Ripley & Heanor Column – 23rd June 2017

I would like to start by thanking everyone who voted for me in the General Election. It is a great pleasure and privilege to serve as the Member of Parliament for Amber Valley again.

In the wake of the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, my thoughts are with the victims and families of those affected. Many constituents have contacted me with their concerns over fire safety and I would like to reassure all those living in Amber Valley by reiterating the words of Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, who carry out regular inspections of blocks of flats, including Rivermead House, the only high-rise building in Derbyshire. The block is owned and managed by Derby City Council and Derby Homes and fully complies with current fire safety regulations. Its construction is designed to prevent the spread of fire between flats and between floors. Each flat is designed as a self-contained fire resisting compartment that will contain a fire and limit its spread.

The Prime Minister has ordered a full, judge-led public inquiry, which will give people the answers they deserve and the Government has arranged to test cladding in all relevant tower blocks. A new £5 million Grenfell Tower Residents’ Discretionary Fund has been made immediately available to help those who had to flee their homes. Every household whose home has been destroyed will receive a guaranteed £5,500 minimum down payment from the fund. I understand that the fund will be kept under review and will increase if necessary.

In Parliament this week, the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s programme following the General Election. The Queen’s Speech set out a number of Bills geared towards making a success of Brexit. These will centre around getting a deal which delivers the result of last year’s referendum.  There has been speculation about what the General Election meant regarding Britain’s decision to leave the EU. The fact is that over 80 per cent of the electorate backed the two major parties, both of whom campaigned on manifestos that said we should honour the democratic decision of the British people.

This will be a busy legislative session with a number of Bills including the Great Repeal Bill, which will allow for a smooth and orderly transition as the UK leaves the EU, ensuring that, wherever practical, the same rules and laws apply after exit and therefore maximising certainty for individuals and businesses. The Bill will repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert EU law into UK law as we leave the EU and create temporary powers for Parliament to make secondary legislation.

With the repeal of the European Communities Act, it will be necessary to establish new powers concerning the immigration status of EEA nationals. The Bill will allow the government to control the number of people coming here from Europe while still allowing us to attract the brightest and the best.

The Queen’s Speech also set out plans to drive investment and innovation in transport, to boost growth and provide necessary infrastructure. These plans include the next steps to deliver HS2, linking up the Midlands to the North West. I welcome this progress as this large-scale investment into the country’s rail infrastructure will provide a station here in heart of the East Midlands.

The Queen’s speech also included the Government’s aims to continue to improve the public finances, while keeping taxes low; ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded; as well as increasing the National Living Wage so that people who are on the lowest pay benefit from the same improvements in earnings as higher paid workers.

Another aspect was the determination to tackle unfair fees on tenants and to make the private rental market more affordable and competitive. The suggested draft Bill proposes banning landlords and agents from requiring tenants to make any payments as a condition of their tenancy with the exception of the rent, a capped refundable security deposit, a capped refundable holding deposit and tenant default fees. Another proposal would cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than one month’s rent. I welcome these approaches which will help those residents of Amber Valley who are currently renting.