Across the Hexham Constituency, local people just like you are working together on my campaign team. Our team of volunteers are at the heart of the campaign to secure a better future for Northumberland – and we want you to be part of it. This coming Saturday we are going to Berwick upon Tweed to help Anne Marie Trevelyan - come along and help! We are almost all going by train - full details on the Team Oppy facebook site but basics are:
9.54am - Meet at Newcastle Central Station.

So get involved today, make great friends along the way, and experience the excitement of being on the front line in the most important election for a generation. Together we can win that election – and help secure a better future for Northumberland, and a better future for Britain. If you can help me, you can sign up to help HERE in just 30 seconds

1 March 2015

 

 

Paul Flynn

MP Newport West / AS Gorllewin Casnewydd

House of Commons / Ty’r Cyffredin

SW1A 0AA

 

To whom it may concern

 

Following Lord Paul Bew’s call for General Election candidates to declare their intentions on second incomes, I make the following announcement.

 

"If I am re-elected to parliament, I will not accept any payments, other than my parliamentary salary, for my personal use . I will continue with the practice I have  advocated in the past in promulgating that a fulltime wage deserves fulltime work and all additional income received by an MP beyond the salary should be given to charity. As I have made clear on numerous occasions all book royalties, serial rights and other income receive by me from books, articles, lectures and elsewhere has been paid to charity"

 

Paul Flynn

Mark Reckless joins guests on today’s BBC Sunday Politics South East to discuss the latest immigration figures impacting on our local services, the UKIP surge in South Thanet and Kent, and the work which he and UKIP is doing to support our NHS here in Medway and nationally.

George Eaton in the New Statesman has done us a service by revisiting the informative audit of the 2010 election by the Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft, entitled ‘Minority Verdict’, which throws new relevant light on the likely outcome of the present election campaign.   In 2010, despite Labour polling the second lowest total of electors...
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The post The Tories won’t win because they’re barking up the wrong tree appeared first on Michael Meacher MP.

The Eurozone’s disciplines have been nicknamed the politics of austerity for good reason. Each state is meant to keep its budget deficit down to 3% of GDP – way below the large cyclical deficits the UK, US and other single currency areas allowed themselves in the great recession. Each state is meant to keep its total amount of borrowing to below 60%, though most of them have given up on that idea. No individual state can print more money, make its economy more liquid or devalue to provide a private sector stimulus. As a result when a Eurozone state cuts public spending it is likely to lead to a fall in GDP which the private sector struggles to offset or does not offset at all.

We have seen that cutting the growth rate of public spending substantially in the UK after 2010, and in the US cutting national defence spending and State level spending, did not lead to a fall in GDP. The private sector responded well to extra money being put into the system, to the gradual rebuilding of the banks and the spread of some more private credit, and to the available spare resources caused by the great recession. Both countries experienced a recovery despite or because of the action taken to control public sector budgets. Both benefitted from the continued low interest rates, made possible in part by growing control of state borrowing. In the UK real public spending did edge up a little as well. I was criticised recently for quoting deficit reduction as a percentage of GDP rather than in cash terms. As I have often pointed out, the fall was bigger as a percentage of GDP, smaller in cash terms. I used this version on Thursday because I was dealing with those who said budget cuts would lead to another recession, and they always use the figures which show the biggest “cuts”

In contrast, the much harsher budget cuts in Greece have added to the collapse in GDP in that country. Greece today has a national income and output 22% below its peak in 2007. It is amazing that the policies which have created this disaster have been allowed to continue for so long. Even now the Greeks have voted in a government which rightly points out how damaging the policies have been, there cannot be much change as that same government bizarrely wishes to stay in the Euro, the origin of much of their trouble.

The enormous Greek recession has gravely reduced tax revenues. As a result there have to be most severe cuts in public spending to try to get the deficit down to the tough target levels – in Greece’s case even tougher owing to the debt covenants. The private sector so far has been unable to pick up the very considerable slack. owing to weak banks. Greece has no power to create more money, no power to lower its own interest rates further, no power to devalue to price itself back into more world markets. As a result they have experienced the misery of sliding from public sector cuts to less private sector demand, and from less tax revenue to more public sector cuts.

If you wish to see a true austerity policy then look at Greece. They have had major cuts in public spending, major cash reductions in wages and salaries, major job losses, and mass unemployment. Many businesses have closed. Any sensible person is against the kind of austerity policy inflicted on the Greek people. Unfortunately it just seems to go with being in the Euro.

Graham Jones MP As-it-happens update ⋅ March 1, 2015 NEWS This is Money Brits are blowing £1.7BILLION a year on betting machines This is Money

The Conservative candidate has made it clear that he is in favour of 12,000 extra houses in our area. 

Let’s face it, we are talking about our grandparents and parents, to whom we owe so much.

 

THE cynical have argued that the Prime Minister’s promise to protect pensioners’ benefits is nothing more than an electoral ruse.

I’m not sure that’s the correct interpretation.

As David Cameron said this week: “If you've worked hard during your life, saved, paid your taxes, done the right thing, you deserve dignity when you retire.”

I can see the argument for means testing pensioners and removing benefits like the winter fuel allowance, TV licences and bus passes from the wealthiest five per cent to spend elsewhere, but consider this.

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I have visited the Leonard Cheshire Home in Ampthill many times during my tenure as the MP for Mid Beds and it feels like only five minutes ago we were fundraising for the renovations. None of us know how we would cope if we were faced with such adve...

