Easington MP highlights Dogs Trust Free Microchipping Service.

Dog Chipping2Easington MP Grahame Morris is supporting efforts by the Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, to promote their chipmydog.org.uk website as they seek to have more dogs microchipped ahead of new legislation.

The website is a unique “one-stop-shop” for all microchipping queries.  Members of the public are now just a click away from a wealth of information on this important element of dog welfare, including:

  • Details of free microchipping activity across the UK via a quick and easy postcode search
  • Advice on how to update microchip details with a click-through function to UK databases
  • Guidance on the upcoming change of law in England and Wales
  • Advice on what to do if you have lost or found a dog
  • Frequently Asked Questions on all elements of microchipping

Grahame Morris said.  “I am delighted to support Dogs Trust and to promote the charity’s Chip My Dog website.  I am supportive of the charity’s microchipping campaign ahead of the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England from April 2016.

Compulsory microchipping will make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners and cut unnecessary kennelling costs for Local Authorities.  I urge all dog owners to get their canine companions microchipped and visit chipmydog.org.uk to find out more about this vital component of dog welfare before the new law comes into force.”

Clarissa Baldwin OBE, Dogs Trust CEO said. “Microchipping has been at the heart of Dogs Trust activities for a long time and we’re now looking forward to an exciting few years during which it will become compulsory in England, Wales and, we hope, Scotland.

Chipmydog.org.uk will be the portal for all microchipping questions and we hope it will ensure that no dog is left unchipped when the laws change.

Whilst only the size of a grain of rice, a microchip can be a highly effective means of reuniting a lost dog with its owner.  Results from our recent Stray Dog Survey showed that just over 10,000 dogs were returned to their owners for this exact reason.  However, it is vital to update your details!  Just as you would tell your bank you’ve moved house, so too should you inform your database.  Sadly without up-to-date information a microchip on its own is redundant.”

To find out more about when the roaming Dogs Trust teams will be in your area or learn more about the benefits of microchipping visit www.chipmydog.org.uk

MP calls for cultural shift in handling health complaints

Select CommitteeEasington MP Grahame Morris has called for a cultural shift within the NHS on how they handle complaints following the publication of the Health Select Committee report – Complaints and Raising Concerns.

The report states that the current system for complaints handling remains variable. Too many complaints are mishandled with people encountering poor communication or at worst, a defensive and complicated system which results in a complete breakdown in trust and a failure to improve patient safety.

Following the publication of the report Health Select Committee Member Grahame Morris MP said:

“Healthcare and NHS staff do an amazing job in often very difficult circumstances. We all owe an immense debt of gratitude for their hard work and dedication.

However, when errors do occur patients, their families and NHS staff deserve a complaint system which is simple, open and transparent, that supports them through the process and puts things right to the benefit of all patients by improving our healthcare services

The committee have been clear that we should encourage a cultural change within the NHS where complaints are seen as a mechanism by which to improve NHS services rather than an indicator of failure.”

The Health Select Committee has called for a “single gateway” for raising complaints, and additional support for patients raising their concerns.

The report also raised concerns about the treatment of whistleblowers, which they describe as a “stain on the reputation of the NHS” and has led to “unwarranted and inexcusable pain for a number of individuals”.

Mr Morris added: “The treatment of whistleblowers is a major concern and those who have spoken out in the past have been victimised. We cannot allow this to continue as patient safety will be at risk if healthcare professionals are unable to come forward and voice their concerns. We need to do more to protect and support whistleblowers.”

The report states that professionals have a duty to put patients first and to come forward with their concerns. They recommend that those who have suffered harm as a result of whistleblowing and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, should be identified and receive an apology and practical redress.

Mr Morris concluded: “I hope the report will be welcomed by patients and everyone working in the NHS as a blueprint for how we can improve our health service and improve patient care”

Easington MP Reflects on Trident Disappointment

Commons ChamberFollowing a House of Commons vote on the renewal of Trident Easington MP Grahame Morris spoke of his disappointment after the motion was defeat.

Grahame Morris MP said:

“I want a safer world moving towards nuclear disarmament. Replacing trident will undermine the UK’s moral authority when seeking to restrict nuclear proliferation by other countries.

Nuclear weapons address the security concerns of the past and we must move beyond a cold war mentality.

We must adapt to meet the new security challenges of the 21st Century, such as climate change, pandemics, organised crime, cyber warfare and terrorism.

In a time of austerity when the Government are making damaging cuts to our armed forces as well as cutting public services back to the level of the 1930’s, we cannot justify spending in excess of £100 billion on a new trident system that will do nothing to improve the security or defence of the UK.”

Mr Morris was one of 37 MPs to vote against the renewal of Trident.


