Gold Tourism Award for the Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre

Congratulations to the Dartmouth Tourist Information Centre who have won Gold in the "Tourist Information Service of the Year" category of the Devon Tourism Awards sponsored by Hoseasons; the ceremony was hosted by Judi Spiers.

The Dartmouth TIC is situated in the heart of town in the Mayor's Avenue Car Park. They provide a welcoming face to visitors providing information about local events and attractions, travel arrangements and accommodation advice - amongst many other things. They are a not for profit voluntary organisation and the team of staff and volunteers are dedicated towards promoting Dartmouth as a premier destination in the South West


Autumn Statement and the Spending Review

The big political news this week was the Autumn Statement and the Spending Review which sets out the departmental budgets for over the next five years.

All eyes were on the red briefcase and I know that many people will welcome the news that the planned changes to tax credits have been scrapped in their entirety. The Chancellor made the following comment on this:

"I've listened to the concerns. I hear and understand them. And because I've been able to announce today an improvement in the public finances, the simplest thing to do is not to phase these changes in, but to avoid them altogether."

Good news too that there will be no real-term reductions to police budgets and that the Defence budget will rise from £34bn to £40bn. In these uncertain times our security must be safeguarded.

The NHS budget is receiving a much needed boost next year with an extra £3.8bn of the £8bn by 2020 promised as part of the NHS's own long term plan £600m will be earmarked for mental health services, which is an essential part of moving to achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

The schools budget in England will be protected in real terms and funding for Further Education colleges will be protected in cash terms. The unfair school funding formula that disadvantaged Devon will be phased out and free infant school meals will be maintained. I know childcare can be a huge issue for parents who wish to return to work and now from 2017, 30 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds will be available to parents working over 16 hours a week with incomes under £100k.

Following on from the devastating weather last winter, I am delighted that £2bn is to go on flood defences.

Councils are now due to receive an additional £10m to help homeless people in their communities and having worked closely with local authorities and Revival Life Ministries in the constituency I know this will be greatly appreciated.

Also on the regional front was the announcement that local governments will get to keep revenue from Business Rates by the end of this parliament, something that I know will make a difference to their budgets. On the topic of Business Rates it was also announced that 600,000 small businesses are to get business rate relief for another year.

Housing remains a top issue in the South Hams and Torbay, with the large disparity many face between low wages and high house prices inflated by second home owners. Therefore, it is good news that the housing budget will be doubled, with 400,000 new affordable homes to be built by the end of the decade, half of these will be starter homes and 135,000 will be shared ownership. In addition, an extra 3% stamp duty will now be levied on buy to let and second homes.

If you are interested in reading more about the Autumn Budget and the Spending Review you can view all the details via the following link.



This week I met up with representatives from Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation responsible for the roll-out of superfast broadband in our area – for an update on their progress.

In the Totnes constituency, there are already 8,273 properties connected to superfast broadband with an additional 2,034 coming online shortly. I was pleased to hear that areas connected to exchanges in Bigbury, Blackawton, Dittisham, Dartmouth, Kingswear, Paignton, Salcombe, South Brent, Staverton, Stoke Fleming and Stoke Gabriel will be connecting to superfast soon and that the infrastructure for those areas has now been put in place.

By the end of 'Phase One' of the rollout in 2016, CDS estimates that 89% of properties will be connected to superfast. The remaining 11% will be delivered through 'Phase Two' and discussions are ongoing ahead of the process to decide which provider will be awarded the contract to deliver this. CDS are currently negotiating an agreement for State Aid Notification with the European Commission, which is necessary before the tender process can begin and it is hoped that this will be concluded by February. The contract will then go out to tender for 12-16 weeks before a provider will be decided and work on connecting the final 11% will begin.

Residents can check whether their property can receive superfast broadband or see when their area will go online via the following link


Fair School Funding

As part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, it was great to see a commitment to introduce fairer system for school funding. The current arrangement, which has lasted for decades, has led to a situation where the ten best funded areas in England receive over £2,000 per pupil more than the ten worst funded areas. In Devon, schools currently receive over £1,000 less per pupil than schools in the best funded area.

The new funding formula will set a national rate that every school will receive for each pupil, with additional funding for those with extra needs. Crucially, from 2017-18 the resources that schools and local authorities receive will be based on pupil characteristics rather than historic political calculations. MPs representing the F40 group of underfunded schools have been asking for this for many years and I'm delighted that the Department for Education will now consult on the detail in early 2016 and I look forward to seeing the full proposals.


Have your say on the Torbay budget for 2016/2017

A Bay wide event will be taking place in Paignton on Monday 7 December 2015 to discuss the current budget proposals for the next year. Torbay Mayor, Gordon Oliver will host the event at the Redcliffe Hotel, Paignton from 6.30pm.

Members of the public and local organisations will be given the opportunity to discuss the financial challenges facing Torbay and can help to inform the final budget proposals.

Torbay Council has already made savings of £50 million in the last five years and now needs to make further reductions estimated at £32.4 million over the next three years, including £12.4 million in 2016/17. Along with other local authorities, it is in the process of identifying further savings to meet the challenges posed by significant grant reductions and increasing service pressures.

The budget event is being held during a six week consultation period, which ends on Friday 18 December 2015.

Everyone is welcome to the meeting in Paignton to find out more about the proposals and discuss the issues.

People who would like to express their views are also being encouraged to provide formal feedback through the consultation. The online questionnaire can be found here and paper copies are available at all Torbay libraries, harbour offices and in Connections offices.

Views through this six week consultation will help to form the final proposals and a formal decision will be made by the Council in February 2016 when it will also agree its budget for 2016/2017 and its Council Tax requirement.


Torbay gets UNESCO status!

In its 70th anniversary year and 40 years after the creation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Science Commission of UNESCO (United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture) at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris today has approved the statutes of the new "International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme" which will allow for the creation of the new site designation of "UNESCO Global Geoparks" and the re-designation of all 120 existing Global Geoparks, including Torbay, as new UNESCO Global Geoparks.

