Business of the House
Christopher Pincher (Tamworth, Conservative)
It is a great pleasure to follow my third-floor Parliament street colleague and hon. Friend Neil Parish. It was a real education to listen to my hon. Friend Mr Amess, who amply and ably demonstrated that it is possible to fit quite a lot into a short space of time. I am not at all surprised that wherever he goes he is greeted with flash-mob dancing. I hope that, as he moves around his constituency over the jubilee weekend, he meets many more flash-mob dancers. In the spirit of my hon. Friend, I want to raise some subjects of concern to my constituents and to pay tribute to some local organisations in Tamworth and the people who run them.
In the past few days, Members might have received a glossy letter from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme extolling its virtues and claiming that it has
“helped millions and paid billions to consumers with nowhere else to turn”.
That might come as a surprise to my constituent, Mr Bill Shackleford from Hopwas, who applied to the FSCS last November for restitution, having lost £32,000 in a failed investment vehicle called Greenfield International. Mr Shackleford is retired and not well off. About 240 other people in the west midlands also invested money in Greenfield and lost it, and I believe they have also applied to the FSCS. I wrote to the FSCS on Mr Shackleford’s behalf, but after seven months, we have still heard nothing. It is still processing his compensation claim and has now outsourced it to Capita. I will be grateful if the Deputy Leader of the House can advise me and my constituents on how the FSCS may be encouraged to move a little faster and help more people to receive restitution.
Another matter that, as Mr Speaker might say, has already been well ventilated in the House, but which I think needs further airing, is the exceptional hardship scheme for High Speed 2. It was set up in 2010 to help people who were in particular hardship and whose homes were blighted by the prospect of HS2 to move home. Recognition is growing that the scheme is not fit for purpose.
Six of my constituents have applied to the EHS and been turned down for arbitrary and bizarre reasons. One constituent has been told that she was turned down because she does not have a pressing health need, despite the fact that she has a doctor’s certificate to say that she has a pressing health need to live in a bungalow and not in a farmhouse. She has been told that she has not reduced the value of her property sufficiently, even though she has reduced it by 20%. She has also been told that there is no proof that she is blighted by HS2, even though Green and Co., the local estate agent, has been told by potential buyers that the reason they are not buying her home is the prospect of HS2.
I must say that the Secretary of State for Transport has been helpful to me in this matter. I should also pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) and for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright), who have taken an interest in these matters. However, I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will use all his artistry and all his eloquence to prevail upon the Secretary of State and the Chancellor—we know that all power resides in the Treasury—to ensure that the enhanced hardship scheme, which is to replace the current scheme, recognises that people who have a reasonable desire and need to move ought to be able to move and to be helped if they cannot sell their homes. I hope that they will consider a property bond scheme, which is a fair, transparent and equitable way of ensuring that people can sell their homes and get the property market moving.
I also want to pay tribute to an organisation in my constituency that helps soldiers. The Injured Soldiers Holiday Appeal does exactly what it says on the tin: it helps soldiers who have been injured and their families to go for a holiday—away from the hospitals, the clinics and all the hullaballoo—to help them to readjust to their new circumstances. My constituent Paul Mason, whose son is a serving soldier, set up the charity. He has already done a great deal to help 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and Help for Heroes, and he has now set up this new charity, which is commendable. I trust that other Members will encourage their constituents with an interest in such matters to set up similar helpful charities.
I also pay tribute to a growing organisation in my constituency, Community Café. It was set up two years ago by Lee Bates, one of our local councillors, with Steve Hodgetts, Lisa and Andy Powers, Bernard and Carol Gee and others to span the generations and people’s backgrounds by providing a community café, in a place called Wilnecote, where people can come and have a drink, a chat and some food. The kids can come as well—there is something there called a Wii, whatever one of those may be. The concept has grown throughout Tamworth. We now have a community café in Belgrave fire station—our new, state-of-the-art fire station—and in Amington, and we have just set up another café in the Torc vocational centre in Glascote. That is the sort of volunteering that all hon. Members like to see in their
constituencies. I pay tribute to those who have given up their time and money to make Community Café in Tamworth such a success.
I will end simply by saying that June is going to be a bumper month in Tamworth. We have the jubilee weekend: I shall spend time in Stonnall, Little Aston and Fazeley, where I shall attend a big jubilee lunch, along with other places around Tamworth. I am also looking forward to seeing the jubilee beacon being lit atop our SnowDome. If that was not enough, at the end of the month, on
We have a wonderful sense of history in Tamworth. We have some wonderful facilities—the SnowDome, the castle, and the French and German markets. If any hon. Members, including you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are passing through Staffordshire in June, drop into Tamworth and bring your wallet with you. We will be pleased to see you.