PRESS RELEASE: City MP Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to County Archivist

Courtesy of the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)

Courtesy of the Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland)

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has presented Gloucestershire County Council’s Head of Archives Heather Forbes with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the prestigious All Party Parliamentary Group on Archives and History.

Richard said the group only gave two awards each year: one to a historian and one to an archivist. “The 2016 awards went to historian Sir Michael Howard MC CBE (described by the FT as Britain’s greatest living historian) and Heather Forbes.

She is Gloucestershire’s great star in leading the transformation and modernisation of our archives and information, helping countless others’ Heritage Lottery Fund bids, creating the Gloucester Heritage Forum and winning the Archives’ own bid that will leave a great legacy in Alvin Street. So Heather Forbes has given our city, as well as our county, great service.”

“If that wasn’t enough”, added Richard, “Heather has also set up a programme of co-ordination on ideas and best practice with eleven other local authorities.

Heather has achieved so much in her five years in Canterbury and eleven years at Gloucester. All residents should try to go and see our Archives, look at the maps of how their street developed and hear what the Family History Centre does. It’s a great success story – which is why Heather deserves this award.”

Why I think we should pause the LISA

Parliament is debating the legislation for the proposed Lifetime Individual Savings Account on Monday, and will set out how it will work.

The Lisa will encourage those aged between 18 and 40 to save up to £4,000 a year with a very generous 25 per cent government monthly top-up, which they can use to buy a home in their thirties, or for savings later in life.

The aims are in line with the government’s manifesto to help people on to the housing ladder, in a familiar savings wrapper, with implementation scheduled for next April. So what’s not to like? Unfortunately, quite a lot.

The problem is that when it comes to savings, we don’t start with a blank sheet of paper. We already have a mind-boggling collection of pension and other savings products, with every recent government tempted to try to be the savings industry’s product designer.

The stakeholder pension, created under Tony Blair’s government, died a quiet death. And we should be careful of not unintentionally doing the same to the auto-enrolment scheme, implemented by the coalition government, and backed by the government-owned pension provider Nest, to ensure that every employer offers millions of employees a workplace pension. This is a noble cause. Why is that at risk?

Today, auto enrolment has 6.9m new savers signed up to a pension and another 3m more still to come. Crucially, contributions are tax free, and both government and the employer contribute too. By contrast, any savings into a Lisa come from taxed income and the employer does not contribute anything. But all of that is as nothing compared with the guaranteed Lisa incentive: 25 per cent a year, an unimaginable no-risk annual return on any asset class.

So there will inevitably be a flood of savers switching from existing Isas (especially cash Isas) and new money going into the Lisa. Better-off workers and retirees will find the spare cash to get their children and grandchildren’s savings moving.

The problem is that the lowest earners will not have enough both to save through their auto-enrolled pension (especially as their contribution level increases sharply to 4 per cent by 2019), and to have taxed income to spare for a Lisa.

We are bound to see a rapid increase of opt-outs from auto enrolment, especially in 2019, and people instead opening Lisas. Employers will not mind this as they will not have to pay their (2019) contribution of 3 per cent into their workers’ pension pots.

The likely result is that building long-term savings through auto enrolment, with government, employer and employee all contributing, will be severely set back. The Lisa may prevent auto enrolment from being the growing source of later-life income that it could be. That, in turn, could have implications for future social security pressures.

Does this matter? Some believe that no one understands pensions, they are too inflexible and everyone prefers Isas (which you can cash in tax free). Use that brand to mobilise house buying and savings, they say, and don’t worry about which product the money goes into: it is the savings generated that matter.

A growing proportion of people neither own a home nor have a pension.

And I might, broadly agree, except that taxpayers are paying for the Lisa top-ups (estimated at £850m by 2021). So who will benefit the most?

The government has not given us any breakdown but my instinct is that the biggest beneficiaries will be existing savers who are transferring assets, and families of higher-rate earners — the opposite of those intended to benefit from auto enrolment.

Finding £4,000 out of taxed income will not be easy for those on the average wage for my Gloucester constituency of about £24,000: my constituents will not be able to save nearly that much. So the Lisa, while available to all, risks principally benefiting the few.

Moreover, the Lisa is criticised by many in the savings industry, and ignores the concerns of the previous two pension ministers, the work and pensions select committee, the ABI and other professional bodies. There is an FCA consultation that ends only a few weeks before it is supposed to be introduced next April.

This is not the best backdrop to the introduction of a new savings product with such generous incentives. I am convinced that piecemeal Treasury product design is not the answer and a wider consensus on savings is needed. And because we have such a feeble opposition, deeply entangled in civil war, it is for Conservatives to call for this.

