Down on the Farm

March 19, 2012

I went recently to meet local farmers and the NFU to hear about farming concerns and to see what I could do to help with these. We met at the home of Ben and Fiona Cannon at Hyde Hall Farm, Buckland and we were given a tour of the farm outbuildings and office space there. About 12 other local farmers and NFU officials came. The farm is an impressive example of the ways in which farmers can successfully diversify in this age in which the agricultural machine has long superseded manual labour but the need for farmers to generate an income is still as important. It is also a beautiful landscape and recent moves by farmers such as wider field margins are seeing improvements to flora and fauna.
Hyde Hall is the centre of a number of enterprises and we were shown several initiatives which have begun as a result of government business and environmental initiatives. These included a smart cow shed and a converted barn -now office space. The office space was a sympathetic conversion in keeping with the other surrounding barns and it is now home to a small local company. Together with this office space, the farm has other industrial units which are let out and collectively these must be an enormous boost to rural employment. I am very much in favour of such schemes.
When we came to discuss farming concerns, there was significant reference to the EU Common Agricultural Policy in particular and I appreciate that a “one-system –fits-all” approach is not always a viable approach for all farmers within the EU. I am keen we should ensure our farmers are fairly treated and have raised their concerns with Farming Minister Jim Paice MP. We also touched upon the Localism Bill and the way this will deal with new developments. The whole of the group present recognised the need for greater energy efficiencies and this is what the Government’s Green Deal is intended to address. I was very pleased to meet local farmers again and discuss matters they wished to touch upon and I know that they felt it was a productive meeting.

The Welfare Reform Act

March 2, 2012

The news this morning that the Welfare Reform Bill has now made it onto the statute books is extremely welcome. David Cameron is correct when he said that “today marks an historic step in the biggest welfare revolution in over 60 years.” By introducing and passing the Welfare Reform Bill, the Government has sought to ensure that lives will change for the better, giving people the help they need, while backing individual responsibility so that people can escape poverty, not be trapped in it. For too long the welfare system has hindered rather than promoted individual responsibility and the time has come at last after many years, when this will be reversed. The introduction of the “Benefits Cap” and “Universal Credit,” within the terms of the Act, actively encourages those with an option to do so, to go to work. Equally such measures will hopefully not only address the soaring benefit bill which the Coalition government inherited from the previous government but with any luck it will improve social well being too. Those who have long sought the sanctuary of the benefits system will be provided with an opportunity for self-betterment and a chance to improve their lives and I applaud the Government for taking this positive action.

Renewable Energy…

March 1, 2012

I am a long standing supporter of both energy efficiency and renewable energy -particularly solar energy. In his recent announcement on 9 February, Greg Barker the Minister pledged a target of three and a half times the amount of Solar PV by 2020 than the scheme originally planned [1] and I welcome these moves made by the government as well as their “Green Deal” policy on energy efficiency.

In a newly released briefing, Friends of the Earth highlight the importance of community and social housing energy tariffs too. As Friends of the Earth say “a community energy tariff is needed to give uplift to community energy schemes, including social housing” [2]. The Government are consulting on social housing schemes and whether a higher tariff might apply there. I would also like more thought given to community schemes more generally. The aim should be to empower individuals and communities to be energy efficient and to generate their own power. In this way we can give people the chance to make a difference themselves.

[2] Briefing for MPs -Feed-in Tariff Review Friends of the Earth (February 2012)