Adrian’s concerns about the Infrastructure Bill

Many constituents have contacted me about the Infrastructure Bill urging me to reject the parts relating to trespass that will reform the law and allow for the exploration and extraction of shale gas under people’s homes without first seeking their permission.

This all sounds deeply (no pun intended) disturbing but is actually a monumental red herring given the depth at which any work is ever likely to take place – well below the deepest London Underground tunnel. I am far more concerned about a more general aspect of the Bill.

Climate change is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous threat facing the world today. The evidence could hardly be any clearer – unless we curtail greenhouse gas emissions sharply, the results will be massively detrimental to us all and put the lives of future generations at enormous risk.

Some progress has been made in government. Investment in green energy has doubled since 2010, renewable energy sources now meet about a fifth of our electricity needs, and we are creating 200,000 new green jobs. That’s great – but nothing like everything that we need to do.

The Government is keen to push ahead with fracking because it’s seen as a wonderful route to cheap energy. I’m sceptical of that promise. But I’m especially alarmed that the chase for shale gas will jeopardise any chance we have of reducing our carbon emissions, and I’m not prepared to see fracking go ahead if it means we pump more carbon into the atmosphere. That just wouldn’t be acceptable.

The Government claims that fracking is a relatively clean form of energy. Whilst it’s better than coal, it’s far worse than renewables, which is where we need to be.

That’s why I’ve signed my Lib Dem colleague Julian Huppert’s amendment to the Infrastructure Bill. It says that fracking should not be allowed unless the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) – a group of experts most of us trust – have assessed that it will in fact lead to carbon reductions.

If the Government means what they say about reducing carbon emissions, they should support this amendment. If they really believe fracking is a low-carbon energy source, they shouldn’t be scared of letting the CCC make a fair and accurate assessment of it.

Meeting our climate targets needs to be at the forefront of our energy policy. This amendment sets out to do that, and that is why I believe so strongly it must be supported.

The Chilcot Report

Sorry to sound like Victor Meldrew but I just don’t believe it: the Chilcot Report won’t be released before the election!

That means key figures like Jack Straw, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair could be getting off lightly thanks to the publication’s delay. They need to be held to account: the victims and the public deserve answers.

Add your name to our campaign to demand that the report on the Iraq War is published before the General Election

http://change.libdems.org.uk/chilcot…

I was one of the minority of MPs who didn’t believe the so called ‘dodgy dossier’ and voted against the invasion of Iraq in the absence of a United Nation’s mandate.

Millions of people took to the streets in protest against the Labour government and its decision to invade Iraq. It was the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez with hundreds of thousands of civilians dying during the war.

The report was finished three years ago but time and time again it has been delayed. That’s not right. We still don’t know what decisions were made and who made them. We have waited far too long.

Publishing the Chilcot Report and finding out what happened is of the utmost importance:

Please add your name today demanding the release of the Chilcot Report

Herald Express Article January 15th 2015

I GAVE up on New Year Resolutions a long while ago when I realised my will-power and temptation were often unequal partners.

Nevertheless I do have resolve for the New Year and that is to continue concentrating on raising incomes locally by supporting education and the attainment of skills, improving our physical and digital connectivity, and campaigning for decent housing that local people can afford to buy or rent.

These are the answers to the issues people raise with me on the doorstep, in my advice surgeries or via post and email, so I will be:

  • Prioritising support for locally owned businesses that plough their profits back into the local economy
  • Supporting higher skilled year-round employment
  • Opposing the Conservative Party’s plans for regional pay

It would be great if we could all join forces to work towards a Living Wage, guaranteed above inflation pension rises, and housing developments that meet local needs, but this will require new policies nationally and locally.

There’s a great deal more I hope for and will work towards, but for the moment I’ll just settle for an end to world poverty, cruelty to animals and people, and the securing of world peace.

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SOME MORE good news following the Government’s decision to take away the ‘place of safety’ designation from police cells for young people detained under the Mental Health Care Act.

Having dealt with cases of youngsters being sent hundreds of miles away for appropriate treatment, or ending up on inappropriate adult mental health care wards, I was pleased to visit Watcombe Hall before Christmas which is being converted into a care and rehabilitation facility for children and adolescences with mental health issues.

To have such a service on our doorstep is an important step forward and brings new life to an historic building believed to have been built by Isambard Kingdon Brunel for one of his mistresses – there’s a tunnel thought to connect Watcombe Hall to the Manor House used by the allegedly adulterous engineer.

