NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 3rd February 2018
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I’m very focused on the need to prevent a further decade of cutbacks and austerity hitting our NHS, schools and local facilities in Nottingham – which is why my priority is to avoid a devastating Brexit outcome where the engine of our economy (and tax revenues!) is clogged up by tariffs, bureaucratic customs checks and barriers to exports. As a bare minimum, we need to salvage what’s called the ‘Customs Union’ in which UK businesses can buy and sell goods across the continent on our currently free-flowing, ‘frictionless’ tariff-free basis. It does mean we have to share tariff and trade policies with our nearest 27 EU countries, but as a big block we can leverage stronger trade deals – and we rely on forty years of these agreements to keep the economy flowing. If we leave the Customs Union, these 70 trade agreements will lapse and we shouldn’t take for granted the ability to simply order goods from the wider world and have them arrive effectively on time.
That’s why this week I’ve joined forces with MPs from across all political parties to propose two key amendments to the forthcoming Trade and Customs Bills which would require the Government to maintain our participation in the Customs Union arrangements, as you can see here (and at the Guardian write-up here).
Nottinghamshire MPs Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke are also leading these amendments – because in reality there is a majority of MPs who probably do support this, but the frontbenches (and ‘whips’) of the main parties are still reluctant to do so. In December we defeated the Government when 260 Labour MPs joined forces with 11 Conservatives and MPs from the other parties to insist on a parliamentary ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal. If we get Labour’s frontbench to now acknowledge that the evidence shows we need the Customs Union arrangements to keep the economy going, I genuinely think we can win on this issue too.
I know I will be attacked for departing from the official ‘party line’ but I firmly believe that preventing this wave of austerity is the duty of every MP. Votes will be at the end of February – but any support you can provide and encouragement to others across the political spectrum to do so as well would be very timely.
- Police have arrested a 33 year-old woman in Derby in connection with the fire at Nottingham Station. The fire, which started on the morning of January 12th, is being treated as arson by the British Transport Police. An incident commander with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, has suggested that had sprinklers been fitted it may have been easier for officers to control the blaze.
- Sometimes visiting local businesses in Nottingham East can be a particular treat – and so it was when I had a chance to visit Redsmith Gin Distillery in Sneinton yesterday! I had a chance to meet Head Distiller and redsmith Wayne Asher and talk about his increasingly successful business (pictured below with Wayne and ‘Jenny’ his number 1 still!), which is the first distillery in Nottinghamshire for 150 years. ‘Jenny’ is thought to be the smallest commercial ‘ten bubble plate, carter head still in the UK – handmade by Wayne himself. His London Dry Gin is made to a secret recipe but is now very much in demand, having won the prestigious ‘Classic Gin of the Year’ award in 2016. Take a look at his website at the link here https://redsmithdistillery.com/
- Nottingham City Transport has stopped bus advertisements which cover the bus’s windows, after customer complaints. While there were only ever a small number of buses with advertising that covered their windows , NCT and their advertising partners will now phase it out completely meaning that in future full bus ads’ will only ever be applied to the body of the bus.
- Nottinghamshire Police has become the first police force in the country to introduce a ‘menopause policy’. This policy will include lighter uniforms and more flexible working for those suffering from fatigue. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cooper said: “Nottinghamshire Police takes staff welfare very seriously and we are really proud to have been the first police force to introduce a ‘menopause policy’, which has subsequently been picked up by other forces and partner organisations across the country”.
- As part of their draft procurement strategy Nottingham City Council has pledged to continue to support small and medium size firms locally. This pledge comes after the council awarded SMEs £48 million worth of contracts in 2016/17. The idea behind this strategy is both to reduce the risk posed to the council by large contractors going bankrupt as well as putting money back into the local economy.
- Congratulations to Rosehill School and their Headteacher Cheryl Steele on being rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for the fourth time. In their report at the end of last year Inspectors highlighted that ‘the leadership team has maintained the outstanding quality of education in the school since the last inspection’. They also stated ‘the school is a positive learning environment’ and ‘pupils are well prepared for their next steps in going to college and/or supported learning’. The report (which can be read here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/122964 ) is a credit to everyone involved in the Rosehill community.
- Congratulations to Nottingham East’s very own cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason who has achieved the biggest-selling British debut of the year to date with his classical album, ‘Inspiration’. Sheku who is now 18 years old has entered the album chart at number 18, quite some record and probably the only time this has been achieved by a cellist! Great to see such success.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- On Tuesday the Brexit Minister, Steve Baker, appeared before MPs following news that the Government’s internal analysis confirmed that leaving the EU will mean billions of pounds in lost growth – even if a comprehensive ‘free trade agreement’ is achieved – and behind those figures, the destruction of hundreds of thousands of good jobs. On Monday evening, I discussed the analysis on CNN – you can catch the interview here. It was particularly shocking that Ministers have decided to withhold this analysis document and instead castigate their own civil servants and cover up the truth from the public and Parliament (you can see my question to the Minister at the link here).
- With the looming threat of a leadership contest rounding off another turbulent week for the Conservatives at Westminster, Theresa May must have counted herself lucky to be so far removed from the fray, on a three-day visit to China. It remains to be seen what exactly the visit will have achieved, but the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox did concede that a UK-China trade deal was “some way off”, and I think it’s clear that his onetime hubris about the ease and speed with which we could strike trade agreements is still colliding with the much more complicated reality.
- On Wednesday, MPs voted to embark on a “full decant” from the Houses of Parliament so that the buildings can undergo vital refurbishment and restoration works in the coming years. The Palace of Westminster is one of the greatest buildings in our nation’s heritage and it is important that we preserve and cherish it. I think the consequences of inaction were just too serious to ignore; a recent report identified a fifty percent chance of ‘catastrophic failure’ by 2020 – meaning anything from total loss of electricity and plumbing to a massively destructive fire, endangering the many thousands of visitors and staff who work in Westminster. I voted for the comprehensive option put down my by colleague Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee – leaving altogether in order to allow the work to be done more quickly and properly, without the delays and expensive of ‘working around’ MPs. This is not just the safest option in my view, but the cheapest as well.
- Parliament will break for a short half term recess later this week and because I will be with the International Trade Select Committee seeing exactly how customs facilities work on the Canadian border with the USA and then visiting Washington DC to explore the pros and cons of an American trade deal with the UK, these MP Update emails will resume after Parliament returns later in February. In the meantime, please contact me at email@example.com if there are any issues you want to flag up with me.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
On Friday I decided to visit Nottingham’s Crown Court to sit and watch cases in progress and see for myself how our justice system is working locally. The courts have public galleries where any citizen can attend and if you’re interested in the law then I’d suggest you consider popping in to observe a trial yourself some time. Our local courts – including the magistrates and county courts for civil cases – bear a considerable workload on their shoulders. I was struck by how basic and functional the court facilities are, where it’s clear there isn’t a lavish budget any longer.
Having been called up for jury service in the past (and I am due to serve again on a jury later this year), I know that for some people it is difficult to take off the weeks necessary to fulfil this civic duty. But the jury system really is the only feasible way to ensure that society can fairly absorb both sides of any accusation and come to as close to an ‘objective’ decision as possible. The judges and legal teams in the cases I watched this week were incredibly professional – and although the wigs and gowns may be a bit anachronistic – actually I was struck by the respect and esteem in which those prosecuting cases and arguing for defence are held.
I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the state of our criminal justice system in Nottinghamshire. Do you think that the courts are processing cases adequately? Are the police providing the Crown Prosecution Service with the full cases to see that justice is done? Are the CPS pursuing cases in the right way? I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East