Friday 1st February

Tuesday’s knife-edge votes in the House of Commons have given the Prime Minister a two-week window to cajole the European Union into re-opening the Brexit withdrawal agreement – and ditch the ‘backstop’ guarantees of an open Irish border, that she had previously agreed, in favour of some (as yet unspecified) ‘alternative arrangements’. That’s why I fully expect this next period of time between now and 14th February will be one big wild goose-chase.  

While I was glad to have the Commons majority reaffirm that there is not an appetite for a ‘no deal’ Brexit (the amendment from Caroline Spelman on this was successful), the idea that the Prime Minister is now going to throw away a fortnight chasing unicorns instead of the ‘backstop’ is the very definition of time-wasting. Theresa May has opted to pander to her right-wing ERG anti-EU MPs instead recognising this impasse and putting this issue back to the public. 

Having this backstop mechanism to safeguard against a hard border on the island of Ireland is important and I can understand the anxieties of the Irish Government; we should all want to preserve the peace established by the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago and installing customs and inspection checks along a defended border would be a massively retrograde step.  

My suspicion is that the EU27 governments and the Irish will not want to turn a blind eye to the risks of a hard border and they will be deeply reluctant to water-down the backstop. Consequently, we will all be back to square one on 14th February when the Commons will vote again. 

Really, at that point, it will be necessary for MPs to face reality rather than fantasy, and set up a proper process for us to make real decisions. If there is no majority for a viable, realistic Brexit, then surely we have to put the question back to the British people?  

While Westminster prevaricates, today’s Guardian newspaper reports that the fear of a hard Brexit is pushing one in three firms to plan moving abroad, according to an Institute of Directors’ survey. 

There are real lives, real jobs and real consequences of a damaging Brexit occurring. I will not support a decision that damages the livelihoods and incomes of the people of Nottingham.

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Fire Station Vsit

While we are all getting on with everyday life, our emergency services are always on duty – ready to respond and sometimes putting their own lives on the line.

Earlier today I had a chance to speak with firefighters and officers at the London Road Fire Station in Nottingham (pictured below with Chief Fire Officer John Buckley and Fire Authority Chair Cllr Brian Grocock) about some of the incidents they’ve had to respond to, like the recent fire at the Cattle Market site and of course the railway station fire this time last year. They come to our rescue, so it’s important we help them too – preventing incidents by installing smoke alarms properly. But chiefly by arguing for the resources they need. They’ve reached the point where any more cutbacks could make the service unsustainable and unsafe – especially because their cost pressures aren’t going away.

I’ll be pressing Ministers to protect our Fire Service budget next year. This isn’t just something nice to have; it’s an absolute necessity.

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MP Update No.313 – Chancellor’s Budget Speech on Monday; People’s Vote on Brexit; Nottingham news; equal rights in Northern Ireland; climate change

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

Last Saturday’s march to Westminster saw an astonishing 700,000 people demand a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal the Government are planning to reach with the EU (see picture below). I fully support efforts by the growing cross-party group of MPs to make any future deal subject to the public’s consent, given the major ramifications of this decision (see today’s Guardian story about the People’s Vote amendment here https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/oct/27/jeremy-corbyn-second-brexit-vote-commons-amendment ).

If the Prime Minister gets her way, our country could end up with a basic trade deal with the EU similar to that of Mexico, Canada or Colombia. In other words, a ‘free trade agreement’ but still requiring extensive inspections at the border because we’d be outside the Customs Union. Just two minutes of delay to trucks going through Dover could multiply into a twenty mile tailback up the M20 as far as Ashford. HMRC are clearly unprepared for the potentially hundreds of millions of additional customs declarations that may need processing (see my questioning to customs experts at this week’s Trade Committee hearing at the link here ). And business services from finance to legal advice could be forbidden from trading across the border entirely as our regulations fail to match. This FTA-type scenario could knock over 6% off our national wealth with £36billion less to spend on public services (equivalent to a third of the NHS budget).

This is why I believe the public should have a final say on whether we depart the EU on these inferior terms or whether we remain a member of the European Union. I sincerely hope that the Labour Party will back giving the public this say – which is why I have been fighting hard this week to ensure that the Government’s attempts to rig the ‘meaningful vote’ motion on any deal are rebutted. I gave evidence also this week to the Commons Procedure Committee explaining why it is vital MPs debate and decide the approval motion in the normal way, and not the way Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab wants where amendments are demoted to votes after the main motion is determined (which would in effect render those subsequent ‘amendments’ redundant). See my evidence at the link here.

This is a complex process – but I am determined to do everything I can to get this right – given that so many consequences will flow if it goes wrong. I am concerned that some MPs are (like the general public!) getting weary of the whole thing, but frankly we are facing maybe five to seven years of additional negotiations on our future trading relationship if Brexit proceeds in March, so perhaps a quicker way of finalising things would be to hold a People’s Vote!

People's March

NOTTINGHAM

  • Last week I wrote about rumours that the post office planned to relocate Nottingham’s city centre main post office – currently at the branch on Queen Street into one of the WHSmith shops in town. The Post Office has now released its proposals and started a formal consultation, with the basic plan being to move Nottingham Post Office into the WHSmith in Victoria Shopping Centre where it would be run by WHSmith High Street Ltd. I know that several residents have raised concerns about this plan already and will be keen to have their voices heard. You can find further details of how to take part in the consultation here and materials should be available in branch and I would encourage you to write in. I think the existing Post Office is convenient and well-used so I am doubtful that the service could be improved inside the WHSmith.
  • Nottingham City Council is taking action to bring some of the 742 unused private homes in Nottingham back into use. In the last two years it has brought 134 properties back into use with some providing accommodation for homeless people. Some of the actions being taken by the Council to address the issue include a buying back some ex-council built properties in order to bring them back into stock and a leasing scheme to be run by Nottingham City Homes. Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for Housing and Planning, said ‘We do all we can within our powers to bring private homes back into use that have been left empty and deteriorating by their owners.’ She also urged neighbours and owners of unused and deteriorating properties to get in touch with the council.
  • Earlier this week a cross party group of Nottinghamshire MPs, of which I was part, wrote to the Home Secretary regarding the ’40 Days of Life’ protests which take place outside Nottingham’s main abortion clinic at QMC every year. The letter noted the importance of the right to protest but we argued that there are sufficient opportunities to do so without intimidating women and causing distress at what is often an incredibly difficult time. Our joint letter to the Home Secretary also noted that the failure of the Home Office to take action has put further pressure on the City Council and Hospital Trust, who despite taking all available actions have been unable to resolve this issue in the past. I hope the Home Secretary will look closely into this and consider taking appropriate action to stop constituents being intimidated when trying to access healthcare.
  • There will be a jobs fair on Friday 16th November 2018 at the Motorpoint Arena from 10am to 2pm run by the National Jobs Fair Network and open to all sectors/industries. There are currently over 20 local businesses registered to attend looking for local jobseekers. You can find out further information about the event here.
  • I had a useful catch-up meeting with the management at Intu shopping centres in Nottingham yesterday – they manage both the Victoria Centre and the redevelopment due in the Broadmarsh. It is long overdue, but I am told that works look set to commence on Broadmarsh around January time and will take two years, but the designs look as though they could make a significant improvement to the retail and leisure facilities available in the city centre. The ownership of Intu is potentially going to change shortly but it is not thought that the Nottingham plans will be adversely affected by this.
  • Several local GPs have contacted me with concerns that stricter data control regulations are affecting their ability to work and costing local practices a lot more. In particular, insurance companies are asking patients to use ‘subject access request’ applications as a route to obtaining information, which soaks up a lot of GP Practice time and cost. I met with Nottinghamshire’s Local Medical Committee to discuss the situation on Friday and will be working with other MPs to see if the Department for Health can find a common sense solution.
  • Thank you to the many local residents who came to talk with me yesterday in the city centre at the Nottinghamshire People’s Vote stall, where we were doing a survey about local attitudes towards Brexit, the impact on the NHS and jobs and what people want to see happen next (see picture below). I was struck by the strength of feeling expressed – especially among younger people – about the prospects for the future of the country, and I will continue to campaign as best I can on this issue.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday a short debate took place in Westminster Hall on the need for greater autism and learning disability training in the NHS. This was especially relevant to the circumstances surrounding the tragic death in 2014 of four-year-old Harry Procko from St Ann’s. Harry’s family have been actively campaigning for Emergency Departments to have greater awareness of the behaviours and characteristics of autism so that a more appropriate assessment of medical symptoms can take place, which can be communicated differently than for patients without the condition. I have pressed the Government to review autism awareness training in the past, and the fact that other MPs have voiced similar concerns means that Ministers are now more aware of changes that should be considered.
  • On Wednesday, MPs voted convincingly in favour of an amendment tabled by my colleagues Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn, which takes a small but significant step towards equality on abortion and marriage rights in Northern Ireland. Their proposal gives the Northern Ireland Secretary additional responsibilities to address “the incompatibility [between] the human rights of the people of Northern Ireland” and current province-wide prohibitions on abortion and same-sex marriage. While the law on these issues remains a devolved matter, the amendment – which passed with the support of 45 Conservative MPs – is a symbolically important statement of intent on Parliament’s part. It follows a majority vote earlier this week in favour of a bill to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland altogether, although this will not take effect in the absence of Government support. I would like to see British citizens in Northern Ireland enjoy the same civil rights available in the rest of the UK, and it’s clear that a substantial majority of MPs take the same view. The absence of a functioning government at Stormont has left the ball in Parliament’s court for now, and this was a well-crafted amendment which I was happy to support. I have always made my support both for a woman’s right to choose and equal marriage clear. Whilst I accept that the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland is of vital importance to maintaining peace, Parliament also has a responsibility to legislate on behalf of the people there.
  • This week a new report from the Committee on Climate Change – the Government’s official advisory body on climate science – offered stark warnings about the impact of rising seas on Britain’s coastline. Their key finding: it is now looking inevitable that sea levels around Britain will rise by at least one metre, and potentially reach this level by the year 2100. This will put more than 1.2 million homes at risk of severe damage or destruction, alongside a combined 2,200 kilometres of roads and railway lines and 92 train stations. This damage imposes a huge economic as well as human cost, with current coastal protection policies – described in the report as “not fit for purpose” – forecast to require up to £30 billion. These warnings are squarely in line with the scientific consensus, and time is running out to take action on reducing emissions.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

