Jeremy Corbyn Visits East Hull

13061952_10156762963975461_675417596424931619_nYesterday I was delighted to welcome Jeremy Corbyn to East Hull and see what a fantastic job campaigners and candidates are doing in our part of the City. Jeremy visited the Taboo Youth Initiative on Holderness Road in the Drypool Ward with the Labour Candidate, Steve Graham. Jeremy was also joined by Hester Bridges, Labour Candidate in Southcoates East.

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It was a fantastic event and we got to learn about how Taboo works in partnership with disengaged youngsters to equip them with skills and raise their self esteem , confidence and self awareness. 13076759_10156762963950461_7005872946095755243_n

Jeremy then addressed a massive crowd of supporters who had been on a street stall engaging with voters on Holderness Road. He thanked them for the support and told them why we need to vote Labour in next week’s local elections. The crowd were great and its fair to say Jeremy was like a rock star to them, posing for selfies, talking to young activists about the importance they have in the Labour Party as well as promoting the local candidates.

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Of course it should be noted that my street stalls in East Hull are always so well attended and that it’s not unusual for the East Hull Labour Party election machine to bring Holderness Road to a stand still.

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After the campaign event, Jeremy met with an East Hull Labour Party stalwart Alec Clarke. Alec has been a Labour Party member for over 80 years and will this year turn 100. Jeremy and Alec discussed the need for a Labour Government and the benefits that Labour has had in places like East Hull.

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Jeremy Hunt’s Lawyers Letter Raises Interesting Legal Questions

DSC0129-1024x683Lawyers working on behalf of Junior Doctors have received disclosure from Government Lawyers which is sure to raise questions over Jeremy Hunt’s legal position on the Junior Doctors contract dispute.

Bindmans, the firm representing the Justice for Health Group of five Junior Doctors, has received a letter from Department of Health Lawyers which claim that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, plans to “introduce” new contract terms to the Junior Doctors contract as opposed to the “imposition” of a new contract. This is significant as it calls into question to legality of Jeremy Hunt’s position and whether or not he has the legal right to impose the Junior Doctors contract as previously stated.

This small change in wording and subsequent confirmations from Department of Health spokespeople provide a glimmer of hope to the Junior Doctors who have taken unprecedented action when faced with the actions of the Government and Jeremy Hunt.

The Justice for Health Group feel that their case has been strengthened by this change of wording ahead of their High Court battle which starts today. Saimo Chahal QC has criticised the Government’s actions and stated that the Jeremy Hunt is clinging to the fiction that he has the legal power to impose a contract on Junior Doctors.

Junior Doctors feel that they have been forced into action by the actions of the Government who sought to change their working conditions. Doctors are feeling aggrieved by the treatment that they are getting and Jeremy Hunt’s actions will not be making the situation any better.

As well as strengthening the Junior Doctors case there is also the matter of whether or not the Health Secretary has misled Parliament. Jeremy Hunt came to Parliament and led the House to believe that it was his legal right to impose a contract on Junior Doctors.

As I write Heidi Alexander, the Shadow Health Secretary, has secured an urgent question in the House of Commons. The Health Secretary has had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the House several times now and this is his opportunity to put the record straight. The Health Secretary needs to answer whether or not he is imposing a contract.

It is only when Labour drags the Health Secretary to the Commons that we ever get any answers from him. We shall see today if the Government and Jeremy Hunt have wilfully deceived the public and the Junior Doctors in the name of spin as well as putting patient safety at risk. Many will be listening intently to see if there is any change in legal position from the Health Secretary.

Jeremy Hunt’s claims to be able to impose a new contract are the subject to legal challenge and as such it is now a matter for the Courts to decide on the legality.

Here’s the thing. Either Jeremy Hunt has deliberately misled Parliament, and the Country, to provoke a reaction to force Junior Doctors to take industrial action or he simply does not know what he is doing.

Either way Jeremy Hunt is acting irresponsibly which is dangerous to all our health.

