March 12, 2019
We voted to leave the EU, but without an agreed plan on “how.” Our elected Parliament continues to struggle to find a consensus on that question; the major parties remain deeply divided. There has been a lot of noise since my last statement, but the fundamentals have changed very little. My position remains exactly the same. I set it out again, so that you are clear about the position of your elected representative.
I represent a constituency that voted narrowly to remain. That was my personal position too. I now believe strongly that we must respect the referendum result and leave. My strong preference would be to leave on the 29th of March, as this process has dragged on too long, and it is extremely damaging in the division and uncertainty it is creating.
However, I want to leave in an orderly way that minimises disruption to people’s lives and any possible risks to jobs and security. That is why I have always supported the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement. We need to be very clear that it is the only deal on the table. The rest is noise, and it is clear that the appetite of the EU to renegotiate further in a substantial way is nil.
I am not claiming that the deal is perfect – but it is good enough. It delivers on the issues that seemed to matter most to Leave Voters, not least ending Freedom of Movement; giving us freedom from the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies; and ending our payments to the EU once our current obligations are settled. We will clearly leave, but with a transition period that gives our employers time to adjust to the new relationship with our biggest trading partner. That makes sense to me, and I am not surprised that it is supported by most of the groups that represent employers. It is time to give them some certainty and to move on to negotiating the detail of how our future economic and security relationship with the EU will work.
So my single priority this week is to Vote for the Withdrawal Agreement. The fact that the PM appears to have secured legally binding assurances from the EU that we will not be locked into the so-called backstop, makes the case for the deal even stronger.
Some argue that we would be better off leaving with no deal. I do not believe that is what we voted for as a country, nor is it Government policy. I do not believe that there is a majority for this course in Parliament, and therefore doubt that any Government could deliver it. Even if there was, I consider it to be an extremely irresponsible and risky course of action, as I am clear that it will cost jobs and undermine our security, as well as create large scale disruption that I am not convinced we are prepared for. I am under no illusions that there remains widespread opposition to the Deal. However, the alternatives are unappealing.
Alternatively, some argue for a “softer” Brexit, perhaps closer to the relationship that Norway has with the EU. I am not convinced that is a better outcome for us than the agreement which the PM has negotiated. We would still have freedom of movement; we would continue paying large sums of money; and we would have to accept rules set by others.
There are also those who argue that we delay. That only makes sense to temporarily avoid no deal. However, I am not clear that any delay will strengthen our negotiating hand, and the only way to be sure of avoiding ‘no deal’ is to agree a deal. In the real world, rather than Fantasy Brexit, which too many people seem to be playing, I believe that a Brexit deal looks a lot like what the PM has agreed – with a lot to play for in negotiating the next stage.
Finally, of course, there are those who believe we should call the whole thing off and “go back to the people” for a second referendum. I think that would be damaging for our democracy and would risk deepening division, without resolving anything. Likewise, I cannot see how a General Election would change anything in terms of the Brexit fundamentals. Indeed, it risks bringing in an administration that would be deeply damaging to the prospects of our country.
So I am left with only one choice, which is to support the Withdrawal Agreement, now improved with greater reassurances to colleagues worried about our ability to leave the so-called “backstop” arrangements, designed to ensure that when we leave, we do not create a so-called “hard border” in Ireland.
If the Deal is voted down again, I will of course keep you updated on what MPs will have to decide on next and how I will vote. There are too many uncertainties to be clear on that today.
I am always interested in the views of constituents as this important constitutional drama unfolds. Please do not hesitate to contact me with thoughtful opinion. If you are one of those who can only communicate abuse, do not expect a reply.
November 30, 2018
Update: On 10th December, the PM made a statement to the House in which she demonstrated that she was listening to strongly held concerns about the Withdrawal Agreement, especially in relation to the controversial backstop arrangements that are designed to guarantee no hard Irish border. I support her decision to seek further assurances from the EU before putting the Agreement to a vote.
Brexit divides the constituency as it does the country. Some people, on both sides of the argument, have strong opinions which seem to have hardened in an increasingly angry way. For the majority in the middle, I sense growing confusion and dismay.
I am grateful to the many constituents who have written to me with their views and am genuinely interested in hearing more.
I will be supporting the PM, and not just out of loyalty as a Government Minister, or out of respect for her tenacity and resilience, which have been admired by many.
I was a marginal Remainer. I saw strong arguments on the Brexit side, not least on the opportunity to take back more control and have more flexibility in a fast moving world. However, I thought the balance of risk weighed in favour of staying in a relationship that was very important to our prosperity and security.
Now I believe that the result of the referendum needs to be respected.
