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Why I have chosen to vote against air strikes on Syria

 

I have just stepped out of the Chamber of the House of Commons where I have listened to the cases made for and against extending airstrikes to Syria. Yesterday I attended a briefing by the secretaries of state for Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home Office and DFID, plus one from the Shadow Foreign Secretary. I also met with Muslim MPs, read through a tremendous amount of expert opinion and read through many hundreds of representations from constituents and party members.

 

I have concluded that I am not yet convinced of the case that the Prime Minister has made that extending air strikes to Syria will make us safer and thus I will be voting against the government motion tonight.

 

The two key objections that I have been unable to satisfactorily overcome in my mind, are:

 

  1. That the ground forces (claimed to number as many as 70,000) who are crucial to consolidate gains by aerial bombardment, are unreliable, hugely disparate and have changing allegiances, most of whom would rather fight Assad than ISIL at the moment. And;
  2. That the political transition is anything like advanced enough or that airstrikes on ISIL alone will support rather than cause to falter that process.

 

The Government hope that by embarking upon a process of political transition started by 19 countries including Jordan, Iran, Russia and China, they can end the civil war and persuade the ground forces to join the campaign against ISIL. If that political process continues from the current small but encouraging steps then I am much more likely in the future to be persuaded that air strikes would be a good idea.

 

I have no doubt that there is a legal basis for the air strikes being proposed, and I regret that I feel unable for us to fulfil our international obligations proposed by the UN resolution, but sometimes the wisest way to help your friends, neighbours and allies is to convince them that an alternative strategy might deliver on their agreed aims. I am also convinced that little that we do in Syria will make a difference to the level of hatred that we will face from ISIL and their supporters here, we are under threat and will be after our vote tonight, regardless of the outcome.

 

I want to thank everyone who took time to write to me on this subject, and for the dozens of sympathetic and appreciative comments about the dilemma that faced me. I have never thought that the case was an open and shut one and envy those who enjoy certainty about what to do when faced with a hostile and murderous death cult and the peculiar and particularly bewildering set of circumstances that currently pertain in Syria.

 

I can assure you that those of my colleagues who have reached a different conclusion do so equally solemnly and also believe in their hearts that voting for these airstrikes is the right thing to do. Regardless of the outcome of the vote I hope that colleagues will in future be able to respect that there is no monopoly on morality and that everyone faced with these most difficult of choices has to answer to their own consciences for that choice.

I have made my choice and I will vote, with hope but without certainty, for that tonight.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, Featured, View from the Commons17 Comments

Brookfield Young Enterprise Awards 2014 smaller version

Toby’s November e-Newsletter

Welcome to my latest periodic e-newsletter.  I hope this update gives you a flavour of some of my recent work in Westminster and back home in Chesterfield.  For more regular updates please follow me on Twitter (@tobyperkinsmp), add me as a friend on Facebook (facebook.com/toby.perkins1) or visit my website (tobyperkins.org.uk).

I hope you find this update of value.  If you would like to know my views on any other matter, or have any comments on any of the issues I discuss here, please feel free to get in touch.

Local Issues

Fighting for local services

  • Probation officers do an incredibly difficult and important job to reduce reoffending rates and rehabilitate offenders.  Yet some probation officers from Chesterfield have found themselves transferred out of the Probation Service and into a private company on a whim after their names were drawn out of a hat.  I raised the case of one local constituent who has worked for the Probation Service for 20 years and recently transferred, in the House of Commons, only for the Justice Secretary to call these claims “absolute nonsense” and pass me a note denying that this practice occurred (read more here, and view the evidence at the bottom of this page).  When finally confronted with the proof the government have admitted that this practice of drawing names from a hat occurred, but have still failed to apologise to the local worker for accusing her of making things up.  I will keep pressing them on this issue.
  • I recently took part in a debate on securing justice for coalfield communities, in places like Staveley and across the country, and you can read my contribution here.  I particularly tried to address the way law abiding mining communities were criminalised by the actions of the government.
  • I also used a Parliamentary question time to seek an update on the electrification of the Midland Mainline, in the light of a report suggesting delays to the project.  I was very disappointed that the Secretary of State for Transport did not respond to what was a serious and important question, but in my opinion merely gave a party political response.  You can judge this for yourself here.  I have written to the Minister to seek a more comprehensive and informative answer.

