MP protests library cuts

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.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | April 10th, 2014

MP asks Minister to protect local decision on wind farm

Sir Edward Leigh writes to Eric Pickles asking for intervention in Hemswell Cliff planning appeal

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.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | March 24th, 2014

Budget provides relief for earners, savers, and drinkers

Sir Edward Leigh MP, the Conservative member of parliament for Gainsborough, welcomed a number of the moves announced in the Chancellor’s budget statement today which will save money for Lincolnshire residents.

“This budget brings real results for people here in Lincolnshire,” Sir Edward Leigh said. “Earners will find it easier to take home more money with the increase in the personal tax allowance. Savers will find their hard-earned savings will be taxed less. Drinkers will find duty frozen or cut on their poison of choice.”

“There’s still more that can be done. Far too many middle-income earners have been pushed into paying a higher rate of tax, and overall the entire tax system could do with more simplification, especially for small businesses. The Chancellor has made some difficult decisions, but he has delivered a budget which will benefit ordinary, working people, and that will go a long way towards putting our families and our country in finer fiscal shape.”

Earners will find the personal tax allowance will rise to £10,500 from April 2015, cutting taxes for 25 million people and taking another 290,000 people out of paying income tax altogether.

Rises in the personal allowance since 2010 mean that by April next year a typical basic rate taxpayer will be paying £805 less in tax than they would have been, with 3.2 million people taken out of income tax altogether.

The budget measures do not result in any additional higher rate taxpayers. The full benefit will be passed on to higher rate taxpayers – everyone earning up to £100,000 will gain equally and will pay less tax because of this tax cut.

Meanwhile, savers will benefit from merging the cash ISA and stocks & shares ISA into a single New ISA with an annual limit of £15,000. The over 400,000 ISA holders in the East Midlands could benefit from the New ISA.

Savers will also be glad to hear the 10p starting rate of tax for savings income will be reduced to 0p and extended to the first £5,000 of savings income, benefiting 1.5 million low-income savers.

In the biggest reform of pensions taxation in a century, the Chancellor announced that no one would be forced to buy an annuity if they don’t want to and there will be no punitive 55 per cent tax rate if you try and take more than your tax free lump sum.

Drinkers will find savings as the tax on beer will be cut by a penny a pint, helping local pubs. Duties on Scotch whisky and other spirits will be frozen, as will duty on ordinary cider. The duty escalator for wine, meanwhile, has been abolished.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | March 19th, 2014

Funds for cathedral repairs welcome

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative MP for Gainsborough, welcomed the announcement of government funds for cathedral repairs. £20 million has been set aside to preserve cathedrals and help them mark the centenary of the First World War.

“As a member of Lincoln Cathedral Council, I’ve always been a passionate advocate of our cathedrals,” Sir Edward said. “These are living places of worship as well the most important part of England’s architectural heritage. Lincoln Cathedral is a world-class heritage site, and it deserves public support.”

“Many of us have argued with the government for some time that they need more help when it comes to vital repairs. I’m delighted we’ve been listened to and that the Chancellor has found money to help our cathedrals with necessary upkeep.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | March 19th, 2014

MPs debate same-sex marriage in military chapels

Minister dismisses religious freedom concerns as ‘the stuff of fantasy’

This week Members of Parliament debated the use of armed forces chapels for same-sex marriage ceremonies. On Tuesday 25 February, defence junior minister Anna Soubry MP presented a draft order-in-council allowing for same-sex marriage ceremonies to take place in certain armed forces chapels. Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Con.-Aldershot) and Sir Edward Leigh MP (Con.-Gainsborough) raised concerns over the freedom of church bodies to refuse to perform or host same-sex ceremonies.

“I have in mind not only the interest of the Royal Garrison church in Aldershot,” Sir Gerald told the Committee, “but the Roman Catholic cathedral in Aldershot and the Church of Scotland church in Aldershot—three military churches. I want her to make it crystal clear that none of those are affected by the proposals and that they do not fall within the definition of ‘chapels’.”

Sir Gerald, an Anglican, was joined in raising his concerns by Sir Edward Leigh MP, a Catholic: “We do take such matters seriously because we are talking about what are for us holy places. People who attach enormous importance to their religious beliefs—whether they are Roman Catholic or anything else—use the chapels as holy places. [...] Does the Minister understand that we are worried about that issue, which is important to us?”

Defence minister Anna Soubry MP dismissed the MPs’ worries as “the stuff of fantasy”. She did, however, clarify that military personnel would not be forced into any action: “I am pleased to be able to make it absolutely clear that nobody will ever be forced to do anything that is against their conscience.” Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | February 27th, 2014

Right now, humanitarian relief is the best we can do for Syria

Remarks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

29 January 2014, Sixth Sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:
Syrian refugees: how to organise and support international assistance?

Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom) – It is a bit of a cliché to say it but I am afraid that we must recognise that Syria’s dreadful war can be solved only by the Syrians. It took us a bit of time to get into that space. When we last had this debate in the autumn, you may remember that just a month before we – the West – had been in imminent danger of bombing Syria, which would have been a disastrous policy. We have at least moved away from this and despite all the criticism that has been made of our Russian friends, there has now been a degree of co-operation between America, Russia and other players in getting rid of chemical weapons.

It is not going to solve the civil war but I honestly think that the best we can do is to concentrate our efforts on humanitarian aid. I am very proud that the United Kingdom has given £600 million in humanitarian aid. We are actually the second biggest donor in the world; 320 000 people have been helped with food aid and 300 000 people have been helped with medical consultations. I do not believe that sending more weapons into a society already awash with weapons is going to solve the problem; nor can we solve it by thinking that we can accept a huge number of refugees. There is no appetite for that. It is only a token response. There are 2.5 million people displaced: the United Kingdom is taking several hundred; France is taking several hundred. We can do a little bit to take the people who are most abused and traumatised.

The real solution, if there is one, is to concentrate our efforts on humanitarian aid. Like Mr Mignon, we may feel angry that refugees and refugee camps still exist in the 21st century but we have to be realistic and raise the efforts of everybody in Europe to the level of the best in terms of humanitarian assistance. By all means, let Mr Obama put pressure on Mr Assad about creating humanitarian corridors – by all means use pressure – but we must realise that we in Europe are only spectators in this. All we can do, with our limited resources, is to help those most in need.

[link to official report of the full debate]

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 30th, 2014

‘Will you facilitate renegotiation?’

A Question to the President of the European Parliament

29 January 2014, Fifth Sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: Address by Mr Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, followed by Questions

Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom) – Herr Schulz, do you understand the desire of a great part of the British people and the British Government to have a fundamental change in our relationship with the European Union? Will you in the European Parliament therefore facilitate renegotiation so we get a real result, or would you rather that the United Kingdom left the European Union?

Mr SCHULZ (President of the European Parliament) – Let me answer Sir Edward Leigh in clear terms. I am often surprised when I hear this expression “relationship of the United Kingdom with the European Union”. It sounds as if the European Union is a foreign force. You are a member of the European Union, and you are negotiating about the relationship with yourselves. This is wonderful, and I am strongly interested in seeing the result.

You asked me about my view on the United Kingdom. Let me say in clear terms that I want to see the United Kingdom as a fully fledged member of the European Union, participating in all policies. That would strengthen the Union and would strengthen the United Kingdom.

[link to official report of the full debate]

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 30th, 2014

Local democracy must come first

The news that there are now more Britons in employment than ever before in the history of our country is encouraging. We have also experienced the highest quarterly fall in unemployment since 1997, with the number of those claiming the jobseekers allowance having fallen for fourteen months in a row.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s economic policy has not been one of headline-grabbing cure-alls: he’s pursued a pragmatic approach in putting our economy back on track. These recently announced figures give us hope that his line of attack is working. While we’re not in the clear yet, Britain is turning a corner, and this is testament to the difficult decisions which this government is making.

Apart from the slow but steady economic turnaround, I hope that the most important and long-lasting legacies of this government will be localism. Subsidiarity – the idea that power should be located as close as possible to the people affected by it – is one of the most important political principles to remember. Over the past few decades far too many decisions affecting us in Lincolnshire have been made arbitrarily by unfamiliar bureaucrats in Whitehall or – even worse – Brussels.

It’s heartening, then, to witness local people taking the future in their own hands and influencing the decision-making process. The planning committee of West Lindsey District Council has been admirably and commendably responsive to the protests raised by local residents (including myself) to the plague of wind turbines which certain energy companies have sought to blight our landscape with. One of them sneakily made an application just before Christmas, no doubt hoping we would all be distracted by the holiday season. The hue and cry was raised, however, and I understand the application has been withdrawn, thus adding Waddingham to the long list of villages and towns which have seen off the wind farm menace – so far.

Overdevelopment is a continual concern, and we need to be very cautious when thinking about approving the construction of large sets of houses which may alter the order and tranquillity of our villages and towns. The Prime Minister’s recent announcement of shale gas incentives mean we have yet another concern to address. As I’ve written before, I’m not opposed to “fracking” in principle. It has the potential to unlock a massive energy resource for the nation, with the hope of significantly reducing monthly bills. Nevertheless, we must consider the specifics not the generalities. The companies which seek to extract shale gas here in our part of the country must make their case to us directly.

It is only right that we be concerned for the potential environmental impact of both construction and operation of shale gas extraction through fracking. If they fail to convince local residents, then planning committees must respond to our concerns and refuse the applications. No development – whether fracking or housing or wind turbines – should be approved over the wishes of the people who will have to put up with its consequences: local democracy must come first.

