This week saw some key legislation both started and finished. The NHS Funding Bill had its third reading last week. The Bill itself is a good bill, setting a minimum budget year on year for NHS England for the next five years. Certainty is important so hospitals, GPs and many others can plan for our care. The figures guaranteed are minimums not maximums and can be increased. My concern has been to ensure that sufficient money will be spent on mental health and that what is spent is reported annually with an explanation of what has been done and achieved to improve mental health. The Minister assured me that this would be done, and he is meeting with me to discuss the detail of this reporting.
The Agriculture Bill will introduce a new system to support farmers after we leave the EU and are no longer part of the Common Agriculture Policy. We need a system which encourages farmers to farm not just productively but also in the most environmentally sustainable way possible. The Bill is based on the idea of public money for public good. During the debate I asked for clarity on future support that will be given to cattle and sheep farmers who currently receive significant support, in part because of the costs associated with the animal health and pro environmental measures that we already take. I will continue to press the Government on behalf of our local farmers about what we want to see in the new agricultural support scheme.
Departmental Select Committees were established this week. These are the committees made up of MPs across the parties to hold the government to account on its policies and promises. It is important to have them in place and more will be established next week. We will also certainly see a reshuffle of ministers.
It was a busy surgery this week, with many heart rending stories of how some of our systems need a good shake up; something I have always thought important. Many come to me not just because of their own problems but because they don’t want others to suffer the same fate. Immigration and health are recurring issues. The proposed new immigration system, the outline of which has just been published, needs to be thoroughly scrutinized to ensure families and businesses are properly supported.
Catching up with the Harbour Master and his team from Teignmouth Port was very helpful, and it was good to learn business is looking up. We also talked about the impact of the new railway work, which should provide an opportunity for Network Rail to bring the materials and equipment it will need to Teignmouth by sea. And as we all become more environmentally conscious, so businesses should be considering how they can use shipping rather than lorries to transport goods. To date, while the government has been focused on vehicles, the shipping industry is already looking at ways to reduce its environmental footprint.
Finally, I congratulate the police in Dawlish on their outstanding achievement in ensuring the conviction of the thoroughly abhorrent criminal gang that had brought such pain and misery to the community through its illegal drug trafficking and violence. Looking to the future, the challenge is to ensure that we never let gangs like this get such a hold in our community again. Our police settlement this year has been significantly more than in previous years which is very welcome. However, we still have to wait for an answer on whether we get more support for our summer season, with the influx of visitors swelling the numbers. I am seeing the Chancellor next week to lobby him for more money!
My next surgery is on Thursday 20th February 11am-12pm. Please call my office on 01626 368277 if you’d like to arrange an appointment.