Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 7th October 2018
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On Tuesday it was a privilege to attend the royal opening of the fantastic new facilities at Chulmleigh Community College. The Duke of Gloucester came to perform the official ceremony and we were given a tour of the impressive new buildings.
I took the opportunity to talk to His Royal Highness about the huge support the school had received from the local community. It's been a long-running and ultimately successful campaign to secure funding for the improvements, and it's certainly been worthwhile.
The new buildings are a million miles from the supposedly 'temporary' huts which had served as classrooms for so many years, The facilities now are state-of-the-art, and the school is rightly proud of what's been achieved.
It's worth noting that we're seeing major investment in other secondary schools in North Devon too – at South Molton and Ilfracombe there have been significant new buildings. I'll keep fighting for more.
Congratulations to Chulmleigh College and to the whole community for seeing this through, and thank you as always for the warm welcome.
Moving on to Higher Education, yesterday saw Petroc's graduation ceremony. More than a hundred new graduates processed through Barnstaple town centre to the Queen's Theatre where they were presented with their certificates and prizes.
I was delighted to be asked again to take part. It's an honour to see so many local people achieving success, and credit must go to everyone who has contributed – not just the students themselves but their families and of course teachers and lecturers too.
On the fringes of the event I took the opportunity to discuss concerns about funding for further education. Petroc's Principal Diane Dimond has asked me to raise the matter in Westminster, and I will of course be doing so. We need to ensure there's a level playing field for 16 to 18-year-olds here in North Devon, and so I'll be raising it with the minister as soon as parliament returns next week.
The party conference season is coming to an end. The Conservative event, in Birmingham, ended on Wednesday with the Prime Minister's address. The front pages largely focussed on Theresa May's 'Dancing Queen' performance, and there was much chatter too about the barnstorming speech given by my next-door-neighbour Geoffrey Cox. The Attorney General's performance was likened variously to Brian Blessed, Gandalf or a character from The Lion King.
Putting all that to one side, it's worth looking at the substance of some of the announcements made over the course of the week. Among other things, the government has said we're:
Freezing fuel duty again – vital in a rural area like North Devon. I directly lobbied the Treasury about this in the weeks leading up to the Conference and am delighted our voices have been heard.
Launching a new Cancer Strategy as part of our long-term plan for the NHS, speeding up diagnosis and saving lives.
Scrapping the cap on how much councils can borrow against their assets to fund new developments, getting them building more homes again.
Raising stamp duty for house buyers who don’t live in the UK – and using the money to end the scourge of rough sleeping.
Banning employers from taking a cut of workers’ tips.
Extending civil partnerships – so that all couples are given the same choices in life.
Introducing a new, skills-based immigration system based on people’s skills, not where they come from – and ending free movement from the EU.
And on Wednesday, the Prime Minister outlined her vision to deliver what people voted for at the EU referendum. As parliament returns this week, that's something I'll be focusing on of course.
On Wednesday I hope to be speaking in the House of Commons in the Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill. This proposed legislation sets out the government's strategy as we leave the European Union and beyond.
To help prepare, on Thursday I had a very helpful meeting with more than a dozen representatives of the local farming industry in South Molton. I'm grateful to the National Farmers Union in the South West for arranging the briefing.
It's clear there are a number of concerns about the Bill as it stands. Questions include whether there's enough emphasis on food production, what guarantees there are for future funding, and how we define 'public goods', which will be used to decide the level of subsidies farmers will receive.
This matters to us all, not only because farmers produce our food, but because they are the stewards and custodians of so much of our landscape and environment.
I'll be hoping to influence the Agriculture Bill as it moves through its parliamentary stages so that it delivers what our farming community needs.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
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