I am very pleased and indeed proud to be here to support Melanie Magee.

I have known Melanie for many years.

I know Melanie to be an excellent Town and District Councillor.

As it happens, Melanie represents two different Wards on the Town and District Councils but is exemplary in her commitment to all of her electors.

Melanie communicates regularly:

• via social media
• via face to face meetings and “drop-ins”
• public meetings and
• “In touch” newsletters
• Ward “walk rounds” to ensure maximum access to her for her electors and
• via all new social media

I know that Melanie will bring all of that commitment and campaigning skills to Oxford East.

Moreover I am confident that Melanie would be able to work effectively with all the communities of Oxford East – a constituency of which Melanie already has a very good knowledge – both as a consequence of her work and through campaigning work that she has already previously done in the constituency.

Melanie was a student at Oxford Brookes University.

She has worked within the Oxfordshire NHS Trusts and also worked locally within the private sector.

So I think Melanie fully reflects the life of Oxford City.

Since 2008, Melanie has worked in the City centre in Oxford – working closely with the local community.

As Melanie’s Member of Parliament, I have seen the many projects that Melanie has initiated – so whilst Melanie was working for Oxford City Council, Melanie initiated and led a project on youth employment which resulted in substantial local media coverage and as importantly, substantial collaboration with local employers.

I know that Melanie is acutely aware of the different groups that make up the local area – with there being some areas of comparative affluence and other areas of comparative depravation

• and I have absolutely no doubt that one of Melanie’s key areas of interest is – and will be – wanting to see the creation of employment opportunities in Oxford.

I think Melanie has already been involved with:

• establishing a local Job Club in Oxford City Centre
• initiating events on youth employment – and particularly promoting apprenticeships and seeking to attract wider participation into apprenticeships from local people and importantly local employers
• in particular initiating apprenticeship initiatives with local business who have not previously been involved with apprenticeships.

Indeed Melanie is unique as being a Councillor who has on her own local Council – Cherwell – the role of lead member for apprenticeships in youth employment and I think Melanie is the first person in the UK with this specialist remit.

Melanie was an outstanding Mayor and I know that Melanie is passionate about improving local communities and I have every confidence that Melanie will be a very active and visible Parliamentary Candidate with a real impact.

Melanie would be an extremely active Member of Parliament also with considerable impact.

Melanie is a Candidate who I know will want to talk and meet with as many people in Oxford East as possible to show that she and the Conservative Party offer the real alternative here in Oxford East.

Nowadays, there is no such thing as a “safe” seat.

At 7 am on Polling Day 1983, found me “telling” at a Polling Station on the Blackbird Leys estate for Stephen Dorrell, my fellow Conservative Parliamentary Candidate.

That evening Steven Norris was elected the Conservative Member of Parliament for Oxford East.

Contrary to pollsters’ expectations, Stevie had seen off both the Labour and SDP Parliamentary Candidates.

A Conservative victory in Oxford East is perfectly possible.

There is much good news that we can give to electors.

• the number of people in work are a record high

• official figures show that there are 1.85 million more people in employment now than when the Conservatives came to power in May 2010.

Under David Cameron and George Osborne, the economy has bounced back to such an extent that last year an average of 1,600 people found work every single day.

• the Office for National Statistics has revealed that wage growth is out-pacing inflation at the fastest rate in almost five years, leaving people with more money in their pockets

• inflation has fallen to its lowest rate since the 1960s – just 0.3%

• shares on the London Stock Exchange have risen to their highest level since the turn of the century providing a boost to investors and for those saving for a pension

• sterling recently hit a seven year high against the Euro and

• industrial output is now 1.7% higher than this time last year.

Let’s be clear – we inherited a situation where far too many people were unemployed, where enough jobs weren’t being created in the country.

I think it is fair to say that since David Cameron became Prime Minister, we haven’t necessarily tackled all of the unemployment but we have got 1.85 million more people in work today than when the Conservatives came into office in 2010.

Indeed Britain in the last four years has created more jobs than the rest of Europe put together.

The Conservative Government’s long term economic plan is working and we are determined to secure the best possible future for hard-working people.

Recent figures showed that three quarters of people in Britain aged between 16 and 64 are now in work since the employment rate reached over 73% which is the joint highest level since records began in 1971 – and unemployment is forecast to fall to 5.4% by the end of the year.

So the straightforward facts are that unemployment has been falling time and time again – it is now at its lowest level for more than six years.

And whilst the job figures are on the up, inflation and interest rates are on the way down.

At long last, wages are outstripping the cost of living.
A sense of confidence is returning as consumer spending rises.

As a result, people are able to pay more tax to fund the public services we depend on.

The Labour Party have got this wrong time and time again.

At the start of this Parliament, I can remember Miliband and Balls issuing dire nightmare predictions that there would be rocketing unemployment.

They got that wrong.

They drew a gloomy picture of an economy by this stage of the economic cycle at best becalmed in freefall at worst.

Well they certainly got that wrong as well.

Even Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices looks somewhat threadbare with the continuing fall in worldwide oil costs but perhaps most significantly is the complete failure of Ed Miliband to pay tribute to businesses and salute the large numbers of small firms up and down the country that are the backbone of our economy.

The last speech that Miliband made about businesses to a Labour Party conference was to talk about “predator” capitalism, not the benefits business brings.

