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Paul Maynard
Blackpool North
& Cleveleys
 
Letter From westminster Header
   

May 19 2014

Dear Resident,

It has been odd reading in the newspapers that because Parliament has run out of things to do, we have been ‘prorogued’ and we have all gone off on holiday. Clearly this was a ‘memo’ that had passed me buy given how busy the last week or so has been!   Proroguing is always somewhat unpredictable.

It has been odd reading in the newspapers that because Parliament has run out of things to do, we have been ‘prorogued’ and we have all gone off on holiday. Clearly this was a ‘memo’ that had passed me buy given how busy the last week or so has been!

 

Proroguing is always somewhat unpredictable. Essentially it means that the Parliament has ‘finished’ insofar as all the Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech last year have been passed by both Houses, and so Parliament goes into Recess until the next Queen’s Speech, which is in Her Majesty’s diary for Wednesday 4th June. The precise date for proroguing depends on what is commonly called ‘ping pong’. Since every Bill has to be approved by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, if the House of Lords wants to alter Bills, it has a chance to do so, and sends them back for reconsideration by the House of Commons. Sometimes the Commons accepts the changes, sometimes it doesn’t, and sends the Bill back to the Lords unamended, who in return can send it back in our direction. In the end, the Commons prevails as the elected Chamber, but the process can be unpredictable, and it is never clear how long the ‘ping pong’ at the end of the session continues for.

 

In the meantime, in between plenty of voting throughout each day, life for me as an MP goes on, as I sought to fit in a fortnight of meetings in a few days. In addition, I spent five hours on Wednesday doing what they call ‘bench duty’ as a PPS for the Cabinet Office. Regular readers will recall one main duty to be to pass notes from the box of civil servants in the Chamber to the Minister at the Despatch Box – so for the final stages of the Deregulation Bill, I was doing the job, which certainly keeps you fit as you leap up and down in the postman role.

 

Amongst those I met in Westminster have been:

· The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society to look at how a progressive condition such as this is treated in Work Capability Assessments (answer, not that well, since many people with RA are being put into the Work-Related Support Group despite a medical prognosis that they will not be able to return to their old jobs because of the condition). WCA reviews have been focusing onfluctuating conditions where people can have bad days and good days, rather than conditions where remaining in work becomesprogressively harder. Plenty of action points for me to follow up on, as well as raising the issue of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis within my APPG for Young Disabled People.

· Had a further meeting with Greg Clark to discuss the Blackpool component of the Lancashire Growth Deal he is negotiating – it was a useful opportunity to reinforce some of the key messages from his visit up here, not least the need to improve cross-border economic development work and associated labour mobility. In other words – making sure people can travel to where the jobs are locally if they don’t have a car!

· Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People also met with me to look at how the work is going to ensure continued provision of residential training colleges for those who face some of the greatest barriers to getting into work. There had been some suggestion that the RTCs might be phased out in favour of focusing on those whose barriers are lower, but thanks to some lobbying by myself and others, this mode of provision remains, but as ever, there is still work to do.

· I also met with the Director of the Historic Chapels Trust to discuss the current position of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes on Whinney Heys Road. The HCT is about to launch an £80,000 fundraising drive for the Shrine, and I am keen to work with all the interested parties to help shape the ultimate vision for the use to which the (deconsecrated) Shrine can be put. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who are interested in the building’s future, so do let me know by email if you want to be kept up to date. You can see more about the building atwww.theshrineblackpool.com.

 

The National Association of Funeral Directors also came down to see me as a result of a conversation I had had with Box Bros here in Blackpool about the index-linking of funeral payments through the social fund. It’s a fascinating area of public policy which despite numerous reviews seems to barely change – not least the amount that goes to those who apply for help when they find they have to meet the costs of an unexpected funeral. These are different from so-called paupers funerals (a Dickensian term no longer used by the Councils)provided by local authorities under section 46 of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984,with the costs normally recovered from the estate of the deceased.

 

The Government Funeral Payments are also paid back through the estate, but can be used to pay up front costs such as cremation and burial fees, but also up to £700 for the actual funeral expenses. This £700 has not changed in many, many years, and I believe it should be at least indexed to inflation – other costs such as burial and cremation fees are not capped, yet have also been rising. The other interesting flaw in the scheme is that because only around 60% of applications for assistance are granted, funeral directors are increasingly having to provide for families with no guarantee that the payment will be forthcoming from the Government. Few funeral directors if any wish to turn away a grieving family, and it would help if decisions could be made as quickly as possible.

 

Anyway, at the risk of finishing on a less than cheerful note, having had so much on in Westminster, we will need to do a ‘constituency extra’ in a day or two with the constituency activities, so watch this space ...