MP Update – 27th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Saturday 27th October 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

The situation in Spain and Catalonia is quite rightly at the top of the Europe-wide news agenda this weekend. There’s no doubt that the Spanish government have handled this situation badly, using force to close down an unauthorised referendum and stoking the annoyance of the Catalan population as a result. If a region or part of a country sparks a debate about ‘independence’ it is far better to engage in the argument calmly and persuade the public of the benefits of alliances and cooperation, rather try to shut down debate. The United Kingdom faced its own issue with Scottish independence and thankfully the Scottish people were persuaded of the disadvantages of separatism in the referendum.

This is clearly a complex situation where many will have some sympathies with both sides. When it comes to nationalistic movements, I tend to take the view that, unless there is an overwhelming environment of oppression and autocracy where freedoms and liberties are at stake, it is dubious whether separatist movements such as in Catalonia can deliver a more progressive or positive outcome for the population. For a start, the separatist movement in Catalonia seems driven by a reluctance for the wealth in that part of Spain to be shared across the rest of the Iberian peninsula. Wealthy areas sometimes do resent seeing ‘their’ resources shared with those in greater need. But imagine if prosperous London decided it wanted to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom for similar reasons.

The Spanish government yesterday dissolved the regional Catalan parliament and called elections for 21st December – but I wouldn’t be surprised if local resistance to this sparks problems between now and then. I hope that a resolution can be found peacefully and a healthier devolved settlement achieved. Some will this situation as ‘plucky Catalonia breaking from an imperialist Spain’. But others will reflect on a wealthy community trying to get its own way rather than pool resources. What is clear is that – like so many of the issues in Europe today – the Catalan situation does not fit neatly into any particular ideological framework.

