Sir Edward Leigh MP, who represents the Gainsborough Constituency, has been identified as the most active parliamentarian in Westminster from our area.
The Conservative Member of Parliament, who represents the towns of Gainsborough, Caistor, Market Rasen and Wragby, together with numerous villages across the West Lindsey district, came out on top when compared with local representatives in the House of Commons in terms of parliamentary contributions – not far behind Prime Minister David Cameron.
Sir Edward, who has over thirty years of parliamentary experience, ranks thirty-fifth when compared to his six hundred and forty-four colleagues (a further eight failed to make the table, as they have not spoken in the Commons).
Analysis of the number of times MPs have spoken in Commons debates since the 2010 general election reveals Sir Edward is the most prolific local speaker, having spoken 599 times in 246 debates, with a total of 105,576 words under his belt.
Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has objected to the proposed solar plant at Burton-by-Lincoln.
“These proposals would have a negative impact on the surrounding area, not to mention taking prime agricultural land out of use,” Sir Edward said. “The visual impact would ruin views towards Lincoln Cathedral, and would undermine the Outstanding Landscape Value of this area.”
“I’ve written to West Lindsey District Council expressing my objections as well as relaying those of constituents, and I would encourage all others opposed to these scheme to do likewise.”
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has congratulated campaigners on their latest victory in the fight against the Hemswell Cliff wind farm.
“I have had a letter from Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, letting me know that he has called in the Hemswell Cliff wind farm for his determination,” Sir Edward said. “This means that, just as with Kingerby, Eric will make the final call rather than the bureaucrats at the Planning Inspectorate.”
“With the decision in Eric’s hands, I am very confident we will have a result which reflects the very strong opposition this proposal has faced,” Sir Edward continued. “I have visited the site, spoken to local parish councillors, and read the letters in my in box. Local residents and other concerned parties are almost entirely against it.”
“While a rejection isn’t in the bag yet, it’s testament to the hard work put in by Villages of the Cliff Against Turbines and others to make sure this devastating proposal doesn’t go through. West Lindsey was completely right in refusing the application, and Eric Pickles has been vocal in backing up local decision-making.”
A speech given in the House of Commons, 3 July 2014
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): The whole House will be grateful to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Fiona O’Donnell) for initiating this debate on protecting children in conflict. She was right to deal with the Palestinian situation, but I will not follow her example in any detail as I do not want to get involved in the debate about the rights and wrongs of the Palestinian issue, except for noting the suffering of both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people in a very difficult conflict.
I want to make some general remarks about how the British Government could try to improve the protection of children in conflict areas, particularly when it comes to education. Education is the subject on which I want to focus and I would be grateful if the Minister could deal with that problem when he replies.
I should perhaps declare a family interest. I am speaking today because both my elder daughters work for charities in Africa and have worked in Kenya, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. They keep me informed of their work and what is going on and, a few years ago, I visited the Congo with War Child to look at the appalling privations that children faced, particularly because of the conflict and the use of child soldiers. My visit had a deep impact on me and I am sure that, even despite all the excellent work of my hon. Friend the Minister and other Ministers in the FCO and DFID, there is still more that we can do.
As I say, I want to concentrate on education, but why are children particularly vulnerable? Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written to the Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP, regarding the closure of the Hawthorn Road with the building of the Eastern Bypass.
In his letter, Sir Edward pointed out that the construction of the Bypass was very welcome, but that building a straight-over road bridge was “the most obvious and logical solution”.
“Arbitrarily, transport officials decided against a road bridge, preferring a smaller bridge for pedestrian and equestrian non-vehicular traffic,” Sir Edward wrote. “This would bifurcate the Hawthorn Road and eliminate an extremely useful and valuable road transport link, while wasting money on a replacement bridge that is wholly inadequate.”
Transport officials have claimed the replacement bridge will cost £250,000 but Sir Edward, a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee investigating government waste in spending, doubted the figures would prove accurate in the end.
“The simplest and most cost-effective possible solution is for a straight-over bridge maintaining the current status and usage of Hawthorn Road.” The current plans for a non-vehicular bridge are, the MP asserted, “overly complicated” and face “very vocal opposition from local residents and those who use the road regularly.”
“The current plan must be scrapped before it wastes any more public money, and plans for a straight-over bridge should be drawn up immediately,” Sir Edward concluded.
