The final two contenders for leadership of the Conservative Party have been narrowed down by MPs to be Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. Johnson and Hunt will now travel around the country to sixteen hustings events in every region of the UK. Conservative party members have until 22nd July to submit their votes for the next leader. I look forward to following the hustings and seeing the candidates have a serious debate about the future of our country. I will be supporting Boris Johnson because he respects the outcome of the referendum and supports the UK leaving the EU by October 31st.
One hundred guide dogs and their owners came to Parliament last Wednesday to speak to MPs about the Access All Areas campaign. Three out of four assistance dog owners have been illegally refused access to a restaurant, shop, or taxi. Under the Equality Act, guide dogs and other assistance dog owners have the right to enter most services, premises, and vehicles with their dog. Guide dog owners should not be made to feel unwelcome or excluded from public places when they have every right to be there. Employees should have Disability Equality Training to make them aware of the law and how to better support people with visual impairment. Accessibility refusals should not be happening.
The Public Accounts Committee last week held a session on Network Rail’s sale of railway arches. Committee members and I questioned representatives from Network Rail, the Department for Transport, and HM Treasury about the management and objectives of the sale, and whether the sale will offer true value to the taxpayer in the long run. We also asked representatives about the impact of the sale on tenants and communities as no rental spaces were sold to existing tenants. Consultation with tenants was offered too late in the process and more protections could be put in place for these small business owners.
I was very pleased to attend the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) Celebration of Rural Business event in Parliament yesterday. The CLA have launched an important campaign to improve rural mobile coverage. The #4GFORALL campaign urges the mobile industry and regulators to take the necessary steps to end the rural/urban digital divide. It was great to hear from rural business owners across the country about their concerns and aspirations. Basic mobile phone reception is a necessity for business-owners and more can, and should, be done by industry to deliver on targets to achieve 95% 4G coverage in the UK.
In good news for small businesses, the Government announced last week broad new measures to tackle the issue of late payments. Company boards will now be held accountable for payment practices to small businesses within their companies. New measures will force Audit Committees to report payment practices in company annual reports. This will increase transparency and accountability on late payments. Additionally, a new £1 million fund to encourage businesses to use technology to simplify invoicing, payment, and credit management was announced.
The Government is also launching a consultation on strengthening the powers of the Small Business Commissioner to hold to account large businesses who fail to make payments on time. New powers could include compelling information and disclosure of payment terms and practices, imposing financial penalties or binding payment plans on large businesses found to have unfair payment practices. I welcome these proposed measures to protect the SMEs that make up the backbone of our economy. I am pleased to see my campaigning to address late payments has paid off.
I was delighted to welcome All Saints C of E Primary School to Parliament last week. It was lovely to meet the pupils and talk to them about my role as their Member of Parliament. They were a real credit to their school and had some great questions about politics and democracy.
My next surgery is on Thursday 4th July in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.