MP Update – 27th January

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

Politics is in a bit of a mess at the moment. And Brexit is creating heavy weather on all sides. Theresa May thought that by setting out firm ‘red lines’ last year – saying ‘no’ to a customs union with Europe and ‘no’ to a Single Market – that she’d bought off the right-wing Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith. But their ideological dream of casting Britain back to the deregulated Victorian era and see Britannia once again rule the waves has been interrupted by the cold realities of 21st century economics.

It turns out that our closest neighbours and major trading partners, who buy most of our goods and services, aren’t so keen to let Britain undercut their standards while still gaining the benefits of full access to their markets. So unsurprisingly the EU are telling Britain we can only trade on existing terms if we stick with existing regulations. Even Chancellor Philip Hammond this week said it would be best if Brexit saw the UK move only ‘very modestly’ apart from the EU. But this message of reality has sent Tory Brexiteers into apoplexy, threatening a leadership challenge to Theresa May and creating a rift even with the already right-wing David Davis, who was merely spelling out the truth that any transitional years will have to stick to current rules.

It’s on the Customs Union question where ideology is likely to meet reality soonest. Manufacturers are rightly demanding to know straight away:

  • if they’re going to have to comply with new ‘rules of origin’ checks to verify that the majority of their products have UK content
  • if their trade with the rest of the world will be covered by existing free trade deals or not
  • if there are going to be tariffs as soon as next year on exports and imports
  • if there will be checks at ports, ferry terminals, the Channel Tunnel etc
  • if the emergency £250m lorry park in Kent, which still doesn’t have planning permission, will be available in time for next year or if hard shoulders on Kent motorways can cope with delays

We have the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill coming back on the floor of the Commons in late February. So I’d expect this to come to a head. Hopefully by then Labour’s frontbench will have realised that maintaining our participation in a customs union with the EU is the only viable option. Unless we build a coalition across the parties and draw together a sensible majority for maintaining these current arrangements – a coalition which I’m convinced does exist in Parliament between the ideological fringes – then politics is going to be very turbulent indeed.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Nottingham University Hospitals Trust have issued a welcome statement regarding the planned ’40 Days for Life’ protests against terminations at the QMC Treatment Centre. In a statement Tracy Taylor, the Chief Executive of NUH NHS Trust, said ‘any protest that impacts adversely on our patients, visitors or staff will not be supported anywhere on our site’. She said ‘the Trust’s priority is protecting the health, safety and welfare of its patients, visitors and staff’ and raised concerns over previous protests of this nature. The trust will be working with the Police, the Treatment Centre and other partners to ensure that patients can access their services without intimidation.
  • Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history. Earlier this week I signed the Book of Commemoration (pictured), pledging my commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring the victims of the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust does vital work teaching people both about the millions of Jews, Gypsies, disabled people and members of the LGBT community who were murdered in the Holocaust and abut subsequent acts of Genocide.  The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘The power of words’ and it was an honour to attended yesterday’s Holocaust Memorial Day event organised by the City Council and Nottingham interfaith Forum on this subject at the Council House.

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust remembrance book Jan 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Statistics released this week by the Department for Housing Communities and Local Government show that rough sleeping has risen in Nottingham for the third year running. Nottingham City Council believes that this rise comes as a result of government welfare policies and have pointed to the £106,000 the council have spent from their already-restricted budget to go towards measures to address homelessness over the winter. In light of this I was pleased to see that on the 28th January, there will be an event across Nottingham to help support the work of Framework – a charity focussed on the homeless. ‘Beat the Streets’ will be a multi-venue event featuring over 80 artists across more than 10 stages, further details can be found here: http://www.beatthestreetsuk.com/
  • Congratulations to Nottingham East resident Kathryn Thompson who has been selected to represent Team GB in Short-Track Speed Skating at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang this February. I wish her and the rest of Team GB all the best at the Games.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday MPs debated the creation of a ‘Financial Guidance Body’ for consumers, where I urged the new Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey to include a statutory duty to promote financial resilience in its founding mandates. This could make a real difference: two million people are forced to take prolonged sickness leave every year and too many people struggle to weather the drop in household income typical in these situations. A recent study found that eight out of ten families would be unable to pay an unexpected bill of £300 or more, and just 40 percent have savings adequate to cover three months of unpaid leave. That is why it is really important to have accurate, high-quality information available on how to prepare for shocks like this. A duty to promote financial resilience would, I think, be a hugely welcome step towards equipping more people to access the tools, services and financial products that can help in dealing with these situations. You can watch my remarks at the link here.
  • We’re still waiting for our £350 million per week for the NHS… On Tuesday the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, chose to go public in calling for additional spending on the NHS, provoking a succession of slapdowns from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues and laying bare once again the chaos which seems to reign at the centre of Government. While I don’t disagree that more money for the health service is needed, I can’t help wondering why Mr Johnson didn’t make his demands in advance of last autumn’s Budget if he feels so strongly about it – as ever I suspect his calculations are driven by his ambition rather more than his public-mindedness. Rather than pay a dividend, Brexit is already resulting in a drag on our economy, according to Mark Carney the Bank of England Governor to the tune of £200million a week worse off because of weaker growth. Brexit’s bureaucracy is likely to lead to a wave of austerity – which will harm rather than help our NHS.
  • On Wednesday at the International Trade Select Committee, I had another chance to quiz the Government about their increasingly exposed brag that all the countries with which we have EU trade deals have agreed to roll them into identical bilateral ones with Britain, no questions asked. This matters because these 40 FTAs with 70 countries currently govern nearly 15% of our country’s exports. The current Trade Minister, Greg Hands, was less than forthcoming on this point, as you can see here, but did admit that, if Lord Price’s optimism turns out not to be justified, the Government just wouldn’t have the capacity to reopen these agreements. This does not auger well for March 2019, when we face the prospect of seeing our existing trade deals expire without replacements ready to sign – with punishing tariffs potentially appearing overnight, pushing up prices for food, clothes and other household essentials. It is vital that we have continuity on our ability to trade freely.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

A new report from campaign group ‘End Child Poverty’ has shown that 41% of children living in the Nottingham East constituency, including over 50% of children in the Arboretum Ward, live in poverty – that is, living in a household with income below £248 per week after housing costs. This compares with constituencies such as Rushcliffe where the figure is 12.7%. Particularly concerning is that in areas with high levels of child poverty the issue seems  to be getting worse, for example in Nottingham East this year’s figure represents almost a 2% increase from two years ago.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts about child poverty in our city. Does your work bring you into contact with disadvantaged families or children facing hardship? We know that foodbank usage remains significant, but with Nottingham not yet encountering the roll out of Universal Credit (which is due from October onwards) perhaps the situation could deteriorate further.

The long term solution to child poverty is, of course, ensuring that parents can find stable and decent employment opportunities, yet the erosion of long term career and permanent contract standards has created an insecurity affecting children in this way. Early intervention efforts to boost health and learning opportunities are also under attack, with budgets scaled back and under further threat.

I would be interested to know what other changes we need in public policy you think could address this scandal of child poverty, which is a badge of shame on our supposedly civilised society in the 21st century.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 20th January

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 20th January 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Conditions at Nottingham Prison hit the national news this week following shocking findings from the Chief Inspector of HM Prisons, Peter Clarke, who issued the first ‘Urgent Notification’ public letter to the Secretary of State about the “fundamentally unsafe” situation he has found. Sadly his findings echo the concerns of the local Independent Monitoring Board – who have routinely raised the alarm about these issues – and the points I raised in last year’s prisons debate with the Government Minister.

Eight deaths in custody in recent times should have shone a spotlight into the help Nottingham Prison requires. Yet the Chief Inspector expresses his frustration that this is the third occasion on which serious recommendations have had to be made. His letter details some very disturbing issues including 200 assaults recording during the past six months and 30% of prisoners testing positive for drugs and psychoactive substances.

