NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 28th October 2016
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It was ‘Nottingham in Parliament Day’ on Tuesday – the first ever city ‘takeover’ at Westminster – and it was a real success! 45 different events and a thousand participants filled most corners and many meeting rooms in the Palace of Westminster, with Nottingham’s ideas and talents showcased before the country’s decision-makers. 100 partner organisations came together in a wide-ranging programme covering business, science and healthcare, culture, sport, education and much more. My thanks to the team at The University of Nottingham for bringing the concept to life and giving all of the local MPs, from across the parties, an opportunity to show our pride in Nottinghamshire.
We pressed Ministers to invest in the region, we had senior business leaders talk of their commitment to the city and it was great to see so many parliamentarians from across the UK focus on the priorities of the East Midlands for a change!
I’ve long believed that the dominance of London in parliamentary business puts other parts of the country at a structural disadvantage – and the Midlands often get overlooked because we haven’t got the ‘status’ of a nation like Scotland or Wales, nor have we governance arrangements like Greater London. This was a great experiment in pushing our local agenda onto the national stage and I’m glad the city came together to give it our best.
Click on the picture below (of the University Challenge event with the Speaker!) for a short video of some of the highlights of the day:
- Today I visited Tuntum Housing Association’s Karibu Project in New Basford, which provides temporary accommodation primarily to single men and women with refugee status. The project offers residents support with training and employment, information about benefits and assists them in finding more permanent accommodation. We talked about their work with vulnerable BAME communities in Nottingham and I spoke to service users about their experiences with the projects (pictured below with the team and some of the residents):
- On Wednesday Nottingham had a royal visit from Prince Harry, who was in the city for the fifth time in the last three years. He was in Nottingham for a number of engagements, including the official opening of the new Central Police Station on Maid Marian Way, and a visit to the Full Effect youth project in St Ann’s which his charity has been supporting. The Full Effect project aims to improve opportunities for young people and reduce youth violence in St Ann’s. It’s fantastic to see such support this project, which improves opportunities and chances for children and young people in St Ann’s.
- Small Steps Big Changes are seeking applications for their Innovations Fund. SSBC is a programme designed to support parents, families and local services in St Ann’s, Arboretum, Bulwell and Aspley to improve child outcomes and give every child the best start in life. They are looking for innovative and creative proposals that will help them to achieve their goals, helping local children (aged 0 to 3) to:
- Eat well and be healthy
- Talk and communicate effectively
- Be confident and friendly and understand their own and their peers’ emotions and behaviour
The fund is open to local groups, and offers individual awards between £1,000 and £5,000. For more information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply, please contact Nottinghamshire Community Foundation on 01623 620202 or email email@example.com. Applications close on 10th November 2016.
- Work is due to begin on a new £2m Lidl store, which is being built on a piece of derelict land in St Ann’s. The site, near the junction of Carlton Road and Seymour Street, has been empty for at least a decade. I’d be interested in any feedback or thoughts you might have about this.
- The Green Flag award-winning Arboretum in Nottingham East has been nominated for the UK’s Best Park Award for 2016. It’s an honour for Nottingham’s oldest public park to be nominated and it is a reflection of the great work done by Nottingham City Council and the Friends of The Arboretum in maintaining the park. The awards are decided by the public, so if you’d like to vote you can do so online here.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- On Monday, the Prime Minister made a statement on her first European Council meeting. The meeting discussed Russian bombing in Syria, the migration crisis affecting Europe and free trade. There is increasing concern in Parliament and the business community about the Prime Minister’s lack of a plan for our negotiation. After her statement, I tried to get some clarity by asking her whether she planned for the UK to leave the customs union (which you can watch here), but her answer was vague and unsatisfactory. While I appreciate that she does not want to show her hand, business needs some assurances on trade relationships – they need to begin planning now for two or three years’ time. While I was very pleased that Nissan decided to boost production in the UK, other businesses will only follow if the Government starts to make clear intentions about our future trading relationships.
- I’m very pleased to have been appointed to sit on the newly formed International Trade Select Committee of the House of Commons, which will allow me to champion all the sectors of our economy that need help as our relationships change with the rest of the world – and to keep track of what Ministers are doing on trade policy.
- In Treasury Questions on Nottingham in Parliament Day I pressed the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, to prioritise rail, road and skills infrastructure investment in the East Midlands, and to make sure that all government departments live up to the ambitions stated in the ‘Midlands Engine’ programme now chaired by Sir John Peace. You can watch our exchange here. As Chair of the East Midlands All-Party Parliamentary Group I am bringing together East Midlands MPs to push the Government for greater investment in the region.
- I have written a number of times about forced academisation in previous MP Updates. So I was very pleased in May when the Government was forced to u-turn on its plan to turn all schools into academies, following protests from councils. However, at the time I was worried that the small print suggested that they still wanted all schools to become academies by 2022. I was therefore relieved on Thursday this week when the Education Secretary announced that the ‘Education for All Bill’ will not go ahead this year. While this is good news, the Government is still not addressing the serious problems facing schools: teacher shortages, declining school budgets, problems with exams and a lack of good school places. I will continue to urge the Government to address these problems instead of announcing massive restructuring.
- On Monday, the Home Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons following the commencement of the clearance and demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp. The Home Secretary announced that almost 200 unaccompanied children had been transferred from the camp to the UK under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016, and that hundreds more would follow in the coming weeks. While the Home Office has accelerated the processing of child refugees in recent weeks, the Government has known for months that the Calais camp was due to close. Men, women and children have been living in this camp in appalling conditions, and in the absence of proactive action by either the UK or French governments, those people were at the mercy of people smugglers and criminal gangs. I pay tribute to the volunteers and UK staff who have worked in the Calais camp in difficult and dangerous conditions. The Calais camp may now be being closed, but more could have been done sooner, and there is an urgent need for a more considered and cooperative strategy to deal with refugees moving across Europe.
- On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement on airport capacity and announced the Government’s decision to accept the proposal to build a new north-west runway at Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission. I welcome that a decision on a third runway at Heathrow has now been made. However, this is not the end, but another step in the process. There are now formal consultation procedures and a Commons vote sometime next year. I’ve long been convinced that the UK’s infrastructure needs a radical overhaul and if East Midlands passengers, business and freight are to reach destinations across the world and compete sufficiently, we have to do this through the hub airport of Heathrow predominantly.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Earlier today I gave evidence to the Parliamentary Boundary Commission hearing about the importance of keeping some of our local neighbourhoods linked together in the Nottingham East constituency.
For example, the Commission are proposing to draw an artificial line dividing Forest Fields neighbourhood from the Recreation Ground, which would have two separate MPs. They are suggesting that Radford Road should be split be the boundary line between a larger ‘Nottingham North’ and ‘Nottingham East & Carlton’ constituency. And they are saying that Sherwood & Carrington should be split from Mapperley & Mapperley Park – two communities that have shared important links for many decades.
I feel strongly that the existing six local wards in Nottingham East should remain together for historic and community reasons – and if you feel the same I’d strongly urge you to say so directly to the Boundary Commissioners, simply by emailing them your views to firstname.lastname@example.org.