Adrian Sanders MP for Torbay Early December Update 

Advent has now begun and we’re on the home straight to Christmas. But the past few weeks have been busy in Westminster, for both good and bad reasons.

The other week Adrian at Health Qsbegan with the terrible news of a 16-year old girl with mental health issues being detained in Torquay police station due to the lack a bed. Sadly, this is nothing new. In Devon and Cornwall alone there have been 700 cases of people with mental health needs being placed in the cells.

I raised this in conversations with the Health Minister and on the floor of the House to the Secretary of State for Health asking him why it was that in the whole of England there was not a single suitable place that met her needs (Photo: BBC).

I’m pleased to report she is now receiving treatment in an appropriate setting but the time she spent in a cell and on an adult mental health care ward was unacceptable.

In the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget Statement some of the biggest investment in the road network for a generation was announced. The South-West was a major target of this investment, and hopefully the planned duelling of the A303 between Ilchester and Stonehenge and the safety improvements from Ilminster on the A30 through the Blackdown Hills to the Honiton by-pass will help speed up journey times to and from our part of the world, along with the construction of our very own bypass which is nearing its completion in 2015.

A Boost for the Bay

Last Saturday was ‘Small Business Saturday’. It was a good chance to promote small businesses and the important role they play in our communities, especially in an area such as ours.

Recent figures have shown the good news surrounding small businesses in Torbay. In the past year, turnover from small businesses has increased by 15%, over double the national figure of 7%, and the construction and real estate sector alone has seen its turnover increase by over 20%. Almost a third of our small businesses were set up in the past 3 years.

Championing small businesses and the entrepreneurs and owners who create and run them is something we can all get behind. They add diversity to our high streets and town centres and provide a viable alternative to the big companies and out-of-town shopping centres.

Choosing to support the smaller businesses in the community helps support the people who run them and work in them, who then go on to put that money back into the local economy, something which benefits all of us in the long run.

Perhaps we should make every day a small business day.

Helping Hospitality Grow

Torbay has long-been renowned as a tourist hotspot, and while recent years may have seen tourism and related businesses take a hit, the area is on the mend. Figures this week show that the licensed hospitality sector in the Bay is doing well, with over 120 pubs and bars in business. The sector now employs 10,834 people in the constituency.

The licensed hospitality sector is one of the UK’s most important, and over the past few years has created 1 in 8 of all new jobs. Over 80% of these are for 18-24 year olds, and often provide the first taste of work of many young people.

Devon & Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) wants to reduce licencing hours believing this will lead to a cut in alcohol related crimes and enable him to reduce the police resources Torbay’s night time economy requires.

Clearly there is a difficult balance to be struck here – what’s your view?

A Pressing Need for Homes

The South West is currently experiencing a housing crisis. A combination of high housing costs and low wages, where rural and coastal beauty spots command premium prices and wealthy second home owners. Local people have all too often seen prices pushed out of their reach.

In Torbay the average house price is £178,427, over 9 times the average income of £19,339. The average house price in the South West is £230,000, while average wages are amongst the lowest in England.

The situation needs a drastic increase in the number of homes that meet local housing need which is for secure tenancy, regulated rent, affordable homes.

In Government the Lib Dems suggested policies that have brought 70,000 empty homes back into use and helped create 190,000 more affordable homes. These are all steps in the right direction, and also help the construction industry, but more needs to be done.

Adrian Sanders MP Welcomes Disabled Access for Torquay Station

 Bay MP Adrian Sanders has today welcomed news that money has been made available for new disabled access at Torquay station.The station will have step-free access after the Government announced additional funding earlier this month to extend the Access for All programme.

Torquay is one of twenty six rail stations across the country to receive funding after £60 million was granted for improved passenger access at a number of stations. The station will get an accessible route into the station and between each platform, such as lifts and ramps.

The news comes after a substantial funding commitment was announced earlier this month to maintain the rail line to Devon and Cornwall through Dawlish.

Adrian said:

“It really is excellent news that Torquay station will finally have disabled accessinto the station and between platforms. It’s long overdue and will make the station much easier to use for people with disabilities, and also for older people and those with young children.