I suspect that the sharp cuts in funding at the beginning of this decade, which removed a swathe of experienced staff, have knocked the system down, despite the reversal and increase in resources – and additional staff – that have more recently been delivered. The new staff may not have the right training and skills to build the careful dialogue and relationships with inmates so that abuses and distress can be addressed before they escalate. Added to this, there is an appalling amount of drugs entering prison through various means, including carried in by prisoners themselves who apparently are sometimes let out on licence and deliberately reoffend to carry drugs back in for sale. There are solutions to this and it’s not totally about resources. Which is why I will be urging the new Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State – David Gauke – to send in more support to the prison management team. The Government now have 28 days to respond thoroughly to the Chief Inspector’s notice.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • We have every reason to be proud of the public transport approach taken in the city. But I am keen to keep an eye on making sure this is financially sustainable. This week it was reported that Tramlink Nottingham which manages Nottingham’s Tram Network has reported a loss of £48.5m in the year to March 31, 2017. This loss comes despite the company’s turnover increasing from £44.5m to £60.6m during the same period, which covers the first full financial year since the project to extend the network at a cost of £570m. Furthermore while gross profit increased, their accounts show an item described as an “exceptional impairment charge”, which was not explained in detail, helped lead to the £28.2m loss. This was a massive capital infrastructure project and clearly will take some years to recover initial build costs, but I will urge all those with oversight of this to ensure that a robust business plan can keep the tram in good financial health permanently.
  • The “Island” site in between London Road and Manvers Road could have more than 1,500 homes built on it under plans being put forward by its new owners. These homes would form part of a major regeneration programme being proposed on the 38 acre-site and expected to cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Other features of this proposal involve office, hotel and retail space as well as space reserved for amenities. If you have any thoughts on these proposals I would be interested to read them.
  • I discussed this ‘Island site’ and some of the other developments in the city centre yesterday when I met with City Council chief executive Ian Curryer to run through some of the key issues affecting Nottingham, including progress with the Broadmarsh development, the Castle, the college redevelopment and partnership working with the NHS.
  • There has been an increase in some charges for car parking at the Victoria Centre with the charge for 3 hours increasing by 20p to £4.70 and for 4 hours increasing by 50p to £6.50. Most notably the charge for parking after 6pm has increased from £2 to 5£ which represents an increase of 150%.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday I visited Brussels with a cross-party delegation from the All Party Parliament Group on European Relations to meet Michel Barnier, who is leading the negotiations on Brexit from the European Commission team. I impressed on him that in Parliament there is actually a great deal of support for the UK remaining in the Customs Union and perhaps also in the Single Market but that the Prime Minister’s unnecessary ‘red lines’ have prematurely taken these off the table. Parliament will ultimately make a decision in the autumn of this year and I wanted to get a sense of what is likely to occur in the months ahead. I am glad that the EU Council President, Donald Tusk, sent out such a strong signal on Tuesday that options remain open for Britain and if we wanted to reverse this process it is possible for the UK to do so still.
  • The collapse of the construction and facilities giant Carillion has left a cloud of uncertainty over £1.7 billion of public sector contracts, as well as over 40,000 jobs and the 13 pension schemes invested in the company. The Minister described the failure as “regrettable,” and promised to maintain the public-facing services provided by Carillion. We still need to uncover the nature of the guarantees and contingent liabilities that Ministers have had to promise to keep the show on the road in the public sector following Carillion’s exit. While the financial losses are largely borne by private investors and creditors, as was the whole point of shifting risk to the private sector, it’s not fully clear that all such risk has been taken from the taxpayer’s shoulders. We know in Nottingham the poor track record of Carillion, who won the cleaning and services contract at the QMC and City Hospitals some years ago, but because of poor performance this was terminated and brought back in-house by the Trust recently. I suspect that there was a particularly bad management culture at this company and there are specific lessons that must be learned here. I think it would be wrong to leap to the sweeping conclusion that “private is always bad and public is always good” because there are failings in both sectors, and successes too. If public investment can be delivered without compromising on service quality, there can be a limited role for private companies – but the example of Carillion shows that failing to grip the management of contracts, get the monitoring process right, and simply aiming to cut costs, will eventually have consequences such as this.
  • On Wednesday, in welcome news, the Government announced the creation of a Minister for Loneliness following recommendations made in a recent report by the bipartisan Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The report, co-written by my colleague Rachel Reeves, identified the extent of the ‘social epidemic’ created by isolation in modern Britain, with nine million people reporting that they ‘always or often’ feel lonely, and outlined a number of policy proposals to alleviate the issue, the first of which was the creation of this ministerial position to coordinate a cross-governmental strategy, and I hope the incoming Minister Tracey Crouch will act on the full range of recommendations made by the Commission.
  • Yesterday MPs considered a proposal to give tenants in substandard accommodation the power to force landlords to comply with the law. The Private Member’s Bill, brought by my colleague Karen Buck, provides for an overdue change in the law so that tenants whose homes fall short of legal standards for human habitation – for instance if they’re infested with mould or other pests, have faulty plumbing or exposed electrics – can fight their case in the courts. There are an estimated three million renters currently stuck in legally substandard housing and this piece of legislation, which the Government have opted not to oppose, offers a targeted and hugely welcome solution with wide backing.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I am receiving a great deal of political criticism because of my different views on Brexit from the Labour frontbench position. I believe that Brexit will shrink trade and our economy, reduce tax revenues, and create far greater and prolonged austerity hitting our NHS, public services and those in greatest need. At the very least we should stay in the Single Market and Customs Union to maintain our economic performance – if not give the public a ‘final say’ on the deal that emerges and allow people to reverse this whole process if that is their wish.

It was a sad day, therefore, when on Wednesday I felt I had to join 47 of my Labour MP colleagues in voting to retain the Single Market and Customs Union, when Labour’s frontbench chose to abstain. It’s not easy to break the ‘whip’, but I feel I must stand up for what I believe is right. The Brexit austerity which will hit Nottingham East and the rest of the country is not something I want on my conscience.

Throughout the course of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill committee and report stage I have tried my best to raise the alarm about the path we are now heading down and I have consistently tabled amendments on different aspects of this situation, I think more than any other MP. This week I pressed the question of trade in services; the details we need on future trade in the Withdrawal Agreement; the risks of a hard border in Ireland; the size of the financial ‘divorce bill; and the need to publish a summary of legal advice on extending or revoking the Article 50 notice.

I am still hopeful that we can persuade Jeremy Corbyn to speak out about the risks of Brexit and the austerity it will create. But I am clear that there is no such thing as a ‘jobs-first Brexit’. Brexit will destroy jobs and prosperity, just in differing degrees depending on how sub-optimal the deal turns out to be.

I realise not everyone will agree with me on this and I respect different views, but I hope we can have a civilised debate on the facts and the evidence without some of the political threats and intimidation that are so depressing.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update -12th January

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 12th January 2018

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

This morning’s serious fire at Nottingham train station has caused serious disruption and damage, but thankfully no injuries have been reported, thanks to a careful evacuation and thorough response from the fire and emergency services. Ten crews and around 60 firefighters were called to the blaze after 6:30am this morning in what now appears could have been a fire started deliberately in one of the toilets at the station.

With around 4,600 passengers normally arriving at Nottingham on a weekday morning, an incident such as this could have had grave consequences. As it stands, there will undoubtedly be significant disruption to passengers and journeys for some time. I would like to pay tribute to the fire and rescue services and other emergency workers for responding so professionally and also to the staff at the station itself at what is clearly a distressing event for the whole city. I hope that if this does turn out to have been an arson attack that those responsible will be caught and prosecuted. As yet there is no clear assessment of the cost or scale of structural damage but I am sure that every agency in the city will do what is needed to get this vital transport hub up and running as soon as possible.

NOTTINGHAM

  • In happier news, I was pleased to have a chance to catch up with the team at Nottingham City Transport, the largest bus operator in Nottingham, 82% of which is owned by the City Council. They invited me to see one of their new gas-powered bus fleet which have been purchased recently to meet the very latest ‘Euro 6’ clean air standards; they’ve got 30 in service already with another 23 on the way (pictured below, feeling quite lucky to have a chance to sit in the driver’s seat!). You’ll recall how a few weeks ago I highlighted some of the pollution hotspot issues around the city – some of which is caused by emissions of Nitrous Oxides and particulates. Government are requiring Nottingham to introduce a ‘Clean Air Zone’ in 2020 and this means some big changes especially in transport provision. We already have one of the highest levels of bus usage per head of population outside London, and despite the introduction of the tram, it is actually the bus network delivered by NCT that accounts for 67% of public transport journeys locally (50 million passenger journeys a year!). I pressed the company to keep making rapid progress particularly on credit card ‘touch’ ticket payments technology, because making it simple to hop on and pay without rooting around for exact change will remove one the barriers for non-regular bus users.

Nottingham City Transport gas powered bus fleet Jan 2018 CL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Nottingham Castle is set to close until 2020 so that transformation work can take place as part of Nottingham City Council’s plans to redevelop the City Centre. The proposals for the redeveloped Castle involve the creation of a Robin Hood Gallery and a Rebellion Gallery. There are also plans for a new visitor centre including a café.
  • On Wednesday over 500 properties and businesses in Nottingham city centre were left without power. A large part of Clumber Street and the lights at the Council House, in Old Market Square, were also affected. Western Power Distribution, which is responsible for maintaining electricity supplies, said the area affected was the NG1 postcode.
  • The forthcoming months are going to be crucial in trying to prevent a regressive hard Brexit, and the resulting austerity that will affect Nottingham and the rest of the country. That’s why I’m glad there will be a ‘Rally for the Single Market’ happening in Nottingham – a chance to listen to the arguments, ask questions and learn how you can help. The event will take place on Saturday 3rd February from 3pm to 5pm at Queens Walk Community Centre, Queens Walk, NG2 2DF. You can get tickets for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/rally-for-the-single-market-tickets-42093266092
  • Three cheers for Dales ward’s very own Cllr David Mellen who has taken up the challenge of reading a storybook to 2,018 children in the city! The challenge, which will involve Cllr Mellen visiting each of Nottingham’s 20 local neighbourhoods, will help to raise money for the Imagination Library – a scheme which gives a free book every month to children under five years old. Further information and the option to donate can be found here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/2018children

