MY week in Westminster began with the approval of the up-rating of Social Security Benefits, and reinstating the ‘triple lock’ on pensions. From April this year, both the new and basic State Pension will rise by 10.1% to £203.85 and £156.20 per week respectively.

Social Security benefits, such as Universal Credit, will also rise by 10.1%. During these tough times, it is only right that we offer additional support to pensioners and the most vulnerable in society, on top of the universal cost of living support the government has offered. 

Supporting those that are vulnerable also ran through the core of The Seafarers’ Wages Bill as it finalised its passage through the House of Commons. The Bill is part of the Government’s response to the sacking of 786 seafarers by P&O Ferries in March last year. It ensures that seafarers working on these ships that use UK ports are paid the UK minimum wage for their work, and that the exploitation of agency workers by business cannot be a substitute for the security of seafarers’ jobs. 

Workforce issues are something I also raised in relation to the NHS. The Public Accounts Committee, on which I sit, published a report into the introduction of the new Integrated Care Systems (ICS’s) – a partnership of organisations that come together to plan and deliver joined up health and care services in our area. Whilst the ambition is there and is right, the tool kit simply isn’t there to deliver on it.

There are critical shortages across the NHS workforce, particularly in some of the more rural areas of the country like ours and specialisms such as dentistry. Dentists are not currently parts of the new ICSs – but they should be!

Not only is workforce an issue, but we need an infrastructure of buildings and equipment that is fit for purpose. 

The long delays in decision making for current projects, and a lack of a long-term plan for future investment, is holding us back. Funding for 40 new hospitals is welcome, but this won’t fix the problem. Torbay has benefited from some support which is welcome. We pressed the Department to come forward quickly with their promised workforce plan and their full capital investment programme. Once that is in place local ICS’s can plan, and I can and will press government to properly fund it.

Cost of living remains a key issue and we have all been acutely aware of rising bank interest rates which we see reflected in our new higher mortgage payments and our food and energy bills. Yet savers have not seen this higher rate passed on to them. 

As a Member of the Treasury Select Committee, last week I was able to grill the bosses of Britain’s four biggest high street banks about their failure to pass on higher interest rates to savers. We need people to prepare for later life, and creating an environment that encourages saving is essential.   

And finally, the visit of Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to Parliament was a stark reminder that the illegal and unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine is the biggest threat to peace and stability across Europe since 1945. Last time President Zelensky spoke to MPs in March last year it was by video link on a screen in the House of Commons. 

His address in person, this time in Westminster Hall, was all the more powerful and direct as he delivered his 20-minute speech in English. No country has the right to attack another state. The sovereignty of a democratic state like Ukraine isn’t up for grabs to a predator who denies that sovereignty and claims the territory as its own. 

While peace may seem like a long way off, we must remain unwavering in our support for the people of Ukraine. They must win, for themselves – and for us.

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