This website was established whilst I was a Member of Parliament.
As Parliament has been dissolved there are no Members of Parliament
until after the Election on 7th May 2015
This website was established whilst I was a Member of Parliament.
As Parliament has been dissolved there are no Members of Parliament
until after the Election on 7th May 2015
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.
Leading Women UK
It has been a pleasure to meet with Leading Women UK to hear about their excellent work and I hope the following piece from one of their members is of interest:
Last year Leading Women UK took part in International Women's Day by celebrating the theme of 'Inspiring Change' throughout 2014. To start the year, Leading Women UK members posted photos across social media, giving their #BeYourselfAtWork advice.
The handwritten messages powerfully demonstrated how they would be inspiring change for women in 2014, as well as taking part in a Thunderclap campaign that had a social reach of 118,949.
On 8 December 2014, Leading Women UK hosted their annual conference on the theme of Inspiring Change. The conference was joined by 4 female speakers from STEM, Politics, Media and Innovation. The conference was attended by local business men and women who want to see equality for all. Photos from the day can be seen on the Leading Women UK Facebook page.
This year, International Women's Day was celebrated on 8 March 2015. The theme was 'Make it Happen'. International Women's Day celebrates the achievements of women and calls for greater equality. Leading Women UK would like to use the Make it Happen theme to celebrate women's personal and business achievements, whilst encouraging women to set aspirations for the year ahead.
Leading Women UK is encouraging women across the UK to:
1. Post a photo of themselves holding a sign which shows how they are going to 'make it happen' this year and share it with Leading Women UK on Twitter (@LeadingWomenUK) or Facebook, using the hashtags #IWD2015 and #makeithappen. Leading Women UK will then share your advice via their #MakeitHappen gallery
2. Take part in the Leading Women UK Thunderclap campaign.
Participants have until the end of March to think of their advice and to invite as many friends and colleagues to take part as well.
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 acceleration of these projects is welcome and are vital for the protection of homes and businesses in our area.
After the financial crisis, Britain was left with the biggest deficit in our peacetime history. This meant that we were racking up debt and wasting money on interest payments that could have been spent on local schools and hospitals. Today that deficit has been halved as a percentage of GDP and a future Conservative Government would eliminate the deficit entirely by 2019/20. This matters because if the gap between what we earn and what we spend as a nation is ignored, we would find ourselves in the same situation as countries like Greece, with spiralling unemployment and facing far greater cuts to services.
Last year Britain was the fastest growing developed economy in the world and record numbers of people are in work. 70% of the increase since 2010 has come from full time work and more than two thirds in skilled occupations. While 25 jobs were lost every day in the last four years of the Labour Government, 1,047 jobs have been created every single day under this Government. In South Devon, unemployment has more than halved since the last election. At last wages are outstripping inflation and real incomes are rising. I was particularly pleased about the announcement of a 20% increase in the apprenticeship wage.
There will be a further increase in the amount you can earn before paying tax - £10,800 next year and £11,000 the year after. Since the last election, the Government has cut income tax for 25 million people and since 2010 – someone working full-time on minimum wage will have had their tax bill halved.
Additionally, the Chancellor announced a further freeze in fuel duty, meaning that the typical family is saving £10 every time they fill up their car. A new Personal Savings Allowance will be introduced, meaning that more than a million people in the South-West will no longer have to pay any tax on the first £1,000 of interest they earn on their savings. A new 'Help to Buy ISA' will also be introduced to help first-time buyers save for a deposit. For every £200 a person saves, the Government will top that up by £50, so that someone saving £12,000 will receive an extra £3,000 towards their deposit.
A future Conservative Government will go even further and ensure that no-one pays any tax on the first £12,500 they earn and will raise the 40p tax threshold so that no-one earning less than £50,000 pays it.
This was also a budget about fairness; the richest 20% of households contribute more to reducing the deficit than the remaining 80% put together and the top 1% contribute more than a quarter of all income tax liabilities. This is higher than under any of the thirteen years of the last Labour Government.
