MP Update – 16th September

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 16th September 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Brexit continues to dominate the news, with some economists concluding that the impact of leaving the European Union is having less of a discernibly adverse impact on the economy than expected. But we must remember that we haven’t actually left the EU yet and that the referendum was just the start of what could be a long transitional process. Thousands of employees across Nottingham depend in some way or another on trade or investment to and from Europe. That’s why this week I led a debate on how Ministers intend to disentangle Britain from the EU and what relationships they plan in its place. For example, there are over 500 companies in Nottingham working in the financial services field, including Experian, Capital One and Ikano. Yet we do not know whether all of their products will be tradeable with the rest of Europe. I’m determined to keep raising these issues with the Government because our local jobs and growth and future prosperity are on the line. We’ve got to have an orderly transition and my job is to ask the questions and propose ways forward to minimise disruption. If you would like to hear more from my debate this week, please click here. I’ll also be appearing on this Sunday’s Daily Politics programme to discuss this and other issues facing the East Midlands, BBC2 at 11am.

NOTTINGHAM

  • A number of constituents have contacted me recently with concerns about the temporary closure of Mapperley Park Medical Centre. The practice was put in special measures in June 2015 after a Care Quality Commission inspection rated it ‘inadequate’. There were a number of areas of concern relating to record keeping, systems and processes. A further CQC inspection found that there has been insufficient improvement and has closed the practice while changes are made. I know from emails I have received that many constituents feel that the surgery offers a high level of care, and disagree with the CQC’s assessment. The CQC has an important job to do in ensuring patient safety, but I would hope that there would be flexibility to take account of good practice and patients’ views. I will continue to follow this closely and listen to the views of constituents on this matter.
  • The Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership have commissioned a new service on behalf of the Nottingham Domestic Violence and Abuse Joint Commissioning Group. The new domestic violence service launched earlier this year, and will be holding a listening event for survivors of historic and institutional sexual violence and abuse on Thursday 29th September from 1pm in a central Nottingham location. Places for the event are limited, so if you would like to attend or find out further information about the event, please email Glen Jarvis, Involvement Officer at the Crime and Drugs Partnership, on jarvis@nottinghamcity.gov.uk.
  • Work will start on Monday to transform the Britten Gardens public space in St Ann’s. The project is being led by Groundwork Greater Nottingham with funding from Veolia Environmental Trust and Nottingham City Homes, and will involve replacing uneven and broken paving to create an accessible space which will include seating areas, planting and an informal play area. The project will turn the neglected open space into a pleasant and practical place for all to use and enjoy, and is due to be completed in early November.
  • The Aviva Community Fund has just launched for this year, and the fund is inviting applications from community groups in the area. The Aviva Community Fund awards funding of up to £25,000 for local community projects across a range of categories such as supporting the elderly, health & wellbeing and community sport. If you’re involved in a local community group and are interested in applying for funding, applications can be made until 11th October via this link.
  • The Boundary Commission for England published their first proposals for cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and reducing the size of the House of Commons by creating larger parliamentary constituencies. They propose that Nottingham East would lose Sherwood and Berridge in a transfer to the new Nottingham North constituency, and that Carlton & Colwick would be added into Nottingham East from Gedling constituency. It’s difficult to see these changes as little more than political gerrymandering by the Tory government, because by sheer chance it would hit Labour held constituencies far more than Conservative ones. This is also because they are using a drastically undersized electoral register rather than basing on either on the most recent register for the EU referendum or on actual resident numbers. City centre urban areas have far higher populations than the old electoral registers suggest because of the rate of change and temporary residencies that exist. I’ll be opposing these changes – especially when Theresa May proposes adding dozens of new peers into the unelected House of Lords at a cost far higher than anything saved by shrinking the elected Commons.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday, the Education Secretary Justine Greening gave a statement in the House of Commons on the Government’s new consultation “Schools that work for everyone”, where most attention focused on their plans to relax the rules on expanding selective schools and allow new ones to open and non-selective schools to become selective where there is a demand. I am deeply sceptical of the Government’s plans to expand selective schools. Evidence suggests educational attainment in grammar areas for those who fail to get into grammar schools is below the national average. Given the overwhelming evidence that grammars fail to improve standards for the majority of children, the Education Secretary was rightly pressed on Monday to reveal on what research she is basing her decision. I believe that instead of adopting this flawed approach, the Government should be improving schools for all children.
  • Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made a statement following publication of the draft BBC The BBC’s Royal Charter forms the constitutional basis of the BBC and the current Charter is due to expire at the end of 2016. The BBC is one of Britain’s greatest treasures, which I believe must be protected and sustained in both its independence and its funding. There are still some concerns about Government plans for the BBC.  For example, it is proposed that the BBC’s new board will have a number of Government appointees, including the Chair. I am concerned this could weaken the BBC’s editorial independence and that the Government could seek to influence the BBC’s editorial decision-making, putting the broadcaster under undue political interference.  There are also concerns that the BBC’s financial security will be affected, now that the cost of TV licences for the over-75s has been transferred to the BBC. I believe the Government must listen to the public, who value the BBC’s independence and want it to carry on making the programmes we all enjoy.
  • On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated a motion on NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). The debate was an opportunity to hold the Government to account for these plans, which could have big consequences for frontline services across England. STPs are intended to show how local services will develop and become sustainable over the next five years. However, the concern is that the plans will be used to force through cuts and close hospitals and could make it harder for patients to access face-to-face consultations with their GPs. The process for STPs lacks transparency and the timeline is insufficient to allow for adequate public or Parliamentary engagement in their formulation, or to finalise such a major restructure of the NHS. The Minister said that the proposals remain at a draft stage, but that the Government has made it clear to local leaders that they are responsible for ensuring that plans engage with all local stakeholders when they are ready, and that proposed changes will be subject to local consultation.
  • Parliament now enters a recess during the Party Conference season and returns in October – and these MP Update bulletins will return then with news from the House of Commons.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Tackling climate change while also continuing the secure supply of energy is a dilemma most countries are facing – and the announcement this week that Theresa May is proceeding with the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station has thrown the spotlight on this question.

While I would personally prefer us to rapidly develop renewable energy sources on a more localised basis (which Nottingham city is doing quite well), using the latest storage technologies rather than losing generated energy through the national grid – I do recognise that we need to balanced mix of provision.

What do you think about the best approach to energy policy going forward? How can we keep electricity bills down for the hard-pressed consumer, which also avoiding over-reliance on carbon emitting sources, especially coal. Is Hinkley Point’s ‘strike price’ for electricity too high? Or is it only high because compared to coal and gas it includes the cost of cleaning up waste and the consequences of production? What are your views on nuclear power and is it justified because we have to take a low carbon option rather than the bigger risk of climate change?

None of these are easy choices – plus there are additional energy security questions involved. I’d welcome any views you might have.

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