MP Update – 4th May

MP Update No.297NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE Friday 4th May 2018(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Nottingham News

  • Yesterday’s Health Service Journal reported that the Nottingham Treatment Centre at QMC Hospital may not be put out for re-tendering for a further year. The current operator with the contract – Circle – have started a legal challenge to the decision by the NHS Clinical Commissioners on the grounds that the proposed massive cut in procurement proposed would severely damage service quality and could not maintain existing services. The Commissioners seem to be arguing that the contract price proposal reflects ‘savings and efficiencies’ but in reality this could lead to a major downgrade in the number of operations and investigations that local patients can access.This feels like a back-door attempt to cut our health service provision, under the guise of a re-contracting exercise and I am deeply unhappy with the way this is being pursued. The Treatment Centre undertakes important elective services for outpatients, surgery, testing and pregnancy services and this facility is really important to people living in Nottingham East. I will be pressing the NHS Commissioners to set out clearly whether they can guarantee the existing level of health outcomes for Nottingham patients and if not, to be specific about which services will be at risk.
  • We’ve had some extremely disappointing news yesterday from Virgin Media who have announced their intention to leave the ‘Diamond Plaza’ offices on Daleside Road where 210 customer service staff currently work. I have spoken with management at Virgin Media and expressed my concern at the decision especially because they are consulting on a reduction in staffing down to just 70 people retained in different premises in Nottingham, which 80 of the posts will be relocated ‘offshore’. This will be a bitter blow for many constituents who work at the site. Sadly there is no officially recognised trade union representation and so I have sought assurances about the need for full consultation, a willingness to listen to staff about alternative proposals but also full support for retraining, relocation and redeployment. Virgin Media say this is part of a rationalisation of their estate nationwide and a shift from eight to four consolidated call centre locations. I will do whatever I can to help the affected employees through this difficult period.
  • The government’s visa cap is causing staffing issues at Nottingham University Hospitals. According to the Director of Human Resources at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust the cap has been a problem for the trust since it came in at the end of last year. The trust relies of doctors from outside the EU but has had 18 certificates of sponsorship for doctors turned down, including every application they made in March. This has left real gaps in their rotas and skill shortages in certain areas. The HR Director noted  ‘we try and fill that gap with agency locums but we are under pressure to reduce our locum spend as well. Overseas doctors are a critical part of our workforce’.
  • My thanks to the staff and students at the University of Nottingham School of Mathematical Sciences for hosting my visit today. I tried my best to keep up with their explanation of quantum theory (!) but it was crystal clear that their postgraduate and PhD research activities have very real and applied relevance to the community, whether in helping with environmental sustainability or new communications technology. We should be very proud to have such a leading facility in our city and it is a pity that some of the ERC European-funded research grants are in doubt should Brexit go ahead. It was also good to meet with undergraduate maths students (pictured below) to hear of their experiences studying at the University and living in Nottingham.

Univ of Nottingham Mathematics Department visit May 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Nottingham City Council plan to invest £25,000 as part of improvements to the Clinton Street market area, which is opposite intu Victoria Centre. The area is used by around 15 street traders. The council said it hoped to create a better environment by installing street art, improving lighting and creating a seating area. However this proposals could mean an increase in the rent paid by market traders – from £35 a day to £55 a day.
  • Over £150,000 worth of funding has been offered by the Heritage Lottery to restore an empty Grade II listed building in the Lace Market. The People’s Building in Heathcoat Street applied for the funding in February 2016 in order to create an enterprise hub in the building. This development has the potential to open up 6,000 square ft of commercial floor space. Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning, housing and heritage, said: “This funding to develop an Enterprise Hub in the People’s Hall will not only protect an at risk grade II* listed building but it will also go towards generating additional jobs and business growth”. She added: “This funding will allow the property, which is in a key area of the city, to be brought back into use and that is great news. The council is committed to protecting the city’s historic buildings and safeguarding our heritage, so securing this funding go towards doing just that.”

 

National & International News

  • The week began with the resignation of Home Secretary Amber Rudd in the wake of the Windrush generation scandal and subsequent questioning from the Home Affairs Select Committee, where my colleague Yvette Cooper questioned her about regional Home Office targets for the deportation of illegal migrants. Amber Rudd had denied these targets existed, but it was clear she misled the committee and resigned as a result. Her replacement – Sajid Javid – has pledged to stop pursuing the “hostile environment” policy which created a climate where perfectly legal, but undocumented, residents started to find themselves excluded from services or even having their residency status threatened. Time will tell whether Javid offers any improvement in Home Office policy, though he is already tilting the key Cabinet committees towards a ‘hard Brexit’ outcome by most accounts.
  • On Thursday local government elections were held in 150 councils across England, including all London authorities but the nearest to us to place in Derby, Lincoln and Amber Valley. The results are not fully available at the time of writing this, but this afternoon Labour had gained 50 council seats, the Conservatives 13 seats , LibDems 33 seats and UKIP lost 111 seats. It is difficult to draw many conclusions given that only some areas were voting and others not, but they appear to be a mixed set of outcomes with Labour retaining the London boroughs held, winning Plymouth but losing Derby and Nuneaton & Bedworth. I hope that there will be clearer analysis of the underlying factors for these results in the coming days,
  • On Monday evening the House of Lords voted convincingly in favour of a cross-party amendment to make sure MPs get a genuinely meaningful vote on whatever the Prime Minister’s final proposed deal. Once again the majority was boosted by a number of senior Tories, including some former Cabinet Ministers, rebelling against the Prime Minister’s position. This underlines the heartfelt resistance that exists across the party lines in Parliament. A take-it-or-leave it vote would be to restrict the options truly available for the country. It is therefore vital that we keep open the option of extending negotiations or putting any deal back to the British public. I only hope that the many Conservative MPs who agree, and know full well how economically bad this situation would be, find the courage to speak up in the coming months.
  • On Tuesday the Government accepted an amendment put down by my colleague Margaret Hodge and the Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell which will force British overseas territories to publish registers of company ownership. The amendment is designed to help get a grip on the huge global flows of ‘dirty money’ resting unaccountably in tax havens. This was a targeted and thoughtful amendment, on a cause which commands huge public sympathy, and I was very happy to see Ministers recognise the strength of cross-party support behind tackling the issue.
  • MPs are still waiting to see if the Cabinet can agree a customs policy, more than a year after the triggering of the Article 50 process. Rather than recognise that there is a parliamentary majority in the Commons for Britain’s participation in a Customs Union, the Cabinet are trying to defy reality and dream up a have-cake-and-eat-it approach. This is most acute on the question of the Irish border. Ministers admit that the ‘maximum facilitation’ option still requires new camera infrastructure and check points. The ‘customs partnership’ theory would require Britain to administer a dual set of customs policies – one for the UK and one for the EU – but also need the EU to do similarly. Both have been dismissed as unworkable by the European side of the negotiations. Instead of delaying the vote, the Prime Ministers should bite the bullet and allow MPs to decide.

 

What do you think?On Wednesday the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt disclosed to MPs that a major NHS IT error had resulted in 450,000 women not being called in for vital breast cancer screenings. This is a hugely alarming announcement, with the suggestion that ‘between 135 and 270 women’ may have had their lives shortened as a consequence. The Health Secretary has now commissioned an inquiry, to be chaired by the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, Lynda Thomas, to establish precisely how this tragedy could have happened. It aims to report back in six months and I will of course study its findings closely.This was probably the most shocking news item of this week – and it deserved to have had more media attention. I would be interested to know if you are aware of anybody locally who might have been affected by this failure so that I can get a sense of the specific issues I should press the Department for Health to answer. In the first instance, anyone who feels they may be affected should contact the dedicated national helpline on 0800 169 2692.In general, do you feel that the NHS locally provide adequate information and notifications to patients about possible treatments, screening or information about results when these are available? Do you receive the right choices for future appointments or appropriate feedback and data as a patient? Keeping people informed of their health circumstances and rights should be a key part of the work of the NHS.

 

RegardsChris LeslieLabour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East
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MP Update – 28th April

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 28th April 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

If you were in any doubt about the looming Brexit effect and how it is putting the brakes on Britain’s economy, yesterday’s near-standstill growth figures for the three months of 2018 were especially clear. Even though more people are working longer hours, the economy grew by just 0.1% – which is the lowest quarterly figure for six years. This means that people are working harder but producing less; our country’s productivity is now in the slow lane as the rest of the world overtake us.

You may have felt this in prices at the shops, where the weakening value of sterling has driven up inflation which squeezes the purchasing power of incomes. And it’s unlikely that incomes will be growing much further if we aren’t producing more as a country. Some economists are even predicting an ‘evens chance’ of a recession. It’s far too early to be sure of that – but we can already see that Britain has lagged by 1.5% output compared with the predictions made in May 2016 before the Brexit referendum. That lag means we’re already down by £30billion as a nation since then. And this is before Brexit even happens.

I am deeply frustrated that the Government – and sadly some in my own Party – are either oblivious or ignoring this risk for other political reasons. There is no way that all of the vital resources we desperately need to inject into health, social care, schools, housing and infrastructure can be found if we see Brexit induce a decade of austerity, on top of the awful state we are already in.

I am trying my very best to work with MPs and Peers in the Lords and Commons across all parties to build a coalition in favour not just of the Customs Union but also the Single Market / EEA and give people a chance to vote on the deal Theresa May brings forward in the autumn. There is still a chance for us to change course – and be under no illusions, if we do not do so there will not be the money needed for the things we need for a long time to come.

NOTTINGHAM

  • If you’ve ever bought a washing machine or dishwasher and phoned up to register the warranty or extend the service plan, the chances are you were speaking with one of the team of 700 staff at the Domestic & General call centre in Nottingham East! It was very kind of their Chief Executive and team leaders to take time and show me around their recently refurbished offices, listen in to a few calls myself (pictured) and hear about their plans to improve the quality of their repairs offer as they move to an insurance basis in some of their services. Their commitment to employing local people, training and providing career pathways was impressive.
    I must confess I don’t often think about what happens if appliances don’t work and need replacing – which is ironic because, by complete coincidence, I discovered on returning home that my own washing machine had broken down…but that’s another story altogether!

