Accessing Fee-Free Bank Accounts

Locally and nationally I work with Citizens Advice supporting their campaign for everyone to access a bank account, free from the fear of charges that can lead to self-exclusion or unmanageable debt.

So I am delighted that from the 1st January a great many local people stand to benefit by hundreds of pounds as nine major banks launch fee-free basic bank accounts. I think this is a key step forward in ensuring that our banking industry works for everyone.

The accounts will be available to anyone who doesn’t already have a bank account, is ineligible for a standard current account or who can’t use their existing account due to financial difficulty.

For the first time they will be truly fee-free, helping people to manage their money without fear of running up an overdraft.

This week’s announcement follows last Christmas’ landmark agreement between the government and the banking industry to establish new basic bank accounts that will end bank charges if a direct debit or standing order fails.

In some cases, charges had been as high as £35 per failed item, and uncapped, meaning charges could accumulate to hundreds of pounds over time and drive people into serious debt.

Basic bank account customers will now also be offered services on the same terms as other personal current accounts that the banks provides, including access to all the standard over-the-counter services at bank branches and at the Post Office, and access to the entire ATM network.

Existing basic bank account customers should ask their bank whether they could still be charged if a direct debit or standing order fails, and whether they are eligible for a new basic bank account.

Anyone reading this who is worried about their own debt please call free National Debt line 0808 808 4000 for help.

Published by West Briton.

 

 

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas! Like many readers, I am very much looking forward to spending time with my family this Christmas. As all our children have now fled the nest, I especially look forward to having them all back home. I appreciate how fortunate I am and that not everyone reading this will be looking forward to Christmas as I understand that it can be a tough time for a variety of reasons.

I am very grateful to the local people who are putting on Christmas lunches for people who are homeless or lonely or simply popping in to say hello to a neighbour. I encourage you to think about how you might support the many local organisations that do so much to ensure as many people as possible are not lonely or isolated.

In addition to my work for my constituents this week, I have spent time with Cornwall Council, local Christian church leaders and others in making practical plans to enable us to welcome our share of the Syrians refugees who will be coming to resettle in the UK next year. I believe that it is vitally important that we make careful plans to ensure that they receive a warm welcome here.

I am proud of our long standing tradition of welcoming people seeking refuge in our country and believe we are stronger as a nation for it. However, I do also understand that some people are worried about whether we can afford Syrian refugees coming to live with us here. I can assure you that the money needed to support the refugees has been set aside from existing budgets. However, we do need more local people to consider switching from renting their additional homes that they own from tourists to Syrian refugees, for which they will be paid rent.

Click the following link for more information about the Syrian refugee resettlement plans in Cornwall: www.cornwall.gov.uk/syrianrefugees

 Published by West Briton.

 

Vote on Syrian Intervention

Over the past week, there has been much reporting about the extension of limited UK military action against ISIS/ Daesh from Iraq into Syria. There has been less on the efforts that the UK government is making, along with our international partners, in seeking a negotiated peace in Syria. Since 2012, there has been a political strand to efforts to end the violence in Syria, when there was a meeting at the United Nations in Geneva that produced a communiqué calling for a ceasefire, negotiations and a transitional government, and elections.

The Geneva Communiqué has formed the basis for negotiations since then but it has always been plagued by differences over who should form the transitional government and who should negotiate with whom.

The latest meetings took place in October and November in Vienna, with the inclusion of Iran for the first time. This development results largely from the success of Iran’s negotiations with the world powers over its nuclear programme. On the ground, the dynamics have also changed, with Russia taking direct military action and Iran more deeply committed.

Together with a series of ISIS-linked terrorist attacks outside Syria, the latest being in Paris, these factors are giving the talks a new and different impetus, but the negotiations did not include any Syrians. The outside forces at the talks remain divided over the fate of Bashar al-Assad, which rebel groups constitute the legitimate opposition and which are terrorists. Even with those questions agreed, getting Syrians to support a political process would be difficult. However, the fact that nations who have not entered into dialogue for many years are now committed to a negotiated solution in Syria is I believe, a step in the right direction.

I will be regularly updating the blog on my website with progress.

