Guest Blog: Jeremy Browne MP: Crime down to lowest levels since records began.


Under the Coalition Government, crime is at its lowest level since independent records began. That's fewer homes burgled and possessions stolen; fewer communities blighted by vandalism; and fewer people hurt, or killed in violent attacks.

Lots of people predicted that in tough economic conditions, crime would go up, as it always has done in the past. But it hasn't and we should be proud of that fact. It has been achieved without excessive bureaucracy or increasing intrusion.

Keeping crime and the fear of crime down is a key part of the fairer society Liberal Democrats are in politics to build.

That's why, in Government, Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of a Rehabilitation Revolution.

For years, the Liberal Democrats have argued that you only truly break the cycle of crime when you cut re-offending. We are determined to reduce both its economic and social costs.

Labour talked tough on crime, but appeared to believe that a ballooning prison population was a good thing. Be tough on crime, yes. Be tough on the causes of crime, yes. But none of it matters unless you are tough on breaking the cycle of crime too.

That's why, in our Offender Rehabilitation Bill, we are extending rehabilitation measures to the most frequent re-offenders - those who serve sentences of 12 months or less.

And today Nick Clegg announced that the small companies and organisations that we know are so effective at delivering rehabilitation services will have extra support and money from the Government to ensure they are able to get fully involved in this new system.

These are Liberal Democrat policies - debated at and approved by our Autumn conference in 2012 and being delivered in Government.

You can read Nick Clegg's speech in full here.

Supporting IDAHO 2013: International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia


Today is an important day in the calendar of LGBT communities all over the globe, it is IDAHO.

The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) got started officially in 2005 after a year-long campaign to spread the word and get people on board. The idea came about in 2004 as a celebration of the removal of homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1990, on the 17th May.

The organisers took the date of the removal and turned it into a celebration, now every year IDAHO is celebrated on 17th May. It’s incredible to think that just 23 years ago the World Health Organisation considered a gay man or woman to be mentally ill.

Thankfully times have changed and IDAHO has been paving the way as an international force by working with local groups over the world to reduce prejudice and promote LGBT causes.

There are lots of local events on today and tomorrow. Please get involved.




The LGF are organizing a vigil marking IDAHO. There will be speakers and an opportunity to pay tribute and respect all those who have suffered intolerance and prejudice because of sexual orientation or gender identity.


On Saturday 18th May a community ‘Flash-mob’ event will be held in central Manchester. Inspired by The Great Global Kiss - In which took place on the weekend of IDAHO in 2010, The LGF want people to unite against hate, intolerance, inequality and injustice in society by creating an atmosphere in which couples can show their love and affection for one another in a positive and powerful way.

Join in the conversation on Twitter @lgfoundation #kissh8

Email [email protected] or visit

Tomorrow: MANCHESTER - LESBIAN AVENGERS: 2-4pm. The Lesbian & Gay Foundation

The LGF is inviting all lesbian and bisexual women to join them.

For more information email [email protected]

Tomorrow: TRAFFORD RAINBOW PICNIC: 13.00-15.00

Theatre Lawn, Walkden Gardens, Sale



Rail Pro article: Jury out on Franchising


This article appeared in last week's Rail Professional.


There have been three major Railway announcements in the past couple of months, and on two of them I believe the government is making absolutely the right choices. British railways are seeing their biggest investment in over 100 years delivering growth and jobs to Manchester and the North.

The first major announcement is on HS2. I have long supported HS2. It deals with the impending capacity crisis on the West Coast Main Line, something that opponents of HS2 don’t seem to address when criticising the plans.

The Government’s announcement of £33bn of investment over 20 years will be good for Manchester and create up to 60,000 new jobs. Some 10,000 jobs during construction, 1,400 permanent operational jobs and over 49,000 jobs in the regeneration and development areas associated with station developments.

There will be two new stations in Manchester, next to Piccadilly and Manchester Airport.

The Liberal Democrats were the first party to commit to high-speed rail. It is a key part of our priority of moving towards a low-carbon economy. Once complete, HS2 will transfer approximately 9 million journeys from road to rail and 4.5 million from air to rail.


By shortening train times, HS2 will also make investment and economic interest in regions outside of London and the South-East more attractive. This is vital if we are to help rebalance the UK economy.

The second annoucement were Network rails plans for the next 5 years.

The plan includes over £1 billion of investment for the North West. This investment will create 20,000 jobs and boost investment, returning £4 to the regional economy for every £1 spent.

