MP Update – 9th September

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 9th September 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Parliament has reconvened after the summer recess, returning straight to the quagmire of Brexit. The Government have wasted the months since triggering the process with hardly any progress on negotiating a ‘withdrawal agreement’ deal, with the situation made worse because the EU are insisting on this divorce settlement before moving on to talks about the ‘new relationship’.

So Ministers have now decided that they need to commandeer all powers to themselves for the exit – removing a meaningful role for Parliament – via the EU (Withdrawal) Bill which will be voted on late on Monday night.

It’s an irony that the ‘Leave’ campaign, whose aim was to boost parliamentary sovereignty, has resulted in a Withdrawal Bill that obliterates Parliamentary sovereignty. For instance, Ministers are proposing that they should take what are known as ‘Henry VIII’ order-making power to themselves to modify the Act itself, rendering the supposed safeguards completely meaningless.

When I spoke in the second reading debate in the Commons this week I argued that Parliament must wait until we see what is negotiated before handing over the power to Ministers to press the ‘exit’ button. I also believe it is a major mistake for the Bill to delete the Single Market and customs arrangements we have from the statute book, because if we do leave the EU I believe it would be sensible to retain our membership of both these alliances; many jobs and businesses depend on the tariff-free access that they provide.

This is the most far-reaching piece of proposed legislation in my lifetime. While I am aware that a decision was taken in the referendum in June 2016, I can’t ignore that the public must also have the right, on reflection, to think again – and I am hearing increasingly from local people saying that ‘no Brexit is better than a bad Brexit’. If things continue as they are, then I would find it hard to deny that the public have a right to say whether to go ahead with an exit deal, and to say no if this is not right for our country.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Electricity and gas bills can be a real burden on some of the poorest in our community, alongside other costs of housing and making ends meet. So this week I visited the headquarter offices of energy firm Eon at Trinity House in the city centre. Eon employ hundreds of local residents and I was keen to see for myself how the company runs and in particular helps vulnerable people who may need assistance with their bills. I asked to spend time listening in to calls coming in to their vulnerable debt section (pictured below) and to press the company to do more to show flexibility when some of their customers find things difficult. I will keep a close eye on whether the Government do indeed bring forward the measures promised to control energy bill inflation.

eon vulnerable customers help centre calls sept 2017

  • An exciting development over the summer has been the launch of Nottingham’s bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2023. The bid was launched on 16th August at Sneinton Market, with the bid being supported by a variety of organisations including both of the city’s universities. Nottingham is competing against Belfast, Dundee, Leeds and Milton Keynes for the title, which will be shared for the year 2023 with a city in Hungary. 2023 will represent the first year that a UK city has held the title of European Capital of Culture since Liverpool in 2008. This is a great opportunity for Nottingham to promote itself on a wider stage, with the potential to attract tourism, jobs and investment to the city.
  • I have been in touch with local residents and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust about soot deposits from the City Hospital boiler house over the last couple of years, trying to get a satisfactory resolution to the problem for residents whose properties border the boiler house. There finally seems to have been some progress on this issue over the summer. The hospital have now shut down their coal boiler to allow maintenance to take place, with the aim of investing in a modern replacement for the coal boiler house in the near future to end coal consumption at the site entirely. NUH have also pledged to keep in close contact with local residents, and have distributed a leaflet in the local area with contact details to allow residents to contact the hospital about any issues with the boiler house directly. I will continue to keep in close contact with NUH about this issue.
  • Nottingham Trent University has been shortlisted for a ‘University of the Year’ title at the Times Higher Education Awards.  The University is one of six that have been shortlisted for the award, which recognises outstanding contributions from UK universities. The University’s submission focused on their work supporting students into university, their innovative teaching and their work to improve graduate prospects. The winners of the Times Higher Education Awards will be revealed on Thursday 30 November – I would like to wish the team at Nottingham Trent University the best of luck.
  • You will no doubt have heard the tragic news of a serious crash on the M1 over the Bank Holiday weekend involving two lorries and a minibus travelling from Nottingham. Eight people sadly lost their lives in the crash, including minibus driver Cyriac Joseph from Sherwood. I know that Mr Joseph was a popular figure in the local community, and a memorial mass was held for him on Friday. I would like to extend my condolences to Mr Joseph’s family and friends at this difficult time.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • You will have heard the deeply concerning news about the unfolding crisis in Myanmar and the indiscriminate targeting of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. This week I have co-signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling on the UK to do more to halt the military offensive against Rohingya civilians in Myanmar and to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the displaced people. The letter urges the Foreign Secretary to put pressure on Min Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of the military in Myanmar, to halt the military attacks. The scale of the humanitarian and human rights crisis unfolding in Myanmar requires urgent attention and I hope the UK Government will show support for the people of Myanmar and the Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • We’ve all observed over the past few days the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, and my deepest sympathies go out to  those who have seen so much destroyed, especially those whose loved ones are still unaccounted for, and the millions still without power. It is vitally important that the UK stands ready both to make a sustained commitment to longer-term reconstruction, and do all it can to provide more immediate humanitarian relief and consular assistance for any UK nationals affected. On Thursday, the Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan updated the House of Commons on the work officials in the UK and affected overseas territories are doing to assess the situation and co-ordinate a cross-governmental response as quickly as possible, and I hope the Government continues to do all it can to manage the relief and reconstruction effort.
  • On Tuesday the Government made a statement on building safety in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower The horror of Grenfell has to mark a permanent change in housing policy in Britain, so that such an appalling tragedy is never repeated. The Government’s first responsibility, of course, must be to ensure that all those directly affected have access to the help they need – and it is disappointing that 12 weeks on, only 29 out of 196 households have been rehomed. But going forward, residents of all tower blocks, of which there are 13 in Nottingham, need reassurance that their homes are safe – or at the very least that the Government is taking urgent action to make them safe. Our current system of fire safety checks needs to be improved urgently, with a testing system too slow and too narrow to do the job required of it.
  • I was astonished to hear the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, rule out even transitional membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) when he took questions from MPs on Thursday morning. Whatever the final outcome of the Brexit process, securing a workable transition arrangement is vital. The alternative – sending the British economy tumbling over the cliff-edge in March 2019 – would spell disaster for jobs, investment and funding for public services in Britain. In the short term this means keeping as many options as possible on the table, but the Government increasingly seems intent on doing the opposite. You can see my reaction to the announcement on Sky News here.
  • On Wednesday I was elected as the new Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir, a cross-party organisation of MPs and peers who take a particular interest in developments in the region between Pakistan and India and where decades of conflict have caused violence, human rights abuses and a great loss of life. In Nottingham I am frequently contacted by local residents who have Kashmiri heritage with concerns about friends and family caught up in this ‘stalemate’ stand-off, so I will use the year ahead to press for imaginative diplomatic solutions to promote demilitarisation and peaceful dialogue – together with the important task of highlighting human rights issues where these arise so that the wider world can be informed about what is happening.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

If Britain’s relations with the rest of Europe hit a brick wall in March 2019, it won’t just be jobs and businesses that are affected. After a decade of cuts to public services flowing from the banking crisis, the last thing we need is another decade of austerity resulting from an economy struggling to trade or grow because of tariffs, border obstacles and a ban on selling services to our nearest neighbours.

But are my parliamentary colleagues willing to take the necessary steps to prevent a ‘hard Brexit’? Over the summer I’m delighted that Labour’s frontbench has accepted Britain should opt for the Single Market and customs union for the transition period before leaving. However, I am urging them to go much further – and to press negotiators to secure a permanent membership of the Single Market with frictionless customs coordination. Every effort needs to be made now, including at Labour conference and during the course of the EU Withdrawal Bill amendments in Parliament, to press for this position.