“The improved station facilities will also make Torquay and the Bay much more accessible, helping to boost tourism and trade.”

Bay MP Takes The First Step Towards Becoming A Sea Change Champion

Torbay MP Adrian Sanders wore Healthy Seas socks made partly from recycled fishing nets this week in order to show support for World Animal Protection’s Sea Change campaign.

Aiming to reduce the amount of lost and discarded fishing gear that harms and entangles millions of animals, the charity asked MPs to support their move to achieve safer, cleaner oceans by raising awareness of innovative solutions such as socks from recycled fishing gear on social media.

The charity has come across many other projects that are making products from recycled fishing gear including skateboards, carpet tiles and even swimwear.

It is estimated that 640,000 tons of lost and discarded fishing gear ends up in the world’s oceans each year. The animal welfare charity launched the Sea Change campaign in answer to the impact this gear has on marine life. Seals, whales, leatherback turtles and gannets are particularly at risk of entanglement and are just some of the 8,000 marine species in UK waters that are threatened by this ‘ghost gear’.

Fisheries Minister George Eustice MP has already helped raise awareness of these innovative solutions by wearing the socks himself.

Alyx Elliot, Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection said:

“We are delighted that Adrian has shown his support for the Sea Change campaign by wearing Healthy Seas socks made partly from recycled fishing gear. We hope that this support will help urge the UK Government to quantify the scale of the problem of ghost fishing gear in UK waters. For too long, the sea has been treated as a convenient expanse into which rubbish can be effectively lost. Ghost gear has devastating impacts on our animals, our environment and our economy. We are urging people to act now before it is too late.”

The campaign is solutions focussed and intends to champion organisations that have created surprising, innovative and sustainable products from lost or discarded fishing nets. The socks, made by the Healthy Seas initiative are just one example of ways in which entrepreneurs are adding value to end of life fishing gear.

Adrian Sanders MP said:

“This is a fantastic campaign aimed to help the UK’s marine species from harm and entanglement. Healthy Seas socks are a fun way to raise awareness of the dangers of ‘ghost gear’ that are continuously dumped in UK seas. I look forward to working with the campaign in future to protect our marine species from dangers that can be easily avoided.”

Guide Dogs wishes Adrian Sanders MP a Cracking Christmas

Adrian Sanders & Guide Dog

Adrian Sanders MP met with staff, volunteers and puppies from the charity Guide Dogs last week (9 December) to receive a custom-made Christmas cracker, thanking them for their support this year.

The charity set up a makeshift grotto in Parliament to hand out messages of thanks to MPs that have supported the charity in 2014. The custom cracker included messages from people in Torbay on Guide Dogs’ campaign for a national law on pavement parking.

Adrian commented:

“It was a pleasure to meet the guide dog pups in training and receive my thank you cracker from Guide Dogs.

“Pavement parking is a real problem in Torbay. As well as for people with sight loss, it is a potentially dangerous obstacle for wheelchair and mobility scooter users as well as people with pushchairs.”

Guide Dogs Campaigns Manager James White said:

“We are very grateful for all of the support that Members of Parliament give to Guide Dogs.

“As well as saying thank you to Adrian for his help this year, we used this opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of parking on pavements and to call for a change in the law.”

Bay MP Announces 6,090 Young People in Torbay Help Hit 2m Apprenticeship Goal

Two million apprenticeships have been created in the UK since 2010 with 6,090 people in Torbay getting a vital start in life.

Torbay MP, Adrian Sanders, said apprenticeships offered by local companies and organisations have played a crucial role in the local economy:

“Apprenticeships are a vital part of building a stronger economy and a fairer society. By ensuring young people are able to earn and learn, we give them the opportunity to get on it life.

“That is why I am delighted young people in Torbay have benefitted from fantastic training and employment opportunities that apprenticeships offer. In addition to this, 130 businesses have received apprenticeship grants for young people in Torbay.

“I’ve seen for myself at Linden Homes and Torbay Hospital the benefit apprenticeships can give to young people and I’m delighted that over two million young people across England have been able to take advantage.”

Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills Vince Cable MP said:

“Reaching the two millionth apprenticeship is testament to Liberal Democrat’s commitment to apprenticeships. Apprenticeships give young people the chance to start a career and give businesses the talent to grow.

“This isn’t just about numbers. From space engineering, to TV production, to legal services, apprenticeships are the ticket to a great job and a route employers trust to access the skills they need.

“That is why the Liberal Democrats made them a priority when we entered office and I am delighted that we have been able to deliver on our promise to have two million apprentices start in this Parliament.”

 

Catching Up on the Recall Bill

Many of you have contacted me about the Recall Bill and I thought I’d report back now it has had it’s Third Reading.

Last week the Recall Bill passed its Third Reading in the Commons. There had been much discussion on what the Bill should include, especially regarding the ways in which the recall process should be triggered and this led to a number of amendments being put forward, that MPs considered and voted on.

We had six votes in total during the passage of the Bill which I’ve outlined below, with the results:

1)An amendment put forward by millionaire Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith that could have resulted in well financed campaigns to unseat MPs simply because they voted a particular way. This was LOST 340 to 166 with even a majority of Conservative MPs voting against their Conservative colleague’s amendment, 140 to 107. I voted against.

2) An amendment put forward by Lib Dem MPs, proposing a system where the public could seek to recall MPs by having 500 electors petitioning an election court alleging misconduct in public office. If the Court confirmed that there was a case to answer, then there would a recall process, where 15 percent of the electorate would have to sign a petition. This was LOST 64 to 271. I voted In favour.

3) An amendment from Lib Dems and Labour, saying that recall would be triggered by a suspension from the House of 10 days, following a Standards Committee report. This was WON 240 to 125. I voted in favour.

4) An amendment from the Lib Dems, saying that any MP convicted of the offence of misconduct in public office should be eligible for recall, even if there was no custodial sentence. This was LOST 119 to 193. I voted in favour.

5) An amendment from the Lib Dems and Labour, saying that any MP convicted of fiddling their parliamentary expenses should be eligible for recall, even if there was no custodial sentence. This was WON 281 to 2. I voted in favour.

6) An amendment from the Lib Dems and Labour, saying that a conviction after being elected as an MP, but for an offence committed before election, would count for recall purposed. This WON 236 to 65. I voted in favour.

Unfortunately, both Labour and Tories blocked our proposals to give the public a greater say in recalling MPs. In fact, they even voted to protect MPs who had actually been convicted of the serious offence of misconduct in public office from being subject to recall. I think that any MP convicted of this should be expected to face the electorate.

The strangest part in all this was a couple of weeks after his amendment had been defeated, mostly by his own side, Zac Goldsmith attacked me in the Chamber in my absence for voting against – I never realised I was that influential! He did have the courtesy to write me a letter of apology afterwards.

However, at the end of the day, those amendments put forward by us that did make it through have certainly improved the bill and will hopefully help to tackle some of the important issue such as expenses fraud. After having decided on the amendments, the Bill then passed unanimously, and has now gone on to the House of Lords.

Thanks to all who got in touch about the process of the Bill. It’s always a great help for me to hear people’s views on the legislation going through Parliament as it helps me to decide which way to vote, so I’m grateful to all of you who took the time to write in.

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay Season’s Greetings 2014

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I thought it might be useful to send you a list of timely information for the holiday season. As always, if there are any issues where I can be of assistance, please do get in touch on 01803 200036 or email sandersa@parliament.uk.

Bin Collection Dates

Normal day of collection                                               Revised day of collection

Monday 22 December Saturday 20 December
Tuesday 23 December Monday 22 December
Wednesday 24 December Tuesday 23 December
Thursday 25 December Wednesday 24 December
Friday 26 December Saturday 27 December
Monday 29 December Monday 29 December
Tuesday 30 December Tuesday 30 December
Wednesday 31 December Wednesday 31 December
Thursday 1 January Friday 2 January
Friday 2 January Saturday 3 January

Collections will be back to normal week commencing Monday 5 January.2015

 

Emergency pharmacy information

Christmas Day – 25 December 2014 (Thursday)

