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Gordon is to hold one of his regular advice surgery this Friday (31st March).

This will take place from 4.00pm to around 5.30pm at his Constituency Office, 304 Highfield Road, Blackpool, FY4 3JX.

Appointments are required and can be made by either calling 01253 344143 or emailing gordonmarsdenmp@parliament.uk

Gordon's next Advice Surgery - Friday 31st March

Gordon is to hold one of his regular advice surgery this Friday (31st March). This will take place from 4.00pm to around 5.30pm at his Constituency Office, 304 Highfield Road,...

Gordon has met with apprentices at BAE Systems at the new Academy for Skills and Knowledge in Samlesbury as part of his work countrywide for National Apprenticeships Week.BAE_1.jpg

He was taken around the £15.3 million state of the art training centre adjacent to BAE’s Warton base which only opened last December, by David Holmes, BAE’s Manufacturing Operations Director.

Gordon, who is also Labour's Shadow Skills Minister, was shown the cutting edge facilities which mirror the factory layouts at BAE systems and uses the latest technologies in advance manufacturing - including robotics, 3D printing and a virtual reality “cave”, which Gordon experienced for himself, which allows the user in a virtual aeroplane environment to explore and solve problems.

He then had a Q&A session with a group of apprentices both male and female doing a variety of different courses run by the company. A full-size Hawk Jet was also on display at the academy to show the apprentices what they can also aspire to.

He said: “It is an exciting time to be a BAE apprentice with the training and opportunities available to them at the academy. From chatting to some of the apprentices, it is clear that they are getting an all-around experience with a combination of theoretical and practical skills on their courses.

“Both as Shadow Skills Minister but also as a Lancashire MP for nearly 20 years, I have always known how committed BAE has been to education and learning. But also how they and the businesses locally as part of their supply chain, are crucial to offering good jobs and careers to people in Blackpool and the on Fylde Coast.

“This significant investment in the academy at the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone further demonstrates this commitment to skills and training for the next generation, as well as their involvement with both Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and also the Local Enterprise Partnership.”BAE_2.jpg

Gordon, who has been taking through the new Technical and Further Education Bill for Labour in Parliament, explained one of the company’s successes over the years had been training surplus apprentices which meant other companies in the wider supply chain and sector had the skills they needed in the long term.

In 2017, BAE, will take on 574 apprentices across the country, one in five of whom will be in Lancashire and many of them studying for an academic qualification one day a week alongside their apprenticeship. This allowed them to gain a university-equivalent degree in a specific specialism.

Dave Holmes, Manufacturing Director at BAE Systems Military Air & Information, said: "We were delighted to welcome Gordon to our new Academy for Skills & Knowledge and to introduce him to many of our apprentices who represent some of the brightest and best in Lancashire.

"BAE Systems has a proud pedigree of developing young talent through our apprenticeship programme and our investment in world-class facilities at the Academy shows our commitment to continuing this work."

 

Gordon visits BAE Skills and Knowledge Academy in Samlesbury for National Apprenticeships Week

Gordon has met with apprentices at BAE Systems at the new Academy for Skills and Knowledge in Samlesbury as part of his work countrywide for National Apprenticeships Week. He was...

Gordon has described the Chancellor's Spring Budget as a "sticking plaster" and "short on detail".

Speaking after the Philip Hammond's announcement, he said few people in Blackpool would be cheering the increases in National Insurance Contributions for self employed people, a measure which broke an election tax promise by the Tories.

Talking to the Blackpool Gazette: “The rates discount for pubs is welcome. I have fought long to keep our community pubs open and this will help a little and perhaps disuade pub companies from closing more of them.”

Gordon added the changes to technical skills did not go far enough and it was not clear when investment would reach £500m a year for 16 to 19-year-olds. He also said: "But there is not a penny piece for adult skills and re-training.

“The £2bn on social care over three years is better than nothing but if you look at what the think-tanks and independent bodies were saying it is nowhere near enough. It is a sticking plaster."

 

Gordon responds to Chancellor's "sticking plaster" Budget

Gordon has described the Chancellor's Spring Budget as a "sticking plaster" and "short on detail". Speaking after the Philip Hammond's announcement, he said few people in Blackpool would be cheering the increases...

