I am delighted to have been re-elected as the Member of Parliament for the Totnes constituency.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me and as we move in to the period of negotiating Britain's exit from the EU I look forward to representing the interests of this constituency and listening to the views of everyone and working constructively for the future.

South Devon College celebrates even more success!

South Devon College was awarded the highest rating of 'Gold' under the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), a system for recognising excellent teaching and learning in higher education.
The TEF Gold rating is further endorsement of the high standards of teaching, learning and support delivered at University Centre South Devon.

South Devon College has also received the prestigious Investors in People (IIP) Platinum accreditation, the highest level awarded by the people management standard. South Devon College is the only College in England to have achieved Platinum status and this prominent distinction confirms the College's status as not just a leading Further Education College, but also as a top employer in the country, as it joins the top 7% of accredited organisations across the UK.

Further recognition of the importance of South Devon College to the area was a recent £500,000 grant towards a 3G pitch as they enter the first phase of development for a new £3million community sports pavilion based at White Rock, adjacent to the Vantage Point campus in Paignton. This exciting development will aim to serve the community and inspire individuals to participate and enjoy spectator sports.

The purpose-built facility will ensure the delivery of education and training across the College's activities including South Devon High School, the further education and higher education curriculum and a range of apprenticeship programmes. Local students and the community will all benefit from state of the art resources and equipment.

Torbay residents: have your say on new council ward boundaries

The Local Government Boundary Commission are asking local people and organisations for their help to draw up new ward boundaries across Torbay. The Totnes constituency includes parts of Torbay.
The Commission has also announced that it is minded to recommend that the council should have 36 councillors in the future: the same as the current arrangement.
They are now drawing up a new pattern of wards to accommodate 36 councillors and need your help to tell where the new boundaries should be drawn.

You can submit comments via the following website

This consultation closes on 14 August 2017.

Rowcroft Hospice

I visited Rowcroft Hospice last week and I will be running the Torbay Half Marathon this weekend (25th June) to raise funds for them as it is a great cause and helps so many people.






Acute Services Review Recommendations

Clinicians in Devon today announced the results of a review into how some hospital services could be provided more effectively in future.

Services such as stroke, maternity, paediatrics and neonatal care and urgent and emergency care were included in the first stage of the review. Other services will be reviewed in a later second stage.

Announcing the results of the first stage, clinicians said that all four acute hospitals in Devon, would continue with A&E, emergency stroke services and maternity services. This would be acknowledged by stronger collaboration between clinical teams and new networking and workforce solutions.

Other key recommendations include:

• 24/7 urgent and emergency care services (including A&E) should continue to operate at our four main acute hospitals – the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, North Devon District Hospital, Derriford Hospital and Torbay Hospital.

• Continuing to provide first-line emergency response for people experiencing symptoms of a stroke at all four hospitals. This will include rapid stroke assessment, diagnostics and thrombolysis. These services will be supported by 'Acute Stroke Units' (ASUs) at all four sites, and will ensure rapid intervention and aftercare for those with a stroke.

• Working towards clinical best practice to improve outcomes for stroke patients by developing two specialist 'Hyperacute Stroke Units' (HASUs) in Exeter and Plymouth where patients will receive 3 or more days of intensive treatment for their stroke immediately following emergency treatment, following which they will return home or to their local ASU.

• Retaining consultant-led maternity services at all four main hospital sites is proposed. These specialist units have access to 24/7 clinical care and the specialist services to provide more intensive care when that is needed.

• Delivering choice for home or midwifery-led births will continue to be provided in line with the national strategy 'Better Births'. Therefore, clinicians have recommended adoption of the strong evidence base for midwifery-led units co-located with consultant-led units.

• Maternity, neonatal and paediatric inpatient services will be retained at all four main hospital sites

The clinical recommendations are the first stage in the review. As part of the second stage, the recommendations will be tested in more detail to ensure they can be delivered with safe, cost-effective and reliable staffing solutions for the future.

Only once this assurance work is complete, can the recommendations be finalised. This is an important step, as the recommendations do not, at this time, immediately solve all the problems that drove the need to review these services.

