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Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil spoke with Air Traffic Controllers in Stornoway and Benbecula this week regarding Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (HIAL) proposal to centralise the Air Traffic Control services.

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Speaking after the meeting, Mr MacNeil said: “I found out a number of things from the Air Traffic Controllers which weren’t clear from my meeting with HIAL Directors and Board members at Westminster.

“I think the level of this decision is far too big to be made at Board level. There is a huge social implication in keeping these jobs in the islands and the Scottish Government has to keep a very close eye on this and consider implications more widely than HIAL can.

“It also turns out that the cost of the investment is not £28 million as we were told but about £130 million. The numbers we were told were the net cost, which is debatable, and not the actual cost of the investment which is likely to rise.

“I feel that the best situation – socially, technically and to ensure a service at the airports – is to maintain the service we have at the moment but especially with a focus on local recruitment.

“Air Traffic Controllers who are recruited locally from the islands tend not to leave, as evidenced by Benbecula especially with zero turnover and Stornoway, where the locally recruited Air Traffic Controllers stay for many years, if not decades.”

ENDS

Latest Picardy plans to go before councillors

Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)

A new landscaped public space would be created in Edinburgh’s east end under revised plans going before councillors.

Brushing up on decorating skills

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree)

Luciana Berger Visits B&Q-120118-029I was delighted to join housing charity Shelter and its partners B&Q at the DIY company’s new store on Edge Lane to brush up on my decorating skills, alongside local people who use Shelter services.

Luciana Berger Visits B&Q-120118-047I’m always pleased to support businesses like B&Q that team up with charities that use their resources and skills to make a difference.

Shelter’s work across Merseyside is hugely valuable in supporting people to move in to new accommodation and make it their home.

Alongside Shelter service users, I was shown how to prepare and paint walls and hang wallpaper. A big thank you to Peter Halfpenny, B&Q’s Help & Advice manager, and Jo Cutler, Manager for Shelter.

Luciana Berger Visits B&Q-120118-006Shelter say that 26 per cent of private renters in the North West feel that being able to decorate is what turns a flat or house into a home, making it easier to put down roots and stay in one place for the long-term.

B&Q is funding a team of six specialist Shelter DIY advisers located across the country to work with people at risk of losing their home, as well as those settling into a new home following homelessness. The retailer also supports Shelter’s front-line services which provide essential advice and support online, by phone and face-to-face.

B&Q and their customers have raised more than £300,000 for Shelter in the last year, to help fund vital front-line services. Workshop attendees were given a toolbox to support future home improvement projects, including a spirit level, set of screwdrivers, paintbrushes, wallpapering kit, tape measure and hammer.

Statement on Carillion liquidation

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

Undoubtedly there is great concern regarding the impact that Carillion’s liquidation will have on people and businesses in the West Midlands. It is vital that an urgent assessment is conducted to assess the impact of Carillion’s liquation on our region. I have been in close contact with Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Jobs and […]

Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, is supporting anti-slavery charity Unseen’s ‘Let’s Nail It’ campaign, joining celebrities, businesses and community groups across the country who have painted their nails to raise awareness of slavery in nail salons. The campaign asks the general public to spot the signs of slavery in nail bars and call the national Modern Slavery Helpline if they are concerned.

Unseen works with survivors of modern slavery and trafficking and operates the national Modern Slavery Helpline. They have teamed up with The British Association of Beauty Therapy & Cosmetology (BABTAC) to work directly with salons and the public to ensure customers know the signs of slavery and visit legitimate slave-free salons.

Since launching in October 2016, the Modern Slavery Helpline has received reports of slavery in nail bars from at least 35 locations across the UK, indicating over 100 potential victims, 11 of which have been children.

2018 saw the first successful prosecution of modern slavery involving minors, where two people were jailed after forcing children trafficked from Vietnam to work in nail bars in Bath.

Alex said:

Raising public awareness around slavery in nail bars is a crucial step in tackling this hidden crime. I strongly encourage consumers to remain vigilant to the signs of modern slavery, to ensure that perpetrators of human trafficking are exposed and victims are given the help and support they need.

Some warning signs for you to look out for:

  • Do employees appear withdrawn or unwilling to engage?
  • Do they appear younger than you’d expect? Are they avoiding eye contact, or is the presence or behaviour of another individual making them appear frightened?
  • Are they resistant to being paid directly?
  • Is there a manager who takes the money and is overbearing or abusive?
  • Are there living quarters upstairs or attached to the nail salon? Are employees brought to work at the same time?
  • Do they speak to others in the salon?
  • Can they speak English? Being unable to speak English can increase people’s vulnerability.
  • Do prices seem ‘too good to be true’?
  • Is the vibe you’re getting making you feel uncomfortable?

You can report suspicions to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

For further information or to arrange interviews with Unseen’s frontline team please contact the press office. Tel: 0303 040 2888 Email: info@unseenuk.org

All parties to the conflict must continue to allow unhindered commercial and humanitarian access throughout Yemen to avert the risk of mass starvation.
All parties to the conflict must continue to allow unhindered commercial and humanitarian access throughout Yemen to avert the risk of mass starvation, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt warned today. Yemen is the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world and has left over three quarters of the Yemeni population in desperate need of assistance.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who visited Saudi Arabia and Djibouti in December to call for access and meet aid workers, said:
I heard about some of the heartbreaking tragedies suffered by Yemenis when I met with refugees and international aid workers last month.
I am pleased restrictions on access have since been eased at the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef, allowing 19 ships to deliver food and critical fuel. This is already saving lives by ensuring hospitals can continue delivering essential medical care, water can be pumped into major cities, grain can continue to be milled into flour and food transported to those most in need.
But the situation in Yemen remains dire and will deteriorate rapidly unless unhindered access is maintained, especially to the north of the country.
With Yemen importing 90% of its food and fuel, it’s essential that Hodeidah and Saleef ports remain fully open to help millions of people who are at risk of starving to death. We recognise Saudi Arabia’s legitimate security concerns and will continue to provide support to prevent illegal arms smuggling into Yemen – this does not require stopping humanitarian and commercial supplies from reaching those in need.
The UK Government strongly condemns the continued firing of ballistic missiles from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia. We continue to support Saudi Arabia to strengthen efforts to prevent the flow of illegal weapons by providing extra UK support to the UN’s Verification and Inspection Mechanism. We are also engaging with Saudi Arabia’s plans to develop an operational humanitarian plan for Yemen.
Since access reopened, 19 ships have been permitted to enter Hodeidah and Saleef ports, unloading 260,000MT of food and over 95,000MT of fuel. It is vital that commercial and humanitarian supplies of food, fuel and medicine are able to reach vulnerable Yemeni people, particularly in the north where 70% of those in need live. The UK is the second-largest humanitarian donor to the UN’s Yemen Appeal and third-largest donor overall, and will continue to support millions of Yemenis affected by the conflict.