Toby House of Commons

Standing up for local schools

  • I recently spoke in a parliamentary debate about infant school class sizes and raised the cases of local schools including Hollingwood, Hasland and Abercrombie.  You can read my speech here.
  • Brookfield Young Enterprise Awards 2014 smaller versionI have also been contacted by many local parents who have expressed their concerns about the academisation process at Inkersall Primary School.  I have taken these concerns up directly with the Secretary of State for Education as you can read about here.
  • On a more positive note, last week I got the opportunity to present a Federation of Small Businesses Young Enterprise Award to a team from Brookfield Community School who fought off competition from across the East Midlands to pick up the prize.  Congratulations to the “Amplify” team!  I also have recently visited Brimington Junior School as part of the “Democracy Week” campaign, and to promote the importance of democracy to young people.  Read more here.

Putting Chesterfield first

  • I have been working hard with local campaigners to improve the GP services at the Rectory Road Surgery in Staveley.  Unfortunately, we were not able to secure a new operator for the facilities (read more here) but I am encouraged that the most recent inspection noted signs of improvement and will continue to monitor the process.
  • Small Business SaturdayMany people in Chesterfield are deeply concerned about the future of the much-loved Crispin Pub on Ashgate Road.  This pub is profitable but the company who owns the building are keen to sell off to Tesco to make a quick buck.  Most recently I met with Tesco to discuss this.  I will be putting out a survey about the value of the pub to the community and Tesco have promised to take note of this, so if you are local to the Crispin please send it back when it arrives.
  • I will once again be playing my part in the Small Business Saturday campaign this year.  Last year’s event was hugely successful, I visited 25 local small businesses on the day (see here) and I know that thousands of extra pounds were spent in local independent stores on the day.  This year’s Small Business Saturday will take place on 6 December.  So I hope everyone in Chesterfield thinks about how they can support local small businesses on the day.  If you’re a business and want to sign up, download a pack here. A tour bus travelling across the country to promote the day will be stopping in the market square on Monday 24 November at 10am, I hope to see you there!

 

National Issues

Delivering change for small businesses

  • Insolvency specialists have estimated that 1 in 5 business failures are simply down to bills being paid late rather than a failed business model.  So I believe it is a key responsibility of policy makers to tackle this problem of late payment and have been working on a policy which would ensure that small businesses are automatically paid interest when their large customers pay late.  You can read more about the policy here and, if you are a subscriber, can view the coverage The Times gave my idea here.  I brought it to a vote in Parliament on 21 October (read my blog on the day of the vote here) but unfortunately it was rejected by the government.  However, I am delighted that the Labour Party are supporting my proposals and have announced that they will introduce them if Labour win the election in May.
  • Shadow Pubs MinisterAs regular readers of this update will know, I have long campaigned for stronger regulation to protect local pub licencees from the predatory practices of the dominant pub companies.  I was therefore pleased that after 4 years the government finally caved in to this campaign and have agreed to introduce new laws to protect publicans, and blogged about it here.  However, I do have some concerns about the way these proposals have been brought in.  I raised these concerns directly with the Secretary of State at the dispatch box in the House of Commons, an exchange you can read here.
  • Over the last couple of months I have been sitting on the Committee which analyses every clause of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill currently passing through Parliament.  My aim in this has been to strengthen protections for small local businesses and workers.  In particular I was pleased that we stopped the government imposing extra burdens on small family brewers when they should be focussing on the biggest pub owning companies, and also stopped a clause which would have watered down Britain’s world class insolvency regime, which has saved many hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs.