Should the final proposals be likely to result in significant change to local services, the public will be fully consulted in line with the NHS' statutory requirements. A full timetable would also be developed and published.

A full briefing and a report of public involvement into this review is available on the Devon STP website


St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes

Wednesday 5th July will see the launch of the St. John's Community Café in Bridgetown, Totnes. The community café will open weekly from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and will offer excellent coffee, the finest teas, homemade cakes and other light refreshments. The café is centred on the church's aim of making it difficult to be lonely in Bridgetown, and wants to create a weekly space where anyone in the community can come and find a welcome, acceptance, friendship and support. The café will operate on a 'pay what you can' basis so that no-one need worry about coming because of a lack of finances.


Save the lives of others, while going about yours

It's National Blood Week from 19 – 25 June and we're helping to celebrate how blood donors make a difference every day, saving people whose lives depend on blood.

Over the last year 900,000 people have given up their time by donating blood to help patients in need. But we need 200,000 new blood donors to ensure that patients in the future have access to the blood they need, when they need it.

There is also an urgent need for 40,000 new black donors to improve the lives of thousands of patients with sickle cell disease. They need life-saving blood from black donors, which provides the closest match to their own. Together, we can vastly improve the lives the 15,000 people in the UK who live with Sickle Cell Disease and over 300 new babies born every year with the condition.

When you give blood, you can save someone's life while going about your own. All you need to do is give blood, and you'll be right there, helping someone when they need it.

Register to give blood.  or call 0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest session.


NHS Health Fair 22nd June

A major NHS fair in Newton Abbot will enable people to find out about the latest health developments in South Devon and Torbay.

The CCG is bringing together a wide range of local organisations at the Avenue Church to show how groundbreaking developments link with traditional methods of healthcare to help people's wellbeing now and into the future.

Anyone wanting to attend is asked to email their confirmation to corporate.sdtccg@nhs.net‚Äč or call 01803 652500.

Among the organisations taking part on 22 June will be Public Health, two GP practices demonstrating online consultations, Newton Abbot-based charity KingsCare, Healthwatch, and online health broadcaster Hiblio.

Pharmacists and GPs will be there to give health checks, as well as information or advice on issues such as weight, body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol checks.

Also attending the health fair will be Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Trust, which runs Torbay Hospital.

The health fair begins at 10am, followed at 11.30am by the CCG governing body's annual general meeting (AGM), which will enable people to find out about the organisation's performance during the past year and its plans for the future


St Mary's Church, Totnes

Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council has embarked on a scheme to restore the magnificent fabric of St Mary's church, and to reorder the interior of the building so that it is more suited to modern community use. At the same time, Totnes Trust, which is dedicated to preserving heritage buildings and improving public spaces in the town, has embarked on a Heritage Area Project to make the area around the Church into one of the most attractive and unique historic areas in any small town in the UK.

The two organisations have come together to work on this project as a productive team. The resultant St Mary's Partnership has now been joined by Totnes Town Council as well. The Partnership believes that these projects can only succeed if the community are involved through extensive public consultation, and so there will be two stages of consultation at events to be held in the Church. The first stage will be an opportunity to contribute ideas, and will run between the hours of 10.00am – 4.00pm on:

Friday 9th June  Saturday 10th June
Thursday 15th June Friday 16th June Saturday 17th June



Harley's story

The moving story of a Devon teenager who took illegal drugs and is paying the price.

Devon and Cornwall Police have released a heartfelt video showing the devastating effects of illegal drugs on a fifteen year old Devon teenager.

In the video, Harley tells how he took substances known as 'legal highs' when he was just fifteen. As a result, he suffered a near fatal stroke and is now struggling with life changing consequences. He was hospitalised for a number of months and he had to learn to talk, walk and feed himself again.

In a bid to prevent other young people from making the same mistakes, Harley is visiting schools in the South of Devon to speak face-to-face with the students and answer any questions they have. His honesty and frankness touch the hearts of those who meet him. He leaves the students with his emotive message "I paid the consequences, I wish I could turn back time".

If you have are aware of anyone who is supplying illegal drugs, contact the Police on 101, or you can give information anonymously to Crime Stoppers on Tel: 0800 555 111 or on line at www.crimestoppers-org.uk. Please quote Operation Venus.