Bizarrely Miliband seems to have an avowed admiration for French President, Francois Hollande’s economic policies.

I have got to tell Ed Miliband that UK businesses don’t want Britain turning into France with a French style equivalent of a straight-jacket for businesses.

Where everyone looks, there is good news with the UK recording the fastest growth for seven years and with Britain being in “pole position” to be the best performing economy in the developing world after clocking up our strongest year since the financial crisis struck.

What is Miliband’s and Balls’s response to this, well it’s to “bill somebody” but generally Labour are only happy when they are promising higher taxes, higher spending and higher borrowing.

Oxford is a great medical centre – indeed Oxford University Medical School is one of the leading medical schools in the world.

Labour have said that they want the NHS to be their focus in the General Election.

Indeed Miliband went further in his approach to the NHS in that he wants to “weaponise” the NHS

- although if Miliband felt that the NHS here was in some way doing badly, why is the NHS IN Wales, which is run by Labour precisely on the lines that Miliband advocates, performing significantly worse than the NHS in England.

Maybe we ought to look and see what has actually been happening across the Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust over these last five years – and it is a picture of widespread and across the board improvement.

Since 2010, the Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust now has 264 more doctors.

415 more nurses – of which 35 are extra midwives.

In 2010, the Trust carried out a total of 104,963 operations.

Last year – in 2014 – the Trust carried out 134,998 operations.
A difference of 30,035 operations, ie an increase in operations and activity in the operating theatres in Oxford in the Trust over the last four years of 8.6%.

In 2010 the Trust treated 2,909 people for cancer – last year they treated 3,688 people for cancer – an improvement of 779.

In 2010, the Trust carried out 145,936 diagnostic tests, including tests for cancer.

Last year they carried out 230,258 diagnostic tests including tests for cancer.

An increase of 84,322.

Whether it be MRI scans, CT scans or endoscopy tests, the Trust is carrying out substantially more now than they were in 2010.

And at the same time as employing more doctors, more nurses and more midwives, the Trust has succeeded in getting its books into balance and has an overall CQC rating of good.

Across Oxfordshire, more patients are receiving more treatment than ever before.

That is the reality of the continuing achievement of the NHS under this Government.

Of course, there is much more to do – there is still further work to reduce unemployment to get people off welfare, to improve social care for the elderly, to tackle remaining areas of depravation

And that Conservatives are determined to do.

We are determined that our long term economic plan will continue to deliver benefits for everyone and that no-one will be left behind.

Of course, we have to work to win but I am convinced that in Melanie Magee, you have a candidate that if we work for and work with, Melanie can win here in Oxford East – and David Cameron and the Conservatives can win in the UK and for the people of Britain.

Everyone knows that many people are fed up with politics and politicians – and think there’s no point in voting.  That’s even more the case for women than for men.  At the last election – in 2010 – more than one million London women didn’t vote at all.

That is a judgement on our politics.  We must ensure women feel that they have a democracy which they can have confidence in, with politicians who understand their lives and speak up for them.

Women in today’s Britain see themselves as equal to men – not second class citizens.  But even now, in the 21st century, women still lead lives which are very different to men.  More likely to be low paid, less likely to be in the boardroom.  More likely to be taking responsibility for children and older relatives – less likely to be getting promotion at work.

Our politics needs to recognise that, and our policies need to help women to make progress in their lives.  And that’s what Labour women believe in.  We’re in politics to ensure that women’s voices are heard and that decisions are made by women and men working together – not just men on their own.

A balanced team at the top of government will ensure that women have a say and that there’s an understanding of women’s lives.

In the run up to the General Election on May 7th we are going out and about all over the country in our Labour Women’s Campaign Bus.  And there’ll be lots of discussion online too.  We’ve got record numbers of great women Labour candidates and if we win the constituencies we are targeting we’ll have 150 Labour women MPs in Parliament speaking up for women in the country.

There’s been lots of controversy and news coverage about the colour of the bus.  But this is what you might not have seen in the news – 60% of those hit by the ‘Bedroom Tax’ are women; every week two women are killed by a husband or partner; women are still paid less than men; childcare is too expensive.  This is what Labour’s Woman to Woman campaign is about.

We’re saying to the millions of women who didn’t vote – politics is too important to be left to men alone!  Use your vote, have your say!  Politics matters to women as well as men.  And this election will be a watershed for women.

We’re highlighting Labour’s promise of 25 hours free childcare, our determination to tackle domestic violence, the need for more women MPs and councillors, the recognition that there’s a new generation of older women who are working as well as looking after grandchildren and older relatives, our plans for tougher action against unequal pay.

And we’ll be discussing with women what they want the next Government to do – and not to do.  So we’ll be meeting up with women in their workplaces, in shopping centres, in colleges and at school gates.  We’ve already brought the Campaign Bus to meet up with shoppers in Walworth Road and East Street Market.

It’s going to be a vibrant and important discussion and politics will be regenerated when women’s voices all around the country are heard loud and clear.

East Herts District Council are offering Community Activity Grants of up to £500. This money is intended to help with new or replacement equipment, day to day running costs or one of costs for community events which benefit the people of East Hertfordshire. Parish Councils, community/voluntary groups, clubs and parish councils are all invited to apply. The deadline for applications is this Monday 2 March. For more details about how to apply please click here.

