From Leigh to You

My Priority is to Serve You

Photo: West Lindsey District Council

I am deeply honoured that voters in our Gainsborough constituency have seen fit to entrust me again with representing them in the House of Commons. This was a tricky election in many ways, and it was humbling to see my share of the vote increase to 61.8 per cent, the largest majority in the history of the Gainsborough constituency.

I would like to thank my fellow candidates for participating in this great celebration of parliamentary democracy, as well as the many volunteers across the constituency who put in hours and hours of hard work to ensure a good result. Every polling station is manned by men and women who give up valuable time to ensure that our system of representative government under the Crown continues to flourish, and they deserve our thanks as well.

My greatest thanks, however, is reserved for the voters who I have sought to represent fairly and honestly in the House of Commons. Westminster is often accused of being a bubble, a world unto itself ignorant of life outside, and I do my best to try and make sure the real world of Gainsborough, Market Rasen, Caistor, and elsewhere around the constituency gets through to the mandarins of Whitehall and the big guns in the Cabinet.

A huge number of voters put their trust in the Conservatives across the country. In Scotland we’ve had our best result since the year I was elected, as well as the highest vote share since 1979, and we even managed to kick Alex Salmond out of Parliament.

But a hung parliament isn’t the result we were working for, but we are intent on putting the national interest first as we form a government. We have had a productive working relationship with the DUP over many years and it seems likely that we will be able to work out an arrangement whereby they can give confidence and supply to a Conservative minority government.

Over sixty per cent of this constituency voted for Brexit and over sixty per cent voted for me. My mandate and instruction from the people of Gainsborough is to help secure full Brexit with control of our own borders and laws. As we embark upon Brexit, this arrangement will provide the certainty and stability we need to channel our efforts towards getting the best possible deal for this country. I will continue to be available to my constituents every weekend through my surgeries and the many events I attend. My main interest and priority is to serve you.

Travelling around the constituency during the general election campaign, often accompanied by my loyal hound Monti, I have enjoyed the chance to catch up with voters from all walks of life. It is vital that the Government and its decisions reflect the priorities and aspirations of hard working families and individuals in our part of Lincolnshire as well as across the country. There is much work to be done and I am keen that we get on and do it.

Posted by Edward Leigh | June 12th, 2017

Our future with Europe

I’m delighted by the news that before the end of the month the Government will invoke Article 50 seeking our departure from the European Union. As we enter the period of negotiating our future, the Prime Minister has made her priorities very clear.

The most important and basic principle is that the fundamental powers of a sovereign independent country will be returned to the British people as represented in our democratically elected parliament. For too long under the EU, important decisions were made behind closed doors through the Council of Ministers and ratified by a European Parliament that lacks an effective opposition and the ability to initiate its own legislation.

We will regain control over our borders. It will be British ministers, part of an elected government responsible to and replaceable by the voters, who will have the final say on who is let into the country and who is denied access.

The United Kingdom will also have the freedom to pursue deeper trade links with friendly countries overseas. We are unique in Europe in sharing very close ties of language, law, friendship, and family with large, successful, and prosperous countries abroad such as Australia, Canada, and the United States. I support the Government’s plans to strengthen our connections to the many countries of the Commonwealth, whose combined share of the world economy is set to overtake that of the EU member states in the near future.

And we will continue to cooperate very closely with our European neighbours as common sense dictates. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh | March 20th, 2017

Teaching Future Generations

I’m pleased the Skills Funding Agency has launched upon the unprecedented step of taking the University of Lincoln to court in order to safeguard the land-based agricultural facilities at Riseholme here in the constituency. Unfortunately, without regard to the educational needs of the county or for the quite reasonable concerns of local residents in Riseholme, the University is looking to build a residential development on the site. The superb staff at Bishop Burton College (who run Riseholme College) are organising a site visit for the SFA next month which I plan on attending.