Previously operating with the informal support of UNESCO, the status of UNESCO Global Geoparks has been recognised under the new programme. The English Riviera, which includes the three towns of Torquay, Paignton and Brixham, and covers the entire Torbay area, became a Global Geopark in 2007 and, against competition from China and Europe, won the bid to host the 7th International Conference on Global Geoparks in September 2016 when delegates from around the world will attend what will now be the first UNESCO Global Geoparks conference.

The English Riviera Global Geopark was an initiative that came from the Torbay Heritage Forum 11 years ago and led to the development of a grass-roots initiative, championed by the Torbay Coast & Countryside Trust, supported by Torbay Council under the direction of Nick Powe, director of Kents Cavern. It is now a partner-led organisation coordinating Geopark activities and assuring adherence to a pragmatic code of conduct mandated by the Global Geoparks Network and UNESCO.


EU dairy support payments come early for UK farmers

I met with a group of farmers last week to discuss their concerns and was pleased to hear from the Chancellor that two weeks ahead of schedule EU support payments to help hard-pressed UK dairy farmers manage cash flow problems will start arriving in bank accounts

The first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting to almost £19.2 million. Payments will continue through November and December. I hope this emergency payment will help ease some of the immediate cash flow problems that many people are facing.


Major boost to Devon NHS Perinatal Service; Chancellor waives VAT for Wembley gig

The Chancellor has announced that all VAT will be waived on ticket sales for the sold out performance by "Above and Beyond" at Wembley Arena in the memory of Charlotte Morley, the sister of sister of band member Jono Grant, with an estimated £80,000 going to the Devon NHS Perinatal unit. All proceeds from the event are being donated to the 'Little Something Fund'

Charlotte, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away earlier this year at the age of 42. She was a well-respected member of the Perinatal Mental Health Service provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

A wife and mother herself, Charlotte worked with a lot of women from South Devon who had babies at either Torbay Hospital or the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and was passionate about family wellbeing.


Do you know what to do in a flood?

There is a tendency for us all to think that "flooding will never happen to me". The fact is - it could.
Almost 5 million people in England are at risk of flooding and this is only going to increase with a changing climate.
The Environment Agency is running a flood campaign in early November to encourage you to act now to prepare for a flood.
Have you ever checked to see if your home or business are at risk from flooding?
Would you know what to do in a flood?
What could you do now to save you time, money and worry if it happened tomorrow?

Visit to take the following simple steps to help protect you, your family and home from flooding.

Take these small steps now and help save you time, money and distress in a flood


Dartmouth: a 'Rising Star' in the Great British High Street Competition!

The awards were set up to recognise and champion local areas working to develop their high streets. This year, a record-breaking 230 applications were received and 21 finalists were chosen and are now fighting it out to win the public vote. However a further ten applications which impressed the judging panel with their commitment to working together to rejuvenate their high streets, were recognised with a 'Rising Star' award. These areas are considered to be strong competitors for a finalist's spot next year.

Dartmouth will receive £1000 in recognition of their hard work for introducing a new high-quality tourism campaign.


Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner

Have your say in the selection of the next Conservative candidate for the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner elections in May 2016. Anyone, registered to vote in the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority area can register to attend and vote at the two primary meetings being held. They are on the evening of 30th October in Mid Cornwall and on the morning of 31st October in the Exeter Area. Full details will be sent to those who register to attend. To register, For the Mid-Cornwall meeting email  and for the Exeter Area meeting email Or phone: 01626 331795 between 9am and 5 pm. Please apply by 6pm on Thursday 29th October.


Have you trouble cancelling or terminating a broadband, phone or TV contract?  Ofcom want to hear about it.

Ofcom is looking to hear from consumers about their experiences of cancelling or terminating phone, broadband or pay TV contracts.

Earlier this year, Ofcom launched a monitoring and enforcement programme to look closely at the cancellation and termination arrangements of different providers, identifying where they seem to be making it difficult for customers to leave.

Although Ofcom cannot handle individual complaints, they want to make sure they fully understand the difficulties consumers are facing and use it to inform their wider monitoring and enforcement work. So if you have recently tried to or succeeded in terminating your phone, broadband or pay TV contract, please tell Ofcom about your experience by filling out a short questionnaire.


Keeping Children Safe Online

New technologies inspire children to be creative, communicate and learn. However, while the internet is a wonderful resource, it is important that children and teenagers are protected from the risks they may encounter. This is where Parent Info comes in. Parent Info is produced by The Parent Zone, which has been working with parents for over a decade. This organisation has the support of numerous organisations that make up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and is also backed by the government.

The service they provide is relatively new and gives information to parents on a range of issues affected by the internet. It also offers the most up to date and expert advice from a wide range of sources to help parents understand and support their children's digital activity, to help their children grow up confident and creative online.

On the Parent Info website their articles cover everything from internet gaming, cyberbullying and mobile phone apps. There is also information for parents with older children on sex and relationships. A vast amount of information is covered to help to put parents' minds at ease.


An opportunity to apply for a free defibrillator and training for your community!

The British Heart Foundation and the Department for Health have launched a joint partnership, with an investment of £1 million from the government, to improve public access to defibrillators.

Each year, nearly 30,000 people suffer a cardiac arrest out of hospital, with less than one in ten surviving. However a bystander providing immediate CPR and defibrillation can significantly increase the chances of survival. Unfortunately at present only 38% of the public are aware that they can use public access defibrillators in an emergency, and only 22% are confident that they would know how to do so. This is an opportunity to apply for the following three packages for your area.

