As much of Devon is covered in a layer of snow, but our bay remains clear, it is time for my latest update.
My week started with a visit to Argos in Union St, Torquay where one of their employees who is famous for his flowing looks was about to get a whole new style, in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. I was present as Dave Shute braved the shave, raising hundreds of pounds for research into this condition which affects so many in our bay.
After this I headed up to the Acorn Centre for my weekly surgery. My surgeries see residents come to discuss a range of personal issues where my assistance may be able to help. The most common items are housing, benefits or immigration problems, with Government Departments having teams assigned to help respond to queries residents raise with their local MP through them.
Following my Surgery I was due to head out on the doorsteps for a session listening to local residents’ views, but sadly rain stopped play. It was though dry and warm at the Babbacombe and St Marychurch Conservative Club for their Burns Night celebration, complete with the Haggis being piped in.
Sunday was Holocaust Memorial Day as the UK marked the 74th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. I joined a large congregation at St Pauls, Preston for a service of remembrance, reflection and commitment. I spoke during the service, reflecting on how we must not just think of the Holocaust as something which happened 80 years ago, but also the genocides since like the ones in Rwanda and Bosnia.
During the service there was a moment’s silence in memory of those who died in the Holocaust. If we stood for one minute in memory of each victim, we would have been standing in silence for 11 and a half years.
After the service I headed to the station just in time for the last train from Devon to London ahead of a busy week of debates in parliament, with Tuesday being a highlight as major votes on Brexit took place in the House of Commons. More on some of these below.
Wednesday morning saw me in the Locarno Room at the Foreign Office for the launch of the Review into the support the UK can offer Persecuted Christians. The work is being led by the Bishop of Truro and will help give an insight into how our diplomatic network across the globe can make a difference. I was invited due to my regular speaking on this subject and membership of the All-Party Group on Freedom of Religious Belief.
Yesterday I headed back to the bay, with my train thankfully being unaffected by the weather. It was though strange to see snow on the ground at Newton Abbot Station, yet then find our bay clear of any.
Today I visited Cockington Primary School to talk with Year 5 about my work and answer their questions. The subjects raised included everything from how long I have been doing my job to what would the answer be to Brexit.
Later in the afternoon I headed to Paignton for my latest advice surgery, with residents again bringing a range of issues to me.
Finally Friday also saw the Funeral of 14 year old Alice Sloman take place at the church of St Mary the Virgin, more on this below, along with this week’s update which includes: Brexit, Equitable Life Debate, “Holidays” Cancelled?, Snow, Torquay Police Street Surgery, Licence Fee Question, £70k to Combat Youth Isolation, Torre Abbey Shortlisted, Boost Your Broadband and finally…….The King of Chelston?
The major talking point of this week has been the votes held in Parliament on Tuesday night where MPs voted on a series of amendments to a Government motion.
The motion was set in neutral terms, effectively noting the statement given by the Prime Minister following the Government’s defeat on the Meaningful Vote. Yet as an amendable motion it was open to MPs from across the House to propose amendments which would give it a specific purpose.
There is not space in this update to go into the detail of the arguments around each amendment, although I will do a more detailed update for those who are on my Brexit mailing list this weekend. Yet the headlines are the House of Commons rejected amendments which would have seen backbench bills to delay Brexit given priority over Government Business, along with another one seeking to delay it by two years.
Two amendments were approved. One which indicated the House of Commons was minded to support the deal if alternative measures were put in the place of the Northern Ireland backstop. The second added a statement to the end of the motion indicating the House rejected the concept of leaving without a withdrawal agreement (No Deal).
These votes were not a re-run of the “Meaningful Vote” and if the Government motion had passed unamended it would not have approved a specific outcome.
The Government is now seeking to renegotiate the proposed deal with the EU based on the House of Commons having indicated it would back it with changes to the backstop. Yet if no progress is made the Government has indicated there be a further debate on Thursday 14th February where MPs will again be able to put forward alternatives to be voted on.