Where will the UK get the resources to fund a decent NHS and social care system if we see our key sectors start to relocate in Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris? How can our schools possibly cope with a further dose of Brexit-induced austerity? Many people are still to realise the connection between local services and what is happening in these European talks – so I’d be interested to know if you have any thoughts on how to campaign more effectively to influence frontline decision-makers at such a crucial time.

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MP Update – 21st July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 21st July 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Despite promises before the election, the Government’s ‘commitment’ to electrifying the Midland Mainline suddenly evaporated this week – in an announcement from Transport Ministers snuck out on the last day of Parliament sitting before the summer recess.

By ditching electrification, Ministers are holding Nottingham’s principal train connectivity back in the 20th century, fobbing off the East Midlands with what they claim are ‘bi-modal’ diesel and electric trains – which can barely go faster at times than the 1970s train models they are replacing.

I appreciate that there isn’t a bottomless reserve of money, but I believe that as a country we need to prioritise long-term investment in things that boost our economic productivity and make it easier for us to do business and boost prosperity. Public transport upgrades are long accepted as a great way to do this.

I’m appalled at this short-sighted decision by Conservative Ministers and I know that even other Tory MPs across the region are embarrassed about this big let-down. It makes a mockery of all the warm words about a ‘Midlands Engine’, with people now remarking it’s more like ‘Thomas The Tank Engine’. The decision to downgrade this line and also the line through to South Wales suggests that Ministers are retreating on what should be some key economic priorities – perhaps because they had to shell out £1billion in Northern Ireland at the behest of the DUP.

I’ll keep working closely with my Nottingham colleagues Lilian Greenwood, Alex Norris and Vernon Coaker to press for a better deal on transport. The East Midlands loses out consistently when compared with London transport investment and this has got to change. If you’ve time, please add your thoughts on this via the Government’s consultation at the link here.

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The House of Commons has now broken up for the summer recess, so as usual these ‘MP Update’ email bulletins will resume when Parliament returns. In the meantime, please email any issues you want to make me aware of, or areas where I might be able to help. You can also contact my office at 12 Regent Street NG1 5BQ on Tel: 0115 956 9429.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • The Renewal Trust is holding a Community Fun Day this Sunday 23 July from 11am-3pm at Brendon Lawrence Sports Centre, 35 Hungerhill Road, St Ann’s, NG3 4NB. The event is now in its second year, and there will be lots of family activities on offer, including bouncy castles, a soft play area, circus workshops, face painting, a petting zoo, a barbecue and refreshments, an ice cream van, a tombola and raffle. Entry to the event is FREE and children of all ages are welcome – you can find full information about the event on Facebook here.
  • Nottingham has the lowest carbon emissions of all of England’s largest cities, according to new Government figures. The figures show that Nottingham’s emissions have fallen by 21 percent since 2005. It has also been announced that three further Nottingham parks have been awarded Green Flag status this year, including the Pirate Park in Sherwood. This brings the total number of Green Flag council-run parks in the city to 32, showing the pride Nottingham takes in its parks and green spaces. It’s good to see Nottingham continuing to lead the way on dealing with carbon emissions and other environmental issues.
  • Nottingham Central Women’s Aid are holding their first fundraising gig next month at The Maze on Mansfield Road. The ‘Free from Fear’ charity gig is taking place on Friday 18th August at 7pm. Tickets are on sale for £5 and the gig will feature performances from two local acts – New Apostles and Alice Short. You can buy tickets on The Maze’s website here.
  • A ten-year regeneration project at St Ann’s Allotments is coming to an end. The £4.5 million restoration project, which has been overseen by The Renewal Trust and STAA and received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the East Midlands Development Agency, the European Regional Development Fund and Nottingham City Council, came after a long campaign to save the allotments, which were largely left empty and neglected throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to the success of the project, there is now a waiting list for the allotments for the first time in a generation. It is fantastic to see that these historic allotments, which date from the 1830s, have been preserved for the future. I plan to visit the allotments over the summer to see the final results of the project and learn more about the ongoing work to manage them.
  • The route that HS2 will take through the East Midlands was confirmed by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling this week – but the scheme is still a very long way from being constructed. The route will now follow the eastern side of the A42 around East Midlands Airport, before passing through Long Eaton on a 16m high viaduct to reach the East Midlands Hub at Toton. Work is expected to begin on the first phase of HS2 (from London to Birmingham) next year, and the civil engineering for the project alone is expected to create 16,000 jobs, which is a welcome boost for the economy.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Parents and teachers – as well as Labour MPs – have been warning for months that the Government’s planned changes to education funding would have a devastating impact on schools up and down the country. In Nottingham East, as I noted back in March, they would have meant completely avoidable cuts of nearly £700 per pupil. But there were some signs that Ministers know this is unsustainable, with the Education Secretary Justine Greening announcing a £1.3 billion increase for schools budgets on Monday. It sounds too good to be true, and it is – all of this supposedly new money is actually coming from elsewhere in the Department for Education. So far, we know that £620 million of it will come out of planned building and repairs to school facilities, but we’re still in the dark on how the Government will find the remaining £600 million plus. On Monday afternoon I pressed the Education Secretary on exactly where the axe would fall, as you can see here.
  • On Wednesday the Government announced an increase in the state pension age to 68 from 2037, bringing the planned increase forward by seven years. While the pension system does need to be sustainable given the costs fall on the shoulders of younger generations, just this week we learned that a century-long rise in life expectancy had stalled, and Public Health England set out how deep inequalities in lifespan and other indicators persist across regional, economic and social lines. The trouble with announcements like this is the disconnection with those who will be affected – with no information about how those in the forties and older should take steps to make up the income for that now extra year’s lost pension right. Raising the pension age in this way also hit those in manual work far more, because there are just some occupations that it’s unreasonable to expect people to keep working in until age 68.
  • On Thursday the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling provoked justified fury in Nottingham and across the region when he announced that the Government’s plans for electrification of the Midlands Mainline had been scrapped; new trains will in some instances run more slowly than the ones they’re replacing. This is an appalling, short-sighted decision. It makes a mockery of Ministers’ supposed commitment to the ‘Midlands Engine’ industrial strategy and, as Lilian Greenwood, the MP for Nottingham South and incoming Chair of the Transport Select Committee, said yesterday, it raises serious questions more generally – “about the government’s willingness to invest in the long-term future of our railways, and their commitment to the decarbonisation of transport.” The announcement has been met with a chorus of opposition already, and

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

As I mentioned above, education funding was the focus of Justine Greening’s announcement this week and the Education Secretary was responding to clear pressure – including from parents and teachers at Nottingham schools – to end their policy of real terms cuts per pupil. The Conservatives are still planning a reform of the funding formula, which is particularly concerning because anything that moves away from recognition of need, deprivation and special assistance is likely to disadvantage Nottingham schools.

But the sticking-plaster decision to redirect money to schools from other non-schools programmes within the DfE underlines another fundamental short-termism in attitudes towards learning in the UK.

While schools must be able to keep pace with rising costs and prices, and while early years are clearly crucial, we have a habit in the UK of neglecting further education and vocational education. Spending per student in FE fell from 2010 and in real terms hasn’t risen from where it was 25 years ago. Locally we can see this playing out in the consolidation of our FE sector into a single Nottingham College and the risk of an ever-restricted curriculum and narrowing of specialisms. This is short-sighted for our economy and productivity, comparative to other countries with whom we have to compete.

I’ve met with local FE college staff representatives and urged Nottingham College’s management to avoid compulsory redundancies in their restructure. I’d be interested in your views on the future of FE both locally and nationally. This wider question about the effort and energy we’re investing (or not investing!) in adult skills is in my view absolutely crucial.

