Telephone fraudster alert from the National Intelligence Bureau

The National Intelligence Bureau is advising of telephone fraudsters posing as legitimate debt collection/enforcement companies threatening victims with court action in order to force them to pay a phantom debt.

The current specific method being employed by the fraudsters is that a victim receives a phone call from someone claiming to represent a debt recovery agency chasing a debt on behalf of The Business Directory for money owed for advertising space.  The caller, who according to reports goes by the name “Derek Jones”, threatens legal action by the Birkenhead County Court if payment is not made.  To add further plausibility to the story, the caller claims that the victim’s business made a one off payment to the Business Directory at some stage in the past and was contractually obliged to make repeat payments on a monthly basis.  The caller goes on to pressurize the victim into transferring funds into a specified bank account in order to settle a debt.

Police alert the public to this fraud, and ask anyone affected by it or any other scam to report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk

Julian Huppert gains Government commitment on humanist marriage

rsz_julian_huppert_(cycling)_2012.jpgLiberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert has pressed the government on humanist marriage and prompted a commitment to a full Parliamentary report on the way forward by the end of the year.

He raised the issue in Parliament claiming there was no reason for the government not to make humanist marriage legally recognised as there were already exceptions in marriage law for Jews and Quakers.

“Humanist celebrations are not only successful in Scotland, but there are humanist ceremonies for births and deaths in England and Wales as well,” he said.

And his call to Justice Minister, Simon Hughes to make progress on the issue led to a commitment from Mr Hughes to give a full report to Parliament before the end of the year on the way forward.

He acknowledged that there were up to 800 humanist weddings every year.

Julian Huppert said later: “We took a huge step forward in this country when we made same sex marriage legal; but there are still marriages that we do not recognise in law simply because they don’t conform to age old tradition.

“Many couples don’t want to get married in a conventional church or register office service and yet they are bound to conform because we don’t recognise humanist marriages. I can’t see any reason why we should object to these ceremonies; they are already recognised in law in many other countries including Scotland.

“I pushed hard for this to be allowed when we debated the Same Sex Marriage Bill, and we won part of the argument – but not all of it. The Government should get on with this, and allow people to celebrate their marriages in the way that fits with their beliefs.”

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance

1911715_10154912243065565_3205825898850673008_nToday is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to pause and think of all those transgender people who have lost their lives just for being who they are across the world. I read the list of people who are being remembered in 2014 and it’s pretty harrowing to think of all those young lives lost through prejudice. Everybody should be free to express their identity without fear or attack.

A study earlier this year showed the high rates of suicide and attempted suicide amongst transgender people compared to the general population. We can’t stand by in the face of such evidence. It’s important that we make sure that everyone has the care and support that they need.

 

National: BRAKE look out for each other campaign

Humberside Police are supporting the BRAKE Road Safety Week (Monday 17 November to 23 November 2014) which is appealing to everyone to look out for each other on roads, because being selfish can lead to tragedy.

The national campaign is particularly calling on drivers to protect people on foot and bike by going 20 or below in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends, and giving people plenty of room.
Motorists, Cyclist and pedestrians all use roads in different ways: often a mix of walking, catching the bus or driving, and maybe cycling, running or skating too. It is important to remember that some road users are more vulnerable and need protecting by those in charge of vehicles.
However, sometimes it can feel like roads are angry places where different road users are in different tribes competing for space. A lack of care by drivers can have awful consequences.
It can mean people feel less able to get out and about, kids are not allowed to walk to school, commuters don’t feel able to cycle and families are more inclined to use the car. It can also lead to tragedy: people suffering horrific injuries or even being killed because of someone going too fast, too close or not looking out.
Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of being stressful and risky, streets were places where everyone looked out for and protected each other, particularly the most vulnerable?
PC Barry Gardner, Humberside Police Casualty Reduction Officer said:
“Whenever there are reports in the press about cyclists or pedestrians being involved in collisions with vehicles I see and hear comments from people such as; “it’s the cyclists fault, they are a menace they don’t pay road tax or insurance, they don’t have lights and cause drivers to slow down etc.” As well as comments from cyclists “it’s the car drivers fault, they don’t give us enough room, they come too close etc”
“Whatever side you take, it’s a  fact that cyclists and pedestrians are a vulnerable group, as a vehicle driver you have a duty to drive with due care and attention at all times and should be on the look out at all times for this vulnerable group. Cyclists and pedestrians should be helping themselves by adhering to the rules of the Road and wearing highly visible or light clothing.
“It would be really refreshing and beneficial to everyone involved if these different groups of road users set their differing opinions to one side and looked out for each other. The key message is look out for each other: support the campaign.”

