Author Archives: Grahame Morris

MPs criticise drinks industry role in government health policy

The cross-party Health Select Committee has urged the government to rethink its alcohol strategy.  In particular the committee questioned the role of the drinks industry in determining health policy. In its Report, Government’s Alcohol Strategy, MPs recommended a possible tightening of alcohol advertising rules and a ban on drinks companies sponsoring sporting events.

There are currently 7,000 preventable alcohol-related deaths each year and over one million people are admitted to hospital each year with conditions linked in some way to alcohol.

The committee also supported a new minimum pricing policy to set the selling price of alcohol at 50 pence per unit.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, a member of the Health Select Committee, said:

“The drinks industry is a powerful lobby and must not be permitted to influence government policy unduly, as it does at the moment. It was wrong for Ministers to invite the industry into the policy-making process.

“We have identified some of key issues that Government, the drinks industry and society as a whole need to address if we are to reduce preventable alcohol-related deaths.

“There is some evidence about the effectiveness of minimum pricing which has been applied in Scotland which I feel the government should consider carefully.

“Cut-price alcohol in supermarkets also contributes to the closure of pubs and clubs, causing a real change in our social norms as more and more people drink at own home.

“There is good evidence from France that restricting alcohol advertising in cinemas and sporting events can have a beneficial impact on public health which the committee felt merits further consideration by the newly formed Public Health England.”

The committee also deemed the Government’s current alcohol strategy to be too focused on addressing anti-social aspects of alcohol misuse, overshadowing other serious health issues. MPs also called for more transparent objectives in order that the success of government policy could be more easily determined and analysed in future. The committee called for Public Health England to take a leading role in developing key objectives and strategies across the country

Greedy Bankers

Republican Party Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney will be attending a lavish London fundraiser on the eve of the Olympics. The fundraiser was to be hosted by disgraced former Barclays boss Bob Diamond, who withdrew following the Libor scandal.

According to reports, tickets for the dinner are being sold at between $25,000 and $75,000 to raise money for Mitt Romney’s Campaign, who will be in London for the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Barclay’s senior executives continue to lead Mitt Romney’s UK fundraising efforts with Barclays’ Head of Government Policy and Finance group already raising $927,000. Patrick Durkin, Barclay’s lobbyist, who is co-hosting the dinner has raised $184,000 for the Romney Campaign between April to June alone.

The banking and financial sector see Mitt Romney, founder of private equity firm Bain Capital, as sympathetic to the industry, especially on regulation and taxes, after promising to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

For too long Barclay’s executives have had their eye off the ball, and instead of focusing their attention on fundraising for US Republican candidates, they should start rebuilding trust and public confidence in the banking system here in the UK.

Parliament must send a strong message to these banking elites that it is no longer business as usual. They must realise the anger felt by ordinary people, we have bailed out the banks, are suffering the pain of austerity and now learn they were systemically fixing the Libor rate – pushing up the price of mortgages here in the UK.

Barclays should stop promoting candidates intent on deregulating the markets that nearly pushed the global economy to the brink of collapse.

It is time for the banking industry to wake up.  As Ed Miliband said, we need criminal prosecutions and see the full force of the law brought against those who have done wrong. This is fraudulent activity.  We need proper regulation of the market and an end to the swaggering casino culture in banking that makes greedy bankers think their responsibility is not to serve the public but to serve themselves.

I hope all Members of Parliament will be able to support the EDM I have sponsored.

EDM 399 – Barclays Bank, Libor and Republican Donations

That this House notes that Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is to host a private fundraising dinner in London prior to the Olympics; understands that according to reports in the Financial Times of 3 July tickets to the dinner are being sold at between $25,000 and $75,000 per head; further understands that the event is being chaired by several senior banking executives and lobbyists; further notes that the recently departed Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond and other existing senior Barclays executives have played a prominent role in fundraising efforts for the Romney campaign; further understands that at least 15 of Barclays Capital’s most senior bankers based in the US have donated the maximum allowable individual donation per election to the Romney campaign; further understands Barclays’ Head of Government Policy and Finance group has already raised $927,000 for the Romney campaign; further notes the recent revelation of the destructive role Barclays has played in the international LIBOR-setting scandal; recognises fears that hundreds of thousands of borrowers and mortgage owners in the UK could have been adversely affected; believes that Barclays comprehensively failed to work in the interests of its customers; further believes Barclays senior executives continue to not fully appreciate the consequences of the actions and behaviour of the financial sector in causing the global banking crash in 2007-08, which ordinary working people are now paying for; and calls on Barclays and its executives to cease fundraising for political candidates immediately and to concentrate entirely on repairing confidence and trust in the banking system instead.