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • It’s been Parliament’s first week back in the new year, and MPs were plunged straight back into the key Brexit debates, with a ‘Trade Bill’ discussing how we can maintain existing agreements worldwide, and a ‘Customs Bill’ putting in place powers for Ministers to institute tariffs on imported and exported products. One issue I wanted to highlight was the change about to hit 130,000 businesses who currently don’t need to pay upfront VAT charges when they import or export goods at the border – but can ‘net off’ and recharge in their normal regular VAT returns. This may not be possible after Brexit, when firms will have to change their cashflow planning and stump up for VAT at the port of entry. I wrote about this in the New Statesman this week (article at the link here – and further coverage on the front page of last Sunday’s Observer newspaper). It may seem technical, but at present we see 55 million products which go through the ‘non-EU’ customs and VAT bureaucracy, a figure that rises to 255 million products when Britain becomes a third country outside the EU. All of that paperwork, administration and inspection activity will come at a cost, largely to those trying to continue doing business – and in the end a price that will fall on the shoulders of customers. I spoke in the second reading debates on both these Bills this week, urging Ministers to think again about leaving this EU VAT Area, to remain in the Customs Union and to make sure that Parliament has a meaningful say in decisions on tariffs and trade agreements in the future. A great deal is at stake and unless we stand up now there could be a decade of austerity ahead.
  • This week began with Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle. Billed as an opportunity for the Prime Minister to stamp her authority on the Government, it turned out to be a bit of a farcical demonstration of her weakness. Chris Grayling was appointed Conservative Party Chairman for 27 seconds; two other Cabinet Ministers refused to be shuffled at all, and in what apparently passes for a major policy change, two Whitehall departments were given slightly longer titles (and nothing more). Some of the Prime Minister’s decisions (such as keeping Boris Johnson but getting rid of Justine Greening) left many perplexed. In the end, as Theresa May infamously said on a different occasion: “nothing has changed”.
  • On Tuesday, MPs debated the Government’s Trade Bill. This is a deceptively short piece of legislation which could have dramatic consequences, as once again the Government are seeking to hand Ministers sweeping executive power and cut Parliament out of the picture as they seek to implement trade agreements post-Brexit. Liam Fox and his colleagues certainly have their work cut out in attempting to piece together from scratch the trade agreements, painstakingly negotiated over decades, from which we currently benefit via our EU membership. But as I argued on LabourList, it’s vital that we’re able to hold them to account. That’s why on Wednesday I had the chance to press the former Trade Minister Lord Price on whether, as he tweeted in October, the dozens of countries with whom the EU has bilateral trade agreements have ‘agreed to rollover’ every single one. This sounded almost too good to be true, so I wanted to get something more specific: are there actual deals in place, ready to sign on exit day? With the livelihoods of British households and businesses on the line, we need more than vague verbal assurances, offered behind closed doors – but after listening to his answer, I worry that that’s all we have – watch it here and see what you think.
  • A major report this week, which you can read about here, confirmed that international students bring positive economic benefits to the towns and cities where they come to study. We all know how much the 5,000+ international students in Nottingham contribute to the local economy and life in the city more generally, and the report bears it out, finding a net impact of +£310 per resident – ten times more than these students ‘cost’ in public spending terms. It will now, I hope, add to pressure on the Prime Minister to finally remove student numbers from net migration statistics and alleviate the recruitment crisis this ridiculous policy has helped create.
  • The debate about failings in the privatised industries – rail, water, energy – is now well rehearsed. Excessive dividends and profit-taking and in too many instances, management oriented around share price rather than the public service first. There’s little doubt that the public in general are deeply sceptical and want change. But as economist and Observer columnist Will Hutton points out in his article this week (take a look; it’s a good read at the link here), it is generally accepted that renationalisation would cost an estimated £170bn, a massive sum of money for which there are other priorities including infrastructure, health facilities and so on. So Will Hutton has come up with a way to square this circle – the ‘public interest company’ – a variant on the constitution of a private company, where public benefit has to be the primary motive with the Government taking a foundation share as a condition of the licence to operate, giving it rights to appoint directors and regulate company behaviour more closely. But by remaining with wider shareholders it wouldn’t be counted against our (already high) national debt and have freedoms to borrow. It might not be the model for every case, but we need smarter solutions that shift the balance towards the public interest without causing severe disadvantages, and I welcome Will Hutton’s fresh thinking on this.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Hospitals are reporting a sharp rise in flu cases in the past week, with admissions up by 50% and GPs also reporting an increase in cases coming through their doors. Although the levels are significant, health officials say this represents only a ‘medium’ amount of flu circulating in the community – back to the levels seen in 2010. Flu jabs for the vulnerable, young and old are available on the NHS and always worth getting. In general, this and other winter ailments tend to make this a very busy time of year for our health service.

We had an Opposition debate in the Commons on the pressures facing the NHS this week, the decision affecting many hospitals across the country to postpone elective operations in order to redirect frontline resources and staff to emergencies, and the need to ensure adequate resources are available for hospitals and social care especially during the winter months.

If you’ve needed to use the health service over the Christmas or New Year period I’d be interested to know your experiences. Are you finding it easy to see a GP? Nottingham’s NHS staff and managers are doing their best to keep services available but sometimes the pressures can be great. It would be helpful to hear whether there are particular issues you would like me to take up in Parliament or with the local NHS.

Very best wishes

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 22nd December

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 22nd December 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

If a week is a long time in politics, the past year feels like a lifetime. For Theresa May in particular, it hasn’t exactly turned out as expected. She entered into a general election expecting endorsement for her version of Brexit, but was returned to office without any clear mandate at all. In this final week before the Christmas recess period, we had a chance to debate her interpretation of Brexit – namely that the UK should also leave the Single Market and Customs Union – something that was not on the referendum ballot paper and which risk major economic harm and years of Brexit austerity if they occur.

I tabled an amendment which led the debate in the final day of committee stage this week, insisting that we should be allowed to stay in the Customs Union. Without this a hard border is likely between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; manufacturing industry in particular risks being turned upside down with job losses as a consequence; and clogged ports and queueing lorries would hit Treasury revenue, forcing further years of cuts for vital public services in the years ahead.

I pleaded with MPs of all parties, including with my frontbench, to take action now and avoid these risks and austerity – and am thankful at least that 63 of my Labour MP colleagues joined me in taking a clear stand. In my view, we are way past the point of legalistic obfuscation and partisan triangulation: there is too much at stake! You can watch my full speech setting out why this is so important at the link here.

I hope in 2018 to continue working across the political divide to build a majority in the House of Commons that will pull Britain back from the cliff edge, because if we fall over it will hit every aspect of our lives – education, hospitals, transport, the cost of living and employment prospects for generations to come. I am optimistic that we can choose a different path, as the parliamentary vote to gain a ‘meaningful vote’ proved last week.

NOTTINGHAM

Ø  Ministers announced their grant settlement for Nottingham City Council and the Nottinghamshire Police this week. The level of spending reductions because of the sharp withdrawal of revenue support from Whitehall is forcing local authorities like Nottingham to make difficult cutbacks and even reduce job posts. I pressed the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, Sajid Javid, this week to admit that until now they’ve used a distinctly dodgy process to distribute millions of taxpayers money – via something called the ‘transition grant scheme’ – which cynically dished out help to wealthier (Conservative!) local councils at the expense of places in the Midlands and the North (see my exchange with him at the link here). Councillors will now have to decide how high council tax rises to compensate for the lack of government funding. Central government support ought to be distributed according to need and evidence and I will continue to argue for a better deal for Nottingham from this Government.

Ø  Wellspring GP Surgery update: Efforts are still ongoing to find a way through the financial impasse which has seen one arm of the NHS (the property management section) billing another arm (the local doctors in St Anns Valley Centre) with what appears to be unreasonably high service charges. I have spoken again directly with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday and also with several other MPs from different parts of the country who have encountered similar issues. I hope that a solution will be possible and I expect further news in the new year.

Ø  As of last month, the Ecolink bus service from the Colwick Park & Ride to the city centre now serves what is currently known as the ‘Island site’, meaning that there are four new bus stops in place, two of which will be a short walk from the NHS Urgent Care Centre. This may help to provide an alternative to those otherwise going to the A & E at QMC and further details can be found here (my thanks to Janet Norris for campaigning for this change and to the team at the City Council Transport Team!).

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

Ø  The EU Withdrawal Bill dominated the Commons again this week. Other amendments I pushed included:

o   The need to protect the rights for those with professional qualifications to have them recognised across Europe in case they are working or trading in the other 27 EU states

o   The need for a transition period – as promised in the PM’s Florence Speech in September – to be enshrined into UK law. Ken Clarke MP and I tabled a joint amendment to press Ministers to fulfil this, but they declined to do so!

o   Help for businesses, especially medical equipment and life science sector firms, who currently can sell their products abroad and prove they meet regulatory standards by having conformity assessment certification undertaken here. Without these hundreds of existing ‘mutual recognition agreements’ these products, and potentially public health and safety, could be no longer available or traded.

o   I wrote about the Customs Union vote this week on the PoliticsHome blog site at the link here https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/foreign-affairs/brexit/opinion/house-commons/91599/chris-leslie-mp-mps-should-vote-stay

Ø  Theresa May’s deputy, Damian Green MP, was sacked from his role as First Secretary of State this week for failing to give a truthful account of the conversations he had with the police in relation to allegations of material found on his office computers. The whole saga has dredged up the history of ‘Plebgate’ when another Tory MP Andrew Mitchell was alleged to have made derogatory remarks to police officers at the gates of No10 – and some have suggested that the police and these MPs were involved in a long running vendetta. Whatever the truth, it is deeply unedifying and provides a real headache for Theresa May as she ends the year.

Ø  The United Nations has backed a call for the USA to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, with more than 100 nations including the UK supporting a resolution in defiance of Donald Trump’s position. With this UN resolution saying that any change to the city’s status is ‘null and void’, it is clear that American policy here is out of step with the mainstream of diplomatic opinion across the globe.

Ø  I share the concern of shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth who this week continued to voice he worries about plans to introduce ‘accountable care organisations’ without any Commons vote or debate. I am not against the sensible cooperation and partnership of organisations with a stake in public health policy, but with so many suspicions circulating about the motives of Government, they shouldn’t try to make these structural changes without clear transparency and explanation.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

 

Latest indications are that house prices and rent levels are rising faster in the East Midlands and Nottingham than in many other places in the UK. The BBC reported that at 7% annual inflation in prices, properties in the East Mids were outpacing growth in house prices in London and most of the rest of the country. I’d be interested to know what you think lies behind these figures – is it because Brexit uncertainty is holding back the capital city more than other parts of England? Are there particular driving forces in our part of the country? Will this change in affordability make it harder for those looking for a foot on the property ladder?

