MP Update – 13th January

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 13th January 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Happy New Year! Parliament got back to business this week and the spotlight fell quickly on the crisis in the NHS, where performance standards have been under real strain. One in four patients at Nottingham’s QMC Emergency Department – that’s over 3500 residents – were waiting more than four hours for treatment, according to the latest figures for November – delays that were even worse over the Christmas period. With a cold snap on the horizon, I’m really worried about the backlog for urgent care that could build up very quickly. This isn’t a one-off problem; ever since the Conservative Government came to office in 2010, waiting times have got worse each year (as the graph below illustrates).

So I’m campaigning now for extra capital resource to be fast-tracked for our local A&E to boost the capacity we need to treat this number of patients. That’s why in the Commons this week I urged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to announce this investment – and facilitate the decent and modern emergency service Nottingham needs, fit for the 21st century. We can’t go on like this any longer.

NUH ED chart

NOTTINGHAM

  • Thankfully we do have an expanded Urgent Care Centre just off London Road which is open between 7am and 9pm everyday for non-life threatening urgent medical issues. I was pleased to have the chance to look around their facilities earlier today, meeting the team (pictured below with their new x-ray equipment) and hearing about the full range of ‘walk-in’ services available, including emergency dental treatment. If you are finding it hard to get a GP appointment but don’t want to burden the Emergency Department at QMC, then do consider visiting the Urgent Care Centre.

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  • Meanwhile, it’s been announced this week that Peter Homa, the Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Dr Stephen Fowlie, Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive, will both be retiring later this year after a combined 70 years of service to the NHS. I want to thank them for the hard work they’ve done for the Trust over a number of years, and I wish them both the best for the future. I will continue to keep in close contact with the Trust to ensure that the handover process is a smooth one.
  • This week I met with local hotel owners to learn more about the British Hospitality Association who are campaigning for a reduction in VAT on tourism. The meeting was hosted by the Hilton Hotel on Milton Street, and it was good to be given a tour of the hotel and have the opportunity to meet staff working in the hospitality industry. We also discussed some other tourist development opportunities that might be good ideas for Nottingham – and the prospects for the city following the Castle redevelopment.
  • You may remember that shortly before Christmas I met Marcellus Baz, who runs the Nottingham School of Boxing, which helps young people to move away from gangs and the cycle of crime. The school is now seeking to find a new permanent home after having to leave their previous premises. They are temporarily occupying the basement of the Pakistan Centre, but are looking to find funding to make a more permanent home. The school have set up a Crowdfunding page – if you’re interested in helping out you can visit the page here.
  • Next Friday 20th January a Jobs Fair is being held to advertise employment and volunteering opportunities in Nottingham. The event is being held at the Motorpoint Arena from 10am until 2pm, and is free to attend. A number of employers will be attending the event – if you’re interested in finding out more, you can view the Facebook event here.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Putting Boris Johnson in charge of negotiating Britain’s EU exit as Foreign Secretary is like putting Basil Fawlty in charge of the UK economy – it’s not going to be pretty. So it’s hardly surprising that Britain’s senior, professional civil servants are tearing their hair out about whether Ministers have any plan about what they intend to do. The resignation of Britain’s Ambassador to the European Union last week gave an astonishing insight into just how unprepared the Government are, which is why at Foreign Office Questions in the Commons I asked Boris whether he’ll be telling the new Ambassador about the Government’s ‘negotiating objectives’, which Sir Ivan Rogers famously confessed to knowing nothing about. There’s only so long that Ministers can hide behind the fig leaf remark “we’re not giving a running commentary”, which increasingly sounds like code for “we haven’t got the foggiest clue”. It’s time the Government shared their plan for what will happen when we leave the EU. Britain’s relationship with our biggest trading partner is too serious to be left in the hands of comedians.
  • Before the Commons returned, I had the opportunity to visit Palestine and Israel to see for myself some of the long-standing issues in the Middle East. I visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, met with the Palestinian Education Minister in Ramallah and with the Israeli Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog in the Knesset, as well as visiting a Kibbutz near the border with Gaza. I was struck by the close proximity between the contested neighbourhoods surrounding Jerusalem and the West Bank looking towards Jordan – and the arguments on both sides of the debate, which are far from black and white. I still believe a two state solution has to be the way forward and that a wider regional approach to achieving peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians may offer one way through the deadlock.
  • On Tuesday, the Policing and Crime Bill returned to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments made in the House of Lords. This Bill covers a wide range of subjects and Tuesday’s session focussed on a number of issues. Firstly, I voted to keep an amendment to the Bill which would have required the Government to commission an independent inquiry into the relationship between the police and newspaper organisations, similar in scope to the proposed second part of the Leveson Inquiry. This was originally agreed in 2012, but there are real doubts emerging about the Government’s commitment to this. Unfortunately, the Government rejected the amendment and it was defeated. I also voted to keep amendments which would have established a principle of parity of legal funding for bereaved families at inquests involving the police. Unfortunately, the Government did not support this amendment and it was removed from the Bill. The issue of unequal funding at inquests was highlighted by the Hillsborough hearings and I believe the Government should have accepted this amendment. The Government also removed from the Bill a number of amendments designed to improve the way in which the criminal justice system interacts with victims of crime. I supported an amendment added to the Bill in the Lords which proposed to increase the maximum penalty for those found guilty of stalking from five to ten years. As many as one in five women and one in ten men will be stalked at some point in their lives, according to Home Office data. Stalking destroys lives and violates individual privacy. It causes fear and is too often a precursor to violent confrontation. I am therefore pleased that the Government accepted this proposal. While sentencing guidelines and specific sentences are the responsibility of the Sentencing Council and judges respectively, extending the maximum penalty will allow for greater flexibility in the most serious cases and make it clear that stalking is a serious offence. The Bill will now return to the House of Lords for further consideration.
  • On Monday, the Government was called to respond to a question from Peter Kyle MP about the emergency review to determine how to ban perpetrators of domestic violence from directly cross-examining their victims within the family court. This is an issue which has been raised repeatedly in Parliament and in the media. It is important that the Government considers the practice in the criminal courts, where cross-examination by an unrepresented party accused of domestic violence is not allowed. As well as prohibiting cross-examination, I believe the Government should also consider the greater use of more sensitive procedures to safeguard the victims of domestic abuse in family courts. The Government stated on Monday that it has requested urgent advice on how to put an end to this practice. I welcome that the Government is doing something to end this situation.
  • On Monday, the Commons considered the Technical and Further Education Bill. The Bill proposes to rename the Institute for Apprenticeships the “Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education” and to extend its remit. It also proposes to create an insolvency framework for the further education sector. I believe that further education plays a vital role in giving young people the skills they need, and supporting older learners into retraining and learning new skills. I believe the proposals in the Bill establishing an insolvency framework for further education (FE) and sixth form colleges are necessary. However, this is only the case because of repeated Government failure in this sector. I am also concerned that the Bill does not prevent assets of insolvent colleges that were paid for with public funds from being transferred to private companies. I supported an amendment that would have ensured that colleges with a track record of accruing assets publicly could not be transferred to a for-profit private company. Unfortunately, the Government opposed the amendment and it was defeated.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

With the debate about police and crime management recently in the City, it was instructive and timely to visit the new Central Police Station at Byron House in the city centre earlier today, where I met Acting Chief Constable Sue Fish and Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping. They have rearranged the teams working on crime reduction, now co-locating with staff from the city council, social services, environmental health and community protection officers. This co-location is an essential step forward in removing some of the bureaucratic barriers between the agencies involved in fighting crime, and so it was really good to hear some of the progress they have been making.

I’d be interested to know whether you’ve experienced any issues with police responsiveness recently – and whether you think that the management of the criminal justice system generally in Nottingham is coping well, or needs to improve.

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MP Update – 19th December

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – 19th December 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Every year before Christmas, Ministers announce how much grant they are going to allocate from the central government Treasury in order to part fund local council services (including schools, social housing, waste collection and social services). This year’s ‘Local Government Finance Settlement’ has been another step away from the funding councils used to receive – making them more reliant on council tax, which of course is easier for wealthier communities to raise and harder in poorer towns and cities. The pace of government cuts has been rapid and deep in recent years. This has hit the quality of social care (both care of children in need and in particular the vulnerable elderly population) and there is now widespread agreement that the system is at breaking point.