Lifetime ISA and Personal Tax Free Allowance

From 6th April 2017 savers can start paying into the Lifetime ISA and the increase in the Personal tax free allowance sets in – benefitting millions of ordinary working people right across the United Kingdom.

Millions of people will see their take home pay increase because of this action to raise the Personal Allowance and introduce the Lifetime ISA.

The Armed Forces Covenant

The Armed Forces Covenant promises that veterans, the Armed Forces and their families receive the support they deserve. Enshrined in law in 2011, it ensures that members of the Armed Forces community are not disadvantaged in accessing Government and commercial services. Based on the principles of the Covenant, members of the Armed Forces can access:


  • Recruitment services to those leaving the armed forces for two years after their discharge date through the Career Transition Partnership
  • Specialist military and civilian doctors' services for issues such as mental health, trauma, and prosthetics, as well as the possibility of priority access to treatment if the condition is thought to be caused by time in service. These services can be accessed by notifying the GP that you are a military veteran
  • Veterans' Welfare Service for the small minority of veterans who find themselves in custody, which helps those in prison and provides support to improve their lives on return to their communities. They can be contacted on 02392 702232
  • High priority to social housing for seriously injured service personnel and veterans through local authorities, and there is a £200 million 'Forces Help to Buy Scheme'
  • Specific advice on compensation scheme claims and on where to get help on benefits, pensions, loans and grants, emergency accommodation, finding a job, re-training, health issues, welfare concerns, service records and medals through Veterans UK. They can be contacted on 0808 1914 218       

A new service called Veterans Gateway will be launched on the 22 May and will offer a 24/7 service for advice on issues such as housing, employability and health.

Lastly, the Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club provides an opportunity for veterans and serving personnel to meet in an informal setting and reengage with former colleagues – there is one in Newton Abbot and one in Torbay. Further details can be accessed here

South West Trains

The Department for Transport recently announced that the South West Trains franchise, which runs services from stations such as Exeter to London, has been awarded to First MTR, the operator for Hong Kong's busy metro. The deal will last for seven years and will ensure new and faster trains, more seats and services, improved stations and more flexible fare options along the line.

The changes do not affect trains running to and from Totnes, but if you're travelling to a station like Exeter in order to catch a South West Train, you should get a better service in the near future.

A map of the network can be found here and more information about the Department for Transport's announcement here


Ofcom's proposals for companies to pay automatic compensation

Ofcom has set out new proposals to require phone and broadband companies to pay automatic compensation – either a cash payment, or a credit on a bill – to customers who suffer slow repairs, missed appointments or delays to starting new services.

When a customer's landline or broadband goes wrong, that is frustrating enough without having to fight to get fair compensation from the phone company. So Ofcom are proposing new rules to force providers to pay money back to customers automatically, whenever repairs or installations don't happen on time, or when people wait in for an engineer who doesn't turn up. This would mean customers are properly compensated, while providers will be incentivised to work harder to improve their service.

Compensation payments would be set by Ofcom, and designed to reflect the degree of harm suffered by consumers. Here is how Ofcom's automatic compensation scheme would work:

Problem A landline or broadband customer would be entitled to compensation if... Amount of compensation
Delayed repair following loss of service Their service has stopped working and it is not fully fixed after 2 full working days £10 for each calendar day  the service is not repaired
Missed appointments An engineer does not turn up for a scheduled appointment, or it is cancelled with less than 24 hours' notice £30 per missed appointment
Delays with the start of a new service Their provider promises to start a new service on a particular date, but fails to do so £6 for each calendar day of delay, including the missed start date

Ofcom are consulting until 5th June and plan to publish a statement at the end of the year. Details on how to contribute to the consultation can be found via the following link

The Childcare Choices website has been launched

Millions of parents can pre-register for the government's new childcare offers, with the launch of a new website Childcare Choices.
The government's Tax-Free Childcare scheme will begin on 28 April, for parents of the youngest children. It will be gradually rolled out over 2017 – cutting childcare costs for working families across the UK by up to £2,000 per child per year, or £4,000 for disabled children.

