The House of Commons voted on the Withdrawal Agreement again last week and I continued in my stance to not support the agreement as it does not deliver a true separation of the UK from the European Union. Under the agreement we would become a rule-taker and not be allowed to enter into trade agreements with other countries. The backstop may mean the UK remains in a customs union with the EU permanently, despite Conservative manifesto promises to the contrary. The agreement does not obtain the benefits of leaving, yet requires us to pay the £39 billion financial settlement with no guarantee of a new trading arrangement with the EU.
The Public Accounts Committee this week held a session looking at the decommissioning of oil & gas infrastructure, and a recall session with the Department for Transport and the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs on UK Border preparations for Brexit. Following a previous session in November, the Committee recalled the Department for Transport and Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs in order to receive an update on the preparedness for Brexit. The Committee expressed concerns around the awarding of contracts by Department for Transport in order to procure additional freight capacity on ferry services.
Members used the Oil & Gas hearing to challenge the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Oil and Gas Authority on how they will ensure decommissioning costs for taxpayers are minimised and potential export opportunities are exploited. Members also asked the Government to commit to be more transparent about the potential costs of decommissioning to taxpayers.
On Friday I was delighted to welcome the Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, to Dawlish as part of his announcement outlining the Investing in the South West strategy paper. The Minister took the opportunity to visit the sea wall along Marine Parade, as well as meeting with Network Rail representatives.
I very much welcome the Government’s announcement that they will be investing £80 million to commence the first phase of major resilience works to the Dawlish sea wall. This will provide greater protection to both the railway and homes and ensure that we have a resilient railway line for decades to come. This follows Network Rail’s announcement earlier this month they are submitting plans for the new sea wall to Teignbridge District Council.
On Tuesday I met with the County Council Network to discuss the role they play in supporting 36 County Councils across the country and potential opportunities to collaborate via the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Health and Social Care. A number of different topics came up during the conversation including adult and children’s social care funding, transport issues in rural communities and community resilience. We also discussed the forthcoming spending review and what this means for councils. It is imperative that we have local government services that have the capacity and resources to meet the needs of our communities.
On Wednesday I was pleased to meet with Dr Kathleen Ferguson, President of the Association of Anaesthetists, to discuss their national Fight Fatigue campaign to raise awareness of fatigue amongst healthcare staff. The campaign was launched last year in response to the tragic death of a trainee anaesthetist who died whilst driving home tired after a night shift. The campaign, run in partnership with the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine aims to tackle the negative effects of shift working and fatigue on the NHS workforce.
Patients need well-rested doctors and it is vitally important NHS staff get home safely after long shifts. This issue is naturally exacerbated in rural areas with staff having to driver longer distances to get home and I commend the campaign for highlighting this issue.
My next surgery is on Friday 1st March in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.