Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 29th 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 – my thoughts
The House of Commons has just defeated the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal for a third time.
I’m angry that Parliament has failed to deliver Brexit by the date we promised, because we’ve let you down.
I’m angry that Labour, the Lib Dems and other opposition parties have voted against the deal to try and reverse the result of the referendum.
And I’m angry with Conservative colleagues who have opposed the deal in the misguided belief that they can get the sort of ‘hard’ Brexit they crave.
In fact, their actions mean we’re almost certainly now heading for a ‘soft’ Brexit, still with membership of the Customs Union and other EU institutions, and only after a very long delay. It might even mean we have to hold EU elections in a couple of months.
Let me, once again, make my position very clear. I have consistently voted for the Prime Minister’s deal, so that we can deliver Brexit. I will not support any of the alternatives unless I can be convinced that they are the only chance to end the uncertainty and deliver the sort of Brexit which the UK and North Devon voted for.
Deal or No Deal?
Let me say a word about a ‘no deal’ Brexit – that is, the idea of the UK leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement or a plan for a future relationship. I want to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit, because businesses and employers have consistently told me it would be bad for the local economy, with job losses and cuts to investment. But I recognise that the option must be kept on the table as a strong negotiating tool, and because it delivers what many people regard as ‘true Brexit’. To balance these competing views, whenever ‘no deal’ has been brought before Parliament, I have again been consistent and recorded what’s known as a ‘positive abstention’.
But overall, this is a distraction. The key question now is what happens next, and can we deliver Brexit?
The truth is that nobody knows. Next week, it looks as if the so-called ‘indicative votes’ process will continue, giving MPs a chance to express their views on different options for Brexit. But opinion is divided as to whether the process really matters and whether the votes are even binding on the government.
They could, I suppose, give us an indication of how the existing deal needs to change if it’s to have any chance of passing the House of Commons. But that change may be one I can’t support because, for example, I don’t think it delivers the Brexit that people voted for. So I’d then find myself in the position of having to oppose the government’s deal, after all this time.
I am sorry that Theresa May felt it necessary to say she’ll step down as leader sooner than intended. It was probably inevitable, but it doesn’t change the fundamental problem of the parliamentary arithmetic.
As you can see, it’s complicated. It’s also a no-win situation. Whatever I and other MPs do, we’ll end up annoying a large number of people. There simply is no solution which everyone will agree with. The country is divided, and it’s impossible to please everyone.
I’ll keep doing what, in my judgement, is right. You may disagree with my judgement – in which case, I’m sorry. But I give you this commitment: I will continue to do everything I can to end the current uncertainty and get the best possible outcome for North Devon and the whole country.
On to other matters now, thank goodness.
Last Friday I paid a welcome return visit to the fantastic Calvert Trust near Blackmoor Gate. The photo shows me meeting Chief Executive Mike Gray, overlooking their site and the beautiful Wistlandpound reservoir.
This inspirational place provides holidays for people with physical and mental disabilities, and has excellent facilities for a whole range of activities. It aims to show people what they can do, not what they can’t.
I’m honoured to be an ambassador at the Calvert Trust, and have been there many times. I’ve arranged visits by three different government ministers in the last few years, because I want to show off the great work we do here in North Devon and ask for support.
Mike and I discussed some of the challenges. Of course, funding is always an issue. So is the need for volunteers, especially for jobs like helping to clean the rooms on changeover days. If you can help in any way, I will be only too happy to put you in touch.
I came away with a renewed commitment to help spread the word about the Calvert Trust, which really is a place North Devon can be proud of.
£1.5million for North Devon
I’ve left the best news until last.
Last week, we heard the brilliant news that North Devon had won £1.5 million of government funding to go towards our new leisure centre.
This is fantastic news. The District Council’s bid for a big share of the Coastal Communities Fund was ambitious, but the fact that the government has given us the full amount shows how highly this project is thought of.
The money will go towards a state-of-the-art swimming pool at the new facility in Barnstaple.
I was delighted to support North Devon District Council’s bid. The Council is working incredibly hard to deliver this new leisure centre, and this successful bid marks a major step forward.
It’s yet another example of the Council bidding successfully for government funding for our district. We’ve received so much in the last few years, and North Devon really is on the government’s radar now in a way we haven’t been for years.
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