Torquay

Co-operative Pharmacy, 159 St Marychurch Road, Babbacombe TQ1 3HP.
Telephone: 01803 327552 Open: 11.00am – 13.00pm

Paignton

Boots Pharmacy, 1-3 Winner Street, TQ3 3BN.
Telephone: 01803 558196 Open: 12 noon – 13.00pm

 

Boxing Day – 26 December 2014 (Friday)

Torquay

Boots The Chemist, Wren Retail Park
Telephone:  01803 615874 Open: 6.00am – 6.00pm

Boots, The Chemist, The Strand
Telephone: 01803 292086 Open: 9.00am – 5.00pm

Boots Pharmacy, 68 Union Street
Telephone: 01803 292708 Open: 8.00am – 5.30pm

Paignton

Boots Pharmacy, 12-14 Victoria Street
Tel: 01803 559180 Open: 10.00am – 5.00pm
New Years Day – 1 January 2014 (Thursday)

Torquay

Boots The Chemist, Unit 1, Wren Retail Park,
Telephone: 01803 615874 Open: 9.00am – 8.00pm

Boots The Chemist, 9 The Strand
Telephone: 01803 292086 Open: 10.00am – 4.00pm

Boots Pharmacy, 68 Union St
Telephone: 01803 292708 Open: 10.00am – 4.00pm

Sainsburys Pharmacy, Nicholson Road, The Willows
Telephone: 01803 614689 Open: 10.00am – 5.00pm

Paignton

Sainsbury’s Pharmacy, Yalberton Road, TQ4 7PE
Telephone: 01803 666444 Open: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Torbay Age UK Information and Advice Line

Tel: 01803 841 832 – open every day including Christmas Day 8am to 7pm.

 

MP’s office opening hours

My constituency office will close at 2pm on Wednesday 24 December and will re-open on Friday 2 January 2015.

The contact details for the constituency office are:

Tel – 01803 200036
Fax – 01803 200031
E-mail – sandersa@parliament.uk
Postal – 69 Belgrave Road, Torquay, Devon, TQ2 5HZ
Advice surgery times

Surgery appointments are available on:

Friday 19 December, 3.00 – 4.30pm
Connections Torquay, Town Hall, Castle Circus, Torquay

Friday 2 January, 2.00 – 3.30pm
St Peter’s Centre, Queensway, Torquay TQ2 6BP
Final posting dates for letters

Make sure your post arrives to your friends and family before Christmas Day! The last post dates are:

Thursday 18 December for 2nd Class and Royal Mail Signed For

Saturday 20 December for 1st Class and Royal Mail Signed For

Tuesday 23 December for Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed
What to do with your old Christmas tree

You can take your old Christmas tree for recycling at one of three recycling centres located in Torbay:

Town Torquay Paignton
Location Lymington Road Coach Station Car Park Recycling Centre
Dates Sunday 11 January
Sunday 18 January
Any day, 7 days a week (closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day)

Drop off your tree without their decorations at these points on the dates and times designated – if they are left at another location, doing so can be treated as fly-tipping.

 

Remember to Recycle your Christmas Cards

You can recycle all of your Christmas cards and festive wrapping paper in your household recycling boxes/ bins or, if you have lots, the recycling boxes located at your nearest recycling bank.

Adrian Sanders MP Green Newsletter November 2014

Flooding

As the festive season approaches, authorities in the South West are preparing for the possibility of floods to prevent a repeat of last year’s devastating weather. Last winter was the wettest in England for nearly 250 years and around 6,000 properties were flooded.

With an increase in the size and number of high natural tides this coming winter, there is a small, but elevated, increase in the risk of coastal flooding. The spring tide of January 22nd and 23rd is expected to be the next high tide to reach in excess of ‘normal’ winter levels.

The Environment Agency is providing all those in Torbay and the UK with steps to help protect their homes from flooding. With 1 in 6 properties at risk of flooding these measures apply to all.

The Environment Agency has an interactive map to find out if you home is at risk of flooding. They also provide free flood warnings for your area as well as a personal flood plan. You can access this information at; https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency

Saving Energy This Winter

Last month the Citizens Advice Bureau held their fourth Big Energy Saving Week (BESW) along with the Energy Saving Trust and the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The campaign helps thousands of householders take control of their energy bills with free advice.

