NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 13th January 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
Happy New Year! Parliament got back to business this week and the spotlight fell quickly on the crisis in the NHS, where performance standards have been under real strain. One in four patients at Nottingham’s QMC Emergency Department – that’s over 3500 residents – were waiting more than four hours for treatment, according to the latest figures for November – delays that were even worse over the Christmas period. With a cold snap on the horizon, I’m really worried about the backlog for urgent care that could build up very quickly. This isn’t a one-off problem; ever since the Conservative Government came to office in 2010, waiting times have got worse each year (as the graph below illustrates).
So I’m campaigning now for extra capital resource to be fast-tracked for our local A&E to boost the capacity we need to treat this number of patients. That’s why in the Commons this week I urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to announce this investment – and facilitate the decent and modern emergency service Nottingham needs, fit for the 21st century. We can’t go on like this any longer.
- Thankfully we do have an expanded Urgent Care Centre just off London Road which is open between 7am and 9pm everyday for non-life threatening urgent medical issues. I was pleased to have the chance to look around their facilities earlier today, meeting the team (pictured below with their new x-ray equipment) and hearing about the full range of ‘walk-in’ services available, including emergency dental treatment. If you are finding it hard to get a GP appointment but don’t want to burden the Emergency Department at QMC, then do consider visiting the Urgent Care Centre.
- Meanwhile, it’s been announced this week that Peter Homa, the Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Dr Stephen Fowlie, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive, will both be retiring later this year after a combined 70 years of service to the NHS. I want to thank them for the hard work they’ve done for the Trust over a number of years, and I wish them both the best for the future. I will continue to keep in close contact with the Trust to ensure that the handover process is a smooth one.
- This week I met with local hotel owners to learn more about the British Hospitality Association who are campaigning for a reduction in VAT on tourism. The meeting was hosted by the Hilton Hotel on Milton Street, and it was good to be given a tour of the hotel and have the opportunity to meet staff working in the hospitality industry. We also discussed some other tourist development opportunities that might be good ideas for Nottingham – and the prospects for the city following the Castle redevelopment.
- You may remember that shortly before Christmas I met Marcellus Baz, who runs the Nottingham School of Boxing, which helps young people to move away from gangs and the cycle of crime. The school is now seeking to find a new permanent home after having to leave their previous premises. They are temporarily occupying the basement of the Pakistan Centre, but are looking to find funding to make a more permanent home. The school have set up a Crowdfunding page – if you’re interested in helping out you can visit the page here.
- Next Friday 20th January a Jobs Fair is being held to advertise employment and volunteering opportunities in Nottingham. The event is being held at the Motorpoint Arena from 10am until 2pm, and is free to attend. A number of employers will be attending the event – if you’re interested in finding out more, you can view the Facebook event here.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- Putting Boris Johnson in charge of negotiating Britain’s EU exit as Foreign Secretary is like putting Basil Fawlty in charge of the UK economy – it’s not going to be pretty. So it’s hardly surprising that Britain’s senior, professional civil servants are tearing their hair out about whether Ministers have any plan about what they intend to do. The resignation of Britain’s Ambassador to the European Union last week gave an astonishing insight into just how unprepared the Government are, which is why at Foreign Office Questions in the Commons I asked Boris whether he’ll be telling the new Ambassador about the Government’s ‘negotiating objectives’, which Sir Ivan Rogers famously confessed to knowing nothing about. There’s only so long that Ministers can hide behind the fig leaf remark “we’re not giving a running commentary”, which increasingly sounds like code for “we haven’t got the foggiest clue”. It’s time the Government shared their plan for what will happen when we leave the EU. Britain’s relationship with our biggest trading partner is too serious to be left in the hands of comedians.
- Before the Commons returned, I had the opportunity to visit Palestine and Israel to see for myself some of the long-standing issues in the Middle East. I visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, met with the Palestinian Education Minister in Ramallah and with the Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, as well as visiting a Kibbutz near the border with Gaza. I was struck by the close proximity between the contested neighbourhoods surrounding Jerusalem and the West Bank looking towards Jordan – and the arguments on both sides of the debate, which are far from black and white. I still believe a two state solution has to be the way forward and that a wider regional approach to achieving peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians may offer one way through the deadlock.
- On Tuesday, the Policing and Crime Bill returned to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments made in the House of Lords. This Bill covers a wide range of subjects and Tuesday’s session focussed on a number of issues. Firstly, I voted to keep an amendment to the Bill which would have required the Government to commission an independent inquiry into the relationship between the police and newspaper organisations, similar in scope to the proposed second part of the Leveson Inquiry. This was originally agreed in 2012, but there are real doubts emerging about the Government’s commitment to this. Unfortunately, the Government rejected the amendment and it was defeated. I also voted to keep amendments which would have established a principle of parity of legal funding for bereaved families at inquests involving the police. Unfortunately, the Government did not support this amendment and it was removed from the Bill. The issue of unequal funding at inquests was highlighted by the Hillsborough hearings and I believe the Government should have accepted this amendment. The Government also removed from the Bill a number of amendments designed to improve the way in which the criminal justice system interacts with victims of crime. I supported an amendment added to the Bill in the Lords which proposed to increase the maximum penalty for those found guilty of stalking from five to ten years. As many as one in five women and one in ten men will be stalked at some point in their lives, according to Home Office data. Stalking destroys lives and violates individual privacy. It causes fear and is too often a precursor to violent confrontation. I am therefore pleased that the Government accepted this proposal. While sentencing guidelines and specific sentences are the responsibility of the Sentencing Council and judges respectively, extending the maximum penalty will allow for greater flexibility in the most serious cases and make it clear that stalking is a serious offence. The Bill will now return to the House of Lords for further consideration.
- On Monday, the Government was called to respond to a question from Peter Kyle MP about the emergency review to determine how to ban perpetrators of domestic violence from directly cross-examining their victims within the family court. This is an issue which has been raised repeatedly in Parliament and in the media. It is important that the Government considers the practice in the criminal courts, where cross-examination by an unrepresented party accused of domestic violence is not allowed. As well as prohibiting cross-examination, I believe the Government should also consider the greater use of more sensitive procedures to safeguard the victims of domestic abuse in family courts. The Government stated on Monday that it has requested urgent advice on how to put an end to this practice. I welcome that the Government is doing something to end this situation.
- On Monday, the Commons considered the Technical and Further Education Bill. The Bill proposes to rename the Institute for Apprenticeships the “Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education” and to extend its remit. It also proposes to create an insolvency framework for the further education sector. I believe that further education plays a vital role in giving young people the skills they need, and supporting older learners into retraining and learning new skills. I believe the proposals in the Bill establishing an insolvency framework for further education (FE) and sixth form colleges are necessary. However, this is only the case because of repeated Government failure in this sector. I am also concerned that the Bill does not prevent assets of insolvent colleges that were paid for with public funds from being transferred to private companies. I supported an amendment that would have ensured that colleges with a track record of accruing assets publicly could not be transferred to a for-profit private company. Unfortunately, the Government opposed the amendment and it was defeated.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
With the debate about police and crime management recently in the City, it was instructive and timely to visit the new Central Police Station at Byron House in the city centre earlier today, where I met Acting Chief Constable Sue Fish and Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping. They have rearranged the teams working on crime reduction, now co-locating with staff from the city council, social services, environmental health and community protection officers. This co-location is an essential step forward in removing some of the bureaucratic barriers between the agencies involved in fighting crime, and so it was really good to hear some of the progress they have been making.
I’d be interested to know whether you’ve experienced any issues with police responsiveness recently – and whether you think that the management of the criminal justice system generally in Nottingham is coping well, or needs to improve.