NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Sunday 5th February 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
If you’re getting the impression that ‘Brexit’ is dominating the news agenda, I’m afraid this is going to go on for quite a while longer! After the start of the legislative process to send in the UK’s notice of withdrawing from the EU this week, tomorrow we now move on to what’s known as the ‘committee stage’ of the Bill, where we get a chance to restrain the Government and pull them away from the path leading along the ‘hard Brexit’ cliff edge.
When it came to the second reading vote on Wednesday, I could not vote in favour of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill at second reading. That meant I had to break the three-line whip that Labour’s leadership had imposed insisting on votes in favour, but I couldn’t go along with endorsing a Bill without vital safeguards.
As I explained in my Commons speech on Tuesday (watch the full speech at the Facebook link here), Parliament shouldn’t be handing decisions carte blanche to Theresa May or endorsing her dangerous ‘hard Brexit’ path. While I didn’t feel able to vote to block the Bill at second reading last week (I abstained because I voted for the referendum to take place), I intend to now ensure the Bill is used to give a different steer to the Prime Minister, doing what we can to retain the benefits of Single Market membership, maintaining equivalent regulations with the EU, securing tariff-free trade and much more besides.
That’s why I’ve tabled over 75 amendments to raise these issues, looking at additions we can enshrine in law to force Ministers to do things like preserve rights for EU nationals to remain, to have a transitional arrangement rather than a ‘cliff-edge’ in 2019, and to make sure we stay involved in crucial organisations like Europol or Euratom.
As I hope you’ll see in the coming days, I will do everything in my power to save this country from Theresa May’s hard Brexit and I’ll press other colleagues, across the political parties, to restrain the Government from such a mistake.
(If you’re interested in following the detail of the forthcoming committee stage of the Article 50 Bill, do take a skim through the assembled amendments that have been tabled at the link here https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0132/amend/european_rm_cwh_0202.pdf )
- It is extremely disheartening that Ministers look set to close the Hyson Green Jobcentre on Radford Road. The Government announced this week they intend to ‘relocate’ the facility to the city centre premises on Parliament Street. All 16 staff at the current Jobcentre are due to be relocated by March 2018, however I am concerned that this seems more like a Jobcentre closure than a relocation. That’s why in the Commons this week I demanded that the Minister reconsider the closure – it’s a vital facility in the neighbourhood that does good work matching people to vacancies and will be a real loss. Hyson Green is an area with twice the national unemployment average (we’re in the bottom 5% of employment levels in the country) and there are good historic reasons why we need an accessible JobShop in this area. You can watch me questioning the Minister in Parliament at the link here.
- Hopefully there is some better news for local employability, thanks to the ‘Nottingham Works’ programme part-financed by the City Council and the European Union – £1.2million of funding has been made available for employers to take on more 18-29 year old Nottingham residents. The job market is tough, particularly for young people with little or no experience, so it’s good that employers are being encouraged to take on more young staff at their firms.
- Prince Harry was in Nottingham once again this week, where he made a visit to Nottingham Academy site on Ransom Road. He was catching up with the work of the Full Effect and Coach Core projects, which work with children and teenagers through a mixture of mentoring, early intervention and education. These projects do important work with community cohesion and supporting young people, and it’s great that Prince Harry continues to support their work through The Royal Foundation.
- I was pleased to hear this week that Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are due to end their Estates and Facilities contracts with Carillion in the spring and bring the services back under NUH management by 1st Carillion were given opportunities to improve standards over a number of months, and I’m glad that NUH have listened to concerns raised about cleanliness, staff shortages and other issues, and have followed through on their promise to end the contract if standards weren’t improved. I will keep in close contact with the Trust and trade unions over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition.
- This week Centre for Cities released their Cities Outlook 2017 report, which focused on where cities export to globally. The report revealed that 59% of Nottingham’s exports go to the EU, compared to an average of 46% for UK cities as a whole. Nottingham also ranks 8th highest on a list of 62 cities most reliant on EU markets. It’s clear that Nottingham’s businesses have a higher than average reliance on our relationship with the EU, and I’m concerned about what Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ would mean for the city’s economy if we lost access to the Single Market.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- The Commons had a chance to question Boris Johnson (still seems strange to write this – but yes, he’s the Foreign Secretary!) about Donald Trump’s executive order to suspend the entire US refugee programme and ban people who have nationality or dual nationality of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months. Thanks for those of you who got back to me after I asked what you thought last week – there was a clear consensus that Theresa May’s response was unacceptable. I was struck by the contrast between the Prime Minister’s short response to Trump, and the response from Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, who rightly said: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength”. I made my views clear to Boris Johnson in Parliament on Monday, and I thought the Government’s almost non-committal reaction to President Trump was unsatisfactory. You can see my question and his response here.
- On Monday, the Pensions Schemes Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill aims to improve the regulation of ‘master trusts’, which are trust-based occupational pension schemes serving multiple, unrelated employers. It also seeks to allow certain regulations to override contractual terms in occupational pension schemes, with the intention of enabling policies to restrict certain pension scheme charges. I support the measures included in this Bill. However, I believe the Bill is also a missed opportunity to address our wider pensions crisis. The Government should have used the Bill to tackle the high costs and charges being applied to occupational pension savings, prevent further decline of defined benefit pension schemes and provide support to women born in the 1950s who are unfairly affected by the increase in the state pension age.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Nottingham City Council have drawn up their draft Budget proposals for the coming year – and I’d urge you to take a look through the situation they are facing. The backdrop is stark: the Government used to give grant funding for council services of £126million in 2013/14, a sum that will fall to just £44million in 2017/18. By 2020, the Government’s grant for day-to-day council services will be phased out completely!
This places phenomenal pressure on the council tax and business rates as the means by which local services are paid for. But the cost of social services for the elderly is rising very fast, and the city council have to pay for things like protecting children, street cleaning, public transport, refuse collection and leisure services.
Some of their proposals are going to be controversial and I will raise my concerns with councillors, especially on things like school meal revenues, Nottingham City Homes costs, the charges for bereavement services and grounds maintenance changes. But overall, my sympathies are will councillors who face an invidious and unenviable task of having to choose between cutting services that are all very deserving causes.
I’d be interested in your views – but I’d also hope you’d pass on your thoughts to the City Council themselves through their consultation at the link here http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/yourcityyourservices/