Jacob at Eye-Tech IT
The thriving local Midsomer Norton business Eye-Tech IT welcomed their MP Jacob Rees-Mogg on a visit last week. Jacob was enthused to see how this local firm has bucked the trend, expanding through the recession, taking on apprentice engineers each year and providing key IT services to schools as well as businesses. He was concerned, however, when he was told that Eye-Tech IT was “too close” to benefit from the roll-out of super-fast broadband.
Jacob said: “Eye-Tech IT shows that Somerset, and Britain, can do it. We have the enterprise, the skills and the enthusiasm, but to compete with the best we also need up-to-date infrastructure. So I hope that these broadband speed problems which are holding our businesses back can be solved in the very near future.”
Photo shows: Ryan Maggs, Tom Cannon, Matt Cotton, Dan Padfield, Jacob Rees Mogg, Andrew James, Gareth Jones, and Dafydd Evans.
Photo courtesy of Suzanne Norbury.
Tory rebel in Somerset
Jacob brought a true-blue Tory rebel to a fund-raising dinner at Farmborough on Friday May 10th. Sir Richard Shepherd, MP for Aldridge-Brownhills for the past 34 years, gave the guests an uncompromising speech which argued the urgent need for withdrawal from the European Union in its present form. Our ancient democracy, our national identity, are threatened by the undemocratic systems of the European project, he stated. As an example he evoked the looming figure of the current President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, unelected by the British people, emerging with pronouncements which affect us all, and ironically repeating the declaration that the Euro problem was finally solved – again.
Sir Richard introduced a bill for a Referendum on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, for which he was regarded by many as a marginal even an eccentric figure. But now, Jacob told the guests, “Prominent figures who supported Europe, like Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and Michael Portillo, are lining up to agree with what Sir Richard was saying over twenty years ago.”l
Broadlands Academy Visit
Last week I went to the Broadlands Academy and met the new principal, Dean Anderson. He has not taken over at an easy time as Broadlands recently had to fight off closure. This has had some effect on applications and the number of children coming from Bristol schools has declined.
However, anyone who looked beyond the recent problems would be impressed by what there is to see. Mr. Anderson is implementing an ambitious programme to improve standards and views every pupil as an individual. They were listed in the headmaster’s study in Venn diagrams showing what each one was achieving. He is also introducing a new uniform in September taking the view that a smart personal appearance encourages a sharp mental attitude. Although I may be biased because of my own mode of dress I think that this approach will boost pupils’ self-esteem and achievement.
Keynsham is fortunate in its education provision. Wellsway is a popular and successful school led by its inspiring headmistress, Andrea Arlidge and the determination to improve Broadlands will add to the area’s academic success. Choice and competition tend to raise all standards and this is aided by academy status. It has been striking how giving headteachers control of their own schools has released them from the bureaucratic burden that was previously weighing them down. Equally with power comes responsibility and they know that their reputation will burnished by success or failure.
What is happening locally, in Midsomer Norton and Radstock as well as in Keynsham, is that inspirational leaders are unleashing the native talent of their pupils. This makes it an exciting time in education and for our country.
Family fun at May Day fetes
Local MP Jacob was out and about with his family this Bank Holiday Monday, enjoying the annual fetes at Newton St Loe and Priston. The glorious and unaccustomed sun set off the colours of the many costumes on display, like the maypole dancers, the mummers, and the Midsomer Norton and Radstock Silver Band. Beers were drunk, burgers munched and cream teas enjoyed. At the test-your-strength stall everyone rang the bell, albeit sometimes with a little help from a swiftly deployed stick, and there were many other diverting and ingenious games, like counting the balloons in the mini and landing your ball on the furthest ladder rungs.
Jacob commented: “The fete brings all ages together. It is a great pleasure to be here with all the family, keeping in touch with the constituency in the best and easiest fashion.”
JACOB TO STAND AGAIN
Local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has been re-adopted as the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for North East Somerset at the General Election in May 2015.
It was no surprise when a packed meeting of local people at Saltford Hall on April 19th voted unanimously to re-adopt him.
Local party members were delighted with the way Jacob has looked after the interests of people in North East Somerset. Since becoming MP he has held 50 local surgeries every year in places like Keynsham, Paulton, Batheaston, Midsomer Norton, Radstock and the Chew Valley, keeping in touch with local residents and taking up their grievances in Westminster.
Always on the lookout to promote the cause of North East Somerset, he is rarely absent from the Commons and, together with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, is one of the few national politicians to be recognised by their first name only.
Thanking members for their confidence in him, Jacob said:
“I grew up in North East Somerset and I live here with my family so I am thrilled to be given the chance to continue sticking up for the local people.”
Wellsway School’s new £3.1 million sports centre officially opened
Paralympic medallist Ben Rushgrove officially opened Wellsway School’s new £3.1 million sports centre. Ben won Silver in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics and Bronze at London 2012.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset said, “I was delighted to be invited to the opening of this new facility which is a benefit to the local residents as well as the school.”
“It is important for children to take part in regular exercise and sport and the success of the recent London 2012 Olympics has given encouragement to many. This new Sports Centre gives children and local residents the opportunity to take part in gym, cricket, football, badminton and netball in a bright, modern environment.”
Ben Rushgrove and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
Jacob Rees-Mogg, visits Linden Homes at Impact, Midsomer Norton
AWARD-WINNING Linden Homes Western showcased its Impact development in Midsomer Norton, near Bath in Somerset, to local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg during a recent visit.
Tim Smale, Technical Director, Sue Schofield, Sales Director and members of the site team gave Mr Rees-Mogg the chance to view the progress being made at the development and to discuss a number of issues concerning the economy and the house building industry.
Mr Rees-Mogg said “I was pleased to have the opportunity to visit Impact and to see how Linden Homes is building properties that reflect the needs of the local community. I was also delighted to hear that many of the building materials are locally-sourced
“I was encouraged to hear that the Government’s recently announced new ‘Help to Buy’ scheme has already had a positive effect on the housing market. There are some excellent examples here at Impact, of purchasers who otherwise might not be able to purchase a new home now looking forward to getting on or to moving up the property ladder thanks to this initiative. ”
Sue Schofield added: “We are delighted that Mr Rees-Mogg was able to view our development at Midsomer Norton. We always welcome the views and feedback of the local representatives in and around the areas we work, particularly regarding the house building industry and the current economic situation.
We are extremely proud of this development which is becoming one of our fastest selling schemes.”
Under the new Government-backed equity scheme, ‘Help to Buy’, the Government provides a loan of up to 20% of the property value. This means that, with a minimum deposit of 5%, purchasers only need to secure a 75% mortgage. At Impact this means that the ‘Help to Buy’ price for a four bedroom home starts from just £199,996. .
As well as ‘Help to Buy’, Linden Homes offers home buyers a range of flexible moving schemes such as Part Exchange* and Assisted Move*. It is also offering to pay the Stamp Duty on any new home bought and completed before the end of June at the site.
