NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 15th December 2017
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Wednesday’s momentous vote in the House of Commons could well be the moment that Britain is saved from falling off the Brexit ‘cliff edge’ – by ensuring that Parliament will have a meaningful say on the divorce deal negotiated between Theresa May and the EU. If the Brexit deal isn’t good enough (because jobs will be lost in sectors losing export rights into Europe, for instance), then MPs will have the chance to send her back and renegotiate.
Amendment 7 represents a vital insurance policy for the UK, because there was a real risk that a David Davis / Theresa May deal would have been presented as a fait accompli, with MPs being told to ‘take it or leave’ and unable to shape the details. What if this deal leaves our country poorer, cutting revenues for the Treasury and in term creating a decade of Brexit austerity hitting Nottingham and the rest of the country? What if local businesses currently trading with Europe have to pay a tariff to continue that trade? All these details can’t be swept away. Attempts by the Government next Wednesday to insert a fixed exit date of 29 March 2019 should also be met with similar resistance; flexibility in case negotiations aren’t concluded should be seen as an advantage and not a threat.
Sometimes there is a tribalism in the party political system which means that MPs stick rigidly to their party ‘whip’, but I’m delighted that on this occasion 11 Conservative MPs (including Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry) took the brave and principled decision to put the country’s interests first. I was very pleased to join them with the 309 MPs winning the vote on Wednesday – and threats of deselection and bullying behaviour trying to drum them out of their party will (I suspect) only help to strengthen their determination to do the right thing.
- What do you think of the standard of policing in Nottingham? In the latest inspectorate judgement, Nottinghamshire police have been rated ‘Good’ overall when it comes to keeping people safe and reducing crime. The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which was published earlier this week, follows on from a report last month, also by HMIC, which suggested that the force needed improvement in this area. The force was also rated ‘good’ in ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully; although in terms of treating its workforce with fairness and respect the report suggested that they required improvement.
- Traffic in the city centre was gridlocked on Wednesday evening this week, with Nottingham City Transport warning people against travelling if they could avoid it. The situation was caused by a road traffic collision on Meadow Lane, compounded by road works around London Road and a broken down car on Upper Parliament Street. Several bus services were delayed severely.
- Insurance firm Domestic & General have announced they are looking to employ a further 150 people in Nottingham start in the New Year. This comes after a £3.4m revamp to the company’s contact centre situated on Talbot Street and the opening of new offices at City Gate East on Tollhouse Hill.
- Detailed plans for the redeveloped Broadmarsh have been submitted to the Nottingham City Council’s planning department. The submitted proposals feature 1,397 parking spaces which will be almost 250 more than in the previous car park. They also contain retail units on Carrington Street and Collin Street as well as several digital advertising screens and electric charging points on every floor.
- The winners of my annual Christmas e-card competition have been decided, with the first prize going to eight year old George from Rosehill School! Earlier this morning I visited Rosehill to present him and some of the runners up with their prizes. The list of winners is as follows: 1st Place – George from Rosehill School; 2nd Place – Wiktoria from Our Lady and St Edward Catholic School and 3rd Place going to Summer also from Our Lady and St Edward. I was delighted by the volume and standard of entries that we received this year which made for a very exciting competition and some difficult judging decisions. The winning entries, alongside the runners up will feature on my Christmas e-card (which I’ll try to send around next week!)
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Six months on from the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, survivors attended a moving memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, alongside bereaved families, rescue workers and members of the Royal Family. There were performances from Portobello Road Salvation Army Band, St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, the Ebony Steel Band and Al-Sadiq & Al-Zahra Schools Girls’ Choir. The Bishop of Kensington said he hoped the name Grenfell would change from a symbol of sorrow, grief or injustice to a symbol of the time we learnt a new and better way – to listen and to love.