NOTTINGHAM

  • Nottingham Friends of the Earth reported the results last week of a study they carried out into levels of air pollution at key road junctions in Nottingham East. They tested for levels of nitrogen dioxide over a two week period at busy road junctions in the constituency. Analysis the results, they found particularly high levels of nitrogen dioxide at three junctions – A60 Mansfield Road/Magdala Road, A60 Mansfield Road/Huntingdon Street and A612 Carlton Road/Manvers Street. All three junctions recorded levels higher than the 40 microgram per cubic metre legal limit for the mean annual average for nitrogen dioxide, and while the group recognise that a two week recording period is not equivalent to an annual mean, they are raising legitimate concerns about the level of air pollution in the area. It’s clear that more needs to be done at a national level to tackle air pollution in our cities, and I will be pushing Ministers on this.
  • Yesterday I visited the Nottingham branch of the Yorkshire Building Society to learn about their ‘Socktober’ campaign. The Society has been running a month-long appeal throughout October as part of its charity partnership with End Youth Homelessness (EYH). Donations of new pairs of socks, plus other items such as woolly hats, gloves, scarves and toiletries can be made at the Nottingham branch, on Milton Street. I was very impressed with the generosity of local people in donating to this campaign. If you are able to contribute something, please do take your donation in to the branch before the end of the month. I also spoke to staff at the Society about the forthcoming Budget and what it might mean for their customers.
  • Three parks in the constituency have been nominated for Field in Trust’s UK Best Park Awards for 2017. Arboretum, Hedley Villas and Woodthorpe Grange parks are all in the running for the awards, which are voted for by the public. You may recall that I had the pleasure of visiting Hedley Villas park a few weeks ago, but I’m sure you’ll agree that all three parks are worthy nominees. Voting is open until Friday 3rd November – if you’d like to take part you can do so online here.
  • Last Sunday a plaque was unveiled at the birthplace of Herbert Kilpin, the founder of AC Milan football club. The plaque was unveiled by the Nottingham Civic Society at the site on Mansfield Road on the 101st anniversary of Herbert’s death, and the site has also been repainted in Milan’s colours of red and black. Robert Nieri, who has written a book about Herbert Kilpin, hopes that the building will now attract AC Milan supporters to Nottingham to pay tribute.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Monday Theresa May made a statement to the House of Commons following last week’s meeting of the European Council, which last week touched on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and Britain’s financial settlement with the EU. This round of talks, of course, was supposed to mark the beginning of ‘phase two’ in our negotiations, dealing with all-important questions on trade and our future treaty arrangements. But the Government has managed to fall behind its schedule, so we remain without answers on these most vital of issues. I’m afraid this slapdash approach is now par for the course for this Government – in her statement, Theresa May not only failed to provide detail on a potential transition deal, but announced that the Government wouldn’t be able to secure such a deal until the totality of our post-Brexit arrangements had been negotiated! British businesses of all sizes desperately need certainty on this; without it, they will be unable to take the most basic planning decisions in the coming months. I asked the Prime Minister how she could justify keeping them in the dark, as you can see here, and talked about it in more detail on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday the Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt spoke about the future of the campaign against ISIS in light of the recent liberation of Raqqa. The Syrian Democratic Forces officially liberated the city last Friday following a months-long campaign. This comes on the heels of significant losses for ISIS – notably its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul in July – which now occupies less than one tenth of the territory it once did. While MPs are waiting on a fuller update on counter-ISIS operations from the Foreign Secretary, victory in Raqqa represents a vital blow against the evil group, and I pay tribute to the sterling work of the British Armed Forces engaged in the operation. I believe that the decision to support the extension of action against ISIS into Syria helped secure this and was the right thing to do.
  • On Wednesday, MPs unanimously backed a Labour motion calling on the Government to shelve plans to cap the assistance given to supported housing vulnerable tenants. These housing benefit cuts, which were due to come into effect in April 2019, would have risked the closure of thousands of vital schemes, including homelessness hostels and refuges for victims of domestic violence. The National Housing Federation reported that the mere threat of these changes had already led to an astonishing 85% drop in new supported housing development. But I’m pleased that the Prime Minister has bowed to pressure and announced that the planned caps will not be going ahead. Looking ahead, I’d like to see the Government commit to safeguard supported housing in the longer term by introducing a targeted ‘supported housing allowance’, set at a rate which better reflects the higher running costs involved. This is a big issue in Nottingham affecting supported housing providers such as Framework, who I will continue to work with closely on this campaign.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Over the next two years there will be a massive programme of electricity and gas ‘smart meter’ installation across the country – and 4,700 homes in Nottingham East have already had them fit

Yesterday I met with one of our local Nottingham ‘Smart Energy Experts’ from British Gas (see pictured) who explained to me the advantages customers can get from seeing energy usage in pounds and pence, as well as ending the need for meter readings.

smart meter british gas oct 2017

But I’d be interested to know what you think about the introduction of smart meters? If you’ve already had one installed, do you find it a useful addition to your home? Have you come across any problems? Have they helped you control your energy spending? Is it true that smart meters make it harder to ‘switch’ providers? Or is the technology less useful as smart phones are developing so rapidly?

The aim is for smart meters to be offered to all homes and businesses by the end of 2020, so if you don’t already have one then your supplier will be in touch in due course to arrange a free installation.

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MP Update – 21st October

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

What is going on with crime levels locally – and nationally? The latest statistics make for some troubling reading. In the 12 months to September 2017, Nottinghamshire Police recorded a 30.4% increase in All Crime, which equates to 21,736 more crimes than in the previous 12 months. The steepest increase in crimes in the city seem to be public order offences, violence without injury, and sexual offences.

Nottinghamshire Police say that this is “a direct result of higher compliance rates” with the new national crime recording standards – and it’s true that all other police forces have seen a similar leap in recorded crimes to reflect this change in methodology. There has been a 13% rise in crimes logged across the rest of the country, but our rises appear to be higher in Nottingham. Perhaps this is because we’ve had £54million taken out of Notts Police in the past five years and we have one of the lowest ratios of police officers per head of population of any police authority.

I’m glad that Paddy Tipping our elected Police Commissioner is trying his best to reform things and managing to recruit an extra 200 police officers this year and planning an extra 150 next year. This is better than most other authorities are planning.