Local passengers will benefit from shorter journey times and more frequent services. The journey from Manchester to Leeds, for instance, will be cut by 10 minutes.

One of the most telling statistics is that this government has committed to electrifying over 800 miles of track over the next five years, compares to just 10 miles in Labour’s 13 years. Electrifying the North West and North Trans-Pennine lines will spare the environment and cut journey times.

In the long term, this huge modernisation project will reduce running costs and help put an end to runaway increases in train fares.

But we are not doing everything right. The third major announcement was on the future of the franchising system. As a former Transport Select Committee member with a long interest in transport matters, I have long argued for reform.

I believe that a decision should not be made just on price. Past performance and customer satisfaction should be part of the process, which should be transparent and include some independent oversight over the whole process

When Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin made an announcement to the House of Commons about Rail Franchising on the East and West Coast Main Lines, I listened with interest.

Both franchises had gone wrong for different reasons.

On the West Coast mainline, Virgin trains got their contract extended to 2017. This followed a protracted saga with First winning the bid from Virgin; Virgin challenging the decision in the courts, the Department for Transport admitting flaws in the process, then Virgin getting an extensions of their contract before this second announcement.

Sam Laidlaw’s Independent report into the process found that Department for Transport officials had supplied Ministers with inaccurate information before the original decision was taken.

The government also accepted Mr Laidlaw’s recommendations that civil servants need a clearer, simpler structure of governance and having someone senior in charge when working on these franchises. The Secretary of State rightly apologised for the department’s mistakes.

The extension of the franchise to Virgin was good news. It ended the uncertainty, and rewarded a company who has a track record on delivering a good service to customers and a decent return to the Exchequer.

The second announcement was that the East Coast mainline would be put back out to franchise.

This doesn’t make sense. I believe that the franchise has not been in the public sector long enough for an independent assessment to be made about the performance, although most assessments seem to think they have provided an excellent service.

In November 2009, when National Express East Coast had its contract terminated, the franchise was taken over by Directly Operated Railways. (DOR)

National Express had agreed to pay £1.3bn under the original franchise, but passenger revenues were hit by the recession. Talks with the DfT about easing the terms of the deal came to nothing.

DOR paid about £600m to the exchequer, much less than Stagecoach promised, but much more than they delivered.

After the Minister’s statement, I asked him,

“By deciding to re-franchise the east coast mainline in the future we risk not being able to judge whether the public sector or private sector is best for the passenger, the tax payer and the railways.  Surely as a minimum we ought to allow Directly Operated Railways to bid to run the franchise?”

He rejected my plea, saying

“That is not the case—Directly Operated Railways is not a company in its own right; it is a company owned by the Department for Transport. We will certainly be able to see how the companies are doing. The process will be open. I have already seen reports, although I have not had it confirmed, that Virgin will put in a bid for the east coast main line, and a lot of people were very happy with the service they received on the west coast main line.

It appears that the Secretary of State is opposing a state-run service on ideological grounds, and not based on evidence. He should be supporting what works best. We could learn from some of our successful neighbours in Europe, like Germany and Holland.

Both have a more devolved decision-making process, which means a more integrated service than the UK.

The biggest railway company in Germany is Deutsche Bahn, which is Germany’s state run railway company, and Arriva’s parent company. German Inter City routes are open to competition, but Deutsche Bahn’s dominance in the market scares off other providers.

So I wouldn’t want a system that gave one public, or private, provider, that kind of dominance in the market.

I am not ideologically wedded, or opposed to Rail franchises. It is clear that in some cases they have delivered. But without a public sector comparator, how can we tell what is the most cost-effective way of providing the rail network of the future?

The jury is still out on whether the franchise system can be transparent, give a good quality service to train users, and minimise the cost to the taxpayer.


Fergie: 38 trophies at United speaks for itself

I have just submitted an EDM praising Sir Alex Ferguson.

I wish Sir Alex well in his retirement. He has made an outstanding contribution to football and Manchester, and deserves all the praise that is being heaped upon him today.

As a blue, I have look across Manchester in envy as United have won 38 major trophies under his leadership. His record speaks for itself.

