23 February 2024
Weekly Message to Constituents 202 - Turbulence at home and abroad
In the Constituency

Crunch time for Birmingham City Council’s Budget

Birmingham City Council’s budget fiasco continues to concern us here in the Royal Town.

I am again attaching Cllr David Pears’ petition against the potential closure of the library in the Town Centre:


And here is Cllr Ken Wood’s petition against the closure of Walmley Library: https://bit.ly/Save-WalmleyLibrary

The Minister for Local Government wrote to me recently assuring me that, whilst the financial challenges facing Birmingham City Council are dire and worse than originally thought, the commissioners are fully supported by the government in taking whatever steps necessary to drive the required improvements and to bring order to the chaos that has prevailed. 

Here is the letter from the Minister for Local Government of yesterday.



Free play group returns

I am delighted to report that the brilliant Home-start Birmingham North West, of which I have the pleasure of being patron, has restarted its weekly Play and Learn Group, held at the Sutton Coldfield United Reformed Church on Brassington Avenue in the town centre. These free weekly play groups provide vital support for young families, giving parents an opportunity to spend time with others, while allowing their youngsters to make new playmates in a safe, warm and friendly environment – with lots of toys and volunteers too!

This fantastic service was very popular a few years ago but had to close after losing its funding. Now, thanks to a grant of £38,928 from Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust, the group will be running every Thursday morning at 9:30am-11:00am (term time only). 



Work set to start on New Hall Valley boardwalk

Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust is also providing significant funding to help a group of dedicated volunteers look after a cherished beauty spot in the Royal Town.

The Friends of New Hall Valley boast almost 800 followers and can be regularly found in the valley making repairs and helping with the upkeep of this valuable green space.

Last weekend, they could be found planting a new hawthorn hedge, which will eventually grow to replace an old fence which has seen better days!

Next month, however, will see the start of a major project, with the boardwalk being repaired and replaced – thanks to a grant of £26,200 from the charitable trust.

On at least 2 occasions since the boardwalk was brilliantly provided, there have been disgraceful acts of vandalism which, on previous occasions when they happened, I have condemned. I am very pleased the charitable trust is helping in this way.

The Friends are a remarkable example of the many, many voluntary groups that work hard to make Sutton such a wonderful place to live and, supported by the Park Ranger service, are making a real difference to a much-loved nature haven.



Apprenticeship Week sees businesses step forward to support Plantsbrook School students

Leaders from local businesses gave up their time to help students understand the benefits of apprenticeships.

The school, which is part of the Broadleaf Partnership Trust, appealed for local firms to get involved with National Apprenticeships Week at the beginning of February – and were blown away by the response.

Students from Years 7 to 13 were treated to a week of special assemblies, where they heard straight from employers and from former students now doing apprentices.

Plantsbrook Careers Advisor Sarah Dullea said: “We were very grateful to all the businesses and individuals who stepped forward to give the students the benefit of their knowledge about apprenticeships.”

For the full story, click here: https://suttonschoollife.co.uk/2024/02/20/plantsbrook-school-apprenticeship-week-businesses-support-students/



The African Union banning the slaughter of donkeys

This week, the African Union has banned the slaughter of donkeys for their hides. In Africa tens of thousands of donkeys a year are killed and sent to China, because their hides can be used to produce a traditional Chinese medicine. In Sutton Coldfield we have one of the UK’s best donkey sanctuaries- the animals there are remarkable. I welcome this decision in Africa, where two thirds of the world’s donkeys live.

Above: When I visited the donkey sanctuary in Sutton Park, truly one of the Royal Town’s Crown Jewels.

In the Commons

After my weekend in the Royal Town, my ministerial duties took me to Nepal and Qatar this week.



My time in Qatar was spent launching a co-funding initiative to help tackle the most pressing humanitarian and development crises. In particular, I continued Britain’s efforts along with the Qataris to move to a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.

Together, we have already supported countries in need right across the world, including recently providing 29 tonnes of lifesaving aid to support the humanitarian response in Gaza. Our joint funding will continue to support the world’s poorest people.

If you would like to read about it you can do so here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-and-qatar-announce-funding-initiative-to-support-least-developed-countries-and-humanitarian-crises-worldwide




My next stop was to Nepal, launching the new UK-Nepal development portfolio, working with Nepal to tackle the climate crisis, mobilise international finance for development, deliver economic transformation, and support governance and inclusion.

You can read about my visit here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/minister-for-development-launches-new-uk-nepal-development-portfolio

And if your are interested you can read the full transcript of the speech I gave here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/minister-mitchells-development-funding-speech-in-nepal

Above: with the prime minster of Nepal



Opposition Day debate on a ceasefire in Gaza.

On Wednesday evening there was SNP opposition day debate on a ceasefire in Gaza. On behalf of the government, I introduced the amendment to the bill which we hoped would pass. In the end, for widely rehearsed reasons which have been shared in the press, there was no vote on the government’s very sensible amendment.

Here is the full transcript of my speech which I hope in these circumstances you will feel is the right approach for a united call to be adopted:

‘The shadow Foreign Secretary spoke about the huge benefit of our speaking with one voice. The hon. Member for Foyle (Colum Eastwood) talked about there being more cohesion in the House than people currently think. The shadow Foreign Secretary talked about the importance of having some humility, because Members of Parliament are not in the room.

I emphasise that the Government are in the room. There was a call for the tone be lifted; the shadow Foreign Secretary said that we should “come together.” I submit that the right thing to do is to support the Government amendment. The Opposition have been supportive in the past, and the House’s speaking with one voice helped Britain’s argument, which he and I share, in the middle east.

