After another momentous week for our nation and our bay it is time for my latest update.
My week started with a chance to say thank you and reflect on the work of the TOWNS project. This scheme sees local churches come together to provide overnight accommodation to those who might otherwise be sleeping rough during the coldest months. Along with a bed for the night volunteers provide a meal and fellowship, along with support to get off the streets permanently.
After this I headed back to my office in East St for the presentation of my latest awards from Foster’s Fund.. This saw £1,500 go to 4 local good causes working in our bay, including Torbay Model Railway Club, Tissue & Issues, Thrive and Paignton Community Larder.
Like many others reading this update Mother’s Day is always a slightly mixed day for me. It is great to see so many people enjoying it, although slightly tinged with sadness as my own passed away 5 years ago. It was therefore good to join the Congregation at St Martin’s, Barton for a wonderful Celebration of the day led by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet. Bishop Jonathan holds a role sometimes referred to in the Church of England as a “flying” Bishop, although he drove to this service.
Sunday evening saw me catch the train to London, with a slightly wearier feeling this week than normal. This was due to anticipating another round of Brexit Debates, more on these below.
One highlight of my week in Westminster was meeting the team from the Heart of the South West to discuss future plans for regional funding. Pushing for funding to improve our coastal towns and hi-tech businesses was high on the list.
After the week in Parliament it was good to be home today and taking part in events to mark English Tourism Week, more on this below. Finally I was at the Grand Hotel, Torquay this evening for an event to mark Jim Parker’s retirement from the Herald Express after over 40 years working there. After many years of deciding on the front page a special one was produced with him on it.
This week’s update is below and includes: You Wait Ages For A Bus Then……, Brexit, Away From The Bay on 2nd of May?, Neighbourhood Plans Go To Referendum, Mental Capacity Act, Red Arrows Make A Date With Our Bay, Domestic Abuse, Guilty of County Lines Offences, Brunei, Paul Raybould Funeral, Kev’s Column: Brexit and finally……..Low Flier Alert?
You Wait Ages For A Bus Then……,
There is an old saying about buses and how you might wait ages for one, then three come along at once.
It appears the same may apply to Government jobs as yesterday afternoon my office received a message from 10 Downing Street asking if I would be free to speak with the Prime Minister at 17:45. Having just got back to Torbay I arranged to take the call at home, no walk up the famous street for me!!
At 17:40 I received a call from the Downing St switchboard, they verified it was me, then a couple of minutes later a rather automatic sounding voice announces “Prime Minister May is now on the call”.
After a couple of minutes discussing my recent work as an MP she first indicates I will be appointed to the Government Whips’ Office, then mentions being a Junior Minister at the Wales Office as well. Then comes the bigger surprise as she asks me to undertake, based on maternity cover for the incumbent minister and in addition to the first two, the role of Minister for the Constitution in the Cabinet Office for about 6 months starting later this month.
Three roles in a single phone call is quite something, although for those wondering I will only be paid for one of them!
Whilst it is an exciting opportunity to do the work involved and seems odd to get emails addressed “Dear Minister”, I am clear my first duty remains being the MP for our beautiful bay. I went ahead with my appointments today as planned and will hold my usual Advice Surgery tomorrow. Doing casework and campaigning on issues like securing funding for Paignton Town Centre remains the priority of my team and I, what will change dramatically is my role in parliament.
As a Minister I cannot ask questions in Parliament to the Government I am part of or participate from the backbenches, yet I will now speak from the famous Despatch Box at both Wales and Cabinet Office Questions. I will also reply to or open debates on behalf of the Government and may lead Bill Committees as the Minister in Charge of proposed legislation.
Finally if readers are wondering I will still be able to sit in my “usual” seat on some occasions, but will normally be on the so called “Treasury Bench” where Government Ministers sit.
As mentioned above there was certain sense of weariness as I approached the latest instalment of Parliamentary Debates on Brexit.
It is a great honour to represent our bay in parliament, yet I did not get elected to spend my time in groundhog-day debates hearing the same speeches, from the same people, on the same subject, whilst procedural tricks are played by those who do not want to be upfront about their real objectives.
First up was the second round of “Indicative votes” on Monday, where MPs were asked to indicate if one of a set of options is something they would be prepared to support. The last occasion saw none of them achieve a majority and the same was the case this time.
