Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Westminster Week

Parliament has returned after summer recess and, whilst continuing with Brexit, on the agenda for September is the Civil Liability Bill. This Bill will provide a tariff on compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity for whiplash claims. It strengthens the link between whiplash claims and medical evidence by introducing a ban on seeking or offering to settle whiplash claims without appropriate medical evidence. 

It is predicted, by insurers, that without reform in this area, motor premiums could continue to rise at a rate of about 10 per cent annually. The whiplash reforms in the Bill will deliver around £1.1 billion of consumer savings per year and could lead to motorists' insurance premiums falling by approximately £35 annually.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Health and Social Care, I hosted an event last week looking at the integration of health and social care and of physical and mental health care. Sir Richard Ibbotson, Chair of the South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, gave an insightful presentation on why the trust is seen as an exemplar of best practice integration across health and social care provision. Frances Simpson, Chief Executive of Support in Mind Scotland, also joined us to give a thought-provoking presentation on the work her organisation is doing to improve the well-being of people affected by mental illness in rural Scotland and pass on some of the lessons learned.

To further campaign for better mental health care support I am also supporting the #WheresYourHeadAt campaign to change Health and Safety law so that employees have their mental health safeguarded in the same way they do their physical health. You can find the petition online at www.wheresyourheadat.org.

The Public Accounts Committee last week held an evidence session looking at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) annual report for the financial year and its progress through a four-year transformation programme. The Committee took evidence from HMRC on its overall performance in the past year, and what it has done to best serve its customers—UK taxpayers—whilst delivering complex change.

Teignbridge Matters

Last week, Thérèse Coffey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, representatives from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and I discussed local concerns over the silt dumped at Sprey Point washing up on our beaches. I do not believe the consultation process that the MMO use is fit for purpose and the testing obligations on parties dumping material needs to be strengthened. I raised these issues with the Minister and she has agreed to write to the heads of the Environment Agency and the MMO asking them to respect the Coastal Concordat and improve their engagement with stakeholders. More work can be done but this is good progress!

I remain committed to campaigning for improved rail networks for passengers in the South West and last week I met with Councillor Geoff Brown, Chair of the Peninsula Rail Task Force, for an update on our local rail priorities. I agreed to raise the issue of the delivery of mobile and WiFi connectivity on the route from Penzance to London with the Minister. Having the ability to work on long train journeys is of tremendous benefit to business and visitor passengers using the line.

I also attended GWR’s reception in Parliament on Thursday to discuss local rail resilience work and service disruption. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the delays to the implementation of the new timetable but welcome the news that Network Rail is ready to launch the next phase of key resilience work on the route between Teignmouth and Dawlish. It is crucial we put in place the right long-term solutions for the line that will protect it in adverse weather.

My next surgery is on Friday 21st September in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.