I can persuade myself that we will be better off over time, especially given the difficulties that the EU face. However, I want any deal to minimise the short term risk to our economy and security.
I believe the Prime Minister has worked tirelessly to try and strike the right balance. I can see that the Withdrawal Agreement will deliver on many things that mattered most to those who voted Leave. The agreement will allow us to have our own immigration policy. We will come out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. We will be free to make our own trade deals. Once we have met our obligations in the Withdrawal Agreement, we will stop sending large amounts of money to the EU. At the same time the Political Declaration sets a positive framework, rooted in strong mutual interest, for reaching agreement on the terms of ongoing trade and security cooperation.
It is a negotiation and therefore involves compromise. So of course it will not please everyone. I understand concerns about important details such as the backstop arrangements to avoid a hard border in Ireland. However, it is just that – a backstop insurance policy which everyone wishes to avoid. I think the big picture is set about right.There is still a lot to negotiate but I can see a sensible outcome that gives us our long term freedom without creating damaging short term shocks.
My absolute priority is to avoid a No Deal scenario. When I was Industry Minister I spent time listening to the concerns expressed by our largest employers about a No Deal Exit. I am clear that it will cost jobs. Now as Policing Minister, I am involved in our contingency planning for No Deal. Over time we have built with our EU partners a set of tools that help us share crucial information to identify and arrest criminals. They are important and the PM has quite rightly stressed the mutual need for an ongoing security partnership that preserves these capabilities. However if we lose access to those tools in a No Deal scenario, I am very clear that our contingency plans represent a step backwards at a dangerous time. So for both economic and security reasons, we need to avoid a No Deal exit.
I understand the argument in favour of a second referendum. However it is not helped by the fact that the loudest voices in favour of it clearly disagree with the verdict of the people in the original referendum. I fear that it will exacerbate already bitter division and uncertainty. I think that our priority at this time is to give our representative parliamentary democracy the opportunity to agree a solution that has the best possible chance of bringing the country together.
Disentangling ourselves from the very complex web of agreements we have with our EU partners was never going to be as straightforward as some of the Brexit prophets would have us believe. The PM has delivered something many thought impossible. Her critics have failed to come forward with an alternative that is credible or delivers on the referendum. At the moment, I can only see one deal on the table and that is the one I will be backing.
My primary concern about Brexit is about the division that it has created. It is not that long ago that we hosted the Olympics in such style. There was a spirit of confidence and unity in the country that I wish we could have bottled. How different it feels now. I know Brexit is a critical step in our proud history. I know how important it is to get right, not least for our children. I know the negotiation is not complete, but like many people I want us to move on, make the best of it and heal the division.
I will be supporting the Prime Minister.
August 22, 2018
This bulletin is part of a regular series that updates you on what I am doing as your Member of Parliament.
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Many of us argued that HS2 should cross the beautiful Colne Valley in a tunnel rather than a viaduct. HS2 persuaded Parliament and the Government that it would be too expensive. I have always felt that decision was taken without sufficient analysis. Wendover tunnel is now being referred to the Infrastructure Projects Authority and our question is whether the government is prepared to do the same for the Colne valley. I have written to the Department for Transport to ask for clarity.
You can read the full text of my letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, here.
One of our biggest local priorities was to preserve the HOAC experience for local youngsters. We got a “win” when HS2 agreed to hand over £26m to Hillingdon Council and asked them to take responsibility for relocating the facility to Denham Quarry. Current plans are for HOAC to open on the new site in Spring 2019: however this timetable is tight and I will be pressing HS2 for an extension on the current site.
I always hoped that we would have constructive conversations with the HS2 contractors. It is in their interest to minimise traffic and keep good relations with the community. So I am very pleased to hear that they have agreed with us that it is not necessary to build a concrete segment factory in the fields outside Ickenham. We argued this in Parliament but were ignored by HS2. Common sense has prevailed and the segments will be brought in from outside. I think the traffic impact will be neutral but the overall impact on Ickenham will be reduced.
HS2 continues to attract very negative headlines for budget overruns and a high turnover of senior management. These are sources of real concern but I am continuing to assume that it will go ahead. My priority remains to work with residents and the Council to minimise the impact.
I have opposed further expansion of Heathrow for many years.
As a former Climate Change Minister, I remain very concerned about the implications of airport expansion for our ability to meet our long term and legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On balance, I accept the argument that our economy does require new airport capacity. However, I think there are better options than Heathrow and increasing the volume of flights over a densely populated London. While I recognise that opinion in the constituency is divided, this is a long held personal position.
I did not take part in the recent vote in Parliament, which the Government won with a majority of 296. However my position is unchanged.