Supporting important causes

  • Coffee Morning - Toby Perkins and Natascha EngelLast month I attended Labour Party Conference in Manchester.  Amongst the important debates and speeches I had the opportunity to play in the traditional MPs vs The Press charity football match, which this year supported Breast Cancer Care.  Unfortunately, as you can read here I once again suffered at the hands of the press.
  • Like many others across Chesterfield, I also took my turn at the ice bucket challenge and donated to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.  See the pictures here.
  • I also recently attended two charity events in Westminster in support of cancer charities, firstly the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning with MacMillan Cancer, and secondly a campaign event with Breakthrough which called for a fair price for life-extending breast cancer drugs.

 

International Issues

Resolving conflict in a dangerous world

  • PoppiesThis year we mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and unfortunately issues of conflict still touch all of our lives.  In August I was proud to support the “lights out” campaign in commemoration of Europe’s darkest chapter.  You can read my thoughts on this campaign here.
  • I was as heartbroken as the many people from Chesterfield who contacted me about the situation in Gaza over the summer.  I believe parliament should have been recalled to debate the appalling escalation of conflict in Gaza and that David Cameron should have used Britain’s influence both publically and privately to urge a less damaging cause of action for Israel to pursue, and that following a lasting ceasefire, talks to deliver the long awaited two state solution with true independence for Palestine should be pursued with considerable urgency.  You can read more of my thoughts here.  To help move forward with this process I voted to recognise the state of Palestine at the historic debate in Parliament on 13 October.
  • I also faced my most agonising decision since I was first elected as an MP in 2010, as Parliament voted on whether to take action against the so-called “Islamic State”.  You can read my contribution to the debate here and my statement on my decision here.

I hope you have found this update interesting.  If you ever have any local issues where you think I can be of help just call 01246 386 286 to make an appointment to see me.

Best wishes,

Toby Perkins MP

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Toby supporting local firefighters

Chesterfield MP’s Update: Toby’s December Review

Firstly Happy Christmas, can I wish you all the very best for the festive season. In between putting up the mistletoe and preparing my Christmas list, I have put together my latest email briefing highlighting some of my recent work in Chesterfield and Westminster.  I hope you find it of interest.

Standing up for local services

  • On Monday 25 November I called a debate in Parliament on cuts to our local fire services.  I think this is an extremely serious issue which jeopardises the safety of many local people and I am determined to fight these cuts.  Click here to watch a Calendar report on the issue and to watch highlights of the debate.  You can watch the full 30 minute debate here.
  • I am hugely concerned about the Post Office’s plans to relocate Chesterfield’s Crown Post Office into the Pavement’s Centre branch of WH Smith’s.  I have expressed these concerns directly to Post Office bosses at a public meeting in the Chesterfield library (read more here), have responded to 287 enquiries received from constituents opposing the plans, and voted against the government’s privatisation of the Royal Mail in Parliament (read why here).  I am urging everyone who shares my concerns to attend a public consultation tomorrow (11 December) at the Chesterfield Hotel, opposite the Railway Station, on from 4.30pm to 8.30pm. Anyone unable to attend can share their views on the move by emailing comments@postoffice.co.uk or writing to the Post Office, addressing envelopes ‘Freepost – Your Comments, Post Office Ltd’ (read more here). I won’t be at the public meeting, as I will still be in parliament, but my office Manager will be there, and I will be meeting Royal Mail bosses to discuss my concerns with them.
  • I have recently conducted a local survey to find out people’s views regarding the quality and performance of the GP practices in Staveley and the Holywell Medical Group’s surgeries in particular, following a number of complaints and a damaging CQC report.  You can learn more about my work here.
  • Last month I also spoke against the wholesale privatisation of the Probation Service in Parliament (which you can read and watch here) and sent this message of support to those striking to save the service in Chesterfield.
Toby supporting local firefighters

