Grahame Morris MP Attacks Tories For Dismal NHS Satisfaction Ratings

 

Following the biggest decline in public satisfaction with the NHS in almost thirty years it is time for David Cameron to live up to his promise to protect the NHS. 

Results from the annual British Social Attitudes survey show that public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen from 70% last year to 58% – the largest annual drop since the survey started in 1983.

The study, funded by the King’s Fund think tank, questioned 1,096 people about their views on health care between July and November last year. It also found drops in satisfaction with GPs, inpatient & outpatient services and accident & emergency services.

During the 2010 general election campaign David Cameron promised that he would “protect frontline services” but these results show that the British public clearly believe the NHS is deteriorating on his watch.

The Tories and their Lib Dem allies inherited an NHS with the highest-ever levels of public satisfaction and in their first full year in charge these levels have plummeted by a record amount.

 We’re already seeing the results of the Conservative-led Government’s damaging health policies as the numbers of people who waited longer than 18 weeks for treatment in Hartlepool PCT has increased by 65%.

The Tories’ abysmal record on the NHS also includes wasting £3 billion on a reckless top down re-organisation, scrapping Labour’s waiting time guarantees for hospital treatments and GP appointment and making a £1.2 billion real cut in funding for England’s NHS services. The NHS is simply too important to keep going backwards under the Tories.

The lessons to be learnt from this survey are clear: people want to see their NHS properly protected and David Cameron has to change course to stop it sinking further into chaos.

Unemployment in the North East


 

3:06pm

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Brooke. I congratulate my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright), on securing this debate, whose importance is illustrated by the number of Labour Members who are present. I was going to try to be good and not lampoon—sorry, lambast—the coalition Government, but I cannot allow some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) to pass with no response.

The hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that the regional growth fund is an improvement in regional policy completely incorrect. Any region can apply for funds, not just the most disadvantaged regions. I cannot understand why Easington, with an unemployment rate of 11.3%, is denied an enterprise zone and support from the regional growth fund, when affluent areas such as Oxford, Cambridge and Kent have enterprise zones and their companies are supported by the regional growth fund. Surely if the Government’s policy is to address regional imbalances, that is a good starting point.

Ian Swales: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Grahame M. Morris: The hon. Gentleman would not afford me that courtesy, but in the spirit of debate I will give way to him.

Ian Swales: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not giving way. Perhaps I was in full flight, and did not see him seeking to intervene. Does he know how many projects in London and the south-east have been awarded regional growth fund money?

Grahame M. Morris: I do not, but I know that in my area I have lobbied hard on behalf of a number of companies that could bring substantial benefits to a hard-pressed area, and we are still waiting for decisions. That aspect of Government policy needs to be addressed.

The other issue that I am worried and upset about is that a Liberal Democrat occupies one of the highest offices of state, and the hon. Gentleman mentioned that Ministers often visit the area. They do not afford me the courtesy of saying when they are coming. When the Secretary of State visited my constituency, I was not advised in advance and I was not in a position to lobby him with bids from my area. However, I have taken that up separately. I will now try to make progress because I know that many hon. Members want to contribute.

I remind hon. Members that unemployment in my region is up by 8,000 to 145,000—a rate of 11.3%, which is higher than the national average. Under the Labour Government, the gap between the economy of the north-east and those of other regions was closing, with private sector business growth and employment. The Member for Redcar quoted some figures. In fact, after 10 years of Labour Government, the unemployment rate in the north-east was 5.7%—Labour came to power in 1997, and in November 2007 to January 2008 it was 5.7%—which was only 0.5% higher than the UK average. Now, though, it is 11.3%, which is 3.3% higher than the national average.

I did want to start on a positive note—[ Laughter. ] I am sorry about this, Mrs Brooke. I wanted to welcome the invaluable contribution that Nissan has made to our regional economy. Nissan is located in the constituency neighbouring mine to the north, represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson). Nissan’s presence has some benefits for the supply chain in east Durham. I commend Nissan for its tremendous commitment to our area. It is a shining example of what the north-east is capable of achieving with the right support from local and national Government. As hon. Members will be aware, the two new car models that are to be built will create more than 3,000 jobs across the UK over two years. Some 600 of those will be at Nissan’s Sunderland factory, with the remainder in the supply chain. I do not wish to criticise that success story.

