Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 26th May 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.
The Prime Minister's dignified statement on Friday, announcing she will stand down on 7 June, demonstrated how much she cares about serving our country. Theresa May tried extremely hard to deliver Brexit, but her deal just didn't command sufficient support. I voted for it at every opportunity, but too few other MPs did the same or were ever likely to do so. Mrs May has done the decent thing in recognising this and standing down, allowing a new Prime Minister to seek a fresh way to break the impasse.
It’s a huge regret that Theresa May was not able to deliver the other progressive social policies which she spoke about so enthusiastically on the day she became Prime Minister. The Conservative Party now needs to carry those ideas forward with a new leader.
I have not yet decided who to support in the leadership election. Candidates are still emerging, and I want to know the full field, and hear the views of North Devon Conservative Association members, before making a choice. I will support the candidate who I think is best placed to deliver Brexit and then move the country forward.
For now, I thank Theresa May for her leadership and for her service to our country. I make no apologies for supporting my Prime Minister and party leader; as I said in my media statement, loyalty should be a virtue to be applauded, not a trait to be derided.
As I write, we're waiting to hear the results of the European Union elections. Although polling day in the UK was on Thursday, we don't know the outcome until voting has closed in all EU countries where elections are held at the weekend.
Let me repeat what I've said before – we shouldn't have had to take part in these elections. I'm frustrated that we did, as are many people I've spoken to on the doorsteps of North Devon. I fully expect that frustration to be translated into a difficult result for the government.
The new Prime Minister, and MPs from all parties in the House of Commons, must look at that result and realise it sends a clear message about what the country wants.
Business As Usual
In this tumultuous political week, I was determined not to be distracted from my work in North Devon.
In the past few days I've visited Parracombe Primary School, had talks with the new leader of the District Council's Conservative Group, held a constituency surgery in Barnstaple, been to meet residents in Yelland to hear their concerns about a housing development, and met the head of the organisation that represents our local post offices.
The diary is always pretty full, but that's the way it should be.
Tarka Rail Association
On Thursday I ensured I was back from Westminster in time to attend the Annual General Meeting of the Tarka Rail Association in Umberleigh. I'm proud to be President of the TRA, which works to promote, support and lobby for improvements to our rail line between Barnstaple and Exeter.
The photo shows me with (l-r), Mike Day, Chairman of the TRA; Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail; and Cllr Andrea Davis, wearing her dual hats as Devon County Councillor and Chair of the Peninsula Rail Task Force.
Sir Peter's attendance was a real coup. He talked positively and glowingly about our line. In my speech, I made the point that we had now won the argument about this rail service being a vital part of North Devon's economic infrastructure. It was clear from Sir Peter's comments that he felt the same way.
The future is optimistic. Despite a false start, we now have a clear timetable (sorry!) for significant improvements. From later this year, we should have an hourly service between Barnstaple and Exeter. We'll have updated rolling stock and more capacity. And we're hopeful of track improvements allowing faster running times, as well as an upgrade to Barnstaple station.
I'll continue to work hard, with the TRA and others, to secure the sort of service we need. Indeed, I've already arranged to meet the Rail Minister to pass on to him our 'wish list' for the future.
Travelling on the line can be frustrating, with crowded carriages and long waits between trains. But, as the old British Rail advertising slogan used to say, We're Getting There.
On Wednesday in the House of Commons I was able to speak in a debate about the high rate of suicides in the farming community. It's an issue which of course has a great deal of significance in North Devon, and in which I take a close interest.
You can see my intervention here (please note the link may not work on all devices):
On the same theme, I want to mention a fundraising event happening this weekend in aid of an excellent North Devon charity which I've had the pleasure of visiting. 'Clarity' offers counselling and support to people experiencing mental health challenges, with a particular focus on families who've been touched by suicide.
Paul Stevens from Barnstaple, who tragically lost his own son, is carrying a cannon barrel on a climb up Mount Snowdon to highlight the 'heavy weight' of mental health issues. For more details including a link to the donations page, see this article in the North Devon Gazette:
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