Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has welcomed news that the Waddington International Air Show may move to RAF Scampton in his constituency.
“I’d be delighted for the air show to move to RAF Scampton,” the MP of over three decades’ service in the Commons said. “Lincolnshire is great flying country and has a proud RAF history which are the perfect ingredients for an international air show.”
Sir Edward has been one of the most prominent defenders of the Scampton-based Red Arrows and is believed to have been instrumental in securing from ministers the continued existence of RAF’s aerobatics display team in the face of defence cutbacks.
“Scampton should be a perfect alternative to Waddington and I hope the RAF and locals will work together to make it happen,” the MP continued. “It’s a great opportunity for the area and for the county.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for the Gainsborough Constituency, has warmly welcomed the decision by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark MP, to refuse permission for a significant windfarm development at Hemswell Cliff. The MP, with over three decades’ service in the Commons, had campaigned against the proposal for more than three years.
Sir Edward Leigh commented:
“I’m delighted that the minister has backed local residents as well as the original, unanimous decision of West Lindsey District Council’s Planning Committee.
“We owe a lot to people in and around the villages of Hemswell Cliff, the VOCAT campaign group, and the planning committee of the District Council for their strength and determination in securing this result.
“The Government has been keen to ensure that local decision-making is backed up and that big energy companies don’t prolong the process through expensive appeals. This is an excellent result and will help preserve the beauty of our Lincolnshire countryside.”
Sir Edward played a key role in the campaign against the Hemswell Cliff Windfarm, and made both written and direct representations at West Lindsey District Council’s Planning Committee, lobbied the relevant ministers and worked to support objectors at all levels.
The original proposal by RWE Innogy UK Ltd. was for the erection of a ten turbine windfarm at Hemswell Cliff. The applicant appealed and the Planning Inspectorate began the process for a public inquiry.
The applicant decided to submit an amendment for the scheme to reduce the number of turbines being considered to eight, this was agreed by the inspector to be considered. In July 2014 the Secretary of State announced that the determination would be made by the minister and later that year, in September the Planning Committee at the council considered the alternative scheme.
A public inquiry met for several sessions over a eight days in late January and into early February 2015. Initially a decision was expected in mid-June, but timescales slipped and a decision was issued today.
Sir Edward concluded:
“Councillors on West Lindsey District Council were completely right in refusing the application, and Greg Clark has shown that this government is going to listen to local people in the countryside who don’t want to have their landscapes blotted by these alien structures. I am pleased to have played my part in championing the protections of the big skies of Lincolnshire.”
I support the Prime Minister’s move to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in Britain. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. Local authorities will receive financial help from central government in dealing with the resettling of these refugees to ensure there is no undue strain on local resources.
Simply taking people in is not a solution to the crisis, and being weak is not kind: it only encourages people smuggling. Many of these people have been taken advantage of by rapacious human traffickers and we must not allow this criminal element to flourish and expand further by rewarding these traffickers’ efforts.
I am an ardent supporter of fulfilling our humanitarian obligations towards people in need, and especially for displaced persons in the Middle East. Our obligation towards them is only heightened by the fact that they are often the victims of misguided and ill-judged foreign policy decisions by our own government. The Iraq War, which I voted against, is particularly prominent amongst these errors.
Great Britain is, however, at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £1 billion. Some £60 million of the additional funding will help Syrians who are still in Syria.
Since the crisis began, we have admitted over 5,000 Syrian refugees into the country via normal procedures, and the Prime Minister has set up the Vulnerable Persons Relocations Scheme (already up and running) to give Syrian refugees protection and support in the United Kingdom.
The Government is upholding Britain’s proud humanitarian tradition and doing so in a considered and well-thought out manner, and I will be encouraging them to do more.
House of Commons, 7 September 2015, after 11:00 pm
Sir Edward Leigh: I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and his new clause 11, but the House will be relieved to hear that I shall do so rather more briefly. There is a quote by Sir Winston Churchill in the No Lobby, which says that he wants to spend the first million years in heaven painting. As much as I love my hon. Friend, I fear that I might spend the first million years in purgatory listening to his speeches.