It is not too late for the chancellor to pause and reconsider the whole savings landscape. I recommend he establish a savings commission. Led by an independent figure, this body should work out how we can best stimulate savings for homes and retirement, without adding unnecessarily to the range of offerings, creating competing government products or giving generous tax breaks to the few. The remit should include current tax breaks for pensions and savings instruments. Let it be formed quickly and give recommendations within six months.

The Lisa is the product of the last Treasury’s habit of tinkering with product design for savings, its dislike of pensions, its preference for tax up front (and so Isas) and its inability to work effectively with the Department of Work and Pensions on this issue. The new chancellor and work and pensions secretary have the chance to change all that, and provide solutions better suited for the many.

Pausing the Lisa would be a good start.

PRESS RELEASE: Homeless needs highlighted at official opening of new support centre

The ongoing need to support homeless people in Gloucester was highlighted at an official opening for the George Whitefield centre to mark World Homeless Day.

The centre is a joint project between the NHS, Gloucester Foodbank and Gloucester City Mission which offers a range of services for people in need of healthcare, emergency food parcels and housing support.

The official opening, on Monday 10 October, saw more than 80 guests learn about the work of each of the organisations involved and showcased the range of services now provided in one place. The ribbon cutting was conducted by Gloucester MP Richard Graham, who praised the work of all the organisations involved in the centre.

Richard said, “today is a gathering of a huge number of people who do a lot of great things for our community. One sign of a community is a strong core of compassion, and that is what we have here today. All of you can take immense pride in helping people get back on their feet.”

Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust runs the homeless healthcare services at the centre, with Trust chair Ingrid Barker introducing the work of the teams.

She said: “This is a very special coalition of services that are housed in this building, Our NHS Trust, Gloucester City Mission and Gloucester Foodbank together are offering under one roof a set of services for people who have no permanent roof to call their own.”

Guests heard that amongst homeless people, national statistics reveal that 70 per cent report physical health problems, 80 per cent report mental health problems and a quarter have been admitted to hospital in the last six months. Male life expectancy is just 47 years while female life expectancy is even lower at 43 – both more than 30 years below the national average.

Ingrid added: “That shows the depth of physical and mental health needs. The health inequalities are stark.”

Pat Prosser, representing Gloucester Foodbank, said it had given out 5,500 food parcels in the city the last year, adding: “That reveals the extent of poverty in Gloucester.

“I don’t think we realise sometimes how many people there are around us that need a food parcel. There is a substantial group of people who are only a meal away from starvation.”

Services available at the the George Whitefield Centre, on Great Western Road, include daily nurse-led clinics, GP clinics three mornings each week, drop-in sessions offering hot drinks, basic clothing, shoes and blankets, housing and benefits advice sessions, and food parcels provided by the Foodbank. Shower facilities are about to be installed by Gloucester City Mission.

Dave Kinghorn, from Gloucester City Mission, said the links between health and housing made partnership working all the more important. He added: “We want to see more joined up working in the city. We have this space at George Whitefield and if there’s work we can do together we would love to hear from you.”



Heritage Lottery Fund: What Heritage Means to Me

Project Pilgrim improvements for the Cathedral setting

Project Pilgrim improvements for the Cathedral

What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “heritage”?

Heritage is like honey. Take it little and often. The taste is enhanced if you know a bit about it – where it comes from and how its varieties are made. Honey has been part of life forever: we just need to keep making it, thinking of new ways to enjoy it, and continuing to treasure it. Just like heritage.

What’s your favourite Gloucester heritage?

“Heritage is like honey. Take it little and often. The taste is enhanced if you know a bit about it – where it comes from and how its varieties are made.”

All the streets and buildings and people with stories.

I like the less easy questions: where was Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, buried? Was Civil War soldier Colonel Massey a hero or a turncoat? Were the remains of Llanthony Priory smashed up for the canal?

And always – what can we learn from the past that might help the future?

In Ecclesiastes are the rather gloomy lines that nothing is new – all has been done before.

But history rarely repeats itself exactly. What does happen is the constant human and architectural need for re-invention: warriors become business people, and industrial quays modern flats; one Victorian chapel is a care home, another a gym: and the Cathedral is for filming as well as prayer.

While we’re at it, let’s make an effigy of Henry III more interesting for today’s generation by showing him in digitalised form, as if by magic. Technology revisits our story, shedding light on our past, present and future.

Why is Gloucester historically important?

It was the nearest crossing of the River Severn to Wales and so of strategic and trading importance. Gloucester was the third greatest city in England and we’re still finding things that reflect that.

What’s your favourite UK heritage?