I am looking to the Minister—[Hon. Members: “The Whip.”] Well, I will afford him the courtesy of calling him Minister. Welcome though they are, those new jobs do not come close to countering the job losses in my constituency. Over the past few weeks, I have referred to the haemorrhaging of private sector jobs in east Durham. That should be a real concern—it certainly is for me and all those who are affected. I cannot remember so many job losses in my constituency since the pit closure programmes, which is indicative of the desperate situation faced by many constituencies such as mine.

The Government’s Work programme does nothing to address the fact that unemployment is often focused in communities with the weakest local economies. The problem in the north-east is not so much one of joblessness as one of worklessness. My hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool mentioned the ratio of the number of people out of work and the number of vacancies, which is limited. I refer the Minister to an excellent report on that subject published by Sheffield university, which makes some positive suggestions about what could be done.

The Work programme has been in operation for one year, during which time the number of people in Easington claiming jobseeker’s allowance has risen by 20%. About 1,000 job losses have been announced in the past month, and that will affect my constituency, where 3,195 people are out of work. Companies closing down include Cumbrian Seafoods, JD Sports, Dewhirsts, Reckitt Benckiser and Robertson Timber. Some of those companies—all private sector—are closing as a consequence of the decline in the building and construction industry, but mostly it is a consequence of a reduction in demand.

There is yet another side to the story. Easington has a strong manufacturing tradition, with companies such as NSK, Caterpillar, GT Group, Actem UK and Seaward Electronic. Those companies are looking to the RDA replacement bodies and the Government for signs of support that will enable them to take on more workers. There are some large-scale private sector regeneration projects in the offing, but again we need leadership and support from the Government, because many of those programmes are suffering unjustifiable delays.

I will not embarrass the Government by mentioning the centre of creative excellence that could have created 500 jobs south of Seaham, but I will mention retail developments such as a new Tesco supermarket on the former site of East Durham college. That would create 400 new jobs and a new library—a much needed community facility at a time of spending restraint in the public sector.

Dalton Park phase 2 also offers a glimmer of hope for my constituency. Once the development is complete, it will support more than 100 construction jobs and 450 new retail jobs. It will provide new facilities that will greatly benefit the local community such as a new supermarket, hotel, cinema, and associated leisure facilities. Such planning applications are often controversial, but—incredibly—this one received the unanimous support of the local authority, as well as massive support from the local community and other county MPs, and I am thankful for that support. The development was also passed by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. It is a rare phenomenon in that everybody seems to support it, but it is being delayed as the result of an application for a judicial review by Salford Estates, which owns Peterlee town centre. As I understand it, the founder of Salford Estates is a tax exile based in the tax haven of Monaco.

My point is that the communities in the north-east continue to be hit the hardest by Government policies that are driving down demand across the region. The promised private-sector led recovery has simply failed to materialise in our region, and the austerity and cuts agenda is taking money out of our local economies and making any potential recovery harder to realise. A decade of progress made under Labour to reduce the north-south divide is being reversed.

Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend alluding—perhaps not this explicitly—to the fact that problems of entrenched unemployment are very hard and take an awfully long time to fix? The north-east probably knows that better than any other region. The problem is not only worklessness but crime, mental ill health, homelessness and all the other associated problems that we know occur when there are high levels of unemployment.

Grahame M. Morris: Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes an excellent point in a much more forcefully and directly than I could, and I completely agree with her.

It is up to this Government to learn lessons from those things that worked in terms of regeneration and growth and saw our region prosper in sectors such as exports over the past decade. I find it quite offensive when members of the governing coalition denigrate Labour’s efforts over the past decade, as if that Government produced no overall success.

I did not intend to quote statistics, but I shall put a couple on the record. Based on gross value added per head, the rate of growth in the north-east went from being the lowest of all regions during the 1990s to the second highest during the past decade. Let me also put to bed another myth propagated by the Tory party which claims that our public sector was squeezing out the private sector. That is just not true. As other hon. Members have indicated, in our view the public and private sectors are not mutually exclusive but mutually supportive. Between 2003 and 2008, private sector employment rose by 9.2% in our region, while at the same time public sector employment grew by only 4.1%. Between 1999 and 2007, the number of businesses in the north-east rose by 18.7%—a huge increase that compares favourably with London’s business growth of about 19.6% over the same period.

