Tuesday 28 June 2011

New National Report Reveals False Claims of Tobacco Companies.

Wigan Evening Post 18th June 2011
A new report published this month reveals that UK based tobacco manufacturers knowingly misled stakeholders, highlighting the false claims and contradictions that underly the Tobacco Industry’s attempts to stop tobacco legislation, which is aimed at reducing the 80,000 deaths every year in the UK caused by smoking.

The report, entitled ‘Tobacconomics’, cites that tobacco manufacturers claimed that banning the display of cigarettes in Ireland led to half a billion pounds loss in government revenue, when in fact the Irish Government stated that it increased by £50m.

The report goes on to explain in detail how the tobacco industry uses pseudo economic arguments to divert attention away from the health consequences of smoking and protect its revenues, commonly repeating the same three themes: standing up for small businesses and defending workers jobs, raising the alarm about counterfeit and smuggled tobacco and denying the effectiveness of tobacco control measures.

We are constantly being told that display bans and plain packaging laws would be the end and cause small retailers to close. But although tobacco sales account for up to a third of a small retailer’s turnover, the profit a shopkeeper makes on a packet of cigarettes is very small – less than 5% on a packet of 20.

It is this kind of smokescreen from the Tobacco Industry that we have to see through to get to the truth.

This report clears up the myths that the Tobacco Industry so readily peddle in their attempts to prevent or water down important legislation designed to save lives. The economic arguments, especially around the impact of display and plain packaging, do not hold water yet the Industry are very slick at presenting these as fact.

I welcome this report and its expose of false claims by the Tobacco Industry and its front organisations – all of whom have a vested interest in keeping people smoking. The North West carries a considerable  burden of ill health and death from tobacco use; the public in the North West need to know the truth.

Monday 27 June 2011

Regulation required for companies making money out of people in debt.

I have lent my support to a cross-party campaign calling for fee-charging debt management companies to face greater regulation after it was revealed that many are flouting rules meant to protect consumers.

The campaign for better regulation wants to stop consumers getting a bad deal from the private companies who charge those in debt to negotiate with and/or set-up payment plans with creditors.

The cross-party call for more effective regulation includes:

• an immediate ban on cold calling
• an immediate ban on the charging of upfront fees for debt management
• effective auditing of for-profit debt management companies

In March, a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading, made by Citizens Advice, highlighted the harm done to consumers by widespread misleading marketing and excessive charges. In some cases fees are not even passed on to creditors.

In May, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance submitted its call for more effective regulation to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Consumer Credit and Personal Insolvency Review. This followed the publication earlier this year of the Office of Fair Trading’s own investigation into compliance with existing rules. The review found that breaches of its guidance were widespread with misleading advertisements and poor levels of competence among their front line staff commonplace.

I’m calling on the Government to take urgent steps to introduce more effective regulation of the companies who make money out of people in debt. All too often these companies are not debt management companies but debt exploitation companies.

Of course, not all fee charging companies break the rules but the whole sector needs reform so that consumers know that they can trust those companies offering to help them with their debt.

If anybody is worried about their debt they should seek free advice from their local Citizens Advice Bureau. I know from working with my constituents that the Citizens Advice Bureau’s free debt management help can really change people’s lives: so if you need help, visit the CAB.”

The Early Day Motion on “Regulation of fee-charging debt management companies” is available here.

Friday 24 June 2011

Legal Aid Bill cuts a further blow for the poorest

Severe cuts to Legal Aid will go ahead virtually unchanged, as the Sentencing and Legal Aid Bill was published this week by Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke MP.

A coalition of groups joined forces today at Wigan & Leigh Magistrates Court including Wigan & Leigh Citizens Advice Bureau, Stephensons Solicitors and representatives from the local Law Society calling on the Government to ‘think again’.

Free legal advice helps families stay together in their homes, in work and education. Over 650 000 people will lose out on this vital help through reforms to legal aid alone, at a time where other funding streams for free advice are under threat.
Reforms to Legal Aid will decimate the capacity of CAB, Law Centres, legal aid practitioners and other community advice agencies to help the most vulnerable people with serious everyday problems with issues like debt, employment, housing, benefits, immigration, clinical negligence and family matters.

