Monthly Archives: September 2012

Transcript of Bob Ainsworth’s speech on Fire Service funding during a Westminster Hall debate

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): I am grateful to you, Mr Bayley, for the opportunity to speak.

Were the West Midlands fire service considered to be a fat and flabby public service, the Minister would have some justification for ignoring the things that it says or the position that it faces. In his response to the debate, will he say whether he believes that that is the situation with regard to the West Midlands fire service?

The West Midlands fire service has been at the forefront of some of the recent efficiencies and reforms, which some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have discussed in relation to their own areas. In the first 10 years of this century, the West Midlands fire service cut its fire officer numbers from 2,043 to 1,788, while maintaining a service—it has struggled to do so, but it has maintained it—of which all of us in the west midlands are proud and respectful. It has also managed to transfer resources to prevention work, which right hon. and hon. Friends have also discussed in relation to their own areas. The West Midlands fire service is not a fat and flabby organisation; it is an organisation that is doing its level best to be efficient and to provide a service, and that has faced considerable cuts already.

So far, under the formula grant imposed by the Government, the West Midlands fire service has faced a 12.6% cut. Our own chief fire officer, who is not prone to scaremongering, has said that if the Government continue with that formula,

“People will definitely be much more at risk and our ability to respond in the way we currently do will be severely disrupted, so therefore an increased chance of losing their life or suffering injury.”

Those are his words, not mine, and he believes that if the current formula continues he will have to get rid of another 300 fire officers, on top of the 300 he has lost in the past decade, and he will also have to close 11 fire stations. He also says—these are his words, and I know that some of my right hon. and hon. Friends disagree with this view—that he would like to see the flat rate formula apply rather than the grossly unfair formula that is currently planned. If we went to a flat rate formula, we would still face a reduction in funding in the west midlands, but not the 27% reduction that we potentially face if the current formula continues in the future.

I do not want to repeat things that other Members have said, given the severe time constraints that exist. However, I want to raise one other issue with the Minister. The chief fire officer has also said that he will inevitably have to introduce charges for call-outs in non-life-threatening situations. In some ways, I can see the attraction of that, but I really worry about it because I do not know where, down the spectrum of responses, people should be subjected to a charge, and I do not think that members of the public would either. Let us say that some youths light a bonfire over the fields. If a member of the public calls out the fire service, should they expect to be charged? We are talking about £412 an hour, potentially. If the youths then start throwing dustbins on to the fire, should the member of the public then feel free to phone the fire brigade without risk of a charge? At what point, as the incident escalates, would a member of the public feel safe to call the fire brigade without the risk of being charged?

I want the Minister to talk to me, and to respond to the issue of the potential introduction of charges for call-outs in non-life-threatening situations. That is the severity of the situation that is faced by the West Midlands fire service and, I am certain, by others as well.

Mr Shaun Woodward (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): We are in no doubt that the implication of the settlement being prosecuted will be an extremely unfair distribution of lives lost. The new Minister will today, undoubtedly, be given a file basically dressed up as “Minister, this is a difficult settlement. It is one that has basically been taken. Go forward with it. We have no choice.” Knowing that the settlement, if implemented, will lead to loss of life, what advice would my right hon. Friend give to the Minister, and his civil servants, given his own extraordinary experience as a Minister and a member of the Cabinet?

Mr Ainsworth: I think that the Minister will struggle to square off the different things that Ministers have said and done. They have said that we are all in it together, yet they have imposed the kind of cuts that we have seen in the west midlands and elsewhere. At the same time, the fire service in Cheshire, where the Chancellor has his seat, has seen its funding increased. There is no way that the rhetoric can stand, and the Minister must address the situation and be able to justify his decisions. (Hansard, 5 September 2012)

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Bob writes obituary for Len Tasker

Bob has written an obituary for Len Tasker, a local Coventry resident who co-founded a club in 1938 which he called the Coventry Cripples Social Club (which became the Enterprise Club) and who established the Midland Sports Centre for the Disabled.

