Following on from yesterday’s Estimates Day One today is the second day, These are essentially the days on which the House of Commons approves the top line figures for government spending. Huge figures are passed in a matter of minutes.
Yesterday, I asked my Local Government question as I was scheduled to do.
The exchange with the Housing Minister is here:
What steps is he taking to protect the green belt in Bury. 
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Gavin Barwell)
Our recent housing White Paper underlines the Government’s continuing commitment to the green belt. Local councils should remove land only in exceptional circumstances, and the White Paper clarifies what that means: when they can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting housing need.
When a plan proposes large-scale development on the green belt, as in the case of the Greater Manchester spatial framework, will my hon. Friend assure me that he will carefully assess how realistic the various projections and assumptions are for things such as population growth and household size?
I assure my hon. Friend that the approach that is taken will be robustly tested by a planning inspector in public, and that he will be able to give evidence. My hon. Friend is right that before councils think about releasing green-belt land, they should consider brownfield land, surplus Government land, density and how their neighbours can help to meet housing need
I suspect the focus in Parliament next week will be on the House of Lords as the Bill to authorise the government to trigger Article 50 and start the two year notice period of our intention to leave the European Union starts its crucial Committee Stage. Given the government has nowhere near a majority of the votes in the House of Lords I think their is a high probability the Bill will be amended somehow. If it is it amended then it has to come back to the House of Commons so we can decide whether to accept the amendments or not.
The latest set of immigration figures were published this week. The estimate of the immigration and emigration figures for the year to last September. Overall, they are modestly good news as they show net migration falling slightly to 273000. This is down from 322,000. Part of the fall in the net migration figure is accounted for by the fact that the emigration figure increased from 297,000 to 323,000. The immigration figures fell from 619,000 to 596,000. Clearly there is still much to do to reduce the figures to below 100,000 and being able to control our borders with the European Union are a key part of that. Not the only part but a key part. Controlling the numbers of new arrivals is not being anti foreigner it is simply a matter of common sense. We are a small island and we have to be able to have the infrastructure to cope with an increasing population and that includes the impact on the number of new houses required.
One win for Labour in holding Stoke One win for the Conservatives in gaining Copeland.
All the political news this morning is dominated by the results of the two by-elections. Good news for the Conservatives and Labour MP’s are already describing the result in Copeland as a disaster for them. It was encouraging that the Conservative share of the vote increased in both seats.
Full details can be found on the BBC website here:
Interesting too that the Liberal democrats the self proclaimed by-election specialists came third in Copeland and fourth in Stoke not reaching ten percent in either seat.
Not one but two by-elections today with Labour defending seats in Stoke-on-Trent Central and Copeland on the West Cumbrian coast. Government parties very rarely win by-elections from the opposition and it would I think be a major surprise if Labour lost either seat. Not impossible but certainly a surprise.
Today in the Commons the business starts with questions to the Secretary of State for Transport then the new Prisons and Courts Bill will be introduced, this is a Bill to make provision about prisons; make provision about practice and procedure in courts and tribunals, organisation of courts and tribunals, functions of the judiciary and of courts and tribunals and their staff, appointment and deployment of the judiciary, and functions of the Judicial Appointments Commission; and make provision about whiplash claims.
There will then be a debate let by the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland on the motion:
That this House acknowledges the service and sacrifice of the armed forces and police during Operation Banner in Northern Ireland as well as in other theatres of conflict in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan; welcomes the recent decision to close down the Iraq Historical Allegations Team; and calls on the Government to take steps to ensure that current and future processes for investigating and prosecuting legacy cases, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, are balanced and fair.
This will be followed by a debate on unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy selected by the Backbench Business Committee which I sit on.
Over the past two days a record number of Peers had put in to speak in the Second Reading of the Bill to Trigger Article 50. Yesterday it was given an unopposed Second reading. No surprise there as that was always likely to be the case. The next stage is the Committee Stage and it is here that the Bill is likely to be amended and I would be very surprised given the make up of the House of Lords and given what certain members of the House of Lords have said if it was not amended.
Yesterday in the House of Commons Criminal Finances Bill passed its final stages. The Bill strengthens the law in relation to removing ill gotten gains from criminals. I attended a meeting of the Backbench Business Committee. I attended a meeting with representatives from the National Lottery and a meeting with the present Police and Crime Commissioner and Interim Mayor for Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd. we discussed several issues including of course the controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
News from Bury Council Conservatives Group today as last night Councillor James Daly was elected as Leader of the Opposition on Bury Council. A couple of weeks ago the Leader for the past five years Councillor Iain Gartside surprised me at least when he announced he was standing down as Leader. Iain has recently moved to a new job and felt it was the right time to step down. He will continue to serve the residents of Tottington Ward. Councillor Daly was previously Deputy Leader and his position as deputy Leader has now been filled by Elton Ward Councillor Mike Hankey. I wish them both well in their new roles.