MP John Hayes responds to readers’ questions on the European Union, workers’ rights and the Ayscoughfee Hall gardens war memorial
Over the last few weeks we have been inviting you, through his regular column in the Lincolnshire Free Press, to send your questions to local MP John Hayes. Here he answers your queries.
1. From Caroline Thompson
Dear John Please would you send this letter on to David Cameron.
Dear David Cameron
One of your major election promises is to reform OUR GB rules in the EU, but the EU are adamant that they will not accept any changes for GB. So what is the answer to that?
There are so many EU rules that are really detrimental to us, and if there is no hope of changing anything, what can we do?
The Prime Minister is right to want to change our relationship with the EU. When David Cameron recently said that “Brussels has got too big, too bossy and too interfering,” he spoke for the vast majority of people in this country.
That’s why he has set out his position very clearly; if he is Prime Minister after the next election he will negotiate a fresh settlement with Europe –a fairer deal for the UK – and then ask the British people a simple question; do you wish to stay in the EU or leave?
This Prime Minister has already vetoed an EU treaty, cut the EU budget and got the UK out of EU bail-outs of the shaky economies of Southern Europe. The UK is far from alone in believing that change is needed; indeed the German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly made it clear that the EU must reform. And the Prime Minister led the opposition to Jean-Claude Juncker’s appointment as European Commission President; as a Eurocrat who has been at the heart of the project to increase the power of Brussels and reduce the role of nation states for years, he was not the right person for the job.
People rightly feel the EU is heading in a direction we never signed up to – that it’s costing British taxpayers too much and we have lost control of too many of our own affairs. The EU needs fundamental change, and under the Conservatives, Britain is leading the way in delivering that change. Only one of two people will be Prime Minister after the next general election; David Cameron or Labour’s Ed Miliband, and only one of them – David Cameron – will give the British people the chance to vote on whether we should stay in or leave the EU in a referendum.
2. From Mike Harrison:
As a member country of the EC we vote to elect Members of the European Parliament. In the East Midlands, we have been represented by, amongst others, Bill Newton-Dunn for some 35 years (until he was recently voted out).
I assumed that he was to represent the interests of the UK (East Midlands) as a priority. Before recently being elected off the EU I noted his question concerning vultures being affected by drugs used in cattle in Spain and Italy. But, what relevance to the UK does this have? In addition what is the purpose of the EC having delegations of up to 51 people for relations with India and south East Asia When the current prime minister visits these regions to establish trade links and other issues?
No doubt Bill is a confirmed supporter of the EU,as demonstrated by his last questions. He did make one extremely important statement. There is no simple means of giving the UK voters information on what our MEPs are doing or achieving. Therefore how can voters become informed ?
We were originally in the European Free trade Association (EFTA) enabling free trade with Europe, long before we joined the EU. This system was not cluttered up with politics and costs of full membership.
It still exists with Switzerland and Norway. Why not return to that? The Prime Minister keeps promising a referendum on EU membership. How is he going to explain the EU, so people in the UK can make an informed decision on membership? How many people really understand the EU and its function?
I can’t speak for Bill Newton Dunn, but MEPs are tasked with holding the (unelected) Brussels bureaucracy at the European Commission to account. I notice that Mr Newton Dunn has lost his seat recently (along with all but one of his Liberal friends), so I would suggest contacting your MEPs to ask them about their priorities as I really couldn’t answer on their behalf!
It is tempting to look at the EFTA and the EEA as models which Britain could aspire to if we left the EU, however it’s worth noting that Norway, as a member of the EEA, contributes more money per head of the population than Britain does in order to have access to the single market. In any case, both Norway and Switzerland are bound by 80-90 per cent of the EU’s rules without being a member or the chance to influence them in any way.
Europe needs to have less of an influence in our lives; British people don’t want to be governed by foreign bureaucrats no one elected and no one has heard of. That’s why the Prime Minister opposed Juncker’s appointment as President of the European Commission, and has made it clear that British concerns about Europe need to be addressed.