Gordon has challenged the Theresa May at PMQs on attempts by Government officials to overturn tribunal decisions effecting vulnerable residents in Blackpool.Gordon_at_PMQs.jpg

He told the House that among his constituency casework was someone who had their Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit removed, despite suffering a serious brain injury.

He said to the PM: "My Blackpool casework is now full of the anxieties that the DWP and the Home Office are imposing on vulnerable constituents, including officials’ attempts to overturn tribunal decisions protecting benefits and residents.

"That includes a family settled here for eight years and a man with a severe brain injury.

"If the Prime Minister wants people to respect the idea that “Brexit means Brexit,” should she not respect the idea that tribunals mean tribunals and not try to block them with grubby regulations affecting 164,000 disabled people?"

Since the start of the year, Gordon's office has dealt with 32 related benefit inquiries. Speaking after PMQs he added: "Our casework not only includes the two tribunal appeals I mentioned, but there are also people who have lost the mobility component of their benefits."   

 

Gordon challenges Prime Minister on overturned tribunal decisions

Gordon has challenged the Theresa May at PMQs on attempts by Government officials to overturn tribunal decisions effecting vulnerable residents in Blackpool. He told the House that among his constituency...

School children from Blackpool have been discovering more about Parliament past and present with Gordon on a special visit to Westminster. Schools_visit_to_Westminster.jpg

The pupils from Hawes Side Academy, St Nicholas C of E Primary and Layton Primary were taken around Parliament - watching debates in the public galleries of both the House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as taking in the history of Westminster Hall.

Gordon then met them at the state of the art Parliamentary Education Centre where he was quizzed by the children, including being asked how many rooms there were in the whole of the Parliament.

Gordon, who is also Chairman of the History of Parliament Trust said: “It was great to welcome the children and talk to them about the role of Parliament and my job as a Blackpool MP and also a Shadow Minister.

“I met them in our new Parliamentary Education Centre where they asked me some really thoughtful questions. I am passionate about young people getting out-of-school learning opportunities and visits like this one to Westminster are a great way of engaging students from Blackpool in the parliamentary process.”

Andy Mellor, headteacher at St Nicholas added: “The visit was a really important part of our work on British Values, and especially on the elements of democracy and the rule of law. The new Education Centre in Parliament is a really useful resource for schools, showing the children how laws are made, and the Centre works hand in hand with serving MPs like Gordon who was able to have a Q&A session there with the pupils.”

Mr Mellor said it had been “a long day” starting at 7am and finishing at 1115 pm, but added that the children “thoroughly enjoyed it". They will now be doing a presentation to the other pupils at school following their return from the trip.

Blackpool school children take in Parliament past and present with Gordon

School children from Blackpool have been discovering more about Parliament past and present with Gordon on a special visit to Westminster. The pupils from Hawes Side Academy, St Nicholas C...

Gordon has highlighted the successes of the Council owned Blackpool Transport to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in a Commons debate on the Government’s Bus Services Bill. Bus_Debate_1.jpg

The Bill has already been through the House of Lords where a Labour- led coalition improved the Bill by including low emission requirements for new buses and reversing Government plans to block further expansion of local authority owned bus companies.

Gordon challenged the Transport Secretary: "Will he congratulate our municipal transport company, Blackpool Transport, on not only introducing a new fleet of accessible buses, but making a profit last year of £1.38 million, £1 million of which was returned as a dividend to the council? Does not that make the case for extending rather than stifling municipal bus companies?."

The Transport Secretary replied: "The Government does not believe extending the provision of bus services to council after council is the right approach" but he did concede that in a place like Blackpool they play an important role and added "I pay tribute to Blackpool, which has also done excellent work on the tram system".

Commenting after the debate, Gordon who was previously Labour's Shadow Bus Minister, said: "I was proud to put on record the achievements of Blackpool Transport and the Council's support for it, all the more impressive at a time when Government has cut funding support to councils and for bus services severely. It's a pity that the Government are so terrified of acknowledging, as Blackpool has shown that, publicly- owned transport can provide good services and make a profit benefitting council tax payers that the Minister is continuing to try and block their expansion."

"Those achievements include the news that our tram network, modernised with money from the last Labour Government, has just hit the five million passenger mark in usage. The need to give local communities more choice and control over the big private sector companies like Stagecoach are things worth defending - so I and my colleagues in Parliament will be fighting hard in the Bus Bill to stop the Government shutting down the chance for further municipal bus companies to shine."

