MPs Column - Fighting hard for UK power

We have had a very thorough-going debate on the European Union (Referendum) Bill.

The bill seeks to give voters a say over the relationship this country has with Europe and specifically over our membership of the European Union.

We in the Conservative Party are now committed to giving people that referendum, which would be our first on the subject since 1975.

The other parties are saying they are in favour 
of a referendum if any more significant transfers of 
power from Britain to Brussels occur, though they never do define what they mean by significant.

In the debate, I intervened to point out that it is clear that we want to be able to control our own borders, fishing, agriculture, and courts, and we want to stop small businesses being hit by ever more regulation. I kept goading the Labour members opposite, trying to find out if they would support even just the idea of giving voters a referendum on membership.

From every Labour MP I asked, the answer I received was a model of evasion, avoiding the question and dodging the issue. “Of course, we are in favour of a referendum in principle...” But if we in Parliament do not translate principles into practice, we risk further deepening of the divide between the government and the people.

Too often the mandarins in Whitehall and the know-it-alls in Westminster underestimate the feeling of alienation which exists outside their small but comfortable London world.

It is my job to make sure that the Government front bench is kept well aware of the matters of vital importance to people in our part of Lincolnshire.

Sometimes this means raising local concerns, such as my recent writing to the Secretary of State for Transport over trains from Market Rasen, or the state of Gainsborough Central.

But we in Lincolnshire think beyond our own homes and borders. Many of us are very worried about the 
level of centralisation in Europe.

Some of the powers Brussels has we should not even be comfortable with London having. We need to accelerate the decentralisation of power so that decisions are taken closest to the people who will be affected by them.

This is called the principle of subsidiarity, and curiously it is written in European law as one of the foundational principles of the European Union. But again, the practice differs all too much from the principle.

This Government is delivering local decision-making, especially with regard to planning. The National Planning Policy Framework explicitly makes clear that the views of local residents and workers are to have priority when it comes to planning decisions.

That’s why the planning committee of West Lindsey District Council has the power to make the right decisions, like turning down the Hemswell Cliff wind farm application.

I was delighted to go to the committee meeting and speak against the proposals. 
But there are more powers which need to be won 
back from Brussels, and we 
are fighting hard to return them.

Sir Edward Leigh

MP for Gainsborough