  • A free public access defibrillatorCPR training kit and a cabinet
  • A free public access defibrillator and CPR training kit
  • A cabinet to improve accessibility to a current defibrillator

Successful applications must demonstrate:

That the defibrillator will be accessible to the public, preferably 24/7
A commitment to train the local community in CPR
A clear need for the device, such as high footfall or a rural location

For more detailed information click here Applications close in March 2016


The Rural Oscars

The 11th annual Countryside Alliance Awards, aka The Rural Oscars, have opened to nominations. The Awards honour rural businesses through the characters who work so hard to make our countryside tick.

The Awards are public-nomination led, so your support is vitally important if you want your favourite local business to take top honours.

There are four categories:-

  • Local Food
  • Village Shop/ Post Office
  • Rural Tourism (new to 2015)
  • Butcher

Nominations close on the 2nd November. Please note that you can vote as often as you like and for as many rural businesses as you choose. It is important to give as much information as possible about your chosen business - it's up to you to catch the judges' eyes and propel the business into the national spotlight.

A maximum of five businesses will be shortlisted in each category. These businesses will then be visited and judged and will be invited to the Parliamentary finals in April 2016


Torbay Council Parking Services Review

A Consultation is underway to gather the views and opinions of residents, visitors, businesses and communities The review covers everything from the price of parking and conditions of car parks to parking issues within communities. The Council also wants to hear what people think about parking in Torbay compared with other places and their views on whether new technology could improve the parking services on offer.

The survey is available online and paper copies are available at the libraries, Connections and each of the harbour offices. The consultation will close on Friday 13 November 2015.

Executive Lead for Community Safety, Councillor Robert Excell, said: "If you have concerns it is really important that you give feedback via the survey as soon as possible. Don't wait until we've got a new strategy – speak up now!"



A number of people have contacted me about how they can help to support the refugees being welcomed into Britain. Depending on what you can offer, the agency you will need to contact will vary.

Locally The Dartington Hall Trust is already putting together a fantastic offer, talking to local groups and like-minded organisations on how they can work together on a useful and effective response to the refugee crisis and more information can be found on their website.

For more detailed information and contact details of the many agencies involved locally and regionally please click on the following link


Totnes, a Caring Town with a Compassionate Response

Concerns have been raised about beggars in Totnes. Some people have been asking what they can do to help. Based on experience and evidence from many other places, it has been found that giving money directly to beggars doesn't always help, especially when there are other routes that can have more lasting benefits.

Below is information about the support networks in Totnes that work long term with the homeless and practical ways in which you can help.

  • The Drop In Centre on Burke Road—first right after South Devon house on the Industrial Estate. This has links with South Hams and Leatside Surgery and provides, food, clothing, washing facilities professional advice and help with housing. In bad weather it operates as a Night Shelter. The Drop is open Monday to Friday 9.30—12.30 Sunday at 12.30 for lunch Closed Saturday
  • Emergency Food Parcels—these can be collected from the Market Place Ministries building opposite the Drop In

Who can you telephone?

  • Emergency Food Parcels: 01803 840354
  • South Hams Rough Sleeper 24 hour hotline: 0800 151 3441
  • South Hams Housing and Benefits: 01803 861234

How can you give money which will help add to the current support?

If you wish to give money to help those who are homeless, on the streets or in food poverty, several of our cafes and restaurants operate the Giving Back Scheme where you can donate the price of a cup of coffee or meal to help fund the support networks

The Drop In and Giving Back Scheme are run by volunteers and so 100% of any donation goes directly to support the homeless and those in need.


I support the campaign organised by the cycling charity Sustrans, for the November spending review to guarantee that 5% of all transport spending be reserved for cycling and walking. If we are going to make a serious difference to the number of people who walk or cycle to work or to school, then we have to build safer infrastructure in order to build confidence and improve safety. Encouraging cycling and walking will also help the UK to meet our legally binding commitment to cut carbon emissions.

If you agree that the Government should be doing more to promote cycling and walking then please support Sustrans' campaign via a dedicated Sustrans campaign webpage, which can be accessed here.


Licensing Policy Public Consultation

South Hams District Council is inviting residents and businesses to have their say on the new Alcohol and Entertainments Licensing policy. The consultation runs until 6 November.

The renewed policy will determine how the council makes decisions on alcohol and entertainment licensing issues over the next five years. The policy will also be used by local residents and businesses preparing licensing applications and making representations.

The new version of the policy includes updates to the local licensing strategy and reference to numerous recent changes to legislation, including the Live Music Act. The policy also has a new recommendation for organisers of outdoor public events to contact South Hams District Council SAG (Safety Advisory Group) for advice and support before planning an event.

All comments received will be considered once the consultation has closed. The policy will then be published, detailing how the council intends to operate and promote licensing in the area.

To read the new policy visit

Comments can be made by emailing or writing to Licensing Department, South Hams District Council, Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5NE


Attention all MIU nurses!

If you would like to join the team at Dartmouth Community Hospital or visit our town, this beautiful job advert is not to be missed!






A New Strategy for Sport

A public consultation has been launched on a new strategy for sport. The benefits of sport are clear, both physically and mentally. We know that keeping active adds years to our lives and life to our years. We need to keep up the momentum from the London Olympics to create a long term sporting legacy for everyone, and not just for our elite athletes. We know the greatest health benefits will be in making activity and sport appeal to those who take no exercise at all, so please send your views about what would help the most to get Britain active.

The consultation is open until the 2nd of October and you can access it here.


 Coerced consent is not consent and would threaten us all.


Torbay CAB

Torbay Citizens Advice Bureau is launching a new initiative aimed at people in Torbay facing poverty and hardship.

Weekly drop in sessions are going to be held at The Edge, Bolton Street, Brixham on Thursdays between 1-4pm starting from Thursday August 6th.

The drop in sessions provide a whole range of services that offer information on a variety of different issues such as: benefits, budgeting, debt, housing, employment, family and personal issues.

Advisors can also offer further support on issues such as food banks and crisis support.

