Working for the future of Bedford & Kempston

Please note: This site covers the period that I was the Member of Parliament for Bedford from May 2010 to June 2017. I am now the Member of Parliament for North East Bedfordshire. Please visit my new website: for the latest news and information.

Bedford & Kempston

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.

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:

The diversity of residents in Bedford and Kempston is a unique and powerful asset. Children in our schools get to meet other children whose parents come from every part of the world. Such an early exposure must surely help them prepare for a world – of work, travel, study and culture – that is getting ever smaller.

In the EU referendum, the country decided 52:48 to leave the European Union and the role of migration figured strongly in the debate. In the reaction to the result, some people have used the vote to leave as an excuse to act or speak in ways that reflect bigotry or prejudice. Others have sought to claim that those who voted to leave are somehow racist or are collectively responsible for racist acts.

Let me be clear: any action by anyone who seeks to foment discrimination must be opposed vigorously. There is no excuse, no justification ever for prejudice. The referendum result is not a signal of support for hate crimes, nor should the 17 million people who voted to leave the EU be judged any differently than the 16 million who voted to remain. We need unity against racism.

As your Member of Parliament and as a supporter of Leave, my job now is to speak for the 100%, not the 52% or 48% of the people of Bedford and Kempston. Nationally that means moving forward to implement the referendum decision in the best long term interests of our country. Locally it means unifying both sides, opposing those who would divide us and challenging anyone who would make any of our residents feel unwelcome.

Our country is a beacon of freedom in a world where so many people yearn for freedom. We are a generous country and one that has a strong sense of fair play. We have taken back control so we can embrace these values of openness – on our own terms and how we know best. Let us all reflect that spirit of openness and generosity in our daily lives as well and let this generation of Bedfordians proudly carry forward our heritage of tolerance and peace.

The results board after final poll of audience is taken at MacIntyre Hudson EU Referendum debate

The results board after a final poll of the audience is taken at the MacIntyre Hudson EU Referendum debate at Bedford Blues Rugby Club

Over the last few weeks, Richard has taken part in a number of EU Referendum debates and discussions around the constituency. Richard will be voting to LEAVE the EU on Thursday and urges his constituents to “vote with confidence, don’t vote out of fear”.

Richard’s views on the EU Referendum can be found here.

One of the debates Richard took part in was opened up to hundreds of local businesses at Bedford Blues Rugby Club, hosted by MacIntyre Hudson. Richard spoke for Leave and Richard Howitt MEP for Remain and the scene was set by Professor of Global Economy at Cranfield University, Joe Nellis. Both speakers made opening statements before questions were taken from the floor and from twitter submissions.

The audience was issued with voting pads so that polls could be taken at various points during the evening. The opening poll showed that 46% would vote to remain, 28% would vote to leave and 26% were undecided. After an hour of lively debate and passionate closing statements, the final result stood at 49% leave, 45% remain and 6% undecided.

The opening statement which Richard gave to the audience can be watched below:

The full debate, filmed by Bedford College Media Department can be watched here.

Richard added: “A Vote to Leave the European Union and get back control is the best gift we can pass on to the next generation”.

Minister, Nick Boles, speaking at digital skills event in Bedford

Minister, Nick Boles, speaking at Richard’s digital skills event in Bedford

Richard welcomed the Skills Minister, Nick Boles, to Bedford last month for a discussion with local employers on the topic of combating the digital skills shortage.

Nick Boles and Richard were joined on the panel by Ian Pryce, Principal and CEO of Bedford College, Dr Toby Thompson, Director of Networked Learning at Cranfield University and Martin Scovell, CEO of MatsSoft Ltd, a local software company, which has recently established an innovation centre in Bedford, in partnership with international civil engineers Mott MacDonald.

Richard said:
“The digital revolution means the way we work is changing yet many businesses complain that they lack the required skills and resources to drive digital innovation. This raises several questions if you’re a technology firm or a local business struggling to recruit and retain increasingly expensive IT talent.

“We are lucky to be supported here in Bedford by two institutions: Bedford College and Cranfield University. Given the Government’s commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020, this forum was an opportunity to identify gaps in our local skills provision and to shape the content and direction of future courses.”