The EDM reads;

That this house notes the outstanding contribution to football of Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Aberdeen from 1978 until 1986 and then Manchester United, spanning 4 decades, from 1986 until his retirement in May 2013; recognises the success both in the Scottish and English top divisions, breaking the stranglehold of Rangers and Celtic in Scotland with Scottish league, Scottish Cup and European Cup Winner’s Cup success, and then turning Manchester United into the most successful English club of all time, winning an unprecedented 38 trophies, including 13 league titles and 2 UEFA Champions League titles; further notes the joy he has brought to fans of Manchester United, and despair to fans of other teams during his 26 years as Manchester United manager, and wishes him well for his retirement.

Guest Blog: Emma Allen-Taylor: The need for "Talking Buses"


My name is Emma Allen-Taylor I am the Engagement Officer for the Manchester Mobility Team of Guide Dogs.  As part of my job I deal with access issues that our guide dog owners struggle with on a daily basis.

Unfortunately problems with bus travel in Manchester and across the North West are all too familiar when you are blind or partially sighted.  Things that sighted people take for granted can be a real worry, for example seeing the correct bus number, recognising when your bus is approaching rather than a lorry, presenting your pass, finding an empty seat, getting off at the correct stop and worrying if the driver has pulled up close enough to the kerb or in a place clear of immediate obstruction.  This can make what should be a straight forward task a momentous undertaking.

Worsley guide dog owner Joan Reed gave an example of how she’d been affected

“I had a really bad experience when using a local bus.  I had asked the driver to tell me when to get off at ‘the stocks’.  I checked with another passenger when I had been on the bus what seemed to be a long time, the bus had taken me about two miles passed my stop.  I ended up by the busy A6 road, it was a wet, cold day and I had to walk all the way back.”

The  Guide Dogs’ Road to Nowhere Survey shows 82% of people with sight loss in the North West say they are unable to enjoy the freedom that others take for granted because they find travelling by bus so difficult.  60% have been put off visiting friends and family, and 35% have missed out on social occasions like birthday parties.


Guide Dogs want the Government to update regulations, meaning all buses need to be ‘Talking Buses’, fitted with on-board audio-visual (AV) technology which announces routes, destinations and stops.  Audio announcements on buses make a massive difference to passengers with sight loss. They would also help other passengers. How much easier would it be when traveling somewhere new, or at night, or when the windows steam up in the rain, if your bus announced the next stop. We also want more training for bus drivers, so they know how to support passengers who are blind and partially sighted.


We’d also really like to see Transport for Greater Manchester bid for funding under the Government Better Bus Areas scheme to fit AV in buses for the benefit of all passengers.  Guide Dogs will continue to work alongside local MPs like John, as well as with local bus companies to provide their drivers with sight loss awareness training. We urge companies wishing to participate in this training to contact the Manchester Mobility Team on 0845 372 7409.

 You can contact Emma on  07825  716  862



  1. The “Road to Nowhere” survey was conducted between October 2012 and March 2013. Over 450 people responded from across the United Kingdom, including blind and partially sighted people (including non-guide dog owners), people with hearing problems and wheelchair users. 370 people identified themselves as either guide dog owners or blind or partially sighted.


  1. Guide Dogs is calling for compulsory audio visual announcements to be included in the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations 2003 and the Public Service Vehicles Accessibility (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 to ensure all buses across the UK are talking. This would bring buses in line with other forms of public transport, such as trains.


  1. Transport Minister Norman Baker announced a new Better Bus Areas fund for local authorities and bus companies to improve passengers' experiences in February 2013  South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive have already successfully bid for audio visual technology to be fitted to buses under this funding stream .


  1. For more information about the Talking Buses campaign please visit or email [email protected]


About The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association:

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is a British charitable organisation founded in 1934. Guide Dogs provides independence and freedom to thousands of blind and partially sighted people across the UK through the provision of guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services. It also campaigns passionately for the rights of those with visual impairments. Guide Dogs is working towards a society in which blind and partially sighted people enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.








SMR column: Law change would help prevent another tragedy.


I wrote this column for the South Manchester Reporter last Friday, before today's judgement by the Law Lords, which you can read here. I hope the Home Secretary will now change the law so that no other family have to go through what the  Thornber's and the Lawton's had to.



It is an honour to be an MP in the best City in the world. And the most important thing I can do as an MP is to be there to help local people when they need me most.

Many of you will have read about the tragedy concerning Didsbury 17 year old Edward Thornber.  Edward was arrested for the possession of cannabis and was treated as an adult. Being ordered to court rather than just being given a warning, the ex-head boy wrongly thought he was faced with the prospect of losing a career opportunity in the US, and hanged himself. According to police reports, following his arrest in Cornwall, police made a number of errors processing his arrest, filing him as an adult rather than technically a youth.