Local politicians have expressed their disappointment with a recent announcement about South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.

The Scottish Government has boasted that £10 million will be made available to help set up the agency and that an ‘Economic Partnership’ is to be established to pave the way for a dedicated enterprise agency.

City MP calls for Portsmouth to host Bayeux Tapestry

Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South)

Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, has joined other city officials in calling for Portsmouth to play host to the Bayeux Tapestry when it comes to the UK in 2022.

He has written to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ask that he consider holding the exhibit in Portsmouth, as the city is the perfect place to host such a historically significant piece.

Stephen Morgan MP said:

“I have written to Mr. Hancock to ask that he considers our great city as the host to the Bayeux Tapestry.

Portsmouth has a rich historical heritage and the perfect facility to display the tapestry at the D-Day Museum which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment.

At the moment the museum is playing host to the Overlord Tapestry, and so already has the infrastructure in place to display an exhibit of this kind.

It would be truly fantastic for a city, which has such a strong foothold in English history to be given this opportunity.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has agreed to lend the 11th Century Tapestry to the UK, which will see it leave France for the first time in 950 years.

 

 

West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas asked the Prime Minister for reassurance that radiotherapy services will not be moved away from the Sunset Centre at RCHT at PMQs on Wednesday.
NHS England is currently consulting on radiotherapy services in Cornwall and considering how best to invest a further £130 million into radiotherapy treatment for rare and less common cancers.
The proposals have caused concern among many residents in the county that radiotherapy services may be moved out of Cornwall.
Speaking at PMQs, Mr Thomas asked Mrs May: “Can she reassure my constituents that there is no need for existing good radiotherapy services in the Sunrise Centre to be moved to deliver cancer treatment for rare cancers?”
Mrs May responded: “We do recognise the importance of ensuring people have access to these treatments they require and we do recognise the issues that people sometimes face in relation to travelling to the centres where these services are available.
“This is primarily a decision to be taken at local level and … I would encourage people to take part in the consultation, to respond to the consultation, so that local views can be heard and truly taken into account.”
Speaking later, Mr Thomas said: “NHS England say it is not their intention to reduce the number of radiotherapy providers, nor is it considered to be a likely outcome of these proposals.
“Their aim is to encourage radiotherapy providers to work together in Networks to concentrate expertise and improve pathways for patients requiring radical radiotherapy for the less common and rarer cancers.
“I have made it clear to NHS England and NHS managers in Cornwall that I would not support existing services being moved from RCHT but I fully understand people’s concerns and I continue to urge them to take part in the consultation which continues until 24th January.”
More information can be found on NHS England’s website; to share your views on the online survey https://www.engage.england.nhs.uk/…/radiotherapy-service-s…/

Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East, presented one of the winners with their prize and trophy at last night’s ‘Big Thank You’ awards. Emma said, “It was a great pleasure to award Sam Billingham her award in the Fresh Start category sponsored by Walsall Housing Group’s chief executive, Gary Fulford.

“Sam left an abusive partner and set up the support group SODA – Survivors of Domestic Abuse.

“Huge thank you Sam for helping people in this way – amazing work!

“Many congratulations to all the winners and the finalists from last night’s amazing event – you are all stars.

January 2018

 

The post Emma presents one of the Express and Star ‘Big Thank You’ winners with their prize appeared first on Emma Reynolds MP.

Time to talk seriously about cutting plastic

Michelle Donelan (Chippenham)

I was delighted with the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of the Government plan to eliminate plastic waste. Since first being elected MP I have fought to clean up our environment, rivers and now, critically, our oceans.

I have always believed the best way to reduce waste is to educate, encourage and incentivise both consumers and businesses. However, we are at a critical state where should this not work, the Government is right to legislate to bring about change. Focus in recent times has been on recycling, which is of course essential, but if we are serious about reducing waste we must act to cut plastic out of the manufacturing process entirely.

Recently I launched my campaign to remove plastic from tea bags and other consumables. I am sure that many of you will be shocked to know that tea bags contain up to 25 per cent plastic polymer, which makes them unable to be fully composted and leads to trace amounts leaking into our rivers and oceans.

With 160m tea bags used here in Britain per day it equates to 2,400 tons of plastic per year entering our environment unnecessarily.

I will be speaking to Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, in the coming week and have launched a petition to raise awareness of this issue as the first step to removing all unnecessary plastic from our supermarket shopping.

Here in the constituency I attended a meeting of the Corsham Town Team to continue to push for the re-opening of Corsham railway station. For many the process of delivering a station for Corsham seems like a long and drawn-out one. I know that feeling, having campaigned since 2013 on the issue, but progress is being made.

The Government has been clear in its support for suburban railway provision and it is vital for the economy of Corsham that the station is re-opened. The case for re- opening is being formalised currently as part of the rail franchise process and I am pleased that the positive impacts on surrounding towns, e.g. reduction in morning traffic in Chippenham, will be highlighted as part of this.

I will continue to push as the voice in Westminster to deliver this much-needed local service and it is fantastic that people of all political persuasions have come together to make this happen locally.

In addition to my usual appointment- based surgeries and as part of my pledge to be as accessible as possible, I am running a number of open surgeries across the constituency with the ones in ASDA Melksham and Sainsbury’s Bradford on Avon already confirmed. If you would like more information on these events, please get in touch on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk or 01249 704465.

