I get sent an enormous amount of nonsense amidst the 200 plus daily e-mails I receive but occasionally a diamond shines out from the dust.
Hope you enjoy the “Brexit stamps”. Pretty much sums up my view of the whole sorry business…
The Prime Minister needs to understand that her Agreement cannot pass the Commons. All the Opposition parties oppose it. The DUP hate it. Around 100 Conservative MPs have stated in public they do not agree with it.
A substantial number of those MPs might change their vote on the Agreement if the Northern Ireland backstop were removed completely, or if there was an unambiguous and straightforward way for the UK to end it unilaterally once imposed. Whilst the vote on the Agreement would then be narrower, there would still be a substantial group of Conservative MPs who would oppose the Agreement for wider reasons often set out here. The Prime Minister ignores these other problems – the large sum of money committed for nothing, the indeterminate period left in the customs union, the vulnerability of our economy to new laws and regulations that could hurt us – all summed up as the opposite of the Leave we voted for. She assumes she could get practically every DUP and Conservative MP to change their minds.
She also assumed in the Confidence Vote meeting that the EU will offer some legally binding text which does scupper the Backstop. That looks extremely unlikely, given the stance of the EU so far. If we assume they are not bluffing when they say they will not re open the Withdrawal Agreement text it is difficult to see any reassurance or political declaration about the Backstop persuading the DUP and other critics, as what matters is the law as written rather than statements of how a future EU might behave. One of the problems with that is the imminent European Parliament elections and a new Commission, so what is the value of any promises by the current set up?
I have the following questions for the PM
What legal text have you tabled to remove the Backstop? Will you share it with us as we might agree with it?
What indications if any are there that the EU will moderate its stance and resume talks about legal change to the Backstop part of the Agreement?
If there is no new text and no prospect of talks to change this draft law, how do you envisage getting the DUP back on board to support the government?
If the DUP remain largely detached, how can the government proceed with its wider programme of work?
What action if any are you taking to deal with the other large problems with the Agreement as around 400 MPs see it?
If there are no good answers to these questions, then the PM should come to the Commons and announce that unf0rtunately the Agreement cannot be fixed so she is withdrawing it. She should then return to the EU and discuss the best way to proceed to exit, with accelerated work on the various agreements it would be nice to have to make it easier for both sides. She should finally get round to tabling a Canada style free trade agreement and set out again how the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border can be handled much as now. This present currency, Excise, VAT and anti terrorist border could also be a customs and regulatory border, with most of the checks done well away from the border and the information shared electronically in advance of the border crossing. Managed exit without a Withdrawal Agreement is what most Leave voters want, given the penal and one sided nature of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Matt Warman, MP for Boston and Skegness, has welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of funding increases for the police and local councils.
In plans announced on 13th December, funding for the police nationally will increase by £970 million next year, the biggest increase since 2010, while national funding for councils will rise by £1.3 billion, bringing the level of local government funding to more than £200 billion in the five years to 2020. The increases will allow police services to be protected and improved, and also help councils deliver the services residents need while protecting them from unfair hikes in their council tax bills.
Locally, funding for Lincolnshire Police could increase by up to £9 million in 2019/20, up 7.5 per cent, and funding for Lincolnshire County Council will rise by £19 million, up 3.9 per cent in cash terms.
As part of the police funding settlement, the Home Office also committed to fighting serious and organised crime, including economic crime and drug trafficking, with a £90 million investment in national, regional and local capabilities. The settlement also sees £175 million going into the Police Transformation Fund, which includes investment for innovative new crime prevention techniques and a new national welfare service for front line officers, and £495 million for national police technology capabilities.
The Government is also giving councils £650 million for social care next year – building on the £240 million announced to relieve winter pressures on the NHS, £420 million to tackle potholes and £84 million more for children’s social care. This is in addition to increasing business rates retention to 75 per cent from 2020, to give councils even more incentive to grow the local economy so both Boston Borough and East Lindsey District Councils keep more of the revenue raised locally to spend on local services for residents.
Matt commented, “I am delighted with the announcement of extra funding for 2019/20 for our police and local government. The increases of £9 million for Lincolnshire Police and £19 million for Lincolnshire County Council will help to protect and improve services for local residents. This is part of the Government’s balanced approach to the economy – spending on key public services while keeping taxes down and getting debt falling.
The settlement also gives local authorities more control over the money they raise, while protecting residents against excessive council tax rises. I will continue to ensure that the core Conservative values of law and order and localism remain central to government policy, and that Lincolnshire receives its fair share of public funding.”
Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, also welcomed the police funding settlement, saying, “The Government’s announcement of the provisional policing funding settlement is a significant step in delivering sustainable funding for Lincolnshire Police. It is heartening that through the efforts of my team and local MPs we, along with our counterparts elsewhere in the country, have made a persuasive case for additional funding to tackle the growing demands and increasing complexity of policing.”
East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight was one of sixty-five MPs and peers who joined Cats Protection at its annual Christmas Parliamentary Reception to celebrate the charity’s campaigning work.
The event, held in the Palace of Westminster, was to highlight the work of the charity in helping improve the lives of cats and their owners.
Politicians were able to find out more about the charity’s work in calling for the licensing of air guns in England and Wales to prevent cats being the victims of shootings.
Cats Protection is the UK’s leading cat charity, helping around 200,000 cats every year through a network of over 250 voluntary-run branches and 36 centres.
The charity’s Head of Advocacy & Government Relations Jacqui Cuff said: “Cats are much-loved pets for millions of people in the UK, so we were pleased to welcome Sir Greg and other politicians who were keen to find out how we’re helping improve the lives of cats.
Sir Greg said that he was backing the charity’s call to make it illegal to own an airgun without a licence.
Speaking in the House of Commons after the event Sir Greg said: “In 2016, 202 cats in the UK were reported as being shot with an airgun. 90% of these attacks were in England and Wales where it is possible to own an airgun without a licence unlike Northern Ireland where the incidence of cat shooting is much lower”.
The MP also praised the work of the charity.
A considerable number of my constituents in Sutton have been in touch with me regarding the proposals for the borough-wide Controlled Parking Zone which Sutton Council are consulting on. The important date is 16th December when this closes so it is vital if you haven’t expressed your view you do so before then via the link below:
Sutton has a very high level of car ownership, due in part to us being an outer London borough which doesn’t have the high levels of public transport like an area closer to London would have and this policy has the potential to significantly affect the way many people in this borough go about their day-to-day lives whether it be commuting to work, getting their children to school or going out to the shops.
