Richard Fuller today welcomed the announcement by Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport to enable fast track completion of the rail link from Oxford to Cambridge via Bedford and Milton Keynes.
In his statement to the House of Commons, Mr Grayling said, “I want to bring new skills into the challenge of upgrading our railways. I will begin by looking at the reopening of the link from Oxford to Cambridge, to support a range of opportunities including housing, science, technology and innovation. I am going to establish East West Rail as a new and separate organisation, to accelerate the permissions needed to reopen the route, and to secure private sector involvement to design, build and operate the route as an integrated organisation. This East West Rail organisation will be established early in the New Year and chaired by the former Chief Executive of Chiltern Rail, Rob Brighouse.”
Responding to the announcement, Richard said, “Completing this important rail link, especially from Bedford to Cambridge, was at serious risk of getting stuck in an over-committed Network Rail, leading to delays and potentially cancellation if government changed investment priorities in the future. I will continue to press the Secretary of State to ensure that his plans will deliver this rail line ahead of time, on budget and to the highest safety standards.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond in his Autumn Statement this week allocated £100m to accelerate the building of the Western Section of the East West Rail Project, the Bedford–Oxford line, and a further £10m was allocated to continue development work to identify a preferred route for the line to extend east of Bedford, via Sandy, to Cambridge. He also gave a commitment to deliver the new dualled Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, via Bedford.
After listening to the announcement in the House of Commons, Richard said: “I am delighted that the Government is investing in new road and rail links for Bedford. This investment will unlock economic growth in and around our town by further improving connectivity and our attractiveness for businesses to invest. This will bring more, local jobs making Bedford an even better place to live and work.”
In the Autumn Statement, Mr Hammond said: “This project can be more than just a transport link. It can become a transformational tech-corridor, drawing on the world-class research strengths of our two best-known universities.”
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.
“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 Fuller, MP for Bedford, attended the Second Reading of the Homelessness Reduction Bill in Parliament today, which was passed by the House of Commons with Government support. The Bill will ensure that local authorities provide homelessness services to all those affected, not just those who are protected under existing legislation. It will also legally require local authorities to introduce measures to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place.
Richard backed the Bill to reduce homelessness, continuing his work with national and local homeless charities such as the King’s Arms Project in Bedford.
Speaking from the House for Commons, Richard said: “This Bill aims to prevent people from losing their homes through early intervention and cross agency support and helps those who are not currently considered a priority under current legislation. At the moment, if you don’t have dependent children or you can’t prove that you are particularly vulnerable, your local authority has no legal obligation to offer you help.”
The Bill places a prevention duty on local authorities to help anyone who is eligible and at risk of homelessness to secure accommodation, 56 days before they are threatened with homelessness regardless of their priority need status. It also creates a new duty for councils to provide those who find themselves homeless with support for a further period of 56 days to help to secure accommodation. The Bill will also ensure that other local services refer those either homeless or at risk of being homeless to local authority housing teams.
The passing of the Bill, proposed by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, follows a Government commitment to provide a £40 million fund to prevent homelessness and help those on the streets with the most complex needs.
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.
Richard Fuller MP has welcomed government plans to stop requiring people with the most severe, lifelong conditions to be re-assessed for out-of-work benefits.
On Thursday, Richard spoke at FLAG Bedford – a social group for disabled adults in the Bedford area – and called for changes to be made to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) reassessments and two days later, the government announced its change in policy.
Over the weekend, the government announced that it will work with medical professionals, its health assessment provider and others to develop criteria to stop re-assessments for people with the most severe health conditions. People with illnesses such as severe Huntingdon’s, severe autism or a congenital heart condition will be among those who might qualify to continue to receive ESA automatically.
The Government went further by saying that it would also explore how it might simplify and improve the assessment process to support people with health conditions and disabilities.
Richard commented: “This is a very welcome announcement. In my time as an MP, I have come across chronically ill constituents with conditions that will not improve and for whom re-assessment has caused unnecessary anxiety and stress. I am very glad that Theresa May is setting a new direction.”
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.
“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.