The Energy Saving Trust working on the BESW revealed that households in Torbay could save £1,100,000 a year by taking control of their heating and turning down the thermostat in their homes. For the whole of Devon this number rises to £6,060,000 per year, and for the UK as a whole, the savings total £500 million.

One of the main reasons for higher energy bills than expected are because millions of householders are confused by heating controls and different energy companies’ offers. Ed Davey MP and the Liberal Democrats have been working hard to reduce the monopoly held by the “Big 6” energy companies, created in the last Parliament. By nearly trebling the number of smaller firms in the energy sector, their market share has increased tenfold. These smaller firms have challenged the Big 6’s monopoly and more than two million households have now switched to them.

My colleagues and I have succeeded in making this Government one of the greenest ever by establishing the world’s first Green Investment Bank.

It might not feel like it sometimes but following the increased investment in renewable energy, domestic gas prices are Europe’s lowest and electricity prices are among the lowest.

The truth is we cannot build a stronger economy for the long-term without creating a greener, more sustainable economy too. In addition to this, the Lib Dems have introduced the Warm Homes Discount, giving £140 direct off energy bills for the 2 million poorest homes. Let’s hope both money and energy can be saved this winter.

Marine Charter

I was delighted to attend the Marine Charter Parliamentary Reception last We
dnesday, hosted by the Wildlife and Countryside Link. Since the Bay was made a marine conservation zone in November 2013, the Marine Charter has dedicated itself to protect the area’s marine habitat.

The Charter was launched in March concerned with the conservation and protection of wildlife and the countryside. Over 100 Parliamentarians, including myself, have signed the Charter to create an ecological network committed to managing the UK’s Marine Protected Areas.

Torbay and Lyme Bay were made a Marine Conservation Area as a result of the rich supply of habitats in its waters. The Devon Wildlife Trust has even described the area as ‘the jewel in south Devon’s crown’ for marine wildlife. The reason the area is considered to be a jewel is mainly due to the abundance of seagrass which provides a perfect habitat and feeding place for long-snouted seahorse.

In addition to the seahorse, Torbay is home to native oysters, brittlestars, and heart urchins. However the habitats of these animals are just as important to protect as the animals themselves. Torbay’s marine environment contains rare corals such as the Devonshire cup and carpet coral that needs to be conserved.

I look forward to working more closely with the Wildlife and Countryside Link in order to protect Torbay’s marine habitats and provide an environment for marine wildlife to thrive.

Transport Select Committee on Cycling

The transport select committee continued to make progress on numerous issues affecting local areas in the UK. One report published in July concentrated on the safety of cycling.

The dangers of cyclists on the road are discouraging people to use it as a mode of transport. In the year ending March 2014, pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured increased by 7 per cent to 3,400. Total pedal cyclist casualties increased by 14 per cent to 20,740.

Figures released this month by Sustrans, a charity set up to enable to travel more by foot, bike or public transport, gave Torbay a poor rating in terms of street safety. The area received the lowest rating – Grade F – in regards to the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed and seriously injured on road. These are terrible figures that are deterring people from cycling on roads in the Bay.

Given that cycling is an extremely environmental way to travel, the select committee is focusing on improving the safety of cyclists to reassure more people to choose it as a mode of transport. The findings of the committee need to be implemented in the Torbay area to reduce the number of accidents on the roads and encourage more people to cycle for environmental and health benefits.

For more details of the select committee’s work, please click on the link to read the report on cycling safety. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmtran/718/718.pdf

Greener Vehicles

The number of low-emission vehicles on our roads have increased over the past year with drivers switching to a more environmentally friendly choice. The national campaign, ‘Go Ultra Low’, has helped promote these vehicles by providing drivers with more information on the benefits of low-emission cars and their cost-efficiency.