There would be nothing fair to future generations if we were to return to irresponsible increases in borrowing. This would lead to a collapse in confidence in Britain and a wrecked economy with a spiral of rising unemployment, interest rates and yet more money wasted on debt interest rather than services.
BUDGET AT A GLANCE
SUPPORTING OUR LOCAL BUSINESSES
Torcross Shingle Recycling - Technical Briefing
To read the full technical briefing, click here
Picture 1 – Haul road Picture 2 – Result of shingle recycling
Postal and Proxy Votes
The Election is only a 6 weeks away. Now is the time to ensure that you have registered for a postal or proxy vote and you can do this by downloading the appropriate form.
If you pay your council tax to South Hams District Council and want to apply for a postal or proxy vote click here
If you pay your council tax to the Torbay Council and want to apply for a postal or proxy vote click here
Calling all women in business
In 2014 the South West of England Women in Business produced a survey which provided the first report of its kind in the region to give a snap-shot of the thoughts, opinions and issues for women in business in the South West.
A year on, a new survey has been created which asks women in business in the South West what working life is really like for them – and what can be done to help them.
This survey is aimed at all women working in business large and small, no matter how diverse and the results will be collated into a report that will be available to read for all.
The survey closes on 15 March 2015
Fairness for Park Homes Residents and the Warm Home Discount
Over the past five years I have met with many park home residents to hear about the unfair challenges they face. It cannot be right that they have been excluded from the Warm Homes Discount, as only the primary bill payer is eligible for this, in their case the site owner. I am pleased that following a consultation, the government have published their response which includes the provision of a rebate to eligible park home residents at risk of fuel poverty. This will be welcome news and I am delighted that they will be eligible for this important discount. You can find out more about this via the following link
Broadband Programme 9th February 2015
Good news this week on the roll-out of superfast broadband across Devon. New figures show that by 2017, 19,621 homes and businesses in the Totnes constituency (100,083 across Devon and Somerset) will have been connected-up by the Government's £1.7bn Broadband Programme. In 2010, 3 million homes didn't have access to fast broadband and this scheme aims to have 95% of the UK connected by 2017.
High broadband speeds are essential for local businesses and every £1 invested in the Broadband Programme will generate £20 of economic benefits.
As a rural area, it has traditionally been difficult for broadband providers to reach some sparsely-populated parts of South Devon. The Government recently announced the investment of an extra £65m of Growth Deal funding for the South West – part of which will be used to target these rural families and businesses who might otherwise miss out of superfast speeds. Additionally, £10m is being spent developing new technologies, such as fixed wireless and satellites to ensure that the most remote places are connected.
Epic News for Whiterock !
The Government has committed £4m of Growth Deal funding to develop an Electronic and Photonics Innovation Centre EPIC, at White Rock. To read more about this click here
Good News for the South West Economy
An extra £65m is being invested in projects to boost our economy here in the South West. This new funding, part of the Growth Deal, comes on top of the £130m awarded to the region last summer. The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that in the next six years, this funding will create up to 22,000 local jobs.
In our constituency this will go towards the creation of a world leading Electronics and Photonics Centre in Paignton. Fibre optics made here are already an important British export, with customers including NASA and the European Space Agency. The investment in this Centre will allow local businesses to access new equipment and increase their ability to export to the global market - securing vital hi-tech jobs in our area.
Additionally, part of the Growth Deal funding will go towards increasing superfast broadband coverage in the region - targeting families and businesses in rural and sparsely populated parts of Devon which are traditionally difficult to reach by broadband providers.
After speaking to Ministers on the benefits to South Devon of the Growth Deal, I am pleased to see them commit to investing in these local schemes. Thank you too, to the Local Enterprise Partnership for their tireless work in securing this terrific boost for our economy.
NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group
Many of you contacted me concerned at the end of last year, with regard to proposals by NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to introduce a number of measures as part of their financial recovery programme.
I know the main worry in this area was the possibility they would decide to ration patients to only one hearing aid. I have recently heard again from the CCG that they have now decided they will not be taking any action to restrict hearing aids. I am pleased that the CCG have listened to those who got in touch with them on this matter.
