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Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, has attended a conference hosted by sister city Caen in Normandy this week. 

The MP was the keynote speaker at a conference event on Brexit organised by ‘Jeunes Europeens’ held at Campus Caen, Sciences Po Rennes. Caen and Portsmouth are this year celebrating thirty years of twinning marking decades of exchanges and close collaboration across the English Channel for mutual benefit.

As well as the speech, Mr Morgan also took the opportunity to use the visit to meet with a number of businesses and authorities which rely on trade with Portsmouth and south-east of England.

Stephen received the tour of businesses today with local councillors representing the Mayor of Caen taking in a multi-lingual nursery for UK nationals and other nationalities, a port authority, freight and transit companies and a meeting at Caen regional airport which now offers flights to our nation’s capital.

Certainty over border controls, tariff concerns, immigration and visa arrangements were all hot topics in the discussions raised by businesses leaders and community representatives on the visits and at last night’s conference.

Speaking at the event Stephen said:

“Our geographical and cultural proximity results in shared interests and values, generating deep international bonds not easily unravelled, regardless of political climates. 

We not only share a history, but the busiest seaway in the world, we cooperate intimately on defence to keep our citizens, and all of Europe, safe; we are leading trading partners; hugely significant foreign direct investment flows both ways across the channel; and the economic links between our nations is vital”.

The MP gave an update on Britain’s negotiations with the EU on Brexit so far, the progress of the EU Withdrawal Bill and answered a range of questions from a packed room of students and UK nationals.

He added:

Britain needs a future with jobs and living standards secured, an economy upgraded and investment in every community and region. That’s why the Government must end the uncertainty over the Brexit negotiations effecting our businesses and communities both in the UK and abroad. 

And to do this, we must have a close future relationship with Europe based on values I, and my country, hold dear – internationalism, solidarity and equality”.

I will be following up the helpful visit with discussions with port and customs authorities in the UK, as well as in the House of Commons”.

A number of constituents have recently got in touch about free school meals. By 2022 around 50,000 more children will benefit from a free school meal – despite scaremongering to the contrary.

The suggestion that one million children will lose free school meals is misinformed. This figure is based on a hypothetical situation where all children in receipt of Universal Credit receive them, which was never promised or the intention because it would mean around 50 per cent of all pupils would be eligible. This money would have to come from somewhere and it would mean taking it from another part of education spending. Instead, we have made sure that free school meals remain targeted at the children who need them most.

We have also put in place transitional protections so that nobody currently receiving free school meals will lose their entitlement when moving onto Universal Credit. This guarantees that no one will lose out, which is why I am concerned that some people have been unnecessarily worried by the scaremongering.

Recent research by the Children’s Society shows that only 65 per cent of those currently eligible for free school meals actually receive one. This is due to the stigma felt by parents, difficulty meeting dietary requirements and preference for packed lunches. I believe that we need to make sure that the current system is helping those in most need.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and studies show that regularly skipping it can damage a child’s educational attainment. I have campaigned for the introduction of free breakfasts in all schools. In Parliament I welcomed the Government’s announcement of a £26 million fund to support breakfast clubs.

I highlighted to the Education Secretary of State that although Wiltshire is not a deprived county, it has pockets of deprivation with some schools in my constituency having two thirds of pupils on the pupil premium.

I asked for clarification on how the deprivation areas will be determined and he explained that they will use the ‘income deprivation affecting children index’ methodology and said that he would write to me about what the implications are for Chippenham.

I have a number of appointment-based and pop-in surgeries coming up. If you have an issue, concern or problem please get in touch michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk, 01249 704465 or pop into my office at 61 New Road, Chippenham.

Michelle Donelan’s weekly column 22 March 2017

The post The truth about the recent vote on free school meals appeared first on Michelle Donelan MP.

Stephen McPartland, Member of Parliament for Stevenage, has been helping out at the Community Garden in Oaks Cross. It is one of two set up by Cllr Doug Bainbridge and looked after by local volunteers.

Stephen McPartland MP said, “Doug has told me a lot about the two Community Gardens and it is amazing to see how they bring people together. I was keen to get along and help out, which was great fun. I know they are always looking for more volunteers and the group I met were really committed. It is a wonderful project and if anyone has 8 cubic metres of top soil to spare, please do email me as this is an amazing cause.”

Click here if you would like to help Stephen make a difference

Living with Arthritis

Bob Stewart (Beckenham)

On Tuesday 20 March I attended a meeting about people living with arthritis. The event coincided with the launch of Arthritis Research UK’s new ‘Ask Us’ campaign, which encourages those living with arthritis to contact the charity and get their assistance.

Northumberland MP stands up for local Fishermen in Parliament

Anne-Marie Trevelyan (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Anne-Marie Trevelyan stood up for Northumbrian fishermen in Parliament yesterday during questions to the Department of Exiting the European Union. Anne-Marie was deeply concerned regarding recent EU documents that took an aggressive line on maintaining full access to our fishing waters. Anne-Marie was determined to bring this matter to the Secretary of State so that he could confirm that we would be taking back control of our waters and would therefore decide who could fish in them.

Walton and Hersham Foodbank

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton)

Today, I visited Walton and Hersham Foodbank at St Johns Church in Walton, which is run by Foodbank Manger Nina Malyon (pictured with me and Betty, below) and her terrific team of volunteers.

The Walton and Hersham Foodbank is funded and supported by local churches and community groups, working together. The group runs four sessions a week – two at St Peters Church in Hersham and two at St Johns Church in Walton – and open a food store on Wednesday mornings. Nina briefed me on how the Walton and Hersham Foodbank is operated, as well as the two other foodbanks they run across Elmbridge.

Foodbanks play an important role in providing food parcels to people who find themselves in difficulty. Nina showed me the data on referrals, and we talked a bit about the main reasons for foodbank usage in Elmbridge – mainly low income and delays in receipt of benefits, as well as debt issues.

The government is taking a range of measures to support people on low incomes. From next month, the income tax personal allowance will increase so that the average earner will keep an extra £1,075 of their salary. We are also committed to increasing the National Living Wage which will raise to £7.83 from April. Completing the rollout of Universal Credit will help cut out the delays in receipt of benefits. Longer term, the free trade agenda the government is championing can help cut the cost of living at home, through the import of cheaper goods.

My thanks to Nina and the volunteers for showing me around, and for their commitment to help some of the neediest in our community. You can read more about Walton and Hersham Foodbank here.

A View From The House – 23rd March

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington)

Last Friday, the Head Teacher of Osborne Primary, Michelle Gay, spoke from the heart when she explained the damaging impact of school budget cuts on her pupils. Appearing on ITV News she stood up for them and explained how passionate she is about improving their life chances. However, her voice then broke with emotion when she said that the choices she is being forced to make because of budget cuts will have “a detrimental impact” on their education.

Click here to view the video


Martin Docherty-Hughes, MP for West Dunbartonshire, has urged anyone with information about the disappearance of Alexandria woman Lisa Brown to come forward. The family of Lisa Brown, who has been missing since 4 November 2015 when she vanished from her home in Spain, have today launched a fresh appeal for information. A reward of up to £100,000 has been raised by the family and is being offered through Crimestoppers for information which helps the investigation into Lisa’s disappearance. Local MP Martin...

Read More Read More

The post FAMILY OF MISSING ALEXANDRIA MUM LISA BROWN OFFER £100,000 REWARD appeared first on Martin Docherty-Hughes MP.

Evennett promotes Red House for English Tourism Week

David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

Rt Hon David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, paid a visit to the Red House in Bexleyheath yesterday (22 March), to help promote the attraction for English Tourism Week.

English Tourism Week takes place each year in the spring, and aims to showcase visitor experiences across England.

Three alternative options have been developed by the City of Edinburgh Council for the future of schools in the west and south west of the city.
The fight to save the Campbeltown branch of RBS from closure moved on to the floor of the House of Commons this week when local MP Brendan O’Hara presented a petition to parliament. (Thursday 22 March). The petition which was launched by Mr O’Hara back in December last year, as soon as RBS announced their … Continue reading Brendan O’Hara MP Presents RBS Petition To The House of Commons
Penny Mordaunt MP visited the soon to be open revamped £5million D-Day museum. The new D-Day museum will be known as the ‘D-Day Story’ with a focus on the events of D-Day being told in a new and innovative way.
At the heart of the museum’s collection is the historic 83-metre Overlord Embroidery, an art textile inspired in part by the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. Commissioned in 1963 by Lord Dulverton of Batsford, the embroidery documents the Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord.
Penny Mordaunt had called for the Bayeux tapestry to come to Portsmouth during some of the period of its loan, and suggested that in exchange Portsmouth could loan the Overlord embroideries to France.
She has written to Secretary of State for DCMS, Matt Hancock to ask for his backing. The offer has been discussed with Portsmouth city council and the museum service who are favourable to the Bayeux tapestry visiting Portsmouth.
Penny said: “having the Bayeux tapestry visit Portsmouth would be a great boost for our museums and the city, and create huge local interest. I think the Overlord embroidery is so beautiful and it would’ve a fitting exchange so others can marvel at it.”
The original sole surviving landing craft tank (LCT 7074) is also being restored and will become a new landmark on Southsea Seafront.
Penny Mordaunt said: “I was pleased to be able to visit the new D-Day Story museum and seeing first hand the hard work that is being put into the new exhibits and story telling features. D-Day is an important part of not just World War 2 history, but Portsmouth history.”
“Portsmouth was the headquarters and main departure point for the military and naval units destined for Sword Beach on the Normandy coast. I’ve heard it said by veterans that if you looked down from Portsdown Hill there were so many ships and landing craft, that it seemed as though it would be possible to walk from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight across their decks.”
“Many Portsmouth families also have strongly routed connections to World War 2, and many have direct ancestry with those who took part in the D-Day landings. We must remember them. The new D-Day Story will do that in a more personal way than every before through personal stories and making history connect with every day people.”
“I look forward to coming back and seeing the museum completed when it opens to the public next month.”
The museum will be open in time for Easter and will feature new high tech and innovative ways to tell the story of D-Day.

