Issued by: Keith Reed
Embargo: Immediate, 19/01/00

"The Lib Dems provide the only opposition to the Government over the 75p pension rise"

Kingston & Surbiton’s MP this week voted in the House of Commons for the Government to review its plans to raise the pension by only 75p a week from this April. The Liberal Democrats, including Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Edward Davey, were the only major party to oppose the Government. The Conservatives abstained on a motion condemning the inadequacy of the 75p rise, along with a small number of "rebel" Labour MPs.

During the debate, the Government were told that many pensioners were "insulted" by the derisory increase and had lost faith in politicians of both larger parties who had raised expectations in opposition only to disappoint when in Government. Edward Davey and his colleagues said that if the Government was not prepared to put money into the state pension in a year when it had buoyant finances, it would certainly not do so if times were hard. As a result, the state pension would slowly wither and die.

Speaking after the debate, local MP Edward Davey said:

"Faced with a decision about whether 75p was enough for pensioners, most Labour MPs said it was enough, the Liberal Democrats said it was not enough, and the Conservatives could not make up their mind. I regret the Conservatives failed to join the Liberal Democrats in opposing Labour’s meanness to pensioners."

"It makes me very proud to know that all Liberal Democrats are opposing this mean-spirited measure and that we will continue to do so".


Post Offices debated in Commons  

Issued by: Keith Reed
Embargo: Immediate, 19/01/99

Liberal Democrat MPs highlight threat to local post offices in Commons debate

Following his discovery that local post offices were under threat from new Government proposals (see earlier press release) Edward Davey MP and his Liberal Democrat colleagues raised the issue in the House of Commons this week.

Speaking after the debate, Edward said,

"People depend on their local post office. Yet successive governments have closed them - 4000 closed by the Tories and 200 already by Labour. Kingston looks set to lose at least two more sub-post offices under these proposals"

"Indeed, the whole Post Office network will be undermined by the Government’s badly thought through proposals. The transfer of benefits payments from the Post Office to the banking system (ACT) will hit pensioners and low income groups particularly hard. 10% of the population do not have a bank account. Equally seriously, what will happen if carers have to go to the bank instead of the Post Office to collect benefits for infirm elderly people - will they be charged a fee for this service?

"The Government’s proposals to transfer benefits to automatic credit transfer (ACT) in 2003 will cut Post Office revenue by at least 30% and in some areas this loss of revenue will be as high as 70%. Many urban and rural sub-post offices will become economically unviable and this will mean more sub-post office closures.

A fully automated, modernised and competitive Post Office is essential if the Post Office is to compete in the market place."



Text of Motion

"That this House deplores the continued decline under successive governments in the sub-post network which is contributing to growing financial exclusion especially among pensioners and low income groups; regrets the government ‘s intention to press ahead with ACT from 2003 which will lead to further large scale closures and will deny freedom of choice; and urges the Government to postpone ACT until the Post Office has developed its own automated platform and, as part of the Universal Service Obligation, require Post Office Counters to maintain a sub-Post Office network which satisfies broad social and economic as well as narrow financial criteria of viability."

Liberal Democrats support:

* a fully automated, modernised, competitive, publicly owned Post Office operating with greater commercial freedom;
* the maintenance of the Universal Service Provision with nationally uniform tariffs for the benefit of rural and remote areas;
* real customer choice by retaining alternative payment options for benefits and postponement of ACT for benefits;
* making the sub-post network part of the Universal Service Provision by requiring Post Office Counters to retain any sub-post office judged as offering significant social as well as economic benefit.

Issued by: Keith Reed
Embargo: Immediate, 19/1/00

Local MP welcomes A&E cash, but warns of more problems to come

The long running campaign by Edward Davey MP for improvements to be made to Kingston Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department appears to have paid off. He received confirmation late on Friday evening, that the hospital’s bid for funds for a complete overhaul of the department had been successful. The hospital will receive 5.7 million from the London NHS executive to carry out the modernisation works.

Kingston’s MP, who just before Christmas pressed the Prime Minister at Question Time on the issue, said,

"I am delighted by the news. This money is long overdue and residents will be pleased to know that the unpleasant conditions which have become the norm will not have to be endured indefinitely."

"Unfortunately, with this Government, it’s a case of two steps forward, and one step back. This great news has just come on the back of the local Health Authority’s poor funding settlement."

"This means that without proper funding for Kingston’s NHS, waiting lists are still likely to increase, nurse shortages will persist and residents will be left with a shiny new department but without the backup services needed to make it work."

"I hope people will be as excited as I am about the new A&E unit, but residents should also be warned that we have only won a famous battle, not the war."


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