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Jim Fitzpartick
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2016 June

28 Jun

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EU Referendum Statement

June 28, 2016 | By | No Comments

Like many Tower Hamlets residents, I am disappointed with the result of the EU Referendum.

However, another referendum is not going to make matters better.

We need to accept the public’s decision and seek a way forward, especially when there may be a General Election ahead. Labour needs to win the public’s trust again.

In the aftermath of the referendum, I cannot see Jeremy Corbyn taking us to government, so we may have new leaders of both parties.

I am also horrified by the recent outburst in hate crimes across London and the UK. I urge residents to report any incidents to the police and the police to do all they can to keep everyone in our community safe as I am sure they are doing.

The outcome of the referendum is not a legitimisation of racism or intolerance.

We may be leaving the EU but this does not stop us from continuing to work with our existing connections and links. Britain still has a bright future despite this outcome.

Further, the oncoming Tory leadership contest and possible General Election may be a way for a second look at this decision.

Whatever happens, it is certain that politics in Britain is in for a turbulent time.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

17 Jun

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17 Jun

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP pledges to Count Armed Forces Community In

June 17, 2016 | By | No Comments

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP has declared his support for The Royal British Legion’s ‘Count Them In’ campaign, which calls for questions on the Armed Forces community to be included in the next UK Census.

It is estimated that there are currently between 6.5 million and 6.7 million members of the Armed Forces community living in the UK, representing about a tenth of the population. However, little is currently known about the exact numbers, location and needs of this significant group. Including new questions on the next census would provide public bodies, local authorities, and charities with valuable information to ensure they are able to deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community.

Jim met with representatives of The Royal British Legion, veterans and Service personnel to discuss the campaign in Parliament on Monday 13 June.

Jim said of the meeting: “It was a pleasure to meet with members of the Armed Forces community who, along with their families, make huge sacrifices in the service of our country. I also enjoyed meeting with staff from The Royal British Legion and hearing more about their Count Them In campaign.

I was very disappointed to learn that we currently know more about the UK’s Jedi community than we do about our Armed Forces. It cannot be right that our Servicemen and women, veterans and their families are effectively hidden from official statistics, and that’s why I’m backing the call for new questions to be added to the next UK Census. We count on them – let’s count them in.”

Chris Simpkins, Director-General of The Royal British Legion, said:As a nation we promise to provide lifelong care and support for those who serve our country. By adding questions to the 2021 UK Census, we can help public bodies and charities deliver the best services they can for our Armed Forces community, when and where it is needed most. We thank Jim for adding his support to our campaign: together I’m confident that we can make the next census count for our Armed Forces community”

Constituents can find out more about the  campaign by visiting the campaign website, www.britishlegion.org.uk/census, or by posting their own pledge of support on social media using the #CountThemIn hashtag.

15 Jun

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APCRG National Responsible Business Champion award shortlist announced

June 15, 2016 | By | No Comments

Congratulations to Canary Wharf Group plc!

Jonathan Djanogly MP and Baroness Greengross, Co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group (APCRG) have today (15 June) announced the companies shortlisted for its 2016 National Responsible Business Champion award.

Under this scheme all MPs are invited to nominate an outstanding business in their constituency as their Constituency Responsible Business Champion on the basis of its local impact.  The companies nominated by MPs are then considered against each other for the APCRG’s National Responsible Business Champion award. This year MPs were told that in selecting the national winner, the Parliamentary judging panel would be looking for companies that are:

  • supporting the local community;
  • investing in healthy workplaces;
  • offering apprenticeships and training to all age groups;
  • promoting equality & diversity in the workplace, including offering older people work opportunities; and
  • monitoring suppliers’ actions on these issues.

The APCRG National Responsible Business Champion 2016 will be presented with the award by the Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, on 6 July 2016 at a reception in Parliament.

The APCRG Responsible Business Champions scheme is supported by National Grid plc.

Baroness Greengross said:

“We feel this is a very strong shortlist.  The overall standard of nominations from MPs this year was higher than last year, which means that some very good companies were not even long-listed for our National Responsible Business Champion award.  Every company on this shortlist can feel very proud indeed not only to have the endorsement of their local MP as their Constituency Responsible Business Champion, but to be shortlisted in a very strong field for our national award.”

Jonathan Djanogly MP said:

“I am very pleased that two very small companies made the shortlist this year, which demonstrates that you do not have to be a big business to operate responsibly.  Indeed many SMEs regard treating their staff, customers and suppliers well as just “good business”, which it is. These shortlisted companies are distinguished from many others by the very significant contribution that they also make to their local communities, which has been recognised by their local MPs.”

Joss Clarke, Head of EU & UK Public Affairs, National Grid, said:

“National Grid is very pleased to support this Responsible Business Champions award scheme and we are delighted that more and more MPs are supporting it as well.

Being chosen as an MP’s Constituency Responsible Business Champion is a unique accolade and I’d like to congratulate all the companies who have achieved this in 2016.

The APCRG has selected a very strong-short list and we look forward to hearing which of these Constituency Responsible Business Champions is chosen as the National Champion 2016.”

