Anne Marie's weekly update on what has been happening both in Newton Abbot and Westminster.
The week began with the announcement by Science Minister Sam Gyimah of an extra £70 million of funding to help develop pioneering new medical treatments to ensure better care for patients. The funding forms part of the Industrial Strategy and will help to create innovative new medical solutions, including using virtual reality to aid rehabilitation and investment in digital speech therapy solutions for those with stroke and brain injuries.
An important debate took place in Westminster Hall on Monday afternoon on an e-petition calling for an immediate withdrawal from the EU talks without seeking a deal, however, walking away from negotiations before March 2019 is not necessarily in our best interests. Reaching no deal after negotiations is different to reaching no deal right now. Article 50 talks will help to ensure fruitful, ongoing trade and security relationships with the EU and gives us time to prepare our new customs, trade, and immigration procedures for March 2019.
On Tuesday morning, I attended a meeting of the APPG on Corporate Governance to discuss the importance and benefits of diversity on boards and executive teams. We heard from Sir John Parker, Chair of the 2017 Parker Review, and Denise Wilson, Chief Executive of the Hampton-Alexander Review, which leads the national, business focused task force and voluntary framework for increasing the number of women on FTSE 350 boards and in leadership positions.
I sat on a Delegated Legislation Committee this week to amend the Environmental Permitting Regulations Act 2016. The changes made to the Act limit the emissions of certain pollutants into the air from combustion plants and introduce permitting requirements for the operation of medium-sized plants and generators. The purpose of these changes is to regulate emissions in order to protect air quality. The Government recognises the need for action to improve air quality and is committed to reducing avoidable emissions from domestic generators.
National Grid have completed the £50 million refurbishment of the overhead power lines in Devon to keep energy flowing to homes and businesses for another 50 years. Work began in March last year and I am happy to see the extensive renovation project come to completion.
On Tuesday, I met with Councillor John Hart, Leader of Devon County Council, for a briefing on the upcoming 2018/19 budget. The Council will be increasing the Adult Social Care budget by £18.7 million to meet rising demand and is also going to increase spending on Children’s Services. I was also interested to hear about the planned investment in infrastructure from the money Devon will receive from participation in the 100% business rates retention pilot. Early estimates suggest Devon County Council could get almost £10 million from this pilot scheme. Devolution is also back on the agenda for Devon, Somerset, Exeter, Plymouth, and Torbay. Discussions with officials have just started, watch this space!
On Wednesday, I met with Matthew Isom from the Dispensing Doctors Association to discuss the importance of GPs who can dispense medicines in rural areas where patients would otherwise have difficulties accessing pharmacies. We discussed the on-going challenges facing dispensing doctors specifically relating to funding. It is important these services are protected within our rural communities and I will be looking into the issue raised.
This week I sent a letter to the new Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, to ask that the upcoming funding review of tertiary education include education funding for 16-19 year olds in sixth form colleges. At the moment the review is only going to focus on post-18 funding i.e. university tuition and student loans. Sixth form education is a vital stage and must not be overlooked. The proposed tertiary review provides the ideal opportunity to assess whether investment levels in this stage of education are set at the right level.
My next surgeries will be in Newton Abbot on the 2nd and 9th February at 14:00. Please call 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.