This type of scheme has been pushed by the council before in the Wallington area around the station when I was a councillor before becoming an MP. I campaigned against it as a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It gained a significant amount of opposition from residents to be ultimately rejected. I have concerns about the way this particular scheme is being rolled out in terms of the lack of consultation that I’ve heard about from those who’ve contacted me and also concern about whether the number of permits and their price will change from what is initially offered. Whilst the aim of reducing overall emissions in the borough from vehicles is a noble one, I’m sceptical that using a CPZ to do this will alleviate the problem and cause further problems to residents that use car regularly, particularly if they use a car as part of their business. The Council seem to be wanting to charge residents for their parked cars which clearly won’t be emitting anything, thus encouraging them to drive during the day.
I do appreciate that there are some areas mentioned in this group which appear to need some form of parking control, however there are plenty of other areas across the borough, particularly in the Sutton West and South wards, that do not need a controlled parking zone at all, there isn’t a strong case for it happening and it’s therefore crucial that if you oppose this happening to register your view.
I’ll be working closely with the councillors in those wards such as Cllr Lily Bande, Cllr Catherine Gray as well as Cllrs Tony Shields and Tim Crowley who have been in turn working with residents such as Sandra Ackland to raise awareness of what is going on and for as many views to be inputted as possible and I’ll continue to take on board what’s been fed back to me from residents in Sutton.
Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has visited Orde Wingate Way delivery office, to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post and to pass on early Season’s Greetings to its hardworking staff.
Alex was shown around the office by Delivery Office Manager, Tom Carver,and introduced to the postmen and women, who will be pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in Stockton North in the forthcoming busy Christmas period.
The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts as well as sending Christmas cards and parcels. Royal Mail also plays a key role in e-commerce for many businesses sending goods to customers throughout Christmas shopping season.
Alex said: “At no other time is the hard work and dedication of our posties clearer than during the festive period. There is a huge amount of effort and dedication that goes into delivering a first class Christmas all over the country.
“It was great to meet the team here at Orde Wingate Way and thank them for the extraordinary lengths they will go to ensure Christmas parcels and cards are delivered on time, as well as thanking them for delivering our mail services all through the year, and in all weathers.”
Tom Carver, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager, said: “Our postmen and women will be working extremely hard to deliver Christmas parcels, cards, letters and parcels to people in Stockton North over the festive period. We are pleased that Alex could visit the office to see our operation and to support the team.”
The last recommend posting dates for Christmas are
2nd Class – Tuesday 18 December 2018, 1st Class – Thursday 20 December 2018, and Special Delivery – Saturday 22 December 2018
For more information about Royal Mail’s last recommended posting dates, please visit: https://www.royalmail.com/greetings or call 03457 740 740.
Figures from Chesterfield Food Bank showed that they helped feed almost 300 people last Christmas, and Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins has warned that he expects the number to increase again this year and has urged residents to provide donations to help those in need.
Toby visited the Loundsley Green Food Bank to take in his own donation this Christmas and to speak to the staff and volunteers who work there. Toby was joined by local councillors, Avis Murphy, Tom Murphy and Ray Catt.
Toby said, “I am always impressed by the dedication of the volunteers at our food banks but disappointed that people are becoming increasingly dependent on them. The Chesterfield food bank provided food parcels to over 280 people last Christmas and I suspect that this number will increase again this year. I urge people to donate what they can this Christmas to help those in need.
Toby added, “Food prices have continued to increase whilst wages and benefits have not kept up with prices. We have also seen the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit continue, which is causing massive disruption and leaving families without the money they need to pay the bills and buy food. We are also seeing vulnerable people losing their disability benefits and being expected to contribute more to their own care. The Government have abrogated their responsibilities and I am very grateful that we have a strong community spirit in Chesterfield to help protect in the direst circumstances.”
Rail travellers in Welwyn Hatfield will finally be able to use Oyster and contactless payment cards for journeys to and from London.
The announcement was made by the Department for Transport after several years of campaigning to expand easy payments into parts of Hertfordshire.
MP Grant Shapps, who has battled for the move for a number of years, said: “It is fantastic to finally see Welwyn Hatfield included in the Oyster zones.”
Barriers at stations along the line will soon start to be changed to accept pay-as-you-go cards. Implementation is set to begin in the second half of 2019.
The expansion of Oyster will make train travel “so much easier for residents commuting into London as well as those travelling north to Luton,” said Mr Shapps.
“Although this is a move in the right direction, train services to and from Welwyn Hatfield still have a long way to go in improvements.
“The success in this campaign won’t stop me from continuing to push for more reliable and more frequent trains to the area.”
Stations which will accept Oyster and other contactless cardsinclude Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Welham Green, Brookmans Park and PottersBar.
Theresa May limped through her no confidence vote, but her dog’s dinner of a Brexit deal is still dead in the water.
May’s decision to defer the Meaningful Vote was not only the most anti-democratic act by a British Prime Minister in living memory, it was also utterly self-defeating.
Had May held the vote she would also have gained leverage in negotiations with the EU – proof that they need to budge. But perhaps most importantly she would have moved the debate along. She would have learnt much about the will of the House, and what deal she can do with Brussels.
But with May’s head still buried in the sand, and with Labour reluctant to table a No Confidence motion, we remain stuck in a state of limbo.
Today, I visited Walton Community Hospital, part of Central Surrey Health (CSH), a social enterprise that provides a variety of health and care services in the community.
Walton Community Hospital has 38 beds meaning it is able to care for patients, most of whom are elderly and have been referred from their GP or hospital (mostly St. Peter’s Hospital). The Hospital also serves as a‘hub’, providing social care, mental health services and physiotherapy. From Walton Hospital, Nurses and mental health practitioners from CSH Surrey also go out into the community to provide support in patients’ homes. As well as caring for patients in the community, this helps ease NHS pressures at the larger hospitals.
My thanks to Bill Caplan, Chair and Sarah Tomkins, Operations Director, for inviting me. You can read more about CSH Surrey here.
West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has announced the winner of his 2018 parliamentary Christmas card design competition. This year’s winner is Kerrie Hoben of Aitkenbar Primary whose winning design was selected from hundreds of entries submitted by local schools across … Continue reading
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Jonathan Djanolgy writes to Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government seeking explanation for Huntingdonshire Local Government Funding Settlement that amounts to a reduction in core spending power of 4%.
New legislation, powers and tools to tackle corruption in the UK have been heralded in a new report, which comes just days after an international watchdog gave the UK top marks for its response to dirty money.
Among the achievements across the past 12 months listed in a cross-government review of the Anti-Corruption Strategy was the Criminal Finances Act – which saw the first use of new powers. The new national economic crime centre and a central government network to reduce the risks of bribery and corruption are also highlighted as commitments fulfilled this year.
According to the assessment of the strategy, which aims to support national security, prosperity at home and abroad and public confidence in our institutions, nearly all the commitments due this year have been met while laying the foundation for the rest.