Michelle Donelan’s column in the Gazette and Herald

The post Time to talk seriously about cutting plastic appeared first on Michelle Donelan MP.

How some banks ruin SMEs

Bob Stewart (Beckenham)

There is something badly wrong, indeed immoral, with the way some banks are dealing with small and medium sized businesses. On 18 January the appalling tactics of some of them were debated in the House of Commons.

I made the following speech on behalf of a constituent Mr Dean D'Eye whose life and business, which he had started from scratch, has been ruined. As was obvious from the House of Commons debate Dean and his family are far from alone.

There was a bad reason for the Private Finance Initiative, and several good reasons.

The bad reason was much used under the Blair/Brown Labour government. They wanted to pay for a number of new schools and hospitals without the capital cost appearing on the public accounts. They therefore asked the private sector to borrow the money to keep it off the government balance sheet. The government can usually borrow more cheaply than private sector businesses. Bad PFI contracts sometimes resulted, with the state simply paying more to borrow through the intermediation of a PFI contract. In practice  much of  the risk of the projects rested still with the taxpayer who could end up with  a bad deal.

The good reasons for PFI are that the private sector can do come things better and more cheaply than the public sector by specialising and managing them well, and the private sector can take on risks that would otherwise fall to the taxpayer. When the Thatcher government first got interested in the idea of more private sector help in delivering public sector projects and services it developed a set of rules.

Where the private sector wanted to provide a regular service by employing the staff and managing the tasks, the public sector had to organise fair competitions for the work and had to demonstrate there would be savings over the contract period compared to doing the work in house. When Councils and the central government contracted out items of service like refuse collection, cleaning and catering, there were usually substantial savings and a tough  better policed standard of service required. The private contractor was on risk for managing the task and the staff, and faced penalties for failure to deliver the required quality and quantity of service. The public sector still had important roles in deciding how much service it needed, what the standard should be, and in policing the contract.

Where the government wanted the private sector to undertake the financing and delivery of a major capital asset there had to be sufficient transfer of risk to make it worthwhile for the public sector. The UK public sector has in the past had a poor record of controlling the costs of major projects and delivering them on time, though the current government believes it has sorted out many of these difficulties. A design, build, and finance contract for the private sector  clearly got over any risk of expensive overruns and delays for the taxpayers. The extra cost of capital that the private sector would incur could  be more than offset by better discipline in how long it took to build and how much it cost to build. If the private sector was unable to cut costs as it thought then it was on risk to absorb the overruns. One of the most successful examples of a design, build, finance and operate contract was the Dartford crossing. The private venture was allowed to charge a toll and to collect it for as long as it took to recoup their outlay and an agreed profit. The  bridge then passed to the state without debt as a free asset. The private sector still had plenty of incentive to build to budget and to get on with generating the cashflows, as investors wanted an early pay back.

It would be wrong to drop the involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services as well as impractical, just because one large company involved in public provision has gone bankrupt. It is important that shareholders, bondholders and lending banks are not bailed out by taxpayer money, which the government has been clear it will not allow. For the system to work there have to be penalties for the private sector for error and failures. The story when told will probably show us that the private sector became too keen to take on public sector business at very low  margins, which turned out to be loss making when they came to manage the risks they had willingly accepted.  Private shareholders have ended up subsidising the state as a result by supplying services and facilities below cost.

As a Minister I did turn down a proposal for a  PFI project on the grounds that it was primarily a way of paying more for borrowing and substituted a public sector project. I took the rules seriously, and wanted to see there was either or both a significant transfer of risk or clear evidence that good quality provision would be cheaper through PFI. That should continue to be the guidelines for the UK government and Councils. Labour’s attack on all of this is absurd, given the big role the last Labour government played in extending PFI and contracting out, and given the extensive use Labour Councils rightly make of these techniques today. One of the curious features of Labour in office in recent years locally and centrally is the way they have come to rely very heavily on private sector contactors and sub contractors to deliver public services. Much local policy making relies heavily on private sector consultants rather than on officers of Councils, and it was Labour who also introduced the idea of private sector healthcare performing operations for the NHS.

 

 

 

STORM MHAIRI HITS ARGYLL AND BUTE

Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute)

SNP members “inspired and energised” by Mhairi Black MP Almost 200 SNP members from all across Argyll and Bute descended on Inveraray on Sunday to discuss how the party builds on the success the SNP has enjoyed in this constituency in recent years and to hear an “electrifying and inspirational” address by Mhairi Black MP, … Continue reading STORM MHAIRI HITS ARGYLL AND BUTE
Mansfield MP Ben Bradley has started the new year by commissioning a survey to be sent to every resident of Warsop. It’s part of an ongoing ‘fact-finding’ agenda that the new MP has been undertaking, to find out what are the true issues affecting people, groups, areas and communities within the Mansfield constituency are, and how best people think we can address them.
On the survey, Mr Bradley asks eight questions over a range of topics, such as the closure of the sports centre, anti-social behaviour, lack of investment and young people’s aspirations.
Speaking of his survey, Mr Bradley said ‘since being elected, I’ve met a lot of people in the constituency, as well as community groups and local organisations, and the feedback I always get about Warsop is that its forgotten about, or that nobody bothers with Warsop’.
‘This is something that I want to remedy, but to do that, I think it’s important that the people of Warsop's voice is heard. That’s why I’ve sent this survey out, to ask people who actually live in Warsop what their priorities are, and what they actually want to change in Warsop, as well as how they think we should go about doing that’.
‘I ask a few questions on the survey, but there’s plenty of room on there for any thoughts or ideas, and it’s a freepost return, so doesn’t cost anything to send it back to me. Whether your views are positive or negative, do please get back to me and let me know. A lot of people say that they never hear from politicians until election time, so this is really a chance to hear from everyone in Warsop’.
On the survey, Mr Bradley asks a range of questions over a range of topics, such as the closure of the sports centre, anti-social behaviour and young people’s aspirations.
Warsop, which is subdivided into 4 electoral wards, has a population of over 10,000 residents, roughly one seventh of the population of the constituency of Mansfield. Mr Bradley’s survey is being sent to every household in the Warsop area, approximately 5000 households, over the course of the coming week. If you do not receive a survey over the next two weeks, please contact Ben’s office on 01623 372 016 to arrange for one to be sent to you.

