Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter. I publish regular newsletter updates to keep local people informed about my work in Parliament and in Birmingham. If you would like to receive a copy of my newsletter each month by email you can sign up here.
Space prevents the newsletter covering all of what I have been doing over the past month. However, hopefully it provides a flavour of some of the local issues I have taken up as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on Northfield Leisure Centre, the relocation of Channel 4 and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
Elections Round Up
The local elections on 3rd May saw Labour retaining control of Birmingham City Council, securing 67 of the 101 seats up for election. This time, though, the city has been divided into new wards, each one electing one or two Councillors, rather than the larger, three councillor wards that have existed until now. Many of the names of wards have also changed as a result, although in my Northfield Parliamentary constituency one of the wards is still also called “Northfield”.
Across the Northfield Parliamentary constituency Labour won seats in Kings Norton North ward, Kings Norton South ward, Northfield ward, Longbridge and West Heath ward, and in Weoley and Selly Oak ward. Well done to the entire Labour team who made this happen. Congratulations also to Peter Griffiths, Julie Johnson and Brett O’Reilly who remained as Labour Councillors in our area as well as to our new Labour Councillors Alex Aitken, Olly Armstrong, and Tristan Chatfield! Commiserations to Carmel Corrigan, Steve Bedser, Andy Cartwright and Carole Griffiths who unfortunately missed out on being elected locally this time.
In recent years, Birmingham City Council has suffered the largest cuts in local government history and I know that our Labour Councillors in Northfield will continue to stand up for area against Tory cuts. Thank you to the people of Northfield for your support in voting for Labour Councillors and indeed to all those who voted, irrespective of party. The right to have a say in who represents us is a precious one and democracy works best when people participate. Our Labour Councillors, old and new, will be there to represent all the people of this area, whoever you voted for at election time
You can find the details of your local City Council representatives here.
Northfield Leisure Centre
It’s great to see that so many people are already enjoying the new Northfield Leisure Centre which opened its doors earlier this month.
Despite personally wanting the new leisure centre to be built elsewhere in the centre of Northfield and for the old building to be put to uses that could have retained the historic frontage, there is no denying that Northfield’s new leisure centre is a real asset to our area.
The leisure centre’s facilities are fantastic and are testament to the investment that Birmingham City Council has put in with a particular focus on making the centre accessible to people with disabilities. The facilities include a 25-metre 6 lane swimming pool, a teaching pool, a 75-station gym, a studio and a community room. If you are yet to visit the new centre, I’d recommend watching B31 Voices tour of the facilities.
Sessions are available on a pay as you go basis, in addition to various monthly or annual package and you can sign up online or pop into the centre.
Meeting with West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner
Many local people have spoken to me about their concerns about gang activity in South West Birmingham. This month, newly elected Councillor, Alex Aitken and I were briefed on the subject by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson and Superintendent Matt Shaer, who coordinates Police activity against gangs in this area.
Although they accept the issue remains a serious concern, they were clear that targeted Police operations over the past year have been successful and that after a number of significant convictions, incidents of gang violence have reduced. They also outlined initiatives to help divert young people at risk of becoming involved in gangs, and to help undermine the trade in illegal drugs which feeds much of the gang violence seen in Birmingham. Along with my colleagues, Steve McCabe MP and Preet Gill MP I meet quarterly with the local Community Safety Partnership jointly chaired by the Police and Fire Service.
Discussing International Development with local students
My role as constituency MP for Birmingham Northfield has always come first for me in the 26 years I have been in Parliament. Like all MPs though, I also work on the national and international stage and as part of those commitments I am a member of the House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC).
The IDC’s job is to scrutinise the Government’s work in tackling global poverty including UK’s overseas aid budget. Since the last General Election the IDC has conducted inquiries into the Rohingya crisis, sexual exploitation in the aid sector and the administration of UK aid overseas. My work on the committee has enabled me to see first-hand the difference which the UK’s international development work makes – bringing clean water and sanitation to millions of people, enabling children to go to school, tackling the conflicts that keep millions in poverty and which fuel instability and mass migration crises that end up affecting us here in the UK.
I was therefore delighted earlier this month to meet with students and staff in the International Development Department at Birmingham University to discuss the difference that development can make and to answer their questions about the work of the IDC and the future of UK development.
I also know that people rightly expect aid spending to be transparent, accountable and to deliver value for money. The International Development Committee’s investigations shine a spotlight on government to help make those things a reality. You can find out more about the IDC here.
Relocation of Channel 4
This week, we learned that the West Midlands has been shortlisted to become the home to Channel 4’s new national headquarters. The broadcaster has said it will establish three new creative hubs outside London, the largest which will become the new national HQ.