Bridget Phillipson: May I give one example from my constituency to illustrate the link between public sector investment and private sector job creation? A local electrical company, Alex Scullion Electrical Contractors, carried out a lot of work with contracts to renovate social housing, apply the decent homes standard and build new social housing through labour investment. Now, however, times are difficult because that investment has dried up. That company played an important role in securing private sector jobs and supporting apprentices, and there are clear linkages between money that the Government spend and the creation of jobs in the private sector.

Grahame M. Morris: Absolutely. That is a terrific point and there are many similar examples. In my constituency, Carillion was involved in infrastructure projects including Building Schools for the Future and hospital building programmes. I did not mention it earlier but that company has announced 130 redundancies.

There is no doubt that the north-east was hard hit by the global downturn of 2008, but the policies of this Government are entrenching a north-south divide. To quote a Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman:

“The urge to declare our unemployment problem ‘structural’—a supply-side problem of some kind, not solvable by the ‘simplistic Keynesian’ notion of just increasing demand—has been quite something to behold. It’s rapidly entering the category of a zombie idea, which just keeps shambling forward no matter how many times it has been killed.”

The problem is that demand has been depressed. We need to stimulate demand in the economy. Quite simply, communities and areas such as mine throughout the region cannot pull themselves out of the mire without Government support. Targeted support and intervention are what we need.

Speech: Regional Pay

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): I was rather perplexed by the Minister’s response. My impression is that if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. The Minister, however, says he is in favour of national pay negotiations, but wants to change how it is delivered regionally. As I say, I am confused about whether this is a U-turn, or is it two U-turns so that the Minister is facing in the same direction? It seems as if that is exactly what has happened.

Any decision to allow regional pay differences for low-paid workers in the public sector would only exacerbate the economic and social north/south divide. In fact, we recently had a Westminster Hall debate in which some of the relevant statistics and factors were put on the record. The announcement in the autumn statement that this was on the Government’s agenda came without any prior evidence base for such a move. When Ministers talk about how public sector pay might better reflect local markets, they mean only one thing—pay less to people in poorer areas such as ours.

Rebalancing our economy for the future and addressing the north/south divide should be a Government priority. However, these proposals for regional or local pay differentials—whatever the terminology—would simply entrench that divide. The north-east is facing a double-dip jobs crisis. Government policies of slash and burn in the public sector are hitting the north-east hardest, and the promised private sector-led recovery was always a Tory mirage. [Interruption.] Let me remind Conservative Members who are heckling from a sedentary position that the figures for the north-east show unemployment now standing at 145,000—up 8,000, providing a regional figure of 11.3%, which is an absolute disgrace. Regional pay in the public sector would only make things worse, turning the north-east, and indeed other peripheral regions, into low-pay ghettos.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as I have been trying to intervene for a while. He makes a point about the north/south divide, about which many hon. Members on both sides are concerned. Will he concede that in the last year of the previous Government, the gross value added difference between London and the north-east reached the highest level for a decade and a half? I do not think that was due to the present Government, so what was it due to?

Grahame M. Morris: I shall come to that point. Under the last Government, the GVA differential was considerably reduced over 10 years. I do not have much time, but if the hon. Gentleman reads the Hansard report of the Westminster Hall debate, he will find all the information there.

In trying to justify his proposals, the Minister mentioned the evidence base, as did the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James). That worries me. Pay review bodies and police boards oversee a pay bill of about £95 billion, and any changes in the distribution of that money would have major consequences. The reverse multiplier and the taking of moneys from local economies are a huge issue, and the benefit changes have already had a terrible effect on the economy in the north-east.

I refer the Minister and the hon. Member for Stourbridge to the Government’s own evidence to the current review, which includes some key sets of figures that I found intriguing. According to that evidence, statistics from the Office for National Statistics on regional price levels relative to national price levels show that, if London is excluded, price levels throughout the United Kingdom vary by only 5.3%, from 97% in Yorkshire and the Humber to 102.3% in the south-east. In my region, the north-east, the price level is 98.2%. Those figures show the smallest variation in price increases throughout the United Kingdom. If the Government proceeded with their proposal to vary pay levels in the public sector, those in the poorest regions, such as the north-east, would be worse off while the wealthiest regions benefited to the tune of billions.

