A sure sign that business in the House of Commons is returning is the fact that there were the ballots for the first series of question times next week. I entered all four including PMQ’s and I came out in two out of the four. Not bad. I did not get PMQ’s but statistically it might be months before I come out of that one again as it is not that many PMQ’s since I had a question. Anyway, I did get drawn in Home Office questions which is first up on Monday. I will be asking about the latest immigration figures. Then I also came out near the top on Tuesday when it is questions to the Lord Chancellor. I want to raise the issue of the relocation of the Magistrates and County Courts in Bury.
On the cricketing front, congratulations to the England team in winning the third One Day International yesterday against Pakistan and taking a three matches to nil lead in the five match series they set a new World Record score of 444 for 3 in their 50 overs.
As we near the end of August the contest to decide who should be Leader of the Labour Party (still Her Majesty’s Official Opposition in Parliament) rumbles on. Of course, there is not even a vacancy the current Leader wants to continue in the job he won with almost 60% of the votes less than a year ago. The challenger seems to think that the best way to improve Labour’s prospects is to promise to ignore the results of the referendum when over 17 million voted to leave the European Union. I never think you should underestimate your political opponents and things will eventually improve for Labour. It does seem strange to an outsider of Labour politics how Tony Blair who won three consecutive general elections for the Party is now held in contempt by many of Labour’s own members and supporters.
I cannot understand why there is so much concern at the threat being made by some in France to tear up the Le Touquet Agreement which allows the U.K. to have border checks in France. The thousands camped in the so called Jungle outside Calais are not genuine asylum seekers. If they were genuinely fleeing persecution in fear of their lives they would seek asylum in the first safe country they reached and indeed that is what the rules require. They are economic migrants seeking a better life and who can blame them for that. I think we should tell the French that if they change the current arrangements all those arriving from France will be immediately deported back to France and they will not be allowed to make asylum claims in the UK. The Calais Jungle is a problem for France and France should deal with it.
Proponents of intervention in an attempt to change human behaviour would be well advised to consider the results of a programme in Western Australia designed to cut the number of teenage pregnancies. More than 1,000 girls in over 50 schools across Western Australia joined the Virtual Parenting Programme. The girls were taught about sexual health, contraception and the financial costs of having a baby. They were also given a virtual baby simulator doll to look after. A doll which cried when it needed feeding or changing. The girls also watched videos of other teenage girls explaining their experiences of being teenage mums.
Sensibly, those running the programme monitored the progress of the girls in order to assess how successful all this education had been. They found that by age 20 8% of those on the programme had given birth at least once and 9% having had an abortion.
Results which may seem to suggest the programme was a success until, that is, the results are compared to those girls who did not take part in the programme. Of those only 4% had given birth and 6% having an abortion.
Ahead of the EU referendum Remain claimed the economy would hit all sorts of troubles if we voted to leave. I was particularly interested therefore to see this week that the official figures for consumer spending in the April to June quarter rose by 0.9%. The Office for National Statistics estimates the economy grew at 0.6% overall in the second quarter. The figures for retail sales in July showed a growth of 5.9% compared to July 2015. Only one month and it would be unrealistic to expect that level of growth to continue but it provides a boost for retailers and is some evidence of the confidence consumers have. We need Companies to demonstrate similar confidence in the future when it comes to investment decisions.
Of course, I expect there will be downturns in the future. Leaving the EU will not prevent the UK from being affected by slowdowns elsewhere in the World. What matters is that the UK does all it can to take maximum advantage of the freedom it will have to negotiate new trade deals with Countries around the World to make it easier for our exporters.
The official estimate of migration into the UK for the year to March 2016 was released yesterday. The figures showed there was net migration of 327,000 – down just 9,000 on the previous years figures.
Immigration was one of the major issues in the referendum on our membership of the EU and undoubtedly one reason why so many people voted to leave. With the EU’s rules on free movement of people there is very little the government can do to control the number of people coming here from other EU countries. According to the Office for National Statistics net migration of EU citizens was 180,000 in the year to March. There is no doubt the government have been very active in trying to control the level of immigration but these latest figures show there is still much to be done and a very long way to go before the net figures are reduced below 100,000.
Talented and skilled immigrants who contribute to our economy are to be welcomed. Immigrants have made a valuable contribution in the past and continue to do so but we can not have uncontrolled immigration. Even though the number in work in this Country has increased by 606,000 in the past year to 31.75 million that still leaves 1.64 million unemployed.
In a stark reminder that natural disasters do not always occur in other continents I am sure our thoughts and prayers will be with all the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones following the earthquake in Italy. Lives destroyed in an instant and thousands of families whose lives have been turned upside down and will be months if not years before they can return to anything like normality..
Across Bury there will be tension and expectation today as thousands of pupils receive their GCSE exam results. Some will be elated others no doubt disappointed but whatever the results I hope the young people look forward with optimism and be positive about the opportunities that lay ahead.