Subject to your advice, Mr Speaker, we will move our amendment, which I want to be sure that the House will supports Israel’s right to self-defence, in compliance with international humanitarian law, against the terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas; condemns the slaughter, abuse and gender-based violence perpetrated on 7 October 2023; further condemns the use of civilian areas by Hamas and others for terrorist operations; urges negotiations to agree an immediate humanitarian pause as the best way to stop the fighting and to get aid in and hostages out; supports moves towards a permanent sustainable ceasefire; acknowledges that achieving this will require all hostages to be released, the formation of a new Palestinian Government, Hamas to be unable to launch further attacks and to be no longer in charge in Gaza, and a credible pathway to a two-state solution which delivers peace, security and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians; expresses concern at the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and at the prospect of a military offensive in Rafah; reaffirms the urgent need to significantly scale up the flow of aid into Gaza, where too many innocent civilians have died; and calls on all parties to take immediate steps to stop the fighting and ensure unhindered humanitarian access.”

I submit that that carefully crafted amendment ought to carry the vast number of right hon. and hon. Members with the Government as we seek, in this incredibly difficult situation, to forge a common path and a common purpose.

This morning I returned from Qatar, as part of the British Government’s collective efforts to make progress on key objectives. I must apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House, because I will need to be absent for part of the debate, as it now extends to 7 o’clock, to engage in other ministerial duties. We all want an end to the fighting as soon as possible, but we must also recognise and understand that a ceasefire will not last if hostages are still being held, and if Hamas still rain down rockets on Israel and maintain control of Gaza with capabilities to carry out further terrorist atrocities. The immediate priority must be negotiating a humanitarian pause, because that will create a window to get more hostages out safely, to get considerably more aid in quickly, and to get further negotiations on a sustainable ceasefire going immediately.

We want the pause to become a complete ceasefire without—I say this to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart)—a return to fighting. That is the focus of our diplomatic efforts as talk turns to a military offensive in Rafah, which has the potential for devastating consequences. I therefore welcome the opportunity to reflect to the House on the latest developments. As the Prime Minister said to Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, we continue to support Israel’s right to defend its people against Hamas’ terror, but we are deeply concerned about the loss of civilian life in Gaza and the worsening humanitarian crisis.


I will in a moment. Let me also reflect on the terrible impact of this conflict. On 7 October, Israel suffered the worst terror attack in its history at 

the hands of Hamas. More than 1,200 Israelis were reported killed, and more than 5,000 Israelis were reported injured. Even now, more than 130 hostages are still thought to be held by Hamas in Gaza. Last week saw the first hostage rescue since late October, with two hostages returned to their family. We continue to call for the immediate release of all hostages, including British nationals and their families. We are using all diplomatic channels to push for that, working with partners across the region. Meanwhile, we have helped more than 300 British nationals to leave Gaza. The devastating humanitarian crisis is worsening daily, with hunger and disease spreading. According to latest reports, more than 29,000 people have been killed, 69,000 injured, and 1.7 million people have been displaced. We want Israel to take greater care to limit its operations to military targets and avoid harming civilians and destroying homes.’

You can watch it here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/6e6b3b3b-4f73-4aed-ab43-7192dc95ed03?in=14:29:07



Robert Peston interview

After the SNP opposition day debate, I was interviewed by Robert Peston from the ITV.

There has been some debate on the role of the Speaker in what transpired, and I spoke about my own views on the matter.

You can watch my interview here, from 0:11 onwards: https://www.itv.com/watch/peston/2a4458/2a4458a0315



Clearing mines around the world and my Telegraph article

This week the government also announced extra funding to clear mines around the world, protecting more than 50,000 people.

Landmines are a nightmare – causing thousands of deaths and injuries each year. The government is determined to work towards a mine-free world, with the extra funding being awarded to MAG and The HALO Trust to continue their life-saving work.

Both organisations create safe and secure environments where communities live freely without fear of the deadly threat of landmines.

I wrote an article for the Telegraph on the threat of landmines, which you can read here: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/twenty-five-years-after-princess-diana-went-to-angola-the-landmine-threat-is-ever-present/ar-BB1iyUkk



Any Questions, BBC Radio 4

This evening at 8pm I will be on Any Questions on BBC Radio 4. If you fancy listening then you can tune in here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001wjt4

Further Information

Sepsis Savvy Walk, Sutton Park 16th March

The Sutton Coldfield Charitable Trust are backing the Sepsis Savvy Walk, run by The UK Sepsis Trust, a national charity that was founded in Sutton Coldfield by a consultant from Good Hope Hospital.

The Walk is being held in Sutton Park on 16th March, and preparations are underway.

Registration is now open, and you can register here: https://t.co/kMFAn7qJwQ


Coffee Morning, St Columba’s Church Hall:


MMR immunisation and measles awareness

Measles is circulating in the West Midlands, and the MMR vaccination provides the best protection against measles.

Please be aware of measles symptoms: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/measles/

If you think you or your child may have measles, contact your GP practice but do not visit unless instructed, as measles can spread to others easily, and 1 in 15 children can develop serious complications, such as meningitis and blindness.

For protection against measles, contact your GP practice to get your MMR immunisations.

Learn more: https://bit.ly/46QPPn1


Mobile Household Recycling Centre Locations

Please see below the visits scheduled for the week commencing 4th March of the BCC Mobile Household Recycling Centre.

·       Tue 05/03/2024, Maney Hill Road B72 1JX, 07:00 - 12:30 Sutton Wylde Green

·       Fri 08/03/2024, Le More B74 2XY, 07:00 - 12:30 Sutton Four Oaks