Ian Mearns: All of us in north-east England are calling for an economic stimulus to create demand and grow the economy. This measure would apply an economic sedative to regions such as ours.

Grahame M. Morris: I agree with my hon. Friend’s analysis.

The other likely negative impact of the Government’s policy is a brain drain from the regions with lower pay to those with higher pay. In my opinion, the Tory party has never understood the values and principles of our public services, which were founded on fairness and equity. What is truly outrageous is that Ministers waste their time targeting low-paid public servants when the real crisis is in the private sector. I believe that those are diversionary tactics, and that, if implemented, they would take more money out of the northern regions, which are already suffering from a lack of demand throughout our economies.

The United Kingdom is crying out for a serious new industrial policy that would reduce regional inequalities and close the north-south divide. A regional pay policy of the sort that the Government propose would only make the position worse, and it lacks an evidence base. Any comparison between public and private sector pay is a very crude measure. There are far more highly qualified workers in the public sector, there is a smaller gap between the top and bottom levels of pay, and there is a smaller gender pay gap. The majority of low-paid work in catering or cleaning, for example, is in the private sector. Similar roles in the public sector are often outsourced, which skews the figures still further.

The hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) asked about figures relating to growth rates and relative performance. Under the last Labour Government, the rate of growth in my region, the north-east, went from being the lowest in any region during the 1990s to being the second highest during the last decade. Between the mid-1990s and the global economic downturn of 2008, employment growth increased by 11.2% in the north-east and by 9.2% nationally. Between 2002 and 2008, private sector employment in the north-east rose by 9.2% while public sector employment grew by 4.1%, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson). Between 1999 and 2007, the number of businesses in the north-east rose by 18.7%, which compares favourably with London’s business growth of 19.6% during the same period.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. The hon. Gentleman’s time is up.

Britain should be playing a leading role in helping green the world

 

 

Later this month politicians, campaigners and business leaders from around the world will gather in Brazil to discuss the green economy and sustainable development. The Rio plus 20 Summit will be the biggest global gathering on sustainable development since the first Earth Summit in Rio twenty years ago.  We need development that is environmental, socially and economically sustainable. The original Rio declaration in 1992 set out important goals to eradicate poverty, reduce unsustainable production and to protect the world’s ecosystems. But the 20 years since Rio have seen the challenges posed by climate change, and over-exploitation of natural resources remain, and in many cases, get worse.

With Britain in recession and the economy flat-lining some will ask why sustainable development is being discussed at all.  But in these tough times, it is important that our government takes a leading role in helping shape the new green economy and the world around us. Rising energy prices, higher food bills and changing weather patterns are all inter-linked. If the wheat crop fails in Russia, bread prices rise in the UK.  That is why the British government should be playing a leading role in helping shape the future of our planet.

Before Ministers jet off to Rio, however, they should remember that sustainable development starts at home. And here they have some tough questions to answer. The UK must diversify its economy at home to drive green growth by investing in clean energy and lead the way in green technology and recycling waste.  The Government claims it is ambitious for change, however with the forest sell-off and a stalemate on carbon reporting, indifference to growing food and rural poverty at home, this ambition has not been matched by domestic action. We need an ambitious government that wants to lead the world on sustainable development, eradicating poverty and creating the green jobs and industries of the future.  Instead we have a Government that is out of touch with anyone who cares about sustainable development.

Despite this, there is an appetite for change. The last Labour government passed the landmark Climate Change Act setting a target to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The growth in fair trade products available on supermarket shelves, and the number of local churches and faith groups campaigning for environmental justice as a key plank of social justice, area a sign that change is possible. Last year, over 600,000 people signed the petition against the Government’s plans to sell-off our public forests. We have a long legacy of supporting international development and campaigning to protect our natural environment. The government should seize the opportunity to help create sustainable jobs and growth in low carbon and environmental industries. Yet we have a Tory-led Government ideologically wedded to a failed economic approach and a Chancellor that sees the environment as a barrier to growth.

