Tom Richmond: Unlikely alliance answers call over phone nuisances

FED up with unsolicited phone calls? Help could be hand thanks to an unlikely coalition of MPs that includes Leeds West's Rachel Reeves, who heads Parliament's Business Select Committee.

There's a political consensus to take action against nuisance callers.
There's a political consensus to take action against nuisance callers.

She’s one of the co-sponsors to a new law proposed by Stephen Kerr – a Conservative MP from Scotland – after it emerged that 70 million nuisance calls are received each year in Britain.

Other signatories include Tories from both sides of the Scottish border, a Plaid Cymru representative, a leading Lib Dem, and Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

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And, given this unlikely meeting of minds (more than 100 MPs volunteered to back Kerr’s Bill to tackle unsolicited calls), it will be a dereliction of duty if the Government, and others, prevaricate or blame Brexit for not getting on with the job.

There’s a consensus and it should be a source of encouragement that rivals MPs can work together, whether it be on this issue, action on childhood obesity or ‘protect the protectors’ legislation so those who assault emergency workers and first responders receive tougher sentences.

Kerr’s measures would make directors of businesses personally liable for any fines if their outfit flouts the law – and possibly banned from holding future directorships. At present the worst offenders are pop-up companies that invariably go bankrupt and, therefore, avoid any censure or financial penalty.

It would also tighten up the definition of a nuisance call – the lack of clarity at present makes it harder to enforce rules and regulations – and there would be a general responsibility on unsolicited callers to ensure that the numbers they are dialling are not registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

To me, this is a refreshing example of Parliament working in the public interest – and this call for action should be answered in the affirmative before even more people become exasperated by cold callers and the cold shoulder treatment of those politicians who invariably look to find disagreement where little, or none, exists.

THEY still appear to have more money than sense at West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the public body ostensibly in charge of the area’s transport and economic growth agenda.

Despite Leeds Council having, in fairness, a proven track record in arts and leisure and some talented staff, it’s been advertising with The Guardian – where else? – for a ‘Sector Manager Digital and Creative (Trade and Investment) on a salary of up to £44,512 a year.

“The successful candidate will be responsible for identifying and attracting inward investment projects in the Digital and Creative sector, building relationships with stakeholders and businesses in the region and contributing to the development of the sector through strategic initiatives,” says the job spec.

This is precisely the type of non-job that gives the public sector a bad name, even more so at an organisation trying to get its house in order after The Yorkshire Post exposed its mismanagement, and transparency, failings last year.

MARGARET Thatcher’s instincts were not always right. An obituary to civil servant Reay Atkinson reveals how the then Prime Minister scrawled the word ‘poppycock’ across a policy paper that he wrote outlining the case for greater public investment in the fledgling computer industry.

The consolation was that he was exiled to his native North East where he persuaded Nissan to build a car plant in Sunderland – a landmark investment that began the regeneration of a much-neglected area.

HERE’S a new one. During Parliament’s debate on changes to business rates, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, a junior housing minister, revealed that his colleague Jake Berry – supposedly in charge of the Northern Powerhouse – also has responsibility for high streets.

Has anyone heard Berry say, or do, anything to promote our high streets? And isn’t the Northern Powerhouse supposed to be a full-time job?

GIVEN how North Yorkshire has hosted major cycling events since 2014, it’s disappointing to learn that funding cuts mean only children living in parts of the county with proven road safety issues will receive cycle training in future.

Safety matters and this decision, ahead of the Tour de Yorkshire, needs to be reversed. Perhaps some of the anticipated profits from this year’s race (it made over £60m last year according to Welcome to Yorkshire) could be used to subsidise these lifesaving lessons.

THE most poignant tribute to outgoing Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger came from villages still affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He befriended fans there and one girl, killed as a delayed result of the tragedy, asked to be buried in the top that he, and the club, had sent because “they were the only ones who cared”.

A damning indictment of diplomacy, it is, nevertheless, testament to football’s ability to still be a force for good.

LIKE many, I am quietly irritated when called ‘mate’ by people of no acquaintance. So well done to chief steward Allan Reardon who admonished jockey Bobby El-Issa for using the term during a heated stewards’ inquiry. “I am not your mate. I am the chairman of stewards,” he pointed out. Hear, hear.

SO David Cameron’s memoirs are to be delayed until next year because his £25,000 shepherd’s hut isn’t providing sufficient inspiration. I thought ‘writer’s block’ only afflicted authors of fiction – or is the former Prime Minister’s tome due to fall into this category?