Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter, which gives me the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Christmas is a time for us to not only look back on the past year, but also to look forward to the New Year, the challenges we face and the changes we might want to make in our own lives.
For me personally, 2016 will always be remembered as the year my friend and colleague, Jo Cox, was so tragically taken from us. Jo was an energetic campaigner and represented the community she had grown up in. Jo was murdered at a constituency surgery, killed while helping her constituents and the constituency she loved so much. In the aftermath, I was proud of Northfield’s response, the vigils held in Birmingham city centre and the book of condolence which was signed by so many constituents. These have been clear demonstrations of “uniting to fight against the hate that killed her” – as Jo’s husband Brendan so profoundly said. Read more
Below you can see my contribution to the Boundary Commission public consultation in Birmingham last week. You can have your say too here.
I am grateful for the opportunity to provide some observations on the Boundary Commission’s provisional recommendations for the West Midlands and specifically for Birmingham.
Introduction – Legislative Framework
By way of introduction, I know that I will not be the first to say that I think that the framework in which the Commission has been required to draw up its recommendations this time is both unreasonable and unfair.
The first thing to say is that using December 2015 as the reference point for assessing the size of the electorate is perhaps the worst of all possible dates. It comes after the disappearance of many thousands of voters following the introduction of individual registration and before the increase in voter registrations that we saw in the run up to the June 2016 referendum on the European Union. Read more
Let’s get one thing straight at the start. Thursday’s High Court decision did not change or overrule the result of June’s Referendum which voted for Britain to leave the European Union. I know that claiming something else makes for more lurid tabloid headlines but it is a fact.
The High Court decision is about who should have a say in how Britain should go about leaving the European Union, not whether we should do so. The judges expressed no opinion on whether Brexit is a good idea or a bad one. That is not down to judges to decide that anyway. And nobody – on either side – asked them to do so. Read more
Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter. This covers local issues and developments as well as my actions in Parliament. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
In Birmingham Northfield
The Boundary Commission published their proposals for changes to Parliamentary constituency boundaries in England. Under these proposals, Birmingham would be set to lose one Parliamentary seat overall. There would still be a constituency called Birmingham Northfield, but it would be very different to the current one. Read more
Originally published in Bromsgrove Standard – 30 September 2016
Many of you may have already heard the recent news that MG has announced they intend to cease assembling vehicles at their site in Longbridge. With the loss of around 25 local jobs, the overall scale of this is vastly different from when MG Rover stopped production over a decade ago – with the loss of over 6,500 jobs. But it still brought back memories and – whether you are one of 25 or one of 6,500 – losing your jobs is still losing your job. It did not have to be like this.
While I understand the business concerns that MG have surrounding costs of assembly at Longbridge, I am still hugely disappointed by this decision and believe it to be a premature one. Part of the problem here is that existing concerns over cost have undoubtedly been aggravated by problems with the strength of the pound and the cost of imports. As Professor David Bailey, of Aston University, has explained this week: “post-Brexit, the costs of import are much more expensive and there is uncertainty about the future. MG had hoped to use the UK as a launch pad for selling into Europe.”
More discussions should have taken place to explore alternatives and options before any decisions were finalised. In addition to discussing this with MG, I have been speaking with local Councillor and Birmingham Council Cabinet Member for Skills, Brett O’Reilly, as well as the Government. I know that they, like me, are willing to meet MG to discuss and explore options and help that may be available and I am sure the same will be true for the local authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership. That is why I have appealed to MG to delay this decision so that these detailed meetings can take place.
Let us remember though, that we are not talking about the end of the Shanghai Auto/MG operation at Longbridge though. The Shanghai Automotive Technical Centre will remain at Longbridge, with between 300 and 400 skilled engineers and others working there. In addition to this vital Research and Development operation, there will also be MG sales, marketing and after-sales staff working at the plant. We can build on that, but it is another reason why I think this announcement is premature as we haven’t been able to work with MG to explore all the options.
It is vital that MG get around the table with myself, government, LEP and Birmingham City council to try to find a solution. The voice of employees through their trade unions also needs to be heard. We need to do this in the interests of constituents, local business, the community and the broader automotive industry. While we may not be able to achieve the ideal outcome, we may be able to achieve a better one if all those involved work together to find constructive solutions.