Basingstoke’s MP, Maria Miller is joining the call this week for constituents to Take Five to Stop Fraud. Maria held a debate in the House of Commons in December 2017 to call for a review of how money laundering regulations operate and for clarity as to who holds banks to account for the way these important regulations work in practice after she was contacted by a constituent who was a victim of banking fraud.
 

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps welcomed Welwyn Hatfield’s Youth Council to Parliament, to answer questions on a wide range of topics and talk about their upcoming mental health campaign #JUSTTALK.

The Youth Councillors enjoyed a guided tour around the Houses of Parliament followed by a Question and Answer session with Grant. Topics included changes to GCSE grades, school uniform rules, the first past the past voting system, immigration, apprenticeships and suicide prevention.

Grant said: “It was great to welcome the Welwyn Hatfield Youth Council to Parliament to discuss their upcoming #JUSTTALK campaign, which aims to raise awareness of mental health with teenage boys in schools across Hertfordshire. Mental health is such an important issue and I’m delighted to give my full support to this fantastic campaign.

“I also took part in a Q&A, with some excellent questions from the Youth Council about my job as the Member of Parliament for Welwyn Hatfield. It’s hugely inspiring to see young people with an active interest in politics and how our country is governed.”

Sophie Bex, a Year 8 student at Bishops Hatfield Girls School, said: “I enjoyed today because I got to know the other members of the Youth Council better and also it was a great opportunity to meet our MP Grant Shapps and have a tour of the Houses of Parliament.”

Caitlin Gardner, a Year 10 student at Onslow St Audrey’s School, said: “I enjoyed today because I got an opportunity to meet Grant Shapps and to ask him questions, and I also got to learn some really interesting history about Westminster.”

Can you volunteer in Jon's office

Jon Cruddas (Dagenham and Rainham)

I'm looking for a volunteer in my office!

You will know we help hundreds of people every week from my constituency office.

My team could really do with an extra pair of hands answering the phone and with basic administration. We're particularly short handed on Tuesday afternoon 1pm til 4pm and Wednesdays.

If you think you might be interested please fill in the form below and let us know and one of the team will be in touch.

Thanks Jon

Your details
Select as many as apply

Clearly the health service has remained the main political talking point both locally and nationally over recent days, and I had a very instructive time at the William Harvey hospital at the end of last week. I spoke not only to senior management of the East Kent Hospitals Trust but to doctors, nurses, and patients in A and E, where inevitably the winter pressures are most intensely felt.

Carillion Pension Scheme

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth)

As Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary I have recently written to both the Government and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) to ask why a funding shortfall at Carillion’s pension scheme was allowed to widen before the construction group’s collapse.

My letters (which you can read below) ask a series of questions about the growing hole in Carillion’s retirement fund, with its deficit near doubling from £317m in 2015 to £587m at the end of 2016.

I believe that Carillion have failed in their duty to ensure that their pension provision was adequately managed and resourced. Despite profit warnings and unsustainable debt levels they allowed their deficit to grow.

There are many questions for the Government and The Pensions Regulator, including:

When did the trustees notify TPR of Carillion’s pension scheme difficulties as they are required to under law and what did TPR do?

Given the scale of the liabilities and concerns for other Defined Benefit schemes, what does this mean for the adequacy of the Pension Protection Fund?

What happens to employees in Defined Contribution schemes which aren’t covered by the PPF?

What is the Government doing to stop pension ‘scammers’ from targeting pension scheme members in the same way British Steel pension scheme members were targeted?

Around 28,000 members of the Carillion’s 13 pension schemes are facing cuts to their retirement benefits as payment of their pensions is taken over by the Pension Protection Fund. The Fund has estimated that the cost of taking on all of Carillion’s schemes could be as high as £900m, its largest on record.

You can read my letter to Esther McVey here.

You can read my letter to The Pensions Regulator here.

Local Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin pledged her commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day this week to honour the millions who were killed and pay tribute to the extraordinary survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.

Ms Brabin joined inspirational survivors and young ambassadors at a special reception where she pledged her support by signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment.

Saturday 27th January will mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said:
“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from Batley and Spen and across the country to reflect on the tragic events of the Holocaust.
“It is vital that we never forget the horror that unfolded and the hatred that fuelled it, and we should take time to remember the victims and pay tribute to the survivors.
“I would encourage all my constituents to show their support for such an important day and stand up to prejudice and intolerance in all its forms.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “The Holocaust did not start in the gas chambers but with hate filled words. Our mission is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance.

 

“We are very grateful to Tracy Brabin MP for signing the Book of Commitment, signalling a continued commitment to remembering the victims of the Holocaust as well as challenging antisemitism, prejudice and bigotry.”
 

Jeff backs school campaign to support local food banks

Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington)

Food_bank_pic.jpg

Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith has shown his support for a campaign from Manchester Islamic High School for Girls to collect food for a local food bank.

Manchester Islamic High School for Girls are asking people to donate food (full list of items below) to the school at 55 High Lane, Manchester, M21 9FA between 9am – 3:15pm.  The deadline for all items is 25th January.

Jeff said: “I’d like to commend the pupils from Manchester Islamic High School for Girls for their initiative to collect food for vulnerable people in Manchester and Salford.

Although of course it is disappointing that there is a demand for food banks in Manchester, it’s great to see the school play such a strong role helping the local community.”  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I campaigned and voted to remain in the European Union. The majority of voters in my constituency and in Bristol as a city did not want to leave the EU either (I regularly receive letters from constituents on both sides of this debate about this). But the overall referendum result was in favour of Brexit. I respect that result and have been working towards ensuring the best deal for the UK.

The journey has been far from straightforward since the vote in June 2016 and I expect many more twists and turns along the way.  I spent several months as part of Labour’s Brexit team working closely with Keir Starmer and have continued to follow developments and join my opposition colleagues in pushing for vital amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

These amendments – designed to protect the UK economy, rights at work and the environment – have all been rejected by a government which is in chaos on  these important negotiations. We said that unless the Brexit Bill could pass six key tests then we could not support it.