First, we should be led by the evidence of what is actually going on here and not make too many assumptions. Donald Trump’s nonsense tweet yesterday blaming the UK’s crime rise on ‘radical Islamic terror’ is the epitome of ‘fake news’ – and he is clearly trying to distort the situation for the purposes of his own agenda. Second, I will work with other local MPs and the Police Commissioner to hold the police authority to account for its performance and fight for a fairer financial settlement so we can get the policing we need in the city.

If you’ve any observations about the state of policing and crime please do let me know and I will make representations to those taking the decisions on all this.

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • Are we getting our fair share of public investment and spending in our part of the country? I was disappointed to see the findings of a recent study from East Midlands Councils (but not especially surprised) which shows how much less we get when compared to London – but also when compared to other parts of the country too. We’ve obviously got to make more noise about this because the Treasury and other Government departments clearly think they can get away with shrinking our share of the ‘cake’, and I’ll be doing what I can to correct this imbalance. Compared to other regions and nations of the UK, the East Midlands has the:
  1. 3rd lowest public expenditure on services in real terms between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
  2. Lowest level of expenditure on economic affairs (economic development type spending).
  3. Lowest % increase in spending on economic affairs between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
  4. Lowest levels of transport spending 2015-16, and lowest % increase between 2011-12 and 2015-16.
  5. Lowest levels of expenditure on rail per head of the population.
  • The Boundary Commission for England this week published its revised proposals for new Parliamentary constituency boundaries, which aims to reduce the overall number of MPs from 650 to 600. I was disappointed to see that despite alternate submissions, the proposals for Nottingham East remain the same – Arboretum, Dales, Mapperley and St Ann’s wards will join with parts of the current Gedling constituency to form Nottingham East and Carlton constituency, and Berridge and Sherwood wards will go into an altered Nottingham North constituency. These latest proposals are once again open to public consultation, and any interested parties can submit their views up until 11th If you would like to take part in the consultation, you can do so online here.
  • Last night I spoke at an event organised by the Nottingham branch of Labour Movement for Europe in conjunction with University of Nottingham Labour Students about Labour and Brexit. I was asked some great questions by the students present, and it was good to hear that they were so engaged in the Brexit negotiation process. There were also some really useful discussions about the prospects of giving the public a ‘final say’ on any deal and also around what the priorities should be for young people in the wake of Brexit.
  • Nottingham City Council is due to authorise spending £8.4million of its own funds to install sprinklers in all high-rise properties run by Nottingham City Homes in the city. The Council had originally requested the funding from the Government, after they said they would support local authorities to pay for additional safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, but the Government refused the request, calling the measures ‘additional’ rather than essential. Despite the Government backtracking on their promise, NCH feel that installing sprinklers in high-rise blocks will help residents to feel safe in their homes, which is why they still plan to go ahead with the installation.
  • Three city council by-elections took place this week in Nottingham North constituency and congratulations to new Labour councillors Nick Raine, Georgia Power and Cheryl Barnard who were elected to represent Basford, Bestwood and Bulwell Forest. Full results on the city council website at the link here.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • It’s clearer than ever that the Government’s strategy on Brexit is falling apart. On Monday the Prime Minister travelled to Brussels to meet with the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. The statement which followed their meeting called for “efforts to accelerate” – but given that successive rounds of negotiation have so far just prolonged the stalemate, this doesn’t strike me as setting the bar all that high! And back in Parliament, we learned that the Government had yet again delayed debate on its EU (Withdrawal) Bill, reflecting their inability to unite even Tory MPs behind this deeply flawed approach. In a week which brought yet more evidence that leaving without a deal could have calamitous economic consequences – costing the average household an additional £260 per year (and hitting the poorest disproportionately hard) as well as reducing investment, pushing down the value of the pound and harming the UK’s credit rating – we should all be redoubling our efforts to push for a good deal. And I think we deserve much better than we’re getting from Conservative Ministers.
  • In this vein, I do think all of us Members of Parliament now have a duty to sort out this situation and not rely on the usual party political tramlines. There is actually a clear parliamentary majority for a common sense, pro-Single Market approach which saves jobs and averts legal chaos – the only question is whether pro-European MPs on all sides can set aside rigid party-political hangups and make that majority’s voice heard. Now, more than at any other moment in recent history, should be the time for MPs to come together in the national interest – as I wrote in the New Statesman this week.
  • On Monday, the House of Commons debated the Nuclear Safeguards Bill, which aims to create a legal framework within which the UK can meet its international obligations on nuclear material if and when we leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Whatever the limited merits of the Bill, it’s worth bearing in mind that the only reason MPs are debating it at all is that the Prime Minister recklessly chose to include our Euratom membership in her ‘Article 50’ letter on Britain leaving the EU. She didn’t have to – and whatever else happens, I very much hope that the Government will preserve in full British participation in Euratom and other vital European agencies.
  • On Tuesday, MPs considered a backbench motion condemning the brutal treatment of the Rohingya Muslim community by the Myanmar military. Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh already, and we’ve heard heartbreaking reports of systematic human rights violations. The House unanimously passed the motion, which agreed with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that this amounts to ethnic cleansing. In the medium term, it will be vital for the Myanmar Government to allow unhindered access to Rakhine state for humanitarian and fact-finding purposes. And for our part, Britain’s legacy around the world does give us a particular duty to hasten a solution however we can; while I’m pleased that the Department for International Development has committed to doubling all donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee up to £3 million, such a lasting solution remains a long way off.
  • On Wednesday, a Labour motion calling on the Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit was unanimously approved by the House of Commons. While I’m not opposed to the original streamlining aims of Universal Credit, which was introduced in 2012, an unending series of implementation flaws have pushed people into debt, rent arrears and even homelessness; it is wholly unacceptable that one in four UC claimants do not even receive support within the supposed six-week deadline. The Child Poverty Action Group has found that the introduction of UC will push over a million children into poverty by 2020. It should be clear that action is urgently required, especially on the back of changes under this Government and the coalition which have already resulted in a net reduction in support for people with disabilities and serious health conditions. It is essential that we work together to avert the entirely predictable disaster that will unfold if UC is rolled out before its faults have been resolved.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I’m really pleased to hear that Nottingham City Council working with NET tram and NCT have been awarded £2.4m from the Department for Transport to become the first city outside London where we will be able to pay for bus and tram journeys using the contactless bank card, with a daily cap on fares.

