My week began leading on the Public Accounts Committee session examining the EU financial settlement. Myself and other Committee members asked senior officials from HM Treasury whether the final settlement could vary from the current estimate, how the Treasury will keep Parliament informed about any changes, as well what is not being included in the estimated settlement and why. In its second session in the week, the Committee looked at the commercial activity of the BBC, asking whether it provides good value for money for the taxpayer and how the BBC is positioning itself to compete in a changing television marketplace.
I met with Susan Banister from Hope for Justice to discuss modern slavery. Susan works on a new initiative by Hope for Justice, the ‘Slavery-Free Alliance’, a membership scheme for businesses that are taking seriously the issue of preventing exploitation in their operations and supply chains. We discussed the improvements that are needed to the provision and implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and how businesses can get to grips with helping combat the issue.
I have signed a cross-party letter to the Prime Minister regarding the status of Windrush citizens. It asks that the Prime Minister and Home Secretary clarify what compensation will be given to those affected to cover any legal fees, application fees, or loss of employment, and what burden of proof or ‘threshold’ must be met to confirm status. The letter also asks that rights and protections for Windrush children be written into immigration rules to formally protect their rights in the future.
Keeping up with local news, I spoke with Fran Hughes, Chief Executive of the Office of the Police Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, to discuss levels of policing within South Devon. I also caught up with Councillor Andrea Davis this week to go over several major local issues, notably trains, poor mobile phone signal, Special Educational Needs funding, and social care provision. I will be taking up the issues mentioned with the relevant Ministers to lobby for improved rural services.
Having completed the tendering process, I was glad to see Network Rail begin working on their three priority development plans for safeguarding the railway line between Exeter and Newton Abbot this week. The £15 million in funding is being spent developing options for the railway between Parsons Tunnel and Teignmouth, designing a new sea wall at Dawlish, and developing plans for cliff stabilisation and rock fall shelters between the tunnel portals. I will continue to push Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, for funding to secure the railway line and for a joined-up, ambitious strategy for transport in the South West.
This week I met with Heather Wheeler, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, to discuss leasehold reform. I highlighted the difficult situation some constituents have found themselves in living in shared ownership properties where they are unable to extend the leasehold for the property. The Government has made important progress in giving the private rented and leasehold sectors stronger protection from unfair rogue letting and managing agents, but I believe more can be done to help the younger generation who are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis.
I was delighted to welcome Jack, from Kingskerswell Primary School, to Speaker’s House this week where he was competing in the final of ‘Voice Box’, a national joke-telling competition for schools. The competition is a joint initiative run by The Communication Trust and Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists to demonstrate the importance of good communication skills. The joke competition is a great way to raise awareness of children’s communication skills and needs in a fun way and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all the jokes on the day!
My next surgeries will be on 4th May at 1pm and 11th May at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.