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HUW MERRIMAN MP NEWSLETTER

I am re-sending this newsletter as we found a mistake in the link to the article on Bexhill Seniors trip to Parliament - sorry about that!

Dear Resident, 

I hope this bulletin finds you well. 

The last few weeks have been very busy; with some positives and disappointments. The best of Westminster was shown by backbenchers persuading the Government to deliver  meaningful change to the laws surrounding sewage discharge in our rivers and seas. The rules around Parliamentary standards, however, has come in for scrutiny and debate. I add my own views on these issues a little further below. 

This newsletter is a mix of work in Parliament and the constituency. My local work can be found below in blue. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. 

Yours sincerely,

Huw

Sewage and the Environment Bill

Last month, I was one of 22 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government in support of an Environment Bill amendment that would have created a legal duty on water and sewage companies to tackle the scourge of sewage discharge into streams, rivers and the sea in times of heavy rainfall. You can read more about this amendment, and the views I gave to the BBC here.

Whilst this amendment did not pass, I am pleased that the Government reflected on the matter and has now backed the measures I was calling for. This week, I voted to support the Government’s new legal duty with a ‘progressive reduction’ requirement on water and sewage authorities. You can find details of the new measures 
here.

I am now campaigning to ensure that Southern Water’s sewage discharge pipes are removed from our seas, and the mainland sewage system is fit for purpose. I have written to the Chief Executive of Southern Water for a timetable of action, which you can read 
here.

I am determined that we receive a better quality discharge system which is more befitting of our beautiful coast and countryside. 

Business Rates Reform

Last week I called for radical business rates reform during a Parliamentary debate on supporting small businesses.  

It appears profoundly unfair to me that businesses operating online without premises have an advantage over those on the High Street. I believe a tax on turnover or sales is a more equitable solution.  

Find out more here.

Parliamentary Standards

A number of residents have been in touch with me to share their concerns over the events surrounding the Owen Paterson case.  

This week has not reflected well on the standing of Westminster. I recognise that residents want to see their MPs focusing fully on the matters which impact them. Whilst I have never claimed a second income and I have never been investigated by the standards commissioner, I can see that changes to the process of reviewing standards in public life are badly needed. There is a lack of natural justice in the system. It needs reform. I would advocate a lawyer and a panel of retired judges rather than MPs sitting in judgment of their peers.  
 
I was actually away from Parliament on the day of the vote. I Chair the Transport Select Committee and my members and I were holding an inquiry on international travel restrictions where we took evidence from health officials and those who lead aviation businesses and airports. 

I know a lot of constituents feel strongly about this matter which is why I held a virtual meeting this afternoon, open to all, for views and feedback to flow. It was a good opportunity to hear resident’s views on the matter and I am grateful to those who took the time to join.  

Hopefully some good reforms can be delivered from this disappointing episode. 

Transport Committee Session on the DVSA

Last month, the Transport Select Committee held an evidence session on the Work of the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Appearing before the committee were the Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, and the Operations Director (North) of the DVSA, Peter Hearn.  

The DVSA is responsible for, amongst other things, carrying out driving tests. With the consequences of the current shortage of HGV drivers being felt across the country, this was a good opportunity to examine how best the DVSA can help tackle the shortage, and deal with the lengthy waiting times and demand to obtain HGV licences. 

You can watch the full session
 here.

Support for Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

Following the shocking revelations about David Fuller, I spoke in the Chamber about the need to support the staff and management of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.  

I know residents of Heathfield and the surrounding area are appalled and horrified by the actions we have heard about, committed by a man living in this peaceful neighbourhood. I was grateful for the Health Secretary’s response to my call to support the staff of the Trust. They deliver first-rate  healthcare service to residents and need our backing.

View Sajid Javid's response to my question in the Chamber
 here.

Electric Vehicle Charging Points in East Sussex

With the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans due to end by 2030, I called on East Sussex County Council (ESCC) to do more to ensure we have sufficient charging infrastructure rolled out locally to cope with the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads. This is something that is currently happening at far too slow a pace. 