Meanwhile, in London the process of withdrawing the UK from the EU is continuing at speed. The House of Lords is a vital part of our parliamentary democracy and plays an essential role in scrutinising our laws. But it would be wrong for unelected peers to try to overrule the will of the British people expressed in a referendum. I’m confident, however, that the peers will be mindful of their role in our unwritten constitution and will not obstruct the path of Brexit.

The Holocaust was a crime of global significance which must never be forgotten. Remembering the horror of this event is incredibly difficult to put into words, let alone to try and represent in physical form. Not long ago I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and was left deeply impressed by the experience. This museum does a very good job of educating visitors about the Holocaust as well as trying to place it in a historical context. To emphasise the individuality of the victims, every visitor is handed a little card with the name and story of someone who suffered in the concentration camps – whether they were killed or whether they survived.

Teaching future generations about the Holocaust is vital, and I am glad that groups of schoolchildren from Lincolnshire have had the privilege of visiting Auschwitz in what is now Poland and witnessing this place first hand. But we can do more to facilitate educating about the Holocaust here in Great Britain.

Recently I organised a Commons debate about the proposed national Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament. Unfortunately, due to the various requirements of this site the organisers have had to scale down their original proposals to include an educational experience like at the Museum in Washington. I think this is a mistake.

Less than half a mile from Parliament, the Imperial War Museum is investing millions in renovating the galleries it devotes to the Holocaust. The Museum has previously expressed an interest in having its permanent exhibition integrated into a Holocaust memorial, and there is sufficient space to do this at the Museum’s site in Lambeth, unlike in Victoria Tower Gardens.

A National Holocaust Memorial will, I hope, become a required site for school visits to London and so the organisers ought to adapt their plans so that here in Britain we can replicate the tremendous success of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Posted by Edward Leigh | February 20th, 2017

No Need for a Greater Lincs Mayor

It was an immense relief to see Lincolnshire County Council vote down the proposal to create a mayor for Greater Lincolnshire. This plan is poorly thought out and would add another expensive and complex layer of local government that is totally unnecessary and, I would argue, counterproductive. Our district councillors and county councillors work hard to represent their neighbours and during a time when the budget belts have been tightened they have been forced to make very difficult decisions about services.

I am a firm believer in localism and subsidiarity. This means that decisions should be made closest to the people who will be most affected by them. In our part of the world, that means the district councils. But the creation of a mayor for Greater Lincolnshire would set an obvious trajectory which I fear would lead to the abolition of our district councils and the transfer of their powers elsewhere. I would oppose that development strenuously just as I oppose this proposal.

Even the title of mayor is totally inappropriate. Mayors are for towns and cities, whereas Lincolnshire is a largely rural county which is one of the great agricultural powerhouses of Great Britain. But it is headline grabbing as plans for the consolidation of local government in various cities in the north of England is considered and progresses. We simply can’t take a model that works for Manchester and arbitrarily apply it to Greater Lincolnshire.

The creation of another layer of local government is meant to be sweetened by the promise of extra funding to be distributed through the mayor’s office. But this will be partly negated by the fact that local authorities will be expected to make a contribution from their already straitened budgets towards the budget of the mayor’s office. This is far from a model of sleek efficiency in delivering services.

As central government’s funding of local authorities has understandably declined, any further funds for our communities are of course welcome. If the civil service mandarins in Whitehall would like to distribute this on a Greater Lincolnshire basis, rather than divvying it up amongst the various councils of the area, there are far better ways of going about it.

My proposal was that we set up a board composed of delegated members of each local authority who meet under the chairmanship of an independent non-politician, perhaps a local businessman or some such figure. They can then determine amongst themselves how this extra funding should be divided up amongst the local authorities, based on the priorities of Greater Lincolnshire as a whole.

As the County Council has rejected the mayor idea, I was hoping this proposal would be dead in the water. But it doesn’t want to die a natural death, and some are still trying to see it is enacted in the hope that those local authorities who are against it now can be brought along to support it later on. On this, as on so many issues, the fight is not yet over.

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 1st, 2016

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

Britain is Getting Better, Figures Show

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.

