Wednesday, 24 February 2016
On 23rd June this year we all have the chance to make a once in a lifetime decision over the future of this country in the European Union Referendum. I will be voting to leave the EU.
I reached this decision after listening to the Prime Minister outline the deal he had negotiated in Brussels on Friday night. The deal is undoubtedly a significant improvement from the status quo; many individual issues were addressed, but it falls woefully short of the visionary fundamental reform that I had hoped to see.
This is a missed opportunity to change the EU into an effective and efficient organization, working to improve the lives of all of its citizens. Interestingly the UK is not alone in the wish for reform; there are reports that other member countries are now trying to secure similar changes.
The EU remains dominated by those countries that wish to see the “ever-closer Union.” These countries expect that the deal should mark the end of the UK’s attempts to steer Europe in a different direction and to secure special opt outs. In my view this is only the beginning of much needed reform, not the end.
It is clear to me that the EU is no longer working in the UK’s best interests. It is time for our paths to diverge; outside of the EU we will continue to build our economy, secure the safety of our citizens, and play a role in the other global institutions such as NATO and the UN. The remainder of the EU will be free to work to towards the goal of ever-closer union without us.
The future is uncertain and no one can predict what the EU will look like in five or 10 years’ time. The migrant crisis, slow growth, economic instability in the Eurozone and political changes in individual countries, create a very real risk that remaining in could drag our country down.
By far the biggest risk in my opinion, is staying in an EU which is increasingly having to deal with crisis after crisis, most of its own making. The Eurozone meltdowns have caused economic hardship with up to 50% youth unemployment in Greece, Spain and Italy.
I believe we have now reached a point where the cost and negative impact of being in the EU outweigh the benefits. While the UK is a net contributor to the EU, Cornwall has been a net receiver. Over the last few years many millions of pounds have flowed into Cornwall. Unfortunately these funds often come with restrictions that make them difficult to access and directly benefit the people of Cornwall. Outside the EU we would be able to better manage and target the areas that need support without being constrained by EU rules.
Additionally, our economy has been further harmed at the hands of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. This piece of legislation is quite frankly not fit for purpose and certainly does not give our hard working fishing communities their fair share of catch quotas compared to many other countries in Europe.
For many, immigration is an important factor in the European debate. For me, it is an issue that goes far beyond our membership of the EU and, although it has a bearing on this debate, it is not one that would be resolved simply by the UK leaving the EU. We will have emigration and immigration issues whether inside or outside the EU. The modern global economy will continue to require the movement of labour around the world for all sorts of reasons. In sensible numbers, migration enhances economic efficiency and is socially and culturally enriching.
Currently we have no control over migrants coming from the EU. This is putting a strain on local infrastructure and services that cannot plan or prepare for the numbers of people arriving. Outside the EU we would be able to set our own rules.
It is important to remember that the ultimate decision on the EU does not lie with the politicians. This will be an opportunity for the people of this country to have their say on our future relationship with the EU for the first time in 40 years and I will be voting to leave.
For more detail on my position on the EU Deal and the referendum please see the statement on my website at www.stevedouble.org.uk. My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and seek to make a real difference to the lives of everyone who needs help and support in any way. If there is any issue that we can help you with then please contact us on either 01726 829379 or on email@example.com.
Wednesday, 17 February 2016
While I was campaigning before the last General Election I made it clear that I am a Cornishman first and a Conservative second, and that I will always stand up for our beautiful constituency and the people that live here to ensure we get the fair deal we deserve. I promised to fight to ensure that mid-Cornwall has a strong voice in Westminster.
I was glad to be able to deliver on this promise last week over the issue of funding for rural areas. Before Christmas the government proposed a package that would have been detrimental to Cornwall and so I was determined to fight our corner.
Along with a number of other rural and West Country MPs I lobbied hard with Greg Clarke, the Secretary of State for Local Communities and Government. I was therefore delighted with the announcement early last week that fairer transitional arrangements were to be put in place, with Cornwall Council receiving an additional £3m in funding next year.
The House of Commons debated the issue on Wednesday and I participated in the debate as follows.
“It is a well-established fact that rural areas have had the raw end of the deal from central Government for decades, despite having some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country and a growing ageing population, with all the increased pressure that that places on the delivery of services and the increased demand that it creates, not to mention the additional challenges and costs of delivering those services in a rural setting. Yet places such as Cornwall have had to accept lower levels of funding for many years, not just for our local government, but for things such as our schools and police. I am proud that this Government… has started to address that issue—it has been going on too long. We have started to see extra money put into our schools and, through the rural services delivery grant, we have begun to close the gap in local authority funding.”
“When I looked at what was being proposed in the settlement, I was therefore disappointed to find that it would have widened that gap and started to undo much of the good work the Government have already begun. I could not have supported a financial settlement that was going to make an unfair system even more unfair to rural areas. If I had gone through the No Lobby tonight, it would have been my first rebellion against the Government. As someone who has a slightly inherent rebellious streak in their nature, I am slightly disappointed that my rebellion will have to wait for another occasion. I am delighted to say that the Secretary of State has listened to the many voices from across the House from rural areas who highlighted that what was being proposed was simply unacceptable to rural areas.”