Domestic & General call centre April 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • A new plan to boost literacy in Nottingham, called Read on Nottingham, was launched last week. This schemes includes the creation of a National Literacy Trust Hub and is part of a partnership between the National Literacy Trust, Nottingham City Council and Small Steps Big Changes. The launch started with a literacy-themed bus provided by Nottingham City Transport, with free books and Read on Nottingham bookmarks as well as a performance from local musical entertainers the Rainbow Stripes, welcoming pupils aged between one and five. The Read On Nottingham drive is being funded by Small Steps Big Changes, a Nottingham Big Lottery programme and other local initiatives including the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
  • Work is being undertaken to restore historic murals painted in dome of the Exchange Arcade. Theses murals were created by local artists in 1928 and show various moments of historical significance for Nottingham such as Danes capturing it in 868, William the Conqueror ordering the building of the castle, and the raising of King Charles I’s standards at the start of the Civil War in 1642. They have suffered many years of water damage, particularly to the mural depicting Robin Hood dulling its colours and features. Councillor Jane Urquhart, portfolio holder for planning, housing and heritage at Nottingham City Council, said: “These murals are a part of Nottingham’s history and we need to protect them. She added “We are working with a great and experienced restorer, who is undertaking a complete restoration of the damaged murals and we can’t wait to see the final result.”
  • Nottingham now has the world’s largest fleet of operational Bio-Gas double deck buses after the 53rd Bio-Gas bus entered service this week, completing a £16.8m investment in greener transport for the city. Mark Fowles, NCT Managing Director commented: “our Bio-Gas double deck buses are the greenest buses on the road, with significantly lower emissions throughout the entire process of fuel generation, transportation and use. With Nottingham City Transport now operating 53 of these super environmentally friendly buses, we’re delivering cleaner air for Nottingham with the largest fleet of Bio-Gas double deck buses in the world.”

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Throughout the week a fuller picture has emerged of the policy decisions which resulted in the Windrush generation scandal. On Monday, a letter obtained by the Guardian suggested that as early as May 2016, Ministers had clear evidence that their ‘hostile environment’ strategy was adversely affecting legal Commonwealth migrants, but failed to act on it. If, as seems increasingly plausible, this inaction resulted in part from cultural and institutional failures at the Home Office, where a top-down obsession with targeting illegal migration spilled over into indifference to the appalling problems created for people with every right to be in the country, then the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and her predecessor – Theresa May – have profound questions to answer. This was brought into sharper focus still by Amber Rudd’s apparently memory lapse about the nature of immigration removal targets when questioned about it by Yvette Cooper on the Home Affairs Select Committee, since when a six page memo was leaked that had apparently gone to the Home Secretary’s office. I think the basic point is this: immigration officials should be considering cases on their merits and with full regard to the evidence – rather than chase targets even when individuals may have a right to remain. If it turns out that decisions made by Government Ministers directly resulted in officials feeling under pressure to seek grounds for removal rather than be led by the facts, then it is with those Ministers that responsibility lies.
  • On Wednesday, the French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the U.S. Congress in English following meetings with Donald Trump. It was especially heartening to see him speak for much of the international community in reminding those in attendance, and implicitly Mr Trump himself, of the urgent necessity to combat climate change, saying: “What is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, sacrificing the future of our children?” President Macron expressed his view that in the fullness of time the U.S. would rejoin the Paris climate accords; its withdrawal is perhaps the most lasting negative consequence of the Trump Presidency so far, so we must all hope that his optimism is justified.
  • On Thursday afternoon, following a string of Brexit defeats for the Government in the House of Lords, MPs from all sides of the House called on the Government to support continued British membership of a customs union with the EU as a negotiating objective in the Brexit talks. I’ve argued ever since the referendum that we should be aiming for customs union membership as a bare minimum, not least in order to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border in Ireland and a permanent tailback of lorries at Dover. For these reasons and more, it’s long been clear that a majority of MPs would support customs union membership were it ever put to a vote, and on Thursday it was obvious that this is true, with a number of senior Conservative ex-ministers speaking up in support.

At the Government’s behest, no ‘division’ on the motion took place at all, meaning the House was recorded as agreeing to the motion unanimously. This may sound very technical, but it’s become a familiar tactic under Theresa May: when the Government sees the writing on the wall, they wave motions through without a vote to avoid the embarrassment of defeat. These are only expressions of Parliamentary opinion, not votes on pieces of legislation, but that doesn’t mean the Government can ignore them altogether. On past occasions Ministers have ‘reported back’ to MPs after a period of three months, but this is still murky constitutional territory – and as such I raised a Point of Order after the debate to clarify exactly what will be expected now: you can watch my question and the Speaker’s (quite encouraging) reply at the link here.

  • On Friday MPs considered a welcome proposal to provide emergency workers with additional protection from assault. The Private Member’s Bill, brought by my colleague Chris Bryant, comes on the back of an increasing number of incidents in which police officers, firefighters, paramedics and others have faced verbal abuse and physical aggression while on duty, and would impose tougher sentences on their assailants – something I support wholeheartedly. The Government have agreed to support the legislation, which means it has a very good chance of becoming law.
  • Friday morning brought cautiously positive news from Korea, with Kim Jong-un meeting President Moon Jae-in, his South Korean counterpart, for a historic demonstration of mutual willingness to bring their decades-long war to an end – the first such summit in more than sixty years. The accord to which they have signed up signals a determination to ease military tensions, reunify families divided by the peninsula’s partition, set up a working group to facilitate ongoing cooperation, and most significantly of all, make denuclearisation an overriding objective. Huge obstacles remain, of course, and it always pays to be careful at such moments, but this is a welcome reminder of how quickly things can change. Perhaps the genuine prospect of a diplomatic solution to the most febrile and entrenched military conflict in the world may be in sight, which would be remarkable.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

If you’ve not heard of the acronym ‘GDPR’ yet, then I apologise for breaking this news to you…! It stands for ‘General Data Protection Regulations’ which are new rules coming into force on 25th May giving citizens more control of their data, specifying how others must protect it and keep it private.

It means that anyone sending out emails to club members, customers – or in my case to constituents – has to from that point onwards maintain a record of evidence showing when each individual gave consent to receive information, moving from an ‘opt out’ to an ‘opt in’ basis.

Although the clarity is welcome, I am afraid it will radically alter the way my MP Update emails will be operating from now on. From next week I’ll have to start shifting to new software (provided by ‘Mailchimp’) and will then be asking you for your clear permission to continue sending these newsletters. If you don’t click and give me that permission to update your preferences, then I won’t be able to keep you informed either of my work in Parliament, Nottingham or other issues that hopefully you find useful. In the meantime, if you can ensure that emails from me are recorded in your ‘safe sender’ list then you’ll receive them normally and not sent straight to ‘spam’.

As you can see, I’m approaching the 300th edition of these MP Updates, and I’d like to think they are useful for you (even if we don’t agree on everything!). In the run up to 25th May I hope that you’ll give me permission to keep in touch and I’d be really interested to know in the meantime if there is more or less information you’d like to see in the new MP Update emails. Do I give you the right balance of local / national / international news? Would you prefer shorter or clearer bulletins? Is each week when Parliament is sitting too frequent or about right?

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 21st April

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 21st April 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Ever since I became MP for Nottingham East, the cases most frequently raised with me relate to migration and the rights of individuals to visit or remain in the UK. In fact, I cannot remember a day when I was not wrestling with the creaking bureaucracy of the Home Office on some outstanding visa, asylum or residency situation. So when the ‘Windrush Generation’ scandal hit the headlines this week I was appalled but not surprised that the Government had treated Commonwealth citizens, invited to Britain before the 1960s, with such disregard.

After the Second World War a significant African Caribbean community settled in Nottingham and other towns and cities to help rebuild Britain and contribute to our industries. They didn’t apply for passports because they were granted ‘indefinite leave to remain’ at that time. Yet more recent policy changes requiring proof of residency status for bank accounts, jobs or tenancies were introduced without anyone apparently remembering that such a significant population might suddenly encounter a real burden evidencing their existing – and undisputed – rights.

So my colleague David Lammy and many other MPs were right to highlight the impact that Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy towards migrants has had on these long-standing residents and quite rightly forced the Prime Minister and Home Secretary to apologise and change tack dramatically this week.

If you or anyone you know may be affected by this situation I would be keen to hear about any difficulties or problems encountered so that I can raise these directly with the new ‘taskforce’ set up in the Home Office to disentangle this saga. This shoddy affair has already done genuine damage to our reputation abroad – especially in the week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit – and will have done little to reassure anxious EU nationals in Britain about the Home Office’s capacity to competently and compassionately administer their status post-Brexit.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Yesterday I visited Nottingham Academy to join their sixth formers and other students to hear Holocaust survivor Simon Winston talk about his experiences evading Nazis during the Second World War and the horrors that can result from antisemitism and discrimination. As a very young boy Simon escaped from a ghetto in what was then Poland and hid for several years in dreadful conditions while his family and community were massacred. This school event was arranged by the Holocaust Educational Trust who aim to provide opportunities for students across the country to learn about this period of history so that it is not forgotten, especially at a time where sadly there are extremists willing to distort or attempt to deny or rewrite this appalling chapter of recent history.
  • The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has released its final proposals for new council wards in Nottingham City. In Nottingham East there will be minor changes to Dales Ward and St Ann’s Wards and more significant changes to Arboretum and Berridge Wards. I am happy that most of the proposals in the Commission’s report broadly reflect strong community links and boundaries in the neighbourhoods within Nottingham East, however, I am concerned that the proposed Hyson Green and Arboretum Ward crosses the strong boundaries of Gregory Boulevard and Alfreton Road to include fragmentary parts of Radford and Bobbers Mill.
  • In May 2019, Nottingham will be jointly hosting a global gathering of UNESCO City of Literatures with Norwich. This week-long programme of cultural events, dubbed ‘Nottwich 2019’ will see cultural leaders from 28 countries come to both cities. Sandeep Mahal, director of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature, commented: “Nottwich 2019 is a wonderful opportunity to show the rest of the world the things that make Nottingham and Norwich Unesco Cities of Literature”.
  • There has been further recognition of Nottingham’s universities as Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham and have been nominated in several categories for three awards schemes. Nottingham Trent University has received nominations for the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018 and both universities have been shortlisted for the 2018 The Times Higher Education Leadership & Management Awards and the Guardian University Awards. The University Of Nottingham’s work ‘the Dinosaurs of China’ exhibit was particularly noted in their Nominations for these awards. NTU’s work in outreach with 14-19 year olds from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds and their high student satisfaction ratings helped them get their nominations.
  • A former lace mill on Newdigate Street is set to be developed into 56 studio flats for students after plans were approved by councillors. The five-storey Grade II-listed building was built more than 200 years ago and also made camouflage netting during the Second World War. Hilary Silvester, the chair of Nottingham Civic Society, said: “It’s a good reuse for this old building. It’s better than if it dwindled away and crumbled away.” She added: “It seems it’s going to be well-managed. [I hope] they are not going to change the windows too much. I would not want [them] to change the outward appearance because the windows are very important; they are the eyes of buildings”.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Last weekend a joint intervention from British, French and American forces pinpointed some of the chemical weapons research and manufacturing facilities in Syria which the Assad regime had been using in recent years to produce the banned gases deployed indiscriminately on his own population. The horrors of the attack in Douma, with the pictures showing children foaming at the mouth, killed in basements where these gases seep in and sink to the lowest levels, provided evidence that past ‘agreements’ between Russia & Syria to ban these weapons were ineffective.