As an MP I travel around London quite a bit on public transport so I know that this change will make life very much more convenient in Nottingham than having to buy or carry separate tickets.  I gather that they are also planning to be able to link Robin Hood Cards directly to your bank account, so no more topping up will be required – just a swipe and go!

There have been changes in ticketing and connection between services over the years but I’d like to hear your views on how this has affected your journeys locally. We have quite a good reputation in Nottingham for innovating on public transport but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on further changes and improvements that we could be making.

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MP Update – 13th October

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 13th October 2017
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

How do you feel our local NHS hospitals are performing? At our regular meeting between local MPs and the Nottingham University Hospitals Trust management team, I raised a number of issues that have been flagged up by local constituents – including access to emergency treatment, the ambulance service, staff morale and pay, and car parking affecting roads near City Hospital.

Peter Homa the current NUH Trust Chief Executive retires this month and so it was good to meet his successor – Tracy Taylor, who has until now been the Chief Exec at Birmingham Community NHS Trust. I’ve always found Peter to be open, accountable and helpful and so in thanking him for his service I wish him very well for the future. We also have a new Chair of the NUH Trust Board, Eric Morton, and so if you have NHS policy issues you would like me to convey please do let me know.

The QMC Emergency Department has been under significant pressure in the past few years as attendances grow and the A&E facilities – designed to see 350 patients a day – typically host 550 or more. The Trust management have put in place new systems to pull up the waiting time back up towards the target of 90% treatment within four hours (it is currently around 80%) and I will be monitoring this closely.