You’d be forgiven for not noticing it, but amidst the Brexit turbulence the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present his Budget on Monday at 3:30pm. Normally this is a major political occasions, but with everything else going on (and the Government lacking a sturdy majority in the Commons) it is widely expected to be a ‘treading water’ event, with very little controversy or difficult decisions being taken.

The British economy is in a state of limbo because of Brexit, with business investment and even consumer spending in abeyance before Parliament decides on whatever ‘deal’ the Prime Minister and the EU reach, if indeed they do reach a deal. If we are out of the Single Market, then British trade prospects may be weaker in the medium term, certain industrial sectors more adversely affected than others and potentially the strength of sterling could affect inflation rates and real wages too.

Rumours are that the Chancellor will give some discount to small retailers on business rates to help the High Street economy, and that the Office for Budget Responsibility have become more optimistic about tax revenues giving the Treasury some breathing space so taxes may not need to rise to match the Government’s promises on NHS spending.

So it is likely to be a story of big issues kicked into the long grass – which is particularly worrying for long term problems such as elderly social care funding, UK productivity and pensions reforms.

I’d love to know what you think the Chancellor should prioritise? I’m hoping to speak in response to the Budget and if you’ve particular suggestions I will try to raise them. Universal Credit has been a major concern recently so I’d expect the Chancellor to ease that transition and scale back some of the unfair cuts involved. Personally I think we should prioritise education and training far more, so that future skills are developed for the longer term. Let me know what your thoughts are?

 

Regards

 

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 19th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 19th October 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

With hundreds of thousands expected to march on Parliament tomorrow for a ‘People’s Vote’, the Government’s mishandling of Brexit negotiations is clearly making more and more people want to reverse out of the cul-de-sac altogether.

Even if Theresa May returns to Parliament with a second-rate trade agreement that downgrades our relationship with Europe to the status of Mexico, Colombia or Canada, the costs to our economy will be enormous. Outside the single market we can expect GDP growth to shrink by 4.8 per cent over the next 15 years, on the Treasury’s own estimates. That leaves a £50 billion-plus hole in tax revenue, meaning cuts to our NHS, schools, police.

The PM’s strategy to get such an agreement through the House of Commons is now coming into focus – convince enough MPs that we are forced to make a choice between her sub-standard ‘bad deal’, and the outright catastrophe of no deal at all, and thereby browbeat my colleagues into ushering in another decade of austerity. ‘Take it or leave it’ will be the Government’s strategy – and they are even trying to rig the parliamentary procedure and backtrack on their pledge to allow amendments from MPs as we debate what happens next.

But as I argued in the Evening Standard on Monday, that false choice is entirely a fabrication by the Prime Minister and does not need to be the choice MPs make. If the Government’s deal fails to deliver on Leave campaigners’ promises, we will have the right to send Ministers back to do better with an extended Article 50 period – or better still, give the public a final say on whether to ‘leave’ with her deal or remain in the European Union. That is the real alternative, and we mustn’t fall for Theresa May’s fake brinkmanship. It’s time for Parliament to do its jobs and protect the livelihoods and interests of the communities we represent.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Rumours of a proposal to relocate Nottingham’s city centre main post office – currently at the branch on Queen Street – are growing, with the suggestion that the Post Office intend to move it into one of the WHSmith shops in town. If this is proposed formally, there will apparently be a six week consultation period and I’d be interested to know if you have any thoughts about this.
  • I have written in previously about some of the important work being done at City Hospital Zephyr’s Centre which offers care and support to families who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a baby or child. Zephyr’s has now been shortlisted to win an award for Best Support Organisation in the Butterfly Awards 2018, a national award scheme. You can find out more information and vote here. As October is Baby Loss awareness month, Nottingham Surface Gallery has an exhibition called “Remembering Baby” which Zephyr’s is also involved in.
  • A jobs fair will be held next Wednesday (24th October) from 4pm to 7pm at St Ann’s Valley Centre. It forms part of a week-long initiative which has been set up by The Renewal Trust working closely with Nottingham City Council, City College Nottingham and Metropolitan Housing Association. Councillor Neghat Khan, portfolio holder for Education and Skills said: “Nottingham City Council is proud to support the Renewal Trust to deliver this activity in the St Ann’s, Sneinton and Mapperley areas of the city which will provide unemployed local residents with the support, advice and training they need to find employment.”
  • Nottingham Citizens launched their School Hate Crime Report in Parliament earlier this week. The report which was compiled by asking almost 3000 schoolchildren about their experiences represents an important step in the fight against hate crime in our schools. I was pleased to see that, subsequent to a Prime Minister’s Question from my Colleague Alex Norris MP, the Home Secretary will be meeting with him and a delegation of young people from Nottingham to discuss what actions can be taken to help tackle the issue.
  • Congratulations to Trent Barton Bus Driver Roy Kearney who is one of eight finalists in the Top National Driver category of the UK Bus Awards 2018. The awards ceremony will take place in in London on 20th Sharon Bailey, the operations manager who manages James, said: “He never has a bad day on the job. When driving he’s so friendly with the customers. You only have to meet him to feel that you instantly have a relationship with him.”
  • Congratulations to the Sherwood Community Hoodwinked Fund who raised £6000 in six days to purchase two of the ‘Hoodwinked Robins’ as part of the £133,000 charity fundraising effort on behalf of the Nottinghamshire Hospice. The individually painted Robins have been part of the trail at various locations across the city this summer and many have commented on this successful campaign. It is hoped the Robins purchased by the Fund will be displayed at different locations in Sherwood.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Wednesday, Tory MPs defeated a Labour motion calling on the Government to release its assessments of the impact of Universal Credit, amid continuing chaos surrounding its rollout. Prospective recipients have a right to know what the changes will mean for their allowance – particularly after Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, appeared this week to contradict the Government’s headline claim that no claimants will lose out – so it is disappointing that Ministers continue to resist transparency on this issue. The scheme was due for ‘roll-out’ in Nottingham starting this week.

