Business in the House this week began with the Second Reading of the Space Industry Bill. The UK Government has an ambition for the UK to be a leading player in the global space industry and this Bill will establish a new regulatory and legislative framework for space and sub-orbital activities. This will include the operation of UK-based spaceports and mission management facilities for the future launch of spacecraft. The Government’s ambition is to secure 10% of the global market, generating £40 billion for the wider economy by 2030. The South West has much to gain from the commercial space age with the South West Centre of Excellence for Satellite Applications being based at Exeter and Goonhilly Earth Station, a unique satellite tracking facility, situated on the south coast.
In Brexit news, the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill successfully passed through the Commons on Wednesday night and is now headed to the House of Lords. I agree with David Davis that it is in the shared interest of MPs that we make this legislation a success in the national interest. The protocol is that a bill can go to the House of Lords three times after which the Commons vote prevails. We have a way to go yet.
On Wednesday morning a briefing session on international trade focused on the GREAT Campaign. This campaign showcases the best of what the UK has to offer the world and how we can encourage people to visit, do business with, invest, and study in the UK. The campaign has already secured returns of £2.7bn for the UK through increases in trade, tourism, education, and inward investment.
This week I signed a letter sent to Ofgem on the unfair monopoly Distribution Network Operators have on the electricity cables, substations, and regional power networks that bring electricity from the high voltage transmission network into homes and businesses. Ofgem has failed to stop these network owners making inflated profits – funded by high consumer energy bills – on the back of their privileged position. The joint letter demands Ofgem take a much tougher line on behalf of energy customers everywhere.
I was glad to see Environment Minister Therese Coffey announce new powers for the Environment Agency to tackle the menace of illegal waste and fly-tipping that I have been campaigning on. The new powers will allow officers from the Environment Agency to be able to lock gates and block access to problem waste sites, and to force operators to clear all the waste at problem sites. The Government has also launched a consultation to tackle crime and poor performance in the waste industry.
Back in November I intervened in a Westminster Hall Debate on loneliness to highlight the severity of this problem within rural communities which typically have older populations, poorer transport links and broadband connections, giving rise to isolation. I was very happy this week to see the Prime Minister appoint Tracey Crouch MP to be the newly created Minister for Loneliness. The Minister for Loneliness will carry on the legacy of the important work Jo Cox started during her time as an MP and help to tackle this issue within in our communities.
I was delighted to meet with Vince Wilson, new Chief Officer for the Citizen Advice Bureau Teignbridge, along with two of the board of trustees. The CAB are a hugely valuable organisation in our community. We shared notes on the issues constituents were bringing to us both to share experience and look at what government could do and should do differently to reduce the problems people came with. Benefit bureaucracy which didn’t work was top of both our lists. Housing and debt were also big issues for us both. I will be raising their concerns with the minister.
My next surgeries will be in Newton Abbot on the 26th January and 2nd February at 14:00. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.