Parliament has returned after the conference recess and I can report the housing, communities and local government select committee – on which I sit – is continuing its inquiry into our high streets and town centres. At last week’s meeting we heard evidence from the British Retail Consortium, the Association of Convenience Stores and the British Independent Retailers Association.
The evidence is important, and we will be making our report to government in several weeks’ time. What is clear is that unsustainable rents and business rates are damaging an important sector of our economy.
Speaking of the economy, last week we heard Jaguar Land Rover will be shutting down its plant in Solihull for two weeks at the end of October, after total sales at the firm fell more than 12 per cent in the last month alone. In the last few weeks, Japanese carmakers Nissan, Toyota and Honda have warned that a no-deal Brexit could hit output and profits.
I realise some people will dismiss this news as fear-mongering, but it is essential we listen to the concerns of these businesses. Government’s own impact assessments show the West Midlands economy will shrink by eight per cent, even if there is a comprehensive trade deal.
It’s concerning news for UK manufacturing industry and tragically the government is failing to show leadership at a critical time for the automotive sector.
If there is a ‘no deal’ scenario, economic output in the West Midlands will be hit by 13 per cent. Without a deal, there can be no transition period and all the complex issues surrounding tariffs and trade, customs and regulation will remain unresolved. To add to that, we must avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland at all costs.
Last week we also marked World Mental Health Day and World Homeless Day, two issues which affect the local area significantly. Earlier this year I held a ‘homelessness summit’ in Leamington to discuss actions to help end homelessness and rough sleeping locally. It is simply unacceptable that 450 homeless people died in the UK last year and I will be raising this issue in parliament.