Rio+20 represents a real chance to chart a path to a safer, greener fairer economy, particularly for the world’s poorest. The government is ignoring the voice of businesses who want regulatory certainty and is bowing to the Treasury’s anti-environment, anti-regulatory rhetoric.  The Government has said that Rio+20 has to be a workshop not a talking shop.  To have credibility, it isn’t enough to talk the talk on the world stage; they have to walk the walk, back home.

 

 

Carers Week 2012 – “In Sickness and In Health”

                

Fiona Phillips, Former GMTV presenter and Carers Week Ambassador

Carers Weeks is an annual awareness campaign which recognises and celebrates the contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million unpaid carers to the people they care for and their communities.

Carers Week 2012 is being held between June 18-24, the event recognises the contribution made by carers in East Durham and throughout the UK who provide unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled.

This year, the theme is “in sickness and in health” – recognising the pressures people often face when caring for a loved one, at the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. We know that when carers go unsupported they can often suffer from ill health, poverty and social isolation.

Caring is exceptionally demanding, and it is important carers know they are not alone – even when they are shouldering a greater burden as a result of recent service cuts. It is important to use carers week to reach out to new or “hidden” carers, to those who say “I’m just being a husband, a wife, a dad, a son, a daughter, a friend or a good neighbour

Caring is likely to touch everyone at some point in their lives. It is anticipated that the number of carers in the UK is likely to rise to 9 million by 2037 and every day another 6,000 people take on caring responsibilities.

According to research carried out by the Carers Week campaign group this year, 47% of unpaid carers said they were made ill by money worries and 45% said caring had pushed them into debt. While 625,000 people suffer mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring.

Carers save the UK economy over £119 billion per year; with the decision to care for someone often resulting in poverty. The demands of caring results in one in five carers being forced to give up work, affecting their income and future employment opportunities.

Despite the overwhelming contribution carers make to the economy, the main carer’s benefit is just £55.55 for a minimum of 35 hours. This equates to just £1.58 per hour, far short of the national minimum wage. However, caring is not a nine to five job, and 1.25 million people provide in excess of 50 hours care per week, and for many caring is 24/7.

In the North East over a quarter of a million people are carers. Funding and budget pressures have contributed to the restructuring of care services in East Durham. In the run up to Carers Week 2012 I met with Easington District Carers Support. They support over 1000 registered carers in Easington offering 1 to 1 support with carer support workers. They arrange activities and events to support carers and reduce social isolation, such as the Happy Mondays group which offers valuable respite for registered carers every Monday between 9am and noon. 

They are an important lifeline for local families supporting people caring for loved ones.

Speech: 145th Northumberland Miners Picnic

Friends & Comrades what an honour it is for a lad from Durham to be addressing you at this terrific working class gathering in the heart of the North East coalfield.

My dad, even grandfathers, uncles, cousins were all miners. My mam worked in the pit canteen and I’m proud to come from a mining community, a community that is still proud of its legacy.  Even in this enlighted age not many New Labour MPs can claim both parents were members of the NUM.

The mining tradition & values of comradeship, co-operation and collective action for a common purpose, often in the face of adversity, course through my blood and formed my character. They made me the man that I am.

Like Ian Lavery and I wish to pay tribute to the work he is doing and congratulate him on his election as Chair of the Parliamentary Trade Union Group.  Ian agree with me, As a Labour MP: To represent the area where you grew up; to represent the people of your own community; and the area where up have lived your whole life and raised your own children is a great privilege.

Easington has returned Labour Members of Parliament since 1921 including Sidney Webb & Manny Shinwell & the infamous Ramsey McDonald.

Ramsey McDonald led the last peacetime coalition Government,  splitting from the Labour Party in 1931 leading a Tory-Liberal Coalition with an agenda of severe cuts in spending.

Back then, Labour opposed such an agenda with fierce determination.

Labour developed a progressive and socialist alternative, opposed the cuts that hurt ordinary working people and the unemployed.

The following election in 1935 saw Labour gain 102 seats, and the election after that was a Labour landslide.

Funny how what goes around comes around – How history repeats itself…

The course of action charted by governments today, here in the UK and across Europe, has been characterised by unfairness.

The impact of their policies have been shown to disproportionately hit those least able to weather the economic storms in the first place.

