The WASPI Debate

WASPI1

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I congratulate the WASPI campaign on the success of its e-petition, which has led directly to today’s debate. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on her speech, which made the case strongly on behalf of women born in the 1950s—she reminded us that, implausibly, she was too.

Today, we debate the WASPI e-petition and, in a sense, the consequences of it. I want to address in turn three separate parts of the e-petition: first, the changes to pensions for women born in the 1950s and the ask from the WASPI campaign; secondly, the communications to those women from the Government and in other ways, from 1995 onwards; and thirdly, the new state pension and the way in which information about that is being communicated. As I said, I will touch on each of those in turn, highlighting where I agree with the campaign and e-petition and where not.

Let me start at the heart of the WASPI e-petition. This is the third time that we have debated this issue in the House, and as we go around the course again today, I hope that we will focus as much on the facts of the ask and the consequences of that as on the understandable emotion of women born in the 1950s. By way of reassurance to those in the Chamber, let me say that that includes my wife and both my sisters.

Helen Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Richard Graham: May I make a little progress before giving way to the hon. Lady?

First, I agree that the changes in the Pensions Act 1995 and the Pensions Act 2011 will undoubtedly be difficult for women born in the 1950s. Indeed, those changes have been underway for some time and the pension age for women is already 63. But—this is a significant but, and a challenge that has to be made today—I do not accept the proposed WASPI solution, and I will explain why.

The e-petition states: “The Government must make fair transitional arrangements for all women born on or after 6th April 1951 who have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the State Pension Age”.

The fair, transitional arrangement sought by the campaign is spelt out on the WASPI Facebook page, which reads: 
“What is our ask?… put all women born in the 50s, or after 6th April 1951 and affected by the changes to the state pension age in the same financial position they would have been in had they been born on or before 5th April 1950.”

One of the key WASPI campaigners, Anne Keen, who I imagine is here today, said in her evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee, “we feel this is a very fair ask”.

Now, the impact of the ask that appears on the WASPI Facebook page has been estimated at more than £30 billion. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a little bit more clarity on that. The figure is a third more than the entire Transport budget, more than the entire budget of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and probably the same as—possibly more than—the entire budget for Scotland. What we are talking about today may be considered a very fair ask by some people, but others may consider it an enormous and wholly inappropriate ask.

The petition states that the WASPI campaign agrees with equalisation, but the implication of the ask on the Facebook page, and as repeated to the Women and Equalities Committee, is to unwind the 1995 Act, which was brought in specifically to bring about the equality of gender.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP) rose—

Richard Graham: If the spokesman for the Scottish National party wishes me to give way, I am happy to do so.

Ian Blackford: We recognise that equalisation has to take place, but this is about the pace of change and the desire to ensure that mitigation can take place. We talked about the pension age being 63. As it is, somebody born in February 1954 will not retire until July 2019—two and a half years after somebody born a year earlier. That cannot be acceptable. Also, £30-odd billion is not the spending in one year; it is the spending up to 2026. The hon. Gentleman should get his facts right.

Richard Graham: I am half grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The SNP’s position has always been interesting, because its Members are in the happy situation of being able to say—and, if need be, to promise—whatever they like without any danger of having to fulfil a commitment on the pension age. I notice that he did not try to commit himself to any transitional arrangement, let alone the full transitional arrangement proposed by the WASPI campaign. It is fine for hon. Members to posture in this debate, and I am in no doubt that we will see a great deal of that, but it is unkind and unfair to the WASPI campaigners for Members not to speak honestly about what they and their party would do.

Helen Jones: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way.

Mr George Howarth: On a point of order, Mr Stringer. Did I just hear the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) correctly in his accusation that some people were behaving dishonestly? Is that a parliamentary expression?

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): I did not hear the hon. Gentleman say that. I call Helen Jones to continue her intervention.

Helen Jones: The hon. Gentleman said earlier that the women protesting about the change were being emotional. That is quite often a label attached to women who exhibit behaviour different from that of a doormat. What I said to him about the injustices in this scheme was based on fact, not on emotion.

