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BILL WIGGIN MP

MP for North Herefordshire

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Bill outlines Brexit position

Brexit Deal

I write following the conclusion of the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the European Union. The Prime Minister has agreed the Withdrawal Agreement, and the associated Political Declaration with the European Union.

Firstly, I commend the Prime Minister’s determination, fortitude and persistence in her negotiations with the European Union, and in her repeated public statements and addresses to the House of Commons.

I, like many of my constituents, want to conclude arrangements with the EU as swiftly as possible, in order to carry out the result of the 2016 referendum. I very much wanted to be able to support the deal which the Prime Minister brought back from the EU.

I have studied the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, and there are some welcome aspects. The political declaration, which contains the details of our future relationship with the EU, is ambitious and wide-ranging.

Backstop

The Withdrawal Agreement, however, contains an enormous problem. The Northern Ireland Protocol, known as the backstop, contains provisions for an extension to the Customs Union which would keep the United Kingdom in the Customs Union and some aspects of the Single Market of the European Union.

The backstop has no unilateral exit mechanism, and so we cannot leave the Customs Union without the permission of the EU.

International treaties always contain a unilateral exit mechanism, so that one side can leave if the deal no longer works for them. In the case of the European Union Treaty, that mechanism was called Article 50, and we triggered it unilaterally in March 2017 to begin the process of leaving. The EU could not stop us from doing so.

Ironically, the lack of a unilateral exit mechanism means that leaving the backstop and the Customs Union could be more difficult than exiting the European Union.

This cannot be right and so I cannot support any deal which leaves the EU able to block our exit from the Customs Union, should that arrangement no longer work for us.

The problem with being stuck in the Customs Union and having to follow EU rules is that we will not be able to sign trade deals with other countries. We would face the choice of either not being able to trade with the rest of the world under the backstop, or accepting whatever trade deal the EU wishes to impose on us as the price for exiting the backstop.

The backstop is also a stumbling block that threatens the Union of the United Kingdom and threatens the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The people who voted for Brexit voted for independence, and the backstop prevents us from fully leaving the EU Customs Union. The current Withdrawal Agreement therefore does not respect the will of the people to leave the EU.

Brexit, for me, was about democracy and taking back control, and this arrangement actually leaves us less in control of our own customs arrangements than we were whilst a member of the EU.

What happens next?

The Prime Minister has said that without the backstop there is no deal, and that the EU will not change their position now. I hope she is wrong as if that is the case, I will find it extremely difficult to support the deal.

In this case, it is extremely unlikely that the Deal will gain the support of the House of Commons. The opposition parties have all committed to vote against it, and there are many Conservatives who have publicly said that they cannot vote for the deal with the backstop.

However, there are several other factors to take into account including the two weeks in which the Prime Minister may try to make changes to the Treaty which would enable me to support it.

An example of such a change would be the removal of the backstop arrangement, or the introduction of a unilateral mechanism to exit the backstop, or indeed the retention of our £39 billion ‘divorce bill’ until a future trade agreement has been signed.

If, however, the Prime Minister does not or cannot amend the Treaty, then I am sure the deal will be voted down in the Commons, and I am therefore concerned about what would happen next.

Under the EU Withdrawal Act 2017, the Prime Minister has a further 21 days to make a statement setting out how the Government intends to proceed in the negotiations.

This statement will then be voted on by the House of Commons, but the outcome would not be binding.

For example, the Government could make a statement suggesting that it wishes to make the House vote again on the proposed deal. Even if this motion is defeated, the Government is then able to continue with its preferred course of action, as the vote will not be binding.

Second Referendum

In this instance, the Government could very quickly lose the support of the House, and will want to put forward an option that can be supported by MPs.

If, after 21 days and the Government’s motion on how to proceed being defeated again, I fear that the Government will declare parliamentary deadlock, and begin the process of returning the question to the people, either through a second referendum or through a General Election.

If Parliament cannot decide between the Prime Minister’s Deal and No Deal, I would be happy for that specific question to be put to the people.

