MP Update No.308 – Brexit latest as Parliament goes into recess; Nottingham College; Intu shopping centres update; regional rail investment; local priorities

CORRECTION: The mobility pass scheme refereed to in the Nottingham News section is a Nottingham City Council scheme and they have made the decision to cut it back not Nottingham City Transport as initially stated 

 

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 27th July 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Parliament has now adjourned for the summer recess – and as usual my ‘MP Update’ emails will resume when the Commons returns in September. Frankly there is a case for Parliament to stay in session, because I cannot recall a more turbulent and crucial few months in British politics, where the path the country will take on Brexit is still so unclear.

With knife-edge numbers between a ‘safety net’ Brexit and a hard ‘crashing out’ Brexit in the Commons, I’ve been working as hard as I can to broker a majority cross-party coalition for a sensible way forward. The Prime Minister is deluded if she thinks her ‘Chequers Plan’ will produce consensus with the EU, when she couldn’t even get consensus in her Cabinet never mind the UK Parliament. It falls far short of the protections we need to avoid a hard border in Ireland and the access to markets especially for 80% of our trade which is in the services sector.

Yesterday the EU’s negotiator Michel Barnier made it quite plain that the notion of 27 other countries collecting Britain’s tariffs would not work and nor could it be viable for the EU countries to outsource tax and tariff collection to the UK. In quietly killing off the Chequers Facilitated Customs Arrangement he said: “The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules and VAT and excise duty collection to a non-member.” So the Chequers proposals are going nowhere.

This leaves the ball firmly back in Britain’s court. It’s plain to me this means that Parliament will have to take charge and vote to mandate the Prime Minister to stay in a Customs Union. We only lost that vote by six last week and by September / October I think the mood will have shifted sufficiently for the Commons and Lords to have a majority in favour, possibly also for an EFTA/EEA Single Market option too. All this is, of course, predicated on persuading Labour’s leadership to back what is quite evidently in Britain’s best economic interests. With Ministers openly planning for the stockpiling of food and medicines in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’ – but the supermarkets saying they’ve had no contact from government yet! – surely common sense will kick in? I won’t stop making this case.