Richard Graham: I am semi-grateful for that intervention as well.

Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): I am listening carefully to the debate, and I have heard a lot of warm words from the SNP and from the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones), but I have not heard any solutions, let alone how those solutions may be paid for by any future Government.

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): I remind right hon. and hon. Members that interventions should be short. We are not doing very well at the moment.

Richard Graham: Thank you, Mr Stringer; I am doing my best to take interventions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller) made a very reasonable point. The previous Labour pensions spokesman said that, in the four months in which he was in the role, he was “grappling with how best to work out the transitional provisions.”

I hope that we hear more about what the Labour party intends to do in practice.

One of greatest difficulties in this debate is about the word “fair”. Over the weekend, a lot of WASPI campaigners were tweeting me back and forth about various issues regarding the debate and their e-petition. One of the most interesting views came from a woman born in early 1960 who made a point about what would happen were the main WASPI campaign ask to be given—that is, if everybody born in the 1950s were backdated as if they had been born before 1950. She asked why she and her contemporaries should bear the burden on behalf of those who would effectively be given an exemption from the changes, and who were born only a few months before her.

The problem is that whenever a change is made, some will always be relatively better off and some will be relatively worse off. I strongly support women born in the 1950s—as I hope I made clear from the fact that my wife and sisters are both girls of the 1950s—but to imply that somehow they must take preference over those born a few months before or after is a different kind of potential unfairness.

The second point of the debate is all about communication. Communication is at the heart of what many of the campaigners feel is unfair about the changes made in 1995 and 2011. However, it is simply not true that nobody knew, as the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black) claimed in the debate in the main Chamber. In 2004 the then Labour Government estimated from their research in the Department for Work and Pensions that 75% of those affected had been told. A separate study by the DWP—not yet referred to in debate, but unearthed by the pensions correspondent at the Financial Times over the weekend—demonstrated that seven out of 10 people spoken to knew about the change in the pension age. The truth is that we will never know the precise figure. We will never know exactly how many people knew, did not know, and might have been told about it but ignored it because it was all a long way in the future—20 years away.

Mhairi Black (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (SNP): I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing this intervention. Does he not find it strange that thousands upon thousands of women from different careers, different backgrounds and different classes are all coming together to claim exactly the same thing, which is that they were not told? The DWP has conflicting records on what letters were sent out and when, so we should be careful when addressing the point that people were told.

Richard Graham: The hon. Lady is absolutely right that we can be sure that not everybody knew and that not all of those who were told took the information to heart. We can be sure that some people were not told—there is no doubt about that. The pensions correspondent at the Financial Times told me:

“I dispute the evidence given to the Committee… by Lin Phillips, that ‘There was not much in the newspapers, only maybe a little bit in the business pages.’”

The correspondent has done a detailed study that will be presented as written evidence to the Select Committee, and she went on to say that she has looked at coverage from 1993, when the changes to equalise the state pension age for men and women was first mooted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). She says that, from 1994 to 2006, there were hundreds of mentions of the state pension age in the news sections and the personal finance pages, as well as in the business pages.

Dr Philippa Whitford: Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that, for such a drastic change as a change in the age of retirement, women had a right to expect to receive a direct letter, in the same way as they are given a pension statement on an almost annual basis?

Richard Graham: The hon. Lady is right. There are huge lessons to be learned, and I will come on to them because both parties that were in government between 1995 and 2010—predominantly the party that is now the main Opposition party—have to be able to explain, to look at themselves and say, “Could we have done more? Could we have communicated better?” The answer has to be yes, although there is a philosophical question that remains valid today. It is for Members, and indeed for the WASPI campaign, which has offered some thoughts, to come up with ideas about how that philosophical question can be addressed, because surely there is a balance of responsibility between what the Government must do to spell out change, what the wider world, including the media, must do to communicate that change—in today’s world that includes social media—and what the individual must do to take responsibility for finding out about major things that will affect their life.

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on introducing this debate. Those of us who have had children have received child benefit. I have received an annual statement from the DWP about my entitlement to child benefit, so it would therefore not be too difficult for people to receive annual statements on their pension entitlement in the same way. If the DWP can do it for parents, surely it can do it for those approaching retirement age.

