Alan Whitehead MP

Member of Parliament for Southampton Test

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Britain’s now forty-four year membership of the EU has brought with it many advantages. It has had a substantial hand in underpinning the prosperity the UK has generally seen since we joined. It has brought many advantages and protections to its citizens such as protecting workers rights through agreements that limit the hours people can work, provide protection in the workplace and enshrine the right to maternity leave in law.

It has been of immense benefit to environmental regulation and actions in the UK, with joint working on protection for a European environment where issues with pollution and climate change don’t respect national boundaries. And for those with longer memories about Europe’s history of bloody internal conflict, it has brought not only peace and security to much of a continent, but promoted countries positively working together for the good of that continent as well.

So I find it very difficult in the EU debate to give full and equal weight to the arguments and counter-arguments swirling around as we approach the in/out referendum, which, let’s be clear, would result in an irrevocable exit from the EU, and Britain standing alone in the world, supported by whatever number of individual trade deals we could cobble together after exit had been completed.

When we look at the fact that 44% of UK trade is with the EU and is supported by current access without tariffs to a single market of 500 million people, it is difficult to imagine that exit could result in anything less than a prolonged period of economic chaos, uncertainty and a probable long term loss of GDP.

At the very best, exit might be followed by extraordinary generosity on the part of the club we had just left, who might just admit the UK back to some of the advantages in the single market and other deals that we have benefitted from in our years of membership. But even then, it is not conceivable that this would be done without requiring the UK to adhere to the rules of the single market as well: in which case we would have achieved – what? Having to impose rules on our economy without any participation in drawing up those rules? Don’t we want a seat at the table?

The argument for leaving seems to be that: yes we might have a diminished and insecure economy, but at least we’d be able to make all our own laws. We’d be a truly ‘sovereign’ state again. But even then we have to look at the reality of our supposed ‘loss’ of sovereignty in the EU.

Most of Britain’s laws are not affected by areas of claimed EU competence. The minority that are within EU remit are subject to general directives which the U.K play a strong role in shaping and which give the final options about how to place the general guidance into law into the hands of individual member states. Many of these areas are about issues we might well want to have some common and supportive joint approaches on – like environmental matters, counter-terrorism measures, joint negotiations with international bodies and suchlike. The bottom line is what weight might be given to a theoretical full ‘sovereignty’ against a host of other advantages that come our way from pooling a little of it for good common purposes, and about which we have strong negotiating arrangements.

This is indeed perhaps an area in which the EU does need some further reform, to ensure that joint decisions really do take account of the circumstances of all member states, but it is not a ‘take-bat- home’ issue: it is something that can be sorted out better by being around the table to do it. To cast ourselves permanently away from that table and throw everything else away in the process because we’re a bit unhappy about some of the ways some practices in the EU currently work would be a grievous and self-inflicted wound on our future as a European nation.

 

My case for Remain

Britain’s now forty-four year membership of the EU has brought with it many advantages. It has had a substantial hand in underpinning the prosperity the UK has generally seen since...

This week was another varied but exciting week, the highlight was meeting a pack of Guide Dogs in parliament. Read on to find out more about my week...

Monday

I started the week in the constituency meeting with residents who were having some trouble with Anti-social behaviour. I hope I can work with them and the council in the coming weeks to address the issues raised. I also spoke in the Queens Speech debate and raised my concerns regarding cuts to public services, and the fact that in the Queens Speech some services were assigned to local government without any plan for how local government would absorb them. As the Tories are cutting more and more from local government they are also handing them more responsibility for things such as children's services and social care which worries me.  

I also had several energy meetings today including the Carbon Connect and Westminster Sustainable Business Forum round table: ‘Energy efficiency and heat - joining up policies’ and the Labour Environment Campaign Executive meeting.

Tuesday 

I had quite a few meetings today with APPGs otherwise known as All Party Parliamentary Groups. These are informal cross party groups that organise around a set of interests, today I attended the APPG on Carers and the APPG on Motor Neurone Disease to discuss the carers strategy. 

I also had some energy meetings including meeting Drax to discuss transitioning away from coal and Perpetuus Tidal Energy centre regarding a tidal energy project on the south coast just off the Isle of Wight. I finished today speaking at a British Academy 'Cultures of Community Energy' report launch. Community Energy is something at the forefront of Labour's energy policy and to find out more you can find the report here. 