This year the 56 Constituency Responsible Business Champions have now been narrowed down to a shortlist of 16 companies:

 

MP’s name Constituency Responsible Business Champion Constituency
Robert Buckland Zurich Insurance South Swindon
Richard Burden adi Group Ltd Birmingham, Northfield
Ronnie Campbell Port of Blyth Blyth Valley
Jon Cruddas West & Coe Funeral Directors Dagenham & Rainham
David TC Davies Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd Monmouth
Jonathan Djanogly Anglian Water Services Limited Huntingdon
Jim Fitzpatrick Canary Wharf Group plc Poplar & Limehouse
Roger Gale Speciality Breads Ltd North Thanet
Patrick Grady Kelvin Hair Glasgow North
Oliver Heald Johnson Matthey plc North East Hertfordshire
Gerald Howarth Fluor UK Aldershot
Mike Kane Manchester Airport Wythenshawe & Sale East
Craig Mackinlay Speciality Breads Ltd South Thanet
Scott Mann DS Smith Packaging – Launceston North Cornwall
Maria Miller Marks & Spencer plc (Basingstoke) Basingstoke
Greg Mulholland Xiros Limited Leeds North West
Ian Murray Standard Life plc Edinburgh South
Justin Tomlinson Zurich Insurance North Swindon 

 

Robert Buckland MP and Justin Tomlinson MP described the “fantastic work” that Zurich Insurance does in Swindon through the Zurich Community Trust and set out very strong evidence of its work to promote a healthy workplace and to encourage diversity and equality.

Richard Burden MP particularly commended adi Group Ltd’s partnerships with a range of charitable and community organisations and its Apprenticeship Academy which “supports budding engineers and ensures that the skills of long-serving staff are passed on to the next generation.”

Ronnie Campbell MP nominated Port of Blyth for a second time, providing more information this year about its community work and training programmes, as well as its work with suppliers to encourage responsible business practice.

Jon Cruddas MP told us about the sensitive and very generous support which West & Coe – Dagenham’s oldest business – provides for the local community, which includes not just a counselling and befriending service, but generous support for local sporting activities, the Queen’s theatre in Hornchurch and the local hospice.

David TC Davies MP commended Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd’s record against all the criteria we set and we were particularly struck by the fact that the age range of the company’s workforce extends from 16 to 81 years of age, with many employees working into their 70s.

Anglian Water Company was nominated by Jonathan Djanogly MP for its strong commitment to sustainable development, including promoting wellbeing in the workplace, a field in which it is recognised for its leadership.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP drew our attention to the “deep social investment made in the local community” by Canary Wharf Group plc highlighting its work to help students with the transition from education to employment, its work to create local supply chains and its support for local charities and community organisations.

Both Roger Gale MP and Craig Mackinlay MP nominated Speciality Breads, commending its supplier monitoring, traceability, training and better work practises, as well as its commitment to reducing food miles wherever possible.

Patrick Grady MP nominated Kelvin Hair as an “outstanding local community champion” emphasising its “excellent contribution” to the local community; its commitment to fair working practices; and its support for training and other local SMEs.

Mike Kane MP, nominated Manchester Airport, focussing on its the work with local schools and in providing important apprenticeship opportunities.

Johnson Matthey plc was nominated by Sir Oliver Heald MP, who commended its commitment to sustainable development, its support for local charities and community organisations; and its work through schools, university and its employee ambassadors to promote STEM subjects and careers.

Sir Gerald Howarth MP nominated Fluor Ltd providing detailed evidence of its strong commitment to education, training and investing in a healthy workplace; and its firm support for a diverse workforce.

DS Smith Packaging – Launceston nominated by Scott Mann MP who highlighted its investment in a healthy workplace, its commitment to employing and training all age groups and its support for the local community.

Maria Miller MP nominated Marks & Spencer plc (Basingstoke) for its “pivotal” role in the success of the Basingstoke inclusion Zone, a new scheme which seeks to ensure that disabled people are given a fair chance in the recruitment process and have the necessary support in the workplace.

Xiros Limited was nominated by Greg Mulholland MP who highlighted its commitment to employee fulfilment and wellbeing, including its strong support for training and flexible working practices.

Ian Murray MP nominated Standard Life plc, particularly commending its work to break down barriers to employment both as an employer and through community programmes and partnerships.

14 Jun

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Dr. Sheila Fitzpatrick M.B.E.

June 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

Order of the British Empire

Civil Division

Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood

FM8R27342

St. James’s Palace, London SW1

11 June 2016

THE QUEEN has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of the Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday, to give orders for the following promotions in, and appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire:

M.B.E.

To be Ordinary Members of the Civil Division of the said Most Excellent Order:

Dr. Sheila FITZPATRICK

For services to Charities and Community Organisations in the UK and in Bangladesh.

14 Jun

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Policing and Crime Bill

June 14, 2016 | By | No Comments

Extract from debate, read full debate here or watch it here

Monday 13 June 2016

Volume 611

dryttery

Jim Fitzpatrick

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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones). I shall not be referring to the mental health provisions in the Bill, but I commend colleagues who have already spoken about that and who have been personally responsible for taking this issue so far and for encouraging the Government to listen to the arguments that they have been putting forward for years. I also commend the Government for their response to the debates that took place in Committee and, more generally, for their attitude towards mental health. I also want to commend the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), for the way in which he spoke to his new clauses almost as part of the campaign on Hillsborough. He spoke passionately and powerfully and I hope that the Government will respond positively to his requests for the new clauses to be accepted, if only in principle. I look forward to the Minister’s response to the debate.