The show home is open daily from 10am to 5pm. For more information call 0844 488 3061 or visit www.lindenhomes.co.uk/impact
Jacob Rees-Mogg, visits Linden Homes at Impact, Midsomer Norton
The Budget announced by the Chancellor could be an important step towards increasing economic growth in the private sector while helping families and businesses. The consequences of the 2008 credit destruction were always going to take time to resolve and it is not surprising that global growth remains anaemic. This is why there have been no major shifts away from the policy set out in 2010. Dealing with the budget deficit in a measured way while encouraging those reforms which most help enterprise will establish the best foundation for long-term growth,
It is well known that job creation is primarily done by small rather than large businesses. This makes the changes to National Insurance and corporation tax particularly welcome. Every company will receive a £2000 Employment Allowance to be off-set against NI payments. This allows an employee earning £22,400 to be taken on tax free while 450,000 small businesses will pay no jobs tax at all. Moreover, Corporation tax which was 28% under the Labour government will fall to 20% in 2015. This will be the lowest in the G20 making us internationally tax competitive.
Individuals and their families will be helped by a number of measures to reduce tax and keep the cost of living down. The promised £10,000 personal allowance is being introduced and by next April 24 million people will benefit from this tax cut. Families will pay £700 less than in 2010 and 2.7 million will have been taken out of tax altogether. It helps stop the money merry-go-round where the state taxes people just to give them back their money in the form of benefits. The proposals for tax free childcare as of Autumn 2015 will save the typical working family with two children under twelve up to £2,400 a year once it is fully implemented. This will facilitate those who previously could not afford to work and moves away from the benefit culture.
The decision to cancel the fuel duty rise that was planned for September will be particularly beneficial in a rural constituency. Additionally, a one penny cut to beer duty, which would have been three pence more expensive under Labour, has contributed to an overall cut of four pence on a pint. This gives us something to toast the Chancellor for.
Potentially the biggest impact will come from the Government’s commitment to help people get on to the property ladder. It will lend people 20% of the price of a newly built house as well as providing a guarantee to back high loan to value mortgages.
Whilst I remain concerned that public sector debt and the deficit are still too high and the rate of increase has slowed I am confident that the decisions made by George Osborne are correct. He is steering us in the right direction under extremely difficult circumstances.
Advanced Weather Warning of Potential Flooding in the South West
We are expecting a low pressure system with strong SE gale force winds to hit the South West from the early hours of Friday morning (14/12/12). This will bring widespread rainfall, 10 to 20mm, and possibly 30 to 40mm in isolated areas. There will also be large tidal surges on Friday morning along the South West coast – which may lead to widespread Flood Alerts and Flood Warnings being issued across the Region.
As always, we would be grateful if you could encourage your constituents to be vigilant and keep themselves informed by checking flood alerts on our website at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx, or follow the Environment Agency on Twitter at @EnvAgencySW.
Anyone can sign up for flood warnings by contacting Floodline on 0845 9881188.
Please contact 0800 807060 if you need any further information.
The recent severe weather and consequent flooding in the area, particularly the Chew Valley, has resulted in many people suffering damage to their properties.
The recent severe weather and consequent flooding in the area, particularly the Chew Valley, has resulted in many people suffering damage to their properties.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset said:
“My first concern is those who have been affected by flooding especially for the family of the man who died in Chew Stoke. This is a time of mourning for them. In addition there are many people who through age or frailty are less able to cope with flooding and need support. In Chew Stoke I am aware of the strong community spirit which has seen dozens of people out in the rain to help others.
The response of the emergency services, especially the Fire Brigade, is commendable particularly when they have taken risks to rescue residents. The Council workforce has been tireless, working in difficult conditions and at unsocial hours to alleviate problems and they deserve thanks. Richard Benyon, the Government Minister in charge, has promised that the Government will help the Council to recover from these floods which is welcome.
Once the immediate emergency has passed and the waters subsided public policy needs to be examined to see if any errors have been made that have worsened the effects of a natural event. This relates to the clearing of drains and galleys as well as the design of drains some of which may be too small. The balance between interfering in the environment by cleaning rivers and removing silt must be weighted in favour of people even if there is a cost to wildlife.”
Environment Agency warns people to be prepared for further flooding
Heavy rain today (Thursday 22 November) could lead to further flooding across the south west of England this afternoon and evening, the Environment Agency has warned.
Run-off from already wet fields and other areas could lead to further river and surface water flooding, and strong winds could worsen surface water flooding, as wind-blown leaves and debris block drains.
There are currently 33 flood warnings and 56 flood alerts in force.
The Environment Agency is reminding people in the affected areas – which include Devon, Cornwall, Wiltshire, Dorset, Bristol, Somerset, and Gloucestershire – to keep up to date with the latest flood warnings on the Environment Agency website and sign up to free flood warnings. It also advised the public to stay away from swollen rivers and not to drive through floodwater.
‘We strongly urge people to sign up to flood warnings on the Environment Agency website, keep a close eye on local weather forecasts and be prepared for flooding. We also ask that people stay safe, by staying away swollen rivers and not attempting to drive through floodwater,’ said Nick Moore for the Environment Agency.
‘Environment Agency teams have been mobilised across the country to check on flood defences, clear river blockages and monitor river levels. These teams work around the clock to reduce the risk of flooding, and will be out in force over the coming days. Environment Agency flood defences have protected more than 2,000 properties in the past 24 hours.’
Flooding has already led to significant travel disruption and the Environment Agency continues to keep the Highways Agency and rail operators up to date with the latest forecast.
Saturday and Sunday are set to see more wet weather across the country with the possibility of further significant disruption caused by flooding.
The public can keep up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings for their area on the Environment Agency website and with forecasts on TV and radio.
The Environment Agency updates its flood guidance every 15 minutes on its website at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31618.aspx, and you can follow the Environment Agency on Twitter at @EnvAgencySW
Met Office weather forecasts and warnings can be found at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/ and you can follow the Met Office on Twitter at @metoffice and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/metoffice
The European Union
Cynics believe that the European Union is deliberately devised in a complicated way to confuse electorates and politicians. The more charitable take the view that it is no more impenetrable than the bureaucracy run by mandarins of the late Ming Dynasty. The current discussions over the budget make either view seem rational.
The European Union sets an annual budget which is agreed by the Commission (the bureaucracy), the Council (the political leaders of the individual member states) and the Parliament (the peripatetic representatives). In this case the Council uses the qualified majority voting method so no individual member state has a veto.
Overlaying this is the multi-annual financial framework under which Britain receives its rebate. It is subject to unanimity and so can only be taken away from us with our own agreement. This ought to be a good point at which to negotiate a cut in the EU budget. We cannot be out-voted and all nations are tightening their belts.
Unfortunately, the Lisbon Treaty has a complex formula which would increase the budget in the event of no agreement. This makes the Government’s negotiating position difficult. It knows that too great an effort to cut the budget could lead to other nations vetoing the whole budget which would lead to more spending. Although this would be a lower figure than that asked for by the Commission in an age of domestic cuts it would be too high. Thus I am supporting the Government as its apparently modest ambition would, in fact, be a triumph.
Jacob visited Cholwell Nursing Home
Jacob visited Cholwell Nursing Home
Cholwell House is a specialist nursing home that mainly caters for patients with dementia. As the building was built by my great great grandfather, William Rees-Mogg, and my father was born there I was particularly interested to visit them recently. The first William Rees-Mogg founded the firm of solicitors that is now Thatcher and Hallam in Midsomer Norton. He must have been a rather good solicitor to have afforded to build Cholwell which is a splendid Victorian house with glorious views over the Somerset countryside.
