Category Archives: News

Changing the law on stalking: a Gloucestershire and national success

You don’t get many chances to change the law of the land: many MPs never do so. I’ve been lucky – today’s Policing and Crime Bill, all being well, will be the second time that I’ve been able to play a part in doing so.

Both times I’ve been driven to action by something that happened in Gloucester, by trying to create something good out of something bad.

The first was a constituent whose death was caused by a very drunk, uninsured and disqualified driver, who received a risible sentence because the law didn’t allow for more. The government agreed to increase the maximum sentence in such cases. This time there’s a similar outcome but the journey has been more complex and much less predictable.

In May 2015 I read in The Citizen the comments of our Judge Jamie Tabor, who said in sentencing a stalker, Raymond Knight, that if he could have sentenced him for longer then he would. Judges don’t usually like increasing sentences, and Knight’s crime was only recently introduced – Theresa May as Home Secretary had rightly criminalised stalking in the last Parliament. So I decided to look closer. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Dr Eleanor Aston, a Gloucester GP who lived in Cheltenham had been stalked for 8 years. Raymond Knight had stalked her relentlessly at work, at home and at her daughter’s nursery group. He cut off the gas and slashed a water pipe at her home: he left messages on her telephone, car and in the surgery – and was suspected, but not proven, of burning down half of Dr Aston’s house.

Her life was cruelly damaged: she suffered from PTSD and had to give up being a GP. The whole family was in a nightmare that wouldn’t go away. No wonder Judge Tabor wished he could lock Raymond Knight up for longer.

So I decided to do something with my neighbour and her (Cheltenham) MP, Alex Chalk, a barrister. I suggested we aim to change the law and get more flexibility on sentencing. Judge and victim were supportive: and so we met Ministers in London.

Then Lord Chancellor/Justice Secretary Michael Gove encouraged us to do much more research into stalking: one case rarely made for good law. We went away and with the great help of our researchers talked to victims, research bodies, anti-stalking charities, and academic and police experts. Alex’s legal knowledge was crucial.

I was particularly moved by hearing the experience of Gloucester hairdresser Katie Price, who had also been badly stalked and later left our city to find peace elsewhere. Her daughter wrote a moving letter about the impact of stalking on the whole family.

Our report showed the size of the issue: one in five women are stalked in their lifetime, and one in ten men, and stalking often leads to violence.

So this wasn’t just about Dr Aston, but a much larger number of victims. In fact when we launched our report to the media, many journalists and MPs had experiences to share too. We recommended a doubling of the maximum prison sentence from five to ten years.

We discussed our report with then Sentencing Minister Dominic Raab and his officials and he joined us for its formal launch in London. There was talk of a Sentencing Bill in the Queen’s Speech.

I asked Prime Minister David Cameron for his support in PMQs. We had a Gloucestershire launch of the report, with the University of Glos and Nick Gazzard. And we created a petition, supported by nearly 30 MPs. Meanwhile Dr Eleanor Aston, supported by charities like Paladin, starred in a BBC documentary on the issue. Momentum was building.

Then the PM resigned after the Referendum and all the Justice Ministers were changed: back to square one.

Bismarck once said that the making of laws is like the making of sausages – you don’t want to know what goes into them. And so, after much discussion and many more meetings, Alex launched a 10 Minute Bill.

It was bound to fail unless supported by government, which was understandably cautious about increasing sentences and prisoners. But the Bill gave our cause more attention and so did the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders by Home Secretary Amber Rudd before Christmas. And immediately afterwards Gloucestershire based Baroness Jan Royall succeeded in an amendment in the Lords to the Policing and Crime Bill.

This helped focus the government’s mind on the case for an amendment. They have accepted our report’s recommendation and agreed to implement it – adding a doubling of religiously or racially aggravated harassment (from seven to fourteen years).

The new law will also pave the way for more remedial work as investment in specialist mental health training for prison officers increases to assess and treat these offenders.

The Minister will propose this amendment later today and I imagine it will sail through.