Toby supporting local firefighters

Backing local businesses

  • I have been a strong supporter of the first ever UK Small Business Saturday which was held on 7 December.  You can read why here.  I was delighted that a battle bus which toured the country to promote the day decided to call at Chesterfield, the smallest town on its route, as shown here, and met local business and press on the bus whilst it parked in the market square.
  • On Small Business Saturday itself I visited 25 independent retailers around our town.  You can see a picture gallery of the visits here and view all the sites I visited on this map. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to shop local and support our small businesses at Christmas, they are crucial to the diversity of Chesterfield and Staveley.
  • I also believe it is important to promote our town to investors across the country.  That is why on 26 November I hosted an “Invest in Chesterfield” event in Westminster to demonstrate why businesses should choose to locate in Chesterfield and bring continued jobs and economic growth in our town.  You can read more about the event here and here.
  • Another group of small business which are struggling in the current climate are pubs, and I recently wrote this article highlighting how Labour can support our pub industry.
Toby Perkins visited traders across Chesterfield on Small Business Saturday

Toby Perkins visited traders across Chesterfield on Small Business Saturday

Recent appearances in Parliament

  • On 28 November I was called to sum up a Backbench Business Committee Debate in the House of Commons on how government should support small businesses.  You can read my contribution here.
  • On 2 December I asked a question of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and urged him to support a petition calling for an immediate freeze in energy bills which 5,000 local people in Chesterfield have already signed.  You can add your name here and calculate how much a prize freeze would save you and your family here.
  • On 4 December I lead an Opposition Day Debate in Parliament (one of the rare opportunities when those parties not in government get to set the agenda of the House of Commons) on Business Rates.  You can watch the debate here, my opening speech starts after 1min and 42sec.
  • On 9 December I had the honour and privilege of speaking during the tributes to Nelson Mandela in the House of Commons.  You can read my short contribution here.
Toby in the House of Commons

Toby in the House of Commons

And finally …

Christmas is coming so along with many people in Chesterfield I’ve been busy finalising my Christmas card list, which includes Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II.  To design my card I hosted a competition for local school children and the winner whose design I will be using is Rehman Abdul from Hady Primary School.  You can see the winning design and read more about the competition here.

Best wishes,

Toby Perkins MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Chesterfield – Shadow Minister for Small Business (BIS)
Westminster Tel: 020 7219 4702 – Constituency Tel: 01246 386 286

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Toby Perkins: British households are facing a cost-of-living crisis

Freeze that Bill!

Labour MP for Chesterfield Toby Perkins has welcomed Ed Miliband’s announcement that One Nation Labour is planning to freeze energy bills until the start of 2017.

Under the CONDEM government, gas and electricity bills have gone up £300 for the average household.

Labour's Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint is leading the charge on sky-rocketing bills

Labour’s Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint is leading the charge on sky-rocketing bills

Mr Perkins said: “Under David Cameron and Nick Clegg, Britain’s families are facing a cost of living crisis. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street and energy bills have gone up by almost £300. David Cameron’s failure to tackle rip-off bills has meant that many people are struggling to pay their bills.

“People in Chesterfield are struggling with the rising cost of living. Many of my constituents have written to me worried about their energy bills, and having to make a choice between heating their homes or buying food.

“When the price of energy increases energy companies pass this on but when it drops consumers don’t see their bills fall. 

“David Cameron and Nick Clegg can’t deal with the cost of living crisis because they stand up for a privileged few, not for the hardworking majority; they’ve cut tax for people on over £150,000 a year while raising it for everyone else.

Toby Perkins: British households are facing a cost-of-living crisis

Toby Perkins: British households are facing a cost-of-living crisis

“Ed Miliband says Labour will freeze energy prices until the start of 2017 if Labour wins the next election. And he says we will break up the big energy companies so that we can all get a fair deal.

“This will save a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.“But people round here need help now. So I’m calling on David Cameron and his Lib Dem backers to freeze our bills now. And I’m asking local people to sign my petition today so that the voices of Chesterfield are heard loud and clear in Downing Street.”

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Toby Perkins MP outside raided shop Bzee's

Fighting for those who play by the rules

Toby Perkins MP writes for the Derbyshire Times…

 

People who flout the law should never expect to be able to hide in our communities or take advantage of our citizens – not here, not anywhere.

