"New legislation to deliver a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations was introduced in Parliament yesterday by my departmental colleague, Michael Gove. The Agriculture Bill sets out how farmers will in future be paid for "public goods", such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding. This will replace the current EU subsidy system of Direct Payments, which is ineffective and pays farmers based on the total amount of land farmed. The current payments are skewed towards the largest landowners and are not linked to any specific public benefits with the top 10% of recipients receiving almost 50% of total payments and the bottom 20% receiving just 2%. In its place, a new Environmental Land Management system will start from next year. Under our new system, farmers who provide the greatest environmental benefits will secure the largest rewards. Importantly we will work together with farmers to design, develop and trail the new approach. There will also be a seven year transition period, in which payments will still be made, to enable farmers to invest in new technologies and methods that boost productivity - allowing for a smooth and gradual move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, laying the foundations for a Green Brexit.
My Government Department continues to be one of the busiest in Westminster as we continue our campaign to improve animal welfare. Over the summer we announced a ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales in England. The ban will mean anyone looking to buy or adopt a puppy or kitten must either deal directly with the breeder or with one of the nation's many animal rehoming centres. This step follows a commitment by the Prime Minister to crack down on cruel puppy farms. After the consultation on electric shock collars, Michael Gove has also announced that we will proceed with this but we will exempt those collars used for fencing, used by owners to give animals freedom but keep them safe from wandering off onto the highway. This is a sensible outcome and thank you to everyone who responded.
Finally, I'm pleased that Greater Anglia is investing in more ticket machines for its stations with Melton station set for a machine within the next two months. These are much needed facilities for passengers who can take advantage of advanced purchase rates and pick up tickets bought on-line. The information from Greater Anglia follows my request for a repair to Woodbridge's machine, which I'm assured is now in full working order."
"I met the Energy Minister, Claire Perry MP recently to convey residents' concerns on the Scottish Power Renewables proposal for a substation near the village of Friston. I was joined at the meeting by Councillors Geoff Holdcroft and Andrew Reid as well as the Heads of Planning from both the District and County Councils. The proposed energy generation and transmission projects suggest that our small bit of Suffolk will be responsible for a quarter of the country's electricity supply in the 2030s. In addition to Sizewell C, the cumulative impact of huge pieces of highly visible infrastructure, with no additional local jobs once built, without changes would clearly be visible on our flat landscape and be unacceptable. As Scottish Power Renewables have decided to place their substation at the very end of their corridor of search in Friston, 5 miles of countryside will needlessly have to be dug up for cables to reach the substation and there may be multiple huge buildings. We spoke about other options that could reduce the impact, including moving the proposed transmitters elsewhere to other energy hubs. The Minister has taken this back to her department to consider carefully. She cannot express a view else she will have to remove herself from the decision making process. I will keep working with councillors and officials on this important issue.
Before Parliament broke up for the summer, I was delighted to welcome the SouthGen Community Group to Westminster to celebrate their hard-work in obtaining the former community hospital for the benefit of the local community, including for new affordable houses. Representatives of Hastoe Housing Association and NHS Property Services also attended the reception, who alongside the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership have worked together to make this achievement possible. The Save Our Southwold campaign engaged local residents and its continued work as SouthGen is a great example to other local groups around Suffolk and the rest of the country.
Finally, I'm sure the recent good weather has encouraged you to seek refreshment at your local pub. We have so many great pubs in Suffolk Coastal (over a hundred) – and as a dedicated constituency MP, I have visited every one. But I would like your help! I have the chance to nominate one of our fantastic pubs for the Parliamentary Pub of the Year award – and would like to hear from you which one I should nominate and why. The main criteria for nomination is that the pub are great at what they do. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org before the 7th September."
"Aside from the World Cup, Brexit continues to dominate the national conversation as we get ready to leave the EU on the 29th March next year. This week the Prime Minister set out her detailed plans for the next stage of the negotiation with Brussels, which honours the referendum result. Despite some sensationalist headlines and Ministerial resignations, we will take back control of our borders, with an end to free movement. We will take back control of our money, with no more vast annual sums paid to the EU and we will take back control of our laws, ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It's all coming home! The proposal also contains a commitment to maintain a common rule book for goods underpinned by our determination to maintain high standards in consumer and employment rights and importantly, environmental standards. This will enable the creation of a UK-EU free trade area for goods which will ensure both frictionless trade with the EU and the freedom to strike new trade deals around the world.
The Government has also set out in detail our post-EU fisheries policy which means that for the first time in 40 years access to UK waters will be under our control and for the benefit of British fishermen, especially important for the under 10 fishing fleet along the Suffolk coast. I am sure this will be highly welcomed and I encourage local fishermen to give their views on the consultation, which can be accessed via the gov.uk website.
