Another big Brexit vote happened last week and I continued in my stance to vote against the Withdrawal Agreement as I do not believe it delivers Brexit. My concerns regarding the Agreement extend beyond just the backstop, therefore I was unable to support the Brady amendment as it would have implied I supported the Withdrawal Agreement minus the backstop. The Agreement leaves us as a rule taker, does not allow us to enter into trade agreements with other countries, and requires us to pay the financial settlement with no guarantee of a new trade deal with the EU.
I was delighted to launch the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Business Brexit this week, which I will be chairing. At our first meeting we heard from Tim Reardon, Head of EU Exit at the Port of Dover, on their preparations for leaving. Tim’s role is to ensure the port continues to operate smoothly regardless of the political settlement Brexit brings. The intention of the Business Brexit APPG is to take a more practical and policy-focused look at what happens post-Brexit and this meeting, looking at a vital trade hub, was an excellent place to start. Tim has assured us that plans to keep the traffic flowing through UK checkpoints as it does now are in place and they are working to ensure customs controls do not cause disruption at the port. Reciprocal French planning is also underway to ensure exports are also able to continue smoothly.
This week, the Public Accounts Committee held sessions looking at the auditing of Local Government finances and the BBC and its use of personal service companies. Local public bodies, health and local government combined, spend about £64 million on external audit, which is supposed to provide independent assurance on how public money is being used and accounted for. Therefore, it is important that the NAO and the Public Accounts Committee look into this. The Committee were concerned that last year auditors concluded that more than one in five local public bodies did not have proper arrangements in place to secure value for money
I was saddened to hear about the closure of British Ceramic Tile Ltd in Heathfield, where a number of constituents are employed. The company has a long tradition of providing quality products for both local communities and further afield, as a key player in the British ceramics industry. The company itself is based in the neighbouring constituency of Mid Devon, therefore I shall work with Mel Stride MP and other parties to ascertain what we can do to help those affected by this closure.
On Monday my thoughts were with the friends of Natasha Sale who came to Westminster to attend the debate on her petition relating to lowering the age for smear tests for cervical cancer from 25 to 18. The passing of Natasha is a tragedy, and her determination and drive to initiate change and save lives should be applauded and serve as an example for others who wish to make changes in society. Key to helping fight cervical cancer is raising awareness around getting checked, as Natasha’s campaign has done and will continue to do so.
Thankfully, cervical cancer in under-25s is rare; accounting for less than 3% of cases. Furthermore, the number of cases of under-25s diagnosed with cervical cancer is likely to fall even further over the next 10 years thanks to the HPV vaccine. Should any woman believe they are experiencing symptoms they should visit their GP, even if they are under-25. In her petition, Natasha said that she wanted to make a difference to the next generation of young women by raising awareness of the symptoms and she has certainly done that.
My next surgery is on Saturday 16th February in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.