In this, my last Parliamentary newsletter of 2018, I just wanted to take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Thank you all for taking the time to read my newsletter as well as for all the emails and letters you have sent me. I always appreciate you getting in touch to share your views and to let me know what issues are important to you.
I also want to say that I am grateful to Chloe from Turves Green Girls school who designed the winning entry to my schools Christmas card competition this year. Well done Chloe!
Hope you all have a restful and enjoyable Christmas break.
In Birmingham Northfield
Police Funding Announcement
Last week, the Government announced their new funding arrangements for policing. Yet again, they’ve done the bare minimum while passing responsibility for the majority of funding to families paying Council Tax. The Government themselves admitted that knife crime is at its highest level for over a decade and that serious and organised and violent crime is on the up. What they didn’t admit though is their role in hamstringing the police and leaving them unable to respond fully to these challenges.
West Midlands Police has been hit by £175m of cuts since 2010. Alongside other Birmingham Labour MPs, I backed the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s call for the Government to cover the cost of recruiting 500 much-needed police officers for the West Midlands – to reinstate a quarter of the officers lost since this Government started cutting back on police budgets in 2010. In the end, the Government’s announcement didn’t even provide what our police needs just to stay afloat. It isn’t good enough for Ministers to say that the responsibility lies with households up and down the country to pay more in Council Tax because the Government don’t want to put their hands in their pocket and give the money needed for the police.
Usually at this time of year I visit the Royal Mail sorting office to thank all the workers there for the important work they do. Unfortunately, due to a persistent bug I’ve had over the last couple of weeks, I wasn’t able to make it this year. However, I do want to give all the hardworking people in our postal service a special mention and thanks, particularly at this very busy time of year where we all rely on them so much for that last-minute card or delivery of a precious gift.
Two weeks ago I was at Tesco in West Heath to help collect food for FareShare West Midlands, who were there to support local food banks and other charities. Plenty of shoppers were kind enough to make donations, so thank you to all of those who did. Thanks also to Gill and Anthony from FareShare for all their work, as well as to Tesco store manager Matt for making the collection possible and for making us very welcome.
Hopefully you will have seen my previous Brexit updates in previous newsletters and on my website. As ever, things have drastically changed since the last update in November. You will now likely know that the long-awaited Parliamentary vote on the Prime Minister’s deal – that was supposed to take place last week – has been pulled and delayed. The Prime Minister has now said that vote will take place on 14th January 2019, though if she’s pulled it once she could of course pull it again.
The problem is, however, that leaves us with precious little time to get things sorted before the date of 29th March 2019, which was set for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. It seems that the Prime Minister is trying to maximise pressure for Parliament to accept her deal – warts and all – in order to avoid a no deal exit on 29th March. All the indications are, however, MPs will not give in to the pressure and that the deal proposed by the Prime Minister will be voted down whenever it comes before Parliament for a vote. Whatever arguments continue in the coming weeks about that, however, one thing is clear. Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be the worst thing for the UK – including for jobs and living standards in the Midlands. That is why I signed up to a letter with scores of other MPs from different parties to press the Prime Minister to avoid that eventuality and rule out a no-deal scenario. The letter is gaining more signatures as each day passes.
Some of the signatories will vote for the Prime Minister’s deal. Some of us will not. But what unites us is a conviction that crashing out of the EU without a deal must be ruled out, whatever happens. There are various ways that could be achieved – including extending the date of the Article 50 process which sets out the timetable and deadline for Brexit. I will be working with like-minded colleagues in the coming weeks to push the Government to take stock of the reality and join us in ruling out a no deal Brexit. If you want to read more about my take on Brexit and haven’t yet read this, last month the Birmingham Post and Mail also published a piece from me on some of the options facing Parliament in the weeks ahead.
Meetings with motor industry
In recent weeks I have been meeting very regularly with representatives from the UK’s automotive industry. Not surprisingly, the implications of Brexit have been at the centre of these discussions
In my role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group, I hosted a meeting of a number of representatives from the industry with MPs in Parliament to discuss where we go from here and what the implications were for Government direction on Brexit. I have also separately been meeting individually with other representatives from automotive companies to hear the specific concerns they have and challenges they are facing. The one consistent message from the industry as a whole is how fearful they are of the UK stumbling into a no deal scenario and the devastating impact that would have on their businesses and thousands of people up and down the supply chain and in connected industries. These are similar to the points I have been making throughout the year – in this article and in this speech – and which will be guiding me as we approach the next key period in the Brexit process.
In addition to Brexit, another key focus of these discussions has been the importance of Government developing a clearer strategy to enable the industry to effectively make the transition to an ultra-low emission future – something that will be increasingly important in the years to come.
Birmingham SMEs event
I was delighted to meet with a number of businesses and organisations from around Birmingham in Parliament last week. Parliament hosted a Birmingham SME showcase which gave companies the opportunity to exhibit their products, talk to MPs about their work and discuss the challenges they are facing. The event was organised by Innovation Birmingham, Art Business Loans and Steve McCabe MP. Thanks also to all of the local businesses who made the journey down to meet with us.