Clare Moody

MEP for the South West and Gibraltar

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Cities, towns and rural areas should all benefit from devolution

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Others have said I had the biggest smile in the coverage of the European election night.  That's hardly surprising as I consider myself very lucky to represent the people of the South West, the most beautiful, diverse and full of potential part of the UK.
 
I officially became an MEP on 1st July and have now developed a routine.  Inevitably, as with a Westminster MP, I am away working in parliament from Monday morning until Thursday night but Friday's are the day when I visit constituents, groups and businesses around the region.  I spend my Saturdays campaigning for the General Election, which gives me a chance to listen to voters.
 
I have already met with a wide range of people and businesses.  From farmers to manufacturers, from organisations working on energy conservation projects to constituents working in international development.  All of these areas have European support, providing jobs in the region, and show the outward looking nature of our region.

There is very little discussion in the UK about politics at an EU level.  Like Westminster there are strong political debates and like Westminster the right are in power at the moment.  However, unlike Westminster much more effort is put into reaching consensus on solutions to problems.  Voters have told me many times how much they dislike 'Punch and Judy' politics and the European Parliament does provide an alternative model.  


The Parliament also shares responsibility for making laws with the 'Council'.  This is made up of national Prime Ministers and Ministers, so next time you hear a minister criticising the EU remember the UK govt has been directly involved in making those decisions and laws.  It is a shame that national politicians do not take the credit for reaching consensus at EU level to deliver benefits for our region and our country more often.
 
I sit on three significant committees - Budget (my main committee), Industry, Trade, Research and Energy Committee (a committee that is important to our region) and the Women's committee.  


Currently we are in the middle of the hearings of new Commissioners, who will take office in November.  Again there are politics involved as countries put forward a political nomination for the Commissioner.  As you can imagine while we aim for consensus there are still some very lively debates about the Commissioner candidates' backgrounds and what their priorities will be over the coming 5 years.  As I write it still isn't clear whether or not there will be changes to the candidates or their portfolios as a result of the efforts to reach consensus.
 
It's been an interesting summer on the UK constitutional front as well.  At the beginning of August I campaigned in the Scottish Independence Referendum, talking to voters about why we are Better Together.  Many of the same arguments apply to why the UK should stay as part of the EU in an increasingly globalised but also unstable world. I sincerely hope this now leads to a long overdue debate on devolution for England.
 
The South West definitely needs a strong voice.  All the talk I've heard about English devolution has been about the Midlands and the North, Birmingham and Manchester in particular.  When I talk to people from elsewhere about our region it's clear they often simply think of the South West as a tourist area but we are so much more than that: a region with a significant manufacturing industry, cutting edge environmental technology and high tech electronics and digital media.  We have the highest level of employment in aerospace manufacturing in the country; a growth industry for the UK. However, there isn't a regional voice that's speaking up for our infrastructure needs, housing and investment.
 
Part of the conversation about reform should include what to do about Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).  Many businesses, let alone voters, haven't heard of them but they are hugely significant bodies - a lot of European funding is now being funnelled through them.  Before 2010 there were Regional Development Agencies, (RDAs) whose purpose was to deliver strategic investment and infrastructure plans for the whole region.  The government reorganisation means there are now 6 LEPs in the South West.
 
Rather than abolish them they must be made more open, transparent and accountable. It is really important that money available to the region is used effectively and that people know what is being done with these public funds.
 
Joining up the constitutional debate about how more power could be released to local communities and regions and how the LEPs could be made to work more publicly and with more accountability is a debate that I think is just starting. Our region should take full advantage of this opportunity - we are in a unique position to devise a way to ensure cities, towns and rural areas can benefit equally from devolution.  
 
I still have a lot to learn about how I can use the role of MEP to deliver for our region, which is my absolute priority.  Please get in touch if you would like me to visit your area or would like more information on European issues.

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