Government’s flawed Further Education Loans system will hurt the UK Economy

On the eve of summer recess, Parliament had its first opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s flawed plans to introduce a loan system for mature students studying Further Educations courses.

Currently many students in further education pay 50 per cent of their tuition costs, with the Government paying the rest. However, from 2013/14, the Government will replace public funding with a student loans system, making mature students aged over 24 studying at level 3 liable for 100% of their course fees.

The policy is fundamentally flawed and risks putting adults off studying, training or re-skilling later on in life. The Government’s own impact assessments anticipates the loan system will reduce mature student FE applications by 45%, resulting in over 100,000 fewer people aged 24 or over taking FE courses.

Mature students face a “double whammy” of having to take out FE and HE loans if they want to study for a degree, undermining the incentives to progress to university.

Adult learners in FE do not have the same characteristics and commitments as traditional undergraduate students in HE. They often have work, childcare and family commitments that make them less likely to study in the first place and more debt averse. The withdrawal of funding runs counter to the Government’s stated aim of improving social mobility, lifelong learning and risks the UK’s future prosperity.

If the FE loan system was in place today 770 students studying at East Durham College, in my constituency, would be affected, of which 70% are women. Across the North East 16,880 learners will be affected in further education colleges alone.

Further Education hugely benefits the UK economy and society as those with a FE qualification generate £70 billion over their working lives above those without qualifications – for every £1 invested, an apprenticeship generates a return of £40. The plans undermine the knowledge and training bases needed for a more skilled UK workforce, impacting our economy’s global competitiveness.

This is yet another example of a short sighted, short term Government policy aimed at deficit reduction that will not only undermine our economy but also the life chances of people in our community wanting to improve their training, skills, and employability. Undermining our education system is not a path to growth; this latest policy follows on from the disastrous decisions to remove Educational Maintenance Allowance, and the tripling of university tuition fees – despite the Lib Dems pre-election promises.

The introduction of FE loan fee will only compound the worrying trend in Higher Education where, according to UCAS, university applications from mature students have reduced by 11.3%, with an overall decline in university applications of 7.7%.

I will continue to support the vast majority of professionals in the FE sector calling on the Government to delay the introduction of FE loans to afford Parliament the time needed to scrutinise these fundamental changes to our education system.

 

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Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.

John F. Kennedy

 

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Nelson Mandela

East Durham Job Crisis Worsens

Following the release of the latest unemployment figures Easington Grahame Morris MP hits out at Government inaction to stimulate economic growth and jobs in East Durham.

“I am still waiting for a detailed reply from the Prime Minister regarding the East Durham Job Crisis calling on him to support key private sector regeneration projects within the Easington constituency.

East Durham has seen an increase in the number of JSA claimants 605 higher than last years, and 37 higher than in May 2012. The number of unemployed claimants in Easington constituency in June 2012 stands at 3,232, and represents 9.7% of the economically active population.

East Durham claimant count remains consistently higher than the North East (7.9%), and national averages (5.3%).

The Government must do more to target support to those areas like East Durham that are most in need, however, all their actions to date have been counterproductive. The abolition of One North East, dismissing the Minister for the North East, and failing to match fund local projects is risking £124m, more than a third of the £326m European grant funding available to our region.

Easington has been denied an enterprise zone and support from the regional growth fund, while much more affluent areas such as Oxford, Cambridge and Kent, with far lower unemployment, benefit from new enterprise zones.

The Government has failed to support local business, overlooking Seaham for Portus Pilot funding, despite an excellent community led bid. There continues to be unjustifiable delays to large scale private sector regeneration projects for a new supermarket adjacent to Peterlee Town Centre, and the expansion of Dalton Park, Murton. These schemes would help to underpin existing investments and create over a thousand much needed jobs for local communities between them.

I hope the Prime Minister will accept my invitation to visit the Easington constituency and add his support to these projects.

We need a government that can show some courage, investing in lasting economic infrastructure, and supporting private sector projects within the East Durham area. The economic policies of the present Coalition Government are sadly lacking in this area”

Don’t risk your life by taking a barbecue into your tent

Easington MP Grahame Morris has backed the Carbon Monoxide Awareness charity national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from barbecues.

