MP Update – 20th January

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 20th January 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

It still seems strange to write the words, but we now must get used to the reality of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. In his inauguration speech this afternoon, Trump re-emphasised his protectionist ‘America First’ message, putting the world on notice of a colder approach to international alliances, signalling a tilt away from free trade, and talking of “the ravages of other countries”. Perhaps this is unsurprising given his pre-election rhetoric and populist style.

My concerns are for the health of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which provides mutual defence for us and the rest of Europe, and also for the consequences of a more belligerent style of diplomacy when tact and building bridges are usually better than erecting barriers and walls. It makes a mockery of the idea Britain should be severing ties with our nearest EU27 neighbours and instead placing all our hopes in a trade deal with the USA, where we have far fewer exports and where we will be pitting Liam Fox against the US banking lobby, the US farming and energy lobby and the Trump White House insisting we “buy American and hire American”. Michael Gove says we’ll be now at the ‘front of the queue’, but I suspect we’ll be waiting there a long time.

Britain has to do its best to work with and find common agreement with the other major powers in the world – especially given our role on the UN Security Council. Unfortunately, the thing about populists is that they’re big on promises, but typically prove themselves deceptive and unreliable in the end.

NOTTINGHAM

  • I have some serious misgivings about the decision of the local NHS ‘Clinical Commissioning Group’ (CCG) to replace in-patient stroke rehabilitation services in Nottingham with so-called ‘community-based’ provision outside the hospital environment. Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust are to take over the service from 1st April this year, and will mean that patients will go through their recuperation in the community after spending less time on the acute stroke ward at Nottingham City Hospital. Along with the other Nottingham MPs, I have raised concerns about the changes in a letter to the Health Secretary. We are deeply concerned that the closure of specialist stroke beds will mean that patients who are unable to leave hospital after their time on the acute stroke ward will be left in hospital without access to a specialist stroke ward. I will continue to follow these changes closely, and I will also be campaigning in Westminster alongside the UK Stroke Association for the National Stroke Strategy for England to be renewed when it expires at the end of the year. This is, sadly, just one example of a series of cost-saving measures which I don’t think are wholly in the best interests of patients – and I will do what I can to persuade Ministers and local doctors (who run the ‘CCG’) to change their minds about this.
  • The Theatre Royal has received a funding boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its project to create a digital archive of its history. The project, called ‘Our Theatre Royal Nottingham: Its Stories, People & Heritage’, has received £17,300 from the fund to supplement existing funding from the Nottingham Civic Society and the theatre itself. Volunteers will work alongside specialists to create a new digital archive of the theatre’s 150 year history which will be accessible for all.
  • Nottingham City Council are to support the opening of new ‘Super Kitchens’ with the aim of making Nottingham the UK’s first social eating city. Super Kitchen was founded in 2014 in Sneinton, and now operates in 20 locations across the city and county. They aim to create community eating spaces and reduce food waste by using surplus produce from supermarkets. Anyone can visit a Super Kitchen for an affordable meal and an opportunity to socialise, and can also ‘pay it forward’ by buying a meal for someone else. The Council are supporting the opening of 10 new locations, and are encouraging local community groups to offer community space in the new locations. You can find out more about Super Kitchens on the website here.
  • A planning application for a helipad at QMC has been submitted to Nottingham City Council. The plans would see the helipad raised on stilts in the Curie Court car park on the site, to allow transfer times from air ambulance to the East Midlands Trauma Centre to be reduced to as little as two minutes. If planning permission is granted, the helipad should be operational by 2018.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Theresa May’s speech at Lancaster House was, of course, the main political event of the week and set out her plan for our relationship with the EU. I am incredibly disappointed that she decided to throw in the towel on Britain’s membership of the Single Market. She’s apparently not even going to ask the other EU 27 countries to adapt ‘free movement’ and introduce managed migration. Not fighting for Britain’s continued access to 500 million customers for our products. And not even trying to keep her own promise – and that of every other Conservative MP – who signed up to their 2015 election manifesto pledge “we say: yes to the Single Market”.  The referendum narrowly resulted in a decision for the UK to leave the European Union – but the ballot paper did NOT say anything about severing our membership of the Single Market. The Single Market is about more than tariff-free trade – it’s about protecting workers’ rights, sharing basic environmental standards, protecting consumers across Europe and avoiding a damaging race to the bottom. We need the BEST deal for Britain, not the best deal for Conservative backbenchers. When Theresa May threatens that Britain might be “free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model” make no mistake, she is threatening to undercut the rest of Europe, cut revenues for public services, cut consumer protection regulations and cut employment rights. This is not a positive approach to a new partnership – it’s a route map that risks taking our economy over a cliff-edge from 2019.
  • For seventy years the dispute in Kashmir has remained unresolved, with conflict now on the rise, curfews, disappearances and lives lost. That’s why yesterday I called on the Minister to think again about Britain’s role in brokering dialogue and a peaceful resolution between India and Pakistan. The rights of the Kashmiri people are high in my mind yet the media rarely cover news of conflict in the region. I believe the UK is well placed to inspire new ideas for peace-making and confidence building between all sides. I spoke in the House of Commons debate on Kashmir yesterday (to read full speech click on the link here )and I intend to hold a roundtable meeting in Nottingham with representatives from the community on this issue later in February. I would like to involve a wide range of people from Nottingham’s Kashmiri community in the discussions, so if this is something you’d be interested in attending, please send me an email and I will contact you with further details: chris.leslie@parliament.uk
  • On Monday, the House of Commons considered the National Citizen Service National Citizen Service (NCS) is a summer programme that offers courses to 15-17 year olds during the school holidays. It is currently administered by the NCS Trust, a community interest company. The Bill proposes to place NCS on a permanent statutory footing, with the aim of making the NCS Trust a national institution while preserving its independent ethos. This seems a positive development and one I am happy to support.
  • On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a statement about the forthcoming elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly on 2 March. Martin McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland on Monday 9 January, as a result of which the First Minister also ceased to hold office. Both positions had to be filled within seven days. As this did not happen, fresh elections had to be called. It is deeply regretful that this impasse has been reached. Maintaining devolved and functioning government in Northern Ireland is of critical importance. I want to see continuing peace and prosperity and not a divided Northern Ireland that turns in on itself.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We’ll find out at 9:30am on Tuesday morning whether the Supreme Court say that Parliament must give permission in law for the Prime Minister to send the ‘Article 50’ letter starting the two-year countdown for Britain’s exit from the European Union. I hope that legislation is necessary, because (as I said earlier in this email) this is one of the most important decisions for a generation and how we approach that negotiation is crucial. While I recognise and respect the outcome of the referendum, I do not feel inclined to actively vote in favour of an Article 50 Bill (if that is indeed what the Supreme Court say is required), because to do so would be fully endorsing Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ approach to also leaving the Single Market. It is possible to exit the EU but stay in the Single Market and I think this is therefore worth fighting to preserve!

I realise that not everyone will agree with me on this – but with 57% of Nottingham East constituents voting for the UK to remain in the EU, I feel I must try to fight to avoid a destructive hard Brexit ‘cliff-edge’ in 2019 and for our Single Market participation. If that means working across parties with other MPs on amendments to this Bill, then I will do so.

That’s why I’d be interested in your views about this process, and whether there are amendments you think I should promote in the Bill committee stage. This is a far more complex and multi-faceted process than simply voting to hand over the trigger power, and I believe Parliament must do its job and assert our view of what’s best for Britain, rather than leave the issue solely in the hands of the Prime Minister.

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