Ben Wallace MP, Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, said:
Corruption and economic crime undermine our economy, damage our international reputation and have a corrosive effect on individuals and communities. This report shows our determination to tackle these threats and that the UK remains in the vanguard of international efforts to tackle corruption. I am delighted with the progress made.
As part of the strategy, which was published last December, the government has brought the Criminal Finances Act into force, including additional powers for law enforcement agencies to identify and recover corrupt and criminal funds. The act introduced unexplained wealth orders, which can be used to compel individuals to explain the sources of their wealth. The first UWOs have been issued relating to assets of £22 million.
The new National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), housed within the National Crime Agency, fulfils another Strategy commitment. Additionally, the UK is strengthening its framework for combatting corruption by evaluating our systems through international reviews including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard setter for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. According to a Mutual Evaluation Report published by FATF on 7 December, the UK is world-leading in the fight against illicit finance.
A further action taken since the Strategy was published is the launch of a new government Counter-Fraud Profession. This is a professional network of more than 3,000 civil servants who specialise in tackling fraud, bribery and corruption. It allows them to access training and share their expertise in order to enhance the quality of their risk assessments and investigations.
In addition, last month the government launched the Serious and Organised Crime Strategy, which includes an investment of at least £48 million over the next 18 months for a package of capabilities to tackle economic crime and illicit finance.
Individual government departments are responsible for implementing specific actions from the Strategy and these are overseen by the Prime Minister’s Anti-Corruption Champion, John Penrose MP. In Copenhagen in October he launched a campaign to make it harder for criminals to hide the proceeds of corruption and crime behind complex corporate structures by increasing transparency of the ownership of companies and other entities.
Mr Penrose said:
Tackling corruption at home and abroad doesn’t just keep us all safe; it means our economy grows faster, creates a level playing field for our exporters and shows the world that post-Brexit Britain will always be a fair and trusted trading partner.
This is the first annual progress update on the government’s Anti-Corruption Strategy. Together with last week’s FATF report, which gave Britain a top-notch international anti-corruption ranking, it shows we’re steadily making the UK a tougher place for criminals and the corrupt.
The government’s 6 priorities under the Strategy are:
Of the 134 commitments in the Strategy, 30 contained elements due for completion by the end of 2018. Of these, 26 have been completed and 2 have been partially completed. Work has begun on the remaining 2 elements and is on track to be completed by next year, according to the report.
Earlier this term Stephen McPartland MP was pleased to welcome a visiting teacher from India who works at St Mary's Singla in Darleeling, a school which Aston St Mary's School has had a friendship link with for a number of years.
Stephen McPartland MP said, "It is very good to see how the friendship between the schools has developed over the years, with exchange of letters and pictures between the pupils, as well as one of the teachers from Aston St Mary's visiting India. I was very pleased to meet Miss Sudhina and that she hopes to establish a School council when she is returns to her school."
Aston St Mary's School has raised funds for their friendship school in India including to help purchase computer equipment. During her visit Miss Sudhina has spent time joining in with the school activities and has been able to pick up new ideas around teaching and pupil interaction to take back and introduce to her school in India.
Rt Hon Sir David Evennett, MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford, paid a visit to the Royal Mail delivery office in Bexleyheath this morning to see first-hand the operation of delivering Christmas post, and to pass on his Christmas wishes to the postmen and women at their busiest time of year.
Lesley Laird MP visited Kirkcaldy Royal Mail Delivery Office today (Friday) to pass on Seasons Greetings to its dedicated team.
Lesley was shown around the office by Keith Brown, Delivery Office Manager, and introduced to the postmen and women, who are pulling out all the stops to sort and deliver mail in Kirkcaldy in the run up to Christmas.
The Festive Season is Royal Mail’s busiest period, as millions of people shop online for gifts as well as sending Christmas cards and parcels. Kirkcaldy delivery office, which normally handles around 3,000 parcels a day sees that figure rise to a whopping 8,000 parcels during December.
Lesley said: “At no other time is the hard work and dedication of postmen and women clearer than during the festive period. There is a huge amount of effort and dedication that goes into delivering a first class Christmas all over the country.
“It was great to meet the team here at Kirkcaldy and thank them for the extraordinary lengths they will go to ensure Christmas parcels and cards are delivered to loved ones on time, as well as thanking them for delivering our mail services all through the year, in all weathers.”
Keith Brown, Royal Mail Delivery Office Manager, said: “Our postmen and women will be working extremely hard to deliver Christmas parcels, cards, letters and parcels to people in Kirkcaldy. We are grateful that Lesley visited the office to see our operation and to support the team.
“We’d like to remind our customers to post early this Christmas and to ensure all their mail is posted by the recommended dates, so that friends and family can enjoy their Christmas greetings and parcels. If everyone uses the postcode on every item of mail, this also helps us greatly in the job that we do at this very busy time.”
Customers do not need to travel to a Royal Mail Delivery office to pick up parcels if they can’t or do not want to. They can arrange a redelivery free of charge on a day that is convenient for them (including Saturdays), or Royal Mail can deliver the item to a different address within the same postcode area.
This service can be arranged by calling the number on the “Something for You” card we leave or by visiting our website at www.royalmail.com/redelivery.
The last recommend posting dates for Christmas are:
Second Class – Tuesday 18 December 2018
First Class – Thursday 20 December 2018
Special Delivery – Saturday 22 December 2018
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Unsurprisingly Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union continue to dominate the political debate in Westminster, and many of you have been in touch with me about what is without doubt one of the biggest, if not the biggest, political issue of recent times.
As I am writing this article the Prime Minister is engaged in a series of bilateral meetings with European Heads of Government to seek greater reassurance for Parliamentarians on the question of the Northern Ireland “backstop”. We await further news of these talks.
The vast majority of us accept the outcome of the referendum and want to leave the EU with a deal. As such Parliament has a responsibility to discharge its duty and if we will the ends, we must also will the means.
Closer to home and last week we saw the welcome announcement from Government of £36 million towards a new Emergency Department at Walsall Manor Hospital. This will benefit residents right across the Borough, including here in Streetly. It was secured thanks to Chief Executive Richard Beeken and his team of hard working staff at The Manor, and a funding bid to which I was very pleased to be able to add my support. This local funding announcement is part of a much bigger £1 billion funding stream for healthcare facilities across England, and is a clear demonstration of the Government’s strong commitment to our NHS.
With so many small businesses forming the backbone of our local economy I was pleased to once again be able to support this year’s Small Business Saturday. My day began on Boundary Road with a visit, and an amazing breakfast at The Brew House, where I was able to hear first-hand from Jane Oakes on how she was rising to the challenges and opportunities of starting a new business. I know from my own experience how challenging the first few months can be for any new business and I will continue to work to ensure our businesses receive the right support from Government. By shopping local we can all support our local High Streets and retail areas and the businesses we have on our doorstep.
