"The Environment Agency published a draft strategy on future flooding and coastal management, trying to take a long term view on the impact of climate change. One of their headline grabbing points was the threat to coastal communities. I'm reminded of my first speech in Parliament where I said that I would be fighting hard to change policies at my department which seemed content for parts of my constituency simply to wash away in the sea. I still am. Our local council has already approved a Shoreline Management Plan which sets out how this area will respond to coastal erosion. I will continue to support this approach.
I recently met a group of small business owners at a roundtable chaired by the Federation of Small Business to discuss local issues which mattered to them, which varied by business. The common theme was workforce supply and skills. Starting your own business takes courage. The government is there to help, particularly through its low interest loans supported by a business mentor. To find out more, check the gov.uk website.
In Westminster, while we are progressing animal welfare with some new legislation, understandably many farmers and landowners are concerned with what is happening on shooting general licences leading to a lack of predator control with some horrific impact on livestock, other wild birds and the threat to crops. Natural England, as the licensing authority, was legally challenged on their approach to general licences and have revoked them, replacing them though many constituents believe in an unsatisfactory way. I'm pleased that the decision on these issues is now back in the control of Ministers. We have sought detailed evidence to help us put forward licences which are fit for purpose and legally robust.
Finally, good luck to all the students starting their GCSEs this week."
"This weekend I'm representing the UK at the G7 Environment Ministers summit in Metz to discuss our joint approach to tackling climate change and the natural environment. Since 2010, the UK's carbon emissions have fallen by a quarter and our use of renewable electricity is at a record high. The East Coast is at the epicentre of the production of non-carbon energy but there is still more to do to tackle the dangers of climate change. As residents near Sizewell and Friston know though, proposed sites for associated infrastructure must be carefully scrutinised for their impact on the local environment. That is why the Government have asked independent experts to advise us on setting a date to achieve net zero emissions and will use their advice to make even more progress in this area. It is my ambition and that of my Ministerial colleagues to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation – and I'm fully focussed on doing that.
As part of the commemorations to mark 70 years of the National Health Service, the NHS Parliamentary Awards were set up. This year I nominated a team of NHS heroes after they saved the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust 3,800 hours by developing virtual robot technology. The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) team, led by Deputy Director Daren Atkins, are up for an award in the Future NHS category for their work in tackling inefficiencies through technology. One example of this are their efforts in developing virtual robots, which work behind the scenes to cancel and reallocate outpatient appointments when a patient texts to cancel via the appointment reminder service. The projected savings for a year are £1.5million, offering an additional 15,000 clinic appointments to patients. Automation is also being used in the cardio-respiratory department to book diagnostic procedures and to handle incoming supplier invoices, reducing the need to print paper and waste expert finance resources. The work that Darren and his team are doing locally is having a really positive impact on patient care. Since July 2018, virtual robots have given 3,800 hours back to the workforce, that's 101 weeks' worth of time to spend supporting patients."
"Our health service would not be the fantastic organisation it is without the staff and volunteers that support it every single day. Last year the NHS Parliamentary Awards were set-up to recognise individuals who go beyond the call of duty to make the NHS a better service, with hard graft, exciting new ideas or simply by putting patients first. It is an opportunity for MPs to nominate those who work in the health service for an award – and this year I'm looking forward to having the chance to nominate some excellent local people and services. If you know of someone that deserves extra recognition then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before the 26th April. For more details see - http://www.nhs70awards.co.uk
Consultations on big energy projects - Sizewell C and energy windfarms - closed at the end of March. There will now be some time till the formal planning applications are made, which means that there will still be further consultation stage run by the Planning Inspectorate with their inquiry. My responses can be seen on my website. The government minister is listening carefully to the concerns about the impacts of projects, especially on a cumulative basis.
The provision of renewable and low carbon energy is very important for the UK and global efforts to reduce climate change but we also need to include the natural and community environment. I think EDF need to reconsider their transport options for marine transfers and do all they can to have a rail led strategy. I have already met the Rail Minister and Network Rail on this matter. I have connected the county council and Network Rail to have detailed discussions on this. Thank you to those residents who have contacted me and whom I have met. I have also spoken met the Theberton and Eastbridge Action Group, including one of their exhibitions.
