MP Update – 23rd October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP –  23rd October 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

At yesterday’s ‘MP Question Time’ at the Nottinghamshire Deaf Society, the focus was very much on welfare rights issues – and my thanks to Irene Andrew the chief executive at the Deaf Society for chairing the event. In the updates we heard from Becky Ramsden from the Nottingham Citizens Advice Bureau and from the teams at St Ann’s Advice Centre and the Law Centre, it’s clear that many disabled people and some of the least well-off across the city are finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet. The Universal Credit roll-out contains more restrictions, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) shift from the DLA is proving difficult and the changes to Employment & Support Allowance are penalising those trying to work. There are also now more problems with people’s tax credit claims being suspended while organisations like Concentrix are investigating entitlements. The new Secretary of State, Damian Green, is a different character from Iain Duncan-Smith, but the jury is still out whether they have really changed direction – or just the tone.

Many other issues came up at the public meeting yesterday, ranging from local to national and international concerns. As the local MP it’s helpful to hear views face-to-face (including forceful points!), but as always you can contact me by email or get in touch at my offices at 12 Regent Street, NG1 5BQ or telephone 0115 711 7666.

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NOTTINGHAM

  • I was concerned to hear last weekend about the evacuation of the Victoria Centre and surrounding streets due to a suspect package being found. Following a similar incident a few months ago, my primary concern was for residents living in the Victoria Centre flats, who felt that they were not kept informed during the previous incident. Since the previous incident, Nottingham City Homes have met with and written to residents informing them of emergency procedures. On Saturday, I received assurances at that time from Nottingham City Homes that residents were kept fully informed throughout the incident, with Community Protection Officers stationed in the flats and updates on social media. Installation is to begin on a new intercom system later this month which will enable NCH and other authorities to communication with all residents at once, which will help if there are any similar incidents in future. If you live in the Victoria Centre flats, I’d be interested to know how you felt the incident was handled on this occasion.
  • It is vital in the aftermath of the EU referendum that the UK asserts itself as a world leader on the environment. Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust asked me to support them and a number of environmental organisations with their Pledge for the Environment, which calls on the government to ensure strong environmental standards and that the UK leads on climate change. I am pleased to have added my support to this pledge – you can view the full text of the pledge along with a list of supporting MPs on the Green Alliance website here.
  • The Department for Education is due to carry out an area review into post-16 education provision in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. The aims of the review are to move towards larger, more financial resilient post-16 institutions, and to offer high quality education and training based on the needs of learners and employers in the area. The review will be launched next month with outcomes expected by April. A steering group with representatives from colleges, local authorities and the local enterprise partnership will oversee the work of the review, and there will also be an opportunity for other interested parties and individuals locally to input into the review. I would be interested to know your thoughts – do you think post-16 institutions in the area need to be reviewed?
  • It was useful to meet with Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Susannah Fish and Police Commissioner Paddy Tipping this week to talk about local law and order issues. I raised the question of the city division structure change and also the need for good communications between local officers, MPs and councillors to pass on public concerns. While overall crime levels may be stable and the police are doing their best with limited resources, there is still too much anti-social behaviour and violent crime.
  • Tuesday is ‘Nottingham In Parliament’ day, thanks to the idea from the team at the University of Nottingham and now dozens of other local companies, charities and organisations from across the county. There are a massive 45 separate events planned – it’s a great way to bring the best of the city and fresh ideas in front of the country’s decision-makers. More about the programme at the link here http://www.nottinghaminparliamentday.uk/npd/documents/nipd-programme-guide.pdf

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • With the news focusing heavily on Brexit, lots of other Government policies can go by unnoticed. This week I urged the Minister to think about the impact his decision would have on pensioners and savers following the u-turn on letting retired people get out of annuity schemes and shop around. Pensions are baffling enough as things stand, and taken together with the poor rates available for those retiring, I’m worried that lots of people will be put off saving for their old age. The exchange in the Commons is at the link here
  • On Wednesday, there was a debate on reforming the House of Lords and the size of the House of Commons. I believe that having two legislative chambers, the Lords and Commons, is important to ensuring new laws are scrutinised properly. But fundamental reform of the House of Lords is essential and I am concerned at the rate of expansion of the House of Lords, which now has over 800 members. I voted in favour of the motion which called on the Government to make plans to reduce the number of Peers; called for a review of the House of Lords; and called on the Government to abandon plans to reduce the number of Members of Parliament until the issue of the size of the House of Lords is resolved.
  • The Commons also debated the concerns about Brexit and the rights of EU nationals on Wednesday. It is very important that the Government make it clear that a future deal should reassure all existing EU nationals in the UK that their rights to be in the UK are respected, just as the rights of British citizens living and working across Europe should also have their rights respected. Sadly this will be an issue likely to come up again during the negotiation process.
  • On Tuesday, the Defence Secretary responded to an urgent question in the House of Commons about the operation to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from Daesh. Daesh has inflicted unimaginable horror on the people of Mosul since it captured the city in 2014. I fully support the operation to liberate the city, not only to protect the people of Iraq, who have suffered such a great deal, but also to protect British citizens here from the global threat posed by Daesh. The UN has, however, calculated that over a million people could be affected by the operations in Mosul. The Defence Secretary recognised the significant humanitarian implications of the operation and assured MPs that the aim is to drive out Daesh in a way that protects civilians.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

You may have heard recently about the new proposals from the Boundary Commission for Parliamentary constituencies. The Commission are aiming to reduce the number of UK constituencies from 650 to 600. Call me cynical, but I’m sure it’s a mere coincidence that it’s Labour seats disproportionally affected by the proposed changes.

There will be counter-proposals from the various political parties submitted during the consultation period.  But individuals can also comment on the proposals too – you can find out more about the changes on the Commission’s website here.

Basically, the Boundary Commission are proposing that Sherwood and Berridge wards move into Nottingham North to boost numbers there. Which leaves Arboretum, Mapperley, St Ann’s and Dales wards having a series of wards from Gedling and Carlton added into Nottingham East to make this constituency the right ‘size’. This would be a radical change and divide the existing Nottingham East constituency, which I think could be very disruptive.

If you think that the existing Nottingham East constituency works well – covering as it does one local authority area and containing many residents who haven’t made it onto the electoral register but who nevertheless need representation – then I’d encourage you to send comments in saying so. Just click on this link to go to their ‘comments’ page here:

https://www.bce2018.org.uk/node/add/informed-representation/6483

Members of the public can also make oral contributions at public hearings that are taking place across the country, the nearest of which are taking place at the Cathedral Quarter Hotel in Derby on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th October (details here).

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MP Update – 14th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 14th October 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Parliament returned this week after the Party conference season and we are straight into the massive questions about how the UK leaves the European Union. Some people might think “what’s this got to do with me?” Unfortunately it’s an issue that will absolutely dominate the local and national news for the next few years. Take as an example the shrinking purchasing power of the pound sterling, now nearly 20% down in value relative to other currencies such as the US dollar. It will make anything we buy as imports from other countries that much more expensive – so expect that your petrol prices will start rising soon, the cost of white goods such as TVs, phones, fridges etc also going up. We’ve even seen this week a price war between Tesco and its suppliers threaten to withdraw products containing foreign-sourced ingredients such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and so on!

I’m quite clear that we have to respect the outcome of the referendum and that Britain’s membership of the EU needs to end. But I think it’s a mistake for Theresa May to say she’ll trigger the process no later than the end of March, because the EU will now just wait for the clock to tick by, in order to strengthen their bargaining hand. Instead we should have extracted some conditions in exchange for a firm date on triggering – such as some transitional access to their markets to smooth the process. If you have any issues or questions on this ‘Brexit’ process please do let me know. I have a horrible feeling that if companies can’t trade their goods and services into Europe based in the UK, we’ll lose those firms, and in turn lose billions of revenues for the Exchequer, which means more cuts for the NHS and public services in Nottingham.

NOTTINGHAM

MP Annual Public Question Time: Saturday 22nd October from 4pm until 5:30pm.

This year we will focus initial discussion on the theme of ‘Welfare and disability rights issues in Nottingham’ with discussion chaired by Irene Andrews from Nottinghamshire Deaf Society. We will also be hearing from local advice agencies including Nottingham Citizens Advice Bureau, Nottingham Law Centre and St Ann’s Advice Centre. Conversation will then broaden into any other issues: local, national or international! If you are interested in attending please email by reply – so we can get a sense of numbers for the venue. The event is being held at Nottinghamshire Deaf Society, 22 Forest Road West, Nottingham, NG7 4EQ (nearest tram stop is High School).

