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It has been a busy end to the year working on your behalf in Westminster and East Devon. I have been out and about across the constituency, holding advice surgeries, visiting schools and businesses, and getting East Devon’s issues in front of government ministers.
Here is a flavour of some of my activities both across East Devon and at Westminster. If you would like to stay up to date, make sure you follow me on Twitter, ‘like’ me on Facebook, watch some of my speeches on YouTube and check me out on Instagram.
With a very happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year.
Putting local matters first
I would like to congratulate the brilliant campaign to save the invaluable St John’s Court mental health facility in Exmouth.
We met the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock earlier this year to discuss the site’s future.
Hugo and local campaign team celebrate saving St John's Court, on a balmy December morning!
Lobbying the Health Secretary to save St John's Court with Dot Taylor
At the fantastic Budleigh Health and Wellbeing Hub with the Health Secretary
Once again, when it comes to health in East Devon, this has been about the decision makers getting together to deliver real and positive results for the local area.
Asking Health Ministers to confirm Ottery St Mary Hospital will not close
I questioned Department for Health and Social Care Ministers in Parliament on the future of Ottery St Mary Hospital (as reported by the Sidmouth Herald).
It is great to get firm reassurance that the hospital has a sustainable future in delivering the care and services the local community needs.
Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock respond to my question
Visiting St Martin’s Primary in Cranbrook with the Education Secretary to discuss school funding
Yet another Secretary of State visited East Devon, with Education Secretary Damian Hinds coming to St Martin’s Primary at Cranbrook.
I fully support Devon County Council’s efforts in lobbying government to improve Devon schools’ funding for our most vulnerable youngsters.
I also visited Exeter Airport with Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg, shortly after news broke that Flybe is up for sale.
Discussing the future of Exeter Airport and Flybe
One cannot understate Flybe’s importance to Exeter, Devon and the wider region, employing almost 1,000 people at Exeter Airport and accounting for two thirds of its passenger traffic.
I called on Treasury Ministers to urgently look at Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates for UK domestic flights, which you can watch here. APD is in effect charged twice on domestic flights, with the UK rate comparatively punitive compared with other major European nations.
With Councillors Ian McKenzie-Edwards and Sheila Kerridge in Sidmouth for the procession through the town to commemorate the end of WWI
Laying a wreath for our fallen in Exmouth
I was privileged to be invited once again to participate in the Remembrance Service in Exmouth. This was I believe the seventeenth year in a row that I have laid a wreath on behalf of all of the people of East Devon.
Christmas cheer! Handing over toys to Jeff Merrett MBE, Chairman of Devon charity Dream-A-Way
I also met with John Merrett from Devon charity Dream-a-Way to hand over toys from the British Toy and Hobby Association's Christmas Reception in Parliament.
Dream-A-Way has been making a difference to Devon’s children and adults with disabilities since 1993, providing grants towards holidays and arranging fun days.
You can read more about the work of Dream-a-Way here.
With a constituent at my advice surgery in Exmouth discussing the ongoing Access All Areas campaign run by Guide Dogs
Celebrating Small Business Saturday at Greendale Farm Shop
Stopping by TSB's annual Christmas Charity Day in Exmouth
At an exhibition in Parliament for The Filo Project, who provide high-quality day care in Devon for older people suffering from moderate dementia
Speaking to ITV about Gigaclear and the frustratingly slow rollout of broadband in East Devon and across Devon and Somerset
With Cllr Tom Wright, DEFRA Minister George Eustice MP and Paul Griew in Sidmouth discussing the latest Beach Management Plan
Christmas fundraising mince pies at Kennaway House in Sidmouth - a lively discussion on Brexit and everything in between!
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit!
There is an inescapable focus on the impending meaningful vote in Parliament on the Prime Minister’s deal, now scheduled for mid-January.
As I said in November, I am unhappy about significant parts of the proposed Brexit deal.
You can read my statement in full here, which explains why I think it has crossed over previous red lines from the Prime Minister on the union of the United Kingdom and membership of a customs union.
I spoke at length in Parliament in December to outline these concerns, which you can watch in full here.
Grilling the PM about the Brexit deal
I hope the many who share similar concerns to myself have our voice heard. These issues must be revisited in Brussels as a matter of urgency, though it looks increasingly unlikely that the EU will grant concessions on the backstop.
I discussed Brexit and Theresa May's tour of Europe in an interview with the BBC World Service, which you can listen to here.
Quick stop off to do the media round on College Green
Chatting about the Campaign for Real Ale’s beer duty freeze campaign with constituent Steve Murray in the House of Commons
While the media spotlight has continually focused on Brexit, the big Autumn Budget had a number of great measures that are most welcome for East Devon, such as more money in rural broadband and a cut to high street business rates.
Unfair business rates were one of the main areas of concern in the recent survey I conducted of small businesses and high street retailers in Sidmouth.
The freezing of beer duty I know will also be most welcome across East Devon’s fantastic pub and hospitality trade!
You can watch my reaction to the Budget here.
Getting the voice of our veterans heard
I joined some of my colleagues to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister urging her to stop the witch-hunt against our veterans. Over 100 Conservative MPs signed the letter calling on the government to protect those who protected us.
As a former Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office and as the MP who represents CTC Lympstone, I hope that the government will right this wrong.
Lobbying DEFRA for tougher enforcement on the illegal trade in seahorses
I was fortunate to win the ballot for a debate on the illegal trade in seahorses in the UK.
It is a Parliamentary quirk that time at the end of each sitting day is given for backbenchers to raise specific concerns with Ministers - even at this moment of constitutional importance to our nation!
Tragically, the traditional medicine, curio and aquarium trades are threatening the future of seahorses. The Seahorse Trust - based in Topsham - and I recently met with Environment Secretary Michael Gove to discuss the ease with which they are traded online.
Western Morning News, Saturday 8th December 2018 (Page 3)
You can watch my speech here and can read the whole debate in Hansard here, both of which include the response of the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food George Eustice. You can also read a summary of my speech which I wrote for Politics Home here.
With NFU South West members in Talaton to discuss the Agriculture Bill
We are awaiting the next stages of the Agriculture Bill. This piece of legislation sets out how we can replace the Common Agricultural Policy and deliver strong environmental protections after Brexit.
You can read my contribution to the latest stage of the debate in the House of Commons here.
I have tabled an amendment on County Farms to the Agriculture Bill, which you can read here. County Farms provide an invaluable route into farming for those with smaller means.
Briefing from NatWest on local banking provision in East Devon
Discussing Devon County Council's budget and forecasts with Leader of the County Council John Hart
Welcoming Exmouth Chamber of Commerce to Parliament
Last month, you may have noticed I was sporting a rather disconcerting moustache to raise money for the Movember Foundation. This leading charity is working to change the face of men’s health in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
I would like to sincerely thank all those who donated as we raised over £1,000.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
My moustache has now gone but Santa is coming!
We have some crucial local elections coming up in East Devon and would love your support in local campaigning!
If you would like to get involved with local campaigning, please do not hesitate to get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org