The Chequers agreement has dominated discussions in Parliament this week. I disagree with the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister and made clear my concerns in the Chamber last Monday. I cannot see how what has been agreed at Chequers will deliver Brexit for our country. The proposal commits the UK to remain bound to the EU’s current regulatory framework via a common rule book and thus constrains us to maintaining a costly, anti-competitive EU regulatory structure across the economy.
Brexit is an opportunity for our country to control our laws and borders independently in the best interests of the people. It is a chance to maximise the advantages of our open, outward-looking economy and do things differently. But the Chequers agreement as it stands would put the UK in a position of having to accept EU rules when we no longer have any ability to influence such laws as they are made. It commits us to following the rulings of the European Court of Justice and makes it difficult to pursue independent trade deals. I do not support the agreement and will continue to campaign with colleagues for the government to respect the result of the referendum and deliver Brexit.
The Public Accounts Committee examined the roll-out of Universal Credit last week and questioned representatives from charities, local government, and the Department for Work and Pensions. A new National Audit Office report into the progress of the programme found that whilst some elements of the programme were working well, the Government could not yet prove it would deliver value for money.
The Committee also examined the implementation of the new Customs Declaration Service by HMRC. Committee members and I were following up on whether the Service will be ready in good time, whether HMRC’s contingency plans are robust, and whether the Service will be resilient to different Brexit outcomes. Traders need information about how customs systems will work after we leave the EU and it is important that the civil service is prepared for a no deal outcome.
An issue constituents regularly raise with me in letters and during surgeries is assisted dying and last week I attended a meeting of the Conservatives for Choice at the End of Life group. The group heard from Gavin St Pier, the Chief Minister of Guernsey, about his campaign to introduce legislation that would pave the way for assisted dying on the island. The proposal provoked widespread debate on the island but, despite public support, the legislation did not pass through the island’s Parliament. The proposal would have allowed terminally ill people with less than six months to live the right to choose to end their own lives with the help of a doctor.
On Tuesday, I met with Jillian Battersby from Johnson & Johnson to discuss the importance of data sharing in the NHS and how it can improve outcomes. Currently there are limited, sometimes even non-existent, sharing provisions across NHS services, something that needs to change, especially with technology in the sector continuing to evolve. This could be incredibly beneficial to Devon and other rural parts of the country as we increase the role of technology to ensure that the diverse health provision needs of the population are met.
On Thursday I chaired a session at the Westminster Health Forum seminar on priorities for adult social care in England. This is an important national issue but is particularly pressing in the South West with our disproportionately older population. It was fascinating to hear from a range of speakers including the former Minister of State for Care Services, Professor Paul Burstow who spoke about the ways in which collaboration and innovation can help the social care sector moving forward.
My next surgery is in Newton Abbot on Friday 3rd August at 2pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.