Thursday, 20 September 2012

West Briton Column 20 September 2012

I believe that most people want to buy locally grown food and failing that want to buy British. Unless I am buying direct from a farmer, like everyone else I rely on food labelling to let me know where the food was produced. This seems pretty straightforward, however despite the good intentions of those involved, some very misleading information is often included in labelling. For example, while we produce most of the liquid milk that is consumed in the UK, we import dairy products like cheese and butter that are made from overseas milk but because they are packaged in the UK, they can carry UK labelling. In my opinion this is quite wrong and something that has to change. This is just one of the steps that need to be taken to help our dairy farmers, to make regulation work  both for them and the consumer. In a comprehensive debate in Parliament last week, a number of important steps to help dairy farmers, agreed over the summer between supermarkets, milk processors and dairy farmers were discussed and further action agreed. I will continue to do all I can to enable more of our food to be produced here and in the rest of the UK.
After another well supported debate last week, the Government also agreed to a comprehensive review of the transport fuel market. Regular readers will be aware of my continuous efforts to get the best possible deal at the pump for local people. It is worth remembering that as a result of Government action to date, pump prices are 10p less than Labour had planned.
Finally, I was probably not the only reader that was filling up at the pump last week to take my daughter on an unforgettable  journey – to start university. A big step for her parents and even bigger for her! While I am in no doubt that education has great value for your whole life whatever you end up doing, I appreciate that not everyone is so confident about the value and price of a higher education today. I hope that the steps taken by the Government last week will go some way to provide helpful information and reassurance. Crucially as of this month students can visit the website  to compare key statistics about prospective universities, including information about the current employment of graduates.
A university education is not for everyone, so I am pleased that both apprenticeships and other types of skills based learning are going from strength to strength locally. I also welcome the fact that, despite these very difficult times for our economy, funding for community based learning has been protected. Skilled people of  all ages, held back by a lack of formal qualifications, are able to learn informally from a range of providers, or through local learning groups, all funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. More information about community-based learning can be found by visiting the Business, Innovation and Skills website or by calling my office on 01872 274 760.

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