In 2017, the Government launched the On-Street Residential Charging Scheme (ORCS) to help local authorities install on-street charge points. The Transport Select Committee recently held an inquiry into zero-emission vehicles and discovered that since the scheme’s inception, 32% of the funds allocated have been unused.  

I have written to ESCC to ask why they have so far not bid for funding and to convey my expectation that they do so before it is spent in other parts of the country. Their response can be found 
here

Armistice Day in Battle

I joined a moving ceremony in Battle to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms. We were joined by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for East Sussex, Andrew Blackman. After chatting to those who joined for the two minutes silence, we joined Cllr Glenna Favell and the Town Councillors to view the Almonry (looking good and almost complete).

Bexhill Footbridge Project Opening

I was delighted to be invited to be involved in the judging of Footbridge Project in Bexhill and to attend the official opening.  The bridge looks amazing; walking across it is an uplifting experience and a stark contrast to the grey and scruffy walkway over the railway that it was previously.  

Bexhill residents, Diana and Tim Birch, brought the project from concept to reality with the help of their team of volunteers.  The high standard and diversity of the artwork entries was incredible and made judging a really difficult task. Bexhill clearly has a huge amount of creative talent and its good to see it displayed long-term on the bridge. 

Bexhill Brownfield Funding

New homes will be built on land in Bexhill following the successful award of £500,000 from the Government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund. This investment will allow 52 new homes to be advanced on land adjacent to King Offa School. Rother District Council was one of 53 local authorities across England to benefit from the £58m first tranche of government funding.  

The Brownfield Fund has been designed to help boost local areas by transforming unloved and disused sites into vibrant communities for people to live and work, with the demolition of unsightly derelict buildings and disused car parks and garages.
 
Find out more 
here

 

Support your Local GP Team

Last night I attended the regular meeting between the Heathfield and The Firs GP team and their Patient Participation Group. It was a great couple of hours. The Chair of the Parish Council also joined. As I find across the constituency, all of us were keen to support our GPs. Here are the combined teams (with me as their photographer) and these are some key themes which will be relevant to all of our local GP teams:
- GPs are experiencing high demand
- Please be patient and supportive 
- Rudeness from patients is causing staff to leave and making the position for patients even worse
- Please do not call your surgery if your query relates to your hospital appointment or COVID booster (you will be contacted by those responsible)
The Government is adding more resources but it’s going to take time to fix. We can all play our part in the meantime.

Bexhill Seniors Visit Parliament

I recently welcomed 22 members of the Bexhill Seniors Citizens’ Club to Parliament. 

The Club’s tour of Parliament followed my visit to their premises in Eversley Road in Bexhill earlier this year when I visited them in the summer to find out more about the Club and to help with their fund-raising campaign to improve their facilities. 

Find out more here.

Speech and Language Therapy Letter

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Autism, I signed a joint letter to the Prime Minister and Chancellor ahead of the Budget and Spending Review calling for speech and language therapy funding.  

Read the letter here.

The Budget and Spending Review

Last month the Chancellor delivered the Autumn Budget and Spending Review. I was pleased to see the National Living Wage increased and business rates cut by 50% for the majority of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.  

I am sure residents will join me in welcoming the simplified alcohol duty which will see English sparkling wine and prosecco prices cut by as much as 64p! 

You can find a comprehensive summary of the announcements on my website here.

Smart Motorways Report

This month the Transport Select Committee published its report and recommendations to Government on the Rollout and safety of smart motorways.  

The Committee called for the Department for Transport and National Highways (formerly Highways England) to pause the rollout of all-lane running (ALR) smart motorways until: 

 

  • five years of safety data is available for the network introduced before 2020 and it demonstrates that ALR are safer than a conventional motorway with a hard shoulder; 
  • the safety enhancements promised on the existing 141 miles of ALR Smart Motorways are finally delivered; and 
  • both of the above have been signed off by the Office of Rail and Road.  


The evidence on ALR can be somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, looking at data between 2015-2019, they can be said to have a lower fatality risk than conventional motorways. Looking at the same data, for 2019 only, they could be said to be less safe.  
  