Toby Perkins MP outside raided shop Bzee's

Toby Perkins MP outside raided shop Bzee’s

And it’s with that in mind that I’ve been both dismayed and delighted in recent weeks.

Dismayed because I learnt that illegal cigarette importers had set up a shop, Bzee’s on Cavendish Street, where dangerous counterfeit cigarettes were being sold – even to children.

Even more appallingly, those arrested in two raids on this store had been naive placemen who protected the criminals running these shady operations. Worse still, Bzee’s was operated by people given refuge in our country who knew that, even if they were arrested, they were immune from deportation due to the dangerous political situation in their original homes.

My sense of anger hardly abated after hosting a meeting attended by legitimate tobacconists and other retailers fuming about the activities of the store, and Police officers who were equally appalled that – despite two successful raids and seizures of stock – the shop continued to trade with impunity, flouting the law to the detriment of legally-compliant competitors and wider community safety.

In this case, by having a private meeting with Police, the responsible landlord and Trading Standards to express the frustration that everyone was feeling, we managed to get quick and decisive action to get the store closed.

So a positive result in this case, but there’s still more to do in the fight to clear up our streets. Derbyshire Trading Standards estimate there are around 14 similar retailers in our county engaged in the illicit tobacco trade; that’s why I’ll be pushing in Parliament for greater Home Office support for the authorities dealing with these rogue traders. But there’s also a real responsibility on commercial landlords to make sure that they’re expecting more of their tenants than simply paying the rent. We all need to work together to ensure the ringleaders of this criminal activity are removed from our streets and face the full force of the law.

Whilst the counterfeit cigarette trade may involve illegal immigrant communities, it played no part in another Chesterfield store that has mocked the law for several years, selling drug-related paraphernalia and ‘legal highs’ marketed as herbal mixes and incense, but used for less altruistic purposes.

The shop in question has been in the spotlight recently following a catastrophic reaction which ensued when one of their lethal legal high products fell into the unsuspecting hands of a Chesterfield schoolboy.

I recently met with the boy’s father, David Hilton-Turner, who saw his 14-year-old son on the edge of death after dabbling with the ‘elixir’ Clockwork Orange. It was tough to tell him that these stores are legitimate when they have seen the catastrophic consequences of legal highs.

I’ve contacted the landlords of this store to see how they reconcile its use with their responsibility as a commercial landlord.

The expectation that those who play by the rules get a fair deal is a precious one, and one I will fight to maintain in our Town.

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Toby Perkins MP: "the unfair relationship between PubCos and their tenants needs to be tackled"

Labour forces U-turn on PubCos

Toby Perkins MP writes for www.PoliticsHome.com

Toby Perkins MP: "the unfair relationship between PubCos and their tenants needs to be tackled"

Toby Perkins MP: "the unfair relationship between PubCos and their tenants needs to be tackled"

Whilst any politician would obviously prefer to be making decisions in government, an effective opposition can still achieve change in important areas. A perfect example came this week on the issue of pub companies.

Our pubs are amongst our most iconic national treasures. But whilst the Rovers Return and the Queen Vic might remain hubs of their fictional communities, too many local pubs across the country are closing and too many pub landlords are facing bankruptcy. Each of the eighteen pubs that close every week costs their community ten jobs and sees a loss of around £100,000 to the Treasury in tax revenues.

Pubs are struggling in these tough times. While factors such as cheaper supermarket offers to cash strapped punters saving their pennies have played a part in this trend, crucially the unfair relationship between pub companies (known as ‘PubCos’ – the large pub companies who own thousands of pubs and dominate the industry) and their tenants has gone on too long and needs to be tackled.

The cross-party Business Select Committee has produced four reports in recent years all of which called for a stronger statutory code to regulate the relationship between PubCos and licencees. 