This is a wonderful New Year’s present for those who’ve been stalked, for campaigners, for women in general – and for Gloucestershire, which has led every step of the way.

It means that Judges will have the flexibility that Judge Tabor sought: that victims will, as Dr Aston has said, be able to sleep more easily when the worst stalkers are sentenced; and the stalkers themselves understand on the one hand the seriousness of the crime and on the other receive more help in resolving what is a severe obsession and mental health issue.

Of course this is not going to stop stalking. But it shows victims and Judges are heard, that MPs and ultimately the government listens and that laws can be changed – so that sentences better reflect the damage that a particular crime can inflict on innocent victims, most of whom (in this instance) are women. Ultimately, Justice is only as good as the laws we adapt, and how these are implemented.

It’s felt like a long and winding road, and I’m glad neither Alex nor I have kept time sheets, but changing the law within 18 months is in fact unusually fast.

Along the way I’ve learnt more about the value of legal research and much more about stalking: the known and unknown victims and the several charities; and the processes and bypaths of getting legislation changed.

There was one other unusual aspect of this campaign – Cheltenham and Gloucester working so well together. Neighbours and mostly friendly rivals, our City and Borough haven’t always had the same book open, let alone singing the same hymn. Well that’s changed. And although Alex and I won’t always agree about everything, Gloucestershire is the better for a much closer relationship between the Cheltenham and Gloucester MPs.

I want to finish this e-news about changing the law by coming back to where it started – the Judge and the victim in Gloucester Crown Court.

Thank you to Ellie Aston for inspiring us, being strong and having faith: to other victims for opening your hearts and sharing your stories: to the stalking charities like the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the Network for Surviving Stalking, Protection Against Stalking and Paladin, and to the Hollie Gazzard Trust, the Police and the University of Gloucestershire, which just happens to be a leader in research on stalking.

This part of a long journey for Justice is now close to over, but there’s always lots more to be done on this and other good causes.

Do let me know what you think about this at

Best regards

Winter – what do you see?


I’m looking out of the window in a pale winter light, brightening a few remaining leaves on trees outside, modest Christmas leftovers.

Beside me, on my iPhone, are dozens of angry, frightened or frustrated messages – terrorists, Aleppo, treatment of Christians in Pakistan, beggars in our city centre, queues at Junction 12 on the M5, lack of broadband at home, numbers of staff in our prisons, health benefits or transport issues. There’s rarely a shortage of things that need to be improved.

But there is another way of looking at life. I’ve just re-read a poem its author, Jenny Lakin, read beside me recently at a dementia poetry group in Quedgeley Library. The poem describes the thoughts of a young daughter and her mother (the author) as they walk home from school. Today is a good moment for this poem:

Winter – what do you see?

I see grey, heavy clouds in dark dismal skies
She sees dragons chasing giants with big goggly eyes;
I see wet, endless pavements all dull and the same
She sees puddles to splash in, play hopscotch and games;
I see traffic crawling slowly, noisy and fumy
She waves at buses and bin lorries and anything zoomy;
I see bare, dead trees just waiting for Spring
She sees funny, knobbly branches and piles of leaves to fling;
I see anonymous people, heads down, trudging, harassed
She sees a bright bobble hat, a yellow umbrella, smiles going past;
I just want to go home, I’m cold, tired and snappy
She’s on an adventure, she’s endlessly happy.

It is the most lovely poem, isn’t it? And it’s hard to finish without a smile and a feeling that perhaps the world isn’t all awful after all. Does life have to stop being an adventure?

I will remember Jenny’s poem this long, mild winter through. Despite everything, there is a beautiful world out there. It just depends on how you look at things.

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year.

Best regards


What’s on this Christmas 2016

The Winner of my Christmas Card competition was Kinga Chabowska (Year 6, Widden Primary School)

The Winner of my Christmas Card competition was Kinga Chabowska (Year 6, Widden Primary School)

Here’s a quick guide to some of the best things this Christmas in Gloucester, and information on rubbish collection and health services. I hope readers all get some time off to enjoy some of these events and activities!

