In My View - 15th November 2018

Last week I visited Rotterdam on a trip to look at port and related facilities there. As Europe’s biggest port, it has the effect of making the Netherlands our third biggest destination for exports after America and Germany. This so called ‘Rotterdam effect’ – in fact many of these goods go on to other destinations throughout the world but are classified as being imported by the Dutch. The size of the effect is hard to be exact about but for the purposes of looking at ways to help inform Government policy and ultimately support Somerset businesses, the important facts are that it is a massive, efficient and well-run port dealing with goods to and from the whole world.

Of particular interest is a commercial premise of Eurofrigo which hosts official checks on chilled and frozen foods from all over the world. Based 40km from the port, they check 2-3% of goods that go through the facility. Looking at the challenges of the Irish border issue and also the efficiency of our own port systems, examples like this are hugely useful and encouraging, as they show that existing procedures can be used to make checks at frontiers unnecessary. In addition even if third party customs brokers are used to help companies navigate the process the customs formalities are a tiny fraction of the cost that some have been concerned about.

Back in Somerset, I recently had a good meeting with the local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and one of the issues we discussed was Universal Credit. This is the reform to the welfare system replacing a number of different old benefits such as jobseekers’ allowance. The idea behind it is very sound in that it means it allows people more smoothly into work and means that it will always be more rewarding to work than not. Replacing decades of the old system is a complex task though and there have been some adjustments needed. Recognising that circumstances vary and each case may be unique is a challenge – helping people having problems with Universal Credit has been a regular feature of my advice surgeries and support for constituents.

Having taken a number of issues back to the Department for Work and Pensions I was really pleased to see the Chancellor commit an extra £1.7billion a year to the system which will increase the amount you can earn before benefits start to taper off and help people with the transition onto Universal Credit. It was really important that the concerns that had been raised were listened to and action has been taken. The Conservative Party has always been the party of opportunity and ambition but we must also keep making sure the Government is there for support when things aren’t going so well and for that reason I am very supportive of funding and getting this new system right.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about these items, if you have a local concern or would like to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries, please do get in touch by calling 01935314321 or email