Improving UK cancer survival rates

Vote NHSLast week the Cancer Drugs Fund hit the headlines following the decision by NHS England to review the list of drugs that would be made available via the fund.

While the Cancer Drugs Fund has provided patients access to treatments that would have otherwise been denied to them, it has come at the expense of other cancer treatments such as surgery and advanced radiotherapy.

It has created a huge disparity in funding. While the Cancer Drugs Fund will continue to have £340 million available, a new cancer taskforce, tasked with prevention, earlier and faster diagnosis and better access to treatments of cancer were only able to ring fence £15 million for a three year evaluation programme to increase the number of patients that can access advanced radiotherapy.

This is despite radiotherapy and surgery accounting for nine out of ten cases where cancer is cured.

Through the government limiting the Cancer Drugs Fund to just one type of cancer treatment thousands of patients have missed out on access to surgery and radiotherapy. It has been suggested that up to 40,000 patients every year who could benefit from radiotherapy are missing out.

Unfortunately, in recent years it is becoming more difficult to access radiotherapy treatment. Figures from Cancer Research has shown that while half of patients should receive access to Intensity-modulated Radiotherapy, currently only a third receive the treatment. Meanwhile, the number of patients receiving Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy, which treats lung and other cancer over a shorter period fell by 10 per cent last year.

Labour have set out an alternative plan specifying how we would improve the UK’s cancer survival rates to make them the best in Europe saving up to 10,000 lives a year.

Through transforming the Cancer Drugs Fund to a Cancer Treatments Fund patients will be provided access to the most effective form of treatment whether that is drugs, surgery or radiotherapy. The new fund would be created through combining the budget of the Cancer Drugs Fund and a further £50 million from the pharmaceutical industry rebate.

The Cancer Treatments Fund will build on Labour’s wider cancer strategy and commit to improve diagnostic service with a guarantee that patients will have access to testing and results within a week when cancer is suspected. The goal is to increase the level of early cancer diagnosis when treatment is more likely to be successful. It is part of a wider aim to achieve one week access to key tests for all urgent diagnostics, which will save lives and hundreds of millions a year in the NHS cost for treating conditions diagnosed late.

The NHS must be ready to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, and there is no bigger challenge than beating cancer. More than one in three people will be diagnosed with one form of cancer during their lifetime and it is essential that we diagnose cancer earlier and that the most appropriate treatment, drugs, surgery or radiotherapy, is accessible and available to all cancer patients.

Cuts to Local Government Finance is pushing the system to the brink of collapse warns MP

Commons ChamberEasington MP Grahame Morris has called for a fairer funding settlement for local councils after a meeting with the Association of North East Councils (ANEC) and the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (SIGOMA) in which they highlight the resources challenges facing our councils.

Timed to coincide with the consultation of the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015-16, the ANEC and SIGOMA raised the impact of the Government’s budget reductions to date and the implications of further cuts announced in the latest finance settlement. It will also consider opportunities for raising concerns in Parliament in the lead up to the General Election.   ANEC will be calling for fairer systems of funding based on need and calling for measures to be brought forward that will address inequality and bring fairness and transparency into the system.

Following the meeting Grahame Morris MP said:

“I greatly appreciate ANEC and SIGOMA taking the time to highlight the dire situation within local government finance caused by the Coalition’s policies of austerity.

The cuts to local government are disproportionately hitting the areas of highest need. My own local authority, Durham County Council, are being forced to find savings in excess of a quarter of a billion pounds.

This is a colossal amount given the high level of deprivation there is across the county, it is simply unsustainable to continue with this level of cuts if councils are going to be able to deliver statutory services.”

While cuts are disproportionately hitting North East councils, the government have failed to take into consideration the rising demand for vital social services, such as the number of looked after children which has increased by 30% in the North East over the last five years.

Mr Morris added:

“We need a fairer funding settlement.

The Government are playing a dangerous game with local government finance and are pushing the system to the brink of collapse.

We should not forget the important role of councils in relation to social services for children and adults, helping some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The rising demand for services must be the key determinant when allocating local government funding, and the government are failing in their duty of care to all those who access council services in East Durham and the North East”

Easington MP warns “New Cancer Taskforce must not neglect access to advanced radiotherapy”

CyberKnifeEasington MP Grahame Morris has welcomed the creation of a new Cancer Taskforce, but warned that more must be done to improve access to life saving advanced stereotactic radiotherapy (SABR).

The new cancer taskforce, headed by Cancer Research UK Chief Executive Harpal Kumar will oversee the development of a new national five-year cancer strategy to 2020. It will comment on the current state of cancer care by March 2015 and publish the new strategy in summer 2015.