Wednesday

Today was an exciting day, with weekly PMQs (where I even got to ask a question) and a meeting with a pack of brilliant Guide Dogs and the brilliant people who train them.  

PMQs this week was similar in many ways to the PMQs of old, even though it was George Osborne who was at the helm. The Tories were tearing each other apart over the E.U. referendum which would have been amusing to watch if it weren't over an issue so fundamental to Britain's future. I got to ask a question which wasn't answered by Osborne. no surprise there. I wanted to know whether the government had any plans to crack down on bad letting agents who are letting tenants down over the safety of their housing and the return of their deposits. Just recently in Southampton a letting agent has been shut down, it was using tenants deposit money on other things and not keeping it secure as required by law. Osborne just mentioned something vague about cracking down on bad landlords, which wasn't what I asked. Given the government's poor response I will take this into my own hands and I'll be doing work on this issue in the next couple of months in Southampton. 

The Guide Dog Lobby was excellent, I already had the pleasure of meeting some of the Guide Dog U.K team when I went on a guided walk down Portswood Road last year. It was good to hear how they are getting on with their work on providing blind people with these dogs and also with their work on raising awareness of the perils of busy high streets. 

I also had time today for some other meetings with the new chief constable for Hampshire Police, my colleagues on the Shadow DECC team, the APPG for Universities and Students on the growing consumer culture in higher education, as well as a round table event on the 'Role of Utilities in Europe' All in all a busy but enjoyable Wednesday. 

Thursday

Today I met with the Institute of Civil Engineers regarding their state of the nation report on Devolution and Infrastructure planning, before heading back to spend the weekend in my constituency with constituents, colleagues, volunteers and my family. 

 

Meeting the Guide Dogs and PMQs

This week was another varied but exciting week, the highlight was meeting a pack of Guide Dogs in parliament. Read on to find out more about my week...

The week of an M.P can be varied, and for me this one was no different. I attended both the State Opening of Parliament and the Millbrook Youth Bowling club, as well as attending various energy meetings in my role as a shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister. Read on to find out more about my week....

Monday 

I had a meeting today regarding the democratisation of the U.K. energy supply. This is something that is at the heart of Labour energy policy, and you can read Lisa Nandy's thoughts on it here

Tuesday 

Today was a day packed full of meetings to attend in my role as a shadow energy minister. I met with the National Grid and had a good discussion about their Future of Gas work, then a meeting with the Carbon Capture and Storage Association regarding Carbon Capture and Storage and hydrogen topped off by a visit to the Gas Industry Awards and a Energy and Utility Forum event. I also met with the Sikh lobby about Sikhs in Southampton. 

Wednesday

Today saw the state opening of Parliament and hear the Queen's Speech. While the speech contained futuristic plans such as the UK’s first spaceport and driverless cars, the reality was that this Queen’s Speech showed more of the same from the Government. This Speech did nothing to address the fundamental weaknesses in our economy: low productivity, lack of investment in skills and infrastructure, failure to support key industries like construction and manufacturing, and failure to tackle regional inequalities. 

Today I also attended meetings with my shadow DECC team and also with the Association for Decentralised Energy about security of supply policy. 

Thursday 

I spent half of today in London and half in Southampton. In London I spoke at the launch of the Renewable Energy Association's Separate Food Waste Collection Campaign and attended a Turn2Us unclaimed benefits event. I then headed back to my constituency to speak at the University of Southampton's discussion on the rise of anti-politics. It's important to speak to young people especially and let them know the ways in which politics does make a difference. I finished the day off at a Labour Party meeting, speaking to members about what I'd been up to in Parliament. 

Friday 

 I was back in the constituency today and I met with the Wave trust who are working with neglected children in the city. I also held my third constituency advice session of the month, where constituents can visit me with any issues they are facing. 

Saturday 

I visited the Millbrook Youth bowling club to present them with their Clubmark certificate. I really enjoy visiting these organisations in my constituency. There are so many great places doing work to make the city a better place to live, from sports clubs to charities. 

Today I also helped my colleagues in the Labour Party campaign to keep Britain in the E.U. I think there is a really strong Labour case for this, especially with regards workers rights that the E.U protects, not to mention the environmental protections it offers. 

 

 

 

Meeting the Millbrook Youth Bowling Club and the State Opening of Parliament.

The week of an M.P can be varied, and for me this one was no different. I attended both the State Opening of Parliament and the Millbrook Youth Bowling club,...


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