A similar initiative has been launched in Paignton at the Centre Peace, 56 Palace Avenue on Tuesdays between 1-4pm starting from July 28th and in Torquay at The Living Room, St Mary Magdalene Church, Union Street on Wednesdays and Fridays between 11am – 2pm starting from August 12th.



This week, Parliament has launched a new way for the public to create and sign online petitions. Petitions can be on any issue for which the Government or Parliament is responsible and any which receive 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the Government.

Those petitions which reach 100,000 signatures will almost always be debated in Parliament – unless it is an issue which has recently been debated.

All petitions which are accepted will also be examined by the Petitions Committee – a cross-party group of MPs – to look at the issue in greater detail and see whether there are also other ways to take the matter forward. This could include pressing the Government for action or asking a parliamentary committee to look into the topic raised by the petition.

You can sign current petitions or create a new one at

Information about how the petitions system works and what can be included in one can be found at


Summer Budget 2015

Today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his post-election Budget to the House of Commons – setting out taxation and spending plans including the introduction of a compulsory National Living Wage for those aged over 25. Starting at £7.20 an hour from next April, it is expected to reach £9 an hour by 2020 – meaning that someone working full time on minimum wage today will earn an extra £5,000 a year by the end of the decade.

I know that some small business owners will have concerns about the impact that this increase will have on their businesses. I was pleased to see that the Chancellor set out measures to offset the increased costs, by announcing further cuts in Corporation Tax and an increase in the NIC Employment Allowance. The increase to £3000 per year means businesses will be able to take on up to 4 employees without paying any national insurance contributions.

Tax cuts were also announced, with the Chancellor confirming that the personal tax allowance will increase to £11,000 from April 2016 – meaning that the typical taxpayer will be paying £905 less tax each year than they would have been in 2010. The higher rate of tax was designed to target only the richest in society and it is wrong that people like nurses and policemen have been dragged into that tax band over the past two decades. It is therefore right that the Chancellor announced an increase in the higher rate tax threshold to £43,000 from 2016. These two measures will mean that in the Totnes constituency, 40,452 people will be better off and 778 of the lowest paid will be taken out of paying tax entirely.

In addition, the effective inheritance tax threshold for most couples will be raised to £1m, meaning that the vast majority of family homes can be passed on tax-free to your family.

I was pleased to see that my concerns about housing support being removed from young people who were unable to move back home were addressed. The Chancellor announced that there will be exemptions from the under-21 housing benefit changes for vulnerable young people and those who cannot return to live with their parents. I was also pleased to see that this will not apply to 21-25 year olds.

The Chancellor also provided an update on the state of the country's economy – confirming that Britain is grew faster than any other advanced economy last year and is forecast to do so again this year. The deficit has been cut by more than half since 2010 and is forecast to fall to 3.7% of GDP this year before being eliminated completely by 2019/20.

I know that many people will also be pleased to see a firm commitment to our NATO pledge to spend 2% of our national income on defence.

The Chancellor also reaffirmed his important commitment to invest £7.2bn in the South West's transport infrastructure over the next 5 years as well as his clear commitment to fund the NHS's own long term plan.

You can read the Summer Budget Red Book which sets out the full details


Poverty; why measurement matters

There has been some controversy over the proposed changes to the way that we record poverty. We currently use relative poverty, defined as earning below 60% of median income. This means however, that the income below which people are classified as living in poverty is constantly changing, in line with changes to levels and distribution of wealth. To read more on this issue please click here



Broadband Update

Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation tasked with delivering superfast broadband to hard-to-reach rural areas – have announced that they will not be awarding BT one of the two contracts which make up 'Phase Two' of broadband rollout across Devon. This phase aims to have 95% coverage across Devon by the end of 2017 and BT had bid for a £35m contract to target the hardest-to-reach areas. It was judged that they would not be capable of achieving this important target.

Separately, CDS announced that the second 'Phase Two' contract, to cover hard to reach areas of Dartmoor will be awarded to wireless broadband specialists, Airband. The £4.6m contract will allow the company to lead on the use of wireless technologies to overcome the challenges of providing superfast connections on the moor. The technology passes a broadband signal from a transmitter to a radio attached to the property – allowing the user a high speed connection to the internet.

While BT will continue to work under its existing contract to deliver 90% coverage across Devon and Somerset by the end of 2016, the contract for the next phase of delivery has been put out to tender again to finding a provider who can meet the Government's new 95% targets for superfast broadband delivery.

While I am pleased that Airband has signed the contract to begin work on Dartmoor, the situation with the other contract is clearly a setback and Devon MPs are working together to press for further broadband rollout to rural areas to be prioritised before increasing speeds within large metropolitan centres.


Great Western Mainline

The Managing Director of First Great Western, Mark Hopwood, has confirmed "work is progressing well and, subject to DfT agreement, remains on track for the new trains to be rolled out on the network from summer 2018." This will be the biggest fleet upgrade in a generation, with new or more modern trains across the whole network delivering faster, more frequent journeys and millions more seats per year.

Reassuringly, the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, has stated "electrification of the Great Western line is a top priority and I want Network Rail to concentrate its efforts on getting that right."

These upgrades in both the line and rolling stock are essential to improving the transport links to the South West.


Bob the Bus has begun weekly trips to Dartmoor National Park.

Moorland Bob takes passengers to some of the most popular areas of outstanding natural beauty that the moors have to offer giving you the chance to visit and explore the ancient clapper bridge at Dartmeet, go for some truly beautiful walks and have lunch or picnics at the very heart of the ancient moorlands.

This exciting development gives people the chance to explore the unspoilt wildlife and landscape of the moors. Such as the famous Dartmoor Pony and Dartmoor's most famous landmark, Haytor or visit the truly lovely village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor. Take a picnic or visit the local pub, the Rugglestone Inn, which offers a cosy traditional atmosphere for any weary traveller.

Bob the Bus is available every Sunday from Totnes and tickets are available for booking from Totnes Tourist Information Centre or on the Bus itself.

