TTIP – EU/US Trade

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Last week, I responded as the Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment in the debate in the House of Commons on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Europe and the United States are the UK’s most important markets today.  Indeed, the US is the UK’s biggest export market and the UK economy attracts a significant level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from across the Atlantic.

Trade between the EU and US is strong, however more can be done to make it easier – like tackling barriers and improving market access – for UK and US businesses to trade and respectively grow our economies.  This trade agreement, TTIP, would hopefully do that.

TTIP has huge potential and I am very much support the principles behind these negotiations – job creation, higher wages for employees and a better deal for consumers.

TTIPCrucially, the benefits of any trade deal must filter down to employees and consumers.  We would be very concerned if any deal led to a watering down of workers’ rights and the Opposition shall monitor this closely.   Specifically, I have raised concerns about the application of the ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) aspects of the proposal, and will continue to push for the need for effective and necessary transparency if it is included as part of the final deal.  Finally, Labour have been clear that the NHS must be exempt from the final TTIP agreement.

You can read my speech and the debate by clicking here.

Men United’s Latest Signing

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On transfer deadline day, I became the latest big name signing for Men United, Prostate Cancer UK’s call for men to join together in a movement against the common enemy of prostate cancer.

I’m backing their ‘Men United v Prostate Cancer’ campaign, which uses the language of sport to engage men in the battle against this disease.

Gregg McClymont MP & Ian Murray MPProstate cancer is the most common cancer in men and is predicted to be the most common cancer overall by 2030. Despite this we know that the quality of care and support men with the condition receive varies throughout Scotland.

To address this, I have previously called on NHS Boards to implement Prostate Cancer UK’s excellent Quality Checklist, and reiterate that call.  Furthermore, I am delighted to sign for Men United v Prostate Cancer.  It’s a big ask but, working together, I know we can win this.

To sign for Men United visit: www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited

Local Shops – At the Heart of the Community

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Last month, I met with local Edinburgh retailer Dennis Williams (pictured left) at the Association of Convenience Stores’ (ACS) Heart of the Community reception to celebrate the important role that local shops play in our communities.

ACSHeart of the Community is an annual event which brings retailers from across the country face-to-face with MPs to air their concerns about the future of the sector.

Local shops provide essential goods and services in our communities and it is vital that MPs show support for these retailers both in Westminster and the local area – they really are at the heart of communities.  Government must to everything they can to ensure that they succeed during this difficult economic time.

I also met with ACS Chief Executive James Lowman (pictured right), who welcomed my support in recognising the importance of convenience stores like Dennis’ and the services and jobs they provide in Edinburgh.  It is now more important than ever that MPs engage with their local small business community, and work to ensure Government cuts and new regulations will not harm small business or undermine consumer confidence.

Planning Update

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Since the start of the year, activities on the various planning proposals across the constituency have gathered pace.  Here’s a synopsis on recent developments:

Burdiehouse Terrace

The site at Burdiehouse Terrace has been a real pain for local residents for many years, following permission being granted by the then SNP/Lib Dem Council for the development of residential flats and associated car parking facilities.  Along with my Labour Councillor colleagues, I strongly opposed the proposals as they would be out of character when compared to the predominately two-storey buildings surrounding the site.

Since that time, the developer has failed to stop the site turning into a shocking state, with burnt out buildings, rubbish, vandalism and old furniture being dumped in the gardens.  This has caused the residents of Burdiehouse Terrace, in particular, real concern over public safety.

However the developer, Home Scotland, is now about the start work on the site and along with the local residents group I am urging residents to contact me if they have any concerns or issues while work is carried out.

East Suffolk Park

Miller Homes have brought forward proposals to develop the field they own at the end of East Suffolk Road for residential housing.  The large field was previously maintained and used by St Margaret’s School which secured the short to long term future of site from development.  However, since the school’s demise, I have been working closely with the Craigmillar Park Residents Association and local sports organisations in the hope to persuade Miller Homes that the field, including the historic sports pavilion, would be better used for sport and out recreation rather than residential development.