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MP Update – 15th July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 15th July 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Over a million children in the UK have lost contact with a parent following separation, with young people often stuck in the middle of disputes. Fortunately, there are services available to help and Nottingham is the location for the headquarters of the National Association of Child Contact Centres (NACCC). The charity began in Nottingham 25 years ago and they now monitor and assist around 400 ‘contact centres’ across the UK, which provide families who have recently gone through separation with a safe space for children to meet with their non-resident parents, and they help around 22,000 children per year. They have an excellent video showing their work at the link here: https://www.naccc.org.uk/

Yesterday I met with Elizabeth Coe the chief executive at NACCC to discuss their work and in particular think of ways to raise awareness of the importance of families maintaining support and focus on the needs of the child even through an acrimonious split. Clearly there are some serious situations where it is not possible for a child to maintain contact with both parents. But I agree with Elizabeth Coe that society needs to do more to assist children with the trauma of family break-up, as part of the ‘early intervention’ work that is such an important ‘stitch-in-time’, preventing emotional problems growing into educational under-achievement, mental ill-health, stress and even preventing the costs of crime and worklessness in the longer run.

I am particularly in agreement with Elizabeth that separating and divorcing couples with children need more support and intervention to prevent a catastrophic breakdown which inevitably hurts the children torn between warring parents. One idea is that divorcing couples could be required to attend a court-authorised ‘Separated Parents Information Programme’ one day course, before proceedings are heard, to focus minds on how to make arrangements for childcare, holidays, shared decision-taking for their children. Sometimes parents are unaware of the different methods and ways of keeping in a civil dialogue even if going through divorce, and this course can give some tips on how to structure that dialogue for the long term. I intend to press for this sort of programme to be rolled out more effectively across the country – and I’d be interested in any thoughts, experiences or ideas you might have on this topic.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • You may have heard that there are due to be job losses at the newly-merged Nottingham College. Staff have been told that 161 posts will go as a result of the merger, replaced by around 120 new posts, and staff and unions have raised concerns about the timescale for the redundancies and the lack of consultation. I met with representatives from the University and College Union on Friday to hear their concerns. My primary concern is whether compulsory job losses can be avoided through redeployment and voluntary changes, but I’m also worried about the student-to-tutor ratio and whether the current range and quality of courses can be sustained. Nottingham deserves improvements in skills training and I hope this will remain the focus of the newly-merged college.
  • The organisation Playworks is holding a free family fun day event in aid of National Play Day on Wednesday 2nd The event is running from 11am to 3pm and is being held at the Arboretum park. The event will include arts and crafts activities, animal handling, sports, games and a wild walk and is sure to be a great family day out. For more information about the event, visit the Playworks website here.
  • This week I took part in a Westminster Hall debate alongside my fellow Nottingham MPs about support for Nottingham schools. The new National Funding Formula for schools, which is due to come into force in April, will result in a real-terms funding cut for pupils in Nottingham. My colleague Lilian Greenwood spoke at length about the many strengths of Nottingham schools including the high number of pupils learning a musical instrument, but also about the problems Nottingham’s schools are facing. I spoke about the fears from Nottingham schools that further budget cuts will impact on specialist teaching in areas like the arts and will result in a very narrow curriculum for pupils. You can watch the full debate here.
  • Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council are to receive funding between them of around £446,000 over the next three years as part of the Government’s ‘Violence Against Women and Girls’ transformation fund. The funding will go towards a range of services to support victims including support for children who have witnessed abuse, support for the victims themselves and working with perpetrators of abuse to change their behaviour. The funding will also benefit survivors of honour-based violence, forced violence and FGM as well as victims of exploitation. Funding for domestic abuse services over the last few years has often fallen short of the help victims need, so I am pleased that the council have been successful in their bid for funding, which was submitted jointly with other organisations including domestic violence charities.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • As you will know, I’ve long argued that we need to compromise and find continued partnerships and alliances with European countries for the longer term – and these partnerships will have to be overseen by shared legal enforcement mechanisms. On Monday, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson confirmedthat there will be a potential role for the European Court of Justice in the transitional phase of our withdrawal from the EU – but with the exact scope and duration of its continued jurisdiction in Britain remaining a “matter for negotiation.”  This represents a clear and hugely important break with the Government’s previously immovable ‘red line’ of an end to all ECJ jurisdiction from the precise moment we are scheduled to leave in March of 2019. It’s increasingly obvious that the Government themselves don’t have the answers here, as I discovered when I pressed the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson on the transparent change in policy in the Commons this week – you can watch the exchange here.
  • On Tuesday morning we had sight of the independent review of modern working practicescarried out at the Government’s request by Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts. The Review sets out seven principles aimed at bringing our system of worker protections up to date with the realities of modern employment. Much of the focus was on its call for greater distinction between platform-based ‘dependent contractors’ and those who are fully self-employed, with additional safeguards in place for the former group, who currently often miss out on key workplace protections. The Taylor Review was a real opportunity to improve the employment system to better protect workers in a fast-changing world. While I agree with its sentiment in many areas, I worry that it misses a number of opportunities to clamp down on workplace exploitation, and that its references to ‘dependent contractors’ leave the Government leeway to row back on recent legal victories for ‘gig economy’ workers when it responds later this year.
  • On Tuesday the House of Commons debated the contaminated blood scandal. More than 45 years on from the first cases of NHS-supplied blood products infecting people with HIV, hepatitis C and other viruses, and with estimates suggesting the scandal has taken the lives of at least 2,400 people, the Government has confirmed that it will call an inquiry. We await more detail on its size and scope, but in light of recent allegations about the conduct of public officials and the treatment of victims and their families, transparency will be vital. I support a comprehensive public inquiry delivering full disclosure of documents, real answers and compulsory participation for parties involved in the scandal.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

This week the Government published the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – previously called the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ by Ministers. You can see the full details of the Bill at the link here. This will be the biggest legislative task facing Parliament for a generation, as Ministers say they want to ensure that EU-derived laws remain in force after ‘exit day’.

While such a Bill might be inevitable following the referendum, I’ve got real misgivings about the Government’s approach – and would welcome your advice about how to approach this process.

My suspicion is that Ministers are lining up a series of rights and freedoms, currently enshrined in European law, so that they can then push them into oblivion one by one as they come within their jurisdiction. This suspicion is made worse by clause 7(1) of the Bill which states that ‘a Minister of the Crown may by regulations make such provision as the minister considers appropriate’ to prevent, remedy or mitigate deficiencies in retained law arising from Brexit.

This means that massive law-making powers are being taken into the hands of Ministers, away from Parliament and perhaps without any scrutiny or debate.

I’m worried that the Bill creates legal uncertainty for our wider economy because Ministers haven’t figured out what court arrangements will become the alternative to the European Court of Justice, and I’m also concerned about restrictions on access to justice that could flow from this Bill.

This Bill will dominate Parliament in the autumn so I wanted to get your opinion on it at this stage.

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MP Update – 9th July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Sunday 9th July 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

With Britain’s economic situation looking increasingly anaemic, the anxieties of the businesses that I talk to locally are getting steadily greater. There are lots of employers who want to develop their products or are thinking about investing – or hiring new people – but things are on pause while there is so much uncertainty about whether we’ll still be able to trade as Britain does right now. The Brexit negotiations are very slow, and we’ll be stuck on the question of citizen rights and the divorce settlement for quite some time. Ministers haven’t even started talking about what new relationship or treaty we’ll have with the rest of the 27 countries of Europe.

When I spoke to small businesses from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire at the Federation for Small Business Annual Stakeholders event on Friday, the Brexit negotiations remain a concern. I discussed with them ways of helping small businesses to thrive in these challenging times, about the productivity challenge and what Government can do, and it was good to speak to local businesses about their priorities for Brexit.

