Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017. 

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On Saturday, Richard was in Kempston for the launch party of the Companions Real Bread Community Interest Company – a not-for-profit bakery which helps ex-offenders to reduce their re-offending by involving them in the work of a real bread bakery.

Richard said: “This is a great new initiative led by Maggie and Nigel to create great bread and help ex-offenders back into work: a cause close to my heart.”

You can find Companions Real Bread at Bedford Gourmet Market every Thursday, or this Saturday at St Andrew’s Church Bedford or Sunday at St Paul’s Church Bedford. For more information on how you can get involved or purchase their bread, visit the Companions Real Bread CIC facebook page.

On Saturday night, Richard attended the 2016 Bedfordshire Asian Business Association (BABA) Awards night in Kempston.

The keynote address was given by Post Office CEO, Paula Vennells and the awards acknowledged strong leadership in business, public service and local charity organisations.

Richard, who had the opportunity to speak at the Awards said:
“There have been many examples tonight of business success from local leaders of Asian origin worthy of celebration. Now that we are looking at a new future for our country, we need to excite people about the opportunities for business all across the world and that is what BABA does so well.”

Richard also thanked the organisers, in particular BABA Chairman, Jas Parmar, for a great night. You can find out more about BABA here.

This week, Richard raised the ongoing concerns about Bedford Hospital’s future with the Prime Minister.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Richard sought assurances that the NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for Bedfordshire would be ‘subject to proper local accountability and full local decision authority’.

In her response, the Prime Minister said: “It is absolutely the point of these plans that they are locally driven.”

“They will be considered locally and should be taking into account the concerns and interests locally, not just those of the clinical commissioning groups, but those of the local authorities and of the public. These plans must be driven from the locality, so I give my hon. Friend that assurance.”

Richard also heavily criticised the Beds and MK Healthcare Review as an ‘abject failure that lost all credibility with local people’. In June, the Review published recommendations for significant changes to services, such as plans to close maternity services at Bedford Hospital, and then refused to answer any questions.

Richard has continued to campaign for the multi-million pound Healthcare Review into a merger between Bedford and Milton Keynes Hospitals to be scrapped. He has also called for the STP to include Bedford Borough Council’s cross-party alternative report, which outlines a number of ways in which social care and hospital services could be integrated to save money and ensure that Bedford Hospital can continue to provide as many local services as possible.

Richard attended a British Red Cross event in Westminster on Tuesday where new research revealed that up to 59% of ‘pre-hospital’ deaths from injury could potentially be prevented if more people stepped in with some simple first aid. The research was commissioned by the British Red Cross and conducted by the University of Manchester.

Data taken from coroners’ offices showed that while 93% will call for an ambulance if they find someone with an injury, first aid intervention of any kind was infrequent. Around half did not attempt any first aid while waiting for the emergency medical services to arrive.

At the event, Richard learnt two simple first aid skills and pledged support for others to also have the opportunity to gain the confidence and learn the skills that could save a life.

Richard said: “I was shocked to hear that so many deaths potentially could have been prevented by some basic first aid. Something as simple as turning someone on their side and tilting their head back to keep their airway open could be all it takes to make that difference between life and death in certain situations.”

Joe Mulligan, British Red Cross head of first aid education said: “The good news is that most people are calling 999. But after calling 999 we want people to then do something in those crucial minutes before the ambulance arrives. Sadly in the majority of deaths we looked at, the simplest interventions could have helped keep someone alive until they got to hospital.”

The British Red Cross is calling for everyone in the UK to learn two basic first aid skills that could help to prevent the number of people who die from injuries before reaching hospital. The simple interventions which could have saved lives and improved outcomes are:
• Breathing: turning someone on their side and tilting the head to open the airway if they are unresponsive and breathing.
• Bleeding: applying pressure to a wound to stem blood flow.

The charity is calling for more opportunities for people to learn first aid, starting at school, but also through the driving test and public health initiatives.

Find the report and more about the British Red Cross campaign here.

Richard joined GB Paralympian Alistair Patrick-Heselton at Bedford Free School last term as part of the Sky Sports Living for Sport Project. The project aims to build confidence and develop life skills in secondary school children.

Alistair is an athlete mentor for Sky Sports and was a footballer who had played for Queens Park Rangers as well as Oldham Athletic on loan. After being told he may never walk again following a serious car accident, Alistair represented GB at the London Paralympics in 2012 in 7-a-side football.

Alistair visited the students at Bedford Free School to share his inspiring story of personal achievement and sporting success.

The Business, Innovation and Skills and the Work and Pensions Committees have concluded that leadership failures and greed led to the collapse of BHS.