As a nursing home Cholwell has a particularly good reputation. Indeed, I have had one visitor to my surgery who came specifically to tell me how caring they are. This was obvious from my visit. Fiona Trezise had invited me to join a commemoration of all the people who had died in the home in the last year. This was a moving service as it was clear the staff viewed the patients as individuals to whom they had become deeply attached as in a large family. I think it also brought comfort to the families who knew that they were not the only ones who mourned and that they had the support of a wider community.
Care for the elderly, with an ageing population, is going to remain a financial and political problem. However, as we all look towards old age it is reassuring to know that there are some wonderful places to be cared for in a most beautiful part of the country.
No easy way out of the debt problem
Since the announcement that GDP fell by 0.7% for the second quarter of this year there has been renewed debate about economic policy. Is the government right to continue to rebalance the economy and reduce public spending?
Unfortunately, the global economic outlook is weak. China has reported its worst figures since 2009, the United States has slowed while Europe remains beset by woes. This makes it difficult to determine what effect domestic policies could have in an economy as open and subject to global trends as the United Kingdom.
There is undoubtedly the risk that any increase in government spending could lead to no domestic benefit but some growth in Chinese or European exports. When Keynes was writing most economies were essentially closed so a stimulus would operate locally rather than internationally.
There is also the question of how any increase in expenditure would be paid for. Quantitative easing cannot be used indefinitely to buy government debt and as the European bond markets show interest rates can rise rapidly if confidence in a country’s solvency declines. Any rise in long term rates would further widen the deficit as it would cost the state more to borrow, while debt interest is already more than the cost of the whole defence budget – the Army, Navy and Air Force combined.
Ultimately, any debt needs to be repaid from taxation or inflation. Nations that spend more than they earn can, therefore, enter a downward spiral of lost competiveness through high taxes leading to a lack of investment and continued recession.
Sadly there is no easy way out of the debt problem left by the last administration. Confucius said “he who will not economise will have to agonise”. We shall have to agonise for a little longer.
An important constitutional difference between the United Kingdom and the United States
An important constitutional difference between the United Kingdom and the United States is that we have an impartial civil service. In America when the politicians change so do the key posts within the bureaucracy. This has an advantage in that responsibility is clear. If somebody bungles it cannot be blamed on officials because they will have the same party tag. Likewise the glories of success are a credit to the party in charge.
In theory this sounds attractive. In British political life civil servants, who cannot answer back, can be unfairly pilloried. However, it is not without its disadvantages. Having party political administrators can lead to a rapid turnover of individuals are never able to master their brief before moving on and lack the experience and professionalism required to operate complex systems.
Thus the British state has been well served by an impartial bureaucratic corps who, regardless of the policy decisions taken by those who are democratically accountable, ensure the efficient operation of the machinery of government. A classic example of this is John Everitt whose retirement party I attended last week.
John Everitt has devoted his professional career to serving whatever combination of parties the electorate has sent him without giving away his own colours. An indication of this is that the Liberal Democrat leader of the Council said he looked forward to Mr Everitt delivering leaflets for them in Newton St. Loe whereas I think he might take some round for me. He has taken Bath and North East Somerset from a new and unformed Council to being one of the most effective unitary authorities in the country. He has appointed first class individuals to support him and has coped with the occasional errors of the politicians unflappably. He is, perhaps, a good argument for putting up the retirement age so we could benefit from his services for a little bit longer.
Reform of the House of Lords
Oliver Cromwell abolished the House of Lords and proposals to reform it have been debated for many decades. It is not an issue that has the widest appeal and some think that discussing constitutional issues during a financial crisis shows a mis-ordering of priorities. Indeed, it is more sensible to tackle the matter in calm and benign times rather than in the midst of a storm.
However, constitutional structures are important. They affect not only how decisions are reached but what is decided. If we had proportional representation then almost all elections would lead to coalitions which we have seen lead to compromises that often satisfy no-one. Changes to the House of Lords would equally alter the ability of a government to push things through its programme.
Hence the current debate is important even if its timing is inopportune. The proposals have three main weaknesses. First, they decline to establish an order of seniority between the two Houses, relying on ancient conventions which may not hold with the legitimacy of election. This risks gridlock. Second, the process of election involves proportional representation which was rejected by the voters in a referendum and on a party list system leaves leaders with the same patronage as they now enjoy. Third, it fails to consider the needs of a post coalition United Kingdom which is a bigger constitutional issue.
Peter Lilley, a distinguished Member of Parliament and former cabinet minister, said something that something that worked in practice was to be changed because it did not work in theory. Britain has always been a practical nation.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits Peasedown St. John Primary School
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits Peasedown St. John Primary School
Last week Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visited Peasedown St. John Primary School.
Jacob said, “The school is run by two joint head teachers David Tilley and Julia Battersby who work closely together to ensure the success of their pupils. They also work closely with the Governors who provide support and oversight under the chairmanship of Linda Day. The reports it has received for OFSTED are stunningly good and this was illustrated by what I saw as I was shown round.
“Two children, Hayley Chivers and Megan Davis, led my tour with others joining as their participation in their own school Olympic sports allowed. The facilities are excellent with high calibre individuals working at the school. The librarian, Gill Truman, is in the last three of the national School Librarian of the year and is the only one from a primary school. The teaching has a high success rate with SATs scores often in the top 10% of the country. Yet I saw more than rote learning. The school emphasises creativity and the individual. This was a noticeable facet of the pupils I met, the questions they raised and the information displayed in classrooms.
“The Jesuits were famous for saying ‘give me the boy until the age of seven and I’ll give you the man’. Although this is no longer a popular view as it smarts of indoctrination it is a reminder of the importance of early education. It is fortunate that in Peasedown it is of such good quality”.
It’s another boy!
Baby Anselm June 2012
Jacob and Helena Rees-Mogg are delighted to announce the birth of a son, Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam Rees-Mogg, on 22nd June. He weighed 8lb 5oz. Anselm is a brother to Peter (4) Mary (3) and Thomas (2).
Anselm is after St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury 1093 -1109, a notable theologian and one of the thirty three doctors of the Church. He was a powerful political figure defending the Church against William Rufus and Richard I.
Charles is after his collateral ancestor Charles, Marquis of Rockingham who was Prime Minister in the 1760s and briefly until his death in 1782. He was the great patron of Edmund Burke.
Fitzwilliam is the family name of Helena on her mother’s side.
Butterflies – A Haven for Children with Autism and their Families
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset visited Butterflies in Keynsham. This is a voluntary group for children with autism and their families, cheerfully and ably run by Trisha Williams. It is held in the St Francis Church, Warwick Road, Keynsham every Friday evening.
