Friday 3rd February 2017
After a wet and stormy end to the week it is time for my latest update.
My week has been focused on parliament as the House of Commons sat from Monday to Friday this week. In addition to the historic vote on Tuesday night I have been a member of two bill committees (Where a small number of MPs undertake detailed scrutiny on each line of a bill), was elected Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Our Union, asked six questions in the House of Commons and gave speeches on no less than 3 separate bills. I also attended an event with the First Sea Lord to discuss the future of the Royal Navy and got a few emails about Donald Trump!!!
More locally last Saturday I was delighted to attend a special Playday arranged by Play Torbay at the Torbay Foyer in Torre. The purpose of the day was to not only have a lot of fun, but to also give out information about support available to LGBT teenagers, many of whom face bullying or family disapproval if they reveal their feelings. It was opened by Mayor Gordon Oliver and I gave the closing address.
This weekend will see a moment that will be sad for many, but the start of another chapter in the history of a building that has been at the heart of Ellacombe for 150 years. The final Sunday Service will take place at Christchurch Ellacombe, Ellacombe Church Road at 3pm on Sunday 5th February. A falling congregation has prompted a rethink about the building's uses, which will now be linked with Ellacombe C of E Academy to continue its service to local people. All are welcome to join the service to mark the church’s contribution to the community over so many years.
Finally it was a pleasure to welcome representatives of Torquay’s Best Bar None scheme to Westminster this week. You can find out more about this below, along with this week’s update which includes: Article 50 Vote, Brexit White Paper, Radio Bill Clears Commons, Photo Matters Couple, Car Parking Charges Debate, Heathrow Consultation Gives Chance To Push SW Transport Links, Child Poverty Bill, Police Charity Fund Appeal, Torre & Upton Survey, South Devon Jobs Fair Returns, Love Your High St Week, Kev’s Column: Hospital Pleas Ignored and finally… Oyez! Oyez! A Job For You?
Article 50 Vote,
It may be one of the shortest bills to be considered by parliament since I was elected, with just 137 words, but the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill marks a historic milestone for our country.
MP’s voted on Wednesday by an overwhelming majority of 498 to 114 to support the bill, which gives Parliament’s consent for the Government to trigger Article 50. Once triggered the formal period of negotiations for Britain to leave the EU will start.
I voted for the bill as I respect the decision of a clear majority of voters both nationally and here in Torbay, who voted last June to leave the EU. The Referendum was not just a consultation exercise, it was a chance for the British people to settle an issue that has been debated for a generation. Namely what should our relationship with Europe be.
There will be more debates on the bill next week when it is discussed at Committee Stage, with many amendments already proposed to it, yet the overwhelming first vote indicates that the overall outcome is now certain.
Brexit White Paper,
The Government has now published a White Paper that sets out its goals and plans for Brexit.
You can read the document for yourself on the Government website by clicking here.
For me the fundamentals that must be in any deal are that those EU Citizens who have in good faith exercised their treaty rights to live and work here should be protected, with the exception of the tiny number who have abused our hospitality by committing criminal offences. The second is that the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, that has existed since Irish Independence in the 1920’s, should be maintained. There third is that there must be clear protections in relation to the rights of those UK citizens currently living or working in the EU, along with free access to\from Gibraltar via the land border with Spain.
Given the complexity of the Brexit process it is impossible to list every issue that will be covered here but I will provide regular updates over the next few years as more issues are debated in parliament.
Radio Bill Clears Commons,
Earlier today I was in the Chamber of the House of Commons to see my Private Members' Bill, the Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill, pass the Report Stage and Third Reading.
The Bill aims to ensure that small community radio stations, that currently can only access FM and AM services, are also able to access Digital Radio services without having to join a larger network, pay an exorbitant amount for the license, or by joining a larger multiplex that would broadcast the service to areas that are not relevant.
It is rare for a PMB to navigate the House of Commons successfully, with an average of just 11% actually becoming legislation due to obstacles like the notorious rules that allow 1 member to talk the bill out unless it has wide support. It is even rarer for a PMB to do so without any amendments.
Luckily I managed to secure cross party support enabling it to progress through the key stages in the House of Commons. The Bill now moves on to the House of Lords for scrutiny, and I will provide updates as the Bill progresses through each stage in “the other place”.
You can read the debate on my bill by clicking here.
Photo Matters Couple,
There has been a lot of media coverage this week of the case involving Paul and Gail Freathy who own Photo Matters in St Marychurch.
I have met them both several times and they are a lovely couple, it is therefore sad to read of the issues they are having with securing the visa Gail needs.
There has been a lot of mentions of this case on Social Media this week and whilst I will not give a commentary on individual cases I can say I have been in touch with them. Given they live in Brixham Dr Sarah Wollaston will pick up their case directly with the Government and I have offered any support I or my team can give.