We need it to protect rights at work, the environment and the EU Charter of fundamental Rights; ensure that a transitional arrangement is in place to protect jobs and the economy and support the role of the devolved bodies; and, crucially, guarantee that Parliament is not sidelined but there is a meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement.

The EU Withdrawal Bill in its current guise does not pass these tests and, as such, I and my Labour colleagues could not vote in favour of it.

The Tories want to stop any checks on their power and side line Parliament  but my job is to ensure that we get the best outcome for people in Bristol South and the UK. The Bill will now go on to the House of Lords for further discussion before returning to the House of Commons and we will continue to push for the necessary changes.

 

Royston Signs the Book of Commitment

Royston Smith (Southampton, Itchen)

Earlier this week I signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment. In doing so pledging I pledged commitment to the Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust, as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.

The post Royston Signs the Book of Commitment appeared first on Royston Smith - At the heart of Southampton.

This week, as part of my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA), I arranged for a roundtable event to take place in the Houses of Parliament between police, councils and charities. The aim of the discussion was to share best practice and to determine if the NPS Act is working.

We had representatives from Wrexham Borough Council and Manchester Metropolitan Police and a number of charities such as ReSolv and Mentor. Also in attendance was fellow North Wales MP Ian Lucas. 

A number of issues came to light. In particular the flaws in the law when it comes to possession offences. But the most striking problem was the lack of resources available to councils and police to tackle this matter. The police noted how in Manchester they were offering up their spare time for free to work on new methods to tackle Spice on our streets. 

The charities noted how we need a more holistic approach which tackles the causes of drug use, not just the use of drugs. 

I will now try to secure a debate in Parliament on this so we can pressure the government to take action now.  

Denton and Reddish MP, Andrew Gwynne, is backing a Bill being introduced by Labour MP Karen Buck this Friday 19 January which will give renters a new legal right to ensure their home is ‘fit for human habitation’.

The new legislation, long campaigned for by Labour, could help renters in 162,000 dangerously unfit properties in the North West.

Nationally, there are over one million rented properties containing the most serious ‘category 1’ hazards, including homes that have unsafe electrics, vermin infestations, or aren’t fire safe.

The Labour bill will give tenants new legal powers to enforce their right to a decent home by taking their landlord to court if the property they live in is not fit. This is a particularly important for council tenants such as those who lived in Grenfell Tower, because it is councils who are notionally responsible for enforcing standards, but local authorities can’t enforce against themselves.

This change in the law has been backed by Labour previously and was included in the Party’s June general election manifesto but has been blocked by the Tories on two previous occasions. However, following a Labour campaign, the government now say they will support the legislation.

Andrew Gwynne said:

“Our homes are at the centre of our lives but at the moment renters too often don’t have the basic rights that we take for granted in other areas.

“Sadly families, couples and single renters alike all have fewer rights in the rental market than a person buying a fridge-freezer. Decisions made by Conservative Ministers have made it even easier for landlords to let unfit homes.

“After the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, it’s even more important that we ensure all homes are fit for human habitation. That’s why I’m backing Karen Buck’s Bill which will ensure renters are protected legally.”

International Development Questions

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)

Harriett Baldwin answers questions from MPs on the work of the Department for International Development. read more »

Providing Train and Skills Across Romney Marsh

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe)

Last Friday I met with Edna Delaney and members of the team at the Romney Resource Centre, in Mountfield Road, New Romney. The Centre provides training opportunities for people from across Romney Marsh, and further afield. There is a growing recognition of the quality of the work they do, and it is excellent that we have such a facility on the Marsh. The increasing focus on lifelong learning and retraining, as a result jobs and the skills they require changing too, will make centres like this even more important in the future. The Romney Resource Centre and the Romney Marsh Business centre, have also been vital to the success of many start up businesses in the area. The creation of new businesses, often by people who have not taken that step before, has been one of the great success stories of the recovery of the economy locally, since the recession. If anything, there is now a shortage of business incubation and development space, because what we have, including new units created in the last few years, are now full. This is a good problem to have, but underlines the importance of creating new space for businesses to work from. This weekend, the Romney Marsh Business Centre is hosting a two-day weaving course in conjunction with Romney Tweed. Romney Tweed, is a community interest company established by Pat Alston, with the aims of producing textiles from the Romney sheep that graze on the marshes, but also to support the development of new employment skills for local people. The weaving course, which is I’m afraid fully booked, will give people an introduction to this craft. If you are interested in finding our more about this, the sessions run in the business centre at Unit 12, Mountfield Road, New Romney, from 9.30am to 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

Skills training is vital for the local economy, and not just to provide opportunities for people looking to start their career, or take it in a new direction. It is important that local businesses have access to the workers they need, and with the right level of skills. There are growing numbers of opportunities for people looking to work in sectors like construction, care services and the hospitality industry, and if anything, employers are often struggling to find enough of the people they need, to fill the vacancies they have.

Last week I also met with the Reverend Dave Barker from the Cheriton Baptist church. Alongside its core mission the church is involved with an extensive programme of youth work in the community it serves. Rev Barker also co-ordinates the Street Pastor programme that helps people who get into difficulties late at night in the town centre. This important work not only helps to protect vulnerable people, but also supports the resident community in the Old Town and Harbour areas, by diffusing potentially difficult situations.

The post Providing Train and Skills Across Romney Marsh appeared first on Damian Collins.

Hull North MP backs bid to end Holiday Hunger in Hull

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North)

Hull North MP Diana Johnson has pledged to back a move to help tackle ‘holiday hunger’ - the shocking issue of children going hungry during the school holidays.
 

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Aberavon MP, Stephen Kinnock, has held a constructive meeting with the new Minister for Prisons, Rory Stewart MP, just days after his appointment to the role, over the proposals to build a prison in Port Talbot.

Clearly - Glasses On - UK Politics from Clearly on Vimeo.

A campaign to bring clear vision to the 2.5 billion people worldwide denied it as quickly as possible came to Parliament this week.

