Greg Mulholland welcomes announcement of new trains for North

Plans to give rail passengers in the North of England more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains were unveiled by the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today (27 February).

Documents published today set out how bidders for the new Northern and TransPennine franchises will be required to provide plans to:

* replace outdated Pacer trains;
* introduce a brand new fleet of modern trains;
* tackle crowding;
* invest in stations;
* accommodate over 19,000 more commuters in Manchester during the morning peak;
* add over 200 new train services every day across both franchises;
* provide over one-third more capacity across both franchises; and
* introduce free Wi-Fi.

The publication of the Invitations to Tender is the first step in the transformation of train travel between the northern cities. It is also a significant step in the creation of a northern powerhouse for the UK economy.

Greg headshotCommenting Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland said:

“I am very pleased that Nick Clegg has announced these changes to train services in the North.

“These improvements will be massively beneficial for business, tourism and commuters. Transport is one of the major discrepancies between the North and South and I certainly welcome any measures to improve transport infrastructure.

“I will certainly be working with Nick and my other colleagues for further improvements in Leeds and the rest of the North of England.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“This is an historic moment for the North. Improving rail links in the region has been much anticipated. These old trains have been rattling across rails in the North for over 30 years; a constant source of complaint which have held the region back.


“As part of my Northern Futures initiative I asked the people of the North what they wanted to build a stronger economy and transport was top of the list. So I fought hard to replace pacer trains as soon as possible.


“Today’s plans include a new fleet of trains and improved services that will better connect our great Northern towns and cities. Modernising rail in the North will encourage business, boost tourism and give commuters the journey they deserve; one that is fit for a 21st century metropolis.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:

“This is great news for passengers across the north, who will finally get a rail service that matches up to the booming economy in this region. That means more seats, more services and a brand new fleet of modern trains. Unlike the last Northern franchise in 2004, which included limited plans to invest in services or meet demand, this deal will maintain investment and grow to fit the needs of passengers for years to come.

“Together with the £1 billion investment we are making to improve the region’s railways and our plans to link east and west through HS3, our railways are making the region an economic powerhouse.”

Chair of Rail North Sir Richard Leese said:

“We know from the consultation that passengers want to see a step-change in the quality of train vehicles, stations, more trains on Sundays and at off-peak times, and longer trains at busy peak times to ease overcrowding – and thanks to the hard work put in by Rail North, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.

“But this is only the starting point; the Invitations to Tender specify the minimum required from the new franchisees, and Rail North will continue to push for greater enhancements in future years which will help deliver regional economic growth by helping people get to jobs faster, in comfort and affordably.”

Labour’s tuition fee plans will only help wealthy graduates

Labour and Tuition Fees reductionLabour’s plan to cap maximum tuition fees to £6,000 is deeply regressive. Under their plans only the wealthiest graduates would benefit.

Only graduates with a starting salary of at least £35,000 would pay less. A salary only paid for by a handful of big City firms.

This compares to an average graduate starting salary of £21,700.

Independent experts, such as Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, have called Labour’s plan “financially illiterate” because it would help those with more money rather than those with less.

The Universities UK board has said such a cut would “damage the economy, affect the quality of students’ education, and set back work on widening access to higher education.”

The current system is working. There are a record number of applications, with the rate ofdisadvantaged students applying to study in higher education hitting an all-time high.

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Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“Labour’s policy is based on a soundbite, and as a result, is completely financially illiterate. It will do great harm to universities and create a costly black hole in the national budget.

“For a party presenting itself as a government in waiting they are showing staggering ignorance of how university finance works.

“Talk about the current system being unsustainable is rubbish. The OECD, who has no political axe to grind, said the English system is totally sustainable and works well.

“A £6,000 cut would wreck the financial sustainability of universities, reduce the support for disadvantaged students and benefit only the richest.Tuition Fees and paying fees back Income Table

“We learned this lesson the hard way but we now have a system that works, with university funding made fair and sustainable by Liberal Democrats.

