Welcome to my latest newsletter as Member of Parliament of Nottingham North.
This week has been a long Westminster one as today is a sitting Friday so I’ve needed to be in London all week so this bulletin will be a Parliament-heavy one. Happily, next week I have a full constituency week with lots on so I’ll make up for it next Friday!
As I’ve said before, I will strive to send you a newsletter like this each Friday to keep you updated on the work I’m doing in Parliament as well as in our community, and to inform you of any interesting events taking place in our area. To help me with the latter, if you are running or know of anything that you think may be of interest to others, feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com and I will include it in future issues. Please also forward it onto anyone you think may be interested.
I’ve recently been appointed to the Public Bills Committee for the Nuclear Safeguards Bill – a bill which when it becomes law will provide for nuclear safeguards after the UK leaves Euratom. A Public Bill Committee’s job is to scrutinise all bills (other than Finance Bills or those scrutinised by the whole house) in detail, so I will be part of this for the next few weeks as we hear evidence and discuss changes based upon it. We go into a lot of detail as we examine the Bill and potential amendments line-by-line, so this has taken up a lot of my time this week, but I’ve still had time to question Ministers, hold usual meetings and join in debates.
Our key campaign in Parliament is to tackle tax dodging, as Jeremy Corbyn brought up in PMQs on Wednesday. The current global tax system is deeply unjust, with recent reports stating that multinational corporations avoided paying as much as £5.8 billion in UK corporate taxes last year by booking profits in overseas entities.
That’s why I voted for the ‘New Clause 2’ amendment of the Finance Bill on Tuesday, which would have required all those who make money from trading on our shores to pay their taxes here too, while raising at least £6bn to plug the growing deficit. With austerity affecting the most vulnerable in society most of all, this loophole and the loss it represents cannot be ignored any longer, and this clause could close it. Unfortunately, this amendment was defeated by the Government, but I will continue to fight for these much-needed changes.
I was fortunate to be able to question three Ministers this week, the first of which was a topical question to the Department for Communities and Local Government. This means that unlike most questions, the Minister hasn’t seen the question in advance and had a chance to prepare, much like the situation the Prime Minister faces every Wednesday. I asked the Local Government Minister about the Transition Grant, a pot of money designed to smooth over the move from central to local funding for local authorities, of which 80% of the 2016 allocation went to Tory councils. I asked the Minister whether he would pledge to make future calculations on a needs-first basis and make them public, which he avoided. You can watch this question and answer here. The lack of transparency here is outrageous. This is something that Cllr Graham Chapman has raised over recent months and I am keen to support those efforts. With Ministers being so evasive our next stop is the Public Accounts Committee.
I was then fortunate enough to get called to question the Justice Department on Tuesday. I demanded an explanation from the Prisons Minister for the shocking number of deaths recently at HMP Nottingham. In a 4-week period this year there have been 5 deaths at the prison – 4 by suicide and 1 drug-related – and last year there were 5 too. In the 10 years before that, from 2005, there were only 4 deaths at the prison in total, so something has clearly gone very wrong in the last couple of years. The Government need to explain what this is and fix it before more people become victims.
I know that in recent years the prisoner intake has increased by up to 30%, but staffing levels haven’t increased to match due to inadequate funding. I therefore urge the Government to provide the money that our prisons need, as this shortage is clearly increasing the risk to inmates, and most likely to the staff too. I’ll be staying on top of the Minister until we get to the bottom of this horrific pattern and fix it. You can watch this question and the Minister’s response here.
My third question was to the Welsh Minister. This clearly doesn’t relate directly to us in Nottingham, but not only is it important I help my Welsh Labour colleagues hold the Government to account, I was also able to take the opportunity to question the Minister on something with a strong local connection – electrification of train lines. You may know that the Government have cancelled the electrification of the Midlands Main Line, despite promising it in their election manifesto and afterwards. Well they have done this in Wales too, to the route between Cardiff and Swansea, so I used the opportunity to ask exactly what technological developments have stopped it being a good idea.
My fourth contribution this week was in a Westminster Hall debate on Puppy Smuggling – an important issue I’ve learnt a lot more about thanks to working with the Dogs Trust in the build-up to Westminster Dog of the Year last week. So many puppies, many of which are underage and unvaccinated, are smuggled into the UK each year that we aren’t even able to calculate how many. Part of the reason for this is that the penalties for doing so are insignificant compared to the potential benefits for smugglers and even in some cases, entirely avoidable, so I rose the importance of having real deterrents to put people off trying.
Despite all this I still had time for a number of meetings. You’ll likely know by now that I support the Unions in standing up for workers’ rights wholeheartedly, and met with two representatives from GMB to discuss how I can help them in this fight for the 631,000 workers they represent across the UK. They have several ongoing campaigns I support, not least of all their struggle to end the public sector pay pinch. As well as these I also met with representatives from Unison, to talk about how we can work together.
I also had two important meetings with health-related groups, Fight for Sight, who fund scientific research to reduce sight loss, and Action Cerebral Palsy, who campaign to increase awareness of cerebral palsies in both adults and children. Both groups do incredible work for the people they represent, all of whom deserve more support than they get, and it was helpful to hear about the hurdles they face, and work out what I can do to help get over them.