The Government have responded in a piecemeal fashion, shuffling £240 million from the New Homes Bonus to fund adult social care and barely making a dent in the funding gap, which is predicted to be at least £2.6 billion by 2020. Nor does it compensate for the £4.6 billion which has already been cut from adult social care since 2010.

The council tax precept has already proven to be an inadequate and short-term sticking plaster for a problem which needs long-term answers. This will simply not meet existing need. Shifting the burden on to council tax payers creates a postcode lottery in social care services. Nottingham City Council is the provider of many crucial facilities including the social care lifeline for lots of elderly people in our city – and I have a great deal of sympathy for our elected local councillors who now face an invidious task trying to prioritise services by which should receive more or less of a cut.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Police are reassuring Sneinton residents following two knife-related murders last weekend. These are both shocking incidents and I am in contact with the Police who are updating the community on the progress of the investigation. Chief Inspector Mark Stanley, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “The murders are not believed to be linked and we’re treating them as separate incidents”. However, I am glad that the police have increased visible patrols in the area to reassure the local community. I understand 19 year-old man has been charged in relation to the first incident. My thoughts are with the family and friends of both victims.
  • On Friday I visited the Switch Up Project run by Marcellus Baz, which aims to steer young people away from crime and gang-criminality. I went to a youth boxing session in St Ann’s, where I got to see first-hand the work the project is doing to help young people. It was also announced on Sunday that Marcellus Baz has won the Get Inspired Unsung Hero award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards in acknowledgement of his work. Switch Up work closely with the Police, Social Services and other authorities, and run knife awareness sessions in schools and the community. In light of the recent knife-related incidents in Sneinton, it is especially important that projects like this carry on their important work with young people at risk of turning to crime.
  • On Friday I paid a visit to the New Art Exchange to view the digital display of the winners of my Christmas picture competition. Hopefully you will have received my e-card this week, and I’m sure you will agree that there were some great entries. Thanks again to Skinder and the team at NAE for helping me to judge the competition once again.

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  • The new Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police has been confirmed following a recommendation by Police & Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping. The new Chief Constable will be Craig Guildford, currently Deputy Chief Constable of Gwent Police, and he will take up the post early in the New Year.
  • Nottingham City Transport are planning to make it easier for passengers to pay their fares without the need for cash by using their smartphones. Through the NCT smartphone app, passengers will now be able to buy tickets on their phone via Apple Pay or debit/credit card, then will simply need to show their mobile ticket to the driver to travel. You can find out more information about the changes on NCT’s website here.
  • It has been announced that Nottingham businessman Alan Hardy has agreed to buy Notts County Football Club. There have been discussions with a number of potential buyers in recent months, but I’m glad that a local owner has been found for the oldest football league club which will hopefully bring an end to a period of uncertainty for fans.
  • News came this week that Mapperley Park Medical Centre is to reopen following a period of temporary closure to allow the practice to address concerns raised by the CQC. It has now been decided that the practice has made sufficient progress to allow it to reopen from 19th December. Patients who have registered at alternative local practices as a temporary patient and wish to re-register at Mapperley Park will need to do so on or after 3rd January 2017. For information, advice and guidance about registering with a local GP, patients can contact the CCG’s Patient Experience Team on 0115 883 9570 or email patientexperienceteam@nottinghamcity.nhs.uk. I am pleased that the practice has rectified issues to the satisfaction of the CQC – from the contact I have received from constituents it is obvious that Dr Stevens is a popular GP.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Tuesday last week, there was an emergency debate in the House of Commons to consider international action to protect civilians in Aleppo and across Syria. The worst predictions made in the previous emergency debate on Aleppo just over two months ago have now happened. The bombing continued, with thousands of civilians trapped, desperately short of food, water, medical supplies and shelter. I condemn Russia and the Assad regime for their actions in eastern Aleppo and we must ensure that they are held to account for them. The last UN humanitarian aid convoy entered eastern Aleppo on 7 July and the last food rations were handed out on 10 November. It is vital that humanitarian aid reaches the citizens still in eastern Aleppo. The Foreign Secretary stated on Tuesday that airdrops of humanitarian aid posed “too great a risk.” However, if Russia and the Assad regime continue to block road convoys, the Government must tell us what the alternative is. This has been a global collective failure and inaction is simply not an option. This is a desperately dark time for the people of Aleppo, and one of shame and disgrace for those who have perpetrated this vicious assault.
  • On Monday last week, the House of Commons debated a Bill which will introduce the new Lifetime ISA and the ‘Help to Save’ scheme. The Lifetime ISA would be available to people aged between 18 and 40 from April 2017. Individuals would be able to save up to £4,000 each year and receive a Government bonus of 25%. The money could be used to buy a first home or withdrawn after the age of 60. While I support the idea of incentivising people to save for the future, especially for retirement income, I am concerned that the Lifetime ISA scheme could create a diversion from saving in traditional pensions. The new Help to Save accounts would be for people in receipt of Universal Credit with minimum weekly household earnings equivalent to 16 hours at the National Living Wage, or those in receipt of Working Tax Credit. They would work by providing a bonus on up to £50 of monthly savings. Of course the main problem is that the majority of people on low incomes are not in a position to save, so whether this Government initiative makes much progress I have some doubts.
  • On Tuesday last week, the House of Commons considered the Neighbourhood Planning Bill, which aims to identify and free up more land to build homes on and to speed up the delivery of new homes. I welcome measures in the Bill to further strengthen neighbourhood planning, as well as changes to local plan-making to enable planning to take place across more than one local authority. However, I believe the Bill contains missed opportunities to increase the number and quality of houses built. Given the scale of the housing crisis, any measures that will deliver new housing are welcome. However, I believe it is important that the Government recognises how important the planning system is in delivering developments that are well planned, in the right place and supported by the infrastructure they need. People must be at the heart of planning so communities can feel ownership of new developments in their area. The Bill passed Third Reading without a vote and will now proceed to the House of Lords.
  • This afternoon the Government gave a statement in the House of Commons about the conflict in Yemen. The efforts to restore the legitimate Government in Yemen in accordance with the UN resolution and make progress on peace talks have been hampered by ongoing conflict, which has worsened recently. Britain has a potentially crucial role as an ‘honest broker’ in helping the dialogue between the parties in this conflict and I understand that the UN Security Council is waiting for the UK to present a proposed resolution to effect a ceasefire. An immediate ceasefire has to be the priority and I hope that the British Government can focus on achieving this – this is crucial for getting humanitarian aid in. In the meantime, allegations of breaches in humanitarian law by the Saudi government must be taken seriously and have to be thoroughly investigated especially if UK arms exports may be implicated. The news that Saudia Arabia have said they will cease the use of munitions originally exported from the UK in the 1980s is a step in the right direction although their use is, of course, very worrying – and of course they should sign up to the Anti-Cluster Munitions Treaty immediately.
  • Friday private members’ Bill sessions are often dispiriting because, without the allocation of official ‘government time’ on the floor of the Commons, these proposals from individual MPs stand very little chance of becoming law. Nevertheless, I was pleased that on Friday a private members’ Bill advocating the ratification of the Istanbul Convention got through one symbolic hurdle. This convention is a historic international treaty that requires states to take comprehensive action, set out minimum standards and create legally binding measures to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls. Domestic abuse remains at endemic levels in the UK. Between 2009 and 2014, domestic violence and violence against women has increased rapidly, pushing up overall levels of violent crime. Crucially, the Convention gives all survivors of domestic abuse the right to access the specialist support services which they need to live in safety and rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, since 2010, 17% of specialist refuges in England have closed down. On one typical day, Women’s Aid claim that 155 women and 103 children are turned away from refuges because there was not enough space. I hope that the Government will take urgent action to tackle domestic abuse and violence against women and girls and ratifying the Istanbul Convention would demonstrate a clear commitment to this goal.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

2016 has been a turbulent year in politics – and the Brexit vote for Britain to leave the EU must surely be the most significant event. However you voted, I think it’s vital we get the best deal possible to protect jobs and your income, and it will continue to dominate the headlines in 2017.

Parliament is now going into recess for the Christmas break (and normal service from these MP Updates will resume in January when the Commons returns).