Earth Hour 2018

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton)


Liz McInnes MP has pledged to make the planet her priority ahead of WWF’s Earth Hour, the world’s largest event to protect the planet.

The shocking and devastating images circulating once again of sheep which have been savagely attacked by dogs and died as a result come as a timely warning to those wishing to enjoy the countryside this Easter break, says the FUW.

Alex backs Brain Tumour Research campaign

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North)

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham showed his support for Brain Tumour Research earlier this month by attending their drop-in at Parliament and putting on a pink top hat to raise awareness about the cause.

On Thursday 29th March, it is ‘Wear A Hot’ day where people are being encouraged to grab their favourite hat and raise funds to advance the search for a cure for brain tumours.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours ran the drop-in, and have been campaigning to raise awareness on issues facing the brain tumour community in order to improve research, diagnosis, information, support, and care outcomes. Since 2005, MPs and Peers from all parties have worked together on the issues since being founded by member charities of Brain Tumour Research had turned their attention to driving the issue up the political agenda.

Commenting on the letter, Alex, said:

“This is such an important campaign about a horrific disease, and I know that Brain Tumour Research work incredibly hard to raise awareness and raise funds to work towards finding a cure.

“It was great fun to wear a pink top hat and have my photo taken to help raise awareness, and I hope that many of my constituents will take part whether it’s at work, in school or in their community groups. It’s an incredibly worthy cause.”

For more information on how to get involved, go to https://www.braintumourresearch.org/fundraise/wear-a-hat-day


For more information, contact Alex on 020 7219 7157 or on alex.cunningham.mp@parliament.uk

(Credit The Times News Syndication)

I remember my first flight to St. Petersburg in May 2005 as clearly as if it were yesterday. I was on my way to take up my post as Director of the British Council’s operations in St. Petersburg, and felt a palpable sense of hope, combined with a healthy dose of trepidation.

I was looking forward to improving my Russian and getting settled into my new life in St. Pete, as we fondly referred to it. But I was also wondering what the coming years had in store for me, given the parlous state of the bilateral relationship.

Equally memorable, but for very different reasons, was my flight out of Russia in January 2008.

Aim: £250
Raised so far: £295
"I'm really pleased that we've been able to not only hit our target of raising £250 for Framework, but managing to raise above the goal to a total of £265! Its going to be a really good event, raising both money and awareness for those who are homeless in and around Mansfield. There's still plenty of time to donate, and all the money goes directly to Framework, so it is a really good cause, one that I'm very proud to be able to help with" - Ben Bradley MP
Mansfield’s MP Ben Bradley and his team of Parliamentary Staff are taking part in a Charity Sleepout in the coming weeks. The event, organised by the Homeless Charity Framework, is designed to raise both money and awareness for those who are homeless and sleeping rough in and around Mansfield.
The event see will see those taking part sleeping rough from 7pm to 7am, to experience first-hand the conditions which rough sleepers have to endure.
Ben and his team have set up a ‘JustGiving’ page, where all money raised will go to the homeless charity Framework, a link to which can be found below:

Why we voted leave

John Redwood (Wokingham)

On 23rd June 2016 17.4 million voters told Parliament we should leave the EU.

Leave voters voted to take back control.

We voted to take back control of our money, our laws and our borders.

We voted to be a sovereign people again.

The overarching aim is to restore our freedoms

To become self governing as we used to be

We wish our Parliaments to frame our laws

To levy and spend out taxes

To make our borders safe

To award the precious gift of citizenship to those we choose to invite

We did not vote in the belief that future Parliaments will always be wise

Nor that they will always get it right

We voted to restore powers to Parliament because it is our Parliament

We can lobby and influence it

We can dismiss it and replace the MPs when they no longer please.

I find it surprising that some find it difficult to understand this overriding wish

For it is based on our long standing pursuit of freedom

It springs from our history

The history of the UK is the story of the long march of every man and every woman to the vote

The story of asserting the rule of law against all, however mighty.

We prize the gift of freedom under the law for all on an equal basis

We share an aversion to slavery

A dislike of military rule

A resistance to arbitrary government

A rejection of the patronising errors of elites

A distaste for overmighty bureaucracies cramping our freedoms

A belief that we should be free to do whatever we please unless the laws prevents it

The signposts to democracy run through Magna Carta to the first Parliaments

From the 1660 settlement to the Glorious Revolution

From the Great Reform Act to the triumph of the suffragettes

We carelessly lost some of these freedoms,

casting away much of the power of our vote and voice

by passing powers to the European Union

We allowed the EU to impose laws we did not want

To levy taxes we disagreed with

And to spend our money as they saw fit

Brexit is designed to recall those lost powers

Alec objects to Leeds City Council’s plan to close Boston Spa High School.

Alec said: “I believe both Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School have positive futures ahead. I support my constituents in their desire to have two schools in the Outer North East, each delivering outstanding education and supporting parental choice”.

Download Alec’s full response to Leeds City Council’s consultation on secondary provision here.


Text only:


  1. Introduction
    1. Boston Spa High School
    2. Wetherby High School
    3. Summary
  2. Local authority decision making
  3. Format of the consultation
  4. School finances
  5. Pupil numbers
    1. Presentation of data
    2. Closing schools whilst opening new ones
    3. Housing growth and population projections
  6. Appraisal of Leeds City Council’s proposal
  7. A future for two secondary schools in the area
  8. A future for Boston Spa High School
  9. A future for Wetherby High School
  10. Conclusion


It is the desire of my constituents to retain two secondary schools in the Outer North East, both delivering outstanding education and supporting parental choice. It is the desire of Leeds City Council to close Boston Spa High School and relocate pupils to Wetherby.

Boston Spa High School

Boston Spa High School has applied to become an academy sponsored by The Gorse Academy Trust (TGAT), following consultation with parents, staff and pupils. Boston Spa High School was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted at its last inspection, but to avoid coasting and to achieve ‘Outstanding’ in its next inspection, the Governing Body believes Boston Spa High School will access better school improvement working with The Gorse Academies Trust than it is currently receiving from Leeds City Council.

I voted for the Academies Act (2010) in Parliament and fully support the right of schools in my constituency to convert to academies. It is therefore my belief that Boston Spa High School should be granted its academy order to become Boston Spa Academy.

Wetherby High School

Wetherby High School is a fantastic school in the heart of the vibrant market town. Under its current leadership the school is improving and it recorded strong results in 2017. I am confident that if Wetherby High School was to be judged by Ofsted today it would be rated as ‘Good’. The Governing Body of Wetherby High School has been in discussions with a number of Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and is actively considering academy status.

The Governing Body and leadership of Wetherby High School have made clear to me that they would not consider joining The Gorse Academy Trust under any circumstance, therefore they continue to investigate options to convert to an academy with other Multi-Academy Trusts, specifically ones with stronger links into North Yorkshire.

As a community hub at the heart of the town, Wetherby High School plays a pivotal role as an educational establishment and a community facility. The Wetherby Neighbourhood Plan firmly establishes a plan to retain a secondary school in Wetherby town and I fully support this position.


The way in which Leeds City Council has acted to date seeks to pitch one community against the other. As a Member of Parliament it is my role to bring communities together, not to drive them apart.

The Council’s argument focusses little on education standards and outcomes for pupils. Its proposal is a plan to manage decline, rather than one that sets a proactive vision to improve outcomes. Both Boston Spa and Wetherby High Schools are already improving schools and further improvement, alongside a positive approach to retain and attract more pupils, should be the Council’s focus.

On behalf of my constituents I therefore oppose Leeds City Council’s plan to close schools in my constituency and submit that two secondary schools, both delivering outstanding education and supporting parent choice, is the desire of those I represent.


Local authority decision making

In Leeds City Council’s ‘Community Engagement Survey’ the following statement sets out the Council’s proposal:

“The council believes that the best long term option is to close both schools, demolish Wetherby and rebuild it to open a new school on that site” (page 4).

I am deeply concerned about the legality of this statement. No formal report including this proposal has been shared with Elected Members representing the relevant Council Wards, nor has a formal report been presented to the Council’s Executive Board or any vote of the Executive Board taken place.

How can it therefore be the case that the Council has adopted a position when no consultation with Elected Members has taken place? It appears to be the case that Leeds City Council, in a rush to prevent a school from academising, has quickly put together a rough plan and presented it as the Council’s agreed position.

Indeed, the way in which this plan came into the public domain seems to support this observation. I am informed that the Council’s Director of Children’s Services recently visited Boston Spa High School and, with no paperwork, verbally informed the school’s leadership that the Council’s intention was to close Boston Spa High School and relocate pupils to Wetherby. Concurrently, the same Council official then visited Wetherby High School and informed its leadership that the Council’s intention was to build a new school in Wetherby, utilising funds from the sale of land at Boston Spa High School.

In turn, this generated scaremongering and false hope in the communities I represent. Boston Spa parents were informed by the school’s leadership that the Council intends to close their school and Wetherby parents were informed by the school’s leadership that the Council were going to build them a new school.

This has caused much distress to parents and residents in my constituency and I remain exasperated by the unprofessional approach adopted throughout. As the Member of Parliament for the area I had no communication whatsoever from the ruling administration of the Council. The only correspondence I have received on this matter was when the Council’s Chief Executive kindly copied me into a letter he sent to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 19th February 2018.