Regional migrations to Universal Credit, which replaces six targeted benefits, have reportedly seen claimants wait several weeks for payments to resume, leading to localised spikes in food bank use, and also receive a smaller overall sum. Even a number of backbench Conservative MPs are now calling on the DWP to delay nationwide implementation, reflecting an increasingly widespread recognition that the system is incapable of delivering it. The Government’s handling of welfare changes are marred by mistakes. Only this week, the Government was forced to pay out nearly £1.7 billion in arrears to disabled ESA claimants whose allowances had been wrongly calculated in cases dating back to 2011. Some of these issues were reported as early as 2013, but an unwillingness to address problems has left vulnerable people waiting years to receive the support they need. Unless such mistakes are acknowledged and lessons demonstrably learned, few will have faith in this Government to manage such a sweeping change with either the competence or humanity required.

  • Disturbing information has continued to emerge about the disappearance and probable murder of the Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Credible reports indicate that the Turkish Government is in possession of an audio recording which proves a specialist ‘hit squad’ may be responsible. The key question is who authorised any order and if there is a connection to Mohammad bin-Salman, the Crown Prince. You can read Khashoggi’s poignant final column for the Washington Post, in which he calls for a free and flourishing press in the Arab world, at the link here. The policies of the Saudi administration have been widely criticised especially in relation to the conflict in Yemen and the lack of resolution which has now alerted widespread international concern about a massive famine in that country. How the United States and the rest of the world react to this situation will be critical.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

Earlier today I visited the Citizens Advice Bureau office and met with representatives from Nottingham’s advice and advocacy agencies who together – as ‘Advice Nottingham’ – help hundreds of residents each week with their problems especially in relation to welfare benefit entitlements.

Together with the other MPs from the city (pictured below), we discussed not just specific case studies where the Department for Work & Pensions has failed – but also the need for fundamental reforms, so that people are treated like real human beings rather than treated like numbers in a system.

Obviously there are many constituents who contact me regularly for help with social security issues and so it was useful to share experiences and recognise that there are some reforms we should urge the Government to pursue. For instance, the medical assessors sent to examine claimants often don’t have the specialism to match the medical nature of the claimant. Also the very high number of claimants who lose their benefits unfairly – go without money for a long period – but then win that entitlement back at appeal is very high, perhaps as high as 70% of the time. Forcing claimants to go through a costly and stressful appeal process rather than spending adequate quality time at the outset assessing an application correctly is such a waste of money. If the Government are looking for savings, far better to get these by reforming this wasteful administrative process rather than unfairly taking money from those in need who desperately need financial support. Another ridiculous problem is the reluctance on some occasions of GPs or consultants to write letters of medical testimony to the welfare assessment teams, which means that professional judgements are not being shared as well as they could be.

I would be interested if you have suggestions for reforming the welfare benefit and claims system, not just for Nottingham but for the country at large. Universal Credit will, of course, mean further changes locally, as discussed earlier. Today at our Citizens Advice Bureau meeting all the city MPs committed to taking up ideas with Ministers and I’m convinced that we should modernise the welfare system so it is fairer and more effective at helping those in greatest need.

Citizens Advice

Regards

 

Chris Leslie
Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 12th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 12th October 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Parliament is back after the Party conference season this week. Among many other news items, you’ll have seen that the media spotlight has begun to focus on the impact of ‘Universal Credit’, which is due to be rolled out at Nottingham Central Jobcentre from 17th October next week. It is a much-delayed initiative of the current Conservative Government whose aim was to replace the six separate welfare benefits (Income related Jobseeker’s Allowance; Income Support; Income related Employment and Support Allowance; Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credits; Housing Benefit) and instead make a combined single monthly payment covering all these elements.

While most people would agree the old system was complex and disjointed, there have been a series of unacceptable implementation flaws with Universal Credit in the areas where it has been piloted so far.

Two problems stand out. First, the shift to paying monthly in arrears (the theory being that operating like a monthly pay packet aligns better with the world of work) is a difficult transition for many who are not used to this, leaving a gap for some with very little money. There are reports that foodbank usage grew in the trial areas partly because individuals found this change difficult.

Second, if this was a straight aggregation of multiple benefits then it would just be an administrative headache – but it’s been made worse because George Osborne years ago decided to salami-slice funding from different elements of Universal Credit, meaning that new applications will be comparatively worse off than on the existing array of benefits. Some estimates say that very many claimants could be as much as £180 per month worse off – something the former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and John Major have warned about this week. Concerns have been raised, not least by the Child Poverty Action Group about the lack of transitional funds and support and the disastrous effect this can have.

I will be closely monitoring the effects of the roll-out in Nottingham, so if you or someone you know is being adversely affected by the implementation of this new system please do let me know – and it may also be worth getting in touch with the Welfare Right Service at Nottingham City Council (details here) or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (details here) as they can give immediate advice and support.

NOTTINGHAM

  • On Wednesday with Nottingham’s other MPs I met with Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak to press the importance of continuing government funding for the Priority Families Programme across the city. The programme underpins a significant part of Nottingham’s early intervention and preventative support for families, sometimes where children are on the edge of care or in need of intensive support finding work, helping avoid evictions and other multiple needs. Nottingham’s work has helped cut the number of children in families without work and cut the numbers in the programme affected by crime, cautions or convictions. This sort of cross-cutting action is really important and it was useful to secure the Ministers continued support for the programme in principle – though we need to keep up pressure for funding from the Treasury.

Trouble Familes Rishi Sunak

  • Earlier this week my colleague Lilian Greenwood and I (pictured below) I attended an event in Parliament Square on the need for better funding for schools. The event was organised by parents with children currently at school who were experiencing the results of a funding shortfall first-hand, whether it be a reduction in SEN support or losing favourite subjects from the curriculum. It is so important we remember that for every pound spent on high quality teaching and education, the whole community generates a manifold benefit in the longer run.

SOS Event - Parliament Square

  • Against the backdrop of a national shortage of affordable housing, Nottingham City Council is working on its homeless prevention strategy for 2018–2023. They will be consulting with residents, charities and organisations on how to tackle the growing problem aim of the new strategy being that all residents should have a home. Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning and housing, said: “Like the rest of the UK, Nottingham has seen an unprecedented rise in homelessness over the last eight years, with welfare reform, cuts to Government funding and the housing market all contributing factors. You can have your say the draft strategy here.”
  • It was privilege to attend a presentation on First World War history by local GP Dr Irfan Malik on Thursday at the Ahmadiyya Mosque in Sneinton, in remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died a hundred years ago. Dr Malik’s family come from a small village in Pakistan from where more than half the male population at the time were inducted into the army. Over the past four years he has collected a wide array of memorabilia from the First World War (picture below with the display). It is right that at this centenary period we remember not only those who fought in the Western Front, but also over one million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs from the Indian sub-continent who fought in the war, 75,000 of whom were killed in the conflict.