Other cities shortlisted for either the national HQ or a creative hub are Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Greater Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. Other possible locations for a creative hub only are Belfast, Brighton, Newcastle Gateshead, Nottingham, Sheffield and Stoke on Trent. Earlier this month, the House of Commons held a debate on the relocation of Channel 4 in which MPs from across the UK lobbied for their region. In that debate I made the case for the West Midlands and you can read my speech here.
The debate illustrated that Britain’s national broadcasters have been far too London-centric for too long. Our region deserves its fair share of investment from the UK’s national broadcasters and I presented the case that why moving its headquarters to the West Midlands would also be a smart and forward-looking choice for Channel 4.
Channel 4 prides itself on being a broadcaster that looks to the future. If Channel 4 want to reflect the UK of tomorrow, they should look to the West Midlands of today and the massive reservoir of talent in our young and diverse population and select the West Midlands as its new headquarters. Channel 4’s mission has always been to disrupt, challenge, pioneer and fight for new voices to be heard. In the West Midlands, that is what we do. It’s time for C4 and our region to get closer.
Everyone can play a role in backing the West Midlands bid for Channel 4 online. If you post your support, please use the hashtag #WMGeneration.
People have been horrified by the way people from Commonwealth countries who have spent their lives living, working and paying taxes in this country have had their rights to reside in the UK questioned recently. Many of these are from the Windrush Generation of people who came to this country from the Caribbean in the 1940s and 1950s and who have been here ever since. However, the problem goes wider than that. You may have seen in the media that I have been highlighting the case of a Northfield resident who was born in Africa to Polish parents who were refugees from Nazis. Having come to the UK as a child in the early 1950s, his home is in the UK. He has spent his entire working life here, even serving a number of years in the Grenadier Guards. Yet when he applied for a UK passport he was turned down.
It should not have come to this and the way the Windrush Generation have been treated has been shameful. In many cases it has highlighted the unfair way in which immigration procedures can treat people who have done nothing wrong. The good news is that, following the public outcry over Windrush, the Government has promised to act and it also now looks my constituent will finally get his passport.
The Home Office have established a task force to provide help and advice for Commonwealth citizens in the UK who may not have documents which prove their right to be in the UK. The latest information on the Windrush scheme for Commonwealth citizens and others who have been in the UK for a long time and are worried about their immigration status can be found on the GOV.UK website.
If you think you may fall into the Windrush category, you can also contact the taskforce’s helpline direct by calling Freephone 0800 678 1925. Lines are open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 5pm and from 10am to 4pm on Sunday’s. You can also get in touch with me and I can make representations to the Home Office on your behalf, you can find out how you can get in touch with my office here.
Job losses in the UK automotive sector
MG’s Research and Development Centre at Longbridge today is a very different operation from the days in which thousands of cars used to roll off the production line there, but it is part of an automotive sector that is still a key part of our region’s economy. Jaguar Land Rover has manufacturing plants in Castle Bromwich and Solihull, an engine plant near Wolverhampton and its own R&D centre in Warwickshire. Meanwhile BMW has an engine plant at Hams Hall. Together with hundreds of companies supplying components and still more in in sales and the aftermarket, the automotive sector in 2018 is still a major employer of local people.
Across the UK the sector has remained resilient, driving economic growth across the country with our automotive workforce now the most productive in Europe. However recent jobs losses announced by Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Vauxhall are certainly cause for concern.
This month in a debate on job losses in the UK automotive sector I raised some of the challenges facing the sector and pressed the Government to take action to avert future job losses. Time to speak in the debate was severely limited. Most of us only had three minutes each to make or points so I focused on two issues central to the health of UK automotive, Brexit and the transition from petrol and diesel vehicles.
I raised with the Government that our automotive sector is one of the most closely integrated sectors with the EU and barriers to frictionless trade or additional bureaucracy risks seriously damaging the industry. I also pressed the Government on the importance of working alongside industry to craft a strategy that improves air quality whilst continuing to reduce CO2 emissions and which does so in way that protect the health of automotive sector. You can read the Hansard record of the debate here.
Like so many people I have been appalled by the recent killing and injuring of Palestinian protestors on the Israel-Gaza border. Since 30th March, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed and over 12,000 injured. Gaza’s health system was already on the brink of collapse, but the new influx of casualties has put even more pressure on it.
It is important that there is an independent inquiry into the events in Gaza and for those found responsible to be held to account – whoever they are.
Regrettably the UK Government did not vote for that type of investigation at the UN Human Rights Council recently. I raised this decision and the response to events in Gaza with the Government in an Urgent Question in Parliament where I pressed the importance of uploading in practice the principle of accountability for violations of international law. You can read the Hansard record of the Urgent Question here.
The following week the House of Commons also held a debate on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, in which I spoke. You can see the transcript of that debate here.