 

Rents are also said to be up 2.7% in Nottingham this year, which makes the cost of living for tenants quite challenging given incomes are not typically rising by this same amount. If you or others have found a particularly difficult time recently in the rental market, I’d be interested to hear your views.

 

This will be my last MP Update email newsletter for 2017 and normal service will resume in January after Parliament has returned. In the meantime I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and happy and prosperous New Year!

 

Very best wishes

 

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 15th December

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

Wednesday’s momentous vote in the House of Commons could well be the moment that Britain is saved from falling off the Brexit ‘cliff edge’ – by ensuring that Parliament will have a meaningful say on the divorce deal negotiated between Theresa May and the EU. If the Brexit deal isn’t good enough (because jobs will be lost in sectors losing export rights into Europe, for instance), then MPs will have the chance to send her back and renegotiate.

Amendment 7 represents a vital insurance policy for the UK, because there was a real risk that a David Davis / Theresa May deal would have been presented as a fait accompli, with MPs being told to ‘take it or leave’ and unable to shape the details. What if this deal leaves our country poorer, cutting revenues for the Treasury and in term creating a decade of Brexit austerity hitting Nottingham and the rest of the country? What if local businesses currently trading with Europe have to pay a tariff to continue that trade? All these details can’t be swept away. Attempts by the Government next Wednesday to insert a fixed exit date of 29 March 2019 should also be met with similar resistance; flexibility in case negotiations aren’t concluded should be seen as an advantage and not a threat.

Sometimes there is a tribalism in the party political system which means that MPs stick rigidly to their party ‘whip’, but I’m delighted that on this occasion 11 Conservative MPs (including Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry) took the brave and principled decision to put the country’s interests first. I was very pleased to join them with the 309 MPs winning the vote on Wednesday – and threats of deselection and bullying behaviour trying to drum them out of their party will (I suspect) only help to strengthen their determination to do the right thing.

NOTTINGHAM

  • What do you think of the standard of policing in Nottingham? In the latest inspectorate judgement, Nottinghamshire police have been rated ‘Good’ overall when it comes to keeping people safe and reducing crime.  The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which was published earlier this week, follows on from a report last month, also by HMIC, which suggested that the force needed improvement in this area. The force was also rated ‘good’ in ensuring that its workforce behaves ethically and lawfully; although in terms of treating its workforce with fairness and respect the report suggested that they required improvement.
  • Traffic in the city centre was gridlocked on Wednesday evening this week, with Nottingham City Transport warning people against travelling if they could avoid it. The situation was caused by a road traffic collision on Meadow Lane, compounded by road works around London Road and a broken down car on Upper Parliament Street. Several bus services were delayed severely.
  • Insurance firm Domestic & General have announced they are looking to employ a further 150 people in Nottingham start in the New Year. This comes after a £3.4m revamp to the company’s contact centre situated on Talbot Street and the opening of new offices at City Gate East on Tollhouse Hill.
  • Detailed plans for the redeveloped Broadmarsh have been submitted to the Nottingham City Council’s planning department. The submitted proposals feature 1,397 parking spaces which will be almost 250 more than in the previous car park. They also contain retail units on Carrington Street and Collin Street as well as several digital advertising screens and electric charging points on every floor.
  • The winners of my annual Christmas e-card competition have been decided, with the first prize going to eight year old George from Rosehill School! Earlier this morning I visited Rosehill to present him and some of the runners up with their prizes. The list of winners is as follows: 1st Place – George from Rosehill School; 2nd Place – Wiktoria from Our Lady and St Edward Catholic School and 3rd Place going to Summer also from Our Lady and St Edward. I was delighted by the volume and standard of entries that we received this year which made for a very exciting competition and some difficult judging decisions. The winning entries, alongside the runners up will feature on my Christmas e-card (which I’ll try to send around next week!)

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Six months on from the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire, survivors attended a moving memorial service at St Paul’s Cathedral, alongside bereaved families, rescue workers and members of the Royal Family.  There were performances from Portobello Road Salvation Army Band, St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, the Ebony Steel Band and Al-Sadiq & Al-Zahra Schools Girls’ Choir. The Bishop of Kensington said he hoped the name Grenfell would change from a symbol of sorrow, grief or injustice to a symbol of the time we learnt a new and better way – to listen and to love.
  • The EU (Withdrawal) Bill committee stage has again dominated the Commons this week, where I moved a series of amendments including a demand that Ministers set out their plan for retaining all the benefits and advantages for the UK from the 759 international treaties, accords and mutual recognition agreements with over 130 countries that Britain has adopted via our EU membership over the past 44 years. These treaties will lapse on our departure from the EU – including on issues such as trade, aviation, nuclear safety, medicines, transportation and much more besides. We still do not have any clear idea how Ministers intend to renegotiate and renew these after ‘exit day’, which was why I insisted on some answers. See my Commons speech at the link here. On Tuesday I opened the committee debate with an amendment calling for a wholesale review of the massive constitutional ‘land grab’ Ministers are making by the order-making powers they are taking to be able to change powers at the swipe of a pen, rather than do this through an Act of Parliament in the normal way. My speech on this issue is at the link here.
  • As the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir I convened our first session of hearings yesterday into the human rights situation in the disputed territory, which has been at the centre of a disagreement between India and Pakistan for over seventy years. We heard testimony from journalists, academics, human rights activists and from the Pakistani High Commission – and have asked for further evidence from others on all sides of the Line of Control. We hope to have a summary of interim evidence published in the early new year.

Kashmir APPG human rights hearing Dec 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • I was concerned to learn that damage to the gas pipeline between the continent and the UK has restricted our country’s energy supply and started to push up wholesale prices. It was even more concerning to read that the UK energy sector is now dependent on liquefied gas shipped from Russia – something that would be banned under the sanctions imposed by the US. British energy policy is getting dangerously reliant on imports and we need to make urgent efforts to diversify sources of energy, especially from renewable and non-carbon emitting sources. Even a temporary energy dependency on Russia is a perilous situation for the United Kingdom to be in.
  • On Monday the Government responded to an Urgent Question from my colleague Harriet Harman on the crisis in health funding highlighted by Sir Bob Kerslake’s resignation as Chair of the King’s College NHS Trust in London. Writing in the Guardian, Sir Bob expressed his concern that the Ministers are ‘simply not facing up to the enormous challenges that the NHS is currently facing … where the demands of a rapidly growing population are not being matched by the extra resources we need,’ and calling for a ‘fundamental rethink’ in how the health service is funded. Clearly, the twin pressures of an ageing population and the rising cost of drugs and equipment (made more challenging by the weakness of the pound since the referendum) have stretched resources more thinly than ever. We have to confront the challenges of funding our NHS for the long term if we are to maintain standards.
  • On Tuesday world leaders met in Paris for the ‘One Planet’ summit on tackling climate change. At the gathering, which marked the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that action to reduce emissions has not come nearly fast enough over the past two years, and I worry that he is right – two months ago, the UN ‘Emissions Gap’ report observed that the pledges made by signatories to the Paris accord amount to less than a third of what will be required to keep warming below the catastrophic 2°C ‘tipping point’, and backsliding from the Trump administration remains a worry. But the challenge of responding to the climate crisis is one that governments around the world cannot afford to ignore. I sincerely hope this week’s conference will deliver a new lease of life to this most vital of tasks.
  • This week we learned that inflation in November had risen to 3.1 percent – its highest level in nearly six years – applying further pressure to already squeezed budgets across the country this Christmas. With food and energy prices rising even more quickly, at 4.4 and 6.4 percent, wage rates a long way short of keeping pace, and working-age benefits still frozen at their 2015 level, and this will put an additional strain on households trying to make ends meet. The single biggest driver of high inflation has been the persistent weakness of the pound, and I hope that this sobering news will inform the Government’s approach to Brexit in the new year. The consequences of getting it wrong, as we have seen this week, will be felt most sharply by those already struggling.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Sneinton Market is enjoying a new lease of life at the heart of Nottingham’s Creative Quarter – with many of the units from the historic wholesale fruit & veg market now occupied by new shops and galleries (pictured below). Earlier today I met with Creative Quarter chief executive Stephen Barker to meet some of the businesses, including coffee roaster Stewarts of Trent Bridge and their café Blend – and the brilliant local artists ‘Shop at Sneinton Market’.

Have you had a chance to visit Sneinton Market recently? With plans to redevelop more of the derelict buildings in that area, what will encourage people to visit? What more could the Creative Quarter company do, together with the city council and Nottingham Trent University, to make further progress driving the economic growth and entrepreneurial spirit in the area? How could we better connect the Sneinton Market neighbourhood with Hockley, the Lace Market and the city centre? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

sneinton market creative quarter dec 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 8th December

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 8th December 2017

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

Theresa May’s late-night Brussels deal may at first glance appear to give her some temporary relief ahead of next week’s European Summit. The European Commission were insisting that the main ‘separation’ issues should be settled before moving on to discuss the future relationship. So the British Government have agreed to pay something around £40billion, plus have said that citizens’ rights will be respected, and have found a form of words on the Irish border to avoid upsetting too many people.