I want to speak briefly to new clause 48 and new schedule 1, which propose the recreation of a national fire service inspectorate in England. My friend the Minister is, like me, a former firefighter. When I ask him to do things in our exchanges on fire brigade matters, he sometimes throws back at me the fact that I did not do them when I was Fire Minister and asks why should he do them now. I want to ask him why he is recreating the fire service inspectorate when we did away with it and put other arrangements in place. I will be interested to hear his explanation. I welcome the fact, as the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) and others have done, that the Government recognise there is a vacuum and that something has to be created to fill the gap. Whether that is an inspectorate as set out in the new clause or whether that wording changes when the Bill goes to the House of Lords, the fact that the Government are moving in this direction is welcome.

In Westminster Hall last week, we discussed with the Minister the increasing number of calls related to flooding that the fire service now deals with, the transition towards dealing with more medical emergency calls and ​the arrangements with the national health service for the fire service to do more social care visits alongside fire safety visits. These changes all demonstrate the fact that the fire service is moving into different territory, and that different skills are being developed which require different resources as well as the staff to carry them out.

As I mentioned in Westminster Hall, criticisms are being levelled at the fire service, parts of which are being blamed for the reductions in the service. The fire and rescue service has been a victim of its own success in recent decades, having cut the number of calls and fires and reduced the number of deaths and serious injuries. That has resulted in the loss of fire stations, fire appliances and firefighters. The Minister will remember that I stated in that debate that there are nearly 7,000 fewer firefighters in the UK now than there were in 2010. That fact has raised a number of eyebrows, and questions are being asked about attendance times being met and resources being available. People are now asking whether the service is still equipped to do the job that it needs to do.

 

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con)

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The hon. Gentleman has great experience in the fire and rescue service in a number of capacities. The operational issues that he is rightly raising are important, but will he acknowledge the Public Accounts Committee’s finding that in the wake of the abolition of the Audit Commission, the governance, scrutiny and oversight of many fire and rescue services and the cosy relationship between the authorities and those services were unsatisfactory in terms of providing value for the taxpayer’s pound?

 

Jim Fitzpatrick

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Absolutely. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. That point was also raised by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, and I am sure that the Minister will also put forward an argument for putting in place a means of making those measurements.

Having said all that, I am curious about the lateness of the arrival of the new clauses. The Minister referred positively to the consensus in Committee and to the ability of both sides to help each other out to make progress on the Bill. I commend the shadow Fire Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown), for arguing for a provision to assess the ability of the fire service to carry out its functions. To the Minister’s credit, he has now tabled the new clause and the new schedule to address that issue.

I mentioned in an intervention my curiosity about whether the Government had considered the United Kingdom Accreditation Service as a potential vehicle to carry out the function that is being proposed here. The Minister knows that I had 23 years in the fire service, 13 of which were spent as an operational firefighter, and I participated in drills in the fire station as set out by Her Majesty’s inspectorate. I have to question the value of those drills, because we would train for weeks to get them right but they still did not always go entirely right. I question the value of putting in that amount of rehearsal. I wonder whether all that practice actually made the whole exercise worthless.

We decided to abolish Her Majesty’s inspectorate because of the scepticism and cynicism surrounding it—the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst referred to an old boys’ network earlier—and I would have ​hoped that the Government would now be proposing something new. However, they seem to be proposing a recreation of what went before. Having moved it to the Department for Communities and Local Government and then back to the Home Office, there seems to be replication so that, along with Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons, we will now have Her Majesty’s inspectorate of fire services.

I look forward to hearing more from the Minister and to listening to the debates in the other place, where I suspect the Bill will get more scrutiny than it has in this place. Public confidence in the fire service is high and has always been high, but the fire service needs professional underpinning and validation not only for public confidence and value for money, but for the safety of firefighters who put themselves on the frontline to protect the public. I look forward to a more extensive debate when the Bill goes to the other place, and to some comments from the Minister when he sums up. This is a positive step forward, but we need to make sure that the fire service can demonstrate to its own satisfaction, to our satisfaction and to that of the public that it is equipped, resourced and able to do the job we all admire it for doing and want it to carry on doing in the future.

10 Jun

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10 Jun

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New Marie Curie report finds LGBT people face discrimination at end of life

June 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

New Marie Curie report launch on LGBT care

Jim Fitzpatrick MP yesterday pledged to support Marie Curie in calling for high quality palliative and end of life care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, following the release of the charity’s latest report ‘Hiding Who I am’: The reality of end of life care for LGBT people.’

Jim Fitzpatrick MP was joined by Marie Curie Nurse, Tracey Meaning, to help launch the report, which has a forward written by writer Sandi Toksvig OBE, in Westminster earlier this week.