  • Recently I met with Carillion workers and trade union representatives to discuss ongoing issues staff at both City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre are experiencing. Carillion are contracted by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust for cleaning services, and issues raised by staff include a shortage of equipment and staff meaning they are unable to carry out their roles to the required standard. These issues have been highlighted by press reports of overflowing bins, dirty dishes and a rat sighting in one of the hospital kitchens. A Carillion representative was also at the meeting, and said that improvements had been made. As a result, earlier today I met with management at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, where I called on them to scrap their contract with Carillion if standards were not improved. Trying to cut budgets by outsourcing or underfunding ancillary services was never the best option, and sadly the fears voiced at the time have materialised. Carillion are going to have to radically and immediately transform this situation if they are to regain confidence in running these services.
  • On Friday 21st October, the Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (DAST) are launching their Asbestos in Schools Awareness Project in Nottingham. The event is open to teachers, school staff, governors and parents of school age children to learn about the risks posed by asbestos in school buildings and the action that can be taken to reduce risk. The event is taking place from 10.30am to 12.30pm at the New Art Exchange on Gregory Boulevard (near The Forest tram stop), and anyone wanting to book a place at the event should contact Joanne Gordon on 01246 380415 or email gordon@asbestossupport.co.uk.
  • In just over a week’s time on Tuesday 25th October, Nottingham in Parliament Day will be marked by a wide range of events in Westminster. Across the whole day, 45 events will take place in conjunction with nearly 100 partners – including a live science experiment outside Parliament, a mock University Challenge event and a number of sporting events including archery and table tennis. I am pleased to be able to support this initiative; it helps put Nottingham on the map, brings fresh ideas in front of MPs, and gives us the chance to press Ministers for extra resources and investment in our communities. You can find out more about events taking place on the day here.
  • Earlier today I held a street surgery in St Ann’s with local councillors to talk to members of the public about local issues, including education, housing and welfare issues. People are often very busy out shopping and getting around the city, but thank you to those who stopped for a chat!

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • The Labour leadership contest has concluded with Jeremy Corbyn re-elected. He has appointed his frontbench team and now has a big responsibility to inspire the wider public, listen to the concerns raised during the contest, unite the Party and show eagerness that Labour wants to be a party winning seats and government in Parliament. I hope that deeply held principles and differences of belief on national security, humanitarian intervention and economic responsibility can be respected and I will continue to chair the Treasury Committee of the Parliamentary Party as a constructive contribution from the backbenches. Locally we are continuing our regular street by street door-knocking sessions – and not waiting just for the pre-election periods – and I hope to see you in your area before too long.
  • On Monday the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union came to the Commons to answer questions about the Government’s approach to ‘Brexit’. This was debated further on Wednesday in an Opposition Day debate where MPs from across all parties voiced anxieties about how prepared Ministers really are – and importantly whether Parliament can have a proper say about the objectives and approach the UK will be taking. I asked the Secretary of State about the impact that their policies were having on the value of the pound – and called for him to apologise to the public who did not vote to make themselves poorer in this process. Watch my question at the link here.
  • On Tuesday there was an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the unfolding humanitarian situation in Aleppo and across Syria. Some 275,000 people are currently besieged in eastern Aleppo, facing constant bombardment from the Syrian government regime assisted by Russian forces. Innocent civilians are trapped, impoverished and desperately in need of food, clean water and medical care. Those responsible for this suffering are guilty of crimes against humanity and must be held to account. I support efforts by the British and French to enforce a tougher approach at the UN Security Council against violations of international humanitarian law – and we should consider options for safe havens, no-fly-zones and intervention if this is feasible.
  • On Monday the Home Secretary was asked to make a statement on the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp and children living there in light of its imminent demolition. The Home Secretary stated that she had made clear to the French Government the need to ensure children are kept safe during any clearances. She also stated that she expected to receive a list from French authorities of children that the UK can help, and that the Government would take action within “a matter of days or a week at the most” once it had received it. People in the ‘Jungle’ camp are sleeping in sub-zero temperatures. There is violence, lack of sanitation, and threats of assault. These conditions are indefensible. Leading charities believe there are hundreds of unaccompanied children in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp that should be immediately resettled. The Government must ensure we fulfil our moral responsibilities by resettling those unaccompanied children in desperate conditions, particularly those that have family links in the UK.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I met earlier today with the management team at our local NHS Trust – and mentioned earlier the points I raised about their contract with Carillion. I’d be interested in any views you have about other issues in our NHS at present, including the pressures they’re facing in acute services and the Emergency Department (before we even get into the difficult winter season).

I took the opportunity to raise the issue of treatment and rehabilitation of stroke patients in Health Questions in the Commons this week. There are a million people living in England who have suffered a stroke – yet it is the fourth biggest cause of death and the Government aren’t yet renewing the national stroke strategy. I’m not convinced that in Nottingham we have adequate follow-up services once patients are discharged. Sometimes rehab and physio packages expire too soon.

Have you or friends and relatives experienced difficulties with post-hospital treatment for stroke or other conditions? Are you satisfied with the level of community care available once patients are discharged and recuperating at home? I’d be interested in your views.

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MP Update – 16th September

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 16th September 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Brexit continues to dominate the news, with some economists concluding that the impact of leaving the European Union is having less of a discernibly adverse impact on the economy than expected. But we must remember that we haven’t actually left the EU yet and that the referendum was just the start of what could be a long transitional process. Thousands of employees across Nottingham depend in some way or another on trade or investment to and from Europe. That’s why this week I led a debate on how Ministers intend to disentangle Britain from the EU and what relationships they plan in its place. For example, there are over 500 companies in Nottingham working in the financial services field, including Experian, Capital One and Ikano. Yet we do not know whether all of their products will be tradeable with the rest of Europe. I’m determined to keep raising these issues with the Government because our local jobs and growth and future prosperity are on the line. We’ve got to have an orderly transition and my job is to ask the questions and propose ways forward to minimise disruption. If you would like to hear more from my debate this week, please click here. I’ll also be appearing on this Sunday’s Daily Politics programme to discuss this and other issues facing the East Midlands, BBC2 at 11am.

