It seems that changes on Brexit and the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement are happening very rapidly now. In fact, by the time you read this, there may well have been further announcements made.
Currently, the Prime Minister is having further talks with the EU regarding the Northern Ireland backstop, which was the main sticking point when it came to her deal being voted through the House of Commons.
It remains to be seen whether the EU will agree to alternative arrangements. Personally, I remain committed to ensuring a clean Brexit, and that we will leave the EU on March 29.
I am reassured by Ministerial colleagues that arrangements have been made for continuing supplies of medicines following Brexit, and that arrangements are in place for the workings of our ports and airports. If you wish to travel to the EU post-Brexit, it has been suggested that you ensure you have six months remaining on your passport.
Do get in touch if you have concerns as to how Brexit will affect you directly.
On February 19, I attended the debate in the Commons on the Government’s 10 Year Plan for the NHS. Produced by the NHS, it sets out plans to improve access, care and outcomes for patients.
This will be funded by a growth in NHS England’s budget of 3.4 per cent in real terms each year from 2019/20 to 2023/24, increasing to £20.5billion by 2023/24.
I welcome this increase in the NHS budget and am following the plans closely to ensure they include sufficient provision for health and social care in rural areas. This is so important in areas such as ours, where people are often isolated and struggle to access the care they need to continue to live independent lives.
I have recently co-founded a new All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Poverty with my colleague Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute. The group aims to understand, and hopefully address, some of the many challenges faced by those living in rural areas. I will keep constituents updated on its progress.
I continue as co-chairman of the APPG on the Armed Forces Covenant and to support the Veterans’ Strategy. I am passionate about supporting our armed forces, and the whole military family, who serve and have served our country. I believe it is vital that they and their families are supported by the Government.
In the nearly four years now since I was elected, many military families have spoken to me about their experiences and issues they have had to deal with, from school places to housing and medical treatment, stemming from not having a permanent base or being deployed or moved, often at short notice.
The Veterans Strategy is an excellent next step in the MOD’s co-ordination of support for the military family. There is much to do to ensure that our veterans receive the support they need, and I am always keen to hear from military families in my constituency.
I have this week also gained the Prime Minister’s support for my campaign to create an Armed Forces Covenant Ombudsman so will keep you updated on this: it would mean that we would have an independent arbitrator for those in the military family who have been failed by our public services.
Recently, I met with representatives from the A1 in Northumberland team at Highways England to get an update on progress of the dualling of the A1. I am pleased to be able to report that contractors have now been appointed for the Morpeth to Felton stretch, and the junction safety improvements on the most northern stretch have started.
This road investment is vital to helping the North East and our own local economy, as well as reducing accidents, and I will continue to hold the Department of Transport’s feet to the fire to get it done.