On top of this, from September this year parents of three and four year old children living in England will be able to apply for a new 30 hours free childcare offer, worth around £5,000 per child.
The Childcare Choices website includes a Childcare Calculator for parents to compare all the government's childcare offers and check what works best for their families.
Through the site parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply, as well as providing details of existing government childcare offers.

Suicide Prevention Report

The Health Select Committee, which I chair, released it's report in to suicide prevention today (16/03/17) and you may be interested to read it here.

I also spoke about this on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning and you may like to listen to this here.  I spoke approximately 50 minutes in to the programme.

The Grove and Ball Copse at Churston


Work at woodlands in Churston in response to the Forestry Commission serving Statutory Plant Health Notices for the Grove and Ball Copse woodlands is currently taking place. For more information please click on the following link.




The Great Get Together

It's hard to believe but it will soon be a year since Jo Cox was murdered.

In the past year, a lot has happened, but nothing that has begun to ease the pain or fill the gap that Jo has left in our lives, and to mark the anniversary, it is hoped that communities and neighbours will get together, to share food and to celebrate what we hold in common. Jo's killing was aimed at dividing us and there is no better response to that, than a public showing of unity. It is hoped to show that no matter what party your vote for, where you come from or how you voted in a referendum - there is more that unites us than divides us.

As such you are invited to take part in 'The Great Get Together' by holding events on the 17 and 18th of June (the 16th is the actual anniversary) from street parties and picnics to shared barbecues and community bake offs with the aim of building one of the UK's biggest ever community events.

More information is available from the following website.


The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK government departments and other public organisations. This is done without taking sides and the service is free.

The PHSO have just launched a new website to make it easier for people to find and understand how the PHSO can assist. The website will help get answers to straightforward questions and encourage on line complaints. It also features a complaint checker to help people complain to the right organisation at the right time.


Article 50

I know that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the need for Parliament to give approval to trigger Article 50 has concerned many. My view however, is that we all benefit from an independent judiciary, doing their job free from political control and that this judgement has upheld the supremacy of Parliament.

The European Union (notification of withdrawal) bill is now before Parliament and you can follow its progress and read its short text here

I will be respecting the decision of the majority in the referendum and voting to give the Prime Minister the power to trigger Article 50. I will be following the debate closely and as chair of the Health Select Committee, scrutinising the implications to health, including public health, of Brexit and the Article 50 process.


The Modern Industrial Strategy and the South West

This week the government announced plans for a Modern Industrial Strategy which recognises that, though our economy is strong, its benefits remain unevenly distributed across the UK. You can read more about this here

Rural areas such as the South West have long been seen to be missing out in comparison to the London metropolis and the Northern Powerhouse and I was glad to hear plans for the South West include investment in local transport infrastructure, more flood defences and support for research and innovation. The Green Paper on Building Our Industrial Strategy has now been published and you can view it here

The government is consulting on the plans included in the paper and you can share your views up until the 17th of April 2017. You can find out how to contribute here


Exporting is Great Campaign: Support for International Trade

The PM has now given the most detailed speech we have heard yet on the government's plans for exiting the European Union. Those who were angling for a so called 'soft Brexit' will have been disappointed, but for all of us who wanted some more candid details about the government's post EU direction it was illuminating.

The PM unequivocally stated that we will not remain in the Single Market but provided reassurance that she will push for the greatest possible access to it. Nonetheless, I know many businesses will be now looking to see where future trading opportunities may lie outside of the EU.

Therefore I hope the many thriving enterprises we have in the constituency will be interested in the new government initiative that has been launched by the Department for International Trade. The department have instigated this following research indicating that many firms have the potential to export but do not and that those who do could significantly increase their exports with the right support.

Only 11% of UK businesses currently export and only around 6% of those target high growth economies such as India and China, so there is huge scope for growth in this area.

The initiative looks to support companies who are wishing to grow or secure international trade by connecting businesses with overseas suppliers, helping to search through export opportunities and providing preferential deals from a range of partners. There is also assistance available to help work out which e-marketplaces might be suitable for a business's goods and services.