I appreciate the deadline for applications for these grants is quite soon but I strongly encourage constituents to apply for them if they can so that they can enjoy some benefit from any grants within the community.


We must invest in the talents of the next generation if we are to build a stronger and fairer economy that delivers rising living standards for all. That’s why this month Labour has been focused on education and young people:
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It contains an entry for JHC, which stands for John Hemming & Co., a company I founded in 1983. It currently employs about 260 staff and has a turnover of £20 million. I have declared in the register an income of around £180,000 from that company. I attend a meeting once a

Tracey joined the Animal Defenders International, campaigners and cross-party colleagues in delivering the 20,000-strong petition to Downing Street, which calls on the Prime Minister to take action on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Tracey joined the Animal Defenders International, campaigners and cross-party colleagues in delivering the 20,000-strong petition to Downing Street, which calls on the Prime Minister to take action on the use of wild animals in circuses.

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The BP petrol station on Laird Street is set to ditch its rip-off cash machine, and replace it with a new free-to-use machine, following Frank's campaign
This week we have had an important and very welcome announcement about so-called ‘pensioner benefits’. David Cameron confirmed that as long as he is Prime Minister, the free bus pass, TV licence and winter fuel payment will all be protected. …
Should the public be told whether or not the Home Office have refused visas to individuals linked to serious crime?

I have tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, for consideration today, making the case for greater transparency. You can read my blog-post outlining the case for the change on The Spectator's Coffee House blog here.

Both Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw deny being involved in a ‘cash for access’ scandal.

Straw has accepted suspension from the Labour party, both men have referred themselves to the parliamentary standards committee. They deny wrongdoing. Whether they have breached any rules will be assessed over the next few weeks.

The incident reminded me of a security briefing when a Defence Minister. “If a beautiful Russian or Chinese woman seeks your company in a bar Minister, it is unlikely to be because of your devilish good looks”. I’ve never forgotten it.

For the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to discuss working for a bogus Chinese company is very odd indeed. To be frank, I can’t believe ISC members are allowed outside interests. They see more sensitive information than most government ministers.

If anything positive can come from these revelations it should be that ISC members are prohibited from having outside interests. Members of the committee should be subject to the same disclosure rules as government ministers. I hope the PM will put this right before Parliament rises for the election.

The issue of Britain's relationship with the EU was what first drove me into politics. I stood as a UKIP candidate in 1999 and was then Campaign Director of the successful anti-Euro “No Campaign”. 

The EU has accumulated too many powers which undermines the ability of national governments to take the decisive action needed to sort out problems. That's why we need a radical shake up of our relationship with Europe. Three years ago I founded the Fresh Start Project which explored the options for a new UK-EU relationship. I also contributed ideas to David Cameron’s landmark speech where he called for a return of powers to nation states and committed to an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the next election.  We will only get that referendum if we have a Conservative government.  

This government has taken steps to control immigration after a decade where Labour had an open door policy. We have closed hundreds of sham colleges which were being used as a route into the UK, tightened the criteria for marriage visas and, if re-elected, we will do more to curtail the payment of benefits to EU migrants.  People should come here to work, not to claim benefits.  

Redditch MP Karen Lumley is set to meet with the Secretary of State for Health as well as senior officials to discuss the ongoing situation at the Alexandra Hospital. 

The meeting will be attended by the three MPs in the area, the three council leaders and the Save The Alex campaign, following the news that four consultants from the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch and another working at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital resigned on Friday.

Karen also met last night in Redditch with local council leaders and Save The Alex.

Karen said: "Sometimes you lose one member of staff but to lose every single A&E consultant is just not right. We were promised an A&E here at the Alex and we want to keep an A&E here at the Alex. I want to make sure we get the best we can for the people of Redditch.

The first step in doing this is to see the Secretary of State, put our concerns to him and senior health officials, so that they can tell us what they can to do to help us make sure we keep our hospital and we keep our A&E. We need him to be aware of everything that is going on in Redditch.

I have arranged a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health hopefully next week for all three council leaders, the Save the Alex campaign and the three local Members of Parliament.

I know some of the consultants involved, they have worked there for many years, they're excellent people and something serious has gone wrong at the Trust. We need clear answers from the Trust and we need to know exactly what is going to happen so that the people of Redditch get the hospital they deserve."

Since September 2014, two projects in Wycombe have been recipients of Big Lottery Fund grants through the ‘Awards for All’ programme. Hazlemere Church of England Combined School and Thames Valley Partnership both received grants of £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. Hazlemere Church of England Combined School will use the funding to install a shelter, gazebo and activity tower in its grounds, enabling the group to enhance its outdoor play provision for pupils, local residents and community groups. Thames Valley […]

I was seriously impressed with your questions!

Last week, I was quizzed by some brilliant budding journalists at Fairlight Primary School.
 
The pupils are launching a school newspaper and want to make a splash with their first edition.
 
They questioned me on everything from fracking and international development to the merits of school uniform, what we can do to save endangered species like the white rhino, and the challenge of ensuring English language classes ar

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

By the Rt Hon David Jones MP

Back in 2007, I chaired a packed meeting in Colwyn Bay town hall.  I had called it to discuss controversial plans by the Welsh Assembly Government to divert all elective neurosurgery operations from Liverpool’s Walton Centre to hospitals in Cardiff or Swansea.