But earlier today I challenged Prime Minister Theresa May in the Commons about the ‘cliff edge’ risks that exist for many businesses in April 2019 – and that it would be sensible to negotiate a transitional arrangement to extend beyond that deadline. These are difficult negotiations, but we have to start planning now otherwise lots of firms may think it more sensible to move business abroad, which would be really damaging. I made further comments on the BBC last week – see the link here.

It looks like the ‘Article 50 Bill’ will be the main event piece of legislation in January / February, so if you have any ideas for amendments that should be tabled, reassurances sought, or issues raised with Ministers, please do drop me an email – I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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MP Update – 9th December

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – 9th December 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

This week I decided to vote against the Conservative Government’s 31st March timetable for triggering Brexit.

I do not believe it is sensible to rush unprepared into this crucial negotiation, before we know who in Germany & France we will be negotiating with. While we do have to respect the outcome of the referendum to leave the EU, the UK risks getting a worse deal if our two year Article 50 ‘notice period’ is in reality truncated to just 12 months. This is because, on the one hand, the German elections are not settled until next Autumn, and on the other, the EU are insisting that everything must be wrapped up by October 2018.

This is a timetable that puts our country at a big disadvantage. I worry that the EU negotiators will now simply be able to run the clock down and back the UK into a corner giving us little room for manoeuvre. Ministers obviously have no plan yet for how to proceed – so triggering in just 16 weeks’ time is premature and by no means the ideal conditions for us to get the best deal for Britain.

Ministers should have used the triggering of Article 50 to extract guarantees from the EU about a smoother transitional process and demands talks about our future trading relationship in parallel with the talks about the ‘divorce’ process. But instead they’ve given away this crucial leverage in exchange for no concessions at all. Suffice to say, I am not impressed with the Government’s approach to these negotiations so far.

A ‘hard’ Brexit where Britain drops over the cliff edge in April 2019 will hit local businesses and residents hard. So I will instead continue to do my best to argue for a level-headed and prudent Brexit preserving the benefits of full access to the single market, while respecting the referendum result to formally leave the European Union. I believe that the 57% of local residents in Nottingham East who voted to ‘remain’ would at the very least expect me to fight to salvage as many of these benefits as possible.

NOTTINGHAM

  • You may have heard recently about funding cuts to community pharmacy budgets, which are due to be slashed by almost 7% over the next two years. So earlier today I visited a community pharmacy to find out about the vital work they do in helping to support our healthcare services. Nick Hunter from the Nottinghamshire Local Pharmaceutical Committee took me to the Well Pharmacy at the St Ann’s Valley Centre to see behind the scenes of a local pharmacy, and I also met with Nitin Lakhani, a Pharmacist Independent Prescriber working within Wellspring Surgery. It’s vital to support our local pharmacies, as they can really take the strain off GP services for people suffering from minor ailments.
  • The Lambley Almhouses on Woodborough Road have this week been awarded a commendation by the Nottingham Civic Society. The almhouses were built in 1897 to provide a home for older people facing financial hardship, but had fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years. The almhouses have now been extensively renovated by Nottingham Community Housing Association, and the Nottingham Civic Society award is in recognition of this work to preserve a historic building. NCHA plan to use the flats for their original intended purpose – new residents will be expected to be ‘persons who are in need, hardship or distress; and are or have been resident in the area of benefit’, and preference will be given to people over the age of 50.
  • On Friday I had the great pleasure of opening Stonebridge City Farm’s Santa’s Grotto! The Grotto will be open up 10am-3pm every day until Christmas – it costs 50p to visit Santa without a present, or £2 with a present. You can also visit the rest of the farm and meet the animals for free every day except Christmas Day – visit their website for details.
  • This week I presented the prize to the winner of my 2016 Christmas Picture Competition (and I’ll be sending out my e-card later this week with the winning pictures!). The winning design this year came from Haleluya Yonas from Our Lady & St Edward Academy in St Ann’s (pictured below with other runner-up winners from the school). Haleluya won some Love2Shop vouchers kindly donated by Experian. Thank you to all of the schools who took part this year, as well as the many companies who generously donated prizes for the children – and the New Art Exchange team for helping with the judging process.

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PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Tuesday, the Government was asked to make a statement on rail infrastructure. This followed the Government’s announcement that it plans for rail franchises to be run by joint management teams including representatives from both train operating companies and Network Rail, which manages the tracks. The Government expects the Southeastern and East Midlands franchises to be the first to be run under the new arrangements. Some rail experts have raised concerns about inviting private train companies to take responsibility for safety-critical repairs and maintenance, a situation which led to the creation of Network Rail in the first place. I am very wary of returning to circumstances where private interests cloud the management judgement of a service that needs to be passenger and safety focused. However, I am also aware that the separation of track management and train management isn’t always brilliant. For instance, in Japan the combined operation or track and train has resulted in far more efficient delivery of major rail improvements. So I will monitor closely the Government’s plans here – and do so with a sceptical eye.
  • On Monday, the House of Commons considered the Children and Social Work Bill, which proposes reforms across the children’s social care system. The challenges facing children in care today are significant, and I applaud the great work that is done on the ground every day by many public sector workers and welcome any attempt to improve the lives of young people. However, I am concerned about the impact that cuts are having on our most vulnerable children and families and I believe this Bill lacks the bigger ambition to have the meaningful impact that is needed. The first part of the Bill includes a set of “corporate parenting” principles intended to help a local authority to think and act in the interests of the children in their care. It also creates a requirement that local authorities provide access to information about the services available to care leavers through a “local offer”. I welcome these steps towards helping young people in care and leaving care, but they need to be properly resourced. The Bill establishes a new regulator, Social Work England. I welcome that when the Bill was considered by the House of Lords plans to place regulatory control with the Secretary of State were defeated. However, the Government had a number of questions to answer on Monday about how the new regulator will work in practice. The Government’s plans for the outsourcing and privatisation of children’s services were also defeated when the Bill was in the Lords. It will be important that as the Bill progresses through Parliament the Government is reminded that privatisation and micromanagement are not the answer to every problem. Though there are parts of this Bill that I can support, I have concerns about others and I will follow its progress closely.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

During the week the Emergency Department at QMC has had to issue its second ‘black alert’ this winter, due to an unprecedented number of ambulances arriving at the hospital. The ‘black alert’ means there are no available beds, and there will be long waits to be seen at the Emergency Department. Although the condition at the Emergency Department has been now downgrade to ‘red alert’, the hospital are still urging people only to attend in a real emergency and to consider using other services as appropriate, such as the Urgent Care Centre (next to the BBC building), which is open 7am-9pm and able to deal with non-life threatening injuries and health issues, GP practices and pharmacies.

I’d be interested to know of any experiences you have had recently with our local NHS. Have you experienced longer waits or difficulties getting in to see a GP? Have you tried to use the NHS 111 service for advice?

I am keen to work with our local hospital to find solutions – including campaigning for more resources to build GP advice surgery access around the Emergency Department itself, to take some of the pressure off the accident and emergency acute service.

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MP Update – 2nd December

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 2nd December 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The privatised outsourcing of cleaning, catering and maintenance services at Nottingham hospitals finally looks like it is about to collapse. A statement from the hospital management earlier this week was a coded admission that Carillion clearly can’t cope and the hospital intends to go back to square one, with further details being released by the Trust board in January.

The Carillion contract, which was placed only recently in 2014 for £200m of services, was in my view always on dubious foundations, driven more by government cost saving pressures rather than patient needs. Whether the Trust bring services back in-house, or find an alternative contractor is as yet unclear, but the wasted admin costs involved concerns me, and I’m not convinced that the right resource allocation will necessarily be made to fix these problems for the longer term.

My priority will be asking that the successor to Carillion provides higher quality services across the hospital estate and facilities and takes great care for the 1500 staff working in these frontline roles. Personally I think it would be far better if the work was brought back ‘in-house’ but this must be done with an eye to the budget available, because thin resources will end up hitting patient care whether the provision is managed in the public or private sectors.