“I am delighted that not only have funds been made available through this transitional grant to make sure that that gap does not get any wider, but, probably more importantly, we have the promise of a comprehensive review of the cost of delivering services. That gives us the opportunity to establish that it costs more to deliver services in rural areas than in urban areas.”
There is clearly more work to be done and this is a small victory in a larger battle. I will continue to work for a fair deal for mid-Cornwall.
My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and seek to make a real difference to the lives of everyone who needs help and support in any way. If there is any issue that we can help you with then please contact us on either 01726 829379 or on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
When I was running for election I stated that one of my top priorities would be to support local businesses and work for economic growth and job creation locally.
Much of my time in Westminster is usually spent in the House of Commons or working on policy issues and constituents’ cases. But whenever possible I am keen to give time to meet and work with local businesses and last week presented me with a number of opportunities to do so.
On Wednesday last week I attended the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Spaceport UK Conference to support Newquay Airport in their bid. This brought together the six airports in the running for the UK Spaceport, and major players in the industry.
In my opinion Newquay is in a very strong position, it boasts the fifth biggest runway in the UK and offers the Space industry room to grow in the Aerohub Enterprise Zone.
I was pleased to be the only MP in attendance; it gave a strong message that Cornwall takes its bid seriously. It also gave me the chance to spend time with senior members of both Virgin Galactic and XCor; both companies are developing spacecraft for tourist space flights. I was able to reinforce the strengths of Newquay as a serious contender and invite them to visit Cornwall and the airport. I believe a Spaceport in Cornwall will be a game changer to the local economy. It will attract a whole host of technical jobs and tourists from across the globe at a level we do not currently experience.
Later that day I came back to earth from space travel and moved onto the very serious business of pasties. I was excited to meet with the team from the new Pasty Museum being planned for Par. The team brings together an interesting mix of backgrounds and skills. Malcolm Ball of WMC Retail Partners Plc is leading the development, supported by Sam’s Cornwall and Portreath Bakery.
The attraction will be named “Cornucopia” in tribute to the county’s strong tradition of food and drink. The vision for this development is much more than a Pasty Museum; Cornucopia will be a quality food hub and will offer the public the chance to browse interactive exhibits, make retail purchases and enjoy the on-site food and drinks service.
We already have an excellent food and drink offering across mid-Cornwall and Cornucopia will build on this reputation. Located close to the Eden Project it will also add to the tourist destinations in the St Austell Bay Area. I wish Malcolm and the team every success and I am especially looking forward to the interactive pasty exhibits.
There are many innovative and exciting ideas and developments across mid-Cornwall, of which these are just two examples, that will all help to build the local economy. As your MP I look to champion all efforts to build the local economy so please feel free to ask for my support.
If I or my team can help in anyway please get in touch – tel. 01726 829379, email@example.com
Friday, 5 February 2016
I understand the strength of feeling on this issue and would like to clarify the situation. Self-locking snares have been banned since 1981, but the use of free-running snares is permitted. Animals are, however, protected from unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and this includes any caught in snares.
In 2008 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs commissioned research to determine the extent of the use and humaneness of snares in England and Wales. This was published in March 2012. After considering its findings Lord de Mauley, who was at the time the Minister responsible for policy on wildlife management, held constructive meetings with people who use snares and those opposed to them. He made it clear that both sides must work together to help end irresponsible snare use.
It is encouraging that Ministers are working with these groups to agree a means of monitoring compliance, and to consider improvements to the Code of Practice on the use of snares. I hope all sides will contribute to this work so that there is a marked improvement in the use of snares.
Let me first say that I fully support freedom of information, as does the Government, but after more than a decade in operation it is time that the process is reviewed.
I know that the Government’s aim is to be as open and transparent as possible on the substance of information, consistent with ensuring that a private space is protected for frank advice. To that end, I think the Government must maintain the best environment for policy-makers to think freely and offer frank advice to decision-makers. The most effective system is when policy makers can freely give advice, while citizens can shine a light into government.
The Government has established an independent, cross-party Commission to review the Freedom of Information Act and to make sure it is functioning as intended. The Commission will consider whether there is an appropriate public interest balance between transparency, accountability and the need for sensitive information to have robust protection, and whether the operation of the Act adequately recognises the need for a private space for policy development, implementation and frank advice. The Commission received over 30,000 submissions and has decided to hold two oral evidence sessions in January 2016. The Commission will now report as soon as possible after these sessions. I look forward to the Commission’s conclusion and the Government’s response in due course.
In the Summer Budget 2015, the Chancellor announced that, from April 2017, new ESA claimants who are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). This change only affects new claims made after that date and there will be no cash losers among those who are already in receipt of ESA.
The record employment levels and strong jobs growth in recent years have benefited many, but these benefits have yet to reach those on ESA. While 1 in 5 JSA claimants move off benefit every month, this is true of just 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants. Those with health conditions and disabilities deserve better than this.
It is important to tackle this as, in addition to providing financial security for individuals, there are economic, social and moral arguments that, for those who are able to, work is the most effective way to improve the well-being of individuals, their families and their communities.