NOTTINGHAM

  • A number of constituents have contacted me recently with concerns about the temporary closure of Mapperley Park Medical Centre. The practice was put in special measures in June 2015 after a Care Quality Commission inspection rated it ‘inadequate’. There were a number of areas of concern relating to record keeping, systems and processes. A further CQC inspection found that there has been insufficient improvement and has closed the practice while changes are made. I know from emails I have received that many constituents feel that the surgery offers a high level of care, and disagree with the CQC’s assessment. The CQC has an important job to do in ensuring patient safety, but I would hope that there would be flexibility to take account of good practice and patients’ views. I will continue to follow this closely and listen to the views of constituents on this matter.
  • The Nottingham Crime and Drugs Partnership have commissioned a new service on behalf of the Nottingham Domestic Violence and Abuse Joint Commissioning Group. The new domestic violence service launched earlier this year, and will be holding a listening event for survivors of historic and institutional sexual violence and abuse on Thursday 29th September from 1pm in a central Nottingham location. Places for the event are limited, so if you would like to attend or find out further information about the event, please email Glen Jarvis, Involvement Officer at the Crime and Drugs Partnership, on jarvis@nottinghamcity.gov.uk.
  • Work will start on Monday to transform the Britten Gardens public space in St Ann’s. The project is being led by Groundwork Greater Nottingham with funding from Veolia Environmental Trust and Nottingham City Homes, and will involve replacing uneven and broken paving to create an accessible space which will include seating areas, planting and an informal play area. The project will turn the neglected open space into a pleasant and practical place for all to use and enjoy, and is due to be completed in early November.
  • The Aviva Community Fund has just launched for this year, and the fund is inviting applications from community groups in the area. The Aviva Community Fund awards funding of up to £25,000 for local community projects across a range of categories such as supporting the elderly, health & wellbeing and community sport. If you’re involved in a local community group and are interested in applying for funding, applications can be made until 11th October via this link.
  • The Boundary Commission for England published their first proposals for cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and reducing the size of the House of Commons by creating larger parliamentary constituencies. They propose that Nottingham East would lose Sherwood and Berridge in a transfer to the new Nottingham North constituency, and that Carlton & Colwick would be added into Nottingham East from Gedling constituency. It’s difficult to see these changes as little more than political gerrymandering by the Tory government, because by sheer chance it would hit Labour held constituencies far more than Conservative ones. This is also because they are using a drastically undersized electoral register rather than basing on either on the most recent register for the EU referendum or on actual resident numbers. City centre urban areas have far higher populations than the old electoral registers suggest because of the rate of change and temporary residencies that exist. I’ll be opposing these changes – especially when Theresa May proposes adding dozens of new peers into the unelected House of Lords at a cost far higher than anything saved by shrinking the elected Commons.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday, the Education Secretary Justine Greening gave a statement in the House of Commons on the Government’s new consultation “Schools that work for everyone”, where most attention focused on their plans to relax the rules on expanding selective schools and allow new ones to open and non-selective schools to become selective where there is a demand. I am deeply sceptical of the Government’s plans to expand selective schools. Evidence suggests educational attainment in grammar areas for those who fail to get into grammar schools is below the national average. Given the overwhelming evidence that grammars fail to improve standards for the majority of children, the Education Secretary was rightly pressed on Monday to reveal on what research she is basing her decision. I believe that instead of adopting this flawed approach, the Government should be improving schools for all children.
  • Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made a statement following publication of the draft BBC The BBC’s Royal Charter forms the constitutional basis of the BBC and the current Charter is due to expire at the end of 2016. The BBC is one of Britain’s greatest treasures, which I believe must be protected and sustained in both its independence and its funding. There are still some concerns about Government plans for the BBC.  For example, it is proposed that the BBC’s new board will have a number of Government appointees, including the Chair. I am concerned this could weaken the BBC’s editorial independence and that the Government could seek to influence the BBC’s editorial decision-making, putting the broadcaster under undue political interference.  There are also concerns that the BBC’s financial security will be affected, now that the cost of TV licences for the over-75s has been transferred to the BBC. I believe the Government must listen to the public, who value the BBC’s independence and want it to carry on making the programmes we all enjoy.
  • On Wednesday, the House of Commons debated a motion on NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). The debate was an opportunity to hold the Government to account for these plans, which could have big consequences for frontline services across England. STPs are intended to show how local services will develop and become sustainable over the next five years. However, the concern is that the plans will be used to force through cuts and close hospitals and could make it harder for patients to access face-to-face consultations with their GPs. The process for STPs lacks transparency and the timeline is insufficient to allow for adequate public or Parliamentary engagement in their formulation, or to finalise such a major restructure of the NHS. The Minister said that the proposals remain at a draft stage, but that the Government has made it clear to local leaders that they are responsible for ensuring that plans engage with all local stakeholders when they are ready, and that proposed changes will be subject to local consultation.
  • Parliament now enters a recess during the Party Conference season and returns in October – and these MP Update bulletins will return then with news from the House of Commons.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Tackling climate change while also continuing the secure supply of energy is a dilemma most countries are facing – and the announcement this week that Theresa May is proceeding with the construction of the Hinkley Point nuclear power station has thrown the spotlight on this question.

While I would personally prefer us to rapidly develop renewable energy sources on a more localised basis (which Nottingham city is doing quite well), using the latest storage technologies rather than losing generated energy through the national grid – I do recognise that we need to balanced mix of provision.

What do you think about the best approach to energy policy going forward? How can we keep electricity bills down for the hard-pressed consumer, which also avoiding over-reliance on carbon emitting sources, especially coal. Is Hinkley Point’s ‘strike price’ for electricity too high? Or is it only high because compared to coal and gas it includes the cost of cleaning up waste and the consequences of production? What are your views on nuclear power and is it justified because we have to take a low carbon option rather than the bigger risk of climate change?

None of these are easy choices – plus there are additional energy security questions involved. I’d welcome any views you might have.

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MP Update – 9th September

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

Parliament has now returned following the summer recess and perhaps the most controversial proposal Theresa May wants to pursue is an extension of the selective school system currently limited to grammar schools in other parts of the country with selection at age 11.

Whether by opening new grammar schools or allowing existing schools to pick children by ability, my worry is for the educational chances taken away from those not selected and left behind. There’s no evidence that selection at 11 helps social mobility, quite the contrary. Only about 3% of poor pupils go to selective grammar schools at present in the counties where they currently operate, much lower than the 17% who qualify for free school meals in those schools that aren’t selective. When OFSTED’s own chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw voices his serious doubts about the divisive and limited nature of an extended selective system, it’s clear that the evidence about boosting attainment is not the driving force behind these proposals.

Just as I would want intensive support for pupils who are struggling academically, I’m not opposed to extra assistance for high achieving children to nurture their abilities. But to separate off children on the basis of a snapshot test doesn’t give those excluded a chance to access that help and limits their potential. It’s natural for parents to want to chase excellent teaching in excellent schools – but the priority of government must be to boost that excellence for young people who don’t have that helping hand at home and who haven’t got parental advantages. Far better to focus on boosting the quality of teaching each pupil can receive in the classroom and tailoring teaching to the needs and abilities of each child. Forcing more children to confront a fork in the road at age 11 isn’t fair. Nor was this in the Tory manifesto at the election last year.

NOTTINGHAM

  • It was great to have a chance to walk around the Skylarks nature reserve near Holme Pierrepont, which is run by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. I met with Erin McDaid and Ian Johnston from the Trust (pictured below), as well as local volunteers who help out with maintaining the reserve. Skylarks prides itself on being accessible to all – there is good information at the site on walks for all levels of ability. The nature reserve is aiming to attract people of all ages, including children and young people, the Trust are doing incredibly important work opening up access to beautiful Nottinghamshire countryside, and I would certainly encourage people to visit this lovely nature reserve.

skylarks

  • A few people have contacted me over the summer raising concerns about the future of the Old School House in Sneinton. The building was in a poor state of repair, so the City Council closed it earlier this month. Local councillors are keen to allow time for local groups to come forward with ideas for the building, including ideas for future funding. In light of this, Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum are holding a public meeting next Monday 12th September at 6.30pm – meeting outside the Old School Hall on Windmill Lane and then continuing the meeting at 7pm in a local venue. Representatives from the council and the Renewal Trust will be in attendance.
  • Blood Pressure UK are running ‘Know Your Numbers Week’ from 12-18 September, to encourage people to take up a free and potentially life-saving blood pressure check. High blood pressure is known as the ‘silent killer’ as it has no obvious symptoms so the only way for people to know if they have the condition is to get their blood pressure checked.  Once diagnosed, high blood pressure can be successfully managed. If you’d like to get your blood pressure checked, you can find your nearest ‘Pressure Station’ here. Many community pharmacies also offer free blood pressure checks all year round.
  • Many residents in Nottingham who have relatives and friends in Pakistan and Kashmir have raised concerns with me about the ongoing situation in the Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir, with reports of an increase in violence and serious abuses of human rights. As part of the All Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group, I have signed a joint letter to the new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, asking him to give assurances about UK nationals visiting Kashmir, and to support the self-determination of the Kashmiri people.
  • So sorry to hear that the excellent Stonebridge City Farm in St Ann’s has suffered a spate of vandalism in recent weeks, including chicken houses overturned and their lovely Star Wars themed shed smashed. If anyone has any information about this please contact the 101 non-emergency number for Nottinghamshire Police.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • It’s a reminder that when a Prime Minister changes, in effect there is a change of Government. As a result there are a whole series of policy changes from the old Cameron / Osborne regime that are ditched or changed or that rear up again. For example, just today Ministers have dropped their plans to legislate for the National Infrastructure Commission, which would have cracked through delays and politicking on the big projects we need for economic improvement. That’s a backward step and has the hallmarks of a centralising Number 10 under Theresa May to come.
  • On Monday, the Government was asked to make a statement on any assessments it had made of alleged breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL) in Yemen. This was the first opportunity in Parliament to press the Government on the clarifications that it has made to parliamentary answers on this issue. Earlier this year, the Government stated on a number of occasions that it had “assessed that there has not been a breach of IHL by the coalition” in Yemen. However, on the day the House of Commons rose for the summer recess, the Government corrected these statements to say that it had “been unable to assess that there has been a breach of IHL by the Saudi-led coalition.” It is unacceptable for the Government to provide incorrect answers and to take so long to correct them. If the Government does not know whether British-made weapons or planes have been used to commit breaches of IHL, then there are clearly questions about whether such equipment should be traded.
  • At the beginning of the week Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt made a statement about the British Medical Association’s announcement that it was initiating further industrial action over the junior doctors’ contract. The prospect of a five-day strike by junior doctors next week was extremely serious and while many had thought a resolution had been reached, it is welcome that junior doctors have suspended the strike, even though the remaining programme of industrial action stays in place. If it eventually goes ahead, it will be the first such strike by medics in the entire history of the National Health Service. Lots of people have sympathy with the staff involved and it would be better if Ministers and BMA reps got around the table to sort this out without risking disruption or the good health of patients.
  • We debated the Finance Bill this week in the Commons and I voted to strengthen anti-avoidance rules, I voted against cuts in corporation tax and capital gains tax and (for the many people who wrote via 38 degrees on the ‘Mayfair tax loophole’) I’m glad that the Government accepted the case for capital gains tax to apply to carried interest gains. Importantly, my colleague Caroline Flint MP persuaded Ministers to accept new powers to introduce country-by-country corporate account reporting which will boost tax transparency rules.


