The Week in Parliament
The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill successfully passed through Parliament and received Royal Assent last week. The UK will now leave the EU on 31st January and trade talks for our new relationship will begin within the coming weeks. We can put the divisions of the last three years behind us and the machinery of Government can return to focussing on our domestic priorities like the NHS, social care, policing and schools.
On Friday I attended the board meeting of our Local Enterprise Partnership, Heart of the South West. We discussed local priorities in the run up to the budget and the presentation of the Great South West growth prospectus to government last week. The Great South West prospectus aims to deliver £45 billion of economic benefit and 190,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. At the heart of the growth prospectus is the ambition to make the area the cleanest economy in England and the first to be net zero carbon. The partnership supporting the growth prospectus is a coalition of South West businesses, Local Enterprise Partnerships, education leaders, and local authorities. We have all pledged to work in partnership with Government to make the Great South West the latest growth alliance to rebalance the UK economy.
It is fantastic to see our region come together to present a united case about how we can build on the many strengths of our region to create thousands of jobs, boost business and improve productivity. The Prime Minister has stated his intent to ‘level-up’ the economy across Britain and this needs to be reflected in the support for broadband, roads, and rail across the Great South West.
On Wednesday I met with Councillor John Hart, leader of Devon County Council, to receive an update on local government in Devon. The Council is doing a great job in certain areas, but there are still a number of unique challenges that we face due to our geography and population. For example Devon has about 8,000 miles of road, which is the largest local road network in England.
In positive news, Devon is one of the UK’s leading county councils in the national response to climate change. In February 2019, the Council declared a climate emergency and pledged to work with other organisations so that Devon should be carbon neutral by 2030, having already reduced its carbon footprint by 40% since 2012/13. A new draft Carbon Plan for Devon will be developed through a review of the evidence by an expert panel and the proposal of policy options. These options will be put forward to a newly created ‘citizens panel’ that will start meeting this month. It is fantastic to hear that the Council is involving residents in its plans to decarbonise.
I am delighted that police funding in Devon & Cornwall will increase by £23.4m next year, an increase of 7.4%. This is alongside the 141 new police officers that the force is due to recruit next year. The Conservative Party made a commitment to people at the election that we would crack down on crime and back our police to get on with the job: we are wasting no time in delivering on that promise. We will always ensure that the police have the powers and resources needed to keep our citizens and communities safe. I will continue to press the Government to ensure that Devon gets the funding that we need to protect and enhance vital services for our residents.
My next surgery is on Friday 7th February 12-1pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 if you’d like to arrange an appointment.