But if ever there was a case of ‘the devil is in the detail’ then this is it. It is obvious now to almost everyone, including the Prime Minister, that continuing with the Single Market & Customs Union is the only viable option – although Theresa May has to pretend that isn’t really the case. By promising EU ‘alignment’ with the proviso ‘should this not be possible the UK will propose

specific solutions’, the PM is merely postponing the moment when she breaks this news to the hard Brexiteers. The trouble is, drafting an obscurely worded communique like this, denying a Cabinet discussion, avoiding Impact Assessments and side-stepping a figure for the divorce bill – these are all characteristics of a Prime Minister desperately trying to avoid upsetting the ideologues on her backbenches.

Unfortunately she won’t be able to hide the dangerous cliff edge that still looms ahead for much longer. If no trade deal is compiled before exit day, massive problems remain. We still risk leaping out of the EU into the unknown, because Phase 2 isn’t trade talks – it is talks about talks. Merely gaining the EU’s permission to work towards a ‘framework’ for a future relationship is not the same thing as a detailed trade deal. In my view, Parliament must therefore be very wary of exiting before seeing a detailed draft trade agreement.

You wouldn’t agree to move house without knowing where you’re moving to, or how much it would cost, or exchanging a detailed legal contract. So too we shouldn’t ditch our existing trading deal until we know we’ve got something sensible to replacing it with.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Parents of stillborn babies and those experiencing neonatal baby loss should have the right to expect somewhere private and appropriate to come to terms with the loss and prepare for life once they leave hospital. So I am delighted to support the hard work of local charity ‘Forever Stars’ who have raised significant amounts of money to provide a bereavement suite at Queen’s Medical Centre  – and today also open a second Serenity Suite at the City Hospital Maternity Unit. Today’s official opening by Anne Davies, presenter of BBC East Midlands Today, was also attended by the Sheriff of Nottingham and many other friends and associates of Michelle and Richard Daniels (pictured below with their new baby Monty) who established ‘Forever Stars’ in 2014 following the stillbirth of their daughter Emily. These facilities are a real achievement and will benefit other parents going through incredibly difficult and traumatic times.

Forever Stars Serenity Suite city hospital December 2017 official opening Richard & Michelle Daniels baby Monty and Anne Davies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Nottingham Trent University has been awarded ‘University of the Year’ in the Times Higher Education Awards. The Judges highlighted the University’s record on outreach work as well as pointing to their leading analytics improving retention. It comes just two months after Nottingham Trent celebrated being named the Times and Sunday Times Modern University of the Year, acknowledging success in both the National Students’ Survey and recent league tables. I believe it is important, especially in what has been a difficult year for Universities, to celebrate such local excellence.
  • There has been a halt to the rollout of Universal Credit across Nottingham until October 2018. This means that from New Year’s Day, there will be no new Nottingham claimants placed on Universal Credit for another 10 months, with people directed to continue to claim the relevant existing benefit such as Jobseekers Allowance.
  • The pressures on HM Prison Nottingham from drugs and smuggling need real action and reform, which is why I spoke in yesterday’s Commons debate on the Prison Service. The availability of the drug ‘mamba’ inside the prison and the reoffending of prisoners released on licence returning with smuggled contraband should be solvable – and I urged the Minister to address this (see my remarks at the link here) .

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • Social care didn’t even merit a mention in the Chancellor’s Budget – a dreadful illustration of how this massively important issue has been neglected for so long. So I pressed the Minister this week in the Commons to address this issue more seriously (at the link here), responding to the damning CQC Report that said the number of beds in nursing homes is decreasing with contracts being handed back to local authorities because the finances are no longer stacking up. Without decent social care provision, hospitals waiting times get longer as elderly people have fewer options but to remain as in-patients. I believe a long term solution requires all parties to work together in a Social Care Convention and agree to take difficult decisions.
  • We still aren’t being told the precise amount of the ‘divorce bill’ settlement that the Prime Minister has agreed to pay the European Union – which is why I tabled an amendment on Wednesday calling for a specific and free-standing vote on this multiple £billions to be approved by the House of Commons. Nobody was told about these sums before the Brexit referendum, which could amount up towards £1000 for every man woman and child in the country. For all this money, we are only moving to ‘phase 2’ talks about the possible ‘framework’ of a future relationship, rather than an actual trade deal, which is bound to be inferior to the tariff-free frictionless trade arrangements we currently have. Unfortunately my amendment didn’t win a majority of support from MPs but I still believe that if ‘taking back control’ was the aim of the referendum then bypassing Parliamentary accountability in this way is the total opposite of this. You can watch the full debate at the link here.
  • Donald Trump has decided to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, uniting almost everyone against him for being the only country to think that this will in some way benefit the peace process. It has unsurprisingly caused outrage from even allies in the region because although Israel has always asserted the city as its capital, until now no other country has agreed with this. Palestinian anger at this is now palpable and there is a real risk that endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in this way will play into the hands of what King Abdullah of Jordan calls extremists looking for a reason to respond with violence. The real damage is to any remaining claim that somehow the Trump administration is a fair ‘broker’ of a peace deal between the two sides. This biased approach will harm progress towards a two-state solution where the rights of Israelis and Palestinians can be respected equally.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

A consultation has started over the possible redevelopment of Sherwood Library on the corner of Spondon Street and Mansfield Road. While there are no specific plans currently on the table a newly redeveloped library complex could involve shops, homes and offices, as well as a new library with a police contact point and public toilets.

I’d be interested to know your views on this so that I can make views known to the City Council. Do you use the existing library building? What sort of services should a modern library offer? Depending on the outcome of the consultation, tenders from developers are apparently to be sought in January. If bidders come forward, the plans would have to get planning permission before going ahead. I’m told that local residents can send their thoughts to the City Council to regeneration@nottinghamcity.gov.uk

But do let me know if you have any views on how this redevelopment should proceed.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 1st December

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

Nottingham has given a very warm welcome to Prince Harry and his fiancée Meghan Markle, who chose to visit earlier today on their first official trip after announcing their engagement. Their visit brought a welcome spotlight to two really good causes that deserve widespread support.

First the couple visited the Terrence Higgins Trust ‘World Aids Day’ fair at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery, a charity that Prince Harry has long supported because of their work raising awareness of HIV / AIDS issues.

After their city centre ‘walkabout’, Harry and Meghan then travelled to the Ransom Road campus of Nottingham Academy to meet with pupils and staff at Nottingham Academy’s campus in Ransom Road to discuss the ‘Full Effect’ programme run by local charity Epic Partners, which focuses on helping young people affected by violent or criminal behaviour.

Harry’s links with Nottingham have been of great support to local good causes in recent years and it is really positive that he continuing to help give a boost to facilities and services which would never normally get such (worldwide!) attention.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Update on the Wellspring GP Surgery situation: Having met with the GPs last week, I’ve now had a chance to speak directly with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and to alert him to the problems that would arise if we lost this vital GP practice in St Ann’s. I’ve also had discussions this week with officials at NHS Property Services (the landlord at the Valley Centre building) to try to get to the root of the massive service charge bill which could make the doctors’ surgery unviable unless the financial burden changes. Furthermore, I’ve also spoken with the senior team at the Nottingham City clinical commissioning group who are also looking to find a way forward. I will not accept a situation where this GP surgery feels it is financially unable to continue. I am convinced there can be a solution and I am determined to disentangle this bureaucratic knot.
  • Nottingham has been ranked as the second best city in the UK and the best city in England for small business growth according to a recent report. The report by consultancy firm ‘Square’, which surveyed 1,200 small business owners, states that small businesses in Nottingham anticipate a 34% growth rate in the coming year. Also of note in the report was that 65% of consumers in Nottingham said they shopped locally or would do so in future suggesting strong potential for local Nottingham businesses.
  • Rosehill School in St Ann’s is a special school for children and young people with autistic spectrum conditions. Children from across Nottinghamshire attend but I am proud we have such a great facility in our community. It was great to have a chance to attend their parents’ day event together with Gedling MP Vernon Coaker and then help award certificates to pupils for all their hard work over the past term. I was also pleased to meet their new school council and see first-hand how pupils were making their views known about their school environment (pictured below with pupils Jake and Ben).

Rosehill School Council Vernon Coaker CL and children Jake and Ben Nov 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tributes have been paid following the death of Cllr Georgina Culley, the leader of the Conservative Group on Nottingham City Council. Whatever political differences may exist, her long service to the people of Nottingham and Wollaton, the area she represented, was widely respected and will be remembered by many local residents. My thoughts go out to her family and friends at this time.
  • A small but worthwhile step: thanks to our three councillors in Dales Ward, a new ‘Welcome to Bakersfield’ sign will be erected at the Oakdale roundabout at the top of Sneinton Dale, in response to worries from some visitors that this can be a difficult area of the city to find. I’m told the roundabout will also get spruced up with some replanting too.
  • Tomorrow is ‘Small Business Saturday’, now the biggest annual celebration of small businesses in the UK. As well as encouraging shoppers to back Nottingham’s local retailers, it is about banging the drum for entrepreneurs and small businesses in all sectors. If you’re going shopping tomorrow, do consider stopping first in your local small shops!