These greener vehicles mean you can travel every mile for an estimated 2p. Although low-emission cars are initially more expensive than normal vehicles, numerous grants have been made available by the ‘Go Ultra Low’ campaign. The Government has also announced a £9.3 million investment into the project, to put more car charging stations across the UK.Protecting our climate from CO2 emissions is important for the UK’s future climate and needs to be increasingly invested in by Government. Once the vehicle is bought – with or without a grant – the cost of travel decreases and the benefits to the environment are fantastic.
Image: Adrian Sanders MP and Mayoral candidate Dennis Brewer inspect the very latest electric vehicle that could be on our streets very soon.Fracking

This month, a report on shale gas by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) suggested fracking would not be as beneficial to the UK as previously thought. The government-funded body, suggested in their report that the Government has oversold the potential of fracking.

The UKERC discouraged the Government from investing heavily in fracking as evidence suggests that shale gas will not make significant difference to the UK’s energy bills. The environmental risk brought on by fracking will therefore not be worth the benefit it would provide.

I have previously signed two EDMs urging ministers to explore the option of fracking more thoroughly before relying on it to become a viable alternative energy supply. The report’s findings therefore confirm that the UK should consider all aspects of fracking as it may not provide the benefits one previously thought.

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay Animal Welfare Update November 2014

Strengthening the Hunting Act

Next month mHunting Act Anniversary arks the 10th anniversary of the passing of the Hunting with Hounds Act 2004. The Act is an essential tool in stopping cruelty to animals in the UK. It is much more than just a ban on fox hunting. The hunting of hare, deer and mink have all been stopped by the introduction of the Act, and this is an achievement that we should all be proud of.

Whilst the large majority of MPs remain in favour of the Act, some, mostly  Conservative members,  are keen to repeal it. They feel that a ban on hunting is unenforceable, and whilst there have been over 340 prosecutions since  the Act came in to force, there are a number of loopholes in the law that prevent perpetrators from being punished. For example, it is still possible for hunters to ride out with an unlimited number of dogs if hunting with a bird of prey.

These exemptions are putting animal welfare at risk and allowing the continuation of animal cruelty for sport. I will continue to put pressure on the Government to ensure that these loopholes are closed and that the Hunting Act is strengthened, not repealed.

Photo: Celebrating ten years of the Act outside Parliament with Joe Duckworth, CEO League Against Cruel Sports.

Badger Cull

On 4th November, I attended the debate on Badger Culls in Westminster (you can read the full debate here) and spoke out about the effect of bovine tuberculosis on farmers. I have and will continue to campaign against the cull in Parliament, as there is a great deal of evidence that the cull is not achieving what it was supposed to.  It is a ridiculously expensive method and there is very little evidence that it has led or could lead to an effective eradication of tuberculosis in badgers or cattle.  My sympathy is with the farmers affected by the devastating consequences of tuberculosis in cattle, but badger culls are not the answer.

The second year of the Government’s badger cull pilot came to an end on Monday 20th October 2014. Although the final figures for this year’s cull have yet to be released, MPs have already heard that the pilots did not meet the target number of badgers to be culled. We need to look at more effective methods of controlling bovine tuberculosis. Although a badger vaccination would not cure already infected animals, it would prevent the disease from spreading and allow infected animals to die from natural causes, whilst reducing the risk of infection for other badgers and cattle. Given the short life span of the badger, this method could lead to a containment of this problem within a number of years.

Earlier this year, the Liberal Democrats were successful in preventing a further roll out of badger cull pilots to other parts of the country. However, the next step is to stop the existing culls altogether. The Government will soon begin reviewing the effectiveness of the culls in the last year, and if they decide the pilot was successful the culls could continue. The British Ecological Society has offered to conduct an independent review of the culls, which I would welcome as it would prevent the Government from self-assessing the project.

Animal Aid

Earlier this month I pledged my support for a number of crucial reforms to improve animal welfare. I will be encouraging the progress of five key reforms to try and combat the suffering of millions of animals subjected to cruelty. These reforms are:

  • A ban on the use of the whip in horse racing;
  • A ban on the use of battery cages for pheasant and partridge production;
  • An end to publicly funded experiments on animals
  • An extension of the animal welfare act to include crustaceans and cephalopods; and to make CCTV mandatory for all slaughterhouses, with independent monitoring of footage.