Sir William Cash: Shame. You might learn something.
Sir Edward Leigh: My hon. Friend has identified an important point. The Minister will remember that I made precisely this point in my amendment 53 in Committee, before our summer break.
Although there has been a lot of fire and emotion and a vote tonight about purdah, the question of spending by both sides is probably more important. Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor, has written a number of articles about it. It is incredibly important when we have the referendum that we get a sense of closure. At the end of this, whatever the result, people should feel that it has been broadly fair. Otherwise, we might reap the whirlwind. We should remember what happened after the Scottish referendum. If the yes campaign should win, we do not want to create a sense of unfairness for the other side.
I know that my hon. Friend the Minister has taken seriously the points I have put to him. In our earlier debates, the way he put it was that there should be a “broad equality” of forces, but we fear that that simply will not happen. Although there are sensible, firm and clear limits on how much public money will be available to the no and yes campaigns—say, £600,000 or something on each side—and that is completely fair, the party establishment of the main political parties, the Conservative party, the Labour party, the Liberal party, and the SNP, will almost certainly campaign to stay in Europe. Their ability to spend will be based on the votes that they got, with the Conservative party allowed to spend £5 million, the Labour party £4 million, the UK Independence party only £3 million—they will be the only people on the other side—and the Liberal Democrats £2 million. We could reach a situation in which the yes campaign is spending up to £17 million and the no campaign only £8 million.
That has already happened once before. In 1975, the no side was outspent 10:1, which simply cannot be fair. When I put those points to my hon. Friend the Minister in the past, he said that although he accepted that morally and logically there was force in my arguments, that was not in our tradition, as we do not have limits for general elections. I am sure that he will make the same argument again tonight. However, a general election is somewhat different. Separate political parties all have their own position that they are putting forward, rather than ganging up, in a sense, on one side of the argument. There is no sense of unfairness at the end of the process, or a sense that one important political point of view has been massively outspent by the other side.
Although I accept that the Minister will make those arguments, I hope he will feel that there is some sort of moral force in what we have said. For instance, the official yes side in the AV referendum spent £3.436 million and the official no side spent £2.995 million. There was a broad equality in what the yes campaign and no campaign were spending on the AV referendum, was there not? I think we all felt it was a fair referendum. The arguments were put, there was a clear decision and people accepted it. Surely we do not want to be in the situation that has arisen with so many other referendums in Europe, in which there is a sense that the political establishment—the European establishment—has a massive imbalance of resources on its side when it comes to spending. That creates a sense after the referendum that it has somehow been unfair.
Our sole UKIP Member is not present for this important debate, but we do not want to create a situation like the one that existed after the Scottish referendum, do we? There was suddenly a great surge in support for the SNP, and we would not want to recreate that position. [Hon. Members: “Why not?”] There will not be a surge in support for the SNP after this referendum; there might be a surge in support for somebody else, which SNP Members might not welcome.
I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will try to convince us that the Government do want a broad equality of resources during the campaign, so that we can feel that the yes and no campaigns have put their points of view fairly, that the public have listened to their arguments and that a fair decision has been made.
Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has written to the Home Secretary urging stronger action against people smuggling following the heightening situation at Calais in France.
In a letter to Theresa May, Sir Edward argued it is “clear” that illegal immigrants “are under the impression they will not be sent back” and that conditions for them in Britain are “quite advantageous”.
“Illegal immigrants must know that they will be arrested and held in custody without benefits until they are deported,” the Member of Parliament, re-elected this year with an increased majority, wrote.
“It is extremely unfair on those who play by the rules otherwise, and by appearing to give the impression that once here illegal immigrants are safe it only gives encouragement to human traffickers. Being weak is not kind.”
Sir Edward, who is a member of the Franco-British Council, also urged stronger cooperation between France and Britain in solving the crisis.
“Pressure must be brought to bear on the French government to take a more pro-active approach,” the MP said in his letter, adding that the French police are “well trained and well experienced” in dealing with disorder but that “we seem to be witnessing indecision and dithering on the part of the French authorities rather than productive and decisive action”.
