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Plymouth and South Devon Freeport

The Plymouth & South Devon Freeport was created by the previous Conservative-led administration at South Hams District Council, under a Conservative government, and without local public consultation. The Conservatives ensured the deal was fully signed and sealed before they lost control of the council in 2023. 

 

The new Liberal Democrat administration now has responsibility for oversight of the freeport, but is severely limited in its scope for action by the legal agreement signed by the Conservatives. I am aware of an ongoing and complex debate about whether the new council legally has the power to change anything about, or perhaps even halt, the freeport. I note that our Council Leader, Julian Brazil, says SHDC has 'taken the pragmatic path to stay within the freeport project', although he admits not all Liberal Democrats on the council support the project.

The debate is hampered by a lack of transparency around the legal agreement imposed by the Conservatives. While this is a district council matter, I will be following it closely. If I am elected as the next local MP, I will meet with all interested parties to get to the bottom of exactly what the implications of the freeport are for our area.

 

To be clear, no Liberal Democrat government would have introduced freeports. We believe that the government is wrong to present freeports as a silver bullet for international trade and growth. We know that they won't go near offsetting the damage done by the Conservatives' terrible trade deals, or the effects of their economic mismanagement, and carry very real risks both economic and environmental.

I would not have voted in favour of introducing freeports, and if elected to Parliament, will support legislation to apply full democratic control to these zones, removing exemptions which favour private investors over the public, or which risk damage to our precious environment. Such legislation would need to be well-designed to avoid adverse consequences for local people, in terms of employment and opportunity.

One of the key concerns for people in this area is jobs and investment – retail and hospitality jobs are not enough. We need long-term, year-round, skilled and well-paid jobs for local people.

What I want to see here are new, clean, green, high-tech jobs that can capitalise on the excellence in the Plymouth and South Devon area in marine technology, R&D and innovation. Jobs that encourage young people to stay in Devon, and which echo the passion we see locally for environmental protection and nature restoration. Jobs that push forward the green revolution and develop the industries of the future, while offering opportunities for workers at all levels and for all ages. Developing such opportunities should not be dependent on a freeport system that gives companies a get-out from contributing via tax to our national infrastructure. 

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