Here is where I stand on the issues that matter to you:
Agriculture and the Rural Economy:
Agriculture is extremely important to the economy in East Antrim and has been under pressure for some time. It is important that the Government encourage the public to buy locally sourced foods but more importantly it should reduce red tape and bureaucracy. To farmers, red tape makes a difficult job even more difficult and I support attempts by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Department of the Environment to reduce the bureaucracy forced on the industry.
I want to see rural communities in East Antrim flourish and become more stable. I believe that both European and National monies should be used to fund a future rural development programme which should be delivered in a manner which is of greatest benefit to rural communities.
Crime and Anti Social Behaviour:
Tougher measures need to be taken in order to tackle crime in Northern Ireland. For those convicted, sentences should be given to reflect the seriousness of their crime. I am in favour of stiff minimum sentences for crimes motivated by sectarianism or racism. I support the granting of additional resources to the Serious Organised Crime Agency so that its work in thwarting organised criminal gangs is continued and enhanced.
I will continue to push for local authorities to make full use of the resources available to them. Anti Social Behaviour Orders have not been used in Northern Ireland and they should be strengthened and enforced rigorously.
Our economy is overly dependant on the public sector and we want to grow the public sector in Northern Ireland. Much progress has been made in the last number of years and Northern Ireland is the second most popular place in the UK per capita for Foreign Direct Investment. We must continue to seek investment opportunities abroad in addition to encouraging investment within the province. To help with this we also need a radical reform of the planning process so that important developments can be fast tracked. I also believe that in order for the economy to grow, we need to see investment in our roads, rail, water, sewerage, energy and telecommunications infrastructure. As Finance Minister, I am pleased to have been able to introduce the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme which has saved small businesses in Northern Ireland over £40m so far. Within East Antrim, on behalf of the DUP I led the campaigns to see our roads upgraded and the Larne line modernised. I am pleased that work has now begun on the upgrade of the A2 and the A8 and that new trains are now in service on the Larne line.
In the longer term, we need to invest in our young people. We need to ensure that they are educated and trained to the highest standards, so that we have a well educated workforce to compel prospective investments to come to Northern Ireland.
Children should be educated in schools which are best suited to their needs. A one size fits all model does not ensure that our children get the best education possible. Consequently, I am a strong advocate of academic selection. It is the fairest means by which children transfer to a post primary school. Without academic selection it is highly likely that children will transfer schools depending on their economic status or social connections.
I support the principle of a single education and library board and I believe that money should be spent on children, schools and rewarding teachers appropriately rather than administration and bureaucracy.
In my own constituency, and indeed throughout Northern Ireland, we have some of the most outstanding natural beauty in the United Kingdom. I want to keep it that way so that we, future generations and visitors to Northern Ireland can enjoy it.
We have a duty to care for and protect our environment; this is a shared and accepted view. Wherever it is reasonably possible for us to protect and improve the environment, government should play a key role in facilitating this. However I am not of the opinion that climate change is happening at the rate that some would tell us it is and I do not believe that it is within the power of humans to change the climate of the planet through reducing CO2 emissions.
Our climate is changing; there is little doubt that global warming had taken place in the last 30 years of the 20th century. However actual evidence (not forecasted computer models) now show us that the earth has actually been cooling since 1998.
I dispute the theory, and it is only a theory, that the world is warming due to C02 emissions and other human activity. Throughout the history of the earth temperatures have fluctuated, and we know this due to records which state that grapes used to be able to be grown in Scotland during Roman times and ice skaters could be seen on the Thames during the Victorian era. We have witnessed a period of global warming towards the end of the 20th century and we are now entering into a cooler period. These have occurred due to the natural variations in the temperature of the planet, not because of human activity.
Government policy and decision making has been heavily influenced by the green lobby, which I believe has been detrimental to the British economy. Green taxes have been levied on business and families, in the guise of promoting green behaviour, but in reality they have been stealth taxes which have hampered economic growth and made it harder for people to prosper.
