NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Monday 26th June 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
[This week’s MP Update newsletter has been delayed because the House of Commons email servers were subject to a cyber attack – and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to send any emails out – many apologies!]
Last week we heard the Queen’s Speech, setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the next two years. But it was a meagre and hollow ‘plan’ from a drifting administration – and a much diminished Prime Minister. The Government have no majority and hardly any of their manifesto policies to be seen.
Brexit is the one issue which Ministers cannot avoid because the clock is ticking after Article 50 was triggered on 29th March. This means that UK law has to be able to rapidly cover ground that has hitherto been dealt with under EU legislation (including trade, customs, immigration, agriculture and so on) – a massive exercise in transposing rules and regulations. I will press for the UK to preserve the alliances and links with Europe that have been so crucial for the country and our economy in recent decades.
The only saving grace is that Conservative plans for scrapping school lunches, the pensioners winter allowance, social care payments and repealing the ban on foxhunting have all had to fall by the wayside – because they don’t have the numbers to get these through.
While there are a few measures which should achieve consensus in Parliament – including reforms to domestic violence laws – there are other proposals which still concern me including the proposal to change the funding formula for schools. There will now be several days of debate on this package of measures with final votes taking place on Wednesday and Thursday.
- The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Craig Guildford, and Police & Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping have spoken out about the terrorist attack near Finsbury Park Mosque last week. They have assured the public that the police will continue to support communities in the wake of this incident, and offer a visible reassurance in Nottinghamshire. Paddy Tipping has said that there have been longstanding discussions between Nottinghamshire Police and Mosque leaders regarding increased protection for Muslim communities during Ramadan, and in light of the attack that protection has been strengthened and increased. I was concerned to hear about the incident at Al-Quba Masjid Mosque in Sherwood last week, where two men have now been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence after meat was smeared on the mosque’s door during Ramadan prayers. Nottinghamshire Police have asked people to remain alert and to report any suspicious activity on the Anti-Terror Hotline 0800 789 321 or, in an emergency, dial 999.
- On Friday I met with senior officers at Nottinghamshire Police to discuss their counter-terrorism strategy and how we can build relationships with faith leaders, doctors, teachers and other organisations to identify people at risk of radicalisation. I wanted to emphasise how important it is to strike the right balance between reaching out across the community while not acting in a stigmatising or alienating way.
- With local businesses still uncertain about the long term economic environment in which they operate it was useful to catch up with Richard Blackmore, the Regional Director of CBI East Midlands on Friday to discuss the needs of their members post-Brexit. Local businesses have told the CBI that their priorities for Brexit are economic stability, no new barriers to trade and to receive reassurances that employees who are EU citizens will be able to remain in the UK contributing to the economy.
- The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in West London continues to dominate the news, with many questions about tragedy still unanswered. Over the weekend we saw the terrible consequences of uncertain fire safety conditions now leading to evacuation of some residences in Camden as flats that were previously thought to be safe are now deemed a risk. You may have heard my colleague David Lammy speaking about the loss of his friend in the Grenfell fire – an artist named Khadija Saye. Khadija had a promising career ahead of her, with her work having just been exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Khadija was also supported by Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, and the gallery are raising funds for Khadija’s family at this difficult time. Khadija is one among many lives lost in this awful tragedy, and my sincere condolences go to all of those affected. I spoke with Nottingham City Homes again last week to seek reassurances for tenants in high-rise properties in the wake of the tragedy. Nottingham City Homes has announced that it will install sprinklers in the corridors and communal areas of the 13 high-rise blocks it manages in Nottingham, and are holding drop-in sessions for residents in all of the blocks. An audit of private high-rise blocks in the city is also underway. I will continue to follow this closely and keep you updated.
- A new £200million project by the University of Nottingham that is due to create up to 500 new jobs has been launched. The high-calibre recruitment drive aims to seek out new academic and research talent to tackle six global challenges – including securing sustainable food supplies, ending slavery and developing greener transport systems – which collectively contribute to all 17 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The six research areas are:
- Rights Lab — finding solutions to ending modern-day slavery
- Green Chemicals — the next global industrial revolution
- Precision Imaging — personalised therapies to transform lives
- Propulsion Imaging — the future of propulsion
- Smart Industrial Systems — sustainable products for the future
- Future Food — exploring new ways of feeding the world
I am delighted to see the University leading on this bold project, boosting research and development in the East Midlands, investing in hundreds of jobs and fuelling the Midlands Engine.
- As well as the national email problems with Parliament, the local Virgin telephone system to my constituency office is also not working properly – many apologies again! In the meantime you can contact my office on 0115 956 9429.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Today the Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP) concluded a deal that will see their MPs join forces to give a parliamentary majority for Government legislation on the Budget, finance and Brexit – and on any ‘no confidence’ motions that emerge. This is a disappointing set of circumstances because it could mean that this Conservative administration will continue for up to five years, the length of a fixed term parliament. There will need to be scrutiny of the £1bn that has been offered to sweeten the deal with the DUP and also whether the DUP will influence some of the other socially liberal policies which even the Tories disagree with. But I am very sad to see that the Tories and DUP have apparently got passed the ‘half way’ number of MPs (325).
- The Competition and Markets Authority have announced a probe into online gambling and betting websites following hundreds of complaints that promotional deals are not honoured or break consumer rules. A large number of people now bet and gamble online and with many of the companies involved being located offshore, there are an increasing number of stories of customers being ripped off or entangled in complex rules that break the advertising standards.
- The Government announced a new ‘Data Protection Bill’ to replace the 1998 Act in the Queen’s Speech last week. There are some aspects outlined in the description of this reform which look to have merit, including a right for individuals to delete record content from when they were under 18 years old and a ‘right to be forgotten’ so that companies may not hold information if an individual requests data be deleted. The details of the legislation haven’t yet been published and it will be interesting to see whether a different balance will be struck between protecting individual data and allowing sharing between agencies for law enforcement purposes.
- Saturday was Armed Forces Day in the UK, a chance to salute the bravery and service of those who work in the army, navy and air forces. Whether working to help address the terrorist threat across the country, fight Daesh abroad or provide humanitarian relief in areas of great stress in Africa and elsewhere, the armed forces – like our emergency services in the UK – put their lives on the line for us day in and day out. We are fortunate to have such dedicated troops and should never forget the service and sacrifice they give.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
It’s a year since the EU referendum – and I’d be interested in your thoughts about where things stand and what should happen next.
The Government have offered the three million EU citizens living in the UK the right to ‘settled status’ and guarantees on healthcare, pensions, benefits and education as though they were British nationals. The offer, said the Prime Minister, is dependent on a reciprocal deal covering the one million UK citizens living in the rest of the 27 EU countries. However, the EU President Jean Claude Juncker has said these plans do not go as far as they would like, a sign that even those areas where there should be some consensus may take some time to iron out.
The Government have also agree to the request from the EU that – before negotiating our new trading relationship with the 27 European states – deals will need to be done first on citizen rights, the Northern Ireland border and the ‘divorce bill’ liabilities. I have long had concerns that a sequential approach, rather than talking about all these issues in parallel, is very dangerous for Britain. If acceptable divorce terms are not reached in time there is a risk we will go past March 2019 without a suitable agreement on future trading relations. This uncertainty will weigh heavily on business planning across a number of sectors.
I’d be interested to know how you think the negotiations should and will proceed, and whether there are specific issues I should be raising in the legislative process that is about to begin.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East