Format of the consultation

In a letter to Leeds City Council the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State asked the authority to undertake a formal consultation on “all options for the provision of secondary education in the Outer North East”, including academy options, and have it completed before the Council goes into “Purdah” for elections. A number of conditions were attached to this request.

In reply to this Ministerial request, Leeds City Council agreed in principle to undertake a consultation but argued that the content of the consultation should only be about the Council’s belief that there should be one school serving the area.

I believe a broad consultation on all options, as requested by the Minister, would have been the most balanced way to collect parental views. Instead, the Council’s consultation is weighted significantly towards the outcome it wants, i.e. to close a local school and prevent it from academising. For example, when completing the consultation online respondents are first asked the following question:

“The population data indicates that only one school is necessary. If you agree would you prefer to see this in Wetherby or Boston Spa?”

This is not so much a question but a suggested statement of fact. There is no option at this stage for consultees to favour a ‘two school’ option or indeed to state that they disagree with the premise of the question.


School finances

The Council has presented only headline data related to school finances and consultees are therefore unable to properly comment on this important consideration.

Current and predicted budget deficits at both Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School are presented as actual sums (£391,000 and £699,000 for 2017/18 respectively), which means nothing without knowing the overall school budgets.

In financial terms, any professional would consider a budget deficit by calculating it as a percentage of income and expenditure. This data should have been presented in full so consultees could properly understand the wider financial context.

In the absence of this additional information I think it appropriate to set out the context in which Leeds City Council discusses budget deficits.

I submitted the following Parliamentary Written Question to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education on 7th February 2018:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the amount held in reserves by maintained schools in the Leeds City Council local authority area in for 2017/18?”

The Minister of State, the Rt Hon, Nick Gibb MP, replied on 21st February 2018:

“The Department trusts schools to manage their own budgets and the great majority have a cumulative surplus of funds, built up over a number of years. In 2016/17 206 local authority maintained schools in Leeds recorded a cumulative surplus, which totalled £31,553,748.”


Pupil numbers

Presentation of data

Charts A and B (featured on pages 6 and 7 of the Community Engagement Survey) present census data indicating in which Wards children attending both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School reside.

The Council’s presentation of data is misleading. The Council has, seemingly purposefully, presented data in pie charts without detailing the raw data, or indeed annotating the pie chart with percentage data. It may be that the Council is attempting to present its data in a child-friendly manner, but this is simply insulting to my constituents and only gives the impression that the Council is purposefully attempting to withhold useful data.

Furthermore, commentary on the data from both pie charts suggests that the primary purpose of both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School is to serve the Wetherby Ward. This is not the case. The catchment area of both schools in much larger than just the Wetherby Ward. For example, for many of my constituents residing in the Harewood Ward, Boston Spa High School is their nearest school. If the Council had chosen to present the actual data, or indeed simply annotated the pie charts with the percentage figures for each constituent part, I’d be able to include the actual total percentage of pupils this represents, alas I am unable to do so as the Council has chosen not the furnish consultees with this information.

The Council states: “just over 25% of the pupils who attend Boston Spa High School come from the local area, with a significant proportion travelling in from other areas”. Yet, for many residents in the Harewood Ward, their nearest school is Boston Spa High School and in this sense the Harewood Ward must also be considered part of the “local area”. Looking from this perspective it is clear that around 65% of pupils attending Wetherby High School reside in the Wetherby and Harewood Wards, compared to around 60% of pupils attending Boston Spa High School.


Closing schools whilst building new ones

My constituents find it baffling that the Council is proposing the closure of a school in the Outer North East, citing an undersupply of pupils, whilst actively supporting plans to build up to three new secondary schools near to the area, citing need for new school places.

It should be noted that whilst the Council has now commenced a consultation process on its desire to close one school in the Outer North East, driven partly by the Council’s own plan to build new schools in the Inner East, there are no concrete plans in place for the construction of these new schools. As far as I am aware the Education Funding Agency has not agreed plans for the delivery of these new schools. Indeed, many of these proposals are dependent on the construction of new homes in those areas as they are to be funded in part by a Community Infrastructure Levy. The Local Plan, in which these plans are included, is still emerging and has not yet been examined by Inspectors or approved by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Figures in Charts A & B, referenced above, show that a significant number of pupils attending both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School reside in the Cross Gate & Whinmoor Ward. The Council’s own Local Plan proposes to develop over 3,500 new dwellings (East Leeds Extension) on the border of the Cross Gates & Whinmoor and Harewood Wards, abutting the A58 Wetherby Road. As part of these plans, and to meet demand, the Council proposes the construction of a number of new secondary schools, including one at Red Hall off the A58. A further c.7,500 dwellings are proposed for the East Leeds Housing Market Characteristic Area (HMCA).

It is my view that there is already sufficient capacity across Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School to retain the pupils from Cross Gates & Whinmoor, who currently attend both schools, and to accommodate future increases in population as a result of new homes planned on the border of my constituency.


Housing growth and population projections

Leeds City Council’s adopted Core Strategy and emerging Local Plan proposes the construction of 5,000 new dwellings in the Outer North East, some of which are already under development. The Council’s revised draft Site Allocation Plan for the Outer North East, as submitted to the Secretary of State pending an Examination in Public, proposes over 1,000 new dwellings on land East of Wetherby and up to 5,000 new dwellings near Aberford (in the Harewood Ward), within and beyond this plan period.

Additional dwellings will generate additional pupils and in both these cases Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School will be local schools nearest to the developments, as they are now for pupils from those areas.

Notwithstanding that Leeds City Council’s revised draft Site Allocation Plan is subject to approval following an Examination in Public – and that I believe sites included within it will be judged unsound – it remains the case the Leeds City Council will have to find sites for 5,000 new dwellings within the Outer North East, as that is what it has approved in its Core Strategy. These new homes will generate demand for school places in the area and it is therefore short-sighted of Leeds City Council to close a school today that will be needed in the future.

Furthermore, the Council’s proposal does not seem to take into consideration what is happening in North Yorkshire. Reference is made to the fact that a significant number of pupils (over 50%) residing in Wetherby choose to attend school in North Yorkshire, but little reference is given to the number of pupils from the neighbouring Harewood Ward who also attend school in North Yorkshire. Given that I have already established that the Harewood Ward is considered the “local area”, these pupils should not be dismissed as possible returning pupils to Wetherby High School or Boston Spa High School.

More alarmingly, there appears to be no reference or understanding of future population growth in North Yorkshire itself. As part of Harrogate Borough Council’s Local Plan process, proposals have been put forward for 3,000 new dwellings near to Cattal, North Yorkshire, which is 6 miles (10 minutes) drive from Wetherby town. This will result in one of two scenarios: a) children from the new North Yorkshire developments will be registered nearer to existing secondary schools in North Yorkshire and will therefore gain first preference, thereby leaving fewer or no places for the children living near to Wetherby High School or Boston Spa High School who currently travel to North Yorkshire; or b) children from the new North Yorkshire development 6 miles from Wetherby High School will attend secondary school in Wetherby.


Appraisal of Leeds City Council’s proposal

Leeds City Council’s plan is not financially viable. There has been no formal report to the Council’s Executive Board and no opportunity for Elected Members to scrutinise the financial viability of it.

The entire business case is largely financed by the sale of the Boston Spa High School site for development, which would require the Secretary of State to remove an existing protection order on the school playing fields in order to realise the maximum predicted financial benefit. There is no guarantee this will ever happen.

Furthermore, there is a significant funding shortfall in the Council’s plan. Within the Council’s consultation there is no reference or detail on a business case for their plan. However, I do have in my possession a copy of a presentation document that Leeds City Council presented to the Regional Schools Commissioner at the Department for Education offices in Manchester on 29th November 2017.

Source: LCC Outer North East School Places Provision – Secondary Requirement Wetherby Assessment Document

  • Funding

The Council’s own document outlines the following funding options/shortfalls:

  • Approximate cost of a new 10 form entry secondary school is £24million (not including the relocation of Wetherby Sports Hall).
  • Leeds City Council’s Plan accounts for £19.5million based on an assumption that the Council could sell the protected playing fields for development and realise capital from other Council-owned facilities in Wetherby. The full asset list for the costing is:


  • Sale of Barleyfields Scout Hut – £100,000
  • Sale of The Shambles – £500,000 (but leases don’t run out until 2020)
  • Sale of Wetherby Area Office – £600,000
  • Sale of Wetherby Library – £300,000
  • Sale of brownfield land at Boston Spa school – £8,000,000 (assuming planning permission could be acquired for new housing)
  • Sale of protected playing fields at Boston Spa school – £10,000,000 (assuming the protection order could be overcome and planning permission could be acquired for new housing).


  • The shortfall in Leeds CC plan with the sale of the entire Boston Spa school site: £3.5 million
  • The shortfall in Leeds CC plan without the sale of protected playing fields at Boston Spa – £13.5 million
  • Challenges still to overcome

The Council’s own document sets out challenges it is still to overcome and which would have a material impact on its ability to deliver a new school in Wetherby:

  • The Department for Education’s position in relation to the 8 year rule for disposal for any part of the Boston Spa site.
  • Implications for the Council with regards to the use of its capital receipts for the delivery of a facility that has Trust/Academy status.
  • Securing planning approval for the redevelopment of the whole of the Boston Spa site for housing development.
  • Mitigation measures required for the potential loss of N6 protected playing fields and capital funding requirement.
  • Consideration for highways impact mitigation need to be assessed.
  • Post 16 provision has not been factored into these proposals.

