NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 4th December 2015
After a passionate and thorough debate in the House of Commons, I came to the view that the threat from ISIL Daesh is such that the UK has to play its part in degrading their safe haven not just in Iraq but also in Syria. The suffering of those living under the cruel and abusive Daesh regime and the threat to ourselves and other nations is just too much for me to ignore; the beheadings, throwing gay men off buildings, the discovery of mass graves, including of Yazidi women murdered because they were regarded as too elderly to be sold into sex slavery.
I am deeply conscious of the strongly held views of those who believe that war and military action must always be avoided, but sadly ISIL Daesh declared war against us long ago. They have killed British tourists, downed aeroplanes, bombed Turkey and the Lebanon and murdered 130 people in Paris. Knowing their plans and intentions, I feel it would be morally wrong and potentially dangerous to just step aside and refuse to act in self-defence, when I know that a British contribution would make a difference.
I have weighed up the many opinions expressed to me about the risks involved in targeting these jihadi assets as carefully as possible, but I must also consider the importance of weakening and reducing the power of Daesh when that opportunity presents itself. For instance, degrading Daesh controlled oil facilities will help cut off finance for terrorism and, following my vote in support of air strikes in Iraqi territory more than a year ago in September 2014, targets including fortified positions, suicide bomb vehicles, storage compounds and observation posts have been destroyed. It is possible to hamper and impede these jihadist operations. This recent vote was about whether to extend the current approval for airstrikes over Iraqi terrain across the now defunct Syrian border. When the United Nations have unanimously called on all countries that are able to take part in eradicating ISIL Daesh in Syria to do so, it seems to me irresponsible not to heed that call.
Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn expressed my view of this entirely when he said that we are now faced by fascists and just as Parliament was right to stand up against Hitler and Mussolini, so too we have a deep responsibility to stand up to the evil intentions of ISIL Daesh.
I respect those who hold opposing views on this question but if you want to understand my view and why I came to this decision in casting my vote in Parliament, then I strongly urge you to watch the full speech by Hilary Benn MP by clicking on the picture below, and also the speeches by Alan Johnson MP, Margaret Beckett MP and Pat McFadden MP (links below the picture) who sum up eloquently how I feel:
The link to the speech by Margaret Beckett MP is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcrFa1vkzqk
The link to the speech by Alan Johnson MP is here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODC5pdnyuJ8
The link to the speech by Pat McFadden MP is here http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/4e6d04ee-df49-4789-a54a-42f2c7be53b2?in=16:25:35&out=16:30:36
- Nottingham City Council are currently reviewing arrangements for services to Nottingham City pregnant teenagers and teenage parents. It is proposed to close the Beckhampton Centre Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) on 30 June 2016. Although the public consultation has now concluded, I would be interested in any views you might have on this issue. Members of Nottingham City Council’s Executive Board will be making a final decision shortly.
- Plans for the redevelopment of Broadmarsh and its surrounding areas have been unveiled by the City Council this week. The work will begin early next year, and includes redevelopment of the shopping centre and car park, as well as pedestrianising Collin Street and revamping shop fronts on Carrington Street. The City Council says that the plans will create nearly 3,000 new jobs, and I’m sure that many agree that the Broadmarsh area has long been overdue a makeover. You can read more about the plans on the Nottingham Post website here.
- Plans have been approved to build 42 new two- and three-bedroom houses at the Stonebridge Park Estate in St Ann’s, adjacent to the Manor Gardens development. They represent part of the City Council’s plans to build 2,500 new homes, and will be an important addition to local housing. Read more about the plans on the Nottingham Post website here.
- The Post Office have decided to relocate the Sherwood branch (currently at 566 Mansfield Road) to the Nisa shop on 607 Mansfield Road where they say it will operate as one of their new ‘main style’ Post Office branches. The Post Office say that although there were many who wrote in support of the change, some worries were voiced about congestion inside the new store and that it is further away along a gradient for them. They say they will try to address some of the space and congestion issues in the refurbishment process.
- There’s a free entry weekend taking place at Nottingham Castle on the 12th and 13th The castle and grounds will be open 10am-3.30pm both days, and there will be a traditional Christmas gift fair in the grounds. On Saturday 12th December there will be Christmas Carols at Green’s Windmill in Sneinton. This free event in the Mill Yard includes carols, mince pies and mulled wine. You can find information about these and other festive events being held across the city here.
