Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 22nd June 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.
Boris or Jeremy?
We now know that our next Prime Minister will be either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. A series of ballots by Conservative MPs has whittled down the ten original candidates to these final two. Conservative members around the country, including here in North Devon, will now choose between them and elect the Party's next leader.
I decided not to publicly declare support for any of the candidates during the MPs' ballots. I wanted to keep an open mind while there was such a wide field, and to judge each of the candidates on their merits.
I also used the process as an opportunity to lobby unashamedly for North Devon. And because I didn't say which of the leadership contenders I was supporting, they were all very keen indeed to listen.
In one of the parliamentary hustings sessions, I asked one of the candidates what he would do for the south west if he became Prime Minister. His answer specifically mentioned Barnstaple and South Molton, leaving other MPs wondering how it was that North Devon was getting such special treatment.
The Final Two
Now we're down to the final two, I'm not going to seek to influence the members' decision by expressing my preference. As soon as I do so, the debate will be about the rights or wrongs of my choice, rather than the relative merits of the candidates themselves.
I know both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt well, and indeed I'm proud they have both been recent visitors to North Devon. Mr Johnson came here the day after he dropped out of the last leadership election in 2016. I accompanied him on a visit to Chulmleigh Community College, and then to a Party fundraising event. Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, visited North Devon District Hospital in 2017. It was an unannounced visit of the sort he made quite frequently while serving as Health Secretary.
North Devon is on the political radar like never before, and it can only be good news that the new Prime Minister is already familiar with our area. I'll use my influence to ensure that continues, whichever one of them reaches Number Ten next month.
Fire Service Changes
You may have seen in the local media that Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service has announced a wide-ranging review of the way it operates across the region.
Here in North Devon, it's proposing changes in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Lynton and Woolacombe. The Service says its role is changing, with more of an emphasis on protection and prevention rather than reacting to incidents; indeed the number of calls it receives has dropped by a third in the last ten years – a pretty extraordinary statistic when you think about it.
I am clearly concerned about these changes and their implications for North Devon. I asked for and have already received a detailed briefing from the Chief Fire Officer, for which I am grateful.
I sought his personal reassurance that the service we receive will not be compromised, and that all affected staff would be fully supported during this process.
I then asked the Chief Fire Officer to meet me in North Devon once we have further details of the consultation programme, and he has agreed to do so. It will be my priority to ensure that the interests of North Devon are represented and protected during this process.
In Parliament 1
This week in the House of Commons I asked about the need to recruit more mental health nurses, and how we can promote North Devon as a great place for them to come and work. It came after the head of the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, which runs our mental health services, told me about the challenges of securing qualified professionals in our region. It's not through lack of money; there's simply too few people coming through the system.
By raising this in the House of Commons, I'm hopeful we can start to put this right.
You can view my question and the minister's answer here (please note the link may not work on all devices):
In Parliament 2
My campaign to get the BBC to change its mind about the scrapping of free TV licences for most people over the age of 75 has moved to a new level.
First, I raised it in Parliament again. You can see my question and the secretary of state's reply here:
Meanwhile, my Twitter rant was picked up by the national media, and I was then asked to write an article for The House magazine – which is an influential publication widely read in Westminster and Whitehall. You can read it here on the digital platform, Politics Home:
Finally, news about a significant election result in North Devon last week - and forgive me if this item is slightly more political than usual.
Conservative candidate Ray Jenkins won the Chittlehampton by-election last Thursday, gaining the seat previously held by Independent councillor Walter White, who sadly died in April.
The result completes the new North Devon District Council line-up, and sees the Conservatives, Independents and Greens together holding 21 seats – exactly half the total, denying the Liberal Democrats outright control.
Ray won with a majority of 75 votes ahead of the Greens, with the Lib Dems in third place. I and many others were out on the doorsteps campaigning for Ray, who was a great local candidate and really cares for the community where he lives.
This is a great result and I'm delighted for Ray, who will be an excellent district councillor. I look forward to working with him, and indeed with the Council as a whole, to get the very best for North Devon.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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