I hope you have a pleasant August and as always if you have issues you’d like my help or assistance with do email me, write to my office at 12 Regent Street Nottingham NG1 5BQ or telephone 0115 956 9429.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Police officers were called to a report of a man suffering a gunshot injury to his leg in Lotus Close St Ann’s just after 5pm yesterday. The man was taken to hospital by ambulance but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. Police are urging anyone who witnessed the incident or has any information to call them on 101, quoting incident number 735 of 26 July 2018, or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
  • Last week Nottingham College released a statement seeking to explain the reasoning behind their closure of their Basford Campus nursery. In it they claim that the nursery was running at a loss, a claim which is disputed by those involved with the campaign to save the nursery. I hope to meet with the Nottingham College leadership team, alongside parliamentary colleagues, councillors and campaigners to directly voice my concerns about the closure of this important service – but also the wider strategy that they are pursuing on skills and further education which is of such critical importance especially to young people in Nottingham.
  • The company which owns the Broadmarsh and Victoria shopping centres has seen a significant fall in its share prices. Intu’s share price fell by 7.7% earlier this week as there was news that a proposed merger with rival shopping centre owner Hammerson had fallen through. Intu also recorded a £503m loss in the first six months of 2018 as opposed to a £122m profit in the same timeframe last year. The company’s chief executive David Fischel, who will shortly be standing down, pointed to ‘weakening sentiment in the retail market’ but claimed Intu had delivered a ‘resilient operational performance’. It is not clear whether any of these developments will impact on the regeneration plans in the city centre.
  • Due to pressures on its budget Nottingham City Council is cutting back its Mobility pass concessionary travel scheme. The changes mean that from Monday 3rd September 2018 travel before 09:30 on weekdays and after 23:00 on weekdays will no longer be free for cardholders. While this means that the Nottingham City Council scheme would be in line with the national statutory requirements, I have to say this is a sad change which is a step away from the greater mobility we ought to be encouraging in the 21st
  • An annual audit from KPMG has found that Nottinghamshire Police provides value for money, except for the forces involvement in the Multi Force Shared Service (MFSS) Fusion project. This project aimed create a new software system, to be shared amongst several police forces, which they could all use for payroll, HR and for planning rotas. The hope is that this shared service will help create efficiency savings in the future as the police force anticipates further restrictions to its budget. However the KPMG reports states the project is ‘late, over budget, not to specification, and would not deliver the expected savings’.
  • Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service has issued advice after this month has seen over a 600 per cent increase in grass and rubbish fires from the same time last year. NFRS’s crews have had to attend over 349 grass fires since the start of the month with many believed to have been set on purpose. Nottingham Fire and Rescue Service advises not drop cigarettes but to dispose of them properly, taking rubbish home or putting it in a nearby bin and not leaving glass bottles lying on the ground as sunlight shining on these can lead to a fire.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Tuesday I took part in a Commons debate called by my Nottingham North colleague Alex Norris on the topic of rail investment in the East Midlands. I’m afraid to say that our region does exceptionally badly when compared with the rest of the country in terms of public money for rail – with transport spending per person at a tiny £70 for the East Midlands compared to £773 per head in London! While the capital city is obviously going to need good rail connections, this disparity is in my view completely disproportionate. It’s about time we had a fairer share, but the Department for Transport Ministers have let us down time and again. For example, we were promised electrification (even in the 2015 Conservative manifesto!) but after the 2017 election this was put in the bin. Instead we have been offered ‘bi-mode’ trains for part-electric, part-diesel service, a technology that this time last year didn’t even exist. With the new trains out for franchise tender currently, we now have to fight to ensure the Midland Mainline arrangements are compatible with HS2 integration and can be connected to full electrical mode in the future.
  • During this prolonged spell of warm weather the level of rough sleeping in the city is more obvious for all to see – and it’s the case too in most other cities. On Monday I asked the Secretary of State for Communities, Housing & Local Government what action he was taking to address rough sleeping and homelessness. Specifically I pressed him to speak to the Health Secretary about the chronic reduction in mental health overnight beds available, given there are 6000 fewer than in 2010. I believe part of the solution to rough sleeping must be the provision of proper and consistent care tailored especially at those with mental illness, drug dependency and other vulnerabilities. Sadly I did not receive a reassuring answer from the Minister.
  • The Pakistan general election looks to have resulted in former cricketer Imran Khan taking over as Prime Minister, although there is still disputes and counter-claims about the fairness of the election process. Khan’s PTI Party will face immense challenges including tackling corruption, improving governance and an economy failing to generate sustainable revenues. His manifesto is a combination of a ‘war on patronage’ but also the creation of an Islamic welfare state with higher spending yet socially conservative policies including support of strict blasphemy laws. He will need to form a coalition with others to be able to govern and the support of the powerful army in the background will also play its part. My hope is that a new administration in Pakistan can find ways to reach a peaceful accommodation with India especially after the Indian general elections next Spring. The chances of this are always more likely after elections are out of the way – and the crucial issue of disputes around Kashmir depend largely on insightful leadership being settled in both Pakistan and India. As the chair of the UK all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir I will be doing what I can to encourage the demilitarisation of the region and a long term process for stability and democracy.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

I’d like to get your views this summer about the local priorities you would like to see developed in Nottingham. While many of these are decisions in the hands of locally elected councillors or other local public bodies rather than me as an MP, I’m eager to do what I can to press for improvements in our city that make the most difference to you. In the past year I’ve spent time supporting new housing provision especially for those with vulnerabilities, I’ve urged fairer funding for local schools and argued for environmental improvements including recreation facilities and better road, rail and public transport schemes. I have real worries about the pressures on our local GPs and the fact that Nottingham’s NHS has faced pressures throughout the year and not just in the colder winter months. The number of knife and gun incidents has also been concerning in the past year – and it is difficult to know whether this is related to the changing pattern of drug crime (also sadly evident in Nottingham Prison) or in part reflecting a thinly-stretched police force.

On the positive side, we do have a great deal to be proud of in Nottingham and a fantastic cultural calendar including Pride tomorrow, the Riverside Festival next week, outdoor theatre at Wollaton Hall, heritage open days in September and so much more. However, you’re spending this summer I hope that you get a welcome break and it’s always nice to get your views and hear your thoughts!

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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