I have been (rightly) told off for failing to boast on my blog about how delighted we are to get EU funding for the upgrade of the railway lines East West across the UK to allow freight to travel by rail not road. This is a project I have been working on for over a year, and since elected working very closely with my Conservative MEP colleagues Geoffrey van Orden and Robert Sturdy. The press release we put out last week is here. Its good news.
I’ve just had one of those luxury weeks when the parliament doesn’t meet and MEPs get a chance to catch up with their home issues. Yes it is a luxury to stay in one’s own bed for a week but it is not a week off!
In Essex I met up with Rebecca Harris who has appeared in recent newspapers for having an “unsexy interest in methane gas”. She is right. Rebecca is the Conservative Candidate for Castlepoint, a constituency that includes Canvey Island. The small Island has 45,000 residents, one exit route and a very large and now old gas storage plant. Many of the residents live within a mile of the plant. Post the disaster of the Buncefield fire residents are justified in asking questions about safety. Rebecca and I met local campaigners. They were very well informed. I have offered to raise the issues of safety as part of the debate that we will have on Gas Storage in the parliament this month. It is always good to be able to try to help a local issue.
In Cambridgeshire I visited yet another world leading organisation. The Welding Institute (TWI) was founded during WWII to investigate welding and joining material. I saw how they have been involved in everything from formula one cars, to heart by-passes, nuclear waste to gas rigs. It’s a superb institution at the forefront of real research – I hope that they are successful in their bid to expand.
I had a few days in London discussing finance – I am becoming concerned about the speed that some of the new legislation may rush through Brussels without real debate. In particular I have been looking at the plans for the new “European Banking Authority” – now I have no problems with sharing information between banking regulators and yes we do need a new system of regulation – but, digging into the detail, it appears to me that various national sovereign powers are being transferred over to Brussels and I am yet to be convinced that this is in the interest of taxpayers, savers or borrowers.
At the weekend I joined Conservatives from across all 58 Westminster constituencies of the East of England for a regional conference. The final session of the day was a talk from Joe Johnson, deputy editor of the FT. Inter alia, Joe pointed out that a 1% increase in the rate UK Gov pays on the National Debt costs £15 billion per year. That’s a hell of a lot of money. We need to get our debt burden down – not just because it is so high but because the ratings agencies are watching us and if we don’t investors will start demanding higher spreads. Food for thought as I sit on the Eurostar rushing back to Brussels – the spending capital of Europe.