Gordon highlights success of Blackpool Transport in Commons debate on Bus Services Bill

Gordon has highlighted the successes of the Council owned Blackpool Transport to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in a Commons debate on the Government’s Bus Services Bill. The Bill has already...

See below Gordon's Report Back from last year's Armed Forces Rountable on "The challenges facing Veterans’ Charities and the Armed Forces Covenant".Forces_1.jpg

Thank you once again to everyone who took the time to attend my second ever Armed Forces Round Table event. For those of you who were not able to make it, I hope this report back provides a useful insight into what was a very informative discussion with some practical ideas for moving forward.

I was pleased to see so many people from the local Armed Forces community and I felt the discussion we had around challenges and changing nature of veterans’ charities were very relevant ones, both in the context of recent decisions made by nationally Combat Stress and locally by BLESMA. I will be writing to the Prime Minister Theresa May on three specific issues:

The funding crisis beginning to hit military charities. 

The Government’s Veterans Minister being given too many other roles. 

Ways of implementing the military covenant so it works better for ex-service personnel.

I want to thank both Sergeant Rick Clement and Lieutenant Colonel Johnny Lighten MBE from the Duke of Lancaster Regiment, who both helped to lead some of this important discussion. Rick spoke about his experiences of the support and help he was given after being seriously injured in Afghanistan and how this informed him when setting up his own charity. Johnny talked about the roles of both central and local Government and how they through the Military Covenant and working alongside different charities could better support the needs of veterans.

VETERANS’ CHARITIES

Following his injuries and the help he then received from charities like the Royal British Legion and Blesma, Rick spoke about how it made him want to give something back to the forces and veterans’ community. In his opinion he said there were three different types of veterans’ charities - those who helped with physical injuries, the charities that helped with mental health related illnesses and organisations that supported older veterans. 

A few points came from this with some comments around the charity “Help for Heroes”, which of all the veterans charities in the country, is arguably the most well-known. With recent conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq, much of the support has been focused on that of younger veterans and their needs. There was a concern felt and one that I share about older veterans and the fact they were being sometimes overlooked. We must not forget those who served in the Second World War to veterans from Korea, the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s and coming through to Northern Ireland and the Falklands in the 70s and 80s. Like Rick commented, there needs to be a network around our older veterans so they have the best possible support in their later years, when they can sometimes suffer from isolation and loneliness if they don’t have family members close by.

As mentioned the conflicts of recent years have meant veterans’ charities have taken on a much higher profile with a lot of new ones emerging. Often these are bona fide but some have not been with a small number being set up with dishonest intentions. As Alison (Bunn) from the Royal British Legion explained, there are often well meaning people setting up these charities, but who were not always aware of the services that are already out there or had the relevant experience to support veterans. That’s why I agree that there needs to be quality assurance measures in place with more scrutiny on the sector so we avoid duplication and ensure there are quality services available for both serving and ex-service personnel. This is something the Government and in particular the Government’s Veterans’ Minister needs to take a lead on.

THE ARMED FORCES COVENANT

In my question at Prime Ministers’ Questions I made reference to the study done by the charity SSAFA which found only 16% of working-age veterans thought the Armed Forces Covenant was being implemented properly – “the nation’s promise ensuring that those who serve or who have served in the armed forces, and their families, are treated fairly”.Gordon_at_PMQqs.jpg

In his comments Johnny (Lighten) told us of a recent visit to his doctor but despite commenting that he had come from the Barracks in Fulwood, still the GP didn’t make the military connection. This underlines a bigger problem. Yes there are some health professionals who are aware of the Covenant, as well as the broader issues veterans may face, but there were many who don’t.

Right across the health service and other public sector organisations, including local councils such as Blackpool, staff need be aware of the Covenant and what it stands for - we need to be looking at making mandatory training available to everyone who may have to work with ex-service personnel in their line of work. 

Steve (Greenwood), Chair of the Blackpool Submariners, also made an important point that local GPs should especially be trained up as a first point of contact for veterans so they then had the knowledge to signpost them in the direction of other areas of support – whether that be an issue around mental health, housing, welfare etc.