The report looks at the barriers that prevent LGBT people from accessing end of life care and highlights their real-life experiences. Findings show that nearly three-quarters (74%) of LGBT people are not confident that health and social care services provide sensitive end of life care for their needs. As a result, they often delay accessing the care they need and are more likely to experience unmanaged symptoms and pain at the end of their lives.

Many of those interviewed by researchers at the University of Nottingham (The Last Outing) and King’s College London (ACCESSCare), said they felt anxiety about having to hide who they are when accessing end of life care. One in four had experienced discrimination from health and social care professionals in their lifetime.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse, said:

“No one should have to face discrimination because of who they are, not least when they are nearing the end of their life. Marie Curie’s research is crucial and I join them in calling for high quality end of life care for LGBT people.”

Scott Sinclair, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Marie Curie, said:

“The support of Jim Fitzpatrick MP is incredibly valuable as part of our call for high quality end of life care for LGBT people. No one should have to hide who they are at the end of their lives. If LGBT people are not confident about health and social care services, or have experienced discrimination in the past, they may not feel able to be open about themselves and the people who are important to them – factors that are all crucial to dying well.”

“Learning about the prejudice LGBT people experience as they are dying, when they are at their most vulnerable, is deeply saddening.”

Anyone affected by terminal illness can contact the Marie Curie Support Line on 0800 090 2309 for help and support. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. It is open Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm and Saturdays, 11am-5pm.

10 Jun

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Fire Service: Flooding and Statutory Duties

June 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

fire services

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08 June 2016

Volume 611

Watch online

 11.00 am

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab)

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I beg to move,

That this House has considered flooding and statutory duties of the fire service.

It is a pleasure to see you presiding this morning, Mrs Gillan, and I am glad to see the Minister taking his place. It is only appropriate that two former firefighters are contributing to the debate.

Let me start with a couple of points on the general history of the fire and rescue service—[Interruption.]

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (in the Chair)

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Order. Can I ask Members to have their conversations outside the Chamber and respect the Member who has moved the motion?

Jim Fitzpatrick

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Thank you, Mrs Gillan.

As I was saying, I will start with a couple of points on the history of the fire and rescue service. The great fire of London was in 1666, which was the beginning of insurance fire brigades and voluntary pumps being deployed in London. The fire of 1834 destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster and led to the creation of a London county council and of a London fire brigade, which this year is enjoying its 150th anniversary, which I know the Minister is celebrating—happy birthday to the London fire brigade. Statutory duties have evolved over the centuries in which fire brigades themselves have been evolving.

I thank the House of Commons Library and Pat Strickland for briefing paper No. 07605, “Should Fire and Rescue Services have a statutory duty to deal with flooding?” Before I quote from that, I want to make reference not only to the increasing incidents of flooding, but to their severity and regularity. A role that the fire and rescue service used to tackle once in a blue moon is now a core activity for many brigades. A Fire Brigades Union document details the extent of the new demand, stating:

“Firefighters responded magnificently to the winter 2013-14 floods, the largest deployment by the fire and rescue services since Second World War. Across the UK over the entire three months…firefighters responded to nearly seven thousand incidents”,

and

“effected a large number of rescues…almost two thousand across the UK.”

A briefing note from the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service said that on Boxing day 2015 it deployed two thirds of its available resources on flood response.

I cannot imagine that the Minister will be in denial either that floods are on the rise or that the fire and rescue service is doing more of this type of work than ever before. There is certainly no room for him to deny that we have seen a significant reduction in the numbers of firefighters in the fire and rescue service since 2010.

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab)

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It is not just the fire services that are putting the information out there. The Met Office has said that we are in the middle of one of the most

“exceptional periods of winter rainfall in at least 248 years.”

Is it not very clear that we need a fully resourced fire service, backed up by a statutory duty?

Jim Fitzpatrick

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My hon. Friend makes a powerful point, which I will reinforce in a moment.

Lancaster University states:

“The London Fire Brigade is only able to respond to less than half of calls within its six minute target following the closure of 10 stations. The closures coupled with the loss of over 552 firefighters and 14 engines in central London were made in 2014 as part of Government cutbacks of £29m.”

Greater Manchester fire and rescue service has seen a 25% cut since 2010. Its briefing says that in 2009-10, it had 1,598 front-line firefighter posts. By 2019-20, it will have 1,026—a loss of 572 firefighter posts, a reduction of 35%.

The Fire Brigades Union’s 2015 floods report outlines the depth of the cuts. It says that 6,740 positions were lost between 2011 and 2015. The same report lists the number of flood incidents and rescues: in December 2015 alone, there were 2,589 incidents and 2,808 rescues. Flooding is on the increase, as my hon. Friend outlined. We only have to look to France and Germany last week, or at London and the flash floods yesterday.

In the general election campaign of 2010, the Prime Minister spoke at Carlisle fire station and promised to protect front-line public services, but between 2011 and 2015, Cumbria lost one in eight firefighters. Five fire stations were earmarked for closure in Cumbria before the flooding in December last year, and in February this year, the local council cited the floods as a key reason to keep the stations operational.