Jacob said, “Butterflies caters for a mix of children with individual challenges. Trisha and her volunteers use their talents and experience to give emotional support to the families who attend and I was told by many of the mothers I talked to that they get great comfort and support from each other”
“Butterflies, which has been running for three years, provides an essential support for children and parents in great need. It is extremely dependent on volunteers and has a large catchment area into Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
Trisha said, “There is still a great deal to move towards and I intend to do all in my power to create and attract all we need to make an on-going difference to our families, especially for the children and young people who deserve to be able to grow into productive and happy individuals. It’s a huge task and the ultimate vision of a central Haven is big and yet it is truly needed.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg at Butterflies
Jacob Rees-Mogg and Trisha Williams
Published in The Wall Street Journal
The British electorate often seems to turn to the Conservatives when economic times are difficult. Since the war, this has happened three times: in 1951, 1979 and again in 2010. This can make conservatism seem a harsh creed. It comes in without fanfares of ideological fervor to benefit mankind; rather, it cuts back the state and (apparently) takes things away from people. In a sound bite the Tories appear competent but not cuddly.
The truth is rather different. Conservatism is a creed of hope and opportunity—but a realistic one that deals with the world as it is, rather than as some might like it to be. This creed is based on the individual’s free will, which ought to be unencumbered save where it harms others. It places greater emphasis on the individual than on the collective, which makes property rights important and requires limited laws, applied without a bias toward the state. It is for this reason that such ideals often transcend party politics and win wider national appeal.
In the postwar history of Britain’s Conservatives, the consequences of these principles have been startlingly effective. The 1951-64 government ended rationing before it was considered safe to do so—this in an era when centralized planning was still believed to be the most effective means of organizing an economy. It gave up identity cards, an issue that returns from time to time, acknowledging the law-abiding citizen’s right not to have to prove who he is.
Later in the same period, two major decisions were taken to the extraordinary benefit of society. First, retail Price Maintenance was abolished, which paved the way for the supermarkets: They have done more to improve the standard of living of the average household than any government scheme.
Second, the motorways began to be built, allowing people in their cars to go where they liked, when they liked without the need for timetables. These improvements encouraged people to do what they decided, not what the state thought was good for them.
The next substantial period of office (1979-97) saw other important changes based on the same underlying principle. The obvious example is the sale of council houses, which brought millions of people into property ownership. It also showed that protecting and enhancing property rights benefited the whole of society, not just the elite.
This was reinforced by the introduction of assured short-hold tenancies, which created a thriving buy-to-let market. Although excesses came later, it increased flexibility in the housing market, making it easier for labor to be mobile. People could move, in Norman Tebbit’s words, to where the jobs were.
Privatization did the same for equities and helped the City of London to flourish, with an increase in both the number and value of major listed companies. At the same time the state removed itself from running major commercial activities, to the great advantage of the Exchequer and of productivity. The lifting of price controls under Margaret Thatcher had the same effect, and the battles with the unions—especially the abolition of the closed shop—emphasized the individual over the collective.
This impressive track record is not at the forefront of voters’ minds. The principled reasons for taking unpopular decisions has been overshadowed by their initial unpopularity. Indeed, it used to be thought that the abolition of Retail Price Maintenance cost the Tories the 1964 election. But the benefits have been enormous, and it is now inconceivable that such a law could ever have existed.
Overall, the Conservative perspective is not a negative view of the world but a recognition of the talents of millions. It is modest about the abilities of politicians and civil servants against the free decisions of the population as a whole. It is the way to wake Britain up from its current malaise.
Between 1997 and 2010 every aspect of life in the U.K. became more regulated. More people were brought into the complexities of the benefits system, how people put out their rubbish or parked their cars became controlled by bureaucrats, assessments for equality of outcome rather than opportunity took time away from people trying to run businesses or the government. Democracy became less trusted as more power went to Brussels, where an elite could decide. Property rights were trampled on as more people became able to enter others’ homes for trivial offenses.
Individual rights bring with them responsibilities. Those who take decisions must be answerable for the consequences. Between 1997 and 2010 this was not the case, as those who ran some of the banks discovered. If the collective is more important than the individual, then there is no one to hold to account.
Freedom and the responsibility that comes with it is a general provider of opportunity and success. It unleashes latent talents and encourages risk-taking. The choice is between constant mediocrity and great peaks of human endeavor.
25,000 cattle are slaughtered every year because they have tuberculosis
25,000 cattle are slaughtered every year because they have tuberculosis (TB). This costs the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds but more importantly can bring farmers to the brink of disaster. It is widely suspected that the disease is spread by badgers. The population of badgers seems to have increased sharply in recent years and they are now commonly seen in rural areas. This increase correlates with the rise in bovine TB and in Scotland where the badger population is much less dense the herd is TB-free.
The reason that cattle with TB are killed is because of the risk of the disease getting into the milk supply and infecting humans. Naturally there is sensitivity and a rigorous testing regime whenever cattle are moved or on farms that have been infected. This can be dangerous for farmers as not all the animals remain calm when injected in the neck to see if they react. As a cow can weigh a tonne (160 stone or the weight of ten strong men) and bulls weigh even more they can seriously injure people.
The obvious solution seems to be a cull of badgers to reduce the outbreaks of the disease and to help the farming industry. However, this is vigorously opposed by the animal rights lobby who seem happy for infected cattle to be slaughtered while leaving ill and diseased badgers to roam the countryside. A selective cull must be the way forward. It would help farmers, cattle and even restore the badger population to better health.
Jacob visits local farm
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visited Wilmington Farm which is set in a beautiful valley just south of Bath.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visited Wilmington Farm which is set in a beautiful valley just south of Bath.
Bowling Club President
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was invited to a reception at the Keynsham Bowling Club.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was invited to a reception at the Keynsham Bowling Club.
David Bendall a long standing member of the club had been elected to the position of President of Somerset Association. David was also given Life Membership of the Club.
Larkhall Sports Club – On Friday 16th March 2012
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP handed over a £50,000 cheque from the lottery funding to fund the new changing rooms at Larkhall Sports Club.
Larkhall Sports Club – On Friday 16th March 2012
Jacob met Jim McLay the Chairman of Larkhall Sports Club, who was very pleased to receive this donation. The Club has many football teams, including children from under 8 upwards and also Ladies Teams. The money will be very useful in providing new changing rooms for the club.
Government Announces Huge Financial Spending in the South West
This week the Government has announced huge financial spending in the South West. Both the Royal United Hospital (RUH) NHS Trust in Bath and the South Western Ambulance Foundation Trust will benefit.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset said, “I am very pleased that extra spending is being made here in Somerset. The RUH in Bath will receive an extra £1.8m across 2011/12 and 2012/13. This will enable them to make essential medical equipment replacement, IM&T and operational estates upgrade work. The South Western Ambulance Foundation Trust will receive an extra £0.5m to enable them to purchase Emergency and Ambulance Vital Signs Equipment.”
“In these very difficult financial times, where cutbacks seem to be the order of the day, it is hugely encouraging to see that we are finding extra money for the NHS. This money will be used to improve quality of service and equipment for our patients.”
This funding is part of £330m being invested in improving patient services and equipment which will include;
- Over £72 million will be spent on urgent care facilities, including new operating theatres and a new A&E department.
- Patients will benefit from over £30 million for state of the art hospital facilities, including a new Paediatric Unit and a dedicated Women and Children’s Unit.
- More than £20 million will be invested in world class equipment such as CT scanners and diagnostic equipment.