I hope 2015 will see the start of a new deal for people, adults and children, who need support with their mental health problems and that they will be treated as importantly and promptly as people presenting with other medical challenges.  The days when mental health needs could be hidden away in institutions or treated as a Cinderella part of our NHS are hopefully over.

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AS IF THERE aren’t enough and arguably more important issues and challenges facing the next Parliament to deal with, the repeal of the Hunting with Hounds Act is firmly on David Cameron’s agenda.

He has promised a ‘free’ vote on the issue and coming to his aid is an ‘army’ of hunt supporters under orders to ride into action in key marginal seats to unseat anti-hunting MPs and replace them with Conservatives – even if those Conservative candidates claim to be anti-hunting.

What the well-funded hunting campaign knows is that if the Tories win a majority of the seats at the next election – and they have never won a majority of the seats at Westminster unless they have won Torbay – there will be a vote to repeal the Hunting with Hounds Act.

The near two thousand constituents – the most by a large number to ever contact me on a single issue – urging me to support the Act that outlawed the cruelty of one species of animal being trained and ordered to tear another species of animal apart in the name of ‘sport’ probably hope, as I do, that the Act is the settled will of the nation. If the Act needs to be revisited at all it should be to strengthen it and bring in the banning of snares to our animal welfare legislation.

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Because we know the date of the next election we can expect any number of poster launches, key note speeches and policy announcements between now and May.

There’s a game I play with opposition slogans – and it can be played against my party too – where you look for the opposite words to those being used.

So when my Party uses the slogan ‘Stronger Economy, Fairer Society’ we are stating the obvious – no one wants a weaker economy and an unfair society, well I hope no one does.

The new Tory slogan ‘Let’s Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy’, would look daft if the word ‘Weaker’ replaced Stronger.

Labour’s ‘One Nation’ slogan seems to have been abandoned and I await with interest the new one, but would the alternative ‘No Nation’ or ‘Two Nations’ have been more accurate?

The prize for unoriginality goes to UKIP for using the old BNP slogan ‘Love Britain Vote UKIP’.  Britain today is a powerhouse of different cultures, faiths, ideas and creativity.  60 million people living and working in a modern tolerant multicultural successful group of nations and regions enhanced though membership of the EU.  Consequently ‘Hate Britain Vote UKIP’ would be no more informative.

You don’t need to be political to have a bit of fun over the next few months looking at the Party slogans in a different light.

 

 

Bay MP urges Torbay families to be ‘Share Aware’ online

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay, is lending his support to the NSPCC’s new ‘Share Aware’ campaign which aims to get families talking about socialising safely online.

The NSPCC has created a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children.

This comes after an NSPCC survey revealed that three quarters of parents surveyed found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia, Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.

An NSPCC panel of more than 500 parents from Mumsnet reviewed 48 social networking sites and said all those aimed at adults and teenagers were too easy for children under 13 to sign-up to. On more than 40 per cent of the sites, the panel struggled to locate privacy, reporting and safety information.

Those aimed at younger children, like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Popjam and Bearville, fared better and parents did not find any unsuitable content on them.

The NSPCC also asked just under 2,000 children and young people which social networking sites they used. Talking to strangers or sexual content were the main concerns mentioned by children. But they also thought the minimum age limit for signing up to many sites should be higher, despite saying they’d used the sites when they were underage.

Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC, said:

“Children are taught from an early age that it is good to share but doing so online can be very dangerous. We must all be Share Aware. This Christmas many children will have been given a smart phone, a tablet computer, or a games console. So it’s the perfect opportunity for parents to have that important conversation with their children about who they are talking to and what they share when they socialise online.”

Adrian Sanders MP said:

“I know that parents are increasingly concerned about their children’s safety online but they often don’t know where to start. This is why I’m supporting the NSPCC’s campaign and urging all families to talk about being ‘Share Aware’ on the internet. I hope parents will use the NSPCC’s no-nonsense guides to untangle the web, understand what their children may be doing online, and feel confident talking talking to them about how to stay safe.”

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign at www.nspcc.org.uk/shareaware and join the debate on social media by following #ShareAware.