I strongly support this Government’s approach – renegotiate our relationship with Brussels so that it is fairer for the UK, and then hold a referendum so the British people can decide whether or not to remain part of Europe. In 2017 it will not be Parliament or Brussels that decides on Britain’s future in the European Union – it will be the British people.
3. From Rodney Sadd:
There are over one million workers now on zero hours contracts. These workers can be on call all day, but without any guarantee of work, which results in failure to qualify for a mortgage. It has been reported that scheduling of working hours in the homecare sector that allowed no time for travel between visits has led to staff working well beyond their paid hours in some cases. I think these workers deserve a fairer deal. What are your views on zero hours contracts ?
It is very important that workers are treated fairly and not exploited by unfair contracts. I think that firms have a very important obligation to treat their employees well, and, frankly, I don’t believe that responsible employers should be relying on zero-hours contracts. As you correctly point out they can create enormous uncertainty for workers.
Clearly some people like the flexibility involved in these type of contracts, and we shouldn’t wish to see them banned outright, but in my opinion there is no excuse for firms taking advantage of their employees by excessively using zero-hours contracts.
That’s why I was happy to see in the recent Queen’s Speech that the Government has introduced plans to tackle firms which abuse zero-hours contracts. The Government held a consultation on tackling abuses in the way these contracts are used; it ran for four months and received over 30,000 responses. It is due to be published soon, and I am happy to update you with the details when that happens.
I should point out, too, that the vast majority of the new jobs created in the private sector in recent years are full-time, permanent roles. However, as a member of a trade union myself I’ve always been very passionate about protecting workers from exploitative employers, so be in no doubt that I’m highly sympathetic to your argument.
I should add that, having known him for many years, I consider Rodney Sadd both a friend and a great campaigner for our local community; a man who shares my passion of standing up for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
4. From Jennifer Hemingway:
I read John Hayes column in the Free Press and could only agree with him regarding the fantastic memorial in Ayscoughfee Gardens. Spalding is fortunate indeed to have had a memorial designed by such a distinguished architect as Sir Edwin Lutyens. However, I do feel that it has taken second place to Springfields in recent years. I moved from Holbeach to Spalding and on November 11 at 11am, I went to the memorial to pay my respects. To my amazement I was told that the service of remembrance took place at Springfields, but a service would be held in Ayscoughfee Gardens on the following Sunday. All over the country people pay their respects at similar monuments on the day of remembrance so I feel that the people of Spalding are left out. Query: ‘Is Springfields actually in Spalding?’
My second question to John Hayes is: There is a shortage of housing in this country at the moment. Have the large number of immigrants that come and live here had an impact on this situation? I have visited new estates in Spalding, and found that a considerable number of the ‘affordable’ houses are lived in by at least one European family. Roads and avenues in older areas of Spalding are rarely all British, and elderly people feel isolated as there are no neighbourly communications.
Thank you for your kind words, I am very grateful for your support. Indeed, recently I was on the Royal British Legion stall in Spalding Market, collecting money for Armed Forces Day. I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the great work the Royal British Legion continues to do in providing help and support to those who serve our country, and those who have done so in the past.
I have attended the Remembrance Day Service at Ayscoughfee Gardens every year I have been the local MP and in that role I will never miss the centrepiece of commemorations on the nearest Sunday to November 11.
Housing supply is now at its highest since the end of the housing boom in 2008, with 334,000 new homes built over the last three years. In the same period over 150,000 affordable homes have been built in England, and I absolutely agree that we should seek to raise that number higher.
With figures out in June that show house building growing for a 16th straight month, we can be confident that we are on the right track. The excellent ‘Help to Buy’ scheme has helped over 35,000 people realise their dreams of home ownership, 86 per cent of whom are first time buyers, with 94 per cent of the sales outside of London.
There is no doubt that uncontrolled immigration – stemming from the Labour years when more than 2.2 million immigrants arrived on our shores – had a major impact on housing.
That’s why I’m pleased that this Government has cut net migration by a third, and has introduced new rules to ensure that local people are prioritised when allocating social housing. It is absolutely right that long established local residents get priority on council waiting lists.