Letter – We must provide proper facilities for our school children

Dear Editor,

I’d like to praise Central First School in Ashington, Northumberland, following their transformation of a double-decker bus into a classroom, as a cost-effective solution to their chronic lack of space.

However, does this not illustrate the sad state of affairs in our education system today?

The Labour Party failed miserably during their time in government trying to gain value for money for taxpayers on new school builds. This has ultimately left us with overcrowded classrooms and underperforming schools.

Only last year we heard how our government poured £388 million into the ‘Education for All’ programme in India – a report released by the Indian government highlighted how no less than £70 million for the programme had either been stolen or lost.

How can it possibly be right that our London-based political elite lavish millions into other countries’ education systems, when our own kids here in the North East are forced to learn in buses due to the lack of classroom space?

It’s high time we ensured that our children receive the best possible start in life.

 

Jonathan Arnott MEP, UKIP

North East Region.

SCRAP THE BEDROOM TAX TO REDUCE YOUTH HOMELESSNESS

10689696_1538640046349747_3135781643723943164_nThe bedroom tax should be scrapped immediately in an attempt to alleviate the rise in youth homelessness across the region, according to UKIP’s North East Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott.

The call comes following the publication of the most recent Youth Homelessness North East (YHNE) report, showing that youth homelessness is continuing to rise across the region.

In February 2014, between 246 and 275 young people presented as homeless to local authorities. This equates to an average of between 31 and 34 presentations per local authority and is an increase on the previous year’s average of between 18 and 23 presentations

Arnott said “There simply isn’t enough one bedroom accommodation available throughout the North East for those who wish to secure their first property. It is incredibly unfair that those who do manage to get their first place, are taxed on any extra rooms that they may hold”.

The survey showed that the introduction of the bedroom tax had affected 72% of the respondents either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a bit’ in young people’s ability to access secure accommodation.

Six housing associations and two homelessness agencies in the survey also suggested that young people’s understanding of welfare reform was poor, with one homelessness agency also suggesting understanding was ‘very poor’.

“Our benefits system needs to be accessible and flexible. The whole system is completely mind-boggling. People should at least be able to have some sort of understanding of the system so they can clearly see just what they are or aren’t entitled to.” Mr Arnott added.

Time for a sensible discussion on e-cigarettes

Hundreds of thousands of people have managed to quit smoking cigarettes and moved on to e-cigarettes instead.  It’s pretty obvious that, although e-cigarettes aren’t exactly as healthy as quitting smoking altogether, in comparison they will drastically reduce the risk of the various health issues associated with smoking.

I wouldn’t object to a certain regulation of the e-cigarette industry; in much the same way as food and drink are regulated it’s important that consumers know what is in them and in what quantities so that they are able to make an informed choice.  It’s also a good idea to ensure that whilst they exist, they’re produced in such a way as to minimise any health risks.  On the other hand, the European Union Directives expect e-cigarettes to be classified as medicines and over-regulated accordingly, putting a lot of smaller firms out of business.  Phrases about sledgehammers and nuts spring to mind.

Research published in the Addiction journal shows that “people attempting to quit smoking without professional help are approximately 60% more likely to report succeeding if they use e-cigarettes than if they use willpower alone or over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies such as patches or gum”.  We should be supportive of the e-cigarette industry not opposed to it.

In the Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee there was a fascinating discussion about counterfeit cigarettes and smuggling.  There’s a huge problem with counterfeit cigarettes being smuggled into the UK and elsewhere; the EU’s proposed plain packaging would be a counterfeiter’s dream.  I’d never realised before that Committee that there’s also an issue with so-called ‘ant smuggling’, where people cross land borders into Europe a number of times a day bringing a relatively small (say, a thousand cigarettes at a time) number of cigarettes across.  It’s not an issue for the UK, but it is for much of the rest of Europe – another example of why a one-size-fits all approach doesn’t always work.

