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On Sunday hundreds of thousands of people across the country stopped to remember the dead of all wars, writes Ipswich Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

The fact that Remembrance Day this year was also the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War made the ceremonies particularly poignant.

This war still haunts the national consciousness: the scale of the mechanised slaughter and the effect on all aspects of life on the home front – nothing like this had ever been seen before.

Most villages in Britain, however small, have names of soldiers from the First World Ward on a memorial.

St Mary at Stoke, where I attended a service to dedicate a new memorial to the fallen, lost 88 men in the war. This gives some idea of the scale of the loss of life. Every single person in that parish would have known friends, family and neighbours who were killed in the war.

The other reason this war still haunts us is because of the seeming futility of it – the feeling that the sacrifice of all those young lives was for nothing.

It was supposed to be “the war to end all wars” but the harsh terms imposed by the victors on Germany led to the rise of Hitler and, within 20 years, the even greater calamity of the Second World War.

The soldiers who returned were promised a “land fit for heroes” but this too failed to materialise.

The homes they were promised were not built. There were no support services in place for the wounded. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was barely even recognised. Maimed ex-servicemen begging on the streets were a common sight in the twenties.

This is still a problem today. While the help veterans receive has improved immeasurably since the end of the First World War, many still face severe problems adjusting to civilian life.

Thousands are sleeping rough or facing long waits to access help to cope with their experiences on active service.

These brave men and women have risked their lives to protect our country. As a nation we must do much better to express our gratitude and appreciation to them, not just through our words on November 11th, but through our actions all year round.

Brave servicemen and women deserve to be remembered throughout the year

On Sunday hundreds of thousands of people across the country stopped to remember the dead of all wars, writes Ipswich Council Leader, David Ellesmere. The fact that Remembrance Day this...

This week the Secretary of State for Health called for prevention rather than cure as the solution to the funding crisis in the National Health Service, writes Sandy Martin MP.

This is nothing new. But if we really want to improve people’s health we have got to look at other factors apart from medicine.

One of those factors is the food we eat. We have a growing obesity crisis, and record numbers with Type 2 Diabetes. Any government which has the best interests of its citizens at heart will encourage and enable people to eat more healthily. And we also need a programme to support farmers to grow the healthy food we need.

When we leave the European Union we are going to have to decide how best to support agriculture in this country.  It is not only EU countries that pay their farmers – the USA has a well-developed subsidy scheme for its own agriculture, and so do most other developed nations. We had our own scheme under the 1947 Agriculture Act. But when we joined the European Common Market we signed up to far more extensive farming subsidies through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

To start with the CAP was focused on rewarding farmers for producing quantities of food rather than on its quality.  We ended up with wine lakes, butter mountains, and huge stocks of French Golden Delicious apples.  So the CAP was reformed, and now, apart from some specific environmental support schemes, most CAP money goes to landowners just for owning farmland.

The government published its new Agriculture Bill last month.  This is intended to forge a new relationship between the state and farmers after we have left the CAP. It is intended to pay farmers for the creation of “public goods” rather than just for owning land, and everyone can applaud that. But there are two huge flaws in the Bill.

Firstly, although there are some indications of what “public goods” might be – protecting the environment, taking care of farm animals, improving our countryside – the Bill is pretty vague, and the details of the regulations which determine what payments will be made to whom are left largely to the discretion of Michael Gove. This gives him far too much power, and makes for bad law.  The reason we argue Bills through Parliament before they become Acts is so that the details can be discussed, not just by MPs and Lords, but also through the submissions from groups like the National Farmers Union (NFU).

Secondly, while the Bill mentions the environment and national heritage, it doesn’t mention food. Call me picky, but I thought food was what agriculture was meant to be about.

I want us to have the best possible protections for our countryside, minimum pollution of our air and water, completely safe working practices and food produced to the highest standards of purity, safety and healthiness. But all of this will be completely pointless if we end up hardly producing any food at all, and importing most of our food from other countries with far less stringent regulations – we will just be exporting our environmental damage to them.

Already, we produce just 58% of our own vegetables, and there is no financial support for them.  And yet, our NHS is trying to encourage people to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.  I spoke up in the House of Commons for broad beans – healthy, delicious, and produced in England – but how often do you see them for sale? It’s often easier to find mung beans in a supermarket than broad beans.

The Agriculture Bill is currently facing amendments to try to make it better, based on what the NFU and other experts have submitted.  The government’s MPs then vote those amendments down in public, but my expectation is that behind the scenes the government will actually accept many of the good points being made, and change the Bill for the better before it becomes law.

I want to see this Bill protect our countryside, the welfare of our farm animals, the safety of agricultural workers, the quality of our soil, our air and our water.  I want it to encourage farmers to make our countryside more wildlife-friendly, to enable more people to enjoy nature and to contribute to sustainable tourism.  But above all, the Bill must support farmers to produce the high quality, environmentally sustainable healthy food we all need. 

We all need to take our food more seriously, and we need to take farming more seriously too.

Agriculture Bill could make a real difference to farmers, farm workers, consumers and the countryside

This week the Secretary of State for Health called for prevention rather than cure as the solution to the funding crisis in the National Health Service, writes Sandy Martin MP....

Hats off to Conservative MP Tracey Crouch who resigned as a minister last week in protest at Government delays in reducing the maximum stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), writes Ipswich Borough Council Leader, David Ellesmere.

Politicians rarely get a good press and are usually regarded as being more interested in advancing their career than matters of principle. It is to Tracey’s credit that she has chosen principle over person interest.

Much less creditable is the Government’s behaviour over FOBTs.

These are gaming machines located in bookies which allow gamblers to stake up to £100 every 20 seconds.

They have been described as “the crack cocaine of gambling” due to their huge ability to get people hooked. Addicts have been known to lose thousands of pounds a day as losses can quickly escalate out of control.

Gambling addiction is affecting hundreds of thousands of people a year in Britain. Individual FOBT gamblers lost over £1,000 on more 233,000 occasions over a 10-month period. Relationships are breaking down and people are being made homeless as a result.

Given the devastation FOBTs are causing the Government should have acted long ago but they have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing this.

In May this year they finally announced they would reduce the maximum stake to £2 and led everyone to believe it would happen in April 2019. As if this delay wasn’t long enough they have now said that it won’t happen until October next year.

The reason is simple enough. The gambling industry makes £1.6bn a year from FOBTs and they are a powerful lobbying group that the Government listens to. A six-month delay will net bookies a further £900m.

The Government knows that two people a day commit suicide because of gambling-related debts. Each day’s delay puts more people at risk.

Put bluntly, they are prepared to see people die so their mates in the gambling industry can maintain their profits.

This is a particularly shameful episode, even for this Government, and I am not surprised Tracey Crouch didn’t want anything to do with it.

MPs are planning to overturn this delay in Parliament over the next few weeks. Let us hope they succeed.

Government should act faster on fixed odds betting terminals

Hats off to Conservative MP Tracey Crouch who resigned as a minister last week in protest at Government delays in reducing the maximum stake on Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), writes...

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