The campaign is a joint venture between the Carbon Monoxide Awareness charity and Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. It is supported by CFOA and a number of major retailers including Asda, Tesco, Morrison’s, Homebase, B & Q and Dunelm Mill who have pledged to put up point-of-sale notices in their stores for barbecue equipment.

Lynn Griffiths, President of Carbon Monoxide Awareness, said: “Already this year there have been a number of camping fatalities and serious injuries resulting from people taking barbecue equipment inside their tents”.

These products are designed solely for outdoor use and should not be used in enclosed spaces such as tents, caravans, campervans or home conservatories. Modern tents are designed as an integral structure with built-in groundsheets and carbon monoxide gases can rise to fatal levels in a matter of minutes if portable or disposable barbecues are used inside for heating purposes.

“We shall be working with Fire and Rescue services across the UK to get educational and awareness packs to the UK holiday industry for the benefit of holiday-makers. We shall also be targeting campsite owners and their staff with information on how to recognise the presence of carbon monoxide in enclosed tented areas and caravans. We’ve seen too much tragic loss of life and we want to avoid it in future.

Exposure to the gas reduces the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen, thereby causing the vital organs to fail. Early symptoms are similar to flu or food poisoning, but these worsen as more of the gas is breathed in and CO concentrations in the blood increase.

Grahame Morris MP said “I am delighted to be supporting this important campaign to promote greater awareness of the dangers presented by Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Carbon Monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas. Many people do not realise they are breathing in these deadly fumes until it is too late.

We need to do all we can to stop tragic deaths from the UK’s most common form of poisoning – Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

It is important people are aware of the signs and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning – headaches, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, confusion, and fatigue – and act immediately to turn off gas appliances, go outside and seek help from a healthcare professional”

16th July 2012, Opposition Day: National Health Service, House of Commons

Link

Thank you for calling me early, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to be able to participate in this important debate just before the recess.

I refer hon. Members to part of the Opposition motion:

“That this House regrets the growing gap between Ministers’ statements and what is happening in the NHS; notes mounting evidence of rationing of treatments and services by cost, despite Ministers’ claims to have prevented it”.

I would like to highlight one specific example. The Minister, who is not paying attention at the moment, may wish to make note of the issue, because it matters to cancer patients in my area and across the country. I am talking about the lack of access to advanced radiotherapy.

By way of background, I should say that the national cancer action team told NHS commissioners that radiotherapy is involved in 40% of cases in which cancer is cured. Furthermore, radiotherapy by itself now cures 16% of cancer patients. By contrast, cancer drugs are the main cure of only 2% of cancer patients. We can draw the conclusion that I hope the Department of Health and Ministers would accept: radiotherapy cures far more cancer patients than drugs. They should issue instructions to commissioners to reflect that and make money available for radiotherapy.

The current allocations are inadequate and arguably paltry. The radiotherapy budget for the current year is just £350 million, while the cancer drug budget is close to £1.5 billion. Within that sits the Government’s flagship cancer drugs fund, which, according to information that I have received, was underspent by £150 million. Despite that underspend, an additional £200 million is going into the cancer drugs fund. My concern is that that money is not for cancer patients but for cancer drug companies.

The whole idea is becoming discredited—so much so that, as has been reported in the newspapers, even Mr Clive Stone, the Prime Minister’s constituent who originally inspired the fund, has asked for less money to be put into the fund. Why? He now needs advanced radiotherapy for his cancer and there is no money available for him.

The cancer drugs fund cannot be used to fund advanced radiotherapy, and that is a real concern. I have no doubt that during the winding-up speeches we will be told that the Government are putting in an extra £150 million into new radiotherapy treatments over the next four years. The Minister of State, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), keeps telling us that, but when I ask him where the first and second year allocations—£13 million and £22 million—are being spent, he tells us that he does not know.

I thought I would try to help out the Minister, so I sent freedom of information requests to every strategic health authority asking how much of the money they had received and how their PCTs had spent it. I have good news for the Minister, who is not in his place. It is that he is not the only one who is in the dark when it comes to that £13 million and £22 million; the SHAs do not know either. I have the replies with me. I was going to read them out, but unfortunately I do not have time.

The stark truth is that under this Government no new money is going into providing the latest radiotherapy technologies for the NHS. In March last year, the Secretary of State commended some of the new facilities, including the new CyberKnife system at St Bartholomew’s hospital in London. Members, some of whom have also been to see the system, are concerned that charities are having to be used to raise money to buy that vital equipment. When I raised that issue in this Chamber, the Minister disputed that, but I have furnished him with a list of areas where it is happening. The Minister should accept his responsibility, get a grip on the situation and ensure that cancer patients needing advanced radiotherapy have access to the service that they need.