And now to Christmas! The recent Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Parish Church once again saw inspirational designs and wonderful decorations from many of our local businesses, churches, voluntary groups and schools. Our thanks should go to them all for participating and to Reverend Mandy Walker and her team for putting on this excellent community event.
As this will be my final column before Christmas I would like to take this opportunity to pause for a moment and reflect: to remember those who are elderly, unwell or alone at Christmas, and those less fortunate than ourselves: to acknowledge the service and dedication of our Armed Forces those who work around the clock in life-saving healthcare, policing, fire and rescue, and emergency services for us all. It has been once again a privilege to be your Member of Parliament throughout 2018. Let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year.
This article was first published in the Sutton Observer on 14 December 2018.
100 years ago today was the first time that women were able to vote in a General Election and also the first time that women were allowed to stand for election to Parliament.
This was achieved after more than eight decades of campaigning by both men and women, including the courageous suffragettes.
Although only some women got the right to vote in 1918, the change led the way to all women getting the vote ten years later and forced politicians to consider ‘what will women think?’ when they wrote their manifestos and put new laws into place.
In the 21st Century most of us can only imagine a time where women had no legal status, no rights over their own children, no ability to divorce, except for the wealthiest (and only in the cruelest of circumstances).
The right to vote led to significant improvements to women’s basic rights and later to progressive laws like equal pay and the Sex Discrimination Act.
Voting itself and being registered to vote are so important; women should be heard, their voices counted and their views known. On this important anniversary I’d urge all women to make sure they are registered to vote.
Make sure you’re registered to vote in upcoming local elections and in case a snap general election or referendum. New voter registration rules mean that you now have to register every year.
You can register easily online www.gov.uk/register-to-vote
Councillor Linda Woodings
Portfolio Holder for Planning, Housing and Heritage
Yesterday evening the Prime Minister won a vote of confidence from her Conservative Members of Parliament. I did not think that this was the right time to have a vote and did not submit a letter calling for one, however I felt I could not support the Prime Minister on this occasion. I want [...]
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Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart has written to Local Government Minister Jake Berry MP and Business Minister Lord Henley in support of East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s (ERYC) application to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This application was made after ERYC’s application to the Coastal Communities Fund was unsuccessful.
ERYC has applied to the ERDF for funding so that the rock armour defences to the south of Withernsea can be extended in order to prevent further coastal erosion and protect homes, businesses and key infrastructure.
Graham commented: “I was disappointed by the recent news that ERYC’s application to the Coastal Communities Fund for this vital funding had been unsuccessful.
“I had been working with South East Holderness Ward Councillors and ERYC officials to obtain the funding through that process and am frustrated that Withernsea wasn’t taken forward to the next stage of the application. However, we are by no means giving up.
“ERYC has now applied to the European Regional Development Fund for the £5 million it needs to extend the rock armour defences to the south of Withernsea by 400m. I appreciate some people may be confused that we are still able to apply for European development funding, but we are allowed to do so as the money for this fund was allocated years ago.
“To support ERYC’s application I have written to the Ministers responsible for allocating the ERDF money, Jake Berry MP, Minister for Local Government and Lord Henley, Minister for Local Growth.
“In my letters I argue that Withernsea should receive this funding as the ERDF earmarks areas for special treatment which are naturally disadvantaged by their rurality, and distance from other amenities or settlements.
“I concluded the letter by urging the Ministers to do everything they can to obtain a positive funding decision and help Withernsea obtain the money it needs to protect peoples’ homes and livelihoods.
“As we head into 2019 I am committed to obtaining this money for Withernsea. Together with South East Holderness Ward Councillors, we will explore every avenue possible until we secure the necessary funding to prevent further coastal erosion in Withernsea.
Brexit uncertainty, parking and traffic and improving the local environment were the hot topics at my latest coffee afternoon, held in the Old Swan Ward of the Liverpool Wavertree constituency.
Letters, emails and telephone calls have been coming in at a rate of 10-1 in favour of a People’s Vote on the final Brexit decision that has now been delayed by the rattled Prime Minister, so it was good to once again discuss the issues face-to-face with constituents and hear local concerns.
The meeting was the latest around the six wards that make up the constituency – Picton, Kensington and Fairfield, Church, Childwall and Wavertree.
Thank you to the Joseph Lappin Centre, who hosted the coffee afternoon, and to Sway with Ray and the dancers who provided some welcome musical entertainment after the event.
Thank you to everyone who came and raised such vital questions about the possibility and impact of a second referendum, the protection of workers’ rights and what one resident warned of as the risk of ‘self-imposed economic sanctions’ if we see the Withdrawal Agreement implemented or, even worse, a no-deal Brexit.
Some residents were frustrated about parking in the streets, particularly around schools when children are being dropped off and picked up and how some roads were being used as race tracks by speeding cars.
People really care about the area and want to see pavements cleared of dog mess and the environment better supported.
I will be raising all these issues in the coming weeks and working with Labour councillors in the Ward and the council to address them.
I hold regular surgeries if you want to speak to me about community issues in your area or have other issues you want to raise. Please book an appointment by telephoning 0151 228 1628 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weeks leading to Christmas are a time of general celebration and joy. But as the nights grow colder it is vital not to forget the most vulnerable people in society, and especially homeless people and rough sleepers.
If we thought that the drama, incompetence and let’s face it, sheer desperation of Mrs May and her shabby excuse for a government couldn’t get any worse, then we were all in for a surprise this week.
We have known for at least two weeks or more now that Theresa May’s worst of all worlds deal was going to be rejected by Parliament because it was so bad for our nation’s future. Somehow however, Mrs May has managed to unite the entire House of Commons against her, and her lousy plan!
Mrs May has been so rigid and focused on her bad deal that she couldn’t see the wood from the trees, and decided to plough ahead regardless when she should have had some humility, and gone back to Brussels to renegotiate. If she failed, then she should call an election so that the public could take power back from her and elect a new government that would be strengthened to negotiate the right deal for the whole of the UK.
Considering all of this it was of no surprise to me that Mrs May dragged herself to the Commons on Monday to again face defeat a week after losing three-votes in a row, one of which saw her Government found in contempt, essentially lying to Parliament. As I finished questioning the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on Monday afternoon, Mrs May rose to her feet to announce to the country that her defeat would be so large if MPs did have a chance to vote on her deal that she preferred to cancel the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, the entire House of Commons laughed her down. Sadly, with the pound continuing to slide this is no laughing matter.
The Government’s half-baked deal and their proposed backstop solution for Northern Ireland threatens the integrity of the Union by adding yet another constitutional crisis to the many that have accumulated over recent years.
Labour have always believed any decision to revoke Article 50 should only be a political decision made by the UK as a whole, with a deal that respects the result of the referendum and making clear that revoking Article 50 is not something we are advocating.