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay Animal Welfare Update January 2015

Spotlight on the Hunting Act

Fox Huntin Article Screenshot

In the final days of 2014, spurred on by the traditional Boxing Day hunt, there was much media speculation suggesting that the Conservative Party are set to make a pledge in their election manifesto to allow a vote in Parliament on repealing the Hunting Act.

Given there are so many major challenges that will face the next Parliament it is difficult to understand why the repeal of the Hunting with Hounds Act is so firmly on David Cameron’s agenda.  The reason is more likely the funds and active support hunt supporters have promised the Conservative Party in the election campaign in exchange for a vote on the issue, rather than his personal support for the activity.

Hunt supporters are keen to target seats held by anti-hunting MPs such as myself even where Conservative Candidates claim to be anti-hunting themselves in order to form a majority Conservative Government and trigger a vote on the issue.  Without a majority there will be no vote to repeal the Act and it is interesting to note that the Conservatives have never formed a majority at Westminster without a Conservative MP returned in Torbay.

Farage and Fox Hunters

The Conservatives are not alone on this issue. Appearing at a Boxing Day hunt in 2013, UKIP leader Nigel Farage stated explicitly that he would support the repeal of the Act and allow one species of animal to be trained and ordered to tear another species of animal apart in the name of ‘sport’.

The near two thousand constituents – the most to ever contact me on a single issue – urging me to support the Bill to outlaw this cruelty probably hope, as I do, that the Act is the settled will of the nation. If the Act needs to be revisited at all it should be to strengthen it and bring in the banning of snares to our animal welfare legislation.

Reared for shooting: Game Bred for Sport

Every year, around 50 million birds are bred and reared for the single purpose of being shot out of the sky. Pheasants and partridges are kept in battery cages, hatcheries and pens so that they can be shot down in grouse shoots. This so called ‘sport’ is facilitated by intensive breeding of birds who are kept in crowded conditions, making them aggressive towards each other so that they are often fitted with cumbersome and painful masks to prevent pecking.

Released for the shooting season, the birds are vulnerable to starvation and disease as well as hobbyist shooters. This practice is not only cruel to game: every year, wild animals such as foxes, stoats, hedgehogs and even domestic pets are caught and killed in snares set to ‘protect’ the grouse from predators.

Like hunting with hounds, grouse shooting encourages animal cruelty in the name of sport. The first step towards ending this cruelty is to end the use of these confined cages in the shooting industry, which is why I have joined with other MPs in calling for the Government to introduce a ban on such enclosures.   I am also continuing to work with the League Against Cruel Sports on banning the use of snares.

The Puppy Smuggling Scandal

In November 2014, The Dogs Trust published a report on the illegal transportation of puppies into the UK. In 2012, changes in legislation made it easier to enter the UK with puppies under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). Commercial puppy dealers have been evading these controls to illegally import dogs into the UK from Hungary and Lithuania, with insufficient checks at UK border ports failing to identify and prevent the trade.

The purpose of the Pet Travel Scheme and the EU Pet Passport Scheme was to remove unnecessary barriers preventing pet owners from taking their pets abroad, but like most freedoms someone will always exploit them for unscrupulous purposes.

PETS and the EU pet passport scheme is vulnerable to abuse in this way, allowing puppies that are not fully vaccinated against diseases like rabies into the UK. The growth in the puppy smuggling trade has also led to an increase in puppy farms in Eastern Europe, where dogs are kept and transported in horrific conditions. Both these issues need to be addressed urgently.

I have already approached the Government to ask that they increase safeguards to prevent this mistreatment of puppies. In the response I received from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, I was told that changes to the pet passport scheme, introduced from 29th December 2014, would increase traceability of owners and reduce forgery.

However, I agree that we need to strengthen the controls that prevent puppy smuggling, and will continue to urge the Government to develop a comprehensive system of recording dogs at the point of entry into the UK. This is why I have signed a Parliamentary Motion that calls for these tighter controls.

Ending Animal Testing for Household Products

Animal TestingI welcomed the Government’s commitment to end the testing of household products on animals. This is an important step towards reducing the use of animals in all product testing and scientific research. Given scientific advances, we must take the opportunity to find alternatives to this cruel practice and end the suffering of animals. You can read the Coalition’s plan to reduce the use of animals in scientific research here.
However, the Home Office committed to ending animal testing for household products before the 2015 General Election. These changes have not yet taken effect, and so I, along with a number of MPs from across several parties, have sponsored a motion urging the Government to follow through on this pledge before the election in May.

