Parliament returned on 7 January to begin work on what will be a momentous year for the country. It is the year that Brexit will be delivered. The UK will leave the EU on the 31 January and then transitional arrangements will end in a new trade deal with the EU by 31 December 2020.
Of the 30 new bills the Government proposed during the Queen’s speech in December, seven are focussed on ensuring our smooth exit from the European Union. First up will be the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This should quickly complete all stages in the House of Commons before it then goes to the House of Lords.
This will then be followed by Bills to deal with the consequences of leaving the EU. An Agriculture Bill will put in place a new subsidy scheme for farmers. The Fisheries Bill will create new licensing powers for the UK so we will at last have control of who fishes in our waters and on what terms. A Trade Bill will enable the continuity of existing trade deals between the UK (previously EU deals) and third party countries. The Financial Services Bill will confirm what UK financial rules are following Brexit, and finally the Private International Law Bill which will set out the rules for international disputes. It will be a busy month!
Looking further ahead there will be at least three health bills; an NHS Funding Bill enshrining annual budget increases in law, a Medicines and Medical Devices Bill to widen the number of professionals who can write prescriptions, crack down on online fake drug sales and make it quicker and easier to complete clinical drug trials speeding medicines to the market and patients, and legislation to establish an independent Health Service Safety Investigations body. There will also be a commitment to draft legislation to remove blockages which currently stop the NHS and social care bodies working together to deliver integrated health and care. And there will of course be a cross party social care review to address care costs.
In other areas there will be a consultation on introducing a 30% discount on housing for key workers, environmental legislation introducing legally binding air quality targets, and other provisions addressing plastic waste and water quality. There will also be a National Infrastructure Strategy to level up the connectivity across the country – very important for us in the South West.
Here in Teignbridge I have already begun work on local issues. I will be having urgent meetings both locally and in London with key stakeholders to resolve the uncertainty which surrounds the future of Teignmouth Hospital – which should remain as part of our health and care infrastructure. One of my other key priorities is to keep up the pressure to help ensure we get the right houses, properly built in the right place – but tackling this housing and planning issue this will be a long-term challenge. I’ll also be challenging the railway companies about the consequences of the recent train fare rises and timetable changes, and also about the route of the line through Teignmouth and Holcombe. We must have a resilient railway – but it must deliver what we need at affordable prices. And finally, the possibility of renewed dumping from Exmouth at Sprey Point must be removed forever so I’ll be working hard on that too.
It’s going to be a busy year!
My next surgery is on Friday 17th January from 12pm to 1pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 if you’d like to arrange an appointment.