The 1925 Geneva Protocol had agreed that chemical weaponry should never be used, but recently the deployment of chlorine, sarin and of course Novichok nerve agents here in Britain shows that this ‘red line’ is being flouted with regularity. Briefing from the chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the National Security Adviser and the Royal Air Force on the mission to isolate some of the factors of production in these weapons convinces me that the action was necessary and appropriate. The evidence of helicopter usage by Assad and other intelligence highlighted both the cause and the humanitarian grounds as the legal basis for this action. At present the intelligence suggests that these facilities were degraded with no loss of civilian life because of the action taken away from populous areas in the middle of the night.

On Monday the Prime Minister made a statement to MPs about the chemical weapons facilities. With Russia vetoing action and vetoing independent investigations in Douma it was clear that the diplomatic route at the United Nations Security Council was no longer possible. Faced with that reality, countenancing inaction yet again seemed to me a greater risk to civilian lives in Syria than taking these specific steps to degrade the facilities identified. I respect those who come from a pacifist tradition and believe that all military intervention is always wrong, but on this occasion I disagree. The rules of the international community banning these abhorrent weapons had to be enforced, there wasn’t a viable alternative, and for the sake of protecting the future civilians who would undoubtedly be gassed by Assad if we turned a blind eye, it was in my view the right thing to do. Ultimately, I do not believe we could just turn away and walk on by on the other side, given such atrocities and the ability we had to do something to minimise them in future. While parliamentary approval for limited and specific action like this might have been preferable, this is simply not safe or viable in all circumstances – because sometimes it would be wrong to share intentions widely in advance or put our service personnel at greater risk.

  • On Tuesday afternoon, MPs debated the scourge of antisemitism in Britain today. It was simply heart-breaking to hear several of my Jewish Labour colleagues – Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and others detail the abuse to which they are constantly subjected. While all parties and organisations need to get their houses in order, it is simply impossible to listen to these speeches without acknowledging the fact that the Labour Party is still in need of confronting this problem. We all need to share in the responsibility of rooting out this corrosive evil, and without delay.
  • The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London this week was accompanied by some speculation about the value of this network of 53 nations. It is certainly worthwhile to connect these countries diplomatically and with broadly shared values – and there are benefits to Britain in maintaining these links. But when Liam Fox and other hard Brexiteers suggest that the Commonwealth can somehow substitute for the European Union in economic and trade terms, this is sadly misguided. The Commonwealth accounts for just 9% of our exports, whereas the EU accounts for 43%. Moreover they are typically far-flung countries whose trading priorities aren’t necessarily with the UK. Geography cannot be wished away and we should focus our trade priorities with our nearest neighbouring countries if we are to take a sensible, evidence-led approach.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

It was really encouraging that the House of Lords votes so convincingly on Wednesday to amend the EU Withdrawal Bill and call on the Government to negotiate Britain’s participation in a Customs Union. As you will know, this is essential for avoiding queues and checks at ports and borders and the imposition of obstacles that would harm our trade and employment prospects in the UK, not to mention risk a hard border in Ireland. This will now come to the Commons before the summer and I think that Theresa May’s ‘hard Brexit’ approach may not have the numbers in Parliament – but we will have to wait and see.

Last weekend the new ‘People’s Vote’ campaign was launched – and I’d be interested to know your views. Whatever your view before the Brexit referendum, it is now more clear that a vast array of issues are at stake and when the UK and EU propose a final deal, this is so significant that it deserves to be ratified by the public themselves. It is not certain what that deal will look like, and we will know more when the Government and EU Commission publish their proposal in the autumn. Why shouldn’t the public have a say on whether those proposals are right or wrong? Would you sign a bill without checking it first? The idea that this is a ‘done deal’ is completely wrong and there is nothing certain or irrevocable about Brexit. 2018 will be a crucial year of decisions and the People’s Vote campaign is certainly one to watch.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 29th March

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Thursday 29th March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

As Parliament breaks up for the Easter recess today, there are many big issues of real importance that aren’t being adequately addressed – our future trading relationships; the state of the NHS; national security concerns and welfare changes to name just a few.

Yet this week must be one of the most depressing I’ve known in my thirty years campaigning for the Labour Party. I am mortified and disgusted that antisemitism has found its way into my Party and threatens to derail the total focus needed on the biggest policy questions of the day.

Last weekend saw revelations that Labour’s leader had questioned why a mural depicting grotesquely anti-Semitic imagery should be removed, on grounds of freedom of speech. He has since apologised for this and earlier today – after a week of protest from the Jewish community – Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Labour members quite rightly telling them “It’s important to develop a deeper understanding of what constitutes antisemitism. Often it takes familiar forms, but newer forms of antisemitism have also appeared, sometimes woven into criticisms of the actions of Israeli governments….Zero tolerance for antisemitism means what it says. We will not accept it.”

It should be straightforward to separate valid debate around the policies of the Israeli government from wider anti-Semitic tropes, conspiracy theories and generalities about ‘powerful special interest groups’ and so forth which are clearly racist, yet too many people seem incapable of doing this. If this saga is to be tackled effectively, the persistent examples of further problems have got to be dealt with more firmly and with resolute leadership.

For instance, The Times newspaper reports today that Labour National Executive (NEC) member Christine Shawcroft tried last Sunday to get the suspension of a Holocaust denier overturned by emailing party officials – even though she chaired the Party’s dispute committee. Although she has now resigned from that committee post, she remains on the powerful NEC. Frankly, that is unacceptable. Zero tolerance of antisemitism must also mean zero tolerance of those who sympathise or excuse anti-Semites. Shawcroft should be referred herself to the dispute committee that she has been chairing and suspended from the Party.

It would be wrong to turn a blind eye to this and hope it just passes. There will sadly be some members of my own party who will criticise me for complaining about this repeated failure to take serious action against antisemitism. It takes my breath away that there are people willing to criticise those who complain about this problem, rather than criticise those responsible for anti-Semitic behaviour.

For example, after I joined in solidarity with the Jewish community in Parliament Square on Monday evening, I was attacked on social media with threats, I was accused of ‘exploiting the situation’ and ‘smearing’, told I was ‘insincere’ and a ‘disgrace’, told I must be on the payroll of ‘Soros’ and so on. Yet the mild abuse I have experienced pails into insignificance when compared with the torrent of attacks on my colleague Luciana Berger MP who called out this problem initially.

Politics, and especially politics on social media, can feel a bit like wading through a sewer at the moment. It is deeply unpleasant and I am sorry to have to report on this state of affairs in this way. But I promise you this; the more I and my colleagues are attacked or threatened on this issue and the longer it persists, the more determined I will be to root it out.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Are we on the verge of seeing some of the best acute healthcare in Nottingham’s NHS deteriorate? Local healthcare provider Circle have announced that they are withdrawing from the re-tender process for the NHS Treatment Centre at QMC, which they have operated for a number of years now. Treatment Centres were put in place around a decade ago to help the NHS catch up with the backlog of operations and procedures that were keeping patients on long waiting lists because of under-capacity in the NHS. Circle management say “Circle Nottingham has taken the difficult decision to challenge the tender process with regard to the Nottingham Treatment Centre in the coming years.  We do not feel that the tender – as currently proposed by Commissioners – will allow high quality services to continue to be delivered at the Treatment Centre for the people of Nottinghamshire.” Reading between the lines of this ‘management-speak’ I suspect what Circle are saying here is that those wanting to re-commission the Treatment Centre are reducing the resources available to pay for the service. This is worrying because falling back on the existing NHS Trust capacity could also mean a return to the waiting lists for some of these vital operations that we thought were a thing of the past. While we all would prefer the NHS to have full in-house capability to fulfil the health needs of our local community, the potential degradation of Nottingham’s Treatment Centre facility would be deeply regrettable. I hope that my suspicions are wrong.
  • Since October last year, Nottingham University Hospital has spent £500,000 on updating its IT systems. More than 380 outdated computers and 577 dual screens in offices and clinical work areas will be replaced with the objective of having no device in the Trust that is more than five years old. This investment comes after senior clinicians expressed concerns with the IT system in the trust. The problems besetting the local NHS data systems have caused real frustrations for some clinicians – so the test for whether this represents good value will be if patients experience swifter and better treatment as doctors and nurses access data more efficiently. At this point in the 21st century it is concerning that so many basic information issues are still not properly resolved.
  • Congratulations to everyone who was recognised at the NCH Tenant Awards last Thursday, including two Nottingham East constituents. Elizabeth (Betty) Charlton from St Ann’s was won the ‘Street and Block Champion Award’ – Housing Patch Manager Victoria Morrise said of Betty ‘she promotes social inclusion within the service and brings the community together’. Jenny Thirtle-Denman, of Sherwood, was voted Tenant of the Year – Abigail Greenwood who nominated her said she is ‘highly respected and a pillar of the local community, Jenny is a real champion for social housing. She works hard to challenge and change the perceptions that some people have of social housing residents’.
  • The cost of travelling on Nottingham’s tram network will be frozen for the third year in a row after a recent review of ticket prices. Whilst there will be a small increase in multi-operator fares, the cost of all NET tickets, including single, return and season tickets and tram journeys paid for with a MANGO Card – will remain the same..

 NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday the Prime Minister reported to the Commons on the EU Council meeting where Britain was granted a ‘transitional’ period of time of 21 months after ‘exit day’ to negotiate further on our future trading relationship. I asked the Prime Minister why she was so attached to the reckless strategy of taking the UK past exit day without settling this future treaty. I made the point that she really shouldn’t call it an ‘implementation’ period because nothing would apparently be agreed by 29th March next year, which to me is a ridiculous risk to take. With a year to go until Brexit, we still have time to do the right thing for future generations and to prevent a decade of austerity hitting ahead.
  • I was pleased to be part of cross party group of 98 MPs including 21 select committee chairs and 30 former ministers from both sides of the Commons, who wrote to the Prime Minister to ask her to set up a Parliamentary Commission on Health and Social Care.