You can find out more about this and the status of other proposed measures via the following website
More good economic news for South Devon this week, as the latest figures show that unemployment in the Totnes constituency has dropped by 42% in the past year and 55% since May 2010. Among those aged 18-24, unemployment is also down – decreasing by 42% in the past year and 53% since the general election.
This news follows last week's announcement that the UK economy was the fastest growing in the G7 in 2014.
Empty Homes in the South Hams
Owners of empty homes in the South Hams are being urged to bring their properties back to life.
Recent estimates show there are approximately 80 homes in the district which have been empty for more than two years.
South Hams District Council is offering to help owners bring these potential homes back into use and to help people make full use of what could be a valuable asset, not just for the owner, but for a local family looking for somewhere to live.
Affordable homes for local people can be provided in a number of ways and this scheme is one of the viable alternatives to building new homes. By encouraging people to take action and repair or renovate these properties we are also helping to boost the job prospects for local trades people and craftsmen.
A large number of owners will already have plans for the future of their property but others may need a helping hand, and this is where the council can offer advice and information to owners, tenants and landlords.
Financial help may also be available towards repairs and renovations through a range of grants and loans, usually subject to the owner agreeing to rent out the property when work has been completed. Low interest loans are also available for repair work.
The council can offer first-time and existing landlords in the South Hams, a property management service through its 'Direct Lets Scheme'. The council can also put owners in touch with a charitable scheme which offers a grant for essential repairs and a property management service, in return for a lease agreement.
For further information, or to tell the council about an empty property, call South Hams District Council's Environmental Health Team on 01803 861234, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call in to the council's offices at Follaton House or visit www.southhams.gov.uk
Rural Fair Share Campaign
We must have fairer funding for rural Local Government. This week I met with Treasury Minister, Priti Patel MP, as part of a delegation of Coalition MPs led by Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the Rural Fair Share campaign, and including former Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson MP, Richard Benyon MP and Anne Marie Morris MP.
Rural areas are getting a raw deal. Rural residents pay an average £80 more per head in council tax than their urban counterparts despite lower average wages. This is in large part because urban local authorities receive 50% more in central Government funding. In a time of tight budgets, this unequal settlement is putting rural services under significant strain especially as it often costs more to deliver services in rural areas and in Devon we have a higher proportion of older residents. No one doubts the need for adequate weighting for deprivation but I will continue to make the case for also weighting that funding for rurality and age.
Flood defence improvements at Torcross and the Slapton Line. 12th January 2015
I was delighted to see that £250,000 of emergency flood funding has been secured to pay for flood defence improvements at Torcross and the Slapton Line. Following meetings between South Hams District Council, the Environment Agency, the Cabinet Office and myself, work began today on moving 25,000 tonnes of shingle towards Torcross to protect the village from storm damage.
While it is not uncommon for shingle to move during the winter, the severe storms last year meant that the shingle did not return during the summer as normally happens.
This one-off funding from the Environment Agency will help to protect Torcross as well as the vital A379 route. The work is expected to take eight weeks to complete.
This week, I was pleased to welcome the announcement by the Department for Transport that Totnes Railway Station will receive a share of £60m funding to improve access for passengers.
The station will see improvements to accessibility into the station and between platforms – including the installation of lifts. This development will make a difference to those with limited mobility, parents with small children and passengers carrying heaving baggage and I am pleased to see that Totnes was one of the 26 stations selected to benefit.
On Wednesday, the Chancellor, George Osborne, delivered his Autumn Statement – updating the country on the progress of the economic recovery and setting out the measures which will help local people, families and businesses as well as a much needed £2bn boost for the NHS.
Following the encouraging news throughout the year on rising growth and falling unemployment, the Chancellor was able to report economic forecasts from the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR). When the Government came to office, it inherited the largest deficit on record since the Second World War – 10.2% of GDP; this has now fallen by more than half to 5%.
