COP27 reaffirmed the UK’s commitments to deliver on the climate promises that were established at COP26 in Glasgow last year. And as the Prime Minister told the House last week, climate security and energy security go hand in hand.
By committing £30bn to support green industries in our country, we will be able to escape foreign manipulation of energy prices, and leverage £100bn of private investment to support a greater number of high wage, high skilled jobs that will facilitate our transition to greener technologies.
Ultimately, to achieve net zero emissions globally will require work from everyone. There has been quite a focus on climate justice - both recognising that poorer countries may be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and that supporting these countries to work towards decarbonisation is morally the right thing to do. However, success depends on getting the bigger contributors to climate change like China and Saudi Arabia to buy-in. Any financial support for poorer countries should be used to invest in local green technology improving their climate change resilience.
Closer to home, the Social Housing Bill had its second reading in the House last week. The bill provides new powers for the Social Housing Regulator to give tenants an enhanced voice and improved access to redress. The bill also contains provisions to empower the Housing Ombudsman to issue a code of practice on complaint handling with landlords. This bill delivers on our 2019 manifesto commitment to social housing residents, by empowering tenants and providing them with greater redress to hold their landlords to account.
Rural areas of the UK feel left behind by the levelling up agenda. Most government funding is supposed to be ‘rural proofed’ to recognise the increasing costs associated with the geographic size of rural counties like Devon, and the sparsity of communities -which also tend to have an above average aging population. But as any head teacher or primary care doctor will tell you, it doesn’t work and rural areas have for many years been underfunded. We need investment in our schools, our hospitals, our broadband, our transport infrastructure and in social care.
The small levelling up pots available to be bid for to help communities have to date been very small and because they have to be bid for, often result in wasted time and money. However, one very good success story is the fantastic new kitchen, dubbed ‘project heat’, which now serves Abbotskerswell Village Hall which I was delighted to open. Success in getting access to this funding for village halls is a great credit to the project team, councillors and the community who fought hard – and won!
While fellow MPs of rural constituencies expressed their concerns in a debate on rural levelling up in the Chamber, I was able to do the same in the Public Accounts Committee when questioning the Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer of the UK Infrastructure Bank. The UK infrastructure bank is another source of funding that could be used in local areas like ours. The Infrastructure Bank has a mandate to provide funding for local infrastructure projects which will deliver net zero or local economic growth, effectively as a lender of last resort. But as currently structured the focus is on major urban projects because of their population density. This needs rethinking if areas like ours which are really needy miss out!
As normality returns post Covid, I have been delighted once again to be out visiting schools. It was a great pleasure over the last few weeks to visit both Torquay Grammar School for Girls and for Boys. As I always hope and expect I got a good grilling! One of the youngest members of the audience likened politics to chaos! A fair comment which led to an interesting debate about recent events, new prime ministers and mini budgets!
As always, if you would like to book a surgery appointment (in-person or virtual) or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email [email protected] to arrange an appointment.