Report from Chris Heaton Harris- January 205

 
 
 
 
 

TO BRUSSELS AGAIN!

 

I spent ten years as a Member of the European Parliament and personally I think that is probably more than any sane person should be forced to take of that place. My time there confirmed my basic core Eurosceptism.

 

You may recall I spent the majority of that time on the Budget and Budgetary Control Committees and some would say I made my name trying to make the European Commission sort out their accounts, allowing the European Court of Auditors to sign them off. I had limited success. Alas, this year is the 20th year running that those accounts have not been signed off.

 

Rightly, British MPs are concerned about this matter, as the EU Commission will spend about £9bn this year of our taxpayers’ money. For the record, I've always maintained we should do more to stop the Commission from spending our money in ways that are open to fraud and maladministration. Indeed, I believe we should withhold a chunk of our payments until we know our money is being spent properly.

 

The committee in the House of Commons that monitors value for money matters on your behalf is the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and I have sat on that for the past 5 years.

 

The PAC does not look at these EU budgetary matters often enough, as we have plenty of domestic issues on our agenda; however, I recently helped to persuade the Committee that we needed to have a new look at this matter, now that we have a new European Commission and Parliament in place.

 

Thus, I reluctantly returned to Brussels last week, alongside a number of other Committee members, for a two day trip. We had various meetings: with UKRep, the branch of our civil service which is permanently based in Brussels; with Labour and Conservative MEPs, members of the secretariat of the Budgetary Control Committee; our Ambassador; the European Anti-Fraud Office and Mrs Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner in charge of ‘Budgets and Human Resources’.

 

Some of the things we found were depressing – realistically, no one could see the time when the European Commission would be spending EU taxpayers’ money correctly enough for the Court of Auditors to sign off the accounts.

 

Some things were genuinely interesting - Mrs Georgieva is an impressive lady and I have no doubt that she was telling me the truth when she answered my questions about how she could change the culture of the Commission in budgetary matters. She completely understood how difficult this task was, but insisted that this was not going to stop her from trying.

 

Some things were promising - the European Court of Auditors and Mrs Georgieva were keen to start refocusing spending to ensure value for money. It has taken decades to get to this point and indeed was recommended by the Public Accounts Committee after its last visit to Brussels, albeit seven years ago.

 

I am sure that the Committee will report to the House in due course, but I have to say that, even though I really was not keen to return to Brussels, I was pleased I (and the Committee) did. I know from my years involved in elected politics - and alas this might be a lesson we are all about to watch Greece learn - that all foreign affairs are personal. If you don’t have a reasonable relationship with important players in matters that effect you and your country, then you simply won’t get anywhere.

 

Indeed, anyone with even a slight knowledge of how Europe works knows that, if you don’t turn up, it is simply believed that you aren’t that interested. It was obvious from our meetings that the European Commission once again completely understands how concerned UK taxpayers are about how monies are spent.

 

Members of the Public Accounts Committee have now reignited their friendships with, and knowledge of, people and institutions that spend billions of our taxpayers’ pounds. We learnt a lot on the trip and consistently pushed the point that we wanted, and expected, the Commission to spend this money better. Hopefully, we will be continuing our exchanges with Commissioner Georgieva, the European Court of Auditors and our MEPs in the future, to try and maintain the goodwill this trip has built so that we can get to the point where the Commission's accounts are signed off, once and for all.

 

 

LOCAL PLANNING - WEST HADDON

 
West Haddon residents are right to be angry about the Planning Inspectorate’s recent ruling to allow up to 100 homes to be built on land east of the village.

Like them, I am cross, as I thought the whole point of the Joint Core Strategy Local Plan (approved after years of work and public consultation just days before this appeal was allowed) was to show that Daventry District Council (alongside Northampton Borough and South Northants District) had a housing supply that was sustainable until 2029.

The Planning Inspector who allowed this appeal decided that this is not the case.

I think this fundamentally undermines ‘localism’ - a key government policy.  As such, I immediately wrote to the Planning Inspectorate and their reply can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/chhcalling/photos/pcb.409606299197905/409575555867646/?type=1&theater

To me, this reply raises more questions. For example, the Planning Inspectorate says that Daventry District only has a ‘land bank’ of 4.68 years. Table 4, in part 5 of the adopted Joint Core Strategy, shows that Daventry has plans for proposed housing delivery agreed until 2029.

I’m now going to take this to the Ministers in charge of this policy. Although they won’t be able to change this decision, I think they need to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate is not inadvertently undermining government policy in areas where a local plan has been approved.


 

 

LOBBY CAMPAIGNS

 

As your local MP, I receive a considerable number of standard ‘campaign’ emails each week.  As such, I have decided to slightly alter my policy, in order to make my thoughts on these issues available much more quickly.  So, I will not now respond to these round-robin emails directly, but you can find my responses to these campaigns at:
 

 
http://www.heatonharris.com/policy-campaign-letters

 

 

'ENGLISH VOTES FOR ENGLISH LAWS'
 
It's time to sort this matter out once and for all.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of his commitment to deliver ‘English votes for English laws’, I hope you might help me push for this to become a reality before the General Election.

Currently, we are in a situation where Scottish MPs can vote on matters concerning a whole host of matters, from education to health, knowing that their vote will have no effect on their own constituents.

There are so many things that are wrong with the current situation, it is difficult to pick an example of what is worse - perhaps the fact that English university aged students are discriminated against in Scotland sums it up. English students attending Scottish universities have to pay tuition fees, Scottish students do not.

The money that allows Scotland to give its students such preferential treatment comes from (in large part) England. This cannot be right.

Hence there is a large national campaign that I am heading up in my constituency to push for, at the very least, a change that would mean only Members of Parliament from English constituencies vote on matters that only effect English constituencies.

One feature of the campaign is the collection and coordinated presentation to Parliament of petitions expressing popular support for this proposal from constituencies across England.
If you are a resident in my constituency, I would appreciate it if you would consider adding your name to the petition:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/english-votes-for-english-laws-daventry-constituency-petition.html




 

 

HOW TO CONTACT ME:
 
House of Commons
LONDON, SW1A 0AA
 
E: chris.heatonharris.mp@parliament.uk
T: 020 7219 7048
W: www.heatonharris.com
 
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@CHHCALLING

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CHRIS' JOKE OF THE MONTH!


Just received manifesto demands from the Association of Liquorice Thieves.  Takes all sorts I suppose.’