And now in this country, proposals to rip up employment rights signal the return of class-based politics. It shows the Tory’s are determined to put their ideology ahead of the national interest.

The coalition’s failure on growth and jobs has now pushed workers’ rights to the top of the Tory agenda.

The cuts will continue, there will be no “plan B”, no new investment, just a new attack on ordinary working people.

Appointing Adrian Beecroft to oversee a review of workers’ rights was like asking Dracula to draw up plans for a new blood-donor scheme.

Beecroft is an asset-stripping venture capitalist whose portfolio includes the pay-day lender Wonga.

Himself a Conservative Party donor, his appointment in the first place was as good as a two-fingered gesture to ordinary working people.

So be under no illusions, ordinary people are under attack.

As local elections last month showed ordinary people across this country reject unfair cuts to local services and reject austerity.

And economist Paul Krugman tells us austerity is badly failing our country and our people too.

In France, our brothers and sisters have elected a socialist – President Francois Hollande.

They sent shock waves across Europe and the world.

One of his first acts has been to challenge the austerity consensus of Merkel & Sarkosy & reverse the increase in the state retirement age from 62 to 60 that Sarkosy implemented as part of his austerity plan.

Events like these must be about sending a common message to governments who think that ordinary people should pay for the mistakes of wealthy bankers and city financiers.

This Coalition government is forcing millions of struggling families to pay more, whilst it is allowing millionaires to pay less.

It is forcing our Labour councils that represent the poorest areas in the North to suffer the worst cuts, whilst Tory Councils in the South face little or no cuts.

And it is forcing its cuts agenda furthest on welfare, the disabled, the sick and the elderly, whilst it does nothing to promote growth in the economy and nothing to create employment.

We are told that there is no alternative to cuts and austerity. But there is. These are political choices and they are the wrong choices.

How dare politicians now attack our public services as if this is somehow a coherent response to a crisis that started in the banking sectors of the United States back in 2008?

Reforms by Andrew Lansley to the NHS, to allow fly-by-night private health firms unrestricted access to profiteer from public investment has nothing to do with our debts, with cuts or austerity.

Tory reforms, spinelessly supported by the Liberal Democrats, are ideological and they represent an attack on our National Health Service.

This meeting is about solidarity, it is about unity, society and about people. And these are the values that are best represented by our public services.

Those who work in our public services who teach our children, collect our refuse, build our roads, treat us and our family when we are sick and care for us and our families and friends when we are elderly.

In essence, it is our public services that create and sustain the civilised society in which we live.

The right-wing media and the millionaire politicians of this Coalition government, would have us believe that public services are a luxury we cannot afford when times are tough..

They want to pit private sector against public sector in order to divide and rule.

The real challenge we face is shrinking the growing gap between the richest (who are getting richer) and the poorest (who are getting poorer).

And the only way to achieve this is through tax justice.

If you are on a wage, you don’t have a choice about paying your taxes – they are deducted automatically. Yet, if you are part of the ‘corporate elite’, the richest 1%, and you can afford creative accountants, you can pay less tax than your cleaner!

This country – and the North East in particular – needs an end to austerity.

David Cameron promised that the private sector would ‘pick up the slack’ and replace the jobs he was axing in the public sector. That has not happened.

JD Sports, Dewhirst, Cumbrian Foods

We need a new agenda of investment, growth and jobs.

I’m delighted to have been invited to speak here. I am an optimist. Hell, I support Sunderland – but I feel we are at last at a watershed.

People no longer swallow a government’s narrative that there is ‘no alternative’.

There is always an alternative. We should have faith and confidence in a fairer future where social justice is not an alien concept.

Let me quote you the final verse of a Robert Burns poem, (Why Should We Idly Waste our Prime)…I think Burns had an incling then what it was to be a true working class optimist:

“Why should we idly waste our prime;

Repeating our oppressions?

Come rouse to arms!

‘Tis now the time

To punish past transgressions

The Golden Age we’ll then revive:

Each man will be a brother;

Friends thank you so much for inviting me to speak to you at this tremendous political gathering.  I wish you, on behalf of the Durham Miners and trades unionists everywhere a most successful 145th Northumberland Miners Picnic.