Humberside – 101: The easy to remember police number

The Home Office has launched a UK-wide campaign to highlight 101 – the number to call to contact local police in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland when it’s not an emergency.

You may have concerns you want to report to the police but it’s not always appropriate to call 999, and that’s why the Home Office is reminding the public they should dial 101 when they want to get through to the police.

For more information click on the following link and see what it is all about: http://www.police.uk/news/101-easy-remember-police-number/

Investing in the Green Climate Fund to help tackle climate change

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has today (20 November) announced that the UK government will invest up to £720m in the Green Climate fund to help poorer countries adapt to climate change and go low-carbon.

The UK joins other major economies including Japan, Germany, America and France in pledging financial support to help developing countries adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Britain’s investment comes from existing funds set aside for international climate change work under our commitment for 0.7 per cent of gross national income to provide overseas development assistance.

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said:

“The poorest and most vulnerable on the planet are already suffering the effects of climate change and it’s our moral duty to act.

“From protecting low-lying islands and coastal settlements from the impact of rising sea levels to helping farmers struggling with lower crop yields caused by the weather effects of climate change – British aid can save lives.

“Along with the UK, other major economies such as the US, Japan, Germany and France have made substantial pledges and I urge other countries to be equally ambitious.”

The Liberal Democrats are the only major party that puts tackling climate change at our heart.

In the Coalition Government, Ed Davey has worked to make sure the environment stays at the top of the agenda, even though it isn’t a priority for the Conservatives.

We cannot build a stronger economy for the long term without creating a greener, more sustainable economy too.

Nick Clegg confirmed to take part in Bite the Ballot Leaders’ Live

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has confirmed he will be taking part in Bite The Ballot’s Leaders’ Live debate next month.

Nick said:

“Leaders Live is a fantastic initiative from Bite the Ballot to get young people involved in the political debate. This project will take the leaders of the main political parties to where young people are already active – through exciting new ways of communicating.”

Nick’s Leaders’ Live will take place on December 16. You can find out more here.

Greg Mulholland wins sensational victory in House of Commons on pubco reform

The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign today won a sensational victory in the House of Commons, defeating government 284 votes to 269, a result that is all but set to give thousands of publicans across the country the market rent only option many have long called for.

FDFYL18112014Going into the Small Business Bill debate, the cross-party amendment was signed by 91 MPs, with the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign itself having 212 MPs signed up as supporters. The campaign was also backed by ten organisations including the Campaign for Real Ale, Federation for Small Businesses, Forum for Private Business, GMB and Unite.

New Clause 2 had been tabled by Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Adrian Bailey, Chair of the BIS Select Committee and Brian Binley, a member of the Select Committee and President of the Save the Pub Group, with support from many pro-pub and pro-small business MPs across the House. In the run up to the vote, over 8,000 CAMRA members contacted their MPs urging them to back the clause.

Market rent only is a simple, market based solution what would allow tenants of the large pub companies the right, at rent review or renewal, to ask for an independent assessment of their rent without tie obligations, then have the option to pay this to the pub owning company – or to opt for a fair tied agreement with a lower rent being offered in exchange for higher beer prices.

Commenting after the win, Greg Mulholland said:

“This was a victory for people power, for commonsense and for fairness and a victory a huge hard pressed publicans and their customers. I thank all MPs who had the courage to listen to their constituent licensees, CAMRA members and campaigners who have been campaigning for years to end what CAMRA call the pub scandal.

“For too long, the large undebted pubcos have exploited their tenants and taken more than is fair or sustainable from pub profits, now the House of Commons has clearly passed the select committee option of a market rent option which will stop the pubco rip-off of hugely marked up beer prices and excessive rents.

“This is great news for pubs, hardworking pubco publicans and for communities and consumers, who will see many more sustainable pub businesses and a cheaper pint of beer, free from the pubco price escalator”.

“Contrary to typically misleading and increasingly desperate statements from their pubcos and their lobbyists, this does not abolish the beer tie. It simply gives tenants the right, at rent review or renewal, to request an independent assessment of their rent and opt to pay that if their pubco fails to offer

“As Coordinator of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign I am hugely proud of all supporting organisations and want to say a huge thanks and congratulations to CAMRA, The Federation of Small Businesses, The Forum of Private Business, The GMB, The Guild of Master Victuallers, Fair Pint, Pubs Advisory Service, Justice for Licensees, Licensees Supporting Licensees, Licensees Unite the Union and the Punch Tenant Network. A big thanks also to the BIS Select Committee, their Chair Adrian Bailey and former Chair Peter Luff and all the members who did such important work looking at this issue and coming up with the simple, obvious, market based solution that will now become the law”.