“This shows in a record number of students and a record number of those from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university.”

World-leading auctions to provide major green electricity boost

Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey has announced plans for 27 renewable electricity projects which together could power 1.4 million homes, comparable to the number of households in Wales.

If built, these projects could support thousands of green jobs, bolster energy security and cut the cost of renewable electricity.

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The green energy auction has driven down prices, by as much as 58 per cent for one technology. The auctions have successfully led to over £315m of new contracts been offered to five renewable technologies, such as onshore wind and solar.

Ed Davey said:

“Under this first green energy auction we’ve seen prices tumble, while securing new energy generation and thousands of green jobs across the UK.

“Onshore wind and solar prices are clearly leading the way for the cheapest green energy out there, and the Conservatives now have some serious questions to answer.

“If they want to tackle climate change and do it through bringing on more green energy then why press the stop button on onshore wind?

“An end to onshore wind means you’re either saying no to tackling climate change, or you’re having to plug the gap with a more expensive form of energy that will put everyone’s energy bills up.”

Pension saving at a record high

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the highest level of pension saving since records began in 1997.

Pension membership has risen across all age groups. The figures underline the success of automatic enrolment, where workers are automatically placed in a pensions scheme.

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To date the programme has brought more than five million workers into a pension scheme.

The figures released in the Annual Survey of Hours and Earning statistics which reflect the picture in 2014 show:

  • 59 per cent of all workers are active members of a pension scheme, up from 47 per cent in 2012.
  • 49 per cent of all private sector employees are active members of a pension scheme, up from 32 per cent in 2012.
  • Pension membership has risen across all age groups, the largest increase being in the 22-29 age group, up to 53 per cent from 36 per cent in 2013.
  • Pension membership has increased for every earnings band in the private sector for full-time employees.

Commenting on the new report Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb said:

“The rise in the proportion of people saving for retirement over the past three years is stunning. Pension saving is now at its highest level since records began.

“This is due in no small part to the success of automatic enrolment which is changing the culture of pension saving in Britain. Millions more people are now saving into a workplace pension, allowing them to build a decent nest egg to enjoy in their retirement, on top of a reinvigorated new State Pension.”

Nick Clegg comments on Conservatives record on immigration

Commenting on the Conservatives record on immigration, Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“I said to David Cameron he shouldn’t make the commitment because it was inevitable he was going to break it because you can’t control the net figure.

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“They made that commitment – we said we were not going to do it as a coalition government .. and they are now going to have to suffer the embarrassment.

“It is very embarrassing for the Conservatives. They made a huge amount of fanfare about it and they were warned by me and others ‘Don’t do this, it doesn’t make any sense’.

“Now, of course, they quite rightly will have to suffer the embarrassment of having made a commitment on something which people care about passionately – which is immigration – and they have failed spectacularly to deliver.

“What we need to do and get on with – something I’ve been getting on with during my time in government – is, for instance, re-establishing the proper border controls at our borders so that we not only count people in, but we count people out.”

World-leading auctions to provide major green electricity boost

Liberal Democrat Minister for Energy & Climate Change Ed Davey has announced plans for 27 renewable electricity projects which together could power 1.4 million homes, comparable to the number of households in Wales.

If built, these projects could support thousands of green jobs, bolster energy security and cut the cost of renewable electricity.

renewable-projects-info.jpg

 

The green energy auction has driven down prices, by as much as 58 per cent for one technology. The auctions have successfully led to over £315m of new contracts been offered to five renewable technologies, such as onshore wind and solar.

Ed Davey said:

“Under this first green energy auction we’ve seen prices tumble, while securing new energy generation and thousands of green jobs across the UK.

“Onshore wind and solar prices are clearly leading the way for the cheapest green energy out there, and the Conservatives now have some serious questions to answer.

“If they want to tackle climate change and do it through bringing on more green energy then why press the stop button on onshore wind?

“An end to onshore wind means you’re either saying no to tackling climate change, or you’re having to plug the gap with a more expensive form of energy that will put everyone’s energy bills up.”