- Over £16 million will be invested in improving maternity services and equipment, including a new labour suite, increased maternity services and new ultrasound equipment.
- Over £6 million will be used to improve cancer care and screening, increasing women’s access to breast screening equipment.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits Norton Hill School
Jacob talks to Sixth form students at Norton Hill School in Midsomer Norton
Last Friday Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset visited Norton Hill School in Midsomer Norton.
Jacob met the Headmaster Mr Peter Beavan and discussed issues relating to the school, in particular the increase in the size of the Sixth Form. The number of pupils staying on to take A Levels and BTEC has increased considerably and many of the students are going on to University.
Jacob said, “I was delighted to visit Norton Hill School, a school that achieves excellent results. Their exam results are in the top 5% nationally and they have been judged to be ‘an excellent school’ by OFSTED.”
“I met about 50 of the Sixth Form students for a question and answer session. They asked some challenging questions on a variety of subjects including; the European Union, the Constitution, Education, Trident, Health, World Politics and Scottish Independence as well as reminding me of some of the low points of the election campaign. I hope they all progress through their education and on to successful careers.”
The Home Secretary, Teresa May, has announced that the Borders Agency is to be split between its policing and its administrative roles. It is to be hoped that this will improve our ramshackle approach to immigration which fails in two ways.
Although North East Somerset does not have a large number of immigration cases, compared to inner city seats, I see a steady stream in my surgeries. Inevitably each case is different but there are some recurring themes. Often forms are confusing and the right information is not provided clearly. This can lead to people making simple applications incorrectly and facing high fees as a result. Telephone help lines are answered slowly and sometimes brusquely. The time to take decisions is unduly long which can be a major inconvenience as the Agency holds people’s passports which are needed for employment and money laundering checks.
The other side of the failure has been that hundreds of thousands of people have entered the country without being properly checked and those who are here illegally or need to be deported after a prison sentence are not necessarily removed efficiently. There is a strong suspicion that the tenfold increase between 2006 and 2010 in discretionary admissions to 82,295 in 2010 against 24,560 in voluntary removals is an effort to clear a back log of invalid claims.
Thus there has been a system which sometimes treats good citizens badly while the bad citizen is not effectively dealt with. Dividing up the Agency into two clear departments may ease this problem: it certainly needs to.
Council Modifies Proposals for Road System
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was pleased to see that Bath & North East Somerset Council has modified its proposals for upgrading Radstock’s road system which would reduce congestion and kick-start the local economy.
Jacob said, “It is welcome that the Council has taken on board and acted upon the concerns expressed to me by the local community about the original scheme. In particular, I believe the modified proposal to keep Frome Road open to two-way traffic will be better supported by local people and traders than the previous suggestion.”
“Further enhancements, such as the HGV ban on the new road link and 20 mph speed limit, are good ideas and will improve pedestrian safety and the town centre.”
Jacob continued, “I hope that the Council will listen carefully to the concerns of local traders, such as any related to parking provision. Although it is crucial for the Council and its partners to offer the town new economic opportunities, it is equally important that the existing businesses continue to play a part in shaping the future of Radstock.”
“The regeneration of Radstock has been stalled for many years through a combination of factors. Now more than ever during these difficult economic times, new homes and jobs are urgently needed in Radstock to improve the prospects for local people and encourage a greater level of outside private sector investment for the good of the town’s future.”
“It is time for the Council to seize the day and show strong community leadership by implementing its plans and upgrading Radstock’s infrastructure so that the former Railway Land can be redeveloped and other sites in the town can be used better.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits the Citizens Advice Bureau Headquarters in Bath
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits the Citizens Advice Bureau Headquarters in Bath
Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, visited the Citizens Advice Bureau headquarters in Bath on Friday last.
Jan Westrope the Chief Executive of CAB welcomed Jacob and showed him around the offices.
Jacob said “I was pleased to visit the CAB in Bath and to talk to people who work there. Both the paid professionals and the volunteers are passionate about the work they do to help some of the most unfortunate members of society. It is an important service efficiently run by Jan Westrope who told us the volunteer workers put in 52,000 hours per year helping people”.
“This is a valuable service to the community, particularly with issues of housing, benefits and money. People, through no fault of their own, can find themselves in difficult situations perhaps due to health or employment problems and need someone to turn to for help”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP attends Charity Event at the Keynsham Conservative Club
Jacob presents the Dave Seward ‘Hangover’ Trophy to Mr Dave Johnson.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP attended a Charity Event at the Keynsham Conservative Club on Saturday 3rd December. This event raised £410 for Cancer Research UK.
Jacob presented the Dave Seward ‘Hangover’ Trophy to Mr Dave Johnson.
Normally I would not advise people on Christmas shopping. However, on Saturday I went to the pastoral centre at Downside Abbey in Stratton on the Fosse for the launch of “Downside Abbey: An Architectural History”. It would be an ideal present for anyone interested in local history and for those who want to know more about the 166 feet tower that can be seen widely across Somerset.
The book is edited by Dom Aidan Bellinger, the highly civilised and holy abbot of Downside who has also written two of the chapters. Other contributors include Gavin Stamp, the well-known architectural historian who has written extensively about Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. This is of particular interest to me as the interior of the House of Commons was designed by him after it was destroyed by a bomb in the war. I had not previously known that the interior of the Holy Ghost at Midsomer Norton, which I have been going to all my life, has a similar provenance.
Many people who visit Downside think it is older than it is. It was only consecrated in 1935. Nonetheless, it has a timeless feel. This book helps to explain how this was achieved. Partly, it was because of the conservatism of the monks who regularly overruled more avante-garde architects. However, it is also from the traditional materials, some of the stone is from the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. This links us back to the Dark Ages, which is a reminder of the continuity of Somerset’s history and the importance of Christianity in our island’s story.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP invited to Wellsway School in Keynsham
Photograph of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Florence Williams, Dom Aitken and Robert Handley
Last Wednesday Jacob Rees-Mogg MP was pleased to be invited by the Headteacher Mrs Arlidge to Wellsway School in Keynsham to help present the GCSE certificates to students.
Jacob said, “The school has had a very successful year with record results, an OFSTED categorisation of ‘outstanding’ and a successful application for academy status. I felt privileged to have been invited”.
“As the awards were read out it was remarkable how many students had achieved A’s and A*’s. A number of students had ten or more at this high level. As I remember my own O Levels which were littered with Bs and Cs I thought it was particularly impressive. Clearly, the Headteacher, students and teachers have worked hard and I know that parents have successfully encouraged their children”.
“Achieving high academic standards is increasingly important. Youth unemployment is high and if we are to compete with China and India in the coming century it will be on intellectual property more than anything else. It is encouraging, therefore, that local schools are doing so well”.
“Good schools help determine people’s life chances at a surprisingly young age. Success in GCSEs opens up further educational opportunities which can determine people’s careers. The prosperity of our country depends on these young people and they are to be warmly congratulated for what they have achieved. They should see it as a stepping stone to greater success which I am sure, from those I met afterwards, they will”.
Jacob is pictured with Robert Handley who was presented the McGrath Memorial Medal for history.
