Category Archives: Campaigns and Issues

Successful Campaigns and Issues

On this page you can find examples of my successful campaigns since becoming the MP for Gloucester as well as my views on past issues.

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

Response to constituent queries on the DUP

Some constituents have contacted me about the government’s cooperation with the DUP.

The Prime Minister is finalising a deal very different from the coalition agreement previously in place with the Liberal Democrats.

The DUP will support us on specific key issues such as the budget and will help provide the stability and certainty the whole country needs as we embark on Brexit and beyond.

Several people have raised concerns about the impact of any deal on areas such as eg. English laws on abortion, gay marriage etc. These issues are ‘devolved’ i.e. decisions for Northern Ireland Assembly and so have no impact on our laws here.

Personally, I will continue to promote an equal rights agenda. I supported the Conservative Bill in Government for same sex marriage and earlier this year ‘Turing’s law’ to remove historic convictions for consensual acts. As I work with colleagues to govern in the national interest we’ll continue to promote and champion the equal rights we believe in.

The DUP and us have a similar practical approach to settling the border issue with the Republic of Ireland after Brexit, making sure that there is as little disruption as possible. And we shared the conviction that a Corbyn led government, in coalition with those who would bring down the Union (the SNP), would be a disaster for all of the UK.

Governing in the national interest means leaving the EU in a way that works for the whole country. It means building on our economic record of more jobs, cutting the deficit and investing more in public services like the NHS; and tackling the social issues like mental health, housing, and proper technical education for young people.

My own plan, with our University and NHS Trusts, for a Health University Technical College in Gloucester are a key part of this.

I am confident that an agreement will be reached soon and expect a formal announcement with more detail at that time

ELECTION 2017 KEY ISSUES: Health, Education and Skills

Health

We all want to give our Health Service more money. Only the Conservatives can credibly afford to do so, while making sure we never again have the scandals of the Mid Staffs Hospital cover up. Our NHS should be supported: and be accountable.

We will increase NHS spending by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years, an increase in real funding per head of the population for every year of the Parliament. Funding has also gone up in Gloucestershire year on year since 2010.

We’ll introduce the first new Mental Health Bill for thirty years, and prioritise protecting the 140,000 staff in our NHS during EU negotiations.

We’ll invest in medical training for 1,500 students a year and upgrade primary care facilities and hospital buildings. The GRH has a capital expenditure bid in at the moment which would be one of my early projects to pursue if re-elected.

At the same time as treating anyone from anywhere who needs A&E treatment, we will recover the cost of medical treatment from people who are not resident in the UK and ensure no new NHS numbers are issued until eligibility has been verified.

In implementing the NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, we will support GPs to innovate and aim to ensure everyone can get routine weekend and evening appointments in their GP/nearby surgery by 2019.

And locally I will continue to volunteer every year in our Gloucestershire NHS, remembering always that they saved my life and look after four generations of my family.

Education and Skills

As the son and sister of teachers I know what a difference good teaching makes.

So I’m delighted we will give an additional £4 billion funding to education, and fine tune our Fair Funding Formula – which will help MANY schools in Gloucestershire – so that NO school will be worse off.

In my first term as your MP I was pleased to secure funding for the Gloucester Academy, which now has one of the county’s most respected Heads, and big facility improvements at many other schools since. I’ve also seen great improvements in local Ofsted ratings.

The Education Secretary supports my views on increasing both the number of local pupils and pupils on free school meals at our grammars.

There will be no more grammars in Gloucestershire but I am determined to bid successfully for a new Health University Technical College here in Gloucester – with the full support of all of our NHS Trusts and the University of Gloucestershire.

I committed in 2015 to help our University relocate their Business School here and develop accommodation in Blackfriars – both are happening for a September 2018 opening.

I also committed to helping our University offer nursing degrees and run a pilot scheme for nursing associates to home grow our skills and nurses.

In 2011 I was one of the first MPs to hire my own apprentice, and hosted many Jobs/Apprenticeship Fairs to push this – since 2010 we’ve had 7,000 new apprenticeship starts, the highest in the county.

ELECTION 2017: Richard’s warning on the economy:

On Thursday the country, including all those working our county’s businesses, will decide who is the next Prime Minister, the next government and Gloucestershire’s six MPs.