Edward Thornber’s parents, Adrian and Ann, contacted me to discuss how I could help them. I was struck by their quiet dignity when confronted by a what must be the hardest thing a parent could ever face.


They pointed out that there is currently an inconsistency in law when treating 17-year-olds. At a police station they are considered an adult and thus are treated so. In court, the law sees them as a child.


They argued that the law should be changed, and I agreed with them. Last month, I joined them and the Lawtons, who son, Joseph, committed suicide too, and presented a 52,000 name petition to 10 Downing Street. With us was Shauneen Lamb from the children’s charity, Just for Kids.


I also promised both the Lawton’s and the Thornber’s that I would submit a parliamentary motion highlighting Edward and Joe’s case, and do all I could to try to change the law. This Wednesday,  I submitted the motion, and I thank the South Manchester Reporter for giving me a this platform to help me raise awareness for the campaign.


The law needs to change. To change for Edward, to change for Joe. My job is to help stop other parents across the country from going through what Ann and Adrian Thornber had to go through.


My job is to be there when I am needed.






Support the Manchester Marathon this Sunday


This weekend sees one of the biggest sporting events for the region, the Greater Manchester Marathon return to the North. You can find the route here

This is going to be a fantastic race, taking in countryside around Manchester as well as travelling past landmarks of the city, starting and finishing at Old Trafford.

With one of the flattest marathon routes in the world, Greater Manchester has a lot to offer the international running community and can hold its own alongside London, Boston, and others around the world. To add some local pizzazz, prizes have been offered by the 'Community Spirit Initiative' for the best entertainment, making this run a little different. They will perform along the route, and include every type of music, from Brooklands Samba Band to Altrincham Children’s Choir.

Every year the marathon is a special event that brings people together and celebrates achievement. This year is even more important; with the Boston bombing only two weeks ago, there will be an added sense of quiet defiance amongst the crowds.

I am pleased that there will be 26 seconds of silence before the race to mark the Boston bombings, and many runners will be wearing blue and yellow ribbons, the colours of the Boston Marathon. Greater Manchester Police have reviewed safety measures, but they are confident about security on the day, especially after the success of the London Marathon last weekend.

This Sunday will see thousands of people yet again choose to run together in defiance of those few who seek to terrorise and destroy. Yes, there are the elite athletes at the front, but this race is open to everyone, regardless of gender, class, race, age, or ability. That makes it something to be proud of.

I wrote recently about the importance of football to the Manchester Economy. The importance of sport goes beyond creating jobs helping people live a more healthy life. It also teaches discipline and setting goals.

Running is one sport that anyone can take up, and we should be encouraging as many people as possible to take up whichever sport they want to do, from cycling to rowing. This is why I have been campaigning for safer roads, to ensure people are able to exercise in safety, and I argued that British cycling should stay based in Manchester after 2014.

According to Sport England, since the Olympics, an extra 750,000 people have started playing sport than 12 months ago according to the latest Active People results by Sport England. This is good news, and big events like the Greater Manchester Marathon help inspire the whole community.

Why FA cup finals should be on Saturday at 3pm


I remember growing up. FA Cup final day was magical. Always the end of the domestic season. There was hours of coverage. Cameras on the coaches. Saturday 3pm kick off. On both channels. We watched on the BBC. No adverts!

This year, there is a 5.15pm kick off. To maximise the viewing figure, say the FA. But there are other premiership fixtures on, and the last train back to Wigan is 8.30pm and Manchester is 9pm. A tight timetable if there is extra time or, as for both semi-finals, delays on the tube.

I don't want future FA cup finals to face this problem. The FA and the TV rights people need to sort this out. My suggestion, which I have put in a parliamentary motion today, is that there is an exclusive day for the FA Cup final, with no other fixture on that day. That would maximise viewing figures, keep the FA cup special and might even allow fans to get home on Saturday night.

The motion reads;

That this House regrets the decision to hold the FA cup final at 5.15 pm on 11th May; notes that this decision will create real problems for the fans of Manchester City and Wigan who need to return home by train, with the last departure for Wigan leaving Euston at 8.31pm and the last train for Manchester Piccadilly leaving Euston at 9pm; recognises that the decision to delay the kick-off until 5.15pm is intended to maximise the television audience and to allow fans of other clubs to watch their own team without missing out on watching the final or to avoid league attendances being adversely affected by the FA cup ; recognises that lessons need to be learnt for the future and urges the football authorities and television to work together to ensure that in future years the FA cup final is held on Saturday at 3pm, ideally the week after the last round of league matches when Wembley match scheduling allows or as a standalone fixture on a Saturday with the full league programme moved to the Sunday to avoid clashing with league fixtures.