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Karl Turner To Open New PAUL Brain Recovery Centre

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A NEW community support centre dedicated to helping those recovering from serious brain injuries can become a symbol of hope and positivity for all those facing the long hard road to recovery, its founder says.

Paul Spence and Karl Turner MP will officially open the PAUL – For Brain Recovery Centre in Hull on Friday, April 15, a facility Paul says will fill a crucial gap in the care provided to those who are left facing the huge challenge of rebuilding their lives after a brain injury.

Paul, of Hull, East Yorkshire, suffered a brain haemorrhage himself in 2012 at the age of 32, when he was the victim of a violent, unprovoked attack on a night out in the city. He spent five days in and out of consciousness and repeatedly suffered seizures on a high dependency ward in hospital.

With the exceptional support of doctors, the fight for survival was one Paul won, but he believes his biggest battle came when adjusting to life back in the real world, amongst his family, friends, and colleagues.

Paul says he says his centre will provide a new level of community-based support, which he felt was lacking when battling to recovery himself.

With statistics showing more than 3,000 patients were seen at hospitals in East Yorkshire in the two years from start of 2013 with acute or traumatic brain injuries, there is a clear need for the additional community support, and Paul hopes his own story – from suffering his injury to the milestone opening of the new centre this week – can act as an inspiration to many.

“I hope people can look at me as an example of how despite life changing beyond recognition after a brain injury, it can still be a positive experience and you can still achieve and succeed,” he said.

“When I stand and officially open the centre I will be incredibly proud of what I have achieved and how I have pushed myself to do new things after a brain injury. It has been a long hard road to get from the initial idea to gaining full charity status, and then actually opening the centre itself, but I have done it.

“In many ways it will mark the end of one very significant journey for me in my life. It has been the focus for so long, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Now I can really make a positive difference.

“I hope the road which has taken me to where I am today can act as an inspiration to others who find themselves where I was back in 2012, because back then I didn’t think there was anything to be positive about. Hopefully the centre, and the story behind its creation, can be a symbol of hope.

“Most importantly, I know it will be a place of Positivity, Awareness, Understanding and Love. That is what the charity name of PAUL stands for. That’s what we’ll deliver to those rebuilding their lives, at all times.”

The centre will initially be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am-5pm, and Wednesday evenings from 4pm-8pm.

It will offer guidance and support through inspirational and motivational talks and educational sessions on topics from coping strategies to healthy nutrition, fitness, recovery and well-being.

Associates of the PAUL charity, including leading brain injury specialists who Paul has established close links to over the past four years, will also provide support at the centre.

Visitors will also be able to take part in a number of specifically designed physical and mental activities to help stimulate and progress their minds and memories, with all regular visitors having their progress tracked each month to highlight steps forward in their recovery portfolio.

Providing family support was one of the key services identified by Paul as a must for the new centre, as he says the impact of his brain injury on life at home, his relationships with his loved ones, and friends, was one of the biggest challenges he, and those who cared for him, faced.

“We’ve really tried to focus the centre on providing the kind of support which is lacking in communities for people when they leave hospital and start trying to rebuild their lives, as that is when the really tough part of recovery starts,” Paul added.

“Once you leave hospital you find your biggest challenge is only just starting, and that is adapting to your new life and finding it in yourself to accept your old life is gone forever. For every patient that has a brain injury, you may as well multiply that number by five in terms of how many people it affects within the community.

“Nothing could prepare me or my family for the battle of brain recovery and the difficulties it brought. They were brilliant and did their best for me, but it was a complete change for us all, and a struggle.

“I didn’t realise at the time, but my bonds with loved ones were non-existent. It was a really sad consequence of the injury. I was in a complete world of my own. I was functioning, but at such a low level of thought and feeling.

“It’s probably best to describe me as a shell at that time. I wouldn’t say that I couldn’t love people, but I certainly couldn’t express that love and affection, and that must be a hugely difficult thing for a family to handle.