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has heralded a major victory in the fight against the proposed wind farm at Kingerby. “The Planning Inspectorate has informed me that the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, has directed he will determine the outcome of this appeal rather than an Inspector,” Edward Leigh said. “I believe we have a much stronger chance of burying the Kingerby wind farm proposal once and for all now that the matter is in the hands of Eric Pickles.”
“I lobbied hard that the Secretary of State make the decision and not the Inspectorate, and this has been the result of a long effort on my part and that of others,” Mr Leigh continued. “The planning committee at West Lindsey District Council made a very sensible decision in turning down the application, and they were reflecting the strongly felt desires of local residents. Eric Pickles has many times emphasised the importance of local democracy so I am optimistic that he will uphold West Lindsey’s decision. I am also hoping we will soon receive a similar letter regarding the Hemswell Cliff proposal.”
After these elections, we must not be complacent. A worryingly large proportion of those who voted UKIP in the European Elections tell pollsters that they will do so again in the General Election. The ComRes poll last Sunday claimed that 37 per cent of UKIP voters were certain to support that party at the General Election and a further 49 per cent said they were likely to do so. If even half these people stick to this plan we are in deep doo-doo.
Nothing infuriates people more than politicians who say “We are listening,” then carry on much as before as if the drubbing they have received is a temporary inconvenience. If the Conservatives are to win the next election we need a profound rethink.
There are four things we must do.
- We must break the Coalition which is strangling the Liberals to death and eroding our base.
- We must take decisive action to convince people we will have an early referendum on Europe and be prepared to leave if we do not get back control of our borders
- Stick to Conservative things like cutting the deficit or capping benefits: this is when we do well. But when we indulge in modernising gimmicks we just drive our supporters away, so stick with the economy.
- We must come to an electoral understanding with UKIP.
Centre-right voters need to be reassured that we have taken on board their concerns. We should make clear our immediate intention this Parliament to repeal the Human Rights Act, so that we can maintain the Common Law protecting our civil liberties while also being able to deport those who threaten our freedom or break our laws.
We need to legislate – in Government time – for an in/out referendum within a year of the General Election. We need to establish the supremacy of Parliament over EU law. We must stop paying benefits to immigrants for the first five years of their stay until they have made a significant contribution to National Insurance.
The Liberals will then walk away from the Coalition: good. By now Nick Clegg is little more politically than a living corpse – why should we continue to tie ourselves to him? Even much of his own party despise him. They can elect a new leader, who can rebuild the grassroots of their own party. Once free of the Liberals we can start rebuilding our base with our traditional supporters.
We are less than eleven months to a General Election. Harold Wilson ran a minority Government with some success and went on to win a General Election. Of course, when we try and legislate now for a popular agenda on firm conservative principles, Labour and Liberal MPs will combine to defeat us. Good. Every defeat will enthuse our supporters. Suddenly the voluntary party will be refreshed and start to grow again after years of decline. The fresh shoots are there, but they require watering and attention.
The Coalition is like a loveless marriage kept together for the sake of the children, but who are the children in this case? Is it the economy? A minority Government is hardly going to go on a mad spending spree for a few months, nor to do anything to frighten the markets. The essentials of the budget-making process are still in place and will remain so till next May.
In a first past the post system it is madness to allow the Right to be divided. At the next election people who don’t want to see Labour in government need to understand which candidate in their constituency has the best chance of beating Labour – whether it be Con, Lib, or UKIP. This happened to us in reverse with devastating results in 1997. People on the ground are actually very shrewd at working this out.
In the Labour-controlled seats where UKIP has the best chance of beating Labour we should agree only to put up a paper candidate. (The “Coupon Election” nearly a century ago provides a precedent.) There is a handful of seats which we currently hold and where our MP is standing down and which UKIP are going all out anyway to win, where we might be persuaded to relax our effort. In return, they wouldn’t make any effort to destroy us in our key Con/Lab marginals, where they can’t win anyway and would just split the vote, letting in Labour. This is the type of informal relationship that New Labour and the Liberals used so well in 1997. Perhaps we could give them a taste of their own medicine.
The alternative is that we go on as we are. The Liberal vote will collapse to Labour in our marginal seats and Miliband will get in by default. The uniting of the British Left into a single electoral force – even though it would bring more moderate Lib Dems into the Tory fold – has disastrous consequences for Conservative electoral prospects in the future.
Not everyone will agree with me, but I agree that a “sincere apology” is required over the way same-sex civil marriage was implemented. A concerted effort could be made to promote traditional marriage.
