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December Newsletter

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.

Royal Mail

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.

Tesco collection

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.

In Parliament

Brexit update

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.

November Newsletter

As everyone reading this will know, Brexit has dominated the political agenda in recent weeks and consequently the range of other issues covered in this this month’s newsletter is more limited than usual.

Brexit Update
The Prime Minister has now set out the terms of her proposed Brexit deal (all 585 pages of it!) and Parliament is about to start nearly two weeks of intensive debate ahead of votes on 11th December. I recently set out my thoughts on where things stand and on the choices facing the UK in an article published by the Birmingham Post and Mail here.

Based on what I know now and in line with the arguments I set out in that article, I intend to oppose Theresa May’s deal which I believe would leave the UK worse off. I also intend to back amendments which call on Parliament to rule out crashing out of the EU without any deal at all – something which I believe would have very severe and damaging consequences for our country. Read more

Giving Tuesday

From international organisations that fight levels of poverty on a scale that we do not have to face in the developing world to local groups that are a lifeline for so many people here in the UK, charities make a world of difference. I am delighted to support Giving Tuesday. It is a great opportunity to shine a light on the great work that charities do, and to encourage both individuals and businesses to support a cause that means something to them. Charities only exist because people’s generosity allow them to exist. I hope Giving Tuesday encourages us all to give what we can – both on that day and hopefully in future too.

Brexit and a people’s vote

Unsurprisingly, lots of constituents have written to me in the last week about the Brexit deal that Theresa May has brought back. If – as looks likely – Parliament rejects both Theresa May’s deal and leaving the EU without a deal, then a people’s vote may yet be the only way to break the logjam. I have set out my thoughts in an article in the Birmingham Mail’s Birmingham Live website available here.

October Parliamentary Newsletter

In Birmingham Northfield

North Worcestershire Golf Course (NWGC) Inquiry

Earlier this month there was a public inquiry to look into Bloor Homes’ appeal against Birmingham City Council’s rejection of their planning application to build 800 houses on the NWGC. Together with Councillor Olly Armstrong and a number of local residents, I argued that the area will not be able to cope with a development of that size, particularly with the amount of extra traffic that it would generate.

The Planning Inspector who heard the appeal will now submit a report to the Government and we now await this decision. Whichever way this goes, though, it will still be important for local people to have a say in what happens from here. If the development does go ahead, there will still be a lot of detail to consider about it. If it doesn’t go ahead, something still needs to happen to the golf course site. It cannot continue to be left to deteriorate. Either way, what happens to the site will have an impact on people who live in the area. It is time for the focus to shift from what should not happen there to what can and should.

You can read my full submission to the Inquiry here.

Read more