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Colvile finds Navy's vital role: to protect Christmas

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

We need a strong Navy to protect our sea routes, says Oliver Colvile, MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. "Can we imagine Christmas without oranges?" he asked during a House of Commons debate

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In their foreword to the coalition Government's programme, David Cameron and Nick Clegg made clear the first duty of government is "to safeguard our national security". Some have questioned whether the Tories and Liberal Democrats have lived up to the pledge since taking an axe to the Armed Forces, including scaling back the military's presence in the Westcountry.

But there may be another reason to retain our naval flotilla: ensuring the contents of the traditional Christmas stocking.

Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, made a fierce defence of a strong Navy, which boasts the Devonport base in his constituency.

"We must protect our sea routes and air routes so that we can get bits of kit and imports into the country," he said during a Commons debate. "Could we imagine Christmas without oranges or the kinds of fruits that we depend upon being able to import?"

Zero hours 'abuses'

In September, the Western Morning News revealed more than 1,700 council workers across the region are on controversial "zero hours" contracts.

Dorset County Council had more than 620 zero hours staff, at Cornwall Council around 300 staff were workers engaged on the contracts, in Devon the county council employed 179 staff on "nil hours" contracts, and Teignbridge Council had 183 zero hours staff. Torbay Council said it had 139 staff employed on the contracts and 106 staff at West Dorset Council were on zero hour deals.

The deals have been condemned by unions amid fears low-paid workers are being exploited, though proponents say they provide flexibility for both worker and employee. The Government is currently investigating the practice.

Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, has new questions. In the Commons this week, he warned of the "parallel abuses where employees appear to be engaged as subcontractors as a way of masking the fact that they are being paid below the national minimum wage so that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs find it difficult to enforce the national minimum wage regulations." One to watch.

One day is just a start

MPs from across the region got four-square behind Small Business Saturday, a day aimed at boosting independent high street retailers.

"Just visited another fantastic Newton Abbot shop – A&K family butchers," Anne Marie Morris, Tory MP for Newton Abbot, said on Twitter. Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, added: "I'm off Xmas shopping at independent small businesses in Torbay."

As this newspaper has long championed the "buy local" ideals, let's hope support for independents stretches beyond one day.

Tweet of the week

North Devon Liberal Democrat MP Sir Nick Harvey

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