"It was great to be back in Suffolk last week as I attended the Suffolk Show. Unfortunately, I have been in hospital recently. I had an ear infection which turned into something quite serious, leading to an operation. I am still getting treatment from district nurses as I continue my recovery but it was great to get back out and about at the show and speak to so many people, including meeting representatives of the National Farmers Union.
Regular readers will remember that I have written before about the potential impact on our local communities of the proposed energy projects on the Suffolk coast including impacts on the countryside and disruption to local residents. I completely understand the concern from those that live in Leiston and villages nearby in regard to the proposals for electricity substations for the wind farms and interconnector cables. In addition to Sizewell C, the cumulative impact of these additional projects is substantial and will need to be very carefully assessed and it is important that relevant and robust mitigation measures are put in place. I met the Energy Secretary, Greg Clark in March to discuss this and I am in the process of setting up a meeting, including our local councillors, with Ministers and officials from the department in order to share the concerns of residents.
It is World Environment Day this week. I am really proud to be Environment Minister when we are making good progress on improving our environment – air quality, better water, nature and tackling global issues too. I am always grateful to those who volunteer (it is Volunteers' Week too) and pick up litter and plastic. We continue to bring new laws into effect which make it easier to reduce these problems and make it easier for councils to take appropriate action. I have a particular passion for reducing unnecessary use of plastic and I am pleased that businesses are responding to the calls of government and consumers to improve.
Finally, I wanted to draw reader's attention to the National Rural Crime Survey which is asking people that live or work in rural communities to feedback their experiences of rural crime. This is an issue that often comes up when I conduct my constituency tours – and so it is important that people respond. The survey will then help provide a picture of what has improved, what challenges remain and what more the police can do to support the most isolated parts of Suffolk. The survey is open until this Sunday, 10th June. You can have your say here - http://www.nationalruralcrimenetwork.net/research/internal/2018survey/"
"I'm grateful to the Clinical Commissioning Groups in East Anglia for agreeing a new six-year deal with the ambulance service which we see an investment in an extra 330 staff and 160 ambulances over the next three years. It has taken considerable leadership to increase the funding for the ambulance service and I am pleased to have worked towards this. I hope it will make a considerable difference, particularly in rural areas, though I'm conscious it can still be challenging recruiting paramedics. The main problem is still about the length of time ambulances have to wait at several hospitals to transfer patients. I have raised this issue with NHS leadership and the Health Minister.
I'm pleased that my department has this week launched our Clean Air Strategy designed to cut air pollution, save lives and leave our environment in a better state than we found it. The strategy focuses primarily on particulate matter, which affects breathing. The biggest contributor to this is the domestic burning of wood and coal which contributes 38% of UK emissions. It is important that we do all we can to reduce the use of smokey coal and wet wood, which causes damaging particulate matter but keep smokeless coal and dry, seasoned wood. As a result, we will legislate to ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels and stoves will be available for sale. The strategy will also focus on reducing ammonia from farming – which is responsible for 88% of ammonia emissions – by requiring farmers to invest in the infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions. Farmers will be supported to achieve this through the new system of public money for public goods. The new strategy, which is now out for consultation, is a key part of our 25 Year Plan to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
Finally, I am continuing to press Greater Anglia to suitably re-establish Saxmundham railway station. The station building, seating and information boards continue to be fenced off following the serious fire in February. Greater Anglia are currently awaiting a surveyors report before being able to decide what they can do to repair the station but they assure me that any future options will be discussed with local stakeholders. I will update local residents when I have more information."
"At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the Prime Minister announced our intention to ban the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds and called on other Commonwealth countries to join us. Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world, which is why protecting the marine environment is central to our agenda. In order to eliminate these items from use the Government will work with industry to develop alternatives and ensure there is sufficient time to adapt. This builds on our 25 year environment plan, which I am taking forward as Environment Minister, where we said we would target the elimination of avoidable plastic waste. We will also be consulting later this year on our plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for all single-use drinks containers - another important step in reducing littering and improving recycling. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use but it is essential we take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans. Furthermore I recently announced a £200,000 fund for scientists to explore how tiny plastic particles from tyres and synthetic materials enter our waterways and oceans and the impact they have on marine life.