I support the motion.

 

Re-Dedication of Seaham War Memorial

 

Speaking at the Re-Dedication of Seaham War Memorial on Sunday Easington MP Grahame Morris said the Military Covenant is a Debt of Honour Owed by the Nation to our Armed Forces Personnel

 “I am honoured to be given the opportunity to close the Re-dedication of Seaham War Memorial Service, and to commemorate and celebrate the commitment and dedication of our Armed Forces Community.

 I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Corps of Drums from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, for providing the Drumhead Service for the re-dedication of the Seaham War Memorial.

 I would also like to thank the community of Seaham, without whom, the restoration of the War Memorial would not have happened. We would not have been here today if it was not for the efforts, commitment and donations of organisations and community groups including:-

Durham Miners Association

Seaham School of Technology

Seaham Town Council,

Royal British Legion

And The Remember Them Fund,

I would also like to thank Colour Sgt Dave McKenna (retired), for inviting the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and to thank the volunteers involved in arranging the family fun day which follows and leading today’s service.

The War Memorial has been transformed and restored back to its former glory, resembling its original 1920’s designs. However, this is not the end, and I hope the restoration of the memorial will continue with the addition of lighting and fencing, making it the focal point that it rightly deserves to be in our community.

We owe our service personnel not only a great debt of gratitude but a debt of honour for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis to maintain peace and security in the UK. It is vital that when they return home we properly support our veterans and their families.

The Military Covenant can be traced all the way back to the reign of Henry VIII – it is a contract between the military and society whereby soldiers who risk their lives in the service in our armed forces should be guaranteed fair treatment, support and respect when they return home – and that no-one should suffer disadvantage as a result of their Service.

The Military Covenant is now enshrined in law; however, these values are not yet a reality for all. It is totally unacceptable that our Armed Forces community continue to face discrimination.

Despite their service, Armed Forces personnel continue to face problems when they return home. Frequent changes of address due to the nature of service means service personnel have problems accessing mortgages, loans, or credits cards and one in five have had trouble getting a mobile phone contact – everyday activities that most of us take for granted.

Worst still one in five service personnel have experienced abuse, attempts of violence, or have been refused service in hotels, pubs or elsewhere while in uniform.

This is unacceptable – we need to end discrimination against our service personnel, and if necessary legislate to protect the Service community from such attacks

Last week’s Armed Forces Day gave the nation the opportunity to celebrate the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community – from serving troops and their families, to veterans and cadets – as well as raising public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve.

This year’s Armed Force Day was particularly poignant being 30 years since the liberation of the Falkland Islands reminding of the sacrifice made in 1982.   

I hope Seaham will be at the forefront of the North East’s future Armed Forces Day celebrations.

I know how proud Seaham is of our Service Personnel with our proud and historic link to the Armed Forces. The North East remains one of the largest military recruitment areas, and I am delighted we have so many current and former service personnel here today.

The War Memorial recognises the service and sacrifice the Seaham community has made to protecting our country through their service at home and abroad. It signifies the unbreakable bond between the nation and the people who serve in our armed forces – it is a reflection of our solidarity.”

Cameron’s Health Lottery

Last month Labour launched the “NHS Check” website (www.yournhs.com).  NHS Check allows those who are concerned about what’s happening to get in touch with us and tell us what they’re seeing across the NHS, in hospitals, clinics and GP surgeries, revelling the damage done to front-line services by the Government free-market, free-for-all in the health service.

Along with your firsthand experiences the Labour Shadow Health team will use FOIs and surveys to produce a monthly report exposing the gap between Ministerial rhetoric and the reality on the ground in the NHS.

You can take a look at the first edition of Labour’s NHS Check Report in full here

NHS Check #1 – Cameron’s Health Lottery.

Cameron’s Health Lottery looks at the rationing of treatment across the NHS. Recently over a thousand people have come together and used the NHS Check website to share their experience of the NHS frontline. We used the information shared to survey all parts of the health service and the results show the NHS restricting access to 125 different treatments since the Coalition Government came to power. Ministers are leaving patients with the agonising choice of paying for private treatment or going without.

We have uncovered new evidence of:

–        Restrictions linked to arbitrary caps and cost

–        Restrictions diverge from NICE guidelines

–        Restrictions on a number of serious treatments including cataracts, knee surgery and hip replacements

We have identified 125 separate treatments that have been restricted or stopped altogether by at least one PCT in England.