Looking at the above, I come to the obvious conclusion that (a.) the Council’s proposal is not properly funded; (b.) there are some potentially very controversial disposals required and (c.) there are so many unknowns and, indeed, items outwith Leeds City Council’s direct control, that it is far from a sound basis on which to make decisions on the closure and replacement of a school or schools.

It appears to me that various parties have misled those I represent. By making false promises, which have now been shared with parents, expectations have been raised for a plan that has a significant financial shortfall and challenges that the Council is yet to overcome.


A future for two secondary schools in the area

It is my strong belief that a two-school option is viable and it is the only way to deliver the objectives of parents, school leaders and governors at both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School.

Leeds City Council’s pupil data is based on current data that reflect the standards and outcomes at both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School today and over recent years. Current projections do however show a rising pupil roll and improving standards at both schools.

A combination of the following will make a two-school option viable:

  • Leeds City Council should re-evaluate its plan to build a new school (Red Hall) nearby to Boston Spa in order to accommodate expected population growth in the area;
  • Both Boston Spa and Wetherby High schools should put in place a strategy to retain pupils who currently attend the school from outside of the Wetherby Ward (including the Harewood Ward and the Cross Gates and Whinmoor Ward);
  • Both schools should be supported in delivering new school places for increased pupil numbers generated from the construction of thousands of new homes in the area as a result of Leeds City Council’s Local Plan;
  • Both schools should be supported in preparing for increasing pupil numbers as a result of new homes planned for North Yorkshire increasing demand on existing places at North Yorkshire schools;
  • Boston Spa High School should be allowed to academise and given the chance to move the school towards an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted judgment, which will in turn make the school an attractive option for prospective parents, thereby increasing pupil numbers;
  • Wetherby High School should be given the chance to continue on its current trajectory towards a ‘Good’ Ofsted judgment, which will in turn make the school an attractive option for prospective parents, thereby increasing pupil numbers;
  • The Regional Schools Commissioner should initiate separate talks on a joint strategy with Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School in order to deliver a new model for post-16 provision in the Outer North East.


A future for Boston Spa High School

Boston Spa High School has submitted an application to the Department for Education in order to become an academy in partnership with The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT). This application is supported by parents, pupils and governors.

I am confident that a partnership with TGAT will allow Boston Spa High School to access the quality educational improvement and support it requires in order to prevent coasting and become an ‘Outstanding’ school. An outstanding school with great results will be an attractive option for parents looking for a school in the Boston Spa catchment area, including those who currently attend Boston Spa but reside outside of the Wetherby Ward, and those who currently disregard Boston Spa in favour of sending their children to schools in North Yorkshire.


A future for Wetherby High School

Leeds City Council’s plan is to close both Wetherby High School and Boston Spa High School, then build a new academy in Wetherby. The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) has informed me that this academy would need to be sponsored by a multi-academy trust (MAT) with a proven track record of delivering outstanding educational outcomes in order to ensure that standards are maintained. The process for selection would involve consultation, but MATs would apply to the RSC with applications to run the academy.

In these circumstances it is my belief that the result of this plan would be that The Gorse Academies Trust (TGAT) would end up sponsoring the new academy in Wetherby, despite the fact that Wetherby High School’s current leadership has made clear to me that they would not choose a partnership with TGAT.

A two-school solution is the only way to ensure that Wetherby High School retains is autonomy.

The Leeds City Council’s plan is to close both schools, merging children from both schools into one new academy, which would be sponsored by a multi-academy trust. In this scenario, by effectively merging the pupil population of two schools, there would need to be a joint steering group of parents and governors from both Wetherby and Boston Spa as an interim measure until an academy sponsor is appointed for the academy and a new governing body is formed.

In recent weeks I have received correspondence from hundreds of parents at Boston Spa High School who want their school to convert to an academy sponsored by TGAT.

If Leeds City Council therefore brought about a scenario of merging pupils from both Wetherby and Boston Spa and forced a search for a multi-academy trust to sponsor the new academy in Wetherby, it is clear that the Boston Spa parents and governors would continue to support TGAT as a sponsor of their academy. Obviously, Wetherby parents (who have not yet been consulted at all on possible academy sponsors) would need to have their say but the current leadership and Governing Body at Wetherby High School have made explicitly clear to me that they would object, at all costs, to TGAT sponsoring a new academy in Wetherby.

I fully respect this position as I believe it is the right of individual schools to determine their own futures. Both Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School have a different ethos and I do not believe Wetherby High School should be forced against their wishes into a MAT partnership.

The result of Leeds City Council’s plan will not automatically lead to Wetherby High School simply taking the Boston Spa pupils and continuing to run Wetherby as it is today. The new academy would be sponsored by a multi-academy trust and it would have a new governing body. This could mean Wetherby High School’s existing governing body would have less control over which academy sponsor it would want for the new academy in Wetherby and I do not consider this to be a desirable position for Wetherby High School.

Instead, I believe Wetherby High School should be given an opportunity to deliver its own plan for the future. Standards and outcomes at Wetherby High School are already improving and the emerging Wetherby Neighbourhood Plan sets out a clear vision for delivering a new school building in Wetherby. This plan does not mention the sale of Boston Spa High School or any other Council assets outside of Wetherby Town.

Furthermore, in recent weeks residents have been alerted to emerging plans for additional development in Wetherby town, which include options for a new school in Wetherby. In a letter to residents on 2nd February 2018, Wetherby Ward Members note: “Last Friday [26th January 2018] we were presented with a further option for a new high school by a local developer, we are referring this proposal on to the relevant decision makers”.

If Leeds City Council has been presented with further options to fund a new school building in Wetherby, then this should be an active consideration as an alternative way of funding a new school building in Wetherby, a vision established in the Wetherby Neighbourhood Plan. One of the obstacles Wetherby High School is yet to overcome in seeking sponsorship with a Multi Academy Trust is the poor state of the existing buildings. A new school building, funded without the need to capitalise assets at Boston Spa High School, would therefore allow Wetherby to overcome this obstacle and enter into formal talks with academy sponsors of its own choosing. This would result in the retention of two schools, one in Boston Spa and one in Wetherby.

It is my principal objective to see that we retain a secondary school in Wetherby and that the existing governing body has autonomy over its own future. I therefore support the Wetherby Neighbourhood Plan, which makes no reference to Boston Spa and seeks to deliver a new school building in Wetherby, consolidating in-town facilities on one site. This option will need additional work on the type of leisure services that could deliver maximum financial benefit for construction works, as well as giving consideration to additional development proposals submitted to Leeds City Council. On balance, I consider this option to be more viable than that proposed by the Council and I support this plan because I believe it is the one that is most likely to deliver a new school building in Wetherby, whilst providing autonomy to the existing governing body.

I am confident that if Wetherby High School continues on its current trajectory, then, alongside additional support from an academy sponsor of its own choosing, the school can continue to improve standards and outcomes for pupils and secure a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating in the future. An outstanding school with great results will be an attractive option for parents looking for a school in the Wetherby catchment area, including those who currently disregard Wetherby in favour of sending their children to schools in North Yorkshire.



It is the desire of my constituents to retain two schools in the Outer North East, both delivering outstanding education and providing parental choice. Leeds City Council’s ‘Community Engagement Survey’ has been designed to persuade consultees that there is only need for one school in the Outer North East, it provides no discussion on alternative options. Leeds City Council’s proposal is to manage decline instead of setting a vision to attract more pupils or deal with future increases in pupil numbers as a result of the Council’s Local Plan, which aims to deliver 70,000 new dwellings across the city. The business submitted in the Council’s ‘Outer North East School Places Provision – Secondary Requirement Wetherby Assessment’ document is flawed and financially unsound.

Disappointingly, Leeds City Council’s proposal seems to avoid the issue of how the authority proposes to raised standards and outcomes for children in the Outer North East, instead the supportive documents talk mainly of financial assets and estate management.

It is my belief that both Boston Spa High School and Wetherby High School have positive futures ahead. Both schools have delivered improving standards and results. The schools must now be given time to achieve their own ambitions to become good or outstanding schools, which will in turn attract pupils back from North Yorkshire, retain pupils from the wider catchment area and attract new pupils generated from the large scale housing building programme proposed by Leeds City Council.



The post Response to Leeds City Council’s plan to close a school in the Outer North East appeared first on Alec Shelbrooke MP.


Along with MPs from across Parliament, Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith this week urged the Government to intervene in negotiations between NHS England and pharmaceutical company Vertex regarding Cystic Fibrosis drug Orkambi.

Orkambi has been proven to slow decline in lung function, the most common cause of death for people with Cystic Fibrosis, by 42% and cut the number of infections requiring hospitalisation by 61%.  

In July 2016, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recognised Orkambi as an ‘important treatment’ but were unable to recommend the drug for use within the NHS on grounds of cost effectiveness and a lack of long-term data.  Orkambi manufacturer Vertex are in negotiations with NHS England to try and find a way of making Orkambi affordable on the NHS.

At a debate in parliament, MPs urged Health Minister Steve Brine to intervene in these negotiations.

Following the debate, Jeff said:

“The Government need to intervene in these negotiations to ensure that patients can access this life changing treatment in England. This drug is available to patients across Europe and we know that it could benefit almost 3,000 people here in England.

I hope that the Government heard the strength of feeling at the debate today, and takes action.”

For more information, visit the Cystic Fibrosis Trust website - https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/the-work-we-do/campaigning-hard/stopping-the-clock/orkambi

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis has welcomed a comprehensive document published today by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group in advance of its Board meeting next Thursday.