The Clearly campaign has had support from celebrities such as Annie Lennox, Lenny Henry, James Corden, Brenda Blethyn and Niall Horan from One Direction. They have called on Commonwealth leaders to put poor vision on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

Shockingly, a third of the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, suffer from poor vision, which is the world’s largest unmet disability.

Nine out of 10 of these people just need a simple pair of glasses – a solution that has been around for centuries and can be produced for as little as £1.

I wouldn’t be able to do my job or go about my daily business without my contact lens/glasses, and I know many of my constituents feel the same. The ability to get a simple sight test and buy glasses is often taken for granted in the UK but it is something that so many around the world are unable to do.

I’m joining the Clearly campaign and calling on the Government and Commonwealth countries to put ‘vision for everyone’ on the agenda of their Heads of Government Meeting in London in April.

More info at www.clearly.world


Remembering the Holocaust

David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

Earlier this week (Monday 15 January), local MP Rt Hon David Evennett signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s (HET) Book of Commitment in Parliament. In doing so, Mr Evennett pledged his commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day, which is next Saturday 27 January. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history. Mr Evennett’s message read: “Never forget the horrors of the Holocaust”.

MP Catherine challenges Prime Minister on Carillion apprentices

Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle upon Tyne North)

Newcastle North MP, Catherine McKinnell, has today challenged the Prime Minister on the future of almost 1,500 apprentices employed by Carillion, which went into liquidation this week. Catherine has previously visited Carillion’s Gateshead training site, in her capacity as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships, meeting with several local construction skills apprentices … Continue reading MP Catherine challenges Prime Minister on Carillion apprentices

The following is written by John Penrose for Conservative Home…

I’m delighted to hear that the Government is today going to set out a clear timetable for our long-promised legislation to break the secrecy surrounding foreign owners of British property.

Back in 2015, Britain became the first country in the G20 to make foreign owners of British firms come clean about who’s really behind them, by declaring it on a public register.

For most clean, reputable firms it made no difference at all. They had absolutely nothing to fear. But dodgy shell companies that were being used to launder criminals’ cash, or hide plunder from wars, are finding life far harder than before.

Even better, as a result of Britain’s lead, other EU and G20 countries have followed suit with their own registers too. If daylight is the best disinfectant, some previously-murky corners are getting a pretty powerful dose. The changes showed the world that post-Brexit Britain will be a strong, reputable, trading nation: a global citizen that takes a lead on international problems like corruption, and which welcomes clean international investment.

Today, we have an opportunity to lead the world again. More than £122 billion of property in England and Wales is owned by offshore firms. Many of them will be entirely reputable; exactly the kinds of clean international investors who Britain will want to welcome with open arms after we’ve left the EU.

But a few will be dodgy, anonymous shell companies. So a register of who really owns what properties, to match the one we’ve already established for British companies, will shine a pitilessly-bright beam of sunshine into any shadows that might be lurking. It will prove, conclusively, that the UK is not a bolthole for the world’s dirty money.

Luckily, having a Prime Minister who used to be Home Secretary makes things much easier, because she gets the problem already. She understands how economic crime and corruption don’t just put the UK’s hard-won international reputation at risk. They undermine faith in our entire society and make it harder to unlock security, prosperity, and wellbeing at home and abroad.

The rest of us don’t have to look far to find evidence that she’s right. Every week across the globe, new and high-profile corruption cases are reported in the media – in politics, business, and even sport. Corruption undermines economic and commercial legitimacy, because people can see the system is stacked against them.

And it’s often the poorest people who suffer most, whether it’s being denied access to health care or basic education because they can’t afford the necessary bribes, or dreadful public services because public contracts were awarded corruptly instead. The UK starts from a better position than that, of course, but we aren’t immune. Criminals are flexible, dangerously clever people who are always trying new techniques and technologies. That’s why the ownership registers are so vital.

What’s more, the knock-on effects of dirty money artificially driving up British house prices puts the dream of home ownership beyond too many people’s grasp as well.

So the Government has already said it wants to introduce the new ‘Property Register’. It won’t be easy, of course; being a global trailblazer is rarely simple. Creating a legally-watertight framework will be pretty complex, as it will have to withstand well-funded and vicious legal challenges from deep-pocketed, dodgy people around the world with masses to lose.

But we promised it, so it must be done. It was announced back in 2016, and consulted on last year. The world is watching and it’s time to deliver. There’s cross-party backing for it in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and I expect the Government to make a sensible announcement today in the Lords on how this will be implemented imminently.

Government Ministers have declared an end to the ‘clear abuse of the London property market and high value properties across the country’ and that ‘we must not allow this city to be a haven for kleptocrats hiding their ill-gotten gains.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Homes Fit for Human Habitation

Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford)

On Friday 19th January, my colleague Karen Buck’s Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill 2017-19 will receive its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill seeks to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to require that residential rented accommodation is provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.

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This Bill is long overdue. While the majority of landlords provide decent homes that tenants are happy with, there is currently no established minimum standard for private renters.

Instead, tenants are reliant on over-stretched council environmental health teams to stamp out dangerous homes, rather than being able to take matters into their own hands. This Bill will enable tenants to themselves take legal action against landlords who fail to maintain rented homes to a safe standard.

Since the tragedy at Grenfell, I have repeatedly raised the issue of tower block safety in Parliament and Lewisham Council have carried out safety checks in blocks throughout the borough. This is of course at great expense to the Council, and still, no Government funding has been offered.

I recently questioned Sajid Javid whether the Government was attempting to bankrupt councils, which you can watch here.

Last year, Conservative MPs voted against a similar Labour amendment to the government’s Housing and Planning Bill, designed to ensure that all rented accommodation was safe for people to live in, which was defeated by 312 votes to 219. Speaking at the time, the local government minister, Marcus Jones, said this would result in “unnecessary regulation and cost to landlords” that would deter further investment and push up rents for tenants.

At the General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged a consumer rights revolution for renters to bring private renting into the twenty-first century, by introducing minimum standards to ensure that rented homes are free from serious faults such as unsafe wiring and appliances, problem damp and vermin. It also promised to name and shame rogue landlords and introduce tough fines for those who fail to meet minimum standards.