There is something more essential that we must do: we must stop apologising for having strong Conservative beliefs. We must cut out the politically correct liberal posturing. We must have confidence that people vote Conservative because we run the economy better. I would argue that this means a commitment to a much flatter tax system and a real commitment to a low taxes and a deregulated economy.
We also have to tackle immigration. This is the main driver behind UKIP. Free movement of people in Western Europe may make sense, but when economies diverge widely, it is a recipe for mass migration and the consequent growth of far-right parties. It is left-wing policies that produce the situations in which the far-right flourishes.
We need to start a proper renegotiation of our EU membership now and control of our borders must be part of this. If Europe wants to stand in the way of their peoples’ wish then we must be prepared to leave and be part of a customs union only.
Years ago we were told the Party had to be detoxified. Are people like me – with a general election majority of 10,000 votes – really toxic? Ours is a gentle patriotism, not nationalism. We may be religious but we value the ethical contribution of all religions. We support strong immigration controls because we want to foster an integrated British culture accepting of different racial backgrounds. And yes, we value overseas aid because both for its moral humanitarianism and its potential to spread British influence, even if we doubt the efficacy of arbitrary targets. We also love and respect our armed forces and don’t want to see any more cuts.
We also love our young people. It grieves us that they are “Generation Rent”. Like Macmillan we would like to pledge to a massive programme to build flats and small houses in our cities. We need to get housing associations involved rather than just cozying up to private developers only.
There is a lot to be proud of in being a Conservative. We just need more self-confidence in our traditional brand.
The first step is to proclaim the supremacy of UK law over the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Once we do this, all else follows. We can control our own borders and our own destiny. Once more, Parliament will be supreme.
The result of the European elections gives even further impetus to our drive to change our relationship with the European Union. It is obvious that voters are animated about Europe but they feel they are struggling to have their voices heard. Readers doubtless know that I am an opponent of all Euro-centralisation and my speeches in the House of Commons as well as my voting record attest to that. But even more than stopping the loss of any further powers, we need to win back powers that have already been ceded to Brussels.
This Government have made significant progress in putting the country back on track in many ways, especially with regard to the economy. Instead of headline grabbing measures, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been making a great many difficult decisions which have provided the foundations for a stable recovery. I have been vocal that there is more to be done. Read the rest of this entry »
Things are heating up regarding the Hemswell Cliff wind farm appeal. As you are probably aware, West Lindsey District Council very sensibly refused the planning application for a wind farm owing to the very broad and deep-seated opposition which local residents and others expressed. RWE have now launched an appeal seeking to have the decision overturned.
I have written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, outlining our concerns over the wind farm, pointing out its adverse effect on the local environment, the threat to historical sites nearby, and the high potential of damage to as yet unexcavated archaeological remains. I also pointed out the potential impact on air traffic control, given the proximity of RAF bases and Robin Hood Airport.
Most of all, it is vital that decisions on planning permission for projects of such a high impact be made by local district councils and in alignment with the feeling of local people. I know Eric is very keen to ensure that local decision-making remains the ordinary practice, and that double-guessing local planning decisions will be the extraordinary exception, not the rule. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written a substantive letter to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, regarding the Hemswell Cliff wind farm proposal.
In his letter, Sir Edward outlines his precise objections to RWE’s appeal against West Lindsey District Council’s refusal to grant permission for the controversial wind farm which has faced widespread local opposition.
The text of Edward Leigh’s letter follows.
I am writing to you to outline our specific objections to RWE’s appeal against West Lindsey District Council’s refusal of planning permission for a wind farm at Hemswell Cliff.
The application to build a wind farm on Hemswell Cliff has been vigorously opposed by every layer of representational Government since the application was first presented over two years ago. It has been opposed by myself as the local Member of Parliament, as well as being opposed by the County Council, the District Council, by all affected Parish Councils, and by all local Councillors. In addition, over 2,400 letters have been received by West Lindsey District Council, each declaring the correspondent’s opposition to the application.
At the Special Planning Committee meeting held on 30 October 2013, the public attendance was estimated to be between 500-600 with the only support for the application coming from the developer’s representatives. The case against the application was put by myself as MP, as well as local Councillors, and representatives of the local opposition group. The Planning Committee’s vote concluded in a unanimous decision against the application. The reasons for the decision was given as:
1. The effect of the development upon the local environment.
2. The threat to local heritage assets.
3. The potential damage to archaeological remains.
I would like to outline why the background to these three reasons.
