Easington MP Grahame Morris votes for Equal Pay as Lib Dems and Tories fail to back measure

Equal PayEasington MP Grahame Morris voted in Parliament this week to introduce pay transparency across large companies. The measure, put forward by Labour will require companies which employ over 250 staff to publish their own gender pay gap in their annual report.

Labour MPs were joined in Parliament by Gwen Davis, Sheila Douglass, Vera Sime and Eileen Pullen – four of the original Dagenham women who went on strike for equal pay leading to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as well as the stars of the hit musical ‘Made in Dagenham’ including Gemma Arterton and Isla Blair.

Despite Labour voting through the motion this week, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs failed to vote in favour after the Government indicated that it did not intend to make pay transparency the law.

The campaign for pay transparency is being led by Labour in Parliament, and supported by Grazia magazine and employers including PricewaterhouseCoopers and Genesis Housing who are amongst just five companies known to voluntarily publish their pay gap.

Shockingly women still earn an average 81p for every pound earned by men, despite the Equal Pay Act being passed 44 years ago. To coincide with the vote Labour is releasing new analysis of official figures which show that – because of the gender pay gap, women earn an average £209,976 less over their lifetime than men.

Grahame Morris, Labour MP for Easington, said:

“Women and their families across East Durham will be wondering why the Tories and Lib Dems failed to back equal pay for millions of women across Britain. Women in East Durham shouldn’t have to wait another generation for equal pay. Pay transparency will shine a light on the problem and help employers to close the pay gap once and for all. This Government might not be prepared to act but a Labour Government will.”

Firefighters Pension Debate

Firefighter pensions

As a member of the FBU Parliamentary Group I wanted to make a contribution during Monday’s Firefighters Pension debate but was not called by the Speaker.

These are the comments I wanted to make as part of the debate

I am proud to stand here today in defence of our fire and rescue service, and to thank all firefighters for what they do for our communities.

As we know all too well, they are often the difference between life and death in emergency situations.

No one wants industrial action, but I have had no hesitation in joining firefighters in my constituency on picket lines as they fight for a fair pension settlement and to safeguard public and firefighter safety.

There had been signs of optimism, especially when the Fire Minster, (Hon. Mem. For Portsmouth North) wrote to all firefighters in August promising:

“My goal is clear to get the best deal possible for firefighters and resolve this dispute.”

However, since taking up her new role in July, the offer on the table is exactly the same as that of her predecessor, this will result in firefighters paying more, receiving less, and will risk public and firefighters safety.

We are here today Mr Speaker because This Government has continuously refused to deal fairly with our firefighters.

In devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, a fair deal has been negotiated between firefighters and the governments in those parts of the UK.

In Scotland and Wales it has been agreed that pensions will be reduced by 9% with the pension age being 55 years. Contrast that in England, where this government wants firefighter’s pensions reduced by 21.8% ­ nearly a quarter Mr Speaker, and increase the retirement age to 60yo.

Yet even the government’s own evidence on the physical demands of firefighting state this will not work.

Their own report highlights over 60% of firefighters aged 55-60 would be unlikely to meet the fitness standard used by most fire services and would therefore be unlikely to be able to achieve the new normal pension age of 60.

Not only are the government’s proposals ill-thought out and unworkable because of the unachievable levels of fitness firefighters are expected to maintain, but they directly discriminate against female firefighters.

The same report shows that all female firefighters will not meet the fitness standards and therefore be effectively drummed out of their job.

Only Elite Women Athletes will have the remotest chance of meeting these requirements.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recognised this, why not the bench opposite?

This is a recipe for a diminished service, and threat to public safety. If firefighters are unable to achieve the required fitness standards what will happen?

They cannot be re-deployed – only 16 non-operational roles were available across the whole of England in 2012.

It will mean firefighters are forced to leave the service without a fair pension, after a career of service to their community.

On top of all of this firefighters are being asked to do more with less.

Figures published this year by DCLG in my own area, where we have seen multimillion-pound cuts, show brigades across the region have seen some of the biggest increases in fire call outs. My own fire service, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service saw the second highest rise in call-out figures. Call outs increased by 35.7%, from 2,496 to 3,388.

Mr Speaker, more than 300 full-time firefighters roles have been lost in the North-East in the last four years. Durham and Darlington FRS has lost 49 firefighters. Even with the hiring of more backroom staff and some ‘on-call’ roles it means my local service is down 4.1% from 2010 figures and this is expected to double.

It is even worse for other North-East brigades – Tyne and Wear FRS has been reduced by 18.4%.