These discussions are ongoing despite the proposals being put together by Miller Homes, and I strongly believe that continued recreational use is the best future for this lovely green space in the heart of our city.

Miller Homes and Holder Planning held an exhibition on February 26 at Craigmillar Park Church.  I would strongly urge constituents to express their views on the proposed plans by the March 11 deadline, by emailing lesley.mcgrath@holderplanning.co.uk or writing to Holder Planning, 5 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AN.

Miller Homes had a previous application to build on the site rejected by the Council in 1998 and as such it is still designated as a conservation area within the Local Development Plan.  However, with the Scottish Government increasing the pressure on local authorities (particularly Edinburgh) to open up even more greenfield/greenbelt land for new housing, developers are suddenly taking a keen interest in all urban spaces.

This is our opportunity to make an impression on the plans prior to a full application being submitted to the Council over the next few months.

Once the Council receive the full plans I will publish the further details on the proposed development on my website.

Craighouse Campus

The proposals to develop the site at Craighouse Campus have been ongoing for over two years now.  The developers’ initial plans were widely opposed, which resulted in them being withdrawn.  New plans were submitted and were due to be discussed by the Council’s Sub Committee on March 17, however, it appears that given the excellent representations submitted by local residents and groups, the developers have been forced to think again and have again withdrawn the current plans at this stage.  I was deeply concerned about the application being considered and I was heartened by the level of comment/objections submitted to the Council during the planning consultation process.

The Council have been informed by the developer that a revised plan will be submitted before the end of May and I keep all local residents up to date on this so that everybody has an opportunity to express their view.

It again shows that a strong local voice can have an impact and I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the excellent work of the Friends of Craighouse and Morningside Community Council on this important local issue.

The Drum

I have been keeping residents up to date on the Local Development Plan and the proposals being put forward by developers for our area.

A developer has now submitted outline proposals for a public consultation for the Greenbelt site in the Drum, south of Candlemaker’s Park.  I urge local residents to look at these proposals and send your comments to the developer using the feedback form below before the closing date of 26th February.

This is our opportunity to make an impression on the plans prior to a full application being submitted to the Council once the LDP has been adopted.

Plans 1: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363869/Plans-1

Plans 2: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363859/Plans-2

Plans 3: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363853/Plans-3

Feedback Form: http://www.scribd.com/doc/206363794/Public-Exhibition-Feedback-Form

Ian responds to the news on rise in the price of stamps

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Commenting on Royal Mail’s hike in the price of stamps announced today, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Trade and Investment Ian Murray MP said:

 

“Royal Mail is hiking up prices well above the rate of inflation yet again following hikes of over 30 per cent in stamp prices less than two years ago. Labour warned that the decision to privatise Royal Mail could result in significant price increases. 2nd_class_stamp

 

“This will add insult to injury at a time when families are being hit by a cost-of-living crisis. Ministers have not only left taxpayers short changed to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in their botched fire sale, but now given they have country’s postal provider free rein to raise prices which will have an impact on vulnerable customers and small businesses who rely on using Royal Mail stamps. 

 

“Consumers will question whether privatised Royal Mail has any interest in maintaining its vital letter delivery service in the future and this hike will clearly have an impact on affordability and access to services. The next Labour government would safeguard services by ensuring an appropriate degree of price control, securing the universal service obligation beyond its current deadline and strengthening the link between the Post Office and Royal Mail.”

 

Since 2009, prices have increased cumulatively – first class up 59 per cent and second class up 77 per cent.

Spike in Crime in Fairmilehead

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Some of my constituents, including representatives from Fairmilehead Community Council, have been in touch about the worrying spike in crime since the turn of the year in the area.

 

I have been working closely with the police on this issue. It of huge concern that we have had these spikes in crime, and this is not unique to Fairmilehead (you may have seen recent reports in the Grange/Newington). I would be very pleased to hear from local residents on ideas of what can be done to prevent crime peaking in the area, and for any comments more generally that you would like me to pass on to local officers.