Keynsham Railway Station Access
Local people have been campaigning for better access to Keynsham Railway Station for some years.
Young families with pushchairs, older people and the disabled find it almost impossible to tackle the long flight of steps between Station Road and the railway platform.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP joined local Councillors Charles Gerrish and Brian Simmons to campaign for improvements.
On Wednesday 10th November, Jacob presented a Petition to Parliament on behalf of two young residents of Keynsham; Adam Heard and Laura Friend. Adam and Laura had collected more than 1,000 signatures from residents in Keynsham and the surrounding area.
Jacob said, “I was pleased to present this petition for Adam and Laura, Keynsham railway station is used by many people daily commuting to Bristol and Bath and beyond. The commuter train provides an excellent service and helps to reduce the traffic on our congested roads. Access to this service should be made easier for those who find steep steps difficult or impossible.
Please use this link to see the petition as presented to Parliament.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset hears Breast Cancer Voices on Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset hears Breast Cancer Voices on Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP attended a Westminster reception to mark the UK’s second Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day and hear the concerns and experiences of women living with secondary breast cancer.*
Minister of State for Care Services Paul Burstow MP and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer Annette Brooke MP both spoke at the event, which was organised by charity Breast Cancer Care and attended by other MPs and healthcare professionals. Last year, at the inaugural Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day, Breast Cancer Care successfully campaigned for accurate data to be collected on the numbers of people living with secondary breast cancer in order to be able to provide care and services where they are needed. This year, the data collection project is underway. Last week’s event highlights, however, the continuing need for improvements in the care, support and services offered to people living with secondary breast cancer.
To support Breast Cancer Care’s secondary breast cancer campaign, go to:
MP for North East Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg said:
“I was interested to attend this year’s Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day and to meet some of the women directly affected by secondary breast cancer and the healthcare professionals who treat them. It gave me the opportunity to hear first hand what problems and concerns these women can be faced with, which can include feelings of isolation and the need for specialist nurses.
“Following the success of Breast Cancer Care’s campaigning work last year, this year’s event has reinforced to me the continuing need for improvements in care and greater access to support for those living with secondary breast cancer. I am glad to support Breast Cancer Care and hope that this will help raise awareness of this condition which so many women are affected by.”
Liz Carroll, Director of Policy and Research at Breast Cancer Care said:
“We are very grateful to have the support of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP. In this tough economic climate it’s more important than ever we ensure the needs of patients with secondary breast cancer stay at the forefront of policy-makers’ minds. The support of Jacob Rees-Mogg MP will strengthen our campaign to put the spotlight on women with secondary breast cancer and ensure they get the care that they deserve and should be entitled to, including access to a specialist secondary breast care nurse.
“As our new book with tips for those living with secondary breast cancer says, it’s ‘the little things that make a big difference’, so giving patients and healthcare professionals the chance to meet face-to-face with MPs to talk about their personal experiences is a vital part of Breast Cancer Care’s campaigning work.”
Victory has Greenbelt housing application refused
Local campaigners and politicians in Whitchurch are celebrating the news that a planning application for 300-home housing development on Greenbelt land in the area has been turned down.
The area’s Conservative Councillor Peter Edwards, alongside the Whitchurch Village Action Group and local MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, campaigned against the plans, arguing that the development would destroy the last green field separating the village from Bristol.
Over 800 letters opposing the plans were sent to Bath and North East Somerset Council, which has announced its decision to refuse the planning application. The campaign recently received a boost after Conservative councillors in Bath & North East Somerset successfully voted down a proposal which could have seen Greenbelt land at Whitchurch earmarked as a contingency site for large-scale new housing development.
In its Core Strategy development document, the Council has earmarked Whitchurch Village for around 30 new homes over the next fifteen years, which the authority believes can be accommodated within the area’s existing infrastructure.
Local Councillor Peter Edwards (Cons, Publow&Whitchurch) said:
“This is fantastic news for all local residents in Whitchurch Village who have supported the campaign against these Greenbelt housing plans. The council has agreed time and again that large-scale new housing development should be focussed on disused Brownfield sites not Greenbelt, so I’m really pleased that the authority has stuck to this principle. The local campaigners should be congratulated for their hard work in securing 800 letters of objection, which represents over 70% of households in the village.
“Whitchurch village has its own separate identity to that of the Whitchurch area within Bristol City Council’s borders which residents’ value, and which the Greenbelt helps to protect. This decision will mean this community identity can be maintained into the future.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP said,
“I am pleased that this development has been stopped. The greenbelt around Whitchurch village should be kept safe from development, allowing Whitchurch to keep its identity as a rural village. It is encouraging to see localism working and I hope this will give some reassurance to people about the Government’s development policies”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP attends a presentation to school children at Tesco Store in Old Mills
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP attends a presentation to school children at Tesco Store in Old Mills.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset was pleased to attend a presentation to school children at Tesco Store in Old Mills, Paulton. The children were from St John School in Midsomer Norton and Paulton Junior School.
Since 1992 Tesco, through their voucher collection promotions, has provided UK schools with access to around 4 million free pieces of equipment worth £170 million. Last year, 57 schools and clubs in North East Somerset collected a total of 581,899 vouchers, with 52 of them ordering equipment worth £16,522.
Jacob said, “It is very welcome to see Tesco so actively involved with the community and supporting local schools. Supermarkets are often criticised but are in fact often excellent corporate systems. The school children’s excitement in receiving the equipment made it a very worthwhile event”.
In the photograph with the children and Jacob Rees-Mogg are Abi Powell of St John’s School, Haley Shackleton of Paulton Junior School and Wendy Smith, Tesco Services Manager.
Press Release: Writhlington School
Chris Hobbs, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Mark Everett
On Friday last Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset visited Writhlington School in Radstock. He was interested to see how the school was coping with the aftermath of their fire back in July.
He met the new Headteacher, Mark Everett who took Jacob around the school and into the buildings that were destroyed by the fire.
Jacob said, “I was amazed at the extent of damage that had been done by the fire and also by the huge clean up operation that is still going on now. Every part of the remaining building, including stone walls, concrete and steel girders has to be scrubbed manually to remove any residues left by the fire and smoke. In fact, 3 months on and you can still smell the smoke in the building”.
“This huge task has not disrupted the running of the school. Mark Everett and his colleagues have made sure that everything continues as it should. With the help of Chris Hobbs the Business Manager they are looking forward to a new and better building”.
Post on unions
Last week I was fortunate enough to meet Eddy Shah and his charming wife Jennifer at a Conservative drinks reception I was addressing in James Gray’s North Wiltshire constituency. Mr Shah led the fight back against over mighty unions in the 1980s during which he received death threats against him, his wife and his children. The print unions were notoriously aggressive and Eddy Shah’s courage in facing up to them was an essential part of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. Never again could the private sector be held to ransom by union bosses who had no mandate and were ultimately set on undermining the democratically elected government.
However, in the public sector the trade unions remain strong as were shown at the recent TUC gathering. Some are threatening a bigger dispute than the General Strike of 1926. As this was a disaster for union members, especially the miners, it is not a wise choice of historic comparison from their point of view. The dispute would be about public sector pensions. These have become a source of contention partly because of the difficult economic situation but also because of increases in life expectancy which make it unaffordable for people to retire at or below sixty. Naturally such changes are unsettling but they will not reduce existing entitlements and the public schemes have become so misaligned with those in the private sector that reform is essential.
