The Government announced this week new measures that will protect and improve workers’ rights as we leave the EU. After Brexit it will be for Parliament to decide what rules are most appropriate, rather than automatically accepting EU changes. When it comes to workers’ rights the UK has set world-leading standards and will continue to do so in the future, taking our own decisions while working closely with trade unions and businesses.
I was delighted to meet with Mr Sunan Jiang, Minister Counsellor for Science and Technology at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China on Monday to discuss approaches to health and social care. It was interesting to hear about the work that is being undertaken, especially in areas of rural China, which face a number of issues similar to our own system, including remoteness and an ageing population. Our nations have had a joint technology agreement in place since 1978 and it is crucial that we continue to learn from each other, as well as other countries, in order to provide the best possible health and care for our citizens.
This week, the Public Accounts Committee held two sessions; one on HMRC and the other on Crossrail. We used the session to examine HMRC’s progress since our previous session on the topic back in November. It was an opportunity to question senior officials about the required IT systems, staffing levels, and customs declarations necessary both in case of an agreement or a ‘no-deal’ scenario. The Crossrail hearing was held in order to review the project’s overall progress, and examine the cost impact of the latest delay, as well as potential future delays.
I thoroughly enjoyed spending Thursday and Friday last week at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint, Cornwall, with the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme. HMS Raleigh is the modern-day basic training facility of the Royal Navy with satellite bases for leadership and team-working exercises on Dartmoor and the Rame Peninsular.
The Government announced a £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund last week that will boost growth and give communities a greater say in their future after Brexit. Any investment by the Government in the South West is always welcome and I recognise the overall aim of the Stronger Towns Fund. Having said this, I have reservations about how different levels of funding have been allocated to different regions of the country. For context, the South West has a population double that of the North East and yet we are receiving £33 million to their £105 million.
It is crucial that all areas of the UK receive the support required to ensure we have a prosperous economy in which we can create new jobs and boost economic growth. The Government should be transparent about the ‘needs-based formula’ they have used to allocate the funds, in order to avoid a narrative where parts of the country are feeling left behind. I have written to the Minister to raise this point and query how the South West is missing out under this ‘needs-based formula’ when productivity in Devon is 17% lower than the rest of the UK.
On Tuesday, I met with Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund to discuss a range of issues relating to the work of the two health All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPG) I chair on rural health & social care and access to medicines & medical devices. We spoke about how health funding allocations work for rural areas such as ours and how formulas need to be better improved to recognise certain factors that are prevalent in rural communities. We also discussed pricing of and access to medicines and how we can continue to ensure that the United Kingdom is a competitive and attractive place for companies to introduce their products.
My next surgery is on Saturday 23rd March in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.