WHAT DO YOU THINK?

David Davis, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, this week gave his first report to the House of Commons on the working of his department following the referendum on 23 June. It’s obviously going to be one of the biggest political challenges of our generation. Yet despite working on it through the summer, we are still to hear what deal the Government is working towards and how it plans to achieve it.

There are lots of Nottingham businesses – and employees – potentially left in limbo which solutions are found. That’s why I called for assurances that we can get on with negotiating new trading deals and relationships at the same time as tackling the Brexit divorce proceedings, doing these in parallel not one after the other (click here for a link to the Facebook video of my exchange with the Minister).

At the G20 summit Theresa May was faced with problems from the US administration who are prioritising the EU trade talks first of all, Japanese Ministers issuing warnings about investment in the UK and Australian Ministers saying the UK may have to wait a couple of years before negotiations begin on new trading relationships.

These things may seem remote from Nottingham’s economy right now – but they are crucial. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the current state of play on ‘Brexit’ and the sorts of issues you’d like me to raise in the Commons on this in the coming weeks and months.

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MP Update – 24th July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – 24th July 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

In a crucial Parliamentary debate this week, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Damian Green was questioned about the Government’s plans to reduce the level of housing benefit for those in ‘supported’ accommodation – affecting people living in sheltered housing, where warden assistance can be needed, or where there are extra needs including some of the most vulnerable whether they are drug or alcohol dependency issues or people fleeing domestic violence.

In Nottingham we are fortunate to have some good organisations like Framework coordinating some of the sheltered housing for those in greatest need – but Framework and others already face financial pressures as it is, and are worried that in two years’ time many of our local properties and hostels could be forced to close if this squeeze on additional elements in housing benefit proceeds.

The background is this: last November, the Government announced proposals to set a new cap on housing benefit for social tenants, equivalent to the local housing allowance rate for private rented tenants. The Government had planned to introduce this cap for new tenants from April this year, but pressure from housing and community groups forced the Government to delay implementation until April 2017. However, the Government plans to apply these cuts to all tenants in supported housing from April 2018.

While the Minister announced that his ‘review’ of this situation will be completed in the autumn, I intervened to call for all MPs across all parties to recognise that those in our constituencies with most vulnerability needed a positive resolution here. We have real needs for decent housing specialist services in Nottingham. I will continue to work with other local MPs to press the Government to get this one right.

NOTTINGHAM

  • It was great to have the opportunity to visit the Children’s Hospital School at QMC on Friday to meet Headteacher Eleanor Tweedie and some of the pupils (pictured below). The school does great work teaching children who are unable to attend their usual school due to illness, and they place emphasis on making sure children are being taught the same programme of study as their peers at their home school where possible. The school serves 12 children’s wards at QMC and is incredibly impressive – all the more so for being such an unsung facility helping sick children continue their education and to cope with significant disruption to their lives.

QMChosp

  • The Co-op food store on Costock Avenue in Sherwood is one of 298 stores due to be sold to McColl’s later this year. I’ve been assured that the store will continue to trade under the McColl’s name and all existing staff will be ‘TUPE’ transferred so there will be no redundancies. It’s disappointing to hear that yet another Co-op store in Sherwood is to be sold to a rival retailer – as a Co-operative MP I think the ethics and values of Co-op stores bring great benefit to our communities. If you live near the Costock Avenue store, I would be interested to know what you think of the sale – do get in touch.
  • On Friday I paid a visit to Nottingham Contemporary to see their Garcia School Programme Celebration. The exhibition features creative work from 350 pupils at some of Nottingham’s schools, including five schools in Nottingham East. It was great to see all of their work – and as with music education, I feel it’s important to also support the wider creative arts in the curriculum including through to secondary school level too.
  • The Sneinton Festival 2016 is taking place this month, with 26 free events taking place across the month, concluding with the main day event on Saturday 30th July at Trickett’s Park. You can find out more information about the festival on the Sneinton Festival Facebook page here. The festival are also looking for volunteers for the main event on 30th July – if you’re able to help please get in touch with Stacey on sneintonfestival2016@gmail.com or call 07979 105706.
  • An independent report published this month by Nottingham Business School found that the construction project to extend the city’s tram network boosted the local economy by as much as £100million. The report also found that nearly 400 people who were previously unemployed or in education were employed on the construction project, and that 700 young people took part in work experience courses on the project via the National Citizenship Scheme and the Princes Trust. It’s great to see the positive benefit to the local economy from the tram extension, and in particular the benefits to local people in terms of employment and skills.
  • There’s a Jobs Fair taking place at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham on Wednesday 10th August from 10am-2pm. For more information, visit the Jobs Fair website here.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • The consequences of ‘Brexit’ and Britain leaving the EU are now starting to become clear, especially with the impact on the British economy. With a new Secretary of State for ‘Brexit’ (David Davis) now appointed, I argued this week we also need the whole of Parliament to take on the role of scrutinising and delving into the detail here too – which is why I proposed establishing a Brexit Select Committee specifically tasked with helping shape negotiations over the two year process (see my article here https://www.politicshome.com/news/europe/eu-policy-agenda/brexit/opinion/house-commons/77518/chris-leslie-mp-brexit-must-not-pass ). I am pleased that Ministers responded positively to the idea, and we may have some movement to establish such a committee in September.
  • On Tuesday the House of Commons considered the Higher Education and Research Bill which proposes to allow ‘high-performing’ universities to raise tuition fees. I voted against the Bill at Second Reading. I am concerned that the best universities will become more expensive and therefore less accessible, at a time when the proportion of low-income students at many top universities is already falling. Students have already been hit in the past 12 months by the scrapping of maintenance grants for loans, freezing the student loan threshold and removing NHS bursaries. This has damaged social mobility for the most disadvantaged students. The Bill will also reform the research council and funding system, which I believe is poorly timed and likely to be ineffective. The vote to leave the EU has already put the funding of academic research in the UK into a prolonged period of uncertainty. There are some elements of the Bill I support on introducing a transparency duty for university admissions and an alternative student finance method. However, overall the Bill is a missed opportunity that will set back the cause of equal access rather than advance it.
  • On Monday the House of Commons debated and voted on a motion on the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The motion supported the assessment that the UK’s independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent, based on a continuous at-sea deterrence posture, remained essential to the UK’s security. It expressed support for the maintenance of this current posture by replacing the existing Vanguard class submarines with four Successor submarines, and recognised the importance of this programme to the UK’s defence industrial base, supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs. The motion also noted that the UK remains committed to reducing its overall nuclear weapons stockpile by the mid-2020s. As I committed in the manifesto on which I was elected, I believe that a multilateral rather than unilateral approach to disarmament is the best way forward, and that for the UK to choose this moment of uncertainty to dispose of our deterrent would be unwise and reduce our leverage in disarmament terms with others in the longer run. I supported the motion, which was carried with a majority of support on the Labour benches.
  • On Thursday the new Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening was asked to make a statement on school funding. The Government announced that the implementation of a new national funding formula for schools will be delayed by a year. It will publish its response to a consultation on this and set out further proposals once Parliament returns in the autumn. The Secretary of State said that no local council will see a reduction from their 2016-17 funding for schools or for high needs next year. I am concerned that the Government has delivered a real-terms cuts to school budgets across the country. Schools are struggling to cope with a 5% funding shortfall as a result of the decision to increase national insurance and teachers’ pension contributions. In my view the Government should recognise that pupil numbers are rising and that the shortage of teachers is growing and consider how it can help schools.

Parliament goes into the summer recess period now and returns in September, so as usual these MP Update email bulletins will also take a break and return then. As ever, do get in touch with any issues on your mind in the meantime and I will try my best to reply.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Many thanks to those who filled in last week’s e-survey. I’m still working my way through the results and it is very helpful to get views on local and national issues in this way.