- For the last decade Nottingham City Homes has been responsible for managing council houses across the city. As part of the events planned to mark its tenth anniversary, NCH has chosen to take a reflective look at council housing across the city by launching the first ever book of its kind covering the history of Nottingham’s council houses called Homes and Places. The book, which is now available to buy from Fives Leaves Bookshop priced £9.99, includes personal stories and memories from some of the city’s residents as well as photographs and planning documentation dating back as far as the 1800s. Through the launch of the book, Nottingham City Homes aims to record the work of those who have contributed to providing homes for Nottingham’s residents over the years, covering key events which have impacted on housing including post-war rebuilding, high rise developments and Right to Buy. For more information on the book click here.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- On Tuesday at Treasury Questions in the House of Commons, I asked George Osborne about his approach to business and the productivity of the British economy, which has been revised down for three years from 2016 by the Office for Budget Responsibility. You can see our exchange here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/65dcea9c-11b4-4e13-add0-cb143581a671?in=11:37:15&out=11:39:00
- On Tuesday the Government’s Immigration Bill returned to the House of Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading. This Bill covers a wide range of issues, including measures on illegal working, housing, access to public services, amongst other things. I share the Government’s goal of reducing illegal immigration and I support reasonable and proportionate measures to do so. However, whilst there are some proposals in the Bill that I support, I am very concerned that many of them will be counterproductive and harm community cohesion. I am particularly worried about the Bill’s proposals around a new offence of illegal working, the withdrawal of support for asylum seekers with children who have exhausted the appeals process, and changes around immigration detention. Indeed, I do not believe that there is any evidence that the measures overall in this Bill will work. The Shadow Frontbench tabled a number of amendments to the Bill at Report Stage, highlighting the strength and scope of the concerns around some of the proposals within it. These included amendments on summary evictions, reinstatement of appeal rights, the functions of the proposed Director of Labour Market Enforcement, and protections for landlords who take reasonable steps to evict tenants without the right to rent. Overall, I believe that the Immigration Bill falls far short of the comprehensive and coherent strategy that we need to bring greater controls and fairness to our immigration system. It is for these reasons that I voted against the Bill in its entirety at Third Reading. The Bill passed through the support of Government MPs and will now proceed to the House of Lords for further consideration, where I hope the Government will listen further to the many concerns that have been expressed and ensure that it is in a fit state before it becomes law.
- On Monday the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made a statement on the junior doctors contract and planned industrial action. Nobody wanted to see industrial action, not least the junior doctors and I welcome that action has been suspended. I also welcome that the Health Secretary finally agreed to talks with ACAS. However, I believe had Jeremy Hunt agreed to independent talks when it was first put to him, he could have avoided or at least mitigated any disruption to patients. Unfortunately, it was too late to rearrange the operations and appointments that had to be cancelled. As well as inconveniencing patients, this dispute has been deeply damaging to workforce morale. I hope both sides can now negotiate a contract that is fair for junior doctors and safe for patients.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Universal Credit (UC) is finally due to arrive in Nottingham from the middle of February – yet very few people are aware of how this fundamental change to the social security system will affect them. The Government’s aim with UC has been to merge the six main existing means tested benefits and tax credits into a single monthly payment, as well as to cut administration costs (although they’ve taken far longer to roll this out than at first planned). These six benefits are: Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Unlike some existing benefits that have a 100% withdrawal rate, the Universal Credit will be gradually tapered away, with the idea that people can take a part-time job and still be allowed to keep some of the money they receive. Conditions will be attached to UC, such as requirements to seek work, and there will be elements such as ‘child element’ and ‘childcare element’ to top up income depending on family circumstances. There will also be ineligibilities affecting the self-employed and homeowners.
The Spending Review went far too unnoticed last week – with people assuming that the Chancellor did a full ‘u-turn’ on his cuts to tax credits. But the reality is he’s instead shaved off billions from the money due to be paid out through Universal Credit. Just take a look at the chart below where the Resolution Foundation estimate who will lose out (figures in red), for instance, a couple with three children earning the legal minimum – or wage floor, as the Resolution Foundation refers to it in the accompanying table – with the main earner working 37.5 hours a week and the second earner working 20 hours could see their net household income reduce by £3,060 in 2020.
I’d be very interested to know if you or your family expect to be affected by this introduction of Universal Credit in about ten weeks time. Have you calculated whether you will be better or worse off? What are the issues that we should be raising about this new system? I thought I should ‘flag up’ this change as it will be with us shortly.