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. 

Bedford & Kempston

Local MP, Richard Fuller is urging qualifying married couples and civil partners in his constituency to make the most of tax savings from the Marriage Allowance.

The Marriage Allowance is a Government initiative launched in April to recognise the importance of marriage in the tax system.

Richard explained:
“Individuals who qualify can transfer 10 per cent of their personal allowance to their spouse saving up to £220 for this year. There is a simple online application for Marriage Allowance. Just visit this website or call HMRC on 0300 200 3300.”

The criteria for Marriage Allowance is:

  • You are married or in a civil partnership
  • You don’t earn or you don’t pay tax on your income (if you currently earn less than £11,000 a year).
  • Your partner does not earn more than £43,000 a year.

Treasury Minister, Jane Ellison added:
“HMRC is raising awareness of the savings to couples that the Marriage Allowance offers. This can reduce a partner’s income tax bill by up to £220 this year, or £432 if couples who were also eligible in 2015-16 backdate their claim. You can still apply if you or your partner is currently receiving a pension.”

Richard Fuller is urging local people to get their flu jab and find out more about how they can stay well this winter.

Richard said, “It’s really important that if you are a pensioner, or suffer from a long term condition, or have children between 2 and 7 that you find out about to stay well this winter. And if you have older relatives or elderly neighbours, remember to keep an eye out for them too.”

The Stay Well This Winter campaign being run by Public Health England and NHS England aims to raise awareness of the vulnerability of the elderly and those with long-term health conditions at winter among family, friends and carers. Advice includes:

  • If you suffer from a long term health condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), an umbrella term used to describe a number of conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis; diabetes; heart or kidney disease; are aged 65 or over; or are pregnant, get the free flu vaccine now
  • If you’re a parent of a child aged 2 -7, ensure your child is vaccinated against flu. Children aged 2, 3 and 4 can get the vaccination from their GP. Parents of children in school years 1, 2 and 3 are asked to give permission for their child to receive the free nasal spray vaccination at school
  • Seek immediate advice from your pharmacist at the first sign of winter illnesses, before it gets too serious
  • Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can
  • Keep an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours

For further advice about how you and your family can stay well this winter, please visit the website.

Richard has welcomed an improved compensation scheme for passengers if their train is more than 15 minutes late.

This week, the Government announced that ‘Delay Repay 15’ will be introduced within months on Govia Thameslink services, including Southern services, before extending to all other lines. Passengers will soon be able to claim compensation for delays of over 15 minutes rather than the current threshold of 30 minutes.

In 2013, Richard raised the idea of making train operating companies compensate passengers for delays of 15 minutes or more in Parliament with the then Transport Secretary. He said: “I am glad the Government has listened. This is good news for rail passengers and provides a strong incentive for train operators to deliver a reliable service.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We recognise that, above all else, passengers want a reliable train service, but when things do go wrong it is vital that they are compensated fairly. ‘Delay Repay 15’ is a major improvement for passengers and we are working with train companies to make it as easy as possible for passengers to claim their rightful compensation.”

Currently, passengers are entitled to 50% of their fare if their train is delayed by 30-59 minutes, 100% if it is delayed by over an hour, and 100% of the total cost if it is delayed for over two hours. These thresholds will stay in place but passengers will now also be able to claim 25% of the cost of the single fare for delays of between 15 and 29 minutes.

This week, Richard added his support to a campaign aimed at tackling the taboo that can be associated with mental health.

Ben Salmons launched the Break the Stigma initiative last year to raise awareness and tackle common misconceptions surrounding mental health. He is now employed by the East London NHS Foundation Trust so he can continue his work across Bedfordshire.

Richard said:
“I had a thought provoking meeting with Ben about his campaign to be open and Break the Stigma regarding mental health. He is a great young man thoroughly committed to this important cause and I was happy to provide a personal message about the importance of talking about mental health.”

Richard’s Break the Stigma message read, ‘If we broke an arm or a leg we would ‘talk’ about it, so let’s ‘talk’ about our metal health – put it in the conversation.’

Visit the campaign’s facebook page for more information.

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 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.