Sir Ed welcomes rural funding concessions

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has welcomed the concessions on local government funding announced on Monday 8 February.

“I have been shouting from the rooftops on behalf of our taxpayers and local councillors,” the MP said. “I’ve written to the Secretary of State, pointed out in debates, and raised at question times the disgraceful disparity in cuts between rural and urban areas.”

“I’m very pleased that we have made our voices heard. The Government is listening to rural taxpayers and these concessions go a long way towards closing that gap.”

In a statement to the Commons, DCLG Secretary of State Greg Clark MP announced that the Rural Services Delivery Grant would be increased fivefold from £15.5 million this year to £80.5 million in 2016/17.

“With an extra £32.7 million available to rural councils through the transitional grant I have described,” the Secretary of State told MPs, “this is £93.2 million of increased funding compared to the Provisional Settlement available to rural areas.”

“Significantly,” Mr Clark continued, “this proposal ensures no deterioration in government funding of rural areas compared to urban areas for the year of this statutory settlement.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | February 9th, 2016

Sir Ed condemns “unfair” rural funding cuts

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has condemned Whitehall’s plans for local government funding as “unfair” to rural authorities. Speaking in a Commons debate, Sir Edward noted that the proposed Local Government Funding Settlement would, on a per person basis, be cut by 31% for West Lindsey District Council while an urban council like Wolverhampton would only face an 18.6% reduction.

“I accept that cuts have to be made,” Sir Edward told his fellow MPs, but “local government has delivered broadly the same service over the last five years despite having to face considerable cuts.”

“I have worked alongside Lincolnshire County Council and West Lindsey District Council for decades, and they are not spendthrifts,” the MP continued. “They know the needs of our people far more than anyone in Whitehall does. We have already give up much of our invaluable network of local libraries, and got rid of our magistrate’s courts, and our police stations. How much more does Whitehall really expect that rural England can take?”

Pointing out that rural authorities like Lincolnshire include “real areas of deprivation” the MP of thirty years’ service in the Commons said it was “totally unacceptable” that “we are not bearing the burden equally.”

The Local Government Finance Settlement, Sir Edward said, was “totally unfair to the rural taxpayer and our rural authorities” and that it “must be revisited.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | February 4th, 2016

MP urges rethink on local funding

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has written to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government urging him to rethink the proposed funding levels for local authorities.

The MP of thirty years’ service in the Commons told Greg Clark MP that he was “disappointed” that the Local Government Finance Settlement “delivers a significant switch in resources from rural shire counties to the urban metropolitan districts.”

“The disparity in funding between rural and urban areas is obvious,” Sir Edward told the press. “I’m working with other rural MPs through the Rural Fair Share campaign to press the Government to do more about this.”

“We accept the need for tightening the belt, but urban districts are seeing an average cut of 13 per cent while our rural councils are facing an average of 34 per cent reduction in funding.”

The MP did note, however, that he is “glad” to see the Rural Services Delivery Grant “has been boosted from £15.5 million for 2015/16 to £65 million for 2019/20”.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 26th, 2016

Response to the Report of the Commission on Religion & Belief in British Public Life

The Woolf Institute convened a Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss, which issued its report Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good last month.

This is Edward Leigh’s response to the report.

The Commission’s report is a clever attempt to denude the public square and reduce faith to something that goes on in private while promoting religious indifferentism. Great Britain is tolerant precisely because it is a Christian country and if we banish religion from public life I fear we will become increasingly victim to a creeping conformist totalitarianism dressed in a therapeutic guise. We would certainly be even more subject to the tyranny of naked materialism and self-centredness.

Catholics will view the Report’s recommendation that faith schools be shut as a specific attack on us as well as on evangelicals as we tend to be the only two groups of any size who are bucking the trend and resisting the educational conformism of the official establishment mindset. The Report also, in a mealy mouthed way, accused Catholic schools of fostering sectarianism without giving any supporting evidence. Indeed the only testimony of open sectarianism I read in the report was a Catholic victim of prejudice in Glasgow. How insidious and ingenious to employ the victims of sectarianism as an argument in favour of destroying those victims’ schools, culture, and right to live out the fullness of their faith in modern Britain.