You can read the obituary, which was in the Guardian newspaper, here.

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Bob Ainsworth marks launch of World Sepsis Day

Coventry North East MP, Bob Ainsworth showed his support for efforts to tackle the relatively unknown illness Sepsis, which claims the lives of 37,000 people every year in the UK by attending a reception in the House of Commons.  The event supported World Sepsis Day (13th September), which aims to raise awareness of a condition that kills more people than breast cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to an infection damages its own tissues and
organs. It can lead to shock, multiple organ failure, and death, especially if it is not recognised early and treated promptly. Sepsis is the leading cause of death from infection around the world and, despite advances in modern medicine like vaccines, antibiotics, and acute care experts believe not enough is being done to save lives.

Speakers at the event included Patrick Kane, a 15-year old school boy who survived Sepsis and who carried the Olympic torch through London in July.  He developed Sepsis as a nine month old baby and lost his right leg below the knee and his left lower arm and fingers off his right hand to the disease.  He was joined at the speaker’s podium by MPs, Dr. Ron Daniels, Chief Executive of the UK Sepsis Trust.

The speakers discussed the Sepsis “Golden Hour”; if a patient is diagnosed and treated in the first hour following presentation with Sepsis, they will have more than an 80% survival rate. After the sixth hour, the patient only has a 30% survival rate.

Dr. Ron Daniels comments; “The statistics associated with Sepsis have dramatic implications for global efforts to eliminate disease. Sepsis is a medical emergency and requires a worldwide effort to educate and engage both the general public and political powers, to take steps required to tackle its growing number of victims.”

Through strategies for early recognition and treatment, many more Sepsis patients will be diagnosed and interventions delivered before severe organ dysfunction develops.

Bob said:

“While Sepsis is a condition which may not hit the headlines, it is deadly.  It is a little known life threatening illness that claims the lives of 37,000 people in the UK every year.  If timely interventions proposed by the UK Sepsis Trust were adopted across the NHS it could save up to 10,000 lives a year and the NHS money.

“I was keen to show my support for efforts to tackle the disease and save lives. I want to see Sepsis viewed as a medical emergency and have a much higher profile among medical professionals and the public”

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Bob highlights the work of the Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty during a Parliamentary debate on the Aerospace industry

Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): I want to talk about two things: the importance of the aerospace industry, not only in its own standing, but as part of our industrial base; and the contribution and potential of the manufacturing technology centre at Ansty, near Coventry. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) for obtaining the debate, which is an important one.

Other hon. Members have talked about how successful the aerospace industry is, and the figures speak for themselves—100,000 direct jobs, £24.2 billion of annual earnings, 75% of which are earned from export markets, and 17% of the world market, second only to the United States. In no other area of industry do we hold such a pre-eminent position. It is not one that we can afford to give away.

There are too many people in this country who think that we are a post-industrial society, and not all of them take that view from a state of ignorance: there are pre-eminent economists—we had one at the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs the other day—who think that we can earn our living in the world by providing financial services and nothing else. I fail to see how that model will ever be successful. We shall not keep our people gainfully employed, and pay our way in the world, off the back of financial services, no matter how successful the sector is—and it has blotted its copybook big-time in the past couple of years.

In my time in the Ministry of Defence I learned the importance of the aerospace industry, not only to the industrial base, but to our ability to produce the wherewithal to defend ourselves and play a role in the world—something that should not be underestimated. The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Chris White), who has now left us, talked about the need for an industrial policy. Will the Minister tell us whether he agrees that there is a need for such a policy? There are people who are worried, because of some of the views and attitudes that he has expressed in the past, about his arrival in the Department and whether there will be an attempt to push us into a laissez-faire, devil-take-the-hindmost situation. It is a real concern, and I hope that he will take the opportunity to lay that fear to rest.

