A major refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster is needed to protect and preserve the heritage of the Palace and to ensure it can continue to serve as a home to the UK Parliament and provide a better service to the public. Earlier in 2018, MPs and peers voted to temporarily move out of the Palace of Westminster while essential work takes place. This is estimated to start in the mid-2020s and will allow for restoration and repair to take place more efficiently.
Last week, the government introduced the Restoration and Renewal Bill to the House to protect the Palace of Westminster. Using the 2012 London Olympics as an example of best practice, the Bill will establish a Sponsor Body, made up of both Parliamentarians and external members to oversee the delivery of the restoration works, and a Delivery Authority, equipped with the expertise needed to keep costs down and ensure value to the taxpayer. Following the tragic Notre Dame fire, it is important we act to protect the historic Palace from damage.
On Thursday, I was delighted to visit the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to meet with the Chairman, Sir Michael Rawlins, Chief Executive, Ian Hudson, Director of Policy, Johnathan Mogford, and Director of Devices, John Wilkinson. There are clear challenges which lie ahead of regulating new and innovative products and production methods as scientific advances take us into new areas in medicine and medical devices. The MHRA has always been at the forefront of innovative science and public health protection and big challenges face the agency over the next few years. I am confident the MHRA will continue to capitalise on its unique experience in data, standards, and regulation to maintain its excellent reputation and public safety.
On Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee held an evidence session on Military Homes. This has long been a key area of focus for the Committee which has reviewed the standards of accommodation for service personnel several times over the past few years. The Committee considered the Ministry of Defence’s progress in improving living arrangements for service personnel, especially the Ministry’s Future Accommodation Model and the implementation of the first pilots of the programme. The session also looked at how the Department is improving the quality of accommodation to meet the expectations of service personnel and whether or not satisfaction with the accommodation has increased over the past year.
Several councils in the South West have secured a share of £25 million in government funding to help the most vulnerable rough sleepers off the streets. This is part of the government’s £100 million plan to end rough sleeping by 2027. The funding will provide rough sleepers with specialist support to help them get off the streets for good. Local authorities will be able to use this investment to fund innovative local schemes aimed at supporting vulnerable people so they are able to get stable accommodation where they will then receive the tailored care they need.
An issue that has been raised by a number of constituents has been the revocation, by Natural England, of three general licences for controlling certain wild birds, as of Thursday 25 April. Such licences cover 16 species of birds including several members of the crow family, Canada geese, certain types of gulls and pigeons.
On Thursday evening, along with a number of colleagues, I attended a briefing by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the NFU, CLA and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I am pleased that Defra have now taken control of the powers to issue these licences but remain concerned about the impact when issuing powers are return to Natural England. Such a transition must be managed to ensure that damage to both crops and livestock are avoided.
My next surgery is on Friday 24 May from 12pm to 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.