Our priority is protecting jobs and the economy, and ensuring Parliament does not vote for Theresa May’s botched deal.
This Government’s incompetent and chaotic handling of the most important decision facing this country for a generation or more is damaging our economy and our democracy. It’s clear now that the Government cannot bring back a deal that protects our economy and is acceptable to Parliament; that’s why they should make way for a party that can, and will.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin has today repeated her support for Prime Minister Theresa May following the news that Conservative MPs have called for a vote of confidence in her leadership. read more »
This investment in technologies of the future is good news for Llanelli. It is a vote of confidence in our manufacturing base, and I welcome the 85 high-skilled jobs that will be created at the local plant.
It is good to see the Welsh Government recognising the importance of Electric Vehicle technology and investing to make sure Wales leads in this area. This is key to ensuring we have a successful and sustainable automotive sector.
"The no confidence vote in the Prime Minister will be held this evening in Westminster. The Prime Minister needs the support of 158 MPs, and if she succeeds with that, she cannot be challenged for another 12 months. I will take some time today to think about how to vote. I will respect the secret ballot process and I will therefore not be discussing which way I will vote once I have reached my decision.
High Peak MP Ruth George has branded moves by Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to cut almost £100,000 a year from Peaks & Dales voluntary services as short sighted.
And she has written to the CCG’s Chief Executive and Governing Body urging them to re-think the proposals and to carry out the further consultation that were promised by Stephen Barclay MP as Health Minister.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s Derbyshire CCG meeting, Ruth said: “I am appalled that Derbyshire’s Clinical Commissioners are looking to go ahead with cutting almost all of the funding to High Peak’s amazing Community & Volunteer Services CVS.
“The short-termism of these cuts is wholly wrong and I urge the CCG members to think again.
“Cuts of almost £100,000 will wipe out our local services for Home from Hospital, Community Transport, befriending elderly and isolated people, and night sitting. There is no mention of alternative services.
“As I set out in Parliament in September, there is no better or more cost-effective service than our dedicated volunteers. Once these services are lost, they will take many years to build up again, even if the goodwill is there.
“I have heard first hand from their elderly clients how much they value the services offered, and from volunteers how rewarding they find it to make such a difference to vulnerable people who are often lonely and build a real bond with the volunteers who support them.
“Both the service users and the volunteers will be devastated at this news. Our voluntary services have taken years to build up their organisation and their trained and trustworthy volunteers. Once they have gone, these services cannot be replaced.
“When he responded to my debate in September, then Health Minister Stephen Barclay promised, a full consultation, saying, ‘It is important to be clear that before taking any final funding decisions on services through the voluntary and communities sector, that a further round of engagement and consultation with the local communities, local authorities, patients, GPs and other stakeholders will take place.’
“That promise has been broken. Instead I see from Thursday’s papers that the four-week rushed consultation over the summer is being relied on, with no input from local authorities, GPs and others that were promised.
“I will continue to fight this as it will cost the NHS and social care more when people can’t access these services. And patients will suffer, particularly the poorer, more isolated and vulnerable people.
Today I tackled the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, over the cuts forced on Derbyshire CCGs, which have to be made good within one financial year, forcing them to make short-term cuts instead of planning for long-term health improvements that the NHS is meant to be doing. I was told that those are the rules imposed on NHS England by Government, so that will be my next port of call.”
Ruth is also urging residents to attend Thursday’s meeting of the health commissioners at 2.45pm at the Coney Green Business Centre in Clay Cross, to make their views known and to show how strongly local people feel.
Responding to Ruth’s debate in September, then Health Minister Stephen Barclay said: “On the voluntary sector, it is important to stress that decisions have not been taken and that a consultation process is under way. The CCGs will have those discussions with local stakeholders.”
The post High Peak MP Ruth George fights health cuts to voluntary services appeared first on Ruth George MP for High Peak.
A Bill of Digital Rights: The Case for a 34th Amendment
AI World Society Distinguished Lecture
The Rt Hon Liam Byrne MP
Wednesday 12th December 2018
Michael Dukakis Institute for Leadership and Innovation and House of Commons
Governor Dukakis, Mr President and Minister Taro Kono, friends and colleagues.
Let me apologise at once for speaking to you virtually.
Believe me, I am there with you in spirit!
Given the turmoil of our capital today, I am yearning for the calm of your campus!
It’s a campus I remember with great love.
My days at Harvard were some of the happiest days of my life.
I was newly married to Sarah, and around our nest on Cambridge Street, the dot.com boom seemed to be changing the very laws of economics; the rules of business; the norms of society.
But revolutions are rarely predictable;
And we did not predict the profound change that was coming in the balance of power between nation and nation, and between rich and poor;
Thirty years ago years ago I remember standing in the pouring rain in a Harvard car-park pleading with a professor for a place on the course in Building Information Age Businesses,
Now I’m speaking to you about how to tame that business power.
As a student, it felt it was an era of change.
As a politician, I now know it is change of era.
What our powers of prophecy failed to foresee, was that this information age
Was also an age of American hyper-power
And an age profoundly shaped by thirty years of liberal economics.
Most of us didn’t actually believe that it was the end of history; but lots found the idea pretty seductive.
In fact, history simply turned.
And the question we face in this new era, was spelt out for me by a very senior editor at our Financial Times:
‘Is this new age, he asked, ‘set to become more “Hobbesian” than “Rawlsian”?
‘Will we change the rules to fairly distribute the benefits and burdens of this new age, or will the world resemble a nightmare of ‘all against all’?
Speaking to a Harvard audience, I thought I’d better explain how John Rawls can win the day!
Let me explain the challenge before offering a few answers.
After victory in the Cold War, we faced the challenge of winning the peace.
America/NATO was the world’s only hyper-power – but this Age of Asymmetry was bound to provoke the rise of insurgency.
And so it proved.
From Al-Qaeda to ‘active measures’, malign actors have sought to use digital technology to radicalise, to terrorise, to paralyse: exploiting technology to sow discord, to inflame two sides of any argument, in short, to divide and so rule.
But the second challenge is not foreign but domestic.
It is the rise of new super-giants in our economy, companies so big that they can bend market outcomes – and bend them towards inequality.
Inequality which is the rocket-fuel of the populism that our enemies seek to inflame.
Joseph Schumpeter, another Harvard thinker, predicted this.
Everyone remembers his description of creative destruction.
But everyone forgets corollary: the destruction of competition.
And that is what we see across the digital economy.
A rise of Technolopolies – the superstar firms – which, as economists like David Autor have explained, drive down labour’s share of national income.
Put together the Age of Insurgency and the Age of Technopoly, and we do indeed have the makings of a Hobbsian world.
WHAT WOULD RAWLS SAY?
I don’t think the status quo can last. It is simply too unstable.
But, nor do we want, even if we could have it, a Chinese approach of central state control.