As a consequence of this, the OBR expect the British economy to grow by 3% this year, with unemployment dropping to 5.4% next year. Meanwhile, forecasts show that meaningful wage growth will pick up next year and grow above inflation for the next five years.
The growing economy means that the Government is able to do more to support families and working people. In April 2015, the tax-free personal allowance will increase to £10,600 – meaning that the average person will be paying £820 a year less in income tax than in 2010. As of 4th December, stamp duty will be reformed to remove the 'slab' system which raised duty on the whole value of the property once the price crossed a threshold by even £1 – this reform will cut stamp duty for 98% of homebuyers. Someone buying a house in Devon will pay £502 less stamp duty on the average home. Additionally, families will benefit from the abolition of Air Passenger Duty for under 12s from May 2015 and for under 16s from 2016 – cutting the price of a family holiday.
Students will also benefit from the Autumn Statement as the Chancellor announced that people under the age of 30 undertaking a postgraduate Masters Degree will be able to get a student loan of £10,000, backed by the government, for the first time.
There were also measures which will be welcomed by local businesses in the Statement. National Insurance Contributions will be abolished for business which employ an apprentice under the age of 25. Further support on business rates were announced – the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief will be extended while the inflation-linked increase in business rates will continue to be capped at 2%. It is terrific news that the £1,000 discount for shops and cafes on our high streets will increase to £1,500.
It is only because the economy is recovering strongly that the Government has been able to provide this further support alongside reducing the deficit and helping businesses to grow. Further tax cuts for families and investment in local services can only be guaranteed if we have a strong economy and I will continue to make the case for us to stick our economic plan.
AT A GLANCE
Support for families and working people
Support for local businesses
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP Wins Backbencher of the Year at the Spectator Awards
I was delighted to be named Backbencher of the Year at t
This morning was my last surgery of this Parliament in my office at the Totnes Conservative Club! Thank you to all who attended.
Written Answers Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee 23rd March 2015 To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps the Government has taken to protect children from a parent who has been convicted of child sexual abuse. To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what...
Written Answers Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee 23rd March 2015 To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether the General Medical Council (a) has undertaken and (b) plans to undertake any reviews of online prescribing of oral antibiotics. Daniel Poulter The Parliamentary...
Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee 19th March 2015 To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment Public Health England has made of the effect of remote prescribing of oral antibiotics through online pharmacies on resistance to antibiotics. Jane Ellison The...
Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee 19th March 2015 To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of clinical consultations conducted by online pharmacies. To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what steps he is taking to...
Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee 19th March 2015 To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, what estimate he has made of the average cost to the public purse of a request for him to call in a planning application in each of the last five...
Click here for Sarah's full blog and to leave comments
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 ...it 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
Fair Representation for England 18th December 2014
This week, William Hague set out the options to ensure fair representation for England following the agreement to devolve greater powers to Scotland. Whilst 'English Votes for English Laws' is rarely top of the priority list, the subject regularly comes up at my open meetings as people are rightly annoyed that Scottish Labour MPs regularly vote on issues which have no effect whatsoever on their own constituents. Imagine the fuss if the situation was reversed! https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/387598/implications_of_devolution_for_england_accessible.pdf
Following the Scottish independence referendum, the transfer of additional powers to Scotland will significantly worsen this injustice to English voters.
In the Houses of Commons, William Hague set out the three options put forward by the Conservative Party:
1. Bills that deal with English matters could only be able to be voted upon by English MPs at all legislative stages.
2. Bills that deal with English matters could be voted upon by all MPs at Second and Third Readings but only by English MPs at Committee and Report Stages.
3. There would be the creation of a new legislative stage in between Report Stage and Third Reading at which English MPs could veto and approve legislation which deals only with English matters.
I am pleased that all three options look to address the 'English question' within Parliament rather than proposing that another raft of structures and politicians be created. The idea of regional assemblies was rejected during a 2004 referendum in the North-East and I have yet to meet a constituent who asks me to campaign for more politicians.
I'm keen to hear your views.