Finally, whilst helping out with a Great British Spring Clean litter pick in Woodbridge recently, I was delighted to present Jason Alexander with the Prime Minister's Point of Light award, recognising his amazing 'Rubbish Walks' work. Jason's campaign is very simple, every day he goes for a walk, picks up some litter and disposes of it properly – recycling what he can. Well done to Jason and everyone who joined me on the Great British Spring Clean."
"I know readers share my pride that we host the Army in our part of Suffolk– and following the decision by the Defence Secretary, I'm delighted that Rock Barracks will not just remain open but will now house a newly formed regiment with specialist capability. When the MOD first suggested closure back in 2016, I along with Cllr Geoff Holdcroft, immediately met Defence Minister, Mark Lancaster MP, to make the case on why the base should be retained. Not least because of its special characteristics and the fact that it brings enormous economic benefits to Woodbridge and surrounding villages, but also because the planning constraints on the site meant it would not generate the financial income the MOD expected. Instead, Rock Barracks will now house the Army's new Counter-Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear capability, a Defence task currently being undertaken by the RAF Regiment at Honnington. This will see a Royal Engineers squadron move in from its current location in Germany with other elements being added as the capability grows over time. I have had the pleasure of working with members of the units that will be coming together with the new regiments during the horrendous Novichok incidents in Wiltshire. They will be great professionals and warmly welcome to Suffolk.
I was pleased welcome Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss MP, to Felixstowe recently as we visited the Lallemand yeast plant. Lallemand provide yeast to a variety of different industries, including the bread and drinks industry. This was my second visit after I was invited a few years ago when I responded to a debate on Scotch Whisky on behalf of the Government. Scotch Whisky is the biggest single contributor to the UK balance of trade in goods and I'm proud of the role that the Lallemand yeast plant plays in that. Of course, the Port of Felixstowe also helps export the Scotch to over 200 countries.
Finally, good news for Suffolk rail users. Following discussions with the Department for Transport, Greater Anglia have agreed to introduce Delay Repay for delays of 15 minutes or more. The new scheme will come into effect on Monday 1st April 2019. Delay Repay will mean that passengers will be able to claim back 25% of a single fare, irrespective of the cause of the delay between 15 and 29 minutes. Existing compensation arrangements already exist for delays of 30 minutes or over."
"This week my department set out plans to overhaul our waste system, demonstrating our firm commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it. Under our plans, which we are now consulting on, packaging producers will pay the full cost of dealing with their waste and all households will follow a standard set of recycling requirements, making recycling easier. We are also seeking views on the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme - another important step in reducing littering and improving recycling. To incentivise the use of recycled plastic, we are also consulting on plans to introduce a tax on plastic packaging which does not meet a minimum threshold of recycled content. As the Environment Minister, I am absolutely committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse, recycle and cut waste so we can be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.
On a similar note, I was delighted to help launch this year's Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy. The campaign, which runs from March 22nd to April 23rd, will see up to half a million people taking action to clean up streets, parks and beaches across the country. This is a really important initiative and we need to be united in making sure this becomes a habit that everyone gets into on a regular basis, of not allowing litter to be left. I hope local people will get involved by taking part and organising events. For more information or to register an event visit - www.keepbritaintidy.org
Finally, I was pleased to have the privilege of formally opening the new Ipswich Tidal Flood Barrier, a £67m project to help keep the town safe from tidal surges during storms. This new piece of infrastructure will give businesses increased confidence to come and invest here, creating 4,000 extra jobs and making the Waterfront an attractive place. Being a Suffolk MP it is really important to me that the County Town of Suffolk thrives because we in other parts of the County really rely on Ipswich becoming stronger and getting more investment to make sure we have that high quality offer for people to live and work in Suffolk, ensuring the sustainability of our communities."