Exactly one year ago the House of Commons voted unanimously for just such a code to be introduced and this move is supported by a broad coalition including CAMRA, the GMB and Unite trade unions, the Forum of Private Business and Federation of Small Business, as well as the All Party Save the Pub Group and the Independent Pub Confederation.

Despite all this the Tory-led government’s attitude has been, until Labour called an opposition day debate on the issue, to turn a blind eye to the problem. 

In answer to Parliamentary Question I tabled in February last year the then BIS Minister responsible, Norman Lamb, confirmed he would be taking no action.  In October, his successor and the minister now responsible for pubs, Jo Swinson, refused a meeting request from the Publican’s Morning Advertiser on the grounds that all the government’s commitments in its response to the BIS Select Committee had “now been achieved”.

So as recently as three months ago the government did not believe there was a problem or that any changes needed to be made.

Yet at BIS oral questions in November, when four Labour MPs pressed her on this issue Swinson announced that the government would look at how the self-regulatory framework was working – admitting for the first time that there were problems to be addressed.

Labour has been determined to continue to push the government on this and we called our first Opposition Day Debate of this year to discuss this important issue.

If I was a conspiracy theorist I might see a link in the government’s decision to announce a u-turn and introduce statutory regulation the day before this debate as more than coincidence, but in any case I am delighted that they have finally recognised that a voluntary code will not work.

However, whilst they seem to agree that there is a problem they have still not gone far enough to offer the solution that the broad coalition in the pub industry is calling for.

It is still unclear whether the government’s reforms will offer struggling landlords a free of tie option so they can buy their beer on the open market. A non-tied option for publicans was one of the key changes which the BIS Select Committee called for but the original BIS press release this week announcing Cable’s plans specifically noted that the new code “will not mandate, as some campaigners have suggested, a ‘free of tie option’ with open market rent review”.  A couple of hours later this sentence had been removed from the press release on the Department’s website, leaving campaigners scratching their heads as to where they stand.

The government is also refusing to consider a guest beer provision which would allow tied pubs to at least serve one guest beer at the bar. Again this was something heavily pressed for by campaign groups in the pub sector.

Finally, the government has not made clear how local pubs will be protected ahead of a new statutory code being prepared. Large pub companies could potentially see a window of opportunity to cash in on their assets whilst the new code waits to become law.

We have made it clear that if the government take the necessary steps to redress these concerns we will work with them to get it on to the statute book as quickly as possible. I will be using today’s debate to make just this case on behalf of Britain’s local pubs.

 

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Toby Perkins MP addressing the Labour Friends of Pakistan: "Britain mustn't be allowed to miss the global oportunities of tomorrow"

Too little, too late

Toby Perkins MP writes for the Derbyshire Times…

Attention in Westminster last week turned to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – George Osborne’s ‘half-term’ report on the nation’s finances.

The news on Britain’s economic performance was unremittingly grim. For the fourth time, Mr Osborne was forced to tell a hard-pressed nation that his original forecasts were optimistic, that Britain’s deficit (the difference between what Britain brings in and what it spends) and its debt would continue to grow – more in the five years of this government than it had in the entire 13 years of a Labour government – and that we will all have to pay more for longer.

He also engaged in some trickery that would have made even a Starbuck’s accountants blush by factoring in revenue generated by the sale of the 4G spectrum – which hasn’t even happened yet!

Britain’s growth figures also made for grim reading. Growth under this government was 0.6% – way lower than Germany, the USA and our key foreign competitors.

Toby Perkins MP addressing the Labour Friends of Pakistan: "Britain mustn't be allowed to miss the global oportunities of tomorrow"

Toby Perkins MP addressing the Labour Friends of Pakistan: "Britain mustn't be allowed to miss the global oportunities of tomorrow"

 The government are fond of likening the nation’s debt to a family credit card, which, whilst an alluring image, is economically illiterate. Britain’s finances must balance over the long term, but in the short term the capacity to borrow and pay off enables us to balance out the peaks and troughs of economic turbulence.