But we need significant capital investment at QMC to make this a truly 21st century world-class emergency department so this will be a priority for me in discussions with the Department for Health.

I’ve also been spending time seeing the fantastic work undertaken in our local NHS and meeting with clinicians – and it was a real education to observe surgical operations in the operating theatres at QMC Treatment Centre; learning about the latest technology available to anaesthetists; hearing how the scale of a teaching hospital helps improve patient care and seeing the array of medical devices that have to be prepared and sterilised by operating department staff (see pictured below).

Financial pressures are not going to go away so we need to integrate our NHS, social care and community services to ensure patients get a joined-up and coherent experience. Nottingham’s NHS will need investment but also strong leadership to maintain the quality of care we all expect.

Operating Theatre Treatment Centre QMC with orthopaedic consultant Ben Gooding October 2017

 

NOTTINGHAM

  • I was pleased to hear from the Minister for Employment that plans to close the Hyson Green Jobcentre have been abandoned. When the announcement was made earlier this year that all 16 staff would be relocated from Hyson Green to the city centre Jobcentre, I demanded in Parliament that the Minister reconsider the closure (watch here). So I’m glad that the DWP have reconsidered their short-sighted decision and that the Hyson Green Jobcentre will continue to provide a valuable service to local people.
  • I was concerned to hear this week about a series of recent deaths of prisoners at HMP Nottingham. It has been reported that four prisoners have died at the prison in the last month. The Prison Service have released a statement saying that they are putting more funding into prison safety and have launched a suicide and self-harm reduction project to address the increase in self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in their prisons. They also note that HMP Nottingham have recently put in place a number of measures to increase staffing levels. This is the latest in a series of reported problems at HMP Nottingham which include violence, drug and staffing issues and I will be asking to meet the prison’s Governor to discuss these challenges.
  • Nottingham Trent University has been named ‘Modern University of the Year’ in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2018. The university scored particularly well on teaching quality and student experience in the Good University Guide’s annual rankings, and has improved in a number of other key performance indicators since last year’s guide. This is a great achievement for the university, and I would like to congratulate the team at NTU on their award.
  • You may well have heard a lot in the news this week about the continued roll out of Universal Credit. MPs, councils and housing associations have raised concerns about the speed at which Universal Credit is being implemented. According to figures from the Citizens Advice Bureau, it is projected that 19,500 families in Nottingham East will be in receipt of Universal Credit by 2022, so any issues with the roll out could potentially impact a huge number of constituents. Data from the DWP shows that 1 in 4 claimants are being left without an income for 6 weeks while they wait for their initial Universal Credit payment. Other problems with Universal Credit include monthly payments, which can be difficult for people who are used to budgeting on a weekly basis, and the fact that payments are automatically made to one person in the household, which could be problematic for people in abusive relationships. It is time for the Government to listen to the concerns being raised and to look again at their handling of the Universal Credit roll out.
  • Last week the East Midlands HS2 Strategic Board launched their East Midlands HS2 Growth Strategy. The strategy lays out plans for an East Midlands Hub Growth Zone in the area around the hub station at Toton. This would involve a new ‘Innovation Campus’ with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs, community facilities and new housing. The hub station at Toton will be the most connected outside London, serving a catchment of over 2 million people. The strategy also discusses plans for connectivity into Nottingham and other population centres, which is welcome. If you’d like to read more about the report, you can do so on the East Midlands Councils website here.
  • Robin Hood Energy has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Local Public Ownership Awards. The awards are run by campaign group ‘We Own It’ in conjunction with LocalGov, and recognises the most forward-thinking examples of local public ownership from around the UK. Congratulations to Robin Hood Energy and Nottingham City Council on their win, and a special mention as well to Nottingham City Transport, who were awarded second place.