As part of this campaign the Export Hub truck will be travelling the country and will be in the South West from the 13th until the 17th of March, more details about this will be available in due course via the following website.

To find out more information about the initiative in general please visit the following website.


Government's key objectives during the Brexit negotiations

The Prime Minister has today (17.01.17) clarified the Government's key objectives during the Brexit negotiations, and the principles which will guide it. Theresa May has confirmed that the Government will not seek to be in the single market. She has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal and she has called on the EU to approach these negotiations in the spirit of cooperation, to build a strong partnerships for the future. You can read the Prime Minister's full speech here.
I have also set out the Government's guiding principles and main objectives in the Brexit section of my website.


Pothole Action Fund

Representing a constituency with rural roads and lanes I often receive correspondence from constituents exasperated by potholes. I do appreciate people's irritation on this, however I also recognise the tough job that Devon County Council has in maintaining the largest road network of any local authority in Britain. Nonetheless, decent roads are vital in the countryside where driving is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Therefore it is welcome news that Devon County Council will be receiving £3,192,000 and Torbay Council will get £ 117,000 from the Pothole Action Fund, from which all road users will benefit. This funding is part of a £1.2 billion fund for local roads that the government is distributing to councils to help repair our essential transport links.

To see how many potholes will be filled in your postcode visit the following website
To see an interactive map of how many potholes are going to be filled in 2016/17 in your local authority area visit the following website

Lastly if you want to report a pothole you can do so online to Devon County Council via the following link  and to Torbay Council via this link 

South Hams District Council has secured £1.8m from the Community Housing Fund

In the 2016 Budget, the Government announced it would provide funding for communities affected by second home ownership. Often, second homes stand empty for a large proportion of the time which can affect communities, the demographics of an area and distort local housing markets. The South Hams has just under 4,000 second homes which makes up over 9% of the total households, therefore the impact of second homes is acute in the area.

The Council provided a very robust case requesting a good proportion of the identified fund. I worked closely with South Hams District Councillors, Parliament was lobbied and I tabled a Parliamentary Question on the matter.

We were therefore delighted that our efforts have been recognised and that South Hams District Council will receive a £1.8m boost for affected communities.

Once full details of the scheme have been released, the Council will be in a position to plan for the next steps.


Competition and Markets Authority launch a study into Care Homes

On 5 December, the Competition and Markets Authority launched a study examining care homes for the elderly across the UK.
The study wants to hear about people's individual experiences when choosing a care home and whether or not there is enough protection under the current regulatory and complaints system. It will also look into whether cares homes are fulfilling their obligations under current consumer law.
With 430,000 elderly people in care or nursing homes throughout the UK, it is important that the CMA has a wide range of evidence to draw on when examining any practices which may be unfair. This matters because there have been concerns that those paying for their own care may in some cases also be cross subsidising those whose care is paid by the State. You can find out more about this and how to submit evidence here.


Cross Country Trains

The Managing Director of Cross Country trains, Andy Cooper, came to meet local MPs in response to our concerns about proposals to change the timetable which would involve axing important services. A number of trains which run directly from Newton Abbot, Paignton and Torbay to Birmingham, and on to Manchester, would be lost each weekday. A shortage of new train carriages for the network means Cross Country has chosen to reduce services for this region to relieve overcrowding elsewhere.
Cross Country apologised unreservedly for the lack of publicity given to the consultation, which will impose such drastic cuts to services for us in the South West. The proposed changes will hit our tourism sector and other businesses, as well as cause increased overcrowding and inconvenience for an area of the country already disadvantaged by low investment in rail services. I am totally opposed to the company trying to relieve overcrowding elsewhere in the system at our expense. I urge all constituents to sign the Herald's 'Save our trains' petition, and I will continue to work with colleagues to call on the Department for Transport and the train operator to find a fairer way of tackling overcrowding and improving rolling stock.


Funding for the rail line at Dawlish

The collapse of the line at Dawlish had disastrous consequences for commuters and the South Devon economy. South West MPs have been working together to press upon the government that we are not prepared to see our region isolated and expect to see the investment to protect our vital rail and road network.

