Parliament returned this week and the Prime Minister has refreshed her Ministerial team ready to face the next crucial 12 months leading to Brexit. Business this week began with two key pieces of Brexit-related legislation on the agenda in the House; the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, nicknamed the Customs Bill, and the Trade Bill.
The Customs Bill allows the Government to create a functioning customs, VAT and excise regime for the country once we have left the European Union. The Trade Bill creates powers for the Government to transition over existing trade agreements the UK is currently party to, and establishes a new independent UK body, the Trade Remedies Authority. It controversially does not cover new trade deals with other countries. I have some concerns over the effectiveness of the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill in protecting our economy from distortion by other states from trade practices such as dumping and state subsidies.
On Tuesday, I spoke in the Chamber during the Second Reading of the Trade Bill. I highlighted that more clarification is needed from the Government as to how it will be approaching renegotiations of any trade agreements and asked what it means by its pursuit of ‘free and fair trade’. In particular I would like more clarity on how our domestic industries, such as Newton Abbot’s ceramic industry, will be protected from unfair trade practices by foreign powers.
This week I also attended a panel discussion for Small and Micro Businesses on how the house building sector could be better supported by Government policy. We heard from David Bryant from Halsbury Homes, Daniel Ede from Ede Holdings Group, Lulu Shooter from the Federation of Master Builders, and Sue Wimpenny, owner of The Lady Builder. The panel focused on how builders can better access supply chains and develop skills in their workforces. We also touched on the role of planning authorities.
I was happy to hear that the Environment Agency will be starting construction of the Starcross and Cockwood tidal defence scheme, installing two new floodgates at Church Road and Generals Lane slipway. They will also raise the car park levels at the Fishing and Cruising Club. In Cockwood, the harbour wall will be improved with a raised level along Dawlish Road. Recent storms have highlighted just how vitally important tidal defences are for the protection of homes and businesses.
Winter is always a difficult time of year for health services across the world, and I know that this year is no exception. The Government has worked closely with the NHS to prepare for winter with preparations beginning earlier than ever before. £435 million has been provided to the NHS to prepare A&E departments for the winter season and free flu jabs are being offered to 21 million people, the highest number ever.
The ban on the manufacture of microbeads came into force this week, stopping billions of tiny beads washing down the drain every year and helping to leave our planet in a better state than we found it. The Government will be publishing shortly a 25 year Environment Plan to outline further measures that can be taken to stop the scourge of plastics, reduce waste in our oceans, and keep our coastline beautiful.
Bridge House in Dawlish reopened this week with an event showcasing its refurbishment. It was wonderful for the re-opening to have such a large turnout. Bridge House is predominately used by retired and current railway workers and operates as a small convalescent hotel, as well as opening its doors to members of the public. I wish to congratulate the hardworking management and staff who ensure that this really is a home from home, and I look forward to visiting to see the wonderfully kept grounds later in the spring.
My next surgery will be in Newton Abbot, on the 26th January at 14:00. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.