This first week back the Fisheries Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will enable the UK to operate as an independent coastal state, controlling who comes into our waters and ending the current automatic rights for EU vessels to fish in UK waters. It will also secure greater and fairer opportunities for coastal communities such as our own to benefit from the economic advantages of our seaside location. The Bill is underpinned by the UK’s commitment to sustainability and ambition to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it, a commitment that I strongly support. This is just the first of the Brexit related bills we need to get through the House before the end of the year.
For my part, I am very concerned to ensure that post Brexit we continue to be able to give people the best new drugs on the market as fast as possible. To that end, this week I chaired a webinar to explore in some detail what the impact of Brexit will be on our ability to attract funding for research and to run medical trials of new promising drugs across countries to enable the necessary sample sizes to be achieved. Over the next few weeks, I will be putting together a report for government on what they need to do to help patients continue to get access to the drugs they need.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey launched the new Kickstart scheme worth £2 billion. This will provide Universal Credit claimants aged 16-24 with opportunities to gain crucial work experience with government funded six-month placements. Not only will the government pay wages, but they will offer grants to employers to support the training and other costs involved in employing young people for these placements. Tesco has already pledged to participate in the scheme, suggesting there could be opportunities for young people here in Teignbridge. I hope other local businesses follow their example.
In addition to the Kickstart scheme, a new cash incentive for employers to support the hiring of apprentices has been launched. This will provide up to £2,000 per apprentice in addition to other existing grants, to support the recruitment and training involved with the creation of new apprenticeships. This scheme could prove effective in creating new, longer-term, opportunities for young people in Teignbridge who are currently concerned that the Covid-19 pandemic may hinder their future chances.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has announced new mass testing plans that hope to return us to some normality. The plan is said to entail regularly testing citizens to contain cases more effectively and increase confidence for those returning to work. The latest statistics show that Devon is significantly below the England average number of cases, but this plan may help to maintain our promising record and provide the reassurance we need to return to work in the constituency. While I am aware there have been problems with the system – sending people in some cases out of Devon for their tests, this is being sorted out to make tests truly accessible. Now we all need to do whatever it takes to enable us to have a normal Christmas!
The launch of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office this week seeks to bring together the country’s foreign policy with its international efforts to support third world economies. This will better align the UK’s values and interests with money expended in aid. The UK has been a leader in supporting vulnerable countries to weather the Covid pandemic. Not only is this the right thing to do but it will also help to safeguard the UK from further rises in its own infection rates.
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