I am therefore opposed to any attempts to impose or raise green taxes, which is an illogical way to combat a ‘problem’ which is in reality an unproven theory driven by the green lobby and supported by scientists who exaggerate and in many cases distort data in order to give the illusion that there is a serious problem. In reality however they only do so to ensure they continue to receive funding for the coming apocalypse that they predict.
Changes in our climate do require a response from individuals and governments; however these should be in a way which practically deals with the consequences of climate change, and not vainly trying to stop it. If sea levels are rising then resources should be directed towards improving flood defences not taxing people more for driving their cars.
Unfortunately the myth of man made global warming has been allowed to continue, with too many politicians eager to bend over backwards to satisfy the green lobby’s demands for measures to be taken. They have been mislead by dodgy science, however it is the ordinary men, woman and families who will suffer most because of the measures that they seek to enact because of it.
For more on this issue you can read Sammy’s article: Climate Change Alarmists damage us all in the Articles setion, on this website.
Government in Northern Ireland:
There are too many councillors, MLA’s and Government Departments in Northern Ireland. The Review of Public Administration will reduce the number of councils to 11, which will be more efficient and deliver better value for money for people in Northern Ireland.
The number of MLA’s and Government Departments were determined in 1998 at the time of the Belfast Agreement. They were determined not because it was thought that it would be in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, but instead it was to suit the political requirements of the time. I am in favour of cutting the number of MLA’s from 108 to at least 72 and at the same time cutting by half the number of government departments. This will require cross party agreement and I will work alongside others to seek consensus.
I believe we need to restructure the health care system in Northern Ireland. I support the reduction in the number of Health Boards from 4 to 1, and support attempts to reduce administrative bureaucracy. It is essential that healthcare staff have the resources that they need to deliver frontline services and this reduction in bureaucracy will enable more resources to be directed to where it is most needed.
I support investment in health promotion and health awareness as I believe that this will lead to individuals taking greater personal responsibility for their wellbeing and that of their families.
I believe we must also make mental health a priority. Suicide, in particular, is becoming an increasing problem, and steps need to be taken at both a community and province-wide level to address this problem.
First time buyers are being priced out of the housing market. In order to address this problem, I believe that we need new social housing to match the number being sold by the Housing Executive. We also need to zone more land for residential development, with the guarantee that this will not be land banked by developers. I also support an increase in the threshold for paying stamp duty.
I am also in favour of radically overhauling the system for devising area plans in Northern Ireland.
At Westminster and in the Northern Ireland Assembly I have consistently defended the right of people to publicly state their beliefs and live their lives according to them. Because of this I have received a 100% approval rating from the Christian Institute. I believe that marriage should remain as a union between one man and one woman and I have voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in Parliament. I will continue to fight against the anti Christian and anti faith bias which prevails in the House of Commons.
Due to years of terrorism our international image has suffered greatly, and the tourism industry has lost millions of pounds because of it. However we now have a great opportunity to promote Northern Ireland in a positive manner, and this has the potential to transform our economy. We cannot, however, allow republicans to promote their deluded version of history and there must be no glorification of terrorism in the promotion of tourism in Northern Ireland. There is huge potential for the industry in East Antrim, and I am working with other MLA’s and Councillors in the area to ensure that this is promoted. I have also worked closely with La Farge to promote the existing tourist potential of the Magheramorne Quarry Development.
Good transport links are essential for growing economy. The free movement of people and goods enables an area to grow and develop and I strongly believe that this needs to happen in Northern Ireland. I believe that the upgrade of the A8 and A2 are essential to strengthening East Antrim and I am glad that these plans are no becoming a reality. We also need to upgrade our rail network. New trains have increased demand on the Larne line and this strengthens the the case for more investment on stations and park and ride facilities to make public transport more attractive. However alongside new trains we also need to see more frequent services. I will continue to make the case for this in the Northern Ireland Assembly and ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place in East Antrim.