After seven years of failure on housing, I am pleased that the Government have chosen to back the Bill. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the debate on Friday, due to several longstanding constituency commitments, though many of my Labour colleagues will indeed be present and I fully support the Bill which I believe will create a more robust, secure and safe private rented sector.

Defence Budget

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead)

Sir Mike Penning MP calls for Trident replacement to be funded by Treasury not MOD.

High Peak MP Ruth George is backing a campaign by Derbyshire Districts Citizens Advice to offer free independent advice to help people to beat the cold and cut energy costs.

Ruth said: “With so many older houses in High Peak, over a fifth of residents suffer fuel poverty.  It’s especially an issue for older people, so I am pleased to support Citizens Advice’ ‘Big Energy Savings Week’.

“While many people now shop around for the best deal, there are still many who do not, and I know from my regular surgeries and coffee mornings that pensioners and people on low incomes are the least likely to switch suppliers.

“That’s why I am delighted that Citizens Advice will be joining me at my Hadfield Coffee Morning to give people free on the spot advice about how they can save money.

“Citizens Advice play a vital role in advising and supporting thousands of people at their advice sessions all across High Peak and their services are needed now more than ever.”

The event at Hadfield Methodist Church on Saturday 20 January, from 10.30am to 12noon, is the latest in a series of coffee mornings Ruth is holding around the constituency to meet residents.

“The coffee mornings are a great way for me to meet residents in all of High Peak’s towns and villages to find out their interests and concerns, informally over a cup of coffee or tea,” said Ruth.

In addition to Ruth’s coffee morning, the Citizen’s Advice team is also offering residents specialist energy appointments to assess their needs and refer them to further support through Warm Homes Discount schemes.  These sessions will help people to compare their gas and electricity costs, to negotiate with providers and to reduce how much energy they use.

The post Ruth George MP backs Citizens Advice energy campaign appeared first on Ruth George MP for High Peak.

James Cleverly speaking in the debate on the Brexit Bill, 16 January 2018

James Cleverly rejects an amendment to the Brexit Bill that would see the Charter of Fundamental Rights continue to apply to domestic law post-Brexit as the rights already exist in UK law and Parliament has a good track record on standing up for human rights.

Vacancy: Constituency Office Intern

Steve Reed (Croydon North)

Steve Reed is looking for an enthusiastic and hard-working person to join his busy constituency office in Thornton Heath for a three-month internship.  This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to gain experience and develop skills across a range of responsibilities within a Labour MP’s constituency office.

Salary: London living wage – £10.20 per hour (part-time)

Hours: Monday – Thursday, 9.30am-5pm.

Essential criteria

  • ability to deal with constituents in an understanding and compassionate manner
  • excellent written communication skills
  • ability to work quickly and accurately
  • a commitment to the aims and values of the Labour Party

Key responsibilities

  • responding to constituents’ enquiries and cases
  • liaising with local and central government on behalf of constituents
  • drafting responses to campaign and policy letters
  • data entry

Upon appointment you will be required to comply with the Baseline Personnel Security Standard, undertaken by the Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO). See Members’ Staff Verification Office (MSVO) page for further info. MPs generally pay staff in accordance with IPSA guidelines.

Closing Date: 26 January 2018

Interview/Start Dates

Interviews will take place on Thursday 1 February, in the constituency office.

Application Details

Please send a one-page covering letter setting out why you would like this internship, together with a CV of no more than one side of A4, to louise.szpera@parliament.uk.  Applications which exceed these lengths will not be considered.

Richard Benyon was delighted to hear that the Royal Berkshire Hospital has been rated ‘Outstanding’ after its latest Care Quality Commission inspection and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has been rated as ‘Good’ overall. He commented, ‘This is a significant improvement from the last inspection in 2014 and is a fantastic achievement and a […]

Mothers and work

Frank Field (Birkenhead)

The key finding of a major study, that mothers with very young children report greater levels of unhappiness if they work full-time, should serve to reshape the political debate on equalising...

Friday 12 January saw Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, host her second ‘New Residents’ Roadshow’ at Longford Park, Banbury.

With North Oxfordshire experiencing five times the national average of house building, Victoria was keen to meet those moving into her constituency and discuss any issues they have, particularly on the new developments. The second of her roadshows, hosted at Longford Park Primary School, took place on Friday evening, giving residents the chance to meet their MP and neighbours.

The event was well attended by people from across the development; key topics of conversation included street lighting, road safety, and community facilities. Cherwell District Council’s Community Development Partner, Rosie Phillips, also came along to offer her support.

After the roadshow, Victoria commented: “It was great to meet so many people of varying ages and welcome them to the area. I know there are a number of unresolved issues in Longford Park so it is helpful to chat to residents about their concerns or suggestions.  

I look forward to taking my roadshow back to Bicester in March and then return to a new development in Banbury later on this year.”

 

Kevan Jones MP is holding a Special Advice Surgery on Saturday 27 January 2018 in partnership with LEASE, the Leasehold Advisory Service who will provide up to 15 minutes of free legal advice.

Kevan Jones MP said:

“A number of my constituents have contacted me to ask for help and advice with their lease and that is why I am pleased to be holding this event for North Durham Constituents.”

The Special Advice Surgery will be held at the Parish Centre, Church Chare, Chester-le-Street, DH3 3QB from 11am.

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My thoughts are with all Carillion employees and their families at this time. I’m trying to find out the implications of this for Newcastle – the Government needs to answer some serious questions about how they have handled Carillion contracts.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/carillion-latest-updates-liquidation-full-statement-contractor-a8159376.html?utm_content=buffer885d5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

 

 

 

Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot)

Westminster Week

Parliament returned this week and the Prime Minister has refreshed her Ministerial team ready to face the next crucial 12 months leading to Brexit. Business this week began with two key pieces of Brexit-related legislation on the agenda in the House; the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, nicknamed the Customs Bill, and the Trade Bill.