Such a commission, which would be similar to a special select committee of both Houses of Parliament, would be able to take an independent, cross Party approach to an issue of national importance and help to break the political deadlock that has prevented a realistic approach to increasing resources for health and social care. I am keen to ensure a proper long term solution to the growing need for health and social care, and believe that it is best that we approach this and other issues in a cross-party way to ensure that a lasting consensus can be reached.

  • Parliament held a general debate on Russia and national security on Monday, where the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader led debates on the aftermath of the Russian nerve agent attack on Salisbury and the positive response from across the world where countries have expressed their own disapproval from what can only plausibly appear to be an act of aggression by the Russian state.
  • Yesterday in the Commons I voted for the two Opposition Day motions despite the Conservatives boycotting the divisions and absenting themselves. We voted on the impact on local authority services of the massive reduction in direct grant for councils since 2010. We also voted on problems facing communities because of the reduction in police funding and the numbers of police officers and community support staff in recent years.
  • Despite the scepticism voiced in some quarters at the time, I was glad to hear the Defence Minister report to Parliament on Thursday that ISIL / Daesh have been “all but destroyed” in Iraq and Syria. I supported the action taken to eradicate Daesh and am glad these efforts have proven successful. I would like to place on record my thanks to the professionalism of our RAF for their brave work standing up to such murderous extremism, which could not be allowed to flourish. For those who object to all intervention in all circumstances, this shows that the international community can make a positive difference – and that each separate circumstances needs to be considered carefully on its merits. There are many other atrocities across the world, and indeed still taking place in Russian/Assad-controlled Syria, where intervention has been less feasible. The United Nations Security Council constitution requires unanimity of permanent members – yet Russia’s vested interest in perpetuating anti-democratic tyranny has left this international forum powerless in too many instances as a result. I believe we need to start looking at reform of the UN so that intervention to save lives and prevent brutality can take place with legitimacy when the vast majority of world opinion believes action is needed.
  • A little bit of Easter good news: in an announcement quietly sneaked out as parliament rose for the break, Welfare Secretary Esther McVey finally agreed to drop the harsh cuts planned for 18-21 year olds in need of housing benefit, as part of concessions in the new Universal Credit regulations. This proposal – put forward by David Cameron in his 2015 manifesto – was widely criticised as likely to make the least well-off young people find life particularly tough. Young people need support for housing in tenancies if their incomes are low and this is a victory for those entering adulthood across Nottingham and the rest of the country. I remain concerned, however, that some of the other reductions and changes planned will still leave some of our poorest citizens badly off, something that will hit hardest when the Universal Credit roll out is due to take place in Nottingham from October this year.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

I hope you enjoy a peaceful and restful Easter weekend. From Tuesday next week, I have been called to undertake jury service – which means I will be out of normal circulation for a while. Obviously, it is an offence to discuss evidence or cases I may be sitting on and so I won’t be able to report on my specific experiences in court.

When I was the Minister for the Courts & Criminal Justice at the then Department for Constitutional Affairs, I was involved in changing the law so that people from every walk of life should be eligible to serve on a jury; and so for the second time I will have been asked to do so. While I wouldn’t want to go into any details of any cases, I would be interested in any general observations you have about our criminal justice system and whether you think that the principles of trial-by-jury are still working well.

Is justice being done swiftly and efficiently in our city? Do victims and witnesses encounter unnecessary or upsetting circumstances in the court system? Are the police, prosecutors and judicial services working as well together as they should? As ever, your observations would be welcome.

My MP Update emails will return after Parliament is back later in April. But please do email me or contact my office if you have any issues I can help or assist with.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 24th March

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 24th March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

While Theresa May will claim this weekend that progress is being made on Brexit, the Government are still putting off the decisions on what exactly will happen after ‘exit day’. It is a bad joke for the Prime Minister to be claiming that an ‘implementation period’ has been agreed – because there is still nothing implement! All that has happened is that the Government has agreed to 21 months of Britain as a ruler-taker that pays into the EU but has no substantive say on its decisions.

A transition period will simply kick the can down the road on the questions of the Irish border, future trade, security and all the other major decisions that Brexit has thrown up about the future of our country. The Prime Minister knows the promises made in the referendum are never going to be honoured, so she now seems prepared to take us out whatever the cost to keep the Brexiteers in her party at bay, and then simply hope for the best.

I believe that this is a huge and reckless gamble with our country’s future. It is not just our economy that is at stake – the Irish border question is a serious one and the agreement on firm action against Russia shows why the EU matters in defence and security too. We should not leave the EU until we know where we are going, and we should keep an open mind as to whether it is the right path for our country.

The views expressed yesterday by my colleague Owen Smith, who was removed from Labour’s Shadow Cabinet yesterday for sticking with his principles on this, are very much in line with my own. This Brexit ‘deal’ is shaping up to be one of the most serious economic and security challenges for the UK in my lifetime. As a minimum we need to participate in the Customs Union & Single Market – and ideally give people the chance to have a say on the whole proposed deal. Simply ‘toeing the Party line’ without question is no longer the appropriate thing to do, because there is just too much at stake.

 NOTTINGHAM

  • I reported last week on the tragic death of St Ann’s 18 year old Mariam Moustafa following an alleged assault outside the Victoria Centre in February. I have continued to liaise with representatives from her family and on Thursday I convened a meeting involving Nottinghamshire Police and representatives from the Egyptian and Italian governments, both countries where there has been a considerable level of public concern expressed about ensuring that justice is done. It is difficult for the Police to share full information while the investigation is ongoing in case it might prejudice any future prosecutions. But I am working as closely as I can with the relevant authorities and urging the Coroner to ensure that there is a full investigation of the facts and circumstances, to ensure justice is achieved for Mariam but also to make sure all lessons can be learned.
  • Some operations between 19th March and 29th March have been postponed at Nottingham University Hospitals in an effort to increase to increase bed space. This is connected to the greater Nottingham system being placed on the highest level of ‘black’ alert, called OPEL (Operational Pressures Escalation Level) 4. NUH has said that it will contact patients directly if their operation or appointment is affected by the OPEL Four status. The pressures on hospitals are tremendous and I am urging Ministers and NHS officials to focus on system improvements and investment because this should not be allowed to become a ‘normal’ situation.
  • I was greatly saddened to hear the news of the death of Ken Williams, former Labour city councillor for Greenwood and then Dales ward. Ken was a dedicated and conscientious community champion and was a lecturer at South Notts College, and husband to Steph and father to Jen, Alison and Zoe. His former co-councillor David Mellen paid tribute to Ken saying ‘A privilege to know and work with Ken Williams, former South Notts College lecturer and Nottingham City Councillor for Dales Ward, who has passed away. Kind, witty, committed, hard-working and loyal. Our city is a better place because of his service’.
  • Nottingham East’s very own Rosehill School was visited by the Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds MP earlier this week, who over the course of two hours went on a tour of the entire school. This visit comes after a number of exceptional Ofsted reports, and I am pleased that the Secretary of State has recognised the excellent work being done at Rosehill which is a credit to the entire school community.
  • Although the new parliamentary boundaries are going to be proposed on the basis of old head-count data, it turns out that the 2016 referendum saw a massive boost in registrations of local citizens. As a result, Nottingham East has had the 7th greatest increase percentage increase in parliamentary electors between 2016 and 2017 of the 650 Parliamentary constituencies. These figures were released by the Office for National Statistics on Thursday and showed a 7.5% increase between December 2016 and December 2017, as compared to 0.8% nationally – which means that over 4,400 people were missing from that earlier register. Nottingham East is a large constituency, but because we have high levels of change in the population many often go unregistered. It comes as little consolation that our boundaries will be redrawn on the basis of outdated and false data.
  • It was great to have a chance to speak with the East Midlands ‘CBI Young Leaders’ event at BioCity yesterday afternoon. Talking with up-and-coming business voices from our region about how politics and public policy can interact with employers and the private sector is really important and we have some great companies in our area who do care about doing the right thing for the wider community.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Wednesday, the National Association of Head Teachers’ annual survey made for deeply dispiriting reading, with more than a third of Heads reporting that they’ve already had to cut teacher numbers and teaching hours, and almost nine in ten having had to cut hours for teaching assistants. Three quarters of respondents anticipate that their budgets this year will be in the red, and only eight percent said they don’t expect an ‘untenable deficit’ at some point in the coming years. I know resources are tight but it’s clearly of the greatest importance that the Government finds a funding solution which avoids putting schools in this position. Ministers claim that spending on education continues to increase, but headline figures can be misleading and how this money is spent will matter almost as much. Leaving our children without basic items like exercise books or whiteboards in the classroom is unacceptable in any situation, and I’ll do all I can to press the Government to focus on security long term educational investment.
  • I was pleased to note that on Thursday evening, the European Council joined the UK in its statement on the Salisbury attack following Theresa May’s briefing of Presidents Merkel and Macron. The EU Council reaffirmed Russia’s culpability stating that there is ‘no plausible alternative explanation’, and the EU has since recalled its ambassador to Moscow. The Europe-wide solidarity with Britain on this issue, which has been in evidence in recent weeks, is most welcome, and demonstrates the importance of standing united especially when a chemical attack occurs in Europe in this way.
  • The news reports about the alleged misuse of Facebook data by the company Cambridge Analytica have reverberated across the world, not least because of the potential impact that improper data targeting may have had on the outcome of the American Presidential election and potentially the Brexit referendum in 2016 as well. It is important to stay focused on the facts in the case and I am glad that the UK Information Commissioner appears to be pursuing the issue rigorously (although the delay in obtaining a search warrant did seem unusual). The debate being sparked about data protection, permissions and usage is an important one and it is telling that $58 billion dollars has been wiped off the value of Facebook as investors realise the complexities of this. While there are good reasons to allow data sharing, particularly in the public interest, we need clearer rules on privacy and I will take a closer interest as this policy discussion evolves.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

Are local playgrounds and open spaces really as good as they should be? I strongly believe that decent outdoor recreation and exercise opportunities for children can make a real difference to the health and learning prospects for young people – which is why I am campaigning for the Government to improve provision of children’s playground facilities across the UK. In a debate I called in Parliament this week (which you can read at the Hansard link here) I raised the financial pressures facing local authorities such as Nottingham, who are trying their best  – but with 214 playgrounds closed and a further 234 playgrounds earmarked for closure by local authorities I am worried about the health and wellbeing detriment this could cause. £100million would provide 1,600 new playgrounds and transform this provision. But I particularly urged the Minister to commission a study into the link between child health and the proximity of play facilities – which I believe would deliver the evidence needed to show this investment would be well spent.