The Oxfordshire Transformation Update (Paper No. 18/18) sets out a new approach to move forward its controversial consultation exercise with a focus on place-based discussion and early engagement where the needs of local populations can be considered alongside factors including rurality and local community assets. If the Board agrees to the changes at its Board meeting, the long-awaited Phase Two consultation will be abandoned.


Alongside the change in approach, the Board is recommended to agree that A&E and associated services at the Horton General Hospital remain, as well as the paediatric service.


The Board Paper also makes clear that the CCG is committed to produce a plan and undertake further work on the possible options for maternity services at the Horton. Acting on the advice of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, the CCG recognises that any further work must consider the views of mothers, families and staff, dependencies between services and the needs of all those in the Horton’s catchment area. Recruitment efforts must continue.


Victoria Prentis MP commented:


“The Oxfordshire Transformation Update is the clearest indication yet that the Clinical Commissioning Group is finally listening to all of us in North Oxfordshire. For too long now, the future of acute services at the Horton has been unclear. Today we have the answers we have been looking for. The uncertainty can be put to rest. A&E and paediatrics will remain at the Horton, and it is back to the drawing board with maternity.


“The decision to abandon Phase Two is long overdue. I am cautiously optimistic by the CCG’s suggestion to move forward with place-based discussions. Ensuring local residents feel that they have a genuine voice when it comes to the future of their health services, including community hospitals, is at the heart of any good consultation exercise.


“I urge the Board to agree to this new approach next week and will look forward to working closely with the Clinical Commissioning Group, particularly the Chief Executive Lou Patten. She may have only been in post since January but she is already making a positive impact on our local health service with her visionary approach.”
The Board documents can be found here

On Tuesday I will be calling for legal aid to be granted for the families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. For years, families of the victims have already had to overcome many hurdles to get answers about what happened on that fateful day of 21st November 1974. They had to fight for […]

New Vision Express in St Neots

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon)

Jonathan visiting the new Vision Express at St Neots Tesco to formally open the new franchise.

Nick Timothy is right; the age of austerity is nearly over. After eight long years, we’re aren’t having to borrow to pay for day-to-day spending on essentials like health, education, policing or defence. It’s all funded by our taxes, at last. We’re paying our way without maxing out the national credit card. Hooray!

But why does it matter? Is it just an ideological obsession? Are we sacrificing long-suffering, hard-working families on a flinty free-market economic altar? Or is there something more fundamentally important at work?

Yes there is, and it matters a lot. Because if we borrow money to pay for day-to-day spending on things like hospitals, schools or policing, we are expecting future generations to pay the bills when they come due. We are asking our children and grandchildren to pick up the tab for our lifestyle today. And that is morally wrong; generationally unjust and unfair. They will have their own public services to pay for and we shouldn’t expect them to pay for ours as well.

Day-to-day spending is different from investment, of course. If we borrow to build new infrastructure like high-speed rail or lightning-fast broadband which future generations will use as well, it’s OK to expect them to shoulder some of the costs. So we can still borrow to invest.

And Nick Timothy is also right to say we could do quite a bit more borrowing to invest, particularly now the rest of the budget is coming into balance. Our economy will grow faster, and will be far more robust and balanced. We’ve had a rock-and-roll economy that’s been far too dependent on consumer spending for years. This is our chance to put it right.

But investing more in infrastructure won’t be enough on its own. The Chancellor is  right to remind us that, even though the deficit is nearly gone, the national debt is still there. And it’s far, far bigger than the deficit ever was, even at its peak.

So if it took eight years to master the deficit, how long before we conquer the debt? Are we condemned to more endless, miserable decades of austerity?

No we aren’t, but faster economic growth and productivity improvements won’t be enough to solve the problem on their own. We need to save a bit too. And not just by paying off the debt; that would take years. We can solve the problem much faster if we invest in something that gives us a fatter return, a profit, as well.

That’s why I’ve suggested we establish a UK Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) like the ones Norway and Australia have.

Norway’s is now worth over a trillion dollars. Through it, every Norwegian citizen, whether they’re young or old, rich or poor, owns bits of West End London property, and shares in Facebook and Google too.

By funding our national debt with a big pool of investments, our children and grandchildren won’t have to break their piggy-banks to pay our IOUs; they’ll have assets to match. So it would be generationally just.

Socially just too. Because, like those sensible Norwegians, everyone would have the same stake whether they were rich or poor.

So a Sovereign Wealth Fund wouldn’t just tame the deficit: it would cage the debt too. And it would make Britain a generationally fairer and more socially just place. And it would rebalance our economy so it had stronger and safer foundations than ever before. But best of all, it would mean we’d avoided decades more austerity.

Southampton City Council Jolly

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen)

During the snow last week I was criticised by some people who felt I shouldn’t point out our Labour Council’s failure to prepare for the bad weather by not filling grit bins. The people who criticised me claimed the bins were not filled because of Government cuts which of course is nonsense. So, it will [...]

The post Southampton City Council Jolly appeared first on Royston Smith - At the heart of Southampton.

Among the obvious victims of the unexpected (and unwelcome) March burst of freezing weather has been the road surfaces across Kent. Mainly on minor roads, but also to some extent on the motorways, there are now potholes galore. A number of people have been on to me about this.

Thanks to the nearly 300 people who have already contributed to our public consultation on the Sandy Road traffic problems.

The deadline for completing the short online survey is 5pm on Monday 26th March. We will be analysing the results and presenting them to the Council shortly after.

Follow the link to take part: https://goo.gl/forms/SkfLklLASAa3WbpU2

The environmental damage caused by pollution is a problem that we’ve had to face many times before in Greater Manchester.

New manufacturing and the rapid economic growth from the industrial revolution left its mark on our region in more ways than one.

The health of our communities suffered as thick smoke billowed from factory and residential chimneys resulting thick smog with soot building up everywhere. You could see the pollution you were breathing.

It wasn’t until people decided to do something about it that the situation dramatically improved in the twentieth century. Following the Clean Air Act of 1956, Denton Urban District Council was one of the first local authorities to embrace change and implement smokeless zones and plant trees to help remove the pollutants from the air around us. The other local authorities that now make up Tameside all followed suit within a few years of each other.

In the 1970s the newly created Greater Manchester Council (GMC) set about transforming the county’s polluted river valleys into an environmental and ecological asset for our city region. Although the GMC was abolished by the Thatcher Government in 1986, by the 1990s, the lasting legacy of the defunct County Council was clear to see with our Tame Valley, rejuvenated and enjoyed as an established linear country park running from Saddleworth down to Stockport once more. Today, the old industrial sites that had become polluted wastelands are unrecognisable as greenbelt, woodland, meadow and valuable recreational space on the edge of the urban areas surrounding the Tame.

However, last week, we were given a stark reminder of the new challenges of the twenty-first century.

I’m sure many of you have enjoyed watching David Attenborough’s hugely popular Blue Planet 2 on the BBC recently. As well as showing us more of nature than ever before, it also raised the very real threat that the toll of manmade plastic pollution is taking on marine life and the marine environment.

Last week, one section of the riverbed on the River Tame, near to Reddish Vale Country Park, on the Denton and Stockport border, was found to contain the world’s highest recorded level of plastic pollution. High levels were subsequently found across other watercourses in Greater Manchester: tiny fragments of plastic were also present in the Irwell, the Croal and the Roch, and more worryingly, the tiny fragments had even found their way as far as the stream network around Saddleworth.

Closer study by investigators from the University of Manchester found the tiny plastics, or microplastics as they are known, may have originated from industrial sites on the river networks, as well as water and sewer overflow from pipes connected to homes and other businesses.

These microplastics often come from things we all use which enter the water system as broken-down plastic waste, synthetic fibres and the beads found in personal hygiene products.

The extensive tests were carried out in 2015 and showed that a majority of the microplastics (70%) were washed away into the sea following the terrible floods across the winter of 2015/2016. Those plastics have now entered the ocean meaning that the fish we eat contains plastic, which means that plastic enters our system, where it has nowhere to go!

We have always tackled every challenge head-on in this part of the world, and eliminating the scourge of plastic in our waterways will be the biggest local environmental challenges of modern times. Our Labour teams in the new Greater Manchester Combined Authority, will be up for that challenge ahead.

Coming Soon …

Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields)

New Website Under Construction


Please bear with me – a new website is currently under construction and will be live soon!

MP’s Column

Derek Thomas (St Ives)

The progress towards a Brexit deal announced on Monday is clearly welcome and the confirmation of a transition period up to the end of December 2020 will reassure businesses across the UK with the exception possibly of just one sector, fishing. And for good reason. The approach by Brussels to UK Fishing and the Common Fisheries Policy has all but crushed the sector with the British fleet only allowed to catch a fraction of the fish in UK waters leaving our fishermen simply looking on as huge foreign factory ships trawl our waters. Monday’s announcement ‘however glammed-up’ makes it clear that powers in Brussels are not compromising on fishing whilst they still have us in their grasp. The UK’s control of UK waters is now postponed until 01/01/2021 giving Brussels the freedom to dictate the terms with us simply as a third party until then. I am completely opposed to this as are large numbers of colleagues. On Monday night these colleagues and I met with the Chief Whip and Michael Gove to try and understand why we have ended up where we are and make our views known. We have been assured that control of total access to UK waters will be ours by the close of 2020. It is what takes place in the meantime that concerns me.

I’ve sat opposite Jeremy Corbyn for countless Prime Minister’s Questions and statements and, as you would expect, rarely agreed with his position on many things. However, I’ve never felt particularly troubled until last week. His response to the PM’s statement following the Salisbury poison attack confirmed for me, once and for all, what a risk he is to national security. Our Prime Minister is very clear who is behind this attack on British soil. There is no way that she (who is naturally risk adverse) would be as robust as she has been without compelling intelligence provided by our security services. She deserves, as does the nation, the solid support of the Opposition Leader, as has been the case with every opposition leader in all previous incidents of this kind.