Posted by Edward Leigh | July 21st, 2015

Column: The Autumn Statement

The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s recent Autumn Statement set out to update the nation on progress since he announced his budget in April. From the outset when the results of the general election forced us into a coalition with the Lib Dems, we knew there would be many difficult decisions to be made.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t agree with everything George Osborne has done. For example I have consistently stated that he needs to take much more radical steps to simplify our tax system, the overly complex nature of which is inherently biased against individuals, working families, and small businesses. I was very happy, though, that the Government finally agreed to my repeated urgings to recognise marriage in the tax system, and plans are going ahead to introduce a marriage tax allowance (however modest it may be to start with).

Difficulties and imperfections aside, George Osborne’s long-term economic plan is working. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | December 8th, 2014

Column: 2 June 2014

The result of the European elections gives even further impetus to our drive to change our relationship with the European Union. It is obvious that voters are animated about Europe but they feel they are struggling to have their voices heard. Readers doubtless know that I am an opponent of all Euro-centralisation and my speeches in the House of Commons as well as my voting record attest to that. But even more than stopping the loss of any further powers, we need to win back powers that have already been ceded to Brussels.

This Government have made significant progress in putting the country back on track in many ways, especially with regard to the economy. Instead of headline grabbing measures, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been making a great many difficult decisions which have provided the foundations for a stable recovery. I have been vocal that there is more to be done. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh | June 2nd, 2014

Column: 19 May 2014

Things are heating up regarding the Hemswell Cliff wind farm appeal. As you are probably aware, West Lindsey District Council very sensibly refused the planning application for a wind farm owing to the very broad and deep-seated opposition which local residents and others expressed. RWE have now launched an appeal seeking to have the decision overturned.

I have written to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, outlining our concerns over the wind farm, pointing out its adverse effect on the local environment, the threat to historical sites nearby, and the high potential of damage to as yet unexcavated archaeological remains. I also pointed out the potential impact on air traffic control, given the proximity of RAF bases and Robin Hood Airport.

Most of all, it is vital that decisions on planning permission for projects of such a high impact be made by local district councils and in alignment with the feeling of local people. I know Eric is very keen to ensure that local decision-making remains the ordinary practice, and that double-guessing local planning decisions will be the extraordinary exception, not the rule. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh | May 19th, 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

Fighting Hard for Local Powers

We have had a very thorough-going debate on the European Union (Referendum) Bill. The bill seeks to give voters a say over the relationship this country has with Europe and specifically over our membership of the European Union. We in the Conservative Party are now committed to giving people that referendum, which would be our first on the subject since 1975. The other parties are saying they are in favour of a referendum if any more significant transfers of power from Britain to Brussels occur, though they never do define what they mean by significant.

In the debate, I intervened to point out that it is clear that we want to be able to control our own borders, fishing, agriculture, and courts, and we want to stop small businesses being hit by ever more regulation. I kept goading the Labour members opposite, trying to find out if they would support even just the idea of giving voters a referendum on membership. From every Labour MP I asked, the answer I received was a model of evasion, avoiding the question and dodging the issue. “Of course, we are in favour of a referendum in principle…” But if we in Parliament do not translate principles into practice, we risk further deepening of the divide between the government and the people. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | November 25th, 2013

Fracking and the Future

Readers know that the preservation of our beautiful countryside here in Lincolnshire is one of my absolute priorities. I’ve written in this newspaper about a wide variety of issues we need to be concerned about in Lincolnshire. This has ranged from the unsightly and unsustainable wind farms to more subtle issues like planning for future development and the potential dangers involved therein. We need to be on guard to protect our way of life, our natural environment, and to ensure that we continue to provide a liveable setting for ordinary working families and individuals.

That is why I have cautioned a prudent approach to development, lest we overload our already stressed infrastructure and overstretch our local resources. There is another issue which I suspect we will be confronted with more and more often in the coming year or so: hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. Fracking is the process of using hydraulic drills to dig deep within the earth to gain access to (usually) petroleum or natural gas. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Edward Leigh's Office | September 26th, 2013

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