Indian WW1

  • Congratulations to the University of Nottingham on being named one of the top 200 universities in the world in the latest annual Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. The university came 149th, 18 places above the University of Leicester which was the only other university in the East Midlands to make the list. However there was concern as to the general health of the Higher Education sector in the UK with Phil Baty, editorial director of the THE global rankings, saying: “We see some individual stars in the UK this year, but the broader national data story is really one of stagnation and modest decline, with the UK taking a minor hit to its research reputation”. He added “We can only speculate at this stage as to any connection with Brexit, the risk, however, to the UK’s reputation and research capabilities from its separation with Europe is very real”.
  • As part of the City Council’s environment plan Hackney Carriage drivers will be able to trial new electric taxis, built by built by the London Electric Vehicle Company, as part of a ‘try before you buy’ scheme. As part of the council’s Taxi Strategy, hackney carriages licensed from 2020 must reach certain standards regarding emissions. Councillor Sally Longford, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, said: “We have ambitions to have the cleanest, greenest fleet in the country. For some visitors, their taxi service is among their first impressions of Nottingham, and we want to provide a modern, zero emission welcome to our city”.
  • This year’s Aviva Community Fund is now open for entries, and I would encourage local projects in Nottingham East to apply. The Fund is intended to finance over 500 local projects in communities across the UK, and awards range from under £1,000 up to £25,000. Projects can be entered into one of three categories: Environment, Health & Wellbeing or Skills for Life. Applications can be made until midday on 9 October 2018 and you can find out more information about the fund and how to apply here.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s leading consortium of climate scientists – released a landmark report which warned that the window in which we can realistically hope to avert catastrophic temperature rises is closing quickly. Its central finding: policymakers have twelve years to scale back greenhouse gas emissions if global warming is to be kept below 1.5 degrees – the tipping point beyond which devastating droughts, flooding and extreme weather events will become routine. In sobering news, the report estimates “with high confidence” that if emissions continue at their current trajectory, the 1.5-degree threshold will be met between 2030 and 2052, with a cataclysmic 3 degree rise possible by the end of this century. The human and geopolitical costs of failure here are colossal, and concerted international action beyond the levels envisaged in the Paris Accords will be necessary to avert them. While the Trump Administration is dragging its heels, the UK and other key players must push ahead. You can read the full report at the link here, and the Guardian’s useful breakdown of its findings and recommendations here.
  • On Tuesday the ‘Campaign to End Loneliness’ held its conference in London ahead of next week’s publication of the Government’s cross-departmental ‘Loneliness Strategy’ commissioned last year. The responsible Minister, Tracey Crouch, told attendees that problems around social disconnectedness were far more widespread than previously understood and now represent a serious public health threat, and also acknowledged that in some cases, cutbacks in local service provision have worked to exacerbate isolation in the community. It is heartening to hear the Government signal that it takes this issue seriously, although as ever the proof will be in the Strategy’s fine print, and I will carefully study its recommendations.
  • You may have read in the news about the recent ‘vote of no confidence’ passed by the local Labour Party a couple of weeks ago – accusing me of ‘deceit’ and not supporting Jeremy Corbyn. The motion was not a surprise, because it was the latest in a line of similar efforts attacking other Labour MPs, for instance censuring my colleague Joan Ryan MP in Enfield because of her efforts to stand up to antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In my case, the censure motion criticised me for disagreeing with Jeremy Corbyn. It is true I do disagree with him on several issues, such as the importance of a responsible economic policy, on national security, and on Europe. I gave a fuller response in the Guardian article which you can read at the link here. It has become sadly apparent that differing views are not tolerated by some parts of the Party and every opinion is judged on whether it is acceptable to the leadership. It’s not a good thing to have such internal party intolerance, especially given how many other more important issues there are to focus on in the world right now. I have had lots of advice over the past two years urging me to keep my head down, not to be so vocal and then I would “be all right”. But that is not what I came into politics to do.

I have been overwhelmed by the positive messages of support from many local residents since this happened. While Momentum activists may disagree with me, I have one message for all my constituents, whether Labour members or not: I am proud to serve you and I promise that no amount of deselection threats or political expediency will deter me from acting in what I believe are the best interests of you all.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

It was a fantastic turnout at the Nottingham European Movement event to discuss Brexit and the People’s Vote a couple of weeks ago (pictured below) and it was an honour to be asked to speak on the cross-party panel alongside LibDem Tom Brake, Green Natalie Bennett and Conservative Ken Clarke. Many local residents have urged me to speak out about the threat to jobs, trade, tax revenues and shared alliances we have with Europe if we end up with a bad Brexit deal.

I’d be interested in your views on the latest developments. Theresa May is dancing to the tune of her hard Brexiteer right-wing MPs, refusing to commit to a Customs Union or the Single Market for the UK even though these are the only way we could possibly proceed with Brexit and keep some of the more harmful effects to a minimum. Why does Theresa May think she can keep a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland while simultaneously pretending we can have separate trade policies than the rest of the EU? Will we see further Cabinet resignations in the coming days?

Just yesterday the Office for Budget Responsibility published their assessment saying: “under any Brexit scenario, the UK will face greater non-tariff barriers on its trade with the EU”. We look set then for slower and inhibited trade if Brexit continues. That’s why like a growing number of people I am calling for the public to have a final say on any deal reached in a People’s Vote.

What are your thoughts on how this situation is developing? If you’re not sure about whether a ‘deal’ will work, shouldn’t we let the public resolve this and give their final consent?

There will be a march in London next weekend on Sunday 20th October and hundreds of thousands are expected. Will you be there? Get more details at the link here https://www.peoples-vote.uk/march

 

Brexit What Next

Regards

 

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

 

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Mr Update – 15th September

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 15th September 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

This week’s revelations about the Russian GRU military intelligence agents suspected of the Salisbury novichok attack on the Skripals – and the death of Dawn Sturgess – have hit the headlines because of the farfetched excuses offered up in the face of the meticulous evidence unearthed by British security professionals. We take for granted that foreign operatives cannot walk into Britain and attempt to assassinate UK citizens but the overwhelming body of evidence now suggests this is what happened.

There are several lessons to take from this. First, we need a firm response to Putin’s behaviour including stringent financial sanctions against his associates, tighter controls on Russian intelligence officers posing as diplomats and also more rigorous checks on Russians entering the UK. Second, we need the wider international community to keep up the pressure on Putin’s regime and show that collectively such flouting of rules-based international rules is unacceptable. Third, we should recognise that Russia’s use of chemical-based attacks extends not just to the UK but most intensely in Syria where Putin’s allegiance with the Assad regime has seen the use of chemicals against civilians. And fourth, here in the UK our first instinct should be to give the benefit of the doubt to British security and police forces, not to sow seeds of doubt about them.

I am glad that Europe-wide arrest warrants have been issued for the two individuals under suspicion and their implausible story about tourist weekend visit called off because of the snow would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. The time has come for Russia to drop the propaganda and extradite these individuals so justice can be done.

