The Prime Minister has announced that she has reached agreement with the EU as to our future relationship. This is said to be a framework and not legally binding, however, it does set a precedent and will constrain negotiations which do not conform to it. The agreement provides for regulatory alignment which will make entering into new trade deals difficult. There is also no mechanism to bring the transitional period or membership of the customs union to an end other than by agreement. While best endeavours wording is used this is not a guarantee of agreement being reached. The section on fishing is at best ambiguous but leaves scope for retention of a quota system as we have now. This will not give the UK control of its waters. The document does not provide certainty of our future state and relies on trust to find a way through. The problem is if we don’t find a way through we are stuck and that is not a good place to be and does not deliver Brexit.
I also attended a briefing by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Armed Forces last week to hear from Chief of Defence Intelligence, Air Marshal Phil 'Osby' Osborn CBE. Air Marshal Osborn offered his perspective on the current operational context, the more complex challenge that faces UK defence today, and the increasing importance of a strategic military approach that places information advantage at its heart.
The Public Accounts Committee last week held two sessions looking at issues around academies and academy funding. On Monday we heard from academy trusts that had encountered challenges and on Wednesday we heard from representatives from the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency. Back in March, the Committee published a report concluding that academy trusts often fall short on standards of accountability and financial management. Therefore, the publication of the first Academies Sector Annual Report and Accounts (SARA) was a welcome step in the right direction.
I attended a drop in session in Parliament hosted by the Royal College of Nursing to hear about their ongoing campaigns, as well as meet with student nurses from the South West region. It was good to hear about their current training as well as the challenges faced by nurses in rural communities such as ours. I am Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Health and Social Care and we are currently holding a parliamentary inquiry looking into the issues faced in rural health and social care. Workforce numbers are crucial to the provision of a well-functioning service, and while it is encouraging to see more people choosing nursing as a career, the numbers are not at the level required to deal with our increasingly aging population.
On Tuesday I met with Stephen Bird, Managing Director of South West Water to discuss their 2020-25 business plan. The plan includes water charges, leakage levels and investment in the constituency. South West Water are working to engage with the government regarding their contribution of the £50 reduction on household bills post the current 2020 deadline. The contribution was announced in 2011 in recognition of the investment both the company and customers have made in building sewage treatment works to protect our region’s bathing waters. The 2020-25 business plan will also set out measures to further help those households currently experiencing water poverty.
Alongside this, I was pleased to see Defra’s latest bathing water figures showing that Devon’s bathing waters have scored a 96% pass rate, with the region achieving its best-ever results. Our region’s bathing waters are much cleaner and have continually improved since 1990, when just 27% met European water quality standards. These excellent results are evidence of the hard work of Devon County Council, farmers and local communities to ensure we achieve cleaner water across Teignbridge.
My next surgery is on Thursday 13th December at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.