The question is whether a statutory duty is needed. The Commons Library briefing paper and the Fire Brigades Union briefing refer to the existing legislation. On the law in England and Wales, both documents say that part 2 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 sets out the statutory core functions of fire and rescue authorities. Those are statutory duties to provide for fire safety, firefighting, and rescuing people and protecting them from harm in the event of road traffic accidents. The Library briefing paper states:

“Section 9 gives the Secretary of State the power to give FRAs functions relating to other emergencies, including outside the FRA’s area. This is an order-making power. Primary legislation would not be necessary.”

The Fire Brigades Union has outlined its position:

“The FBU has serious concerns about the resources available to the fire and rescue service to ensure resilience against flooding…These include the number of firefighters, boats and equipment available… There are issues of staffing, technology and resilience in fire control rooms… The FBU believes a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service in England and Wales, along with investment in the service, provides the best guarantee of resilience to flooding going forward”.

It explained why it has that belief:

“A statutory duty would add significantly to fire and rescue service resilience when faced with flooding. Such a duty would…Underscore the need to resource fire and rescue services specifically for flooding…Assist with strategic planning, not only between fire and rescue services and local resilience forums”—

it should be “fora”—

“but also between different fire and rescue services across England…Ensure firefighters play a full part in the temporary construction of flood defences, as they do in Sweden…Help ensure fire and rescue services have sufficient, professionally trained firefighters available to tackle flood emergencies…Ensure sufficient boats of the right quality are available…Help ensure sufficiently trained and equipped boat teams are available …Ensure sufficient control staff are available to”​

handle calls and to make

“resources available to communities during the clear up, ensuring premises are secure to hazardous substances testing and clear up”.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)

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The fire service could also have a strategic role in flood prevention and the protection of homes; that was missing in the recent floods. I add that the cuts coming to the fire service will have a serious impact on its ability to respond to floods, as we saw in York in 2015.

Jim Fitzpatrick

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My hon. Friend makes a good point. She saw exactly the nature of flooding in York when it affected her constituency in recent years.

The Minister may very well ask why, when I was Fire Minister in 2006—[Interruption.] He kindly forewarned me that he would remind me that I was the Fire Minister in 2006. It was generous of him, and I think the criticism is absolutely fair, but I will come on to why I think times have changed in just a minute. Department for Communities and Local Government figures underscoring the increase in the threat show that in 2007—a year after I was Fire Minister—there were 14,000 flooding calls, in 2011-12 there were 16,000, and in 2013-14 there were 18,000. I believe that demonstrates a pattern.

Even Age Concern—or Age UK, as it is now called—has weighed in. Suzanne Foster wrote to me:

“I wanted to send you a copy of a report published by Age UK on ‘Older people and power loss, floods and storms’”,

which she said could be found online and was attached to her email. The first recommendation was:

“Join up essential services better”.

The result of the inquiry into the 2007 floods was clear. On the Pitt review, the Commons Library briefing paper states:

“The issue of a statutory duty was raised in the 2008 report of the Pitt Review into the 2007 floods. The Review took the view that a statutory duty would be beneficial”.

The text of the review states:

“The Review believes that clarifying and communicating the role of each of these bodies would improve the response to flooding. However, we are concerned that the systems, structures and protocols developed to support national coordination of multi-agency flood rescue assets remain ad-hoc. We believe that the Fire and Rescue Service should take on a leading role in this area, based on a fully funded capability. This will be most effective if supported by a statutory duty”.

Following on from that examination and text, it made recommendation 39:

“The Government should urgently put in place a fully funded national capability for flood rescue, with Fire and Rescue Authorities playing a leading role, underpinned as necessary by a statutory duty.”

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)

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My constituency was affected by the floods on Boxing day, and we asked many questions following the floods about giving the fire service a statutory duty. The Government’s response seemed to be that the fire service would turn up anyway. Does my hon. Friend agree that there is some complacency on the Government’s part in refusing to make flood rescue a statutory duty?

Jim Fitzpatrick

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I will come to that, but in defence of the Government, I would say not that they are complacent, but that they trust the fire service to turn up. What many of us are saying—we have done so in this Chamber ​and when discussing various Bills relating to police and crime commissioners, which I will come to—is that they should do more than just trust them. They should fund them and give them statutory responsibility for planning, continuity, mitigation and resilience. I will return to that in a moment. The case for a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service is not less than it was in 2008. In fact, the reverse is true, as the pressures are growing, with more and more flood calls, fewer staff, less equipment and more closed fire stations.

As a former firefighter and Fire Brigades Union member and official, the Minister knows that after the second world war, in the ‘50s and ’60s, the union argued to the Government and local government that fire personnel in stations could be used more productively on fire prevention than on cleaning fire stations, polishing the brass and washing out the toilets. I am not denigrating those jobs, which are very important. The disastrous fires of the late ’60s led to the Fire Precautions Act 1971, when the Government suddenly realised that they needed a skilled workforce of about 20,000 people to police and enforce the new safety rules. That is what has changed the British fire service in the last 100 years. Ultimately, safer buildings and fewer people smoking have led to there being many fewer fires, deaths and serious injuries. Perversely, that has led to the huge cuts of the past six years.