Richard Graham: The hon. Lady is correct. Indeed, people can get a pension statement from the DWP, and half a million people have done so. Of course, an individual has to ask for that statement, rather than it being automatically sent. She raises a question about whether the DWP could do more to communicate directly, which I am sure the Minister will address.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Richard Graham: I will make a little progress first.
I agree with the WASPI campaign that it is clear that more should and could have been done on communication and that a lot of women have had a lot of difficulty as a result of that failure in communication. As I have said, there is still the philosophical question to address. What matters now is whether lessons have been learned by everybody involved and whether changes will be made that help people in future. So long as longevity projections continue to move upwards, the likelihood must be that the state pension age will also move upwards.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Richard Graham: Let me finish my point, and I will come back to the hon. Lady.

I believe that the Government have now accepted three major points, and it would be good to hear from the Minister that that is the case. First, there will be a review of the state pension age every five years—I believe a review is planned for 2017, which perhaps he will confirm. Secondly, whatever is decided as a result of that review, which should have cross-party consensus as far as possible, everybody concerned will be given a minimum of 10 years’ notice. That will address the most difficult point for members of the WASPI campaign, which is the shortness of the time in which they knew about the changes. Thirdly, and this is also important, the basis on which the new state pension age will be calculated is that all of us, men and women alike, should have a maximum of a third of our life on the state pension. That is important for the one fairness that has not been mentioned today, intergenerational fairness, so that those who are paying for the pensions of their elders are paying for us to spend only a third of our life as pensioners.

Several hon. Members rose—

Richard Graham: I will come to questions in a moment.

I hope the Minister will confirm all my points, because they have important consequences for everyone, not least the 10 years’ notice of any change.

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Stringer. You asked us at the start of this debate to do the maths on the time needed to allow all 20 speakers to speak. I did the maths, and it was five to six minutes. The hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) might be having some difficulty.

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): That is not a point of order, but the point is well made.

Richard Graham: May I seek your guidance, Mr Stringer? I have tried to be as generous as I can in taking interventions.

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): You have the floor, but there are 20 people waiting to speak. When you sit down, I intend to impose a time limit.

Richard Graham: Thank you. I have got the message loud and clear, and I hope that Members will respond accordingly—[Hon. Members: “It’s you!”] I was trying to help colleagues on both sides of the Chamber who are standing up and trying to intervene.

The last point raised by the petition is on the new state pension, the way in which it has been communicated and the implied fairness, or unfairness, of it. It is time that we all recognised that the new state pension has huge benefits for many people, and particularly for women. For the first time in the history of pensions in this country, women who have spent years out of the workplace, either bringing up children or caring for their parents, will receive those years as contributions to national insurance, which will determine what their state pension is. [Interruption.] That is a revolutionary change, whether Members care to recognise it or not, and it is one that we should all support.

Secondly, the changes made to the composition of the state pension, particularly the triple lock, mean that the absolute amount of money received by people on the new state pension this April will already be £1,000 a year more than in 2010. Thirdly, it has been calculated that, in the first 10 years of the new state pension, some 650,000 women will receive £416 a year more than they would have received without the new state pension.

Mr George Howarth: On a point of order, Mr Stringer. As the hon. Gentleman moves into the 22nd minute of his speech, will he give us an indication of its likely future proportions, so that we can pace ourselves?

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): Again, that is not a point of order, but the point is made.

Catherine McKinnell: Further to that point of order, Mr Stringer. Can you guide me on whether you have any control over this issue? My concern is that it is deeply disrespectful to the many women here who are concerned about this subject.

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): Mr Graham has the floor. He has heard the points, and I intend to impose a time limit when he sits down.

Richard Graham: Thank you, Mr Stringer.

I have covered the three main points that I wanted to raise today, and it is worth recapping the implications—[Hon. Members: “No!”] I will be very brief. First, many people in this House—

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Stringer. This debate is being held in a way somewhat alien to what we are used to in the Chamber. The Public Gallery is full, and rightly so; it is an important issue. I invite you to remind all of us that this is a meeting being held in public, not a public meeting.