In fact recent plans put forward by my local brigade proposes training firefighters to deal with medical emergencies, including heart attacks, bleeding, breathing difficulties, trauma and strokes. Firefighters also have to deal with increased flooding and other risks, including helping in other parts of the country as we saw in the West Country and the South East of England

Yet to meet cuts imposed centrally, the same plan has local fire stations being staffed part-time and overall staff reductions.

This means the service firefighters are able to provide is not as good as it could be or as good as it was and will only get worse.

It means people are waiting longer after they dial 999 for firefighters to arrive. The ability to do the job safely is being undermined and this puts lives at risk.

Mr Speaker I expect the Tories to reject today’s motion, it is clear that the members opposite (with a few notable exceptions) support a race to the bottom in terms of wages, conditions and pensions across the public sector.

However, the Liberal Democrats declare they are different to the Tories. The number of engineered disagreements with their Coalition partner continue to rise on a daily basis as we approach the election campaign and they seek to find a degree of separation from a toxic legacy.

Well, today is an opportunity to provide more than warm words.

Today they can show the British People that on issues such as we are discussing in this debate, they are willing to stand and be counted, literally, when they walk through the lobby to vote to support this nations firefighters.

The success or failure of this motion will largely depend on the Liberal Democrats. I implore you to show that your disagreement with the Government is genuine and have the principle to stand up on the side of real working people and support our firefighters so they can achieve a fair pension settlement as well as safeguarding the health and safety of all of us and firefighters themselves.

Guide Dogs wishes Grahame Morris MP a Cracking Christmas

Grahame Morris - Guide DogsGrahame Morris MP met with staff, volunteers and puppies from the charity Guide Dogs to receive a custom-made Christmas cracker, thanking them for their support this year.

The charity set up a makeshift grotto in Parliament to hand out messages of thanks to MPs that have supported the charity in 2014. The custom cracker included messages from people in Easington on Guide Dogs’ campaign for a national law on pavement parking.

The MP for Easington took a blindfolded walk and bus journey in 2014 to learn about some of the difficulties faced by people living with sight loss, and what can be done to overcome the challenges involved in getting around by public transport and on foot.

Grahame commented: “It was a pleasure to meet the guide dog pups in training and receive my thank you cracker from Guide Dogs.

“Pavement parking is a real problem in Easington. As well as for people with sight loss, it is a potentially dangerous obstacle for wheelchair and mobility scooter users as well as people with pushchairs.”

Guide Dogs Campaigns Manager James White said: “We are very grateful for all of the support that Members of Parliament give to Guide Dogs.

“As well as saying thank you to Grahame for his help this year, we used this opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of parking on pavements and to call for a change in the law.”

GRAHAME MORRIS MP DELIVERS CHRISTMAS CHEER TO POSTAL WORKERS AT ROYAL MAIL’S SEAHAM DELIVERY OFFICE

  • Grahame Morris MP passed on Christmas greetings to postmen and women at the Seaham Delivery Office.
  • Christmas is Royal Mail’s busiest time of the year and Mr Morris saw the hard work and dedication of postal workers to sort and deliver festive mail
  • The last recommended posting dates for Christmas are: Second Class – Thursday 18th December and First Class- Saturday 20th December

Royal Mail SeahamGrahame Morris MP has visited Royal Mail’s Seaham delivery office to pass on Christmas wishes and encouragement to postmen and women at their busiest time of year.

Mr Morris was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Jonathan Radley, and was introduced to the postmen and women who are working hard sorting and delivering mail in the run-up to Christmas.

Mr Morris said: “It was great to meet postmen and women at Royal Mail’s Seaham delivery office and see first-hand just how much effort they put into delivering for people at this time of year.“Our postal workers do such an important job at this time of year and help to deliver Christmas for many people and families in our area. I would like to thank them for their efforts and wish them all the best over the busy festive period.”

Jonathan Radley, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager at Seaham, commented: “Our postmen and women are working extremely hard to deliver Christmas cards, letters and parcels to people across Seaham. We are grateful that Grahame visited the office to see our operation and to support the team during our busiest time of year.”

“We’d like to remind our customers to post early so that friends and family have longer to enjoy their Christmas greetings.”

The last recommend posting dates for Christmas are:

Second Class – Thursday 18th December
First Class – Saturday 20th December
Special Delivery – Tuesday 23rd December

Seaham Royal MailCustomers can also help Royal Mail ensure that all their letters, cards and parcels are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible by taking a few easy steps:

Post early – Avoid disappointment by posting your cards and parcels early.