The report found that Sir Philip Green chose to rush through the offloading of a beleaguered high street institution, which was losing money and encumbered with a massive pension fund deficit, to a buyer who he was clearly aware was “manifestly unsuitable”. Though the ownership of Dominic Chappell and his associates was “incompetent and self-serving”, the ultimate fate of the company was sealed on the day it was sold. Advisers were paraded by both sides as an “expensive badge of legitimacy for people who would otherwise be bereft of credibility” while the Taveta group directors failed to provide a semblance of independent oversight or challenge in a corporate group run as a personal fiefdom by a single dominant individual.

Richard Fuller MP, a member of the committee that drafted the report said: “Sir Philip Green should surrender his knighthood and make good the monies owed to the pension funds of the 20,000 BHS pensioners. At the start of our inquiry, I wanted to see evidence to confirm that Sir Philip Green’s behaviour constituted “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and we got evidence by the lorry load.”

MPs heard hours of oral testimony and considered thousands of pages of written evidence in the inquiry, which began when BHS crashed into administration just 13 months after the ill-advised and under-funded sale to Dominic Chappell. The Committees say the evidence at times resembled a “circular firing squad”, with a series of key witnesses appearing to believe they could absolve themselves of responsibility by blaming others. Sir Philip Green himself “adopted a scattergun approach”, liberally firing blame to all angles except his own.

The report documents the systematic plunder of BHS at the cost of the 11,000 jobs and 20,000 people’s pensions now at risk. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and the respective directors, advisers and hangers-on who all got rich or richer are all culpable, with the only losers the ordinary employees and pensioners.

The Committees say this is “the unacceptable face of capitalism” and that the story of BHS begs much wider questions about the gaps in company law and pension regulation that must be addressed. The two Committees will now turn to those question in new inquiries.

With the news last week that the Bedford branch of BHS may join the other BHS stores that have closed completely, Richard added: “I hope the findings of this report and the further action that I will be taking when Parliament resumes after the Summer Recess will give some comfort to BHS employees past and present that the fight for their interests will go on. There is still a lot owing to their pension fund and as the report says this is ultimately Sir Philip Green’s responsibility. He should fix it.”

The full report can be read here.

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has today published its findings into employment practices at Sports Direct.

The Committee was presented with a disturbing picture of the working practices and business model at Sports Direct. In evidence to the BIS Committee, Mr Ashley admitted for the first time that workers had effectively been paid below the national minimum wage and that Sports Direct had got too big for him to control.

The Committee also heard a series of accounts of worker mistreatment, including staff being penalised for matters such as taking a short break to drink water and for taking time off work when ill – the ‘six strikes and you’re out’ policy.

Other evidence pointed to serious health and safety breaches, with repeated ambulance calls to the Shirebrook warehouse, including one case where a woman gave birth in the site toilets.

Richard as a key member of the Committee, is leading efforts to persuade the Government led by Theresa May to bring forward proposals to ensure businesses work for their employees and not just for their bosses.

The full report can be read here.

At the beginning of July, Year 3 and 4 pupils from Cauldwell Lower School visited Parliament as part of a day trip to London.

Richard welcomed the children to the Houses of Parliament and showed them Westminster Hall, St. Stephen’s Hall, Central Lobby and the Terrace. During their visit, they learnt about the history of the buildings and its people and were shown statues of great parliamentarians, the mosaics depicting the patron saints of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and a recently installed sculpture which celebrates the fight for women’s suffrage.

This week, Richard called a debate in the House of Commons on the future of Bedford Hospital. During the debate, Richard criticised the flawed Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review and supported Bedford Borough’s Plan and the NHS National Strategy.

Responding to Richard, Ben Gummer, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, said the people of Bedford had been “let down” by reviews “going on too long” and called on NHS England to “ensure that a plan is agreed locally as quickly as possible and just to get on and do it, so that we stop this indecision and vacillation, which has clearly caused local people in Bedford such concern over so many years”.

You can watch the full debate here:

Earlier this year, Richard took local charity, Schoolreaders, to the Department for Education to meet with the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb.

Schoolreaders was set up to help improve children’s literacy by matching reading volunteers with primary schools. The charity provides an invaluable resource for schools and enables children to receive much needed one-on-one reading time with an adult volunteer who wants to make a difference to a child’s life.

Founded in Bedfordshire just three years ago, Schoolreaders now operates in 14 counties, works with over 100 schools and has hundreds of volunteer readers. The charity has built relationships with organisations like the Women’s Institute, Rotary and U3A to spread the word and find volunteers. The charity is making an important contribution to literacy in the schools in which it operates and aims to help many more schools and children across the country.

After the meeting, Nick Gibb said: “I am pleased to see this wide partnership of organisations coming together to tackle illiteracy. Nothing is more important in education than making sure every child can read; in fact the whole of society has a role to play in ensuring that children become fluent readers.

“Tackling literacy failure is a priority for the Government, and our plan for education is designed to ensure every single child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain.”

If you are interested in volunteering or would like to find our more about the charity, please visit the Schoolreaders website.