"Ahead of the final consultation on the energy infrastructure needed for the East Anglia offshore windfarm projects, I met senior executives from Scottish Power Renewables to ask questions on their decision to site the substation in Friston. SPR chose the Friston site in December following a previous period of consultation where they also considered Broom Covert at Sizewell. Neither of the sites they considered were wholly appropriate and it was my suggestion, via the consultation, that SPR and National Grid find an alternative, such as the proposed nuclear site at Bradwell. However, if the Friston site does go-ahead then it is extremely important that its construction be mitigated. I was clear with SPR that they need to find a solution to enable the substation to be dug into the ground to minimise the impact on the environment. You can find out more, including the detail on the public information meetings at - www.scottishpowerrenewables.com/pages/ea_one_north_phase_4_consultation.aspx. I urge local residents to respond to the consultation before it closes on March 26th.
I arranged for CQC inspectors to come to Parliament recently to brief East Anglian Members of Parliament on the turnaround plan for the Mental Health Trust. This follows a CQC inspection in September 2018, where the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust was put into special measures. I'm a little more reassured now they have now recruited a new Chief Operating Officer and Nursing Director and am pleased to hear they are in talks to recruit a new chair. The Trust will now have an oversight meeting led by the CQC every month and each patient referral that is downgraded is now reviewed to make sure it is an appropriate decision. A 24/7 phone line has now also been put in place for patients.
Finally, following the deeply disappointing news that Marks & Spencer plan to close their Felixstowe branch, I met representatives from the company in Parliament this week to urge them to review their decision. Felixstowe is a town on the rise and with jobs, population and investment all increasing in the town, I'm surprised by the timing of their announcement. While I think it is unlikely they will change their mind, particularly given this is one of their smaller stores, I strongly made the case that it should remain open."
"What a start to 2019 with the vote on the EU Withdrawal Agreement taking place on Tuesday. I voted with the Prime Minister in order to deliver on the decision by the British people in 2016. I think it is important we still deliver on that referendum result but it is going to be a challenge to get a deal on which Parliament will agree. The opposition parties are largely only interested in trying to secure a General Election rather than a new deal.
Locally, the third stage of public consultation on Sizewell C is now open. There have been quite a few changes since the last round of consultation so I would encourage you to read and reply to the consultation document which closes on the 29th March (https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/sizewell-c/proposals/stage-3#exhibitions). I attended their public exhibition in Saxmundham last weekend and I'm currently formulating my early thoughts, which I will share shortly with residents, before I reply formally to the consultation. On transport, they have two major options. Either road-led or rail-led. I've said before that I want to see as much construction material come in by rail and sea as possible rather than putting more pressure on our road network so will be looking in detail at the rail-led option, which also includes by-passes and other significant road improvements. Unfortunately, apart from a beach landing facility which will bring in the very biggest of items the consultation document doesn't include a marine option. EDF need to give more detail on why this is the case.
Finally, good news. The Post Office is intending to open an additional branch in Melton. The new 'local style' facility will open in the McColls shop in early February reflecting the Government's commitment to the Post Office network and the Post Office's ambition to open branches in more areas."
"I know many residents are understandably concerned about the proposal from Scottish Power Renewables for a substation on or near to the Suffolk coast, to connect power generated from the East Anglia One offshore array. I responded to their consultation outlining why neither Sizewell nor Friston are appropriate sites. The AONB was declared in the early seventies after the construction of the first nuclear power station at Sizewell. I believe that a nuclear cluster has always been justified on that basis. That, in itself, does not justify the AONB and the area close to Sizewell nuclear facilities automatically being designated as an area for electric infrastructure. The Friston site is similarly not appropriate, although itself not in the AONB it would mean five miles of countryside would have to be dug up for cables to reach the substation. I think it would be best overall if National Grid were to find another site to connect. There is the expectation of another nuclear site at Bradwell which needs a significant upgrade. That project is the ideal candidate. Scottish Power Renewables will now submit its application to the Planning Inspectorate and there will be more opportunity for residents to give their views. I will continue to press the case with Ministers.