On Saturday I met with a small team to look at measures we should ask for in West Cornwall to address the housing challenges for our residents. This follows on from the petition I received in February asking for powers to charge a council tax premium on second homes. We also discussed removing tax loopholes that allow holiday lets to avoid council tax, ideas to increase home ownership, measures to accelerate the work to refurbish empty homes and whether a planning application should be required to turn a home into a ‘bolt hole’. Cornwall Council need to decide how to use the powers they already have to increase the supply of homes for local people but I recognise more can be done by Government to empower local communities to address this problem – this I will pursue.

Harriett Baldwin responds to a Westminster Hall debate on the UK’s future relationship with the EU on international development. read more »

Emma Reynolds, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, has voiced her concerns at yet more bad news on unemployment in the city. Emma said: “I am very concerned that unemployment has again risen in Wolverhampton North East. The rate of unemployment here is almost twice the UK average.

“I am particularly concerned that youth unemployment remains so high. There has been an alarming fall in the number of apprenticeships on offer because of the flawed introduction of the government’s apprenticeship levy. But when I raised this important issue with the Prime Minister she was vague and complacent. Her response demonstrated that this government has no plan to boost employment in the Black Country.

“The Tories have cut funding for further education by 35% since 2010 and school budgets have also been squeezed. These cuts will leaving many young people and adults without affordable access to further education colleges. They will be denied the opportunity to improve their education and get the skills they need to thrive in the workplace.

“We need a Labour government to invest in education, apprenticeships and skills, including retraining so that we can tackle this problem.”

Do you have any concerns about unemployment? I want to hear from you. You can email me at: emma.reynolds.mp@parliament.uk

March 2018


The post Emma voices concerns about the latest unemployment figures for Wolverhampton appeared first on Emma Reynolds MP.

Ahead of the West Midlands PCC Board meeting, I have expressed rejection and regret of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s apparent decision to close Aldridge Police Station after the pretence of a consultation process.

Papers released ahead of the board meeting simply confirm my view that the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has always intended to rubber stamp this police closure programme and close the doors of Aldridge Police Station once and for all without any regards for public opinion and the needs of my constituents.

The decision by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to close Aldridge Police Station has been shrouded in secrecy from the start. The Police Station closure programme was sneaked out via a press release at the twelfth hour. The ‘consultation exercise’ is buried in the Police and Crime Commissioner’s website and the telephone number (01922 419 589) which Walsall stakeholders were advised to call about the closure programme has been discontinued since the start of this so called ‘consultation process.

This has not been a proper consultation and the report to the Strategic Policing and Crime Board demonstrate exactly that. The decision to close Aldridge Police Station has been made with scant regard for the views of the general public. The Strategic Policing and Crime Board are merely rubber stamping the proposal without any regard for the public’s reassurance and safety.

The Police and Crime Commissioner demonstrates that he has the wrong priorities for our local area and I will continue to fight this closure programme. I call on the Board and Mr Jamieson to halt this closure programme until an adequate consultation has been undertaken with all alternatives being fully considered.

The Police and Crime commissioner continues to demonstrate that he has the wrong priorities for my local area. I will continue to fight this.

New Report Reveals School Funding Pressure

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley)

Government Housing Strategy

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Dear constituent

I have been asked by a number of people about the Government’s housing strategy, and how it will affect our area. I thought it might be helpful to explain the situation so that you are fully briefed.

Firstly, there is no doubt that we need to build more houses in the UK. There is a generation of people who are unable to get onto the housing ladder, and we have an acute shortage of property. I would prefer that we weren’t in this position, but a variety of pressures make change inevitable. Just within Surrey, changing demographics have led to a big increase in the number of households and put immense pressure on the housing market.

So it’s unavoidable that every area will have to find ways to increase the local housing stock, including affordable housing. This is not something that is just happening here. Only recently the West Midlands agreed plans to build more than 200,000 new homes. There are pressures right across the country.

I also don’t want the next generation here to feel that they have to move to a different part of the country to find a home. So we do need to build.

But we need to do so thoughtfully and carefully, and make sure that in making additional provision for homes locally, we do not destroy the character of our area.

Local authorities were asked by government to do an assessment of their local housing needs. They are then expected to demonstrate a real commitment to seeking to meet those needs.

I expect this to lead to a lively local debate about how to achieve this. But there are some things that I wanted to make clear right from the start. There is no obligation for local authorities to build on the green belt. Indeed, they are only allowed to do so in exceptional circumstances.

This is particularly important for us as I would not want to see development pressures on the major open spaces in the area. There are a small number of places where I would be happy to see green belt development; an example is the burnt-out old house at the end of Christchurch Road in Epsom. This is a green belt location, and so development is restricted. I would not support the development of the whole site, but I can see no good reason why a substantial, traditionally-styled mansion block should not be built inside and around the old shell of the building.

But it is vital that we protect the open spaces that give the area its character. That must be at the forefront of consideration about planning for the future.

I believe that there is potential to deliver more homes without destroying those open spaces. I have urged the council to develop a master plan for the area around Kiln Lane and Longmead, to create a mixed use development with commercial premises combined with medium-rise residential development. I think this could meet a significant part of our local housing needs.

The Upper High Street site in Epsom provides a real opportunity to develop a substantial, but carefully-designed development that as long as it is designed to fit in with the nearby conservation areas, would make a real difference. I also believe there is a good opportunity above and around Banstead Station. These are three examples of where we can meet housing need sensitively to the surrounding area.

There are also a number of examples of small local shopping parades that could be redeveloped with new local shops below and flats above. This is precisely what has happened with the Aldi shop in West Ewell and the new Marks & Spencer in Ashtead.

What I will fight against is any proposal to comprehensively develop large areas of green belt land. There has been a suggestion from local councillors that Horton Country Park should be developed. This is absurd. It would be wholly wrong, and goes completely against the Government’s housing strategy.

Lastly you may hear that councils have to hit a target or they will lose some of the control they have over planning. If a council simply ignores its local housing needs and refused to make any provision to meet those needs, this might be true.

But no council that shows that it is using best endeavours to provide additional housing will be in this position.

There will clearly have to be greater provision of services like school places and GP surgeries if there is to be new housing in the area, and I will be seeking to ensure that this happens.

Best wishes

Chris Grayling

On Friday 16th March, Mark Spencer MP for Sherwood attended the presentation of the loaning of the UDM Banner to the Heritage Museum in Bilsthorpe along with Jeff Wood and Iain Gill (UDM) and members and volunteers from the Museum.
Mark said after cutting the ceremonial ribbon:
"I have been supporting Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum for a long time and this is a day we have been working towards...The showcasing of the banner highlights the importance of this facility and I am pleased it is finally here. It really is the cherry on top of a fantastic museum."
In the early 1900's Bilsthorpe village's population was approximately 200 and slowly declining. Then coal mining arrived in Bilsthorpe in the 1920's and considerably changed the landscape and social development of the village.
Bilsthorpe Heritage Society began when the mine closed in 1997 and was formed by a handful of residents who had the foresight to collect artefacts and memorabilia from the local mine and surrounding area before it was lost in time. This was so the history of mining not just in Bilsthorpe but across the industry could be preserved for future generations.
The Society receives a large amount of donated items and over the years has amassed a great collection dedicated to the mining industry and the social history surrounding the community of Bilsthorpe. The Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum was officially opened in July 2014 marking a new beginning for the society and village.
The museum is open to the public on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday's, and boasts well stocked displays and memorabilia for visitors to see along with knowledgeable staff (very often ex miners) on hand to guide you through the displays.
The museum is in the centre of the village and adjacent to the village hall, the old village squash courts became home to the Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum in 2014. It is a treasure trove of mining and historical artifacts, telling stories of the harsh realities of life at the coal face and exhibiting hundreds of individual pieces of mining related items that have been lovingly cared for over the years and offered to the museum so they can be shared with the public. Some items have also been bid for in auctions, and this amazing not for profit attraction lovingly displays all pieces either in cabinets or on racks and stands so that you can pick them up and connect with a piece of history.

Tory cuts force up council tax

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Council tax graphicLiverpool City Council has to make further savage cuts of £90.3 million between 2017 and 2020 due the Tory government slashing its funding. By 2020, the council will have faced cuts of £444 million since 2010.

When adjusted for inflation, that equates to a cut of 64 per cent of the council’s overall budget over the last decade.

In spite of this, the Labour-led council is doing everything possible to protect the most vulnerable in our city and make investment available to support the local economy.

This year, the city council is ring fencing 4 per cent of the 5.99 per cent rise in council tax to fund increases in spending on adult and children’s services to deal with growing demand in that area.

The Council Tax rise works out at £1.34 per week for Band A households, which make up almost 60 per cent of properties in Liverpool.

Overall, an additional £6 million is being found for children’s services, which will fund the recruitment of more social workers to work with increasingly complex cases of young people coming in to care.

In adult services it will to help meet the growing demographic pressures as more older people need support to live in safety and comfort at home.

However, when the 1 per cent cost of implementing the proposed local government pay settlement for staff is taken into account, it means only 0.99 per cent of the council tax increase is left to cover the cost of delivering other services.

That is far lower than the 3 per cent rate of inflation.