Shipstone Play Area with Parks Officer Martin Harris March 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Nottingham’s playground facilities rank reasonably well against those of other local authorities, although clearly there are pressures on resources which make it difficult for the city council to invest further. I have been liaising with city council officers about ‘playgrounds policy’ and was pleased to visit the new playground installed on Shipstone Street next to the tram stop where I discussed plans with Martin Harris, Parks Technical Officer at Nottingham City Council (pictured below):

I’d be interested if you have any thoughts on the quality or availability of playgrounds, parks and open spaces across Nottingham. It’s an important issue and one I felt needed taking up with Ministers.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 17th March

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 17th March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The assault in Nottingham city centre in February and now tragic death this week of 18 year old Mariam Moustafa has been extremely shocking. Mariam was an engineering student at Nottingham College who lived in St Ann’s with her family, who I spent time with yesterday as they grieve and come to terms with this tragic loss.

She was attacked outside the Victoria Centre by what Nottinghamshire Police describe as a ‘group of women’ on the 20th February at 8pm – and it is still incredibly important that anyone who witnessed the incident or who has any further information comes forward to report what they know by calling the Police on 101 or Crimestoppers (anonymously if needs be) on 0800 555 111 quoting incident number 335.

Mariam’s family have raised serious concerns about the response and delays of various agencies in this case and I will be pursuing these issues and raising them with the Coroner. What is particularly worrying about the account I have been told is that members of the public – who had a chance to come to Mariam’s aid – did not do so, and although an ambulance eventually attended, the Police were not called until much later when her family discovered what had happened.

Nottingham is a happy, peaceful and tolerant community and the vast majority of residents will share my revulsion that such a pursuit of a young woman could occur in our busy city centre in this way. I hope that we can learn lessons from this tragedy and most importantly, ensure that justice is done.

NOTTINGHAM

  • A new Superintendent will be appointed to look after policing in the city and will be starting on 1st April. At the moment Nottinghamshire Police is organised on “thematic” lines – known as uniformed operations, intelligence and investigations – and not geographically. However this is being now altered by new Chief Constable Craig Guilford. The decision was made after a period of consultation both within the Police and with external partners. It is also reported that there are plans to put response vehicles in local stations to enable them to work more closely with local inspectors and to break down the CID into smaller teams. The organisational structure of Nottinghamshire Police has long been a bone of contention but I hope that this new system will ensure we have clear lines of accountability to focus on rapid responses and proactive policing as concerns about crime remain significant.
  • Nottingham has won two international awards for ‘connectivity’ and ‘cooperation between businesses’ at fDi European Cities and Regions of the Future Awards. The city was placed ‘top 10 in mid-sized cities for connectivity’ and ‘top 10 in mid-sized cities for business friendliness’. Reasons for them receiving this award included the level of investment into the local transport infrastructure (such as the expansion the tram network) and the way the region’s motorway access ensures easy access to most of the UK.
  • Proposals have been submitted as part of a bid to bring part of Channel 4’s operations to Nottingham. The channel is looking to set up a National Headquarters alongside two smaller ‘creative hubs’ in 2019 but has yet to decide on a site. This comes as part of a plan to invest £250m over the next five years in the channel’s Nations & Regions content. Given the emphasis in the ‘creative quarter’ on media and tech development, locating some Channel 4 operations in Nottingham would make absolute sense, especially tapping into the number of media professionals now specialising in this sector locally.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The deployment of the Novichok nerve agent in Salisbury in an attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal has hospitalised not just him and his daughter but also Det Sgt Bailey and 38 other local people who needed checking for traces of the chemical weapon. I cannot help but imagine how we would have reacted in Nottingham if this deadly chemical agent had been released in our city centre, on our local buses or in our shops. When the UK police and security forces, the British Government, the French, Germans and Americans have all concluded that the only viable explanation is the Russian state orchestrated the first chemical attack in Europe since the second world war, we have a duty to speak with one voice against such unacceptable aggression.

The question is now: how can we prevent Russia attacking the UK and others again in future? While constructive questioning of the Government’s response is of course necessary, I feel very strongly that our country needs to set aside partisan politicking at a time of national emergency and when such a potential chemical attack has occurred. MPs are given the heavy responsibility of leading our nation and our first duty must be to defend our citizens. That’s why – despite my many disagreements with the Prime Minister – I back the measures she has taken and the approach of putting to Russia the need for their response, which appallingly was not forthcoming. She was right to expel 23 Russian diplomats which are in reality undisclosed intelligence operatives. We now need firmer action now on the oligarchs and Russian money connected to Putin and what looks increasingly like a rogue regime.

In the Commons I raised with the Prime Minister the need for the United Nations to initiate some thinking about reform of the Security Council, because it is not acceptable for a Permanent Member (Russia) to be able to sit pretty, thumb its nose and veto actions when they themselves have culpability. After the illegal annexation of Crimea, the killing of Litvinenko, the support for chemical attacks by Assad in Syria, the pattern of thuggish behaviour from Russia needs a strong response. They are trying to undermine our democracy and take advantage of our open freedom of debate, flooding twitter with ‘bots’ and trolls and planting seeds of cynicism via Russia Today TV. I am clear that their actions are unacceptable and we should show a united resolve to stand up to such behaviour.

  • On Tuesday the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, delivered his ‘Spring Statement’ on the public finances to MPs. As expected, the Statement was light on big ideas or new policy initiatives – but the underlying economic picture remains dispiriting, with the unprecedentedly low medium-term GDP forecasts made last Autumn essentially unchanged, and growth projected to be a fifth lower than the Eurozone average between now and 2020. Equally, real wages are still lower than they were when Labour left office in 2010, and disposable income growth looks to average a measly 0.4 percent per year, a long way behind other developed economies. In this light, I think the Chancellor’s announcements betrayed a deeply complacent approach to the needs of our public services, offering nothing to hold back the wave of austerity that will hit if we get the hard Brexit which seems to be his Government’s preference. Laughably, Mr Hammond said he could see a flicker of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – but as I told him in the Commons, this isn’t daylight at all, but the Brexit Train hurtling headlong towards our schools and hospitals. He surely knows this already, but we must not allow it to create the economic carnage that Treasury officials themselves say is looming.
  • On Wednesday and Thursday, MPs secured a general debate on the Europe and Brexit. I was particularly struck on Thursday afternoon when the senior Tory Brexiteer John Redwood angrily insisted that a no deal scenario would be “absolutely fine” for Britain. Exactly what it is about an eight percent hit to growth and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs that leaves Mr Redwood so sanguine, I’m not sure – but I think his constituents in Wokingham (who voted to Remain) would very much like an answer, especially should he get his way.But as I argued immediately afterwards, John Redwood isn’t actually alone in his opinions. An awful lot of Tory MPs do hold this bizarre view of the world in which British strength can only be realised if we unshackle ourselves from our friends and nearest trading partners and ‘go it alone’. But isolating ourselves in the delusion we don’t need the rest of the world is a recipe for disaster. A ‘no deal’ Brexit would hurt businesses and people in Nottingham, and in every way make us less independent, not more. It’s vital that we stop it from happening.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  

I often ask about national or international matters in these emails. But today I thought it would be to get your point of view on the car parking situation across neighbourhoods in Nottingham East.

Yesterday I spent time with several residents on Cragdale Road in the Dales estate in Sherwood. Ever since the workplace parking levy came into effect, many of the NHS workers at the City Hospital site have chosen to find parking outside the hospital campus and on neighbouring streets. What used to be fairly empty and free-flowing streets have now become quite clogged up with long term car parking, which isn’t just unsightly but also presenting an obstacle on some pavements etc. The original solution on some of the local roads was to put down a single yellow line with a ‘no parking between 12noon and 1pm’ restriction – which has certainly stopped people leaving cars there all day. But because not all streets were covered by this the city council are now consulting on ‘residents parking permits’ which of course comes with a fee. I tend to sympathise with the residents who like their existing yellow line solution; it’s simple, light-touch, cost-free and simple to enforce (with only a one hour window for traffic wardens needing to visit). I can’t see why this cannot be preserved as the most appropriate solution.

But I’d be interested to know what you think. Would you see more advantages to a residents’ permit scheme than a yellow line? Have you got a particular problem in your neighbourhood or found a reasonable solution? Given that car ownership is much higher these days, do we need to accept that there will be more congestion? And how on earth will we cope with the advent of electric vehicles which need charging overnight?

Before I am flooded with emails on this I should say two things: first, MPs don’t make decisions on local traffic regulations – that’s a matter for elected local councillors – and second, I sympathise enormously with our local councillors who have shrinking resources available to help solve parking problems. There won’t always be solutions, but I’d still like to know what you think.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 10th March

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 10th March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The news that Nottingham Trent University student Rufaro Chisango suffered a tirade of racist abuse in her halls of residence at the city campus spread across the world on social media this week. There has been widespread shock expressed at the appalling footage of racist abuse. The police have arrested two 18 year old men in connection with the incident and the investigations are continuing. I have spoken with the Registrar at Nottingham Trent University and they have suspended the suspected students in question. Such intimidation and racist abuse must never be tolerated and it shouldn’t take social media anger to prompt a thorough response. Reporting of incidents at universities – as elsewhere – must be straightforward and always taken seriously.

