LAST week the House of Commons returned to the situation in Northern Ireland. As parties in Northern Ireland have been unable to form an Executive, the UK government has had to step in and legislate to put a budget in place in Northern Ireland in order to keep public services running.
The sticking point that is preventing parties in Northern Ireland from taking their seats in Stormont is the Northern Ireland Protocol. The Protocol is the trading agreement the UK government signed with the EU during the Brexit talks to allows goods to be transported across the Irish border.
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill introduced last year aimed to fix the specific problems that the protocol is causing, whilst maintaining those parts that are working.
This is both legal and necessary. Should no solution be found to the stand-off over the Protocol, it is possible the Trade and Cooperation Agreement which underpins our new relationship with the EU will not itself be fully implemented.
This cannot happen, we voted to escape the jurisdiction of the Strasbourg courts, allowing this issue to persist does not deliver on the referendum result in 2016. There have been positive sounds recently regarding data sharing between the two sides to ensure the right tax regime is applied to goods crossing the border, and hopefully this moves us a step closer to ensuring the Protocol works appropriately and effectively.
Both Tuesday and Wednesday were occupied by the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill. This Bill seeks to prevent organised criminals, fraudsters, and terrorists from using companies and other corporate entities to abuse the UK’s open economy. It builds upon the sanctions regime we put in place in response to Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and strengthens the UK’s broader response to economic crime.
A necessary piece of legislation in order to reaffirm the UK’s commitment to supporting Ukraine in the face of Russia’s appalling actions, and also to ensure the Government are taking all necessary steps to tackle the scourge of economic crime.
Last week I also attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pharmacy’s drop-in session on the future of pharmacy. Pharmacies are invaluable to communities, a ready-made network of medicines and healthcare experts that need to be used more as a key solution to help the NHS tackle the backlogs that are currently swamping the service.
Pharmacists can treat patients with minor illnesses, and should symptoms be more serious they have the ability to refer patients to a GP.
We need a greater information campaign to let people know that pharmacists can perform these duties, to change the public psyche around our first port of call for health matters always having to be a GP.
This issue also persists in relation to eye health and the clinical services that opticians can perform.
The opticians is not just simply a place you go to get prescription glasses or carry out general eye tests, optometrists can also test, diagnose, and treat eye health conditions, like glaucoma.
We need greater awareness surrounding the large number of services that community pharmacists and optometrists can provide, and we also need our local NHS to relinquish some control to ensure patients can access the services they need quickly and effectively.
Finally, it was great to get together with colleagues last week for a Breakfast Roundtable with Devon Wildlife Trust to discuss the importance of protecting our nature and wildlife, and how we can make the best use of our land to retain and expand biodiversity.
Around three quarters of land in Devon is farmed, and whilst we work towards ensuring that the UK has strong food security to react to disruptions in global supply chains, we must also ensure that we farm our land in ways that encourage good soil and habitat management. Environmental protection and food security go hand in hand, as we must have arable land to ensure our food security.