About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

6th October 2014. Paul Blomfield MP, The Big Conversation, by Nigel Slack

Each year, to his credit, my local MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, holds a aeries of events throughout his constituency talking with a broad range of organisations and the public. These events cover a range of subjects and are used by him and his team to inform his work for the coming year on behalf of his part of Sheffield.

This year I attended the event at the Sharrow Community Forum offices just round the corner from where I live. There were about eighteen of us in the audience and before we got down to business we were plied with tea and biscuits by Paul's team. Starting the conversation, Paul commented on what the event was about and gave us some examples of the way he'd used previous 'conversations' to bring up in Parliament and begin campaigns about. The two most prominent being zero hour contracts and the problems associated with pay day loans.

I was fortunate enough to get the first question and asked Paul about his views on TTIP. (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) I cited concerns over the regulatory harmonisation agenda which would risk EU rules on food (GMO's in particular) and US regulations on banking which are stronger than ours. Strong concerns over ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) a system that is being used by corporations to prevent changes to laws that might adversely affect their 'potential future' profits. Then the little known Mode 4 Cross Border Trade section, that would allow corporations to employ foreign staff, in this country, irrespective of immigration laws, and on lower terms and conditions than theri UK or EU counterparts.

In response, Paul commented that the biggest problem highlighted in other conversations about TTIP was with respect to the NHS being vulnerable to privatisation and the ISDS section. His opinion came down to the fact that the NHS and other public services should be exempt from the treaty and the ISDS proposals should either be radically different to ensure it does not limit Governments ability to legislate. He also inferred that this was Labour Party policy as well. I expressed concern over the potential for the treaty to be in place before the next election therby negating any election promises, but he said it was inconceivable, with the level of opposition in EU and USA that it would be complete before the 2015 election. On Mode 4, however, he made no comment. He did also offer to continue the discussion with me at another time.

There were a range of questions from other members of the audience ranging from IS and the Labour support for bombing, Local Devolution and not wanting an English Parliament, the need to challenge the move of money within the economy from wages to profits and from profits to dividends, and whether the people are willing to pay more for the NHS in taxes.

We concluded after an hour with Paul promising to circulate the results of all his big conversation events and thanking us all for our time and contributions. As the meeting broke up I was approached by a number of people wanting more information about TTIP, expressing their concern that so little was in the public domain about this treaty. I chatted over the basics with them for a while but then suggested they follow up their enquiries at the 'Stop TTIP' website. (details below)

To contact, email nrslack@aol.com

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