NTU is a popular and well-respected university which in general has a good track record in welcoming a large number of students to our city from diverse backgrounds. I know that the staff and vast majority of students at NTU share in the shock and disgust at this incident and it would be deeply unfortunate if young people were in any way deterred from applying to the university or studying in Nottingham because of it. I have asked the team at NTU to let me know ways in which they can ensure students receive clear anti-racism guidance available. The NTU Students’ Union currently run a ‘Respect at NTU’ campaign aimed at promoting positive behaviours and the induction process for freshers includes messages about the university’s ‘dignity and respect policy’. I hope that further lessons will be learned from this episode.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Thursday marked International Women’s Day and I was pleased to see that many organisations held events across Nottingham to celebrate. It was also the day of the Wollaton West city council by-election, and it was perhaps fitting that the election was won by the only woman on the ballot paper – Nottingham Labour’s Cate Woodward. I would like to congratulate Cate on winning the seat and wish her all the best in her duties as a councillor.
  • Above inflationary increases in operating costs is forcing Nottingham City Transport to increase their bus fares across the board for the first time in several years. The changes to fare will start from 25th March, single cash fares will go up by 20p and the All-day Ticket by 30p. Nicola Tidy, NCT marketing and communications director, advised: “Customers who pay cash on the bus can minimise the impact of the fare review by switching to off-bus payment methods like the NCTX Buses App and Robin Hood Pay as You Go Card, where all day travel will be just 10p more than the current £3.70 cash price.”
  • The Big Lottery Fund has announce almost a million pounds worth of funding for projects across Nottingham East. The £991,785 total will be split among 15 different projects in the area. These include many vital services such as work being done by various womens’ groups to provide bespoke mental health support for local women. Other projects include activities and workshops for children, providing equipment for an art gallery at Sneinton Market and several support services to combat isolation among the elderly.
  • Children born this year in Sneinton, Bakersfield and Colwick will receive a free book through the post every month until they reach five years old, under a new children’s literacy scheme in partnership between the city council and the ‘Dolly Parton Imagination Library’ charity. It was a great pleasure to attend their launch on Friday at the Dales Centre Library hosted by Councillor David Mellen, early intervention and early years portfolio holder (pictured below with library staff, local health visitors and others at the event). Sadly, the average Nottingham five year old starts school with reading skills 14% behind those of other UK children – so this scheme is designed to help improve the reading, listening and talking habits of children from that early age. The scheme depends partly on donations so if you’d be interested in sponsoring a child’s book-gifting please visit dollybooksnottingham.org

dolly parton imagination library david mellen dales centre library march 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • A survey carried out by NET has found that 98% of customers would recommend Nottingham’s tram network to friends and family. The results of the survey show that NET enjoys a 94% customer satisfaction rate and that 98% of customers were pleased with service frequency. The primary reason for using the tram cited in the survey was for its ease and convenience as reported by 42% of respondents.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • The week began with Theresa May’s set-piece speech on housing. And while she did go further than before – describing the shortage of affordable homes as a “national crisis,” and singling out the “perverse incentives” created by property developers offering bonuses on the basis of profitability rather than the number of houses built – the Prime Minister failed to follow through on this rhetoric with real policy solutions. The headline proposal – taking planning powers away from local authorities which fail to use them – was actually announced months ago, and came a day after it was revealed that the parallel crackdown on empty homes promised in the Budget last Autumn still hasn’t been enacted.

In any case, the shortage of new homes isn’t primarily because councils are unwilling to build but because they don’t have the resources to meet local need. While I agree that developers shouldn’t be allowed to get away with dodging their obligations on affordability, I’ve seen no announcement at all on how this will actually be achieved. We’re told that the Government wants to make solving the housing crisis its signature achievement, but on the evidence of this week they still have their work cut out.

  • On Tuesday the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson took questions from MPs on the attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury over the weekend. While of course we have to await official findings before rushing to judgement, I’m encouraged by the Foreign Secretary’s promise to act “appropriately and robustly” if for any reason the Russian government is ultimately implicated as it was in the Litvinenko case. The notion of deployed nerve agents on the streets of Britain, potentially a hostile chemical attack by a foreign power, cannot be ignored.
  • Heaven only knows where the relationship between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will end up. While it is a positive step that the South Korean’s have made some diplomatic headway, around the occasion of the Winter Olympics, we have got to hope that this high-stakes bilateral meeting ‘some time before May’ will take place in a calm and conciliatory manner. It must not be used by the North Korean’s to cement their place as a nuclear power in the world. Having attacked his own Secretary of State for making diplomatic efforts with the North Koreans in the past, let’s hope this is a genuine change of heart by Trump and an authentic attempt at de-escalating by Mr Kim.
  • On Monday afternoon I pressed Theresa May on the admission in her ‘Road to Brexit’ speech last week that Britain’s access to vital European markets will be reduced should we leave the EU. This may seem obvious, but the Prime Minister has spent the last year promising that we can preserve ‘all the benefits’ of Single Market participation without any of the responsibilities of membership – so this is a significant concession. I think it’s a bit rich that in the same speech, she called on the rest of us to face up to ‘hard facts’ on Brexit! The PM also committed to be ‘straight with the public’ from now on – so I asked her whether she now regrets making the original, undeliverable promise. You can watch the exchange here.
  • The evidence is now pouring in: leaving the Single Market will make this country much poorer – and it is deeply frustrating that more politicians in the UK are not alive to this substantial risk. You may remember that in January, MPs voted to compel the Government to release its internal analysis of how different Brexit scenarios will affect our economic performance. This week MPs finally had the opportunity to see this analysis (some of which the Brexit Select Committee has since made available at the link here) – and on Wednesday afternoon I had the chance to ask the Trade Minister Greg Hands about some of its findings. Specifically it identified a measly 0.2 percent benefit to the economy if the Government negotiates a free-trade agreement with the US (the centrepiece of their post-Brexit economic strategy), set against a 4.8 percent loss as a result of leaving the EU. This strikes me as a pretty bad deal – but you can hear the Minister’s thoughts here.
  • On Wednesday morning the International Trade Select Committee, on which I sit, published its report on Britain’s trading arrangements post-Brexit. You can read the whole thing here if you’re so minded, but I was particularly pleased with the cross-party committee’s finding that our “continued participation in a customs union and the single market with the EU would be the approach least likely to risk a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.” The Irish border issue is the first of many reasons why it’s in our clear national interest to stay both in the Customs Union and the Single Market – not least, as I’ve been arguing, to avoid a decade-plus of austerity – and I’ll continue fighting for that outcome.

The report also outlines the significant difficulties in the Government’s approach to “rolling over” the EU’s 40 bilateral free-trade agreements into fresh ones with Britain and calls on Ministers to provide “a legally watertight and practically viable strategy” to avoid significant economic damage. We need greater clarity now.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We take it for granted that local firms and customers can buy and sell products from around the world. But with Donald Trump’s unilateral imposition of a 25% tariff (tax) on imported steel coming into the USA, his effort to ‘protect’ American steel manufacturers will in the end be self-defeating. This is because other nations cannot blithely allow American steel to flow merrily into their countries without a reciprocal tariff-free approach to their steel entering the USA. So what always happens with protectionist trade wars like this is a tit-for-tat countervailing response.

If Britain was on its own, we wouldn’t stand much of a chance of rebutting aggressive tariffs from bigger players like Trump. But because of our participation in the Customs Union, our joint ‘muscle’ with the rest of Europe – even bigger than the USA when combined – gives us a chance of being able to stand up to such bullying. Tariffs and protectionism create a spiral of declining trade volumes and when fewer goods are traded and costs rise, the living standards of the public suffer – as this diagram of the cycle from the 1920s and 1930s below shows (known as ‘Kindleberger’s cobweb’):

Kindleberger's cobweb tariffs hit trade flows 1920s diagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you think there is much awareness of what is happening in world trade policy? Is it too remote or do you feel this is likely to affect you? Are you aware that the World Trade Organisation is the international body supposed to police and arbitrate between countries, preventing them entering a spiralling trade war? I’d be interested to hear your views.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 3rd March

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 3rd March 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Theresa May’s speech on the ‘road to Brexit’ yesterday was the moment that the Government dropped the pretence we can have the “exact same benefits” as EU membership, a promise made last year by Brexit Secretary David Davis. Instead the Prime Minister admitted that “market access will be less”, which is her way of telling businesses, employees and you that we are not going to have the favourable trade links with our largest economic partners any more.

This is quite a startling admission from a British Prime Minister – we are basically giving up the opportunities for economic prosperity in exchange for some still unclear ‘benefit’ of life outside the EU. We are going to be paying £40billion in the divorce bill. Yet we will still need to fully align with EU rules if we want no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

When exporters can’t do as well, when our manufacturers can’t get the parts they need as quickly from the continent, and when services can no longer be sold to the 500million customers across Europe, the tax revenues we need from that economic activity will fall. In turn, we’ll have less money to go around to our schools and hospitals. This is like watching the car crash of austerity happen all over again in slow motion.

We need some real leadership in this country to give people the option to ‘kick the tyres’ on what is shaping up to be a terrible deal. If we regress from our current free access to a sub-optimal basic trade agreement, as though we are South Korea or Canada, then the public deserve the chance to have a final say.

I firmly believe this is the time for Parliament to get a grip on this question and – to use the phrase of the moment – ‘take back control’. We cannot leave this issue in the hands of Ministers alone and I believe there is a consensus for a less damaging outcome now visible across the backbenches in the Commons. That’s why I have joined with MPs from all parties to meet directly with European leaders to explain that Parliament will have its say on this. On Monday I met with the French Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseaux in Paris (pictured below) and also other senior French Ministers. This issue is too important to sit back and watch in the hope that someone else will sort it out.

CL with delegation meeting Nathalie Loiseaux French Europe Minister Feb 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Council workers have been hard at work in the Arboretum area. They have recently improved the car parking area at Hovenden Gardens, Hyson Green, adding clearly marked out parking spaces. This also means that the area that was previously fly-tipped has been reduced in size.
  • An extra £350,000 has been granted by the City Council to help remove asbestos from the former Elms Primary school, in Cranmer Street, St Ann’s. The school has been vacant since it closed in August 2008 as part of a shape-up in the organisation of schools in the St Ann’s area in an effort to reduce surplus spaces.
  • The former Queen Adelaide pub in Windmill Lane in Sneinton is to be turned into a small apartment complex, under plans approved by Nottingham City Council earlier this week. Whilst the loss of this community facility is obviously not ideal, it is hoped the plans for 12 one- and two-bed flats in the building will increase the affordability of housing in the area.
  • Congratulations to St Ann’s Well Academy on Hungerhill Road on their recent Ofsted report. The Report commended ‘a culture where all feel valued and are keen to succeed’. The inspectors also noted that ‘improvements in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment are beginning to reap benefits’. I was very pleased to hear this positive observations which reflect very well on the entire school community.
  • I was pleased to see that Nottingham was well represented in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Both Elise Christie and Kathryn Thompson represented Team GB (and Nottingham) in speed skating. We as a city should be proud of our Olympians and the talent being brought forward, no doubt at least in part by the National Ice Centre.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Despite the delayed vote this week at the United Nations Security Council calling on a ceasefire to bring in humanitarian relief to the besieged Eastern Ghouta area in Syria, the forces of President Assad backed up by the Russians have continued to attack civilian areas. 14 hospitals and three health centres have been attacked since 22nd The procrastination by Putin, who could stop this situation if he really wanted to, is disgraceful. We cannot go on with the existing constitution of the United Nations in this way, especially as the Russians and Chinese are now so brazenly stepping away from basic democratic norms and back towards the dark days of dictatorship. This issue will sadly need to be confronted sooner or later.
  • On Thursday a major survey of local government found local authorities across England are facing up to the steepest increases in council tax for 14 years as they face up to a black hole in funding forecast to widen to £5bn by 2020. Councils have borne the brunt of cuts in public spending, with their funding cut by 40 percent over the past six years – and this week’s survey finds them facing “crunch time” as they are forced to reconcile shrinking budgets and rising pressure on services, especially adult social care. The Local Government Association warned this week that even the maximum legal increase in council tax rates will not prevent significant cuts to budgets for essential services such as libraries and children’s centres.