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay Update

Dear all,

I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas and New Millie's Petition
Year. Now that 2015 has begun in earnest, many eyes in Westminster and across the country have, understandably, begun to look toward the General Election in May. But there are still three months left of this Parliament and it’s important to make the most of them.

Although the amount of legislation will slow down over the coming months, I’ll still be busy championing Torbay in Parliament and raising the issues that matter to constituents.

This week I had the chance to argue that Torbay was a great example of why the Government should be doing more to help coastal economies around the country (more on this below). I also joined with 12 year old Diabetes campaigner Millie Hainge at Number 10 to submit Millie’s Petition, part of the Count Me In campaign which is seeking greater investment for Type One diabetes research.

Hailing Torbay’s Economic Example

On Tuesday I took part in a debate in Parliament on the ways in which coastal economies such as Torbay’s have fared over recent years and why the great benefits that coastal communities can bring to the economy should be given greater encouragement by Government.

Coastal Towns SpeechThe debate (initiated by my colleague Lib Dem John Pugh), was attended by MPs from across the country representing coastal constituencies and I used the opportunity to speak about the many ways in which Torbay has successfully evolved over the years; moving towards a more diverse economy with leading edge hi-tech companies to the fore, which have brought with them higher wages and year-round employment.

Coastal communities like ours have weathered some substantial storms recently, both economic and real. Of course, towns on the coast have always faced difficulties due to their distance from the main centres of population and over reliance on seasonal employment.

But it is not all doom and gloom. There is a great future for our coastal communities. Most of them are in beautiful environments, and that can attract people to live and work there. They are areas that lend themselves to cultural activities and to creative and high-tech industries.

The future is to diversify away from an over-dependence on one industry and to have a number of different industries supplying jobs, including tourism—whether that is niche tourism or more upmarket tourism.

The best way to achieve this is to focus on those key issues that help coastal economies grow, such as skills, connectivity and affordable housing. Good skills to attract inward investors and to create jobs locally; better connectivity (such as the Bypass) to help existing businesses and encourage new ones to invest in the area and affordable housing so that more people are able to both work and live in the Bay.

You can read the whole debate and the Minister’s response here.

Good News On Our Doorstep

As I reported before the Christmas recess the government announced plans to end the use of police cells as a place of safety for children with mental health problems.Last year hundreds of under 18s who suffered a mental health crisis were held in police cells, including a case in Torquay which made the national news.

Having discussed the case with the Care Minister, Norman Lamb, and raised it on the floor of the House with the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, I was delighted to hear the government is going to act.I’ve also been in communication with local health care chiefs about the case and heard about some of the difficulties they and the police face when appropriate care settings aren’t immediately available.

Again I’m delighted to hear more places are now available in appropriate settings and more will become available later this new year including on our doorstep at Watcombe Hall.

I was pleased to visit Watcombe Hall recently whicWatcombe Hallh is being converted into a care and rehabilitation facility for children and adolescences with mental health issues. (Pictured with l-r: Paul Clarkson Nurse Team Leader, Rabin Ward Manager, Keith Allen, Maintenance Manager, Phillip Austin Educational Manager and Teacher and Lorraine Palmer Social Worker).

To have such a service on our doorstep is an important step forward and brings new life to an historic building believed to have been built by Isambard Kingdon Brunel for one of his mistresses – there’s a tunnel thought to connect Watcombe Hall to the Manor House used by the allegedly adulterous engineer.

I hope 2015 will see the start of a new deal for people, adults and children, who need support with their mental health problems and that they will be treated as importantly and promptly as people presenting with medical challenges. The days when mental health needs could be hidden away in institutions or treated as a Cinderella part of our NHS are hopefully over.

A New Name for Agatha Christie?

In December, VisitBritain announced their new campaign ‘Great Names for Great Britain’, aimed at encouraging more Chinese visits to the UK. However, 101 points of interests across the country don’t currently have a name in Mandarin and one of these is our own ‘Agatha Christie’s Riviera’.

To raise greater awareness of Agatha Christie’s history in the area VisitBritain are inviting Chinese travellers to propose an appropriate name for it.

The new Chinese name will be unveiled in spring this year. This is a particularly effective way of promoting Torbay and Britain as in China it is popular to give names to celebrities, places and foods that give a literal description of what Chinese people think about such things.

