Welcome to my latest email newsletter to provide you with some updates on what’s been happening both in Parliament and around Amber Valley over the last month since the start of the new year.
It’s been an eventful couple of months in Parliament, with the passage of the next stage of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill through the House of Commons taking place, which I supported. Locally, in addition to meeting constituents and businesses, one of the key pieces of good news was a visit to Alfreton Station to see the start of step-free access at the station at last!
Alfreton Station step-free access success – work started!
As many constituents know, I’ve long campaigned for the installation of step-free access at Alfreton Station to provide an alternative to the steep steps over the track which are currently the only option for passengers.
After several frustrating delays which I’ve strongly challenged over recent years, I’m really pleased that work has finally started on the installation of the ‘Access for All’ improvement works at the station. This will install two new lifts at the station as well as refurb the existing bridge, and work is set to be complete by 2025.
A few weeks ago, I met with Network Rail and the project managers at the Station to go through the final plans and designs, but it is now good to see work actually starting. I’ll kep you updated on the project progress over the coming months.
This is very welcome news, but I know improvements are also needed at Langley Mill Station in this regard, which I will continue to push for. But a positive step for now!
Immigration update – Stop the Boats:
I have understandably received lots of emails from constituents about illegal immigration. This is a concern I wholeheartedly share: there were 52,230 irregular migrants entering the UK last year, 85% of which were via small boats.
The Rwanda asylum plan was introduced by this Government to deter and prevent unlawful migration and in particular migration by illegal routes. Although that plan was temporarily scuppered by the UK Supreme Court, the Government introduced emergency legislation, in the form of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, so that the plan could be put into effect legally. Indeed, the Bill provides that Rwanda is a safe country, notwithstanding UK law or any interpretation of international law.
While I supported the Bill through the House of Commons, I believed that the legislation could have gone further. For this reason, I supported the removal of the ability of individuals to block their own deportation through suspensive legal claims. I also voted for an amendment that would have allowed Ministers to ignore European Court of Human Rights injunctions that may prevent an individual being removed from the UK.
In any case, I am pleased that the Bill has been passed through the House of Commons. It is now up to the House of Lords to pass the Bill. I hope that the Lords respect this and pass the Bill quickly, so that the Government can deliver on its policy of stopping the boats.
Recent tax changes:
I welcome the rises in benefits and the state pension, as well as the National Insurance cuts.
As part of the debate into this, I suggested a policy to make these changes automatic, rather than the need for a bill to come through the House each time. I will continue to support this, and you can read the full debate and my speech in full here.
Launch of Property Flood Resilience Grants for residents & businesses affected by Storm Babet:
For residents and businesses who sadly experienced flooding as a result of Storm Babet in October, the Government funded Property Flood Resilience Grant Scheme has now been launched and is being run by the County Council.
This is a grant of up to £5000 for properties for flood-hit homes and businesses to be able to install either flood resilience or adaptation measures.
You can find out more about the scheme and register for it if you were impacted here.
New pharmacy services:
I welcome the launch of the Pharmacy First services, where pharmacists will now be able to provide treatment for severn common conditions without the need for a GP prescription. This includes sinusitis, shingles and earache. In Derby and Derbyshire, 196 pharmacies are included in this, and you can find more details here.
I spoke on this issue in Parliament, and you can find the full debate and my contributions here.
New social housing reforms:
The Government has also announced new measures to crack down on anti-social behaviour by reforming social housing and allocation policies. Proposals include a ban of 5 years for tenants committing anti-social behaviour and new measures to prioritise households with local connections. A consultation into these changes is now open and you can find out more here.
APPG for East Midlands update:
The APPG has previously discussed the future of infrastructure in the East Midlands, and the need for investment in this area. Indeed, as Co-Chair of the East Midlands APPG, we conducted an inquiry into the social and economic benefits and opportunities of regional infrastructure investment in the region, which led to us publishing our cross-party report, which can be found here.
I am therefore proud to be sponsoring an event in February that seeks to bring together leaders from local authorities and businesses across the East Midlands along with MPs to discuss these opportunities and next steps. Electrification of the Midland Mainline has also been highlighted as the top rail priority by Transport for the East Midlands (TfEM) which has called on the Government to name the date when work will start on the competing the project, following the publication of their report: The Future’s Electric!
I will update you on the discussions in the coming months.
In the House, I’ve also raised the issue of investment zones. I asked Gareth Davies, a Minister in the Treasury, about the East Midlands Investment Zone, which will provide an economic boost to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. I was pleased to hear that, in addition to the £9.3 million anchor investment, the Zone will leverage £323 million in private investment and support 4,000 jobs.
BBC East Midlands Politics:
This weekend, on Sunday, I will be on BBC East Midlands Politics talking about a few big issues, including county lines and modern slavery and community pubs. You can watch this on Sunday morning, or catch it afterwards on iPlayer.
Amber Valley planning/Local Plan update:
Towards the end of last year, Amber Valley Borough Council received a 12 week direction from the Secretary of State due to the Council’s failure to get an adopted and up to date Local Plan in place, which would set planning policy for the area over the coming years and also provide protection from speculative applications and unwanted development.
Amber Valley were named as one of 7 councils nationally who are under-performing in relation to keeping their planning policies up to date.
It’s disappointing for communities and residents that the Borough Council haven’t made more progress on this, and I raised this in the House with the Minister, which you can find the full details on here. It’s important the Borough Council get a Local Plan in place as soon as possible, which will help protect our area from proposals such as the current controversial application to build 185 new homes off Alfreton hill. I will keep pushing them to make progress on this.
Finance Bill and Work & Pensions update:
As part of a recent debat on the Finance Bill, I welcomed the Bill’s anti-avoidance clauses, which rightly extend punishments to those who fraudulently or recklessly promote tax avoidance schemes. You can find my full speech here.
I’ve also asked Mel Stride, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps he was taking to reduce levels of fraud and error in the welfare system. Fraud in our welfare system is unacceptable, and I know that constituents are concerned about this issue. I was glad to hear that fraud and error fell by 10% in 2022-23 and the Government is seeking to prevent £2.4 billion of fraud and error by 2024-25. You can watch my question to the Secretary of State here.
As always, if there are any street repairs in your area, such as potholes, pavement repairs or broken street lights, you can report these issues and concerns to me quickly and easily here so I can ask for the repairs to be investigated and addressed.
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As always, you can contact me by hitting the ‘reply’ button on this email, or you can ring my office on 01773 744341.
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Promoted by Nigel Mills MP, of Unicorn House, Wellington Street, Ripley, Derbyshire, DE5 3EH.
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