NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 18th November 2016
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On Wednesday the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will be delivering his first ‘mini Budget’ – the Autumn Statement. This could have big implications for public services with news about spending on local councils, the NHS and much more. It could also give us an indication of what will be happening to the taxes you pay.
The signals from the Treasury are that there will be a mild infrastructure uplift and a new fiscal framework replacing the fixed deadline for deficit eradication with a more malleable set of objectives. The failure of the Conservatives to fulfil their goal on public borrowing and the national debt is significant. Yet as the personnel have changed and the conversation shifted to Brexit, somehow the Tories have evaded criticism for this. Brexit has made people appreciate the value of public investment as a tool for offsetting market uncertainty and the Chancellor would be wise to pause deficit reduction for the two year period of Article 50 negotiations, instead reallocating that £30billion to investment in housing, skills and even a stimulus for businesses and consumers.
But I would expect more of a ‘steady-as-she-goes’ approach from Hammond who, like Theresa May, will want a contrast with what he regards as the rather gaudy tradition of headline-grabbing initiatives and rabbits-out-of-hats which characterised the Osborne & Cameron Budget traditions.
The truth is, Phillip Hammond doesn’t really know yet how to handle this Brexit scenario. Leavers are arguing that everything is fine with the economy because – apart from a 17% currency depreciation – they say that the sky hasn’t fallen in. But that’s because we haven’t actually left the European Union yet. I believe that there are grounds for a pre-emptive fiscal stimulus to counteract the growing anxieties, uncertainties and postponed investments that accumulate month by month, especially in some of our core industrial and service sectors.
I’ve written more about expectations for the Autumn Statement in a new pamphlet launched earlier today by the SMF at the link here
- Last week I popped in to see the team at the Acorn Resource Centre in the Mary Potter Centre, which provides day services for people with physical and sensory impairments. I met staff and service users there to talk about their work and see how this centre provides valuable respite and social interaction for many people with disabilities. I’m pleased to see that the Centre has adjusted to their new space within the Mary Potter Centre following the introduction of the Library last year.
- The Government confirmed this week that there will be a station at Toton as part of the HS2 rail station. Journey times from the new station into Nottingham are expected to be 12 minutes, and journeys from Toton to London will take 52 minutes. All of this is a long way off, as HS2 is not expected to be completed until around 2032-33, but I would be interested to know your thoughts on the decision to have the HS2 hub at Toton.
- Fine Art graduate Jon Burgerman is to be named Nottingham Trent University’s Alumnus of the Year for 2016. He graduated from the School of Art & Design in 2001 and his work is now exhibited internationally and features in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and Science Museum.
- The phone number at my Nottingham office is currently out of service. Our phone provider is currently working to resolve the issue, but in the meantime if you call the main House of Commons switchboard on 0207 219 3000 and ask to be put through to my office, you will be transferred to the Nottingham office.
- There’s plenty going on in Sneinton in the coming weeks, including craft workshops, Christmas parties, markets and ‘Santa’s Coming to Sneinton’, as part of their Christmas Fair. The Sneinton Christmas Fair is taking place on Wednesday 7th December from 4pm at St Christopher’s Church on Colwick Road, and will include a Santa’s Grotto, carols, free food and prizes.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Today I’m Parliament voting on a private member’s Bill by my colleague Pat Glass, who is arguing that there should still be 650 Members of Parliament when the constituency boundaries are redrawn – rather than a cut to just 600 MPs. If MPs are going to focus adequately on constituency casework, it’s vital we have the right ratio of representatives to the population, because otherwise it will be harder to respond to cases and issues effectively. As you will know, I am not in favour of the gerrymandering of constituencies by the current Government and we already have a large population in Nottingham not ‘counted’ on official registers; it is unfair if even more people are overlooked in our system for representing voices in Parliament.
- On Monday the Commons debated the Technical and Further Education Bill. This legislation extends the role of ‘Institute for Apprenticeships’ and also establishes a legal insolvency framework for local colleges.
- On Tuesday there was a debate on the remaining stages of the Charities and Childcare Payments Bill. This allowed for changes to government support on childcare regarding their tax-free allowance and the legislation also touched on gift aid for charities and community amateur sports clubs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I spent the early part of this week visiting China with the all party China group – specifically the cities of Beijing and Wuhan in Hubei province – to see first-hand the development of their economy and consider how this will shape our lives in the century ahead. This is a vast and powerful nation, essentially operating a quasi-market economy but under the strict rule of the Communist Party. I met with officials from their Government and the National People’s Council and raised issues relating to human rights and the death penalty, as well as the risks from inadequately regulated financial expansion and debt.
I’d be interested any views or opinions you have about UK relations with China. Are we right to be so welcoming of Chinese investment in our key infrastructure? Do we have adequate reciprocity when it comes to trade and visas? Is Britain doing enough to maximise new opportunities? All views welcome.