Derbyshire Times Column

As published in the Derbyshire Times, 31st January 2013

The Government, in the form of my neighbouring MP Patrick McLoughlin, finally announced the route for the second phase of the new High Speed train network this week, and contrary to some rumours, the train is proposed to follow the M1 corridor and not the A38 one which would have passed through Amber Valley. While it will be 16 years before we can ride these trains, providing the East Midlands with a high speed link North and South should provide a real boost to our economy. We need to ensure that there are good links from our local stations into the HS2 hub just off M1 junction 25.

Last week’s economic news showed again how important infrastructure investment is – while the announcement of a small fall in economic output was disappointing, there was also some good news: we also saw the strongest annual increase in jobs for over twenty years. Since the Government took office in 2010, over one million private sector jobs have been created, and the deficit has fallen.

Earlier this month we saw Parliament pass the Welfare Uprating Bill, which will see many benefits rise by 1% per year for the next three years as opposed to in line with inflation, as has previously been the case. It’s important to point out here that Disability Living Allowance and Carers’ Allowance will not be affected by these changes – it’s vital that those who are unable to care for themselves, and those who care for others, continue to be supported by the nation. Similarly, it doesn’t affect the state pension – our triple-lock guarantee ensures that the elderly will continue to receive increases in the state pension of the higher of increases in earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

The welfare budget currently accounts for more than we spend on education, health and defence combined. That’s why it’s so important that our welfare system should encourage people to work. It would be grossly unfair of us to expect hard-working families who pay their taxes and whose standard of living is currently being squeezed, to continue to pay for people who can but don’t want to work. Benefits have gone up by around 20% over the last 5 years compared to about 12% for wages, which is not an effective way of making work pay. These necessary changes complement the Government’s wider welfare reform programme, and give us scope to cut back on the welfare budget at a time when, despite reducing the deficit by a quarter, we’re still borrowing around £120 billion this year.

Next Tuesday Parliament is expected to vote on the Government’s same-sex marriage proposals. The Government has made it very clear that no religious organisation or minister should be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Freedom of religion is already guaranteed under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Government’s response sets out a ‘quadruple lock’ of measures to put this position beyond doubt in our legislation.

Many constituents have been in touch with me with strong views both for and against the proposals, and I would be keen to hear from as many constituents as possible in the run up to the free vote. You may also vote in a poll on my web site at www.nigelmillsmp.com.