I both hope and expect this report will be ignored. The UN Declaration on Human Rights specifically asserts the rights of parents to direct the education of their children and I’m sure the United Kingdom will continue to comply with this. I’m sure most Catholics – alongside Protestants, Muslims, Hindus, and others – will reject the dull, dreary, conformist, and obsequiously inoffensive society this Commission aims for and instead seek to build a better Britain, to borrow Chesterton’s words, “aflame with faith and free”.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 18th, 2016

Renegotiation of EU Membership

Sir Edward Leigh MP gave this speech to a debate in Westminster Hall on the renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership on 5 January 2016. The debate was organised by Philip Hollobone.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) has given a consummate performance, in which he really summed up the arguments well. There is only time to give a few headlines. The first hero of this debate is, of course, our Prime Minister because, but for him, there would not be a debate. Even our heroine, Margaret Thatcher, never gave us a full referendum on Europe, so we should thank our current Prime Minister profusely for giving the British people the chance to make this historic decision. It will be a most interesting debate, and I will make one or two points about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | January 5th, 2016

Edward Leigh: Any council change must have local sign-off

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Gainsborough, has said that any changes to local government in Lincolnshire must be done by consent and not imposed from above.

“People in Lincolnshire want to proceed by consent,” the MP of more than thirty years’ service told a House of Commons debate on local government reform.

“We do not want a bruising battle over many years between district and county councils about which should be abolished. We want to proceed by consent and to get together.”

Recalling Ted Heath’s reforms – famous for creating the unpopular Humberside – Sir Edward said that “many are people are scarred by the events of the 1970s, when ancient counties were swept away.”

“We want to leave the present structure in place with district councils and county councils, and perhaps form a new body on which those will be represented,” the MP suggested.

“I am worried that in our rush for change and innovation, we may ride roughshod over what local people and local councillors want.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | December 15th, 2015

Final Column of 2015

The reform of local government is a realm ripe with hazards for those who wish to approach it. Some of my readers will recall the complete overhaul of local government that took place in 1974 during the premiership of Edward Heath. This involved some sensible changes but also enforced upon us unwanted and unwise creations like the entirely fake counties of ‘Humberside’ by us and ‘Avon’ down in the West Country. They were enacted in the very worst spirit of the ‘Whitehall knows best’ mentality, and local people were barely consulted at all.

As someone of a philosophically conservative mind, I would always prefer to give the local opinion the benefit of the doubt over the supposedly clever bureaucrats and civil servants in London. It’s not that they don’t mean well – they really do hope to improve things – but being stuck in their departments in Whitehall they all too often they lack the insight and knowledge that comes from decades of experience in our counties, districts, towns, and villages.

I am very supportive of plans to shift power away from London and back in the hands of more local authorities. So I very much welcome the Chancellor’s plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ reinvigorating the economy and civic spirit of cities and council areas too long neglected. We here in the East Midlands will not remain untouched by these reforms. There are proposals to devolve powers to a new body for Greater Lincolnshire. Whether it’s plans for accelerating economic growth, improving our transport links, or joining up public services, there are plentiful arguments in favour of giving this proper due consideration.

What is vital is the matter of consent. While we can all pick a significant qualm or two (the plan for libraries, for instance), Lincolnshire County Council is generally well run and popular. In our discussions in the House of Commons, I have spoken and made multiple interventions seeking to emphasise that unitary authorities must not be imposed from above without the consent and approval of local county and district councils. We do not want to destroy the significant local links that currently exist, nor should we, in a rush for change and innovation, ride roughshod over what local people and local councillors want. All the same, opportunities do exist, and they should be fully explored to see how we can make things better for people across Lincolnshire.

Christmas is probably the most beloved time of the year. It is a time for families and friends to come together. With the end of the year approaching, it is an apt time to take stock of the changes we’ve seen in the past twelve months. Most importantly, it is a time for remembering the birth of the Saviour and reflecting on our own little spot in the great chain of being.

I would like to wish all my constituents here in our part of Lincolnshire a very happy and blessed Christmas, with the hope for a fruitful year to come.

Posted by Edward Leigh | December 15th, 2015

Speech in Syria Vote Debate

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con):

There have been many powerful speeches, and I admire those people who have such a certainty of view about this, which I do not share. I suspect that for that reason many people may find it difficult to support what I am going to say. I am full of doubts, as I think are many good people in the country listening to this debate.

I was talking only yesterday to an Arab friend who lives and works in the region and loves his country. He said, “Really, I think you in the British Parliament are not being honest. You have got to go to war, if you want to, on the basis that your closest friends and allies, the French and Americans, have asked you. If that’s what you want to do, go ahead and do it, but bear in mind that when you go to war, you almost certainly won’t make any difference, and you might make things a lot worse.”

I am afraid that is the rather nuanced opinion of many people in the middle east. I know there is a sense of wanting to be in solidarity with one’s own friends in this Chamber, but I was in this Chamber during that Iraq debate and I was one of only 15 Conservative MPs who voted against. I have not regretted that decision. I have been there and talked to people who have been horribly scarred by war. Tens of thousands of people have lost mothers and sons as a result of our actions, so we have to learn from history. We have to learn the lessons of our involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. We have to approach this debate ultimately not from a party point of view or from a point of view of what is important for our own country, but with a deep sense of humanity and love of peace and care for some of the most vulnerable and traumatised people in the world. We have made terrible decisions that have made the lives of many people in the middle east much worse. So this is a nuanced decision.

