed by the buyer – the government on behalf of the taxpayer and the sooner this happens the better.

In time I hope we will look back and say this was a turning point, a moment when Britain looked at the future of zero carbon marine energy Made in Britain and says yes, we want to be a world leader in that capability. And Gloucester will be at the heart of it.

I will continue to speak up for the benefits of this Great British opportunity.

Press Release: Gloucester MP welcomes M5 noise reduction plan

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has described Highways England’s multi million pound commitment to resurface the M5 between junctions 11a and 12 in 2018-9 as “further proof that local campaigns can succeed”.

The City MP said the support from The Citizen for the campaign by local councillors, like County Councillor Andrew Gravells and City Councillor Lise Noakes, made a difference.

“There is no doubt that with more traffic and fewer trees the noise levels for some Hucclecote and Abbey residents have been much higher – and now they should be reduced again.”

The MP further noted: “These things invariably take longer to be done than any of us would like because of a pipeline of other projects already committed to, but this is a great step forward and we must hold Highways England to account on their timing.”

Home Grown Nurses for Gloucestershire

Trudi carrying on nursing in the Glos Royal Hospital

Trudi carrying on nursing in the Glos Royal Hospital

Hardly a day passes without a newspaper putting the words ‘crisis’ and ‘NHS’ together. In Chinese there are two characters for crisis, and they literally translate as ‘danger opportunity’. This e news highlights one crisis in Gloucestershire healthcare – and three steps we’re taking to make the most of an opportunity, and to avoid the danger.

In an earlier e news I touched on one aspect: our bid this autumn for a Gloucestershire Health University Technical College (UTC). I pointed out that the health sector is our biggest employer in the county (50,000 jobs) and city (12,000), and giving pupils a chance to get Btecs in Health and Care, alongside GCSEs and A levels, plus masses of health related work experience, should open up many job opportunities for them later.

But there is still a skills training gap after school – especially for nurses. Every year we need over 400 new nurses for the needs of our 3 NHS Trusts, many private care homes, the Winfield Hospital and GPs surgeries.At the moment we aren’t training anything like that number in our county, and I want to share what we intend to do about this.

Under the old system there was a top down decision on how many nursing places to offer, and a local monopoly on pre-registration training with the University of the West of England (UWE), which has a base in Gloucester Docks but couldn’t produce nearly enough nurses for our needs. As a result Gloucestershire has been importing nurses from all over the country, Spain, Portugal and more recently the Philippines. Twice I’ve had to write to Home Secretary Theresa May to seek her support for our Hospitals Trust to recruit more Filipinos and Filipinas to come and work here.

Don’t get me wrong on this: I once ran an airline in Manila, love the country, speak their language and am currently the PM’s Trade Envoy for the Philippines. But I don’t think the best solution for Gloucestershire is to rely on Philippines nationals for our nursing needs. We should be able to train our own nurses locally.

In the brave new world quotas and monopolies are done away, allowing anyone to apply to study nursing and any university to apply to train them, making the provision of skills locally much more possible. Yes nurses will get loans not grants now, but there are much more generous maintenance grants to recognise nursing undergraduates have little time to earn while doing their required work experience. The door is now open for lots more Gloucestershire nursing students, who are more likely to stay in our county when trained in Cheltenham and Gloucester – IF our local university can offer the course.

So the crucial development, which I hope we’ll hear about next week, is how the Uni of Glos can move forward with NHS and other health partners to get that approval. If it does, that paves the way for the third element in our nursing strategy that I am very keen on: a pilot project for Nursing Associates.

The plan from this government is for a 2 year Higher Apprenticeship course as the qualification for a Nursing Associate, who will fulfill many vital nursing tasks. Ministers need to agree and confirm the regulatory arrangements and then enable the Health Executive to run pilot projects. I’ve raised with the Prime Ministers, Ministers and the Health Executive my strong enthusiasm and support for the Uni of Glos to run one of these pilots, with training and work experience in both Gloucester and Cheltenham.

My neighbour in Cheltenham Alex Chalk MP completely agrees that if we had a UTC, a Nursing Associates pilot project and pre-registration training all available in our county then we would have the potential to become one of the leading areas of home grown health sector specialists. We both feel this would make a huge difference to jobs being won locally, to patients and to both public and private bodies in the healthcare sector.

So keep an eye out for local news on courses for pre-registration nurses at the University of Gloucestershire: for a national announcement on the establishment on Nursing Associates, and then the opportunity for our Uni to train Nursing Associates here in Glos.