This is the third time in seven years that my constituents will decide if I should be their MP, and I want to share with Punchline’s readers why – as a former businessman, and shareholder in a small family business (a pub and a small hotel), I am more convinced than ever before that this election is vital not just for business but for the soul of our country.

There was a time when the basics of all main parties’ beliefs were solid. We all endorsed our monarchy, our Armed Forces and intelligence services, the NHS, the Commonwealth, NATO, the nuclear deterrent, the UN, and the importance of business, public services, charities and faith groups in the make up of civic society. And there was one other body widely endorsed – the EU.

This election is different. Most parties recognise that the Referendum means we will leave the EU, because that’s what the people determined. But one party wants us to have another vote, and get a different result: and another says no deal is a bad deal, thus taking off the table before we’ve started our negotiating clout.

But what’s also new is that one party leader, the man who would be Prime Minister, is fundamentally not a monarchist and would scrap our Armed forces, our intelligence services and our nuclear deterrent if he could.

More worrying still is an absolute distaste for business, unless it’s either very small, a co-operative or owned by the state, by Corbyn and Labour. And then there is the Magic Money tree, which is somehow going to pay for all the frenzy of spending.

The Labour manifesto is the most radical extreme left wing manifesto in our history – involving mass nationalisation (the water companies alone would cost c£70 billion) and a huge increase in taxation NOT spelt out, but just hinted at: a land tax.

Assuming that land is 55% of the value of your home, and the land tax rate is 3%, then the extra tax (ie above existing council tax) on the cost of the average house in Gloucester (worth £250,000) the  would be £2,525. How many people know that this is part of how the Labour Party would finance the Magic Money Tree?

The other part is through raising the business or corporate tax rate, from 19% to 26%. In theory this sounds good: increase the tax by 7%, and you get 7% more tax receipts. Wrong. Increase the tax rate and you get less investment, less growth, fewer pay rises and less revenue to tax PLUS less investment by overseas companies, attracted both by being based in the UK with our strong rule of law, and a competitive tax rate. Business tax is a competitive advantage which if we reversed – rather than continuing to 17%, as the Conservatives plan – would fast disappear: and with it vital tax revenue. And we know that this is the case because since we lowered the business rate, business rate revenue has risen about £10 billion.

It was President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher who grasped that lower tax rates means more revenue, because it incentivises commercial activity and productivity. Socialists, let alone Marxists, have never understood this. And it’s also why Labour could not believe that the Conservatives would be able to reduce the annual budget deficit by two thirds (from £150 billion to £50 billion) while increasing jobs by 2.9 million, adding almost 3 million apprenticeships and increasing the wages of the lowest paid by 6% last year, as well as taking 4 million people out of income tax altogether – by almost doubling the income tax threshold from £6,500 to £11,500.

When public sector workers say they have had a tough pay freeze of 1% a year they’re right: but they forget that they are a thousand pounds better off each year because of the increased tax free amount.

We assume the basics of macro economics are agreed by all politicians. They’re not. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell described himself as the last Communist in Parliament. For the extreme socialists nationalisation, higher tax, squeezing the rich and the big businesses, introducing a land tax and increasing the role of the state is right because the state always knows best.

For John McDonnell making people who don’t go to university pay for the university fees of those who do, and allowing the very rich to get a winter fuel allowance is all fine. The key is that the state decides who gets what: not you.

So if you vote Labour the state will expand, business will be nationalised or squeezed and your own industry and home will be heavily taxed. You’ll get policies that communist China rejected about 30 years ago and no other western country in the world has. And for a simple reason: these policies were tested to bits, mostly behind the Iron Curtain, and we know they don’t work.

This is not the Labour Party we thought we all knew – which understood there was no social justice without economic growth: it is not even the Labour Party which ended by saying ‘sorry there’s no money left’. This is the Labour Party hijacked by communist veterans and advisors around a man rejected by 170 of his own MPs in a vote of no confidence only a few months ago.

Following these policies would lead to instant economic disaster – currency and market crashes and a rapid hike of interest rates instantly hitting those on mortgages.

That doesn’t mean everything is perfect out there at the moment. When you’re still over spending by £50 billion a year, and the interest alone on the accumulated debt is more than our entire education spend, there are huge human problems as well as a balance sheet challenge.

But whatever else we could do, just spending more from a Magic Money tree is no solution. My message to all businesses and householders is to think very carefully before voting for a dash to Marxism.