I accept that our military involvement will make some difference. I will not repeat all the arguments. I am not competent to comment on Brimstone missiles, but I am sure they will help to degrade ISIL. I accept the argument that, if we are bombing ISIL in Iraq, why not in Syria? There is a difference, however, because in Iraq we are supporting a legitimate if inadequate Government, as well as ground forces, whereas the situation in Syria is hopelessly confused. I am afraid we cannot forget that many of us were asked to bomb Mr Assad two years ago. I have heard the phrase, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” but, “My enemy’s enemy is my enemy,” is rather more complex.

Mr Adam Holloway (Gravesham) (Con):

I do not know whether my hon. Friend agrees with me, but so often we have gone into these places with minimal knowledge of the realties on the ground. For example, most of the people whom we call Daesh in Syria and Iraq are the ordinary Sunnis. We have to give them a more meaningful choice than living under either ISIS or Shi’a militias.

Sir Edward Leigh:

I agree. I think we are rather arrogant in the way we look at this debate. We want to call ISIL Daesh, but we have to understand that, for whatever reason, many people in the Muslim world who live in the region support ISIL. We find that an extraordinary point of view.

If, by some miracle, our bombing campaign made a difference and we took Raqqa—although, as my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Defence Committee has explained, there are no credible ground forces to achieve that—what would happen? Would ISIL go away? No, because ISIL is an idea, not just a criminal conspiracy. There are many people in the Muslim world who support this flawed ideology, and we in the west and in this House are not going to defeat it just by military action.

I am not a pacifist. My duty is not to my friends in France, much as I love them, or to the traumatised people in the middle east, but to the people we represent. If, in his summing up, the Foreign Secretary can convince us, not that some people are inspired, but that there is a direct threat to this country from Raqqa and that there is a command and control structure that is planning to kill our people—[Interruption.] Hon. Members are nodding. Let us hear it from the Secretary of State. If we are acting in self-defence, by all means let us go to war, but let it be a just war, defending our people and in a sense of deep humanity and love of peace.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | December 2nd, 2015

Sir Ed hails Lincs farming at opening of new Riseholme campus

Sir Edward Leigh being shown around Riseholme College’s new campus.

Sir Edward Leigh, the Conservative Member of Parliament, opened Riseholme College’s new campus at Lincolnshire Showground in the middle of his Gainsborough constituency on Friday 20 November. Riseholme, a part of Bishop Burton College, has invested over £13 million on the new facilities which will work alongside the existing Riseholme campus to provide specialist land-based education in the East Midlands.

“We are the premier agricultural county of England,” the MP of thirty years’ experience in the Commons said. “Some 85 per cent of our output is driven by agricultural, therefore we should have a premier agricultural college – and this is what we’ve got here. It’s going to add a huge amount to our local economy. The buildings we’re sitting in are absolutely fantastic and it’s not often in Lincolnshire you’d get such an amazing development.”

Sir Edward Leigh with Clive Howarth of the Skills Funding Agency and Jeanette Dawson OBE, the Principal of Bishop Burton College.

“Riseholme has been at the centre of agricultural life here in the county for over sixty years,” Sir Edward continued. “I’m privileged to be here to open this new campus – the first new agricultural college campus to be built in over half a century – and I know Riseholme College will continue in its role at the centre of agricultural education in the East Midlands.”

The MP was joined College Principal Jeanette Dawson OBE, as well as a number of local dignitaries including Mrs Henrietta Reeves, the Deputy Lieutenant of Lincolnshire; Air Vice Marshal Gavin Mackay CB OBE, the High Sherriff of Lincolnshire; and Cllr Angela Lawrence, the Chairman of West Lindsey District Council.

In recent years, Riseholme has built partnerships with some of the biggest players in the agricultural industry, including Agrii, Asda, ABP, Dunbia, and Cranswick Foods. Students at the college will be given exclusive access to leading experts as part of their studies as well as working with industry specialist on applied research projects. Work on the second phase of Riseholme’s Showground campus continues.

Sir Edward Leigh with a student on the new Showground campus of Riseholme College.

Photos: Riseholme College

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 23rd, 2015

Minister Confirms RAF Scampton Could be New Home of Air Show by 2017

Lord Howe, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence (pictured), has written to Sir Edward Leigh, the Member of Parliament for the Gainsborough Constituency, to confirm that RAF Scampton could be the home of the county’s Air Show as early as 2017.

