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

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.”

Transport Department approves Gloucester MP’s plan for new car park and station entrance for Gloucester Railway Station

Today, Gloucester MP Richard Graham warmly welcomed the Transport Secretary’s confirmation that his plan for a new 240 vehicle car park and new station entrance on Great Western Road in Gloucester has been approved, as part of railway station improvements in a 3.5 year extension of the First Great Western franchise.

The City MP said the new entrance and car park will open in 2016 and that this is “the catalyst for a series of improvements to our train station”.

A while back, Richard Graham laid out a vision of a “modern station for growth”, and has since had meetings with FGW, Network Rail and both councils as well as bringing Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to the station.

“The car park at the front of the station will become a short-term car park, and I’m exploring with the county council the option of an exit onto Metz Way, which would also reduce traffic jams leaving the station on Bruton Way and free up the forecourt.”

Richard emphasised that the County Council and Network Rail had held meetings at his request to discuss the underpass from the Station to Great Western Road. “I want to make it much more user friendly, by levelling the steps both up and down for access to the underpass for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs and all pedestrians going between the city centre and hospital.”

Richard added that the Station facade and forecourt would also benefit from improvements, with Roberts Limbrick reporting back soon with a re-cladding proposal for the facade. “I want to improve the links for pedestrians and cyclists between train and bus station and the city centre. As the new bus station takes shape in 2016, it makes sense to consider our transport links together, and both councils will be considering further improvements.”

The City MP said the point of all improvements to the station was so it can serve his constituents better.

“In this Parliament we’ve achieved improvements to waiting rooms, a new bridge with disabled lifts and a canopy across the railway line: now we will sort out the car parks, a new entrance and routes for pedestrians & cyclists.

At the same time, Richard highlighted that “with hourly direct services to London, and additional trains to Swindon starting in 2017-2018, the next goal is to secure more Cross Country trains at Gloucester. Negotiations for the Arriva Cross Country franchise start in the summer and both government and operator know my aim for Gloucester and the growth statistics to back it up.”

City MP Richard Graham is delighted that the government has agreed to resolve an historical injustice to police widows and widowers  

“I am delighted for police widows and widowers!” said Gloucester MP Richard Graham, after the Chancellor announced in the budget yesterday changes for police widows and widowers subject to the police pension’s regulations 1987. Currently all lose their pension if they remarry or cohabit, or keep their pension if they stay single. From now on they will no longer be penalised. This means that the government has accepted the case made by the Gloucester MP in a Westminster Hall debate 3 weeks ago for the government to respond positively to former PC Colin John Hall’s widow Cathryn Hall’s petition.

Richard said “the whole point of a long-term plan is that a stronger economy enables the government to improve people’s lives: and this righting of an historical injustice to about 900 police widows/widowers is a small but important example of social justice that we can afford. I am delighted for Cathryn, Sharon Jones, Julie Shadwick (Sharon and Julie are from Gloucestershire) and all the other widows and widowers affected”.

 Notes

The details of the settlement will be announced by the Police Minister shortly.

 George Osbourne extract from the Budget 2015

“Talking about people who save lives, and who sometimes sacrifice their own life to do so, we will also correct the historical injustice to the spouses of police officers, firefighters, and members of the intelligence services who lose their lives on duty.”

Gloucester MP Richard Graham welcomes Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s visit to Gloucester Train Station to see his vision for changes at the Station

These changes would start with First Great Western (FGW) leasing the currently empty car park on Great Western Road, owned by the Ministry of Justice, and opening the station on that side (beside platform 4).

This will form part of the FGW bid to the Department for Transport for station improvements, as part of the negotiations for the extension of their current franchise. Decisions are expected in March.

‘For too long the road access, parking, traffic and forecourt at the train station has been below what it should be for our city. The bid by FGW to the DfT will include money for my vision to open up the station from Great Western Road and create a new car park there. If the DfT approves this bid it will be a significant step forward for our city’, said City MP Richard, ‘so having the Transport Secretary here to see the station and plan is very helpful’.

He noted that the changes would help anyone visiting the hospital by train, or coming to the station by car from the London or Horton Roads: and later lead on to other changes including a levelling of the subway passage for pedestrians and improvements to road access and traffic on Bruton Way/Metz Way.

He added, ‘This is the crucial first step, and more car parking would allow for further passenger growth – linked both to additional services from FGW and an increase of Arriva Cross Country trains after the renegotiation of their franchise in 2016.’

Gloucester MP supports Pension Provision for Life for Police Widows & Widowers

City MP Richard Graham has met with Police Minister Mike Penning to encourage him to consider the case for all police widows and widowers to get their widowed pension provision for life – even if they remarry or live with a new partner.

Richard said,”This is an issue of fairness.  Some police widows and widowers currently lose their pensions for life if they remarry or start living with a new partner. Changes were made in 2006 but they didn’t include everyone and this group is effectively prevented from re-marrying and having a complete family life unless they accept losing their widowed pension.

I don’t think those who lost their lives protecting our communities would want this – and now that my government has agreed changes for war widows and widowers it’s right that we do the same for the police. “

The Police Minister told the city MP that he was sympathetic to the argument and would consider it carefully.

A417 ‘Triumph for County Infrastructure’

After a long campaign to resolve the A417 Missing Link the government have announced that it will be resolved in the next Parliament.

This is a major government commitment to the single most important, and expensive, piece of transport infrastructure needed in our county.

This is a success above all for unity of purpose and goal across the county and beyond. Only one MP was against the plan and fortunately that was not enough to damage a very strong case. This will reduce accidents, deaths, traffic jams, carbon emissions and journey times and increase productivity, visitors, trade and investment.

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