I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life.  I think I’d probably find I enjoy it, and I certainly don’t want to get addicted to cigarettes.  So I’ve done the responsible thing and never smoked.  Neither have I ever smoked an e-cigarette, so I have no axe to grind here.

I grew up in smoke-filled rooms (not the kind in which political parties made deals – I played chess to a decent standard, making the England Under-21 squad, and was regularly competing against adults in club matches from about the age of 7).  It was the League which acted first, long before the law, to ban smoking during matches.

The difference between then and now could hardly be starker.  No-one should be suggesting that we should go back to how things were in the 1980s and 1990s; for those who were in that environment on a daily basis I would find it difficult to believe that there wasn’t a serious danger attached to passive smoking.

Now, of course, Boris Johnson wants smoking banned in Hyde Park.  In such an open-air environment, where is the health risk to anyone other than the smoker?  And surely, if we drive those people to smoke indoors with poor ventilation, there will be a greater risk to their own health and that of their families.

 

Letter – Announcing my support for the Right Lines campaign

Dear Editor,

 

I would like to publicly pledge my support to the Echo’s Right Lines campaign.

Modernising and improving the North East’s railways is absolutely vital to improving the region’s future prosperity.  In recent weeks I have spoken about this issue multiple times and I am delighted to throw my full support behind your paper’s campaign.

Not only are our lines and stations in need of improvements but many of the local trains are both outdated and outrageously overcrowded.  We need to be able to provide faster, more reliable and more comfortable public transport for the people of the North East.

London spends 24 times as much per person on transport infrastructure as we do here in the North East.  Recent investment from Grand Central is welcome, but if we are going to fix this long-running issue then we need further investment both from the private and public sectors. I hope that your campaign brings us closer to the day when our local infrastructure is on a par with the rest of the country.

 

Jonathan Arnott MEP

UKIP, North East region

A Wind of Hope Coming From Clacton

If there is a hope, then perhaps it lies in a gentle sea breeze blowing westward from Clacton.

A remarkable coincidence occurred last week on the train on the way back up to my constituency, sitting next to a colleague for whom I have enormous respect and discussing UKIP’s potential amongst the working class forgotten by our political elite.

He quoted a sentence from George Orwell’s 1984, which I’ve had on my mind for some time: “if there is a hope, it lies in the proles”. Neither of us would use the word ‘prole’ ourselves (although Matthew Parris might) to refer to the working classes because it has developed derogatory connotations since Orwell penned his ominous work in the 1940s. Orwell’s contention that hope against the Big Brother State lay with the working classes was explained “because only there, in those swarming disregarded masses, eighty-five percent of the population of Oceania, could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated.” There’s a certain parallel with today’s political structure. It’s not in the trendy wine bars of Islington, or the seats packed with middle-class public sector workers, that anti-establishment feeling is likely to arise. Opposition to political correctness is unlikely to come from those who propagate it, and opposition to EU Directives is likely to come from those whose jobs are jeopardised by them.

The consequences of failing to comply with the politically correct establishment of today may be less horrifying than Room 101, but deviation from its path is enforced equally swiftly. Anything which strays from that message results in instant condemnation on Twitter and across the media. We’ve seen it in the last week. Nigel Farage comments that perhaps, in general, we should not allow those with serious life-threatening (and often communicable) diseases into the UK – at least not unless they can afford to pay for their own treatment – and witness the howls of outrage.

A University rugby team puts out a laddish, poor-taste, tongue-in-cheek leaflet. The appropriate reaction, to tell them to withdraw the leaflet and not to be so stupid in future, was missed. Instead, the club was suspended, it made the BBC news and students were ‘offered counselling’ in case they had been psychologically scarred from reading it. Anyone pointing out the overreaction, myself included, will no doubt be accused of ‘defending sexism’ or suchlike. No! I despise sexism, just as I despise racism, homophobia, and any other discrimination. I’m just saying that the offence taken should be proportional to the error, otherwise it cheapens the real ugliness of heartfelt racism like that I’ve seen for the first time in years in the European Parliament.