Making a good start in education depends on lots of things. The welcome and environment that is provided in a school or nursery is vital, but so much more depends on the experiences that a child has had at home before they start school. Children who have been played with, talked with and read with are more likely to succeed that those who haven’t had lots of those experiences. That’s why in Nottingham, trying to ensure that every child lots of story books to share with adults and enjoy themselves is a priority for us and why working with the Dolly Parton Foundation is so important. We believe that giving children those early literacy skills that are gained from being regularly read to, right from birth, is one of the greatest gifts that we can give children. So we are aiming to get books to children on a regular basis.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, begun in Tennessee  and now operating all over the world, sends quality children’s books through the post to children from birth up until their 5th birthday for the cost of only £2.05 per book, and currently, through a variety of donations from businesses and individuals, as well as Big Lottery funding in 4 wards of the city, 4000 children have a book drop on their front doormat every month.

We aren’t satisfied with that and are keen that more of our city’s 21,000 under 5s get this opportunity. So in 2018 we are redoubling our efforts to enlarge this scheme, which has been proven to make children 28% more ready for school if they are on the scheme for at least 3 years.

I’m kicking off the year with a challenge to read stories to at least 2018 children and raise at least £2018. It would be great if you could support me with a donation, no matter how small. Our children deserve this chance.

www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/2018children

Cllr David Mellen
Portfolio Holder for Early Years and Early Education

The post Give Nottingham children a good start in life with books appeared first on Nottingham Labour.

Cobham Players Aladdin Panto

Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton)

On Saturday, I took the family to see Cobham Players’ pantomime production of Aladdin at Cobham Village Hall. This year’s pantomime had special significance as it marks 70 years since Cobham Players was formed. Aladdin was the group’s first pantomime in 1948 and in attendance was Mary Worsfold who played the Princess in the original production (pictured centre stage below).

Cobham Players are a terrific dramatic society who regularly put on plays, musicals, pantomimes and other entertainment in Cobham and the surrounding areas. They put on three major plays a year, and you can check out a list of upcoming events on their website here. I met with the group back in September 2017 and I was really impressed with their enthusiastic and friendly approach in playing a valuable role in our community life by providing top notch entertainment for a wide range of tastes and ages.

My thanks to Victoria Franklin for the kind invitation , and to all the cast and crew for a terrific performance.

On 12 January 2018 at 19:39, LESLIE, Christopher <christopher.leslie.mp@parliament.uk> wrote:

NEWS AND COMMENT FROM CHRIS LESLIE – Friday 12th January 2018
(for more news also see my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chrislesliemp)

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

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

NOTTINGHAM

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

Nottingham City Transport gas powered bus fleet Jan 2018 CL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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

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

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

Very best wishes

Chris Leslie

Labour & Co-operative Party MP for Nottingham East

Knight Backs Plans for Food Labelling Shake-Up

Greg Knight (East Yorkshire)

Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, has welcomed comments from farming Minster George Eustace MP indicating that the Government are planning a major shake-up of food labelling rules when we leave the EU. Currently food labelling regulations disadvantage British … Continue reading

MP calls for Gatwick noise reduction plan

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs)

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for a noise reduction plan at Gatwick as flights from the airport continue to increase.

Advice Surgery Saturday 13th January

Christina Rees (Neath)

My next advice surgery is this coming Saturday at Neath Library. Feel free to drop by to raise an issue, for some advice or to simply join me for cuppa and a chat.

Yorkshire devolution update

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)

Following the decisive community poll results in Barnsley and Doncaster, I believe we are close to securing a devolution agreement which could act as a stepping stone to a wider Yorkshire settlement.

This week the leaders of Barnsley and Doncaster wrote to the Communities Secretary proposing a deal which would see powers and funding flow to the Sheffield City Region starting this year. At the same time, those council leaders supporting a wider Yorkshire deal would be able to continue their negotiations with the aim of securing a deal by 2020. I led a debate in Parliament arguing the case for this compromise.

The tree is down, the baubles packed away for another year, and the Christmas cards ready to go for recycling (to St Giles Hospice Shop in Aldridge).

For many this week has meant back to school or back to work and in my case, back to Parliament.

Yet, 2018 for me started on an Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme visit for me to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia to meet with and support some of the British forces based there. The UK and Estonia have a long history of working together across defence and 2018 marks 100 years since the earliest cooperation between our Royal Navy and Estonia. Today Britain continues to play an important part, alongside our allies, in European security, defending the rule of law by which we all stand and upholding our values of democracy.

This issue of Britain’s continued commitment to security post-Brexit is one I raised recently with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. We will continue to work with our allies on a number of operations and programmes in which we are involved in the EU and which would be beneficial to continue to do so.

As I frequently write here, Government continues to work on many issues not just Brexit and those which are covered by the main news headlines. With the challenge that winter brings and in particular the additional pressures it places on the NHS the Government’s recent announcement of extra funding to help cope with this was good news.

Locally for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust this means our winter allocation is up to £1.7 million. This extra support is to be welcomed and I appreciate our hospitals and wider healthcare system have prepared earlier than ever before for winter.

In other news, proposals are being developed to crackdown on puppies being treated in unhealthy circumstances by unscrupulous breeders who have no regard whatsoever for their welfare. The New Year brought news that work is underway so that mothers’ names will finally be included on marriage certificates.

I will close with a look ahead to the weekend when we will see the curtain go up again for the start of this year’s Pantomime Season at Aldridge Youth Theatre. I am sure ‘Humpty Dumpty’ written especially for Aldridge Youth Theatre by Neville Ellis and directed by Alex Fisher will provide all the usual family fun, bringing together as it does the fabulous talent, enthusiasm and passion for theatre for which our local group is much loved and well known.

The season runs until the end of this month, my tickets are booked and I am looking forward to it – Oh yes I am!!!

This was first published by the Walsall Advertiser and the Sutton Observer on 12 January 2018.

Steve at the Ealing Carol Service

Steve Pound (Ealing North)

Ministerial Appointment

Robert Jenrick (Newark)

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Speaking in a debate on the Second Reading of the Trade Bill, Jonathan Djanogly backs a clause which aims to ensure continuity with regard to the GPA, or government procurement agreement, post-Brexit, as we will have to rejoin the GPA in our own right, rather than as a member of the EU.  read more »

Dave Cross / Friday 19 January 2018 18:22