1. The Lincolnshire Cliff is a limestone ridge which runs in a north-south direction throughout most of the County. It provides the western skyline for the Lincolnshire Wolds, the eastern horizon from the Trent Valley, and has been accorded the designation ‘Area of Great Landscape Value’. The only dominating feature along its entire length is the eleventh-century Lincoln Cathedral, situated at the Witham gap,
sixteen miles to the south of the proposed development site. The Hemswell Cliff area is a particularly important environmental site as it is the first area north of Lincoln where water is available from several natural springs.
2. The Hemswell Cliff area is fortunate in its heritage assets. Just a few of those assets would include – Norton Place (immediately alongside the proposed site) is a Grade I listed building surrounded by several associated Grade II buildings and a listed garden. The Saxon St Chad’s church at Harpswell is also a Grade I listed building, and the nearby ‘Prospect Mound’ is a Scheduled Monument. The village of Willoughton is based upon the – as yet un-researched – Knight’s Preceptory and settlement remains at Temple Garth along with the associated, moated, Monk’s Garth. Both are designated Scheduled Monuments. St Andrew’s Church at Willoughton is contemporary with both garths.
Hemswell village is a Conservation Area with a Grade II*-listed thirteenth-century church, an unexcavated medieval settlement, an ancient maypole, and a sacred pagan site with associated wells. Spital-in-the-Street has an ancient chapel where prayers to Richard III are said ‘in perpetuity’. It has been restored, and continues to provide services, under the leadership of a volunteer trust. The proposed site is overlooked by ‘Aslac’s Hill’ – a slight rise where Saxon musters were held, and which gives its name to the wapentake of ‘Aslaco’ – and is bounded to the east by the Roman ‘Ermine Street’ (A15).
3. The proposed site is drenched in archaeology. This is probably as a result of the sudden emergence of streams close by, and on, the site. Pre-Roman discoveries are commonplace (there is an unexcavated Neolithic barrow actually on the site), and Roman artefacts can be picked up on a daily basis (one researcher described filling ‘banana-boxes’ full of Roman potsherds). The site is fringed with clear evidence of Roman domestic occupation and was probably the premier resting place for the Roman army marching along Ermine Street to the south bank of the Humber. Recent excavations have revealed ‘high status’ Roman household goods.
The site may also have been the location of a substantial settlement, which could have included both of the ‘lost’ towns of Sidnecaster (the capital of the Kingdom of Lindsey), and the Mercian king’s meeting place of Clovesho (famous for its eight and ninth century synods) – ‘Clovesho’ means ‘hill on the cliff’. The Knights Templar built a barrier across Ermine Street, and dressed stones from the site were uncovered during recent (2006) repairs to the road. The site is exactly on the point of the proposed entry to the wind farm.
A track, considered by experts to be of ‘considerable antiquity’ crossed the proposed site from the south-east corner to the north-west. It is possible that the trackway was the main thoroughfare through any settlement that existed on the site. When the developers erected a meteorological mast on the site, one of the huge concrete anchors was plunged through the feature with no attempt at an archaeological investigation.
It is also requested that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government give serious consideration to the following additional two areas of concern:
4. The proposed Hemswell Cliff site is directly below the main east-west commercial flight path to and from Europe. Consequently, the Claxby National Air Traffic Service (NATS) radar site on the Lincolnshire Wolds, which serves the flight path, will be directly in line of sight of the proposed wind farm. The same applies to military radars at RAF Waddington, RAF Cranwell and RAF Coningsby. Equally, the Meteorological Office radar at Ingham is also in line of sight. The developer is claiming that all objections have been removed by the MOD with regard to the Ingham radar (why not the Met Office?). As for the RAF and NATS radars, the appeal states that both objections have been removed ‘subject to the imposition of planning conditions which have been agreed with the Appellant.’ The nature of the ‘planning conditions’ is not explained in the case of the RAF (11.11) but, in the NATS case (11.12), it appears as ‘an agreement to provide (a) technical mitigation solution’. Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield (RHADS), on the other hand, is being subjected to continued negotiations which, ‘When agreed’, will be subjected to the same conditions as the RAF and NATS.