The Government’s settlement for Nottingham City Council is extremely tight this year. Just as an illustration, whereas in 2014 the central government revenue support grant was about £100 million and more than then £80million raised from council tax, next year the grant will shrink to something like £35million whereas council tax will have to take up the strain raising something like £110 million. Everyone should be aware of what is going on here.

  • Donald Trump unilaterally imposed a 25% tariff (a trade tax) on steel producers including British steel if they export products into the USA. This could really harm our steel industry, not just because of the blow to trade but if cheap Chinese steel can’t go to the States it could now flood into Britain and undercut our industry here. It’s clear that our trade policy will need to respond in kind to this unjustified move. But what’s more worrying is the reliance by Trade Secretary Liam Fox on Donald Trump as supposedly providing a ‘great’ UK-US trade deal to compensate for the trade we’ll lose after Brexit. I don’t think it’s wise banking on this after all!
  • The week began with Jeremy Corbyn confirming that at long last the Labour frontbench will support a permanent, comprehensive customs union between the UK and the European Union. This is a welcome step in the right direction. Our prosperity depends on preserving the frictionless freedom to trade with our European neighbours from which we benefit at the moment. And this shift will be all the more important if it lays the groundwork for crystallising the cross-party consensus against a destructive hard Brexit – which I believe is a view held by a majority of MPs. I’ve been arguing for months that Parliament needs to take control of this process, and also want to pay tribute to my many Labour colleagues who’ve been so persistent in speaking their minds on the necessity of a customs union, despite how they were ‘whipped’ to the contrary. In truth, though, customs union membership should always have been the bare minimum for those of us who want to avoid years of Brexit-induced austerity and economic stagnation – the next, essential step must be for sensible MPs in all parties to insist that we participate as a full member of the Single Market. We have no time to waste.
  • On Monday the Government unveiled further information on its plans to cap household energy bills in its draft ‘Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill’. As I argued before the 2015 General Election, this has the potential to make a genuine difference to consumers and represents a small step towards a more sensible energy market. Regulation is the smartest way to ensure that monopoly industries serve consumer interests and I will watch closely as this proposal is scrutinised in Parliament.
  • On Wednesday morning we learned via a leaked memo that Boris Johnson no longer thinks the Government’s priority should be to avoid a border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit. As recently as last November, the Foreign Secretary described such a scenario as “unthinkable” – and publicly at least, Ministers continue to pretend there’s still no risk of a border – but Mr Johnson’s unguarded comments should alarm us all. I wrote about the liability that Boris Johnson is becoming in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post newspaper – see at the link here. On Wednesday afternoon, Boris tried to wriggle out of his promise to publish his letter to Theresa May which started this whole saga. So I wrote to her with three key questions:
  1. Will the Government agree to publish the letter from the Foreign Secretary, in full, so people can make up their own minds about the contents, as the Foreign Secretary himself has suggested would be appropriate?
  2. Does the Foreign Secretary’s reported suggestion in the letter that it shouldn’t be the Government’s job to ensure no border on the island of Ireland accurately reflect Government policy on the matter?
  3. Do you agree that the only way to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland is for the whole of the UK to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union, and will she consider reassessing her Brexit ‘red lines’ to reflect this reality?

Avoiding a hard border is vital if we are to maintain the fragile progress we’ve made in Northern Ireland since the darkest days of the troubles. I think it’s time for the Prime Minister to reconsider her ‘red lines’.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

It’s certainly been a challenging week weather-wise! The adverse conditions disrupted a variety of bus routes across the city and also affected some waste collection rounds as well. On Thursday 58 schools were also closed across Nottingham. The city council gritters were out in force this week and hopefully good use has been made of the 200+ grit bins across the city for use on roads & footpaths. Our local NHS services have been urging people to check on elderly neighbours during the cold weather; it is at times like this everyone needs to keep an eye out for one another. In case it’s of use, there’s more information on changes to council services as a result of the weather here: https://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/snow

While clearly we should all be immensely grateful to the public service workforce keeping the wheels turning in such freezing temperatures, I’d be interested to know if you’ve found local services to be fairly resilient this week? Or have you been disappointed that some things tend to grind to a halt in the face of adverse weather? Should there have been more preparedness? It would be good to hear your experiences so I can feed these in to the city council and others.

Regards

 

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 24th February

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 24th February 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

This week’s remorseless bombardment of the East Ghouta enclave in the Syrian city of Damascus by Russian and Assad’s forces has to be one of the most brazen international atrocities committed in recent times. Four hundred and sixty civilians have been killed this week and the national media have rightly been leading with the harrowing scenes of parents striving desperately to protect their children from indiscriminate attack.

The United Nations Security Council is supposed to be the forum that allows international humanitarian responses, but the constant and malicious ‘veto’ of any action by one permanent member of the Security Council – Russia – is making a mockery of that forum. Assad’s regime is trying to buy time to wipe out the last remaining resistance to his dictatorship by pummelling this neighbourhood, and Putin is backing his ally’s tactics with total disregard to the international community and norms of the Geneva Convention. There is a desperate need for an internationally enforceable ceasefire to get help and humanitarian assistance to over five million people trapped by Assad. Hopefully pressure can be brought to bear against Russia because otherwise, as the French ambassador rightly says, the Syrian tragedy will become a graveyard for the United Nations.

British politicians have been far too silent on this issue, held back by those opposed to ‘intervention’ as though it’s ok to turn a blind eye. We cannot let this antipathy towards international involvement allow monstrous actions to go by and think this has nothing at all to do with us.

NOTTINGHAM

  • An update on the situation on Nottingham Prison: Following the death of another prisoner, the Ministry of Justice have released a plan to address the issues raised in the Chief Inspector’s ‘Urgent Protocol’ notification. I spoke with the Secretary of State directly about this matter, following my call for urgent attention to a number of matters in the Commons debate last year. I am glad that Ministers have now responded with an action plan to the required deadline. The promise of extra resources to clear the backlog of security reports and capital funding for extra interview rooms is welcome, but the steps to reassign fifty young offenders should help to relieve pressure from this institution that has been at maximum capacity for such a prolonged period.

I have also called repeatedly for action to address the smuggling of drugs back into the prison from offenders let out on licence who then re-offend to carry contraband back in. While I am pleased that at the promise of enhanced security for those recalled to custody, I would still like the Ministry of Justice to consider randomising the prisons to which reoffenders are assigned after breach of licence.

Nevertheless, I hope that the ‘safety audit’ to be undertaken by the national prison safety taskforce and the introduction of a rigorous case management procedure for prisoners will begin to improve conditions and reduce the levels of violence and poor communications. With the announcement of an additional £200,000 for mental health provision, it is now time for this institution to focus more effectively on the rehabilitation of offenders, not simply the mechanics of incarceration.

  • In concerning news the total number of unemployed claimants in Nottingham East has increased for the last month and the last year as a whole. The figure for January 2018 was 155 higher than January 2017 and 90 higher than December 2017. However in slightly better news the number of claimants aged 18-24 in January 2018 has decreased by 35 since January 2017. I will continue for fight for Nottingham to have a fair share of investment and work with other bodies ranging from local businesses to the City Council to increase employment opportunities for Nottingham residents.
  • A report by compiled by housing firm BRE Group has found that around 19 per cent of homes in the private sector in Nottingham city (which is around 19,413 houses locally) are thought likely to have ‘Category One’ hazards including exposed wiring, leaking roofs, dangerous boilers etc. Ensuring that all housing is fit for human habitation and capable of supporting a decent standard of living has to be a greater priority – whether in public, private or housing association ownership. Nottingham City Council has recently been granted permission for its scheme to introduce mandatory licencing for private landlords, a scheme designed to help to address housing quality issues and other problems which renters in the private sector may face.
  • Earlier this week plans to redevelop Nottingham’s Sneinton Market were given the green light by Nottingham City Council’s planning committee. Leonard Design Architects, who have been appointed to provide design concepts, have released updated sketches showing the transformation of vacant buildings on Avenues D and E which are adjacent to the market.
  • On Friday it was fascinating to be invited around the Tarmac asphalt plant off Daleside Road, to see first-hand how some of the commodities we use in local roads, bridges and properties are processed and distributed. They are a very efficient plant taking great pride in health and safety on site, supplying the construction industry in our region with vital materials that we all take for granted. They sell asphalt in large and small volumes to big building firms and even to retail customers too; quite an impressive operation! Here I am pictured below being shown around by Regional Manager Ian Goodwin:

Tarmac asphalt plant off Daleside Road Nottingham with manager Ian Goodwin Feb 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • On Friday I was also invited to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Barclays Bank offices in the city centre where their corporate finance team have now co-located with the rest of their small business and retail operations. Supplying lines of credit and financial support to local businesses helps keep jobs and bring in investment to Nottingham and I was pleased to hear of some of the positive economic activity taking place around the East Midlands supported from this new office.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Tuesday we heard a statement from new Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley on the lack of agreement to restart devolved government at Stormont. Direct rule from Westminster is not at all ideal and would put pressure on the accord between different sides which has lasted so well since the Good Friday Agreement signed twenty years ago. I have been shocked in recent weeks to hear hard Brexiteer MPs such as Owen Paterson or Daniel Hannan MEP claim that the Good Friday Agreement has ‘failed’ or ‘outlived its use’. In their pursuit of arguments that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic isn’t such a bad thing after all (a likely consequence of their ‘clean break’ plan for UK-EU relations), they will let nothing get in the way of their ideology – including this carefully balanced peace settlement. That’s why I called on the Secretary of State to reiterate the Government’s 100% commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, and am pleased that she gave that assurance.
  • You may recall that a few weeks ago I tabled some amendments together with Anna Soubry MP and Ken Clarke MP in support of the UK participating in the Customs Union. I’m glad to report that it looks as though Labour’s frontbench have been persuaded to support this, which is a good thing, although preventing a Brexit disaster – and the austerity this entails – requires more than the Customs Union alone.