This issue came up during the filming of this week’s BBC1 Question Time programme from Oxfordshire where I was a guest on the panel. You can watch the full episode here. We were asked also about Brexit, a People’s Vote which I support, the intervention of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the debate about the ‘gig economy’, and the state of the prison service – where I discussed the situation at Nottingham Prison.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Following the arrest of five boys allegedly connected to the appalling murder in Hyson Green of 20 year old Esrom Ghide, I have been in discussion with the police and city council about the urgent need to address the incidence of knife crime and the underlying causes which in general may be contributing to the higher number of offences in recent months. I hope that the criminal justice system will ensure that the specific cases we know about are brought to justice and that any evidence is presented to the police. More widely and in respect of other recent incidents, it is clear that two things in particular could make a real difference. First, we need to divert young boys off the streets and into more productive, positive activities such as music and sport – which means a rethink and investment in youth services locally. Second, we have to send a firm message to deter fights, attacks and skirmishes in our neighbourhoods. While it is harder to prevent pre-meditated criminal acts, if we have tougher sentencing for those found carrying knives without just cause, then maybe we can reduce the chances of the opportunistic lashing out with knifes which can have such devastating consequences. I will be pursuing these issues locally and nationally with the Government and there are further meetings and discussions taking place in the weeks ahead to try to progress some of the response we need.
  • According to figures published by the National Infrastructure Commission, Nottingham is the 5th most congested city in the UK. The National Infrastructure Commission, a body which advises the government on national infrastructure strategy, obtained this data by using a number of factors to work out the ease with which people could drive from one part of an area to different times. Councillor Dave Liversidge, portfolio holder for transport pointed out ‘these figures cover a wider region than just Nottingham, including Gedling, Broxtowe and Erewash’ and noted ‘figures released just this week by the Department for Transport showed Nottingham achieved the biggest reduction in per capita car traffic of any English local authority outside London’.
  • Voting is open for the Green Flag Award scheme’s People’s choice award, this means you can vote for your favourite park amongst those that have been recognised with a Green Flag Award. These include a number in Nottingham East which I hope you will consider supporting before the deadline at the end of the month. You can cast your vote here by finding your favourite on the winners map, opening the park description and clicking the voting button on the right.
  • Congratulations to Nottingham Business School which has been shortlisted for Business School of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards. Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School, said: “Being shortlisted for the Times Higher Education Business School of the Year Award is a recognition and an endorsement of this great work and will encourage our team and students along this journey.” The winners will be announced on the 29th November at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday the Boundary Commission for England unveiled their final proposals for redrawn Parliamentary constituencies, which pending MPs’ approval will be in place for the next General Election, due in 2022. The Commission continues to suggest significant changes in Nottingham East, which would see Berridge and Sherwood wards reallocated into an expanded Nottingham North seat, and the remaining city areas combined with parts of Gedling to form ‘Nottingham East and Carlton’ – details are at the link here (on page 56). I’m disappointed that in spite of less disruptive alternatives raised during the consultation process, the Commission have not reconsidered their plans for Nottingham. The bigger issue for me, though, is that the Government are going about this review in entirely the wrong way, on the basis of incomplete population data which effectively dilutes the votes of students, private renters and others in the community not counted properly on the register. The effect is to – surprise surprise – advantage the Conservatives, and for as long the perception of partisanship hangs over the process it will be very unlikely that a cross-party majority of MPs will back the legislation. It’s so important that this process is – and is seen to be – above party politics, and as we’re still four years from an election I think the Government should go back to the drawing board and go about this in a collaborative way.
  • On Tuesday, when Treasury Ministers took MPs’ questions on infrastructure investment, I felt I had to draw attention to the elephant in the room – that a huge chunk of the finance on which these projects depend could disappear in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This is both because schemes such as the Midlands Engine rely on direct EU funding, and because if our economy is pushed over a cliff with a ‘hard Brexit’ perhaps with no deal, investment will plunge across the board. We all stand to lose out if this happens, but the Prime Minister, held hostage by the Rees Mogg / Boris ERG group, is too frightened to ignore them. That’s why – as I argued – we need to put this issue back in the hands of the people. You can watch my question this week in the Commons at the link here.
  • This week the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, led calls for police services around the country to be properly resourced, following a worrying report from the National Audit Office which criticised the Home Office for making cuts in an uneven and arbitrary way and failing to plan for the resulting negative impact on frontline policing. There are now nearly 20 percent fewer police staff than in 2010, and senior officers have long-warned that this belt-tightening attitude is seriously reducing their ability to combat crime. The NAO report, which you can read at the link here, highlights a persistent failure by Ministers to get to grips with the consequences of investment decisions on a local level and an unwillingness to engage constructively with forces around the country. There’s a broad political consensus that the current funding formula is unfit for purpose, and it is three years since Theresa May as Home Secretary promised to reform it – but we’ve still had no detail on how this will be achieved. And for the second year in a row, the Government has chosen to give officers a smaller pay award than the one recommended by the independent pay review body, itself set up to take these issues out of politics. Nottinghamshire Police are disadvantaged by the current funding formula and we need this to better reflect local needs now.
  • With the Commons now going back into recess while each political party has a party conference, I will be taking up the chance to lead a delegation from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (which I chair) to the Pakistan-administered side of the line of control next week. There are very many local residents in Nottingham of Kashmiri heritage who frequently tell me about the long-standing partition of Kashmir between India and Pakistan, despite the United Nations resolving 70 years ago that there should be an opportunity for a referendum on self-governance. Sadly despite contacting the Indian High Commission in the UK on numerous occasions, our group of MPs has been unable to get any significant engagement with the situation on the Indian-side of the dividing line, where there are many reports of human rights violations, curfews and disappearances with legal repression and laws which exempt the military from redress. The Pakistan authorities have agreed to facilitate our visit to Azad Kashmir and I hope to see for myself the conditions near the disputed border and speak with refugees and those living in this area. Britain has a historic obligation to the communities in this region given our role in the partitioning process, and I hope that the recent United Nations Human Rights Council report will be an opportunity for some movement towards a more peaceful and stable path for the future.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

I think Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury was entirely right to voice his worries about the erosion of employment security and standards in the ‘gig economy’ in his recent remarks. But I’d be keen to know whether you or those you know have any experiences of short-term contracts, ‘freelancing’ or zero-hours commitments.

While there are some people for whom short term temporary work is what they are looking for, perhaps students at weekends or out of term time, I don’t think it is fair for the system to allow employers to pass off staff as ‘freelance contractors’ when in reality they have a dependent relationship sometimes year after year. In those circumstances, workers need to be given their rights to decent holiday and sick pay and we cannot turn a blind eye to those missing out on pension contributions or other rights. I hope that there will be an opportunity in Parliament soon to discuss the shifting balance of employment rights for the so-called ‘casual’ and temporary workforce.

I had a constituent case just this week of a man who a decade ago had an employer insisting that payments were made via an atypical loan arrangements – which only now HMRC are clamping down on and chasing those affected. If employers cut corners it is sadly the workforce who end up losing out, and we need to modernise the labour market to avoid injustices and exploitative practices.

These MP Update newsletters, as ever, will return when the Commons resumes for business after the Party conference season ends in October. In the meantime do get in touch if you have any comments, observations or questions I can help with.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

 

 

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MP Update – 8th September

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 8th September 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

With the House of Commons reconvening this week after the summer recess, my priority has been to focus on the overriding challenge of Brexit. Theresa May’s Government are no nearer to concluding how Britain is going to depart from the EU. There’s a new Foreign Secretary and Brexit Secretary, but no progress on a ‘deal’ with the EU for a smooth transition or any agreement on what our future relationship with our nearest trading allies is going to be. If anything, we’re going backwards.

The Government’s ‘Chequer’s Plan’ (proposing a convoluted twin-speed tariff collection system in exchange for agreeing to a goods-only common rule book) falls a long way short of the access to markets needed for 80% of the British economy which is in services. And this week EU Commissioner Michel Barnier gave the impression to the Brexit Select Committee that it was dead in the water as a proposition. So Ministers are going to have to go back to the drawing board.

This is by far the biggest issue that will shape Nottingham’s future. Whether we have jobs in many industrial sectors; whether we have students able to study abroad and vice versa; whether we have the revenues we need to improve our schools, hospitals and local services. Everything will be shaped by this.

Yet I am sorry to report that there are attempts to pull my focus off elsewhere. You may have seen news reports this weekend that one local Labour branch passed a resolution attacking me. There are ideological reasons why they don’t want me as the local MP. But I’m determined not to let it distract me from the most important work that needs doing.

I’m not going to be gagged from speaking my mind, whether condemning antisemitism or urging Labour to back a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit. This might not make me popular with the small number of hard left activists who’ve joined Labour recently. But my priority first and foremost will be to use my judgement to represent the best interests of the people of Nottingham East where over 28,000 residents gave me a vote of confidence last year.

I’ve been advocating Labour values consistently for over thirty years and if you want to know more about what I stand for, please read my recent pamphlet at the link here.

