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Stephen has attended a parliamentary event hosted by Ombudsman Services, one of the leading providers of redress in the UK, to learn more about local consumer trends in the energy and communications sectors.

Designed to provide support for MPs helping residents in their local areas with consumer issues, the Ombudsman Services team were on hand to offer a tailored overview of specific energy and communications issues affecting those in each area. 

Last year, in East Ham, residents made over 115 complaints about energy and communications issues, from billing issues to switching suppliers. In total, consumers were handed back £7,500 - the equivalent of £64 per case - as Ombudsman Services corrected the injustices they had experienced.

As well as hearing more about current consumer issues in his constituency, Ombudsman Services invited Stephen Timms to show they take consumer rights seriously, by pledging to 'stand up for consumer rights', along with  29 other MPs from across the UK.

The event forms part of a larger drive by Ombudsman Services to develop a more systematic and proactive approach to consumer redress, with a view to tackling issues at source, and enhancing consumer experiences for everyone. 

Stephen is able to help residents with complaints, as well as many other issues, at his weekly surgeries at. For ongoing energy and consumer complaints, residents should get in touch with Ombudsman Services by visiting www.ombudsman-services.org. 

At the event, Lewis Shand Smith, Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services, said: “Knowing your consumer rights and the options available to you if you receive poor service is very important. We want to see a more proactive approach to consumer redress in the UK, so it’s great to see MP’s like Stephen Timms showing commitment to helping constituents, showing that this is not an issue to be taken lightly.

"Complaining should be an easy, hassle-free experience – if you’re still in a dispute with an energy or communications company after eight weeks, Ombudsman Services can look into the case for free and provide a resolution – it could be worth your while.”

Speaking afterwards, Stephen said: “I meet a lot of people in East Ham about consumer rights and complaints, and often they don't know how to take a complaint further, so I’m keen to raise awareness of how people can tackle bad service.

"Today was a good opportunity to discuss the barriers and issues for customers when it comes to complaining, and to learn more about the redress sector. If anyone has an issue that can’t be resolved with the company, I would encourage them to come to one of my clinics, or approach the relevant Ombudsman.’’

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Stephen has pledged support for the 126 convenience stores in East Ham at the Association of Convenience Stores’ Heart of the Community reception in Parliament to celebrate the essential role that local shops play in our communities. 

ACS Heart of the Community is an annual event which brings together retailers from across the country with MPs to voice their concerns about the future of the sector. 

Stephen  said: “Local shops provide essential goods and services in our communities and it is vital that all MPs show support for these retailers both in Westminster and the local area. These stores really are at the heart of our communities and the Government must do everything they can to ensure that they succeed during this difficult economic time.”  

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Convenience stores are one of the services that have the most positive impact on local high streets, towns and villages, and we welcome the support of Stephen Timms MP for the local shop sector. It is now more important than ever that MPs engage with small businesses in their constituencies, and we look forward to working with Stephen Timms MP in the future.”

The 2017 ACS Local Shop Report shows that there are 49,918 convenience stores in mainland UK making up a sector that is now worth over £38 billion. Local shops are also a vital source of employment, providing jobs for over 370,000 people. Local shop owners are some of the hardest working people in the UK – 20% of shop owners work more than 70 hours per week on average, and 19% take no holiday at all throughout the year. 

For more information about ACS and the Local Shop Report 2017, visit: http://www.acs.org.uk/.

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AuthorStephen Timms
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Stephen has asked the Government to do all it can in securing the release of British-Iranians Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. 

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced last year to five years in prison after being accused of trying to topple regime whilst  Kamal Foroughi, 77, is being held for alleged espionage. Both Foroughi and Zaghari-Ratcliffe have maintained their innocence.

Speaking about the cases, Stephen said: "I call for the immediate and unconditional release by the Iranian authorities of British-Iranian dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi.  I urge the Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to do the same.  The Iranian authorities need to hear the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary go beyond raising concerns, as they have done repeatedly, and call for the immediate release of Nazanin and Kamal.”

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AuthorStephen Timms

We are very sad to hear that Monarch Airlines has entered administration. Our sympathies are with tourists who have been left stranded and staff members who are now unemployed.

Monarch has traditionally been one of Egypt’s largest travel providers. Their CEO Andrew Swaffield has been quoted as describing the travel ban as one of the ‘root causes’ of Monarch’s collapse. As Monarch's post-mortem begins, the ongoing ban on UK flights into Sharm El-Sheikh airport will rightly come under the spotlight. If we do not want to hear of further similar stories, it is vital that the flight ban be lifted as soon as possible.

We, as a cross-Party group, have been calling for an end to the Sharm El-Sheikh travel ban since September 2016, following our visit and tour of the airport in July. The Egyptian government and hotel groups have spent over £20 million to ensure that Sharm El-Sheikh is now one of the safest airports in the Middle East and meets the demands laid out by the British government in 2015. A Department for Transport representative said in 2016 that the ‘conditions had been met to enable flights to resume.’ As these conditions have been met, there are no longer justifiable reasons for the ongoing ban. Monarch’s collapse shows that the ban is not only having a devastating effect on the Egyptian economy, but also damaging the British economy.

There may also be diplomatic consequences. UK-Egyptian relations are in danger of becoming strained as a result of the ongoing ban, with Egyptian officials publicly stating their puzzlement about why Britain persists with the ban when nearly every other European country has resumed flights to the resort. 

As a result of these factors, and in view of Monarch’s collapse, we believe the government should consider lifting the flight ban immediately.

Stephen co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Egypt with Jonathan Lord MP.

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Stephen tested his taxi hailing skills this week at Labour Party Conference in a football-themed game with Guide Dogs. While trying to get a taxi to take guide dog owner Jacqueline to her local football match, the MP for East Ham heard about the real problems assistance dog owners face when being illegally refused by taxis and minicabs.

The Equality Act 2010 makes it illegal for a taxi or minicab driver to refuse to take an assistance dog or to charge extra for carrying it. However, Guide Dogs research found that 42% of assistance dog owners have been turned away by a taxi or minicab in a one-year period because of their dog. The research also uncovered that 38% of assistance dog owners have been asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

Stephen is supporting Guide Dogs’ call for all taxi and minicab drivers to undertake disability equality training so they understand the rights and needs of disabled passengers and feel confident to offer assistance. The campaign is supported by more than 30 organisations, including trade bodies, local government representatives and disability groups.

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AuthorStephen Timms