I wrote previously on my formal presentation of the Felixstowe Academy petition signed by 2,599 people calling for the removal of the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET). I met Education Minister, Nick Gibb MP, recently, to discuss this further. It was a very positive meeting and he shares my concerns about the leadership of the school. I am keen 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 working in Parliament to try and make sure that happens as quickly as possible."
"I enjoyed the Suffolk Show. It was my first trip out as, unfortunately, I have been in hospital recently with 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 out and about. I am still handling parliamentary work with my team and back in Westminster, I hosted another meeting in Parliament for the Chief Executive of the East of England Ambulance Trust to update MPs on the Independent Service Review – to continue to improve ambulance response times - and the Serious Incidents review. It was good to have Dr Ed Garrett, who negotiates the contract on behalf of all CCGs there, which recently announced plans to increase the funding for the ambulance service from £213.5m in 2017/18 to £225m in 2018/19 rising again to £240m in 2019/20. Dr Brown from NHS Improvement also attended. It was confirmed at the meeting that the biggest increase in paramedic numbers as a result of this investment would be in Suffolk and Norfolk, which is very welcome news. There was further good news on staff retention – which is now much, much better. The Chief Executive also gave assurances that they are continuing to reduce the number of rapid response vehicles that stop the clock on response times but that are then unable to transport patients to hospital – and instead invest in 160 double staffed ambulances. This was one of the most positive meetings on the subject I have attended – and it seems that everything is coming together to continue to improve the service.
I also voted to make progress on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Too many MPs and Lords still don't accept the result. Nearly two years after the country voted to leave the EU, it is important that we allow the Government to negotiate the best deal.
Finally, I'm looking forward to the 2nd annual Suffolk Day, taking place next Thursday. The brainchild of EADT contributor, Mark Murphy, Suffolk Day takes place on the 21st June each year – the longest day – to mark our status as the sunrise coast. Suffolk Day aims to recognise and celebrate all that is great about Suffolk - and my goodness do we have a lot to shout about. With the success of our local economy based on tourism, I hope that Suffolk Day will develop as a useful fillip for our businesses and a fun-filled day for local residents."
"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.
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 - 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. 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."
"I'm delighted that Ipswich and Colchester Hospitals will receive a huge £69 million capital investment to improve services for patients. The additional cash, announced recently by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will enable the transformation of buildings and services as the two hospitals merge creating the new East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust. My recent meeting with the Chief Executive of the two hospitals, Nick Hulme was the latest in a series of updates where I have been pressing for assurances that the need to fix Colchester Hospital would not detract from the clinical care for patients of Ipswich Hospital. I'm satisfied that has been the case and I recognise the significant benefits this merger will bring.
Thank you to the 2,400 parents and residents who have signed my petition to remove the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) from running Felixstowe Academy, after Ofsted rating the school as 'Inadequate' and placing it into 'Special Measures'. I will present the petition to the House of Commons in the next fortnight. I recently met the National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, who has subsequently issued a pre-termination warning letter to AET. This is the first stage of the process that can lead to securing a new organisation to run the school. While the EADT reported this as reducing funding for the school, I can assure readers this is not the case but is a warning to AET. I will shortly be meeting the Education Minister to go through the situation in detail and I will also be raising the concerns about the reduction of choice of key A level subjects. I intend to meet AET with the National Schools Commissioner to focus on rapid improvement in the short term. The pace of change must be increased in order to help the young people of Felixstowe Academy fulfil their potential. Ensuring that students who are due to sit their GCSE exams shortly are fully prepared must remain a priority.
Finally, good news for cyclists and motorists that the government has given a further £2.5m cash to Suffolk County Council to fix potholes. The recent winter weather has caused numerous potholes to appear and this additional money should help ensure that they are fixed quickly."
"It was great to welcome the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd to Felixstowe Port recently, as she came to see the successful Border Force operation that takes place here and talk to frontline staff. As well as dealing with potential threats to our border and ensuring the smooth flow of 4,000 lorries in and out of the port each day, Border Force have an important role in stopping illegitimate and counterfeit products getting through, which not only rips off the consumer and undermines legitimate business but is often used to fund criminal activity. The work done by Border Force to protect us and to stop illegal activity is appreciated by everyone.
Last month, I wrote about my concerns on the latest Ofsted report into Felixstowe Academy, which declared it an 'Inadequate' school and placed it into 'Special Measures'. As a result of that I set up a Parliamentary petition which has now been signed by over 1,200 people calling on the Academies Enterprise Trust who run the school to go, so the school can have a fresh start under new leadership. These are precious years in a child's life - and I don't want parents to have to drive past an inadequate school to get to another for their children to have a good education. A report is currently being drafted by the Schools Commissioner to inform Ministers about a way forward.
