Back to London again today and the situation in the Middle East will dominate proceedings. The main debate today is a general debate on that part of the World. The debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee which I sit on. As always happens when there is the potential for military conflict, even if as in this case it is only the extension of an existing military conflict, I have had many emails from concerned constituents. I will be replying to them all in due course.
Yesterday, after attending the Advent Service at St. Anne’s, Tottington when the First candle on the advent wreath was lit I attended a funding raising lunch organised by the Bury North Conservatives Ladies Committee. It is a common misconception that the Conservative Party simply rely on handouts a from big business to keep us going. The reality in places like Bury and I know in most of the Country is that the volunteers have to organise a never ending programme of small fundraising events so we can pay our bills every month. It is a good thing and I never complain about attending. It certainly means I am kept in touch with what our members and often their friends and family are thinking about the issues of the day.
The Northern Powerhouse is the name given to the government’s plan to to increase the size of the economy across the North of England.
There are many aspects to it. To start with transport, in total the government will spend £13 billion on transport in the North over the course of this Parliament. A new body is being established called Transport for the North which will oversee the transport plans. £150 million will be provided to support the delivery of integrated ticketing across local transport and rail services across the North. Having good connections between our major cities in the North are a key requisite to improving the economy and Transport for the North is going to become a key player in delivering this.
Yesterday, I attended a Christmas Fair at Greenmount and another at Tottington. I don’t think either was actually called a Christmas Fair but it gives a good idea of what the events were. Lots of stalls selling Christmasy things and lots of refreshments. I enjoyed my pie and peas!
Good news on the sporting front (although not for The Shakers this week) Tyson Fury bringing the World Heavyweight Boxing titles back to Britain and the prospect of Britain’s tennis team winning the Davis Cup over in Belgium.
I received official confirmation yesterday that the Secretary of State has rejected the appeal against the refusal by Bury Council to allow the construction of an Anaerobic Digestion plant at Shuttleworth. Local residents have fought a long and hard campaign against the planning application and they will be delighted it has been turned down again.
I had a number of meetings yesterday to discuss constituency issues and surgery appointments. One of the meetings I had a was with representatives of BT on how they are progressing with the roll out of superfast broadband. Enormous progress has been made but because of the distance some properties are from the cabinet broadband speeds are still too low. Fortunately a combination of the Governments planned introduction of a Universal Service Obligation and advances in technology should help but I know it must be very frustrating for those who want better broadband but because of their location they have to wait.
For the second time in four days the Prime Minister came to the Commons yesterday to make a statement about the security of our Country. He believes that we should extend the action we are already taking against ISIL in Iraq into Syria. ISIL do not take any note of this border and our allies our already taking action against ISIL in Syria. I believe we should extend our action. It is not right to leave it up to our allies to take action alone in Syria. I am concerned that we do not extend our action beyond attacking ISIL and so I will wait to see the motion before coming to a final decision, but I am minded to vote in favour when we are asked to decide in a few days time.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer updated MP’s on the financial situation of the Country and set out his spending plans for the years ahead.
With so many areas protected from spending cuts it naturally means greater cuts for unprotected areas. However, thanks to lower interest rates and a better economic forecast from the independent Office of Budget responsibility the Chancellor was able to make some changes which I believe will be widely welcomed.
The headlines have been grabbed by the decision not to change the rules on tax credits. The Government will still be saving the planned £12 billion from welfare changes. In the longer term tax credits will eventually be phased out as more people move on to the much simpler Universal Credit.
Crucially, the plan put forward by the NHS for the next five years will be paid for in full and the first £6 billion next year. In addition to confirming the Government will continue to spend2% of our national income on defence the Chancellor announced there will be no cuts to the police budget with spending on the police protected in line with inflation.
Last night I spoke at an event in Westminster organised by Conservatives for Liberty on the continuing threat to individual freedoms.
Today is the day of one of the biggest set piece events in the Commons of the year. The Autumn Statement. everyone knows that the big picture is about how the Country moves to a position where it can start living within its means. we simply cannot go on spending more money than we get in. The last Labour Governed should never have allowed the national finances to get so far out of balance and as we are all finding it is very easy to spend more money. It is very difficult to save money. It is we will all know the detail before long it is not worth speculating on what might be announced. Instead here are some of the background statistics on the economy which provide the backdrop for the Autumn Statement.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.3% in the first quarter of 2015. In other words the economy is growing
Inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index was -0.1% in October 2015. This is the first time inflation has fallen on an annual basis for 2 months in a row since the index was created in 1997.
The employment rate in the period July to September 2015 was 73.7%. This is the highest rate since comparable records began in 1971.
[Source House of Commons Library briefing]
The Strategic Defence and Security Review published yesterday set out a detailed plan to strengthen our armed forces. Our national security depends on our economic security. It is only because the Government has taken and is continuing to take difficult decisions to improve the economy that the Country can afford to invest more in our national security.
The plan announced yesterday set out how £178 billion will be spent over the next ten decade. The plan includes:
- Creating two new strike brigades with forces of up to 5,000 personnel each who will be fully equipped to deploy rapidly and sustain themselves in the field.
- Increasing the size of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by a total of 700 personnel.
- Renewing the continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent – our ultimate insurance policy.
- Investing in nine maritime patrol aircraft to protect our nuclear deterrent, hunt down hostile submarines and enhance our maritime search and rescue.
- Extending the life of our multirole Typhoon aircraft for 10 extra years through to 2040, meaning we will be able to create two additional squadrons.
- Accelerating the F-35 programme, by buying 42 jets by 2023.
- Investing £1.9 billion over five years in our cyber security.
Today the House of Commons will be debating a motion tabled by the Scottish National Party which simply states : ‘That this House believes that Trident should not be renewed.’ It will be defeated.