It occurs to me, however, that I don’t often ask your views on international issues – and I know there are plenty of opinions and views you will have on what is happening in the wider world. Just look at a few (and by no means all!) of the issues currently in the news which I find of concern:

  • the dreadful terrorist attack in Nice in which at least 84 people were killed when a heavy goods lorry was driven deliberately into crowds, is the third in 18 months to have killed large numbers of people in France. The Home Secretary confirmed on Monday that consular staff were assisting British nationals caught up in the attacks and that the threat from international terrorism in the UK remained severe. The rampage of the gunman in Germany has also heightened anxieties on security too.
  • the attempted coup in Turkey resulted in a reported 260 people being killed and 1,400 injured. Turkey is of pivotal cultural, political and strategic importance to the world and a vital NATO ally. It is important that we work together to ensure that Turkey has a secure foundation of democracy, freedom of speech and human rights into the future.
  • There are many local people of Kashmiri and Pakistani origin concerned with the news from Kashmir of hundreds of civilians reported injured in the past fortnight in the long-running dispute. Here there is a case for Britain and the EU to make efforts to encourage all sides to demilitarise and enter into a thorough peace process so that a settlement can be achieved. I spoke to the new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about Kashmir this week.
  • The collapse of peace talks between Israel and Palestinian authorities in 2014 has seen sporadic attacks and continued Israeli settlement expansion in occupied territory. Since October, Palestinian street attacks have killed at least 33 Israelis and two visiting Americans and Israeli forces have killed at least 204 Palestinians, 138 of whom it said were assailants. The renewal of a peace process continues to be clearly necessary.
  • The US Presidential election offers a real fork-in-the-road choice, between Hillary Clinton and the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. This election in November will have real ramifications for us in the UK and the wider world, simply because of the massive impact that US foreign and economic policy has globally.

There are of course plenty other examples of international controversy and concern – so I wanted to know where you thought I should be focusing and on what aspects of foreign policy I should take the time to consider. As ever, I look forward to reading your views. In the meantime, do have a pleasant summer.

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MP Update – 9th July

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

There is a great deal in ‘the news’ at the moment! My principle focus is the impact that leaving the European Union will have on Nottingham residents and businesses. Nationally, I have called for a pause before Article 50 (to formally leave the EU) is triggered so we can agree our negotiating strategy – which in my view needs to preserve our access to the single market ‘European Economic Area’. The rapid fall in the value of the pound will change some of the prices for goods in the shops and I expect that fuel prices will start to rise shortly, as with other imported commodities.

And there are some other significant local issues to resolve. There are several Nottingham groups and institutions – in the arts, science & research, the universities and colleges – who were planning on support from European Union finance for their future planning. Now that things are up in the air, I want to help secure alternative sources of funding. Otherwise there will be schemes currently underway that may be in jeopardy. There are real jobs, businesses and projects at stake. My request to you is this: if you are involved in local organisations that could be adversely affected by the ending of EU finance – or the restriction on rights to trade or work in the EU – please could you email me at this address? I will try to do what I can to coordinate issues with the local authority and press Ministers in Government as best I can.

Sadly, there will not be ‘£350million a week for our NHS’, despite the slogan on the side of the ‘Vote Leave’ bus. Indeed, the value of the taxpayers’ stake in Royal Bank of Scotland has already fallen by the same amount as our annual contribution to the EU! Economic activity and confidence is likely to be affected soon, so I will be advocating an economic stimulus package to help counteract that.

NOTTINGHAM

  • This week I visited the Schools, Colleges and Community Outreach Department at Nottingham Trent University to find out about the work they do with young people, both before and during university, to help them to develop their aspirations, raise attainment and promote engagement with their education. I observed a session with some school children where they were taught how to recognise and deal with symptoms of stress, to help enhance exam preparation, which it turn can help their educational attainment. Last year, the department delivered activities to over 1,200 pupils from two of the secondary schools in Nottingham East – Djanogly City Academy and Nottingham Academy, and I was really impressed by their work to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is great to know that NTU are working hard to link up with our local community and help with the transition from school to university.
  • On Friday I visited Nottingham Academy which is the largest secondary school in the city, and one of the biggest in Europe, and I had a chance to catch up with school Principal Ged Rae. With nearly 3,000 pupils aged 3-19, it was really interesting to hear how they are meeting the challenges of having such a large and diverse pupil population. As part of my visit I met a group of year 9 pupils who told me about their experiences at the school and their aspirations for sixth form and beyond (pictured below).

Nottingham Academy

  • On Friday, Notts Healthcare 2016 took place in the Old Market Square to enable people to find out about services across Nottinghamshire to support their health and wellbeing. The event focused on self-care and prevention, and included mini health checks, children’s activities and information about job and volunteering opportunities. I welcome Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s efforts to engage the community in their work. With our healthcare service under increasing strain, it is important for us all to have an awareness of the appropriate services to access. 

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Obviously, the main discussion in the Commons this week followed the long-awaited publication of Sir John Chilcot’s report in the Iraq war. There were clearly misjudgements and mistakes in the decision-making and action taken in Iraq – and Chilcot’s report deserves serious and sober attention, given the detailed and comprehensive account he has presented.  Primarily, we need to learn from errors made for future policy. As I said in my question to David Cameron in the Commons on Wednesday, there are practical lessons to be learned especially for Parliament as a whole. This was one of the first decisions to engage in pre-mediated combat where Parliament had to authorise the decision as recommended by Ministers. As such, I want the Commons in future to have greater scrutiny of the Attorney General before it reaches decisions – I would suggest a specific question time opportunity to probe on the legality issues before a vote is taken. Second, I want more accountability of the security services to Parliament, rather than only via a group of MPs selected by the Prime Minister. Plus there needs to be improvements in the way the intelligence agencies explore and report findings. And third, where Parliament concludes that military intervention is necessary, as sometimes it will be, then future Prime Ministers should have a better equipped National Security Council with a thread of accountability back to MPs. Like other MPs I made my decisions at the time in good faith and while with hindsight we could have tried to contain Saddam’s brutality for longer, the decision was appropriate given the information then available. Nevertheless, there are significant constitutional lessons which I will press my colleagues to take forward.
  • This week the legal status of EU nationals residing in the UK was discussed on a number of occasions in the House of Commons.  On Monday the Immigration Minister responded to an urgent question on this issue following comments from the Home Secretary the previous weekend. The Home Secretary had suggested that “people who have an established life here” would be part of negotiations with Brussels following the outcome of the EU referendum. To throw any doubt over the right of EU nationals to remain here in the future not only undermines family life, but the stability of our public services, our economy and our society. The Home Secretary did not come to the House of Commons on Monday to answer the urgent question and clear up the confusion, and while the Immigration Minister stated that there would be no immediate change in their status in the UK, he refused to provide any further assurances. For people who are making a huge contribution to our society to be talked about as bargaining chips is insensitive to say the least, and I am glad that the Immigration Minister acknowledged on Monday the immense contribution made by EU citizens to our economy, NHS and schools. This is a matter entirely for the Government, and by its own decision it is making this an issue in the negotiations. By doing so it is leaving uncertainty for people, and I fear it is creating conditions for the unwelcoming climate that we have seen to continue. On Wednesday I supported an Opposition motion calling on the Government to commit that EU nationals currently living in the UK shall have the right to remain. I am pleased that the motion passed by 245 votes to 2. The Home Secretary should now accept the decision of the House of Commons and confirm the legal status of EU nationals without delay.
  • With industrial action in some schools this week, I pressed Education Secretary Nicky Morgan on the workload pressures facing teachers during Commons Questions this week. The shortage of staff in some schools coupled with duplicative paperwork are issues that need confronting – and I was surprised that Ministers reiterated their view that somehow the ‘free market’ was a solution here!
  • On Tuesday during Health Questions I pressed the Health Minister to communicate more effectively on the challenge of antibiotic resistance, which is a real threat to some key medical procedures is we do not manage this properly. Inappropriate use of antibiotics could have severe effects on some medical interventions that are reliant on these drugs, such as gut surgery, joint replacement, caesarean sections and chemotherapies. The Minister agreed and I will watch closely to ensure that the Government’s strategy works as well as possible.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

There is good evidence to suggest that musical ability at an early age equips children to be motivated, creative and self-reliant in other subjects including maths and literacy. That’s why yesterday I convened a ‘Nottingham Music Education’ roundtable discussion (pictured below) with the key stakeholders from across the city’s schools, public bodies and music organisations.