Anglican choral music, cricket, our great forests, a feast of great buildings large and small from yesteryear and a number of semi-mad happenings like cheese rolling.

Who is your favourite historical figure?

My heart says James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, the romantic Scotsman who won impossible victories for his king and ‘dared to put unto the touch to win or lose it all’ – he did lose it all, including his head.

“What can we learn from the past that might help the future?”
But my head says Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In a lifetime of genius Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, Temple Meads station and the line that snakes through our county all stand out as brilliant and beautiful engineering.

Do you have a favourite bit of parliamentary heritage?

The story of Westminster Hall and how it has evolved is the story of our nation – the ambitions of kings, the work of great craftsmen, the trials of great men, the bombs of the Second World War, and the new window to a great Queen. Look no further for our Island Story.

Which heritage highlights should visitors to Gloucester make sure to see?

Our shining jewel is the Cathedral. Inside look for Edward II, the medieval golfer in the East Window, the cloisters that Harry Potter and every film maker love and Thomas Denny’s stained glass brilliance. And that’s just the start of it.

Find out more about Gloucester
  • Since 1994, HLF has invested almost £19million in Gloucester
  • In 2014 we announced our support for a major 10-year development project at Gloucester Cathedral
  • Established in 1136, Llanthony Secunda Priory has been awarded a grant of more than £3m for major renovation work

PRESS RELEASE: Stalking Sentences Bill presented to Parliament today


Cheltenham’s MP, Alex Chalk, has today presented a Bill before Parliament to strengthen protection for victims of stalking. The Private Member’s Bill, which has attracted cross party support seeks to double the maximum sentence for stalking from five to ten years’ imprisonment.

This is the latest step in the long running joint campaign by Richard Graham MP (Gloucester) and Alex dating back to May 2015, when they learned of the harrowing case of Cheltenham constituent and Gloucester GP, Dr Eleanor Aston. Dr Aston’s horrific ordeal at the hands of her stalker lasted over seven years and affected her to such an extent that at one point she had to leave work and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

When passing sentence on Dr Aston’s stalker at Gloucester Crown Court, his second such sentence, HHJ James Tabor QC stated ‘I feel it is wrong that I am not entitled to pass a consecutive sentence upon you. I am frustrated that the maximum sentence… is five years. I would, if I could, give you longer’.

Richard Graham said: “This is a step forward in highlighting to Parliament why the extension in sentencing that Alex and I are aiming for is so important – and the response of the House showed wide cross-party sympathy for our goal and this Private Members Bill. This is another example of Cheltenham and Gloucester working closely together on big issues that affect us all.”

Commenting on the Bill, Alex said “At the moment the law still stalking as a minor offence, and the maximum penalty is lower than for shoplifting. That needs to change. I want to stand up for my constituent, and people like her, so that courts can give victims of this dreadful crime the protection they deserve.”

The full link to Alex’s speech can be found here.



Signatories of the ten minute rule motion are as follows (this is the maximum number of signatories permitted at this stage):

  • Richard Graham (Con)
  • Jim Dowd (Lab)
  • Liz Saville-Roberts (PC)
  • Bob Neill (Con, Chair of Justice Select Committee)
  • Sir Henry Bellingham (Con)
  • Victoria Prentis (Con)
  • Michelle Donelan (Con)
  • Liz McInnes (Con)
  • Rishi Sunak (Con)

Alex Chalk and Richard Graham’s full report on the argument to increase the maximum sentence can be found on Richard’s website here.

Any readers concerned about stalking should contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 for advice and support.

A Plea to end Knife Crime

One of the saddest parts of an MP’s life is dealing with the death of a constituent from violent crime or hideous accident, especially if the victim is young.

There is nothing more unnatural or miserable than parents burying their own children. Families’ lives suffer for years: some barely recover; all have to dig deep and find resilience and new purpose to pull through.

Today – in the wake of two more stabbings in Gloucester, one fatal, and another young man killed in Cheltenham, all last week – I’m asking every family in our city to find a different sort of courage.

Because, despite what some people may want to believe, almost all the knife stabbings are between people known to each other, not random attacks. Ours is not a dangerous city for people not involved in drugs or carrying knives – and I say that living by and walking in Gloucester Park almost every day I’m not in Parliament. It is a safe park.

And while not all of the very serious knife crimes are caused by arguments about drugs and drug money, many are – as the police and the courts can testify.

So keeping out of the drug scene, and not carrying a knife, massively reduces the chances of getting caught up in a stabbing. And that means every family having those difficult discussions: do we know anyone who carries a knife or is involved in drugs? And if they are, what is it going to lead to? Who’s the next casualty?