The proposal had gone down very badly indeed. About 600 patients in North Wales relied on Walton, an internationally renowned centre of excellence. It was convenient and held in high regard. A bumpy five-hour journey down the A470 in the back of an ambulance was too dreadful to contemplate.

The degree of anger voiced in Colwyn Bay clearly made itself heard.  The Welsh health minister, Edwina Hart, did a relatively sharp U-turn.  Eight years later, that anger is now being echoed in the reaction to plans by the Betsi Cadwaladr health board to suspend consultant-led maternity care in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.  Midwife-led care will continue to be available, but in any case of complication, expectant mothers will be sent to Bangor or Wrexham.

Unsurprisingly, people are very concerned. The Daily Post’s Clare Hickie summed up that concern when she wrote that pregnancy “is a time when the lives of both mother and baby can be at risk, which is why it is crucial specialist medical care is close at hand.”

The root of the problem at Glan Clwyd, it appears, is the difficulty experienced by the health board in recruiting and retaining senior medical staff. The problem, however, is not a new one.  Several years ago, I was told by senior officials of the board that clinicians were increasingly reluctant to take up posts in North Wales.  The difficulty was not salary, which is set on a national scale, but rather that Wales was not seen as a place in which to progress a medical career.

I am deeply concerned about the Glan Clwyd proposals and will lend my voice to the campaign for them to be reversed.  But the fact is that the announcement is only the latest of a series of worrying developments that must cause people to wonder whether the Welsh Government is, to be frank, capable of running an acceptable health service for the people of Wales.

Week after week in my constituency office, I meet local people who are desperately worried about the care they receive from the Welsh NHS.  People who wait for operations for much longer than they would if they lived just a few miles down the road in England. People who can’t access cancer drugs because, shamefully, there is no cancer drugs fund in Wales.  People like the agony-stricken constituent from Abergele who can’t get access to a leading pain management centre, because it’s in England and the Welsh bureaucracy refuses to let her go there.

The professional staff of Wales’s hospitals can’t be blamed for this state of affairs.  They are equally as qualified, dedicated and caring as their counterparts anywhere.

No, the fault is the political mismanagement of the health service in Wales, over many years, by the Welsh Government.  Despite repeated assurances that they are working hard to improve things, things never do improve.  They just get worse.

It is in the nature of politics that an event happens that causes people to say: “Enough is enough.”  I have a suspicion that, in terms of North Wales health care, the Glan Clwyd announcement may prove to be that event.

Maybe, too, it will be the catalyst that causes the Welsh Government finally to admit the severity of their problems with healthcare in Wales and to turn to the Department of Health in Westminster for help in turning things round.

Please let them do that, as soon as possible.  Enough is enough.

Last week was ‘Time to Talk’ week run by Mind and Rethink as part of their campaign to end mental health stigma.

The Time to Talk campaign encouraged everyone to take 5 minutes to have a conversation about mental health.

Ordinary people are the drivers for change – and telling people how you feel, or listening to someone, can make a huge difference.

Mental health is too important to fall off the agenda. One in four will have a mental health condition at some point in our lives – so all of us will know someone affected.

The most recent statistics for Haringey show over 8,000 people have been diagnosed with depression. The real figure is likely to be much higher.

Lib Dems will stamp out the mental health stigmaFor decades mental health was pushed aside in favour of physical health. Successive governments let the stigma continue, and none of them tried to break down the barriers to treatment.

When the Lib Dems entered Government, we were determined to change this. We’re providing £400 million more for talking therapies, £54 million for children’s mental health, and £1.2 million in staff training.

Perhaps most importantly we’re introducing ‘parity of esteem’ for mental health. This means that mental health must now be given the same priority – fixed waiting times etc – as physical health.

The stigma around mental health must end, and that’s why the Lib Dems in Government will always make sure that mental health is given the attention it deserves.

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP's response to People's NHS campaign about TTIP & NHS

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On Thursday 15th January, Dominic Grieve accompanied the HS2 Select Committee on its visit to Denham.

 

On Thursday 15th January, Dominic Grieve accompanied the HS2 Select Committee on its visit to Denham.

Following his visit, Mr Grieve spoke during the HS2 Funding (Referendum) Bill on Friday, 23rd January. You can find full details of Mr Grieve's participation in the debate on his speeches page.

Hello all, Don’t worry, I haven’t stop posting, I have a new website! Please head to www.johnleech.org.uk for all the latest and where I will continue to post my blog. […]
Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the occasion of the Bill’s return from the House of Lords in much improved form, if I may say so. In general, I welcome the Bill although I am concerned about some elements. Perhaps it is a Welsh trait that we can never completely agree on things, and I want to touch on one issue where I am not in agreement.

What I welcome in particular is the new reality of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition shaping the process and future of devolution and driving forward, leaving—if I may say so to the shadow Secretary of State—Labour languishing in its wake. He may describe that as a U-turn, but that is the reality today. I want to make just one important point, which is very much a personal view. I disagree with one specific aspect of the Bill, but I would like to emphasise my overall support: it is a very good and welcome Bill.

I would like to put my point in context by painting some background to my personal journey in the devolution debate. I was not in favour of the form of devolution on offer in the referendum on 18 September 1997. It seemed to me to be creating a permanently unstable constitutional settlement. A settlement is the last thing it was. I attended the count in Llandrindod Wells leisure centre, watching the TV coverage as the decision of the voters of Wales came through and they decided in favour of establishing a national assembly for Wales. I drove home knowing that there was no going back. The people had spoken, albeit by a tiny margin of 0.6%. We were now facing an entirely new question: how would devolution work in practice? I concluded immediately that the new Welsh Assembly would eventually become a law-making, tax-raising Parliament based in Wales. That has influenced my thinking on the issue ever since. I did not want to be dragged, kicking and screaming, and trying to refight the 1997 devolution referendum. I preferred to get ahead of the curve and identify where we were going to get to, and move towards that in a positive and smooth way. That was not a change of mind, but a recognition of a new reality.

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North)

My hon. Friend, through his service in the Assembly, has been one of the individuals who has encapsulated the position adopted by the Conservative party. Although the party battled against establishing the Assembly in the first place, and although the margin was only 4,000 in a million, nobody could claim other than that my hon. Friend and the party in Wales have since not been dragged back to the previous debate, but have moved forward and sought to make a success of the devolution settlement.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

Nowhere has that been more obvious than in the contribution from those on the Front Bench when we started today’s debate.

The Government of Wales Act 2006, introduced by the Labour party, moved things forward quite a lot, as did the 2011 referendum in relation to tax-raising powers. The Wales Bill takes us further down the road to what I consider to be the inevitable conclusion, but not far enough for me on tax levying responsibility. I will be blunt about my view: it is a mistake that the Bill requires a referendum before devolving responsibility for levying part of income tax collection to the Welsh Government. That is properly an issue for a general election. The Welsh Government are not financially accountable to the people of Wales until they are responsible for levying a degree of income tax. It is also my personal view that financial accountability through responsibility for income tax is so fundamental to a proper, grown-up National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government that we should not devolve extra responsibility until this principle is accepted—no financial accountability, no new powers.

The First Minister, and perhaps Labour Members here on the Opposition Benches, do not want financial accountability. How convenient it is to bask in the credit of every spend that the people of Wales approve of and blame the UK Government for every difficult decision needed to bring order to the United Kingdom’s finances. We see the First Minister in Wales scrabbling around for any reason he can come up with to avoid committing to a referendum. First, it was lockstep, which is removed by the Bill. Then it was the Barnett deficit, until it became clear that it is a rather smaller Barnett deficit than we thought. I hear now that air passenger duty might be another reason, and if that is resolved, there will be another one. The reality is that Welsh Labour in Cardiff is desperate to avoid financial accountability. It does not want to be properly financially accountable to the Welsh people.

Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd)

I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument and thinking about what the Labour spokesman said. When the Silk proposals were being discussed, the First Minister of Wales was adamant he did not want air passenger duty devolved, but suddenly he has woken up and is desperately keen on it. It depends what day of the week we are in.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire)

I would be more encouraged if I thought the day of the week was the reason. I think it is a desperate attempt to find one more hurdle to prevent us from moving towards financial accountability.

During the passage of the Bill, I accepted it would include a commitment to a referendum on devolution of income tax levying powers. It was a recommendation of the all-party Silk commission, and in 1997 there was a referendum on this issue in Scotland. In my view, however, the Silk commission was wrong, and weak in its recommendation on this point. Devolving income tax powers is not as big a change as is being made out, and it is entirely appropriate that it be decided at a general election; it does not need a referendum. If a Welsh Labour Government acted irresponsibility, which they might well do, they would quickly be turfed out of office. It is much easier to sit in blissful impotence, complaining.

I would like to see manifesto commitments by my party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru to revisit this issue, perhaps in a Wales Bill early next Parliament

and before the Assembly elections in 2016, and to devolve income tax. We should put an end to Labour’s easy ride in Wales and make the Welsh Government properly fiscally accountable to the Welsh people. Only then will devolution grow up and reach its inevitable, logical conclusion.

 

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Throughout our time in government Liberal Democrats have been committed to supporting our elderly population. Lib Dem policies that have been delivered since 2010 provide stability for pensioners, as well as those coming up to retirement .They will be able to better plan their futures knowing that they will no longer be faced with the insecurity of unpredictable state pension rises.

Thanks to our flagship “triple lock” guarantee policy, the basic state pension has risen in each year of this parliament. The rise has been by the higher factor out of price inflation, wage inflation or 2.5%. This has meant that the state pension will be £440 higher per year in 2014-15 than if it had increased in line with earnings from the start of this Parliament, with the actual cash increase worth £800 a year more in total.

The triple lock was one of our key demands in Coalition negotiations. I am delighted that my fellow Greater Bristol MP and Lib Dem Pensions Minister Steve Webb has ensured that the Government is giving today’s pensioners a fair deal.

The Coalition has also given people greater choice about how to access their  workplace  pension savings that have been paid into defined contribution pension pots. From April 2015, individuals aged 55 or over will be able to withdraw these savings as they wish, subject to their marginal rate of income tax and their scheme rules. Instead of being forced to buy an annuity, they will be able to invest their savings in another financial product, property, or even in short term assets and spending, if that is the judgement they make about their savings. We have given pensioners more control over how they use their own money accumulated while in work.  This is a classic liberal measure, trusting people to make the right decisions.

Finally, a new Single-tier State Pension will combine the Basic State Pension and the State Second Pension. This pension will be set above the basic level of means-tested support (£145.40 per week for a single pensioner in 2013/14). The new Single-tier pension will also support the introduction of auto-enrolment into workplace pensions which we introduced in October 2012. Auto-enrolment helps people save for their retirement by matching contributions (4% employee contribution, matched by 3% from the employer and 1% from government).

The Single-tier pension is an important development, as when we entered government 11 million people were simply not saving enough for their private pensions. The existing system relied heavily on means-testing, which discouraged saving because people who saved could end up with just a few pounds a week more than someone who saved nothing. Our reforms will reduce means-testing and promote private pension saving.

Alongside these changes, we are taking measures to ensure that by April 2015 everyone approaching retirement receives free and impartial face-to-face guidance on their available choices. Pensions are not always straight forward and we want to ensure that people are making informed decisions about their future.

Looking forwards, Liberal Democrats announced earlier this year that pensioners would be guaranteed to earn at least an extra £790 per year by the end of the next parliament under our manifesto plans. These changes mean the state pension will be worth at least £131-a-week by 2020, up from just £97.65 four years ago. In total, pensioners who receive the full state pension would get at least £6,800 in 2020: the plans are expected to benefit 55, 872 pensioners in Bristol alone.

While in government the Liberal Democrats have boosted pensioner incomes – a stark contrast to the increases linked to prices that led Gordon Brown to award a 75 pence increase in Labour’s first term! We’ve also protected the winter fuel payments, free TV licences and the bus pass.  I am particularly proud of the free bus pass, I’ve seen what a big difference it makes to my own mother, enabling her to go out every day.  The bus pass is good for the environment and also for the mental and physical well being of older people.

I have always believed that how a society treats its elderly people is a measure of its decency. I and my Lib Dem colleagues in government, have undoubtedly held true to this principle and put policy into practice for the benefit of millions of elderly people.


Just by way of an update to Monday’s post… Another invite has arrived. WWF are the culprits again!

PRASEG & WWF-UK Event – The economics of climate change policy: what are the overall costs and benefits of the UK meeting its carbon budgets?
Wednesday 10 September 2014, 17:00 – 19:00, Committee Room 6, House of Commons

 Chair:
• Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Labour MP for Southampton Test and PRASEG Chair.

Panel:
• The Rt Hon Ed Davey MP, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
• Professor Paul Ekins, University College London
• Matthew Knight, Director of Strategy and Government Affairs, Siemens Energy
• Steven Heath, Director – Public Affairs and Strategy, Knauf Insulation
• Trevor Maynard, Head of Exposure Management & Reinsurance Team, Lloyds Bank

 

 

 


So, avid readers will notice that I've been a little absent in the blogging world over the past few months.  I've been busy, which isn't an excuse as we are all busy, I know, but writing a blog can't be top on the list of my priorities so posts on here have fallen by the wayside a little bit, sorry.

Summer recess, however, is a great opportunity to catch up, take stock, and get on top of things as best as possible, so here I am again with a new (Parliamentary) year resolution to get back to blogging.

I hope I still have at least one reader left!
In politics you get very used to promises and pledges; there's always a lot of talk and if something goes wrong, the emergency response is often to have yet another meeting or 'write a report '. It always reminds me of a certain scene in The Life of Brian ( fans will know which one I mean). Recently the national papers exposed not just my thighs in a picture of me in my old work outfit of a red swimming cozzy, but the fact I used to work on Cornish beaches as a surf life guard. In that line of work, talk cannot replace Action. So it is especially good to see actual physical action happening in re-opening the Lamplighters Pub. In a welcome break from paperwork, Cllr Wayne Harvey and I rolled up our sleeves and got busy in renovating the pub. Still a long way to go, but great to see Kathie and Dominic Gundry-White actually getting something done and bringing our pub back to life! 

First published by The Observer Parliament talks ceaselessly of “the next generation”. But, in Cumbria, where I’m an MP, voluntary activity and politics are generally driven by people over the age of 55. Every village seems to have a retired engineer attempting to build a community fibre-optic cable network and baffling the most confident civil servant […]

The post Our culture excludes the old when they have so much to contribute appeared first on Rory Stewart.

One of the welcome features of the new expenses system is that constituents can see all expenses claims online here, including everything from claims for rent on the constituency office, office phone bills or standard class rail tickets to Wesminster.

In addition, the subject of MPs' accommodation arrangements in London continues to be the focus of some attention, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to provide an update on my own arrangements.

When first elected in 1997 I rented a room for a short period but it quickly became apparent that in the longer-term it would be cheaper to have a mortgage and claim the interest.  Over the years I have stayed overnight and claimed mortgage interest on a bedsit or one-bedroom flat in Westminster. 

Under the rules of the scheme, I would be entitled to retain any profit made from increases in the value of such property prior to the 2010 General Election.  But I have made it clear that in my view the purpose of the scheme is simply to give MPs somewhere to live whilst in London and not to provide a profit.   I have therefore said for some years that when I no longer owned a property in Westminster I would return any profit to the taxpayer.  I am now making arrangements to do this.

In October this year I sold my London flat and am now renting (and ceased claiming for mortgage interest in July).    I estimate that I made a profit, net of capital gains tax and legal fees etc. of around £22,000 through increases in the value of the properties on which I have claimed.  I have therefore written to IPSA confirming that I wish to return this sum and asking for details of how I can return this amount to the taxpayer.
Shadow Fisheries Minister Tom Harris has welcomed a campaign by representatives of the smaller fishing industry to win a fairer share of UK fishing quotas.

