This week the House debated the Restoration and Renewal Bill for the first time. The Houses of Parliament are a UNESCO world heritage site and a Royal Palace, as well as our parliamentary home, and as such we have a duty to secure and maintain them. The House is in urgent need of repair, and the bill provides for necessary works to make the building safe, together with a commitment to put into place a review of all the works required in the next decade necessary for preservation. The debate largely centred on whether the House should “decant” fully, partially or retain a foothold whilst renovations progressed. As you might imagine there was much heated debate on this topic, but after a close vote, a full decant was agreed.
I have received a great deal of correspondence about Brexit and the perceived lack of strategy driving our negotiations. Bill Cash raised an urgent question in the Chamber on just this point. A strong message was sent to Brussels that Britain will leave the EU, the single market and the customs union in March 2019. Of great concern to both myself and others was the EU’s proposal regarding the transition period. In my opinion, remaining in the EU in all but name is completely unacceptable and many took the opportunity of agreeing with me. I am pleased the Prime Minister has robustly rejected these proposals.
This week saw the start of the discussions required for the High Speed Rail legislation extending the line to the West Midlands and Crewe. South West MP’s met urgently with the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, demanding action on promises made regarding the rail infrastructure in the South West. Reassurance was required regarding the Dawlish line, particularly the works urgently needed to the cliffs at Teignmouth, and we requested a firm commitment to deliver that work, along with a formal response to the broader request for a 20 year forward plan for the railway across the peninsula. A letter to this effect was received on the morning of the HS2 vote, and I was pleased to note that planning work on the Teignmouth cliff options had progressed.
Along with fellow South West MP’s, I met Assistant Chief Constable David Lewis, the South West lead for Serious and Organised Crime, Counter Terrorism and Forensics. He talked us through how his team operated and the specific issues within the South West. As with other forces, we have our fair share of Syrian migrants who travel to and from Syria fighting or delivering humanitarian aid. We also face lone acting extremists who use the internet to radicalise the vulnerable.
Child Sex exploitation is sadly, still the single biggest organised crime and it is continuing to increase. The internet has made it possible for this atrocity to flourish nationwide. So called paedophile hunters, self-appointed vigilante forces, are also active in the South West. Modern day slavery, mostly in the form of prostitution and forced labour is also on the increase and most concerning is a view that existing figures well underestimate the numbers involved. The Force run a national help line “Unseen” from Bristol to help and support victims.
I was delighted to welcome Westcliff School to Parliament this week. There is nothing quite like coming to see for yourself the House in action. I hope I shall be able to welcome many more of you in 2018, despite the distance and length of the journey. This is a special year celebrating both the centenary of women’s right to vote, and the election of the first woman as an MP. These rights were hard fought and celebrations are planned up and down the country.
My next surgeries will be in Newton Abbot on the 9th and 16th February at 14:00. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.