Graham Stringer (in the Chair): Again, that is not a point of order, but you have made your point, Mr Hoare, and I think Mr Graham has heard it.

Richard Graham: Thank you, Mr Stringer. In conclusion, the WASPI campaign has been well put together, and the e-petition has been a great success; that is why we are all here. I congratulate WASPI. All the points made by the campaign about communication in the past will have been noted and largely accepted by almost everybody in the House.

I have emphasised the lessons to be learned, in terms of what the DWP can take from this debate for any future changes made to the state pension age and how they are communicated, but WASPI’s central ask—changing the state pension received by people born in the 1950s—is not favoured by many of the campaign’s supporters, who understand that £30 billion or more is not an appropriate ask when there are so many other good causes on which money should be spent. On that basis, I do not believe that this House should support the e-petition’s call for fair transitional arrangements, which amount to that.

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Photos

  • Volunteering at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Volunteering at the Gloucestershire Royal Hospital Helping a GRH patient get to their appointment on time.
  • Opening of the improved Royal Mail sorting centre Opening of the improved Royal Mail sorting centre The Mayor of Gloucester and I opening the new Gloucester South Customer Enquiry Office.
  • Visiting Gloucestershire Enterprise Limited Visiting Gloucestershire Enterprise Limited With five new Glosterpreneurs from landscape gardening to book keeping.
  • Robinswood Go Wild Event Robinswood Go Wild Event With new friends Stan Laurel and Frank Sidebottom. Supporting Gloucester Guildhall.
  • NCS Team NCS Team Great to see NCS Team 4 on Southgate Street raising money for the British Heart Foundation.
  • Visiting Imperial Commercials Visiting Imperial Commercials Apprentice Ben and I with the CAB tilt pump in their Gloucester service station.
  • Imperial Commercials Imperial Commercials With apprentice Charlotte at their reception office
  • Opening the New Inn's nightclub Opening the New Inn's nightclub The opening of Tree Tops at the New Inn
  • #Bringbackourgirls #Bringbackourgirls PM right to condemn abduction of 276 Niger school girls. Glad UK help now accepted, hope the girls can be rescued ASAP.
  • Welcoming Gloucester's latest HQ Welcoming Gloucester's latest HQ Tidal Lagoon Power has relocated from Cheltenham and aims to generate 10% of Britain's energy needs.
  • Celebrating Jess Ridler's fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust Celebrating Jess Ridler's fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust With Jacqui and Rob Ridler, loveliest and bravest of parents.
  • Highlighting new Veterans Transition Guide Highlighting new Veterans Transition Guide With Ex Glosters Ray Peart and RBL's Bob Perkins in Eastgate Market
  • The Employers at my Gloucester Academy Jobs Fair The Employers at my Gloucester Academy Jobs Fair This was my ninth jobs fair and we had over 30 employers offering hundreds of different jobs in Gloucester. Thanks to all who came.
  • Visiting Messier Dowty Visiting Messier Dowty Showing Defence Minister Philip Dunne their Airbus landing gear made at Staverton.
  • With Sports Minister Hugh Robertson at Blackbridge Jubilee Athletics Track With Sports Minister Hugh Robertson at Blackbridge Jubilee Athletics Track On the Minister's visit to our Olympic legacy athletics track with Bob Purcell and members of the Gloucester Athletics Club
  • With Guinness World Record holder Beryl Walker, the worlds oldest paper girl! With Guinness World Record holder Beryl Walker, the worlds oldest paper girl! Beryl delivers The Citizen to our office every morning.
  • With Jamie Mcdonald aka Adventure Man With Jamie Mcdonald aka Adventure Man Helping him get his passport for a much deserved trip to Canada
  • Aroma's Success Aroma's Success Presenting the Aroma restaurant team with their certificate from the 2013 Tiffin Cup
  • Recruitment event for Morrisons Recruitment event for Morrisons Over 240 Barton and Tredworth residents came along to a recruitment event I organised at the Friendship Cafe to help get local people into the new jobs in the Railway Triangle