The discussion was prompted in part by my meeting with Kadie Kanneh and Stuart Mason a few months ago. Kadie and Stuart’s seven children are all musically gifted and have benefitted from a supportive school environment for their music education – and their son Sheku of course recently won the BBC Young Musician of the Year award.

I’d be interested in any observations you have about this issue. Nottingham does really well in comparison to other cities and our Music Hub has broadened involvement at the entry level including in primary schools really well. But there are still improvements we can make; making sure musical interest continues through transition to secondary school; giving parents more information about affordable after-school music tuition; bringing on ability and excellence with support (and possible sponsorship or bursaries?) for one-to-one tuition; setting a stretching goal to have more children at Grade 3 ability level. We will pursue some of these conclusions and in the meantime do let me know if you have other thoughts and suggestions to feed in.

MusicRoundtable

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MP Update – 3rd July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Sunday 3rd July 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

In the aftermath of the referendum decision to leave the European Union, there are now a series of crucial decisions to be made by Parliament and the Government. I believe that Britain should aim to retain access for our business and trade to the single market of 500million people across the 27 other EU nations. Those other EU countries will of course be wary, but we need to approach the negotiation of a new deal with Europe very carefully.

On Monday in the Commons I urged the Prime Minister to avoid triggering the immediate ‘Article 50’ negotiation on exiting until at least the new year, to give us time as a country to settle on the right plan and to stabilise our economy ahead of an orderly transition.

I fully understand that there are many people aghast at the outcome of the referendum and some are petitioning and emailing urging re-entry into the EU. The democratic decision on our membership of the EU club has now been made and we cannot overrule that view. That does not mean, however, that we shouldn’t try to salvage as much as possible from the existing good relationships and benefits of our engagement and alliances – and I will continue to fight in Parliament for that approach. I also think all parties need to address some of the most immediate anxieties in our communities, such as the worries of EU citizens already working here in the UK; I think that the Government should say now that they should continue to have permission to remain here, not least to put an end to the dreadful ‘go home’ insults that are starting in some quarters.

If you have particular issues either at work, in your business or in your neighbourhood that will be affected by the decision to end our EU membership please do let me know – I am interested in pulling together all the policy consequences and making sure I feed these in to the decision-making process as best I can. This is going to be a vast and complex task but the next phase is now extremely important.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Friday marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. One million men were killed and injured on all sides during the five month battle in 1916, the deadliest of the First World War. Events took place across the country this week to remember the many people who lost their lives, including an event at Nottingham High School on Friday to re-dedicate their war memorial to former pupils who lost their lives during the war. During these challenging times, it is important to stop and reflect on the sacrifices made just a few generations ago, and be grateful that Europe has now been at peace for over 70 years.
  • Last week, one of our schools hosted the Paralympic torch as part of its farewell tour ahead of the Rio Paralympic Games this summer. Rosehill School in St Ann’s provides education for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders. Headteacher Fenella Dowler said “to be part of the Paralympics torch tour is very important to us as we instil a sense of aspiration within our children. Here, it’s not about what they can’t do, it’s about what they can do and we hope this visit will inspire people to have positive outcomes in their future.” It was great to see the pupils getting into the Paralympic spirit, and hopefully they will all enjoy following the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games in September.

RosehillFINAL

  • Feedback from the consultation on the proposed merger of Central College Nottingham and New College Nottingham has been published. The feedback document notes that the majority of responses to the consultation were positive about the merger, and the two colleges have reaffirmed their desire to move ahead with the merger on 1st Anyone wishing to view the feedback document can do so on the Central College website here. I’m pleased that a proper consultation has been held, and I will continue to follow the outcomes of the merger closely.
  • The Nottingham Night Market is being held in the Lace Market on Thursday 7th July from 5pm. The market will feature stalls from local artists and traders, and will include food, crafts and arts. The market will thread through the streets and historic buildings of the Lace Market area. If you’d like to find out more about the event, you can visit the Facebook page here.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday the Prime Minister made his first statement to Parliament following the result of the EU Referendum. The Prime Minister outlined in his statement the Government’s preparatory work for the negotiation to leave the EU, its plans for engaging the devolved administrations, and the next steps for Tuesday’s European Council meeting. He also confirmed that a new EU unit in Whitehall would be created. The Prime Minister’s statement followed a speech from the Chancellor which aimed to reassure the financial markets before they opened on Monday. Due to the market turbulence that followed the referendum I believe the immediate priority is to seek stability. It was also notable that the Chancellor also announced this week that it will be unrealistic to aim for an absolute surplus in the public finances by 2020, which is clearly the case. A more flexible approach on the fiscal deficit, while still aiming for a balance in the current budget, is needed. Now that Britain’s AAA credit rating is being affected by the referendum consequences I will be watching this approach to the public finances very carefully indeed. The PM also made a Statement on Wednesday following his attendance at the EU Summit
  • On Monday and Tuesday the House of Commons debated the Finance Bill. The Bill needs significant change now, especially following ‘Brexit’. There are other issues that were debated including amendments which would have made a small but important step towards tackling poor air quality and the law affecting workers engaged through an employment intermediary and their employers who cannot claim tax relief for home-to-work travel. Another amendment sought a review of the impact of the Climate Change Levy in reducing carbon emissions, and my colleague Caroline Flint lead amendments that aimed to increase tax transparency to require large multinational enterprises to publish a country-by-country report on their activities within their published tax strategy and registers of beneficial ownership for all the Crown dependencies and overseas territories. Following the debate on Monday and Tuesday the Bill continued its Committee Stage.
  • On Wednesday the Government made a statement in the House of Commons on hate crime. Any referendum has the potential to create division in society and the EU referendum was no different. I am concerned by the rising tension across the country in recent weeks. Following the result, it is important that work is done to heal the divisions the campaign has created and directly deal with the small minority of people who seek to use these moments to peddle hatred and violence. Since the EU referendum last Thursday, there have been reports of a fivefold increase in race hate comment on social media channels. There has also been a 57% increase in reported hate crimes via the Police’s online portal, True Vision. This comes on top of an already rising tide of hate crime in England and Wales. Last year, the police recorded over 50,000 individual hate crimes, most of them racially motivated, which was an 18% rise on the previous year. I am concerned that perhaps the most disturbing reports are those of attacks on individuals and specific communities in recent days, including against non-British nationals and Muslim women. Hate crime is a rejection of the British values that have always bound us together and I hope that the Government will continue to reassure non-British nationals living in Britain who are worried about their safety. It is welcome that the Government has committed to bring forward a new hate crime action plan and I hope the details are published urgently. It is important that people know how to report hate crimes and have confidence that they will be taken seriously.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

One of the consequences of the referendum campaign has been the loss of confidence by 80% of Labour MPs in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead Labour into a potentially much earlier general election. The vote of no confidence was clear and it is now impossible to see how he can continue. Not only has he lost his shadow cabinet and dozens of frontbenchers, who are the people who have worked most closely with and know Jeremy Corbyn the best. Even those he has replaced them with are resigning because they realise how untenable the situation is – and they are from all corners of the Labour family.

At the end of the day, we have to have an Opposition with a basic level of credibility, able to reach out and convince a majority of the country that we can form a functioning alternative government. Governments are formed from within Parliament – hence the requirement for a basic threshold of Parliamentary support behind whoever becomes the Leader of the Opposition. A challenge to his leadership now looks unavoidable, although obviously it would be better for the Party if Jeremy Corbyn stepped aside.

I have received emails on both sides of this question, including a great number of people who have voiced their desperation for Labour to find a leader able to unite the Party again into a ‘broad church’ via the website https://www.savinglabour.com/ . We cannot head into a general election with a leadership struggling to understand the concerns being voiced by the country at large, let alone leaders who cannot unify the party around sensible solutions with broad-based appeal.

These are really hard decisions and there are passions on both sides, which need listening to with respect. My overriding priority is to see a change of government, taking power away from right-wing Tories who are in the ascendency now in the Conservative leadership contest. Unless we can win a general election, we are unable to exert direct influence to create a fairer society which believes in social justice and engaging with our neighbours and allies worldwide.

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MP Update – 26th June

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP –   Sunday 26th June 2016
(for more news also see my Facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

With Britain now set to leave the European Union, there are now many important decisions facing our country, the Government and Parliament. I am obviously disappointed at the result but, given the decision by the British people, we must now accept the outcome and move forward to ensure that our economy is stabilised and that we secure the best possible negotiated exit.