“My message is that if you’re caring for a loved one with a brain injury and feeling like you’re not getting anything back, don’t worry. It gets better in time. You may be a different person after a brain injury, but you can still have a positive future, and the bonds can be rebuilt. You just have to understand it is a long process which requires.”

The opening of the new centre has been made possible thanks to funding raised from Paul’s many fundraising physical challenges and community events held over the past 12 months, and with support from both Hudgell Solicitors, and the NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which has offered a base at the Wilberforce Health Centre in Story Street, Hull to support the PAUL for Brain Recovery Centre for the first 12 months

Neil Hudgell, managing director of Hudgell Solicitors, for whom Paul provides one-to-one support to brain injury victims supported by the firm in his role as an ambassador, said: “We’re delighted to have supported Paul in achieving his goal of opening this centre, something which without doubt will prove a vital facility for those recovering from serious injury in the region.

“Much of our focuses upon supporting people to rebuild their lives after serious illness or injury, and support and rehabilitation in the community should never be something which is overlooked.

“Paul has first-hand experience of walking that road to recovery, and the difficulties faced, both physically and psychologically, so is the perfect person to lead this. Paul cares passionately about making a positive difference, and I am confident that will ensure this venture is a great success.”

Emma Latimer, NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Officer said:

“Paul’s remarkable journey to overcome traumatic brain injury – and his desire to help others in the same position – has led to the development of a special, one-of-a-kind facility for Hull. We want to wish him and his team every success with the new recovery centre.”

Karl Turner, Labour MP for East Hull said:

“Paul’s story is inspirational. His journey is one that will touch the hearts of many across Hull and East Yorkshire.

“After life changing injuries, Paul is determined to make sure that others are able to benefit positively from his experiences.

“This facility will provide vital support for victims of brain injuries and I am proud to have been invited along to open it”

  • The PAUL For Brain Recovery Centre will be officially opened to invited guests at 1pm on Friday, April 15. It will be open to members of the public from 12-3pm on Saturday, April 16.
  • The service will be available from Tuesday, April 19, at 9am.

Read how Paul helped Alison on the road to recovery

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Cameron must go?

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It has now been just over a week since the Panamanian Law Firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co revelations, the 11.8 million documents have begun to shine light on the murky world of offshore tax havens. Little did we know at the time just how much of an impact those documents could have?

In Iceland, we have seen how sustained pressure and public outcry were enough to force the Prime Minister there to step down. Here it is the Labour Party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, which is making sure that David Cameron comes clean on his tax affairs and is honest with the country about any financial benefit that he has derived from his father’s offshore fund.

It is galling that a Prime Minister who has extolled the virtues of tax transparency, called for greater international cooperation on tackling aggressive offshore tax avoidance and labelled sophisticated tax arrangements designed to mitigate tax liability as “morally wrong”, yet he has personally benefited from shares in a fund designed to deliberately avoid paying tax in the UK.

Nobody is surprised by the apparent hypocrisy of Cameron or the fact that Cameron is from wealthy stock nor are people particularly concerned by the fact that his father Ian Cameron had set up the offshore account with its sole purpose of avoiding paying tax at the ordinary UK rate. What is disappointing is the fact that Cameron wriggled around like a guilty defendant giving evidence in a summary trial dodging and weaving in the hope that he would pull the wool enough for the Tribunal to be satisfied that they’re not quite sure enough to convict.

It took five days and five statements consisting of half-truths from No.10 before Cameron finally had wrung out of him the fact that he owned shares in Blairmoore Holdings. So why did Cameron think it necessary to deliberately deceive the country? Cameron has undermined confidence in the office of Prime Minister.

The public will rightly be aggrieved with how little Cameron thinks of them. Rather than just being up front with us, he hoped to evade scrutiny through misdirection and half-truths. This is entirely typical of a Prime Minister who has regularly misled voters on his policy intentions.