NOTTINGHAM

  • I’ve been pressing Ministers this summer to give firm commitments on an improvement plan for Nottingham Prison, where there have been far too many deaths in custody, levels of violence unacceptably high and a severe problem with drugs getting into the building. I asked the Prisons Minister about a specific timeline for action in the Commons this week and you can watch the exchange on this at the link here. Rory Stewart the Prisons Minister says that he wants to statistics on drugs and violence to fall significantly within the next six months and I will be holding him to that promise.
  • Over the next two weekends various venues, both across the city and the wider county, will be opening their doors to visitors as part of the annual ‘Heritage Open Days’. An exciting programme of events has been put in place, including tours of buildings usually closed to the public and activities bringing life to local history and culture. The will also be the first national Heritage Open Day photography competition. Further details, including of event going on locally can be found here.
  • A £1 million redevelopment of the Clocktower dining area in the Victoria Centre was announce at the end of last month. This follows the recent closure of five restaurants in the centre. The outlets are designed to offer ‘more quick, casual options’. The General Manager Nigel Wheatley said ‘With centre occupancy at an impressive 99 percent, we’re now able to make this investment and create a compelling space that offers our customers even more. Expect a big change in both tone and ambiance, lots more natural elements and a mix of food kiosks for a quick bite to eat, alongside sit-down dining experiences perfect for family outings’.
  • A recent report has shown that the number of visitors to Nottinghamshire increased by 1.3 percent to 35.89 million in 2017, up from 35.42 million in 2016. The value of tourism to the local Nottinghamshire economy also saw an increase of 3.6 percent to £1.814 billion compared. Nottingham City had the strongest growth of anywhere in the county with the value of tourism to the city increasing by over £10 million. Cllr Dave Trimble, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Localities, said: “It’s pleasing to see that the value of visitor economy to the city has once again increased – this time by 4.1% and is now worth £629 million annually. This is an important contributor towards local jobs and encouraging additional secondary expenditure for our city’s wider retail, food and beverage offers. To help support our vibrant city, Nottingham City Council continues to promote a wide range of annual events and activities and with the investment now being made in Nottingham Castle; is also looking to further build on this important aspect of our local economy.”
  • Nottingham City Council’s Clean Air Zone consultation closes on Monday. This follows a number of proposals made by the council, including modelling and analysis on air pollution levels, with the aim of reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide to meet legal limits. You can see the council’s proposals and take part in their consultation here: http://transportnottingham.com/cleanair.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • I’m afraid I failed in my efforts to persuade members of the House of Lords to amend one of the key Brexit Bills on Tuesday by adding in a negotiating objective that the UK should participate in ‘a Customs Union’. This would have helped ensure we maintain frictionless trade and minimise inspections and checks at the border especially important in Ireland. While the Customs Bill could have been amended in this way, my Labour frontbench colleagues chose to let the issue pass, without pressing any amendments, on the grounds that it touched on ‘financial’ matters which the Lords normally don’t get involved with. In fact they didn’t object to the Bill passing all its stages in one day! This is especially frustrating because the Commons Speaker had refused to certify that Bill as a ‘Money Bill’, so there was no legal impediment for the Lords doing this. I wish I could report that there is a hard fight taking place against a Tory hard Brexit, but on Tuesday in the Lords there was certainly no evidence of this.
  • This week at the International Trade Select Committee, I pressed the Trade Minister George Hollingbery on where things stand in light of his predecessor-but-one Lord Price’s false promise that the dozens of countries with whom the EU currently has a bilateral trade treaty have all ‘agreed to rollover’ – i.e. to copy-and-paste these arrangements into fresh deals with the UK, ready at midnight on exit day. In what’s become a familiar routine, the Minister was unable to reassure us that Lord Price’s confidence was justified. The best-case reality, it seems, is that some – though not all – of the countries in question (in this case developing economies which have a regional ‘Economic Partnership Arrangement’ with the EU) have agreed to discuss the outlines of a new trade deal – but not to ratify an agreement on the same terms and certainly not at the moment we leave. This is too just big a gamble for British households and businesses to take, and Government Ministers need to get real. You can watch the exchange at the link here.
  • It has been deeply frustrating and frankly embarrassing that throughout the summer Labour has been drawn into a series of circumstances which deepened rather than alleviated concerns about antisemitism within the Party. It is not acceptable to see senior figures making sweeping generalisations about ‘Zionists’ nor honouring groups responsible for attacks on Jews. The irrational resistance to accepting even the basic definition of antisemitism – as set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance together with the examples they give – has only heightened concerns among many Jewish constituents who have expressed their anxieties to me. I can only say that I have always stood alongside that IHRA definition and voted with 205 of my colleagues in the PLP to incorporate it in our Standing Orders this week. I am sorry that Labour’s National Executive Committee took too long to do so and that when it did it felt that caveats, terms and conditions needed to be applied in a way which so many other countries and institutions across the globe have not quibbled about. Energies have been expended on defending a shameful position which ought to have been channelled towards fighting for progressive policies and against the agenda of this Conservative government.

Criticising the policies of the Israeli government is perfectly consistent with the provisions of the IHRA definition. I am in favour of a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the sharing of Jerusalem and the withdrawal of illegal settlements, and I deplore Trump’s decision this summer to cut funding for UN Palestinian refugee support. But defending the Palestinians does not require generalised attacks on the Jewish community or characterising them as somehow alien in the UK or stoking notions of a Jewish conspiracy or denying the Holocaust. It is not difficult to identify antisemitism and demand an end to anti-Semitic behaviour and I am very disappointed to see this saga persist.

  • On Wednesday the Crown Prosecution Service announced charges against two Russian nationals, known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, in relation to the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and subsequent death of Dawn Sturgess, earlier this year. The evidence linking the two Russian active intelligence officers to the Salisbury attacks, as laid out by the Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu and presented to the House of Commons by Theresa May, is compelling and comprehensive. Equally clear is that the chain of command within Russian military intelligence means the order will almost certainly have come from the highest levels in the Russian government. The breadth of support Britain received when presenting its analysis to the UN Security Council on Thursday further demonstrates the seriousness of the evidence which led to this week’s announcement. While Russia’s refusal to extradite its citizens means it will be an uphill struggle to bring the pair to justice, I welcome the detail which has now been made available, and hope it reinforces our determination to stand up to this deeply nasty regime.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

The pattern of knife and firearm incidents occurring in Nottingham this summer has been deeply concerning and completely unacceptable. Just this week three teenagers were arrested on suspicion of murder after a fatal stabling on Hawksley Road in Hyson Green. Separately, a man has been charged following a shooting in Radford in June this year. Officers were called to the junction of Ireton Street and Portland Road at around 10.50pm on Friday 29 June 2018 where a 17-year-old boy had sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries. A 30 year old man has now been charged with attempted murder and possession of a firearm with intent.

I’d like to hear if your neighbourhood has been affected by crime during the summer months, or if you have any views on how best to tackle this situation?

I took time this week to meet with the local police to discuss the recent pattern of incidents over the past few months, and to hear about their efforts to combat the problem. I was encouraged to hear some of the initiatives they are now taking to gain intelligence on some of the key perpetrators and would encourage anyone with information to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

St Ann's Police Station

Regards

 

Chris Leslie

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MP Update – 27th July

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTTINGHAM

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

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

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

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

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 21st July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 21st July 2018

(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

We won one, and narrowly lost one. That was the upshot of Tuesday’s crucial Brexit Trade Bill votes. And here’s how it happened:

Most MPs know that unless a safety net is put beneath Brexit, we’ll crash out and businesses won’t have the right to trade goods unhindered across borders or sell some services at all into Europe. That would mean devastating job losses. In her Chequers Plan the Prime Minister reluctantly accepted this – hence her new negotiating objective of a ‘free trade area for goods’ based on a common rule book with Europe. Not anywhere near as far as I’d like, but a step in the right direction.

But the ideological hard Brexiteers really hate this, so they threatened the PM to water it down on Monday in the Customs Bill, where she was forced to accept their wrecking amendments. So Chequers lasted barely a week.

With services abandoned, no chance of the Europeans agreeing and a barbed-wire border in Ireland back on the cards, sensible MPs from across the mainstream centre ground of Parliament decided something had to be done. That’s why I met with Phillip Lee MP and Stephen Hammond MP to help draft their two amendments; first to keep Britain in the Single Market for medicines regulation, and second to say that if the Chequers plan goes nowhere in 2018 then we need to have ‘a Customs Union’ as a backstop plan.

Sadly Labour’s frontbench hadn’t prepared any similar cross-party initiatives – which, with the parliamentary arithmetic as it is, should be the obvious route to winning. But with a bit of effort, backbench Labour MPs thankfully managed to persuade our frontbench to back these two ideas on Tuesday lunchtime.

With those dozen Tory rebels, we actually won the Phillip Lee amendment on medicines, by 305 votes to 302! But because four Brexiteer Labour MPs voted with the Government (and some dirty tricks from the Tory Chief Whip breaking ‘pairing’ agreements) we lost the second vote by 301 to 307. That was disappointing – but it gives me hope as sentiment on the Tory benches is slowly shifting.

The fate of the country rests on these knife edge votes and I have been developing ideas, amendments, and will work with any MPs regardless of party allegiance to get the right results. I’m frankly exasperated by what sometimes feels like indifference being shown by some in Labour’s leadership, who ought to be straining every sinew to crystallise the parliamentary majority for a Customs Union and EEA Single Market. I know such a majority exists, if only the imagination and effort were shown. Instead their focus seems elsewhere. We are trying our best from the Labour backbenches, but I’m afraid it’s party politics that’s getting in the way here.

