It is safe to say that it has been an eventful week! I’d like to take the opportunity to address the events of this week but also, as usual, talk about some of the various things I have been up to.
As some of you will already be aware, I lost the Conservative Party whip last Tuesday for voting with the opposition on removing VAT from energy bills. It is deeply disappointing that this has happened, especially on a matter of simply standing up for what I believed to be the best interests of my constituents. Not only was this an issue that I’ve been vocal about previously (including last week’s column!) I believe removing VAT is the right thing to do and I won’t apologise for supporting measures that would help Teignbridge residents at a time when the cost of living is rising.
I remain strongly committed to Conservative principles and supporting a Conservative government that acts in the best interests of the country. But I will always vote on the issues of the day, whatever they may be, in the best interests of my constituents in Teignbridge as well as the wider country.
The other big issue has been ‘partygate’ and I am now increasingly and rightly being asked if I still have trust and confidence in the Prime Minister. I would like to put on record my position.
Over the latter half of 2021, I became increasingly concerned with some of the directions being taken by the Government, especially with regard to Covid-19 policy. In addition, as I have previously publicly stated, the fact that there may have been social events held in No.10 in breach of the rules that they themselves imposed is frankly insulting to those who did what they were told.
While I am pleased that the events are now being investigated by the Cabinet Office, given the most recent disclosures, it is imperative that the investigation must proceed at pace and the issues resolved. It appears now that there is clear evidence that a breach of the rules took place and the appropriate consequences for those involved, whatever position they hold, such be substantial.
Given my increasing displeasure with the ongoing events in the latter part of 2021, I submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister to Sir Graham Brady before Christmas. Now that I have had the Conservative whip removed, my letter no longer counts towards the total amount of letters.
Fundamentally, the country needs strong leadership and a clear direction to get back on its feet post-pandemic and take advantage of the opportunities to create a more prosperous society.
In terms of getting on with the job, it was great to have the opportunity to take part in a Westminster Hall debate last week on ultrafast broadband in Devon and Somerset. Connectivity in the west country is crucial because we are significantly underserved in just about every other infrastructure one can possibly conceive.
We are the most challenged, and there is one thing that we can do nothing about: distance. We are where we are; the roads are where they are, and the train line is where it is—we are the left-behind counties. The Government policy on broadband is not up to scratch and does not address this problem. If levelling up is to mean anything at all, then that must change.
I also had the opportunity to catch up with Liz Davenport, Chief Executive of Torbay & South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, to discuss local healthcare service provision across South Devon. Despite the fantastic job being done by the local teams, it is clear that the workforce issue facing the NHS is still the biggest challenge that needs changing. Without solving this issue, it will be hard to improve patient outcomes. I will be working with healthcare stakeholders across the patch to try and improve the situation.
If you would like to book a surgery appointment or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email email@example.com