We have to find a middle way and in this, John Rawls should be our guide.
Rawls used a brilliant idea – the idea of an “overlapping consensus” to describe the way we can construct the law of people and crystallise rights equal to each.
It’s this overlapping consensus that we need today.
A new consensus we should enshrine in Rights for the digital age.
A Bill of Digital Rights.
A 34th Amendment, perhaps, to your Constitution.
And a new Convention for our Council of Europe.
The content of this Novus Carta should reflect the different roles we play in life – as citizens, as workers, as consumers, as parents, as children.
But let’s start with our basic rights as citizens;
Because here we face the most dangerous paradox;
The social networks built to nurture sweet-talk have become
The echo-chambers of hate speech
As humans, we love to connect; but we fear to be different.
So those who want to play the part of a digital Mephistopheles and entice us into supporting an agenda of not building bridges, but walls, don’t have to work that hard.
And countries like Russia understand this.
Their ‘dark social playbook’ connecting hackers, fake news sites, troll farms and dark money pumping round ads on Facebook targeted with pyscho-graphic precision courtesy of firms like Cambridge Analytica, takes apart old defences of democracy because the laws we have in place are so outdated.
So let’s update them.
Here in the UK we’re looking hard at ideas like:
The Feinstein Bill creating obligations to notify authorities of glorification or conspiracy to commit terrorism;
Or Germany’s NetzDG law which seems to be working in controlling hate speech.
Or Senator Warner’s proposed a duty on platforms to clearly and conspicuously label bots to protect consumers, and to stop bots amplifying disinformation, plus a duty to determine origin of posts and/or accounts – a crucial step in ensuring that bad actors are not allowed to abuse free speech in the arena of our democracy.
As citizens, we bear the right to be fully informed: and that needs enshrining for the digital age.
Second, as workers, we face both the biggest opportunity and the biggest threat to our livelihoods for decades.
Automation will be affect some 1.2 billion of the world’s 3.2 billion workers.
It would be naive to think that won’t be disruptive.
Our challenge here is what I’ve called the Harry Bridges Test.
The legendary president of the American dockers’ union won his spurs organising in 1934 – but it was the mechanisation of the Sixties that provoked him to ask: how do we win for his members “a piece of the machine”.
The challenge, said Bridges, was how to get the machines working for the workers and not against them.
That’s our test today.
Without rights to a genuine minimum Living Wage, a right to retraining, and a right to algorithmic justice, to stop the automated discrimination of hiring, firing and managing in the work-place, we will never create the ‘project hope’ we need for the future of automation.
Third, in the marketplace for consumers, we need to act now to protect freedom of choice by protecting the reality of competition.
In many parts of the economy, especially in the digital world, competition is moving from theory to fantasy.
And this is part of a larger trend.
The founding father of economics, Adam Smith, had a lot to say about the dangers of monopoly;
‘People of the same trade’ wrote Adam Smith ‘seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices’.
Well this summer, the IMF revealed just how extensive that contrivance has become.
The rising levels of market concentration across advanced economies is pushing up price mark-ups across advanced economies – by an average of over 40% since the 1980’s
That’s a sign, competitive forces are waning.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
As I learned at the Harvard Business School, we don’t train corporate-chieftains to protect competition; we train them – and reward them – for destroying it.
Well I remember Michael Porter teaching me ‘The essence of strategy formulation is coping with competition.’
And now technology is being used systematically to destroy competition.
The world’s largest 2,500 companies now account for over 90% of global total and corporate investment in research and development.
The top 500 companies account 82% of the spend.
Many are now using this spend to create data monopolies to lock in their customers for the future.
Yet today’s competition rules don’t touch this.
Facebook has bought 69 companies since 2007.
When it bought WhatsApp, the deal turnover, some $13 billion, was too small to trigger merger control.
But buying WhatsApp, allowed Facebook to acquire a treasure trove of data on WhatsApp’s 1 billion users to add to its pile.
The risk of data-monopolies is not today a trigger for merger control.
But it should be.
Fourth, as parents, we have rights to honour, because we have duties to honour; duties to our children.
That means we have duties to safeguard our children online, where they now spend so much of their time. And who happen to make up a third of online users.
The Founders did not intend rights of free speech to undermine the healthy instruction of children.
Legislating in this field is rightly, difficult. But if we owe a duty of care to our children, why don’t social media firms.
If I built a physical arena and filled it with people, I’d be asked to manage a host of safety regulations.
Not so, in the virtual arena, where we’re seen suicide “games” spreading around social media platforms, like the “blue whale challenge”.
This dangerous “game” goads vulnerable teens into challenges, which start off as innocuous but steadily escalate into acts of self-harm.
Despite Instagram’s awareness of the “challenge” shared across its platform, the “game” has been linked to over a hundred teenage deaths in Russia, with evidence of the game spreading to the UK and India.
It’s time, therefore, that we imposed the same duties of care on social media firms bu asking them to set out the harms they know they risk creating, and inspecting them on taking appropriate steps to ameliorate those threats.
We should insist that the rights of children don’t stop at their screens; the rights of children have a digital dimenions; the right to informed use; the right to be safe, and crucially for the future, the right not simply to literacy, but digital literacy.
Finally: rights should be matched by responsibility.
Changes in technology always bring new responsibilities for many.
When Michael Faraday demonstrated electricity to Prime Minister William Gladstone, Gladstone struggled to make sense of it.
“But after all what use is it?” he asked
The exasperated scientist paused for thought.
“Well sir” replied Faraday, there is every probability that you will soon be able to tax it.”
Technology giants might like to move fast and break things. But someone has to put society back together again.
And that isn’t free. It’s expensive. Which is why we need these firms to start paying their taxes.
Governor, let me conclude, by acknowledging that I know that many of the changes I propose here will provoke cries of rage amongst Big Tech.
But rights, as Madison, knew are not always immutable.
They must evolve and change as society makes progress.
As Madison noted in the Federalist paper, some rights result from the nature of our life together, our compact together for living together.
Trial by jury for instance was never a natural right, but a right resulting from a;
‘social compact which regulates the action of the community…[as] essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature’.
Of all the lessons I learned at Harvard, perhaps the most important was the power of enterprise to change the world for good.
In my own study of the change-makers who built our economy, one lesson stands out: entrepreneurs change history by inventing the future.
But if we want the future to be a place of hope and opportunity for all, then we have to remember that the task of politicians to shape the market to fit society; not let the market dictate the shape of society.
That is why lawmakers and changemakers must now join forces together to reshape those wise constraints that make us free.
I hope John Rawls would approve.
 Michael Porter, On Competition (Harvard Business Review Books, Cambridge, 1998) p21.
Hundreds of school children from across Leicester West took part in a competition to design Liz Kendall’s official Christmas card for 2018 and last Friday, Liz visited Glebelands Primary School to announce the winner of the competition.