John Allan, FSB National Chairman said:

“This is a historic day for tied publicans who look forward to a more open and competitive marketplace. The freedom to stock a wider range of beers will provide a boost to local economies while giving consumers greater choice. “We call on Government to support today’s decision and for all parties to back publicans in their respective 2015 election manifestos.”

Adrian Bailey, Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee also said:

“Today was a great day for pub tenants and for parliamentary democracy. The MRO is the first step to releasing pub tenants from the shackles of a relationship with the Pubcos that was unfair to them, damaging to the industry and the communities it serves. However we must not assume that everything will suddenly come good. The BIS Select Committee will continue to monitor the application of the MRO and is fully prepared to take further action if is not adhered to.”

Dawn Hopkins of Licensees for Licensees, added:

“Our members are ecstatic at the news that MPs have voted for New Clause 2 in the Small Business Bill and have backed MRO. This is literally a life changing decision for so many tied licensees, a lifeline to be able to continue running their pubs and to actually make a living and keep our pub industry thriving. We cannot thank enough the MPs that voted yes, and to all those involved in the Fair Deal For Your Local Campaign who worked so hard to make this happen.”

Paul Naylor of Licensees Unite said:

“Unite are proud to be part of pub history on today’s momentous events in Westminster, that should see the pub sector being fairly treated and hopefully to stem the tide of closures and stabilising what was in danger of becoming a failing industry.”

Paul Kenny GMB General Secretary added:

“MPs have done the right thing and GMB welcome this. Government must accept this vote and move to properly implement it to save 25,000 tied pubs.

MPs have voted for a clause that shows that the market rent only option is a simple, cheap to administer and market based solution that at certain trigger points would simply give licensees the choice as to whether to pay a fair rent only or stick with a tied agreement. This choice will force the large pub companies to ensure that their tied agreements – where tenants pay marked up prices for beer and other products and services – are competitive, fair and attractive to tenants.”

Grahame Morris MP, Vice Chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub group, also said:

“This is an excellent result. Support for the clause was from across all sides of Parliament. This is an example of predatory companies exploiting landlords at the expense of the economy, the community and consumers. I’m very proud I put my name to table this clause and hope in time it will make a real positive difference for landlords and pub users throughout the UK”

Inez Ward of Justice for Licensees said:

“Yesterday’s vote was a vote for pubs, it will be good for the pubs, licensees, customers and small brewers alike, it will also be good for the pubcos who can now build a sustainable business moving forward. We hope that the lesson moving forward will be that by working together for the benefit of the trade can produce some fantastic results for the trade.”

Roger Roberts: We must abolish the Azure card now

Lord Roberts of LlandudnoRefused asylum seekers are being forced to endure destitution and humiliation at the hands of the Azure card. Together with the Red Cross, I am calling for the government to put an end to this cruel and unusual system.

On the 20th of November the House of Lords will debate the Azure card. I ask my colleagues and other noble members not to remain silent on this issue.

The Azure card is a payment card issued to refused asylum seekers who are destitute and have agreed to return to their country of origin but who cannot return immediately due to circumstances beyond their control. The card was designed to provide short-term support. However, because people who cannot be returned also lack the right to work, many have found themselves trapped in a state of perpetual destitution.

Full article here

Gender pay gap falls to a record low

The pay gap between men and women has fallen to a record low, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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In April, the difference in pay between men and women stood at 9.4 per cent, compared with 10 per cent the previous year.

When records began in 1997, the pay gap was 17.4 per cent, the ONS said.

Liberal Democrats welcome the fall in the pay gap but recognise more still needs to be done to close the gender pay gap.

We are leading the campaign to close the gender pay gap.

Our manifesto includes a commitment to make it a legal requirement for companies employing more than 250 people to publish the average pay of their male and female workers.

By doing so this would create pressure from staff and customers to account for and close any pay gap that exists between men and women.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Minister for Equalities Jo Swinson said:

“It’s good news to see a significant reduction in the pay gap over the last year. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our vision has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.

“The Government will continue to tackle the causes of gender pay inequality. Shared Parental Leave will help to tackle the unequal split of caring responsibilities, and we are promoting pay transparency by making free pay analysis software available to employers.”