As this process grinds on through the law courts, I will continue to press Heathrow very hard as a constituency MP on the issues that will directly affect residents. Top of my list is a clarification on flight paths and the implications for RAF Northolt. I will also be working with Hillingdon Council to press for credible plans for meeting air quality commitments that, quite rightly, are very demanding.
Michael Sobell Hospice
Many constituents will have supported the Michael Sobell Hospice at Mount Vernon and will know how valued it is. It was alarming to hear that structural problems with the main building have required the inpatients to be moved to the cancer wards. I would be very concerned if we lost a much loved hospice, and I am in contact with the trustees of the charity and the management of East Herts NHS Trust to seek reassurances about a long term plan to retain both the inpatient hospice services and the day centre.
You can read a statement on the hospice from Nick Carver, CEO of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, here.
I have also been informed that the Alzheimer’s Society are withdrawing support for the Templeton Centre in Joel Street. I know how important the Day Centre has been, not least for carers, so I am keen to help find a solution. I have written to the Alzheimer’s Society who have explained that not enough people were using the service to justify ongoing donations. However, a local group has come forward who want to try and keep the service going and I will do what I can to support them .
You can read the full response from Jeremy Hughes CBE, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, here.
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer play a crucial role in helping to keep Ruislip High Street vibrant. They draw in customers who then go on to use other shops and restaurants. So their decision to close came as a terrible shock to other traders and was a surprise given that the store appeared to be hitting its targets. I wrote to the Chairman of M&S but their decision seems final. I will now work with the local chambers and the council to try to attract a good name that will keep people coming to the High Street, as well as press for changes that will make the High Street a bigger draw.
You can read the full response from Sacha Berendji, Operations and Property Director at M&S, here.
You may recall that the Mayor wanted to close all the Police stations in Hillingdon and Harrow, except Hayes and South Harrow. Since then, we have made and won the argument that they should keep Ruislip open and re-consult on Pinner. Hillingdon Council made an offer to the Mayor to buy Uxbridge Police Station in a deal that would have allowed the Police to stay there at a fraction of the current cost. This felt like an offer that could not be refused. However seven months later, we still don’t have an answer, which I find extraordinary. I have written to the Deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden, pressing for a decision on Uxbridge and asking for clarity on plans for Pinner and Northwood which remain uncertain.
You can read the full text of my and Boris Johnson MP’s letter to Sophie Linden, here.
We have seen two stabbings recently in the area, and I know that some constituents are concerned about crime and antisocial behaviour. The truth remains that this is a low crime area. However, the police are stretched as demand on them has risen and become more complex. In recognition of this, I took steps last year as Minister for Police that will see an additional £460m of investment in our police system this year. The Met is getting an additional £50m from an increased precept which is being topped up by the Mayor, and the Commissioner has confirmed that she is recruiting an additional 500 officers, which I am sure constituents will welcome.
In this amazing weather, our beautiful Lido has been heaving with people. This causes a number of problems for local residents, not least around parking and antisocial behaviour. I met with community representatives and Cllr Philip Corthorne to discuss what action is being taken, including tow away schemes for illegal parking, to ensure that we get the right balance between welcoming visitors while respecting the rights of residents.
Work as a Minister
In recent months my work as Home Office Minister has focused on our Serious Violence Strategy and urgent work to change the rules around accessing medicinal cannabis.
Everyone is determined to end this terrible cycle of violence, not least in London. Our strategy combines robust law enforcement with more work on community-based initiatives to steer young people away from violence. You can find a link here.
On medicinal cannabis, recent high profile cases have made clear to me and the Home Secretary that too many people are suffering needlessly because of rules and processes that have not changed for 40 years and are out of date. We sought advice from the Chief Medical Officer and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs who agreed. So in the autumn we will be changing the rules so that clinicians will be able to prescribe cannabis-based medicines if they believe that is the right thing for their patients.
You can read my recent “Red Box” article on this issue for The Times here and the Government announcement here.
I continue my work as Minister for Grenfell Victims, leading community engagement on sensitive issues such as the long term future of the site.
Out and About
I do my best to get out and about to visit our schools and local organisations. Thank you to the following for inviting me over the last couple of months:
- Northwick Park Hospital
- Hillingdon Hospital
- Harrow Mencap
- Vyners School
- Glebe Primary School – Green for Grenfell
- The Breakspear School
Pinner Wood School
Hatch End High-school, The Brilliant Club
Thank you also to the staff at Eastcote and Harefield libraries for helping to organise my surgeries.
As ever, if you have any comments, or if I can help you or a family member with an issue, I do hope you won’t hesitate to contact me.