Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 17th March 2019
Thank you and welcome to my latest Newsletter. Please do forward this on to someone who you think may be interested, and urge them to sign up.
I try and make it non-party-political: it’s about my work as North Devon’s MP.
Brexit – what happens next?
In the coming week, the government will try for a third time to persuade the House of Commons to support its EU withdrawal agreement and deliver Brexit. I will vote to do so again, as I have done at every opportunity.
At the last general election, I was given a mandate by the people of North Devon to secure Britain’s exit from the EU. I’ve always believed the best way to achieve that is with a withdrawal agreement. That’s why I’ve consistently voted to support the government’s deal, every time it’s come before the House of Commons. Sadly, too few of my colleagues feel the same way.
I hope this will change, and that enough MPs will realise that the best way – possibly now the only way – to deliver Brexit is to support the withdrawal agreement this week. If that doesn’t happen, the way ahead is far from clear. This uncertainty has to stop.
Brexit – what happened last week?
We are in this position because on Tuesday the House of Commons again failed to support the government’s withdrawal agreement. The majority against was not as big as last time, but still substantial. I again voted in favour, because that’s the best way to deliver Brexit.
Then on Wednesday night, the final motion in the House of Commons said a no-deal Brexit should be taken off the table, permanently and under all circumstances. I certainly could not support that, because it would have damaged our chances of securing a good Brexit deal with the EU, and been contrary to the wishes of the majority in North Devon who voted Leave. However, having listened to businesses, farmers and employers in North Devon who are extremely worried about the risks of no deal, I felt I could not vote against the motion.
I therefore decided to abstain - which is often recorded in official reports as an 'absence' - because I wanted to balance all these considerations. I believed this was in the best interests of the people I represent, and that’s always my primary consideration.
The following day, I reluctantly supported the government’s motion to seek a short delay to the Brexit process, assuming the withdrawal agreement is passed this week. This ‘technical delay’ will allow Parliament to finalise the legal arrangements for Brexit.
I do not agree that Article 50 should be revoked or that we should have a 'people’s vote' - indeed on Thursday, MPs rejected the idea of a second referendum by a huge majority. Both options would be extremely divisive and damaging to our democracy. The fact that the Commons has so far failed to agree on a deal does not mean we should go back on the commitment to deliver Brexit.
Brexit – a final word…for now.
The government remains committed to achieving a majority in the House of Commons for its withdrawal agreement. I have consistently supported it because it delivers on the referendum result, ensures a good deal on trade, security, travel and citizens' rights, and ends the current uncertainty.
My focus, as it has always been, is on achieving the best possible outcome for North Devon and for the country as a whole. I will continue to vote in the House of Commons to deliver an orderly Brexit with a withdrawal agreement, as I have done consistently at every opportunity.
The government said at the time of the 2016 referendum that it would deliver the result, and I was re-elected in North Devon in 2017 on a platform to do just that. I will not go back on those commitments.
Improving North Devon’s High Streets
Yesterday was ‘High Street Saturday’ - a new national campaign day to celebrate the place of the high street at the heart of communities across the country.
To mark the occasion, the government has committed nearly £10million to fund the clean-up of high streets across England. I’m delighted that North Devon will receive £16,730 of that investment.
The funding will improve the appearance of high streets, helping to attract more residents and visitors so that local businesses can continue to thrive. It will be used to buy cleaning tools, as well as providing training for residents on how to remove graffiti or tackle fly-tipping.
That’s important, but it’s a relatively modest initiative. That’s why I’m writing to the Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire, in support of North Devon Council’s wider ambitions for Barnstaple as our district’s main retail centre.
The Council have, over the past four years, been incredibly successful in bidding for funding, and it has been my pleasure to be able to work with them and support them by lobbying Government Ministers directly.
You can read a copy of my letter to the Secretary of State here:
This week we’ve seen heavy rain and strong winds leading to flooding in many parts of the country. Fortunately, North Devon has escaped the worst, but of course we haven’t always been so lucky. That’s why I’m working hard on several fronts to ensure we reduce the risk of flooding as much as possible.
Braunton has been hard hit in the past, and so it’s welcome that the village has seen considerable investment. However, there is more to be done, which is why last Monday I was pleased to be part of the House of Commons committee helping to pass a new law.
The Rivers Authorities and Land Drainage Bill does two main things. Firstly, it gives the government powers to establish River Authorities to coordinate flood risk strategies. Secondly, it gives greater powers to existing Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs), which are local committees overseeing flood risk management in some parts of the country.
There are about a hundred IDBs across England, and we have one here in North Devon. I’ve worked with the Braunton Marsh Internal Drainage Board and with the other authorities locally who are doing a good job trying to find a long-term solution to the challenges in that area. That’s why I was pleased to highlight their work to Parliament during the debate.
You can read the official report of the debate, including my contributions, here:
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
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