The first proposal has the advantage that it would not add extra stages to the already lengthy legislative process. Although it is true that some parts of bills may apply to devolved nations but not others, in reality Labour oppose this as it would reduce their ability to push through unpopular, burdensome and expensive legislation should they ever return to power. The SNP have long taken the view that they should not vote on English only legislation and rarely do so, thus demonstrating that it is not the complicated morass wrongly claimed by Labour.
This is about fairness to England.
Update on meeting with Planning Minister Kris Hopkins 14th December 2014
Last week, I met with Kris Hopkins – Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government – to discuss challenges for South Hams District Council (SHDC) with solar and wind farm planning policy.In recent years, our area has seen a significant increase in the number of applications. SHDC has either approved or is currently processing applications for solar farms covering 305 acres – the equivalent of 170 football pitches. I have received a large number of representations on this from people across South Devon who are concerned about the impact that these development have on the countryside. The South Hams is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty and I am concerned that overdevelopment with vast industrialised solar arrays will impact on vital tourism and the land we need to feed the nation.
This year, the Government announced reforms to the subsidies provided to developers to remove Renewable Obligation Certificates from solar farm developments over the size of 5MW – removing the incentive for large solar farms to be built. While this news is welcome, there are concerns that this will lead to a large increase in applications in the short term, as developers seek to beat the 1 April cut off for subsidy.
At the meeting we discussed some of the problems that the Council faces when solar and wind farm applications come in. Developers have the right to appeal if applications are rejected and the associated costs for the Council can be high if their decision is then overturned. This can leave Councils with a difficult decision when rejecting an application as they need to sum up the risk to council tax-payers money if their decision is overturned on appeal. Additionally, I have concerns with the appeal process allowing unelected Planning Inspectors to overrule the decisions made by local representatives who have detailed local knowledge and opinion.
Of course all areas must take their share of renewables but it is clear that the South West has been far more attractive to developers because the returns on solar are greater. We have more than fulfilled that obligation locally and nationally we are already on course for reaching our target for energy generation from renewables. It is time to genuinely shift the balance to installations being where the public expect them to be, on rooftops or brownfield sites, not desecrating our beautiful landscape for the profit of a few at the expense of subsidies paid by those who are fuel poor.
We have asked the Minister for stronger and clearer guidance to help Councils reflect the wishes of local people and I look forward to seeing the Department's future plans to support local councils in achieving this. Councils must be able to turn down applications where they feel they are inappropriate, safe in the knowledge that council tax payers will not be doubly penalised in having to put up with these monstrosities as well as pick up the tab for the appeal.
Thank you to representatives from the council and the CPRE for coming to London to help to set out the position so clearly.
2 Billion Pound Extra Funding for the NHS
The Chancellor has promised almost £2bn in extra funding for the NHS. This will make a real difference as the pressures facing the health service from rising demand are becoming increasingly clear. This pledge also confirms the government's backing for the NHS 5 Year Forward View as set out by its new Chief Executive, Simon Stevens.
During our ongoing public expenditure inquiry, the Health Select Committee has heard that that changes in people's health needs and an increase in the number of those living with long term health conditions mean that, without action, the NHS would face a £30bn funding gap by 2020. NHS England's Five Year Forward View has set out their plan to close that gap. However this plan will still require an extra £8bn funding a year by 2020 with £1.5bn this coming year. The funding announcement will protect high quality services for patients and allow the NHS to start work on improving community services including changes to invest in the front line in primary care . It was particularly welcome that future budgets will allow planning over several years to make it easier to plan services with more certainty.
Despite the good news this weekend, it is more important than ever to ensure to secure a strong economic recovery to safeguard funding for the NHS in future years.
A Short Life: Devon based Charity Auction raising money for Little Bridge House Children's Hospice
A Short Life was set up by Jon Rowe, who recently lost his 11 year old sister to the disease Mucopolysaccharide (MPS). Click here to find out more about the charity auction that Jon is organising to raise money for the MPS Society and Little Bridge House Children's Hospice.