Therefore I welcome the Transport Secretary's announcement today of £10 million in funding for the next stage of development work at Dawlish. The money follows on from a further £5 million secured in the last budget in March. The money will go towards preparing a planning submission for the work on the Teignmouth cliffs. I am happy to see that the Government remains committed to strengthening and investing in the South West's infrastructure.

Funding for defibrillators in England

It is fantastic news that the BHF and the Department of Health are working together for a second year to provide £1 million investment to provide hundreds of defibrillators as well as training in CPR to communities across the country.

When someone suffers a cardiac arrest, their heart stops pumping blood around their body and they will die within minutes without treatment. For every minute without defibrillation, a person's chance of survival decreases by around 10 percent. Learning CPR and an increase in publically accessible defibrillators will empower people in the constituency to know what to do in an emergency and save lives. I encourage all organisations to check if they are eligible to apply for the free community package including up to five public access defibrillators and a Call Push Rescue training kit, by visiting: bhf.org.uk/defibengland


SHDC's Local Plan

There is a lot of public interest in what is being proposed for Totnes as part of SHDC's Local Plan consultation, and a lot of rumours have been circulating around what the Council plans to do.

SHDC have issued some very clear statements on the situation in Totnes and have also now released the Youtube video which clearly sets out the process for public consultation that SHDC will be following.


Dartmoor National Park Authority

Dartmoor National Park Authority are taking the first step in reviewing Dartmoor's local plan. There is a current local plan for Dartmoor, but a lot has changed since it was produced.

This first consultation is an opportunity for residents, communities, visitors, businesses and other organisations to offer views on how the new local plan should guide future development on Dartmoor. The local plan will cover issues such as; house extensions, design, the environment, listed buildings, housing, business, farming, tourism, quarrying, and land for development.

The DNPA would like everyone interested in Dartmoor's future to tell them what is important about Dartmoor for them.

Please view or download the consultation paper , where you will see a number of 'Talking Points' they would like you to comment on.

For more information and details of consultation events please click here


Your Future Care

The Your Future Care programme is now underway by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commission Group.

The engagement exercise aims to bring about a consistent model of care across Northern, Eastern and Western Devon (NEW Devon).

Your Future Care proposes changes which will, if adopted, provide care and support in people's homes and in the community, preventing unnecessary admissions and supporting a faster return home for patients in NEW Devon.

For more details visit the CCG's website


New Constituency Boundaries

The independent Boundary Commission published its proposals for new constituency boundaries. The changes equalise constituent numbers across the country, ensuring that a vote in one constituency carries as much weight as one in another.
I welcome the new proposals, which create a much more realistic constituency than the previous draft boundaries. The new constituency will include the wards of Ambrook and Ipplepen in the north east of the region.
Constituents may examine the proposals in more detail, and submit their comments, on the Commission's website here. The Commission will also take local opinion on whether a new name should be proposed for the constituency, and I would be interested to hear whether local people feel 'Totnes' accurately represents the whole area, or whether a new name such as South Devon should be proposed.



Prescribing Advice

Citizens Advice Launch GP Surgery Project

An exciting new project where social advice and information can be found at GP surgeries, has recently been launched. Citizens Advice South Hams are delighted to announce the new one year pilot project in South Hams which will be offering social support to patients.

This project aims to help tackle underlying factors affecting patient well-being. By intervening at this early stage, this service will help to reduce patients from reaching a more critical stage of crisis, therefore reducing the demand on GP and NHS services.

South Hams District Council have funded the project, which means that participating surgeries, Chillington Health Centre and Woolwell Medical Centre, can now offer patients an appointment with an advice specialist in the surgery.

  • Advice and information is available from www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  • Advice and information is also available by calling the Citizens Advice helpline on 03444 111 444 between 9.00am and 4pm, Monday - Friday
  • Citizens Advice South Hams is based at Follaton House, Plymouth Road, Totnes TQ9 7UY. They are open from 10am-1pm and 2-4pm Monday – Thursday and offer a drop in service in Kingsbridge and Dartmouth (Tuesdays 9.30-12.30pm)
  • Information about Citizens Advice is available on www.citizensadvicesouthhhams.org.uk

More Independence for Openreach

Representing a rural constituency I receive a lot of queries from exasperated constituents about broadband in the area and many people highlight difficulties with Openreach, BT's infrastructure division. Indeed, BT have admitted themselves that their customer service is not yet good enough. It remains the case that too many people, and businesses, in counties like Devon continue to be hampered by slow speeds and poor connections and I am clear that connectivity in the countryside must be on a par with urban areas.