- The EU (Withdrawal) Bill committee stage has again dominated the Commons this week, where I moved a series of amendments including a demand that Ministers set out their plan for retaining all the benefits and advantages for the UK from the 759 international treaties, accords and mutual recognition agreements with over 130 countries that Britain has adopted via our EU membership over the past 44 years. These treaties will lapse on our departure from the EU – including on issues such as trade, aviation, nuclear safety, medicines, transportation and much more besides. We still do not have any clear idea how Ministers intend to renegotiate and renew these after ‘exit day’, which was why I insisted on some answers. See my Commons speech at the link here. On Tuesday I opened the committee debate with an amendment calling for a wholesale review of the massive constitutional ‘land grab’ Ministers are making by the order-making powers they are taking to be able to change powers at the swipe of a pen, rather than do this through an Act of Parliament in the normal way. My speech on this issue is at the link here.
- As the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir I convened our first session of hearings yesterday into the human rights situation in the disputed territory, which has been at the centre of a disagreement between India and Pakistan for over seventy years. We heard testimony from journalists, academics, human rights activists and from the Pakistani High Commission – and have asked for further evidence from others on all sides of the Line of Control. We hope to have a summary of interim evidence published in the early new year.
- I was concerned to learn that damage to the gas pipeline between the continent and the UK has restricted our country’s energy supply and started to push up wholesale prices. It was even more concerning to read that the UK energy sector is now dependent on liquefied gas shipped from Russia – something that would be banned under the sanctions imposed by the US. British energy policy is getting dangerously reliant on imports and we need to make urgent efforts to diversify sources of energy, especially from renewable and non-carbon emitting sources. Even a temporary energy dependency on Russia is a perilous situation for the United Kingdom to be in.
- On Monday the Government responded to an Urgent Question from my colleague Harriet Harman on the crisis in health funding highlighted by Sir Bob Kerslake’s resignation as Chair of the King’s College NHS Trust in London. Writing in the Guardian, Sir Bob expressed his concern that the Ministers are ‘simply not facing up to the enormous challenges that the NHS is currently facing … where the demands of a rapidly growing population are not being matched by the extra resources we need,’ and calling for a ‘fundamental rethink’ in how the health service is funded. Clearly, the twin pressures of an ageing population and the rising cost of drugs and equipment (made more challenging by the weakness of the pound since the referendum) have stretched resources more thinly than ever. We have to confront the challenges of funding our NHS for the long term if we are to maintain standards.
- On Tuesday world leaders met in Paris for the ‘One Planet’ summit on tackling climate change. At the gathering, which marked the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that action to reduce emissions has not come nearly fast enough over the past two years, and I worry that he is right – two months ago, the UN ‘Emissions Gap’ report observed that the pledges made by signatories to the Paris accord amount to less than a third of what will be required to keep warming below the catastrophic 2°C ‘tipping point’, and backsliding from the Trump administration remains a worry. But the challenge of responding to the climate crisis is one that governments around the world cannot afford to ignore. I sincerely hope this week’s conference will deliver a new lease of life to this most vital of tasks.
- This week we learned that inflation in November had risen to 3.1 percent – its highest level in nearly six years – applying further pressure to already squeezed budgets across the country this Christmas. With food and energy prices rising even more quickly, at 4.4 and 6.4 percent, wage rates a long way short of keeping pace, and working-age benefits still frozen at their 2015 level, and this will put an additional strain on households trying to make ends meet. The single biggest driver of high inflation has been the persistent weakness of the pound, and I hope that this sobering news will inform the Government’s approach to Brexit in the new year. The consequences of getting it wrong, as we have seen this week, will be felt most sharply by those already struggling.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Sneinton Market is enjoying a new lease of life at the heart of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter – with many of the units from the historic wholesale fruit & veg market now occupied by new shops and galleries (pictured below). Earlier today I met with Creative Quarter chief executive Stephen Barker to meet some of the businesses, including coffee roaster Stewarts of Trent Bridge and their café Blend – and the brilliant local artists ‘Shop at Sneinton Market’.
Have you had a chance to visit Sneinton Market recently? With plans to redevelop more of the derelict buildings in that area, what will encourage people to visit? What more could the Creative Quarter company do, together with the city council and Nottingham Trent University, to make further progress driving the economic growth and entrepreneurial spirit in the area? How could we better connect the Sneinton Market neighbourhood with Hockley, the Lace Market and the city centre? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East