We can all do things to help. The Police can break down the gangs who want to flood Gloucester and Cheltenham with drugs, like the duet sentenced last week. They can work with charities and schools about a programme of education in the widest sense. The PCC can and should focus more on this.

Meanwhile councils can commission tough love programmes like that of the Nelson Trust. Those who’ve gone to prison can tell, movingly, of their journey – modern cautionary tales. Schools and youth groups have to engage and Councillors and civic groups must spread the word about the safety of our city and the dangers of drugs and knives. Lastly Parliament can, and I hope will, widen sentencing discretion for judges.

For this is about US: our children, friends and communities. We can turn a blind eye, we can pretend we don’t know: we may be scared to know exactly what is going on. But it is only when enough people say ‘I am not going to see drug dealing go on any longer’ – and ring Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, that we will start to win.

So I’m asking all of my constituents to help save our young people by uniting against carrying knives and dealing in drugs. Let’s get our communities back.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP responds to Cross Country Direct Franchise Announcement

City MP Richard Graham has mixed views on last Thursday’s announcement that government negotiations on the extension of the CrossCountry franchise have been concluded.

Richard said “I’m pleased that formal talks have been concluded but am disappointed that decisions on services have been postponed until after a consultation, which could have happened before the existing franchise expired, and that any changes won’t be implemented until December 2017.”

“However we’ve had to live with reduced CrossCountry services for the last 10 years,” added Richard “and if we have to put up with one more year to get the right result then so be it. What matters now is that all of us who care about Gloucester connectivity and train services respond to the consultation and get this issue resolved. Local media and local councillors especially must join in if we want more services stopping in our city and I know the Rail Minister is listening carefully”

Details of the consultation will be published in due course.


PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes funding to repair cycle path to Maisemore

Gloucester MP Richard Graham has said that the GCC announcement to restore the Gloucester-Maisemore cycle path would re-open an attractive route into the countryside for city residents.

Richard said, “this was brought to my attention by a couple of constituents and I’m grateful to the GCC for coming to our rescue and restoring the Sustrans Network Route 45 wooden bridges and boardwalk. They were originally damaged by flooding, which rotted the wooden posts and deck and made them dangerous to cyclists.

The paths then become overgrown and my constituents explained what a shame this was – blocking an attractive cycle path from Gloucester to Maisemore and into the countryside. So it’s good that the bridge and rest of the route will be restored and as an amateur cyclist I look forward to being able to use the route as soon as it opens next year.”

Toby Wooldridge, President of the Gloucester City Cycling Club said, “it will be a great relief to many cyclists and pedestrians that the boardwalk section of the off-road route running parallel to the A417 will be repaired. We look forward to the works being completed as soon as possible to reopen this important route out to Maisemore.”



A design and schedule is currently been drawn up by Sustrans but work is expected to begin in 2017.

Sustrans is a UK charity which aims to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport for the benefit of their health and the environment.

The Boundary Review


Boundary Commission proposals for new Parliamentary constituencies will affect the way some of us vote in the 2020 general election.

They reduce the number of constituencies from 650 to 600 and alter the boundaries of almost all – including Gloucester.

For Gloucester the current proposal has three elements – no more mention of any Westgate residents voting in the Forest of Dean: the return of Longlevens residents to vote for a Gloucester MP and Quedgeley voters being asked to vote in the constituency of Stroud.

I’m so glad the Boundary Commission explicitly recognised Westgate Ward is in the heart of our city, not a fringe in the north as they originally assumed in 2011. I campaigned hard with some of you to put a stop to that and they have heard us loud and clear.

But because Gloucester has over 5% of the maximum number of voters allowed I knew something would have to give, especially if Longlevens residents vote in Gloucester. The proposal for Quedgeley voters to transfer to Stroud is, however sad, at least logical (in a way the Westgate idea never was).

Apart from personal regret, the issue is a disconnect between where voters vote in local and national elections – Quedgeley is still part of Gloucester City but not my constituency.

True Quedgeley has bounced to and fro between Stroud District Council and Gloucester City Council over the years, but as I understand it there is no plan proposing current council boundaries be changed at the moment.

On the other hand I suspect few people living in Longlevens would choose to vote in the constituency of Tewkesbury rather than Gloucester, where they vote in local elections. The more Longlevens residents that write to the Boundaries Commission to say so the better.

Which brings me to the next step. These are only initial proposals and the consultation runs until the 5th December. You can comment on the Commission’s consultation website here: www.bce2018.

Meanwhile it’s business as usual and I will continue to help ALL constituents in Quedgeley for at least the next four years.

Let me know what you think about this on

Best regards


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