It should, however, be clearly understood that any mitigation will degrade the operation of all radars to a level below that required for the safety of all aircraft, both civil and military. Even worse, the leading (possibly ‘only’) method being proposed is the introduction of Transponder Mitigation Zones (TMZs). This requires that all aircraft flying though a TMZ will have to switch on their transponders which will then allow their flight path to be followed by Secondary Radars. However, when the aircraft used on the 9/11 attack were high-jacked, the first thing the high-jackers did was to switch off the transponders. Aviation experts now believe that the missing Malaysian passenger aircraft also disappeared when its transponder was switched off. Furthermore, recent press reports of light aircraft using rural airstrips to smuggle in illegal immigrants, drugs and weapons strongly suggest that the operators have realised that, by switching off their transponders, they cannot be seen by radar whilst passing though TMZs. It is clear that the pursuit of radar ‘mitigation’ has already seriously depleted our national security. In addition, the proposed sight is immediately below a low-flight path used by the RAF for training.
5. Since the very first application to build a wind farm on Hemswell Cliff, the methods used by the developers – RWE Npower Renewables Limited – have included many underhand aspects including attempted bribery, delays, and misinformation. For example, just before the Planning Committee meeting, they claimed that they had 600 letters of support. When the letters were counted, it turned out that only 23 came from local addresses, the remainder came from addresses as far away as Athens. At the meeting itself, the number took a mysterious leap to 900. Now, along with the appeal, the developers (operating under the new name of RWE Innogy UK limited) have introduced an additional plan which reduces the number of turbines from ten to eight. How is it possible for an appeal to be made concerning a plan which did not exist when the original plan was rejected, and an appeal by a company which, at the same time, did not exist? The surprise amongst the objectors is not that, yet again, the developers have resorted to dishonest methods, but that they continue being allowed to get away with it.
The three reasons for refusal provided by the Planning Committee as well as the further two areas of concern are more than sufficient grounds for this application being denied. At all times, West Lindsey District Council have acted fairly, and the opposition to the proposal from local residents, businesses, and other stakeholders has been significant. I am not exaggerating when I say that in my thirty years representing the people of this constituency it has been rare for an issue to cause such a profound reaction and for the unanimity of feeling to be so widespread.
It is vital, therefore, that West Lindsey District Council’s decision is upheld against RWE’s appeal. I do think this is worthy of your specific consideration and I do hope you will ensure that the overwhelming wishes of local people will be respected, in line with the principles of localism and subsidiarity which I know you have been keen to promote.
Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has protested the scale of cuts to libraries in Lincolnshire. Writing to Lincolnshire County Council, the MP called local libraries “an absolutely vital local resource” and said they “inculcate in the young a sense of the adventure of learning and provide access to new avenues of knowledge for them to explore”.
“No one disagrees with the need for savings to be found and for cuts to be made,” Edward Leigh wrote. “But it is necessary we in Lincolnshire think about the long term. If we close too many libraries now we are ending a long and organic tradition that has been cultivated for generations. When prosperity returns, it will be much more difficult to restart these libraries and the services they provided, especially if property is sold off to become residential or commercial units.”
“I’m sure an analysis of the long-term costs and benefits would show that it would be immensely wiser to make cuts elsewhere in budget and keep as many of these libraries open as possible rather than to cut off innumerable future generations from the immeasurable benefits of a local library.”
Edward Leigh also pointed out that the County Council could be more pro-active in finding solutions for libraries to remain open, citing the case of Nettleham where the parish council have sought a minimum five-year lease in exchange for operating their local library, but have been turned down.
“Nettleham Parish Council are being perfectly reasonable in their demands,” Edward Leigh said, “and they deserve a much more favourable reaction from the County Council.”
The Save Lincolnshire Libraries campaign has sought judicial review from the High Court regarding the County Council’s libraries plan.
Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government, seeking his intervention in the Hemswell Cliff wind farm saga. The planning committee of West Lindsey District council had refused permission for a wind farm proposed by RWE Group but the firm has launched an appeal against the decision.
In his letter to the minister, Edward Leigh noted the wind turbine proposal at Hemswell Cliff provoked “substantial resistance from local residents and other concerned people, verging on the unanimous.” He voiced his own “deep-seated opposition” to the proposal and raised the alarm regarding RWE’s appeal.
“There is a very real risk of the principles of localism and subsidiarity being significantly undermined if deep-pocketed groups like RWE are capable of spinning out the appeals process to such an extent that district councils and the concerned parish councils feel they cannot feasibly compete,” Sir Edward warned in his letter. “Alongside concerned residents and other local people, they may be intimidated into silence or inaction by the deep resources of such groups.”
Sir Edward asked the Secretary of State to intervene to “ensure that the wishes of local residents are heeded, that the very fair decision of the planning committee of West Lindsey District Council is upheld, and that the principles of localism… are respected.”