It has taken outcry for the Prime Minister to publish his tax returns, something he said he would do at the beginning of the last parliament and yesterday George Osborne followed suit.  We must understand though that if either Cameron or Osborne (or for that matter anybody else) were using sophisticated tax avoidance schemes these would not show up on a HMRC tax return. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was dragged to the House of Commons through pressure from Labour to outline any plans to clamp down on tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance but Labour has had to drag him, squirming all the way. Tomorrow, Labour will again force the Government to answer to the country on the issue of tax avoidance and tax evasion in our opposition day debate.

Those Tory MP’s trotted out to loyally defend Cameron over last weekend and again yesterday and no doubt again tomorrow, need to think  carefully about what the vast majority of the country make of this self serving, sorry mess.

Of course it is true that Cameron, nor his deceased father, have done anything illegal but when a Prime Minister paints tax avoidance and tax evasion as a moral issue, it is surely right that we expect him to lead the way, to set an example for others to follow. Instead we have a Prime Minister who has lobbied the European Union against transparency of ownership of funds so we shouldn’t be surprised by his antecedence here.

Voters who are following this story might wonder why Cameron is so willing to intervene on behalf of his rich chums by writing to Jean-Claude Juncker, but not on behalf of struggling steel workers who face an uncertain future. This, I think, shows the nub of the issue. We have a Conservative Party that stands up for the privileged few, protecting their interests. One rule for those at the top, and another for everybody else.

Incidentally it was a Conservative Chancellor, born in the University area of my home city of Hull, at 1 Elm Terrace, Sir Howard Kingsley Wood, who devised the plans for PAYE. He recognised the importance of paying tax and wanted to find a simpler, fairer way of paying contributions as you earn. He would surely have denounced the efforts of the global elite and multinationals and their attempts to avoid and evade paying their fair share.

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Sir Howard Kingsley Wood outside 1 Elm Terrace, Hull

The vast majority of the people that live in Hull will not have the benefit of mitigating their tax liability by so called ‘offshoring’ to avoid paying their fair share, but I don’t suppose for a second that they would want to do so. People understand the value of paying in to the pot so that public services such as the NHS are available at the time when we need it.

When asked in a recent Ipsos MORI survey the majority polled said they would pay more if the monies went straight to the NHS. This shows the strength of feeling at having strong public services which are well funded.

We must remember that tax evasion and avoidance is not victimless. HMRC’s own figures put the tax gap at £34 billion. Why does this matter? Because it is hard working families that have faced belt tightening and biting austerity cuts in their communities. Because it is schools, the police and local councils that have had to make savings and cut frontline services since 2010.

In the last week, Mr. Cameron has demeaned the office that he holds. He has again undermined trust in politics and politicians and given tacit support to tax avoiders. Cameron’s defenders will say that he hasn’t done anything wrong and that he has paid the tax that was due but we must remember it was he who made a moral issue of perfectly legal tax avoidance schemes when he attacked Jimmy Carr. People will wonder why  it took a week’s worth of statements and half-truths to get to where we are now.

So why did Cameron think it necessary to try to hoodwink the country? The answer is that Cameron knows the biggest lie of all is the mantra pedaled by the Tories that ‘we are all in it together’. We are not ‘all in it together’ and Cameron knows it.

Most people get up each morning, go to work and work really hard to provide for their family. They willingly pay tax at the end of the working week or month. These people are the hard working tax paying majority.  These people are the individuals holding the country together, not the few at the very top who seem to get away with not paying their fair share. These are the people described in the Commons yesterday by former Cameron appointed, out of touch multi-millionaire, Tory Government Minister Sir Alan Duncan in the Commons as “low achievers who hate enterprise, hate people who look after their own family and who know absolutely nothing about the outside world”.

When I go for a pint in the Duke, my local, in Sutton, East Hull where I live, we don’t strike up conversations about the latest tax dodging schemes or what the best advice is on where to stash cash offshore so as to avoid paying tax in the UK. Government must govern for all not just the few.

Most decent people think that it’s dodgy to register companies abroad with the sole intent of dodging the tax man. That’s why Dennis Skinner called it yesterday entirely the same as the hard working UK tax paying majority see it.  Those so called “low achievers”, those people that work hard and pay their way. Those strivers that live their lives in the real world.