 

Update from local police:  

 

Operation RAC commenced on 13th January and on a daily basis since, additional patrols have been carried out in locally identified areas, through previous reported incidents and intelligence received. These patrols are carried out by Response and Community police officers on all shifts, day and night.

 

In February 2014 in the Fairmilehead beat, there have been 2 theft by housebreaking offenses in relation to dwelling houses, with a further 2 unsuccessful attempts to break into properties reported. In addition one shed and one garage have been broken into. There were 5 theft by housebreaking offenses in January, with a further unsuccessful attempt to break into a house. 2 of the theft by housebreaking offenses have quickly resulted in persons being arrested and charged. Others are still under investigation. I have checked these against overall figures for the past 12 months, where 52 offenses were reported (these include all house break-ins, sheds, garages, businesses and all unsuccessful attempts to enter all such property, so we are running at slightly more than the one a week previously.

 

Officers currently attend the home addresses of 2 known offenders residing in the Oxgangs Police Station area on a nightly basis to ensure they are complying with bail curfew conditions imposed by the Court. Crime prevention surveys are being offered to vulnerable victims affected and we are using social media to highlight crime prevention advice. Stop and search continues to be used where appropriate.

 

The activities of officers locally and across the city working on this operation have definitely disrupted criminal activity with a number of offenders arrested and reported for housebreakings committed across the city.

Standard Life – Edinburgh SNP MSPs should stand up for constituents’ jobs

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Following the recent announcement by Standard Life that it is making relocation preparations as a result of uncertainties and concerns over issues like currency and which would put the jobs of thousands of Edinburgh residents at risk, Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray has written to SNP MSPs asking them to be clear that the will stand up for their constituents jobs.

 

Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South and Labour’s Shadow Business Minister said:

 

I’m hugely concerned that the uncertainty of the SNP’s separation plans would cost thousands of people in my constituency their jobs. if Standard Life left it’s Edinburgh base in the event of Scotland separating from the rest of the UK. 

 

“Standard Life have legitimately expressed in public what they and others have been saying in private for some time.  Their concerns about the disarray of the SNP’s currency plans are clear and they have begun to put in place contingency plans in the event of a yes vote.  For the SNP to just dismiss this does a disservice to their constituents, and the thousands of people who are in employed in the financial services sector across our city.  How can people and businesses, like Standard Life be expected to take a big leap in the dark with separation if those arguing in favour of it can’t even get their story straight on something as fundamental as the currency we use?

 

“The primary role of an elected politician is to stand up for their constituents.  SNP MSPs in South Edinburgh should be clear that they will stand up for their constituents jobs, instead of their obsession with their constitutional vanity project.  They were elected to represent not jeopardise their constituents’ jobs.”

 

Letter to SNP MSPs, Kenny MacAskill, Gordon MacDonald and Jim Eadie, who represent constituencies in South Edinburgh:

 

Dear Mr MacAskill,

 

Following the recent announcement from Standard Life that it is making contingency plans in the event of Scotland’s separation from the Rest of the UK, I wanted to write to you to seek your views and assurances.

 

The Scottish financial services sector employs 85,000 people directly and helps support 100,000 jobs indirectly in Scotland.  Indeed, Edinburgh is the financial hub of Scotland and I am proud that at the number of major financial corporations with headquarters or bases within our city, one being Standard Life.  Despite the recent problems with the financial services sector it is critical to both the Scottish and UK economies.

 

Focussing locally, Standard Life provides thousands of jobs to our constituents in the South of the city.  Do you agree therefore that it would be hugely complacent of any elected representative to ignore one of the biggest employers in our city expressing real concerns and reservations about the possible separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK?  I would hope that you would agree with me that the primary responsibility of any elected member is to represent his or her constituents and that any threat to a significant number of jobs should be a considerable concern for us all. 

 

We disagree fundamentally on independence but I am sure you would wish to join me to ensure our constituents do not lose their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the Scottish Government’s policy on the constitution.

 

I believe that the focus of politicians must be primarily on the retention and creation of jobs in their constituency and I hope you will respond positively to how you are going to do this in the light of the announcements made by Standard Life and others.

 

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Ian Murray MP