There are many lessons for legislators and Ministers to learn from the referendum result and in today’s ‘MP Update’ I will be touching on some but not all of these. For me it is clear that the majority of the people want a UK Parliament that stands up for the interests of the majority, that they are clear where the buck stops, and that British interests are at the heart of everything we do.

For now, I am focusing on the immediate consequences of this decision for Nottingham and my constituents in Nottingham East, whether in businesses that export, the impact on local consumers and of course the resources we need for decent local services.

In Nottingham we had a turnout of 62% – well below the national average – with ‘Leave’ only slightly in the majority by 50.8% to 49.2%.

There are a number of very significant consequences now flowing from the referendum and they include the following:

  • Parliament reconvenes tomorrow to consider the next steps for Britain outside the EU. I believe we need to take a careful and step-by-step approach to the exit negotiations. I am prepared to support measures that maximise our continued cooperation and cordial relations with all European countries; to continue working in partnership with other countries on trade, market access, environmental and regulatory questions. I also believe Britain should aim to retain access to the European single market for the good of our economy.
  • I will be paying particular attention to the stabilisation of our economy, banking and public finances over the coming months. The stability of the financial markets, sterling and the stock exchange may feel removed from households in Nottingham but it is important we support any action to protect the value of assets, pensions, savings and secure price stability. It is typically those on the lowest incomes who suffer if we see inflation rise unduly or firms face problems leading to unemployment. I will be talking with Ministers and others across the parties about measures that may be required. There may be taxation and public spending implications too and I will of course want to do what I can to protect basic public services in our area.
  • I am very concerned about the move to have a second referendum in Scotland for their potential independence from the UK. I believe this would be deeply regrettable although I think this may well have been predictable. I am concerned at the prospect of anything that might impede the unity of Scotland with England and although I understand the issues arising because of the different vote in Scotland from the rest of the UK, this is a situation facing other regions too including London and I don’t believe cessation is the answer. There are also issues facing the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which I will be watching closely.
  • David Cameron’s imminent departure as Prime Minister means there is a likelihood of an earlier general election with a new Tory leader looking to go to the country for a fresh mandate far sooner than 2020. This also means that as Labour MPs we must ensure we have a strong and focused Opposition able to be in contention in that election. Today Hilary Benn was sacked as Shadow Foreign Secretary because he could not express confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as Labour’s leader – and my local colleagues Lilian Greenwood (MP for Nottingham South) and Vernon Coaker (MP for Gedling) have also resigned for this reason. I support Lilian and Vernon in their decision which is borne of a desire to ensure we build a Labour leadership capable of reaching out to the whole of the country and addressing the wider concerns and challenges facing the Britain following the referendum result.

These are serious times but I will do my best to represent the interests of Nottingham East in Parliament on these decisions. As ever, please do let me know any thoughts or suggestions that arise, although you will have to bear with me if I am slightly slower in responding given how busy this period will now be.

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MP Update – 18th June

The brutal murder of my fellow MP and friend Jo Cox has left Westminster and many communities across the country in shock. Jo was going about her normal constituency duties and killed in circumstances we never expect to see in this country. She was the best of MPs, a fearless campaigner but also a genuinely caring person, the very nicest you could ever hope to know.

The House of Commons will assemble tomorrow to pay tribute to Jo and across all political parties we will come together to give thanks for the privilege of knowing her and to reinforce our democratic values, which Jo represented so ably. Everyone who knew Jo is devastated by these events but my thoughts are now with her husband Brendan and her two children who have been so cruelly robbed of their mother.

JoCox

NOTTINGHAM

  • Nottingham residents have this weekend shown their solidarity not only with a vigil in memory of Jo Cox, but also in response to the terrible news last weekend about the mass shooting in Orlando. This hateful attack on the LGBT community was difficult to comprehend, and with 49 people murdered it is the worst mass shooting in US history. The Council House flew the rainbow flag at half-mast this week, and a book of condolence has been opened for the victims. It is important that we demonstrate that these kind of extremist attacks are unacceptable and have no place in either the USA or the UK. It was also particularly kind of President Obama to telephone Jo Cox’s husband Brendan this weekend to express his condolences – as have many leaders from across the world.
  • In other local news, earlier in the week I had the chance to visit the site of the new biosciences building being constructed at the BioCity site on Pennyfoot Street. The site visit was arranged as part of ‘Open Doors’ week, which aims to encourage people to consider a career in construction. It was really interesting to see how the work is progressing, and I look forward to visiting the new building once it has been completed.
  • On Thursday I was invited to address the pupils at Nottingham Girls High School about the forthcoming EU referendum at their morning assembly. After a question-and-answer session ‘grilling’ it was nice to also have an opportunity to be shown around the school facilities.
  • Although it’s outside the boundaries of the Nottingham East constituency, I also had a chance to visit Trinity School to see their music department in action, where pupils have a greater than normal part of their curriculum time dedicated to music learning – with access to one-to-one tutoring too. Ahead of the roundtable meeting I am convening to discuss music education later in July, I wanted to see first-hand how they have deliver and resource their approach.
  • Yesterday I attended the Armed Forces Day event at the Mapperley Sports Village off Ransom Road where they had stalls, a dance group and other activities raising money for Nottinghamshire charity Forces In The Community. I would like to pay particular tribute to Lesley Gnandte and her friends for putting in the time and effort to arrange the event as a mark of our support for the service and sacrifice of those who serve in our armed forces.

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  • On Saturday I also dropped by the Refugee Week launch event at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery which was a great assembly of a series of charities and voluntary organisations helping support the refugee community including the Refugee Forum, the Red Cross – and thanks to Roger Bromley chair of Nottingham Beyond Borders and Katy Culbard for arranging and coordinating everything.
  • A new children’s TV series filmed in and around Nottingham has been shown on CBBC this week. The programme is called Jamie Johnson and timed to coincide with the Euro 2016 tournament, is based around 11-year old Jamie whose dream is to be a footballer. It’s fantastic to have locations in the city such as St Ann’s Allotments used for the series, and I was pleased to hear that the cast will return to Nottingham this summer to film a second series. If you want to catch up with the series, you can watch it on iPlayer here.
  • Nottinghamshire Deaf Society’s project ‘Hearing Deaf Voices’ is looking for volunteers to help with their work to celebrate local deaf culture and heritage by capturing memories and experiences. They will be holding two volunteer ‘taster sessions’ later this month if you’re interested in helping, on Saturday 25th from 10am and Tuesday 28th June from 2pm until 5pm at 22 Forest Road. To book contact Nic Ramsdale in the Hearing Deaf Voices team email ramsdale@nottsdeaf.org.uk

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday the Government was asked to make a statement on the terrorism threat and on wider security measures in the UK in the light of the horrific attacks on the lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender community in Orlando, USA. This was an act of terrorism that targeted the gay community, where 49 people were killed and a further 53 people were injured at a nightclub in Orlando at the weekend. Both the Government and the Shadow Home Secretary on behalf of the Opposition condemned this attack. My deepest sympathies and solidarity are with the families and friends of those who died. In this country we celebrate diversity and we should never let terror divide our communities. We will continue to fight hate and homophobia in all their forms and stand alongside the LGBT community.
  • Also on Monday the Policing and Crime Bill was debated in the House of Commons. There are some positive developments: measures to give anonymity for victims of forced marriage; improvements on the police bail regime; and the proposed ban on the use of police cells for people in mental health crisis. I was also pleased that the Government listened to the Opposition and strengthened the measures in the Bill on child exploitation, particularly on the licensing regime for private hire vehicles. There were some significant developments in response to the historic verdict of the Hillsborough inquest. I welcome that during the debate the Government indicated that they are prepared take some action on the long-standing loophole of retirement being used by police officers as a route to evade misconduct proceedings and to extend the 12-month limit for exceptional instances of misconduct and will follow progress on this closely.
  • On Tuesday my colleague Andy Burnham the Shadow Home Secretary asked an urgent question on the incidents of English fan violence in Marseille at the Euro 2016 football tournament. The Shadow Home Secretary said that many England fans were clearly the victims of violent extremists and poor security and drew the House’s attention to serious concerns raised by the chairman of the Football Association in a letter to UEFA which identified a number of major security lapses at the stadium. Given the heightened security around the tournament, it is extraordinary that fireworks and flares were taken in and then let off. I am concerned about the potential for further violence amongst fans – something we cannot afford to see and I know people who are out there to enjoy the football will be worried about this. The Home Secretary stated on Monday that the Government would work with the French authorities and echoed the England captain and manager in urging fans to stay out of trouble.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Although this is the final weekend before the EU referendum (this Thursday – with polling stations open between 7am and 10pm), many of the campaigning events have been put on hold out of respect for Jo Cox. The BBC Radio Nottingham debate I was due to take part in will now be rearranged for this coming Tuesday from 6pm.

