NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Saturday 29th April 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)
The general election on June 8th may seem a long way off – but there’s a lot at stake. Theresa May clearly feels she is on course for a big win, but I hope that the country feels differently. Making sure Nottingham East has a strong local voice to champion the issues people care about is essential. If the Prime Minister is expecting a ‘blank cheque’ for a damaging Brexit or for their preferred changes to the NHS or schools, the British public may have other ideas.
Thankfully, in our Parliamentary system of democracy, voters choose a representative for a particular community – so the decisions made on our laws should reflect views from all corners of the country. So whatever the issues the media may think are ‘top of the news’ in Westminster aren’t always the questions we in Nottingham want as top of our agenda.
It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent Nottingham East, where this election could be the closest in decades. I’ve always tried to fight tooth and nail for our area and I hope that I will continue to have the chance to stand up for our community, jobs and public services.
- As part of a campaign to promote literacy and creativity it was great to support “Brilliant Books” yesterday, which is organised locally by Phil Pidluznyj with Lottery funding. Working in classrooms in local schools, the scheme is designed to bring in people from all walks of life to talk to children about how reading and books play a part in their work. It was great to visit Year 7s at the Nottingham Free School on Friday and read an extract for them (pictured below) – and they’ll also soon be visited by a Disney robot scientist to do the same, a professional footballer, community activist, writers, musicians, and Jon Collins reading Biggles! It’s a great scheme and congratulations to all involved!
- This week I was invited to speak to the quarterly business and economic review hosted by the East Midlands Chamber who represent companies across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. With a mix of firms from both manufacturing and service sectors, we focused on Brexit and the forthcoming legislation and policy issues of importance for local business.
- The Nottingham Orthopaedic Walk (NOW) is taking place on Sunday 11th June at Highfields Park & Boating Lake on the University Park Campus. NOW raises money for Orthopaedic Research and The East Midlands Major Trauma Centre. This one mile sponsored walk is suitable for all levels—you can walk just part of a mile, or can keep going further if you wish. The walk costs £10 for adults and is free for under 16s, and it’s completely free to come along and enjoy the stalls and activities! Other activities available at the event include face painting, refreshments and live music. More information about the event is available on the Nottingham Hospitals Charity website here.
- On Monday children from Our Lady & St Edward Primary Academy came all the way down to Parliament for a tour of the Palace of Westminster, including walking through the chamber of the House of Commons – and it was great to meet with them and sit down in the grand committee room of Westminster Hall and discuss how laws are made. They had set off at 6am by bus to get there, so I was very impressed with their stamina!
- If you’re a resident in Sherwood Ward, don’t forget the local city council by-election being held on Thursday 4th May next week – filling the vacancy created because sitting councillor Alex Ball has taken up a new job in Leeds. Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm and you don’t need your polling card in order to vote.
PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS
- On Monday, the Government was asked to make a statement on the publication date of its air quality strategy. In November 2016, the Government was told to strengthen its plans to tackle air pollution after a judicial review found its existing proposals to be “woefully inadequate” and unlawful. The Government accepted this judgement and was given a legal deadline to produce a new draft plan by Monday 24 April 2017 and a final one by 31 July 2017. However, last Friday the Government made a last-minute application to the court to delay publication until after the general election on 8 June 2017. On Thursday, the court ruled against the Government and it must now publish the draft strategy after the local elections on 4 May. I welcome the court’s decision on Thursday. Nearly 40 million people in the UK live in areas with illegal levels of air pollution. The situation has deteriorated under this Government, and the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee has warned that we are experiencing a public health emergency. Indeed, the NHS estimates that poor air quality contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year. There is now a case for a new Clean Air Act to deal with this problem.
- Now that the general election has been called, the legislation flowing from the spring Budget – the Finance Bill – has been rushed through the House of Commons for debate because of reduced Parliamentary time before the general election. Although I voted against the Bill at second reading it now has become law. I was particularly wary about the rise in insurance premium tax. It has already been doubled and the Bill raises it further. Had there been a longer process of scrutiny, I would have liked to see the Government challenged again on this measure. A large portion of the Bill relates to the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy. The Obesity Health Alliance has said that the levy could potentially save up to 144,000 adults and children from obesity every year.
- It’s a little known characteristic of our law-making process but when Parliament is ‘dissolved’ for an election, there cease to be any Members of Parliament – and this will be the case from the end of Tuesday 2nd This has a number of consequences. First, the remaining legislation has been rushed through and enacted in a ‘wash-up’ procedure usually by agreement between the frontbenches of each party. So the Digital Economy Bill, the Health Services Medical Supplies Bill, the Criminal Finances Bill and the Higher Education Bill have all now become law. But with no MPs in Parliament after 2nd May, Government Ministers will make day to day decisions without mirroring scrutiny – although by convention these are not supposed to be large policy decisions of great significance. As I will become a candidate I won’t have access to Parliament or be able to tackle individual cases in the same way. But please do keep in touch with me via my temporary campaign email email@example.com
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
This general election may have come as something of a surprise – particularly when Theresa May was so adamant it wasn’t going to happen – but the country will now decide who governs for the next five years.
So what will be the most important issues for you? I’ve been talking to hundreds of local residents since the election was called and lots of topics come up on the doorstep – including Brexit, the future of public services such as schools and hospitals, the needs of business and job creation locally, and sometimes very local issues such as on street car parking and litter.
It would be incredibly helpful to know what you are concerned about and what matters most. As I mentioned last week, when we get into the formal ‘short campaign’ election period I will be in touch with my campaign email firstname.lastname@example.org, so I hope we can keep in contact for the weeks ahead.