Click here to find out more about Bob the Bus, his journeys and ticket prices.


The Daisy Garland

I met Sara and David Garland to hear about the inspirational charity, The Daisy Garland, started by them in memory of their daughter Daisy who died in her sleep at the age of 6 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients). The Daisy Garland work tirelessly, offering help and support some of the 18,000 children in the UK who suffer from drug resistant epilepsy.

In the last 11 years they have funded 13 specialist Daisy Garland ketogenic dietitians to work within NHS hospitals countrywide, successfully treating children with difficult to control epilepsy. Each full-time dietitian costs c.£46,000 p.a. to fund.

In the addition to the above they also provide grants for night-time breathing (SATs/epilepsy) monitors for use in the home, reducing the risk of SUDEP. Each SATs monitor retails at £880 and they have provided over 243 monitors, keeping children safe at night while they sleep.

For further information about The Daisy Garland and the important work they do for children with drug resistant epilepsy, please contact Sara Garland on 01803 847999 or at



Britain's passion for cycling is growing; more than 5.1 million people in England cycle at least once a week and Government road traffic estimates suggest that in 2013 the distance travelled by bike was 12% greater than the 2005–2009 average. Unfortunately, this is still far lower than many other European countries. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are made by bike, followed by Denmark on 19% and Germany managing 10%. Britain languishes behind, with less than 2%.

Some British cities are performing well. Having put cycling closer to the heart of transport policy for decades, Oxford and Cambridge boast continental levels of journeys made by bike (17% and 30% respectively). Across the country some local authorities are showing that by working with communities, real improvements can be made and substantial benefits delivered to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. In 2009, the six cycling demonstration towns, including Exeter and Darlington, recorded an increase in cycling of almost a third.

The potential benefits are tremendous. Keeping active through cycling improves the chances of living longer and increases well-being.

We know however, that the single greatest deterrent for those considering cycling to work or school is the fear of collisions.

Following the tragic death of Ying Tao in central London this week, the risk from HGVs especially to women cyclists, is back under the spotlight. Of the 33 women cyclists killed on London's roads since 2009, 27 have been killed by lorries. Cycling to work in Westminster I know that riding more slowly and politely makes me more vulnerable to left-turning HGVs at busy junctions. I also know that I cannot compete with the Lycra racers who push past to the front of the queue. To encourage more people to ride to work or school, metropolitan areas could look at excluding HGVs during rush hour or to giving cyclists a safer head start with phased lighting at high risk junctions. Better still we need to move further on creating segregated cycle lanes or quiet routes within our towns and cities.

Per mile cycled, rural A roads still pose the greatest danger as a result of the speed of collisions and we need to further increase the network of reduced speed routes and off road segregated cycle paths.

Transforming lives with continental levels of cycling however, takes continental levels of investment of at least £10 per head per year as part of a coordinated and prioritised cycling and walking strategy. This would still be a drop in the ocean compared to the overall level of investment in our roads.

Getting more people out of their cars and onto bikes benefits all road users, but Government needs to do more to make it as safe as possible.

The following link will provide further information on cycling and the other recommendations from the All Party Parliamentary Cycle Group's report Get Britain Cycling



On average, the South West has the lowest broadband speeds in England. This matters because it is holding back new and established business alike, especially in rural areas. Sluggish connections are also hugely frustrating for individuals and families wanting to benefit from the kind of access taken for granted elsewhere.

Figures published last year show that the UK comes out top for superfast, standard and mobile broadband coverage, with 83 households per 100 broadband connected. These figures also showed that (as of March 2014) superfast broadband coverage had increased with 70-75% of households covered. This means that the UK now has the highest level of coverage amongst the EU5: Germany (65-70% of households covered), Spain (60-65%), France (20-25%) and Italy (10-15%).

This is all good news but we are leaving England's rural communities further behind their urban competitors. Currently £1.7 billion is being invested in extending superfast broadband provision across the UK, with the aim that by 2017 95% of the country should be connected. We need this to be fairly spread so that before government commits to yet higher speeds in towns, they make sure that everyone in rural Britain can benefit from a decent connection.

The Government wants rural Britain to have "near universal" superfast broadband by the end of this Parliament but local families and businesses know that there is a long way to go to realise the estimated potential to boost rural economies across the country by £275 million every month or around £9 million every day by 2024.

I am grateful to everyone for keeping me updated on actual speeds across the patch and for pointing out practical issues such as the shortcomings of satellite connections because of its inherent latency. This information is very helpful when pressing for improvements.

This link will provide further information on broadband in our area.


Education and Adoptions Bill

This week, the Education and Adoptions Bill was passed by the House of Commons on its second reading,

To read more about this Bill click here




Dr Sarah Wollaston is elected Chair of the Health Select Committee 18th June 2015

I am delighted to have been elected by Parliament to Chair the Health Committee for the next five years. Throughout the recent general election campaign it was clear how much people care about the quality and future of our NHS and care services. I do too, and I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves on behalf of the public to hold to account, not only the government but those who commission, deliver and regulate those services.




Wind Turbines

I am delighted that the government has made an early start on one of its election promises. A key subsidy scheme that has fuelled the spread of wind turbines, the Renewables Obligation, will end a year earlier than originally planned. Energy firms had been facing an end to the subsidy on the 1st April 2017 but now this will be cancelled on the 1st April 2016.

Currently there are 5,061 onshore wind turbines in the United Kingdom, producing 18,000 gigawatt hours of electricity which is enough to power 5.5million homes. This is an industry that is now capable of moving forward without financial support from the government but in my view it must do more to seek the support of local communities perhaps by offering them more of a share in the profits. We know that roof top solar continued to thrive even when subsidy levels were adjusted as costs came down.

My colleague Amber Rudd, the Energy Secretary, announced on the evening of the 17th June that "it was time to shift subsidies from onshore wind to other technologies that needed it more."