Cameron and his Tory multi-millionaire chums just cannot understand the issues that face ordinary hard working people day in and day out. They have never lived in the real world and that’s why people in my local boozer are telling me, that Skinner was right, and Cameron must go.

Lord McNally’s Calls for a Consensus on Legal Aid Will Ring Hollow

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On Wednesday former Justice Minister, Lord Tom McNally finally woke up to the idea that we needed an urgent review into the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). Responding to a letter published in the Guardian, signed by prominent members of the professions, Lord McNally has rightly suggested that we need a cross-party consensus on Legal Aid.

Interesting that this is the same Lord McNally who gleefully shepherded the vicious assault on access to justice that is LASPO through the House of Lords as a Justice Minister. This was despite repeated warnings from myself; Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP (shadow Secretary of State for Justice at the time); Lord Willy Bach shadow Justice Minister (at that time) and Andy Slaughter MP shadow under-secretary of State for Justice as well as huge numbers of social welfare campaigners and the not so fat cat publically funded legal aid lawyers up and down the land.

The Tory Governments attack on access to justice that Lord McNally defended as a Lib Dem coalition Minister has caused untold misery for many of our most vulnerable citizens seeking justice.

Matter starts Civil and Family cases are down by a whacking 90 per cent. So Lord McNally is right to finally recognise that removing vast swathes of areas of law out of the scope needs to be reviewed, but he also needs to fess up to the fact that it was a massive mistake to ignore the warnings that he and other Justice Ministers were repeatedly given. I saw him face-to-face on the issue in his cosy Whitehall office. He dismissed my protestations out of hand and just repeated the mantra that our Legal Aid system is one of the most generous and will remain so even after the cuts which he refused to accept were savagely damaging.

It should come as absolutely no surprise to Lord McNally, or any other former or current MoJ Minister, that the Justice Select Committee’s recent report on changes to Legal Aid had found that the MoJ have failed to meet three out of four of its originally stated objectives. Access to justice for many litigants was now through self-representation and that this was done simply in the pursuit of making savings.

As a lawyer, it is troubling to me that members of the Judiciary including the most senior judges have been forced from their nonpartisan, conventionally apolitical comfort zone, to rebuke the MoJ.

The Lord Chief Justice himself, Lord Thomas, in his annual report to Parliament has expressed his dismay at the current state of the justice system which is out of reach for the poorest and most vulnerable, the consequence of which has been a considerable increase of litigants in person.

Our courts with its adversarial system is not designed to deal with the massive numbers of Litigants in Person. This is the stark reality of the coalition Government’s attack on access to justice. Lord McNally was a principal offender in that attack. He now wants to begin his rehabilitation programme but hasn’t yet admitted his culpability. If he were a common criminal, let’s say a petty repeat thief, he wouldn’t be allowed to start reintegration without crucially fessing up for his crimes.

Lord McNally’s call for a cross-party consensus on Legal Aid reeks of hypocrisy. Meanwhile, my old boss as Shadow Attorney General and good friend Lord Willy Bach has been carrying out important work with the Bach Commission designed to untangle the mess that McNally et al have left behind.

Let’s be clear when Labour left office in 2009-10, more than 470,000 people received advice or assistance for social welfare issues. By 2013-14, the year after the government’s reforms to legal aid came into force, that number had fallen to less than 53,000 – a drop of nearly 90%. This shows just how savage the cuts to Legal Aid have been.

We now have a leader of the Labour Party in Jeremy Corbyn that truly understands legal aid. Jeremy cares about access to justice. He believes passionately that whether rich or poor, we need a justice system that provides access to the law and to competent qualified lawyers when a legal issue, whether it be civil or criminal, knocks on the door in the same way that access to medicine is provided through our NHS when illness comes calling, whether rich or poor.

Jeremy is of the view that legal aid is akin to our NHS in the law and he is committed to achieving this and committing to solid policy to make this a reality in Labour’s manifesto. This is why he invited Lord Willy Bach to set up the Bach Commission and asked me to oversee the criminal aspects of the Commissions work.

