The Reporting Back from Westminster column with Alec Shelbrooke MP

Speaking in the chamber as we deal with the Bill.
Speaking in the chamber as we deal with the Bill.

As we approach the Christmas break the pace of parliamentary business is unabated as we work though the 64 hours of debate on the Brexit Bill.

The current Bill going through Parliament is to transfer EU laws into British law, to ensure that we can have a smooth transition when we leave in March 2019.

This is a huge amount of work as some of our most basic laws are enshrined as being members of the EU, therefore if, for example, we wanted to extradite a criminal back from an EU Member State, we would have to have transferred the extradition law into UK law, as it wouldn’t exist in British law on the day we leave the EU.

With almost 50 years of laws interwoven between Britain and the UK this is a massive task.

Early in January the Bill will be ready to go to the House of Lords and we’ll have to wait to see what Peers do with it – assuming many amendments will come back to the Commons.

Until then we can get on with other legislation.

The most important will be the Finance Bill, which has had its second reading this week and now goes into committee stage.

The recent Budget was a very important moment for us locally as it reiterated the sanctity of the green belt and confirmed that the Government is looking to plan the right homes in the right places.

This has been my consistent position since my election in 2010.

Recognising that there is a clear demand for housing we must ensure that new homes meet the demands of the local population, not least young people who were brought up in our area and need affordable homes to stay here.

I am sure it will shock many readers to find out that Leeds City Council has granted planning permission for more than 16,000 units on brownfield sites in recent years, but only 2,722 of these have been built.

With over 13,000 still to be built, we must ask why Labour-run Leeds City Council granted almost as many planning permissions on greenfield sites last year as they did on brownfield sites.

The Chancellor’s Budget answered this clearly: “Making better use of underused land in cities and towns”.

This is a clear and important line in the Budget and will have a significant impact locally as we continue to fight the Labour Council’s hyper-inflated housing target.

Fundamentally, however, the Budget pushes forward the government’s strategy of working towards closing the social mobility gap in Britain.

Last weekend the social mobility committee, led by a former Labour cabinet minister, resigned stating that social mobility was still a problem in the UK. This is true, but I was disappointing that the committee did not recognise the achievements made to date.

Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 we have seen the lowest number of children in workless households, the highest living wage in history – taken millions out the lowest paid out of income tax altogether, one of the lowest levels of youth unemployment in Europe, and reading standards rising higher than ever before in the UK.

These are fundamental building blocks that will help tackle the social mobility sluggishness that has built for the last 20 years and that is why I particularly welcome the increased resources for education. Equipping the next generation with the skills they will need to compete in the high-tech industries of tomorrow.

Tackling a financial crash that reduced UK GDP by over 6% and left borrowing at Greek levels of debt, against a backdrop of years of declining social mobility, was never going to be easy to rectify and indeed it has been a long and difficult road.

But finally, with this Budget, we started to see the change in fortunes that the British people have worked so hard for and as we approach the end of 2017 the coming year starts in a brighter position than it has done for over a decade.