Article for Thursday 1st January 2015 from Adrian Sanders MP
May I wish all readers a very happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2015.
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.
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.
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.
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.