Half-Term Parliamentary Report
Meetings with Ministers
The most important part of my work as an MP at Westminster is representing my Torbay constituents.
Since Christmas, I have held face-to-face meetings with senior Government Ministers on a number of subjects relating to Torbay. These include local Government devolution; proposed cuts to the CrossCountry Trains service (about which I presented a sizeable local petition to the Rail Minister); as well as meeting the Schools Minister, accompanied by 3 local headteachers to discuss the impact of the National Fair Funding Formula on our schools.
I have also taken the opportunity on a number of occasions to informally lobby Ministers on behalf of a number of individual constituents and their issues. The recently awarded and much delayed Legion d'Honneur Awards to 3 of our Torbay Normandy D-Day Veterans is a good example of the work I am able to do behind the scenes to help the people I represent.
An important part of my role as an MP is sitting on Committees. On Mondays and Wednesdays I sit on the prestigious and influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is chaired by Labour MP Meg Hillier. I work on a cross-party basis with Meg and MPs from other parties to hold the Government and spending departments to account.
Taxpayers in Torbay have a right to know that their taxes are being spent wisely and the PAC exists in effect to act as the Government's auditor. Ministers can expect a public wrap on the knuckles if the Committee finds that their departments are not giving value for money.
On Tuesdays I sit on the Backbench Business Committee, which allocates time for MPs to raise important issues, often about their constituencies, in the House of Commons.
In recent weeks, I have also been asked to sit on a Bill Committee, which has closely scrutinised new legislation relating to local Government. Being an MP quickly makes you realise that there is a massive amount of knowledge and expertise in the House, both amongst MP colleagues and the Clerks and advisors who support us.
Private Members' Bills
At the end of last year, I began the somewhat daunting task of trying to get 4 of my Private Members' Bills on to the statute book, and into law. Time for these to be read and debated in Parliament is always the biggest challenge, so I was pleased that my Broadcasting (Radio Multiplex Services) Bill recently passed its 3rd Reading, went through the Bill Committee stage successfully and has now been sent to the House of Lords.
I have had an awful lot of support, both from fellow MPs and officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, to enable my Bill to get to this stage, and I will regard it as a real achievement as a relatively new MP if I manage to make a law.
The Bill is a fairly simple one that will allow community radio stations to access carriage on digital radio multiplexes, by allowing the creation and licensing of small-scale multiplexes.
A particular personal passion of mine as an MP is animal welfare. I am hoping in the coming weeks to pass legislation through my PMBs on animal fighting sentencing and wild animals in circuses.
I will keep you updated after the reading of my Bills next Friday.
Since Christmas, the House of Commons has been preoccupied with the issue that has gripped the country as a whole since 23rd June last year - Brexit.
I know from my own constituency postbag that there is still a lot of interest in this issue in Torbay, and understandably so. Although I campaigned to Remain in the EU, I have always held the view that the result should be accepted and that it is time support the Prime Minister when she says 'Brexit means Brexit'.
I was pleased that Parliament was given extensive opportunity to debate this issue in recent weeks, with almost 200 MPs speaking during the debate, and very late finishes as we voted on numerous amendments to the Bill. It cannot now be said that parliament has not had its say on Brexit.
I voted along with the overwhelming majority of my fellow MPs to support the triggering of Article 50 - it is now time to crack on and negotiate with the 27 other EU countries the best deal for Britain outside of the EU.
All in all, a very interesting and stimulating Parliamentary session. Parliament returns again next week - please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel I can represent you in any way.