As a coastal MP and Environment Minister, I was really pleased to support the second reading of The Fisheries Bill, when it was debated in Parliament. This new legislation which is great news for our fishing communities along the Suffolk Coast sets out our plans to leave the Common Fisheries Policy and take back control of our waters. This Government has always supported the interests of British fishermen, which is why we have increased the quota given to our under-10m fleet by 13% in the last 6 years - and this new legislation will enable us to have far greater control over fishing quotas. Ultimately, the new Bill will allow us to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for the UK.
Congratulations to Woodbridge who received a well deserved Highly Commended Award in the UK's Best High Street category in the Great British High Street Awards. Small Business Saturday was held on the first Saturday in December to highlight the important of supporting our local shops all year round. At this time of year especially, I hope you can you'll join me in buying at least some of your Christmas shopping from the many exciting small businesses that operate in our part of Suffolk."
I have received a large amount of correspondence regarding Brexit in the last week, offering a variety of opinions on what we should do next as a country and how I should vote in Parliament.
"I have already voted so that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29th March 2019. There will not be a second referendum. The 2016 referendum vote was close but decisive, with over 72% of the population expressing a view. That is the highest turnout of voters in nearly 25 years.
I think there has been a huge misunderstanding about the withdrawal agreement published last week. It is not the future trade deal. It is the legal text proposed for the Withdrawal Agreement that sets out a detailed process on leaving the EU and the operational rules for how the implementation or transition period will work in practice. Yes, it contains the so-called backstop on Northern Ireland and it has a new option where we could extend the transition period if we have not agreed the new future trade deal by 2020, rather than use the backstop. Why have this transition period at all? We don't want to disrupt business and jobs by them having to change rules or processes more than once.
But I don't think we will need to use the backstop or extend the transition period as we have already significant progress on the principles for a future trade deal, which are set out in the outline political declaration. This was the more important document published last week. This deal will mean we take back control of our borders, our laws and our money while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom. We are already agreeing the end of freedom of movement, the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals with other countries around the world, zero tariffs in a free trade area for goods, the UK as an independent coastal state on fisheries and no longer part of the Common Fisheries or Agricultural Policies. There is lot more detail but this short paper is being discussed and negotiated intensively this week to produce a much more detailed paper on which Parliament will vote alongside the withdrawal agreement. This future deal will deliver the referendum outcome.
I will continue to support the Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is handling one of the most challenging and complex negotiations any PM has had to face. Her leadership and resilience are key to securing that comprehensive future trade deal."
"This weekend Suffolk will fall silent as we pay tribute to those who have died in the service of their country. This Sunday our traditional season of remembrance will take on added poignancy as we also commemorate the centenary of the November armistice, which ended the First World War. I will be in Felixstowe, paying my respects at St John's Church and the memorial on the seafront. Local representatives will be laying a wreath on my behalf in some other towns in Suffolk Coastal. I'd also like to thank all the villages and towns that will join the beacon-lighting on Sunday evening, which is a very special way for our county to unite. Remembrance Sunday is also an opportunity not only to remember those who died in war but also to show our gratitude to our serving men and women who do so much to keep us safe. My heartfelt thanks to them all.
Last week in Parliament, the Chancellor delivered the Budget. He outlined how the economy is in a better shape than forecast, that we no longer need to borrow for day to day spending - and that thanks to the careful stewardship of the economy there are more people working than ever before. The economy is forecast to continue to grow - enabling us to deliver our election manifesto pledge one year early in allowing people to keep more of their money - as well as increasing investment in the NHS and other public services. I was especially pleased about his announcement on business rates, which will knock a third off the bills of many of our small and independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. After meetings last year with the Chancellor that helped generate the £300m business rates relief fund which councils could use to help local businesses, I'm delighted that the Chancellor continues to listen to the voices of Suffolk Coastal businesses.
Finally, I attended a meeting with representatives of Saxmundham Town Council last week to hear from Greater Anglia about the future of Saxmundham station. This follows the devastating fire which took place earlier this year. The good news is that Greater Anglia intends to restore the station as a one-storey building with an indoor waiting room, which I'm sure will be welcomed by passengers and residents. At the same time Greater Anglia have also agreed to improve and resurface the car-park, which will help local traffic. Thank you to Greater Anglia for listening."
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