The Agriculture Bill had its second reading in the House last week. This Bill establishes a new framework for agriculture following the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy. The opportunity to leave the inflexible Common Agricultural Policy behind and move towards a bright future for farming is one of the chief benefits of Brexit, and this Bill will make that future a reality. This Bill will allow us to create an agricultural system that rewards farmers and land managers who protect our environment.
World Mental Health Day was on Wednesday last week and I was glad to see the Prime Minister appoint the first UK Minister for Suicide Prevention. Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price will become the UK’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention, leading a new national effort on suicide prevention. The new Minister for Suicide Prevention will bring together a ministerial taskforce and work with national and local government, experts in suicide and self-harm prevention, charities, clinicians and those personally affected by suicide. The Prime Minister has also announced up to £1.8 million funding for the Samaritans’ helpline, to ensure the charity can continue to provide immediate and lifesaving support 24 hours a day.
The Public Accounts Committee last week took evidence on the financial sustainability of police forces in England and Wales. I was a lead Committee member questing representatives from the Home Office, police forces and Police and Crime Commissioners, including Devon and Cornwall PCC Alison Hernandez. It was worrying to learn that only 24 per cent of incidents that forces responded to were crime-related in 2016-17. Forces are increasingly having to undertake roles traditionally carried out by other services, especially in the areas of mental health and community care.
I spent a morning with the Farm Safety Foundation at one of their training courses at Bicton College to understand the role they play in the farming community. Since May 2015, 3,600 agricultural students at 36 different colleges and universities across the UK have taken part in their safety workshops on the most common causes of farm accidents, as well as discussing issues such as mental health. Training courses such as these are critical because unfortunately, despite making up only 1.5 per cent of the UK’s working population, the farming industry accounts for 20% of all deaths in the workplace.
I met with Superintendent Jez Capey, Devon and Cornwall Police, and Julie Richards, Community Safety Lead and Safer Devon Partnership Manager, at the Police Station in Newton Abbot, to discuss local issues with modern slavery and the county lines drug problem. Officers are undertaking training to recognise the signs of modern slavery and to identify those individuals who may be at risk. Previously officers have attended premises to arrest, warn or search, but they are now more focussed on the underlying reasons as to why offences are being committed, with a view to uncovering possible exploitation by gangs from outside the local area. Whilst dealers themselves are committing offences they may also be victims and frequently the young and the vulnerable are targeted.
In Parliament I spoke in a Westminster Hall debate on modern day slavery. Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime, one that denies victims their most basic rights. These awful crimes are a global issue and occur in the UK in our own communities. More can be done to help victims and whilst the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires big businesses to tackle the crime within their supply chains, I highlighted during the debate the need to ensure small businesses also take responsibility. I asked the Minister to extend the funding of the Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, which is based in Exmouth, as the unit is doing brilliant work and their efforts to improve the police response to modern slavery needs to be supported.
My next surgery is on Friday 16th November at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.