Anne Marie's Weekly Column

Westminster Week

Despite having categorically promised that an extension would not happen, the Prime Minister last Wednesday wrote to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, requesting that Brexit should be delayed until June 30th, three months later than planned. This was however rejected by Mr Tusk who insisted that a short extension will only be granted if MPs support the Withdrawal Agreement. My colleagues and I have made repeatedly clear our opposition to any delay to Britain leaving the EU. It has been nearly three years since the country voted to leave and Parliamentarians and the Government need to fulfil that decision.

The Withdrawal Agreement has repeatedly been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs and is deeply unpopular with a majority of UK voters. The deal could leave us stuck in a position of having to accept and implement all EU legislation with no say, under the jurisdiction of the ECJ, and continuing to contribute to the EU’s budget, without any way of leaving without permission from the EU. I have made very clear my criticism of the agreement and will not vote to support it if it comes back for a third time.

It was wrong of the Prime Minister to ask for a delay to Brexit and to continue to ask Parliament to back her deal when it has been repeatedly rejected. The referendum result should be implemented on the 29th March by walking away from the EU with no deal as is the legal default. The country wants certainty and any kind of delay would only prolong the indecision.

The Public Accounts Committee, this week, looked at the issue of Adult Health Screening with witnesses from the NHS, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care. I was hugely disappointed by some of the figures for screening times as well as the completely fragmented nature of the systems in place. There appears to be no clear leadership or oversight of screening programmes, something that is completely unacceptable and dangerous when it comes to people’s health.  One positive among a range of horrendous figures was the fact that South Devon and Torbay provide cervical screening results to almost all women within 14 days. This is significantly better than other areas of the country.

Teignbridge Matters

On Tuesday, I met with Chris Loughlin, Chief Executive of South West Water to discuss their new five-year business plan and other issues. I was pleased to hear that South West Water have had their business plan fast tracked for approval by Ofwat, making them one of only three companies to have this happen and the only company to have this happen twice in a row.

It was promising to hear how the plan also ensures that water prices in our area will go down by 11 per cent over the 5-year period. They also outlined their WaterCare programme which aims to help those struggling to pay their water bills. If you would like further information on how to access this programme, then please contact the constituency office.

Wednesday saw a debate in Westminster Hall around the provision of Special Education Needs (SEN) support in our schools. Colleagues on all sides made a number of incredibly important and constructive points about what needs to be done. High needs funding supports the most vulnerable pupils in our schools: those with complex SEN, those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion and those that cannot access education for medical reasons.

However, demand for high needs funding is out-stripping the budgets available and more accurate medical assessment and improved methods of treatment increase demand still further. I have recently met with the Minister to discuss this issue and to find out what the government is doing in order to solve this.

My next surgery is on Friday 12th April from 1.30pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.