This is one of the most momentous weeks in modern British politics and, as you will know, I am urging people to vote to Remain in the EU. On Wednesday I published an article for the New Statesman magazine in which I argued that the risk of economic downturn that would follow leaving the EU means voting ‘out’ is not the right answer for those concerned about immigration. You can read my full article at the link here.

Being in the EU brings us great economic benefit: it accounts for 44% of our exports and 53% of imports of goods and services, as well as almost £500 billion foreign direct investment. This is my last MP Update before the referendum on Thursday and I would be interested in your thoughts this week – and if you have any questions I can help with – and I sincerely hope we remain in the European Union in order to maintain our global influence, our national prosperity and our wider security.

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MP Update – 11th June

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

With less a fortnight until the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it looks like the vote will be a close run thing. While the EU might not fill everyone with excitement, I think it’s a really important club that Britain needs to stay in for serious reasons – so that our economy does well and so we can influence world affairs.

For me, it’s about assessing the risks of severing the link and quitting the European Union. If we leave, will our departure from the single market hit businesses and reduce jobs in the area? If we get a recession as indicated by the Governor of the Bank of England, could we see more downstream cuts for vital public services like the NHS? If you’re a homeowner, will a fall in house prices risk a rise in ‘negative equity’ and problems with mortgage rates and repayments?

My view is that the risks outweigh the benefits of leaving. Just look at how the financial markets have reacted since yesterday’s opinion poll suggesting that ‘Leave’ is ahead: the pound was knocked to a seven-week low, with dented share prices and demand fueled for safer assets such as bonds and gold (and that’s just jitters on an opinion poll result!).

But this isn’t just about markets far removed from us. Nottingham directly benefits from EU membership, getting around £100million since 2000 on projects like the refurbishment at Broadway Media Centre and delivering the tram network. And hundreds of Nottingham businesses get easy access to customers across the single market.

I’ll be debating the issues live on BBC Radio Nottingham with representatives from both the ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ sides this coming Thursday evening from 6pm. This is an issue that will affect everybody.

NOTTINGHAM

  • You may recall the incident at the Victoria Centre on 29th May when a suspicious package was identified and the shopping centre had to be evacuated during the busy Bank Holiday weekend. Speaking with some residents in the Victoria Centre flats above the shopping centre it’s clear that they felt they were not kept sufficiently informed during the incident. As well as liaising with the Police, I contacted Nottingham City Homes to ask if procedures would be reviewed in light of the incident and I was pleased to hear that a public meeting is being planned for residents to allow them to air their concerns. Fortunately the suspicious package turned out to be a discarded suitcase, but it is important that residents in the flats, or in any similar tower block, are made fully aware of emergency and evacuation procedures. The residents at Victoria Centre flats deserve to know in advance of all alarms and incidents what procedures should be followed and how they will be informed.
  • This year’s Nottingham Refugee Week is taking place from 17th– 27th June at venues across Nottingham. Refugee Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the needs of refugees as well as to showcase local talent from the refugee community. Among the events taking place are film screenings, live music nights, food evenings and theatre performances.
  • This week is National Carers Week, which is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and to recognise the contribution they make to families and communities. Yesterday I spent much of the day shadowing Heather Dill who is a carer working for Nottingham Community Housing Association as she made home visits to three service users. It was a real eye-opener to spend this time ‘shadowing’ Heather – which was arranged through trade union Unison in the East Midlands (pictured below with Sean Kelly-Walsh from UNISON). Some of those needing care receive four visits a day, helped with getting out of bed, meals, cleaning and shopping – and crucially overseeing administration of medication. These are vital tasks, often unsung, but with thousands depending on this help across the city. I was struck by the attention to detail Heather showed, the need to keep records accurately at each visit and also the rapport she had with each client. I’ll be taking some of the lessons I learned – such as the need for adequate time for each visit – into discussions in Parliament about how social care should be delivered.

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  • It’s the Queen’s official 90th birthday celebrations and I know that there are lots of local events, with schools getting involved and hopefully the weather will be kind! If you’ve got any pictures of street parties or other things going on do email them so I can share on twitter and facebook etc! Enjoy the weekend.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • The two most interesting events in Parliament this week happened outside the Chamber itself – in the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee. Select Committees – groups of backbench MPs – play an important role in holding the Government and many other institutions to account, and the BIS committee did so well this week. On Tuesday it heard from Mike Ashley, who admitted that in certain instances Sports Direct staff were not paid minimum wage, and that the company had outgrown his ability to manage it. Then, on Wednesday they heard from various characters in the BHS retail collapse, a saga of dubious deals and threats between owner and staff. I’m glad that Iain Wright MP and his colleagues have pressed forward with these enquiries.
  • On Monday the Home Secretary made a statement on the Government’s strategy for removing foreign national offenders (FNOs) following the publication of a critical report by the Home Affairs Select Committee. I am concerned that while there has been progress on the deportation of FNOs, it has been slow. The Select Committee said that it was deeply concerned that there were nearly 6,000 FNOs living in communities — the highest figure since 2012. My colleague, the Shadow Home Secretary rightly pressed the Government on what they will do to bring the figure down. This is an issue of Government competence and they urgently need to get a grip on it. Our membership of the EU makes it easier to deport people. The EU prisoner transfer agreement provides a framework to speed up the process, and country-to-country deals are far harder to achieve. Access to the Schengen information system and the European criminal records information system helps us to stop criminals arriving in the UK, and the European arrest warrant means that they can be brought to justice.
  • On Monday and Tuesday the Investigatory Powers Bill returned to the House of Commons. I have consistently supported the principle of new legislation to provide an updated legal framework for investigatory powers with stronger safeguards to better protect our privacy and national security and I have been clear that I will only support new legislation in this area if it strikes the right balance. My colleagues in the Shadow Home Office team secured some important commitments with regards to privacy and human rights. They ensured that Judicial Commissioners will scrutinise the decision to issue a warrant, that NHS records should only be accessed in exceptional circumstances, that there should be stronger protections for lawyers and journalists, and got the Government to commit that trade union activities could not be considered sufficient reason for investigatory powers to be used. There will now be an independent review of all the bulk powers in the Bill. To have voted against the Bill would have denied people those safeguards and left us with a much weaker piece of legislation that does not afford those protections. I therefore voted for the Bill at Third Reading and am glad the Labour frontbench did so as well. It is clear that investigatory powers need updating in a fast-changing world, and it is also clear that greater transparency is needed in how those powers are used. The Bill will now be scrutinised in the House of Lords.
  • The deadline for voter registration for the EU referendum was midnight on Tuesday 7 June. However, on Tuesday evening a technical glitch on the gov.uk voter registration website caused it to crash, meaning many people could not register to vote before the deadline. On Wednesday the Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration asked the Government to make a statement on the problems with the gov.uk voter registration website. I welcomed the Government’s announcement on Wednesday that people should continue to register to vote and that their applications would be valid. However, this chaotic situation was unacceptable given the predictable rise in traffic in advance of the deadline. On Thursday the Government brought forward a Statutory Instrument, with full support from the Opposition, in order to pass the relevant legislation to enable the deadline for voter registration for the EU referendum to be extended until midnight on Thursday 9 June. This was approved without a vote.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Nottingham City Transport is an internationally award-winning council-owned bus company that has helped make our city a leader in public transport in the UK. Yet the Government this week indicated that they may try to change the law and forbid local authorities from setting up municipally-owned bus and transport firms. It’s not clear yet whether this could hit Nottingham’s transport planning, because although Ministers claim they’re not intending to ban existing council activities, if we were to get the powers we need to commission and franchise local public transport in the city, this could be viewed as a ‘conflict of interests’ between the council as a ‘client’ and also as a ‘provider’. I’ve discussed this with my colleague Lilian Greenwood MP who is on Labour’s frontbench with shadow transport responsibilities. We will try to amend the Bus Services Bill when it comes to the Commons in the autumn, not least to clarify that NCT won’t be degraded or disadvantaged.

But I’d be interested in your thoughts on NCT and Nottingham generally as a provider of bus service connectivity – how do you think Nottingham compares to other parts of the country when it comes to public transport? Do you agree we should defend the city council ownership of NCT? It’s a detailed issue, but could have ramifications for our local bus services.

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