Little else threatens democracy like secret courts and weak regulation of corporate power. That's why Andrew Smith MP and Anneliese Dodds MEP are raising issues of concern about the so-called 'free trade' agreement being negotiated by the United States and the European Union.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) aims to cut barriers to trade by removing differences in how the U.S. and the EU regulate businesses. Cutting barriers to trade can be a good thing, sustaining growth where protectionism can easily produce recession. However, the devil is in the detail, and there is a lot of detail to worry about in the proposed TTIP.
Andrew Smith MP said: "I share many of my constituents' concerns about what this agreement could mean in practice. As their MP, I stand up for their views in our Parliament, which should have the power to ensure matters as important as our health service and environmental protection are properly safeguarded, with disputes settled in open courts. Whilst fairer and more open trade is good, TTIP could allow for an unwelcome growth of corporate, over democratic power, with potentially grave damage to things we value like our National Health Service and action for cleaner air, and a sustainable environment. The negotiations on this need to be transparent, to respect democratic accountability and safeguard the public interest."
Anneliese Dodds MEP said: "While a free trade deal has big pluses such as more, better paying jobs inside Britain, we cannot conclude an agreement at any price. Along with my fellow Labour MEPs, I will not vote for a deal which looks to threaten our NHS or extend the reach of secret courts, which bypass governments and can threaten social and environmental legislation."
As an island nation, our seas have shaped our national history over the centuries. Our marine life is among the most diverse in the world. Pressures from overfishing, pollution, and global warming are having a serious impact, though.
In recognition of the dangers our seas face, Andrew Smith MP signed The Wildlife Trust’s Marine Charter to bring our fragile maritime habitats back to life.
Andrew said, “As a strong supporter of the landmark Marine and Coastal Access Act passed by the last Labour Government, I am delighted to sign the Marine Charter to go further in preserving our fragile ecology.
“There are only seven Marine Conservation Zones across the South East, and it would be great to add to this number”, Andrew added. “Both now and after the next General Election, The Wildlife Trusts’ Living Seas campaign is an important part of the effort to help our seas cope with the pressures being put on them.”
A healthy bee population is essential to our future food supply. Bee pollination keeps the cost of food down for all of us. If farmers had to pollinate by hand, they - and ultimately everyone - would face a total bill of £1.8 billion per year.
Bees are at risk from environmental pressures such as intensive land use, the loss of wildflower meadow habitat inch by destructive inch, and pesticides. In cooperation with Friends of the Earth and environmental campaigners within his constituency, Andrew has been working hard to give our bee population a boost.
Andrew has joined environmental campaigners to promote the Bee Cause campaign and sow a wildflower meadow at The Kidneys Nature Reserve, while paying close attention at the first Oxfordshire Bee Summit, organised by Friends of The Earth, businessmen, and environmental campaigners.
With the Government’s National Pollinator Strategy (NPS) set to be published in the Autumn, Andrew has written to the Environment Secretary with his own and many constituents’ concerns.
In particular, Andrew highlighted the vague role developers will play to protect bee habitats, asked how pesticides - which the Government recognises are a cause of bee decline - will be reduced, and how additional protection for bee habitat in the form of more wildflower meadows would happen.
“We need to look after bees, so that they keep looking after us”, Andrew said. “The Government must do more to ensure bee-friendly farming becomes the new normal as farming has a role to play in bee recovery. I will continue to monitor the NPS as it prepares to become Government policy, so that it can be the best it can possibly be.”
Andrew Smith MP has welcomed the International Development Select Committee’s new report on aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and called on the Secretary of State to implement its recommendations.
In the immediate term the report calls for emergency medical aid to Gaza, and longer-term aid to rebuild the public health infrastructure there which has been heavily damaged.
The report calls for the British Government to press the Government of Israel to halt settlement expansion and demolitions of Palestinian homes and property, and to ensure equitable access to water resources.
It also calls for British aid to be stepped up pending a final peace settlement, to help rebuild the economy of the Palestinian territories which has been so heavily damaged by conflict, including supporting plans to open Gaza’s port and improve transport infrastructure. This of course would entail an easing of restrictions imposed by the Government of Israel, which the report concludes are “often without real security justification”.
Finally, the report called for British aid to support organization that bring people together across ethnic and religious divides in Israel and Palestine.
Andrew said, “I strongly commend this report, which backs up the commitment and work of those in Oxford who are engaged in providing practical aid to Gaza and the West Bank, such as Oxfam who gave evidence to the Select Committee, and Sir Terence English and others who have volunteered their services to provide medical training in Palestinian hospitals. It calls for the British Government not only to provide aid but to press the Government of Israel to lift restrictions which are strangling the Palestinian economy.
“I very much hope the Government will implement all the recommendations of this report. For the Government to put its finance and influence behind these recommendations would represent a step toward the only kind of settlement that can bring peace, with an economically viable Palestinian state, and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
Andrew Smith MP has welcomed the International Development Select Committee’s new report on aid to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and called on the Secretary of State to implement its recommendations....