Despite the real financial pressures, the council is determined to support people, including:

  • £12 million on services for people who are homeless
  • £3.5 million protecting 42,000 people from the full impact of government reductions in council tax support
  • £2.7 million on almost 13,000 crisis payments to help people with the cost of food, fuel, clothing and furniture
  • £2.2 million on 8,300 Discretionary Housing Payments to people affected by welfare reform and hardship
  • A £2 million Hardship Fund from 2017-2020 to help residents who are struggling

If Liverpool had experienced the average cut that other local authorities from across the country have faced from 2010-2020 then the city would be £71.5 million better off. Instead, it is having to deliver services with 3,000 fewer staff.

This is a point I have consistently made in Parliament – it’s not just how much is available for local services across the country, it’s how unfairly the Tories are choosing to allocate it.

From 2020, the city will have to largely rely on income from business rates and council tax. That makes it vital that it does everything it can to attract new businesses and help them create jobs. That means investing in roads and big regeneration projects.

This includes purchasing land next to the former Littlewoods HQ on Edge Lane in Liverpool Wavertree which will soon be home to the new ‘Liverpool Film Studios’. The film studio will complete Liverpool’s world class digital and film industry offer and boost plans to create one of Europe’s leading creative centres.

I will continue to do all I can to make Liverpool’s case in Parliament and support the city’s job creation efforts.

A Government Minister flippantly told MPs to “stand by their phones” when Tracy Brabin asked what was going to be done to end the chronic shortage of NHS dental places available in Kirklees for young people.

The Batley and Spen MP quizzed the Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Steven Brine, in the House of Commons over a target-based system that has led to virtually no NHS dentists being available in the district for those aged nine or under.

Ms Brabin said in the House of Commons: “In Kirklees 29% of under 5s have experience of tooth decay.

“Nationally among 5-9 year olds tooth decay is the most common cause of hospital admission.

“Does the minister agree with me that the system of penalizing dentists for not hitting targets while not paying them if they exceed the targets has led to a situation where there is virtually no NHS dentists available to my young constituents.

“What steps will he take to make more places available?”

The Minister’s vague and dismissive response of more funding being made available by NHS England and asking MPs to “stand by their phones” for news was followed by Tory MP Phillip Davies saying that Ms Brabin was “absolutely right” in her assessment.

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins, who has been campaigning for investment in dentistry since she was elected in 2015, echoed Tracy’s message and said that urgent investment in prevention was needed in her constituency where oral and dental health is at “crisis point”.

National figures show a clear north-south divide in dental health and that the poorest in society are impacted the most.

In the 2016/17 period, 24,911 children had to go to hospital to have their teeth extracted because of decay and this had led to over £50 million a year being wasted on hospital child tooth extractions.

Iolaire Memorial Project

Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar)

Isles MP Angus MacNeil was pleased to be able to assist the Stornoway Amenity Trust and The Nicolson Institute by collecting stones to represent the three young London men lost in the Iolaire tragedy.

The stones will become part of a stone cairn featuring 201 stones representing all those lost in the sinking of the Iolaire on New Year’s Day 1919. The memorial will be unveiled by Nicolson Institute pupils in Stornoway on Friday.

During a break from business at the House of Commons, Mr MacNeil collected the stones from the shores of the Thames to represent the loss of 22 year old Albert Richard Matthews, 19 year old William Joseph J Stanley and 33 year old Alfred Samuel E Taylor who were all from the city of London.

The memorial will be situated in Carn Gardens, close to Stornoway Town Hall and will consist of a slate engraving on a wall and a stone cairn which will include a stone to represent each man lost. A bench donated by Stornoway Port Authority will also be put in place nearby.

The plan to include stones from the home village or town of all victims was devised by pupils of The Nicolson Institute who have spent the last few months working on those collections. Stones have now been collected in villages all over Lewis, Harris, Berneray and also from the home towns of the 20 victims who were not from the Isles – a project which has involved communities across the UK.

iolaire - MP

Ongoing progression of the impressive Chesterfield Canal Project was the subject of discussion on a visit to the Staveley basin site by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins.

The Chesterfield Canal currently runs for 46 miles and links Derbyshire with Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. Since 1989, 12 miles have been restored with 37 locks, 11 bridges and 2 marinas. There are less than 9 miles left to restore with plans already in place by the Trust.  The Chesterfield Canal Trust is a charitable company run entirely by volunteers.

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has been a long term supporter of the project, and he visited the basin site at Staveley again to see how work is progressing and to learn about the future plans.

Toby with representatives from The Chesterfield Canal Trust

Toby with representatives from The Chesterfield Canal Trust

“The Chesterfield Canal is a fantastic project that has really brought life to the canal. In order to realise the full potential of the project, there are issues that need resolving first, such as certainty about the impact of HS2 and a need to set up a development company to take forward future plans. It requires more than extra money, it also needs better engagement from organisations such as Derbyshire County Council. I will be working with the Trust to try and help ensure that these obstacles can be overcome. The possibilities for leisure, business and wildlife are hugely beneficial and achievable goals worth working towards.”

To learn more about the Chesterfield Canal project visit their website at www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/

Weekly Office Statistics – 16 March 2018: -233 Cases taken up –57 Visitors to Casework Centre –9 Surgeries Held –22 Hours of Surgeries –9 Cases referred to other MPs –25 Cases referred to Councillors or outside agencies –129 Letters received … Continue reading

The post Weekly Office Statistics – 16 March 2018 appeared first on Keith Vaz.

My Week in Parliament (26 February-1 March)

Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Here is what I did in Parliament this week:

Individual Issues raised by constituents January 2018

Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)

Graham welcomes reinstatement of Withernsea blood clinic hours

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness)

Local MP, Graham Stuart, says East Riding CCG have “seen sense” by reinstating extended hours to enable more bookable appointments at the blood clinic in Withernsea Community Hospital. Earlier this month Graham wrote to Jane Hawkard, Chief Officer at the CCG, to request that City Health Care Partnership (CHCP) – who operate services in Withernsea on the CCG’s behalf – review their decision to reduce the number of clinic appointments.

Graham’s intervention followed a swell of opposition to the reduced service by local patients, some of whom were forced to wait over a month to get an appointment. This meant that a number of patients would not receive their blood test results for more than eight or nine weeks.

Following pressure from Graham in partnership with Withernsea Councillor Lyn Healing, the CHCP have now revised their operational decision and the CCG have decided “with immediate effect” to make funds available for a full resumption of longer opening times, making more appointments available than the 27 currently on offer each day.

Welcoming the news, Graham said: “I’m delighted that local health bosses have seen sense and have agreed to reinstate longer opening hours at the Withernsea blood clinic. This is a vital service for patients in Withernsea and the current situation, with some waiting two months or more for their test results, was absolutely unacceptable.

“I’m glad that the CCG and CHCP have recognised the scale of opposition to this move, introduced at the start of this month, and have moved quickly and positively to respond to the problem. I’ll be chasing up the CCG to make sure they are as good as their word, and that patients in Withernsea and the surrounding areas are not left waiting for a blood test that may end up saving their life.”

Cllr Lyn Healing commented: “I am delighted to hear that the CCG are releasing more funding to the CHCP to enable the blood clinic to increase the hours again and alleviate the unacceptable time residents were having to wait for routine blood tests, and I am equally delighted that they listened to our concerns.”

Local MP Maria Miller has welcomed new figures showing that 8,311 children are benefiting from the Government’s 30 hours free childcare offer in Hampshire.

Cystic Fibrosis Debate

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead)

Sir Mike Penning calls for the drug Orkambi to be available on the NHS for people with Cystic Fibrosis.

New East Coast Main Line group launched in Parliament

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North)

A new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the East Coast Main Line will be launched in Westminster this afternoon (20th March), as MPs and members of the Lords with a shared interest in the operation of the line come together to campaign on its future. Established and chaired by Newcastle North Labour MP, Catherine McKinnell, … Continue reading New East Coast Main Line group launched in Parliament

Last night I presented a petition to to the House of Commons calling on the Department for Transport to make improvements to Chinley station so that the public can have level access. Chinley is a key station on the Manchester-Sheffield line that is used by commuters and by ill and disabled people to attend hospital appointments. You can watch the presentation here.

The post Petition: Accessibility in Chinley station appeared first on Ruth George MP for High Peak.

James Cleverly speaking in the House of Commons

Following the Treasury response to an Urgent Question on customs arrangements at UK ports post-Brexit, James Cleverly highlights the customs process at DP World deep-water port in south Essex as an effective example and potential solution for Dover.

Charles Walker backs calls for the drug Orkambi to be available on the NHS for people with Cystic Fibrosis and urges the Government to encourage pharmaceutical company Vertex and NHS England to find common ground so that a deal can be done. [read more] about Charles Walker backs calls for the drug Orkambi to be available on the NHS for people with Cystic Fibrosis

Easter event at Neath Library

Christina Rees (Neath)

Wigan & Makerfield WASPI

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield)

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps has welcomed newly released figures that show that 6,692 children in Hertfordshire are benefiting from the Government’s 30 hours free childcare offer in Hertfordshire.

The offer saves working families around £5,000 per year per child and saw over 200,000 children benefit nationally in its first term. There are now nearly 300, 000 children in 30 hours places in England. It’s backed by a record investment of £6 billion per year in childcare, which includes an extra £1 billion per year by 2020 to deliver the free entitlements.

Alongside introducing and increasing the National Living Wage, and raising the personal allowance, childcare support is one of a number of ways this Government is helping families with the cost of living.

After the release of these figures Grant commented, “I know from speaking to local residents in Welwyn Hatfield how important the 30 free hours is making. Being able to afford reliable, quality childcare is so vital in supporting their families and giving parents peace of mind.

“I’m pleased that the government is spending more on childcare than ever before and helping parents to balance their home and working lives whilst making sure children get the best possible start in life.”