The election should have changed everything – and in my view all 262 Labour MPs should come together around a demand for the UK to press for continued membership of the European Economic Area (the EEA or ‘Single Market’). If we did that, we’d only need a dozen Tory MPs to agree with us and we could force a change in the UK’s negotiating position. This is tantalisingly within reach. The numbers in the House of Commons should give real scope to influence events, so I really hope that we can come together in sufficient numbers and demand that better deal.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • This week I visited the Nottingham NHS Treatment Centre which is located next to QMC. The treatment centre has a wide variety of clinics and also offers day-case surgery and I spent time talking to staff and patients in dermatology and other clinics that were running at the time. We are very lucky to have such dedicated professionals and experts at the teaching hospital, which now offers out-patient services after working hours and sometimes on weekends too.
  • Broadmarsh Bus Station closes at midnight tonight, meaning buses will go from new stops on Collin Street, Canal Street and Friar Lane from Monday morning. This is in preparation for the demolition and rebuilding of Broadmarsh Bus Station and Car Park, with the car park closing later in July. You can find out where your bus is going from, and details about the £250m plans for the area, at betterbroadmarsh.com
  • On Friday I attended an event celebrating the work of the ‘Sound as a Pound’ Sound as a Pound is a Big Lottery-funded five year project that helps vulnerable social housing tenants in Nottingham to learn how to manage their finances. Since the project was launched in 2013, Sound as a Pound has given support to over 2,500 people in Nottingham. By helping vulnerable people to learn how to manage their finances, the team hope to enable the social housing tenants they help to become financially confident and maintain their tenancies. It was great to celebrate the achievements of the project with the team, as well as hearing about their plans to seek funding to continue the project beyond 2018.
  • A report by the Independent Monitoring Boards has found that the overwhelming majority of problems at HMP Nottingham on Perry Road were made significantly worse by the prison having ‘insufficient staff’. From February 2016 to February 2017, the report recorded 199 assaults on staff, 457 attacks on prisoners by inmates and 82 fires. Drugs were also found to be an issue at the prison. The IMB report also expressed concern about the impact staff shortages were having on the rehabilitation of prison inmates. The Ministry of Justice claims that staffing has improved significantly since the period the report covered – however I will keep a close on this situation and seek assurances that staffing levels will be improved.
  • Glenis Willmott, Labour’s MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s Leader in Europe, has announced this week that she will be retiring in October after almost 12 years as an MEP. A towering figure of East Midlands, national and European politics, she has served our Party and the trade union movement for many decades. I’d like to wish her a very happy retirement – she will be sadly missed. Due to the list system operated for European Parliamentary elections, the next person on a political party’s ‘list’ from the previous election (in this case 2014) automatically succeeds if an MEP from their party retires. I would therefore like to extend my congratulations to Leicester’s Rory Palmer, who will succeed Glenis as Labour’s MEP for the region. Rory has served as Deputy Mayor of Leicester for the last six years and will bring a wealth of experience to his new role.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

  • This week I raised the issue of local NHS staff shortages in Parliament – the severe staffing shortages already being felt in Nottingham and elsewhere and these would be made much worse if the Government restricts opportunities to recruit doctors, nurses and other staff from Europe after Brexit. We all know how vital the 55,000 EU nationals who work in the health service (including 10% of GPs) are to its success – they keep us safe and healthy as well as bringing crucial specialisation and expertise, and as we learned again this week, a crisis looms if the NHS is unable to recruit freely from EU countries. But this isn’t just a patient safety issue – it also creates a huge financial strain. With eight percent of Nottingham’s hospital staffing budget already going on agency costs, our NHS can’t afford to see further restrictions. Relying on stand-in locums, agency and temporary staff costs far more than training a permanent workforce in the long run. On Tuesday I pressed the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on this false economy, as you can see at the link here.
  • In the Commons on Wednesday, Ministers were questioned about voter fraud – but the real crisis for our democracy is the millions of people missing from the electoral register altogether. Fewer than 75% of adults in Nottingham East are currently registered to vote in general elections – yet in the Conservative constituency of the Minister responsible for this issue, over 97% are registered. That inequality is just not fair. The Government have made it harder for people to get registered and are now talking about requiring ID to vote – when all the evidence shows that schemes like this disproportionately prevent students, young people, and those living in temporary or insecure accommodation – and we have to recognise that this effective disenfranchisement is the real problem. I believe that, instead of raising barriers to participation, we should be making it easier for people to vote – and that the best way to achieve that is by moving to a system of automatic voter enrolment, for instance whenever people come into contact with public services, as repeatedly recommended by Parliamentary Committees who have looked into the issue. Here’s what I had to say (at this link) to Ministers in Parliament on Wednesday morning.
  • On Thursday the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier spelled out what has been scarily clear for some time – the Government’s insistence that we can crash out of the Single Market and Customs Union, but hold onto the ‘exact same benefits’ that come with membership, is completely detached from reality. At the election I made a promise to do all that I could to preserve our vital trade and economic links with Europe and fight an extreme Brexit deal (or worse, none at all) which would destroy economic confidence and cost good jobs and opportunities in Nottingham East, and that’s what I remain committed to doing.
  • Last week marked the 80th anniversary of the UK’s 999 emergency service, which is operated by BT. The service was introduced as a way to help telephone operators identify emergency calls and prioritise them over other calls. The service began in London in 1937, and while the Second World War delayed the roll-out of the service to other areas, it had expanded to other major towns and cities by 1948. BT now handles 30 million calls per year through the 999 service, enabling callers to be put through to the police, ambulance service, fire service or coast guard as requested. 999 call handlers work in a number of locations across the country, including in Nottingham, and provide an invaluable service.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

The G20 meeting in Germany is a reminder that there are some massive issues facing governments worldwide that need urgent action, including climate change and trade.

Tuesday brought the deeply troubling news that North Korea had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time. Concern over development of this kind of long-range missile, which could theoretically carry a nuclear weapon and is capable of striking Europe and the mainland United States, has been building for some time. This moment raises a serious set of questions for how the international community, and the U.S. in particular, should respond. The North Korean regime is volatile, insecure and thin-skinned, and we all have to hope that diplomatic, economic and other pressures will be successful in forcing a climbdown, because the costs of a military conflict would be incalculable.

I’m sure we would all agree that the North Korean regime is of deep concern – but what do you think the international community should do at this stage? There is clearly a big difference between the patient approach of the Obama administration and the unpredictable attitude of the Trump administration. Do we have the right mix of defence policies for Britain and Europe? Should Britain do more to persuade the Chinese and Russians to apply what influence they have more effectively?

I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts about what is a growing issue on the world stage.

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MP Update – 1st July

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 1st July 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

There were several big votes in the House of Commons at the end of the Queen’s Speech debates on Wednesday and Thursday this week – perhaps the most significant of which was sadly won by Theresa May’s Government, endorsing her legislative plan by 323 votes to 309. She achieved this slim Commons majority by doing the deal with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party, who have agreed to back her main Bills, Budgets and Brexit changes. Offering £1billion of extra spending to sweeten this DUP deal is unfair, based in politics not equal treatment of the whole country, and it’s not clear where that money will come from. I voted against the Queen’s Speech and for Labour’s alternative amendment.

I also voted in favour of a separate cross-party amendment backed by Labour, SNP, LibDems and Green MPs calling for Britain to remain in the Single Market. Despite a frontbench call to abstain, I felt that this issue was too important for the future of young people and the entire country – and so I was one of 50 Labour MPs to support it. The full text of the amendment I supported was as follows:

“At the end of the main Queen’s Speech motion add ‘but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech does not rule out withdrawal from the EU without a deal, guarantee a Parliamentary vote on any final outcome to negotiations, set out transitional arrangements to maintain jobs, trade and certainty for business, set out proposals to remain within the Customs Union and Single Market, set out clear measures to respect the competencies of the devolved administrations, and include clear protections for EU nationals living in the UK now, including retaining their right to remain in the UK, and reciprocal rights for UK citizens.’”

