Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 18th March
Welcome to my latest Newsletter.
The southwest’s top news story for the last 24 hours began life more than three months ago, when I invited the Defence Secretary to visit RMB Chivenor.
Michael Fallon had just announced plans for the Royal Marines to vacate the site. I stood up in Parliament and asked him to visit; he agreed, and yesterday morning he duly arrived.
In the interim there’s been a great deal of lobbying, both in public and behind the scenes. And so I was very pleased to hear the Defence Secretary say yesterday that the closure of RMB Chivenor is ‘not a done deal’ after all.
Michael Fallon confirmed that although it is the ‘intention’ to consolidate the Royal Marines' operations in Plymouth, a final decision has not been made and a future military use for Chivenor hasn't been ruled out. This is welcome news.
As part of the visit, I convened a meeting of local political, business and community leaders to discuss the site's future. As I told the meeting, I don't want anything imposed on North Devon; we must have our say. It's important to explore the opportunities that any change may bring, and yesterday’s visit was very much the start of that process.
I was delighted that so many local representatives took up my invitation to attend and am grateful to the Defence Secretary for visiting. I will continue to push for what's best for North Devon as this process moves forward.
You can see media coverage of yesterday’s visit in the following links…
North Devon Gazette (who I thank for this week’s photo):
North Devon Journal:
BBC Spotlight (note you’ll have to watch this before 10:40pm this evening as it then disappears from the iPlayer):
This coming Wednesday, 22 March, is the closing date of the consultation period on the government’s new national funding formula for schools.
I have written before about how the formula does not correct the historic unfairness faced by Devon pupils, so I won’t repeat all the arguments here. However, I wanted to say that I have received a great many representations from parents, teachers and others in the education community, and I will keep lobbying.
This is also a final call to make sure you make your own submission to the consultation before Wednesday’s deadline. Here is the link:
North Devon Hospital
On Tuesday I took part in another debate at Westminster about health and social care funding, and again used the opportunity to raise North Devon Hospital.
The speech (which was limited to three minutes because so many MPs wanted to take part in the debate) can be viewed here:
Ten days ago the Chancellor announced his Budget. I thought you might like to see the statement I released at the time, because it all still stands.
You will notice I didn’t even mention the proposed National Insurance changes. These of course have since been dropped. My political antenna seem to be working…..
This was very much a ‘steady-as-she-goes’ Budget, designed to send a very clear message of confidence in the UK economy as we head towards Brexit.
The most eye-catching measure was the extra funding of two billion pounds for social care over the next three years, with one billion straight away. There was also the news of extra spending for A & E departments now, and a promise of a multi-year funding settlement for the NHS in the Autumn. These are both major concerns in North Devon, so although these are welcome announcements, I will want to see exactly how our local area will benefit.
The Chancellor confirmed increases in both the National Minimum Wage and the income tax threshold, meaning 29 million ordinary working people will be better off. Indeed from next month, the average taxpayer will be £1,000 better off than in 2010.
I also welcome the Chancellor’s promises on business rates. I and many other MPs have expressed concern about the increases being faced by some businesses. Philip Hammond has listened, and announced today a cap in increases, a fund of £300m for discretionary relief, and a discount for 90% of pubs, many of which are being disproportionately affected by the revaluation.
There was also a modest package of more funding for schools, but we will have to wait until the end of the consultation on the National Funding Formula to see whether our concerns about fairer funding in North Devon have been addressed. I will continue to push this point.
Overall this was a Budget that showed the UK economy is in a healthy state and well placed to face the uncertainties of Brexit. There are still challenges of course, but the Chancellor’s overall strategy is the right one for the UK. I will keep fighting to ensure that North Devon gets our fair share as the economy continues to grow.
You may have seen the coverage of last Saturday’s mass motorbike rally through Barnstaple in memory of Aiden Platt. He is the young biker killed by a car driver who was under the influence of drugs, but who received only a 20-month suspended jail sentence.
After being contacted by organisers of the 'ride-out', I have written to ministers to raise concerns about the way the law handles such cases.
Aiden's tragic death is not the first time that a motorcyclist has been killed and the car driver responsible has received what seems to be an unduly lenient sentence.
The perception is that our criminal justice system does not place sufficient value on the lives of bikers, and that cannot be right.
I have made ministers at the Justice Department aware of the very real concern that our current legal framework is weighted unfairly against the victims in these tragic cases.
I hope we can receive reassurances that the law, and particularly sentencing guidelines, will be reviewed in light of this awful incident. I pay tribute to all those who are working so hard to highlight this issue in Aiden's memory.
Finally, just a note about my constituency surgeries. Yesterday evening I had a session in Braunton, and this morning another in Barnstaple. Across those two events I saw a total of 16 local residents, so it’s pretty busy at the moment!
I’m always happy to meet people, but it’s worth remembering that in the vast majority of cases there’s no need to wait for an appointment with me. We can deal with most issues straight away by email, letter or phone. That’s why, when you contact the office, we will always try to help without the potentially unnecessary delay of waiting for the next surgery.
Please do get in touch if I can help in any way.
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