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office made a statement on the publication of the Government’s race disparity audit. The race disparity audit aims to assess differences between ethnic groups and to identify effective strategies to reduce disparities. It highlighted inequalities across society, including that Asian and black households are most likely to be in persistent poverty and that the proportion of defendants who were remanded in custody was highest for black defendants, and particularly for black males. These figures illustrate the shocking levels of inequality across the UK. The Cabinet Office Secretary said on Tuesday that the Government would take action to address the ethnic disparities highlighted by the audit. However, I am concerned at the length of time it took to publish this report and, of course, whether Government policy will adequately respond now to the scale of the issues revealed.
  • This week the Business Secretary made a statement updating the House of Commons on the trade dispute brought by Boeing against Bombardier. Bombardier is a Canadian aerospace company which employs 4,200 workers in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the UK. Following a complaint by Boeing, the US Department of Commerce made provisional judgements to impose tariffs of 220% and 80% on Bombardier in relation to alleged subsidies and mis-selling into the US market. A final ruling in the investigation is due in February and would be subject to further appeal if the complaint were upheld. The Business Secretary stated on Tuesday that the Government considered Boeing’s action to be completely unjustified. He said the Government was working closely with Canada and that Ministers had met with US counterparts and Boeing to encourage the American firm to drop its complaint. The Business Secretary emphasised that the Government was working to bring the Bombardier case to a satisfactory resolution. What this case shows is the need for a strong alliance of sensible nations able to come together to fend of ridiculous protectionism like this – which is why I believe the UK would be far better to stay in the customs union with other European countries.
  • On Tuesday, there was a general debate in the House of Commons on Baby Loss Awareness Week, which this year takes place from Monday 9 October to Sunday 15 October 2017. This important event is crucial in helping to raise awareness of the work of the 40 baby loss charities and the support networks for bereaved parents and their families and friends. NHS England offers some of the best neonatal care in the world, along with some exemplary psychological and bereavement support services. However, these services are not equally available to everyone. Last year there was a reported 25% variation in stillbirth rates across England. There is also huge variation in the amount of bereavement training provided to midwives and some maternity hospitals do not have bereavement suites. I welcome the Government’s commitment to reducing the rate of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth by 50% by 2030.
  • On Thursday, the Business Secretary made a statement about the Government’s draft Energy Price Cap Bill. The draft Energy Price Cap Bill provides for a price cap for domestic energy customers on standard variable tariffs and default tariffs. The Business Secretary said on Thursday that the cap would be set by the energy regulator, Ofgem, and would be temporary, initially lasting until 2020, with the potential for a three year extension if necessary. I have long supported an energy price cap. However, this legislation will not protect the most vulnerable customers this winter. Members on both sides of the House of Commons have been pushing for months for action on this issue, yet owing to the Government’s delays, millions of households could now face another winter of cold homes or astronomical bills. I am also concerned that the Bill does not provide clarity on the parameters of the proposed cap, but instead passes much of the responsibility to Ofgem. Furthermore, the Business Secretary needs to provide greater detail of how and when he will reform the energy market. A price cap, while welcome, is only a sticking plaster until radical reform of the market takes place. There are also some concerns that – if designed inadequately – many energy firms will increase prices up to the level of the ‘cap’ in a similar way that universities have done so with tuition fees. So I shall watch this area of policy develop very closely.

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

There’s a general consensus now that the Brexit negotiations with the EU aren’t going as well as could be hoped. I’m being contacted by lots of businesses from across the country voicing worries that – if no transition deal is secured by the end of this year – they may have to reconsider where they are located.

We were expecting by now to be starting the committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the legislation that will formally give powers to the Prime Minister to determine ‘exit day’ and pretty much everything else as well – including the withdrawal agreement treaty.

As you may know, I have tabled quite a few amendments to the Bill (see full details at the link here) and believe strongly that we should be working across the political parties to stand up for what is best for the country as a whole. That’s why I’ve joined forces with Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke to table an amendment that would enshrine the Prime Minister’s promise of a transitional period in law, because so far this is only a verbal commitment. If we don’t get a transition, we mustn’t crash out with ‘no deal’ – our amendment would ensure that a fresh Act of Parliament would be needed before ‘exit day’ could be appointed.