I wrote last time how proud I was as Suffolk's first female MP to attend the unveiling of the first statue of a female in Parliament Square, Suffolk's very own Millicent Fawcett. However, it is not just in Westminster that celebrations are taking place. The UK Parliament's Vote 100 programme is helping groups from all over the country to hold EqualiTeas. Running between 18th June-2nd July EqualiTeas are a chance for any group anywhere in the country to come together to share, debate and celebrate women's right to vote, over a cup of tea and a slice of cake. I am writing to all the WI groups in Suffolk Coastal to urge them to take part. I can think of no-one better than the Women's Institute, with its unique role in expanding opportunities for women and who also recently celebrated its centenary, to help mark this historic event."
"Regular readers will recall that following Felixstowe Academy's latest Ofsted inspection which declared the school as 'Inadequate' and placed it into 'Special Measures', I called for AET to be removed as the Academy sponsor. I also set up petition, signed by 2546 local people, which I formally presented to Parliament this week. The National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, has already issued a pre-termination warning letter to AET, which is the first stage of the process that can lead to securing a new organisation to run the school. We need to get new arrangements in place as quickly as possible, so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership for the benefit of the children of Felixstowe and I am working in Parliament to try and make sure that happens as quickly as possible.
Congratulations to the 'Renaissance of East Anglia Fishing Campaign', whose work was highlighted by neighbouring MP, Peter Aldous, in a debate in Westminster last week. It was an all Suffolk affair because as Defra Minister, I was responding on behalf of the Government. Brexit presents us with a once in a generation opportunity to reshape the future of fisheries in the UK and I am encouraged by the passion and enthusiasm of the people throughout East Anglia to build up their industry for the benefit of their community. The Government's future vision for fisheries will be laid out in a White Paper followed by a Fisheries Bill, which will give us the legal powers necessary to manage our fisheries in the future. By December 2020 the UK will be negotiating fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state outside of the Common Fisheries Policy.
As the first ever women to be elected as a Member of Parliament in Suffolk, I was extremely proud to attend the unveiling of the first female statue in Parliament Square this week. Aldeburgh's very own Millicent Fawcett, pioneer of women's suffrage. The statue marks the centenary of voting rights being extended to women under the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the ability for women to stand for Parliament for the first time under the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918."
"Beach cleans are a regular feature along our special coastline. Big thanks to Adnams for again encouraging a good turn out and I know there are other regulars doing a good turn week in week out with a special mention for Alex Goodchild, a young man who paddles in his canoe collecting litter. The government is doing its bit to tackle the scourge of plastic waste and our latest initiative is to support a deposit return scheme for drinks, subject to consultation later this year. I visited Scandinavia and Germany late last year to see their schemes and understand in detail how they work. The consumer end is very similar but the processing and financing varies significantly. I really hope this will reduce littering and improve recycling with cleaner streets, countryside and seas as the result.
Reducing plastics in the marine environment is a key focus for the UK in hosting the Commonwealth Summit next week. 53 nations are coming together to consider key issues where together we can have a greater impact on reducing such pollution. I have been encouraging other Commonwealth nations, including visiting Kenya and Uganda, to join us in our ambitious proposals on reducing use of plastic bags, removing unnecessary microbeads from products and improving recycling of plastic.
I recently met the Energy Secretary of State, Greg Clark, to share concerns of the community in and near Leiston regarding the proposals for electricity substations for the wind farms and interconnector cables. In addition to Sizewell C, the cumulative impact of these additional projects is substantial and will need to be assessed very carefully. I will work closely with our councils and local communities as this progresses."
"I met the Secretary of State for Local Government, Sajid Javid last week to discuss the good news that Suffolk's bid to the Housing Infrastructure Fund has successfully reached the next stage. Late last year I wrote a letter in support of Suffolk County Council's scheme for significant improvement along the A12 corridor between the A14 and A1214. The Government will now work with the County Council to help develop the business case for these highway works. This is a clear recognition from Government that the right infrastructure improvement works need to be in place whilst we build the 2,000 much needed new homes at Adastral Park.
