I’VE said it before and I will say it again – Parliamentary select committees represent the very best of Westminster.
They scrutinise policy, highlight shortcomings and make representations on a cross-party basis, this week’s differences over Brexit being the exception to the rule.
One such example was the licensing report headed by former Ryedale MP Anne McIntosh which explored issues relating to the Blair government’s decision more than a decade ago to pave the way for round-the-clock drinking in a bid to re-create the continental ‘cafe culture’ which is one of Europe’s redeeming features.
As well as examining the issue of minimum pricing to curtail binge drinking, it advocates local authority planning committees taking full responsibility for planning matters because of the impact of pubs, clubs and other establishments on local neighbourhoods.
The sooner this is applied to Leeds, the better, after a week where the Labour-controlled council is guilty of rank hypocrisy.
A month ago, Leeds MP Rachel Reeves and council leader Judith Blake were at the forefront of a campaign to invite residents to nominate notable local women whose achievements could be celebrated by a striking statue in recognition of female endeavour, past and present, in a supposedly forward-looking city.
Now, in its infinite wisdom, a licensing sub-committee has ignored objections from residents and protesters by granting permission for a two-storey lap dancing club adjacent to the 19th century Corn Exchange – one of the city’s architectural gems and home to a diverse range of specialist independent shops.
An area of the city centre which has been neglected for too long, such night-time establishments are hardly going to help create a Covent Garden-like ambience in this part of Leeds.
Furthermore, did no-one realise that this decision contravenes the council’s own policy which says such sex clubs should not be located in sensitive locations which include retail centres (Corn Exchange); leisure venues (nearby gym) and residential areas (there are homes close by)?
As the Parliamentary report made clear, planning and licensing matters are inter-related and this stance is justifed, still further, by Leeds Council’s lamest of lame defences: “Moral objections to sexual entertainment are not relevant to consideration of applications of this nature.”
What next? A statue to a female heroine being built outside a lap dancing club? Don’t bet against it in a city renowned for its lack of joined-up thinking – and planning – unless the House of Lords report becomes law.
EVEN though former Tory leader Michael Howard was, I presume, talking figuratively when he started advocating gunboat diplomacy over Gibraltar, the most pertinent question remains unanswered.
He was a prominent Leave campaigner who said Brexit would be in this country’s best interests. Why, therefore, did he, and others, not contemplate, in advance, the fate of The Rock and Spain’s stance?
FORGIVE me, but the misuse of the word ‘free’ by politicians – and the media – is beginning to cause great damage to the nation’s wealth.
The latest example is this week’s report suggesting that parents could face higher fees and extra charges for childcare as a result of Government plans to double the free hours available to pre-school children.
It’s not free – it’s taxpayer-subsidised. It’s the same, for example, with the entitlements that OAPs receive like bus travel, heating allowances and TV licences. By omitting the most crucial word of all – subsidy – simply gives licence to all those politicians who believe that the country is so well off that HM Treasury can keep writing blank cheques to underwrite those uncosted promises made at election time.
NOW cyclists are back out on the region’s roads in force as a result of the warmer weather, why are so many compromising their safety, and that of other road users, by refusing to use the dedicated cycle lanes that have been built at such great expense to the public purse? I’m rapidly coming to the view that this should be a criminal offence punishable by the confiscation of said bicycle...
WHY does HS2 need 17 PR companies to make the case for high-speed rail? I can only assume that bosses are struggling to keep public opinion on track because the cost-benefits do not add up.
TALKING of public sector waste, Sheffield City Region LEP is advertising for a director of corporate affairs – salary £77,579 to £83,264 – in the wake of the devolution deal agreed with the Government.
Given the whole concept has collapsed, I can’t see the rush to appoint yet another 9.30am-5pm pen-pusher (no weekend work) at vast public expense.
ONE point came across loudest of all when the House of Lords debated the audibility of BBC programmes because of mumbling by the central characters in programmes such as Jamaica Inn, SS-GB and the Happy Valley crime drama which was filmed in these parts and where the supposedly acclaimed actress Sarah Lancashire was the chief culprit.
It was made by former home secretary David Blunkett on behalf of the blind and partially sighted. “Atmosphere is fine if you can lip-read but when you cannot, the mumbling which is indecipherable to most people becomes not just an irritant but an impossibility,” he said.