Friday 15 July 2011

I'm backing the World Cup Bid

East Lancs Rd, Golborne
Today, I was pleased to assist in raising awareness of Wigan's bid to be a host town for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

I joined Deputy Leader of Wigan Council, Cllr David Molyneux and Wigan Rugby League legend Kris Radlinski as new signs were erected at the entrances to the Borough, backing the World Cup bid.

Earlier this year, I intervened when the North West Development Agency (NWDA) were set to renege on contracts entered into with the Rugby Football League, casting doubt on the tournament's viability.

Alongside the All Party Group on Rugby League, we were successful in persuading the NWDA to honour its commitment.

For me, it is inconceivable, that Wigan should not play a significant role in the World Cup, but I know that all involved in the bid are not taking anything for granted and are working hard to ensure that international Rugby League will grace both the DW Stadium and Leigh Sports Village.

Self regulation is simply not working

This week, I was called by the Speaker at Prime Minister's Questions and I used this opportunity to call on David Cameron to regulate the Debt Management sector and ‘beef up’ the powers of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to deal with rogue companies.

Debt management is a lucrative business. Over the past decade, countless firms have sprung up – many using dubious tactics to acquire customers. Misleading advertising and a procession of inflated claims about how easy it is to write off your debts are just a few tactics some companies have been caught resorting to – and almost all of them charge high fees.

There is growing support in the country and within parliament for change and I am spearheading the campaign as the new chair of the All Party Group on Debt & Personal Finance.

In his reply, David Cameron acknowledged Ms Fovargue’s experience in this area and undertook to consider the issue.

The OFT’s recent review of the market revealed shocking results. When it conducted 168 compliance visits and mystery shopped 172 providers, 129 firms were told to take immediate action or risk losing their credit licence.

It is little wonder that one in four UK adults, according to research organisation Mintel’s September 2010 debt management report, think that debt management companies (DMCs) ‘prey on the desperate’ and ‘are just rip-off merchants’.

DMCs must hold a consumer credit licence issued by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). As an unregulated industry, two trade bodies DEMSA and the Debt Resolution Forum are aiming to raise industry standards.

Nonetheless I remain unconvinced. Self-regulation has failed tens of thousands of people in this country and in the absence of a regulatory framework, many people are receiving poor and inappropriate advice with front loading of fees from many DMCs they contact for help.

The OFT has no power to stop a company trading while they investigate, which is on average two years and, ideally, the best solution is to expand free debt provision from agencies like CABs so people aren’t paying to get out of debt.

Thursday 7 July 2011

National Transplant Week

Join the Register

Over 7,500 people in the UK are currently waiting for an organ transplant and furthermore, on average, 3 people who need a transplant die every day whilst waiting.
Transplant Week, which takes places between 4th - 10th July, aims to increase awareness of organ donation and the issues that surround it by focusing on how long people are currently waiting to receive a transplant.

Last week, I met with The Kidney Alliance during National Transplant week to discuss the affect of the government’s Health Bill on patients suffering from kidney failure and requiring regular dialysis.

There is still much work to be done to encourage people to donate their organs.

At the moment only 29% of people have joined the Organ Donor Register, even though 96% would take an organ if they needed one. 

The average person in the UK spends an hour waiting every day - whether it's in traffic, on public transport or in a queue. But for those waiting for a life-saving organ transplant, for which there is often no alternative, the wait is on average up to three years.

For Transplant Week this year, I want people to think about that wait and take action by signing up to the Organ Donor Register and join the 16 million citizens whose details are registered. If I could magically change one thing to help save more lives, it would be to make sure everyone took a few minutes to let their family know their wishes regarding organ donation

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Citizens Advice Parliamentarian of the Year Award

Yvonne is pictured with Jane Mordue of Citizens Advice
 I was very surprised to learn this morning that I was to be this year's recipient of the Citizens Advice Parliamentarian of the Year.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Yvonne was selected for her tireless championing of the Citizens Advice service and our clients in Parliament, since being elected in 2010."

“While still a relatively new MP, the sheer amount of time and determination she has put into keeping the issues Citizens Advice work with high on the political agenda, and the effective way in which she has secured the support of so many colleagues, on both sides of the House has had a huge impact on the Service and on our clients."

“Yvonne’s successful leadership is evidenced in her work as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Legal Aid and the new Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Debt and Personal Finance. In these latter roles she has secured several debates on the impact of legal aid reform and on the impact other public spending cuts will have on the future of funding for free debt and welfare benefits advice."

“As a member of the Welfare Reform Bill Committee Yvonne spoke in favour of several proposed amendments to the Bill to expose and try to mitigate the negative impact some of the proposed changes will have on CAB clients and other vulnerable members of society."

“Together with other members of the APPG on Debt and Personal Finance, she has
been campaigning for more effective regulation of fee-charging debt management plans – a huge issue for our clients, and one we fully support.”

These awards acknowledge either a Peer or an MP who we have worked closely with in Westminster – and in the case of MPs, their constituency – to deliver real change for our clients. Previous winners include Yvonne's predecessor Sir Ian McCartney in 2009 and Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat Business Secretary and MP for Twickenham in 2008.

For me, as a former Citizens Advice Bureau manager, receiving this award is extra special and I’m delighted to be recognised in this way by the service that I worked in for so long. My experience with St Helens CAB was the best possible grounding for my work as an MP, both in terms of dealing with constituency casework and as a legislator. I continue to meet regularly with my local Wigan & Leigh CAB. This contact, in addition to that which I have with Citizens Advice head office, is vital in helping me effectively represent my constituents, especially those struggling with debt, benefits and legal problems. The Citizens Advice service’s understanding of the issues facing individuals and communities across the country is second to none.

Friday 1 July 2011

Fishy goings-on down at Spring View

Today I visited an innovative project for young people not in education, employment or training in Spring View.

Cast North West runs accredited fishing-based training courses for young people in an effort to reduce offending and anti-social behaviour. In addition, the charity also runs various educational workshops on a range of subjects, including Maths, English and IT.
One of the UK’s leading grant makers, the Lloyds TSB Foundation for England and Wales funds small to medium sized local, regional and national charities working at the heart of communities to tackle disadvantage.

The two year £24,900 grant awarded to Cast NW will help the charity deliver its accredited ‘Introduction to Fishing Management’ course. I was given a tour of the facilities by Project Founder, Neil Farnworth and David Pye, Asst Co-ordinator and met with some of the young people benefitting from the course.

I was very impressed by Cast NW's plans for the future and I have pledged my support and assistance. 

Neil and his team are to be applauded for their work with our young people providing them with important life skills and boosting their self-confidence. For many young people life can be a challenge. It’s easy to make the wrong choices but with projects like this they can realise their true potential and make a positive contribution to their community.