 

Dog’s Trusts – Microchipping

Dog MicrochippingI also had the opportunity to meet with the Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, as they showcased its chipmydog.org.uk website. The website is a unique “one-stop-shop” for all microchipping queries, providing a wealth of information on this important element of dog welfare.

I am delighted to support Dogs Trust and help the charity launch its Chip My Dog website. I am supportive of the charity’s microchipping campaign and greatly welcomed the Government’s announcement on the introduction of compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England from April 2016.

Compulsory microchipping will make it easier to reunite lost dogs with their owners and cut unnecessary kennelling costs for Local Authorities. I would urge all dog-owners to get their canine companions microchipped and visit chipmydog.org.uk to find out more about this vital component of dog welfare before the new law comes into force.

The Dogs Trust have a number of roaming teams that should be visiting our area.  To find out  more visit www.chipmydog.org.uk.

Adrian Sanders, MP for Torbay Late November Update

It’s been a busy few weeks in Westminster as the Autumn Parliamentary session gets inInsulin4Allo full swing.  Meanwhile it’s colder outside and winter is moving in, and bringing with it the usual problems on the roads and rails.

The situation at Dawlish has once again made headlines as the readiness of the railway to weather the winter is about to be tested, although fortunately no structural damage to the repaired section was found. Colder temperatures also mean that it’s time to start thinking about heating bills and preparing homes in order to keep them warm over the coming months. There has also been good news though, with further falls in unemployment in Torbay.

Connecting the South West

On 4th November, I helped to organise a meeting in Parliament between various South West MPs, regional business leaders and Council groups. We were joined by Lib Dem minsters Danny Alexander from the Treasury, Business Secretary Vince Cable and transport minister Susan Kramer. The aim of the meeting was to highlight the very real connectivity problems which the South West continues to suffer from, in terms of road and rail, and services such as broadband, when faced with bad weather, low investment and a lack of Government attention.

The Peninsular Rail Task Force Group, who have been pushing for more investment in the region have created a three-point plan to improve rail journey times, reduce delays and make rail travel more comfortable, including £350 million to help protect Dawlish. We’re also hoping to improve investment in the A303.

The meeting was certainly a positive one. It’s always good to see the South West MPs join together to support the region, and it was great to have a good turnout from local groups and businesses. There have been noises from the Treasury about a £7 billion investment in the far South West’s railways. This may be a bit too much to hope for, but there should be a substantial commitment to the region’s rail and road links in the upcoming Autumn Budget Statement on December 3rd. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

A Fair Deal For Local Pubs

Last week, I joined colleagues in signing an amendment to the Small Business Bill which will help deliver a fair deal for local pub company pubs, including here in Torbay. With support from across the house, the amendment passed – defeating the Government 284 votes to 269. It will help allow pub tenants tied to the large pub companies (more than 500 pubs) to opt for a rental only deal, allowing them to buy beer on the open market at prices up to 70% below what pub companies currently force them to pay.

It is a fantastic victory for pub landlords who are now free from the ‘beer tie’ system which arguably led to the closure of many pubs across the UK. The amendment now gives tenants of large pub companies the right to ask for an independent assessment of their rent without tie obligations. The tenants then have the option to pay this to the large pub companies, or to opt for a fair tied agreement in which lower rent would be offered in exchange for higher beer prices. The amendment will therefore benefit beer drinkers, as pub landlords will be able to buy beer on the open market, saving them up to 60p per pint.

Ten Years of the Hunting Ban

This week marks a significant milestone for animal welfare. It’s a decade since Parliament passed the 2004 Hunting with Hounds Act, which outlawed the killing of foxes, hares, mink and deer by dogs.
Despite the passage of time, there are still some who want to repeal the legislation. It seems strange that we have to have this discussion in 2014, yet it was only earlier this year some MPs attempted to amend the act to render it unenforceable by allowing hunters to flush out and kill a wild animal using an unlimited number of hounds.