All sensible people hope there will not be strikes on this issue. Sadly the rhetoric of the trade unions is extremely combative. If it continues it would be a direct challenge to the democratically legitimate government which could not be allowed to succeed.
Farrington Cycle Ride
Jacob supports the ‘Farrington Link’ for cyclists from Farrington Gurney to Midsomer Norton.
Midsomer Norton Church Tower
Jacob and Helena Rees-Mogg climbed the steps in the tower of St John’s Church in Midsomer Norton with two of their children Mary and Thomas. The view from the top of the tower was well worth the climb.
Midsomer Norton Fayre
Young Peter Rees-Mogg helped Cllr Peter Edwards (Chairman of B&NES) and Cllr Paul Myers (Mayor of Midsomer Norton) open the Medieval Fayre Day in Midsomer Norton.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP visits Cameley School in Temple Cloud
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP receiving a petition from Abigail Sebright and Ellie-May Best at Cameley School.
On Friday Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for North East Somerset visited Cameley School in Temple Cloud.
Jacob said, “I was shown around the school by Danny and Freddie. These two boys obviously knew their school well and have benefitted from the ‘Learning to Lead’ policy. They told me about the different projects that the children have been doing and proudly showed me the new library area. This was followed by a school Assembly and then a visit to class 3 and 4 where I was presented with a petition for ‘The right to go to school.’ I was finally grilled in a question and answer session, where the children asked some well informed and searching questions.”
“I would like to thank Mr Cook the Headmaster for allowing me to visit the school, it is obviously a very happy school with a close link with the community”.
My Shop is Your Shop
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP presented the ‘My Shop Your Shop’ Gold Award to Julie Hartnell and Chris Bennett at Best One, the local shop in Clandown.
This award is given by the Federation of Wholesale Distributors to raise awareness of the vital community role played by local shops.
Jacob said, “To qualify for the award shops must demonstrate that they are engaged with the local community, local charities, community groups and sports teams etc. It is proof that the staff are willing to go beyond the requirements of their role to help their customers and neighbours.”
“Best One in Clandown is bursting with a great variety of goods and I was welcomed by the smiling face of Julie Hartnell. It is a happy coincidence that I presented this award eight years after Julie and Chris took over the shop on 21st June 2003 and I hope they continue with their successful shop for years to come.”
Shortly after I was elected to Parliament last year I was nominated for the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC)
Shortly after I was elected to Parliament last year I was nominated for the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC). The chairman is Bill Cash a man well-known to readers of the European Journal and someone who I have greatly admired since I first met him at the time of the debates of the Maastricht Treaty. The Scrutiny Committee’s remit is to examine any decision made by a minister which may lead to pan-European action. This includes plans for legislation or establishing a common position where the European treaties give the EU competence.
The volume of paper which comes through is more than even a die-hard Eurosceptic would fear. We have already issued our thirty-third report, the thickest of which contains eighty proposals for European action with the thinnest having about a dozen. Our scrutiny is done as diligently as possible but with limited powers. We may approve documents, refer them to a House of Commons committee or send them to the floor of the House for debate. Only the last of these has a chance of gaining the attention of the British body politic.
Compared to this an Act of Parliament has four major debates in the House of Commons before or after being considered by the House of Lords. Financial matters are subject to no time limit in the Commons and the Lords can dwell for as long as it likes on any non-financial matter. The most that can be devoted to considering a further extension of Europe’s powers is an hour and a half.
This ought to be a matter of deep concern. Europe is now said to be responsible for 60% of our new laws but with less than a quarter of the scrutiny. The ESC under Bill Cash’s robust chairmanship does its best to bring the steady erosion of our nation’s powers to Parliament’s attention. However, this is insufficient democratic control and will ultimately be rejected by the British people.
BCFM Drivetime: Conservative MP for NE Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg
BCFM Drivetime: Conservative MP for NE Somerset Jacob Rees-Mogg News review and discussion of cuts & the economic crisis Download here
Don Foster MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP met today Andrew Robathan MP (Armed Forces Minister) to discuss the proposed closure of Ensleigh MoD base in Bath
The case made by the local MPs is set out below.
Following the representations made, the Minister agreed to extend the period of consultation until 29th June. He argued that this would allow time to look again at the financial and broader issues that had led to the provisional closure decision. In particular it would allow time for;
- Further re-appraisal of the MoD’s case for closure including all financial matters
- Additional consideration to be given to the impact of the closure on travel patterns in the area and on the local economy, and
- An opportunity for Bath and North East Somerset Council to make representations.
The Minister made clear that, despite the extension of the consultation period, he wanted to make a final decision as quickly as possible to provide certainty for the staff affected including those who had opted for early retirement.
BATH ACCOMMODATION PROJECT
The MoD has had bases in Bath for 72 years.
At present there are three MoD sites; Foxhill, Warminster Road and Ensleigh.
In total there are around 3,000 staff at these three bases.
A decision was made some time ago to close Foxhill and Warminster Road and discussions are already taking place with the local council about the future possible uses of these sites.
The plan was that staff in Ensleigh (around 1,500) would move to Abbey Wood main building while the 1,500 staff in Foxhill and Warminster Road would move to the vacated Ensleigh site (which, over the past few years, has seen significant refurbishment).
However, this has now changed. It is now proposed that these staff will move to Abbey Wood North which is due to become vacant in the near future.
Under this proposal, not all of the Ensleigh site can be disposed of because the computer systems (which serve the whole area) can’t be moved and must remain on site until at least 2018 when new computer systems come on stream.
In arriving at this plan 4 options were considered; “do nothing”, move to Abbey Wood North, move to Ensleigh following a new build there or move to a refurbished Ensleigh.
The “do nothing” option was immediately rejected. MoD appraisals of the costs of the remaining options spread over a 15 year period are very similar.
Abbey Wood North at £56.1m, a complete new build at Ensleigh at £60.6 m and a refurbishment of Ensleigh at £56.7m.
Given these figures are very similar, the choice of the Abbey Wood North option was based on the “Key user Requirement Evaluation Matrix”. However, recent discussions with the Trade Unions has led officials to accept that the figures used in the Matrix need to be re-assessed.
Not only is there doubt about those figures, but there are concerns about three other key factors.
First, the land sale values. It is claimed that the sale of Abbey Wood North would only realise £20m. This seems extremely low given site was bought for AT LEAST £20m and the building cost £25m. By contrast, the sale figure for the Ensleigh site is a surprisingly high at £11m. This appears to not take account of the agreement that former MoD sites in Bath would include a high proportion of “affordable” housing thereby reducing the likely value.
Second, retention and recruitment of staff. No account appears to have been made of issues of retention and recruitment. Already there are problems with these issues at Abbey Wood. Given some 40% of current Bath-based staff have indicated that they are not likely to accept a move to Abbey Wood, there will be significant extra costs associated with recruiting and training new staff.