Talking of roads, I'm delighted that the Department of Transport has this week allocated £2.5m of extra funding to Suffolk County Council to help repair Suffolk's highways. The recent winter weather has caused numerous potholes to appear and this additional money will help ensure that they are fixed.
Our NHS staff work incredibly hard, day in, day out, to care for Suffolk patients and deserve a pay rise. Due to the Government's balanced approach to the economy, I am delighted that the Health Secretary has been able to confirm a rise of at least 6.5% - and up to 29% depending on current pay points - for our hard-working nurses and other NHS staff. As a result, the lowest earning NHS staff such as porters, cleaners and hospital caterers will see their wages rise by 15 per cent over the next three years.
Finally, I was pleased to welcome students from the University of Suffolk to Westminster recently. Following their tour of the Palace of Westminster, I spoke to them about my role as Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal and Defra Minister. They were keen to talk and hear more about our environment, including what we can all do to reduce our plastic consumption."
"Regular readers will know that I have been working hard with local councillors to try and minimise the length of time Woods Lane is closed - and last year I called for longer working hours to shorten the closure period. It was originally anticipated by Bloor Homes that the road would be out of action until mid-April but by the time you read this it should now be re-opened or very shortly re-opened. Ahead of the phase two closure which started in January, Bloor committed to those longing working hours, which has shortened the closure. To their credit, the County Council has been in regular contact with Bloor and their contractors to ensure they kept up with the pace of work required. Late last year I met Cllr Jane Storey about the need to assess transport infrastructure for the future. The roads into Melton, Woodbridge and the peninsula from the A12 are clearly at capacity and will need to be addressed.
The latest round of the Government's £40m Coastal Communities Fund is now open for projects and organisations in Suffolk Coastal to bid into. In previous years Suffolk Coastal District Council and Felixstowe Forward have benefitted from the scheme to help promote tourism on the East Coast and to help rejuvenate Felixstowe. As in previous bidding rounds, the aim of the fund is to support economic development, delivering sustainable growth and jobs. The deadline is April 30th though the Government are also looking to fund a small number of projects which are ready to go and can be fast-tracked, with a closing date of April 2nd. For more information see - https://www.gov.uk/.../publi.../coastal-communities-fund-round-5
Finally, I'm pleased to see the significant strengthening of the LINK cash machine programme, set out in their annual report, which will help ensure consumers in remote and rural areas will get access to the cash they need. Last month, the LINK Board announced a series of measures designed to maintain and rebalance the UK's ATM networks – shifting incentives from deploying multiple ATMs in city centre to rural communities. This includes protecting free ATMs one kilometre or more from the next free cash machine - important for residents along the Suffolk coast."
"I have given up something slightly different for lent this year – and have joined a group of Conservative MPs in Parliament giving up single use plastics. I have started by carrying around my reusable water bottle, which fits into my handbag, so I can make sure I don't buy any unnecessary drinks in plastic bottles. As Environment Minister, I have been working with a number of different organisations to try and increase the number of places where you can fill up your water bottle. Most coffee shops will do it for you if you ask but I am also trying to get more refill points into railway stations, airports and other transport hubs. We all know from watching Blue Planet 2 what damage single use plastics can do to our environment and it is my aim to reduce the use of plastics as part of the Government's 25 year Environment Plan.