As I set out in my election address I believe Nottingham benefits from the alliances and trade links which have boosted jobs and our economy since we joined the ‘common market’. I have been criticised for putting this principle first, but I will continue to vote against a ‘hard Brexit’ which would harm Nottingham’s economy, in line with the promises I made.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Students at some Nottingham Trent University accommodation blocks have been relocated this week over concerns about the cladding used on the building. Three of the seven blocks at the Byron Residence – which was opened in 2013 and is located on the City Campus – were found to have used the same cladding panels as those linked to the Grenfell Tower fire. In a statement, the University and UPP, which owns and manages the accommodation, said that the small number of remaining students had been moved to alternative rooms as a precautionary measure while tests are carried out. On Friday, the University announced that the panels in question would be removed and replaced, with work expected to be completed prior to the new academic year starting in September.
  • To celebrate Wimbledon fortnight, The Renewal Trust are holding free tennis taster sessions for children aged 2-7 years from 4th-15th Tennis Tots aims to teach children basic tennis skills through fun, interactive sessions. The sessions are held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at the Brendon Lawrence Sports Centre in St Ann’s – for more information about the tennis sessions and other sports sessions that the Trust run for children, visit their website here.
  • The Local Government Boundary Commission is carrying out a review into the ward boundaries of Nottingham City Council, and the first consultation period opened this week. The Commission has announced that it is minded to keep the total number of Councillors the same as at present – 55 – but are seeking to redraw the boundaries so that each councillor represents roughly the same number of electors. My view is that it is vital when considering the boundary changes that the Commission respect existing community links and local connections. The Commission are inviting submissions from members of the public, so if you have particularly strong views about which Nottingham areas should fall within the same ward, or where boundaries could sensibly be drawn, do consider making a submission. You can find information about the review, including how to make a submission, on the Commission’s website here.
  • Arts Council England has announced its National Portfolio for 2018-2022, and a number of Nottingham venues and organisations are to benefit from funding. The New Art Exchange in Hyson Green and Dance4 in St Ann’s will see an increase in their funding, and a number of organisations including Nottingham Castle, Backlit Gallery, the Tom Dale Company and the city’s libraries will be added to the Arts Council’s portfolio for the first time. I’m pleased that the Arts Council has recognised the city’s cultural offering, I would like to congratulation all the organisations benefiting from grant money.
  • Research by the organisation End Child Poverty has found that Nottingham East has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country. An estimated 7929 children in Nottingham East live in poverty, with all of the associated impacts this can have on their life chances. It is vital that the Government starts doing more to help improve outcomes for children currently living in poverty. I’m proud of the work that Labour did in government to reduce child poverty, and it is disheartening to see backsliding on this issue.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • This week’s crack down on consumer debt and bank lending by the Bank of England should ring alarm bells about the health of our economy. With wages stagnant and household savings now at a 50 year low, it’s not surprising that people are borrowing more and more, taking out personal loans, car finance and credit card debt at a rapidly increasing rate. Consumer debt rose by over 10% in the year to April – a symptom that many people are struggling to make ends meet. The Bank of England are making the banks set aside another £11billion of loss absorbing capital in case these loans aren’t repaid – and it’s right that the banks are regulated in this way. But it’s the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer who should be urgently responding to this situation. Consumer consumption is by far and away the biggest driver of growth now in the UK, underpinning 80% of our growth while business investment isn’t adding anything currently and export performance is actually detracting from our total growth. When price inflation is nudging 3% – while pay is curtailed and benefits frozen –most households are now getting poorer in real terms. This is a situation that cannot continue and something will snap unless action is taken. The solution lies in a relentless focus on productivity, productivity and more productivity. We have to invest in a more efficient economy, stimulate new production process technologies to deliver more output for every pound spent or hour worked, and clear away the obstacles, logjams and delays in getting goods and services to market. Government has the key role to play here, but it has never taken the productivity agenda seriously. Maximising economic output would boost wages and revenues for reinvestment in public services and infrastructure. With the massive risks and uncertainties of Brexit looming on the horizon, as things stand Britain could easily get dragged into the mire of tariffs, customs red tape, restrictions on trade and even see a flight of investment. Unless we start to strengthen our productive economic engine immediately, Brexit could throw the country off the already precarious economic path we are on.
  • I’m delighted that my colleague Stella Creasy was able to force Government Ministers to announce that the Treasury would pay for women from Northern Ireland to have abortions at National Health Service hospitals in England, which has not been the case until now. She tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech and when it became clear to Ministers that there were several Conservative MPs who also wanted to see this unfair anomaly end, they realised that there would be a risk of defeat unless they changed the policy.
  • On Wednesday I supported Labour’s amendment to invest in our emergency services and scrap the 1% pay cap for public sector workers. To have such a crude cap for such a prolonged period isn’t just demoralising for key public service staff – it is also effectively a pay cut because inflation is more than twice this rate. With growing signs of nervousness among Tory MPs on this issue, there may be a chance that the policy will crumble. Downing Street signalled on Wednesday that they might lift the cap, only to recant when the Chancellor Philip Hammond objected because he wants to make this decision in due course.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

As I set out above, I’m deeply concerned that households are now saving less than at any time in the past fifty years, which is probably a consequence of the squeeze between rising prices on the one hand, and falling wages on the other. At a time when Britain’s fate is in the balance over Brexit, the last thing we need is so many people potentially unable to cope if things go wrong.

I’d be interested to know if you think that the lack of savings is a widespread and increasing problem locally. It’s difficult to get hard ‘data’ on this issue – but anecdotally a large number of local residents tell me that they’re noticing prices escalating now considerably and they are taking different decisions, whether cutting back on holidays or changing shopping habits.

With all the political news soaking up the headlines, I’m worried that these economic realities are going unnoticed and undebated. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

 

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 26th June

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Monday 26th June 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

[This week’s MP Update newsletter has been delayed because the House of Commons email servers were subject to a cyber attack – and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to send any emails out – many apologies!]

Last week we heard the Queen’s Speech, setting out the Government’s legislative programme for the next two years. But it was a meagre and hollow ‘plan’ from a drifting administration – and a much diminished Prime Minister. The Government have no majority and hardly any of their manifesto policies to be seen.

Brexit is the one issue which Ministers cannot avoid because the clock is ticking after Article 50 was triggered on 29th March. This means that UK law has to be able to rapidly cover ground that has hitherto been dealt with under EU legislation (including trade, customs, immigration, agriculture and so on) – a massive exercise in transposing rules and regulations. I will press for the UK to preserve the alliances and links with Europe that have been so crucial for the country and our economy in recent decades.

The only saving grace is that Conservative plans for scrapping school lunches, the pensioners winter allowance, social care payments and repealing the ban on foxhunting have all had to fall by the wayside – because they don’t have the numbers to get these through.

While there are a few measures which should achieve consensus in Parliament – including reforms to domestic violence laws – there are other proposals which still concern me including the proposal to change the funding formula for schools. There will now be several days of debate on this package of measures with final votes taking place on Wednesday and Thursday.