The biggest drama came on Wednesday as in an almost unprecedented move, procedures normally reserved for Emergency Legislation were invoked by a group of backbench MPs to push a bill through which would force the Government to extend Article 50, potentially for a long period. I spoke against this constitutional procedure being used in this way. You can hear what I said by clicking here.
The atmosphere in the Commons was electric at points, especially as a vote to decide if we had a further set of indicative votes on Monday 8th April was counted. It quickly became clear it was very tight. Government and Opposition Whips surrounded the Commons Clerks as the Speaker took advice from them.
During this period the vote numbers were checked again with rumours flashing around the chamber as MPs speculated on which of two precedents the Speaker would follow if called on to use his casting vote. The result was then declared: 310 Ayes to 310 Noes, a dead heat for the first time since 1993. You can see what came next by clicking here.
In addition to the tied vote there were several others decided by wafer thin majorities, with the final and most significant vote of the night decided by a majority of 1 in favour of the bill. The long-term impact of Wednesday night is yet to be known, the Lords are due to complete consideration of the bill on Monday, but it is the most extraordinary night in the Chamber since my election.
Finally some listening to the debate on Indicative Votes may have heard the Speaker’s response to an objection I raised to his decision to exclude options from the votes being taken. A wit has put it to music and you can watch the result (on Twitter) by clicking here.
Away From The Bay on 2nd of May?,
On Thursday 2nd May the 36 seats on Torbay Council will be up for election.
The Elected Mayor’s Post and Administration will be abolished following the Referendum held in May 2016. After Thursday 2nd May the Council will again be led by a Leader of the Council, elected by the 36 Councillors, and a Cabinet appointed by the Leader of the Council. This is similar in principle to the UK Government where the Government must retain the confidence of the House of Commons.
The Councillors elected on 2nd May will serve until May 2023.
Local Elections are important and the results of them can make a big difference to our bay, decisions taken by Councillors will affect the lives of everyone living here. The Council does not decide or have a formal influence over issues debated in Parliament. If you are going to be away on the day you can still make your mark by arranging a Postal or Proxy vote. It only takes a couple of minutes and ensures you can have your say. Just click here to find all the details on Torbay Council’s website and the application forms.
Please note the deadline for Postal Vote applications for the elections on Thursday 2 May 2019 is 5pm on Monday 15 April 2019.
You can find a list of the candidates for your ward on Torbay Council’s website by clicking here.
Neighbourhood Plans Go To Referendum,
The Elections on 2nd May will also see Referendums take place on the Brixham, Paignton and Torquay Neighbourhood Plans.
These plans have been developed by representatives of the local community and need approval in a Referendum to take full effect. They balance the need for job creating development, with protecting local green spaces. Each Town votes separately in its own Referendum, eg votes in Paignton do not affect the result in Torquay and vice versa.
You can find more details about the Plans online by clicking on the links below:
Mental Capacity Act,
On Tuesday MPs considered Lord’s Amendments to a bill seeking to modernise and amend the law relating to those who are subject to deprivation of liberty on health grounds.
The current system is in urgent need of replacement with it being estimated 125,000 people subject to this process are not adequately covered. The Lords Amendments covered two key areas, the Code of Practice covering the use of these and keeping records of assessments made.
Giving the sensitivity of this subject it was welcome to note the two modified amendments proposed by the Government secured the support of the opposition front bench as well.
I spoke in the debate and you can read what I said by clicking here.
Red Arrows Make A Date With Our Bay,
The RAF Red Arrows will once again make their UK debut performance at the 2019 Torbay Airshow.
The Airshow, which takes place on Saturday 1 to Sunday 2 June, has today announced the RAF Red Arrows, RAF Typhoon Display Team and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will feature at this year’s event. The Airshow’s Royal Air Forces allocation also includes the RAF Tucano T1 which has never been seen at the Torbay Airshow before.
This will be the first public opportunity to see their new display for the 2019 season and will be one of only a handful of Red Arrows displays in the UK this year. The famous Red Hawk Fast Jets will be heading to the USA in July, which will see them display at several stateside airshows – the first time they have so in more than a decade.
You can follow the latest news about the Airshow on their dedicated website. Just click here to be taken to it.
For many who have been in an abusive relationship the psychological and emotional scars can be the hardest to heal.