However, I do not want a second referendum as many have threatened to use it to keep us in the EU.

I believe this would be a gross miscarriage of democracy, and that the result of the first referendum, however difficult to implement, must be carried out.

No Deal

Many people have said to me that it is sufficient merely to continue voting down the Government’s proposals, as leaving under WTO terms will be the default on March 29th 2019.

I am not scared of leaving on WTO terms, but unfortunately I am not certain that the Government will allow this to happen.

Under the EU Withdrawal Act 2017, if no agreement has been reached with the EU by 21st January 2019, the Government has 5 days to set before the House its plans for the next step, which will be either leaving with no deal, or asking for an extension of the negotiating period under Article 50.

I fear that the Government would have no choice, given the short timescales, but to ask for an extension of Article 50, costing more of our money and leaving us no closer to a deal.

This would not deliver on the result of the referendum.

My position

I have carefully set out what I currently believe will be the likely course of action over the coming weeks.

I write to share with you that I do not currently support the Prime Minister’s Deal, but that with alterations that remove the power of the backstop (which traps us in the EU until they give us permission to leave), then I would be happy to support it.

Indeed, given the likely course of events after voting down the Deal, it is still possible that it may be better than risking losing Brexit altogether.

We want to be independent of the EU and the backstop prevents that.

We do not want to be trapped in the Customs Union until we sign a punitive trade deal.

I must take this decision balancing the threat to Brexit with the restrictions the backstop would create.

Much may change before the meaningful vote on 11th December, and I thank everyone who has taken the time to write to me, from all sides of the political divide.

I have read and taken into account all correspondence, and will always continue to do so.

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Bill Wiggin backs Access for All at Ledbury Train Station

I fully support West Midlands Trains in their bid for funding to implement Access for All at Ledbury Train Station

I have long campaigned for these vital improvements as it will benefit so many residents living in Ledbury who are elderly or disabled.

Indeed when the Transport Secretary visited Ledbury in North Herefordshire he witnessed himself just how poor the access for all was at this unique station.

Lifts to all platforms at Ledbury would be a tremendous improvement. At present, while travelling on a train to Hereford, disabled passengers who want to disembark at Ledbury have to continue on to Hereford and catch a train back to Ledbury just to be on the accessible side of the platform.

This is wrong, most of all to people with disabilities but also the lack of access has undermined the useful nature of our station and contributes to the vicious circle which lack of access has on footfall.

Access for all would be the most important improvement for our station not least due to the Ledbury community having a predominately elderly population, not forgetting parents with children in prams and push chairs, as well as people who simply have very heavy luggage, all whom currently have to navigate the steep stairways and elderly bridge.

I heartily support this bid for what is a key step in making long overdue improvements to Ledbury Station that will make life easier and better for residents and commuters alike.

Bill Wiggin MP attends Leominster Service of Remembrance

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, attended the service of remembrance in Leominster on Sunday.

Mr Wiggin laid a wreath afterwards at the Leominster War Memorial following the Remembrance Sunday Service which also marked the centennial of the end of the First World War.

Commenting after the service Bill Wiggin MP said:

It is very important to lay a wreath to represent the people of North Herefordshire who remember those people from our communities, including in Leominster, who made the ultimate sacrifice in War. Ours was an impressive and very well organised ceremony and it was heartening to see so many members of the public who willingly gave their time pay tribute to our former servicemen and servicewomen whose gift of freedom is so precious to us all.

Indeed what struck me when watching other services on TV later that day was the huge numbers of people who turned out across the country to show their support. Not only to remember the First World War and the lives’ it cost but also for our troops serving today. At a time when there is the endless legal persecution of our soldiers who served in Northern Ireland – this was a wonderful and welcome show of unity.

One hundred years ago the First World War ended. My own Grandfather, after whom I was named, Colonel Bill Wiggin DSO served throughout the War, never once returning home despite being severely wounded twice in Palestine. He led the famous charge at Huj and later served at Gallipoli. He and all those like him, ought to be remembered for what they did, particularly those who lost their lives.