I believe we need to see services improve as ensuring high speed digital connectivity is a defining factor in our long term success, allowing us to create new opportunities and growth. However, unless we are better able to hold Openreach to account this is an uphill battle.

Therefore, I am delighted that BT is due to increase Openreach's independence after Ofcom raised concerns about the accountability and transparency of their operation. For a long time now Openreach have been accused of underinvesting in upgrading the network and installing high speed fibre, and Ofcom's insistence that it become a separate company within the BT group will help to provide more customer focus.

Their proposal includes Openreach having its own board with an independent chair and a majority of independent members. Ofcom are running a consultation on this and you can respond with your views via the following link up until the 4th of October.

I know BT have stated that, in line with government policy, they wish to provide every property in the UK with better broadband by 2020 and I do hope this will be the case.

You can read Ofcom's statement on this matter here

You can read BT's plan for these governance and operational changes here

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 APR 2017

Torbay End Street Homelessness Campaign

Thank you to Mark, Tara and John for taking the time to meet with me today to discuss The Torbay End Street Homelessness Campaign's 'Connections week' which runs the week beginning April 24th 2017, where volunteers from the community will go out and survey people sleeping on the streets. They will be trained and supported by experienced...

31 MAR 2017

Neighbourhood Planning

Thank you to Cllr Jacqui Hodgson, Anna Lunk and Kate Wilson for meeting with me today to discuss housing and the Neighbourhood Plans

31 MAR 2017

Community Housing Fund

Thank you to Cllr Simon Wright and David Parkes, Development Specialist at SHDC for taking the time to meet with me today to discuss community housing.

19 JUN 2017

Devon and Somerset Fire Service

Thank you to Chief Officer Lee Howell and his team from the Devon and Somerset Fire Service for visiting Parliament today.

27 APR 2017

Immigrants: Detainees

Written Answer Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, how much her Department has paid in compensation for unlawful immigration detention since figures on such compensation payments were published in 2014-15. Robert Goodwill The Minister for...

26 APR 2017

Immigrants: Detainees

Written Answer Sarah WollastonChair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether procedures have changed as a result of recent successful prosecutions for unlawful immigration detention. Robert GoodwillThe Minister for Immigration The cross-system Detention...

25 APR 2017

Immigration Enforcement Directorate

Written Answers Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when she plans for the Immigration Enforcement Business Plan for 2016-17 to be published. Robert Goodwill The Minister for Immigration The Department's plans for immigration enforcement...

25 APR 2017

Junior Doctors: Conditions of Employment

Written Answers Sarah Wollaston Chair, Health Committee To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment was made prior to the implementation of the junior doctors' contract in 2016 of the additional financial and administrative cost associated with (a) pay protection, (b) additional...

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Sarah's Personal Blog

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Social Care is at a tipping point but increasing funding needed intergenerational fairness (Article also appeared in the Times 19.05.17)

One of the the most striking figures set out by the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, in his recent update to the NHS Forward View was that life expectancy is increasing by five hours a day. This extraordinary success has also driven an unprecedented rise in demand for health and social care to levels which can no longer be met from current spending. The Care Quality Commission is not alone in describing social care as being at a tipping point. In her manifesto, Theresa May has acknowledged that the elastic can stretch no further and promised to increase funding for social care as well as per capita spending on the NHS. The manifesto also includes a much needed boost for capital projects described as 'the most ambitious programme of investment in buildings and technology that the NHS has ever seen'. Funding promises have to be realistic and fair. The Prime Minister is right not to duck the issue of intergenerational fairness in meeting the challenge of funding social care and it would not be fair for the increasing costs of both the NHS and social care to fall entirely on the working age population. The options were never going to be easy but failure to increase spending risked the collapse of social care provision and a downward spiral of NHS performance. Hard choices on the means testing of winter fuel payments and downgrading a triple lock to a double lock on pensions after 2020 are fair if the money raised rescues social care from the brink for those who will need it the most.