NOTTINGHAM

  • On Friday I chaired a roundtable discussion with representatives from the city council and other public service organisations about the Roma Communities in Nottingham. The meeting was well attended by representatives from including the local authority, police, advice centres and schools. A number of issues were discussed including ways to overcome mistrust of authorities among the Roma Communities and ensure families enrol their children at school at the right age (as it is typical for children to start school later in the Eastern European countries from which they have migrated). It is vital to recognise that the Roma Communities in Nottingham are not a single homogenous group, and that there are communities from a number of different countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania, who can all speak different languages. This can make reaching out more challenging for authorities and organisations working with them. I look forward to following developments on this issue.
  • The outgoing head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has released his final Ofsted Annual Report this week describing education standards in the East Midlands as ‘pitifully low’. He has described a widening gap in school standards between the South and the North and Midlands. While this is a worrying picture regionally, there has been an improvement in standards at Nottingham city schools in recent years, with 9% more primary school pupils and 18% more secondary school pupils attending good or outstanding schools than in 2012. If you’re interesting in reading the report, you can do so online here.
  • Earlier this week I addressed an East Midlands Chamber event in Westminster to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of business and the economy in the region. There are lots of aspects of the East Midlands that are attractive to businesses, including our central location, good rail and road links, and available land for future development. However, in a lot of ways the East Midlands is being left behind by the Government: the region has low spending per head on public transport, housing is unaffordable for many and in short supply, and there is a skills shortage in many industries. I am glad that the East Midlands Chamber aims to work constructively with decision makers to boost regional growth and investment for the region – but we have far more to do to bring this idea of a ‘Midlands Engine’ to life.

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  • Nottingham City Transport has just been awarded Top City Operator and UK Bus Operator of the Year at the UK Bus Awards. NCT are the first company to win UK Bus Operator of the Year four times (having previously won in 2004, 2012 and 2014), showing once again that Nottingham is leading the way when it comes to public transport.
  • Nottingham City Homes held their Best Garden Awards 2016 this week. The awards have been taking place for more than 80 years to celebrate the pride people take in their gardens on Nottingham City Homes estates. The winners included Mervyn Jones from St Ann’s, who won the Mapperley, St Ann’s, Colwick and Sneinton area category, and Sneinton C of E Primary School won the Best School Garden category. Congratulations to all of the winners.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday my colleague Alison McGovern MP secured an Urgent Question in the Commons Chamber to Foreign Office Ministers regarding the humanitarian situation in Aleppo. There is no more urgent situation right now than the entirely preventable humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Aleppo in Syria, where 275,000 civilians are facing imminent starvation. Food supplies have been exhausted and there are currently no functioning hospitals to handle the mounting civilian casualties. Since Syrian & Russian attacks resumed two weeks ago, hundreds have been killed and thousands more have been forced to flee. The Government states that addressing the dire situation in eastern Aleppo is a priority. It spoke earlier this year of airdrops as a last resort to relieve human suffering in besieged areas. I believe we have now reached the point of last resort and the Government should take urgent steps to agree a plan for airdrops by British planes with the UN and our international partners. I do not underestimate the complexity and risks involved in this, but with thousands facing death if they do not get immediate supplies of food and medical equipment, I see little alternative.
  • On Monday, the House of Commons considered the Digital Economy Bill. While I support and welcome a number of measures in the Bill, I am concerned that it fails to address several important issues. I believe the Bill would be much stronger if it properly recognised the importance of the digital economy to the whole country. The Bill currently fails to take into account the pace of change in the development and use of new technology, and its central role in the way that work itself is changing for millions of people in the UK. A universal service obligation for broadband is welcome, but I’m concerned that it is happening far too slowly. I also support provisions in the Bill that aim to protect children. I supported an Opposition amendment that would have required schools to cover the risks and dangers of internet. Unfortunately, the Government opposed the amendment and it was defeated. Amendments relating to copyright, ticketing, broadcasting and subtitling, data and intellectual property were also discussed. In response to pressure from both inside and outside of Parliament, the Government stated that it would look into the best way to tackle the problem of online ticket touting – an issue which demands urgent action. The Bill passed Third Reading and will now proceed to the House of Lords. I hope that as it progresses the Government will clarify its thinking about the future of Channel 4, address questions around people’s rights over their own personal data, recognise the needs of those without basic digital skills and come forward with measures to secure the rights of more than 1 million workers in the digital economy.
  • Wednesday’s motion about the poorly planned rise in the state pension age for women allowed MPs to cross-examine the Government and urge them to work with the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) and WASPI Voice campaigns to explore transitional protection for the women affected. I believe that the Government has created the WASPI women’s plight through poor communication and mismanagement, and women all over the country are dreading the impact of its changes to the state pension age. We need fair transitional arrangements in place to support the most vulnerable, and plenty of options have been put forward that the Government has not properly considered.
  • On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made a statement announcing the publication of the Government’s Green Paper on corporate governance. The Government’s Green Paper considers three aspects. First, it asks for opinions on shareholder influence on executive pay, and in particular on strengthening shareholder voting, encouraging shareholder engagement and promoting greater transparency. Secondly, it asks about measures to increase the connection between boards of companies and their employees and customers. Thirdly, it asks whether some aspects of corporate governance for publicly listed companies should be extended to the largest privately held companies. Unfortunately, the Government has already rowed back on the Prime Minister’s plans to put workers on company boards.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

If you think elections and referendums here and in the USA have made 2016 a turbulent year, this weekend could easily take things to another level – with the referendum in Italy on their constitutional changes and a Presidential election in Austria.

If the Italian referendum is a ‘no’ vote then the existing Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has pledged to resign, potentially destabilising their governance and exposing the Italian banking system to speculation about its stability, which in turn could ripple across Europe. The re-running of the Austrian election could also see the far right Freedom Party succeed, which would be the first time since the second world war that a European country could see those with associations to neo-Nazis in office. Add into the mix the prospect of Marine Le Pen’s rise in France, and the situation is becoming quite alarming.

Some people ascribe these electoral results to a reaction against globalisation, whereas others point to the rise of nativist populism and racisms as a response to migration flows. I’d be interested in any observations you might have about this – and also about the result in the Richmond Park by-election closer to home where Zac Goldsmith was beaten by the LibDem candidate in what appears to be a Brexit-related expression of public opinion.

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MP Update – 25th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 25th November 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

On Wednesday the Chancellor delivered the Autumn Statement, which not surprisingly illustrated the looming impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union on public spending, borrowing and the economy. The Office for Budget Responsibility revealed this starkly in the very first paragraph of their report, when they say:

The Government is no longer on course to balance the budget during the current Parliament and has formally dropped this ambition…reflecting weak tax receipts so far this year and a more subdued outlook for economic growth as the UK negotiates a new relationship with the European Union

So over the years ahead, an extra £120billion of borrowing will be added to the national debt when compared with the March forecast – costing taxpayers more in debt servicing and extending a new period of ‘Brexit austerity’ for as far as the eye can see.

It’s why the cuts hitting local councils, transport and social care remain so great – and why the NHS won’t be getting the £350million a week so infamously pledged on the side of the big red bus containing Boris Johnson and the other ‘Leave’ campaigners five months ago.

The Treasury themselves admit on page 9 of the Autumn Statement Green Book that “the downward revision to the outlook for business investment has been more substantial.” In fact, it’s now reckoned to fall by 2.2% this year and fall again next year. This reflects the uncertainty and lack of clarity about whether our exporters can sell goods and services into other European countries tariff free, whether financial services will be even legal to trade at all into Europe after 2019, and whether we will have a chance of negotiating fresh trade agreements to replace our EU membership in time.

So while it is of course necessary for Philip Hammond to borrow for investing in infrastructure as he announced, his room for manoeuvre has been squeezed by the impact of Brexit uncertainty. The stealth tax rise for those with car insurance and other insurance policies will be marked, up from 5% in 2010 to now 12% – which will be a cost borne mostly by those who are just about managing.

Higher inflation next year will be a cost of living challenge to those on lower incomes especially, and the hit to growth – forecast to fall back to just 1.4% next year – will translate into lower wages than might otherwise be expected.

As I said on the BBC1 Question Time programme last night, austerity may be partly self-inflicted following the referendum, but a government clear on its plans and setting an optimistic destination to retain free-flowing trading access with our European partners could overcome this. But as things stand almost everything these Ministers now do – including tax and spending measures – fall under the shadow of their confused approach to Brexit. If they can’t get their act together soon, we must insist on a proper transitional arrangement to smooth the process of exiting the European Union, or delay the triggering of Article 50 until after the summer to give the country more space to get this process right.