With operational activity and increased security threats the Air Show at RAF Waddington, south of Lincoln, has come to an end and it will not be possible in the future, the minister confirms. But looking toward retaining the air show within the county the minister writes:

“Careful consideration has been given to an alternative venue in Lincolnshire which could host an annual RAF air show in future… there may be potential to hold an air show at RAF Scampton but this will not be possible until 2017 at the earliest.”

The minister stresses that at this stage no firm decisions have been taken. Sir Edward commented:

“I am grateful to the minister taking the time to update me on the current position. I will continue to press the case for RAF Scampton to be made the future home of the county’s air show. As the home of the respected Red Arrows squadron, and with its proximity to the Lincolnshire Showground, I think that it could make an ideal location; particularly if security concerns require an off-base location for much of the public areas of a show.”

Sir Edward’s letter to the minister was made following a request for an update by the Conservative Leader of West Lindsey District Council, Cllr. Jeff Summers, who responded to the minister’s comments saying:

“This is really good news. West Lindsey District Council has ambitious plans to support our tourism sector and we really want to see it develop, grow and flourish. To have an RAF Air Show in the district would have real knock on effects for our tourism industry. As a council we stand ready to assist to help make this happen.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 18th, 2015

Sir Edward Leigh Proposes Ten Minute Rule Bill to Bring House of Lords Expenses in to Line with the Commons

Sir Edward wants the remit of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to be extended to cover members of the House of Lords as well as MPs.

On Tuesday, 17th November he presented a proposal for a Bill, which has cross-party support, to amend the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 to make provision for IPSA to become responsible for paying, oversight and complaints about allowances, expenses and financial interests of members of the House of Lords.

The Bill will also calls for changes to the House of Lords Reform Act 2014 to provide for the compulsory retirement of members of the Lords under certain conditions and to reduce the number of peers. Sir Edward, who is chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, a body of MPs which overseas the National Audit Office, said it was time for the Lords to adopt a ‘modern expenses’ system less open to abuse. Sir Edward said:

“The idea is to drag the House of Lords into a modern setting with a modern expenses regime.

“The system of paying peers a tax-free attendance allowance is open to abuse and is used by some peers as a second pension, which is not how it should be.”

Sir Edward also suggested it was wrong for peers to be paid the attendance fee when their main home was in London.

No one has broken any rules, but there is a growing perception that a new tax-free payment of up to £300 a day, that seems weighted in favour of those based in London, is being exploited.

Analysis has found 124 of the 161 members of the Lords who live in London have claimed the daily allowance this year. Previously only peers who classed their principal residence as outside London were allowed to claim an overnight allowance of £174 to cover the cost of mortgage payments, rent or a hotel. But because the £300-a-day entitlement, which was recently introduced, is determined by attendance, not residence, peers living in the capital get the same as those who live elsewhere.

Sir Edward’s proposal received the support of the House of Commons on Tuesday, 17th November to be prepared as a bill for the bill’s second reading before the House on Friday, 4th December.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 17th, 2015

MP Welcomes Government Plan For Right To Broadband

Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide faster broadband speeds across the country.

The Prime Minister has outlined plans to ensure that everyone can access broadband speeds of at least 10Mbps by the end of this Parliament in 2020. People will have a legal right to request an affordable, fast connection, regardless of where they live. The Government will also work to bring in a broadband Universal Service Obligation, putting it on a similar footing to other essential services like electricity and water.

The announcement follows cross-party calls by Members of Parliament for the Government to invest in broadband and Sir Edward has consistently called for improved broadband for rural communities like those of the Gainsborough Constituency. Prime Minister, David Cameron said:

“Access to the internet shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a right – absolutely fundamental to life in 21st century Britain. That is why I’m announcing a giant leap in my digital mission for Britain. Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we’re going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it. That’s right: we’re getting Britain – all of Britain – online, and on the way to becoming the most prosperous economy in the whole of Europe.”

Sir Edward Leigh commented:

“There isn’t a single aspect of government or everyday life that isn’t being transformed by digital technology, but slow broadband in rural and even some of our more urban areas leaves many people and businesses behind. This problem is urgent and we must act to ensure that there is no digital divide between cities like London and areas like Lincolnshire.

“The Government’s response shows that they understand the need for mobile and broadband providers to do more. A 10Mbps minimum service obligation will bring the all to many not-spots up to the standard our economy needs for the future.

“This announcement is particularly welcome for my area of Lincolnshire where, despite good progress in the overall roll-out of faster broadband, we still have areas which suffer very slow connections. Faster speeds will ensure that local families, communities and businesses can stay online and reap the benefits provided by a good quality, reliable broadband connection.”

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 9th, 2015

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