In 2014 the British government supplied £800million worth of subsidies to the onshore wind turbine industry which produced 5% of Britain's energy needs. From April 2016 these changes will free up resources to other green energy projects and I would like to see more support for community energy schemes and marine renewables.

To find out more information about the cancellation of the Renewables Obligation please visit the following link


Who should vote in the referendum on our membership of the EU?

The European Union Referendum Bill has cleared its first hurdle through the House of Commons and this week will continue its progress as MPs debate a series of proposed amendments. There is now little disagreement on the principle that we hold a binding in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership and the debate now moves to issues such as whether the government or their agencies should be able to send out literature in the month before the referendum and who should have the right to vote. The Bill also sets out much of the detail for the referendum and finalises the referendum question, which will be 'Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?'

The negotiations with our European partners have begun with the aim of securing a better deal not only for Britain but for the whole EU. Opening up our trade and allowing a greater say for national parliaments is in all our interests. It is clear that the majority of British people have no interest in an 'ever closer union', as set out in the Treaty of Rome, and don't believe EU migrants should have full access to welfare until they've paid their way for a number of years. As other nations do move to greater union however, it is vital that protections are in place for those such as Britain, which do not. I'm proud to be supporting the Bill, as I have always believed that it should be the wider electorate, rather than politicians, deciding on the final settlement. Some of my colleagues have already made up their minds how they will be campaigning but I would prefer to wait until I know the outcome of those negotiations.

I do however, feel that the vote should be extended to 16 and 17 year olds. Having watched the energy, enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of their involvement in the Scottish referendum campaign I would find it impossible to argue that 16 and 17 year olds should be denied the opportunity to have their say. This decision will have the greatest impact on their generation and they will be living with the consequences for far longer. I have no doubt that they have the capacity to weigh the arguments on the EU and I also feel that this is an important opportunity to reverse young people's disengagement with politics. Debate on the issues around our EU membership need not bring divisive Party politics into our schools but giving 16 and 17 year olds both a voice and a vote would help to make sure that young people's perspective is taken into account.

For additional information on the European Union Referendum Bill please click here:

For additional information on the passage of the European Union Referendum Bill through Parliament please click here:


May 2015 Election

I am delighted to have been re elected as the MP for the Totnes constituency. Thank you so much to every one of the 24,941 people who supported me to return to Parliament having more than tripled the majority from 2010.

However you voted, I am keen to listen and learn from your experience in order to represent our wonderful area of South Devon.

My email now returns to the following contact:

The full results of the national and local elections can be found on the following link







Sea vs Land Tandem Challenge!

Congratulations to the amazing

Lang brothers

on their extraordinary achievement

Thank you to everyone for joining us at Oxen Cove, Brixham on Good Friday for the start of the Sea vs Land Tandem TopGear style challenge across the Bay.

Andy and Chris Lang raced across the Bay on their Sea Tandem to Torquay Harbour whilst Adrian and I took the hilly 21 mile inland route via Totnes on our land tandem.

Congratulations to Andyand Chris for raising £2500 all in aid of the RNLI.


Flood Prevention

This week, the Government announced that £60m will be used to bring forward a number of flood prevention programmes, including a number of projects in South Devon. These works are part of the Government's £2.3bn national Flood Risk Management programme and this latest announcement will mean that protection for over 2,000 homes in the South-West will be accelerated.

Projects being brought forward include the Brixham Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will be brought forward by a year, the Salcombe Town Tidal Gates project and the Victoria Stream defence improvements in Dartmouth.

The ac

I have received a number of emails about the amendment tabled by John Mann to the Serious Crime Act.

First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that the government protects children from abuse and addresses concerns that public bodies and other institutions may have failed to act to protect children in the past or deliberately covered up abuse. These must be fully investigated without any fear that anyone could be deterred from giving evidence as a result of the Official Secrets Act

The government has made it clear that John Mann's amendment was not necessary as the Official Secrets Act does not prevent disclosures about abuse being made, this point being clarified by the Home Secretary in the Commons & by the following statement by the Home Office:

The Official Secrets Act is intended to protect certain classes of particularly sensitive information such as security and intelligence matters, and it provides for a number of offences that prevent current or former Crown servants or Government contractors from disclosing certain information without lawful authority. It does not prevent protected information from being disclosed to an officer of an official investigation or inquiry into historical child abuse. In particular, information may be disclosed where the disclosure is made in accordance with that person's official duty or is otherwise authorised. Departments and Ministers can permit current and former civil servants and Government contractors to share knowledge and documentation with an inquiry.

For example, in the case of the Kincora investigation - the Hart Inquiry in Northern Ireland - it has been made absolutely clear by the Attorney-General that prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act will not take place where people are giving evidence of child abuse to the inquiry. The Home Secretary has made it clear that official authorisation would be given for the Goddard Inquiry if a request were made, in a manner similar to that for the Hart Inquiry, and has written to Justice Goddard to suggest that she make such a request to the Attorney General.

Click here to see me being interviewed by Women2Win


Click  to listen to BBC Radio 4 Today programme interviewing Sarah and discussing "Do Westminster Primaries Work?"




21 NOV 2015

South Brent Fitness Centre

Today was the official opening of the South Brent Community Fitness Centre. After a year of planning and fund raising this project "Fit for the Future" with partners, South Dartmoor Academy has come to fruition. There is an amazing community gym and Bike Bank. Thanks to Ross, Mike,...

20 NOV 2015

Norton Brook Surgery

Thanks Norton Brook surgery, Kingsbridge for sharing views today from the front line in primary care.

20 NOV 2015

South Hams Community Hospital

Lovely to catch up with the team at South Hams Hospital and League of Friends; their work is so valued by the community

26 NOV 2015


Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee                      Click here to watch Sarah speak The Prime Minister has made a compelling and considered case today. Having voted against action last time this subject came to the House, I would like to say that I will join him in...