Vote for me and us and you will get a sensible approach to managing the economy, delivering growth, attracting investment, affording increases to health and education – and a cautious, determined dialogue on resolving the great unresolved issue of social care.

ELECTION 2017 KEY ISSUES: Brexit, the Economy and Security

Brexit

The Referendum was a year ago and whichever way we all voted our nation decided to leave, democratically: and the will of the people must now be implemented. That is my view – and I have since worked to support our Prime Minister and the government in taking us out of Europe and getting the best possible deal.

There are two other ludicrous alternatives – the Lib Dem one in which we keep having more Referendums until we arrive at the ‘right’ answer (a very EU Commission approach to democracy) which means the EU wouldn’t need to negotiate at all; or Labour’s naive negotiating ploy (‘no deal is a bad deal’), reassuring the EU that no matter how awful their best offer Labour would never turn it down.

This is a question about democracy and trust, and it’s time to get the job done as best possible. As someone with experience of international government negotiations, I know the importance of reducing uncertainty and allowing business to go forward confidently – remembering that business generates 75% of our tax revenue to pay for the Health, Education and other services we all need. So no more referendums.

The economy

You cannot have social justice without a strong economy, and this is absolutely not the time for a Marxist approach, bashing entrepreneurs and businesses alike.

My party has created 2.9 million new jobs AND increased the wages of the poorest paid by over 6% last year through the National Living Wage. We have reduced the amount the government over spends by from over £150 billion each year to £50 billion a year: and we need to continue to reduce this to live within our means. Having another Labour blow out would be a dreadful return to old habits, and hurt the weakest and most vulnerable in society, with prices, mortgage rates and council tax rising sharply.

Raising business tax in particular, with all the uncertainties of leaving the EU, would see investment, growth and new jobs dry up – instead of attracting businesses (particularly innovative investors and companies) which will increase our tax revenues and pay for the additional funds we are putting and will put into priority areas like health, education, cyber protection and security.

Relying on a magic money tree to pay for free everything will only lead to a re-run of the last Labour movie which ended ‘sorry there’s no money left’. Your money. So let’s support business to support us.

Security

Over the last few years the Conservative-led government has adapted our security agencies, Armed Forces and policing to reflect new threats – often non-traditional in nature: frequently driven by cyber-attacks and helped by the development of technology.

We have put extra resources into intelligence gathering and cyber capabilities, and plan more for armed police units – and I pay tribute to those who have prevented 18 major attacks since 2010.

As the country in Europe with the biggest defence capability, we’ve also led on committing NATO countries to spend 2% on defence, committed to key new additional hardware like frigates and used our Development budget for overseas projects where we are building national capabilities in e.g. Afghanistan.

I cannot believe that anyone from our Armed Forces will vote for Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to leave NATO, abolish our nuclear deterrent, and who has voted against EVERY proposed anti-terrorism law.

And the Lib Dems have often voted against ways of ensuring that GCHQ has the legislative support it needs to be one step ahead of the terrorists.

This is a time for our country to make sure we have the right hardware, software, skills and legislation in place to defend our nation and our city effectively. We need strong leadership and crisis tested experience on security above all – something Theresa May’s six years as Home Secretary and year as Prime Minister have already shown.

ELECTION 2017 KEY ISSUE: Housing and Jobs

Addressing housing needs

Since being elected as MP for Gloucester in 2010 I identified the key issue was that Gloucester’s housing debt was so large the City Council could not borrow any more, i.e. it had no way of doing anything, since it owned Gloucester City Homes (GCH). So I persuaded the City Council to let GCH be independent and the Treasury to write off £50m of housing debt, so GCH would start debt free, on condition it borrowed to build 100 new homes immediately, and more later. Which they have done and are doing.

More recently I made sure GCH were awarded funds under the Estate Regeneration Plan to develop new and better housing in Podsmead and Matson. So new social housing is already on the move and more to come.

Separately, on more housing in general, I helped progress the big development on Bristol Road (Podsmead), and worked with City Council led projects on Worcester Street and Bakers Quay. We have ambitious housing targets in the Local Joint Core Strategy, as well as nationally, and I am confident we will deliver in Gloucester.

Creating and supporting jobs

This is vital. I have focused on supporting industries of the future: nuclear energy (EDF Energy and Horizon, both based here), tidal lagoons (TLP plc in the Docks), and cyber (Raytheon and BAe Cyber hubs in Gloucester). Insurance (Pro Global) and retail are also expanding, as a result of the popularity of the Docks, and tourism is improving because of our festivals, while all of our manufacturing companies have more or less doubled their workforce since 2010.
 