Political correctness is indeed hard to define, but you know it when you see it. But on the streets of the working-class constituencies which have the potential to be the future of UKIP, there is no such political correctness. The Conservatives are wrong to be so worried about UKIP ‘taking Conservative votes’, and Labour are wrong to be so complacent. Clacton contains Jaywick, the poorest Council ward in the country. UKIP did so well precisely because it was a working-class seat which has a huge disconnect with the Conservative Party. Thurrock and Boston & Skegness, both Conservative-held Labour targets which are likely to be snatched out of both of their hands by UKIP, may well be amongst the first to fall after Clacton.

But in the long-term, it is the Labour-held seats in working class areas which will be at risk in huge numbers. Clacton, Boston & Skegness and Thurrock fall into a very small category: strongly working-class seats with a Conservative MP. But in the longer term, there are far more such seats in Labour areas. In my own area alone (North East England) I might highlight Hartlepool, South Shields, Tynemouth, Blyth Valley, Wansbeck, Stockton South, Stockton North, Darlington and Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland amongst others as having potential for returning UKIP MPs in the longer term. Perhaps we won’t take many of those seats in 2015, but imagine how UKIP would do under an unpopular Labour government with Miliband as Prime Minister.

Labour can’t represent those voters because they don’t understand them. Up until now, they have relied on loyalty and Labour’s past reputation. Labour voters in those seats rarely provide a positive reason for voting Labour; rather, they explain that they have ‘always’ voted Labour – the Party which stood up for the working classes in the 50s and 60s. Once they finally get fed up with Labour, they will be just as loyal to UKIP as they were to Labour. In Sunday’s Survation poll which had UKIP on 25% of the vote, it’s noticeable that the Party was actually leading nationwide amongst the DE socio-economic groups.

Whilst Labour nationally seems complacent, local Labour constituency associations seem quicker to have spotted the UKIP threat. The challenge for UKIP here is merely to ensure that Labour’s lies go unchallenged. Where they claim that UKIP wish to privatise the NHS, we need to point out the lie – and go on to say that Labour are the Party of PFI. We need to point out that Labour peers Lord Winston and Lord Warner are the politicians who want to charge people to see their GP and pay for hospital visits.

Who said “A fully privatised NHS is the best option”? Actually, nobody said it. That’s just what Labour claimed on their leaflets in Heywood & Middleton that UKIP’s Deputy Leader said. He never did. He did once make a personal comment about procurement in the NHS, bemoaning the fact that we pay up to 30 times over the odds for some drugs. It wasn’t Party policy even so.

Likewise, some UKIP members are calling for the resignation of Labour’s Richard Howitt MEP after his sick tweet “UKIP says abort disabled children, put people w/learning diffs in camps & bans disabled candidates.” It’s about time that the Party started fighting back against such things. UKIP’s disabilities spokesperson Star Etheridge said “As a disabled person myself who encourages all other disabled people to enter politics, I find Mr Howitt’s repulsive comments deeply insulting and it is clear that he is not fit for office. He should hang his head in shame, issue an apology and stand down as an MEP. I am proud to be a UKIP councillor, I am proud to be UKIP’s Disabilities Spokesman. Mr Howitt’s comments are despicable.”

Strangely, nobody is claiming that Labour plan to charge patients to see their GP. Perhaps UKIP should offer Labour a deal: if they stop telling lies about us, we’ll stop telling the truth about them.

Rejuvenate and sell empty homes in Durham to protect our green belt

Durham’s County Council should make much greater efforts to rejuvenate and sell empty properties rather than ‘carve up’ the city’s green belt, according to Durham’s UKIP Euro MP, Jonathan Arnott.

The County Durham Plan earmarks land for 5,200 new homes around Durham by 2030, including 4,000 on green belt land.

Durham County Council chiefs say protected countryside must make way for new homes and businesses to reverse the county’s long-standing economic decline.

Arnott said “It is disgraceful that Durham County Council seem quite content to carve up the City’s countryside in order to build new homes, whilst thousands of properties still remain empty.

