It’s good news that the economy is growing again at a decent pace. Many businesses report better conditions. Unemployment in Wokingham is mercifully low. There is a quickening of the pace for lots of industries.
The not so good news is the continuing squeeze on living standards. Living standards crashed in 2008-9 during the Great recession, and have not picked up since. I have been urging the government to do more to tackle high and rising fuel prices. The latest large increases have produced a response. The Chancellor is likely to announce something to cut the green taxes and levies on our fuel bills come the Autumn Statement early in December. I have held meetings with him and with the Energy Minister, Mr Fallon, to suggest ways that government itself could make a contribution to getting the bills under better control.
The problem, unfortunately, goes wider than just a few green levies boosting the bills. Over the last decade the then government signed up with EU partners to measures which mean closing a lot of our older but cheaper power generating stations that burn coal and oil. They watched as our nuclear stations approached their end of life, without putting in place any new building to replace them. They signed up to an EU requirement that we rely much more on windmills for our future energy needs, an extremely expensive way of producing power. It is going to take time to put in place the new power stations we need to keep the lights on. It will not be possible to stop all the price rises now built into the system, as the UK will for the next few years have to depend on dearer sources of power than we have been used to. If we stay in the EU on current membership terms we will be locked into dearer energy for years to come.
Our lack of flexibility over our future energy policy is just one more example of how difficult it is for Westminster and Whitehall to run the country in the interests of electors. Like the EU involvement in our borders, in our criminal justice policy and in regulating all our businesses, it comes with a high price attached and often means we cannot do as we wish. Many of you tell me you want to be carry on trading with the rest of the EU, want to be able to visit and exchange with friendly continental neighbours, and are prepared to see sensible political co-operation. Many of you do not want Brussels dictating to us on so many crucial areas of our lives. That is why I support the policy of seeing whether we can negotiate a relationship with the EU that makes more sense for us and leaves us freer to run our own affairs. This should then be put to the British people in a referendum, so we can all decide whether it makes sense or whether we would be better off out altogether, with the rest of the world that does not belong to the EU. They seem to find ways of trading and getting on with our European partners without being under the Treaties, so there is life outside the EU.