Car Parking Charges Debate,
It could soon be easier for councils to offer discount deals in their car parks after a new bill passed the House of Commons today.
Currently Councils seeking to temporarily reduce charges in their car parks and on street spaces are required to follow the same consultation process as if a permanent increase was being planned. This means expensive public notice adverts and delays to ask motorists if they wish to object to plans for them to pay less. Unsurprisingly few reply saying that they would like to pay an extra pound or two rather than benefit from a discount.
The bill will give the Government the ability to introduce new regulations allowing Councils to vary charges downwards for temporary periods, without having to go through an expensive consultation process. I wanted to ensure the purposes of this bill were very clear so tabled a probing amendment that was debated this morning along with the whole bill.
You can read my comments, along with the rest of the debate on the bill, by clicking here.
Heathrow Consultation Gives Chance To Push Transport Links,
Yesterday the Government launched a formal consultation on plans to expand Heathrow Airport by making a statement in the House of Commons.
Whilst a lot of debate in the national media in relation to new airport capacity has focused on which is the best option for London, my own focus has been solely on the needs of our bay’s and the wider South West Economy. Expansion at Gatwick or a new airport in the Thames Estuary would not provide the level of connections for travelers from our region to long haul destinations that expansion at Heathrow will.
One key part of the development being a success is ensuring our region can access the airport after its expansion. This means completing the project to dual the entire length of the A303 and deliver a resilient railway.
I took the chance to challenge the Secretary of State for Transport about this in the Commons yesterday and you can read my question and his response by clicking here.
Finally you can find more information about the government consultation on Heathrow and how to reply to it on the Government website by clicking here.
Child Poverty Bill,
Earlier today the House of Commons debated proposals put forward by Labour MP and former Soldier Dan Jarvis to set targets for the reduction of child poverty.
Whilst the debate was short due to two bills, including my own, coming ahead of it on the agenda, the speech he made set out the challenges faced by many children. This includes families where at least one parent is working, but the jobs concerned are low paid.
Due to the shortage of time I spoke briefly at the end of the debate welcoming the bill and the attention it brought to the issues it covered. You can read what I said (Along with Dan’s thoughtful speech that followed it) by clicking here.
Police Benevolent Fund Appeal,
Four officers serving in our Police Force have recently passed away, including PC Ray Byfield who was the Neighbourhood Beat Manager for Paignton.
The Devon & Cornwall Police's Widow and Orphans Fund helps support the families that are left behind and an online page has been set up to help collect donations for it. You can find it by clicking here.
Torre & Upton Survey,
The Torre and Upton Community Partnership is conducting a survey to get the views of residents, visitors and anyone with an interest in their area.
They have set a survey up online, and the more responses they get, the better they can reflect the wishes of the community. it will only take a few minutes of your time and you can find it by clicking here.
South Devon Jobs Fair Returns,
South Devon employers, who are actively recruiting, will be able to exhibit at the South Devon Jobs Fair in Torquay on Friday 17 March.
Delivered by the TDA, Torbay Council and in partnership with Jobcentre Plus, this free event will take place in Torquay’s Town Hall Assembly Rooms from 9.30am to 1pm, providing anyone looking for a job the opportunity to meet with over 60 local employers.
Full event information is available on the Jobs Fair website by clicking here. Any companies wishing to exhibit can register for a free stand on the website or by sending an email to Rebecca Salter on Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also call 01803 208369.
If you are looking for work you can just turn up on the day. Advice is to get there early and bring plenty of copies of your CV.
Love Your High St Week,
Following two successful Love your High Street Torbay weeks in July and November 2016, the next week will be from 12th till 18th June 2017.
Love your High Street week is a campaign which encourages local people to shop more frequently in independent shops around the Bay and helps spread the message about why spending locally is so important. Marketing packs and resources will be available for free for high street businesses taking part to help celebrate the campaign and will be delivered to the registered businesses.
Information about how to register to be a part of Love your High Street will be available in the Spring. For an insight into previous campaigns click here to visit the campaign’s website and follow you can follow it on Twitter @loveyourhighsttorbay
Kev’s Column: Hospital Pleas Ignored
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read the latest edition by following the link below:
and finally… Oyez! Oyez! Is This A Job For You?
Ending on a lighter note if you have a loud voice and a larger than life personality, then a job delivering the original version of a residents’ update service is in now available.
In the days before e-mail or newspapers the Town Crier would relay the official news to local people, with many towns retaining the traditional post as an honorary position today. Teignmouth is now searching for a new one and if you think it’s the job for you a competition is likely to be held over St George’s weekend.
You can read more details on the Herald Express website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.