Last week the UK and EU negotiating teams reached agreement on the important issues discussed in the first phase of negotiations before the UK’s departure from the EU. This agreement covers the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; our financial settlement with the EU; and ruling out a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. This progress now enables the UK Government to move to the next phase of negotiations. This next phase will focus on securing the deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU that we all want to see.
Parliament continues to focus on the Committee Stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Many amendments to the Bill were voted on last week with the Government winning every vote, several related to the powers devolved institutions may see return relating to agriculture, fishing, and other policy areas. The Government will be working with the devolved administrations on an approach to returning powers from the EU that works for the whole of the UK and protects our own internal single market. The EU Withdrawal Bill returns to the Commons for Day 6 of its Committee Stage on Tuesday.
This week I also attended the launch of Conservatives for Choice at the End of Life. The current law forces some dying people to suffer in pain against their wishes. People must be allowed the liberty to make rational choices about their death as freely as they do about their life. This group seeks to build support for a change in the law and allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults, who have a settled will and have been assessed by two independent doctors, and had their request to an assisted death agreed by a high court judge, be allowed to end their life.
This week we learnt that English primary schoolchildren have achieved the highest reading standards in over 15 years because of the introduction of phonics to the curriculum. England was announced as eighth out of fifty countries in the Progress in International Reading Study for this year. There are 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding school than in 2010 - including 95% of Devon secondary school pupils. This is a tribute to the hard work of teachers all over the country.
On Tuesday I sat on a panel for the All Party Parliament Group for small and micro businesses to discuss the challenges of access to finance and infrastructure costs for small builders. The number of small and medium-sized builders has fallen by over 80% in the last 25 years and more can and should be done to encourage and support builders to deliver new homes.
Police Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez and Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer held a roundtable briefing for Devon and Cornwall MPs on Wednesday. My colleagues and I were updated on a number of key issues including the planned merger with Dorset, the expected impact of the Autumn budget on Devon and Cornwall’s force, and how the new Devon-based national unit to combat modern slavery is working.
I was delighted to attend a further meeting of the ROC Dawlish Action Group on Thursday where community issues are discussed. We looked into the subject of mental health and what help the local community can provide to those who are struggling. At the weekend I attended the annual service for Rowcroft Hospice in Teignmouth. The Hospice are committed to helping their patients make the most of every moment, and the comfort, support and specialist care provided is exceptional.
I was also very happy to be invited to the RNLI carol service in Teignmouth and this was a lovely, Christmassy start to the beginning of the Festive season!
My next surgery will be in Newton Abbot on the 22nd December at 14:30. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.