No-one should be in any doubt: Britain must reduce its deficit. The big political debate is how. There are two ways of achieving this; a) raise more revenue, or b) spend less. Most expenditure cuts lead to a reduction in revenue, and whilst there is a place for this (public spending constraint would have happened to a degree under any government) it is a limited strategy.

With fast growing economies in India, China, Brazil and Russia and huge increasing demand in Asia, a shrinkage strategy not only misses out on the global opportunities of tomorrow but it costs us jobs and revenue growth today. That’s why we’re falling behind our major competitors in the G8.

A case in point can be seen in capital allowances for businesses. When Labour lost power, businesses were able to claim a tax allowance for up to £100,000 of capital spending, encouraging firms to invest in equipment and machinery, and providing a boost for our manufacturing sector.

At the first budget Mr Osborne cut the allowance to £25,000, leading to a reduction in corporate spending. At this budget, to great fanfare, he put it up again- the right policy but after two wasted years of slow growth.

Whilst the original cuts were too far and too fast, choking off growth, the investment appears to be too little, too late.

Independent figures suggest we’re still years away from a balanced budget. People struggling with rising prices and frozen wages will fear that their personal finances can ill afford further economic failure, so I hope that the pressure to go for growth and follow One Nation enlightened governments like Germany and the US will become so unanswerable that even our Chancellor will bow. Future generations deserve nothing less.

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Toby Perkins MP: "a constructive relationship with Europe shouldn't be based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash"

Cameron’s discomfort offers chance for European restraint

Toby Perkins MP writes for the Derbyshire Times…

Last week saw the CONDEM Government defeated as they attempted to argue against a cut to the EU budget with Labour MPs, who believe that Europe must demonstrate fiscal restraint, voting alongside Europhobic Tories who don’t really believe in Europe at all.

Toby Perkins MP: "a constructive relationship with Europe shouldn't be based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash"

Toby Perkins MP: "a constructive relationship with Europe shouldn't be based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash"

Whilst these unusual bedfellows may have had different motivations, it now provides an opportunity for the Prime Minister to show that Britain believes in a constructive relationship with Europe that isn’t simply based on member states coughing up ever larger wodges of cash.

The PM certainly suffered an embarrassing defeat for insisting on an increase to the EU budget after the huge cuts he has presided over to our schools, transport and Police.

Yet saying that Europe must live within its means is not the same as decrying the value we get from our position as a central force in the world’s largest trading block.  As a Shadow Business Minister I meet exporting and manufacturing businesses every week who stress the value and business that Britain gets from the single market and their unease that the hostile rhetoric from our politicians and the press could lead to us severing those links with catastrophic consequences for UK plc. They also bemoan the negative impact this approach has on their ability to attract custom from overseas.

So I see nothing contradictory in saying that it should be our role as critical friends of Europe to insist that European institutions demonstrate that they can live within more straightened times as those in our public services, private businesses and indeed most households are having to.

Recent figures suggest that the Olympics contributed to growth in the last quarter, but the underlying prospects still show that we are growing more slowly than almost any of our competitors and that the recovery from this recession is the slowest on record.

Cuts to Housing Benefit, which will particularly target those working on low incomes and the young, will have a negative impact on consumer spending and the government’s strategy of making it easier for firms to fire people is hardly likely to boost consumer confidence. That’s why a one nation Labour Party’s alternative strategy calls for a reduction in VAT and an NI holiday for small firms to put more money into the real economy and ease the burden on hard- pressed households.

Even the government, who told us that austerity was the only way forward, now seem to be accepting that without growth we will not reduce the deficit. Indeed the deficit has grown this year, and government borrowing continues to soar as tax revenues fall and the number of long term unemployed rises.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has explained that a One Nation Labour government will expect responsibility from those at the top and bottom of our society, but we can only expect responsibility from others if we are willing to demonstrate it ourselves, this week’s message to Europe is a small but important step along that road.

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Welcome

I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries in Chesterfield and Staveley so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Email: toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF

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I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email toby.perkins.mp@parliament.uk to make a booking.

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