It was great to nearly win the vote on the EEA medicines network, but we need 100% effort next time and proper leadership to save the country from the brink when all this returns after the summer recess.

NOTTINGHAM

  • The Care Quality Commission’s rating of the Mapperley Park Medical Centre under Dr Stevens as ‘inadequate’ has provoked concern and attention in the past few weeks, as the CQC continue to express their views about problems at the practice while many other patients have been in touch to say how much they value the care given by Dr Stevens. While clearly the NHS has established the CQC to conduct audits and inspections in order to safeguard patient health, I have arranged to meet with the CQC to hear for myself the issues in question and I will put to them some of the points raised by patients who feel their judgement is excessive. Although it is not a decision in my hands, I will do my best to hold the CQC accountable and encourage them and the Medical Centre to take all steps necessary to protect the interests of local patients first and foremost.
  • The first excavation of Brewhouse Yard since the 1970s as wells as excavations of other parts of the Nottingham Castle Site started earlier this week. The project involves three young winners of the national ‘Dig it! with YAC’ competition, 70 trainees, 10 volunteers, archaeologists from Trent & Peak Archaeology and specialists. In Brewhouse Yard the focus will be on investigating the remains of buildings that used to be on the site and on the southern end of the site which was at one point the bank of the River Leen.
  • I was sorry to hear of another death at Nottingham prison earlier this week. A post-mortem is to be carried out to ascertain the cause of death and a 28-year-old man has been arrested in connection with it A recent report published by the Independent Monitoring Board about conditions in the prison has said that there are still issues with violence and drugs, whilst acknowledging the work being undertaken to address these issues. The report says ‘Illegal drugs continue to infiltrate the prison by a variety of means’ whilst stating ‘The Board acknowledges the efforts of both the prison and the police in their attempts to curb the problem’. In terms of the violence in the prison the report notes ‘Acts of violence continue to be a very significant problem at HMP Nottingham’  however ‘the numbers of certain types of incident have fallen in comparison with last year’. I am continuing to monitor the situation – and the MoJ response – closely.
  • Nottingham City Council is looking into a plan to see the tram lines extending, with the potential for new lines to be added. Some of the potential extension routes being looked at are longer term “potential development sites in Greater Nottingham”. Other possibilities include an extension from Clifton to the new 3,000-home development land off the A453 in Rushcliffe (which will increase to 13,500 new homes) and an extension to the HS2 Hub at Toton. Rushcliffe Borough Council contributed £10,000 and Gedling Council contributed £50,000 to the cost of the feasibility study, with £200,000 coming from Nottingham City Council. It is suggested that the extensions could connect thousands more people to the city and create around 2,500 new jobs just from local businesses on the site alone. Personally I’d be interested to see an assessment of the possible benefits of extending the tram to the east of the city centre, perhaps connecting Sneinton, St Ann’s or Colwick? I’m not sure how feasible this would be, but I’d like to see a professional engineering assessment done.
  • There has been sad news about the Malt Cross, a bar in the city centre based in a Victorian music hall. The limited company which ran the bar went into liquidation overnight leaving 25 staff members without jobs. However Canon Christina Baxter, chair of the board of trustees in charge of the building has said she’s ‘optimistic’ a solution can be fund and the bar may be reopened.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The week began with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s hotly anticipated joint summit in Helsinki. In the press conference which followed their unprecedented one-on-one meeting (the mind boggles at what must have been discussed there!), I think the US President succeeded in delivering his most abject and disturbing performance yet; he dismissed the settled conclusion of every American intelligence agency and gave the Russian Government the benefit of the doubt over interference in the 2016 presidential election. But in what may ultimately prove even more damaging, he failed to challenge Putin over, or inch towards any agreement on, any of the challenges which would justify their summit – the occupation of Crimea and effective civil war in Ukraine; Russia’s sponsorship of President Assad in Syria; a fresh start in controlling nuclear weapons. Instead Trump issued vague, rambling platitudes about stability, security and peace – and let Putin completely off the hook. Trump’s ‘correction’ when he got back to the White House that he had actually meant to challenge Putin just added to the sense that something is clearly awry here.
  • On Tuesday we learned that the Electoral Commission had opted to fine ‘Vote Leave’ for a serious breach of election law. The Commission determined after a thorough investigation that the official leave campaign deliberately exceeded legal spending limits during the 2016 referendum, funnelling over half a million pounds of illegal money through supposedly ‘grassroots’ groups such as ‘BeLeave’, aimed at targeting younger voters, and ‘Veterans for Britain’. This is a major breach and adds to a now-growing pile of serious irregularities around the activity of pro-leave campaign groups in the referendum. Frustratingly the Electoral Commission itself is statutorily limited in its response beyond issuing a fine (which totalled a measly £61,000). But this means the responsibility to act lies with politicians, and it was encouraging this week to even see a number of Conservative MPs adding their voices to the call for this question to be returned to the people. Predictably, though, the Government has continued to stonewall: when my colleague Chuka Umunna raised the matter in an Urgent Question in the Commons, I asked the Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith whether she could imagine any breach so serious that it would call a result into question – and as you can see here, she refused to answer altogether.
  • On Thursday, new statistics recorded a deeply worrying surge in violent crime, with reported offences involving knives or sharp instruments rising by 16% to more than 40,000 – the highest level on record and the murder rate also increasing by 12%. Equally (and of course relatedly), detection rates and police numbers fell to an unprecedented low, with half of recorded cases closed without a suspect being identified and fewer than one in ten crimes resulting in a charge or court summons. In Nottinghamshire, recorded crime has risen by a third over the past four years, against an only slightly higher nationwide figure of 36%.
  • On Friday EU27 Ministers met to discuss Brexit in Brussels, stepping up planning for a ‘no deal’ hard Brexit. The situation is now getting quite serious, with only a matter of weeks before a decision is supposed to be made. For instance, one plan considered by the Government is a 10 mile long queue on the M26 in Kent as a holding area for up to 1400 goods vehicles if customs checks cannot be completed as now. Pharmaceuticals companies say up to 4000 marketing authorisations for medicines need to move into Europe instead. With half of our food imported – 90% through the Dover corridor – plans are being put in place to change approaches. HMRC are even indicating waiving tax collection activities in order to help keep flow going. Seven million international driving licences for British tourists may be needed. All these and many more issues have yet to be prepared for – and many of the consequences have not even been realised yet.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

Yesterday I took time to visit the National Holocaust Centre and Museum (pictured below) which is located near Ollerton in the north of Nottinghamshire. They are open every day except Saturdays and Bank Holidays from 10am and if you’re in the vicinity I strongly recommend a visit – you can find more details at their website link here https://www.holocaust.org.uk/

I wanted to visit because on Wednesday the courts convicted the person responsible for death threats against my good colleague Lucian Berger MP, who has shown real fortitude in the face of constant extremist antisemitism. We are sadly seeing a resurgence of antisemitism in the community and it is vital that young people in particular learn the history of the causes of the holocaust and I hope that the horrors of that genocide – which are still attested to today by those who lived through that era – are always remembered.

National Holocaust Centre and Museum July 2018

 

It is deeply concerning that what ought to be unanimity about the definition of antisemitism is still being contested in some quarters, as you may have seen in reports this week when sadly Labour’s leadership refused the plea from the Parliamentary Labour Party to adopt the full definition and examples set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (at the link here https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/news-archive/working-definition-antisemitism ). This definition has been widely accepted worldwide, including across the EU and 40 countries and many other public service institutions such as the Police and Crown Prosecution Service.

Yet it appears that Labour’s executive leadership committee wants to leave out some of the examples in the IHRA definition, leaving out how accusing Jews of being ‘more loyal to Israel’ than their own countries is antisemitic, and leaving out from the definition of antisemitism describing Israel as a ‘racist endeavour’. Moreover they appear to want to add in that ‘antisemitic intent’ needs to be proven.

I believe Labour’s NEC are wrong in this. In no way does the IHRA definition stifle legitimate criticism of the government of Israel. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise the right-wing government of Netanyahu, the crisis in Gaza, the use of unreasonable force at its border and the demolition of Palestinian homes and expansion of settlements. The IHRA definition does not prevent this. It is infuriating that Labour’s reputation is still brought into disrepute by such stubborn resistance and I hope that sense will prevail.