Tourism from China is already a valuable source of income in the UK. In 2013 there were 196,000 visits from China with £492 million being spent during their time in the UK. Classic British destinations such as Torquay are popular with those tourists who want to see the UK outside of London so the news that South Devon’s Agatha Christie heritage is being recognised globally is very welcome news!

Adrian Sanders MP calls on Torbay’s best small shops to enter national competition

Bay MP Adrian Sanders is calling for small shops in Torbay to enter the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Best Small Shops Competition.

Adrian said:

“This is a great opportunity for small shops in Torbay to get recognition for the brilliant work they do supporting the community and creating jobs all year round. I really hope that local businesses will get their applications and show the rest of the UK the best that the Bay has to offer!”

Small shops can submit their application to the competition via www.bestsmallshops.uk setting out in no more than 500 words why they are the best small shops including; innovation in your business, community engagement and entrepreneurial activity.

All shortlisted candidates will be invited to a Parliamentary Reception where the winner will be announced on the 25th February 2014.

Adrian Hails Torbay’s Success in Coastal Economies Debate

Coastal Economies Debate

On Tuesday (6th January) I took part in a debate in Parliament on the ways in which coastal economies such as Torbay’s have fared over recent years and why the great benefits that coastal communities can bring to the economy should be given greater encouragement by Government.

The debate (initiated by my colleague Lib Dem John Pugh), was attended by MPs from across the country representing coastal constituencies and I used the opportunity to speak about the many ways in which Torbay has successfully evolved over the years; moving towards a more diverse economy with leading edge hi-tech companies to the fore, which have brought with them higher wages and year-round employment.

Coastal communities like ours have weathered some substantial storms recently, both economic and real. Towns on the coast have always faced difficulties due to their distance from the main centres of population and over reliance on seasonal employment. Geography is of course partly to blame. They can be end-of-the-line towns that have to create something for people to want to visit them; otherwise people go elsewhere and coastal towns also tend to have a similar demography: an older population with high welfare dependency. As we hear all too often, the brightest and best tend to move way.

Historically, most of our coastal communities were based around fishing and a hinterland of agriculture. The railways came, and then came tourism. Social change came with the working man being given holidays. A number of our Victorian seaside resorts grew and grew. Then they became Meccas for retirement. After people had enjoyed a holiday in a coastal community, the idea of retiring to the seaside was attractive. Then came the invention of the jet engine and the package holiday, and that prime position for domestic primary holidays ended.

That has left our larger Victorian seaside resorts with a number of challenges. It is not a north-south divide; the divide is between some of the larger, old Victorian seaside resorts and the rest. Scarborough, Blackpool and Torbay have similar problems. There are towns on the south coast that tend to boom, but they are exceptions rather than the norm.

The challenges that face us are that primary holidays are now taken overseas. Brands and chains have largely overtaken the family-owned small businesses that used to plough their profit back into the area. The profit from tourism now largely leaves the area. There has been welfare migration, partly as a consequence of the older hotels and guest houses converting to houses in multiple occupation and being available to rent, which has led to insecure employment, low incomes and rising social costs, but it is not all doom and gloom. There is a great future for our coastal communities.

Most of them are in beautiful environments, and that can attract people to live and work there. They are areas that lend themselves to cultural activities and to creative and high-tech industries. They are entrepreneurial centres that often have a high percentage of small businesses. For example, 75% of all internet traffic in North America used to travel on equipment built in Paignton by Nortel Networks.

Unfortunately, the company went bust in 2001, but at its height in 2000, it employed more than 6,000 people. Wages lifted across the board, and tourism in the area increased because of the number of business people coming in. Out of its ashes, we now have a good embryonic high-tech sector that needs nurturing and support. That could lead to more sustainable full-time jobs.

The future is to diversify away from an over-dependence on one industry and to have a number of different industries supplying jobs, including tourism—whether that is niche tourism or more upmarket tourism—and that can only be helped by such things as a VAT reduction for the tourism industry.

The best way to achieve this is to focus on those key issues that help coastal economies grow, such as skills, connectivity and affordable housing. Good skills to attract inward investors and to create jobs locally; better connectivity (such as the Bypass) to help existing businesses and encourage new ones to invest in the area and affordable housing so that more people are able to both work and live in the Bay.

Adrian Sanders MP Hails Resilience and Growth In Torbay

Bay MP Adrian Sanders has today been debating in Parliament the ways in which coastal economies such as Torbay’s have fared over recent years and why the great benefits that coastal communities can bring to the economy should be given greater encouragement by Government.