  • Speaking with Apprentices at Gloucestershire Engineering Training Speaking with Apprentices at Gloucestershire Engineering Training Gloucester's GET was described by The Chancellor as "The best example of a training company" he has ever seen
  • Gloucester athletics turf cutting Gloucester athletics turf cutting Laying turf at the new Gloucester Athletics Track. Princess Anne opened the track a year later and now we plan a new community hub building for athletics, rugby, football and gym.
  • Battling for Lords & Commons Battling for Lords & Commons CC v Lashings - the international cricketers XI
  • Canon Bill Brassell Canon Bill Brassell An privilage to invite Defence Minister Mark Francois to present Canon Bill Brassell with his long overdue Arctic Star medal
  • Defence lunch charity fundraising Defence lunch charity fundraising My defence lunch for local manufacturers raised over £800 for The Rifle's charity Care for Casualties
  • Thanking "Red Watch" at Gloucester Fire Station Thanking "Red Watch" at Gloucester Fire Station Visited Tuffley Fire Station & Skills Zone to thank the team for putting out a fire next door to my Gloucester office in the city centre.
  • Gloucester Brewery Gloucester Brewery I'm really looking forward to Gloucester Gold being available in the Stranger's Bar in the House of Commons in October
  • Gloucester Golf Club Gloucester Golf Club Visiting the two greenkeeper apprentices at Gloucester's Golf Club
  • Holly House Campaign Holly House Campaign I have been campaiging for the NHS to use Holly House since 2007. It is waste of an asset.
  • Barton Jobs Fair Barton Jobs Fair I have organised 11 Jobs Fairs/events, including three in Barton.
  • Litter Picking in Kingsway Litter Picking in Kingsway Collecting litter with the community in Kingsway
  • Celebrating Jamaican Independence Day Celebrating Jamaican Independence Day Gloucester is an inclusive and diverse city - here I'm with Rupert Mackenzie, Anthony Saunders, Verona Vidal and others celebrating Jamaican Independence Day.
  • Visiting Manor Day Care Centre Visiting Manor Day Care Centre I hope that Manor Day Centre can expand and care for more constituents
  • Questioning the Prime Minister Questioning the Prime Minister To read alll my Parliamentary questions and speeches see http://richardgraham.org/parliament/
  • Visiting Sharp Life & Learning Skills in Quedgeley Visiting Sharp Life & Learning Skills in Quedgeley Learning from Kay Harrod about the art project she is working on with her teacher Zoe Sharpe
  • With Sports Minister High Robertson and Jon Garner at Gloucester Rowing Club With Sports Minister High Robertson and Jon Garner at Gloucester Rowing Club The Minister was impressed with the clubs plans for a new boat house on the south bank of the Gloucester Canal. The project has been made possible with Sport England funding
  • Grand National Charity Bet Grand National Charity Bet Won £50 on a charity bet with William Hill. I donated it to the MS Society in Quedgeley
  • Hubble Bubble welcomed to College Street Hubble Bubble welcomed to College Street Traders from College Street welcoming Rae. Her fantastic food includes Wild Boar and Venison burgers
  • Supporting Alzheimer's Society Supporting Alzheimer's Society
  • Cutting the ribbon to open the new Gloucester Academy Cutting the ribbon to open the new Gloucester Academy The first new secondary school in Gloucester to be opened for 30 years.
  • Thank you to Beastie for the quizzical portrait now on loan in my office Thank you to Beastie for the quizzical portrait now on loan in my office
  • Running with Gloucester's 1982 world record breaker Dave Dowdle Running with Gloucester's 1982 world record breaker Dave Dowdle Jeremy Mower (No30), Richard Graham MP (No40), Dave Dowdle (No39) and winner Dan Lawson (No25)
  • Indonesia Investment Promotion  Forum Indonesia Investment Promotion Forum Regional Investment Potential Opportunites
  • Launch of Care2Save Charity website with Donna Air Launch of Care2Save Charity website with Donna Air 100% of commissions go to hospices
  • New GP Surgery in Kingsway New GP Surgery in Kingsway New campaign started on Valentine's Day to urge GP practice & developer to speed up opening of new #Kingsway surgery
  • The case for compassion The case for compassion With Cathryn Hall & others after my Police Widows & Widowers Pensions debate
  • Exciting discussion with Helen Moore of City&Country Residentia Exciting discussion with Helen Moore of City&Country Residentia Prison purchase completed very soon then Consultation