I support all of these in different ways – not least as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, promoting exports (e.g. Airbus) in South East Asia.

ELECTION 2017 KEY ISSUE: What action has Richard taken on Homelessness?

Over the last year alone I have focused on the following five areas of work on the Homeless:

1. Homelessness Reduction Bill: This is a Conservative-led Act that will provide more money to local councils to tackle homelessness. I supported this from the beginning and the government later did too; and all the Homeless charities support it too.

2. George Whitfield Centre: this centre is occupied by various local partners working to help the Homeless, including NHS Glos Care Services, Gloucester City Mission, Green Square and the Food Bank. I helped the centre resolve their lease and opened it with all the partners.

Some time earlier I also helped to arrange for continued government funding for a scheme that helps rough sleepers find housing after treatment at the Hospital.

3. Seeing Gloucester’s response first hand: I’ve gone out all night with the police to talk to those on the streets, visited our Supported Housing providers and had discussions with their residents: met with charities and Faith Missions: raised funds for Alabaré, the Housing for Veterans charity, slept in the Cathedral for a night: and been a member of Gloucester Rotary which has raised £20,000 for the Homeless.

4. National Reports on the Select Committee: Through the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I’ve looked into issues around homelessness: and Co-Chaired a Joint Select Committee report on Supported Housing.

5. Hosted round table to discuss local issues with experts: I organised and chaired a round table session of around 20 organisations to discuss whether we need a new charity to direct generosity to the Homeless, but avoid giving cash to those begging which is often spent on addictions. I should be clear that those begging are not always homeless, as I have been told by those on the street themselves, and by charities and the police who help the people on our streets every day. This is an extremely delicate issue but I am working on this with the feedback of Gloucester’s experts.

So if re-elected as your MP I will continue to show leadership locally and, if involved with the same Select Committee again, nationally as well.

Meanwhile the government is already committed to contributing more to tackling the Homeless issue, and part of that is through building much more new housing.

In 2015 I helped to secure the £50 million Gloucester housing debt write off that enabled GCH to become an independent company and then win a £1.25m new contract for Estate Regeneration in Matson and Podsmead. We have already built more social housing and there is much more to come. That should all help, directly or indirectly.

The BHS Report – Work and Pensions Select Committee

Sir Philip Green and Richard Graham MP

Sir Philip Green and Richard Graham MP

Our new Prime Minister has promised to get ‘tough on irresponsible behaviour in big business’. The report from our joint Select Committee on the collapse of BHS offers a case study of what can go wrong at a company almost 90 years old and why she is right that government must react.

After over 20 years in international business, I thought little would surprise me. But what emerged from the evidence of the long, and ultimately unhappy, saga of BHS under Sir Philip Green’s stewardship was worse than I expected.

We learnt, above all else, that BHS was run like a medieval fiefdom, with absolute control by the Boss, shaky governance, and only lip service responsibility to its defined benefit (DB) pension fund.

The story of the pension scheme in fact mirrors the business, which lurched from profitability to loss (1999-2006), then financial crisis and now administration. The pension scheme went from (£43m +) surplus to (£350m +) deficit and was then steered to the care home for Defined Benefit schemes – the Pension Protection Fund where benefits are reduced. For almost ten years previously Philip Green had said at various times, and to different people, that he would sort out the pension fund. But when push came to shove he never did so 20,000 pensioners may get less deferred salary as a result. Why?

Green had no need to do anything originally, when the business was enjoying a contribution holiday, and only focused when the scheme went into deficit. He considered insurance buyout solutions, and then a wider solution (Project Thor), which might have worked if he had given enough information to the Pensions Regulator (TPR). But as the Chairman of the Scheme Trustees noted, Sir Philip objected to TPR ‘trawling through ten years of Bullshit’. His proposal for staggered injections over 23 years stretched belief: and he then rushed through the sale of the company to a totally inexperienced retailer, without telling either the Chairman of the Trustees or TPR. The evidence suggests Green was as keen to be shed of the pension scheme as the business, and that Dominic Chappell was steam rollered into agreeing the terms, through greed and naivety.

