Category Archives: Gloucester News

PRESS RELEASE: Richard Graham MP – reappointed as PM’s Trade Envoy


(photo shows Richard with Ultra Electronics who won a contract to modernise Indonesian Navy warship)

Gloucester MP Richard Graham, who spoke out in Parliament last week about the importance of growing our exports, has been reappointed as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and the ASEAN Economic Community.

Richard said, “I’m delighted to have been asked to continue this important role to promote British exports to and inward investment from these key South East Asian markets. Although our exports have increased there is a lot more that we can do, boosted by a weaker currency, on both goods and services. The countries of SE Asia together (ASEAN) represent our third biggest non EU market, and have only just begun to invest institutionally in the UK. I’ll be back out there later this summer to pursue opportunities for greater co-operation in several sectors including maritime, aerospace and further education as well as seeing what more our expertise in running major sporting events can do to help make a success of the Asian Games. This is something I have a particular interest in as I once represented Indonesia at squash, one of the sports in the Games.”

Richard noted that Gloucester and Gloucestershire both have some remarkable exporters and Queens Award winners – including Severn Glocon, Prima Dental, Helipebs, Avon Metals, Advanced Insulation and Renishaw, as well as Fluid Transfer, Poetons, Neon Play, Only Natural products, BAe systems and Ultra. “And we shouldn’t forget our two universities,” Richard noted: “today we export more in Education than from Insurance and both the University of Gloucestershire and the Royal Agricultural University play a part in that. In a variety of different sectors Gloucestershire has a good record already in certain Asian markets”, said Richard, “but there is even more potential ahead. I hope other Trade Envoys will be appointed by the Prime Minister to help our national mission of building exports.”

Notes for editors:

Richard Graham is the longest serving Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy in the House of Commons. He was appointed Trade Envoy to Indonesia in 2012, to the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, and to the Philippines and Malaysia in 2016.

There are currently 21 Trade Envoys covering around 50 markets. Trade Envoys engage with countries and markets where substantial trade and investment opportunities have been identified by UK. They build on the UK’s existing relations with these markets and maximising bilateral trade, aiming to generate real and long term benefits for the UK.

Leading Gloucester Forward: challenges ahead

The morning after the General Election brought mixed emotions.

On the one hand being re-elected and receiving over 50% of the votes cast (the first time any candidate in Gloucester had done so for 70 years) was a huge honour from my constituents and great credit to those of all age, backgrounds and ethnic origins who supported me.

But on the other hand was a sense of ‘what now?’ as it became clear the Conservatives fell just short of an overall majority. What were the implications for our country and our city?

If you believe in democracy you have to accept the aggregate message the electorate delivers. I interpret the results as: we understand the Conservative claim to restoring our economy but we do not want the party of government to have unbridled power; we do not care as much about Brexit as you politicians all think – we mind more about what impacts our daily life, like health, education, social care and pensions; we do not want Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and most of us don’t believe in Magic Money Trees but we do like positive manifestos; and young voters and others who traditionally don’t vote can be motivated to do so.

There are lessons in this aggregate message for all parties and politicians, and how we do so will determine the battle of ideas ahead.

But the immediate issues for my party were to be able make the mathematics needed for legislation to work: to focus on a modest programme of legislation both for leaving the EU and social change (mental health and social care – after consultation – in particular) and to be ready with a new government to deal with events.

These came quicker than expected: the fourth terrorist attack, this time on a mosque, in almost as many weeks and the simply horrific inferno at Grenfell Tower.

The reason why I believe all of us a nation are so shocked by Grenfell Tower is because we recognise that terrorists exist (even if we don’t understand why), and accept that our excellent counter terrorist agencies and police won’t be able to prevent every random individual act of terrorism; but we also all believe that the events of Grenfell Tower were preventable – and that much has happened there (and we now know elsewhere) that shouldn’t have happened. There is no-one but ourselves to blame.

But who exactly is to blame? There are two possible reactions to this sort of tragedy. One, ahead of any enquiry and many facts, is to politicise or weaponise it: call for a Day of Rage, a march by a million people and describe the residents who died as “murdered by political decisions” (as the Shadow Chancellor put it).

An aid worker said bluntly that a day of rage was the last thing anyone needed and only 400 turned up. I regard that whole approach as grotesquely inappropriate. The way for government to react is to help to rebuild lives and homes, get absolutely objective non partisan enquiries under way – above all the police one to identify any criminal responsibility – and to do all this above all with calm determination. What our country wants is not more violence on the street: but good, democratic, responsible government that gets to the bottom of tragedies and holds everyone to account.

By this weekend we will know if Jeremy Corbyn’s boast that he would vote down the Queens Speech comes true, and whether Lily Allen will eat a goat live on Sky TV if the government wins Thursday’s vote. Gradually the media will realise that Corbyn may have a following at Glastonbury, but his ambition to be Prime Minister in six months is another idle boast, that endless articles about ‘revolts’ in the Conservative Party will fail to materialise and that the government will get on with the difficult business of governing.