The Bill also has profound implications for litigation funding and costs with proposals to reform "no win no fee" Conditional Fee Agreements (CFAs).

Legal Aid was responsible for winning compensation for the miners in the 1960-70s, helped the Thalidomide children in the 1970s, and more recently, allowed the Gurkhas to win the right to live in the UK in 2008.
Over half a million people will lose out on advice, according to the Government's own figures, as the legal aid budget is cut by £350 million.

The proposals will very seriously restrict what advice legal aid funds, especially in social welfare, family and education law and who can get legal aid.

New figures demonstrate the impact on the Wigan Borough. Government proposals will see a 76% cut in the number of cases currently eligible for Legal Aid equating to over 2,300 fewer cases compared to 2010 with a total loss of funding of £428,000 to Legal Aid providers in the Borough.

The government should have listened to ‘thousands of dissenting voices’ and introduced reforms that would make the necessary savings without simply transferring costs to other parts of the public sector.

Legal Aid provision will be decimated in Wigan if Ken Clarke’s proposals remain unchanged. At some point in people’s lives they will need access to help currently funded by Legal Aid.

Legal Aid is a vital public service that we don’t often think about in the same way as the NHS or schools but it provides a lifeline for people who require professional advice on a wide range of issues from welfare benefits to clinical negligence.

The government's proposed cuts will make access to justice the preserve of the rich and powerful.

Ann Harrison, Chair of Stephensons Solicitors said, “Legal Aid is a fundamental right in any democratic society. It allows the poor, the vulnerable and the oppressed to have a voice and to be represented against large commercial organisations. We undermine our Legal Aid system at our peril.”

Chris Harris, Manager of Wigan Borough Citizens Advice Bureau said, “There is a powerful business case for Legal Aid funding for social welfare law advice, but, more importantly, the issue at stake is the access to justice for the most vulnerable."
“Effective face-to-face legal help, provided at the earliest opportunity, makes a vital contribution to preventing future problems such as homelessness, spiralling debt, family breakdown or stress, mental illness, as well as supporting people when they leave prison and helping refugees to settle more successfully into life in the UK."

“There are considerable needs for debt and welfare benefits advice, and we expect this to increase in the current economic situation, at a time when many people will be facing redundancy, and as the Government’s plans for radical changes to the welfare benefit system and the cuts to specific benefits are implemented.”

Visit here for full details of the Bill.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Act now and introduce a Financial Transaction Tax

Some call it the Robin Hood Tax, others call it the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) or Tobin Tax, I call it a really good idea. This tiny tax could take $400,000,000,000 out of the pockets of the bankers who got rich by crashing the economy and use that money to stop service cuts and help the people who are suffering the most from poverty and the effects of climate change, and who did the least to cause it.

This amazing 0.05% tax first proposed by James Tobin is gathering support right across the globe. It is an idea whose time has come.

Over the course of the past 18 months, the FTT has shifted from a radical idea to a realistic proposition considered by the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and Parliament, the G20 and several national governments.

Ahead of the European Council on 23-24 June, this is our chance to demonstrate the strength, breadth and diversity of support for the international Financial Transaction Tax. Our government need to know that we are watching them, and that we expect them to deliver. It’s a big day for a tiny tax which has a huge potential to improve people’s lives all over the world and here in the UK.

As a parliamentary candidate, in the months before the 2010 general election, I pledged my support for a FTT and politicians are increasingly sitting up and taking notice. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for the implementation of an FTT, be it at global or EU-only level. At national level, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently chairs the G20, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have long been considered leading supporters.

You can pledge your support here.

Monday 13 June 2011

Makerfield Labour Party Summer Dinner

Makerfield Labour Party members welcomed Stretford & Urmston MP, Kate Green to their Summer Dinner at Gallimore’s Fine Restaurant, The Wiend, Wigan on Friday, 10th June 2011.

Members were in buoyant mood following the recent local election campaign that saw Cllr Stephen Murphy (Orrell) and Cllr Joel Haddley (Ashton) join Labour’s cohort of Makerfield Councillors at the Town Hall.