Fortunately, the Government had to abandon its plans when my Liberal Democrat parliamentary colleagues refused to support the changes. However, it proves the act is still under threat, and at some stage Parliament may well be asked to vote for its repeal. As we approach the anniversary, we will no doubt hear protests from the pro-hunting lobby as to why hunting with hounds should be brought back. It is worth quickly examining, and debunking, many of their arguments. Despite claims that the Act would be unenforceable, it has actually proven to be the most successful piece of wild mammal legislation on the statute books. Ministry of Justice figures have shown it has both the highest number of convictions since 2005 when it was introduced (341 from 2005 to 2013) and 65 per cent of charges under the act have resulted in convictions.

Many hunters argue the act has taken away their ability to “manage” the countryside, and that hunting was a humane way of “pest control”. Nothing could be further from the truth. When hunting was banned during the foot and mouth outbreak, evidence showed no significant effect on fox numbers and research has consistently shown the fox population has remained stable over a long period, both with and without hunting. If we’re honest with each other, traditional hunting was never about pest control, but killing for pleasure.

What of the argument that the ban brought to an end an old countryside tradition? Let’s not forget that bear baiting and cock fighting were once traditions, but we moved on from those barbaric activities.
Most people seem settled on their support for the act and would be appalled to think, at a time when we should be tackling the many issues and challenges that really matter, Parliament was focused on trying to bring back an activity many find obscene. The fact is the Hunting Act works and is popular. Instead of contemplating its repeal, we should celebrate and build on its success in saving our wild mammals from needless cruelty.

A New Swimming Charter Making A Splash

Swimming isn’t just a fun leisure activity or a way for young people to keep healthy, it’s more than that. It’s a life-saving skill that every child has the right to learn, enjoy and be able to practice confidently”

New statistics have revealed that 45 per cent of 7-11 year olds are unable to swim 25 metres unaided. Nearly 1300 primary schools don’t teach swimming in Key Stage 2, even though it’s on the curriculum, and even at schools that do teach swimming, the average time spent by pupils in the pool was just 10 hours, less than half the recommended amount for learning how to swim.

So I joined with Olympic swimmer Duncan Goodhew (pictured above) to back the new School Swimming Charter from the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) aimed at boosting the number of primary school children that can swim and know how to be safe in and around water. The Charter aims to ensure every primary school in England has the necessary knowledge and resources required to deliver high quality school swimming programmes.

Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in children in the UK, and research suggests that if children do not learn to swim at primary school they will become one of the one in five adults in the UK that are unable to swim. We need to make sure that all local primary schools are doing everything they can to increase the number of people leaving primary school able to swim.

Getting Ready for Winter 

As winter rolls around again, it’s good to be prepared and to take advantage of free help that’s available to help with energy bills. There are a number of simple steps that everyone should take to keep their bills down and their home warm. Being energy efficient and keeping bills under control is important so it’s well worth getting in touch with your energy supplier to find out what support is on offer.
There are a number of things you can do to save money.

Insulate your home
British Gas is currently offering free loft and cavity wall insulation which is available to 90% of homes that need it. Loft insulation can save up to £145 and cavity wall insulation can save up to £150 per year. To find out more you can call free on 0800 316 4051 or visit britishgas.co.uk/insulation

Get the best deal
Make sure you are on the best gas and electricity tariff for you. There are lots of deals and fixed prices to help you control your costs. British Gas tells customers in every bill if we have a better tariff for them. It also offers flexible payment plans which allow customers the opportunity to set and manage their own payments. Anyone worried about their bill can call 0800 048 0202 to discuss the help available.

Financial support
You may be entitled to extra support from the Government and your energy supplier if you meet certain criteria – The Warm Home Discount – a one off discount of £135 on the electricity bill, rising to £140 this year. British Gas has the broadest eligibility criteria of all energy suppliers. British Gas customers should call 0800 072 8625.

British Gas Energy Trust
The British Gas Energy Trust is an independent charitable trust that offers advice and support if you’re struggling with your household bills. Over the last decade British Gas has provided it with more than £75 million to help 120,000 people with grants and debt advice.
British Gas has teamed up with 18 debt centres across the UK to fund support workers to help people apply for a grant and provide face-to-face advice. You don’t even need to be a British Gas customer to apply. For more information on the British Gas Energy Trust, visit: britishgasenergytrust.org.uk