Taking part in a debate on economic growth and coastal towns initiated by fellow Lib Dem John Pugh (Southport) and attended by MPs from across the country representing coastal constituencies, Adrian spoke about the many ways in which Torbay has successfully evolved over the years; moving towards a more diverse economy with leading edge hi-tech companies to the fore, bringing with them higher wages and year-round employment.

Afterwards, Adrian said:

“Coastal communities like Torbay have weathered some substantial storms recently, both economic and real. Towns on the coast have always faced difficulties due to their distance from the main centres of population and over reliance on seasonal employment.”

He ended by saying that Torbay needed to concentrate on the key issues that help coastal economies grow, such as skills, connectivity and affordable housing.

Herald Express Article 1st January 2015

Article for Thursday 1st January 2015 from Adrian Sanders MP

May I wish all readers a very happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2015.

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Just before the House rose for the Christmas recess the Government announced plans to end the use of police cells as a place of safety for children with mental health problems.

Last year hundreds of under 18swho suffered a mental health crisiswere held in police cells including a case in Torquay that made the national news.

Having discussed the case with the Care Minister Norman Lamb and raised it on the floor of the House with the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt I was delighted to hear the Government is going to act.

I’ve also been in communication with local health care chiefs about the case and heard about some of the difficulties they and the police face when appropriate care settings aren’t immediately available.  Again I’m delighted to hear that more places are now available in appropriate settings and more will become available later this new year.

I want to see some of the mechanisms that delay placements reformed and will press the Government further on this in the weeks to come.

However, the response so far is real progress and vitally important because effective support for young people experiencing mental health problems can have a transformative effect on the course of their entire lives.

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The year ended with a remarkable set of labour market figures showing UK unemployment has fallen 63,000 in the three months to October.

October is usually when the end of season increase in unemployment starts to show up in the local figures yet Torbay has seen an unprecedented fall in unemployment three October’s in a row.

Nationally the unemployment rate stands at six per cent – its lowest level in six years.  Employment has reached 30.8m with over 1.7m new jobs created since the Liberal Democrats entered Government and the majority of these new jobs are full, not part-time.

We now have an almost record share of the UK working age population being in work and vitally important we are now seeing rises in average pay growth above inflation, meaning annual real wage rises for many workers.

But much more remains to be done. Although youth unemployment has fallen in the past year, it remains too high.  Our apprenticeship programme is helping, including around 6,000 in Torbay, but we need to do more to encourage firms to invest in the UK and equip British workers with the skills they need to compete in the global jobs market.

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2015 will be a year of much debate over how we govern ourselves and where decisions should be taken.  It is a debate that has been a long-time coming but has been pushed to the top of the agenda by the Scottish devolution referendum and its aftermath.

A consultation process has begun and I would urge everyone to get involved whether it is strongly held views on who should collect the bins to which tier of government should set corporation taxes.

The Liberal Democrat contribution to the consultation sets out our proposals for answering the English (or West Lothian) Question that seeks an answer to the quandary that allows Scottish MPs to vote on matters that affect England and Wales but not Scotland.

We are clear that we need radical devolution inside England, a fair change to the Westminster legislative process to allow an English only stage for English only matters, and a constitutional convention to address the many live constitutional issues facing our country.

If a fairer voting system is good enough for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it should be good enough for England too, that is why our proposal reflects that.

There’s an old saying that decisions are made by those who turn up, and those who turn up to this debate will determine who governs where and by whom many of the decisions that affect our lives are taken.

Local Councils, such as Torbay, should be consulting residents to put together proposals which reflect the views of people.

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I read a very perceptive article recently in the national press by the respected Conservative columnist Tim Montgomerie.  He was basically saying don’t vote Conservative if you are voting for David Cameron because unless he wins the next election outright he will very quickly be replaced as leader of his Party.

Of course exactly the same reality faces the other Party leaders so the same advice ought to apply to anyone voting Labour or Liberal Democrat attracted by what Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg have to say.  What Tim reminded me of was the fact that Party leaders only appear on the ballot papers in the seats they are contesting.

People may approach voting believing they are helping to elect a Government but the fact remains they have just one vote that only elects a person to represent them and unless they live in Witney, Doncaster North or Sheffield Hallam none of the main party leaders will be on their ballot paper.