Monday, 25 November 2013

Europe

Discussion about the EU is never far away in British politics, but over the past few weeks with the EU Referendum Bill currently being debated in Parliament it has found itself right in the political spotlight again. MPs will soon vote on whether we allow the public a say on our membership and it will be the first time the public are permitted a vote on the EU in almost forty years. It is actually a pretty historic moment and one which the Conservatives rightly deserve credit for.

I believe we need a fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU because in certain areas it has become far too powerful and we need to see those powers returned to us. That said, after these negotiations we can also remain an enthusiastic and committed member of the single market which is best outcome for our economy.

There are plenty of naysayers out there who don’t believe the EU can change, and that its tentacles will continue to spread unless we leave outright. I don’t think that is inevitable at all and it is clear that although others countries, such as Germany, want further political and fiscal union they accept that Britain is in a different position and they want to work with us because ultimately they still need our signature on new treaties. To get negotiations right we need to do the right research and William Hague’s competency review into how exactly the EU works and how its laws affect our everyday life in Britain will do just that. It is a huge project that won’t end until next year but it will offer so much useful information at the negotiating table that we must wait for it to be completed.

In the meantime there is also much that can be done now that keeps national powers. Under the Lisbon Treaty, we have a right to opt in or out of EU directives and recently the government decided to opt out of 130 EU directives that Gordon Brown signed up to relating to justice and home affairs and then opted back in to just 35 of them. We have picked and chosen the ones that enhance these areas but left behind needless bureaucracy in others.

My new role in DEFRA also meant I recently announced a vital consultation on how EU agricultural subsidies will be paid from next year onwards which seeks to cut down even further on the red tape from Brussels and which gives our farmers a say in how they work. It is also proof that negotiation works in the EU because the greater flexibility on how we distribute the funds was a key part of the British strategy and we won that right. I believe we should be optimistic when approaching the EU and this bill is a key part of that.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Remembrance Sunday

Last weekend I attended Remembrance services at St Andrews Church in Redruth and also at Illogan in the afternoon. I have noticed in recent years how attendance at Remembrance Sunday services has grown and how there is often standing room only in the church. I am always struck by just how moving the services are and how much respect people rightly show at this time of year.

There was also a great turnout from the various different scout and cadet groups. It is great to see so many of the next generation showing such a commitment and doing their own bit to remember the sacrifices made by our armed forces personnel. The cadet and scout movements have gone from strength to strength in recent years. What they do need are more adult volunteers as they often have a backlog of young applicants but not enough leaders and more needs to be done to encourage adults to join.

We have been through a decade of conflict and there is no doubt in my mind that the difficult operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan have made the public far more conscious of sacrifices made by our armed forces. The wind down of operations in Afghanistan and the handover to the Afghan army is now well underway with a deadline set for the end of next year that will see all but a few of our troops withdrawn. Last year was a terrible one with a very high number of British casualties but the gradual handover of operations to the Afghan army has led to a substantial reduction in the number of servicemen killed in action over the past nine months. However each and every casualty is still a tragedy for the families left behind. After more than a decade, ending the conflict in Afghanistan will be a relief for all.

I think that the legacy of these conflicts will continue for years because of the extremely young and wounded soldiers they have left behind. We owe these people, who have given up so much at such a young age, all the support they need to help them build new, happy and long lives for themselves. Charities such as Help for Heroes, the Army Benevolent Fund and the Royal British Legion do just that and they have been integral to helping people recover not just from the physical but also mental difficulties that come from being exposed to war. I think their work is absolutely vital.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Community Spirit

One of the advantages of being MP for Camborne and Redruth is that I am able to visit a huge amount of brilliant and vibrant charities and community groups throughout the constituency whose work is invaluable to so many. There is a diverse and skilled group of charitable organisations in this part of Cornwall who either specialise in certain issues or bring together different community services under one roof and their amazing work often goes unsung.

A few weeks ago I visited All Saints Community Centre is Camborne who do a fantastic job in providing a base for a range of voluntary organisations to operate from. There are groups for the elderly, who provide meals and a social setting which I think is vital and following recent news it is clear more needs to be done to stop the elder generation becoming lonely. There are also youth groups and a host of different activities such as Yoga and Zumba on offer for people of any age which have really taken off in recent years. The Centre provides office space for some important groups such as AA and there are various services on offer to help those who have been unemployed and need some basic literacy and numeracy training. I was lucky enough to attend the tenth anniversary of the Centre a couple of years ago and it was great to catch up with such an asset to the community. The work of its community development co-ordinator, Treve James, should be commended.

There are other community groups that make up a vibrant network throughout the area. This summer I popped in to the Pengegon Community fun day which growths from strength to strength. It is a great example of a local community getting together to change their neighbourhood for the better and the ongoing work at Pengegon has really paid off with local residents now taking great pride in their area. Whilst All Saint’s provides some great utilities in Camborne, the Elms in Redruth offer a similar service and are the base for Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, or CN4C who do some fantastic work fostering social enterprise. There are also more specialist charities that offer a unique service such as Penhaligon’s Friends who offer crucial support to young people dealing with bereavement.

Tackling social breakdown and reviving our sense of community spirit is a difficult task but it is these groups who are at the fore. I believe strongly in the idea of the Big Society, but that also this idea of voluntary help in the community is nothing new and I have seen it all my life in Cornwall. What it does need is a committed group of volunteers and whilst the groups I meet are always on the lookout for more, we are fortunate to have some brilliant ones already.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Revitalising our town centres.

I have always said that economic regeneration was my number one priority as an MP, and it is clear there are some exciting projects on the way that will bring much needed jobs and investments into our towns. Both Hayle Harbour and the Redruth Archive Centre are major schemes that will deliver local employment and transform the area. They will also bring new life into our towns rather than drain activity away to the outskirts.

It cannot be denied that the economic landscape of towns and cities has dramatically changed over the past twenty to thirty years and whilst out of town retail parks often provide an easy retail space for business, I still think our town centres have a vitally important role to play. We firstly need to get more innovative retail projects underway by redeveloping brownfield sites in the centre that can easily be turned into useful spaces for the larger and popular retail chains that will automatically increase footfall. I think that plans for South Quay in Hayle could provide a good example to follow.

We also need to look at the issue of business rates. I visit many small and medium sized businesses who take great pride in what they do and their shops mean so much to their customers but who still struggle to pay when it comes to rates. I think this can be a really difficult burden especially to those starting their own business. It is a brave decision and those who have taken a chance need all the help they can get. There are rate relief schemes offered by the Government which can be a great start and I think that longer term we should see if more can be done.

We also need our shops to work together to deliver a vibrant town centre and promote fresh ideas to get people back into town. In Camborne traders have got together to create a ‘Business Improvement District’, or BID, which does just that and when I have attended their meetings I am always struck by just how much they get done and their innovative ideas for the future. They have only been around for a year but during that time they have organised two months free parking in Trevithick Road car park, produced some really useful promotional guides on Camborne and developed the www.cambornecando.co.uk website alongside a load of other projects. Plans for the future include a music festival in November and some great produce markets on certain Fridays. I think where BID have got it right is looking at a range of options to revitalise the high street and with initiative our town centres will continue to have a bright future ahead.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.