My late father and I visited the site of the Charge in Israel and yet the most powerful and emotional moment hit me at the war graves, so carefully tended, nearby. The names of the men from Herefordshire who died were certainly the relatives of the people I seek to help in my surgery and through my postbag today. Only time has moved on.

It seems strange to us today to even imagine what is must have been like: for example there was little penicillin for wounds so infection was a serious killer. The industrial scale of the slaughter of fine young men on both sides especially on the Western Front and the widespread use of horses and other animals, which today we can only envisage through films.

There are many more differences but the thought that hit me hardest as I stood at the War memorial was that in just twenty years we will be remembering the start of the Second World War in 2039!

It is essential to learn from the lessons of history and we are fortunate that at least once a year we have the opportunity to come together and think about those who gave their lives so that we can live ours freely.

Bill Wiggin MP Meets with Herefordshire College Principals in Westminster

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, last week met with the Principals from a number of Herefordshire Colleges as part of Colleges Week in Westminster.

Colleges, students and trade unions held a rally in Parliament Square, to raise awareness of funding for Further Education and the 2.2m learners that study in Further Education providers each year.

Commenting after the meeting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“This was a very useful meeting where we discussed ways in which we can ensure our young people in Herefordshire have access to the best possible further education to help set them up for their future careers.

I welcome assurances given to MPs by the Minister that the Government are taking this issue very seriously, and the Department for Education are currently part way through conducting a major assessment of funding for the Further Education Sector, ahead of next years’ Spending Review.

It is vitally important that we ensure there is a place in education or training for every 16 to 19-year old who wants one whilst maintaining funding for adult skills participation.”

Bill Wiggin MP welcomes winter social care funding

Today, the government has announced how much additional funding local authorities in England will receive to ease pressures over winter thanks to our balanced approach to the economy, including £880,614 for Herefordshire, County of Unilateral Authority.

Earlier this month, the Health and Social Care Secretary announced £240 million for the social care system over winter, giving councils a significant boost to prevent people from going into hospital unnecessarily and getting them home as soon as they are ready.

This funding will ease pressure on the health system, and follows the announcement of £145 million to improve emergency care within the NHS this winter.

The money will pay for home care packages to help patients get out of hospital quicker, re-ablement packages to help patients carry out everyday tasks and regain mobility and confidence, and home adaptations.

Bill Wiggin MP has welcomed this announcement of £880,614 for social care services in Herefordshire, thanks to the Government’s balanced approach to the economy.

Commenting, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“I am delighted that Herefordshire is receiving this extra funding to help social care services cope with winter pressures.

“This is part of our balanced approach to the economy – spending on key public services while keeping taxes down and getting debt falling.

“Social care packages allow people to leave hospital as soon as they are well enough, and ensure they can regain independence and confidence at home. This funding will allow Herefordshire to meet the care needs of more local people this winter and I fully support the work that Wye Valley NHS Trust are doing to ensure the excellent staff can give patients the best possible care.”

Bill Wiggin MP pledges support for Local Pubs in North Herefordshire

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, has today pledged his support for the Long Live the Local Campaign to help pubs in North Herefordshire keep their doors open. Bill Wiggin joins the more than 100,000 people who have signed the petition so far, including 152 in North Herefordshire.

Bill Wiggin MP is calling on the Government to cut beer and cider tax at the Budget. With £1 in every £3 pounds spent in UK pubs going to the taxman, British drinkers now pay 40% of all beer tax across the EU, but drink only 12% of the beer. Brewing and pubs in North Herefordshire supports 1318 jobs and contributes £44.5m to the local economy.

Commenting on the campaign, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“Pubs are at the heart of communities across North Herefordshire, but with three British pubs closing their doors for good every day the Government should consider a cut to beer tax. I’m supporting the Long Live the Local campaign and calling on the Chancellor to cut beer and cider tax at this year’s Budget to support pubs in our local communities.”