NOTTINGHAM

  • The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, Craig Guildford, and Police & Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping have spoken out about the terrorist attack near Finsbury Park Mosque last week. They have assured the public that the police will continue to support communities in the wake of this incident, and offer a visible reassurance in Nottinghamshire. Paddy Tipping has said that there have been longstanding discussions between Nottinghamshire Police and Mosque leaders regarding increased protection for Muslim communities during Ramadan, and in light of the attack that protection has been strengthened and increased. I was concerned to hear about the incident at Al-Quba Masjid Mosque in Sherwood last week, where two men have now been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence after meat was smeared on the mosque’s door during Ramadan prayers. Nottinghamshire Police have asked people to remain alert and to report any suspicious activity on the Anti-Terror Hotline 0800 789 321 or, in an emergency, dial 999.
  • On Friday I met with senior officers at Nottinghamshire Police to discuss their counter-terrorism strategy and how we can build relationships with faith leaders, doctors, teachers and other organisations to identify people at risk of radicalisation. I wanted to emphasise how important it is to strike the right balance between reaching out across the community while not acting in a stigmatising or alienating way.
  • With local businesses still uncertain about the long term economic environment in which they operate it was useful to catch up with Richard Blackmore, the Regional Director of CBI East Midlands on Friday to discuss the needs of their members post-Brexit. Local businesses have told the CBI that their priorities for Brexit are economic stability, no new barriers to trade and to receive reassurances that employees who are EU citizens will be able to remain in the UK contributing to the economy.
  • The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in West London continues to dominate the news, with many questions about tragedy still unanswered. Over the weekend we saw the terrible consequences of uncertain fire safety conditions now leading to evacuation of some residences in Camden as flats that were previously thought to be safe are now deemed a risk. You may have heard my colleague David Lammy speaking about the loss of his friend in the Grenfell fire – an artist named Khadija Saye. Khadija had a promising career ahead of her, with her work having just been exhibited at the Venice Biennale. Khadija was also supported by Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, and the gallery are raising funds for Khadija’s family at this difficult time. Khadija is one among many lives lost in this awful tragedy, and my sincere condolences go to all of those affected. I spoke with Nottingham City Homes again last week to seek reassurances for tenants in high-rise properties in the wake of the tragedy. Nottingham City Homes has announced that it will install sprinklers in the corridors and communal areas of the 13 high-rise blocks it manages in Nottingham, and are holding drop-in sessions for residents in all of the blocks. An audit of private high-rise blocks in the city is also underway. I will continue to follow this closely and keep you updated.
  • A new £200million project by the University of Nottingham that is due to create up to 500 new jobs has been launched. The high-calibre recruitment drive aims to seek out new academic and research talent to tackle six global challenges – including securing sustainable food supplies, ending slavery and developing greener transport systems – which collectively contribute to all 17 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. The six research areas are:
  1. Rights Lab — finding solutions to ending modern-day slavery
  2. Green Chemicals — the next global industrial revolution
  3. Precision Imaging — personalised therapies to transform lives
  4. Propulsion Imaging — the future of propulsion
  5. Smart Industrial Systems — sustainable products for the future
  6. Future Food — exploring new ways of feeding the world

I am delighted to see the University leading on this bold project, boosting research and development in the East Midlands, investing in hundreds of jobs and fuelling the Midlands Engine.

  • As well as the national email problems with Parliament, the local Virgin telephone system to my constituency office is also not working properly – many apologies again! In the meantime you can contact my office on 0115 956 9429.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Today the Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland (DUP) concluded a deal that will see their MPs join forces to give a parliamentary majority for Government legislation on the Budget, finance and Brexit – and on any ‘no confidence’ motions that emerge. This is a disappointing set of circumstances because it could mean that this Conservative administration will continue for up to five years, the length of a fixed term parliament. There will need to be scrutiny of the £1bn that has been offered to sweeten the deal with the DUP and also whether the DUP will influence some of the other socially liberal policies which even the Tories disagree with. But I am very sad to see that the Tories and DUP have apparently got passed the ‘half way’ number of MPs (325).
  • The Competition and Markets Authority have announced a probe into online gambling and betting websites following hundreds of complaints that promotional deals are not honoured or break consumer rules. A large number of people now bet and gamble online and with many of the companies involved being located offshore, there are an increasing number of stories of customers being ripped off or entangled in complex rules that break the advertising standards.
  • The Government announced a new ‘Data Protection Bill’ to replace the 1998 Act in the Queen’s Speech last week. There are some aspects outlined in the description of this reform which look to have merit, including a right for individuals to delete record content from when they were under 18 years old and a ‘right to be forgotten’ so that companies may not hold information if an individual requests data be deleted. The details of the legislation haven’t yet been published and it will be interesting to see whether a different balance will be struck between protecting individual data and allowing sharing between agencies for law enforcement purposes.
  • Saturday was Armed Forces Day in the UK, a chance to salute the bravery and service of those who work in the army, navy and air forces. Whether working to help address the terrorist threat across the country, fight Daesh abroad or provide humanitarian relief in areas of great stress in Africa and elsewhere, the armed forces – like our emergency services in the UK – put their lives on the line for us day in and day out. We are fortunate to have such dedicated troops and should never forget the service and sacrifice they give.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

It’s a year since the EU referendum – and I’d be interested in your thoughts about where things stand and what should happen next.

The Government have offered the three million EU citizens living in the UK the right to ‘settled status’ and guarantees on healthcare, pensions, benefits and education as though they were British nationals. The offer, said the Prime Minister, is dependent on a reciprocal deal covering the one million UK citizens living in the rest of the 27 EU countries. However, the EU President Jean Claude Juncker has said these plans do not go as far as they would like, a sign that even those areas where there should be some consensus may take some time to iron out.

The Government have also agree to the request from the EU that – before negotiating our new trading relationship with the 27 European states – deals will need to be done first on citizen rights, the Northern Ireland border and the ‘divorce bill’ liabilities. I have long had concerns that a sequential approach, rather than talking about all these issues in parallel, is very dangerous for Britain. If acceptable divorce terms are not reached in time there is a risk we will go past March 2019 without a suitable agreement on future trading relations. This uncertainty will weigh heavily on business planning across a number of sectors.

I’d be interested to know how you think the negotiations should and will proceed, and whether there are specific issues I should be raising in the legislative process that is about to begin.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 16th June

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 16th June 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The horrendous tragedy in the West London tower block fire has quite rightly dominated the news in the week following the general election. If this turns out to have been an avoidable disaster – and there is growing speculation about the fire resistance of the cladding used in recent renovations – then not only must this never ever happen again but those responsible must be held to account.

I have been in discussion with Nottingham City Homes about the high rise flats in the city and will do so again on Monday. My priority is ensuring that the current assumptions – about escape routes and evacuation advice; about building regulation and sprinkler systems; about communication with residents – are challenged and properly thought through. There are some blocks in Nottingham East that have been in the news in recent months when different risks emerged, including hoax bomb threats, and I will be testing officials on whether the existing advice to residents is adequate. I also have concerns about escape route options and internal fire doors – all details I will raise with those in charge.

Nottingham City Homes have been quick to thoroughly review their arrangements and to meet again with the Fire Service. Let us hope that we can prevent such a reoccurrence as has happened at Grenfell Tower but also reassure all local residents that they are safe in their homes.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Although the Conservatives are doing a deal with the DUP to stay in office as a minority Government nationally (more on this below), I am really glad we had so many fantastic results for Labour at last week’s general election – and especially pleased to have been re-elected to represent Nottingham East for the third time. A combination of local hard work and excellent campaigning by Jeremy and the national Party defied some of the worst poll projections. Labour now holds 262 seats with the Conservatives on 318, which when combined with the Democratic Unionists from Northern Ireland means Theresa May can stay in Number 10. So while I’m disappointed that we could end up with five more Tory years, the improvement in our share of seats does mean we can keep their feet to the fire and hopefully find alliances across Parliament to stop some of the worst aspects of Tory rule. My priorities will remain defending the NHS, stopping cuts to Nottingham schools, fighting for local jobs and investment – which means a Brexit that retains key trading links with Europe – and providing a strong voice locally.

