Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 4th November 2018
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I am extremely disappointed and saddened that, despite intense lobbying, Babcock International has decided to close Appledore shipyard.
This is a very worrying time for the employees and their families, as well as for the wider community. The first priority now must be to safeguard employment for the workforce, a large number of whom live in the North Devon constituency.
I welcome Babcock’s commitment that all 200 employees will be offered jobs at other sites in the South West. However it is incumbent upon the company now to be very clear, very quickly, about the future employment arrangements for the Appledore workers.
The shipyard is in the constituency of Geoffrey Cox MP, and, together with the unions and the local community, we’ve been lobbying extremely hard. We secured from the MoD a package of work worth £60 million which could potentially have safeguarded future employment for the Appledore workforce.
Despite this, Babcock have taken the commercial decision to close the yard. This is extremely regrettable. We also called in the CEO of Babcock to ask him for a long term commitment to the Appledore workforce. This week’s announcement does, at least, hold out the prospect that there will be no compulsory redundancies.
As soon as the announcement was made, I spoke to the Manager of JobCentre Plus in Barnstaple. I have sought assurances that any Appledore employees who come forward seeking advice and guidance will be supported as quickly as possible.
It is clear there will be many questions at this difficult time, despite Babcock’s commitment that the entire workforce will be offered employment elsewhere. I thank JobCentre Plus staff in advance for the hard work that lies ahead.
Once again, our first thoughts must be with the employees, their families, and the wider community who will be impacted by this news. It is extremely disappointing that Babcock have gone ahead with this decision, and we must now all work together to help those affected.
This week's Budget contained a whole range of eye-catching measures, helping working families, easing the introduction of Universal Credit and providing real investment in our public services.
Most significantly, 32 million people have been given a tax cut. I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s decision to raise the allowance of tax-free earnings to £12,500, a full year sooner than planned. It means a typical basic-rate taxpayer will pay £1,205 less next year than they did in 2010.
The increase in the National Living Wage is also good news. It’s going up by 5% from £7.83 to £8.21, giving a pay rise of nearly £700 a year to a full-time worker.
Another very welcome measure, particularly in a rural area like North Devon, is the announcement that fuel duty is being frozen again. That’s the ninth year running that the planned price rises have been scrapped, saving the average car driver £1000.
On the same subject, yet again the North Devon Link Road was specifically mentioned in the official Budget Red book. We know we're getting £83million of government money for significant improvements to the road, and this was confirmation of that commitment.
When it comes to Universal Credit, this began to be rolled out in North Devon in July. I’ve been involved in regular meetings with many local organisations to make sure as much assistance as possible is given to claimants. So I particularly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of an additional £1.7 billion to help working families as they transition on to Universal Credit. And the work allowance – that’s the amount families can earn before losing benefits – is being increased by £1000, worth £630 to average households.
On investment in public services, thanks to our careful management of the economy, the Chancellor confirmed that we can fully fund the promised extra £20 billion for the NHS without raising taxes.
There was also more money for schools, a big review of police budgets to come in a few weeks, and extra cash to help local councils repair potholes. All those announcements will be very well received in North Devon.
Overall this was a Budget aimed at helping working families and investing in our public services, made possible by everyone’s hard work during a difficult few years. I welcome the Chancellor’s measures and look forward to supporting them, while continuing to fight to make sure North Devon gets our fair share.
On Friday it was a pleasure to return to Lampard School in Barnstaple. I'm proud to be the school's Patron, and so it was the obvious choice of destination for my small contribution to a fantastic international project.
The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy initiative aims to plant millions of trees across all 53 Commonwealth countries. The idea was conceived to mark Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne, and to recognise the fact that over that period mankind has undertaken deforestation on a hitherto unknown scale.
The massive tree-planting will not only seek to replace some of those lost woods and forests, but will also be a lasting legacy of the Queen's reign around the world.
As this week's photo shows, I joined students and staff at Lampard to plant five saplings, including silver birch, rowan and hazel. The school has cleverly chosen a site next to an existing copse, so that in the years to come the new trees will extend the canopy which reflects the purpose of the initiative.
I wrote to schools, parish councils and community groups across North Devon urging them to join in the scheme and explaining how they can receive free saplings. I hope they will do so, and send my office photos of their plantings so that we can build up a picture of the enthusiastic way in which North Devon has supported this historic project.
Last Friday I was delighted to be able to help the Organ Donation Bill clear its remaining hurdles in the House of Commons. This new law, when it reaches the statute book, will introduce what’s called deemed consent. This means people will be required to ‘opt out’ of the donor register, rather than the present system where people ‘opt in’ to offer their organs for transplant. There are many safeguards built into the Bill to ensure nobody’s wishes will be ignored, and there’s strong evidence from other countries that such a system really does save more lives.
Here in North Devon we have a strong connection with this issue because of the case of Keira Ball. Keira was the nine-year-old girl who tragically died in a car crash on the Link Road last summer.
Her Dad, Joe, took the courageous decision to allow her organs to be donated so that lives could be saved in the midst of this tragedy.
Four people received Keira's organs, and her heart was transplanted into nine-year-old Max Johnson, who has become the figurehead of the campaign to get this law passed. Keira's case demonstrates that more lives can be saved if more organs are available for transplant, which is why this new law is so important.
It's been an honour to be involved with this Bill at every stage of its parliamentary process. You can see my speech from last Friday here (please note the link may not work on all devices):
Next weekend it will be an honour to take part in various Remembrance events in North Devon. This year, of course, those events have extra significance as we mark the centenary of the end of the Great War.
On Friday morning we have the brilliant children’s remembrance service in Barnstaple. It gives our young citizens the chance to pay their respects, as well as to learn more about the conflicts which happened many years before they were born but which still impact their lives today.
Then on Remembrance Sunday itself, which this year actually falls on 11 November, I will be attending North Devon's main wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph at Rock Park. Then there is the traditional march-past and taking of the salute, followed by the civic church service.
This is such a significant anniversary, so this year, more than any other, let's wear our poppies with pride.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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