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.”
“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.
Photos: Riseholme College
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.”
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.
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.”
Sir Edward Leigh MP has welcomed the Minister for Local Government’s announcement that the Caistor wind turbine appeal has been called in for the Secretary of State’s determination.
The Conservative Member of Parliament, whose Gainsborough constituency covers Caistor, had personally requested that Secretary of State Greg Clark MP decide on EDP Renewables’ appeal against the district council’s rejection of a 102-metre-high wind turbine proposed for a site on Moor Lane next to the Caistor Equestrian Centre.
The planning committee of West Lindsey District Council had determined that the turbine would result in ‘unacceptable’ harm to the setting of Caistor Conservation Area and that it would have a detrimental visual impact upon the views and setting of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sir Edward said:
“I’m pleased the ministerial team at the Department for Communities and Local Government have accepted my request that this be decided by the Secretary of State and not the Planning Inspectorate”
“We are firm believers in local decision-making, and I remain very hopeful that Greg Clark will back the decisions wisely made by West Lindsey District Council. Local residents are very much opposed to this development, and it’s our responsibility to back up their voices.”
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.