The fire and rescue service is the victim of its own success in reducing fires, saving lives and preventing injuries, but at the same time it is evolving into new roles—not just flood response, but medical and social care. The Government are transferring the control of fire and rescue service to police and crime commissioners. The Minister knows that I and many colleagues believe that fire and ambulance services are a better fit, and that link is happening almost despite the Government. Some county brigades in England are reporting that they are attending more medical calls than fire calls.

The London fire brigade and the London ambulance service have just begun a four-borough pilot of first responding and co-responding to specific emergency medical calls to save more lives in London. In the north-west, the fire and rescue service has joint working pilots on social care schemes. The service continues to evolve, as it has over time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) asked about a new statutory duty on flooding, but the Government’s answer has always been that the fire service has attended, so there is no need for one. Fire brigades were attending fires for centuries, but a statutory duty was felt necessary in that case, although it was in only 1938 that it arrived, under the Fire Brigades Act 1938. That Act required every county borough council to make provision for

“the extinction of fires and the protection of life and property in the case of fire.”

Why was a statutory duty needed? Because the situation, service and society were evolving, and something different was needed. There was a recognition that circumstances had changed. The fire service had been providing fire protection for centuries, but a statutory duty was introduced only in 1947. I have also mentioned the Fire Precautions Act 1971.

The fire service has been rescuing people from road traffic crashes for decades, but it was felt that a statutory duty was needed, and the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 was introduced. Along with charities umbrella-ed ​by Fire Aid, we are deploying that expertise across the world, because we are among the leaders in rescuing victims in road traffic crashes, and we are proud of that.

In contrast, the Library briefing outlines the law in Scotland, stating:

“There is a power in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 to make orders giving the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service additional functions. A Scottish SI (the Fire (Additional Function) (Scotland) Order 2005/342), creates a duty to make provision for the purpose of… rescuing people trapped, or likely to become trapped, by water…protecting them from serious harm, in the event of serious flooding in its area.

This duty was conferred on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service when this was created in April 2013.”

The briefing then refers to the law in Northern Ireland, stating:

“In Northern Ireland a very similar provision came into force in January 2012.”

The Library is saying that parts of the United Kingdom already have a statutory duty on flooding. Finally, as I have said, section 9 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 gives the Secretary of State power to give the fire and rescue authority functions relating to other emergencies. That is an order-making power, so primary legislation would not be necessary to create a statutory duty to deal with flooding. It works in Scotland; it works in Northern Ireland; so why not in England and Wales? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

11.15 am

The Minister for Policing, Fire, Criminal Justice and Victims (Mike Penning)

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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mrs Gillan. I have lots of conversations with the former Fire Minister, the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), because we are good friends and have the same feelings for the fire service, so at the start I should pay tribute to what the fire service did during the flooding over the Christmas and new year period, which was exemplary. I had the privilege of meeting many of the front-line firefighters and other emergency services that took part in that work.

Perhaps I should nudge the former Fire Minister, who does a lot of work with Fire Aid, to declare his interest in it. It does exemplary work and I know he champions it, but he did not mention that during his comments.

May I say at the outset that we are looking for the fire service, working with the other emergency services, to deliver the best possible rescue facilities and prevention work? I do not disagree with many of the points that have been made. I agree that I do not need primary legislation, although some of my civil servants may disagree slightly. I come back to the discussion that took place in 2008, when the Pitt review specifically referred to the role being underpinned “as necessary” by a statutory requirement. That was put before the Government of the day. I rarely do party politics, as most people know, but that was not this Administration or the coalition Administration, but a Labour Administration. Following the Pitt review and following the floods, they did not go ahead with that, but said that the fire service working with the other emergency services could do very well. I think the situation is similar today. The fire service has evolved tremendously.

Jim Fitzpatrick

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Will the Minister give way?

Mike Penning

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I may give way in a moment. Time will be difficult.

The fire service continues to evolve and not every fire service will come under police and crime commissioners. Around five PCCs are looking into this, but other PCCs and clinical commissioning groups are considering whether the ambulance service could be included. My views on this are pretty well known. I think the blue light emergency services must work much more closely together than now. I am chuffed that in London we have co-responding, but that is just the start. In Hampshire, there are qualified paramedics who are firemen. I apologise to the ladies, I mean firefighters. When I was in the job, there were only firemen.

It is important to see where the job is going. Yes, we are going to more flooding. We have always gone to flooding, I went to flooding and the London fire service went to a flood yesterday. None of the national resilience back-up was used yesterday. I asked the question before coming here today.

I am a former member of the Fire Brigades Union. I met the leadership and it put similar arguments to me. I will keep the matter under review. I will not comment too much on the numbers, not least because in other parts of the country we have seen firefighter numbers drop, but there has been a different way of delivering the service, including retained firefighters. London still has this policy, which I thought was an anomaly when I was in Essex—it will not allow retained firefighters on to its ground even if in their day job they are fully qualified firemen. I have never understood that and it is something that must be addressed as we evolve. I know that the union is trying to protect jobs, but in retrospect it is probably not doing that.

Lancashire has developed a completely different model. The union there wanted to protect jobs and to keep stations open. There was a risk of them closing so it went to the eight-eight day model, so that they were manned during the day with back-up crews during the evening. That is a completely different model. That is why local decision making is vital.

