Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 3rd February 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: a Breakthrough?
On Tuesday the House of Commons achieved what many thought was impossible, when a majority of MPs agreed a way forward on Brexit. I supported the government's position, namely that the Prime Minister should return to the EU and seek changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
In particular, we're looking for alternative arrangements to prevent a hard border in Ireland. At the moment, the so-called 'back-stop' is a stumbling block, with many believing it ties us to the EU for too long with no way out. I hope Brussels will now recognise that changes need to be made so that we can move forward and deliver Brexit on March 29.
The other reason I supported the government was that the motion specifically said we should leave the EU with a deal. That's important, because so many businesses, farmers and others in North Devon have told me that a 'no deal' Brexit would be harmful.
I've consistently voted in Parliament to deliver Brexit, to honour the commitment I made to the voters of North Devon, and because it's vital to end the current uncertainty and get on with it. We're not there yet, but I hope Tuesday's vote brings us a significant step closer.
As the Brexit process moves ahead, I'm making a point of staying in close touch with our business community in North Devon. They are at the 'sharp end', so it's vital their voices are heard.
On Friday I went to Stannp in Barnstaple, as the picture shows. They are a business specialising in personalised direct mail, and are a real local success story. The company started in Barnstaple in 2014 and has grown from £200k to £4.3m turnover in their first four years of trading, employing 35 staff.
Stannp is working towards the formal launch of their service in North America in the second quarter of 2019. Mail pieces for the USA will be printed in Stannp’s USA facilities, with North American customers supported by dedicated sales, operations and technical teams in North Devon working to US business hours.
I’m always happy to find out more about the fantastic businesses in North Devon. Today's small businesses are tomorrow's market leaders and Stannp is certainly a growth success story, with plans for further expansion bringing additional employment to our local economy.
My visit to Stannp was part of a busy week of engagements in North Devon. On Monday morning, before heading back to Westminster, I dropped in to North Devon District Hospital to celebrate the graduation of the first cohort of nursing associates.
This initiative, in conjunction with Petroc, is putting North Devon on the map as one of only 11 such pilot projects in the country. It was an honour to be asked to launch the event, before heading back to London for the Parliamentary week.
When I returned a few days later, my part of North Devon was under a blanket of snow. Thankfully it was not as serious as the notorious 'Beast from the East' last year, but conditions were still challenging. Thank you to all our highways teams, emergency services and others who worked so hard to keep our public services running.
On Friday, after some spadework and copious amounts of de-icer, I had a full day of engagements in Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and Braunton, including a busy surgery. Then on Saturday morning we held another surgery, giving as many people as possible an opportunity to have their say. Remember we can sort out the vast majority of issues without the need to wait for an appointment - do please get in touch if I can help in any way.
News in Brief
A couple of updates on ongoing issues.
Next week I'll be meeting the Defence Secretary to hand over all the responses I've received from residents calling for RMB Chivenor to remain open. Last month I sent letters to about 25,000 households inviting them to write to the Defence Secretary. The response has been outstanding. We're still counting them all, but it seems about 5,000 people have taken the trouble to fill in the form and post it back to me. Thank you.
Meanwhile the other major issue – the North Devon Link Road – has moved forward significantly this week. Devon County Council's Development Management Committee gave formal approval to the ambitious improvement plans. It follows our success in winning government funding of more than £80million for the scheme. Along with the County Council's contribution of £10million, it means we're on track for work to begin next year. Watch this space for updates.
On Monday last week I spoke in the Commons about the funding of further education colleges. Petroc, here in North Devon, has lobbied me effectively and reasonably about this, and so I was determined to represent them.
The issue, in a nutshell, is that colleges like Petroc receive less funding than sixth forms at secondary schools, even though they educate more 16 to 18 year olds. There's also inequality in terms of salaries for teachers and lecturers at FE colleges.
I'm a regular visitor to Petroc and have met managers, teachers, union representatives and students to discuss this. I made sure the minister was aware of the strength of feeling during the debate. You can watch my speech here (please note this link may not work on all devices):
Straight in at Number 43...
Finally, a bit of fun. Devon Live (the parent brand of the North Devon Journal) this week published its league table of the '50 most powerful people in Devon'.
Here's the link. Bound to lead to interesting discussions over some Sunday lunch tables....
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