Greg Mulholland welcomes step forwards in fight against nuisance calls

Leeds North West MP, Greg Mulholland, has backed changes announced by the Government this week to introduce tougher regulations for companies that make cold calls.Greg headshot

There has been a growing campaign to take a tougher stance on companies that make nuisance calls of this nature. The Government has now responded to these calls and introduce a range of new powers in an attempt to bring them under control.

Companies that make these types of calls or text messages can now be fined up to £500,000 and these fines will be easier to impose. Previously companies could only be fined if the Information Commissioner could prove substantial damage or substantial stress had been caused. From 6th April this legal requirement will be removed.

MP Greg Mulholland, who has been raising concerns regarding nuisance calls with Ministers and regulators, said,

“It is wrong that these companies are harassing people with such regularity, it has to stop, and I am delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns that we have been raising. This is an important step in the right direction in dealing with a problem that affects everyone with a landline or a mobile.”

Shelter: Is there a housing crisis near you?

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Would you say there are many homeless families near you? 50? 100? More?

Find out how many families are homeless where you live

With a staggering 93,000 children homeless in Britain, you may just be surprised.

But the good news is, with the general election coming up, politicians are paying attention to what matters to us most. So with support from people like you, we’re pushing them to end the housing crisis for good.

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Government invests £25 million in game-changing green technologies

Windows that act as solar panels, an engine which runs on landfill emissions and Europe’s biggest battery are all a step closer to reality after receiving a share of £24.5 million of government funding.

These projects are among 40 new technologies which have won funding through the first round of Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst, which is designed to help tackle the so-called energy ‘trilemma’ of reducing carbon emissions, increasing security of supply and cutting the cost of energy.

Business and Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock said:

The projects we are backing, through the Energy Catalyst, demonstrate the depth and breadth of British innovation in the sector. Many of these projects are not only UK firsts, but world firsts, and by supporting them at this early stage, we will ensure the UK reaps the rewards in the future.

By funding this research we are not only working towards our goal of reducing carbon emissions, but fostering an environment that will create jobs, grow business and maintain the UK’s position at the cutting edge of technological advancement.

Rob Saunders, Head of Energy at Innovate UK said:

The projects that have won funding in this first round are exactly the sort of innovative ideas we had in mind when the energy catalyst was created. The second round is well under way and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing UK firms come forward with more new ways of securing a reliable, low carbon and low cost energy system.

Among the winners is Cambridge-based Nyak Technology which has been awarded almost £200,000 to help develop an organic solar cell that could eventually see the windows in our homes replaced by transparent, energy producing solar panels. Not only would this be a far more discreet and convenient means of harnessing solar power in the home, it could also prove to be far cheaper. Early research suggests that these cells could reduce the overall cost of solar devices by as much as 70%.

Another winner, Oaktec, is intending to use the £220,000 it has received to fund a system which is not dissimilar to technology first seen in the ‘80s classic movie, Back to the Future. It will be testing the feasibility of its Pulse-R engine system, which can use the untreated gas from landfill sites to power a self-supercharged biogas engine.

New skills and experiences for half a million jobseekers

Jobseekers have taken part in more than 469,000 voluntary placements through Jobcentre Plus since January 2011, according to new figures published today by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Around seven in ten participants were young people able to gain skills and experience to help them move into paid work. Accordingly, the number of young people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is now at its lowest since the 1970s.

The numbers include:

  • More than 300,000 work experience placements
  • More than 169,000 placements in employer-led training schemes
  • Nearly 24,000 opportunities taken up by people over the age of 50
  • More than 84,000 opportunities taken up by people with disabilities

These education and training schemes are providing people of all ages with the necessary skills and confidence to gain further work. Over the period covered, 42 per cent of people undertaking work experience placements were offered a position when they finished.

Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy and providing opportunity for everyone. Today’s numbers, especially following last week’s announcement of record high employment, indicate that the job is getting done.