Wednesday saw the eighth and final day of Committee Stage debate over the EU Withdrawal Bill, deliberations focused on our exit date to leave the EU. March 29th 2019 has now been formally set as our day of exit but, in the unlikely event that negotiations be extended, Parliament can vote to change this date. The Bill has now completed Committee Stage but returns to the House in the New Year for further scrutiny and debate.
On Thursday, I asked the Leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, for a debate in Government time on the unique pressures that rural health and social care providers face in recognition of the changes that we need in funding and structure. Whilst unsuccessful, I will be taking up Andrea’s suggestion of raising this important issue through hosting a Westminster Hall or Adjournment Debate in 2018.
I am glad to see the Government introducing legislation to prohibit the sale of new build leasehold houses and restricting ground rents in newly established leases of houses and flats to a peppercorn, however, the problem of leaseholds in shared ownership properties has been overlooked. Shared ownership leases are not covered under the Leasehold Reform Housing and Urban Development Act 1993 which makes owners of shared properties at the mercy of their freeholder as to whether they are able to extend their lease and the price they pay for it. I raised this issue in an intervention in a Westminster Hall debate on leasehold reform. Sir Peter Bottomley shared my concerns and agrees the Government’s reforms should be extended via consultation with those affected.
The Confederation of British Industry published a report last week showing Britain’s record on job creation is set to continue in 2018, with smaller firms being the most confident in the economy, and, in further good news, Forbes named Britain the best country in the world to start a business in 2018! We took the top spot out of 153 nations and jumped up from fifth place last year, scoring particularly well for technological readiness and the size and education of our workforce.
On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, announced Devon was successful in its bid to be a part of the pilot for Local Authorities to retain 100% of their business rates. This means the charge which is imposed on businesses, including shops, pubs and offices will be set aside to provide extra funding for Devon - instead of being paid to central government. Devon County Council has welcomed the good news and I look forward to working with the Council during the pilot to make the scheme a success.
On Wednesday, the Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, announced a Universal Service Obligation that will give everyone in the UK access to high speed broadband, meaning everyone can get online, regardless of where they live or work. The scheme will maximise the connections in the hardest to reach areas, through providing fixed lines to some rural areas. The Government has also approved an expansion of the Connecting Devon and Somerset programme. This means an additional 6,000 homes and businesses will have access to the new ultrafast full fibre network being built by Gigaclear for CDS in Devon and Somerset. Everyone should benefit from a fast and reliable connection.
I was up bright and early again this weekend visiting Newton Abbot sorting office where I thanked our postal workers for the hard work they have been doing in the run up to Christmas. Afterwards I visited Newton Abbot Hospital and met with staff and patients. Parliament rises now for Christmas recess and returns in January, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
My first surgeries of 2018 will be held in Newton Abbot on the 5th and 12th January at 2pm. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.