The strategy will set out a clear direction covering the following areas: Prevention; early and faster diagnosis; better treatment and care for all; recovery, reablement and living with and beyond cancer; research and innovation; end of life care; data and metrics; and workforce.

Members will include representatives from the NHS, Government, MacMillan, Public Health England, Health Education England, Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Surgeons, and clinical commissioning group representatives who work in cancer services and local authorities.

Mr Morris, a member of the Health Select Committee, backed the creation of the new taskforce and has called on them to address concerns about the significant disparity between funding for cancer drugs compared to advanced radiotherapy.

Mr Morris said,

“I support funding for cancer drugs which gives patients access to treatment that would otherwise be denied to them. However, the Government’s focus on the cancer drugs fund cannot allow them to neglect access to advanced radiotherapy treatments”

A new £15 million three-year evaluation programme will increase the number of patients who can be treated by SABR by 750 a year and widen the number of cancers being treated.

SABR is a more precise type of radiotherapy which delivers high doses of radiation while causing less damage to healthy tissue than conventional radiotherapy.

Mr Morris added:

“I welcome all new investment into improving access to advanced radiotherapy. However, this must be put into perspective. The £5 million a year investment into trials of advanced radiotherapy is in comparison to a cancer drugs fund which has grown from £200 million in 2010 to £340 million from April 2015.

We need to improve access to all forms of innovative cancer treatments, and I hope the cancer drugs fund will be transformed into a Cancer Treatments Fund to ensure all cancer patients have access to the treatments they need, whether they need cancer drugs, surgery or advanced radiotherapy.”

Tesco’s missed opportunity

Last week Tesco announced they would not be proceeding with a new store at Peterlee. This follows a reassessment of their business in the aftermath of an accounting scandal which is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office.

In total, Tesco announced they would not be proceeding with 49 new planned store developments, and would be closing 43 stores across the country which they say are unprofitable.

However, Tesco have missed an opportunity. It is often the case that large scale developments such as supermarkets are contentious planning issues facing furious local opposition. In contrast, Tesco enjoyed the support of a large section of the community who wished to see the redevelopment of the former college site, as well as new jobs and investment into Peterlee. Tesco had a ready-made customer base, eager to see the arrival of a new supermarket in Peterlee, and in the long run I believe Tesco will regret their decision and failure to deliver the jobs and investment they promised.

In view of the announcement I have spoken with representatives of Tesco to express my concern about their decision and to discuss the future of the site. I have been clear that Tesco cannot land bank and abandon the site. Tesco still has a duty to the local community to ensure that the site does not fall into a state of disrepair and becomes a drain on the local community and Peterlee Town Centre.

The former college site cannot remain in its current condition indefinitely, and Tesco have offered assurances that they will maintain and landscape the site as they look to sell the land to another developer. I am seeking further clarification into the precise nature of this promised work and anyone who would like to be kept up to date with the ongoing situation can contact me directly at grahame.morris.mp@parliament.uk

In the weeks and months ahead it is vital that Tesco brings the site into a saleable condition, and I will work with Durham County Council as we try to find an alternative developer to take over and utilise the site.

I will also be taking a close interest in the Serious Fraud Office investigation into Tesco, because to date, the only people to suffer from Tesco’s profit scandal are communities like ours who have lost vital jobs and investment. Those found responsible for misleading markets and artificially inflating profits at Tesco must be held to account and face the full force of the law.

Anything else would be a betrayal to our communities who are living with the fall-out from this scandal.


MP pledges to continue the fight for North-East Rail Passengers

Durham Train Station2Easington MP Grahame Morris has described the answer to a Parliamentary question he submitted to the Department of Transport as “like a train hitting the buffers”.

Mr Morris wrote to the Department of Transport before Christmas asking them to guarantee that all Pacer trains currently used by the Northern Rail franchise, which runs in County Durham will be replaced as part of the new franchise when it eventually is awarded sometime this year.

However, in her answer to the question Transport Minister Claire Perry MP refused to give any guarantee that the Pacer trains will be replaced, nor give any timescale for any replacements that may be carried out. The details of the new franchise were supposed to be published last year, then in her reply to Mr Morris, the Minister stated they would be published ”early in the new year” and now it is believed publication will not happen until February at the earliest.

Doubt has been cast on the government’s plans regarding Pacer trains despite previous promises. In his autumn statement last year, Chancellor George Osborne said a new deal would include “a substantial package of upgrades including new services and modern trains”. But government documents show bidders are simply being ‘encouraged’ to replace the Pacers and, when quizzed in Parliament, Transport Secretary Patrick Mcloughlin offered North-East rail users no guarantees.