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • How do you feel about paying up to £1000 towards the Brexit ‘divorce bill’? Reports that the UK Government agreed to settle up to £67billion in liabilities and debts to the European Union hit the headlines this week – a phenomenal amount of money which the Prime Minister hopes will persuade EU leaders to agree that ‘sufficient progress’ has been made and the discussions about trade talks can now begin. Having been promised some sort of Brexit ‘dividend’ (remember the £350m per week promised for the NHS on the side of the red bus?), it turns out that we will be paying out these billions for the privilege of downgrading our trading relationship, ditching the tariff-free, frictionless free trade agreement we currently have – in exchange for something inevitable inferior. This is not what people voted for in the 2016 referendum! On Wednesday the Speaker granted me the right to ask an ‘Urgent Question’ to the Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss on the costs of exiting the EU. If you want to watch the exchange, please click on the link here.
  • Transport Secretary Chris Grayling came to the Commons this week forced to admit that the rigid separation between Network Rail and the privatised train operating companies needs reform – something obvious to many commentators for quite some time. Closer integration between those responsible for running the trains and the tracks is clearly necessary. But questions are rightly being asked whether the early termination of the East Coast rail franchise joint venture between Stagecoach and Virgin Trains is in reality letting these firms off the hook for losses they would otherwise make. Ultimately the rail network needs continued investment – as we know from the debacle over continuously delayed electrification of the Midland Mainline. I will keep working with colleagues, especially Transport Select Committee chair Lilian Greenwood, to press for a sensible way forward on rail policy.
  • The situation in Yemen should cause worldwide concern and the Commons debated this yesterday. The Islamist Houthi coup, deposing a legitimate government with the backing of the Iranian regime, has seen the Houti’s deliberately use civilians as human shields. However, the air strikes being carried out by Saudi Arabia under UN Security Council resolution 2216 are not adequately avoiding civilian casualties and the UK Government must do more to impress on the Saudis and Iranians of the need for a ceasefire and no extension of the blockage which is aggravating a terrible crisis. The campaign to liberate Yemen from Houthi control has to abide by international humanitarian law and do more to avoid civilian casualties. For more information see this BBC background note at the link here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29319423
  • Donald Trump’s crass retweeting of the far right ‘Britain First’ anti-Muslim propaganda videos has stunned the world. His refusal to apologise and determination to justify the unjustifiable has been met with unanimous incredulity across the UK. If he’s achieved anything, Trump has managed to unite British politics with leaders coming together as one to voice their condemnation. I’ve been concerned for many years now that hate-fuelled campaigning will only aid extremists, throwing petrol onto the flames and giving fringe groups the attention they crave. The tragedy in this case is also that the majority of American citizens are also aghast at their President’s behaviour – and we should be clear that our profound criticism of Trump should not affect the historic and close relationship between the UK and USA in general.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

There’s going to be an awful lot in the news this weekend about how the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will (or won’t!) change because of Brexit. This really matters – because the Irish Government want to continue to be part of the EU Single Market, but the British Government (and DUP majority party in Northern Ireland) do not. So how will the two sides square this circle? If the UK is out of the customs union, the EU will need to check that goods going in comply with their tariff regime, their regulations and rules. But the Good Friday Agreement which created peace in Northern Ireland stipulated that there should not be a hard border.

The graphic below that I saw recently on the internet seems to sum up this paradox quite well! In my view, the UK Government ought to stay as a member of the Customs Union and Single Market, retain a borderless link between the north and south in Ireland, and stop destabilising a potentially delicate situation. It is the policy choice of the British Government here, insisting on leaving the customs union, which is causing such chaos – and I will continue to campaign for them to see sense. Is there a middle way through here? Or is it an unsolvable conundrum? I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Brexit Travel Paradox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 25th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 25th November 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Philip Hammond’s Budget on Wednesday was more notable for the dire forecasts for the British economy than the small policy measures he announced. We used to be able to expect growth rates of 2% or above in this country – but instead he unveiled massively downgraded expectations, with Britain bumping along at just above 1% for the foreseeable years ahead. This is because our productivity (output per hour worked) is very flat, which in turn is caused by poor business investment because of Brexit uncertainty.

We can now expect a decade of Brexit austerity ahead of us – with Treasury receipts getting worse and worse (even according to the Government’s own figures! See the table below). If we have £20billion less coming into the Treasury in taxes by 2021, this either needs substituting from borrowing (not sustainable) or more likely will be cut from spending on public services like schools, hospitals and council services. THIS was the real story of this week’s Budget; a Brexit cloud casting a shadow across the quality of life and services we ought to have in the 21st century.

I gave my detailed reaction to the Budget measures and forecasts in my Commons speech at the link here. It was appalling that Philip Hammond didn’t mention social care, and he fell a long way short on housing and support for the vulnerable. But if MPs of all parties don’t take steps to stop this Brexit catastrophe from cutting our public services, they will have responsibility for the next wave of austerity on their shoulders.

Budget 2017 cuts to receipts forecast

 

 

 

 

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Lots of residents in St Ann’s have been contacting me (quite rightly!) about the worries expressed by the GPs at the Wellspring Surgery at the joint service centre. So I took time yesterday to meet with the doctors there to hear first hand about the situation they are facing. It turns out that the building is now managed by the nationwide ‘NHS Property Services’, a part of the NHS that then sub-lets space out to GP practices. But this arm of the NHS seems intent on billing the practice with increasingly exorbitant ‘service charge’ fees for the privilege of using the space. When Wellspring first moved in they paid £25,000 a year service charge. But this year they’ve been billed £250,000. Clearly this is unsustainable and, because GP Practices are run as independent companies within the NHS, the doctors need to make sure that they don’t rack up a massive loss like that. The solution is therefore for one arm of the NHS to give another arm (the GPs) a break and reduce these internal re-charges to something more realistic. Otherwise we are at risk of the Wellspring Practice concluding it’s uneconomical to continue in that location. I gather that the different players in this saga had a telephone conference meeting this week to try and find a way forward. It shouldn’t be beyond the wit of our NHS to iron this out. There’s no point NHS Property Services winning a big windfall if another bit of the NHS has to pick up the massive costs and inconvenience of providing alternative GP services in their wake. I’m going to press Ministers at the Department for Health and NHS England to sort this out asap.
  • Nottingham Women’s Centre continues to do vital and important work and I met with their CEO Helen Voce this week to discuss their ongoing campaigns including on refuge funding and the campaign against misogynistic hate speech. As part of The ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign’ which runs from 25 November (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day) the Women’s Centre will be running numerous events – some of which can be found here https://www.facebook.com/events/526152094413130/
  • I also had the chance this week to witness the good work done by Notts County’s Football in the Community Programme working with one of their partners in Nottingham East. As part of the Premier League Primary stars session at Huntingdon Academy Primary School in St Ann’s, I watched the coaches combined football theory with a PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) lesson. The different approach taken by the PLPS coaches really engaged children who otherwise might have been hard to reach and I was impressed by the enthusiasm from both pupils and staff about the programme.
  • Some traders at Sneinton Market have expressed concern at plans for new developments nearby. These plans involve the conversion of three buildings, with two units becoming accommodation for students and one reserved for food and drink. Particular concerns have arisen that an increase in the percentage of homes occupied by students could lead to the area becoming empty during university holidays. If you have thoughts on this please also make your representations known to the City Council planning department and your local councillors.
  • A local teacher has been recognised as part of the Booktrust awards for the organisation’s 25th Anniversary. Booktrust, a charity focused on getting children reading, is giving awards as a way of showcasing particularly amazing work done. Shamim Khan, Assistant Head Teacher at Forest Fields Primary School has been selected as the winner in the ‘Treasure Programme’ category where Shamin was judged to be the best from all of the 152 ‘top tier’ local authorities in the country.
  • I had a chance to speak with local residents at my drop-in event in Sainsbury’s Perry Road yesterday afternoon – with a whole series of issues coming up including the need for better street lighting for safety during dark nights and worries about pensions and benefits. As ever constituents are always welcome to email or write to me at 12 Regent Street, Nottingham, NG1 5BQ or telephone 0115 956 9429

Surgery in sainsburys perry rd Nov 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • My amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill led the debate on Tuesday where the focus was very much on efforts to keep the Charter of Fundamental Rights as part of British law. The Charter exists to enshrine some of the most important protections we have – freedom of expression, the right to legal representation and a fair trial, the right to privacy, as well as a range of safeguards against workplace discrimination and unfair dismissal. We were told by UK Ministers that that this Bill was supposed to be a simple copy-and-paste exercise – in theory, its purpose is to insert EU law into the UK statute book. However, Ministers have snuck through some downgrades in our legislation and have used the Bill in part as a licence to leave out the bits they don’t like. The Government have explicitly singled out the Charter for deletion. My amendment sought some clarity from Ministers on what the impact of its removal will be. Although we forced the Government to promise to publish a fuller dossier of the impact of each of the rights in the Charter by 5th December, we didn’t manage to quite get the numbers to win the day.

In the same vein, my other amendment would have retained the so-called ‘Francovich judgement’ should Britain leave the EU. In European law, this is a legal precedent which enables citizens to claim damages when their government falls short of its legal obligations. It’s recently been used by asthma sufferers to seek compensation because the Government was in breach of the Clean Air Directive, for example. As with the Charter, the Government have sought to do away with the protections contained in ‘Francovich’, effectively granting themselves legal immunity if they do not comply with these laws either before or after we leave the EU. You can see the arguments I made for both amendments here.

  • On Thursday the EU Commission announced that Britain’s turn to host the European Capital of Culture 2023 programme would be cancelled. Along with other MPs from cities who’ve bid for the title, I’ve written to EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and also Culture Secretary Karen Bradley highlighting our concerns about the way this has been handled and how, in our view it would be preferable to maintain our future close relationship with Europe by continuing with the UK’s eligibility. Nottingham had submitted a fantastic bid for Capital of Culture status, but in some ways this is hardly surprising given the ‘exit date’ that the UK has chosen. I’m very sad about this, not just because of the wasted energies involved but because the UK will always be a European country and the decision to leave the EU is going to have all sorts of consequences such as this.
  • On Monday we debated the forthcoming Customs and Tariffs Bill, which tragically is paving the way for a ‘hard Brexit’ and giving Ministers the power to introduce tariffs at our borders on imports from the rest of the world. Tariffs will push up the price of goods and also lead to retaliation from the countries affected, who in turn will institute tariffs on goods we’d like to export.