Jagoda Mikolajczak aged 8 from Glebelands Primary School created the winning design of a snowy winter’s night Christmas scene and will receive tickets to see Peter Pan at De Montfort Hall along with a Waterstones Book Token and the winning design enlarged to keep as a souvenir.
Liz also picked a runner up, Ellie from Folville Junior School, who will receive two tickets to see White Christmas at the Curve.
Liz Kendall said: “It was so hard to pick a winner from the hundreds of entries that were received, but Jagoda’s design depicted such a lovely winter’s evening.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the children who took part in the competition, to all the infant, junior and primary schools in Leicester West and to all the sponsors for supporting my competition this year.”
Jagoda’s card has been printed on the front cover of all the cards that Liz is sending to people across Leicester West and Westminster.
The post Liz announces winner of Christmas Card competition appeared first on Liz Kendall.
Local MP Maria Miller called in at the Basingstoke Jobcentre Plus offices to have a further update on the roll out of Universal Credit in Basingstoke.
Universal Credit is a major reform of the benefits system, and is being rolled out in different phases across the country. It has just started to be rolled out in Basingstoke, initially for new benefit claimants and existing claimants where their circumstances have changed.
Last week saw the results of the inaugural Welsh Youth Parliament election announced. What is the Welsh Youth Parliament you might ask? Well, as the name suggests, it is a body of sixty 11-18 year olds who can debate issues affecting young people and raise them directly with the Welsh Assembly. Much like the Welsh Assembly, there are forty constituency Youth Parliament members, with an additional twenty nominated by “partner organisations”.
The Government has announced the monthly unemployment figures for November 2018. It states that the roll out of Universal Credit is currently affecting the claimant count. Changes in claimant numbers may be a result of the roll out rather … Continue reading
It is a real pleasure to follow the impassioned contribution from Mrs Trevelyan, who is a huge advocate for veterans and, indeed, the Royal Marines. Commitment to and passion for those men and women serving in and leaving the world’s finest armed forces can surely be found on both sides of the House. As the […]
I get sent an enormous amount of nonsense amidst the 200 plus daily e-mails I receive but occasionally a diamond shines out from the dust.
Hope you enjoy the “Brexit stamps”. Pretty much sums up my view of the whole sorry business…
The Centenary of the loss of HMY Iolaire will be marked by debates in both the UK and Scottish Parliaments.
Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has secured a debate on ‘Remembering the Iolaire’ in Westminster Hall on Wednesday December 12th at 4:30pm and Alasdair Allan, MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, will lead a bilingual members’ business debate in the Scottish Parliament on December 19th.
Mr MacNeil will host the Westminster debate which will include attendance by a Minister from the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This follows Mr MacNeil’s laying of an EDM on the Iolaire before Parliament last month which was signed by more than 50 MPs from across the political spectrum.
Mr MacNeil said: “The Centenary of the Iolaire disaster is being marked in many fitting ways in the islands and it is also fitting that MPs have the opportunity to commemorate it during a short debate.”
Alasdair Allan MSP said:
“Even 100 years on this disaster is still raw in the minds of the people of Lewis and Harris. As we approach the centenary of the Iolaire’s loss, I hope we will be able to come together as a Parliament to commemorate the immeasurable sacrifice of those who were lost so tragically close to home.”
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has praised Ocado for its willingness to engage with the community after the retailer agreed to support Batley Food Bank on an ongoing basis.
Ms Brabin wrote to Ocado, which has a huge distribution warehouse in Birstall and employs over 400 people, after discovering they did not have an arrangement with the local food bank.
In response, the retailer agreed to support the food bank with surplus stock from an existing relationship with a charitable partner.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “I am delighted that Ocado has agreed to support Batley Food Bank at a time when people need the lifeline service they provide more than ever.
“Sadly, demand is at a record high so this new arrangement is timely and very welcome.
“I’d like to praise Ocado for their willingness to support such an important local cause and, of course, thank Batley Food Bank and its network of volunteers for their invaluable contribution to our community.
“I look forward to working closely with both parties to ensure this new relationship is of real benefit to those who need it the most.”
The surplus food from Ocado’s warehouse currently goes to the charitable Real Junk Food Project in Leeds – a partnership that will continue alongside the new arrangement.
But anything above what the Real Junk Food Project can accept will now go to Batley.
Elizabeth Stanley, a volunteer from the food bank who met senior representatives from Ocado with Ms Brabin to finalise the new arrangement, said: “We are so grateful for Tracy’s help in organising this opportunity for us and delighted that our customers may benefit from Ocado’s charitable support in the future.
“As an important local organisation it’s really special that they’ve chosen to help a local charity and the local community. We look forward to a happy relationship.”
Demand for the food bank has doubled since this time last year, with an increasing number of people citing Universal Credit as the underlying cause.
Batley Food Bank contact details:
The food bank can be reached on 01924 474999 and can be found at Town Hall Annexe, Brunswick Street, Batley, West Yorkshire, WF17 5DT.
Monday 1:00 -3:00 pm
Tuesday 1:00 -3.00 pm
Wednesday 12:00 – 2:00 pm
Thursday 6:00 – 7:30 pm
Friday 1:00 – 3:00 pm
I have received a huge numbers of e mails and letters arguing for both sides of the debate – a lot with anguish but also many with bitterness and vehemence that I have not encountered in politics before. That worries me a lot. Passions are greatly inflamed as a direct result of the 2016 Referendum which was to leave the European Union.
Last week I wrote my article on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – as a Member of Parliament I make every decision with you and our country in mind.
In 2016 I voted remain, which was not an easy decision for a Eurosceptic that does not believe in free movement. As I said at the time I was concerned about the gamble and ensuring that no one was worse off.
The result was clear though and people voted to take the risk – so now we must leave.
Leaving the EU does offer some fantastic opportunities and it is important that we continue to talk up our country and ensure we seize these opportunities. So once again I want to confirm my commitment to deliver Brexit.
Attending local Christmas events has proved a bit of light relief from Brexit. I enjoyed cutting the ribbon to officially open the Elizabeth Rose Giving Tree in Bradford on Avon this year. Well done to 3rd Bradford on Avon Guides and Rangers Unit who beautifully decorated the Elizabeth Rose Giving Tree, which will serve as a collection point for Bath Cats and Dogs Home, Julian House and The Hub.
The entire town looks magical with lights and Christmas decorations – picture perfect.
Another amazing event was the Melksham Christmas light switch on. Melksham’s lights are always so impressive and this year is no exception. Well done to everyone involved! I was so delighted to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas from the stage and see the full strength of community spirit.
The other week I also enjoyed the light switch on at the Toast Office in Whitley, which was special because virtually all the village came along to see the lights and spread some Christmas cheer.
