NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 13th July 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
A week is definitely a long time in politics. Theresa May must look back longingly to just last weekend when she thought she’d brought her Cabinet behind her ‘Chequers Agreement’ plan for Brexit. But it fell to pieces after 48 hours when hard Brexiteers David Davis and Boris Johnson threw their toys out of the pram in resignation. Their ideological attachment to a hard Brexit was never going to survive contact with economic – or parliamentary – reality. The Prime Minister should have forced them to confront this before triggering Article 50.
The truth was always that our trading future must be in a close partnership with our nearest European neighbours. Boris and David Davis have figured out that the Chequers Plan is not a ‘final offer’ but an opening gambit. And there are serious problems with the package the Prime Minister proposes. It seems to me that there are ten things to know about the Government’s proposals:
- The Chequers Plan would still be a hard Brexit that would damage our economy
- It won’t deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership
- It would be devastating for our services sector – totally neglected by the Government plan
- It would turn the UK into a rule taker
- The proposed customs system is unworkable
- It wouldn’t even deliver the Government’s promises about new trade deals
- Ending free movement would hurt our economy and young people’s life chances
- The white paper says nothing about the future of the NHS
- The proposals risk damaging our security
- There is no majority for this type of Brexit in the House of Commons
Today Donald Trump has pulled the rug from beneath the Prime Minister’s feet, saying that her Chequers plan may have killed off a chance of a US trade deal (which in reality was never very likely anyway). All the more reason to offer a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal so we can at least keep our European alliances on the table.
I hope that Labour will do the right thing for the country and put the principles of jobs, growth and the interests of future generations first, as I set out in my Evening Standard article this week here. With the Trade Bill & Customs Bill due for debate next week, MPs are going to have to avoid the temptation of short-term partisan tactics and seriously act in the national interest first and foremost.
- Nottingham’s criminal justice system depends on the consistent and dedicated work of those working in our courts, police, prosecutor services and prisons – and more besides. So it was a real insight to have the chance to visit the Bridewell custody facility next to the Magistrates Court on Thursday, where Inspector Tracey Lovegrove (pictured below) showed me how those arrested and awaiting trial are processed, charged and detained. The building is now showing some signs of age and there are plans to replace it with a newly built facility near Radford Road Police Station. Officers manage the facility and have to monitor those remanded in custody closely, taking account of health needs and self-harm risks. They had 26 prisoners in the facility when I visited but have space for up to 110 and sadly it can get very busy especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I want to pay tribute to the often unsung efforts of the officers working at the Bridewell who are in the frontline of making sure that evidence is collected effectively and our justice system can succeed.
- Nottingham City Council and Nottingham City Homes are undertaking works to connect four low-rise apartment blocks in Sneinton to the District Heating Network and make them more energy efficient. On Thursday I visited the site for myself to see how these measures will benefit residents. As part of the city’s Greener HousiNG programme, 94 households in Bryon, Keswick, Morley and Haywood Courts will also be receiving measures including external wall insulation, new roofs with solar systems and battery storage. The idea being to make the flats warmer whilst reducing bills and ensuring that the energy comes from low-carbon sources. These homes are the final scheme to be delivered as part of the EU funded REMOURBAN project which has benefitted 400 homes in Sneinton.
I also visited the homes that are part of a UK pilot by Nottingham City Homes to retrofit properties with wrap-around pre-fabricated wall and roof panels, using a ground-breaking approach called “Energiesprong”. The adaptations are intended to improve older houses using measures to save and generate energy, and they should dramatically reduce household energy bills and make homes warmer, while being near zero-energy. They finished results also look very fresh and attractive. You can find out more about this pioneering approach here : https://www.energiesprong.uk/projects/nottingham
- POW Nottingham is a peer-founded charity supporting individuals involved in or affected by sex work. I took time this week to visit the charity and hear for myself about the work they provide as a clinic for sexual health and drug dependency, and the help they give those affected with health information and outreach into the community. We have got to provide support to those who are caught in this trade, especially those exploited or drawn into what can often be a situation of modern slavery. If we fail to offer support and preventative intervention it not only has a human cost, but will end up costing the rest of the public services much more in the long run. Investing in these local community services saves cost and harm for the wider society.
- 87 percent of people in Nottinghamshire agreed with Nottinghamshire Police’s policy that misogyny should classified hate crime. These figures come from a survey commissioned by Nottingham Women’s Centre and funded by the Office for Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner. However the survey also showed that despite strong support for the policy amongst the public, misogyny hate crime is still highly prevalent but under-reported.
- The environmental measures adopted by Nottingham City Council means that it is now no longer considering the introduction of a Clean Air Zone. On Monday, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, Sally Longford told a full council meeting that new and existing environmental measures will reduce air pollution to below the legal levels. Cllr Longford said: ‘Results of air quality modelling showed these measures will have a significant effect in reducing emissions, bringing Nottingham into compliance by 2020. Although we considered a Class B Clean Air Zone – which would have affected HGVs, buses and taxis – the actions we’re taking will have a positive impact across the whole city, rather than just in one area.’
- Domestic and General have announced that they will be creating another 70 jobs in Nottingham in the next six months. The company which insures, services and repairs over 5000 household appliances already has a large presence in Nottingham East. The news jobs, which will be a mix of full and part-time roles, form part of a plan by the company to make their Nottingham offices a central part of their international business. Jo Hale, the company’s Client Contact Director, said ‘We are really pumping money into Nottingham and wanted to make Notts a flagship for us’.
NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- England’s loss in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia was a disappointment to the millions watching the match across the country, but there was nevertheless a massive sense of collective pride in the teamwork, dedication and achievement at getting as far as we did. Gareth Southgate has been an impressive, calm and grown-up leader and the jokes about him taking over running the country began to look quite appealing at various points this week! We did have some trouble in the city centre earlier in the week after the match against Sweden when a taxi was attacked – but the Police have responded well and I’m glad that the vast majority of people have been enjoying the World Cup and reflecting the respect and honour which this young set of England players has come to represent.
- Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, appeared before my Trade Select Committee this week for questioning. He was clearly uncomfortable defending the Prime Minister’s Chequers Plan and was so half-hearted that I wondered whether he would also resign half way through the committee hearing. I wanted to press him in particular on the concept of a ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ which in no way can substitute for the Customs Union. It doesn’t have any precedent anywhere in the world, and may possibly be illegal under WTO rules. See a clip from the session at the link here.
- The peace deal on the horn of Africa between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been little reported but is actually a major achievement this week that deserves recognition. The conflict has seen tens of thousands of deaths in the past two years but it has been brought to an end by some patient work in a border commission to resolve disputed territorial issues. The arrival of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopian Prime Minister has evidently helped end the 20 year long dispute. I hope that the international community will help support and encourage any settlement that endures.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Donald Trump’s visit to the UK this week has unsurprisingly grabbed the headlines; his brash and arrogant approach representing a serious threat to the rules-based international institutions such as NATO and the World Trade Organisation. The many protests occurring across the country are a testament to how many people are concerned at the lurch to the right-wing and protectionist attitudes he represents. I’d be interested to know your views on this Trump visit. Do you feel that Parliament should have resisted this visit, or do we have to accept that – as the President of one of Britain’s closest allies – we have a responsibility to engage in dialogue? Is the reputation of the United States as a whole tarnished by Trump or should we distinguish between Trump’s administration and the (often exasperated) other elected representatives and general American public? I hope that Theresa May is forthright in expressing her opposition to his attitude towards migrants, women, child refugees and on many many other matters. But I fear she will hold back her criticisms for fear of offending such a thin-skinned bully.
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East