Mr Morris is calling for the government to state clearly and simply that the new franchise will replace all Pacer trains, by a set date and well before the franchise is due to end, which could be as far away as 2027.

Mr Morris, MP for Easington said: “Pacer trains were supposed to be a stop-gap in the mid-1980s. They have a bus body mounted on a freight wagon chassis. They are noisy, cold and uncomfortable with a tendency to break down. It’s 2015 and they are still here, and now there is talk of just re-fitting the Pacers, they could be here until 2027. Yet this Tory government is happy to spend billions of pounds on new trains for the Thameslink and CrossRail routes in London.

When the future Horden Rail stop is finally opened I want to see my constituents travelling in decent carriages, not re-conditioned cattle trucks”

Mr Morris has pledged to continue to campaign with Rail Union RMT and Passenger groups until the Government do the right thing by Durham rail users.

Mr Morris said: “Friday saw rail fares increase to a level which means rail users in the UK are now spending more than twice as much of their salary on rail travel compared with passengers across Europe. Figures show that a UK worker on an average salary is now spending 17 per cent of their monthly wages on a season ticket compared to 12% in France, 9% in Germany and 6% in Spain. Under this government fares have risen more than two and a half times faster than average wage increases.”

Mr Morris added: “Three quarters of rail franchises in the UK are now owned by foreign state-owned or backed rail companies. High fares on UK privatised railways are in effect subsidising rail investment and lower fares in the publicly owned railways in Europe.

Just as in the days of Margaret Thatcher the Tories know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, and its North-East rail users who are paying a very high price indeed for their failed and outdated ideology”

Grahame Morris MP calls on Easington’s best small shops to enter national competition

Deneside POGrahame Morris MP is calling for small shops in Easington to enter the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Best Small Shops Competition. 

Grahame Morris MP said: “This is a great opportunity for small shops in to get recognition for the brilliant work they do supporting the community and creating jobs all year round.”

Small shops can submit their application to the competition via www.bestsmallshops.uk setting out in no more than 500 words why they are the best small shops including; innovation in your business, community engagement and entrepreneurial activity.

All shortlisted candidates will be invited to a Parliamentary Reception where the winner will be announced on the 25th February 2015.

The Road to Nowhere

NHS - Tory cutsThe New Year has marked the beginning of the 2015 general election campaign with the Conservative Party launching a new poster campaign.

Their let’s stay on the road campaign quickly became a road to nowhere. The claim that they halved the deficit, was in contradiction to the statement by the Prime Minister a month earlier that they had cut the deficit by a third. However, let’s not forget that the Coalition commitment was to eliminate the deficit within a single parliament, a target they missed by over £90 billion, meaning the Coalition will borrow £219 billion more than planned in 2010.

The claim there were also 760,000 more businesses was also disputed as the Conservatives figures included just over seven hundred thousand “businesses” who are not registered for VAT or PAYE and have no employees.

The failed poster campaign was then followed up with a press conference where George Osborne accused Labour of promising unfunded spending commitments of twenty billion pounds.

The Chancellors sums didn’t add up, and contradicted the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) who assessed the three main parties spending plans stating that Labour’s were the “most cautious”. In contrast, the IFS stated that to meet its fiscal target the Conservatives would have to raise taxes or make even bigger cuts to spending than already proposed.

We have been clear that all of our commitments will be costed and there will be no proposals funded by additional borrowing. Labour wants to take the politics out of the issue and asked to submit our plans to the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), the government watchdog, to independently audit the costings of every individual spending and tax commitment in Labour’s election manifesto. However, the Tories vetoed any suggestion of enhancing the role of the OBR, in order to allow them to make spurious claims about Labour’s spending pledges. 

The choice at the next election will be between a Tory Party wanting to continue the policies of austerity or a Labour Party promising to reward hard work through an eight pounds per hour minimum wage and an end to exploitative zero-hours contracts, providing new opportunities for young people, controlling immigration and protecting our NHS through a guaranteed GP appointment within 48 hours and a two and a half billion pounds Time to Care fund for thousands more health staff.

We have lived with a Tory Government for five years. We know their plan. It is a belief that if you slash government spending and reward the wealthiest in society somehow we will all benefit.

In reality, we have seen living standards fall, wages cut, and public services undermined, including the NHS which is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis in A&E.

David Cameron has led the first administration in nearly a hundred years where working people will be worse off at the end of a government than when they began, where millions work longer for less to pay for a tax cut for millionaires.

There will be a clear choice at the next election, five more years of David Cameron or a Labour Government. The choice is between five more years of a failed Tory Government, or real change under a Labour Government fighting for a fairer more prosperous society where everyone has the chance to succeed and not just a privileged few.