That in turn will enable us here to move forward on many projects. In particular, infrastructure and skills issues on which I’ve spent a lot of time and which are unfinished business include:
• Sorting the underpass between the Railway Station and Great Western Road, used by so many of my constituents to get to our Hospital more safely and comfortably
• Creating a new exit from the existing Railway Station car park straight on to Metz Way and so reducing journeys home for many commuters
• Building a strong partnership between government, our two councils and GCH so that estate regeneration for Matson and Podsmead, improving the homes and lives of thousands of residents, can move ahead viably
• Taking forward our proposed Health University Technical College so that future generations of Gloucester pupils have the best pathways into our biggest sector for jobs in the county – health & care – with home grown nurses at forefront
• Making sure that the new accommodation being built for our new Business School is ready in time for Sep 2018, and that businesses are ready to attract their custom – a boost to our city centre
• Getting the right structure for our flagship History Festival so that it can continue to inspire other future cultural developments in our City of Heritage
• Urging forward our new Rosebank GP surgery in Kingsway and the expansion of the Hadwen surgery in Abbeydale and the re-introduction of evening and weekend surgeries so that my constituents get better access to doctors
• Making sure that no school gets less funding than at present under the new fair funding formula, and many get more: while encouraging a higher intake of Gloucester pupils at all our grammar schools

I could list many more aims on my project list from leaks in our Crown Court roof and holding some hearings in Shire Hall to the return of Gloucester City Football Club to Meadow Park, but eight is a lucky number in Chinese so let me leave it at that for now.

There is a lot to do in our city to make it an even better place in which to grow up, study, work and retire, and I’m impatient to see it all happen. Of course as with national government events will distract us. Last week I was on the telephone to our Fire & Rescue Chief discussing the repercussions of Grenfell Tower and checking all our highest buildings’ fire risks: and the next day to our Police about checking security at our mosques after the Finsbury Park mosque attack. In both cases their response was immediate and reassuring. Leading Gloucester Forward is all about initiatives and then partnerships – and the good news is that we have very good public, private and charity sector partner organisations in city and county to work with. Now we need a decent period of national political stability to see things through. And I think we will have it.

EU Citizens in the UK

Richard visiting Safran (a French company) in Gloucester with then-Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP

I know there are lots of of my constituents who are EU citizens and are worried about their future rights in the UK.

The Prime Minister laid out yesterday the specifics of our government’s offer to the EU on resolving this and the rights of British citizens in the EU, and I thought it would be useful to share with you this brochure which lays out the details in Q&A form.

The main difference in the UK and EU positions on rights for EU citizens here is whether they have recourse to the European Court of Justice or the Courts in the UK (as British citizens will).

In my view it would be absurd to have people living here with different legal rights – we wouldn’t expect British citizens living there to be subject to our laws rather than European laws -and I hope the EU can understand that.

But otherwise I believe that this package should be very reassuring to any EU citizen living and working in the UK, and their employers (like the NHS but also our University, Glos College and many businesses).

If anyone has any queries do e mail me on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk.

 

Click to view document.   

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

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP responds to ‘worrying’ OFSTED Report

City MP Richard Graham says the recent OFSTED report on the county council’s children’s services is ‘worrying’ and that the council is right to have made immediate changes. “What matters now is how quickly the council can implement the OFSTED recommendations and turn the service around.”

Richard said that “my office has had concerns about a few individual cases in the past, but these have been resolved after investigation. I welcome the statement by the Chief Executive outlining the actions he has taken to reform the management of this critical service and the appointment of someone with relevant experience as Cabinet member to oversee the improvements needed.

Meanwhile I will be looking at any outstanding cases to see whether there is more that can be done to safeguard individuals and if any constituent has issues to do with safeguarding children that they wish to bring to my attention I hope they will do so as soon as possible. Please email me on richard.graham.mp@parliament.uk or ring 501167 for a surgery appointment.”

NOTES:

The report ranks the council’s Children’s Safeguarding as the lowest ‘inadequate’ rating.

Not all of the report is negative: council work on adoption, for example, receives praise

The full OFSTED report here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/gloucestershire

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP says city’s latest low unemployment figures highlight business resilience

City MP Richard Graham said today’s unemployment figures which show a 60% drop in Gloucester and over 70% drop for youth unemployment in the city since their peaks show that Gloucester businesses are continuing to recruit, and are backed by the latest ICAEW measure of business confidence which has turned positive for the first quarter in a year.

