NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 1st December 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
Nottingham has given a very warm welcome to Prince Harry and his fiancée Meghan Markle, who chose to visit earlier today on their first official trip after announcing their engagement. Their visit brought a welcome spotlight to two really good causes that deserve widespread support.
First the couple visited the Terrence Higgins Trust ‘World Aids Day’ fair at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery, a charity that Prince Harry has long supported because of their work raising awareness of HIV / AIDS issues.
After their city centre ‘walkabout’, Harry and Meghan then travelled to the Ransom Road campus of Nottingham Academy to meet with pupils and staff at Nottingham Academy’s campus in Ransom Road to discuss the ‘Full Effect’ programme run by local charity Epic Partners, which focuses on helping young people affected by violent or criminal behaviour.
Harry’s links with Nottingham have been of great support to local good causes in recent years and it is really positive that he continuing to help give a boost to facilities and services which would never normally get such (worldwide!) attention.
- Update on the Wellspring GP Surgery situation: Having met with the GPs last week, I’ve now had a chance to speak directly with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and to alert him to the problems that would arise if we lost this vital GP practice in St Ann’s. I’ve also had discussions this week with officials at NHS Property Services (the landlord at the Valley Centre building) to try to get to the root of the massive service charge bill which could make the doctors’ surgery unviable unless the financial burden changes. Furthermore, I’ve also spoken with the senior team at the Nottingham City clinical commissioning group who are also looking to find a way forward. I will not accept a situation where this GP surgery feels it is financially unable to continue. I am convinced there can be a solution and I am determined to disentangle this bureaucratic knot.
- Nottingham has been ranked as the second best city in the UK and the best city in England for small business growth according to a recent report. The report by consultancy firm ‘Square’, which surveyed 1,200 small business owners, states that small businesses in Nottingham anticipate a 34% growth rate in the coming year. Also of note in the report was that 65% of consumers in Nottingham said they shopped locally or would do so in future suggesting strong potential for local Nottingham businesses.
- Rosehill School in St Ann’s is a special school for children and young people with autistic spectrum conditions. Children from across Nottinghamshire attend but I am proud we have such a great facility in our community. It was great to have a chance to attend their parents’ day event together with Gedling MP Vernon Coaker and then help award certificates to pupils for all their hard work over the past term. I was also pleased to meet their new school council and see first-hand how pupils were making their views known about their school environment (pictured below with pupils Jake and Ben).
- Tributes have been paid following the death of Cllr Georgina Culley, the leader of the Conservative Group on Nottingham City Council. Whatever political differences may exist, her long service to the people of Nottingham and Wollaton, the area she represented, was widely respected and will be remembered by many local residents. My thoughts go out to her family and friends at this time.
- A small but worthwhile step: thanks to our three councillors in Dales Ward, a new ‘Welcome to Bakersfield’ sign will be erected at the Oakdale roundabout at the top of Sneinton Dale, in response to worries from some visitors that this can be a difficult area of the city to find. I’m told the roundabout will also get spruced up with some replanting too.
- Tomorrow is ‘Small Business Saturday’, now the biggest annual celebration of small businesses in the UK. As well as encouraging shoppers to back Nottingham’s local retailers, it is about banging the drum for entrepreneurs and small businesses in all sectors. If you’re going shopping tomorrow, do consider stopping first in your local small shops!
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- How do you feel about paying up to £1000 towards the Brexit ‘divorce bill’? Reports that the UK Government agreed to settle up to £67billion in liabilities and debts to the European Union hit the headlines this week – a phenomenal amount of money which the Prime Minister hopes will persuade EU leaders to agree that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made and the discussions about trade talks can now begin. Having been promised some sort of Brexit ‘dividend’ (remember the £350m per week promised for the NHS on the side of the red bus?), it turns out that we will be paying out these billions for the privilege of downgrading our trading relationship, ditching the tariff-free, frictionless free trade agreement we currently have – in exchange for something inevitable inferior. This is not what people voted for in the 2016 referendum! On Wednesday the Speaker granted me the right to ask an ‘Urgent Question’ to the Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss on the costs of exiting the EU. If you want to watch the exchange, please click on the link here.
- Transport Secretary Chris Grayling came to the Commons this week forced to admit that the rigid separation between Network Rail and the privatised train operating companies needs reform – something obvious to many commentators for quite some time. Closer integration between those responsible for running the trains and the tracks is clearly necessary. But questions are rightly being asked whether the early termination of the East Coast rail franchise joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin Trains is in reality letting these firms off the hook for losses they would otherwise make. Ultimately the rail network needs continued investment – as we know from the debacle over continuously delayed electrification of the Midland Mainline. I will keep working with colleagues, especially Transport Select Committee chair Lilian Greenwood, to press for a sensible way forward on rail policy.
- The situation in Yemen should cause worldwide concern and the Commons debated this yesterday. The Islamist Houthi coup, deposing a legitimate government with the backing of the Iranian regime, has seen the Houti’s deliberately use civilians as human shields. However, the air strikes being carried out by Saudi Arabia under UN Security Council resolution 2216 are not adequately avoiding civilian casualties and the UK Government must do more to impress on the Saudis and Iranians of the need for a ceasefire and no extension of the blockage which is aggravating a terrible crisis. The campaign to liberate Yemen from Houthi control has to abide by international humanitarian law and do more to avoid civilian casualties. For more information see this BBC background note at the link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29319423
- Donald Trump’s crass retweeting of the far right ‘Britain First’ anti-Muslim propaganda videos has stunned the world. His refusal to apologise and determination to justify the unjustifiable has been met with unanimous incredulity across the UK. If he’s achieved anything, Trump has managed to unite British politics with leaders coming together as one to voice their condemnation. I’ve been concerned for many years now that hate-fuelled campaigning will only aid extremists, throwing petrol onto the flames and giving fringe groups the attention they crave. The tragedy in this case is also that the majority of American citizens are also aghast at their President’s behaviour – and we should be clear that our profound criticism of Trump should not affect the historic and close relationship between the UK and USA in general.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
There’s going to be an awful lot in the news this weekend about how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will (or won’t!) change because of Brexit. This really matters – because the Irish Government want to continue to be part of the EU Single Market, but the British Government (and DUP majority party in Northern Ireland) do not. So how will the two sides square this circle? If the UK is out of the customs union, the EU will need to check that goods going in comply with their tariff regime, their regulations and rules. But the Good Friday Agreement which created peace in Northern Ireland stipulated that there should not be a hard border.
The graphic below that I saw recently on the internet seems to sum up this paradox quite well! In my view, the UK Government ought to stay as a member of the Customs Union and Single Market, retain a borderless link between the north and south in Ireland, and stop destabilising a potentially delicate situation. It is the policy choice of the British Government here, insisting on leaving the customs union, which is causing such chaos – and I will continue to campaign for them to see sense. Is there a middle way through here? Or is it an unsolvable conundrum? I’d be interested to know your thoughts.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East