The problem is the level and quality of support for veterans differs right across the country and Johnny is right that the Government needs a strategy that is top-down in its approach. Localism when it comes to veterans care will not work and we cannot find ourselves in a position where support for veterans effectively becomes a postcode lottery, where some areas of the country prioritise it higher than others.

VETERANS AND THE RETURN TO CIVILIAN LIFE

With personnel leaving the Armed Forces at a younger age, finding other employment and making the smooth transition into civilian life is crucial. As both Shadow Minister for Skills and as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans, it is a priority of mine and something I look to take forward this year.

Transferring skills from the military to civilian life are not always straightforward. Lesley-Jane (Holt) from LifeWorks RBLI spoke about how a lot of employers were now using automated software to scan through CVs but pointed out this wasn’t always picking up or recognising skills relating to the Forces. Working with organisations such as Lifeworks, who offer a series of courses designed to build on existing skills for employment beyond the Forces, we need to look at how we better help veterans so they are able to make a smooth transition into other walks of life.

FRIENDS OF FYLDE MEMORIAL ARBORETUM AND COMMUNITY WOODLAND

Finally we heard from Councillor Chris Ryan, Blackpool Council’s excellent Armed Forces Champion, who is responsible for putting together and delivering an action plan, developed with interested groups to address some of the barriers and issues facing the forces community.

As well as this Chris is working hard to set up a “Friends” Group for the Fylde Memorial Arboretum and Community Woodland at Bispham. With the support of Blackpool Council, he is actively looking for people to join the group, who can help with the upkeep and maintenance of this important site. For more information about the project, you can contact Chris by e-mail at cllr.chris.ryan@blackpool.gov.uk .

THANK YOU

I am committed to putting the support of veterans and the wider Armed Forces community both nationally and locally at the centre of my campaigning. As I mentioned at the start of this Report Back, I will be writing to the Prime Minister on three specific issues - the funding crisis of military charities, the role of the Veterans and finally, ways in which the military covenant can better work for ex-service personnel.

I want to thank you once again for taking the time to attend and participate in this very important discussion. If you would like to meet on a one on one basis to discuss specific points further, please contact my Communications Assistant Andrew Bettridge on either 01253 344143 or e-mail bettridgeA@parliament.uk to arrange a date and time.

Kind regards 

Gordon

Gordon Marsden – Member of Parliament for Blackpool South

REPORTING BACK: The challenges facing Veterans’ Charities and the Armed Forces Covenant

See below Gordon's Report Back from last year's Armed Forces Rountable on "The challenges facing Veterans’ Charities and the Armed Forces Covenant". Thank you once again to everyone who took...

Gordon has said it would be completely wrong of the Government to close the Veterans UK base at Norcross – a move that could impact on hundreds of local jobs.Gordon_Commons_1.jpg

The Government have announced their intention to shut 91 MOD sites but it has been met by strong opposition from Gordon and the PCS Union. He met with PCS campaigners in Parliament to discuss the potential impact and said it was more about meeting cut targets rather than supporting veterans.

Gordon, who also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans said: “This is a real problem because the figures show that the Government’s plans could result in 376 job losses at Tomlinson House. These are good quality jobs in Blackpool and across the Fylde which we cannot afford to lose. The Government have done no assessment on what impact the closure and job losses of this scale will have on local areas like ours.

“Their intention to shut Veterans UK at Tomlinson House is more driven by an arbitrary cuts target rather than what is best to help our veterans. The staff at Norcross provide specialist support for thousands of ex-service personnel on a wide range of welfare related issues and that’s why it would be completely wrong to close it.”

Gordon added: “I have also raised my concerns with our Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith, who raised it in a Commons debate on the Armed Forces Covenant in which I spoke.”

Speaking in the debate, she said: “I am concerned that one of the sites that has been earmarked for closure is the Defence Business Services in Blackpool, which houses Veterans UK. All we are told in the Government’s publication is that the site will be replaced by a “Government Hub” in the North West. If that ends up being beyond a reasonable commuting distance – for example Manchester – we risk losing experienced staff who have an expertise in supporting our veterans.”

At the back end of last year Gordon held an Armed Forces Roundtable, which looked at the welfare of veterans and the types of support available for ex-service personnel.

Closure of MOD offices at Norcross would be “completely wrong” says Gordon

Gordon has said it would be completely wrong of the Government to close the Veterans UK base at Norcross – a move that could impact on hundreds of local jobs....