I am not denying that there are fewer firefighters, but there are dramatically fewer turn-outs. Fire prevention work started during our time in the job. I remember vividly arguing that firemen should go into homes to help to install smoke detectors. The situation has dramatically changed but there are still too many deaths and there is a lot more work to do.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab)

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It is often said that there are far fewer fire incidents, but that varies from region to region, as I am sure the Minister is aware. The fact is that there are more and more flooding incidents in this country than there ever before. Does that not mean we should be looking at the recommendations of the Pitt review in 2008 and give the fire and rescue service a statutory duty on flood and resilience?

Mike Penning

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I will try to make my point a bit stronger. Respectfully, I disagree with the hon. Gentleman, and the reason is that I cannot find an instance in which the fire service is not doing what it would do if there were a statutory duty. In fact, I have real concerns that, if we put in statutory powers, fire services would have ​kit—and crews—sitting there, at huge expense, and the likelihood of it being used regularly would be completely different from what it would be in Cumbria, York and other parts of the country.

I know that the former Fire Minister understands this: if we say to the fire service, “You have a statutory duty,” it will put the kit in place. In many places, they have that kit. It would really worry me if we had lots of kit sitting around in areas where we know the risk is very minimal. I will keep the situation under review, but I am confident as to where we are. I am meeting in particular the metropolitan chief fire officers later today to discuss the issue, so I am not in any way saying that I will never look at it. I will keep it under review, but at present our position is like that of the Government in 2008. I accept that there are more flooding situations, but in terms of manning levels, we are going out to fewer calls, even though we are doing different sorts of calls. I remember going to flooding incidents quite extensively when I was in the job in the 1980s.

Liz McInnes

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The Minister talks as though the flood rescue equipment is in a silo and cannot be used outside the area. In my constituency of Heywood and Middleton, we have a water rescue unit, and it was out in Cumbria during the Cumbrian floods. It does not just sit tight and gather dust.

Mike Penning

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No, and that is the point I would make: that is a mutual aid piece of kit that is used, and mutual aid is becoming more and more important. I will come on to national resilience in a second. If we put in a statutory requirement, the neighbouring service, which went and helped brilliantly well, would have to have that there as well. That is what happens in the fire service if we make things statutory. I am confident about where we are, but I will continue to talk to the chiefs.

There are areas where I think we could move. I am thinking of the high-velocity pumps—they were never there when I was in the job, and I pay tribute to the previous Labour Administration who brought in that national asset—and where they sit. For instance, Sussex is about to take one of those pumps as part of its assets, which it will share in a mutual aid situation. I know the fire service listens to everything that the Fire and Police Minister says: I am looking to see whether we can develop that better around the country so that those assets sit where the risks would be, rather than it coming to, perhaps, a Cobra situation and us saying, “We will deploy,” which has a cost implication, or people requesting the deployment. I am talking about improving things in predictability terms. For instance, after we had the floods over Christmas and the new year, there was a prediction that we would have another such situation, and of course the question then is: do we pre-deploy or do we not pre-deploy? Those assets should be sitting out there. I think that they should be sitting out there as an asset of the services, within reason, and we are going to look to see how we can do that.

When we are looking at who decides what should be in place and in which area, the experts are the people on the front line, the people who are putting the local plans together, and an awful lot will be learned from what happened during the flooding. For instance, when I was in Lancashire, one of the crew, who had been up to their ​waists in floodwater for most of the day, said to me, “With all due respect, sir, we couldn’t use the radios because of the risk with the water. We couldn’t drive our appliances into areas where we saw the Army driving their appliances, because our vehicles frankly couldn’t take that,” and several vehicles were damaged because of floodwater.

Rachael Maskell

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It is not just the firefighters who are calling for a statutory duty; it is also the chief officers in flood areas such as North Yorkshire. That is based on evidence as a result of the floods in 2015. They believe that a statutory duty would help them with preventive work as well as, obviously, dealing with flooding situations. They are saying that it is an imperative, so will the Minister listen to those chiefs?

Mike Penning

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I do listen to the chiefs. They are firefighters as well, interestingly enough. I am sure that they would like to be classed as firefighters, not separate from firefighters—we may make a few enemies with some chief firefighters, but that is semantics. I do listen to the chiefs, and other chiefs in other parts of the country are not saying the same thing. What we need to do is ensure that we have the assets in the right place. To go back to the point about Lancashire, one of the crews said to me, “We did not have a flotation platform, so we were using salvage sheets and ladders,” which I trained with all those years ago; people would think we had moved on from there. I understand that that service is now looking at deploying that piece of kit. It does not take up a huge amount of space. It uses compressed air.

We have to look very carefully at this matter, and the brigadiers’ report on how the resilience worked during the flooding is crucial as well. We had a situation in which the Army could get in, because it was using what I still call 4-tonne trucks, but when we tried to follow them with fire appliances, many of them broke down and were severely damaged. That had a lot to do with the air intake and with positioning. People would think that in the 21st century we would have learned how to deal with those situations, but actually that is what we were learning. We also know that the cars of crews who came in and parked in one particular fire station were destroyed by flooding. We therefore need to look very carefully at the resilience that is there, and that is one reason why I am looking very carefully at the pumps.