Ultimately, further evidence, over years when ALR have been operating, should determine the safety comparisons. The full report can be found here.

 

COP26 

This week I attended the COP26 Summit’s Transport Day in my capacity as Chair of the Transport Select Committee.  

I joined two panels organised by Bright Blue and Tesla to discuss the move to electric vehicles. It was a good opportunity to discuss the Transport Committee’s work in this area and what more needs to be done on a national and international stage to ensure electric vehicles play a significant role in reducing global carbon emissions. 

I was excited to have a tour of Britain’s first hydrogen-powered train at Glasgow Central Station by the wonderful HydroFLEX engineer Helen Simpson.  

Watch Bright Blue’s event
 here.

Vaccine Booster Update

Many Bexhill residents have contacted me about the lack of a Covid vaccination centre in the town for the booster vaccines. This is something I have taken up with the Sussex NHS Commissioners who are the lead organisation for the local vaccine programme. I am concerned that our elderly and vulnerable residents are having to make longer journeys for their vaccines to sites in Hastings or Eastbourne. 

I am advised that there is no centre for vaccinations in Bexhill this time because our local Primary Care Network (PCN) of GP practices which ran the Sidley vaccination centre last year do not have the resources to run a similar operation for the booster jab. The demands for their services are so much higher at the moment. The GPs knew, that given the restoration of other services, which they needed to focus on, they wouldn’t have been able to deliver this programme as well.  

However, a neighbouring GP Federation is supporting them set up pop-ups, i.e. bespoke set of dates in which the vaccinations will be done from the Sidley practice. The Sussex NHS Commissioners have been supporting the Bexhill GPs with this over the past week to make sure that we get a schedule and a clear forward look which can be advertised. These clinics are expected to run on weekends from mid-November and should be able to see 450-500 people a day. These pop-ups won’t be walk-in centres and can’t be booked on the national NHS system. Instead, Bexhill GPs will be contacting their patient list to invite them to attend for their booster at Sidley (as they did when the vaccine programme first began).

The guidance for those who are eligible for a booster vaccine is: 

 

  • To travel to an alternative site if you can 
  • Residents who want to have their COVID-19 vaccination but don’t have access to transport can take advantage of the free transport scheme. To book free travel to a vaccination session people should book their vaccination appointment or have confirmed plans to attend a walk-in session first. Then call 01444 275008 to speak to a travel coordinator. The booking service is available between 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm Monday-Friday 
  • To go to their local pop-up if they can’t attend an alternative site when contacted to do so by their GP 

For those who are housebound, their GP surgery will have identified them as such from their patient lists and they will be making house visits for vaccinations as soon as they have finished the local care home visits. 

For further information on the vaccine booster programme, walk-in centres and information on how to book, please visit the Sussex Health and Care Partnership website here or you can email:  sxccg.vaccineenquiries@nhs.net or telephone the local vaccine enquiry line 0800 433 4545 (open 9am – 4pm, Monday to Friday).

 All Saints CE Primary School Road Safety Protest

Last month I joined the call from staff, children and families of All Saints CE Primary School in Sidley to stop wasting time and to close All Saints Lande during school drop and collection times.  

It was great to see children from Year 2 speak up and take part in a peaceful protest to highlight the dangers of parents and others parking on All Saints Lane rather than the free 200 space car park in Sidley.  

Find out more 
here.

 

Rother District Council Discretionary Grants
Rother District Council has secured additional funding from Government to continue to support businesses through the impact of COVID – 19. A new discretionary grant scheme, designed to have a longer legacy for local businesses and the Rother economy is now open for applications until 30 November. 

The scheme has been designed to provide support to businesses within five distinct areas: 

  • Businesses closed due COVID 19 isolation 
  • Rural Businesses 
  • Empty Shops 
  • Empty Businesses rated property 
  • Staff Training and Development 

For further information, visit the Rother District Council website here

Observer Article

In my most recent article for the Observer, I touched on my work in Parliament on the Environment Bill and sewage discharge, the Budget and Spending Review, and the Transport Committee’s new report on smart motorways.  

Read 
here

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