Volunteering is part of the Social Fabric of East Durham

  

Volunteering can deliver social and economic change – but it still requires investment if those benefits are to be realised.

This week was the official volunteers’ week in Britain celebrating the enormous work that unpaid workers do when they volunteer to help a person, special cause or group of people. In our area, East Durham Trust is the flagship voluntary and community sector organisation that helps to maintain the necessary infrastructure to support all types of volunteering in our area.

I therefore used this week to visit the Trust to gain a greater perspective of the work they do. Any community groups in the East Durham area can join the East Durham Trust for free and gain specialist advice on anything from funding, procurement, accommodation and community engagement. Most importantly, the Trust’s overall primary purpose is to promote the regeneration of our rural and urban areas suffering the effects of social and economic decline.

Each year volunteers across the UK donate the equivalent of over £40 billion of their time to their local communities with more than 20 million people working over 100 million hours unpaid. This dedication is to be welcomed, however more importantly these organisations and individuals also need to be supported if they are to continue to thrive.

People typically choose to play a part in community activities if they are truly voluntary, small-scale, friendly and self-fulfilling. Whereas the vision of the ‘Big Society’ is something quite different: supporting civil society in ways that are less voluntary in nature, formalised and complicated by the role of other elements such as private business and public services.

There is also a real danger that volunteers find themselves taking over where public sector staff have been made redundant, raising the issue of ‘job substitution’. Additionally, voluntary groups are collectively losing over £3 billion in Government funding between now and 2016 at a time when they are already struggling to maintain provision. A major concern must be that as this Tory-led Coalition cuts services in the most-deprived areas, it will undermine the work underway in the voluntary sector as their task simply becomes too tough.

Pushing ahead with the vague agenda of the ‘Big Society’, alongside public spending cuts which will shrink the ability of the state to provide key services is certain to undermine the free spirit of civil society and people’s ability to volunteer. However, it should not undermine the will and determination of those people who dedicate a great deal of time and energy to help others. Surveys consistently show that people that volunteer know many more people and consider their communities better places to live. I hope many more people across Peterlee and East Durham, if they consider that they are able, will be inspired to volunteer.

Easington MP backs call for national action to improve care for people with diabetes

 

Grahame Morris MP has shown his support for tackling poor diabetes care by backing a call by Diabetes UK for a national plan to improve healthcare for people with diabetes.

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, attended Diabetes UK’s parliamentary launch of its State of the Nation 2012 report, which revealed that just half of people with diabetes are getting the basic checks and services they need to manage their condition. The charity is urging the Government to implement a national plan for improving diabetes healthcare.

Diabetes UK also held a lobby on the same day at the Houses of Parliament where people with diabetes directly appealed to MPs and Ministers to commit to improving diabetes services and care. Throughout the day, many of those attending met with their MPs to share their stories of using diabetes services.

Speaking at the parliamentary launch, Grahame Morris MP said: “As the Diabetes UK report shows, people with diabetes here in my constituency and across the country are not getting the healthcare they need. If we don’t act now to improve diabetes healthcare then even greater numbers will be at risk of developing devastating health complications such as blindness and amputations.

“This is why I’m backing Diabetes UK’s call for a national implementation plan to improve care for people with diabetes. The Government must put diabetes at the top of its agenda if we are to prevent what is fast becoming a crisis. I will be talking to local NHS leaders about what can be done to improve diabetes healthcare in my constituency.”

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said: “We are pleased to have Grahame Morris’s support on what is a very important issue. Diabetes has become one of the biggest health challenges we face, with 3.7 million people with diabetes in the UK and 7 million people at high risk. Our State of the Nation report shows many people with diabetes are being badly let down by the poor quality of services on offer, which puts them at increased risk of developing life threatening complications and premature death. This is simply not good enough.

“We need effective treatment, services focused on prevention, early diagnosis, and greater screening if we are to effectively tackle this issue. This is why we are calling for a Government implementation plan to deliver this. The human and financial cost is simply too big to ignore.”

Diabetes UK’s State of the Nation report can be downloaded at www.diabetes.org.uk

500 days and counting: PM urged to listen as the number of workless households in East Durham soar to an all time high.

Grahame Morris MP has once again called on the Prime Minister to support private sector jobs in Easington as new figures show a sharp rise in the number of jobless households.