Detailed findings on the treatments being restricted and the nature of the restrictions can be found in the NHS Check report.

Labour is calling for the Government to order an immediate review of rationing in the NHS and to produce clear guidance on all of the treatments now being affected.

Cameron’s Health Lottery NHS Check report is available in full here, and you can share your NHS experiences at YourNHS.com

 

 

 

 

Labour is with you on the NHS. We would put patients first; back the real reforms needed to improve the NHS and use the money David Cameron is wasting on his damaging NHS reorganisation to protect 6000 nursing jobs.

 Locally, Labour will act as the last line of defence to protect the NHS. Strong Labour Councils will be champions for patients and defenders of NHS values – we are pledging to fight the worst effects of David Cameron’s damaging Health and Social Care Act.

 Labour’s pledges to protect NHS

 

1.      Protect NHS founding values.

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2.      Prevent postcode lotteries

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3.      Guard against longer waits

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4.      Promote collaboration over competition

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5.      Put patients before profits

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Armed Forces Day 2012

The fourth annual Armed Forces Day will be held on Saturday, 30 June

Armed Forces Day is an opportunity to do two things. Firstly, to raise public awareness of the contribution made to our country by those who serve and have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Secondly, it gives the nation an opportunity to Show Your Support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families and from veterans to cadets.

Across the country people are getting involved: communities hold local events and business show their support.

In advance of Armed Forces Day the Labour Party have launched the ‘End Discrimination Against Our Forces’ campaign.

Whilst opinion polls suggest that 95% of the British public respect the Armed Forces, abuse and discrimination of our service men and women continues to exist.

More than one in five members of the Forces said they had experienced strangers shouting abuse at them while wearing their uniform in public in the UK in the last five years. Nearly one in twenty said they had experienced violence or attempted violence, and 18% have been refused service in hotels, pubs or elsewhere. Armed Forces Personnel continue to experience problems in everyday life with more than a quarter having been refused a mortgage, loan or credit card in the last five years, and nearly one in five had had trouble getting a mobile phone contract as regular changes of address counted against them in credit checks.

Greater legal protections for the Armed Forces and their families must be examined as we seek to end abuse of the service community. The Labour Party are calling for urgent cross party talks to end discrimination against our Armed Forces to ensure no one should suffer as a result of their service.

You can show your support by joining the campaign – http://www.labour.org.uk/forces

For more information about Armed Forces Day can be found at www.armedforcesday.org.uk

 

Easington MP condemns Tory-led Government’s failing housing policy

The Tory-led Government’s policies were exposed today as official figures revealed that affordable house building had collapsed in the North East. The figures from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency show that affordable housing starts fell 21% from 1,247 to just 991 in 2011/2012 compared with the previous year.

These figures demonstrate the disastrous impact of the Tory-led Government’s housing and economic policies and the need for urgent action to build much needed homes and get the economy going again.

Labour would repeat the bankers’ bonus tax to build 25,000 new affordable homes. Together with our proposed 5% cut to VAT on home improvements, that would mean more homes, that are in a better condition, creating much needed jobs and apprenticeships. 

Grahame Morris MP said:

“The Tory-led Government is failing families in East Durham who are in desperate need of a home. We have a growing housing crisis and the Government’s policies are making it worse. Across the country there has been a 68% fall in affordable home starts and in the North East we have seen over a 21% decrease.”

“Labour has called on the Government to take action by repeating the bankers’ bonus tax to fund 25,000 new affordable homes while proposing a one year cut in VAT on home improvements, repairs and maintenance to help homeowners, small businesses and create much needed jobs and apprenticeships.”

“This government needs to think less about grabbing headlines and more about tackling the worsening housing crisis.”

Jack Dromey MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing Minister said:

“These figures reveal the true extent of the tragic failure of the Tory-led Government’s housing and economic policies. The £4 billion cut to the affordable housing budget not only led to a disastrous 68 per cent collapse in affordable house building over the past year but hit the construction and house building industries hard, helping tip us back into double-dip recession.

“The Government was warned time and time again that its policies would make the housing crisis worse – locking families out of the housing market, fuelling rising rents in the private rented sector and leaving more people on housing waiting lists. But Grant Shapps refuses to listen, and instead spins a tale that things are getting better.

“The houses completed over the past year are a legacy of Labour’s affordable housing programme and the action we took to build much needed homes. We would act again now using a tax on bank bonuses to build up to 25,000 affordable homes, fund 100,000 youth jobs and get the economy going again.”