My article for Walsall Advertiser – 23 February 2017

Here is my “View from the House” published in the Walsall Advertiser on 23 February 2017:


Parliament has voted to start the process of leaving the EU. I accepted the result of the referendum, despite voting to remain, which is why I voted to trigger Article 50 to enable the Prime Minister to start the negotiations.


But the Bill, as it passes through the House of Lords is just the start of the process. This Bill does not allow the Government to change domestic law, introduce a new immigration system, or remove tax legislation. All that needs primary legislation. The Government, in a concession to the Labour party, agreed that the draft deal will come back to Parliament before it is considered by the EU Parliament or the Council. Parliament will be able to vote on the final deal.


The Leader of the House has confirmed to me that there will be another White paper before the Great Repeal Bill which sets out the Government’s position on all the EU derived rights. We must ensure, for example, that workers’ rights, human rights, consumer rights and environmental protections are entrenched in full, unqualified and non-time limited.


The Government was under pressure to explain why Surrey Council, having said they needed to raise Council tax by 15% to cope with the demands of social care, were offered a deal no other Council has been offered. On a Health Select Committee visit I saw in Torbay how integrated health and social care gave people one point of contact with tracking into and out of hospital and aftercare needs being met by one team. The Tory coalition Health and Social Care Act 2012 made that more difficult. The Government has worsened this crisis and left it unresolved.


No-one is saying that Walsall Council has easy decisions to make – it is the Conservative government imposing these huge budget cuts – but in my view the closure of Pleck and Pheasey Libraries is a short-sighted decision taken against local people’s views. I wrote to the Chancellor protesting that the Budget for Walsall Council has been cut by £84 million in the last 4 years, a 15% drop in 2015/16.


Furthermore Walsall has a literacy need ranking of 42 out of 533 English constituencies. Libraries play a vital role in tackling deprivation and improving educational attainment. And the Summer Reading Challenge which took place across the libraries helped to keep children motivated and engaged during the holidays – an important way to raise the aspirations and attainment of our children.