Alongside news of our UTC bid early next year, having a Nursing Associates pilot scheme and training more nurses for degrees locally would mean great opportunities, not dangers. Over time we could even get rid of the word ‘crisis’ when it comes to nursing provision in Gloucestershire. It’s a goal worth going for.

What do you think about these ideas for training more home grown nurses? Let me know at

Best regards

The Government’s Role in the EU Referendum


I want to write of a common misconception about the government’s role in the EU Referendum. It’s one which several angry constituents who want to Leave the EU have written to me about, and their argument goes like this:

• It is simply not fair, and indeed is quite wrong, that the government is spending money and promoting its views to Remain in the EU

• The government should be neutral, run a Referendum without a view and apart from the technical details of running an election should keep quiet

So let me deal with these points.

First the starting point. My party promised in our manifesto in the General Election of 2015 that, if elected, we would legislate for a Referendum, and that the Cabinet would then take a view on the position of the government.

We won the election and we have stuck with our word: the Referendum was legislated for and the Cabinet voted about 25-7 that the position of the government was to Remain. The Cabinet also agreed we would first re-negotiate for a better settlement and then hold the Referendum. And the PM said that those in the Cabinet who wanted to campaign to Leave could do so without resigning from the Cabinet.

So that is exactly what has happened, entirely correctly and honourably. It is simply wrong to imagine that the government is a disinterested, entirely neutral observer in which its only role is to oversee a Referendum process.

The result will have an enormous impact on Britain’s place in the world, and the argument is which direction is better for our country and our future. On something so important it would be absurd for the government of the day not to have a clear view on about what is best for Britain. The government strongly believes that we should stay IN the EU: and is campaigning to get that result.

No-one should complain about this, and there is nothing ‘unfair’, or illegal and there is also a clear precedent, which is what Prime Minister Wilson and his government did in the Referendum in 1975 (and no-one complained about that).

When the Referendum is over NO-ONE should complain about the result: whether the process, the role of the government, the unfair influence of the BBC, the unwanted interference of our allies, multilateral partners, or anything else.

At that stage the UK will need to make a success of our role in Europe, whether or not a member of the EU – so that our trade is a undamaged as possible, our political relationships as productive as possible and so that we are ready, together, to deal with whatever comes our way – Putin, terrorists, refugees, energy shortages, natural disasters and yet unknown other threats to our security.

I will be campaigning to stay in, and will be writing more about why, but I will avoid arguments with constituents who take the opposite view. Let’s keep any differences of opinion respectful.

Let the best view win!

Best regards

Commonwealth War Graves Intervention

Richard Graham: My right hon. Friend rightly references the symbolism and sensitivity of some of those cemeteries. There is also the extraordinary Commonwealth war graves cemetery in Gaza, which I think I am right in saying has been tended by the same Palestinian family since it was put up, now presumably almost 80 years ago. It contains Christian, Muslim, Jewish and even Hindu memorials. It occupies a large amount of land in a tiny place that is very short of space. During Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli tank broke through the walls and damaged some grave stones. Eventually, construction materials were allowed back there, and the first thing they were used for was the reparation of those grave stones. It is a great testament to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which he serves so well.

Keith Simpson (Broadland) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, which leads on to the fact that, even as we speak, the commission is working in Iraq—it used to be able to work in Syria—rebuilding cemeteries that have been destroyed by either war or ISIL/Daesh extremists, who see them merely as symbols of Christian occupation.

Indeed — if I may use what the Army used to call a visual aid — I have two photographs taken in Beirut. The first, from the 1980s, is of the cemetery almost completely destroyed; the second is of the cemetery lovingly rebuilt to the previous standard. We should remember, as I am sure all colleagues do, that at the end of the day we are dealing with individuals, either with a known grave or with their names on a giant memorial like those at Ypres or Thiepval. The memorials are for the families and also, now, for people who merely have an interest—I know that many colleagues are fascinated by the people behind the names.

We should also remember — in the words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know this — that more than 300,000 Commonwealth servicemen and women who died in the two world wars are commemorated here in the United Kingdom. Their 170,000 graves are to be found at over 13,000 locations. In addition, some 130,000 missing Navy, Merchant Navy and Air Force casualties are commemorated on the great memorials at Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Tower Hill and Runnymede. A forgotten element is that nearly 30,000 men and women of the Merchant Navy, unsung heroes and heroines, were killed. Most naval people, of course, have no known grave.

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