Five big issues which dominate our times

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
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Hayes in the House - written by John Hayes MP for South Holland and the Deepings

The week after Britain marked the 50th anniversary of the funeral of our nation’s great statesman, I am reminded of how Winston Churchill grasped the 
challenges of his times; warning of the rise of Nazi Germany, when many preferred to appease the growing fascist threat, and, later, alerting the world to the Soviet menace which – from behind an ‘iron curtain’ – would dominate world events for decades.

We now live in peace, thank goodness, but important challenges remain. In these pages, on January 27, Mr Derek Hammond of Spalding identified five big issues which dominate our times. So, I have decided to reply here to his perceptive letter – he and other readers deserve nothing less.

First, he asked about the NHS. My family and I use the same doctors and hospitals as the people I serve, indeed my sons are yellowbellies, being born at Pilgrim hospital, so I know our local health services well. Having relied on the NHS for the whole of my life I understand just how important it is that we continue to fund properly the services on which we all depend.

I’m proud that the NHS budget has gone up by £12.7 billion under this Government, with thousands more doctors and nurses hired, lower waiting times and more patients treated in cleaner hospitals than before. An extraordinary 850,000 more operations are taking place each year compared with 2010.

The long-term future of the NHS can be only be secured by a strong economy – the second issue Mr Hammond raised. Last year Britain saw the fastest growth of any major economy, and with low inflation, unemployment falling fast and record numbers of people in work we are spending less on benefits. And, because we are cutting the deficit and getting the public finances under control, Britain can continue to spend record amounts on health, schools and support for pensioners.

Mr Hammond rightly seeks reassurance that we are getting to grips with the broken banking system.

Revealed during the financial crisis of 2007/8 to be chaotic, unaccountable and consumed by greed, banks should have been regulated years ago. Now we’ve brought in a tax on banks which will raise around £2.5 billion every year, and introduced a criminal offence for reckless misconduct by senior bankers. And we’ve capped bonuses too – ensuring poor performance isn’t rewarded.

As for Europe, I share the view of the Prime Minister that it is up to the British people to decide whether or not we should remain in the European Union. Which is why under the Conservatives there will be a referendum in two years. David Cameron will renegotiate our place in the EU – the key priority being changes to free movement of people which will stem the tide of immigrants.

But the Prime Minister has been clear that “if we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out.”

I believe we can get a better deal from the EU, but leaving would be perfectly tolerable, certainly not something of which to be frightened. It would definitely be preferable to being absorbed in the future into a United States of Europe.

In spite of his efforts to foster post-War European co-operation, the modern bureaucratic and unaccountable EU is certainly not what Winston Churchill would have wanted nor tolerated for the nation he loved so dearly.