Finally, 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/government/publications/coastal-communities-fund-round-5"
"Today marks the first day of Lent and I will be giving up something slightly different this year. I'll be joining a group of Conservative MPs in Parliament who will try to give up single use plastics. I am starting by carrying around my reusable water bottle, which fits into my handbag, so I can avoid buying 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 so before you pledge to give up alcohol or chocolate this Lent, I want to challenge you and all EADT readers to see what plastics you can give up - and see just what a difference it can make to our environment.
The latest Ofsted report into Felixstowe Academy was published this week and it 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. I have been on the case with AET for some years to try and improve the performance of Felixstowe Academy and thought things were getting better. However, when I saw their provisional results and their progress 8 results in particular last summer, with the final results published in January this year, it showed to me that the Academy was going backwards and that AET was not giving the leadership and support to the teachers in order to provide the best for the children.
That's why I met the Education Minister last month to discuss my concerns and why I am meeting AET next week. That was before I knew about the report coming out and I will escalate this within the Department of Education. The time for AET running Felixstowe Academy is over. 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. To this end, I have started a Parliamentary Petition calling on AET to go. I have heard from a small number of parents so far but please add your voice by signing the petition at - http://theresecoffey.co.uk/petitions/"
"Happy New Year!
In 2018 we commemorate two totemic events - 100 years since the end of the Great War and of women getting the vote. As the first women to ever be elected to Parliament in Suffolk – I'm incredibly proud that a statue of Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, who was born and raised in Aldeburgh – and part of the great Garrett family – will be erected in Parliament square this year. The first statue there of a woman.
I hope 2018 will also a big year for improving our road infrastructure. Late last year I added my support to the business case being developed by Suffolk County Council for the Suffolk Energy Gateway, the new road to by-pass the four villages along the A12. We now await the final decision from the Department of Transport. I also welcome the fact that the A14 has been marked as a potential expressway in the Strategic Road Network Report which should help us sort out some of the congestion points along the route.
Talking of roads - ahead of the phase 2 closure of Woods Lane which started on Monday, Bloor Homes committed to extended working hours on site, which should help reduce the length of the closure. Following a public consultation Bloor have agreed to extend their working hours to 730am – 8pm Monday – Friday and 730am – 4pm on Saturday and Sunday from the normal working hours of the Phase 1 closure. The response to the consultation did not support 24-hour working due to the impact on residents in the immediate vicinity. I'm pleased Bloor have listened to our concerns and although I recognise any closure will be incredibly frustrating for local residents, I'm confident from this extension in hours that the works will be completed more quickly.
Finally, the Secretary of State for the Environment and my departmental colleague, Michael Gove, last week set out our plans for the way farming subsidies will work post Brexit. The policy is designed to create certainty for famers over the medium term with guaranteed EU level subsidies until 2022. Our future plans will also see farmers rewarded for providing 'public goods' such as planting woodland, boosting wildlife, improving water quality and recreating wildflower meadows – all part of our policy to make sure our environment is even better protected as we leave the EU."
"In the early hours of Friday morning the Prime Minister secured an historic agreement with the European Union, which brings to an end the first phase of Brexit negotiations. The agreement secures the rights of the three million EU citizens living here and the million British citizens living in the EU; it represents a fair settlement in terms of money - the so called 'divorce bill'; and maintains the common travel area within the island of Ireland.
This agreement represents significant progress in the Brexit negotiations – the exact opposite of the picture that has been painted by parts of the national media in recent weeks. I'm grateful to the Prime Minister and our negotiating team for all their hard work in getting the best deal for Britain.
There has been lots of talk about our future financial obligations both during the referendum campaign and during the negotiations – but following a rigorous assessment by our negotiators the Government expects our final bill to be significantly below the £50bn - £100bn predictions that have been talked about in the media. Importantly the 'divorce bill' is money that we would have paid anyway had we stayed in the EU – but as we leave and pay off our commitments there will be significantly more sums of money to spend on our priorities. Including – and whisper it quietly – the NHS. Although I'm not committing to a figure on the side of a big red bus.
Now the first phase of Brexit has been agreed we can move on to detailed negotiations on other issues, including our future trade deal. This is of significant importance to our part of the country and crucial for Felixstowe as we need to ensure we can continue to trade freely through the port. The success of Felixstowe Port post-Brexit is an important strategic issue that affects not only the port itself but the many local businesses whose business relies on it. I'm confident that with the planning that's happening within Government we will avoid significant issues at Felixstowe.
As this is my last column of the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers a Happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I hope you have a fantastic time with family and friends."
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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