Drawing Strength from Survivors

With my two sons and Cambodian genocide survivor Bou Meng at Tuol Sleng

With my two sons and Cambodian genocide survivor Bou Meng at Tuol Sleng

Every year for the last six years I have signed a Book of Commitment on Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s an annual routine which is much more than a routine. Why?

It brings back memories of visiting Auschwitz with Gloucestershire school children, of visiting the Yad Vashem museum outside Jerusalem with my wife: and of visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Phnom Penh in Cambodia with all my family. Each has shown me what mankind (and by the way it is almost always men) can, and still do, to each other: and it’s true that anyone who goes to such museums will never forget.

I can still see the school teacher beside me shaking with tears she tried to keep silent when she reached the room in Auschwitz piled up with a mountain of hair of inmates then gassed to death. Or my younger son’s expression when he realised the bits of cloth sticking up from the ground at the Choeung Ek slaughter pits were from the clothes of those killed, and the bones that remain human. If these things don’t move us, don’t make us raw with pity and shame, what can?

I’ve been fortunate to meet survivors of the German concentration camps, and spoken with survivors of Pol Pot’s regime. I’ve had dinner with Nien Cheng, author of the agonising Life in Shanghai, about the Cultural Revolution in China and her years in prison. She stayed alive from determination to see her daughter again. And when she was eventually released, it was to hear of the ‘suicide’ – murder – of her daughter. I’ve listened to survivors of unbelievable cruelty in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Timor, Bosnia, Syria – the list goes on and on: so many countries with bloody coups, or civil or other wars in our lifetimes. How lucky we have been here in Britain.

Often I’ve talked with my old landlady about her closest friend, the French pianist Vlado Perlemuter, of Jewish descent. He was denounced to the Gestapo in World War II by the Head of the French Music Academy in Paris and fled to the Swiss border. Scrambling over a barbed wire fence, under fire, his hands were ripped to pieces: but he escaped, and played his last concert sixty years later aged 92. The boy who led him across the hills, however, was shot dead.

The survivors of atrocities carry hideous memories. Their sheer mental strength inspires me: if they can put up with, and come to terms with, what they went through – well surely the rest of us can endure the much lesser difficulties of our lives.

So I sign the book each year, and think of the latest atrocities, like the hideous prolonged civil war in Syria. I write a few words of thanks for those who work to make sure we don’t forget, and say a quiet prayer. It is the very least that I, or any of us, can do. And I hope that more school children from Gloucester, for years to come, will get the chance to go to Auschwitz, helped by the Holocaust Educational Trust, to see why our freedoms are so precious.

Let me know on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk whether you think we should commemorate the victims of genocide in some act of remembrance here in Gloucester.

Best regards

P.S. I’ve arranged for Tidal Lagoon Power to hold a Supply Chain Awareness seminar for Gloucestershire businesses on Wednesday 3rd February at the University of Gloucestershire Oxstalls campus.

If you are a potential tidal energy subcontractor (construction, manufacturing or maintenance) do book a space here: http://www.thegrowthhub.biz/events/tidal-lagoon-swansea-bay-supply-chain-event/.



Successful Campaigns and Issues

On this page you can find examples of my successful campaigns since becoming the MP for Gloucester.

You can also find out more about my ongoing campaigns in this section:

Why the CrossCountry Franchise Needs to Be Changed

Richard Graham: As a result of changes shockingly agreed by the Labour Government of 2006, the rail Minister knows that only three out of 63 trains a day operated by CrossCountry on the so-called inter-city service actually stop at the city of Gloucester. Does she agree that a significant increase in the number of trains stopping at Gloucester is a vital part of any settlement to extend the CrossCountry franchise?

