NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 14th October 2016
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Parliament returned this week after the Party conference season and we are straight into the massive questions about how the UK leaves the European Union. Some people might think “what’s this got to do with me?” Unfortunately it’s an issue that will absolutely dominate the local and national news for the next few years. Take as an example the shrinking purchasing power of the pound sterling, now nearly 20% down in value relative to other currencies such as the US dollar. It will make anything we buy as imports from other countries that much more expensive – so expect that your petrol prices will start rising soon, the cost of white goods such as TVs, phones, fridges etc also going up. We’ve even seen this week a price war between Tesco and its suppliers threaten to withdraw products containing foreign-sourced ingredients such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and so on!
I’m quite clear that we have to respect the outcome of the referendum and that Britain’s membership of the EU needs to end. But I think it’s a mistake for Theresa May to say she’ll trigger the process no later than the end of March, because the EU will now just wait for the clock to tick by, in order to strengthen their bargaining hand. Instead we should have extracted some conditions in exchange for a firm date on triggering – such as some transitional access to their markets to smooth the process. If you have any issues or questions on this ‘Brexit’ process please do let me know. I have a horrible feeling that if companies can’t trade their goods and services into Europe based in the UK, we’ll lose those firms, and in turn lose billions of revenues for the Exchequer, which means more cuts for the NHS and public services in Nottingham.
MP Annual Public Question Time: Saturday 22nd October from 4pm until 5:30pm.
This year we will focus initial discussion on the theme of ‘Welfare and disability rights issues in Nottingham’ with discussion chaired by Irene Andrews from Nottinghamshire Deaf Society. We will also be hearing from local advice agencies including Nottingham Citizens Advice Bureau, Nottingham Law Centre and St Ann’s Advice Centre. Conversation will then broaden into any other issues: local, national or international! If you are interested in attending please email by reply – so we can get a sense of numbers for the venue. The event is being held at Nottinghamshire Deaf Society, 22 Forest Road West, Nottingham, NG7 4EQ (nearest tram stop is High School).
- Recently I met with Carillion workers and trade union representatives to discuss ongoing issues staff at both City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre are experiencing. Carillion are contracted by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust for cleaning services, and issues raised by staff include a shortage of equipment and staff meaning they are unable to carry out their roles to the required standard. These issues have been highlighted by press reports of overflowing bins, dirty dishes and a rat sighting in one of the hospital kitchens. A Carillion representative was also at the meeting, and said that improvements had been made. As a result, earlier today I met with management at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, where I called on them to scrap their contract with Carillion if standards were not improved. Trying to cut budgets by outsourcing or underfunding ancillary services was never the best option, and sadly the fears voiced at the time have materialised. Carillion are going to have to radically and immediately transform this situation if they are to regain confidence in running these services.
- On Friday 21st October, the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST) are launching their Asbestos in Schools Awareness Project in Nottingham. The event is open to teachers, school staff, governors and parents of school age children to learn about the risks posed by asbestos in school buildings and the action that can be taken to reduce risk. The event is taking place from 10.30am to 12.30pm at the New Art Exchange on Gregory Boulevard (near The Forest tram stop), and anyone wanting to book a place at the event should contact Joanne Gordon on 01246 380415 or email email@example.com.
- In just over a week’s time on Tuesday 25th October, Nottingham in Parliament Day will be marked by a wide range of events in Westminster. Across the whole day, 45 events will take place in conjunction with nearly 100 partners – including a live science experiment outside Parliament, a mock University Challenge event and a number of sporting events including archery and table tennis. I am pleased to be able to support this initiative; it helps put Nottingham on the map, brings fresh ideas in front of MPs, and gives us the chance to press Ministers for extra resources and investment in our communities. You can find out more about events taking place on the day here.
- Earlier today I held a street surgery in St Ann’s with local councillors to talk to members of the public about local issues, including education, housing and welfare issues. People are often very busy out shopping and getting around the city, but thank you to those who stopped for a chat!
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- The Labour leadership contest has concluded with Jeremy Corbyn re-elected. He has appointed his frontbench team and now has a big responsibility to inspire the wider public, listen to the concerns raised during the contest, unite the Party and show eagerness that Labour wants to be a party winning seats and government in Parliament. I hope that deeply held principles and differences of belief on national security, humanitarian intervention and economic responsibility can be respected and I will continue to chair the Treasury Committee of the Parliamentary Party as a constructive contribution from the backbenches. Locally we are continuing our regular street by street door-knocking sessions – and not waiting just for the pre-election periods – and I hope to see you in your area before too long.
- On Monday the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union came to the Commons to answer questions about the Government’s approach to ‘Brexit’. This was debated further on Wednesday in an Opposition Day debate where MPs from across all parties voiced anxieties about how prepared Ministers really are – and importantly whether Parliament can have a proper say about the objectives and approach the UK will be taking. I asked the Secretary of State about the impact that their policies were having on the value of the pound – and called for him to apologise to the public who did not vote to make themselves poorer in this process. Watch my question at the link here.
- On Tuesday there was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the unfolding humanitarian situation in Aleppo and across Syria. Some 275,000 people are currently besieged in eastern Aleppo, facing constant bombardment from the Syrian government regime assisted by Russian forces. Innocent civilians are trapped, impoverished and desperately in need of food, clean water and medical care. Those responsible for this suffering are guilty of crimes against humanity and must be held to account. I support efforts by the British and French to enforce a tougher approach at the UN Security Council against violations of international humanitarian law – and we should consider options for safe havens, no-fly-zones and intervention if this is feasible.
- On Monday the Home Secretary was asked to make a statement on the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp and children living there in light of its imminent demolition. The Home Secretary stated that she had made clear to the French Government the need to ensure children are kept safe during any clearances. She also stated that she expected to receive a list from French authorities of children that the UK can help, and that the Government would take action within “a matter of days or a week at the most” once it had received it. People in the ‘Jungle’ camp are sleeping in sub-zero temperatures. There is violence, lack of sanitation, and threats of assault. These conditions are indefensible. Leading charities believe there are hundreds of unaccompanied children in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp that should be immediately resettled. The Government must ensure we fulfil our moral responsibilities by resettling those unaccompanied children in desperate conditions, particularly those that have family links in the UK.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I met earlier today with the management team at our local NHS Trust – and mentioned earlier the points I raised about their contract with Carillion. I’d be interested in any views you have about other issues in our NHS at present, including the pressures they’re facing in acute services and the Emergency Department (before we even get into the difficult winter season).
I took the opportunity to raise the issue of treatment and rehabilitation of stroke patients in Health Questions in the Commons this week. There are a million people living in England who have suffered a stroke – yet it is the fourth biggest cause of death and the Government aren’t yet renewing the national stroke strategy. I’m not convinced that in Nottingham we have adequate follow-up services once patients are discharged. Sometimes rehab and physio packages expire too soon.
Have you or friends and relatives experienced difficulties with post-hospital treatment for stroke or other conditions? Are you satisfied with the level of community care available once patients are discharged and recuperating at home? I’d be interested in your views.