Five new peak-time C2C trains for Barking Station

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Five new peak-time C2C trains for Barking Station

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017


c2c have just announced that they will be bringing back five new peak-time train services for Barking station with a sixth train to be doubled in length.

I have recently received a letter from c2c to announce these improvements after I met with Julian Drury (Managing Director, c2c) and Ernesto Sicilia (Managing Director and Chairman, Trenitalia UK) in June. At this meeting, I demanded that they stop cutting our services and get on with introducing the three-minute metro-style service they promised in 2014.

Here are the details of the new services which will come into effect from Sunday 10th December 2017:

  • A train will now stop at Barking at 07:03, arriving at Fenchurch Street at 07:21. Cutting an existing 8-minute gap between c2c trains
  • A train will now stop at Barking at 08:11, arriving at Fenchurch Street at 08:29. Cutting an existing 17-minute gap between c2c trains
  • A train will now stop at Barking at 08:49, arriving at Fenchurch Street at 09:08. Cutting an existing 9-minute gap between c2c trains
  • The existing 09:05 departure from Barking will be doubled in length from 4-carriages to 8-carriages
  • The 17:01 departure from Fenchurch Street will now also stop at Barking at 17:16
  • The 18:01 departure from Fenchurch Street will now also stop at Barking at 18:17

I was shocked when c2c took the decision in May to cut our peak-time train services in Barking. That’s why I am pleased that they have now realised the error of their ways and reversed these cuts.

These improvements for Barking residents would not have been possible without the support of hundreds of you who attended our rally in May and signed the petition on my website.

However we must not stop here. We must keep up the pressure on c2c to deliver on the service they promised.

In 2014 we were promised that a train would stop at Barking every three minutes at peak-times. I will not rest until C2C deliver on this promise they made to residents.

You can sign my c2c petition here.

Why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ Amendment

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

In case you missed it, earlier this week I wrote a piece for the Times on why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill to ensure Britain does not become a safe haven for money launderers.

Britain must not be a safe haven for money launderers

Far too many people enjoy luxurious lives in Britain funded by laundered money and free from the consequences of atrocities they commit in their own country. To tackle this issue I am a sponsor of the Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, which will freeze the UK assets of those responsible for gross human rights violations abroad. I am one of many MPs from different political parties promoting this change to a new law designed to tackle corruption.

Our amendment is named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and killed in a Moscow prison after blowing the whistle on a $230 million Russian government fraud. He found that money paid to settle tax bills was siphoned off to Russian government officials. When he went public, the very people whose crimes he had uncovered arrested him. The Magnitsky amendment targets those who have persecuted whistleblowers, journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians.

The Criminal Finances Bill is intended to tackle the scourge of corrupt money that finds its way to the UK. Some of it ends up invested in high-value properties in London — 10 per cent of properties in Westminster are owned by companies registered in tax havens. Other laundered money goes into the financial markets.

Our amendment places a duty on ministers to ask the High Court to place a designation order on people who were involved in, or profited from, the worst human rights abuses. Once an individual is subject to a designation order, the enforcement authorities will have a duty to freeze their British assets.

More than £100 billion is laundered through Britain each year but only £100 million — a fraction of the amount — is frozen. The Magnitsky amendment will close gaps in the law. Individuals and NGOs can also take matters into their own hands and apply for designation orders, sending a clear signal that inaction by the government and enforcement authorities is not acceptable.

Last year the government emphasised its commitment to tackling corruption. Ministers now need to show they will make good on this pledge by passing the Magnitsky amendment into law. Britain cannot be a safe haven for criminals with blood on their hands.

Read the full piece in The Times here

My interview with Owen Jones on tax avoidance and my book ‘Called to Account’

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Earlier this week Guardian columnist Owen Jones interviewed me on my time as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, tackling tax avoidance and my new book ‘Called to Account’

You can watch the video below:

My speech in the Criminal Finances Bill debate

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Yesterday I spoke in the Criminal Finances Bill debate in the House of Commons.

I welcome this Bill , it is extremely important in tacking corruption. However, there are ways that the Bill could be strengthened.

Transparency is crucial to tackling the very corruption and money laundering that this Bill wants to stop. However, the Bill makes no mention of tax havens, and the failure to take action on the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, which play a crucial role in facilitating tax evasion and avoidance, is a grave error. I want the Government to commit to the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to shine a light on potential criminal activity or aggressive tax avoidance.

I welcome the introduction of ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders’ in this Bill. This is an important tool to tackle corruption and I am pleased that they will be applicable no matter where in the world the offence takes place. Unexplained Wealth Orders force those we suspect of corruption or seriously organised crime to explain where their money comes from. However, it should be extended to apply to politically exposed people (politicians or prominent public officials) inside, as well as outside Europe.

Finally, I want to see the Government introduce a ‘Magnitsky-style’ amendment to this Bill. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was tortured and murdered because he uncovered a huge $230 million tax fraud in Russia. I want to see an amendment, similar to what has been enacted in the United Stats, which would ensure foreign individuals involved in corruption and human rights abuses have their assets frozen, are denied right of entry to this country and be publicly named and shamed.

I think there is a strong cross-party support for introducing these amendments to this Bill and I will be pursuing this agenda over the coming weeks and months ahead.

You can watch my speech below:

Criminal Finances Bill debate – 25th October 2016

Ministers spend £600m on big four accountancy firms

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Figures I’ve uncovered show that Britain’s big four accountancy firms have been paid more than half a billion pounds in fees by government departments over the past three years, including £220 million from the aid budget.

It is scandalous that rather than channelling aid money through charities and organisations that actually understand the countries they are working in, ministers are handing out millions to multinational accountancy firms.

“In the past year PwC, KMPG, Deloitte and Ernst and Young were paid £95 million by the Department for International Development (Dfid), an increase of 60 per cent on 2013. The big four’s pay cheque accounts for 1 per cent of Dfid’s aid budget.

The figures were uncovered by the former chairwoman of the public accounts committee, Dame Margaret Hodge, through parliamentary questions to government departments which revealed the following about spending over the past three years.

● PwC has been paid £242 million, KMPG £165 million, Deloitte £119 million and Ernst and Young £73 million.
● Spending on consultants by government departments has increased by 17 per cent at the same time as civil service staffing has decreased.
● There have been at least 51 secondments from consultancy firms with 20 of these coming from the big four.

The figures suggest the Conservatives’ drive to reduce the reliance of government on outside firms to do public sector work has gone into reverse.

Last year £223 million was paid out for external work and contract management, up from £186 million in 2013.

Dame Margaret said she was concerned at the levels of spending by Dfid on firms which, she said, have no track record in development. “It is scandalous that rather than channelling aid money through charities and organisations that actually understand the countries they are working in, ministers are handing out millions to multinational accountancy firms,” she said.

She added that the levels of spending were also cause for concern. “Departments are bankrolling the big four consultancy firms to the tune of £600 million. This does not represent value for money for the taxpayer.”

Full story in The Times here