And thirdly, no serious socio-economic impact assessment has been made. Were one to be done it would show very serious problems on the already over-crowded road and rail systems and a significant impact on the local economy (an impact that would NOT be reflected with a similar economic up-lift in north Bristol). Indeed, the move could damage the very successful links between the MoD and Bath’s Defence Industries (such as BMT Defence) and the relevant Departments at Bath University.
Thus, we have;
- Financial figures that don’t make the case one way or another – even if the land sale values are accepted; which many dispute.
- A dubious, and now being re-worked, “Key user Requirement Evaluation Matrix”.
- An un-evaluated retention and recruitment problem,
- An inadequate, almost nonexistent, socio-economic case, and
- No account of the impact of retaining the computer systems at Ensleigh.
In short, we believe that before a final decision is made there should be a pause for reflection and re-evaluation of the case for the proposed closure of Ensleigh.
The three party leaders of Bath and North East Somerset council have already written to the MoD expressing similar concerns, requesting a further review and expressing a willingness to engage in any relevant discussions.
Parliament and the courts have become obsessed with the love life of footballers and stars of reality television
Parliament and the courts have become obsessed with the love life of footballers and stars of reality television. A super-injunction has managed to bring the private affairs of these two people to a much wider audience than they would otherwise have achieved. Indeed, it is a fair bet that some of the judges had never heard of them prior to the row.
Sometimes trivia illustrates important constitutional discussions, which is the case on this occasion. The Human Rights Act created a new right of respect for private lives against more ancient rights to freedom of speech which have long allowed people to say anything as long as it is true. Parliament passed the Human Rights Act but whereas most acts of Parliament state specifically how they will apply the language of Human Rights is vague and has led to judge-made law.
This has upset the balance between Parliament which makes the law and the judges who then apply it. To some extent the courts have been usurping the role of the democratically-elected politicians. Some MPs have retaliated by using our privilege to say anything which can then be reported pretty freely.
This power struggle is not a good constitutional precedent. It is a damaging side-effect of trying to bring European law into the British legal system. Europe has long protected the rich and powerful from the inquisitiveness of the press as some recent French scandals show. England has always preferred free speech as a means of keeping public life clean of the stench of corruption. The judges must not be allowed to change this.
Chew Valley Gazette Article
For this edition I thought I would use the opportunity to let you know what is happening in Westminster, both with the Coalition and my work as your Member of Parliament.
Although a week is a long time in politics a year is a short one and the first year of the Coalition Government has passed quickly with much work having been done. The priority has been to bring Government spending and the deficit under control. Years of living high on the hog meant that an adjustment had to be made urgently. After a Spending Review and two Budgets we are now on the road to securing the nation’s long term economic success. This will be achieved via the combination of better spending and tax cuts. Furthermore, the financial markets who are the arbiters of such matters, have shown their confidence by keeping long term interest rates low and the pound stable.
Government is about more than putting right past errors. It is also about policies that improve the country’s future. In two crucial areas the Coalition has taken positive steps that will improve education and reduce welfare dependency. Michael Gove has been able to secure more academies in one year than Labour achieved in its whole period of office. Iain Duncan Smith has re-written the welfare rules to ensure that work will always pay and this could bring millions back into economic activity.
Other areas of policy are also being tackled with aplomb. Immigration is now being controlled; ID cards have been scrapped and a referendum lock has been introduced to ensure politicians will never again be able to hand over more power to Brussels without the consent of the British people.
However, there is much still to be done. Reform of the health service is delayed as the Conservatives are determined to take no risk with so prized a national asset, especially when there has been so much concern about the proposed changes. This also shows that the Government is listening whilst inspiring confidence. It is measured, serious, and focused in a businesslike fashion on recovering from the woeful mismanagement of Labour. It will take time but a lot of progress and been made in a short space of time.
As an MP my schedule in Westminster is equally as busy as it is in North East Somerset. In Parliament I have been an active participant since my maiden speech. According to ‘theyworkforyou.com’ I have spoken seventy-four times and have voted in 257 divisions or 94.5% of the time. The figures for both for speaking and voting are above average for MPs and when I have not voted this is mainly because I was not supporting the Whips’ line. I put down fewer written questions than average because I have found that writing directly to Ministers achieves a better response. I am also a member of the European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) and the Procedure Committee, which assemble every Wednesday. The ESC examines every edict that comes out of Brussels and I fear hundreds have been issued since the election. It is enough to make a hardy Euro-sceptic weep.
Locally, I have held fifty-nine surgeries and have seen 322 constituents. These lead on to correspondence with the local authority, Government Ministers and a variety of government bodies such as the Child Support Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency. Sometimes these bodies are quite responsive (B&NES has been particularly good) but on occasions it is a question of banging one’s head against a brick wall. The ability to help constituents is a crucial part of my role and a satisfying one but there are four outstanding cases that have not been concluded satisfactorily which deeply trouble me.
It has been a fascinating year to become a new MP and to be part of a ruling coalition and I look forward to what the next four years bring.
Post on Europe
Although mention of Europe makes “one gasp and stretch one’s eyes” its effect on British law is increasing. This was apparent in Parliament last week during discussion of private members’ bills and on the committee corridor.
As a member of the European Scrutiny Committee I attended European Committee B on Passenger Name Records. This involves details of how people book their flights, what routes they take and who they are. It is considered a useful tool in combating terrorism and is used by the United States, Australia, South Korea and other countries. Britain has its own version called e-Borders but now wants to opt into a pan-European scheme.
As it combats terrorism it sounds very sensible but it may weaken our existing immigration checks. The European model does not cover immigration issues nor does it cover flights between member states of the European Union. It covers only what the Commission presumptuously calls ‘international flights’ which are only a quarter of the total. So to be good Europeans we risk weakening out border controls and assume that there are no terrorists flying within the European Union. The Government refuses to say if there are any circumstances under which it will not opt in to this scheme.
The Private Members’ Bill is related to food labelling. Unfortunately, the right to decide who can put a Union Jack on a packet of sausages or to call beef ‘British’ lies with the European Union. Thus we see matters great and small out of the remit of elected politicians and with bureaucrats. This cannot be right.
Post on the Press
Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSKYB has been a source of controversy. Jeremy Hunt has decided to accept an undertaking from Newscorp (in which the Murdoch family owns a controlling interest). This would ensure that Sky News remained independent with 61% of it owned by outside shareholders but with its funding guaranteed by News Corporation.
The argument against allowing this deal is that it will reduce choice for television and allows too much control to one company. I am not convinced by this. Britain now has more channels than any country other than the United States. BSKYB provides a platform for distributing these channels but so do various cable suppliers as well as free to air via digital boxes. No Murdoch channel has come close to the market share held by the BBC, ITV or Channel Four. Moreover, the viewing figures for Sky News are low (although I personally see it more than any other channel) and it is hard to see how people’s politics can be influenced by Sky Sports even if the recent cricket world cup matches have affected their blood pressure.
Newscorp also owns The Times group of newspapers and The Sun. However, Rupert Murdoch has done more for the plurality of the press than any other individual. His success in defeating the outrageous union practices that had brought all British newspapers to the brink of bankruptcy allowed the sector to prosper and new titles, including The Independent, to be launched. It is this battle with the unions that makes him so unpopular with the left but it puzzles me that he is not more of a hero with the right.