Blending care for the environment with commercial farming was the topic under discussion at the latest meeting of the Herefordshire Conservative Business Forum.

Meeting at the Pengethley Manor Hotel, members and guests of HCBF heard from Patrick Wrixon, the recently-elected President of EISA (the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture).

Drawing on his near-40 year experience of farming at Devereux Wootton, Mr Wrixon explained how every facet of his business is underpinned by his interest in biodiversity and conservation and he went on to talk about the range of alternative energy projects that the farm incorporates.  The farm now boasts an eight-kilometre permissive access path, enjoyed by walkers and riders alike; 130 acres of land are given over to environmental measures including an area of wetlands and has been adopted by Natural England as an exemplar to demonstrate and promote the Higher Level Stewardship scheme to other farmers.

“The vast majority of framers and growers have long-recognised their responsibilities as stewards of the land and our flora and fauna.  Nowadays more and more consumers are expressing their support by deciding to buy foodstuffs produced by agri-environmental businesses,” said HCBF Chairman and MEP, Anthea McIntyre.

“I am delighted that Patrick was able to share his practical experiences with our members and to show that caring for the environment is not only the right thing to do but makes good commercial sense as well .”

(Photograph shows  (l to r) Patrick Wrixon, Anthea McIntyre MEP and David Price from the CLA.)

Students undertaking Business Studies courses at Dudley College got the chance to quiz a panel of politicians and others on a wide range of issues on Friday, 22nd March 2013.

The panel included Anthea McIntyre MEP, the Conservative Employment Spokesman in Europe, and local MP, Ian Austin.

The fifty students at the event were particular interested to explore how politicians and their decisions affect businesses.  The range of questions encompassed many topics with particular emphasis on how more businesses could emulate the success of Jaguar Land Rover, barriers to employment such as the Working Time Directive, and the business-friendly measures in the Budget.

“The Chancellor’s decision to reduce the Employer’s National Insurance Contribution by £2,000 should encourage many more firms to take on additional staff.” said Miss McIntyre.

“It has been estimated that this one measure could lead to the creation of many thousands of new jobs and, alongside other announcements such as the scrapping of the 3p fuel duty increase, show that the Government is pulling out all the stops to get the British economy moving.”

The event, organised by Business Studies Tutor, Michael Bickley, was a great success and likely to become an annual event.

“I am always delighted to take part in events of this type and to hear from those who will, in the future, be running Britain’s businesses, large and small.” Commented Miss McIntyre.

(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP with Michael Bickley of Dudley College.)

The recent vote by the European Parliament to support a package of ‘reform’ proposals has been called a major step-back to the days of wide-spread intervention and protectionism by Conservative MEPs.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting of Herefordshire Conservative Business Forum, the Conservative Agriculture spokesman, Julie Girling, called the majority of measures “retrograde”.

 MEPs had pored over the outcome of hundreds of detailed amendments and votes on the minutiae of the package, she said: "This was a golden opportunity so set up a fairer and less wasteful system but that opportunity has been squandered.
 
“In some areas Conservative pressure has led to better proposals but overall the MEPs have ended up approving something less fair for British farmers, less helpful to consumers and less supportive of the environment and biodiversity.

“The whole reform package needed to be more market-oriented and less interventionist. Instead we will continue to see French farmers enjoying much more favourable terms than their British counterparts. We will continue to see inadequate support and encouragement for more-efficient medium-to-large farms. Worse than that, we will see a return to the bad old days of butter mountains, wine lakes and rampant intervention which destroys any realistic market and punishes consumers."

West Midlands MEP, Anthea McIntyre, who hosted the Business Forum event, said:

“Once again the EU has failed to grasp the nettle of reform and has instead opted to turn the clock back to a system that failed farmers, consumers and the environment.

“The battle isn’t over.  Although our task has been made harder by this decision, there should be no doubt that Conservative MEPs will keep working to achieve a better deal for our farmers, for families and flora and fauna .”

(Photograph shows Anthea McIntyre MEP with Julie Girling MEP and John Mercer, NFU Regional Director.)

 Members of the Rotary Club of Nuneaton invited local MEP, Anthea McIntyre, to join them for lunch so they could hear about her work in the European Parliament.

“As the Conservative Employment Spokesman in Europe I obviously devote a considerable amount of time to that brief – fighting unnecessary bureaucracy, promoting British business and reminding the European Parliament that that EU growth plans do not create jobs - businesses do. 

“I also serve on the Agriculture Committee; the Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on Organised Crime, Corruption and Money Laundering – a pretty diverse range of issues with a single common thread connecting my approach :  does Europe need to be doing this?

The 25 members of the Club asked a number of questions on specific matters and, at the end of the visit, Miss McIntyre said:

“I welcome every opportunity to talk about my work as an MEP – the job is not to act as spokesmen for the EU to represent the views and interests of the West Midlands to our European neighbours.”

The EU must offer more than warm words to address the deep concerns of small businesses over Brussels red tape, Conservative MEPs have cautioned.

The warning came as the EU Commission published a "top ten" list of EU regulations which cause the greatest problems for SMEs. The list was drawn from a Europe-wide consultation process begun in December last year -  which several Conservative MEPs urged their local businesses to take part in.

Predictably, the list includes unwanted social legislation such as the Working Time Directive and labour-market regulation, as well as rules on data protection, public procurement and professional qualifications.

Anthea McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "Conservative MEPs who are constantly hearing the concerns of small businesses could have written this list for them before the consultation began.

"Now Commissioners have been sent a direct message and they must offer more than warm words in response.

"They have at least had the courage to go directly to SMEs and ask the tough questions about their concerns. Now they must show they can pay heed to the tough answers.

"They have been sent a cry for help. If they are serious about unleashing the economic power of entrepreneurs and smaller traders they must now work with them to reduce this regulatory burden.

"What small businesses really want is for the bureaucrats to get out of their way and let them get on with what they do best - driving enterprise, launching fresh ideas and creating jobs."