Open Air Ice Rink and Christmas Market
until 2 Jan | Gloucester Quays 
The Market closes on Christmas Eve, but the ice rink remains until the 2nd of January. So take to the ice at Gloucester Quays this Christmas.

Gloucester Ski and Snowboard Centre
Opening hours and ticket prices vary | Robinswood Hill | 
Whether you’re learning to ski / snowboard or getting in a bit of practice before your trip away to the snow, head down to our local Ski Centre. For more information call 501438.

Treasure Seekers Gift Shop Christmas Event
until 22 Dec | Treasure Seekers Shop, Westgate Street | Free 
Enjoy a number of late night shopping events: (1st Dec) Art Exhibition, (8th Dec) Cavern taster night, and (15th and 22nd Dec) live Christmas music with free mince pies.

Christmas Classics Film: It’s a Wonderful Life (U)
16 Dec 7:00pm | 17 Dec 2:00pm | 19 Dec 2:00pm and 7:00pm | Gloucester Guildhall | 
This year marks the 70th anniversary of this defining Christmas classic!

Christmas Panto: Cinderella
17 Dec – 20 Dec | Gloucester Guildhall | £10, £8 concessions
7:00pm, with matinees at 2:00pm on Saturday and Sunday
Gloucester’s most popular entertainment troupe return to put their spin on Cinderella.

Sail with Santa Cruises
17 Dec – 24 Dec | National Waterways Museum, Docks | £10
12:00pm, 1:30pm and 3:00pm each day
Step aboard the King Arthur to see Santa come down the chimney into his floating grotto and enjoy a 45-minute festive cruise along the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Call 318200 to book.

Gloucester City AFC v AFC Fylde 
17 Dec | K.O. 3:00pm | Whaddon Road
The Tigers welcome AFC Fylde to Whaddon Road for their last game before Christmas.

Christmas Carols on the hour
17 Dec | Gloucester Cathedral | Free
11:00am, 12:00pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 4:00pm
Come and enjoy Christmas Carols sung on the hour by Adult Choirs: each service lasts just 30 minutes

One Church Annual Carol Service
18 Dec | GL1 | Free tickets only
The fifth annual carol service is expected to sell out, doors open at 5:15pm for a 6:00pm start. Make sure to order your free ticket here.

Lift Up Your Voice: A Festive Recital
19 Dec 12:30pm | St Johns Church, Northgate Street | Free
Join Caroline Carragher (mezzo soprano) and Sue Honeywill (piano) for an evening of seasonal music.

Christmas Carol Service and Midnight Mass
23 Dec to 24 Dec | Gloucester Cathedral | Free 
A traditional service of readings and carols with the acclaimed Cathedral Choir with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Find more information on Cathedral Christmas services here.

Last Chance to Visit Father Christmas
24 Dec 10:00am – 4:00pm | King’s Walk Shopping Centre 
Father Christmas makes a quick stop at King’s Walk shopping Centre. Bring your children to visit.

Gloucester Rugby v Harlequins
27 Dec | K.O. 4:00pm | Twickenham Stadium | Live on BT Sport
Watch Glaws take on the Quins in the Aviva Premiership.

Christmas Day Church Services
For details of all services click here.

Help for minor injuries, pain and coughs at the Gloucester Health Access Centre, open every day 8:00am to 8:00pm, in the city centre on Eastgate St.

The NHS non-emergency 111 and the Gloucestershire Out of Hours service 0300 421 0220 if your GP surgery is closed.

Rubbish Collection
See the City Council website for information: Hempsted Recycling Centre is open every day, apart from Christmas and New Year’s Day, from 9:00am to 6:15pm.

Happy Christmas and New Year, and thank you for reading and answering my e-news during 2016. Let me know at if there are issues you think I should cover in 2017.

Best regards

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP welcomes changes to Openreach to improve broadband services

Richard Graham MP has welcomed the announcement that Ofcom will require Openreach and BT to legally separate. The announcement follows lobbying from over 100 MPs including Richard, who signed a letter to the Telegraph in January calling for the division.

