Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 19th January 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.
That Was The Week That Was
It’s been one of the most dramatic weeks in UK politics for a generation. A hugely important vote on our withdrawal from the EU, which the government lost, was followed 24 hours later by a no confidence motion, which the government won.
Since then we’ve had three days of what can only be described as high-stakes horse trading, as competing factions try and gain the upper hand in the next stage of the Brexit process.
My position really hasn’t changed throughout. In a nutshell, I believe we must deliver Brexit, which was the instruction from nearly 60% of North Devon’s voters. I thought the Prime Minister’s agreement achieved that, while avoiding the risks of a no-deal divorce. It wasn’t perfect, but that’s the nature of a compromise. In my judgement, it was enough to allow us to get on and deliver what the people asked for, and that’s why I supported the agreement in the vote on Tuesday.
However, the majority in the House of Commons clearly didn’t agree. I hope now that all the competing viewpoints can somehow be reconciled and we can find a way through, and that’s what I’m working to achieve with senior parliamentary colleagues.
As I said in my speech, the one thing I think most people would agree with now is that we just need to get on with it.
You can read my speech from the debate last Friday in the online version of Hansard here:
And you can watch it on Parliament Live TV here:
It may interest you to know that we’ve analysed the almost one thousand emails I’ve received since November about Brexit. They split almost equally: a third want to leave with no deal, a third want to leave with some kind of deal, a third want to remain or have a second referendum.
Plus ca change.
Last Wednesday I organised a debate in Parliament about the planned closure of Royal Marines Base Chivenor. It was a means of summoning the Defence Minister to the House to hear North Devon’s concerns, and to find out from him the MoD’s latest thinking.
You can watch the debate here:
The Minister used some surprising language, speaking of Chivenor continuing to have a role to play in the future. He couldn’t say more, but asked me to ‘read between the lines’.
That might sound more hopeful than the minister’s previous comments, but still, after more than two years of uncertainty, we have no announcement of a final decision. That’s why it’s important that the community’s campaign continues.
As part of that campaign, 20,000 letters from me have now been distributed to households around Braunton and Barnstaple, inviting people to write to the Defence Secretary. Thank you to the many residents who’ve returned them already – please do so quickly as I want to deliver them to the MoD shortly. If you didn’t receive one, you can download it from my website here:
This has been a cross-community campaign from the start, and I want to acknowledge the hard work of the many councils, organisations and individuals who’ve fought our case. It’s time now for the final push.
A Debate about Debates
Here’s one for the political/media geeks – and I proudly confess to membership of that club.
Last Monday, parliament discussed a petition which calls for TV election debates between party leaders to be made a legal requirement.
The idea’s been promoted heavily by Sky News for several months now, and the petition eventually reached the required number of signatures to be guaranteed a debate in Westminster Hall. With my own media background, I wanted to take part.
In short, I’m not convinced of the merits of the argument.
When you have 18 minutes (sorry) to spare, you can watch my contribution here:
Back to Reality
After all the highly-charged and slightly surreal activity of Westminster, it was so good to get back to North Devon at the end of this week.
Yesterday was a very busy, varied and enjoyable day in the constituency. It began with a great visit to South Molton Community Primary School, where I was invited to talk at morning assembly. And it ended late last night with a packed meeting of the Barnstaple & District branch of the National Farmers Union.
In between, it was my pleasure to open the new studios of Tarka Radio at North Devon District Hospital, as well as host several residents at a busy constituency surgery.
There’s one particular event yesterday I want to highlight: a visit to Age Concern in Barnstaple. As you can see from the photo, there were lots of smiles to celebrate the news that they’re reached the fundraising target to secure their vital service for at least another six months. Beyond that, their long-term future depends on securing agreements with Devon County Council and other stakeholders.
When Age Concern came to my office last year, the future looked bleak. I promised to ‘unblock the pipes’ and get some communication going with ‘the powers that be’. At the same time there was a very successful community campaign to raise funds, which has once again shown the incredible generosity of North Devon.
We’re not out of the woods yet, but yesterday’s event was a worthy celebration of how far things have moved in a few short months. Well done to everyone, and thank you.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Mail: 1st Floor Office Suite, Church House, Church Lane
Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
Telephone: 01271 327990