25 NOV 2015


Today I met up with representatives from Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) – the organisation responsible for the roll-out of superfast broadband in our area – for an update on their progress.In the Totnes constituency, there are already 8,273 properties connected to superfast broadband...

18 NOV 2015

Further Education

Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee South Devon College in my constituency is just such an example of a fantastic sixth-form college doing amazing work in the further education sector. Everyone in the House hopes that the Chancellorwill be as generous as possible to further education, but...

17 NOV 2015

National Data Guardian for health and social care

Good to talk data sharing and security issues with Dame Fiona Caldicott today. The consultation seeking views on the roles and functions of the National Data Guardian for health and social care closes on the 17th December...

17 NOV 2015

Junior Doctors (New Contract)

Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee I am deeply concerned about the impact on patient care caused by the proposed three days of industrial action, including two days of a full walk-out. Will the Secretary of State say what advance preparations are taking place to ensure patient safety? Will he...

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Sarah's Personal Blog

Click here for Sarah's full blog and to leave comments

It is time for bold and brave action to tackle childhood obesity (30.11.15)

There is a single fact which demonstrates the compelling case for bold and brave action on childhood obesity. A quarter of the most disadvantaged children in England are now obese by the time they leave primary school. This is double the rate among the most advantaged children, setting out in stark terms the scale of the health inequality from obesity – and that has profound implications for children's health and wellbeing both now and in the future.

Obese children are at greater risk of bullying and of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer and joint problems later in life. The cost to the NHS of obesity is estimated to be £5.1bn annually, and treating diabetes accounts for about 10% of its entire budget. Prevention is a central theme of the NHS's own long-term plan, yet there has been a further cut in the resources for public health under the November spending review. This places an even greater responsibility on the prime minister to make sure the policies in his obesity strategy can make a lasting difference to children's wellbeing and life chances. This cannot be stuck in the "too difficult" box just because effective action requires politically difficult decisions.
To read the full blog click here

I opposed Syria bombing in 2013, but now David Cameron has my support (27.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Two years ago, I voted to oppose military action against the Assad regime in Syria. If David Cameron returns to the Commons next week, I will be voting to stand with our allies in extending air strikes against Isil, wherever they hide. It has not been an easy decision because, whatever the accuracy of our weaponry, the innocent are likely to be among the victims of future bombing. Right now, however, countless thousands across Syria and the wider region living under Isil barbarity are subject to systematic enslavement, rape, torture, murder and genocide. Isil cannot be reasoned with and it shows no shred of humanity or mercy to those under its barbarous control.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Social Care and Public Health are Essential for Individuals and the Future of our NHS (25.11.15)
This article appeared in today's Telegraph

Britain spends 8.5% of GDP on health care, just below average among the OECD group of rich nations. But while our spending on health has been virtually static in real terms since 2009, the same is not true of demand, which has risen inexorably. Anyone listening to those on front line will hear the unequivocal message that our NHS is under unprecedented strain from the increase in the number of patients with complex long-term conditions, and the shortage in staff and funding to cope. Hospital trusts are heading for a record end of year deficit of around £2bn.

George Osborne faces enormous pressures as he tries to balance the books but he is right to commit an additional £3.8bn to the NHS next year, bringing forward a significant down payment on the £8bn promised by 2020. No one should be under any illusion, however, that this £3.8bn will solve the financial challenges facing our health service.
To read the full blog and leave comments click here

Tampon Tax

Many people have contacted me about VAT on sanitary products. Of course I am opposed to VAT being placed on these essential items but I did not support Paula Sherriff MP's amendment on this topic to the Finance Bill as this matter is entirely devolved to the EU and it would have been entirely misleading to pretend otherwise.

Unfortunately, we are in this situation as VAT replaced the UK scheme when we joined the then European Economic Community. Anything we already had as zero rated tax was allowed to remain that way but the EU have not allowed the UK to add new categories for zero rating since then. I am pleased that the European Commission has now stated that a review of VAT rules will take place next year, which is the realistic opportunity we have to tackle this issue and I would urge those who have concerns to contact our MEPs to ask them to lobby for sanitary products to be zero rated for VAT and you can do so via the following link. To leave comments on this blog click here

Half-Baked and Reheated, the Medical Anecdote Bill Returns to the Commons Today (16.10.15)
This article appeared first on Huffington Post

We all want to be able to access effective treatments as quickly and safely as possible. Why then do the overwhelming majority of research and medical bodies alongside the Patients Association and Action against Medical Accidents so firmly oppose the Access to Medical Treatments (Innovation) Bill?

In a nutshell because it will do nothing for genuine innovation or to improve access to treatments but it will confuse the legislation, remove important protections for patients from reckless practitioners and undermine research.

This bill is a reheated version of the half-baked Medical Innovation Bill which was thrown out in the last Parliament. If it was a turkey pie, you wouldn't touch it. To read the blog in full click here

Sugar Tax Report

I wrote the following article for the Telegraph that appeared this morning:

Sitting on the desk of Jeremy Hunt is a detailed and impartial review of the international evidence on measures which could reduce our consumption of sugar.

But the Secretary of State for Health is refusing to publish this study - compiled by Public Health England (PHE) - despite repeated requests to make it available to the public.

This matters because the public health community and campaign groups need to be able to access unbiased evidence to fully contribute to the Government's forthcoming childhood obesity strategy before the ink is dry on the paper.

It also matters because an important principle is at stake around the transparency of evidence and data.

To read the article in full please click here


We can and should do more to help the humanitarian disaster at our door

Aylan Kurdi is not the first child to drown in the Mediterranean Sea or to suffocate in an airless lorry at the hands of people traffickers but his image burns into our humanity. As we witness the scenes of refugees desperate to reach the sanctuary of our shores the question is whether Britain could and should do more to help and if so in what way?