There is a wider issue here – of what would prevent other owners of businesses with DB schemes from selling their businesses in a hurry, regardless of their obligations. That’s why I strongly recommend it be mandatory for TPR to report on the health of the pension scheme for any potential buyer of a business with a DB scheme, just as a mortgage lender requires a valuation of a property: then everyone knows exactly what the situation is.

As it is, we are left with Philip Green’s word that he will see the pensioners right. After hearing that Green told Dominic Chappell, eventual buyer of BHS, that he would get the company ‘pension free’, I wouldn’t bet the ranch on this happening. Philip Green’s reputation hangs on a thread. I hope he seizes the moment to do the right thing and inject enough capital into the scheme for it to continue outside the PPF, without members taking a haircut. It would be the best result of a long inquiry into one of Britain’s less glorious corporate episodes.

You can read the full report here.

Fair Funding for Gloucestershire Schools

For more than a generation our schools have received significantly less funding per pupil than metropolitan cities. Why?

Because other cities were judged to have more deprivation. It wasn’t really true: Gloucester has suffered from being a relatively poor city in a relatively rich county – and during the last government that gap between well and poorly funded areas widened considerably, to our disadvantage.

Gloucestershire is the sixteenth lowest funded authority in the country and now receives £4,661 per pupil while the City of London receives £9,373. That gives metropolitan educated children a huge potential advantage, and I’m campaigning to start closing the gap so that over time pupils in Gloucester get the same basic funding as pupils in Bristol or London.

Cash isn’t everything – an inspirational teacher counts for more – but it is important. This issue affects pupils throughout out county, so all the Gloucestershire MPs are together on this, as are those from the lowest funded other 39 areas (including most of the SW). A coalition of MPs is much more likely to succeed than an individual, which is why I had about 20 MPs in a debate in my name. You can see the debate transcript here.

I highlighted that:

  • Very few people understand how schools are funded
  • The most simple funding method would be to spend the same amount on each child’s education across the land – and then add a deprivation element (called the Pupil Premium), which is based on the numbers of children on free school meals. This Government has given us the second bit – now it needs to work on the first
  • Education Secretary Michael Gove agrees totally. He has just changed the way that LOCAL funding works (e.g. reducing 37 variables to 10, making sure councils get money to the schools more efficiently and other important admin changes)
  • But he currently says there isn’t enough money to introduce a new NATIONAL formula and start closing the funding gap before the next Parliament
  • I believe it would not be hugely expensive to make a start on doing so BEFORE 2015, even though the cost of our debt and the plan to reduce the budget deficit is the most critical thing, so I will continue to urge the Government to consider that extra step.
  • “We’re looking,” I concluded, “…for financial change to show that this long, 20-year inequality will finally be tackled.”

In December 2015, I presented a petition to the government signed by 1,335 residents of Gloucester that believed that our students deserved fair funding. You can see a video of this here. I’m very grateful to everyone that signed. The government is now developing a new fair funding formula starting with a consultation of our views.

I look forward to seeing the outcome that should equal more funds for our students.

Old Spots regeneration ‘on track’

Richard Graham and City Council Leader Paul James have said that real progress has been made on their regeneration hit list of city centre problem sites and buildings (‘Old Spots’) – and there is more good news to come.

Launched on Gloucester Day last September, the MP and city council leader highlighted several successes within six months:

The transformation of Clarence House into the now open Central Hotel: the progress on the new dementia home Park View on Southgate St: the completion of the sale of our former prison to City&Country Residential: the

exchange of contracts on Balers Quay: planning permission for new apartments in the former Job Centre in Southgate Street and an agreement to demolish Quayside and other buildings alongside the River Seven as part of the new £135 million master plan for Blackfriars.

Paul James said, “To have made so much progress after just six months is a reflection of both an improving economy and growing investor confidence in Gloucester.  There are further deals in the pipeline which we will announce when they come to fruition.  Some of the sites and buildings on our list are complex and will take some time to resolve, but the focus of having a hitlist is helpful and concentrates the minds of owners and developers.”

Richard Graham said “There’s been some real progress on some of the worst spots on the face of Gloucester in the last six months.

Be under no illusion – the devastations of the 60s and 70s will take a long time to erase, so there’s masses still to do, but six months on let’s celebrate some big steps in the right direction, and keep focused on those spots where more work is needed.

Investors are beginning to see Gloucester as a place where things happen, and that is important. It’s a mark of the city on the UP.”

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