The point I want to make is that we can change the title and say, “You should do this and you should do that,” but we have to ask whether the services are doing that first and whether that is the best utilisation of what we are asking them to do. There are some chiefs who take the view referred to, and the FBU has been running a very long campaign on this matter; it goes way back to when the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse was the Fire Minister. However, I am of the same opinion as the 2008 Minister: if necessary, we could do this, but at present—

Jim Fitzpatrick

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I am glad that the Minister has at least said that he will keep the situation under review. The best argument he has is that a statutory duty would force all 40-odd fire brigades in England and Wales to buy the equipment when some of them may well not need it—but then a number of us have been advocating fewer fire authorities for a considerable time. It would ​be much better to have regional structures and fewer chief fire officers and fewer fire and rescue authorities. That streamlining would be better. The key point here is that whether it is because of climate change or just weather patterns changing, floods are on the up; they are increasing exponentially. We need the equipment and resources to deal with that, and people think that a statutory duty is the only way to get the Government to focus on ensuring that those resources are available.

Mike Penning

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I agree that the fire service is top-heavy in administration terms, which is why I am looking at PCCs who want to take over that administration and limit those costs, so that we have more money for the front line; I am sure that we would all agree with that. Perhaps it is a question for another debate, on the number of fire and rescue services. That is a really emotive subject, because a local community relate, they tell me, to their fire service.

Ian Lavery

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I will ask a very simple question and I am sure I will get a very simple answer. If it is right and correct that there is a statutory duty in Scotland and Northern Ireland, what is the difference with the people of England?

Mike Penning

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I go back to the decision that was made in 2008. Devolved Assemblies will make their decisions on their priorities in their way. I have no evidence whatever that creating a statutory duty would enable our firefighters to do their job in regard to flood rescue and prevention any differently from how they do it now. However, I have said that I will keep an open mind. It is not a uniform view across the myriad fire and rescue services in this country that this should be statutory. The union has a view, and in most cases I agree with ​many of the things that the union says. I would do: I was a branch secretary for a short time. But on this issue, I do not agree, and the leadership know that I do not, so it will not come as a big surprise to them. This is really personal to me. I am sure the former Fire Minister will appreciate that if I thought that in any way, shape or form, this would do what it says on the tin, I would do it. I have real misgivings that actually there would be ongoing costs that would be disproportionate to what we were trying to do.

It has been very useful to discuss this issue this morning. I can probably look forward to further debates with the former Fire Minister and I am pleased to be giving him a few seconds now to respond.

11.29 am

Jim Fitzpatrick

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Hesitation robbed me of another three seconds, but I am grateful to the Minister for this brief opportunity. I am grateful to my hon. Friends for turning up to support the debate. The Minister knows that there are Government Members who have a similar view. It is reassuring that he is prepared to keep this matter under review. Many of us, right across the country, are very worried about the level of cuts, because obviously if we have cuts and cuts and cuts, we get to a point at which the situation is too dangerous and then the Government start reinvesting. We are drawing attention to the fact that at the moment the cuts are in, if not beyond, that territory, and flooding is one of the additional pressures that the service is having to deal with. Because it is on the increase, we hope that the Minister will look at it seriously and ensure that the brigades affected get the resources that they need.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).

11.30 am

Sitting suspended.

10 Jun

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Carers Week 2016

June 10, 2016 | By | No Comments

Local MP Jim Fitzpatrick pledges support to help create Carer Friendly Communities in Poplar and Limehouse  for Carers Week 2016

 201627 Carers Week

Jim Fitzpatrick MP today pledged his support to carers across Poplar and Limehouse as part of the national Carers Week 2016 awareness campaign, which runs from 6-12th June.

There are 6.5 million people in the UK who care for a partner, relative or friend, of which 9,485 carers are in Poplar and Limehouse.

The seven charities driving Carers Week 2016 are calling on individuals, organisations and services throughout the country to improve the lives of carers by building ‘Carer Friendly Communities’ – encouraging all parts of the community to think about carers and do things differently to support them.

The call comes after research for Carers Week revealed that a combination of inadequate support from local services and a lack of understanding about caring from wider society is having a negative impact on carers’ health, wellbeing, relationships and finances.

Local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, said:

“Carers make a huge contribution to our society, providing vital and often hidden support to friends and family members.That is why I am supporting Carers Week 2016 and encouraging services across Poplar and Limehouse to think about what more they can do to help meet the needs of carers and make our communities more Carer Friendly.”

Emily Holzhausen, who leads the Carers Week partnership, said:

“With an ever increasing number of families taking on caring roles for older, ill or disabled loved ones, it is great to see MPs showing their support for carers.

While carers have told us that it makes a huge difference when they are recognised and supported by their local services and communities, too many carers tell us they struggling to balance caring with other areas of their lives. By working together during Carers Week we have a huge opportunity to make our communities more Carer Friendly and make a difference to those who contribute so much”.

Carers Week is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Motor Neurone Disease Association and MS Society.

Thousands of events are taking place across the country this week, and thousands of people have already pledged their support for carers online. To find out more about events in Poplar and Limehouse visit www.carersweek.org

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP