AS we all know rural transport links are the lifeblood of our communities in the South West.
Helping people get to and from work, bringing tourists down to visit splendid coastlines, or simply to get the shopping in – these services are vital. The government’s ‘Get around for £2’ initiative is helping to ensure that people can use buses in an affordable fashion, capping bus journeys at £2 on any single route across Devon until the end of June this year.
The government’s Bus back Better fund will also inject much needed cash into rural services. And don’t forget to apply for The Devon and Cornwall Railcard which knocks a third off the price of your rail journeys within the region, and is valid on any journey after 8:45am!
The House was very busy this week. On Wednesday we debated the final stages of two bills, the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill and the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill, sending them on their way to receive royal assent. But of course all eyes were on the debate on the one piece of the Windsor Framework (which amends the way the Northern Ireland Protocol works) that Parliament is to get any say on.
That was a statutory instrument to enable the Stormont Break. The break puts in place a mechanism which enables the government to stop the introduction in Northern Ireland of new EU legislation which is incompatible with and detrimental to its way of doing business. The mechanism is very complicated and very difficult to trigger. It retains a right of appeal for the EU. But it is a start.
Sometimes perfection can be the enemy of the good. The Windsor Framework isn’t perfect, it won’t solve all the problems of the Northern Ireland Protocol but it will move us forward and improve trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The barriers to food and medicines going from Britain to Northern Ireland have been removed.
The sovereignty issue remains unresolved however – and that matters. That will take time to resolve. Northern Ireland remains in the single market which makes this sovereignty issue very complicated. Switzerland had to fight many times over to get the deal it wanted with the EU. We will have to do the same. This vote was just the next step.
But there was something else missing from the new framework which meant that in the end I could not support the government because of the deal’s failure to address manufacturing regulations. Northern Ireland businesses have to comply with EU regulations as a member of the singe market.
Were either the UK or the EU to change current manufacturing regulations (which are currently the same) we would find that, while a Devon sausage could be sold in Northern Ireland, a sausage produced in Northern Ireland could not be sold in Devon! As most Northern Ireland goods are sold into the UK, this makes no sense and it was capable of an easy fix! The Prime Minister must take another look at this.
I ended the week with a Public Accounts Committee inquiry into decarbonising the power sector.
We looked at how realistic the government’s plans are for increasing wind and nuclear energy – will investors come forward? Will research enable Carbon Capture to neutralise the impact of remaining carbon based fuels and Hydrogen to play its part as a new form of energy?
We also looked at the impact on the customer. Customers will be expected to change how they heat their homes, yet the consultation with them has been woefully poor! If it’s too expensive or simply not practical to switch, people simply won’t do it.
Smart meters can tell us what we are using and behavior can be changed a bit through new pricing structures. The reality is the flexibility smart meters bring will only make a difference when we all use more electricity for different things – like charging electric cars. This is still some way 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.