NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – 23rd October 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
At yesterday’s ‘MP Question Time’ at the Nottinghamshire Deaf Society, the focus was very much on welfare rights issues – and my thanks to Irene Andrew the chief executive at the Deaf Society for chairing the event. In the updates we heard from Becky Ramsden from the Nottingham Citizens Advice Bureau and from the teams at St Ann’s Advice Centre and the Law Centre, it’s clear that many disabled people and some of the least well-off across the city are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet. The Universal Credit roll-out contains more restrictions, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) shift from the DLA is proving difficult and the changes to Employment & Support Allowance are penalising those trying to work. There are also now more problems with people’s tax credit claims being suspended while organisations like Concentrix are investigating entitlements. The new Secretary of State, Damian Green, is a different character from Iain Duncan-Smith, but the jury is still out whether they have really changed direction – or just the tone.
Many other issues came up at the public meeting yesterday, ranging from local to national and international concerns. As the local MP it’s helpful to hear views face-to-face (including forceful points!), but as always you can contact me by email or get in touch at my offices at 12 Regent Street, NG1 5BQ or telephone 0115 711 7666.
- I was concerned to hear last weekend about the evacuation of the Victoria Centre and surrounding streets due to a suspect package being found. Following a similar incident a few months ago, my primary concern was for residents living in the Victoria Centre flats, who felt that they were not kept informed during the previous incident. Since the previous incident, Nottingham City Homes have met with and written to residents informing them of emergency procedures. On Saturday, I received assurances at that time from Nottingham City Homes that residents were kept fully informed throughout the incident, with Community Protection Officers stationed in the flats and updates on social media. Installation is to begin on a new intercom system later this month which will enable NCH and other authorities to communication with all residents at once, which will help if there are any similar incidents in future. If you live in the Victoria Centre flats, I’d be interested to know how you felt the incident was handled on this occasion.
- It is vital in the aftermath of the EU referendum that the UK asserts itself as a world leader on the environment. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust asked me to support them and a number of environmental organisations with their Pledge for the Environment, which calls on the government to ensure strong environmental standards and that the UK leads on climate change. I am pleased to have added my support to this pledge – you can view the full text of the pledge along with a list of supporting MPs on the Green Alliance website here.
- The Department for Education is due to carry out an area review into post-16 education provision in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The aims of the review are to move towards larger, more financial resilient post-16 institutions, and to offer high quality education and training based on the needs of learners and employers in the area. The review will be launched next month with outcomes expected by April. A steering group with representatives from colleges, local authorities and the local enterprise partnership will oversee the work of the review, and there will also be an opportunity for other interested parties and individuals locally to input into the review. I would be interested to know your thoughts – do you think post-16 institutions in the area need to be reviewed?
- It was useful to meet with Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Susannah Fish and Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping this week to talk about local law and order issues. I raised the question of the city division structure change and also the need for good communications between local officers, MPs and councillors to pass on public concerns. While overall crime levels may be stable and the police are doing their best with limited resources, there is still too much anti-social behaviour and violent crime.
- Tuesday is ‘Nottingham In Parliament’ day, thanks to the idea from the team at the University of Nottingham and now dozens of other local companies, charities and organisations from across the county. There are a massive 45 separate events planned – it’s a great way to bring the best of the city and fresh ideas in front of the country’s decision-makers. More about the programme at the link here http://www.nottinghaminparliamentday.uk/npd/documents/nipd-programme-guide.pdf
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- With the news focusing heavily on Brexit, lots of other Government policies can go by unnoticed. This week I urged the Minister to think about the impact his decision would have on pensioners and savers following the u-turn on letting retired people get out of annuity schemes and shop around. Pensions are baffling enough as things stand, and taken together with the poor rates available for those retiring, I’m worried that lots of people will be put off saving for their old age. The exchange in the Commons is at the link here
- On Wednesday, there was a debate on reforming the House of Lords and the size of the House of Commons. I believe that having two legislative chambers, the Lords and Commons, is important to ensuring new laws are scrutinised properly. But fundamental reform of the House of Lords is essential and I am concerned at the rate of expansion of the House of Lords, which now has over 800 members. I voted in favour of the motion which called on the Government to make plans to reduce the number of Peers; called for a review of the House of Lords; and called on the Government to abandon plans to reduce the number of Members of Parliament until the issue of the size of the House of Lords is resolved.
- The Commons also debated the concerns about Brexit and the rights of EU nationals on Wednesday. It is very important that the Government make it clear that a future deal should reassure all existing EU nationals in the UK that their rights to be in the UK are respected, just as the rights of British citizens living and working across Europe should also have their rights respected. Sadly this will be an issue likely to come up again during the negotiation process.
- On Tuesday, the Defence Secretary responded to an urgent question in the House of Commons about the operation to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh. Daesh has inflicted unimaginable horror on the people of Mosul since it captured the city in 2014. I fully support the operation to liberate the city, not only to protect the people of Iraq, who have suffered such a great deal, but also to protect British citizens here from the global threat posed by Daesh. The UN has, however, calculated that over a million people could be affected by the operations in Mosul. The Defence Secretary recognised the significant humanitarian implications of the operation and assured MPs that the aim is to drive out Daesh in a way that protects civilians.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
You may have heard recently about the new proposals from the Boundary Commission for Parliamentary constituencies. The Commission are aiming to reduce the number of UK constituencies from 650 to 600. Call me cynical, but I’m sure it’s a mere coincidence that it’s Labour seats disproportionally affected by the proposed changes.
There will be counter-proposals from the various political parties submitted during the consultation period. But individuals can also comment on the proposals too – you can find out more about the changes on the Commission’s website here.
Basically, the Boundary Commission are proposing that Sherwood and Berridge wards move into Nottingham North to boost numbers there. Which leaves Arboretum, Mapperley, St Ann’s and Dales wards having a series of wards from Gedling and Carlton added into Nottingham East to make this constituency the right ‘size’. This would be a radical change and divide the existing Nottingham East constituency, which I think could be very disruptive.
If you think that the existing Nottingham East constituency works well – covering as it does one local authority area and containing many residents who haven’t made it onto the electoral register but who nevertheless need representation – then I’d encourage you to send comments in saying so. Just click on this link to go to their ‘comments’ page here:
Members of the public can also make oral contributions at public hearings that are taking place across the country, the nearest of which are taking place at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel in Derby on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th October (details here).