So for the benefit of those who still need convincing, yesterday I set out on ‘Twitter’ my top 10 reasons why I believe it’s still essential for the UK to participate in the Single Market (other than the famous ‘four freedoms’):

  1. Yes a Customs Union is needed. It helps 20% of our economy. For the other 80% (and growing!) of our economy, which is in ‘services’, we need the Single Market. The right to export UK service expertise is vital.
  2. With 11% of our tax revenues coming from the UK financial services sector (£66bn), we need the Single Market so it can trade on the same basis as financial firms from the other 27 countries. We can’t pay for our NHS, schools, welfare support without this revenue.
  3. Single Market is needed to help trade in goods too. For instance, medicines produced in Britain can be sold across the continent without the need for recertification in each country. That’s the Single Market. Many ‘goods’ have ‘services’ aspects that need more than the Customs Union alone to be traded in the EU.
  4. Car manufacturers need both Customs Union and Single Market. The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders say: “By not being part of a common automotive regulatory framework there is a longer-term risk of increasing burdens from non-tariff barriers where regulatory regimes may diverge and create additional costs”
  5. The Single Market protects you as a consumer, ensuring that customers have safe products, can access information, have rights of redress and where problems arise there can be cross-border enforcement. Consumer rights are at risk if we leave the Single Market.
  6. Don’t ignore the importance of the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between EU countries. If you’re qualified to trade in the UK, you’re qualified across the whole of Europe. We risk losing this outside Single Market.
  7. Single Market freedom to establish a company in another EU country is crucial for UK innovators, service providers and businesses. The Government have no plan at all to secure the cooperation agreements we have (via the EU) to allow UK firms to trade in the other 27 countries.
  8. Employment rights flow from the right to be ‘established’ and participate in economic life on a stable and continuous basis. Our involvement in the Single Market stops a Conservative government undercutting EU employment rights. These are vital protections!
  9. The freedom to provide and receive services in an EU country other than the one where a company or consumer is established underpins 21st century free trade. And the evolving ‘digital single market’ is potential game-changer for UK tech innovators.
  10. If we want to preserve the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border between Republic & Northern Ireland, we need the Single Market’s full regulatory alignment. Otherwise we are bound to have checks, inspections, limited border crossings, ie, no free movement.

There’s no mandate for the Prime Minister’s ‘red line’ on the Single Market. As leading Brexiteer and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan himself said before the referendum: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”. That is why I will be arguing Parliament needs to overrule the Prime Minister and ensure the UK stays part of the Single Market.

 WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’m pleased that yesterday a proposal from my colleague Geoffrey Robinson MP to change the rules on organ donation consent was given initial approval in the Commons. He is proposing a Private Member’s Bill (which usually needs Government support to have any chance of progressing) that would move from an ‘opt-in’ to an ‘opt-out’ system, where it is presumed consent is granted for organ donation unless an individual expresses otherwise. I am generally supportive of this change because it is calculated it could save up to 500 lives a year, but I appreciate that this is a sensitive issue for some people and so I wanted to consult and get your views about this proposal. Are sufficient safeguards in place? Should we publicise the current organ donation arrangements more effectively and how could this be done? Sadly we tend not to think about these subjects unless faced with a catastrophe or personal loss. But it is the job of legislators to address these sort of issues and I don’t think we can shy away from it.

 Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 3rd February

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 3rd February 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

I’m very focused on the need to prevent a further decade of cutbacks and austerity hitting our NHS, schools and local facilities in Nottingham – which is why my priority is to avoid a devastating Brexit outcome where the engine of our economy (and tax revenues!) is clogged up by tariffs, bureaucratic customs checks and barriers to exports. As a bare minimum, we need to salvage what’s called the ‘Customs Union’ in which UK businesses can buy and sell goods across the continent on our currently free-flowing, ‘frictionless’ tariff-free basis. It does mean we have to share tariff and trade policies with our nearest 27 EU countries, but as a big block we can leverage stronger trade deals – and we rely on forty years of these agreements to keep the economy flowing. If we leave the Customs Union, these 70 trade agreements will lapse and we shouldn’t take for granted the ability to simply order goods from the wider world and have them arrive effectively on time.

That’s why this week I’ve joined forces with MPs from across all political parties to propose two key amendments to the forthcoming Trade and Customs Bills which would require the Government to maintain our participation in the Customs Union arrangements, as you can see here (and at the Guardian write-up here).

Nottinghamshire MPs Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke are also leading these amendments – because in reality there is a majority of MPs who probably do support this, but the frontbenches (and ‘whips’) of the main parties are still reluctant to do so. In December we defeated the Government when 260 Labour MPs joined forces with 11 Conservatives and MPs from the other parties to insist on a parliamentary ‘meaningful vote’ on the final deal. If we get Labour’s frontbench to now acknowledge that the evidence shows we need the Customs Union arrangements to keep the economy going, I genuinely think we can win on this issue too.

I know I will be attacked for departing from the official ‘party line’ but I firmly believe that preventing this wave of austerity is the duty of every MP. Votes will be at the end of February – but any support you can provide and encouragement to others across the political spectrum to do so as well would be very timely.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Police have arrested a 33 year-old woman in Derby in connection with the fire at Nottingham Station. The fire, which started on the morning of January 12th, is being treated as arson by the British Transport Police. An incident commander with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, has suggested that had sprinklers been fitted it may have been easier for officers to control the blaze.
  • Sometimes visiting local businesses in Nottingham East can be a particular treat – and so it was when I had a chance to visit Redsmith Gin Distillery in Sneinton yesterday! I had a chance to meet Head Distiller and redsmith Wayne Asher and talk about his increasingly successful business (pictured below with Wayne and ‘Jenny’ his number 1 still!), which is the first distillery in Nottinghamshire for 150 years. ‘Jenny’ is thought to be the smallest commercial ‘ten bubble plate, carter head still in the UK – handmade by Wayne himself. His London Dry Gin is made to a secret recipe but is now very much in demand, having won the prestigious ‘Classic Gin of the Year’ award in 2016. Take a look at his website at the link here https://redsmithdistillery.com/

Redsmith distillery Sneinton chief distiller Wayne Asher Feb 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Nottingham City Transport has stopped bus advertisements which cover the bus’s windows, after customer complaints.  While there were only ever a small number of buses with advertising that covered their windows , NCT and their advertising partners will now phase it out completely meaning that in future full bus ads’ will only ever be applied to the body of the bus.
  • Nottinghamshire Police has become the first police force in the country to introduce a ‘menopause policy’. This policy will include lighter uniforms and more flexible working for those suffering from fatigue. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cooper said: “Nottinghamshire Police takes staff welfare very seriously and we are really proud to have been the first police force to introduce a ‘menopause policy’, which has subsequently been picked up by other forces and partner organisations across the country”.
  • As part of their draft procurement strategy Nottingham City Council has pledged to continue to support small and medium size firms locally. This pledge comes after the council awarded SMEs £48 million worth of contracts in 2016/17. The idea behind this strategy is both to reduce the risk posed to the council by large contractors going bankrupt as well as putting money back into the local economy.
  • Congratulations to Rosehill School and their Headteacher Cheryl Steele on being rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for the fourth time. In their report at the end of last year Inspectors highlighted that ‘the leadership team has maintained the outstanding quality of education in the school since the last inspection’. They also stated ‘the school is a positive learning environment’ and ‘pupils are well prepared for their next steps in going to college and/or supported learning’. The report (which can be read here: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection-report/provider/ELS/122964 ) is a credit to everyone involved in the Rosehill community.
  • Congratulations to Nottingham East’s very own cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason who has achieved the biggest-selling British debut of the year to date with his classical album, ‘Inspiration’. Sheku who is now 18 years old has entered the album chart at number 18, quite some record and probably the only time this has been achieved by a cellist! Great to see such success.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Tuesday the Brexit Minister, Steve Baker, appeared before MPs following news that the Government’s internal analysis confirmed that leaving the EU will mean billions of pounds in lost growth – even if a comprehensive ‘free trade agreement’ is achieved – and behind those figures, the destruction of hundreds of thousands of good jobs.  On Monday evening, I discussed the analysis on CNN – you can catch the interview here. It was particularly shocking that Ministers have decided to withhold this analysis document and instead castigate their own civil servants and cover up the truth from the public and Parliament (you can see my question to the Minister at the link here).
  • With the looming threat of a leadership contest rounding off another turbulent week for the Conservatives at Westminster, Theresa May must have counted herself lucky to be so far removed from the fray, on a three-day visit to China. It remains to be seen what exactly the visit will have achieved, but the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox did concede that a UK-China trade deal was “some way off”, and I think it’s clear that his onetime hubris about the ease and speed with which we could strike trade agreements is still colliding with the much more complicated reality.
  • On Wednesday, MPs voted to embark on a “full decant” from the Houses of Parliament so that the buildings can undergo vital refurbishment and restoration works in the coming years. The Palace of Westminster is one of the greatest buildings in our nation’s heritage and it is important that we preserve and cherish it. I think the consequences of inaction were just too serious to ignore; a recent report identified a fifty percent chance of ‘catastrophic failure’ by 2020 – meaning anything from total loss of electricity and plumbing to a massively destructive fire, endangering the many thousands of visitors and staff who work in Westminster. I voted for the comprehensive option put down my by colleague Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee – leaving altogether in order to allow the work to be done more quickly and properly, without the delays and expensive of ‘working around’ MPs. This is not just the safest option in my view, but the cheapest as well.
  • Parliament will break for a short half term recess later this week and because I will be with the International Trade Select Committee seeing exactly how customs facilities work on the Canadian border with the USA and then visiting Washington DC to explore the pros and cons of an American trade deal with the UK, these MP Update emails will resume after Parliament returns later in February. In the meantime, please contact me at chris.leslie@parliament.uk if there are any issues you want to flag up with me.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

On Friday I decided to visit Nottingham’s Crown Court to sit and watch cases in progress and see for myself how our justice system is working locally. The courts have public galleries where any citizen can attend and if you’re interested in the law then I’d suggest you consider popping in to observe a trial yourself some time. Our local courts – including the magistrates and county courts for civil cases – bear a considerable workload on their shoulders. I was struck by how basic and functional the court facilities are, where it’s clear there isn’t a lavish budget any longer.

Having been called up for jury service in the past (and I am due to serve again on a jury later this year), I know that for some people it is difficult to take off the weeks necessary to fulfil this civic duty. But the jury system really is the only feasible way to ensure that society can fairly absorb both sides of any accusation and come to as close to an ‘objective’ decision as possible. The judges and legal teams in the cases I watched this week were incredibly professional – and although the wigs and gowns may be a bit anachronistic – actually I was struck by the respect and esteem in which those prosecuting cases and arguing for defence are held.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the state of our criminal justice system in Nottinghamshire. Do you think that the courts are processing cases adequately? Are the police providing the Crown Prosecution Service with the full cases to see that justice is done? Are the CPS pursuing cases in the right way? I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts.

Regards

 

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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