It has been another busy month in parliament with many important announcements for the betterment of our nation and local area – our innovative new legislative agenda as laid out in the King’s Speech and the Autumn Statement outlining the economic framework for the next year. But before that, I begin with the great news announced in the Autumn Statement that I have been able to secure the £7 million funding for our innovative Rural Enterprise Hub to be developed near Penrith. After months of persuading Government of the scheme’s impact, I am delighted to say that the Chancellor announced we now have the green light for funding for the facility to house some 80 businesses which will bring with them an estimated 500 jobs and £20+ million of economic benefits in the next decade. This is a tremendous opportunity to take full advantage of local talent, unlocking the economic potential of rural Eden and allowing entrepreneurs and business leaders alike to thrive.
On top of this great news for our area, I was also delighted to be in the Chamber to hear about the progress we are making in tackling the immediate pressures in the economy, such as reducing the rate of inflation to help people across the country with the cost of living. Beyond the significant National Insurance cut for working people, I’d like to draw your attention to the retention of the Triple Lock on pensions which constituents will know has been a cornerstone of my campaigning in Westminster. As well as this, the National Living Wage has been increased, alcohol duty frozen and plant and machinery tax break implemented so production businesses can thrive.
We have also seen the King’s Speech and the raft of important legislation it brought. On a personal level, it has been incredibly rewarding to see issues such as tackling youth vaping and improving animal welfare that I have championed, included in our upcoming legislation.
This month I was humbled to visit Eden Valley Hospice and Jigsaw, Cumbria's Children's Hospice to express my heartfelt appreciation for the incredible work carried out by staff and volunteers. During my visit, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the compassionate care provided for people in North Cumbria with complex life limiting conditions as well as their families, friends and carers. These hospices rely on the generosity of our community to continue their vital work and I would encourage anyone who feels able to support them, whether through donating, volunteering, or spreading awareness.
In Westminster, I welcomed Great Corby Brewhouse to Parliament where I had arranged for their beer Tizzie-Whizie to be on tap in the prestigious Strangers’ Bar. I also met with Alston Moor Federation students who were learning more about our great democracy on their school trip.
This month has also heralded some major steps forward in my Better Connectivity Campaign. Firstly, I was delighted to welcome a new state-of-the-art smart vehicle to the Border Rambler volunteer bus fleet, enhancing quality of life for many older residents for whom the service is a vital lifeline. On top of this, Cumbria is set to receive more than £280 million of transformational funding to combat potholes so we can enjoy smoother, safer, and faster journeys; and £3.8 million to boost 5G connectivity’s contribution to the visitor economy – all thanks to our Conservative Government’s commitment to levelling up rural areas.
In Parliament, I spoke in a debate on American XL Bully Dogs reinforcing my position that after such a spate of high-profile and horrific attacks we must take action to protect both the public and other animals. But sadly, dangerous dog attacks are just one factor in a worrying spike in pet welfare issues since the pandemic. Having triggered an EFRA Committee Inquiry into the issue, we held our final evidence session pulling together our various themes. These have included the increase in unregulated canine fertility clinics, puppy and heavily pregnant dog smuggling, and the mutilation of animals by horrific practices such as ear cropping in dogs. Our task now is to collate our findings into a comprehensive report with recommendations to support DEFRA and our Conservative Government in improving animal health and welfare. I also chaired World Horse Welfare’s international conference in the presence of HRH the Princess Royal, was a panellist on Dangerous Dogs Legislation at the London Vet Show and met with horseracing specialists ahead of potential changes to the betting industry.
On a more personal note, I attended an incredibly moving parliamentary meeting on suicide awareness hosted by Sajid Javid, the Speaker Lindsay Hoyle and the Samaritans. I was able to speak of my work supporting the 3 Dads Walking in our campaign to introduce suicide prevention into school curricula in an age-appropriate way.
I end with the tremendous news that three organisations in Penrith and The Border were awarded the King’s Award for Voluntary Service, “the MBE for volunteer groups.” BEEP Doctors, Cumbria Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (Cumbria YFC), and Susan’s Farm all embody our tremendous community spirit, enriching the lives of individuals and the social fabric of our communities. I was particularly delighted to be able to formally nominate Cumbria YFC for their award. It is humbling seeing the work they do supporting the amazing young folk in our farming community. Many congratulations once again!