Don Foster MP
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Don Foster MP - Bath's #1 Supporter

Don statement on TTIP

Liberal Democrats support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, which could be a once in a generation opportunity for the UK. Indeed, it is our party policy – agreed at Spring Conference last year - to ensure the success of TTIP and to pursue global and bilateral trade agreements.

Patchwork-MP-of-the-Year-2014-12TTIP is being designed to bring significant benefits to individuals and benefits by removing as many unnecessary barriers as possible, much in the same way as the EU Single Market has done over the past few decades. I do appreciate that some people have concerns and uncertainties about TTIP and I’m glad MPs are debating it in Parliament.

First and foremost, it is important to realise that no trade or investment agreement has ever been negotiated by publishing in advance every piece of negotiating text to the general public and to do so would make any negotiation with other parties impossible. It would be like playing poker while showing your hand! However, it’s important that the TTIP negotiations are as open as possible and that people get the chance to raise their concerns.

The next formal negotiating round is about to get underway with even greater emphasis on transparency and scrutiny. The EU Trade Commissioner is making public more EU negotiating documents already available to MEPs and is classifying fewer documents as ‘restricted’.

MPs here in the UK have submitted many Parliamentary Questions about TTIP and there have been two separate backbench business debates specifically on TTIP. There has been a House of Lords EU Committee Report on TTIP and a Government response, as well as a House of Commons Scrutiny Committee session which questioned the Minister responsible. TTIP was discussed in the debate on the National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers Bill) in November and the BIS Select Committee is undertaking an inquiry into TTIP which took oral evidence also in November.

If and when the EU is satisfied and reaches an agreement with the US in principle over TTIP, the final agreement will be sent to the 28 EU national parliaments which must unanimously agree to the final deal, as well as the European Parliament. The UK Parliament will receive the complete draft text of any TTIP agreement and will have the opportunity – in plenty of time – to scrutinise it through debates in both Houses of Parliament. This has been confirmed by Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable.

If the deal does not deliver the objectives we in the EU have demanded such as boosting jobs and the economy, or challenges the values, standards and principles we have developed and hold dear here in the UK, then we will withhold our consent as a country and TTIP will go no further.

TTIP won’t just benefit big business such as our booming car manufacturing industry in the UK which has the potential to benefit to the tune of around £4 billion. Small firms which do not have the financial, legal and other resources to cope with regulatory differences and other barriers to trade, and tend not to export, should disproportionately benefit. Our farmers, for example, who are currently unable to export their lamb or venison to the US, could be able to under TTIP.

It will also benefit individuals. For example, if you make an online purchase from a trader in the US, this process will become easier and you could have a much greater choice of products and suppliers. This is because TTIP could remove import tariffs on products like clothes and cars. It will also strengthen consumer protection so if you have problems with buying online from a US-based trader, stronger rules will be in place, as well as closer co-operation between EU and US enforcement agencies, to enable you to get compensation. It would also make the total cost of an online order (including price, delivery, VAT and customs duties) clear when buying so you could make an informed decision about whether to buy from outside the EU.

What TTIP is absolutely not about is reducing standards of public services. Neither the EU nor the US are looking to lower standards through the TTIP process and we have not authorised the EU to agree to anything in TTIP that would do that. The European Commission has been clear that it is not seeking to privatise publicly run services through this or any other trade agreement and that they will uphold high European standards of environmental, health and consumer protection. We already have free trade agreements with many countries, as well as over 90 bilateral investment treaties. These haven’t damaged the environment, threatened food safety or led to the privatisation of the NHS.

I know some people are worried about the potential impact on the NHS. Far from putting the NHS in danger, the TTIP negotiations have the potential to actually benefit NHS users through extra collaboration across the pharmaceutical and life science sectors. There will be no change in access to the NHS for private providers and there will be no change to the principle that access to NHS services is based on need, not ability to pay. The balance between public and private provision of public services will - quite rightly - continue to remain with national governments regardless of the progress of TTIP.


Lib Dem General Election Cabinet Announced

On Wednesday (7th), Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced his Liberal Democrat General Election Cabinet. Bath MP, Don Foster, has been named in the Cabinet as Chief Whip in the House of Commons.

key_general_election_cabinetCommenting on his inclusion, Don Foster MP said: “I am thrilled to be included in the General Election Cabinet. I look forward to being part of the team that will fight to build the stronger economy and fairer society Britain needs.”

Commenting on the announcement, DPM Nick Clegg, said: “This is a Liberal Democrat Cabinet that will fight every day for the stronger economy and fairer society this country needs - where everyone has the opportunity to get on in life.

“This talented front bench have shown both inside government and beyond that they stand for a liberal Britain - one of openness, tolerance and compassion. This is a team that will never pander to the politics of grievance, fear and blame but instead work every day to keep Britain anchored in the centre ground.

“Over the coming months, they will prove that the Lib Dems are the only party that can balance the budget, cut taxes for 30 million people, invest in health and education and protect our environment.”

Apprenticeships target hit

Two million apprenticeships have been created in the UK since 2010 with 1790 of these being created in Bath, giving people a vital start in life.

Don, Steve, Vince & apprentice 2Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP, recently visited apprentices at the City of Bath College to see the college’s new £200,000 engineering workshop.

Don Foster, MP for Bath, who along with Lib Dems PPC, Steve Bradley, accompanied Vince Cable on his trip, said apprenticeships offered by organisations such as the City of Bath College and Rotork performed a crucial role in the local economy.

Commenting, Don Foster MP, said: “Apprenticeships are a vital part of building a stronger economy and a fairer society. By ensuring young people are able to earn and learn, we give them the opportunity to get on it life.”

Steve Bradley added “I am delighted young people in Bath have benefitted from fantastic training and employment opportunities that apprenticeships offer.

“I’ve seen for myself at Rotork the benefit apprenticeships can give to young people and I’m delighted that over two million young people across England have been able to take advantage.”

Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills Vince Cable MP said: “Reaching the two millionth apprenticeship is testament to Liberal Democrat’s commitment to apprenticeships. Apprenticeships give young people the chance to start a career and give businesses the talent to grow.

“This isn’t just about numbers. From space engineering, to TV production, to legal services, apprenticeships are the ticket to a great job and a route employers trust to access the skills they need.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats made them a priority when we entered office and I am delighted that we have been able to deliver on our promise to have two million apprentices start in this Parliament.”