Richard said, “many of my constituents have raised concerns about their broadband speed. Where I can help them to find a solution with providers I have done, but there needed to be a big shake up in the way that we handled broadband in this country to see faster progress. By separating Openreach, which handles the broadband infrastructure like the cables and cabinets, from BT, which provides the service, I think we are moving in the right direction to allow for more competition, better innovation and better service for my constituents.”

Richard has been working with BT and constituents to help those areas of Gloucester that have little to no broadband service. The Government is committed to a Universal Service Obligation (USO), so every home in the country will have access to broadband at a speed of 10Mbps as a minimum by the end of this Parliament.


Openreach is the part of BT Group that develops and maintains the UK’s main telecoms network used by telephone and broadband providers such as Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and BT Consumer. Openreach has obligations to offer the same products to all customers on the same terms.

Ofcom introduced this structure in 2005, and it has delivered benefits such as stronger competition. However, BT retains influence over significant Openreach decisions, and, in the view of Ofcom, has an incentive to make these decisions in the interests of its own retail businesses, rather than BT’s competitors.

In February 2016, Ofcom said that Openreach must become more independent from BT, and in July 2016 outlined proposals for how this might work. In November 2016 Ofcom ordered BT to separate legally from its Openreach division.


Why I believe engagement is the right policy with China

Richard with President Xi Jinping

Richard with President Xi Jinping

China has undergone immense change. When I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1980, China didn’t impinge much on the world. Although a UN Security Council member with the world’s biggest population, she generated only 2% of global growth. Today she represents 15% of global GDP, investing about £10 billion annually into the UK. 140,000 Chinese students study here while almost a million tourists have come this year.

In my own constituency and the surrounding area leading exporters like Renishaw, Severn Glocon and Prima Dental all depend considerably on Chinese customers. So do all the aerospace contractors, some of whom (like Messier-Dowty) manufacture in China as well as in our county. We host Chinese students on training and university courses, or on exchanges from Hangzhou Medical College, to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. We export a range of goods from marine diesel engines, dental drills and gantrail to flavoured tea, coatings and cylinders. No wonder UK exports have doubled since 2010. Perhaps most importantly Gloucester hosts the EDF Energy operational HQ for all our nuclear power stations. The new plan at Hinkley Point depends on Chinese financing. And nuclear energy is key both to more home-grown, zero carbon energy and keeping the lights on.

The China factor in our country is for real: it is important for jobs, businesses and our energy needs. As the only Chinese speaking parliamentarian, who has worked in both mainland China and Hong Kong, I want my colleagues to see what’s happening there and why China matters. But business and investment cannot come at any cost and what is happening there is not simply about trade and investment. Our history, systems and values are very different, which leads to many challenges.

On every All Party Parliamentary China Group visit I have to explain aspects of our democracy to Chinese interlocutors. The human rights representative in our Beijing Embassy continues, with colleagues, to advocate a true Rule of Law. In today’s changing China leaders readily acknowledge the importance of this: but the speed and practical implementation of reform is behind China’s own needs, and the legislative function is controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The UK has much to offer in this sphere and the Great Britain China Centre, of which I’m a director, does hugely important and behind the scenes  work with Chinese bodies on many aspects of the Rule of Law. Ultimately this is because the Rule of Law matters so much: not just giving businesses confidence to trade and expand, but defining the relationship between state and citizens too.

Some ask, and will continue to ask, if the UK has sold its soul for money, as the Dalai Lama suggested. It’s easy to criticise the UK for being so open to business with an authoritarian country: I could write the script myself. But at a time when so many non-Western states are crumbling and the Western world is itself facing huge political challenges, it would be bizarre not to engage with China –  a vast nation which has held together against the odds, taken a billion people out of poverty and is now a major global power, impacting all our lives directly and indirectly.

So I believe engagement is the right policy. We’re right to do so wholeheartedly, provided we don’t take our eye off obvious risks, like cybersecurity: and continue to raise, in line with our values, human and animal rights issues. In any event I believe these are in China’s own long term interests too. Ultimately I believe we both have lots to learn from each other, without expecting to agree all the time – and that needs engagement. That’s been my approach for 35 years and today, in uncertain times, dialogue and partnership is far more in our interests than it was back in 1980.

PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP Richard Graham to demand action on CrossCountry Trains at Prime Minister’s Questions Today

2011-06-transport-minister-mike-penning-at-gloucester-stationRichard Graham will today be asking the Leader of the House at Prime Minister’s Questions today to ask CrossCountry to make a solid commitment to extra services to Gloucester.

The MP has been campaigning for a number of years for an increase in stops at Gloucester on services between Birmingham and Bristol. CrossCountry runs 63 intercity trains a day between Birmingham & Bristol of which only 3 stop at the city of Gloucester.

Formal talks with the Department for Transport on a new franchise for Cross Country concluded in September 2016. Richard Graham met with Rail Minister Paul Maynard in November to discuss possible extra services.

A letter from the Minister confirmed that CrossCountry had indicated that two additional calls each day could be possible from December 2017 but they subsequently told the department this would not be possible due to lack of capacity and that these might be delivered from December 2018.

CrossCountry released a public consultation on 31 October on December 2017 timetable changes in which they state “we were seeking to add some additional station calls at Gloucester in our Manchester to Bristol services from December 2017. It will not be possible to achieve this as there is not enough track capacity to accommodate these services at this time. It is possible this may be achieved in December 2018, and we will work with Network Rail to review the situation. We will consult affected stakeholders on this proposal nearer the time.”

Richard said, “The current situation is totally unacceptable. While we continue to improve station infrastructure & gear up for more and better London route services, Cross Country treats the City of Gloucester as a sort of rail leper – doing anything to avoid more than 3 out of 63 Inter City services a day stopping at the City of Gloucester. Whatever the technical issues of eg electrification at Bristol train operators simply should not be allowed to avoid cities in the way Cross Country has done on this service. It’s time for Ministers to demand change.”

Richard will press the Leader of the House on this today. He has also written to the Managing Director of CrossCountry and is speaking to Network Rail.

PRESS RELEASE: MPs and Councillors secure urgent resurfacing works on M5


After complaints of excessive noise pollution from local residents close to Junctions 11A and 12 of the M5, Gloucestershire’s national and local representatives have worked together to secure agreement from the government to resurface part of the M5.

The MPs for Gloucester, Stroud and Tewkesbury have worked with Councillors Keith Pearson and Andrew Gravells and Road Minister John Hayes MP on bringing forward the work a full year earlier than expected, starting in March 2017.

Cllr Andrew Gravells for Abbey, said: “It was good to have the support of Richard Graham, and I’m so pleased that after all our hard work and campaigning for this, the project to produce a quieter M5 will now begin as soon as next March. This is great news all round.”

Cllr Keith Pearson for Upton St Leonards, said: “Having been involved for over 14 years with this issue of noise in Upton St Leonards, I am extremely pleased that this work has been seen as important enough to bring forward earlier than originally planned. I thank the Roads Minister John Hayes and all the other MPs who have helped to get the issue resolved, the residents will be delighted I am sure.”

Richard Graham, MP for Gloucester, said: “I was very happy to arrange this meeting with the Roads Minister and am grateful for his help for residents in all three of our constituencies.”fullsizerender


PRESS RELEASE: Gloucester MP urges NHS England to protect two key pharmacies

Richard Graham MP has written to NHS England to urge them to include Matson Pharmacy and Rowlands Pharmacy (Alvin Street) in a review that protects pharmacies in poorer areas.

The City MP reviewed both the new policy and specific proposals recently with Local Pharmaceutical Committee Chair Andrew Lane and Manager Andrew Kings from Lloyds Pharmacy in Abbeydale.

“We had a good discussion and in general I think the government’s proposals make economic sense – both saving money and upgrading pharmacies, while protecting several pharmacies in Gloucester either in poorer areas or far from others. But I would also like to see the pharmacies in Matson and Alvin Street protected through the Pharmacy Access Scheme,” said Richard, “and have advised both pharmacies to apply to NHS England. Meanwhile I’ve written to the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England to highlight my concern about these two pharmacies.”