I supported my colleague Ian Murray MP who attempted to amend the resolution about the Bill so that tariffs couldn’t be charged against our long-standing EU neighbours. In effect, this would force the Government to stay in the ‘Customs Union’. Sadly there were 18 Labour MPs who decided to vote with the Conservative Government in rejecting Ian Murray’s amendment. But I’m pleased that there were more Labour MPs including myself who tried to make a stand. Unfortunately we were defeated because the Government had more MPs voting against us.

  • The awful news from Egypt of the attack and murder of hundreds of worshippers at a Mosque has appalled the whole world and reminded everyone of the twisted ideology of the self-styled ‘Islamic State’ terrorist groups. It is actually Muslims who have suffered the most at the hands of these warped extremists and I hope that the British Government will work with the international community to isolate and track down those responsible for these crimes.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’ve had loads of emails this week about ‘animal sentience’, following the defeat by the Government of an amendment to the Brexit legislation this week that would have maintained wording from the Lisbon Treaty reiterating that in the UK henceforth we will have regard to the fact that animals are creatures that can perceive pain and feel emotion. I voted in favour of the New Clause 30 in question, but it was defeated by votes from the Government side of the chamber.

It’s created a heated debate this week (and also some confusion! See article here from the Independent). When I heard evidence at the Trade Select Committee this week from the National Farmers Union and the organisation ‘Compassion in World Farming’ I pressed them on this point and the need to maintain the existing animal welfare and farming standards protections if we leave the EU. My concern is that by turning away from EU standards and chasing after American lower regulated arrangements, our farmers will feel the need to be competitive with the cheaper, lower standard US products. The reason chickens are dunked in chlorine in the USA is because of the poorer hygiene and welfare standards in American chicken production.

Yet again, the risks to animal welfare are a potential unforeseen side-effect of Britain leaving the EU. I’d be interested to know whether you think this is something that should have been predicted? Do you there’s been enough information about this? Is this an issue you don’t particular care about? Or should we make sure we still with the higher EU standards and rules about these things?

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 18th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 18th November 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

Brexit is now soaking up most of Parliament’s time and attention – with the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in its ‘committee stage’ this past week. On Monday Brexit Secretary David Davis tried to buy-off potential Government rebels with a phoney offer of a further piece of legislation to ratify the final deal with the EU. However, this would be next to useless if it comes after Ministers and the European Union have signed and sealed a new deal – and it would be even more insulting if that Bill only emerged once Britain has fallen over the cliff edge in March 2019.

Some MPs were initially duped by this apparent ‘concession’, but they then realised that the offer of an Act of Parliament after we’ve left would hardly be worth the paper it was written on. There is no point in the UK Parliament trying to legislate after the horse has bolted! MPs need to be able to shape a draft deal with the EU, and send Ministers back to renegotiate if it’s not good enough. This is vital for hundreds of jobs in Nottingham and for future generations who may see our economy marginalised from the rest of the world. I pressed him on this sham of an offer on Monday afternoon, as you can see here.

I also voted against the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act, because we should not be deleting our existing legal arrangements without any certainty of what they might be replaced by; in other words, we should only get rid of our current deal subject to a new deal being agreed. It was disappointing that Labour’s frontbench chose to abstain in that vote.

I also tabled several amendments to the Bill which were debated this week and I forced a vote in the Commons on how a transitional deal would work. Unfortunately we didn’t quite have the numbers to beat the Government – although Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke did join in support. It is totally ridiculous that some of my amendments (including a very important one on staying part of the ‘customs union’) weren’t voted on because of the straitjacket on time that Ministers have allowed for debate. I will continue fighting on this – and on Tuesday I have amendments on the all-important Charter of Fundamental Rights which the Government are trying to delete from our laws. I discussed a number of aspects of the Bill, including amendments I’ve tabled myself, on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme on Tuesday, as you can see here.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • A number of residents in St Ann’s have drawn my attention the article posted on the website of the Wellspring GP Surgery (http://www.wellspringsurgerynottingham.co.uk/ ) which suggests that they are facing financial pressures and possible closure because of the costs of their tenancy in the St Ann’s Valley Centre. Obviously, I will be making some urgent enquiries to get to the bottom of this saga as quickly as I can. It sounds to me that there is some sort of contractual issue between the building landlord (the City Council) and surgery management – but I hope that a solution can be found. The Valley Centre is a much valued ‘shared service’ facility and I would be very disappointed if we lost GP services from this facility. Local patients don’t need any uncertainty about accessing their healthcare and clearly it would be far preferable to find a way forward in partnership between these local agencies, who are all part of our local public sector.
  • Following a number of deaths in custody in recent months I visited Nottingham Prison yesterday afternoon and met with the Governor Tom Wheatley to discuss the situation and the wider challenges facing the prison service locally. I was keen to explore whether there was a pattern behind the suicides and deaths, and while conclusions can only be reached following full coroners’ reports, at this stage there seems to be no single factor but a series of issues that could be contributing to this situation.

The Prison is increasing the staffing numbers it has, but they have lost a number of experienced officers in recent times – and so it was good to hear that the Governor has started a new ‘Key Worker’ approach to building relationships with each prisoner, looking into more detail about their welfare and hopefully flagging up vulnerabilities more readily.

There remains a significant drugs problem in the prison and I will be pressing for further action to clamp down on the likely methods that drugs are getting into the building. Some methods are clearly difficult to detect, including stories of some prisoners, released on licence in accordance with their sentence, who then perhaps deliberately re-offend in order to smuggle in substances back into prison. If some prisoners are reoffending for a living in this way, that is a very depressing state of affairs and I would support any resources to help prevent this route from continuing.

Smuggled mobile phones are also an ongoing problem – and the consequences of uncontrolled communications (or lack thereof) can cause real damage both inside and outside the prison. So I want to see a more transparent and regularised approach to prisoner telephone calls, allowing legitimate contact with approved family members, and cutting back on the demand for illicit mobile phone contraband.

These are complex problems and I will continue to discuss improvements with the Ministry of Justice and the local Nottingham Prison Monitoring Board in the hope that conditions can improve.

  • Scotholme Primary School in Hyson Green have been working really hard to bring civic education to life in recent weeks, teaching the children about politics and democracy, bring in local councillors to talk about how community issues are decided. So it was a great pleasure to pop in yesterday and talk to Year 6 pupils about how Parliament works, how laws are made – and also to hear about their great fundraising efforts for ‘Children In Need’ (pictured below with headteacher Kate Hall).

Scotholme Primary Mrs Kate Hall Nov 2017

  • Historic England have granted Nottingham City Council £551,000 to help conserve and restore buildings in the Lace Market and Market Square. This, alongside £300,000 from private investment and £80,000 from the council itself, will go towards renovating thirty shop fronts and twenty historic buildings. We’ve lots of local heritage to be proud of in our city and if you have suggestions about favourite buildings that you think could benefit from this work I’d be interested to hear!
  • Lots of residents express their concerns to me about rough-sleeping in the city centre. So I was glad to hear that the city council have allocated £106,000 towards a ‘cold weather plan’ helping to fund shelters, bed spaces and accommodation over the winter period. We need to do more to support the ‘No Second Night Out’ campaign that a number of charities including Framework and Shelter have been advocating recently.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded to an Urgent Question on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian national currently being detained by the Iranian regime. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested last year, and sentenced to five years in prison on the charge of plotting to overthrow the government. Although responsibility for her incarceration and continued mistreatment lies squarely with Iran, Boris Johnson’s ill-considered remarks last week that Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe was “teaching journalism” have been leapt upon by the Iranian authorities and used as a pretext for threats to extend her sentence. While the Foreign Secretary eventually apologised and said that the Government had raised her detention at every level with Iranian authorities, Ministers clearly need to do more to correct this situation.
  • On Tuesday the House of Commons debated issues highlighted in the so-called ‘Paradise Papers’, of systemic tax avoidance and evasion. This is the latest in a series of recent revelations about the complex structures which enable very wealthy individuals to (legally!) let themselves off paying their fair share. There are clearly a number of morally unacceptable activities involved in industrial-scale tax avoidance. The Treasury says we lose £12.8 billion through tax avoidance each year – money which could be spent on our public services and national defence, especially at a time when departments across Government are seeing their budgets cut. This is a global problem in need of a global solution. As a first step we need far more transparency and a register of offshore trusts. HMRC also need the capability to tackle the problem effectively, and this is what I’ll continue to push for.
  • On Wednesday the Foreign Secretary updated MPs on the apparent coup in Zimbabwe, where soldiers had that morning taken control of state television, surrounded Government ministries and sealed off Robert Mugabe’s official and private residences; several Mugabe Government Ministers have reportedly been arrested. We await further detail on what is a febrile and still-developing situation, but I am reassured that none of the 20,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe have been reported as injured. All of them must be given the assistance they need, and a descent into violence has to be avoided at all costs; and going forward, the only way forward is for the Zimbabwean people to be given the chance to choose their own government freely and democratically. Mugabe has been a brutal dictator in Zimbabwe and we should hope that the people of that once great country have the chance for a fresh start for democracy and prosperity.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

On Wednesday the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be delivering his annual Budget speech in the House of Commons, setting his plans for tax and spending for the next financial year. It will be a very busy day and I’m hoping to give my reaction in the debates after the Budget speech – and would like to know what you think I should prioritise in my remarks.