Claire Perry: There is a reason why Gloucester has elected my hon. Friend twice now, because unlike the last lot, he stands up for rail links to his constituency. He knows very well and has made the case many times that the rail link is important. The CrossCountry direct award consultation process is currently in operation. I am sure he will continue, along with the council, to make these very good representations.



Holocaust Memorial Day

IMG_2078Every year for the last six years I have signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment. It’s an annual routine which is much more than a routine. Why?

It brings back memories of visiting Auschwitz with Gloucestershire school children, of visiting the Yad Vashem museum outside Jerusalem with my wife: and of visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Phnom Penh in Cambodia with all my family. Each has shown me what mankind (and by the way it is almost always men) can do, and have done, to each other: and it’s true that anyone who goes to any of these will never forget.

I can still see the school teacher beside me shaking with tears she tried to keep silent when she reached the room in Auschwitz piled up with a mountain of hair of inmates then gassed to death. Or my younger son’s expression when he realised the bits of cloth sticking up from the ground at the Choeung Ek slaughter pits were from the clothes of those killed, and the bones that remain human. If these things don’t move us, don’t make us raw with pity and shame, what can?

I’ve been fortunate to meet survivors of the German concentration camps, and spoken with survivors of Pol Pot’s regime. I’ve had dinner with Nien Cheng, author of the agonising Life in Shanghai, about the Cultural Revolution in China and her years in prison. She stayed alive from determination to see her daughter again. And when she was eventually released, it was to hear of the suicide – murder – of her daughter. I’ve listened to survivors of unbelievable cruelty in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Timor, Bosnia, Syria – the list goes on and on: there is scarcely a country outside Western Europe without bloody coup, or civil or other war in my lifetime.

Several times I’ve talked with my old landlady about the story of her closest friend, the French pianist Vlado Perlemuter, of Jewish descent. He was denounced to the Gestapo in World War II by the Head of the French Music Academy in Paris and fled to the Swiss border. Scrambling over a barbed wire fence, under fire, his hands were ripped to pieces: but he escaped, and played his last concert sixty years later aged 92. But the boy who led him across the hills was shot dead.

The survivors of atrocities carry hideous memories. Their sheer mental strength inspires me: if they can put up with, and come to terms with, what they went through – well surely the rest of us can endure the much lesser difficulties of our lives.

So I sign the book each year, and think of the latest atrocities, like the hideous prolonged civil war in Syria. I write a few words of thanks for those who work to make sure we don’t forget, and say a quiet prayer. It is the very least that I, or any of us, can do. And I hope that more school children from Gloucester, for years to come, will get the chance to go to Auschwitz, helped by the Holocaust Educational Trust, or another place of genocide, to see why our freedoms are so precious.



Gloucester MP Richard Graham appointed Trade Envoy to Malaysia and the Philippines

City MP Richard Graham has been announced as the new Trade Envoy to both Malaysia and the Philippines, extending his existing role in Indonesia and the ASEAN Economic Community.

Richard said “These are two markets that have real opportunities for British exports and I’m delighted to be able to use my experience and knowledge of both these two countries and the wider region to work with UK businesses. I used to work in this region and was General Manager for Cathay Pacific Airways in the Philippines 1984-6. I still speak Bahasa Indonesia (also very similar to Malay) and Tagalog (the language of the Philippines) as well as both main Chinese languages (Mandarin and Cantonese).

My main focus is on spreading the word in the UK to businesses about the opportunities for them in the ASEAN region, and the countries I cover specifically: leading some sector or region specific missions: opening doors and building relations with Ministers and governments so we can help provide solutions for their needs – from emergency power provision to Asia Games infrastructure, cyber, defence to health – and be a source of long term investment that is good for both countries’ trade relations.

There is a lot more exporting to the Far East than is widely known – including cylinders, valves, gantrail, dentist drills, steam solutions, bio diesel plants and precision instruments. And there are a lot of companies who could do more given the right introduction and encouragement.”