This issue is likely to return to the PLP meeting on Monday evening, and so I would welcome any thoughts you have on this issue.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 13th July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 13th July 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

A week is definitely a long time in politics. Theresa May must look back longingly to just last weekend when she thought she’d brought her Cabinet behind her ‘Chequers Agreement’ plan for Brexit. But it fell to pieces after 48 hours when hard Brexiteers David Davis and Boris Johnson threw their toys out of the pram in resignation. Their ideological attachment to a hard Brexit was never going to survive contact with economic – or parliamentary – reality. The Prime Minister should have forced them to confront this before triggering Article 50.

The truth was always that our trading future must be in a close partnership with our nearest European neighbours. Boris and David Davis have figured out that the Chequers Plan is not a ‘final offer’ but an opening gambit. And there are serious problems with the package the Prime Minister proposes. It seems to me that there are ten things to know about the Government’s proposals:

  1. The Chequers Plan would still be a hard Brexit that would damage our economy
  2. It won’t deliver the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership
  3. It would be devastating for our services sector – totally neglected by the Government plan
  4. It would turn the UK into a rule taker
  5. The proposed customs system is unworkable
  6. It wouldn’t even deliver the Government’s promises about new trade deals
  7. Ending free movement would hurt our economy and young people’s life chances
  8. The white paper says nothing about the future of the NHS
  9. The proposals risk damaging our security
  10. There is no majority for this type of Brexit in the House of Commons

Today Donald Trump has pulled the rug from beneath the Prime Minister’s feet, saying that her Chequers plan may have killed off a chance of a US trade deal (which in reality was never very likely anyway). All the more reason to offer a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal so we can at least keep our European alliances on the table.

I hope that Labour will do the right thing for the country and put the principles of jobs, growth and the interests of future generations first, as I set out in my Evening Standard article this week here. With the Trade Bill & Customs Bill due for debate next week, MPs are going to have to avoid the temptation of short-term partisan tactics and seriously act in the national interest first and foremost.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Nottingham’s criminal justice system depends on the consistent and dedicated work of those working in our courts, police, prosecutor services and prisons – and more besides. So it was a real insight to have the chance to visit the Bridewell custody facility next to the Magistrates Court on Thursday, where Inspector Tracey Lovegrove (pictured below) showed me how those arrested and awaiting trial are processed, charged and detained. The building is now showing some signs of age and there are plans to replace it with a newly built facility near Radford Road Police Station. Officers manage the facility and have to monitor those remanded in custody closely, taking account of health needs and self-harm risks. They had 26 prisoners in the facility when I visited but have space for up to 110 and sadly it can get very busy especially on Friday and Saturday nights. I want to pay tribute to the often unsung efforts of the officers working at the Bridewell who are in the frontline of making sure that evidence is collected effectively and our justice system can succeed.

IBridewell Custody Suite

 

  • Nottingham City Council and Nottingham City Homes are undertaking works to connect four low-rise apartment blocks in Sneinton to the District Heating Network and make them more energy efficient. On Thursday I visited the site for myself to see how these measures will benefit residents. As part of the city’s Greener HousiNG programme, 94 households in Bryon, Keswick, Morley and Haywood Courts will also be receiving measures including external wall insulation, new roofs with solar systems and battery storage. The idea being to make the flats warmer whilst reducing bills and ensuring that the energy comes from low-carbon sources. These homes are the final scheme to be delivered as part of the EU funded REMOURBAN project which has benefitted 400 homes in Sneinton.

 I also visited the homes that are part of a UK pilot by Nottingham City Homes to retrofit properties with wrap-around pre-fabricated wall and roof panels, using a ground-breaking approach called “Energiesprong”.  The adaptations are intended to improve older houses using measures to save and generate energy, and they should dramatically reduce household energy bills and make homes warmer, while being near zero-energy.  They finished results also look very fresh and attractive.  You can find out more about this pioneering approach here : https://www.energiesprong.uk/projects/nottingham

NCH Energiesprong

  • POW Nottingham is a peer-founded charity supporting individuals involved in or affected by sex work. I took time this week to visit the charity and hear for myself about the work they provide as a clinic for sexual health and drug dependency, and the help they give those affected with health information and outreach into the community. We have got to provide support to those who are caught in this trade, especially those exploited or drawn into what can often be a situation of modern slavery. If we fail to offer support and preventative intervention it not only has a human cost, but will end up costing the rest of the public services much more in the long run. Investing in these local community services saves cost and harm for the wider society.

POW Nottingham advice centre

 

  • 87 percent of people in Nottinghamshire agreed with Nottinghamshire Police’s policy that misogyny should classified hate crime. These figures come from a survey commissioned by Nottingham Women’s Centre and funded by the Office for Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner. However the survey also showed that despite strong support for the policy amongst the public, misogyny hate crime is still highly prevalent but under-reported.
  • The environmental measures adopted by Nottingham City Council means that it is now no longer considering the introduction of a Clean Air Zone. On Monday, Portfolio Holder for Energy and Environment, Sally Longford told a full council meeting that new and existing environmental measures will reduce air pollution to below the legal levels. Cllr Longford said: ‘Results of air quality modelling showed these measures will have a significant effect in reducing emissions, bringing Nottingham into compliance by 2020. Although we considered a Class B Clean Air Zone – which would have affected HGVs, buses and taxis – the actions we’re taking will have a positive impact across the whole city, rather than just in one area.’
  • Domestic and General have announced that they will be creating another 70 jobs in Nottingham in the next six months. The company which insures, services and repairs over 5000 household appliances already has a large presence in Nottingham East. The news jobs, which will be a mix of full and part-time roles, form part of a plan by the company to make their Nottingham offices a central part of their international business. Jo Hale, the company’s Client Contact Director, said ‘We are really pumping money into Nottingham and wanted to make Notts a flagship for us’.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • England’s loss in the World Cup semi-final against Croatia was a disappointment to the millions watching the match across the country, but there was nevertheless a massive sense of collective pride in the teamwork, dedication and achievement at getting as far as we did. Gareth Southgate has been an impressive, calm and grown-up leader and the jokes about him taking over running the country began to look quite appealing at various points this week! We did have some trouble in the city centre earlier in the week after the match against Sweden when a taxi was attacked – but the Police have responded well and I’m glad that the vast majority of people have been enjoying the World Cup and reflecting the respect and honour which this young set of England players has come to represent.
  • Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary, appeared before my Trade Select Committee this week for questioning. He was clearly uncomfortable defending the Prime Minister’s Chequers Plan and was so half-hearted that I wondered whether he would also resign half way through the committee hearing. I wanted to press him in particular on the concept of a ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ which in no way can substitute for the Customs Union. It doesn’t have any precedent anywhere in the world, and may possibly be illegal under WTO rules. See a clip from the session at the link here.
  • The peace deal on the horn of Africa between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been little reported but is actually a major achievement this week that deserves recognition. The conflict has seen tens of thousands of deaths in the past two years but it has been brought to an end by some patient work in a border commission to resolve disputed territorial issues. The arrival of Abiy Ahmed as Ethiopian Prime Minister has evidently helped end the 20 year long dispute. I hope that the international community will help support and encourage any settlement that endures.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK this week has unsurprisingly grabbed the headlines; his brash and arrogant approach representing a serious threat to the rules-based international institutions such as NATO and the World Trade Organisation. The many protests occurring across the country are a testament to how many people are concerned at the lurch to the right-wing and protectionist attitudes he represents. I’d be interested to know your views on this Trump visit. Do you feel that Parliament should have resisted this visit, or do we have to accept that – as the President of one of Britain’s closest allies – we have a responsibility to engage in dialogue? Is the reputation of the United States as a whole tarnished by Trump or should we distinguish between Trump’s administration and the (often exasperated) other elected representatives and general American public? I hope that Theresa May is forthright in expressing her opposition to his attitude towards migrants, women, child refugees and on many many other matters. But I fear she will hold back her criticisms for fear of offending such a thin-skinned bully.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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