“Durham is a beautiful city, and we would be far better utilising the land to promote tourism in the local area, rather than make it into yet another look-a-like city centre”.

According to the most recent figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government, Durham is the local authority with the third highest number of vacant dwellings in England.

Sue Childs, from the Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, told a public inquiry into the authority’s 15-year masterplan that the City of Durham could “be left with a cathedral and castle as a token heritage site, encircled by a large housing site”.

 

Council Question – Could the Council please clarify a matter which constituents have raised with me concerning the changes to qualified majority voting (QMV) in Council? Are there any competences which will transfer from unanimity to QMV in November 2014? If so, could the Council please list the relevant areas?

Question to the Council for written answer:

 

Could the Council please clarify a matter which constituents have raised with me concerning the changes to qualified majority voting (QMV) in Council? Are there any competences which will transfer from unanimity to QMV in November 2014? If so, could the Council please list the relevant areas?

 

Reply:

 

As from 1 November 2014, new rules will apply for the calculation of a qualified majority in the Council. These new rules establish a system of double majority, of members and of population, instead of the currently applicable system of weighted votes of the members of the Council

The rules are set out in Article 16(4) TEU, as well as in Article 238(2) TFEU and Article 3(2) of Protocol No 36 on transitional provisions. A special rule for cases where not all members of the Council participate in voting is set out in Article 238(3) TFEU and Article 3(4) of Protocol No 36.

This change only concerns the calculation of a qualified majority in the Council and not the subject matters which are subject to qualified majority voting in the Council.

Commission Question – It has been reported in the press that the Commission paid the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) the sum of EUR 6 100 987 (GBP 4 854 039), in addition to the total of EUR 24.4 million (GBP 19 million) paid by the EU in grants to the BBC between 2007 and 2012.1 Could the Commission clarify this claim, and provide details of the purpose for which these grants were made and the thematic programme heading they fell under?

Question to the Commission for written answer

It has been reported in the press that the Commission paid the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) the sum of EUR 6 100 987 (GBP 4 854 039), in addition to the total of EUR 24.4 million (GBP 19 million) paid by the EU in grants to the BBC between 2007 and 2012.1 Could the Commission clarify this claim, and provide details of the purpose for which these grants were made and the thematic programme heading they fell under?

 

1  See: ‘Revealed: EU Hands Out Multi-Millions to the BBC and Green Lobby’, www.breitbart.com, 8 July 2014.

 

 

 

Answer given by Mr Dominik on behalf of the Commission

 

 

 

In 2013 the BBC received three payments from European Union funding relating to supporting media freedom in countries outside the European Union.

 

– Under the the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument it was awarded a  service contract of EUR 4.975.000 to train journalists and support media independence and freedom of expression in the region. A grant to the amount of EUR 1,125,986.68 implementing the 2009 Iraq Capacity Building Programme aims at consolidating media freedoms in Iraq. Finally, alongside other recipients the BBC was granted EUR 643.164 from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights Country Based Support Schemes (CBSS) for Syria, the objective being to strengthen the professional capacity of Syrian journalists, particularly in the areas of media independence and online media.

 

In addition, also in 2013 the BBC received an amount of EUR 584.374 for its part in a research project improving video quality, and an amount of EUR 5.059 for miscellaneous services supplied in accordance with the Commission’s public procurement rules.

 

The Commission would like to remind the Honourable Member that, in line with the Financial Regulation1 and its Rules of Application2, the above information, including the purpose of the grant and the programme, is freely available on the Financial Transparency Website (FTS)3.

 

Similar information is available in FTS as from financial year 2007. Please note that the names recorded and published in FTS are those originating from official documents submitted by the recipient. This formal name may differ from the one known to the general public.

 

 

1  Article 35 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) No 966/2012 (OJ L 298, 26.10.2012.)

 

2  Article 21 of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 1268/2012 (OJ L 362, 31.12.2012.)

 

3  http://ec.europa.eu/budget/fts/index_en.htm