Elected to Parliament in May 2010, Kate Green MP is a passionate campaigner on child poverty and is an influential member of the Work & Pensions Select Committee. Tipped for Labour’s front bench, Kate was recently described as the most knowledgeable parliamentarian on poverty issues by the Daily Mirror columnist Kevin Maguire.

Cllr Jim Talbot, Chair of Makerfield Labour Party said, “We were delighted to welcome Kate to Makerfield and hear her thoughts on the big issues of the day. It was also an opportunity to celebrate our recent local election successes.”

As host for the event, I wanted to thank Howard Gallimore and his staff for contributing to the success of the evening. Gallimore’s picked up the Environmental Award, at the 2010 Wigan Chamber of Commerce Awards and 2011 is turning into another great year for the Winstanley Business man as Gallimore’s continues to receive plaudits for its fine food at great prices.

Gallimore's website can be accessed at the following link.

Pictured l-r: Kate Green MP, Yvonne Fovargue MP, Cllr David Molyneux (Dep Leader - Wigan Council), Cllr Jim Talbot and Howard Gallimore.

Knowing Your Pulse Could Save Your Life

I joined Dr Adeniyi O Molajo of Ashton in Makerfield & Haydock Rotary Club on Saturday, 11th June, as part of World Heart Rhythm Week, to help raise awareness of the importance of pulse checks. Nurses from the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary were on hand to assist on the day.

The campaign, spearheaded by the charities, Arrhythmia Alliance (the Heart Rhythm Charity) and Atrial Fibrillation Association (AFA), aims to raise awareness of Atrial Fibrillation (AF), the most common heart rhythm disorder in the UK. Figures published by the Department of Health in 2007 suggested that AF affected in excess of 800,000 people in the UK. However, this is now considered to be an underestimate and that a more accurate figure may now be in excess of one million, with 200,000 patients being newly diagnosed each year. It is also responsible for 18%-20% of all strokes in the UK.

A simple pulse check is a quick and easy way of detecting AF and other heart rhythm disorders. It only takes four simple steps to learn how to take your pulse. By taking your pulse as various points throughout the day, you may be able to detect an unusual heart rate which you had not previously been aware of. In this instance it is advisable to seek advice from your local GP. 

I fully support this campaign to encourage people to check their pulse. It is astonishing to think that such a simple test could help diagnose and treat a condition which can have such serious consequences. I urge everyone to check their pulse and to learn more about this condition.”

Dr Adeniyi O Molajo, Consultant Cardiologist said, “The pattern of the pulse can indicate a heart problem and can serve as a pointer to the need for further tests such as an ECG. A particularly important cause of irregular pulse is atrial fibrillation. This can lead to stroke and damaged bowel as a result of the blood supply to the organs being interrupted."

"Knowing your pulse is a major public health initiative and will improve a patient’s chance of finding a successful treatment and ultimately save lives."

For more information click here.

Friday 10 June 2011

For a good curry, there's naan better!

Hindley Curry House, Mahabharat has won a place in the regional final of the Lyca Tiffin Cup 2011 after being nominated by myself in the prestigious Lyca Tiffin Cup 2011 competition.

The national competition is held each year to find the best South Asian restaurant in the country. This year 60 restaurants were nominated. Mahabharat based on Market St, having won a place in the regional final will battle with other restaurants from the North West to become one of the national finalists in the Lyca Tiffin Cup 2011 Grand Final.

Within the next few weeks a mystery diner will visit the restaurant and judge whether the restaurant deserves to represent their region. For Mahabharat owner Mr G Haris, the nomination has been warmly welcomed. He said, “We are delighted that Mahabharat has been nominated. We pride ourselves on providing an excellent culinary experience in modern surroundings in the heart of Hindley.

I dined at Mahabharat during April and was impressed by the quality of food and decor, which led me to nominate Mahabharat. Having had an excellent meal at Mahabharat, I can personally recommend it.  As a curry lover I am delighted to be able to support Mahabharat in the competition. Mahabharat’s staff are warm and friendly and the food is delicious. I hope they go far in the competition.