The Commission has brought together experts across the professions who between them have an expansive level of knowledge and experience. It aims to comprehensively look at legal aid provision across England and Wales looking at the case for access to justice as a public entitlement, minimum guarantees as part of a new public entitlement and how best we can transform our justice system.

In a short space of time the Bach Commission has heard from the Bar Council, Lord Low, Professor Richard Susskind, Criminal Solicitor representatives the CLSA, and the LCCSA as well as having received written submissions from a number of third sector organisations that have seen first-hand the devastating effects that cuts to Legal Aid has had on access to justice.

Lord McNally’s warm words are welcome but they leave those of us that truly care about access to justice distinctly cold, especially when you consider the damage that the Lib Dems in government did by slashing Legal Aid budgets and deliberately placing access to justice out of reach for the poor and most vulnerable.

A good, but very unfortunate example of this came to me in the Easter recess at the constituency office. The constituent (Mr. A), a tenant of a private rented property for 12 years, had attended at my office last summer to seek the advice of the CAB which helpfully run an advice surgery from my office, generously sponsored by local Solicitor Neil Hudgell.

Mr. A had been, according to his landlord, ‘pestering’ for repairs to the home he rented. The landlord had refused completely for years saying that he wouldn’t spend a penny on the place and that people were ‘queuing up to rent it’ and that If he ‘didn’t like it he could find fresh lodgings’.

The CAB adviser had suggested that Mr. A must start to formalise repeated pleadings for repairs by putting requests in writing. As soon as Mr. A had done this, the landlord began to say he now needed possession of the property to let it to someone else. The landlord gave notice and then started eviction proceedings.

Mr. A attended at my advice surgery desperate for legal advice once it became apparent that there is little Housing Law advice available. This comes at a time when the Legal Advice Agency had had to act after a Solicitor’s firm withdrew from providing Legal Aid in Hull.

Having never practised Housing Law, I could only really give advice on the basics, such as help with court forms.

So annoyed was I that Mr. A was being treated so badly by somebody financially much better off and so much more powerful I took to twitter.

Within no time I had offers of pro bono advice. The excellent homeless charity Shelter very kindly offered to look to see if a disrepair claim could be brought under a CFA agreement. At the time of writing, Shelter are deciding whether or not their team of lawyers can take the case on.

Why do I tell the story? Well because I think this sorry case emphasises the importance of Legal Aid. The importance that Mr. A should, as a matter of right, be able to seek legal redress as against a more powerful, bullying, very rich private landlord.

We need, in my opinion, to get back to a position where Mr. A can seek that much needed redress. This starts with a review of where we are now in terms of access to the courts for the poor and most vulnerable and where we want to be as a society? Whether we think the vision that Jeremy Corbyn has is achievable. Whether that vision of a NHS for the law is in fact affordable?

It is Labour, with the Bach Commission, that is doing the real work here. Assessing the Legal Aid landscape and coming up with credible, yet radical, solutions. This Commission will produce the ‘cross-party consensus on legal aid’ that Lord McNally says he urgently wants to see.

So perhaps Lord McNally will want to provide written submissions about how his time in Government has effected access to justice, how LASPO removed the rights of redress for all but the wealthiest few and has eroded the proud history of Legal Aid provision and the post war consensus.

If Lord McNally wants truly to influence the legal aid policy of the Government, whether it is the current Government or the next. If he wants to influence policy makers on access to justice and to achieve a ‘cross-party consensus on legal aid’ as he claims then the Bach Commission is the only game in town.

The Commission consist of nonpartisan members. Some are lawyers and others not but Commissioners are appointed purely based on their unique expertise and professional reputation. Lord Bach also benefits from the advice of senior Counsel John Cooper QC as adviser to the Commission.

I firmly believe the Commission would genuinely welcome Lord McNally’s evidence and would be advantaged from his experiences and lessons learned from LASPO and invite him to submit his proposals here.

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