Following recent growth, 40% of pharmacies are now in clusters of three or more meaning that two-fifths of British pharmacies are within 10 minutes’ walk of 2 or more other pharmacies. The community pharmacy budget has also gone up by 40% over the last decade. Pharmacies currently receive between £23,278 and £25,100 per annum depending on the number of prescriptions just for being pharmacies.

There are 4 pharmacies already given ‘green’ or protected status in Gloucester, which get a guaranteed fixed NHS payment of about £2,900 a month in 2016/17 and about £1,500 a month in 2017/18. These are: Badham Pharmacy Kingsway, Lloyds Pharmacy Tuffley, Tuffley Pharmacy and Lloyds Pharmacy (Sainsbury’s) Barnett Way.

For more information on the pharmacy changes see:

PRESS RELEASE: Indonesian visit highlights county opportunities

Amb Rizal and Richard with local businesses

Amb Rizal and Richard with local businesses

Indonesian Ambassador Dr Rizal Sukma said after visiting Gloucester with MP Richard Graham that he saw real opportunities for more partnerships between Gloucestershire and the largest nation of South East Asia.

“I was impressed by the international focus of Queen’s Award winners like Fluid Transfer and Prima Dental,” said Ambassador Rizal, a former Chevening scholar at the London School of Economics, “and our investment agency (BKPM) is here to help identify the right partners for Gloucestershire investors. The success of the Fluid Transfer – PT Aweco partnership is a model of what can be done.”

University of Gloucestershire Vice Chancellor Stephen Marston, who hosted the Ambassador at the Growth Hub, confirmed the university had increased its footprint in SE Asia and was in talks with six universities in Indonesia.

“There is real potential for Gloucestershire to expand our co-operation with Indonesian universities in a number of ways, including joint point programmes at first degree and Masters level,” said Stephen Marston.

Richard, Stephen Marston, Amb Rizal and the Uni of Glos team

Richard, Stephen Marston, Amb Rizal and the Uni of Glos team

James Hygate, CEO of Green Fuels, said “this event was relevant because we plan to expand our existing market presence in Indonesia throughout SE Asia over the coming years, in line with a growing need for waste derived, sustainable biofuels. Indonesia is the first country to mandate renewable aviation fuel and this is an area where Green Fuels Research sees real potential.”

John Little, Managing Director of Fluid Transfer, said “it is very encouraging to see such a high delegation from the Indonesian Embassy come to meet with businesses in Gloucestershire. For this we have Richard to thank for organising such an opportunity. Fluid Transfer International has successfully completed several major refuelling equipment projects for existing airports that continue to grow and expand, in addition to equipping new airport developments to meet the ever increasing demand in air travel. This has been accomplished through our close ties with a local partner in Surabaya.’

Richard Graham MP also arranged meetings for the Ambassador with BAE and Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP): “we have great innovators in cyber and marine energy in our city and both are very relevant to Indonesia”, explained the City MP.

Wearing his hat as the PM’s Trade Envoy Richard works to help Gloucester businesses increase their exports and develop long term relationships with businesses in Indonesia and other SE Asian nations. “We’re making progress”, Richard concluded, “and visits like this should make a real difference.”

Richard and Amb Rizal at the Growth Hub

Richard and Amb Rizal at the Growth Hub

Richard’s View on the High Court Ruling

I’ve made it absolutely clear on national and local media and in the House of Commons that the people have spoken: we promised before the Referendum that their will would be implemented, and it will be. If the Supreme Court decides we need a parliamentary vote to trigger Article 50, then of course I will vote for that.

The issue is now about the terms of our withdrawal. It won’t be easy and we have a duty to make the best possible arrangements. I wrote before the Referendum that a decision to leave involved significant short term risk for possible longer term gains. That remains true: and we now have to mitigate the risks and take advantage of the opportunities as best we can. You can depend on me to play my part in delivering that.

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