Those in the WRAG currently receive additional cash payments but little employment support. As the Prime Minister has recently stated, this fixation on welfare treats the symptoms, not the causes of poverty; and, over time, it traps people in dependency as, in the current system, the additional cash payment acts as a disincentive to moving into employment. That is why the Government are proposing to recycle some of the money currently spent on cash payments, which are not actually achieving the desired effect of helping people move closer to the labour market, into practical support that will make a genuine difference to individual’s life chances.
This new funding will be worth £60 million in 2017/18 rising to £100 million in 2020/21. It will support those with limited capability for work to take steps to move closer to the labour market, and when they are able, back to work. This additional practical support is part of a real terms increase that was announced at the Autumn Statement. How the support will be spent is going to be influenced by a Taskforce of representatives from disability charities, disabled people’s user-led organisations, employers, think tanks, provider representatives and local authorities.
It is important to improve what is on offer for these individuals because we know that most people with disabilities and health conditions want to work, including 61 per cent of the WRAG, and there is a large body of evidence showing that work is generally good for physical and mental wellbeing.
In order to do more, the Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government will publish a White Paper that will set out reforms to improve the system of support for people with health conditions and disabilities. In addition to these reforms there is an emerging package of support which will strengthen the offer to claimants with a health condition or disability:
· Universal Credit (UC) is already beginning to transform people’s lives by introducing earlier support and putting claimants in the best possible position to move into and stay in work. Under UC, claimants with health conditions and disabilities will gain more support earlier in their claim to take steps towards work with their dedicated Work Coach working alongside health professionals to ensure they receive personalised integrated support;
· The DWP and Department of Health have created the Work and Health Unit to help support people with health conditions and disabled people back into employment. This Joint Unit has at least £115 million of funding, including at least £40m for a work and health innovation fund, to pilot new ways to join up across the health and employment systems;
In the Autumn Statement the DWP announced that they will introduce a new Work and Health Programme to focus on providing the best possible support for claimants with health conditions or disabilities, as well as those who are long-term unemployed;
· We know that returning to suitable work can improve mental health, and that is why the Government is committed to ensuring that people with mental health conditions receive effective support to return to, and remain in, work. £43 million is being invested over the next three years in trialling ways to provide specialist support for people with mental health conditions;
The Government also recognises the importance of promoting positive attitudes towards employing disabled people, and seeks to do this by challenging the attitudes of employers towards recruiting and retaining disabled people through the Disability Confident campaign.
These reforms are aimed at improving the quality of life of those in greatest need. It is worth noting that we spend around £50 billion every year on benefits to support people with disabilities or health conditions, this is over 6 per cent of all government spending. The Government can be proud of that and is determined to ensure that those in need get the support they require.
Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Last week saw the announcement that HMRC has come to an agreement with Google on the issue of back taxes. In the UK, Google will be paying £130 million of taxes on profits relating back to 2005. While the Labour Party has criticised this as a “sweetheart deal”, it is worth reflecting on the circumstances surrounding this announcement.
I share the anger many people feel that Google, and others, have got away with paying little or no tax in the UK for so many years. It is incredibly frustrating that no action at all was taken to address this issue until recently. However as unsatisfactorily as this deal feels we have to recognise that it is a big step in the right direction.
Over the past few decades, multinational companies have grown, both in size and geographic reach. Revenues generated in the UK by global companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Starbucks and many others, run into billions of pounds, yet these organisations seemingly pay little or no tax in this country. On the face of it this appears unfair and much has been made of this so-called “tax evasion”.
The root cause of the issue is the existing international tax system. Each country has its own rules for taxing individuals and companies. The rules and rates of tax can vary greatly between countries. In France, for example the rate of tax applied to companies is 33.33%, while in Ireland it is 12.5% and in Bermuda no tax is levied on companies at all.
Multinational companies work to ensure that as much of their profits as possible are reported in the countries with the lowest rates of tax. It is this practice that is seen as unethical and even immoral, but is actually currently a perfectly legal way to maximise returns to shareholders. In the case of Google, much of the business it undertakes in the UK is reported via Ireland, where tax rates are lower. The international tax system has failed to adapt to these issues, and a tax system that will address the problem is likely to be some way away.
It is currently the job of individual Governments to get the best deal for their countries. In Italy, for example the tax authorities are taking an aggressive approach, with raids on corporate offices and other similar tactics. The Conservative Government in the UK has taken a more constructive approach. We see the need to continue to build relationships with the global multinational companies; they bring jobs and economic prosperity and we should do all that we can to encourage their ingoing investment in our country.
At the same time this strengthening relationship leads to the deal that HMRC brokered with Google. While Labour criticise from the side-lines that this is a sweet deal for Google, it is worth noting that the last Labour Government was unable to reach any such deal and collected no tax revenue at all from Google.
I concede that the outcome is not ideal, but in the light of the circumstances outlined above, I believe that the agreement reached with Google is a good step forward.
My team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and seek to make a real difference to the lives of everyone who needs help and support in any way.
If there is any issue that we can help you with then please contact us on either 01726 829379 or on firstname.lastname@example.org.