The Chancellor’s recent budget has demonstrated that the Conservative Government is committed to ensuring the whole country, whether here in Lincolnshire or deep in the City of London, enjoys the fruits of steadily improving economic prosperity.
Recently released figures show that real wages have grown at their fastest rate since 2007, with almost two million more people enjoying the security of a job since we returned to government in 2010. In this year alone, employment has increased by 265,000 while those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is down 240,200 since a year previous and down 657,000 since 2010.
Even when we look at the figures for potentially more vulnerable categories, there has been a marked improvement. The number of young people without a job has dropped by 184,000 since 2010 while youth unemployment rose 82% in Labour’s last term in office. As for the proportion of the potential workforce claiming unemployment benefits, it is now at its lowest level since 1975. Pensioners have seen their state pension increased by £950, giving them a bit more help to enjoy their retirement in dignity and security.
While Labour claim the increase in employment is through part-time jobs, a look at the facts simply doesn’t bear this out. Over three-quarters of these new jobs since 2010 are full-time and the most comprehensive measure of living standards again shows they are higher now than in 2010 with the average household £900 better off than before.
More than 1,000 jobs have been created every day since we kicked Labour out of Downing Street in 2010 and Conservative MPs are working hard to make sure this momentum continues. We want to deal with the national debt by reducing the deficit in order to safeguard the economy and preserve the low mortgage rates we enjoy. We want to help working families and individuals to become more financially secure by cutting their income tax and continuing helpful acts like the fuel duty freeze. We especially want to promote small businesses, who are helping drive the economic recovery, through investment in useful infrastructure and lowering job taxes.
And in order to help the next generation, we are delivering on changes in education to ensure pupils are taught the skills they need to get ahead. Labour were happy to shove young people into Mickey Mouse degree courses in order to fudge the unemployment statistics, whereas now the University Technical Colleges are providing real training opportunities that will help young people to get ahead. We’ve created 2.3 million apprenticeships already and are planning to create three million more.
There is still much more to be done, whether around the country or here in Lincolnshire. We need to see better results on our roads, our policing, and our health services here in the constituency. Members of Parliament from across Lincolnshire are meeting regularly and keeping in touch to ensure we are working together for better funding, enhanced results, and demonstrable improvements in this the greatest and finest of all England’s counties.
I emphasise that we all recognise that this is a massive human tragedy, and our sympathies are with all the migrants caught up in this appalling situation. Nothing that I will say takes anything away from that, but the fact is that we must take action. To a certain extent, it is our responsibility to provide aid, given our actions in Syria, Iraq and Libya. We all know that, but we must take action. There is no point in simply talking about solidarity; we have to try to take steps to stop the flow of migrants into Europe. Our societies simply cannot take this level of migration, and our people demand that we take action.
The fact is that this is a massive international conspiracy led by people traffickers and aided and abetted by naïve people who do not believe in borders. We must have secure borders, and talking in vague terms about solidarity will not do the trick. All that will happen if we let more in is that more and more will come in, which is not fair on them, and it is not fair on us. If we are determined enough, there are quite simple steps to take to deal with this problem and to reduce the pull factors.
For a start, we should go back to the international maritime conventions under which if you leave the Libyan coast and our navy stops you five or 10 miles out from the coast, you are returned to that coast. It is simply ludicrous that people, at great risk to their lives, are crossing the Mediterranean and being picked up by our navies, knowing that they will be taken to Italy. We have to return to the traditional humanitarian, maritime practice of picking people up and returning them to where they come from, otherwise more and more will keep coming.
We must enforce the Dublin Convention, which is not being enforced. Under that convention, you should be returned from the European Union country where you finally end up to where you entered the European Union. Only 3% are being returned, and the convention should be enforced. We should also enforce the Eurodac conventions. When you enter Italy, you should be fingerprinted. One would have thought that if you are a traumatised migrant arriving in Italy, you would be so happy that you would want to stay there. No, such people refuse to be fingerprinted, because they want to travel up through Italy to Germany, Sweden, France or Britain.