The result in Nottingham East was as follows:

 

Labour 28,102                 71.9%

Conservatives 8512        21.6%

LibDems 1003                  2.6%

UKIP 817                           2.1%

Green 698                        1.8%

Elvis 195                            0.5%

  • A recent inspection of East Midlands Ambulance Service by the Care Quality Commission has found that the service has made significant improvements, but that there are still steps to be taken before the CQC will be satisfied with the service overall. In November 2015, EMAS was told that it needed to make improvements in a number of areas, and while the recent report found improvements in staff numbers, vehicle availability and staff training, there is still progress to be made in areas such as response times. I will continue to follow this closely and remain in contact with staff at EMAS.
  • The new tram bridge at QMC is nearing completion and is due to open to the public next month. The bridge, which connects the Queen’s Medical Centre tram stop to the main hospital building, will provide quicker and easier access to the hospital for patients and staff. I’m pleased to see progress on this project – once again showing that Nottingham is leading the way on public transport.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Theresa May’s new alliance with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party will be subject to significant scrutiny in the coming days. It has clearly big ramifications for the Queen’s Speech, which is supposed to set out the legislative agenda for the Government for the year ahead. I doubt very much that some of the worst and most controversial aspects of the Tory manifesto will still be there, simply because they don’t have the numbers to vote it through. Sadly, the Government do have a number of powers that don’t always require legislation – including the allocation of resources in some cases. I am concerned about the impact on the stability of the Good Friday Agreement and also the attitude of the DUP when it comes to social policy, such as their illiberal stance on a woman’s right to choose.
  • The new Parliamentary arithmetic should give us scope to form an informal coalition against a harsh Brexit that sees us crashing out of the EU in a way that harms our economy, which is my big concern. I will be pressing the Government and Labour’s frontbench to do even more to salvage the UK’s membership of the Single Market which is so crucial for the country.
  • Another smaller aspect of Brexit – but nevertheless important to consumers – is what could happen to mobile telephone costs if we end up outside the Single Market in a couple of years. This week saw the abolition of mobile ‘roaming’ changes across all European Union and single market countries, saving a traveller in Europe around £61 per year. But if we leave the Single Market and don’t negotiate a bilateral deal on roaming charges with the EU, these costs could be reimposed. Exporters doing business on the continent will face that unfair disadvantage and holidaymakers could see these higher charges returned. Just another issue that flows from a ‘hard Brexit’ if Ministers get this wrong.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Jo Cox was murdered a year ago today, a shocking attack by a far right extremist designed to silence her message of unity and community strength. I worked closely with Jo in Parliament and it is hard to forget the shock that rippled across the whole country at that brutality. Her husband Brendan has been a great inspiration both in coping with that awful loss and focusing on the good that has to emerge, including this week’s series of events to celebrate her life and what we all have in common.

He has been promoting ‘The Great Get Together’ – focusing on that message from her speech which was all about how we all have more in common than that which divides us. The events include picnics, street parties and stalls to bring together local communities and show that we have more in common than that which divides us. There are events across the city that began earlier this week, including in Woodthorpe Park tomorrow (Saturday) from 2:30pm until 5pm and on Sunday from 1pm until 2pm at the small park at the junction of Gregory Boulevard & Radford Road. If you’d like to find out more about the events, or would like to get involved, visit the website here.

Are we doing enough to forward this agenda of uniting communities and celebrating rather than fearing the diversity of our society? I do think more work is needed – but for now I’m glad that Jo’s life is being remembered in this respect.

 

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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Phone issues in constituency office

We are currently experiencing problems with our phone line in the Nottingham office. We are working with our phone provider to get this resolved, but in the meantime you can contact the office on 0115 956 9429, or email me on chris.leslie@parliament.uk.

Thank you for your understanding.

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MP Update – 29th April

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Saturday 29th April 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The general election on June 8th may seem a long way off – but there’s a lot at stake. Theresa May clearly feels she is on course for a big win, but I hope that the country feels differently. Making sure Nottingham East has a strong local voice to champion the issues people care about is essential. If the Prime Minister is expecting a ‘blank cheque’ for a damaging Brexit or for their preferred changes to the NHS or schools, the British public may have other ideas.

Thankfully, in our Parliamentary system of democracy, voters choose a representative for a particular community – so the decisions made on our laws should reflect views from all corners of the country. So whatever the issues the media may think are ‘top of the news’ in Westminster aren’t always the questions we in Nottingham want as top of our agenda.

It has been the greatest privilege of my life to represent Nottingham East, where this election could be the closest in decades. I’ve always tried to fight tooth and nail for our area and I hope that I will continue to have the chance to stand up for our community, jobs and public services.

NOTTINGHAM

  • As part of a campaign to promote literacy and creativity it was great to support “Brilliant Books” yesterday, which is organised locally by Phil Pidluznyj with Lottery funding. Working in classrooms in local schools, the scheme is designed to bring in people from all walks of life to talk to children about how reading and books play a part in their work. It was great to visit Year 7s at the Nottingham Free School on Friday and read an extract for them (pictured below) – and they’ll also soon be visited by a Disney robot scientist to do the same, a professional footballer, community activist, writers, musicians, and Jon Collins reading Biggles! It’s a great scheme and congratulations to all involved!

Brilliant books 280417

 

 

  • This week I was invited to speak to the quarterly business and economic review hosted by the East Midlands Chamber who represent companies across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire. With a mix of firms from both manufacturing and service sectors, we focused on Brexit and the forthcoming legislation and policy issues of importance for local business.
  • The Nottingham Orthopaedic Walk (NOW) is taking place on Sunday 11th June at Highfields Park & Boating Lake on the University Park Campus.  NOW raises money for Orthopaedic Research and The East Midlands Major Trauma Centre. This one mile sponsored walk is suitable for all levels—you can walk just part of a mile, or can keep going further if you wish. The walk costs £10 for adults and is free for under 16s, and it’s completely free to come along and enjoy the stalls and activities! Other activities available at the event include face painting, refreshments and live music. More information about the event is available on the Nottingham Hospitals Charity website here.
  • On Monday children from Our Lady & St Edward Primary Academy came all the way down to Parliament for a tour of the Palace of Westminster, including walking through the chamber of the House of Commons – and it was great to meet with them and sit down in the grand committee room of Westminster Hall and discuss how laws are made. They had set off at 6am by bus to get there, so I was very impressed with their stamina!
  • If you’re a resident in Sherwood Ward, don’t forget the local city council by-election being held on Thursday 4th May next week – filling the vacancy created because sitting councillor Alex Ball has taken up a new job in Leeds. Polling stations will be open between 7am and 10pm and you don’t need your polling card in order to vote.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • On Monday, the Government was asked to make a statement on the publication date of its air quality strategy. In November 2016, the Government was told to strengthen its plans to tackle air pollution after a judicial review found its existing proposals to be “woefully inadequate” and unlawful. The Government accepted this judgement and was given a legal deadline to produce a new draft plan by Monday 24 April 2017 and a final one by 31 July 2017. However, last Friday the Government made a last-minute application to the court to delay publication until after the general election on 8 June 2017. On Thursday, the court ruled against the Government and it must now publish the draft strategy after the local elections on 4 May. I welcome the court’s decision on Thursday. Nearly 40 million people in the UK live in areas with illegal levels of air pollution. The situation has deteriorated under this Government, and the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee has warned that we are experiencing a public health emergency. Indeed, the NHS estimates that poor air quality contributes to 40,000 premature deaths each year. There is now a case for a new Clean Air Act to deal with this problem.
  • Now that the general election has been called, the legislation flowing from the spring Budget – the Finance Bill – has been rushed through the House of Commons for debate because of reduced Parliamentary time before the general election. Although I voted against the Bill at second reading it now has become law. I was particularly wary about the rise in insurance premium tax. It has already been doubled and the Bill raises it further. Had there been a longer process of scrutiny, I would have liked to see the Government challenged again on this measure. A large portion of the Bill relates to the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy. The Obesity Health Alliance has said that the levy could potentially save up to 144,000 adults and children from obesity every year.
  • It’s a little known characteristic of our law-making process but when Parliament is ‘dissolved’ for an election, there cease to be any Members of Parliament – and this will be the case from the end of Tuesday 2nd This has a number of consequences. First, the remaining legislation has been rushed through and enacted in a ‘wash-up’ procedure usually by agreement between the frontbenches of each party. So the Digital Economy Bill, the Health Services Medical Supplies Bill, the Criminal Finances Bill and the Higher Education Bill have all now become law. But with no MPs in Parliament after 2nd May, Government Ministers will make day to day decisions without mirroring scrutiny – although by convention these are not supposed to be large policy decisions of great significance. As I will become a candidate I won’t have access to Parliament or be able to tackle individual cases in the same way. But please do keep in touch with me via my temporary campaign email chrisleslie2017@gmail.com

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

This general election may have come as something of a surprise – particularly when Theresa May was so adamant it wasn’t going to happen – but the country will now decide who governs for the next five years.