Equitable Life Debate,
19 years ago Equitable Life collapsed following a total failure of the then system of financial regulation.
The collapse of Equitable Life saw many savers lose money they thought had been totally secure in Pension Pots or seemingly secure investments. The total loss to customers of what had once been a highly respected institution was estimated to be in the region of £4bn, with many finding their pension would be at a much lower level on a short time before retirement.
A Parliamentary Ombudsman report in 2008 slammed the regulator and concluded maladministration had directly led to the collapse. Yet the Government of the time did not act on these findings, although in 2010 the new Government moved to establish a compensation scheme. Whilst this saw £1.5bn of Compensation allocated to those affected it still left many thousands of pounds out of pocket.
On Thursday a cross-party group of MPs again sought to put pressure on the Government to make some more funds available to those affected by the Equitable Life Scandal. I spoke in the debate and highlighted several local cases (With the express permission of those concerned) where savers had been left significantly out of pocket.
You can read my speech and the other contributions in the debate by clicking here.
If you have read some national newspapers you might have seen reference to MPs having their February “Skiing Holiday” cancelled and their being a “revolt” over this.
The cancellation of the February Recess (confirmed this week) came as no surprise to me and is the right move in the current circumstances. Whilst I had planned to spend the recess week in Torbay, not the Alps, and visiting constituents not the Ski Shop, the situation with Brexit makes it vital parliament is sitting and able to consider immediately any further deal reached, plus the necessary legislation to implement it.
This view is shared by most MPs, despite the media headlines, although I accept some with caring, medical or family commitments may have an issue with changing their plans in a way I do not.
Whilst we have not seen too much here in the bay, much of our county has a good covering of the white stuff.
For many Devon school children this has meant a great deal of fun and an unexpected day off school, yet it has also seen hundreds of motorists stranded in the bad weather. 140 of them spent last night at the famous Jamaica Inn after the A30 in Cornwall became blocked.
If planning a journey this weekend, especially if heading towards Dartmoor, do check the weather and travel conditions before setting out. Whilst Torbay’s roads are clear this is not the case across other nearby areas.
The best place to head for the latest weather news is the Met Office website. Just click here to be taken to it.
Torquay Police Street Surgery,
It is not just me holding surgeries as Torquay Police will be available for a discussion with residents about their concerns at a forthcoming Street Surgery.
The Surgery will take place between 10.00 and 11.00 on Friday 1st March in Nicholson Road, The Willows. Click here for details.
You can also contact the team via email on firstname.lastname@example.org however please report all crime in the usual way to 999 (Emergency) or 101.
Licence Fee Question,
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was questioned on the future of free TV Licences for the over 75s this week.
Funding this concession will in future pass to the BBC, although I am advised overall Licence Fee income is still expected to rise. Services such as BBC Radio Devon and BBC Spotlight News are much valued by residents in Torbay, yet other aspects of expenditure should be carefully examined rather than looking at the cost of this concession.
You can read my question and the Minister’s response by clicking here.
£70k to Combat Youth Isolation,
A grant of £70,000 will allow a consortium led by the Torbay Community Development Trust to launch a new initiative aimed at reducing social isolation in young people.
The project is expected to support 500 young people between the ages of 11 and 18 over the next two years. It will engage those involved in social action which tackles loneliness for them and their peers.
When the issue of loneliness is discussed many would assume it was referring to the elderly, yet in a world where many seem more connected than ever before some teenagers can feel very isolated. This project is therefore very welcome.
Torre Abbey Shortlisted,
Torre Abbey Museum has been shortlisted for the National Campaign for the Arts’ (NCA) Hearts For The Arts Awards 2019.
Torre Abbey Museum has been nominated for Best Local Authority Arts Initiative for its project Torbay Tattoo Tales. The team at Torre Abbey Museum worked with local tattoo studios and members of the body art community to collect photographs of tattoos and the stories behind them.