UpdateHere is a link to a useful briefing paper written by the House of Commons Library that sets out the actions being taken in seeking a negotiated solution in Syria: http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7392/CBP-7392.pdf

Update – 16th November   – Yesterday in Parliament, the Foreign Secretary made a statement about Syria. Please follow this link to the Hansard report of the statement and subsequent question and answer session. http://bit.ly/1m9BziP

Published by West Briton.

 

Paris Talks – Climate Change

I was relieved that talks at the conference in Paris last week have culminated in a global deal, with every country in the world now signed up to play its part in trying to halt man made climate change.

What is so special about this deal is that it puts the onus on every country to play its part. Britain has already been leading the way but is limited to the amount that we can achieve by getting our own emissions down. It is the countries’ with the largest economies and populations that will make the most significant difference. The problem is that some of these nations can’t afford to invest in new technologies. The UK will help poorer nations invest in things like solar energy and flood-resistant crops, which are vital to arresting man made climate change, as well as helping with the impacts of climate change.

In striking this deal, the nations of the world have shown what ambition, unity and perseverance can achieve.

I am hopeful that these same qualities will enable Cornwall to develop a new energy sector for the UK. A meeting last week with Steve Double MP, the DECC Minister, representatives of Cornwall Council and the Eden Project took us one step closer.

Since being elected, I have been championing Cornwall’s geothermal capability as we sit on 60% of the estimated national deep geothermal resource, and if exploited this could provide not only an important source of local power but also contribute to the UK’s energy mix moving forward. Developing new and emerging technologies is vital for the UK if it is to sustain its drive to become a world leader in decarbonising its economy, and it also offers the opportunity to localise economic benefits in high value sectors.

 

Published by West Briton.

Committing British Armed Forces to Syria

Deciding whether to commit British Armed Forces overseas is the most difficult decision an MP has to make. Here are some of the questions I believe we have to seek answers to:

  • Will our intervention make things better or worse (both for the UK and those that live in Syria and surrounding areas)?
  • Have the evident and unprecedented complexities been addressed?
  • Do we have a moral obligation to play our part in a global effort to deal with existential threat that Daesh presents to our way of life?

On the first the PM’s judgement is clearly that:

  • The level of threat to citizens in the UK could hardly be higher than it currently is
  • The safe space enjoyed by Daesh in Syria gives them a capacity to plan, finance and organise terrorist atrocities that must be degraded
  • The future of the millions of refugees in the area, the stability of surrounding countries that accommodate those refugees and of the Middle East as a whole relies on the disruption of Daesh’s ambitions

It is perfectly reasonable to argue that we have heard all this before as justifications for our incursions into Iraq, Libya and particularly Afghanistan and the results have been far from satisfactory.

But this is a different situation. Now we have such a base right on Europe’s borders, that uses the flow of refugees as clandestine routes for incursions, that is very well financed through revenues derived from the ground they hold and that, if left unaddressed will only grow in strength and reach.

While no-one, including the Prime Minister would propose that any outcomes are certain and it remains possible that our intervention will make things worse, my view is that, on balance, the arguments for intervention are stronger than those against.

The second question is the crux of the matter. My view is that there are three main strands:

  • The production of a co-ordinated short term military strategy that will succeed in its objectives
  • The agreement of a long term military and political strategy that will allow the region to stabilise over decades
  • The effect on / strategy to prevent radicalisation of Muslims

I believe that the PM clearly understands this but firmly believes that just because there is evident complexity does not mean that we should not try to reach an agreed international approach. I agree with him and believe that the Vienna talks are an invaluable starting point.

I also think that this is an historic opportunity to get countries around a table who, for decades, have had little or no dialogue at all.  There is perhaps room to believe in a silver lining within this enormous, dark cloud, that overshadows us.

Finally we must re-examine our efforts to deal with radicalisation here in the UK, ensure they are fit for purpose and be absolutely clear that such efforts are as much a key to success as is the short term military planning and the medium to long term diplomatic process.

I think the answer to the third question t is a simple ‘yes’.  The UN has resolved, with no objections, that the international community believes that Daesh must be dealt with.  Given this is the case I cannot see how we can honestly look the other way as our allies seek to deal with an enemy who present a threat to all that we value.

 

Published by Wave Magazine.