Happy St. George's Day: We should be proud to be English

Happy St Georges’s Day.


One of the first things I did after being elected an MP was to sign a parliamentary motion calling on St. George’s day to become an English Bank Holiday, and for public buildings to fly St. George’s flag on the 23rd April.


We should take more time to celebrate our heritage. The myth of St. George is central to understanding the last 800 years of English history and we should pay more recognition to this. Having St. George's Day designated as a bank holiday would be a welcome step in this direction.


St. George is a central figure in English national identity. From the reign of Edward the third onwards (1327-1377), St. George has been held as an emblem of virtue, chivalry and the embodiment of all that is good in being English.


When I was growing up in the 1980’s, the far right tried to make St George’s their own, but today, St. George’s day helps bring English people together, instead of focusing on our differences.


St. George’s Day is a brilliant opportunity for our country to come together and show the pride we have in our culture, society and history. Many Manchester businesses fly the English flag with pride and I think a new Bank Holiday for St. George’s Day would be a great way to celebrate our wonderful country.




Manchester Evening News Column: Football creates jobs and growth for Greater Manchester.


The Evening News rightly gave big prominence last week to the report from Enterprise Manchester on the benefits of football to the Greater Manchester economy.

No-one was surprised that football helps create jobs and wealth. What was a surprise was the scale. 11 million tickets were sold for the London Olympics. 3.1m were sold by premiership clubs in 2011/12. That’s like an Manchester Olympics every four years. Football supports 8,500 jobs. It’s a Manchester growth industry.

The news that football brings in £330 million to the Greater Manchester economy every year is as astonishing as it is exciting. The report estimates that the worldwide exposure United over the past 20 years to Manchester is the equivalent of £1bn worth of advertising! Last year alone, City and United gained Manchester some £100m worth of advertising for the City. That helps tourism and creates more jobs. Last year, some United had 114,000 international visitors to Old Trafford. Some 500,000 visited the Football Museum, nearly triple the number who attended Urbis, and nearly five times the number who visited it in Preston.

Last season’s premiership deciding derby at the Etihad had viewing figures of  600 million, and the TV rights for the premiership go for £1.4bn per year, over double the £600m that the Italian, German or Spanish League received.

As a Man City season ticket holder for the last 29 years, I have seen the evolution of the club first hand. When City won the Premier League in 2012, it spelled a new era of football dominance in Manchester, with the two local clubs battling for the top prize in English football. This dominance does not look set to change, as the Manchester clubs leave the others trailing in the Premier League this season.

One of the reasons Manchester does so well, I believe, is our modern cultural heritage. I grew up listening to bands like the Smiths, Stone Roses and Oasis. This, coupled with our famous nightlife, has put Manchester on the musical atlas. This city also boasts top museums and concert venues and the arts scene is thriving. Yet, whilst the vibrant music and arts scene continues to thrive and grow today, what is happening in Premier League football is unprecedented.

Over 3 billion pounds has been spent for the rights to show games over the next three seasons, TV contracts in Asia and America now exceed $250m, and a global audience of  600 million people in over 200 countries worldwide, all whilst the two teams from Manchester top the table.

The two clubs are reacting to this huge exposure. Manchester United’s global intensions were indicated in 2012 when the club floated £600m of shares on the New York stock exchange. United are one of the  world’s most financially valuable club, in one report worth over £700m more than 2nd place NFL team Dallas Cowboys. Manchester City Council have just okayed Manchester City application for  their self-funded £170m training facility, named the Etihad Campus, which will regenerate a large area of land to the East of the city with a new Sixth-Form College and leisure facilities, creating more new jobs.

The Middlebrook development in Bolton, in which the Reebok Stadium is located, is yet another example of a successful collaboration between the club, businesses and the local community.

So we have a lot to thank the beautiful game for. The report shows us that football makes us fitter, creates jobs, helps market the city and encourages tourism. Clubs do some great work reaching out to some of the poorest in the community.

Now if we can help sustain the clubs at the bottom, like Bury, and stop the FA Cup final being in London at 5.15pm, I’ll be a happy man.




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