Posted by Edward Leigh | January 29th, 2014

Hansard: Edward Leigh on Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures

From the official record of the debate on 21 January 2014

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I broadly support what the Home Secretary is trying to achieve on TPIMs. As far as the public outside will be concerned, the debate has been rather skewed, because for most of it a Conservative Home Secretary has been attacked by the Labour party on a civil liberties issue. The House should not indulge in party political attacks but should reflect what our constituents want, which is to feel that they are safe. They want our Home Secretary to do whatever is necessary for that.

Before I deal with the issue of whether TPIMs or control orders are right, I point out that as far as most Back Benchers and most members of the public are concerned, TPIMs are simply control orders-lite. There is not a huge difference between them. I will deal with the issue of relocation in a moment, but first I wish to support both the Labour Government and the current Conservative Government in having such orders at all, because they are under attack from the civil liberties lobby. If there is a choice for me, as a father, between my daughters being blown up on a London tube, or our constituents being attacked by people who detest everything we stand for and all our liberal values, and there being some minor infringement of those people’s civil liberties, I know what choice I will make. I suspect that 90% of the population would make the same choice.

It is said that such orders are a gross infringement of civil liberties. I am on record as being an advocate of our jury system, I have never wanted to give the police extra powers and I recognise all the ancient arguments for our civil liberties. However, given the danger that some people pose and the views that they hold, what is the gross infringement on their civil liberties that we are talking about? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 22nd, 2014

Strong words from Edward Leigh in marriage debate

Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, condemned the lack of support for marriage from government and institutions in a recent Commons debate on strengthening couple relationships.

“The effects of marital breakdown on society are enormous,” Edward Leigh said. “It is a modern plague and it is causing not just expense but misery.”

The MP went on to claim there was a virtual “conspiracy of silence” about marriage despite research showing that children raised in marriage score better on almost every matrix social scientists have investigated.

“Over the past fifty years, a view has grown in our permissive society that people are happiest if they are completely liberated and can do what they want and say, ‘It is about me.’ The Churches, successive Governments, schools, the BBC, national newspapers and we as Members of Parliament are all complicit in that permissive view of society, which has left a trail of despair in its wake.”

“The decline of traditional marriage has been an unalloyed disaster,” he continued. “People in government, in schools and in Churches are frightened of speaking out about this issue. They think that if they say they support traditional marriage, they are somehow criticising people who are not married or who, for all sorts of reasons that are not their fault, are no longer married, but that is not the case. Surely we can value everyone in society and how they live, while speaking out for what is right in society, which is marriage and people setting out to stay married if they want to bring up children.”

Edward Leigh elaborated that it was not a matter of high-society marriages gone wrong but rather “it is the people at the bottom of the heap who suffer the most”.

“Marriage works. It is best for children. Every statistic proves it. Why are not the Churches, schools and Government crying that out from the roof tops?”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 15th, 2014

MP protests cutting road in two

Edward Leigh writes to County Council over Hawthorn Road

Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written to Lincolnshire County Council protesting the closure of Hawthorn Road as a through road between Reepham and Lincoln. The new Eastern Bypass is set to cut the road in two, and the two sections of the road will be linked by a foot bridge rather than a road bridge.

“The most logical solution would be for a road bridge crossing over the Bypass, but I understand this has been turned town in favour of a non-vehicular bridge,” the MP said in his letter to Tony McArdle, the Chief Executive of Lincolnshire County Council. “This is both illogical and objectionable.”

Edward Leigh, the former chairman of the Public Accounts Committee which investigates government waste, pointed out the strenuous opposition of residents meant that building a cheaper foot bridge was a false economy.

“Residents are dead-set against this proposal, and if we spend the money on a non-vehicular bridge now, an increase in local pressure is likely to build up, and we will almost certainly be forced to give in eventually and build a road bridge to restore the use of Hawthorn Road.”

The Member of Parliament concluded “it would be much wiser to address this problem effectively now rather than to waste money on an unwanted, undesirable, and ineffective non-solution.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 14th, 2014

MP welcomes shale gas incentives

Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, today welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement of new incentives for communities that allow shale gas extraction in their area. David Cameron’s speech in Beckingham came as French energy firm Total made it known they intend to invest £12 million into shale gas extraction in Lincolnshire.

“So long as local planning committees have the final authority on whether to allow them or not, I am in favour of shale gas extraction,” Edward Leigh said. “Luckily most of the kinks of fracking have been worked out abroad, where the procedure has been used for over sixty years. The incentives the Prime Minister announced here in Lincolnshire this week will allow local authorities to keep all business rates incurred through fracking, which should provide a welcome boost to local coffers.

“We have an opportunity to release a massive new energy resource for Britain, to reduce people’s monthly costs and help balance the books a little,” the MP continued. “We’d be foolish not to explore it further, but ultimately it’s local residents who must have the final word on whether they go through.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 14th, 2014

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