Another meeting I had this week was a bit more out of the ordinary. I met with a delegation of expatriate pensioners, who are in Parliament for the week to discuss their pensions. I was surprised to learn that after paying tax in the UK, the amount of state pension you receive varies depending on where you chose to retire to – based purely on arbitrary reciprocal agreements made long ago. One example is the anomaly that UK pensioners living in Canada have their pensions frozen whilst those just over the border in the US do not. There is no rhyme or reason, either, for where this does or does not apply. This of course seems entirely unfair on those who contributed their whole working lives, and I was glad to be able to discuss what can be done to fix the injustice.
I’ve been in Parliament again today, as we attempted to pass important Private Members’ Bills. The first of these which I support would require hospitals to publish data on how and when physical force is used, and improve oversight and training so that staff are aware of the risks of unconscious bias against minority groups such as young black men with mental ill-health. This was sadly prompted by the death of Olaseni Lewis after he voluntarily admitted himself into Bethlem Royal Hospital in August 2010.
Another Bill we discussed today aimed to reduce the voting age to 16. As we know, you currently must be 18 or older to vote in all elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but notably not Scotland. When I was in Scotland campaigning before the Independence referendum in 2014, I was blown away by the enthusiasm of the young people who had finally been given an opportunity to get involved as 16- and 17- year olds could vote. In fact, 89% of all 16 and 17 year olds registered to vote – clearly defying the far-too-common expectation that they wouldn’t be interested in engaging anyway.
I want these emails to be as interesting as possible. That means there’ll be some politics – it’s important that I am held accountable. But I also want to offer information about what’s on locally. So, if you have an event you’d like me to advertise, let me know.
Bestwood Park Church’s Bestop Kitchen
Social Eating Event, Donations Welcome
Bestwood Park Church, Beckhampton Road, NG5 5NG
Every Tuesday, 12-3pm
Free Community Cinema
Free screenings of films, everyone welcome!
St John’s Church, Key’s Close, Bulwell
2nd Friday every month, 7pm
Drinks, crafts, activities, bible stories and a meal for all ages and interests
Bulwell United Reform Church, Broomhill Road/Brooklyn Road, Bulwell
Saturdays – November 4th, December 2nd, 10:30am
Christmas Coffee Morning
Many stalls, gifts, toys, toiletries, bric-a-brac. Preserves, refreshments, cakes
Bulwell United Reform Church, Broomhill Road/Brooklyn Road, Bulwell
Saturday November 25th, 10:30am
I’d also like to congratulate Bulwell Forest Garden on their recent award win. They were awarded a Michael Varnam Award in the group category for the difference they’ve made in our area, particularly recognising the hard work and commitment from residents doing an amazing job to improve and strengthen our community.
I’ve heard that many families enjoyed their annual Spooky Monday event on Monday, with 260 residents enjoying being able to carve pumpkins, take part in craft activities, bake some delicious pumpkin gingerbread in the clay oven and enjoy homemade pumpkin soup.
The garden, located at will be open to the public 1pm-4pm, Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat until mid-December. In January, they will start planning the events and activities taking place throughout 2018. If you would like to be involved, please contact Barbara on 07890557854, and keep an eye out as I’ll be advertising the events in my newsletter once they’ve been organised.
You may also recall I advertised Aviva’s Community Fund recently. I’m pleased to hear that Bilborough Arts have applied to support their 2018 Festival. However, this funding depends on public votes, so please can you show your support by voting for their project here. I’m sure it will be an incredible festival, and be even better if they can receive this extra funding.
I’m delighted to hear that Bilborough Arts aren’t the only group who have applied for this funding. Nottingham Peace Project, who I talked about in the summer have been busy providing music and poetry lessons to groups of disadvantaged young people across the constituency, and have also applied to the Aviva Community Fund. They’re an amazing group and you can show your support for their project here.
If you would like your events advertised here, or further information on those advertised, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for now! Details of how to get in touch or to have a look at the things I’m doing are below…
All the best,
How to contact me
If you would like to contact me, please email email@example.com or give my Nottingham North constituency office a ring on 0115 975 2377.
If you are a constituent from Nottingham North e-mailing me regarding a casework issue you are my priority, so please ensure your message includes:
- your full name
- your full postal address, including postcode
- a contact telephone number and
- any helpful details relevant to your case such as date of birth, reference numbers etc.
Strict parliamentary protocol means I can only deal with issues on behalf of my own constituents. If you aren’t sure whether you live in Nottingham North, you can check who your local MP is by entering your postcode online here: findyourmp.parliament.uk.
You may also wish to write to me with your concerns. If so please send your correspondence to Alex Norris MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A OAA. All constituents who take the time and trouble to write a personal letter will receive a reply as a matter of priority.
Other useful links
- If you’d like to learn more about the Labour party their website is here.
- To join the Labour Party click here.
- Benefits Information: Here’s an excellent site that allows you to find out exactly what benefits you are eligible to claim: EntitledTo
- Housing: please contact your City Council
- Problems with benefits or the Child Support Agency? The Citizens Advice Bureau and the Nottingham Welfare Rights Service can give advice. Remember to have your National Insurance number handy if you make an inquiry.
- Local schools / education matters: please contact your City Council.
- Employment rights: see Citizens Advice Bureau or the Trades Union Congress for info.
- Social services, environmental health, noise nuisance, parking, and Council Tax should all be addressed to the City Council.
- Another useful website on public services is Direct.gov.
- For the main Parliamentary website click here and to explore the Parliamentary education site click here.