The Return of the Apprentice

This week I want to share some stats with you that highlight the Return of the Apprentice in our city and county. Since 2010, 6,200 new apprentices have started in the city – more than double the figure for the previous five years – and over 23,000 in the county.

Historically, Gloucester was a major historical provider of apprenticeships. Look at the Wagon Works, the Gloster Aircraft Company, Dowtys and Platt & Fielding and today we are again. But there’s now a much wider choice of employers and sectors, everything is open to either gender, and whereas older residents will remember the days when parents had to pay for their children’s apprenticeships, today the employer pays the apprentice, and the government funds the training. You can earn while you learn – and many are doing just that.

Thanks to changes encouraged in the last Parliament, we now have apprentices in the NHS, GCHQ, nuclear energy, GP surgeries, insurance, law, banking, computer science, marketing, training companies, bus services, the Gloucester Golf Club and even my own office – as well as more traditional employers like engineers, construction companies and hair dressers.

There is virtually no profession for which a vocational training course can’t be designed and receive accreditation.

Gloucester has led the way in the county, and also outperformed other comparable cities like Worcester, Hereford and Lincoln. It’s something we take real pride in here – apprenticeships are in our DNA. There are very successful businessmen and women who started as apprentices now running Delphi, Advanced Manufacturing Ltd, Glos Engineering Training and parts of EDF Energy’s nuclear business, so the youngsters know the sky’s the limit.

What about the future? The Government is committed to seeing an additional three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 – 50% more than in the last Parliament.

I think that the most exciting new opportunity locally is in nursing. There is huge demand for nurses in our county – probably about 400 a year – but previously there was a cap on how many could be trained, and who could provide that training. Potential Gloucestershire nurses lost out, and we’re still importing nurses from abroad at the moment. The new Associate Nurses will need an apprentice qualification, and there’s no limit on how many can train. I hope our FE colleges will be announcing their plans soon. There’s no reason why most of our nurses can’t be local.

So how many apprentices might we hope to see in Gloucester by 2020? I’m ambitious and hope we will see 9,000 new apprentices start during this Parliament. Government can and will help with the training and NI incentives, and ultimately the numbers will depend on the success of our businesses and their growth, which leads me to discuss our exports next week.

Let me know on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk your feelings about apprenticeships and whether schools do enough to make pupils aware of them.

Best regards


Gloucester leads the county with apprenticeship starts

Gloucester leads the county with apprenticeship starts



Press Release: City MP helps local businesses learn about new pension policies

Last week City MP Richard Graham helped Gloucester employers learn about the new government workplace pensions at a sell-out event. This helps to fill a gap identified by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), that 45% of small businesses are unclear on what they need to do by April 2017.

The seminar saw NEST Corporation, the People’s Pension and the The Pension Regulator explainto over 70 employers the new policies, what needs to be done, what it will achieve and how they can help. Businesses reported that they had a better understanding after the event, which Richard hopes will be replicated across the country.

Richard Graham said: “The Workplace Pension will bring 11 billion people into saving for their retirement if our 1.8 m small employers implement the policy correctly, and they will then see the benefits for themselves. These events can help them to understand what they need to do, which is why other MPs should host them too.”

Sam Holliday, the FSB’s Development Manager for Gloucestershire and the West of England, said: “It was a truly excellent event which I know our members appreciated and enjoyed. We hope other MPs will help inform their constituents by following Gloucester’s lead and hosting seminars.”

John Allan, FSB National Chairman said: “Our message for small employers is that auto enrolment is coming and will affect your business – and the sooner you get to grips with what you need to do, the better off you will be.”

Liz Huggett from Dowdeswell Forestry Services, a Gloucester business, said: “I would much rather be able to speak to someone than have to wade through paperwork. I have ten employees and our enrolment date is June. January is going by quickly and June will be here before we turn around so I don’t want to be in a panic.”

John Orchard from Alpha Response Print and Mail, another Gloucester business, said: “Small business owners have a lot to worry about, and pensions aren’t always at the top of the list. This event has helped me to understand how easy it can be to enrol my staff and comply with the new policies.”



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