Notes to Editors


  • The government’s 30 hours free childcare offer for working parents launched nationally on 1 September 2017. The doubled the former 15 hour entitlement introduced in 2010. It saves families of 3 and 4 year olds roughly £5,000 per year per child and nearly 400, 000 families across the country are eligible (DfE, 8 May 2015, link; DfE, 31 August 2017, link).
  • Independent evaluation has demonstrated the benefits of 30 hours free childcare. Independent evaluation of pilot sites found that access to 30 hours of free childcare improved family finances, supported a better work-life balance and enabled parents to extend their working hours, should they wish to do so (DfE, 31 August 2017, link).



  • There are now nearly 300, 000 children in 30 hours places in England. Data published by the Department for Education today shows that 294, 000 children are in a 30 hours place (DfE, 15 March 2018, link).
  • By 2020, the government will be spending about £6 billion to help parents with the cost of childcare. Further to the 30 hours offer, the government funds 15 hours of free childcare for disadvantaged 2 year olds and supports parents through Tax Free Childcare, which provides up to £2,000 per child per year to help towards childcare costs (Gov, accessed 14 March 2018, link).
  • The introduction of the National Living Wage delivered the fastest pay rise for lower earners in 20 years. In April this year, the government will increase it again, leaving a full time worker on the National Living Wage over £2,000 a year better off since its introduction (Hansard, 30 January 2018, link).
  • Increases to the personal allowance mean that this April, 31 million people will see their income tax bill cut by over £1,000 since 2010. 4 million of the lowest paid will be taken out of paying income tax altogether (Hansard, 27 November 2017, Col. 127, link; Hansard, 24 October 2017, link).

Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

Westminster Week

The Chancellor made his Spring Statement last week, reporting on the strong growth of our economy and our record-low unemployment. ONS figures released last week show Britain’s exports are booming. Exports rose 11.5% in the past year, with service exports up 10.1% and goods exports up 12.6%. The manufacturing sector has also entered a record 9th consecutive month of growth - the longest period of manufacturing growth in 50 years.

Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill March 16th

Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford)

On Friday 16th March I spoke in the Refugees (Family Reunion) Bill. I know this is something a lot of you care deeply about as I have received hundreds of emails about it over the last few months. I am delighted to report that the Bill has progressed to Committee Stage.

You can watch my speech in full here:

Spies, lies and nerve agents

Richard Benyon (Newbury)

The attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury has stunned the world. We shouldn’t really be surprised. In 2006 Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London by drinking tea laced with the highly radioactive substance polonium-210. He had just accused the Putin regime of the murder by poisoning of the Russian journalist Anna […]

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

    But as I argued immediately afterwards, John Redwood isn’t actually alone in his opinions. An awful lot of Tory MPs do hold this bizarre view of the world in which British strength can only be realised if we unshackle ourselves from our friends and nearest trading partners and ‘go it alone’. But isolating ourselves in the delusion we don’t need the rest of the world is a recipe for disaster. A ‘no deal’ Brexit would hurt businesses and people in Nottingham, and in every way make us less independent, not more. It’s vital that we stop it from happening.


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

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

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

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


Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

Some of Bristol’s biggest employers met hundreds of the city’s young jobseekers as part of an apprenticeship fair in Hengrove during National Apprenticeship Week 2018.

The South Bristol Jobs & Apprenticeship Fair, organised by Bristol South MP and City of Bristol College, took place at the South Bristol Skills Academy in Hengrove and was attended by people from across Bristol and beyond.

Airbus, Hargreaves Lansdown, Bristol Airport, The Bristol Port Company and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust were among the large Bristol employers exhibiting; they were joined by other key south Bristol employers such as Robbins Timber, Computershare and Babcock.

Manning many of the stalls were existing and former apprentices, who talked to young jobseekers and their parents about the benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship.

“I’d recommend it to anyone,” said Connor Murphy, a first year apprentice with The Bristol Port Company. “I’ve been doing it for 5 months and I’m loving it. It’s a two year apprenticeship and you’re almost guaranteed a job at the end of it.

“I always struggled at school so getting the hands on experience was the boost I needed really. I didn’t want to focus on getting good grades to then be stuck in an office, I wanted to do a lot of physical stuff which is what I’m doing. It’s ideal for me.”

Amanda Rogers, 20, started an apprenticeship with Hargreaves Lansdown and is now working towards a degree alongside her role in cyber security with the financial company. She said: “I applied for apprenticeships in IT via the government website and was lucky enough to get this one. It’s really good, you learn and get a wage which is really beneficial. I’ll get a degree and there will be no debt. Hargreaves Lansdown are really supportive – if you need time off to do the work, they’ll allow you that. I don’t see myself leaving Hargreaves Lansdown because there’s so many opportunities for progression.”

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth and City of Bristol College Principal and Chief Executive Lee Probert spent the afternoon meeting local families at the event – learning more about the support they need to be able to navigate the post-16 skills, training and job opportunities.

Speaking at the event on Thursday 8 March, Karin said: “It’s been a brilliant day – a great chance for me to meet employers, young people and parents to talk about apprenticeships. I learnt more about the challenges people are facing and how we might address these – something I’ll be taking back to Westminster with me.

“It’s clear that some of the biggest advocates of apprenticeships are apprentices themselves and I met some inspirational young people finding their way in the world of work – from apprentice engineers at Babcock to apprentice nurses with the local NHS, there are so many different opportunities available.”

Lee added: “”We were thrilled to be able to work with Karin on this event again – it was brilliant to see so many young people coming along to find out more about apprenticeship opportunities. City of Bristol College has apprentices itself, working in business administration, customer service and marketing functions of the college. It’s something that works well for both us as an organisation and the individuals who are getting on the job training.

“We also support many of our city’s employers in the recruitment of apprentices for their business as well as the delivery and assessment of relevant apprenticeship frameworks. I hope that this event has inspired more people to take part in apprenticeship schemes.”

National and local organisations which support people through apprenticeships were also on hand to help offer advice, including the National Careers Service, 3aaaa, N-Gaged and the south Bristol organisation Professional Apprenticeships.

The fair was one of many events taking place across Bristol for National Apprenticeship Week 2018. It followed on from a similarly successful event in 2017, which saw lots of young people go on to secure job and apprenticeship opportunities.

Karin regularly speaks about the need for quality apprenticeships in parliament and works with organisations in Bristol South to help promote apprenticeships as a stepping stone into a career.

Last year, Bristol South came out bottom of the table for the percentage of 18-year-olds going on to university in England – with just 1 in 6 school leavers taking up places at university.

Karin said: “Work is being done in Bristol South to address the lack of students going on to university but it’s important to recognise that university is not for everyone. There are other options available and apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to many young people to earn while they learn. One of my priorities as an MP is working to ensure decent employment opportunities for people in Bristol South and quality apprenticeships are an important part of this.”

To find out more about apprenticeships, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/topic/further-education-skills/apprenticeships


Gordon has met and sat down with half a dozen young local Apprentices who are all pioneers on an innovative new scheme to support and mentor 11- 16 year olds in the town's schools.

They are part of Blackpool Council's HeadStart project, a Big Lottery funded multi-agency programme building resilience for those young people across Blackpool. In 2016, The Big Lottery Fund awarded Blackpool Council £10 million to support them in these areas over the next 5 years.

He chatted to them for nearly an hour about the projects they are involved with and their impressions and feedback from their work, which will deliver them a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications covering variously Children and social work as well as digital, creative and business admin skills. This includes an easy to read “Resilience Framework” which they have created to give young people practical ways about how they can make improvements to their everyday lives, including making them more effective learners and communicators. Video and online resources including some with the 11-16 year olds as presenters, via YouTube and other social media, are among the other materials the Apprentices have produced.

Gordon said: “It was really stimulating to have the time and opportunity to talk about their work, the satisfaction they were getting out of it, but also about the nature of learning and the sort of qualities their Apprenticeships were developing in them to the benefit of their future careers. It was great at the end of an action packed National Apprenticeship Week where I met Apprentices covering areas as diverse as catering, brewing, renewables and nuclear energy, as well as giving a keynote speech at the Semta Skills Awards and highlighting the benefits across the engineering sector, to see such promise and enthusiasm from other young Apprentices here in Blackpool.'

“We all know the challenges for young people here to develop their skills and self- confidence, particularly in parts of the town that can be very transient, with high levels of deprivation, often in poor housing conditions and sometimes unsettled family backgrounds. This can sometimes be a challenging and unsettling environment for young people to grow up in.

“This Headstart Apprenticeship programme offers a potential double benefit - giving the Apprentices themselves a varied and creative programme to qualify in, while helping empower hundreds of young people in Blackpool's schools, both in a group but also a one- to- one basis, with life skills for their future prospects and careers, and in conjunction with input from local charities such as MIND.

“I stressed to the Apprentices and the Headstart administrator from the Council that it was crucial this five year programme laid down firm principles and transferable skills and materials that can leave a lasting legacy for schools and organisations to carry on after the funding is finished. I’ll do what I can to continue encouraging young people like these to make a success of Headstart.”

Josh Thompson, one of the HeadStart apprentices said: “It was a fantastic experience to be able to meet our local MP and to generally care about and discuss what we were doing the context of National Apprenticeship Week. Something I shall never forget!”

James Woolaston, HeadStart’s Digital Apprentice added: “I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity. For my own personal development I believe it has allowed me to grow as a young professional, and I look forward to us all building this resilience revolution in Blackpool together.”

Hull MP backs sanctions against Russian regime

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North)

Diana Johnson MP has backed the Prime Minister’s proposed sanctions against the Putin regime in Russia following the Salisbury poisoning incident.
Dave Cross / Saturday 24 March 2018 01:21