MatsSoft, who sponsored the event, has won global recognition for its Low-code technology which enables business to achieve digital transformation without needing coding skills.

Richard with local postwoman Sarah Newbury, delivering the mail in Queen's Park, Bedford

Richard with local postwoman, Sarah Newbury, on a delivery round in Queen’s Park, Bedford

Earlier this month, Richard got an insight into what’s involved in delivering our mail when he joined local postwoman, Sarah Newbury, on a local delivery round in Queen’s Park.

Richard is one of a number of MPs being invited to go out with postmen and women to see the lengths Royal Mail goes to in order to deliver the post.

Richard said:
“This was a great way to gain an understanding of what it takes to deliver our letters and parcels six days a week, in all weathers. Like many MPs, I am used to delivering leaflets across the constituency but the increase in online shopping has meant Royal Mail is delivering many more parcels and this comes with different challenges, which I was able to experience on my round with Sarah. I would like to thank Sarah and all her colleagues at the Bedford sorting office for all their hard work in ensuring we get our mail every day.”

Richard was delighted with E.ON’s announcement last month that it is doubling its workforce in Bedford with the recruitment of 400 additional customer service jobs at the Caxton Road office. He said:

“Since 2010, unemployment in Bedford has fallen by nearly half but there is more to do. E.ON has been a large employer in Bedford for many years and I am pleased that they are continuing their investment in Bedford and creating more new jobs.

“This is a vote of confidence in Bedford as a great place to do business.”

Richard with Jeremy Hunt discussing the Council Healthcare Plan

Richard with Jeremy Hunt discussing the Council Healthcare Plan

The day after Bedford Borough Council published its cross-party report on the future of Bedford Hospital, Richard Fuller MP met Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to tell him how the Council’s report provides a viable future for our local hospital consistent with national NHS priorities.

Bedford Borough Council’s cross-party report, prepared by PriceWaterhouse Coopers and published on 7th June, outlined a number of ways in which social care and hospital services could be integrated to save money and ensure that Bedford Hospital could continue to provide as many local services as possible.

Richard said:
“The Council’s cross-party report shows that local politicians – MPs, the Mayor and Councillors from all parties – are united in our determination that the maternity ward will remain at Bedford Hospital. The Council’s proposals to merge social care and NHS care in our area fits much better with national priorities of the NHS and would help fix the financial deficit at Bedford Hospital whilst retaining the maternity unit at Bedford Hospital.”

On the 8th June, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review published their proposals for local healthcare which would see the transfer of maternity services to Milton Keynes Hospital.

Richard criticised these proposals from the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Joint Healthcare Review saying:
“The Joint Review’s proposals are unworkable, unwarranted and unwelcome yet this “Zombie” review conducted at a cost of millions of pounds cannot stop itself from repeating mistake after mistake. For these past five years, I have campaigned against the proposals from this Review and have worked with clinicians at our hospital to develop their own vision for future care, IACS, the core for an ‘Addenbrooke’s Alliance’.”

The integrated acute and community services or IACS model incorporates integrated primary, community and acute care, networked with other hospitals to provide some hyperacute and fragile services.

Richard opening the new British Friendly office in Bromham Rd with CEO Mark Myers

Richard opening the new British Friendly office in Bromham Rd with CEO Mark Myers

Earlier this month, Richard officially opened the new British Friendly Society offices whose headquarters are in Bedford.

British Friendly is a small Income Protection insurance company who have been providing sickness and accident cover to their members since 1902. They specialise in cover for the self-employed and manual workers and have over 17,000 members throughout the UK.

Speaking at the event Richard said:
“It’s great that Bedford is home to a national success story and one that is thriving. For over 100 years, Bedford based British Friendly has been paying out claims to people who are too ill to work across the country, so we can say that local people are helping those in need throughout the UK!

“Their new offices and new brand show that Bedford is a good place to do business and the Friendly Society brand is one that is welcome in this age of multinational banking corporations – a friendly focus on helping their members first and foremost.”