I realise that there are people who will criticise me for working with MPs of different political parties, but I’m afraid that Brexit is the most pressing issue for our political generation and it is too important to put ideological difference ahead of getting the best outcome for the country. I’d be interested if you have any thoughts on where the negotiations are going – or on any amendments you’d like me to pursue in Parliament on all this.

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MP Update – 16th September

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

It was a fateful week for our parliamentary democracy. First, the Government introduce a Bill take power away from elected MPs and place it the hands of the Prime Minister to decide on the Brexit deal. Second, Ministers decided to rig the composition of House of Commons committees so that they no longer reflect the ‘hung parliament’ where no party has an overall majority, insisting instead that all committees will have a government majority.

And third, the Prime Minister then deciding that any votes on issues in the Commons that aren’t to do with legislation will be ignored – so in future Conservatives won’t even take part when Opposition parties table motions for debate.

Normally the official Opposition Party is allocated a dozen occasions each year to bring forward a proposal on which the House of Commons has a debate and a chance to decide. This week Labour’s motions related to the below-inflation pay cap for NHS workers, and the planning government increase in tuition fees to £9,300 per year. But rather than contest these motions – Tory MPs decided on mass to boycott the vote. Now whatever you may think about non-government MPs putting issues up for debate and vote in the Commons when they are in the minority, it is still quite breath-taking to hear Ministers say they are happy to see these uncontested because motions passed are merely statements that can be discounted as ephemera with no legal effect.

If Parliament can’t have a say on the biggest negotiation affecting our country’s future – and proposals for a vote and decision can only really come from Ministers of the governing party – then our democracy is descending into dangerous territory. Many people may feel this a far-removed from their own lives for now. But when an issue that you care about arises, when the Government disagrees, your representatives will be less able to do anything about it. That’s really not a good state of affairs.

NOTTINGHAM

  • This week I had the opportunity to visit some of Nottingham’s many Green Flag award-winning parks. Nottingham is the UK City Council with the most Green Flag awards, which recognise parks and open spaces with the highest possible environmental standards, which are well maintained and have excellent visitor facilities. I visited Hedley Villas Park, a small garden square which is maintained by local residents in conjunction with the council (see pictured below in front of their new outdoor pizza oven!). The local residents association have really made the area feel like a strong and integrated community because of the events and shared sense of ‘project’ in getting this small park to where it is today. I then visited the Sports Zone at the Forest Recreation Ground, where I met with representatives from Nottingham Forest Football in the Community. It was wonderful to see these beautifully maintained parks, thanks to the hard work of both local volunteers and council staff, which are a real credit to our city.

HedleyVillas 150917

  • I met with local representatives of the Motor Neurone Disease Association on Friday to discuss the impacts of the disease and what could be done to help people living with MND. MND is a fatal and rapidly progressive disease, which tragically kills half of sufferers within two years of diagnosis. Alongside the physical symptoms of the disease, sufferers often have to deal with the financial implications of such a rapidly progressive disease. Benefits and entitlements often fall short of meeting the costs that living with MND incurs, and delays in accessing financial support can mean that help isn’t received quickly enough. The MND Association are campaigning to end the financial hardship faced by people with MND and their families, and I hope the Government will listen to calls to make the benefits system more responsive to the needs of people living with this disease.

MND Notts 150917

  • A report by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour programme released this week claimed that Nottingham is “one of the worst places in Britain to live if you’re a woman”, coming in ranked 355th out of 380 local authority districts. Their statistics are particularly bad for women in the 30-65 age bracket, where Nottingham ranks at the bottom of the table. The report looked at income (including the gender pay gap), housing affordability, personal wellbeing, safety, education, life expectancy and environment across 380 local authority areas. While Nottingham scores well on housing affordability, it ranks much lower in the other areas. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this – do you think that Nottingham is a bad place to live as a woman? Or would you dispute the BBC Woman’s Hour methodology on all this? I’d be particularly interested to hear from people who have lived in different areas. You can read the full report online here.
  • It was nice to get out and about yesterday meeting residents on the doorstep in Berridge ward in the neighbourhoods around Sainsburys including Lortas Road, Malton Road and Glamis Road. Lots of issues came up including the impact of the new housing developments in the area.

