THE first week back in Westminster after the Summer Recess and we were straight into key legislation, writes MP Anne Marie Morris.
On Tuesday the Commons discussed amendments to the Lords’ Energy Bill which seeks to help increase the resilience and reliability of energy systems across the UK. To reach net zero we need everyone to play their part but some parts of the Bill are worrying. Provision has been made for future legislation to introduce fines and prison sentences for non-compliance.
Clearly much depends on what that looks like, but we must never be in a position where we are penalising people for not being able to afford net zero. I supported an amendment to remove these provisions, but Mr Speaker would not allow the amendment to be voted on. I will be monitoring this very carefully.
In the run up to the Autumn Statement I met the chancellor to put forward the case for the pressing needs in Devon. First on the list was asking him to commit to the money needed for the last phase of the Dawlish railway line resilience programme. I met with Network Rail earlier in the week and they were able to set out exactly what we needed and when. My second ask was on the largest local road network in England.
Devon has some 8,000 miles of road, yet despite this we consistently fail to receive the funding we need from the treasury. A funding plan of £28.5m a year would go a long way to fixing the issue! Per pupil funding in Devon is significantly lower than the national average - only £738 per person compared to the national average of £926! This is unacceptable given education in rural areas costs more. My third ask was therefore for this to be reviewed urgently.
And finally, I asked the chancellor to review the challenge of cash acceptance. For many, cash is the best way to manage their money. You can buy a rail ticket on a train for cash but not a sandwich. I can’t imagine every village fete trying to use internet-based cash cards for every £1 entry or tombola ticket – particularly when the internet is weak or totally absent! There should be an obligation to accept cash of up to £250, certainly for the basics in life and community events. Cash is still needed and mostly for small transactions. The money laundering risks are well overstated at this level.
A big success this week for the Chamber of Commerce in securing for Dawlish its own banking hub! After the chamber alerted me to the problem, a completely non sensical refusal, I raised the matter in the Treasury Select Committee asking for a review.
LINK agreed to revisit Dawlish to take a closer look at the factors on the ground that show why this community so clearly needs banking facilities in the form of its own hub. The local community did a great job getting more facts together and organising a walking and driving tour of Dawlish, Dawlish Warren and the surrounding industrial estates and holiday parks. It all paid off – team work at its best!
Housing is now the number one issue in my inbox. This week I met with Teignbridge District Council and with Paragon, a big mortgage provider in the private rented sector to talk about what needs to change to stop landlords selling up.
The huge increase in obligations to make properties energy efficient, and the changes proposed in the Renters Reform Bill, however well intended, have made these properties unaffordable to rent out on top of the reduction in the ability to set mortgage payments off against income unless you are a company. The unintended consequence is a shortage of properties to rent. The burden must be eased and quickly!
And a very thoughtful and well attended Civic Service in Dawlish on Sunday was a lovely way to finish the week off!
► As always, if you would like to book a surgery appointment (in-person or virtual) or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email [email protected] to arrange an appointment.