A mass movement of people is underway, not only of those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa but of others trying to escape from conditions of grinding poverty. Children just like Aylan die every day from malnutrition and disease but we cannot provide a home for everyone. (Click here for the full blog)

Care Cost Lottery

For anyone hit with a debilitating illness, it comes as a huge shock to find that there is no entitlement whatever to receive help with the costs of social care if their assets are worth more than £23,250.

Through no fault of their own, around one in 10 people aged over 65, many of whom have saved all their lives, face catastrophic costs especially if they need long-term residential care. This was not an issue at the general election in May because, during the last Parliament, the Government responded to the Dilnot Commission and passed ground-breaking legislation through the Care Act to place a cap on the total amount that anyone would have to pay, alongside a major increase in the asset threshold. (Click here for the full blog)

Coerced Consent is no Consent

There is a dark question at the heart of Professor Black's call for evidence on the work challenges facing benefit claimants who are struggling with addiction and obesity and it should worry us all. She asks, 'What are the legal, ethical and other implications of linking benefit entitlements to take up of appropriate treatment or support?

The inclusion of this question calls into doubt the independence of her review as Professor Black cannot be in any doubt about the fundamental principles of medical consent; that it must be freely given and informed. There are only a few strictly limited circumstances, covered by the Mental Health Act, when people may receive medical treatment against their wishes. It would be abhorrent for the State to extend that to others in order to tackle a perceived reluctance to accept help for conditions of which society disapproves.

A threat to remove benefits unless a claimant accepts treatment, would represent coerced consent to that treatment and that is no consent at all because it would not be freely given. Treating a patient without valid consent would put any clinician in breach of their duty as a doctor let alone in breach of the law.

Any proposal to change the law to allow such coerced consent would be a seismic change and threaten us all. Where would it stop?

It would also be completely pointless. The roots of addiction are complex and treatment is far more likely to be successful when the person affected is actively seeking help. We would also end up depriving or delaying access to the people who want to benefit in favour of those who are not yet ready or willing to change. It would be a criminal waste of time and resources to fill NHS clinics with addicts reluctantly gaming the system or issuing prescriptions for discarded medicines.

Professor Black's call for evidence also misses an important opportunity to comment on the clear evidence base for prevention of alcohol harm. There is still time to follow Scotland's lead in implementing a minimum price for alcohol. It would be perverse indeed for government to be coercing people into treatments from which they are unlikely to benefit at the same time as failing to act on the saturation access to and promotion of ultra cheap booze which fuels their addiction.


Time to consign hunting to history

Rural voters deserve better than to be typecast as pro blood sports by the hunting lobby. It is clear to me that most people, living in both rural and urban areas of the Totnes Constituency, would prefer to see the hunting of foxes by packs of hounds consigned to the history books. There is no clamour from the countryside to relax the ban, rather a plea for government to focus on the issues which would really make a difference to their lives, like improving infrastructure and addressing the inequality of rural funding for schools and healthcare. This week's vote on relaxing the ban will, if passed by the Commons, cast a shadow over the reputation of the Conservative Party. MPs voting in favour will have failed to listen to the majority on an ethical issue about which public opinion could not be clearer. Few people go to the polls with hunting uppermost in their minds but reputation matters. I hope my colleagues will reject the shallow narrative from the hunting lobby that the proposals are a necessary measure for the countryside; they are not.

A free vote was promised in our manifesto. I hope that Conservative MPs will use it to send a clear message that the Party has moved on from hunting and instead signal our intention to focus on the real issues facing rural Britain.

Tunisian Tragedy

30 of our citizens are amongst the dead in Tunisia and we can only imagine the grief of their families. Once again, ISIL has waged its cowardly war against the softest of targets. In times of war we should stop helping their propaganda machine to act as a gruesome recruiting sergeant.

Instead of publicising the names and smirking faces of terrorists or their sympathisers, let's see and hear the personal stories of the courageous Tunisians who formed a human shield on the beach; theirs is the true face of Islam. As David Cameron announces his resolve to end the online grooming through social media, isn't it time for the print and broadcast media to question their own editorial policies? The killers crave publicity for their crimes not just for their own vanity but because they know that this draws others to follow their example. We rightly criminalise child pornography but allow links to horrific snuff videos which are the oldest weapon in history; to terrorise and undermine the enemy.

Whilst we grieve with the families of our own dead we should counter ISIL's message of twisted grievance against the West by being clear that overwhelmingly it is Muslims who are being slaughtered by ISIL.


Why I will not be voting to undermine the Abortion Act

There is no room for complacency in the UK and we need to remain vigilant.

The Department of Health has updated their analysis of male to female birth rates with data from 2008-2012 and this now includes ethnicity. Without exception, birth ratios were within the expected range for all UK communities, including analysis by ethnicity and birth order.

There may be individual cases but it would be entirely wrong to stigmatise entire communities in Britain by suggesting that this is in any way a common or systematic practice here is not.........To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Remember The Real Victims of IS

Several press reports describe the latest trio of teenagers as 'jihadi brides' fleeing the country for Syria. In what sense can their actions be described as 'fleeing' when that is defined as running away from a place or situation of danger? There are risks in glamourising these girls by describing them as 'A-grade' students yet in the same paragraph portraying them as if they are merely passive victims of social media grooming.......To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

HSC's Complaints and Concerns Inquiry

Most people experience really great care in the NHS but sometimes things can go wrong. Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm....To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

We owe a debt of gratitude to returning aid workers, subjecting them all to compulsory quarantine would be counterproductive and unnecessary 2nd January 2015

As the nurse Pauline Cafferkey fights her own battle with Ebola at an isolation unit in London, questions have been raised not only about why she was allowed to board a flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, but also about whether all returning aid workers should be placed in quarantine..... To read the full blog and leave comments, click here

Childhood Obesity

Almost one in five children are obese before they leave primary school. 85% will go on to become obese as adults with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Do you feel that we should do more to help them?

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