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

  • On Tuesday the House of Commons debated the main principles of the Government’s Finance Bill. The Bill gives effect to tax measures set out in the Budget in March which fell by the wayside because of the snap election. While the Bill makes some welcome gestures towards tackling tax avoidance – in my view it doesn’t go as far as it should. More fundamentally though, tackling tax avoidance effectively depends on giving HMRC the resources it needs, something this Finance Bill conspicuously fails to do. Looking at the economy in the round, big challenges remain: persistently low levels of productivity and investment; far too many of us relying on insecure, short-term and casual work; the prohibitive cost of living, now exacerbated by the weak pound; the four million children growing up in poverty. In my view, the Finance Bill offers nothing significant to deal with these and other structural problems.
  • I was in the Commons on Thursday when the Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sajid Javid, made a statement on the Government’s housing strategy and outlined a new approach for assessing different local authorities’ housing needs, geared towards meeting a national target of building 266,000 homes each year. The extent of the housing crisis is plain to see – home ownership stands at a 30-year low, rates of homelessness are rising, and just 1,000 new homes for social rent saw building work commence last year – and the public rightly expect action from the Government which matches the scale of that challenge. It’s just not credible to believe that tinkering at the edges of the planning system, much though it’s a small step in the right direction, can deliver in the way it needs to.
  • Friday morning brought the deeply troubling news that, in what has now been confirmed as a terror attack, 22 people were injured in an explosion at Parsons Green tube station in west London. It’s clearly too soon to speculate further about the incident, but my thoughts are with those caught up in this appalling and cowardly attack, along with the emergency services and medical staff who came to their aid with the swiftness and professionalism we have come to expect.
  • I’m appearing on the BBC1 Sunday Politics East Midlands programme tomorrow at 11am, up against Tory MP Andrew Bridgen. We’re discussing the Government’s decision to cancel electrification of the Midland Mainline and Brexit.
  • After returning for a fortnight after the summer recess, the Commons is now adjourning again for the party conference season. As usual, these MP Updates will return when Parliament gets back in October.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Boris Johnson has surfaced in today’s ‘Daily Telegraph’ newspaper with a splash 4,000 word article extolling the virtues of Brexit, reasserting the (nonsensical) claim that £350million per week can magically be repatriated for the NHS, and letting the cat out of the bag on his plans for cutting regulations. So much for merely cutting-and-pasting EU protections into UK law!

It is deeply undermining for the Foreign Secretary to contradict the Prime Minister so directly about a transition, about the ‘divorce bill’ issue, and exposes what a sorry state the EU/UK negotiations are in. Time is ticking by and many businesses are worried that by the beginning of 2018 they may have to locate in Dublin or Frankfurt or Paris in order to be sure they can trade freely after March 2019.

The EU (Withdrawal) Bill got through its first vote in the Commons on Monday – and so I have tabled 34 amendments which would retain the power for MPs to give the go-ahead to any final ‘deal’ that is reached, that would maintain power for Parliament to decide on new regulations and that would keep our options open on a Single Market and customs union involvement. If you want to see the amendments they are at the link here and I’d be very grateful for any feedback you might have. It would also be useful if you can think of any other areas where I should try to amend the Bill; this is the most important legislation for a generation and I appreciate all ideas and suggestions.

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MP Update – 9th September

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTTINGHAM

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

eon vulnerable customers help centre calls sept 2017

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

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

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MP Update – 21st July

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

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

 

NOTTINGHAM

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

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

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

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MP Update – 15th July

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

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

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

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

 

NOTTINGHAM

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

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MP Update – 9th July

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

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

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

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

 

NOTTINGHAM

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

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

 

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

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

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

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MP Update – 1st July

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

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

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

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

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

 

NOTTINGHAM

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

 

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

 

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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MP Update – 26th June

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTTINGHAM

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

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

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

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

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

Regards

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

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