Constantly being run down, sworn at and manipulated by a possessive partner can leave permanent damage. Moves are being made to ensure the law adequately covers this area and on Monday I asked the Minister responsible about them.
You can read my question and the Minister’s reply by clicking here.
Guilty of County Lines Offences,
A drug dealing gang who brought high purity crack-cocaine and heroin from London to sell on the streets of Newton Abbot and Torbay have been jailed.
The four men, part of a so-called County Lines operation from 2017, ingratiated themselves with local drug users and then used their properties to store and sell crack cocaine and heroin, known as cuckooing. All involved pled guilty to the offences.
You can read more on the Paignton Police Facebook page by clicking here.
Brunei’s introduction of barbaric laws which could see men stoned to death and women whipped for being in love has rightly brought international condemnation.
The laws concerned also restrict religious freedom and potentially could see vicious punishments handed out to those who convert.
Yesterday I joined MPs from across the House in condemning these actions and urging the Government to make clear the UK’s view to Brunei’s Government.
You can read my comments by clicking here.
Paul Raybould Funeral,
In last week’s update I mentioned the sad news of Paul Raybould’s death at the age of 55.
The popular Trade Unionist and political campaigner’s funeral will take place at 3pm on Friday 12th April. The venue is St Luke’s Church, St Lukes Road, Torquay, TQ2 5NX.
Kev’s Column: Brexit
Every fortnight I write a “Kev’s Column” for the Herald Express and you can read this week’s edition by following the link below:
and finally……..Low Flier Alert?
Ending on a lighter note Monday 1st April saw the media engage in the annual ritual of April Fool’s Day stories hoping to trick their readers into believing them.
The Times ran a story about a new Drone to walk your dog, even able to freeze dog poo for collection!!! Yet my favourite of the day came from Devon Live. They reported a special tribute from the iconic Red Arrows to an icon of our bay Paignton Pier, one of their Hawk Jets flying under it!!!!
A photo of a Red Arrow under the Pier was created and looked superb, yet those who know the size of a Hawk in real life, plus the impossibility of flying under the pier were not fooled. You can read it yourself by clicking here.
That is all for this week and enjoy your weekend.
Running until 12th April – Artizan Gallery “Luminescent Nature”, an exhibition of new works by artist Jo Salmon, launched on March 30th, with the exhibition running until 12th April. For more information visit www.art-hub.co.uk/apr19.
Wednesday 10th April at 7.30pm , he next meeting of the Torbay Interfaith Forum
@ The Quaker Meeting House, 48 Tor Hill Road, Torquay TQ2 5RT
The talk is entitled: “The Work of the Hospital Chaplaincy Team”
The speaker: Rev. Angela Sumner
Saturday 13th April – South Devon Choir Concert – Brahm’s Requiem at The Central Church, Tor Hill Rd, Torquay TQ2 5RF Cost: £12.00 on the door or
- Advance bookings by telephone 01803 846058 or the website https://southdevonchoir.org/brahms-german-requiem/
- On the day tickets can be reserved for collection on the door by calling 07398 561996
- Or you can buy on the door. Doors open at 7pm
Every Thursday until 18th April – Lent Lunches at the Parish Hall of St Mary The Virgin, St Marychurch. Lunch only £4.50 – All proceeds to Charity of the week. Click here for full details.
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.
Every Tuesday & Wednesday (10:45 – 12 noon) – Lectures at Torquay Museum
529 Babbacombe Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 1HG – Lectures are free to TMSM,& cost £5 to Non-Members on the door! For more details click here.
PARKFIELD Youth services have a range of activities throughout the week for young people – click hereto see what’s on and when.
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 27th April, 11am – 1pm @ Torquay Library, Lymington Road, Torquay TQ1 3DT
Friday 3rd May, 3pm – 5pm @ AGE U.K., 12 Dendy Road, Paignton TQ4 5DB
Saturday 11th May, 11am – 1pm @ The Acorn Centre, Lummaton Cross, Torquay TQ2 8ET
Friday 17th May, 3pm – 5pm @ The Windmill Centre, Pendennis Road, Torquay TQ2 7QB
Saturday 25th May, 11am – 1pm @ Preston Baptist Church, 62 Old Torquay Road, Paignton TQ3 2RB
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.