The number of households where no one has ever worked rose sharply in the last quarter of 2011 to 291,000 – a rise of over 7% on the year before.

Labour has revealed House of Commons library research showing the Government is now set to spend an extra £9 billion more than planned on welfare payments and housing benefits, due to rising unemployment.

And fresh revelations confirm:

  • The unemployment Minister, Chris Grayling, was forced to admit that some Government contractors may leave the troubled Work Programme – but he claimed to be ‘relaxed’ about it. The Programme has been hit by allegations of fraud at some of the contractors.
  • The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said botched council tax benefit changes will ‘severely undermine’ the new Universal Credit set to be introduced in just over a year’s time.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said:

“The North East continues to be hit the hardest by the Government’s Austerity programme, which is sucking demand out of our economy.

The Government’s promised private sector led recovery has failed to materialise. Their attack on working people with excessive public spending cuts, tax rises, and Beecroft’s “no fault sacking” has undermined consumer confidence needed to stimulate growth.

One year after the Government’s Work Programme started we’ve seen the number of people out of work in Easington go up by 20 %. One of the highest year on year increases in unemployment in the country.

Locally, over the past weeks we have seen over a thousand job losses with the closure of Cumbrian Seafoods in Seaham, and JD Sports and Dewhurst in Peterlee.

It is no surprise the number of households where someone has never worked has hit an all time high. The Government failed Work Programme will mean an extra £9 billion being spent on welfare payments and housing benefit rather than supporting jobs and growth.

It is nearly 500 days since I first invited the Prime Minister to Easington, yet despite being one of the most deprived communities in the country, David Cameron refuses to accept my invitation or listen to our concerns.

The problems we are now facing are at crisis point and I have once again invited the Prime Minister to visit Easington and lend his support to those private sector regeneration projects in Murton, and Peterlee that continue to face unjustifiable delays at this time”

 

Easington MP Reflects on Jubilee Celebrations: Party Pooper or Cheer Leader

This month represents the beginning of a bonanza of summer events across Britain that will excite and unify millions of people, whilst at the same time many will be forced to look on in dread. Either way the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, England playing in Euro 2012 and the London Olympics will propel the notion of our ‘national pride’ to the top of the media agenda. Whether people feel British, English, European or perhaps have more affinity with their region, home town, local community or even street is a matter of personal identity.

However, our national identity is important, just as is the role we play in our local communities. Both, whether we like it or not, are important features in all our lives. The shootings in Horden on New Year’s Day brought the whole community together in sympathy with those directly affected by the tragedy and all of us feel the effect when one of our neighbours loses their job as over time it depresses our communities emotionally and economically.

As the Member of Parliament for Easington I pack my bag each week and travel to Westminster to speak up for our communities but also to vote on issues of national and even international importance. Over the last two years I have seen how this government has talked-up the ‘national interest’, the ‘British economy’ and the ‘Big Society’. Whilst the policies it pursues have done little to create such national unity. Proposals for regional pay in the public sector, imposing the biggest cuts on the most deprived areas and tearing up workers’ rights in favour of a free-for-all for unscrupulous bosses is all part of the wrong divisive agenda.

Here in Peterlee, Caterpillar, on the North West Industrial Estate, has won a prestigious Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development award for human resources performance. Rather than following the government rhetoric, pitting management against workers, the workforce was restructured to support the business, forge closer relationships with management and promote the best use of workers’ skills. Such local examples of excellence should inform national political ideas.

Whether it is at the national or local level we are all stronger by working together. Whilst our Government seeks to protect a privileged elite and seeks to divide society along as many lines as possible, Ed Miliband is reaffirming Labour’s agenda on the key issues of fairness and equality.  The last Labour Government took important steps on social mobility, but this Government is taking the country backwards. Instead it is cutting support for Sure Start children’s centres, it has scrapped the Educational Maintenance Allowances that had supported over 70% of pupils at East Durham College, and has increased tuition fees to £9,000 per year putting many young people from disadvantaged areas like ours off the whole idea of going into higher education.

Britain, the North East and our local communities need a new political settlement that has fairness at its heart. I am no party pooper but it will certainly take more than a Jubilee party and a summer of sporting events, however much people may enjoy them.