Gordon has highlighted the current strife between the owners and supporters of Blackpool FC during a debate in Parliament on reform of the Football Association.FA_Debate_1.jpg

He spoke in a debate which was set up following concerns over how the game was being run. Gordon said that Blackpool supporters had been failed by the FA following the turmoil at Bloomfield Road and called for supporters to have a more meaningful say in the running of the game.

He said: “Football clubs are more than just private assets and they should be run in the best interests of the community and supporters deserve greater power and influence in how they are run. That’s why I backed Clive Efford’s Private Members Bill which looked at this very issue and why I am calling for greater fan representation on the FA council.”

Directly talking about Bloomfield Road, he added: “Blackpool has always had a proud history, from the 1953 FA Cup Final to Jimmy Armfield who is recognised internationally, and all the way through to Cinderella story in 2010 and it was a very proud moment to join tens of thousands on the prom. But sadly over the last few years the situation at Blackpool has led to thousands of supporters boycotting.

During his speech, he also referenced the legal action the club’s owners had taken against supporters, which he explained had made the situation “far, far more difficult.”

In the debate, Gordon quoted a letter from Steve Rowland, chairman of the Blackpool Supporters’ Trust, who said the FA was “supposedly the over-arching guardian of the game” but over the last number of years clubs had too often become a “money-spinning business venture".

The debate ended with the Commons passing a vote of no confidence in the FA.

Gordon highlights strife between Blackpool FC fans and owners in Parliament debate on FA Reform

Gordon has highlighted the current strife between the owners and supporters of Blackpool FC during a debate in Parliament on reform of the Football Association. He spoke in a debate...

Gordon has praised the work of local Armed Forces champions, past and present in a House of Commons debate on the Armed Forces Covenant. Gordon_Commons_1.jpg

He touched on the work of the late Marton Councillor Jim Houldsworth, who he said was “instrumental” in Blackpool signing up to the Covenant. Gordon also praised the work of the town’s current Forces Champion Councillor Chris Ryan for “actively” continuing this work.

He said: “Blackpool has a proud tradition of supporting the Forces and in 2011 we were the first town in the North West to sign up to the Covenant. People like the late Jim Houldsworth deserve an enormous amount of credit and I am also proud of our current Forces Champion Chris Ryan, who is carrying on this important work across the town.”

Gordon, who is also Labour’s Shadow Skills and Apprenticeships Minister used the debate on the Covenant to challenge the Government to give more support for skills and training that enables for those leaving the force to make their way transition back to civilian life. This was one of the main points of discussion at his second local Blackpool and Fylde Armed Forces Roundtable held at Holy Trinity in South Shore just before Remembrance Day in November.

He said: “There are many leaving the armed forces now at a younger age, in many cases having experienced very traumatic circumstances. However, they do not always find that the skills or qualifications that they have gained in the forces are being readily recognised in civvy street.”

Gordon urged the Government to look at this and cited the Annual Covenant Report for 2016 which quoted statistics showing that leaving age veterans had shown there was a “low satisfaction” with the training and skills transition available for people making the transition from the Forces to civilian life.

He added: “I speak not only as a local MP, but as the Shadow Minister for Skills on this situation. We are not doing justice to our troops and armed services if they leave with qualifications and skills that cannot be easily transferable.”

Speaking after the debate Gordon added: “I was glad to have been able to speak about Blackpool's proud record in supporting veterans and our Armed Forces over recent years. The fact that our next Mayor, Ian Coleman, has been the President of our Royal British Legion Club raising £137, 500 for them for 26 years with his annual Poppython which I have supported exemplifies that record.

“The Government needs to do its part though by beefing up skills and training support for service leavers and intervening actively to protect the personal support and advice that veterans charities give but which is now at risk. The recent decision by Combat Stress to withdraw such support is very worrying and as Chair of Parliament's all party Veterans Group I will continue to press both the Veterans Minister and Theresa May to live up to their responsibilities in this area.”

 

 

 

Gordon praises Blackpool Armed Forces Support and demands Government focus on skills support in Commons Veterans debate

Gordon has praised the work of local Armed Forces champions, past and present in a House of Commons debate on the Armed Forces Covenant. He touched on the work of...

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