Use a postcode – A clearly addressed card or parcel, with a postcode, and return address on the back of the envelope, will ensure quick and efficient delivery.

Use Special Delivery – For valuable packages and parcels guarantee delivery with Royal Mail’s Special Delivery, which means your gift is tracked, traced and insured against loss.

For more information about Royal Mail’s last recommended posting dates, please visit: www.royalmail.com or call 03457 740 740.

Government’s firefighter pension changes risks public safety, MP warns ahead of Parliamentary Debate

FBU

Easington MP Grahame Morris has welcomed the announcement that Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the proposed changes to Firefighters pensions on Monday 15 December.

Mr Morris, a member of the FBU Parliamentary group, has been one of a number of Labour MPs who have been strongly lobbying and campaigning to get a debate on government changes to the firefighters pension scheme.

An Early Day Motion opposing the draft regulations tabled by Labour leader Ed Miliband has become the most supported Early Day Motion in the current parliamentary session with 270 signatures, including 19 Liberal Democrats, who would now be expected to vote against these proposals.

Mr Morris, one of the original signatories of EDM 454, is concerned about the government’s lack of genuine negotiations with firefighter representatives, and the risks to public and firefighter safety of the government’s proposals.

Mr Morris said:

“It is very important Parliament gets the opportunity to debate these proposals. The government have ignored their own evidence on the physical demands of firefighting. Over 60% firefighters aged 55-60 would be unlikely to meet the fitness standard used by most fire services and would therefore be unlikely to be able to achieve the new normal pension age of 60. It can’t be right that after a lifetime of service to our communities, Firefighters are at risk of being sacked merely for getting old. I am greatly concerned the public would be at greater risk from the dangers of fire and flooding if Firefighters are forced to work until they are 60”

“It is only right that MPs are allowed to express the views of their constituents in a debate on this issue. It has been a battle in itself to get this debate and we will now be able to hold the government to account to show how they have been playing politics with public safety and expose their failure to deal fairly with our Firefighters.”

Monday’s debate will be followed by a vote on the floor of the House of Commons opposing the governments Firefighters’ Pension Scheme (England) Regulations 2014.

Mr Morris added:

“Firefighters from around the country are expect to attend Westminster on Monday to lobby MPs. Firefighters already have the support of the Labour Party, and it is time for the Coalition’s Lib Dem and Conservative MPs to prioritise public and firefighter safety over these dangerous changes.”

Autumn Statement delivers endless austerity.

Autumn StatementThe Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has put the UK economy and the living standards for working people and their families on the wrong course.

Last Wednesday, George Osborne promised to tackle the deficit through “very substantial savings in public spending” but failed to identify where these “savings” would be made. The Chancellor’s coded language of “savings” was translated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies as meaning “colossal” cuts that would require a “fundamental re-imagining of the state”.

The Chancellor’s economic plan for a decade of austerity will not be announced until after the next election. However, we have seen glimpses as the detail of the Autumn statement begins to unravel.

The headline grabbing changes to stamp duty were followed by the Chancellor’s own Office for Budget Responsibility warning the reduction in duty paid could end up pushing prices up at the lower end of the market. This will do nothing to help first time buyers, or the nine million people in expensive privately rented accommodation.

The Chancellor’s freeze on pension credits, which tops up the income of the poorest pensioners, will result in a million pensioners getting just an 87p rise in their state pension this April. Worse still, 600,000 pensioner couples will get a rise of just 60p.

The Tories plan is to take public spending back to pre-welfare state levels not seen since the 1930’s. Only 40% of the public spending cuts will have taken place prior to the election, meaning another five years of austerity, with deeper and more damaging cuts set to be announced in his first budget of a new parliament if he is returned as Chancellor in May.

The Government’s failure to deal with the deficit is linked to the poor performance of the economy throughout the parliament, with policies of austerity failing to deliver growth, and the creation of a low wage insecure employment economy hitting tax receipts. Over the course of the parliament income tax receipts are £66 billion lower than originally forecast, with national insurance contributions down over £25 billion across the same period. This will mean the Chancellor borrowing £219 billion more than planned.

The Chancellor has broken every promise he has made on the economy. The promise “we are all in this together” delivered a huge tax cut to millionaires. The promise to “make work pay” has led to the growth of insecure employment, zero hour contracts and wage cuts, with workers £1600 a year worse off under the Tories. The promise to “balance the budget in a single parliament”, has delivered only the pain of austerity with cuts to local government, education, policing, as well as cruel policies such as the bedroom tax penalising the sick and disabled, and cuts to in work benefits such as tax credits pushing low income working households into poverty.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has shown us the Conservative’s believe the road to recovery is through the self-defeating austerity and returning UK spending to the era of the great depression. The public have a right to know where the Chancellor will make his “colossal” cuts, as it becomes clear that the next election will be a fight for the heart, soul and future of our communities against the policies of endless austerity.

MP urges local residents to have a ‘Safe Xmas’ when donating to charity

HoCGrahame Morris, MP for Easington, is urging residents to give safely to charities this Christmas by remembering the ‘Safe Xmas’ acronym developed by the Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, and the Fundraising Standards Board, the self-regulatory body for UK fundraising.

Both regulators will also be issuing the advice on social media, which can be found by following #SafeXmas.

Christmas is a traditional time for giving and charities work hard to raise money during this time to fund their work throughout the year. The general public give generously to charity and in a survey of people’s giving habits last Christmas, 85% of people said they give directly to charity at Christmas, donating an average of around £40 to the good causes they care about.*

Almost all collections are genuine, but some people will try to abuse the generosity of others for their own gain. With some charities and supporters having experienced fraud, it is vital that the public know that their donations are going to the right place. The Charity Commission and FRSB have come together to issue a few simple tips for giving with confidence this Christmas.

#SafeXmas

Search for a charity’s name, registration number and landline on fundraising materials

Ask to see a collector’s ID badge and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Find the FRSB tick logo, showing that the charity’s fundraising is regulated.

Ensure the collection device is sealed

Xtra information about charities can be found at www.gov.uk/charity-commission

Make sure clothing collection bags are clearly branded with a charity’s details.

Always check email and web links are genuine before donating.

Still unsure? Contact your favourite charity direct and donate

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, calls on local residents to give safely this Christmas, saying:

“People here in Easington are incredibly generous in giving both time and money to good causes at Christmas. Many charities will be relying on these donations to fund vital services that continue throughout the year and nobody can afford for those donations to go astray.

“If you are asked to give money to charity and something doesn’t feel quite right or you just want to be completely sure, take a good look at the fundraising materials, follow the ‘Safe Xmas’ tips and, if in doubt, get in touch with the charity you want to support directly.”

Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:

“It’s great to see that people are still extremely generous to charities at Christmas, and throughout the year. We’d like to remind the public that by taking a few small steps when donating, you can ensure that your money goes to the right place.

“Whilst incidents of fundraising fraud are rare, they do sadly occur. Don’t be put off from giving – instead, help keep charities accountable by using the resources available to make checks when giving this season. Use the Online Register, ask questions and have a ‘Safe Xmas’ this year knowing you’ve made a difference.”

Alistair McLean, Chief Executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said:

“Although bogus fundraising remains rare in the UK, it is essential that we all do what we can to make it increasingly difficult for criminals to cheat charities and their supporters. For donors, this means being aware and, if in doubt, making a few simple checks before giving. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to contact the charity with your queries.

“Above all, keep on giving. Your donations could make a critical difference to the good causes you care about this Christmas.”

For more information on fundraising regulation, go to the FRSB website, to the Charity Commission’s guidance on GOV.UK or to the Commission’s newly published fundraising statement which signposts readers to the correct regulator for any issues they wish to raise.

Easington MP Pledges Support to Campaign for Slaughterhouse CCTV

Animal AidEasington MP, Grahame Morris, has pledged his support to the campaign for mandatory CCTV inside UK slaughterhouses. The campaign, which is now supported by 170 MPs, was launched after a three-year investigation by Animal Aid revealed widespread breaches of welfare laws. Slaughterhouse workers were filmed: kicking, punching and beating animals; burning them with cigarettes; picking them up by their fleeces and throwing them into stunning pens; and dragging them by their ears. Animal Aid also recorded animals being improperly stunned and coming round again, and suffering painful electrocution instead of being stunned.

Grahame, who has served Easington since 2010, tabled a parliamentary motion calling for mandatory CCTV to monitor working practices inside UK slaughterhouses and reiterated his support by agreeing to be photographed with a campaign banner.

Grahame Morris MP, said: “CCTV cameras in UK slaughterhouses would be a practical step to improve animal welfare and to prosecute those breaking the law.

I would hope that UK slaughterhouses would have adopted CCTV cameras on a voluntary basis as a matter of best practice. While there has been clear success in recent years, with leading supermarkets insisting their suppliers install CCTV, too many animals are not covered and remain vulnerable to the cruelty and abuse.

It is the organisations that require additional scrutiny that have been most resistant and refuse to adopt CCTV. The time has come for the Government to require slaughterhouses to install CCTV to protect all animals from cruelty.”

Kate Fowler, Head of Campaigns at Animal Aid, said: ‘There is no excuse for the savagery we filmed inside some slaughterhouses, and yet it went on right under the noses of vets stationed there to monitor welfare. Clearly, we need a more robust regulatory system, and CCTV can play an important part in deterring and detecting welfare breaches. We are very grateful for the support of Grahame and his compassionate colleagues.’

A petition on the government’s Number 10 website has already attracted more than 49,000 signatures and, if signed by 100,000 people, will be considered for debate in parliament. The petition can be found at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/64997

In a 2014 YouGov poll commissioned by Animal Aid, 76 per cent of British adults support CCTV being made mandatory in all UK slaughterhouses (with independent monitoring of the footage). When taking into consideration only those who expressed a view, that figure rose to 87 per cent.

Grahame Morris MP backs campaign for sight loss advisers

Grahame Morris MP & Steve WinyardEasington MP Grahame Morris is backing a campaign by sight loss charity RNIB to ensure that everyone diagnosed with sight loss gets emotional support to come to terms with their condition.

Grahame Morris MP attended the launch of The Royal National Institute of Blind People’s (RNIB)  new report ‘Being There When it Matters’, which is calling for every eye department in the UK to have access to a qualified sight loss adviser so that people are properly supported as they adapt to life with reduced or no vision. The current picture is bleak; only 30% of eye departments in the UK have access to a qualified sight loss adviser.

Sight loss advisers offer dedicated practical and emotional support. They can offer advice on everything from remaining in employment, to being more independent around the home and reducing the risk of falls whilst out and about. Recent research has revealed that sight loss advisers create significant financial savings for health and social care budgets with every £1 invested in the service delivering a return of £10.57.

The move comes as a new survey, commissioned by RNIB, reveals that 44% of UK adults said they feared losing their sight more than any other long-term health condition. 

Adults in the UK are more afraid of losing their sight than they are of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease or having to use a wheelchair.

More than half of the 2,000 adults surveyed (53%) also said that they believed losing their sight would have a bigger impact on their life than other long-term health conditions, with nine in 10 saying they would lose their independence and eight in 10 concerned they would lose their job.

Grahame Morris MP said:  “It is vital that blind and partially sighted people receive quality and timely support to help them to adapt to their sight loss.

“Sight loss can have a profound impact upon a person’s life. Without the right support people can become unnecessarily isolated and can struggle to adapt. I support RNIB’s campaign for every eye department to have access to sight loss adviser.”

RNIB’s CEO, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said: “Every single day 100 people in the UK begin to lose their sight, but even so, many of us can only imagine how devastating it must be to find out it’s happening to us. It is a profound injustice that the majority of people in this situation are not given any specialised support to help them through this extremely traumatic time.

“In less than 40 years, the number of people with sight loss is going to be double what it is now. We are determined to make the government realise that properly qualified sight loss advisers are not only absolutely crucial for patients, but that they make economic sense too.”

Join the Big Energy Race!

Big Energy RaceThe Big Energy Race* is a national initiative to help community groups and individuals to take control of their bills and reduce how much they are spending on energy. The Race will see numerous community groups from regions across England, Scotland and Wales register to take part by January 2015. Big Energy Race will engage 25,000 households and ultimately reach over one million people.

Community groups across the country sign up as ‘teams’, and compete with other groups around the UK in a race to accumulate points by promoting energy efficiency in the community. A ‘team’ will encourage individuals to sign up as ‘team members’ and undertake household energy challenges, such as tracking their meter readings, turning down boiler thermostats or turning off appliances. The more team members each community group recruits and the more challenges that are undertaken, the more points the whole team earns.

Taking part in the Big Energy Race may be for a community group if any of the following apply:

  • Your group aims to help people in your local area
  • You want to help local people save on their energy bills
  • You want some ideas for activities to do in Spring 2015
  • You have some ideas for a local community energy project
  • You are planning events / activities in Spring 2015 where you could easily slot in some additional element

There are lots of weekly prizes to be won, which will be awarded to each Region of the Week, Team of the Week and Team Member of the Week during the Race. In addition, one team crowned the Big Energy Race Champions at the end will win the main prize of cash towards a community energy initiative.

The Big Energy Race will begin in mid-January and last 11 weeks. From November 2014, community groups can visit the Big Energy Race web page and register their interest in taking part as a team.

Visit www.bigenergyrace.org to register your interest and receive further information.