The Data Protection Bill had its second reading in the House last week; the Bill implements a commitment in the 2017 Conservative Party manifesto to repeal and replace the UK’s existing data protection laws to keep them up to date for the digital age in which ever increasing amounts of personal data are being processed. The four main matters provided for in the Bill are general data processing, law enforcement data processing, data processing for national security purposes including processing by the intelligence services, and regulatory oversight and enforcement.
I had a busy week as a lead member of two evidence sessions on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). On Monday, the Committee looked at sustainability and transformation in the NHS and on Tuesday, how the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and Department for International Trade are implementing our exit from the European Union.
In the session on sustainability and transformation in the NHS, the Committee questioned healthcare specialists from NHS England, the Department of Health, and NHS Improvement. As a lead member, I focussed my questions on Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). I highlighted that the original intention of STPs was to transform care, not just to sustain it, but that limited budgets and increases in demand for care have meant that additional funding generated for STPs has only been spent on meeting existing pressures. I also highlighted the poor consultation and engagement by STPs with the voluntary sector. In rural communities, volunteer workers and community groups play an essential role in the delivery of health and social care services. For STPs to be effective, all parts of the delivery of health and care system must be consulted and engaged with.
Big energy companies currently operate anti-competitively and rely on a business model whereby they offer cheap introductory deals instead of providing customers with sustainably low prices based on efficiency. Analysis by Octopus Energy estimates that this costs families in Newton Abbot an extra £293 a year. This issue is why the Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Bill went through the House of Commons on its second reading last week. The Bill meets the Conservative manifesto promise to bring an end to rip-off energy prices which disproportionately affect older people and those on low incomes.
I met with Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, in my capacity as Chair of the Rural Health and Social Care All-Party Parliamentary Group. We discussed the upcoming reports by the NHS Confederation with the Institute of Fiscal Studies and the Health Foundation that aim to give a comprehensive analysis of the funding needs of the NHS. We also discussed the disparity in funding between rural and urban areas and the missed opportunity of levelling the playing field between urban and rural authorities.
Regarding the dumping that occurred at Sprey Point last month, I am still in talks with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Environment Agency, and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, about what went wrong in the testing and consultation process. The testing system needs a complete overhaul and I will be requesting a review of it as a matter of urgency. My main concerns are that any samples need to be taken by a statutory agency rather than the one applying for the license, and that the Environment Agency and the supervising local authority should be included in as statutory consultees in the consultation process.
We are lucky to have beautiful, Blue Flag certified beaches and any silt deposits, ‘clean’ or not, have the potential to adversely affect the quality of the water and damage our local economy in terms of tourism. Moving forward, improvements must be made to the processes that exist to protect our beaches and sea life.
My next surgery will be in Newton Abbot on the 16th March at 11am. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.