Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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Dudley Chronicle, 4 July

Politicians in Westminster have debated our EU membership, but it’s been nearly 40 years since the British people had their say.

EUROPE

For years politicians in Westminster have debated Britain’s membership of the EU. But it’s been nearly 40 years since the British people were trusted to have their say.

It’s no wonder that some people say politicians are out of touch or that voting doesn’t make a difference.

I think there should be an in / out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. That way we can settle it once and for all.

Personally, I would keep a free-trade single market but think we should decide on the social legislation and so on ourselves. And I think the EU should have no involvements in other issues such as UK relations with the rest of the world, domestic law and social security, for example.

In Westminster later this week a backbench Tory MP will introduce a bill calling for a referendum.

If it was a serious attempt to deal with the issue I’d be there like a shot. But it’s party political game playing by the Tories. It’s just a political stunt so I’ll be in Dudley where I’ve got longstanding commitments including meetings with residents and my regular advice surgeries.

First, it’s not really possible for this Parliament to bind another one four years down the line on a referendum when we don't know what the position will be. And there would be no reason why a future government or Parliament could not change the position, so I think it is pretty meaningless.

However, the truth is that the UK needs to decide and I would prefer it to do so more quickly. I know this isn’t Labour Party policy but my view is that we should have a referendum next year on the same day as the European elections.

Politicians in Westminster haven’t been able to sort this issue out to public satisfaction. So I think it’s about time that the public is given its say. That should be sooner rather than later.

DECISION EXPECTED ON DUDLEY’S TA REGIMENT

This week we should hear the Government’s final plans for Dudley’s TA regiment, the Royal Mercian and Lancastrian Yeomanry. The regiment’s A Squadron is based at Vicar Street and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Government will drop plans to split up the regiment.

Since the plans were first announced we’ve been campaigning to urge Government Ministers to think again.

Last week in a House of Commons debate I told Ministers that it makes no sense to scrap a successful and expanding regiment – particularly at a time when the Government wants to double the size of the Territorial Army.

People in Dudley can still show their support by signing a petition started by Hannah Bragg, the wife of a member of the regiment. Her petition has already got over 1,400 signatures but she’s calling for one final push to show decision makers the strength of feeling in Dudley. It can be signed at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49480


With Britain celebrating Armed Forces week last week, we should reflect on the enormous contribution people in Dudley make to the country through our local TA base, including the two dozen RMLY volunteers currently on service overseas. And Ministers should reject anything which could put that at risk.

WH SMITH

The news that WH Smiths is to leave the high street is a huge blow for Dudley.

I feel very sorry for the staff at the store and it will make it more difficult still to attract new businesses and new people into the town.

I’m asking for a meeting with the owners. I want to take a group of people to meet them and try to persuade them to rethink.

The news is a painful reminder that we need new ideas for the town centre. With the growth of internet shopping and Merry Hill, Dudley cannot rely on retail alone to bring people to the high street. That’s why I think we need a new strategy to bring people into the town based on exploiting our heritage and history to remodel Dudley around tourism and the arts.

Let’s look to Ludlow as a model for Dudley’s redevelopment. In the same way that they used their castle to put on Shakespeare plays, we should be using the castle to put on concerts and plays throughout the summer to attract thousands of visitors to the town, boost trade and create jobs.

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