The fundraiser I organised for Wiltshire Air Ambulance at The Raj Chippenham proved a great success – thank you to everyone who came and supported our wonderful life-saving charity. We raised £1,650 and I know every penny will make a difference . If you were not able to attend but do want to support you can give here https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michelle-donelanwaa and I am looking forward to attending the forthcoming official opening of the new base in Semington.
I have a number of advice surgeries coming up – if you would like an appointment to discuss a personal, local or national issue please email email@example.com or call 01249 704465.
I also have some opportunities to join my team – if you are interested please contact me to find out more.
As the Brexit debate reaches a climax I was one of a group of Kent MPs who visited the port authorities at Dover to receive a practical briefing on the implications of any disruption on the Dover- Calais crossing.
The figures are stark. At the ferry terminal alone there are 60 arrivals and departures a day. Twelve boats operate, and each one carries between 120 and 150 lorries. That’s about 10,000 trucks a day, with the peak flow of 500 trucks an hour.
I had a great time this weekend manning my mulled wine operation at Tuxford Christmas fair. It was good to here my constituents’ views ahead of a crucial few weeks in Parliament. I wish everyone in Newark a lovely Christmas!
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Charles Walker congratulates Professor Sir Simon Wessely on his review of the Mental Health Act 1983. [read more] about Charles Walker welcomes publication of Mental Health Act review
Today, I introduced a Bill to Parliament that would introduce a statutory time limit on the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers.
The UK is currently the only EU country without a statutory time-limit and the practice is a stain on our country’s reputation. It means that, in the UK, innocent people can be detained in prison-like conditions for months – even years. Innocent people are torn from their families and kept in prison-like conditions, with no idea of when they will be released.
Indefinite detention has been shown to have profound effects on detainees’ mental health. One detainee interviewed by the Red Cross, described it as a form of ‘mental torture’, others have said it led to a ‘life of uncertainty’.
Calls for a time limit have been made by the current and former Inspectors of Prisons, the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Refugees and Migration, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the United Nations, Liberty and Amnesty International.
It’s time we put an end to this cruel practice.
I was proud to see Members from both sides of the House come together to support my bill this afternoon. Click here to see my speech to the Commons and please sign up here for my monthly enewsletter so I can keep you updated on my work in Parliament.
After careful consideration and reflection, I cannot support the Government’s deal and as such, I have tended my resignation as Universities and Science Minister.
I will continue to work hard for East Surrey from the backbenches and push for a deal that is right for the whole country that will help us all prosper.
Here is a full statement and comment on why I made this decision now:
Galileo puts the lie to ‘best endeavours’ – Why I cannot back the Government’s Brexit proposal
The government is finally pulling out of frustrating negotiations over Galileo, the EU’s strategic Satellite Navigation system. The PM is right to call time on a negotiation that was stacked against us from the very beginning. But Galileo is only a foretaste of what’s to come under the Government’s Brexit deal.
Having surrendered our voice, our vote and our veto, we will have to rely on the ‘best endeavours’ of the EU to strike a final agreement that works in our national interest. As Minister with the responsibility for space technology I have seen first-hand the EU stack the deck against us time and time again, even while the ink was drying on the transition deal. Galileo is a clarion call that it will be ‘EU first’, and to think otherwise – whether you are a leaver or remainer – is at best incredibly naïve.
To be fair, the Government’s Brexit deal has been hard won. But at its heart, all the big decisions in the Political Declaration that will shape our future in Europe, and the world, are yet to be agreed. Where we set the balance between an independent trade policy and frictionless trade, high market access and freedom of movement, fisheries, agriculture, and the all-important Northern Ireland question are just some of the big issues still in play. It is a deal in name only. And we will be relying on the good faith of the EU to deliver the bespoke deal we have been led to expect.
There is a mountain to climb, and we are still in the foothills. Under the deal we will have only two, at most four, years to agree at least five times what has been settled to date. With so much left to negotiate, we must take a clear-eyed view on the strength of our position. So far, the EU has been able to set the timetable, the sequencing and the hurdles to be cleared at each stage of Brexit, limiting our room for manoeuvre. They have the luxury of time – we need to conclude a deal because the Northern Ireland backstop is our existential issue, not theirs. And the clock is ticking to the next General Election. All of this points to an off-the-shelf deal dictated by the EU that will be materially worse for my constituents in East Surrey than staying in.
In these protracted negotiations our interests will be repeatedly and permanently hammered by the EU27 for many years to come. Britain will end up worse off, transformed from rule makers into rule takers. At the end of these negotiations, Britain will not be standing side-by-side with our European partners as equals. Even in programmes where we have agreement, we will be outside the room when key decisions affecting our future and prosperity are made. It is a democratic deficit and a loss of sovereignty the public will rightly never accept.
These negotiations are as much about our future trading relationship with Europe as they are about our security, foreign policy and power and influence in the world. We are an island nation, and for the last 350 years have managed all aspects of our relationship with our immediate neighbours to meet our need to have a preeminent place in Europe. While we must be mindful of giving business the certainty they need, we must ensure the constitutional treaty we end up with stands the test of time.
So, what is being presented to the public as a sensible compromise Brexit deal, a 52/48 Brexit as some call it, will not bring closure or heal the divisions of Brexit. In the fullness of time, the public will wake up to what this so-called deal entails; neither leave nor remain voters will be pleased with a deal that leaves us poorer, less secure and weaker in the pursuit of our national interests.
What is the alternative, I hear people say? Sometimes it seems our horizons have been narrowed and our expectations lowered to the point where potentially crippling ourselves politically and economically for decades to come is seen as a success we should welcome.
There are alternatives that we have ruled out through our own red lines that need to be considered seriously. Even if this means extending the Article 50 deadline. The decision before us is irreversible, which is why an increasing number of MPs are demanding we explore the options from every angle. And we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the idea of asking the people again what future they want, as we all now have a better understanding of the potential paths before us.
I voted remain, but at all times since the referendum I have endeavoured to reflect the fact that before we are remainers or leavers, we are British. The results in my constituency were in line with the national vote; over the last few weeks I have received hundreds of emails and phones calls from constituents on the deal, the overwhelming majority urging me to vote against it. It has become increasingly clear to me that the proposed deal is not in the British national interest, and that to vote for this deal is to set ourselves up for failure. We will be losing, not taking control of our national destiny.
It was therefore with deep regret that I have tendered my resignation as the Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Minister – certainly one of the best jobs in government. Innovation, scientific endeavour and our universities represent the best of Britain, underpin our economic fortunes and are central to our place in the world. It has been a pleasure and honour to serve these extraordinary communities.
The grit and determination demonstrated by the Prime Minister should be an inspiration to us all. I am saddened, as an early and vocal backer of her leadership, to have reached a cross-roads where I cannot support her on this crucial issue.