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said:

“Beer duty has increased by 60% over the last 17 years and now the UK has one of the highest rates of tax in Europe. When over two thirds of all alcoholic drinks purchased in the pub are beers, a cut in beer tax would go a long way to protecting pubs across North Herefordshire. We are very grateful to Bill Wiggin for their support for the Long Live the Local campaign, and hope that the Government listens to MPs across Parliament and the thousands of people across the country who are calling for a cut in beer tax to protect our pubs.”

Bill Wiggin MP welcomes Agriculture Bill and shows support for British farming in North Herefordshire

Bill Wiggin MP has today welcomed the Government’s introduction of the Agriculture Bill to the House of Commons, as he attended an event to show his support for British farming at Back British Farming Day in Westminster, recognising the crucial role farmers play in producing food and caring for the countryside.

Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – food and drink – which contributes over £110 billion to the economy and employs 3.8 million people.

Bill Wiggin MP said: “I am immensely proud to wear the Back British Farming pin badge today in support of a sector that is so valuable to the country. Our farmers play a unique role in securing a plentiful supply of fabulous British food, looking after our iconic countryside and sustaining a dynamic rural economy.

Food production is a vital part of everyday life and impacts on us all. I would encourage all MPs and members of the pubic to get behind this important campaign and Back British Farming.”

Speaking after the event Mr Wiggin offered his reaction to the Government’s Agriculture Bill:

“I very much welcome the Government’s Agriculture Bill, which will reward farmers properly at last for the work they do to enhance the environment around us. It recognises the value farmers bring as food producers. It will help them grow more high quality food in a more sustainable way – and it will ensure public money is spent more efficiently and effectively. Powers will be returned to the UK Parliament to amend the CAP regulations, so that as we move away from them, we can set the rules that work for our farmers, strip out unnecessary bureaucracy and provide the certainty and smooth transition the industry needs.

The decisions made in Parliament over the coming months are critical to the future of British food production. As one of the sectors that will be most affected by Britain’s departure from the EU, it is important that we as politicians create the right regulatory environment to ensure our farmers can continue to provide safe and affordable food for the nation.”

Bill Wiggin MP delighted with progress after Wye Valley NHS Trust’s successful bid for New Ward at Hereford County Hospital

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, has welcomed news of Wye Valley NHS Trust’s successful bid for a new ward at Hereford County Hospital.

NHS England have approved Wye Valley NHS Trust’s £3.6 million to install a new 24-bedded ward before the New Year.

The announcement of a new ward comes after Mr Wiggin raised the issue with the Prime Minister during PMQs back in March, saying:

“…I want the Prime Minister to ensure that Hereford Hospital is now top of the list for future capital investment.”

The new ward will enable staff to assess patients quickly and reduce the reliance on using areas normally occupied by patients undergoing routine surgery when pressure mounts on services during the winter.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr Wiggin said:

“I have been looking for this extra investment in more beds since I was elected in 2001 and remember chasing Alun Milburn down Whitehall seeking extra beds. I have never given up.

I fully support the work that Wye Valley NHS Trust are doing to ensure the excellent staff can give patients the best possible care.

The Trust did outstandingly well to meet its control target for last year, and I will back them fully as they seek a long-term financial settlement which must be based on the right tariff relative to the rurality of Hereford Hospital.”

Bill Wiggin MP Welcomes News of 100 Additional Police Officers for West Mercia

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, has welcomed an announcement from Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia, John Campion, of plans to recruit 100 additional police officers for West Mercia.

The 100 new officers will take West Mercia to an establishment of 2,030 police officer posts, which will be welcomed by communities who have called for a more visible police presence.

Commenting on the announcement, Bill Wiggin MP said:

“I am delighted by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s announcement of 100 additional police officers for West Mercia.  I am sure that all of us living in North Herefordshire will welcome the reassurance that our community will have the police service that we need.

I am glad that our conservative Government has supported West Mercia with its flexible precept setting for 2019-20 and I will continue to help the Commissioner achieve further improvements to West Mercia policing.”

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