NOTTINGHAM

Ø  The publication of our local NHS Plan for Nottinghamshire could be a worrying omen for some very difficult pressures to come over the next few years. At this stage, all the local NHS and social care providers have come together to answer the Government’s ‘challenge’ to find what they say are efficiency savings, to help the NHS cope with growing numbers and costs. So far it looks like they are planning to remove up to 200 in-patient beds in our hospitals – and also “significantly downsize City Hospital”, dispose of buildings and reduce space at the QMC too. So I want assurances that the quality and availability of care will improve and not diminish. I am worried that mental health services don’t seem to feature as highly in the Sustainability & Transformation Plan as I would expect. And I am concerned that the Government’s Autumn Statement did nothing for the additional resources we need for our NHS and social care services. That’s why I will be engaging with local service providers in detail on these plans as published – and it’s important that they are straight and direct with the public about what they really entail. Click here to see the plans.

Ø  Many people are naturally concerned about the City Council proposal affecting the Central Library. I’ve raised these concerns with councillors and they say a new facility (either on the same site or at a new location) will be funded from the redevelopment of the existing site, but I am concerned about what the council plans to do with the books and archived materials stored at Angel Row during the redevelopment. I will be pressing the council to make sure there are alternate provisions available and that there is no loss of service for city residents.

Ø  You may remember a few months I visited Nottingham Hospitals Charity and discussed their Helipad Appeal, which was aiming to raise funds for a helipad at QMC. It was announced in the Autumn Statement this week that Nottingham Hospitals Charity have been successful in their bid for £1.3 million of LIBOR-fine funding which, along with money already raised by the charity, means they have now secured the full funding commitment for the helipad. As the Major Trauma Centre for the East Midlands, QMC will benefit hugely from an onsite helipad, saving vital minutes for patients brought in by air ambulance.

Ø  It was good to catch up with Paul Roberts and Ian Burton this week from the Nottingham Music Service, who aim to provide high quality music making opportunities in Nottingham city. They told me about the Nottingham Music Service charity single, which was released on Thursday. The song, called ‘If Every Child Could’, features children and young people from 29 of the city’s schools, including Bluebell Hill, Djanogly Northgate, Haydn, Nottingham Free School, Our Lady & St Edward, Seely and St Ann’s Well schools from Nottingham East. You can watch the video for the single online here, and it would be great if you could support Nottingham Music Service by downloading the song (available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon).

Ø  Excellent news this week when it was announced that the Nottingham Castle redevelopment project has been awarded £13.9 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This goes a long way towards meeting the total £29.4 million cost of the project, which will include the creation of new galleries dedicated to Robin Hood and the story of rebellion in the city. There will also be work to refurbish and restore the gatehouse and caves, as well as a new visitor centre and adventure play area. I’m pleased that this funding has been granted, as it will do a great deal for tourism in the city.

Ø  There was an interesting article in today’s Financial Times mapping the changes in recent years to retail property values and rents across the country. The picture below shows how rent values in the southern part of Nottingham city centre have fallen and those in the northern area have risen since 2010. Making sure that business rates and premises are affordable for local shops is really important for ensuring we have a healthy, thriving shopping cluster in the city. The FT also pointed out the massive wealth disparity between Nottingham and London:

“The storefronts that lie between Old Bond Street and Savile Row in central London occupy a neighbourhood so compact that, if you tore it down, you would make way for nothing much bigger than an Ikea furniture store. Yet those 450 or so luxury boutiques and shops are more valuable than all the retail property in Nottingham – and the gap is widening.”

 ft-nottingham1

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

Ø  The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement was the main event in Parliament this week – and it was good to be able to press Philip Hammond about whether he and other Conservative Ministers would take responsibility for the massive additional debt burden now accumulating as a result of poor decisions, wrong priorities and their lack of plan for Brexit. My remarks in the Autumn Statement are at the link here

Ø  On Monday, the Home Secretary was asked an Urgent Question on the leadership, staffing, budget and structure of the independent inquiry into child abuse (IICSA). This followed the resignation of a number of senior lawyers from the IICSA and the withdrawal of a survivors’ group representing 600 victims. The IICSA was set up to look at the extent to which institutions in England and Wales failed to protect children from abuse, and currently has 13 strands of investigation. The Home Secretary did not respond to the Urgent Question herself on Monday. However, the Government stated that the chair of the inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, had instigated an internal review of the inquiry’s approach to its investigations. The Government expects the outcome of this review soon. This inquiry is on its fourth chair and while it is, of course, an independent inquiry, that does not mean the Home Office can take no responsibility at all.

Ø  On Monday, the House of Commons considered the Higher Education and Research Bill. I welcome recent concessions that the Government has made on the Bill. I support changes to allow proper student representation on a proposed new Office for Students (OfS) board and to give the OfS a duty to monitor the financial sustainability of higher education institutions. I also support the Government’s amendment to require that it consider members’ cross-UK experience in appointing a proposed new UK Research and Innovation board. Furthermore, I support the introduction of a transparency duty for university admissions and an alternative student finance model which avoids the use of interest. However, there remain substantial parts of the Bill that need radical improvement and I believe the Government’s changes to date have been too little, too late. The Bill introduces a teaching excellence framework (TEF) to measure teaching quality at universities, which will allow “high-performing” universities to raise tuition fees in line with inflation. I am concerned at the way in which the Government could use the TEF and do not support linking it with tuition fees. I am concerned that the best universities will become more expensive and less accessible, at a time when the proportion of low-income students at many top universities is already falling. I also think that the Government should reverse its decision to replace student maintenance grants with loans and to prevent unfair retrospective changes to student loan repayments.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How much do you pay for your home contents / buildings insurance? Is your car insurance expensive? Have you got pet insurance cover if you’re a cat or dog owner? The announcement this week that Insurance Premium Tax will rise to 12% is quite a ‘stealthy’ way for the Chancellor to take back some of his ‘giveaways’.

For example, the rise for the average motorist will be around £26 and for the average property insurance around £19, but probably much more for those with higher premiums like young people, elderly drivers, those living in high-crime areas.

I’d be interested if you’ve noticed insurance cost issues in recent years. Should the Government be discouraging people from insuring to protect themselves in this way? Or do you think it’s reasonable enough given that revenues have to be generated one way or the other?

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MP Update – 18th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 18th November 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

On Wednesday the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will be delivering his first ‘mini Budget’ – the Autumn Statement. This could have big implications for public services with news about spending on local councils, the NHS and much more. It could also give us an indication of what will be happening to the taxes you pay.

The signals from the Treasury are that there will be a mild infrastructure uplift and a new fiscal framework replacing the fixed deadline for deficit eradication with a more malleable set of objectives. The failure of the Conservatives to fulfil their goal on public borrowing and the national debt is significant. Yet as the personnel have changed and the conversation shifted to Brexit, somehow the Tories have evaded criticism for this. Brexit has made people appreciate the value of public investment as a tool for offsetting market uncertainty and the Chancellor would be wise to pause deficit reduction for the two year period of Article 50 negotiations, instead reallocating that £30billion to investment in housing, skills and even a stimulus for businesses and consumers.

But I would expect more of a ‘steady-as-she-goes’ approach from Hammond who, like Theresa May, will want a contrast with what he regards as the rather gaudy tradition of headline-grabbing initiatives and rabbits-out-of-hats which characterised the Osborne & Cameron Budget traditions.

The truth is, Phillip Hammond doesn’t really know yet how to handle this Brexit scenario. Leavers are arguing that everything is fine with the economy because – apart from a 17% currency depreciation – they say that the sky hasn’t fallen in. But that’s because we haven’t actually left the European Union yet. I believe that there are grounds for a pre-emptive fiscal stimulus to counteract the growing anxieties, uncertainties and postponed investments that accumulate month by month, especially in some of our core industrial and service sectors.