The winners of the Hearts for The Arts Awards 2019 will be announced on Thursday 14th February.
Boost Your Broadband
Half of South West households could switch to faster broadband today, according to new figures revealed by Ofcom.
Official data from Ofcom shows 86% of homes and offices in the South West can now get superfast broadband, but only around half of those have taken it up.
And many people are paying more than they need to. Around four million UK households with old-style, basic broadband have passed their initial deal and could switch to superfast for the same or less, money than they currently pay.
Ofcom has launched Boost Your Broadband, a major information campaign to help people find out how they could get more, for less from their broadband.
A new website allows people to easily check what type of broadband they can get in their area and offers impartial advice on how to find the best deal. You can find it by clicking here.
and finally…….The King of Chelston?
Ending on a lighter note one Chelston couple have launched their own, rather wacky way of helping those who want to resolve or just avoid the latest Brexit debates.
June Fendick and Alex Foreman have launched their own Brexit free “Kingdom” centred on June’s home in Chelston. The new state is called Eu-phoria and it has already set about introducing some new “policies” in its programme for Government including:
- Observing the right of people to drink with both hands.
- Honesty boxes for Parking charges.
- Anyone using Dog Poo bags as tree decoration will be made to watch Eurovision Song Contest re-runs on a 24hour loop, without ear plugs.
You can read more about this new state on the Daily Mail website by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Thursday 7 February – Torbay Film Club (St Matthias Church Hall, Babbacombe Road) are showing “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”. Doors open at 1900 for a film start at 1930. All welcome, non members £5.50. For full details click here, to be taken to their website.
Wednesday 13th February in Paignton, ‘Hidden Crime Awareness Events’ across Devon. The aim is to raise awareness around some of the important, current, key safeguarding messages which are impacting on our communities, including those with learning disabilities and or autism. events start at 9.15am until 1.00pm with tea / coffee and are FREE. Click here for full details.
Thursday 14th February – Big poetry returns to the Blue Walnut Cafe, 14 Walnut Road, Torquay TQ2 6HS – Show starts at 8pm, tickets £6, contact email@example.com for reservations – click here for more information.
Saturday 16th February – YOUNG ARCHAEOLOGISTS CLUB – ARCHAEOLOGY ON FILM: A PRACTICAL WORKSHOP. 10 – 4pm at Torquay Museum; Cost: £15 per child member
SPACES LIMITED TO 10 CHILDREN – SO MUST BE PRE-BOOKED. Click here for more details.
What’s Going On In Wellswood? – click here to see a full list of the many social events taking place in Wellswood throughout February.
Every Tuesday from 0930 till 1230. The Royal British Legion Office, 39 Church Street, Paignton is open. It is where ex members of the armed forces can receive help and advice. Appointments can be made by phoning 01803 555838, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2nd Wednesday of each month at the Quaker Meeting House in Torquay – Torbay Interfaith Forum meet. For more details click here.
Are you running an event in the Bay? I am always looking to promote local events, big or small. If you have an event coming up, please email email@example.com so it can be included.
Saturday 16th February, 11am – 1pm @ St Peters Church, Queensway, Torquay TQ2 6BP
Friday 22nd February, 3pm – 5pm @ Paignton Baptist Church, 43 Winner Street, Paignton TQ3 3BJ
Saturday 2nd March, 10pm – 12pm @ St Martins Church, Barton Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 8JA
Saturday 9th March, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, Old Torquay Road, TQ3 2RB
Saturday 16th March, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Saturday 23rd March, 11am – 1pm @ Paignton Library, Great Western Road, Paignton TQ4 5AG
Friday 29th March, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
It’s always best to book a slot to guarantee being able to see me. Full details of how to do this are on my website or you can call my office on 01803 214989, Monday – Fridays, 9am – 5pm.
You can either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on 01803 214989 and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.