Sticking with the environmental theme, it is almost time for the Great British Spring Clean, which is taking place over the weekend of the 2 – 4 March 2018. Last year's event was a nationwide triumph and I am sure this year will be just the same. As the Litter Minister my message is not to drop it in the first place but these big community cleans are a great way of bringing people together to tidy up our towns and villages. So far there are events organised in Felixstowe and Dunwich. You can find out more or register you own clean at - http://www.keepbritaintidy.org/get-involved/support-our-campaigns/great-british-spring-clean
The latest Ofsted report into Felixstowe Academy is damning. It declares it as an 'Inadequate' school and placed it into 'Special Measures'. It notes that outcomes for pupils are below the government's floor standards; that there is a culture of bullying at the school; that too many pupils are persistently absent; and that the support provided by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) has been ineffective in helping the school to improve. It is time for AET to go. We need to get new arrangements in place as quickly as possible, so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership for the benefit of the children of Felixstowe. I am escalating this within the Department of Education and am meeting the Regional Commissioner to accelerate changes for the school. To this end, I have started a Parliamentary Petition calling on AET to go. You can add your voice to the petition here –
"I'm delighted that the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling recently gave the go-ahead for track upgrades at the Ely North rail junction, which once completed will expand capacity right across East Anglia, meaning fewer delays for passengers and opportunities to get more freight on to the railway – crucial for the Port of Felixstowe. The railway junction at Ely, which connects East Anglia to London, has become a busy bottleneck forcing trains to wait for others to pass. Railway improvements need to happen at Ely in order to free up capacity on the rest of line – meaning more freight from the Port of Felixstowe can go via rail instead of road. Chris also visited the port to formally opened the new container yard.
Talking of the Port one of the reasons why Felixstowe won Port Operator of the Year 2017 is because of their commitment to the environment and reducing Co2 emissions. As Environment Minister, I was therefore delighted to announce the winner of the Port's Environmental Award recently, which this year went to the Glove Use Reduction Project. In the week after the Government published the 25 Year Environment Plan focussed on reducing waste, I'm delighted that here in Felixstowe we already have a company committed to taking a more thoughtful approach to the use of resources.
I have been campaigning to improve our ambulance service ever since I became your MP – and had been liaising with Ambulance Service for them to come to Parliament in March to give MPs an update on their turnaround plan. However, following the concerning dossier of response time delays I have requested a far more urgent meeting so MPs can understand the present challenges and hold the ambulance service to account. I welcome the intervention made by the Health Minister last week who has ordered a risk summit to review the recent performance of the service.
65 years ago this week - on the 31st January 1953 - the North Sea flood caused massive devastation to the East Coast. 50 people lost their lives in Suffolk as the storm gouged sand dunes in Thorpeness, breached the seawall at Aldeburgh, flooded the train station in Woodbridge and breached sea defences at Felixstowe with further impacts up and down the coast at Shingle Street, Orford and Bawdsey. I attended a service at St John's Church in Felixstowe at the weekend where I heard very moving personal testimonies from the survivors. It is important we remember those who died and recognise the courage shown by those that carried out the rescue. Since that fateful night a lot of work has been done to improve the protection along our coastline with major investment in our coastal defences and early warning systems."
"Last week the Prime Minister formally launched the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan – which outlines steps for a cleaner, greener Britain – with avoidable plastic waste eliminated by the end of 2042. In my capacity as Environment Minister, it is a plan my colleagues and I have been working on for some time and I'm grateful to the Prime Minister for reappointing me last week, which will enable me to press on and help implement the plan. I am also incredibly proud of the global leadership the Prime Minister is showing to tackle this important issue.
Waste is choking our oceans, despoiling our landscapes, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and scarring our habitats. During the recent Great British Beach Clean Up– I saw first-hand in Aldeburgh the amount of litter that blights our landscape. The Marine Conservation Society found 718 pieces of litter for every 100 metre stretch of beach surveyed and of this, rubbish from food and drink made up at least one fifth. Which is why our plan outlines proposals to reduce our use of the plastics which contribute to pollution and also includes broader steps to encourage recycling and the more thoughtful use of resources.
Our plan will extend the hugely successful 5p carrier bag charge to all retailers in England; encourage supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles to give consumers the choice to make greener decisions; and promote the use of less damaging plastic packaging. The plan will also inject new funding into plastics innovation through a bid into the government's £7 billion research and development pot; encourage industry to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products; and government will also look at how the tax system or charges could further reduce the amount of waste we create. A call for evidence on how to reduce the use of single-use plastics will begin next month.
It is the Government's mission to leave our environment in a better state than we found it – but improving the environment will take individual as well as collective action – our plan will guide each and all of us to do what is right."
Thank you for visiting my website. It is my privilege to serve as your Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal. Please do get in touch using the contact form or email me (details below).
Sign the petition to remove the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) from the management of Felixstowe Academy so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership for the benefit of pupils.
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