I’ve written more about expectations for the Autumn Statement in a new pamphlet launched earlier today by the SMF at the link here

NOTTINGHAM

  • Last week I popped in to see the team at the Acorn Resource Centre in the Mary Potter Centre, which provides day services for people with physical and sensory impairments.  I met staff and service users there to talk about their work and see how this centre provides valuable respite and social interaction for many people with disabilities. I’m pleased to see that the Centre has adjusted to their new space within the Mary Potter Centre following the introduction of the Library last year.
  • The Government confirmed this week that there will be a station at Toton as part of the HS2 rail station. Journey times from the new station into Nottingham are expected to be 12 minutes, and journeys from Toton to London will take 52 minutes. All of this is a long way off, as HS2 is not expected to be completed until around 2032-33, but I would be interested to know your thoughts on the decision to have the HS2 hub at Toton.
  • Fine Art graduate Jon Burgerman is to be named Nottingham Trent University’s Alumnus of the Year for 2016.  He graduated from the School of Art & Design in 2001 and his work is now exhibited internationally and features in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and Science Museum.
  • The phone number at my Nottingham office is currently out of service. Our phone provider is currently working to resolve the issue, but in the meantime if you call the main House of Commons switchboard on 0207 219 3000 and ask to be put through to my office, you will be transferred to the Nottingham office.
  • There’s plenty going on in Sneinton in the coming weeks, including craft workshops, Christmas parties, markets and ‘Santa’s Coming to Sneinton’, as part of their Christmas Fair. The Sneinton Christmas Fair is taking place on Wednesday 7th December from 4pm at St Christopher’s Church on Colwick Road, and will include a Santa’s Grotto, carols, free food and prizes.

santas-coming-to-sneinton

 

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Today I’m Parliament voting on a private member’s Bill by my colleague Pat Glass, who is arguing that there should still be 650 Members of Parliament when the constituency boundaries are redrawn – rather than a cut to just 600 MPs. If MPs are going to focus adequately on constituency casework, it’s vital we have the right ratio of representatives to the population, because otherwise it will be harder to respond to cases and issues effectively. As you will know, I am not in favour of the gerrymandering of constituencies by the current Government and we already have a large population in Nottingham not ‘counted’ on official registers; it is unfair if even more people are overlooked in our system for representing voices in Parliament.
  • On Monday the Commons debated the Technical and Further Education Bill. This legislation extends the role of ‘Institute for Apprenticeships’ and also establishes a legal insolvency framework for local colleges.
  • On Tuesday there was a debate on the remaining stages of the Charities and Childcare Payments Bill. This allowed for changes to government support on childcare regarding their tax-free allowance and the legislation also touched on gift aid for charities and community amateur sports clubs.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I spent the early part of this week visiting China with the all party China group – specifically the cities of Beijing and Wuhan in Hubei province – to see first-hand the development of their economy and consider how this will shape our lives in the century ahead. This is a vast and powerful nation, essentially operating a quasi-market economy but under the strict rule of the Communist Party. I met with officials from their Government and the National People’s Council and raised issues relating to human rights and the death penalty, as well as the risks from inadequately regulated financial expansion and debt.

I’d be interested any views or opinions you have about UK relations with China. Are we right to be so welcoming of Chinese investment in our key infrastructure? Do we have adequate reciprocity when it comes to trade and visas? Is Britain doing enough to maximise new opportunities? All views welcome.

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MP Update – 11th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 11th November 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The property billionaire and reality TV personality Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States, even though he didn’t win the popular vote. But the peculiarities of the US ‘electoral college’ saw him succeed in an extraordinary turn of events on Tuesday night, leaving many people across the world in a state of shock and concern about how unpredictable and radical his policies will be, especially with regards to Mexicans and Muslims. I am also nervous about what this seismic change means for the rest of the world and for the UK, with potentially serious consequences for NATO, in the Middle East, for international trade and much else besides.

I agree with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel who correctly reasserted the values which should characterise the nature of our engagement with the new US administration, when she said:

“Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom, and respect for the law and the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views… I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values. The partnership with the United States is and remains a foundation of German foreign policy.”

I hope our Government will learn from Mrs Merkel’s example. After an electoral shock like this it is natural to try and figure out the reasons behind the change. The election was extremely close – as I say, Hillary Clinton actually won the vote numerically by a couple of hundred thousand votes – and it should be noted that if just 1 person in 100 would have changed their vote from Trump to Clinton the polls would have been proved right and the electoral map would look completely different. This 2% swing would be enough to have given Clinton Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, and 307 Electoral College votes. So before too many commentators on the extremes of politics take much satisfaction at defeat of the liberal democratic candidate, it is worth bearing in mind that only a tiny margin made the difference here.

Looking at the exit polls, there are some clues why Trump was victorious: a chunk of Americans on low incomes moved away from the Democrats towards the Republicans, and Clinton could not rely on the support of minorities or women, as pollsters expected. By contrast, men voted by 58% for Trump.

It has to be hoped that President Trump will moderate some of the views and language used in his campaign – and that the checks and balances in the US system will find a way for reason and decency to come through.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Child poverty levels across the country remain high – but the issue is brought into stark focus this week by the charity ‘Child Poverty Action Group’ who have released statistics for every parliamentary constituency. The data for Nottingham East (and each local council ward) are below and I thought you would be interested (and quite shocked) to see the specifics. This means that we have over 7,900 children living below the poverty line in Nottingham East, in other words, below the level of 60% of average household income for the UK. I am particularly worried about the changes coming to Universal Credit which will be quite harsh – and leaving some families where people are in-work still facing real pressures.
Percentage of children in poverty, Oct-Dec 2015 BEFORE HOUSING COSTS AFTER HOUSING COSTS
 
Nottingham East 25.29% 39.49%
 
Arboretum 31.22% 47.31%
Berridge 25.34% 38.89%
Dales 24.31% 38.22%
Mapperley 21.62% 34.16%
St Ann’s 30.01% 46.91%
Sherwood 20.52% 32.66%
  • People might be understandably cautious following the tragic tram incident in Croydon this week.  Nottingham’s trams are extremely popular with passengers and (like trams in general) have an excellent safety record.  I have sought reassurances about safety on Nottingham’s trams and I am told that there are speed restrictions at bends in the track, points, cross-over points and hills; these are typically 10-15kph and a tram will not derail at this speed.  Nottingham’s drivers are trained to act defensively, which means to stop if there are any problems and call the Control Room.  Driver training takes place over 8 weeks and starts in the classroom, followed by simulators, training off the public line, and then training on the network with a trainer.  The press statement from Nottingham Express Transit  following the incident said “Clearly it is far too early to speculate on the Croydon accident whilst investigations into the cause are carried out.  The results of those investigations will be shared with all the UK’s light rail operators if any actions are required across the sector.”  Obviously, I will keep a close eye on the investigation and any implications for our tram network here in Nottingham.
  • Earlier today I called in to Framework’s Service User Forum, which is a regular discussion session where service users for this housing association helping homeless people come together to share ideas and gain a knowledge of how Framework operates.  It was good to hear the views and ideas of a number of Framework’s services users, some of whom are facing very severe challenges in terms of housing and benefits.
  • The Lloyds Bank in Hyson Green is actually one of the busiest bank branches in the city – so I was happy to visit staff and talk about their engagement with the local neighbourhood earlier today. It was really useful to meet Peter Mabbott, the Local Director of Lloyds Banking Group and to learn more about Lloyds’ role in the communities of Nottingham, as an employer and financial services provider.
  • On 19th of November, 7pm, Nottingham Liberal Synagogue is hosting their People’s Concert, featuring rising stars and artists from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, refreshments and an art exhibition.  It promises to be a wonderful evening.  Tickets start at £7.50, and are available from robertscribe1@tiscali.co.uk.
  • I was informed this week that the Mappleton House care home in Mapperley Park has been rated Inadequate as the result of a recent Care Quality Commission inspection.  The full report is here : cqc.org.uk/location/1-157009594.  If you have any concerns about this, please let me know and I will make enquiries.
  • On Sunday from 10:30am the Nottingham Civic Service of Remembrance will take place at the War Memorial on Victoria Embankment (NG2 2LA). The Lord Mayor and other civic and armed forces representatives will be present.
  • Problem between telephone companies have resulted in my constituency office number being unavailable for parts this week – for which many apologies – but please continue to contact me by email at chris.leslie@parliament.uk.
  • Although it’s been open for about a year now, it was really nice to have a guided tour of the Hyson Green Library which has taken up new space within the Mary Potter Centre – and apparently quadrupled the number of visitors as a result! The Library Acting Manager Sandra Johnson (pictured with me at the Library below) showed me their facilities and it’s great to see the space being so well used and bringing life into the heart of the Centre generally.

