It’s been a busy two weeks in Parliament. The Commons sent a clear message to the government that we would like reductions in the EU budget. It would be quite wrong at a time when the government is talking about cuts at home to let the EU budget grow. Domestic spending contains many more important items than the EU budget does. We agree with Ministers that no real increase in the budget is acceptable. I was surprised Ministers did not accept the amendment to cut the EU budget moved by Mr Reckless, a Conservative MP, as they spoke about how much they agreed with its sentiments. The government is naturally apprehensive that it will be difficult to negotiate what we want, as many other EU members like a larger budget because they get more money out of it than they put it. Parliament thought it should make clear to our EU partners how this country feels about it, as we pay in a lot more than we take out.
I am pleased the government has adopted new words on its approach to the EU. Ministers have accepted the advice of those of us who have been saying for sometime that the UK needs a new relationship with the EU. The countries in the Euro want to press on to a full political, fiscal and monetary union which we cannot join and do not wish to join. As they do so we need a new relationship with them. We want to trade with them, be friends with them, have sensible arrangements over matters of common interest. The next few months will see more work by the government and more ideas floated by MPs on what this new relationship might look like and how we might negotiate it with the EU partners. I am trying to firm this up and help the government form its new policy.
At the same time the government needs to develop the work it is doing with business to improve trade and other links with the large emerging market economies of the world. Our future lies with more trade with India, China, Brazil and a host of other Asian, latin American and African countries. The stresses and strains created by the Euro are going to mean recession or slow growth for the foreseeable future on the continent, damaging our prospects if we rely on the EU rather than the rest of the world for our growth.
This week sees the important Police Commissioner elections. I know some of you are sceptical about these new posts and others feel poorly informed. The new Commissioner we elect on Thursday will have the power to set the budgets, establish the priorities for our local police service and handle complaints. It is a very important job. Now is your chance to express your views on what you think our police service should do and how it should spend the money. The Commissioner will not, of course, interfere in day to day policing and will not be intervening in individual cases. Our police service has to maintain fine traditions of independence and impartiality when it comes to enforcing the law Parliament has laid down. The Commissioner replaces the Police Committee of Councillors which currently does this job.
If you want more police on the beat, a faster response to crimes of violence and anti social behaviour, or other priorities as people often tell me, now is your chance. Your new Police Commissioner when elected will be able to do this for us. I think that means it is worth reading the leaflets and websites about the candidates and placing your vote in the box.