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SARAH WOLLASTON: Better way to help reduce energy costs

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

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MANY people write to me to say how annoyed they are about the level of subsidies for renewable energy and, in particular, the way these have led to a rush of applications for large-scale solar and wind 'farms'.

I know they will be pleased with the announcement about changes to shift the balance of subsidies to off-shore rather than on-shore sites where not only is the wind stronger but they have less impact on local communities.

Together with changes to planning guidance to recognise the importance of landscape value, I hope this will help to redress the balance.

There is reassurance that overall spending on renewable energy won't change but this measure will tackle the distorting effect that subsidies can have in driving inappropriate industrialisation over parts of our countryside.

It is also right that more of the burden of renewable subsidies will shift away from fuel bills to direct taxation; this is a far better way to help reduce energy costs than an undeliverable promise to stop international gas prices from rising; that would only result in artificial rises before and afterwards alongside a serious risk of blackouts.

I WAS delighted to vote yes to a referendum on our membership of the EU before the end of 2017.

Of course, it is time for everyone to have a say on this issue once we know what has been renegotiated with the EU.

The bill now moves to the House of Lords for scrutiny early next year.

I just hope it makes it through so that everyone, whatever their view, can cast their vote not just MPs.

I AM very glad the option of 'plain' packaging for cigarettes is back on the table to get rid of the last legal means for big tobacco to glamorise their product.

More than 200,000 children take up smoking every year and, if they become addicted, half of them will die prematurely as a result of the habit if they continue long term.

There is nothing plain about 'plain packaging'; they show graphic images of the consequences and who wants to pass around a packet of fags plastered with pictures of gangrene?

In Australia, where this is already in place, one of the effects of the packaging is that smokers are less likely to hand them around and they feel more motivated to pack up altogether.

A review of the evidence is being conducted by an independent paediatrician Professor Sir Cyril Chantler, who will report before April next year.

A MARINE Conservation Zone has now been agreed for Torbay.

We have a range of rare and vulnerable habitats and species across the Bay, which will now have better protection.

Good news for the long snouted seahorse but I know there was concern the designation of a MCZ could impact on the local economy.

That designation does not however, automatically restrict economic or recreational activities across the Bay.

Decisions must be made on the basis of the actual risk posed to those habitats and their wildlife.

People who make of the use of the Bay will be actively encouraged to engage with this process; local knowledge is essential to make sure the process balances protection with our coastal waters remaining accessible as a valuable economic and recreational resource.

You can find out more about the designation at www.drsarah.org.uk/issues/marine-conservation-zones

WISHING you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

MY next surgery is at the Totnes Conservative Club tomorrow from 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

After that I will be back at the Totnes Conservative Club on Friday, January 10, from 3.30pm to 5pm.

On Friday, January 31, I will be at the Quay House in Kingsbridge from 10am to midday.

Then, on Friday, February 2, I will be back at the Totnes Conservative Club from 3pm to 5.30pm.

To book a surgery appointment, contact Nina Smith on 01803 868378 or at nina.smith@parliament.uk

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