mary-potter-library

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Leaving the EU and abiding by the referendum result will mean triggering the ‘Article 50’ provision in the Treaty – and the courts have said Parliament must ratify this. Indeed, it is vital that Parliament gets into the detail and crucially makes sure we prepare thoroughly for these negotiations and have the time to get the decision right. With only 24 weeks to go before the end of March timetable set out by the Prime Minister, it is unclear what the Government is aiming for, and with French and German elections likely to make dialogue difficult, I now feel we would be foolish to rush this process on this timetable. Far better if we triggered Article 50 after the summer, not sooner than September, to give us a chance to get the complex plan in place and have a chance at a proper transitional agreement. This is entirely consistent with the outcome of the referendum – and getting a good deal. That’s why I hope any legislation to trigger Article 50 will tackle the issue of when that process starts – it is crucial to whether we have a successful negotiation or an ill-prepared rush to the exit door sacrificing jobs and prosperity along the way. I visited the European Commission, spoke with MEPs and UK civil servants about these issues when I visited Brussels earlier this week – and I also raised this question of the timing of Article 50 in the Commons with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union – click here to watch it.
  • Last week I mentioned that there were rumours about the shelving of the Midland Mainline train electrification On Monday night, Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan held an adjournment debate with the Transport Minister which I attended – and it soon became clear that, despite the excellent value-for-money case we have for this long overdue upgrade, the Government look set to backtrack on their promise for the works to be completed. This would be a major broken promise, having supposedly ‘unpaused’ the project after an earlier decision to shelve it. At the beginning of the week Ministers dropped a series of commitments to the Great Western rail electrification, so it makes me wonder about whether more bad news could be on the way here. To watch the debate in full, click here.
  • On Monday, the Defence Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons on the Government’s plans for the defence estate. People live, work and train on the defence estate, and it makes up almost 2% of the UK’s land mass. It is where equipment is maintained, major exercises are conducted and major operations launched.  The Defence Secretary announced that the Government would release 56 sites in the defence estate by 2040, in addition to 35 other sites which it had previously announced plans to dispose of. I will be watching to check that these changes do not cause undue challenges to our Forces families and that the housing built on the land released is genuinely affordable.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The election of Donald Trump is the big news that will now reverberate across the globe for many months to come – but what do you expect will be the consequences that we should prepare for? Does this seem like a political change distant from our lives in Nottingham, or a major event that we will feel the impact from directly? I’d be interested to get your feedback – and any thoughts about how the UK should approach the new American administration. President Obama continues in office until mid January at which point President-elect Trump takes over. At that point there will have to be a relationship between Britain and the US, but what should be our priorities to press them on? All thoughts gratefully received!

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MP Update – 4th November

Brexit is totally dominating everything in Parliament and the national news – not surprisingly given the big implications for jobs, businesses and public services. Yesterday the High Court decided that withdrawing from the European Union (and triggering the so-called ‘Article 50’ provision in the Treaty) had to be formally agreed by Parliament, even though the referendum in June resulted in a ‘leave’ vote.

There are some big constitutional questions in play here. The court felt that leaving the EU would affect individual rights, and as such our constitution means that the Prime Minister cannot do this alone without the consent of MPs and the House of Lords.

I welcome the view that Parliament is sovereign over Ministers of the Crown. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘Brexit’ will not take place. Most Members of Parliament are likely to believe that the referendum was clear about the need for Article 50 to be triggered. However, the referendum was not clear about when Article 50 should be triggered. Nor was it clear about safeguards surrounding this, such as the level of access to the single market. On these issues, I think it is reasonable for MPs to have input. For example, I think it would have been wrong to march out of the EU the day after the referendum in June which could have crippled businesses and our economy. We need to make this transition with great care, or the consequences could be severe. So my view is that we have to respect the British people’s judgement, but make sure that this process is undertaken in the right time and in the right way. The German and French elections next year make for bad timing if we’re to get the best negotiated outcome with the EU, so I think this should be considered far more carefully.

There will be a Government statement on Monday setting out their views on all this, and if they’re appealing to the Supreme Court. The detail of what Brexit looks like and what the Government are planning is not known, so it is in all our interests that we get proper clarity about the strategy being pursued.

NOTTINGHAM

  • In significant local NHS news, the planned formal merger between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust has been called off. The main reason cited for this change of decision was the need for each organisation to work on its own operational challenges, which for NUH includes improving the 4-hour performance for emergency patients and addressing its financial challenges. The Trusts say they will continue to work in partnership where it adds value to patient care. I will remain in close contact with NUH to ensure that the needs of patients are kept at the forefront of any decisions relating to the partnership in the future – and I am glad that some caution is being taken here, because Nottingham’s NHS has enough on its plate deserve the full attention of our local manag
  • There is a free Bonfire Night Fireworks Display event taking place at the Forest Recreation Ground on Saturday night. The festivities begin with the opening of the fairground at 5.30pm, followed by a children’s firework display at 7.15pm and the main firework display at 9.00pm. The event is likely to be busy and parking on site is limited to Blue Badge holders, so organisers are recommending that people take the tram or bus to the event. More generally, I hope that we will have a responsible fireworks season this year – I do have local residents contacting me with real concerns about the noise and upset for local pets, and I hope that everyone can be considerate of their neighbours while enjoying themselves.
  • One of Nottingham’s lesser known famous former residents, Herbert Kilpin, has had a bus named in his honour by Nottingham City Transport. Herbert was born in Nottingham East on Mansfield Road in 1870, but later emigrated to Italy where he founded Milan Football Club, today known as the world-famous AC Milan. The Yellow line number 68/69 bus named in Herbert’s honour was unveiled on the centenary of his death on 22nd October outside his childhood home by the Sheriff of Nottingham. A novel based on Herbert Kilpin’s life has also been published to coincide with the centenary. The book is called ‘The Lord of Milan’ and has been written by local author Robert Nieri.
  • An art installation has been placed on a wall in Station Street to celebrate Nottingham’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. The installation is situated on the underside of the Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge which is part of the tram route, and features a line of poetry projected onto the wall with lines of light overhead that will pulse when a tram passes over. The poetry will change every day for a year, and will include poetry from Lord Byron, D H Lawrence and current Nottinghamshire residents. You can find out more about the project on the Nottingham City of Literature website here.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Last week I mentioned that I was pleased that Nissan had decided to produce its new Qashqai and X-Trail models at its Sunderland plant, but that the Government had to be more transparent about their intentions for future trading relationships. On Monday the Secretary of State for the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) department, Greg Clark, made a statement confirming that the Government had offered Nissan reassurances in order to secure its investment in Britain.
  • On Monday, the Home Secretary announced in writing that the Government would not be instigating an inquiry into police actions at Orgreave in 1984. The Government was rightly pressed on this decision in an Urgent Question on Tuesday. It was disappointing that the Home Secretary did not appear in the House of Commons to respond to it herself. Five years before the deaths of 96 football fans at Hillsborough, the same police force, with many of the same police commanders, oversaw the events at Orgreave during the miner’s dispute. Those at Orgreave deserve justice and an inquiry into these events would have been entirely reasonable.
  • On Thursday I held a Commons debate on Brexit and financial services, and you can see my speech here. I’m glad that there was emerging cross party consensus about the need to protect the two million jobs in this sector, two-thirds of which are outside London. For example, there are 500 firms in Nottingham, and 80,000 financial services employees in the East Midlands. In addition, 11% of tax receipts come from this industry. In my speech I made the point that unless we get a transitional agreement with the EU in this area British firms will not be able to legally export a great swathe of services beyond April 2019. This would have major consequences for our economy – risking jobs and tax receipts that pay for vital public services – but also for the EU, who would lose access to our specialisation in this area. We must secure talks on transitional arrangements before the end of January, so we don’t get beyond the triggering of Article 50 without some prospect of a seamless transfer to a new permanent settlement. We need the British Government to propose the continuity of all existing practices while we reach a longer term agreement. We cannot allow this notion to continue that the two years until April 2019 are only focusing on our divorce proceedings with the EU, with no discussions on new arrangements starting until that time. Such a ‘cliff edge’ approach could terminate whole areas of financial services trade with the EU – perhaps more to their detriment than to our own. So a transitional arrangement has to be buttoned down, and ‘in principle’ agreement on this secured before we get beyond March next year.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’m getting increasingly concerned at rumours that the Midland Mainline electrification plans are going to be shelved yet again by Ministers – something that would be a major blow to residents and business on the East Midlands Train line from London through to Leicester, Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield.