We must enforce traditional maritime practice and return people to where they come from, and we must enforce the Dublin Convention and the Eurodac conventions. If we do not take action, more and more will come, and our people will hold us responsible.
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has pressed transport ministers on the deficiency of rail services in West Lindsey.
Speaking at Transport Questions in the Commons, the MP in his thirty-second year in Parliament noted that he was “very disappointed” that a Grimsby train via Market Rasen was not included in the franchise bid won by Virgin Trains.
“It is already running four trains a day to Lincoln,” Sir Edward noted. “Is there anything to prevent it, under its franchise, from extending at least one service a day to Grimsby via Market Rasen in order to serve that huge rural area?”
Sir Edward Leigh has previously written to both the Department for Transport and East Midlands Trains regarding Market Rasen station.
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has praised the late Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, in a speech on the floor of the House of Commons.
“I walked into this House for the first time as a Member with Charles almost 32 years ago to the day,” the MP told the Commons, “and among our new intake he was already quite a celebrity.”
Charles Kennedy had been the youngest MP in the Commons when elected aged 23 in 1983, and only lost his seat to the Scottish Nationalists at the general election this year.
Sir Edward praised Kennedy’s “gentle patriotism” and said the former Lib Dem leader had been “proved right” on the Iraq War, which found them both in opposition to the Labour government of the day.
“For all the 32 years that I served with him in this House and on the Council of Europe, although I was always a political opponent, in a way I always felt we were soulmates,” Sir Edward continued.
“I think he instinctively believed that politics is not just about the pursuit of power, it is also about the pursuit of truth.”
“All those years I admired him and it is truly said that when we die, we can only take with us what we have given away. This man gave everything to our House. There never was a braver and a truer spirit.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has written to the chairman of NatWest over the recently announced closure of the bank’s branches in Caistor and Market Rasen.
“These branches are important for local residents and businesses, and their possible closure will be a source of great inconvenience,” the MP of thirty-two years’ service in the Commons said. “I’ve written to Sir Philip Hampton, NatWest’s chairman, objecting strenuously to this change and requesting a meeting with him to discuss the implications.”
“Given the increasing opportunities in rural towns, the mutual interest of people in Market Rasen and Caistor on the one hand and NatWest on the other is at stake, so I hope an agreeable solution can be found.”
Sir Edward Leigh MP (right) with the Very Rev Philip Buckler (left), Dean of Lincoln..
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, has welcomed the announcement of a Development Grant for Lincoln Cathedral backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“Lincoln Cathedral is the great pearl of our county, and was once one of the major pilgrimage sites of all Europe as well as the tallest building in the world,” said Sir Edward, who sits on the cathedral’s council.
“The Development Grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will move the Lincoln Cathedral Connected project into the next stage, addressing vital conservation needs, providing employment opportunities, and strengthening the links between the Cathedral and the community at large,” the MP of thirty-two years’ service continued. “I commend the Dean, Chapter, and staff for all the care and concern they’ve put into this latest success.”
Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Gainsborough, has hailed the reaction from voters during his campaigning around the constituency as “the best ever” and argued the public will back David Cameron for another term as Prime Minister.
“Travelling all around the Gainsborough constituency these past few weeks I’ve been taken aback by the warmth and good feeling that voters have expressed regarding the government’s steering the country down the slow and steady path towards prosperity.”
“Voters know that they face a choice between David Cameron or Ed Miliband in Number 10,” Sir Edward, with over thirty years’ experience in the House of Commons, asserted, “and they know we simply cannot afford to let Labour back in.”
“It’s also important that we turn out for our district council elections,” Sir Edward continued. “We face a number of problems here, whether it be the threat of over-development, or the peril of wind farms slicing through our beautiful views and looming over our homes and villages. Our Conservative team on West Lindsey District Council are working hard to make sure local views are heard, and I’m glad on planning matters local decisions have been backed up by Eric Pickles as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”
The elections for Parliament and for West Lindsey District Council take place on Thursday 7 May 2015.