Do you think that the Treasury should pay for additional public spending by particular changes in taxation? Are business and employers helped or hindered by the Government’s approach? What steps could the Chancellor take to make you better off?

I’m not expecting major changes from Philip Hammond in his announcements – in fact, I think that the impact of Brexit on the Budget will be at the heart of the debate, because a hit to businesses could reduce revenues and bring in a new wave of austerity.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 4th November

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 4th November 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

With the Brexit negotiations stalled and the Government conveying distinctly mixed messages about how to proceed, I believe the time has come for the public see the full detail of what is at stake. Ministers admit that they have prepared detailed ‘impact assessments’ predicting how Brexit might affect every sector of the economy – with 58 studies in all. Yet they have steadfastly refused to publish these so we can all be better informed about what might happen, for instance, in the aviation industry, in the health service, in skills and training or in manufacturing.

Greater transparency in the Brexit process is now needed and the Government should release these reports as part of that. On Wednesday I supported Hilary Benn and Keir Starmer in efforts to order the publication of these reports – and Parliament agreed unanimously to do so. Nobody is asking for sensitive documents or issues where there is commercial confidentiality to be published or done so in a way that might compromise the UK’s negotiating position with the EU. That is why the motion that passed did not require blanket publication of the studies without further consideration. Instead, the motion called for the studies to be presented to the independent and cross-party Brexit Select Committee which would then decide when and in what form to publish them.

We are about to start the most important legislation affecting our economy and legal system for a generation – the EU (Withdrawal) Bill committee stage which will last until Christmas. I will be doing everything I can to persuade my MP colleagues to rise above party politicking and treat this issues with the national significance it deserves, thinking through the consequences which will affect our country for decades to come.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Plans were unveiled this week showing how the new Nottingham College city centre campus could look. The new building is part of the Southern Gateway regeneration scheme which also involves the development of Broadmarsh Centre and the rebuilding of the bus station and car park. If the plans are approved, the new Nottingham College City Hub will be built on land off Canal Street, to the south of Nottingham Contemporary. The College are running a public consultation on the plans and are running public sessions at Nottingham Contemporary on Friday 10th November from 10.30am-12noon and from 2pm-5pm. Alternatively, you can submit your views online here.
  • The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has issued its draft recommendations for new ward boundaries for Nottingham City Council. The draft proposals recommend keeping the number of councillors at 55, but that they should be divided among 14 three-councillor wards, 4-two councillor wards and 5 one-councillor wards. There are arguments against single-councillor wards (Nottingham presently only has two and three-councillor wards), as constituents can benefit from a better service by having the option to contact multiple councillors. In general, the ward boundaries in Nottingham East have not been altered much. However, one of the curious recommendations is to create a new Hyson Green ward, which would take in parts of four existing wards – Berridge, Arboretum, Leen Valley and Radford & Park. The Commission are inviting comments on their draft recommendation until 15th January 2018. You can look at the proposals in more details and make comments online here.
  • The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has said that more than £1.2billion extra needs to be invested in policing in England and Wales to sustain current levels of policing. They have said that £440million extra is required in 2018/19 and £845million in 2019/20, which would provide an additional 5,000 police officers nationally to deal with increased local demands and new types of crime which are increasingly complex. Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping has said that he is determined to make sure that Nottinghamshire gets its fair share of the funding increase, which is vitally important given the higher than average increase in recorded crime levels in the last year, as I discussed in my update a couple of weeks ago. The Government have said that they will consult on plans for the 2018/19 settlement by the end of the year.
  • It was good to get out and about and talk with residents of Kingston Court in Sneinton on Friday afternoon (pictured). Although there aren’t any elections on, it is still useful for me and local councillors to meet local residents and find out what’s on their minds – and I met some residents who had lived in the flats for over fifty years! Issues raised including the need for better variety of local supermarket shopping within walking distance and the approach of NCH to installing repairs and facilities in the flats.

Dales Canvassing

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday, the Leader of the House of Commons responded to an urgent question on the Government’s plan to tackle allegations of sexual harassment in Parliament. This followed recent reports of inappropriate behaviour in Westminster. All party leaders and the Commons Speaker have quite rightly made it clear that there is a vital need to provide better support and protection for MPs’ staff. She said that the House must establish a House-wide complaints service, complemented by a code of conduct and a contractually binding grievance procedure, available for all MPs, peers and their staff. The Labour Party already has a strong code of conduct in place, but clearly more attention to this is still required. Nobody who comes to work in the House of Commons should be subjected to unwanted advances from those who are in a position of power over them. I believe all parties should work together on this issue to come up with an appropriate safeguarding policy for everyone who works in Parliament. There should be a proper process of investigation for all allegations. The House should also look at widening the scope of the Members’ staff helpline to include independent advice on the next steps for a complainant.
  • The various allegations swirling around in the media have, amongst other things, led to the resignation of Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary (to be replaced by the unusual choice of the Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson) and also the suspension of two Labour MPs while allegations against them are investigated. I hope that more robust processes can be put in place which allow for the best rules of justice to be pursued, allowing complaints to be made with confidence that they will be treated with absolute seriousness.
  • On Tuesday, the Government launched a consultation on proposed changes to gaming machines and social responsibility measures across the gambling industry. The amount British gamblers lose on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) – which allow users to bet up to £100 every 20 seconds – has risen from £1 billion in 2009 to £1.8 billion in 2016. FOBTs are highly addictive and can cause real harm to individuals, their families and local communities. I am concerned that Britain is suffering from a hidden epidemic of gambling addiction. The Government first announced a review of gaming machines and social responsibility measures in October 2016 – yet this week they have effectively decided to have a further round of consultation. I suspect that in the end the £100 limit will be drastically reduced to protect those who become addicted. But I am also concerned that this could simply drive gambling online and out of the betting shops, where at least there are some staff potentially able to monitor addictive behaviours. Online gambling practices also need to be far more closely regulated.
  • On Thursday, the House of Commons debated a Backbench motion on unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. UN figures for the first half of 2017 show that over 70% of the 16,500 children who arrived in Greece, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria were unaccompanied or separated children. Yet the Government is refusing to play a full role in tackling this crisis. This debate marked the one-year anniversary of the demolition of the Calais migrant camp. When the Calais camp was demolished, one in six of its inhabitants were children trying to reach family members. Several of those children have since died still trying to reach their family. I believe we must prevent tragic cases like these and the Government must ensure that where it is in the best interests of unaccompanied children they are reunited with their family in the UK. Last May, Parliament passed the Dubs amendment to resettle a number of unaccompanied children who have made it to Europe. However, not only has the Government said it will close the Dubs scheme after taking significantly fewer children than the 3,000 that was widely mentioned at the time, no places have been filled so far this year. Indeed, around 280 of the 480 places allocated remain unfilled. Our country has a proud tradition of honouring the spirit of international law and our moral obligations by taking our fair share of refugees. We must not turn our back now.
  • Replicating the 60+ bilateral free trade agreements currently in place between the EU and other countries (on which billions of pounds’ worth of jobs and investment in Britain depend!) is likely to be a complex and time-consuming task for the Government. While we all hope that they’re successful, there are suggestions every day that the Tory Ministers responsible don’t quite have their heads around the scale of the challenge. When the former Trade Minister Mark Price tweeted erroneously that every single one of the countries with which the EU has an FTA in place has “agreed” already to ‘roll over’ these existing agreements into copy-and-paste deals with Britain, I thought this needed a bit of challenge – because it sounded far too good to be true. So on Wednesday morning, I asked the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox whether Lord Price’s very bold claim was accurate — and as you can see at the link here, he didn’t seem quite so sure that all 60 countries had in fact “agreed” at all…
  • On Thursday, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a statement on the political situation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has been without a properly functioning devolved Executive and Assembly for nine months. During this time, the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin have been engaged in discussions to restore an inclusive, power-sharing Executive. The Secretary of State said that while important progress had been made in these talks, the parties had not yet reached an agreement. He stated that this meant it was now highly unlikely that an Executive could be in place to pass a budget before the end of November. The Secretary of State explained that the Government was therefore taking steps to enable a budget Bill to be introduced in the House of Commons, in order to protect the delivery of public services in Northern Ireland. It is disappointing that ten months since the breakdown of the Northern Irish Executive, and following two elections and countless, increasingly meaningless deadlines, the larger parties in the region remain unable to agree with and show trust in one another. I believe the Government could have done more to bring about a resolution. The Prime Minister has visited Northern Ireland only once during her 15 months in office – she could be making a much greater effort to resolve this problem. In addition, the Government must consider bringing in outside help on this issue. Independent chairs and observers have proved very useful in the peace process in the past.
  • The Commons will have a short half term recess in the week ahead, so I shall be travelling to Africa with the inter-parliamentary union to explore issues around governance, poverty alleviation and environmental protection – hence no MP Update next weekend, which will return as usual the following week after the Commons returns.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Interest rates were raised for the first time in ten years by the Bank of England this week – with the ‘base rate’ up from the record low of 0.25%, now pegged at 0.5% for the time being. However the Governor of the Bank also signalled that there could be a couple of additional interest rate rises over the next two years.

The Bank of England say that the higher inflation rate was a reason to raise the cost of credit in this way. These are independent decisions not taken by politicians, but I have a feeling that the Bank may need to reverse this increase if the Brexit process deters investment and dampens down consumer sentiment further.

I’d be interested to know what the effect of this change will be on you. Are you on a variable rate mortgage and will the rise be difficult to bear? Or if you have a fixed rate mortgage will this be something you’ll only worry about if and when you re-mortgage? If you have any savings, do you think that the banks will pass on the rise? Or is this such a small change it will make little difference?

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