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The 2017 Budget Needs to Provide a Lifeline for Social Care and a Plan for the Future (27.02.17)

As the Chancellor finalises his 2017 Budget he can no longer afford to ignore the stark warnings about the impact on individuals and the NHS from the crisis in adult social care. Last year the Care Quality Commission described the fragility of the system as approaching a 'tipping point'. The situation looks set to worsen without an immediate lifeline and one that goes beyond the uneven and inadequate sticking plaster of a 3% increase in council tax precepts. To put this in context, last year's uplift in the precept raised £382m but this was entirely swallowed by the £612m increase in costs from the National Living Wage. Precepts also entrench inequality as those areas least able to raise money also have a greater proportion of residents who are fully dependent on their local authority to fund their social care. The 2017 Budget needs to bring forward the so-called Better Care Fund already planned for later in the spending review and it needs to be 'new' money, not a smoke and mirrors device to transfer funding from an already overstretched NHS.

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Trump Trading on Prejudice (30.01.17)

Donald Trump made no secret of his deeply divisive instincts during his long campaign for the White House. Vile racial and religious stereotyping, misogyny, his support for torture, even parodying those with disabilities. All his prejudices were worn as a badge of honour, displayed from campaign platforms and television studios for months on end.

Locker room talk, we were told, of his boasts of 'grabbing women by the pussy' as voters were assured that the office of Presidency would surround him with wise counsel and bring out the statesman in him. Less than a month since his inauguration, the stark reality must be dawning on Americans, that their choice of President isn't 'draining the swamp' but dragging them into one of his own making. We don't have to join them.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Donald Trump as some oafish 'man baby' impulsively blurting whatever comes into his mind. His actions seem calculated to offend, bully and control.

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The global gag will hit the world's poorest women (26.01.17)

A few days into his Presidency, Donald Trump has signed an executive order dubbed the "global gag rule". It will have the effect of cutting off funding for overseas NGOs whose work is associated in any way with abortion services. This means that many international health workers and organisations, even those who receive part of their funding from other private sources for work or advice linked to abortion services, will have to decide whether or not to continue. These services risk losing crucial funding – meaning cuts to choice based contraception and other health services for the most disadvantaged women worldwide. Because the US is the largest health donor this will have an impact on unwanted pregnancies and could have a knock on effect on other areas of women's health care like screening programmes, prenatal check-ups and support for HIV sufferers.

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My response to the consultation on re-shaping community services (22.01.17)

Following their recent consultation, the South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group has now published its recommendations . These will be put to their governing board when it meets in public on 26.1.17.

The most controversial aspect is that the CCG continues to recommend that several local community hospitals will close as part of their plan to introduce a new model of care. In my constituency that would mean the closure of Dartmouth hospital. Many Paignton residents will also be affected by the closure of their community hospital in the neighbouring Torbay Constituency.

Reading the document I am deeply concerned at the statements on page 24 which imply a lack of support for Dartmouth hospital from local residents and their representatives. This is simply not the case. There is huge support for our local community hospital and gratitude for the dedicated work of the staff. There was however pragmatism that the consultation was likely to result in the closure of the hospital, if nothing else by further undermining the ability of the trust to recruit staff, and therefore a determination to work to make sure that we have a commitment to an effective alternative.

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The current pressures in the NHS (09.01.17)

I wrote the following article for the British Medical Journal (published on 3rd January 2017)

The current pressures in the NHS can be traced back to 2009 and what became known as the Nicholson challenge. In the aftermath of the economic crash this ushered in an unprecedented period of efficiency savings against a headwind of rapidly rising demand and costs. The incoming coalition government then imposed a disruptive and demoralising reorganisation that distracted from the key challenges. Rather than seizing the opportunity to integrate health and social care and to design a sustainable long term financial settlement, the Health and Social Care Act 2012 led to greater fragmentation at a time when our demographic changes demanded a different approach.

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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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