The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill debated this week aims to create a framework to extend legislation that all drivers must have insurance, to cover automated vehicles. By answering the questions over insurance now, we will create an environment that will encourage manufacturers to develop new transport technology and make the UK a world leader in this area. The Bill also gives the Government the power to regulate if it believes there is a lack of electric charging infrastructure in the future. Charging at home cannot be the only option.
Energy bills are an important issue. It was good to hear that the Government will be bringing in a Bill to attempt to tackle the problem of high standard variable tariffs in the near future. This can only be a short term solution or the market would potentially be distorted. In the long term smart meters should cut bills down by allowing people to see the amount of energy they are using in real time while also offer easy ways to switch suppliers.
While the Government was discussing gas and electricity, I met with South West Water to discuss our water systems. Currently water bills in the South West are subsidised by the Government. This is due to end in 2020 and is something that needs to be sorted sooner rather than later. South West Water laid out what the options and consequences were which I will take forward with Ministers. South West Water will be conducting a consultation on this with customers.
During the election campaign over 900 constituents signed a petition regarding fair funding for Devon’s schools. On Tuesday I presented this petition to the House and now await an official response from the Government.
It was a pleasure this week to speak in the Westminster Hall debate on rail links in the South West brought forward by new Plymouth Labour MP Luke Pollard. There is strong cross party support throughout the South West from Cornwall to Bristol and beyond on this issue and it was made clear to the Government during the debate that time is running out for concrete funding commitments.
I was also able to speak to Network Rail as well this week on what is needed to secure the cliffs at Teignmouth and the future work of the line. Network Rail say that £200m is needed for short term works on the cliffs. Longer term further work needs to be done regarding the track options at Teignmouth consulted on last year.
I have had personal assurances from the Secretary of State for Transport that Dawlish and the cliffs are a key priority for him but we need action and a willingness from Government to recognise the Peninsula Rail Task Force’s 20 year plan for the whole Peninsula. Some work can sensibly be done now such as electrifying the line between Totnes and Hemerdon. The rails have to be replaced so it’s now or in 60 plus years’ time so it makes sense to do it now.
I had the great fortune this week of visiting Humber Down Wood on the edge of Teignmouth and Bishopsteignton. A team of over 100 local volunteers have built a glorious site where people can get back to nature and participate in courses including woodland management, willow weaving and foraging. The work carried out is brilliant and I would certainly recommend everyone to take a look.
The Newton Abbot Civic Ceremony took place on Sunday and I was delighted to be invited to pay tribute to all the hardworking volunteers and local government officials who give up their time to our community. Many community activities could not survive without them!
My next surgeries will be at 14:00 in Newton Abbot, on the 2nd and the 10th November. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.