“Business confidence is incredibly important because it tries to capture whether business is likely to go on investing, and growing and taking on more staff. Across our city at the moment there are different building sites and applications pending planning approval, which is another good indicator of business activity and investment. As we enter difficult negotiations with the EU our business resilience and confidence in a sensible outcome is vital to a successful economy. Government investment in our infrastructure and support for our regeneration is equally important to Gloucester – and I am already having informal discussions with Ministers on aspects of that”.

Richard also highlighted the importance of the Apprenticeship Levy for this year’s school leavers and older employees looking to up skill or change career: “The new levy means more money coming to fund apprentices’ training and will make good economic sense for all organisations, and I know that eg the county council, the Hospitals Trust and private businesses alike will be hiring many more apprentices. The government has also helped businesses by abolishing employers’ National Insurance contributions for under 25 year old apprentices.”

General Election Candidate 2017

Today is my last day as MP for Gloucester and from tomorrow I’m the Conservative candidate for Gloucester during the election until June 8th.
It has been a pleasure serving you, my constituents and employers, and I’ve replied to over 7000 issues raised by you over the last two years. I hope to continue trying to help constituents in trouble as the next MP for Gloucester.
My office will reply to urgent problems and casework issues that are sent to me throughout the election period.
If you’d like to know my views on issues please email richard4gloucester@gmail.com
Thank you for having me as your MP from 2010 – 2017 and I will campaign for your vote to continue.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP leads committee urging government to look again at supported housing funding plans

City MP Richard Graham has co-chaired an influential joint committee of the Work and Pensions and Communities and Local Government Select Committees as they urge the government to look again at plans for supported housing funding to ensure the sector is adequately supported and provision is boosted in a report published today.

Richard Graham MP, Co-Chair of the inquiry and member of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “Supported housing is deeply valued by those who live in it and contributes enormously to their independence and wellbeing. We support the Government’s aims to reform funding for this vital sector to ensure quality and value for money, protect and boost supply, and provide greater local control.

“But we are concerned that the proposals, as they stand, are unlikely to achieve these objectives. Our recommendations seek to improve the Government’s plans and ensure it delivers on our common goal of a sustainable, long-term funding solution for supported housing.

The Committees argue that a new Supported Housing Allowance, banded to reflect the actual cost of provision in the sector, should be introduced instead of the current Local Housing Allowance rate. The Committees note concerns that the Government’s proposed reform will damage provision in parts of the country and could lead to a serious shortfall in the availability of supported housing.

The Committees recommend grants to local authorities, which can commission accommodation and pay providers.

The report also calls a separate funding system for women’s refuges and urges the Government to work with Women’s Aid and providers to devise it. The Committee says it is essential that refuges are able to operate as a national network, unrestrained by local admissions restrictions.

The Committee found that the cost of provision is largely consistent across the country. Unless funding reflects this consistency the Committees are also concerned that providers will be put off investing in particular areas, creating a disparity between the supply of homes and services across the country.

The Committees argue that a Supported Housing Allowance would ensure tenants only require top-funding in exceptional circumstances. The Allowance would be calculated according to a formula made up of a fixed amount for provision, which is consistent between areas, and a smaller variable amount that reflect differences in land costs.

Central funding of the top-up should be guaranteed for at least the duration of the next Parliament to provide greater certainty. Funding levels should be regularly reviewed to ensure the top-up fund keeps pace with increases in the cost of provision and changes in local demand.

Helen Hayes MP, Co-Chair of the inquiry and member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said: “Ministers must intervene immediately by scrapping the proposed Local Housing Allowance reform. The sector needs a far more suitable funding system that recognises the consistent cost of provision across the country and provides long term reliability.

“Supported housing caters for an incredibly diverse range of people, from long-term sheltered accommodation for older people to short-term emergency housing for those who have recently become homeless or are fleeing domestic abuse. The Government is right to consider alternative funding for emergency accommodation and we urge Ministers to also recognise the unique challenges of refuges with a distinct funding model.”

Other findings, recommendations and conclusions include:

  • Benefit restrictions that may be justified in the private rented sector should not be applied to those looking to leave supported housing so as to ensure people are not discouraged from do so.
  • The Government should ensure providers are aware that supported housing tenants claiming Universal Credit will not be worse off if they seek employment. A job should be seen as an important milestone towards independence and self-sufficiency.
  • The Government should establish a set of national standards to enable monitoring of the quality of provision in all supported housing in England and Wales, with a specific emphasis on improving the quality of life that tenants experience

NOTES

700,000 people live in supported housing in the UK, from older people and those with learning and physical difficulties, to survivors of domestic violence.

The Government acknowledges that supported housing saves in the region of £3.5 billion per year, through lower costs for the NHS, social care and criminal justice systems.

The system is facing considerable demand, with a reported 17,000 shortfall in supported housing places; a figure that could double within the next three years without Government intervention.

Further information is available on the inquiry webpage or on the Work and Pensions Committee and Communities and Local Government Committee websites

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