Speaking on the day that Greenpeace and NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association) launched their Manifesto For Fair Fisheries, Tom called on the government to take the lead in supporting small fishing communities. He said the case had now been made for a “radical overhaul” of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK.

Smaller “inland” fishing vessels make up three quarters of the UK’s fishing fleet and employ nearly two thirds of all full-time workers. But they are restricted from catching more than four per cent of the UK fishing quota, with 96 per cent being allocated to the larger industrial fleet.
 
Tom added: “Labour wants reform that tackles vested interests and rewards those who fish more sustainably and selectively, with less impact on the environment. It is unacceptable that fleets representing the smaller, sustainable end of the industry, and which employ nearly two thirds of full-time workers, should have to survive on just four per cent of the UK fishing quota.
 
“The Government should be taking a lead in supporting our small fishing communities that are the lifeblood of many coastal areas.

“The case has now been made for a radical overhaul of the way fishing quotas are allocated within the UK. The Government needs to issue a definitive list of who exactly owns the rights to UK quota, and begin urgent talks on significantly increasing the percentage quota allocated to the Under Ten fleet.”
I recently organised a meeting with a number of local residents about the upkeep and maintenance of Kew Bridge Railway Station. I met with representatives from Strand on the Green Association, St George's, Kew Green, The Kew Bridge Society, Express Tavern, West Thames River Group, a disability interest group, Friends of Stile Hall Gardens, Brentford Community Council and Network Rail.
Prior to the meeting, I had already been in touch with Network Rail, to strongly urge them to deal with some of the key issues around the station. Network Rail confirmed at the meeting that, as a result of my request, they had immediate plans in place now to paint the station, address the rodent problem, board up unused windows and clear graffiti They had also requested additional litter bins from Hounslow Council. At the meeting, St George's highlighted the work they had been doing too to clear up graffiti in the local area.
I am very pleased that Network Rail responded so well and are giving Kew Bridge Station a 'facelift,' which will help local residents. It will make the station seem cleaner and safer and I welcome their efforts to improve it for passengers. As a group, we are also in discussion regarding the future of the station building at Kew Bridge. As it is a Listed Building, it is obviously of architectural importance. It would be excellent if it could be restored to its former glory and put to good use.
The group is going to meet again within the next month to review progress and discuss next steps.
Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, has welcomed the Localism Bill published by the Government on 13 December. The Bill will give individuals, groups, and their local councils a much greater say in decisions affecting their local communities.

 

Maria said: “This new legislation will make a real difference to how local matters are decided. The Community Rights measures, for example, will give new rights to local community and voluntary groups to protect, improve and even run important frontline services that might otherwise close down, such as local shops, pubs and libraries,.”

 

Maria added: “This Bill offers great opportunities for Basingstoke. Among other things, it will radically reform the planning system so that local people have a greater say and influence over what Basingstoke looks like in the future. Giving local people the opportunity to shape the development of the communities in which they live is something that I have long campaigned for, and I am delighted to see it being enshrined in law.

 

“The Borough Council’s current consultation on the number of new homes needed in Basingstoke is part of this process of taking local people’s views into consideration in developing a vision for the future. I would urge all residents to let the Council have their views on this before the end of the consultation on 14 January.”

 

Starting with a Bang

The long parliamentary recess has started - weeks without time being spent in the weekly grindingly boring train ride to London and back. Mind you its a hectic pace back at Southport but you can control your agenda better.

Yesterday I found a little time for light exercise the odd game of table tennis and a workout with heavy weights.
I've done the latter all my adult life and it has a slight addictive quality. If you don't do it for a while you actually feel muscle cramps only relieved by putting the old system under pressure.
Constraints of time often mean I forego all the warm ups and warm downs etc. So there I was on Tuesday doing a few front squats in excess of 300lb. I finished, replacing the barbell on the shoulder-high squat stand or so I thought. The stand was not aligned right .It tilted sideways as I released the weight and as the weight crashed to the floor the stand was pulled rapidly down by it pausing on its way to hit the stooping me on the head and catching me on the hand.
If you wanted to dramatise it , it might be compared to being hit on the head by a 20 stone man with an iron bar from a short distance. I thought I'd better take a break. We've had enough by- elections recently
When the family saw me with a lump as though a tennis ball had been buried in my scalp I was advised to pop into A&E. So clutching a plastic bag filled with ice cubes to my temple and bleeding from my finger I was run there and tested by some very nice jolly staff who established so far as we could tell that there was no skull or brain damage.At any rate I could still recall who the Prime Minister and reigning monarch was. I left a wiser man with a determination to avoid photo opportunities for a few days.
Desperate to prove they are doing something about the rising toll of deaths from guns and knives the government have resorted to the old idea of an "amnesty." This will enable a few aging war veterans who collected a "souvenir" and some farmers who forgot to renew their shotgun licenses to hand over guns that would never have been used for any kind of crime. Some of the younger "wannabe" gansters may also find that their weapons, usually replicas, are handed in by angry mothers.

This will be enough for the amnesty to achieve its real objective - photos of a smiling Minister in front of an impressive looking array of guns claiming that the government have "taken action".

But make no mistake the serious criminals will continue to roam the streets without any fear of being stopped and searched, (human rights) and knowing that even if by some chance they are found in poossession of a gun or knife the sentence will be minimal.

The toll of death will continue to rise.