So what will be the most important issues for you? I’ve been talking to hundreds of local residents since the election was called and lots of topics come up on the doorstep – including Brexit, the future of public services such as schools and hospitals, the needs of business and job creation locally, and sometimes very local issues such as on street car parking and litter.

It would be incredibly helpful to know what you are concerned about and what matters most. As I mentioned last week, when we get into the formal ‘short campaign’ election period I will be in touch with my campaign email chrisleslie2017@gmail.com, so I hope we can keep in contact for the weeks ahead.

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MP Update – 21st April

 

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE MP – Friday 21st April 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Now that Theresa May has decided to cut and run to an early General Election, it’s worth taking stock about where the Conservatives are taking the country.

We know that living standards and real wages have been squeezed significantly, with the cost of living on the way up again.

We know that our NHS is under unprecedented pressure and whose future in increasingly in doubt as a service for everyone regardless of ability to pay.

And we know that the Prime Minister and her some of her most right-wing MPs are heading thoughtlessly towards the cliff edge of a hard Brexit.

So I will be seeking re-election as the Labour Member of Parliament for Nottingham East on June 8th and hoping we see Labour MPs elected not just where we won in 2015 but in the new constituencies we need to win in order to deprive the Tories of a parliamentary majority.

The issues of living standards, the NHS and Brexit will be at the heart of this campaign – and although we are leaving the EU, I will campaign for Britain to maintain the crucial trading links that have helped Nottingham businesses and our economy since we began participating in the European ‘common market’.

These are the values I will champion:

  • I believe passionately that our society needs to be fairer and come together to achieve more than we can ever achieve as isolated individuals on our own – and the NHS stands as a testament to the efficient pooling of our resources collectively to get a better deal for all.
  • I want to see every child have the opportunity to fulfil their individual potential to the full, which means prioritising high quality education.
  • We need to fight hard for power, wealth and opportunity to be in the hands of the many not the few and champion rights & liberties while each taking our responsibilities as citizens seriously.
  • I am an internationalist and believe we have a moral duty to care for others in distress or suffering repression and not ‘walking by’ on the other side of the road.
  • And in this age of social media we have to work more than ever to promote a culture of tolerance and respect, fighting racism and prejudice wherever it exists.

I hope these are values we share and that, if re-elected, these will be the principles I follow as the local Member of Parliament for Nottingham East.

 Doorstep

NOTTINGHAM

  •  Sadly there has been another knife-related death in Nottingham over the Easter period. 18 year old Matthew Rothery, who was a student at Nottingham Academy, died following a serious assault in the Woodborough Road area at Mapperley Top. Clearly our thoughts must be with Matthew’s family and friends at this terrible time. A 20 year old man has been arrested in connection with the incident and remanded in prison. The property at the site of the attack has had a police presence until today to secure the scene. A few weeks ago I asked for your views on the idea of introducing mandatory sentences for knife possession without good cause and those who responded were broadly supportive. So I will make it a priority to press for this change – we must do much more to stamp out the carrying of knives across our community.
  • Nottingham City Council has agreed to spend £671,000 to revamp 14 parks and green spaces across the city. The money will be spent on parks such as the Arboretum, as well as Valley Road Park and Peggy’s Park in Sherwood. Valley Road Park is due to have significant improvements to footpaths, as well as the creation of a new walkway to link to the play area and new play equipment. I welcome this investment in parks and green spaces, which do so much to benefit the health and wellbeing of our communities.
  • Trading standards officers from Nottingham City Council have seized over £230,000 worth of illegal cigarettes and tobacco from city premises over the last year and the Nottingham Post reported that a number of shops in the Radford Road area were found to have illegal tobacco products. I’m pleased to see council officials tackling this issue – the priority should be helping people to give up smoking and lead healthier lives – and the illegal cigarette trade encourages counterfeit products which could be harmful to people’s health.
  • An 11-year old from Carlton has become one of the youngest people ever to conduct an orchestra. Matthew, a pupil at Sneinton C of E Primary School, conducted a 75-piece orchestra at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall earlier this month. He conducted Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, a nine minute long piece, as part of a charity concert organised by the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra to raise money for Hope Nottingham. Derek Williams, Matthew’s violin teacher, spotted his conducting potential at the age of seven. You can watch the performance with the Nottingham Symphony Orchestra on the Nottingham Post website here. I believe strongly that Nottingham should show the way in music education and build on the achievements we are already seeing.
  • You may have read in the news recently that unemployment figures nationally have remained stable at around 4.7%. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case in Nottingham East, where the number of unemployed claimants is on the increase. The claimant rate for Nottingham East in March was 5.7%, an increase of 155 since the previous month. The Government needs to do more to support jobseekers across the country and also to tackle stagnation of wages, as inflation wipes out wage growth.

PARLIAMENT AND POLITICS

  • Well so much for the ‘Fixed Term Parliament Act’! The Prime Minister sprung a vote in the Commons on Wednesday and because I do not want to see this Government continue in office I did not oppose this early election. Theresa May claimed Parliament was ‘blocking’ Article 50, but it didn’t. And she claimed she wasn’t going to have an early election, but that wasn’t true either. I suspect that many people will be disappointed that she says one thing but does another. Parliamentary business will now be fast-tracked in the final days when the Commons is sitting and the election period ‘proper’ will begin on 3rd
  • On Tuesday, the Foreign Secretary made a statement in the House of Commons about developments in Syria and North Korea. Two weeks ago, we saw the horrifying chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Syria, which killed dozens of ordinary villagers and injured many more. In response, the United States launched strikes against the military air base in Syria from which it is believed the chemical attack was launched. Russia continues to support the Assad regime and blocked a UN Security Council resolution that demanded the regime’s co-operation with an international investigation into the chemical attack. More than 400,000 lives have been claimed by the ongoing civil war in Syria and it is clear that a peaceful settlement is needed now more than ever. In North Korea, the Kim Jong-un regime is thought to have tested two nuclear devices and 24 missiles in 2016. Last weekend, the regime attempted to test yet another missile and threatened further tests. North Korea is a serious unstable totalitarian regime and clearly presents a serious danger in that region.
  • Each year the tax measures for the year ahead from the Budget are set out in a single Bill: the annual Finance Bill. On Tuesday, the House of Commons debated this Bill. The Finance Bill 2017 increases the standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) from 10% to 12% with effect from 1 June 2017. It is concerning that as a result, families in our area will have to bear a higher cost for insurance for their car, house, personal possessions and even pets and mobile phones. The Bill introduces new digital record-keeping and reporting requirements, proposals will put undue pressure on small businesses and the self-employed in our area, who simply do not have the resources to input tax information on a quarterly basis. More widely, I do not believe that the Bill does enough to tackle tax avoidance and evasion and for this – and because of the Government’s approach to the Budget more widely – I voted against it on Tuesday.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’ve always believe that the people of Nottingham East are my ‘boss’ and I would very much like to get on with the job and standing up for local residents.

Since I was elected in 2010 I’ve reported back every week to constituents when the Commons has been in session with these my ‘MP Update’ email newsletters. They may be a bit long-winded on occasion (!), but I hope they have proved useful for you!

I’ve staffed a full-time office in Nottingham and helped hundreds of people with difficult problems and cases. And I’ve spoken with thousands of local residents on doorsteps, in businesses and across the constituency.

With so much at stake, I hope to continue doing this job and working for you after June 8th.

As Parliament will shut down shortly, I’ll keep up these Update emails and will be using the email chrisleslie2017@gmail.com for this period. If you need to contact me or can help in any way, just drop me an email here.

In the meantime, I’d be keen to know what you believe the main issues in this election will be – as always, please let me know!

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