We need more reliable, more frequent and better journey times to improve opportunities for jobs & growth, and having shelved the £1billion upgrade several years ago, we all thought it was back ‘on’ again last year following the Budget. The news now that the Great Western line is way over budget suggests Ministers are scrabbling around to pull the plug on other projects to make up for that shortfall.

I’d be interested to know if you or those you know are affected by this train service quality. Would it make a difference to your family, to your business or to the city if we end up with the last mainline still using the old diesel trains for a generation? I think it is hard to have a ‘Midlands Engine’ without an electrified mainline, and that’s why I’m working with other local MPs across the parties to press for a positive result here.

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MP Update – 28th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 28th October 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

It was ‘Nottingham in Parliament Day’ on Tuesday – the first ever city ‘takeover’ at Westminster – and it was a real success! 45 different events and a thousand participants filled most corners and many meeting rooms in the Palace of Westminster, with Nottingham’s ideas and talents showcased before the country’s decision-makers. 100 partner organisations came together in a wide-ranging programme covering business, science and healthcare, culture, sport, education and much more. My thanks to the team at The University of Nottingham for bringing the concept to life and giving all of the local MPs, from across the parties, an opportunity to show our pride in Nottinghamshire.

We pressed Ministers to invest in the region, we had senior business leaders talk of their commitment to the city and it was great to see so many parliamentarians from across the UK focus on the priorities of the East Midlands for a change!

I’ve long believed that the dominance of London in parliamentary business puts other parts of the country at a structural disadvantage – and the Midlands often get overlooked because we haven’t got the ‘status’ of a nation like Scotland or Wales, nor have we governance arrangements like Greater London. This was a great experiment in pushing our local agenda onto the national stage and I’m glad the city came together to give it our best.

Click on the picture below (of the University Challenge event with the Speaker!) for a short video of some of the highlights of the day:

nipd

NOTTINGHAM

  • Today I visited Tuntum Housing Association’s Karibu Project in New Basford, which provides temporary accommodation primarily to single men and women with refugee status. The project offers residents support with training and employment, information about benefits and assists them in finding more permanent accommodation. We talked about their work with vulnerable BAME communities in Nottingham and I spoke to service users about their experiences with the projects (pictured below with the team and some of the residents):

tuntum

  • On Wednesday Nottingham had a royal visit from Prince Harry, who was in the city for the fifth time in the last three years. He was in Nottingham for a number of engagements, including the official opening of the new Central Police Station on Maid Marian Way, and a visit to the Full Effect youth project in St Ann’s which his charity has been supporting. The Full Effect project aims to improve opportunities for young people and reduce youth violence in St Ann’s. It’s fantastic to see such support this project, which improves opportunities and chances for children and young people in St Ann’s.
  • Small Steps Big Changes are seeking applications for their Innovations Fund. SSBC is a programme designed to support parents, families and local services in St Ann’s, Arboretum, Bulwell and Aspley to improve child outcomes and give every child the best start in life. They are looking for innovative and creative proposals that will help them to achieve their goals, helping local children (aged 0 to 3) to:
  1. Eat well and be healthy
  2. Talk and communicate effectively
  3. Be confident and friendly and understand their own and their peers’ emotions and behaviour

The fund is open to local groups, and offers individual awards between £1,000 and £5,000. For more information on the eligibility criteria and how to apply, please contact Nottinghamshire Community Foundation on 01623 620202 or email enquiries@nottscf.org.uk. Applications close on 10th November 2016.

  • Work is due to begin on a new £2m Lidl store, which is being built on a piece of derelict land in St Ann’s. The site, near the junction of Carlton Road and Seymour Street, has been empty for at least a decade. I’d be interested in any feedback or thoughts you might have about this.
  • The Green Flag award-winning Arboretum in Nottingham East has been nominated for the UK’s Best Park Award for 2016. It’s an honour for Nottingham’s oldest public park to be nominated and it is a reflection of the great work done by Nottingham City Council and the Friends of The Arboretum in maintaining the park. The awards are decided by the public, so if you’d like to vote you can do so online here.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday, the Prime Minister made a statement on her first European Council meeting. The meeting discussed Russian bombing in Syria, the migration crisis affecting Europe and free trade.  There is increasing concern in Parliament and the business community about the Prime Minister’s lack of a plan for our negotiation. After her statement, I tried to get some clarity by asking her whether she planned for the UK to leave the customs union (which you can watch here), but her answer was vague and unsatisfactory. While I appreciate that she does not want to show her hand, business needs some assurances on trade relationships – they need to begin planning now for two or three years’ time. While I was very pleased that Nissan decided to boost production in the UK, other businesses will only follow if the Government starts to make clear intentions about our future trading relationships.
  • I’m very pleased to have been appointed to sit on the newly formed International Trade Select Committee of the House of Commons, which will allow me to champion all the sectors of our economy that need help as our relationships change with the rest of the world – and to keep track of what Ministers are doing on trade policy.
  • In Treasury Questions on Nottingham in Parliament Day I pressed the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, to prioritise rail, road and skills infrastructure investment in the East Midlands, and to make sure that all government departments live up to the ambitions stated in the ‘Midlands Engine’ programme now chaired by Sir John Peace. You can watch our exchange here. As Chair of the East Midlands All-Party Parliamentary Group I am bringing together East Midlands MPs to push the Government for greater investment in the region.
  • I have written a number of times about forced academisation in previous MP Updates. So I was very pleased in May when the Government was forced to u-turn on its plan to turn all schools into academies, following protests from councils. However, at the time I was worried that the small print suggested that they still wanted all schools to become academies by 2022. I was therefore relieved on Thursday this week when the Education Secretary announced that the ‘Education for All Bill’ will not go ahead this year. While this is good news, the Government is still not addressing the serious problems facing schools: teacher shortages, declining school budgets, problems with exams and a lack of good school places. I will continue to urge the Government to address these problems instead of announcing massive restructuring.
  • On Monday, the Home Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons following the commencement of the clearance and demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp. The Home Secretary announced that almost 200 unaccompanied children had been transferred from the camp to the UK under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016, and that hundreds more would follow in the coming weeks. While the Home Office has accelerated the processing of child refugees in recent weeks, the Government has known for months that the Calais camp was due to close. Men, women and children have been living in this camp in appalling conditions, and in the absence of proactive action by either the UK or French governments, those people were at the mercy of people smugglers and criminal gangs. I pay tribute to the volunteers and UK staff who have worked in the Calais camp in difficult and dangerous conditions. The Calais camp may now be being closed, but more could have been done sooner, and there is an urgent need for a more considered and cooperative strategy to deal with refugees moving across Europe.
  • On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement on airport capacity and announced the Government’s decision to accept the proposal to build a new north-west runway at Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission. I welcome that a decision on a third runway at Heathrow has now been made. However, this is not the end, but another step in the process. There are now formal consultation procedures and a Commons vote sometime next year. I’ve long been convinced that the UK’s infrastructure needs a radical overhaul and if East Midlands passengers, business and freight are to reach destinations across the world and compete sufficiently, we have to do this through the hub airport of Heathrow predominantly.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Earlier today I gave evidence to the Parliamentary Boundary Commission hearing about the importance of keeping some of our local neighbourhoods linked together in the Nottingham East constituency.

For example, the Commission are proposing to draw an artificial line dividing Forest Fields neighbourhood from the Recreation Ground, which would have two separate MPs. They are suggesting that Radford Road should be split be the boundary line between a larger ‘Nottingham North’ and ‘Nottingham East & Carlton’ constituency. And they are saying that Sherwood & Carrington should be split from Mapperley & Mapperley Park – two communities that have shared important links for many decades.

I feel strongly that the existing six local wards in Nottingham East should remain together for historic and community reasons – and if you feel the same I’d strongly urge you to say so directly to the Boundary Commissioners, simply by emailing them your views to information@boundarycommissionengland.gov.uk.

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