The aerospace industry is important in itself—but it is not fully appreciated that that is not its only importance. The synergies across the different parts of our far too small industrial base are also very important, not necessarily to the primes—the big companies, the likes of which my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) has been discussing—but to small and medium-sized enterprises, and second and third-tier suppliers in the Coventry and Warwickshire area. They do not do aerospace: they do aerospace, automotive and defence supplies. They flex between one and the other. They locate themselves in the area, and can continue to manufacture there, because there is a skill base on which they can still draw. It is not as big as those of many of our competitors.

Hon. Members may want to compare the size of the German industrial base, not so far away. We need critical mass, and the aerospace industry plays an important part in our ability to maintain it. I come from what has been recognised as a car town, so hon. Members might ask what on earth I am doing talking about aerospace, but it plays a huge part in underpinning the skill base of the Coventry and Warwickshire area, never mind the celebrated car companies of the past, or Jaguar Land Rover, which continues to provide employment.

The manufacturing technology centre at Ansty, near my constituency, was established by two midlands regional development agencies—the old East Midlands Development Agency and Advantage West Midlands—which came together with several universities. The concept was to do something that we all recognise the country has been weak at in the past. We have had great pure science expertise in our universities and have repeatedly failed to turn it into product, market share, jobs and skills. The manufacturing technology centres were established to provide that through path, to pull those technological capabilities out of the universities and to encourage companies to share and explore the synergies they all need.

The centre in Ansty, led by Clive Hickman, is now fully operational with 125 people and 39 member companies, a third of which are aerospace companies, with Rolls-Royce playing a particular part. The centre currently has 29 projects with small and medium-sized enterprises. If we want to maintain what was sometimes glibly called high-tech manufacturing capability, we need facilities such as the manufacturing technology centre and we need those facilities to spill out and have a bigger impact on the local economy.

The Ansty development site is still underdeveloped and not fully exploited, despite a fantastically favourable geographical position, with direct access to the A46 trunk road, M69 and M6, easy access to the M40 and west coast main line and—if High Speed 2 is ever built and the Government do not back out—the first station out of London not that far away. The old Rolls-Royce Ansty site, now sadly under-utilised, is coterminous with the development site. The problem for Rolls-Royce is that, although valuable high-tech work is still done on the site, output has shrunk compared with overheads, as operations have shrunk over the years.

I want the expertise of the manufacturing technology centre to spread into the rest of the development site, and I encourage Rolls-Royce to exploit fully again the Ansty site next door, which could have a huge impact on the local economy. The Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership is doing its best to deliver that, but I wonder about its capacity. I know the Government are totally opposed to the old regional development agencies and think they were over-bureaucratic, but the LEP is private sector-led. The Government must ensure that the LEP has sufficient capability and support to provide the leadership necessary to secure such jobs in the Ansty development site off the back of the manufacturing technology centre.

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Bob speaks up for West Midlands Fire Service

Bob Ainsworth, Member of Parliament for Coventry North East, today spoke in a debate in Westminster Hall on funding cuts to Fire Services in the West Midlands.

West Midland’s Fire Service has had its government funding cut by the Tory-led government and a further cut could result in the West Midlands losing a total of 27% of its central government funding since 2000/01, if the current funding formula is applied again.

The number of firefighters in the West Midlands has already dropped from 2043 in 2000/01 to 1788 in 2010/11. 300 more could be loss if further harsh cuts are imposed on the West Midlands Fire Service.

Bob said:

“It is grossly unfair that the West Midlands Fire Service is facing another round of funding cuts under the current funding formula when they’ve already taken a huge cut in our funding.

WMFS has been at the forefront of making efficiencies and improvements in the service it provides over the last decade, but to force disproportionate and unfair cuts on them now, will risk lives.

Whilst the West Midlands and Coventry have been hit by cuts, some fire services have seen increases in their funding including Cheshire which just happens to cover the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s constituency.

I support the calls from the Association of Metropolitan Fire and Rescue Authorities for a fair, flat cut settlement across the board for fire services. If we really are ‘all in this together’ as we keep being told by the government, they will heed those calls”.

6 September 2012 

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