From Huw Merriman <[email protected]>
Subject Huw Merriman - 27 January Newsletter
Date January 27, 2022 3:49 PM
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I hope you find this newsletter a useful summary of local support, initiatives, COVID-19 updates and my work on your behalf.


** Dear Resident,

It’s been a busy (and noisy) period in politics since my last newsletter. As I have said publicly, I am sorry about what I have read of events in No10. I believe that all of us who have brought in restrictions should be abiding by them in order for others to do likewise. I’m still awaiting the response from the inquiry and I will then make my views known when I have digested the report. It may not be to everyone’s taste but I don’t like spouting forth before the investigation is completed. I regard the role of a Member of Parliament to be a participant in the political process; not a commentator. I know it may be old-fashioned but I hope it strikes a chord in a constituency like ours. I do, however, understand the unhappiness from many and I share it. Undoubtedly, it makes it harder to focus on the policy areas which I feel are needed to improve our community. I’m a firm believer in getting my head down and working harder in febrile times.

Here’s an update of what I have been doing in Parliament and the constituency in recent weeks.


COVID Vaccination and Restrictions Update

Of the eligible East Sussex population (all those aged 12 years and above) 86.1% have had their first vaccination, 80.9% have had their second vaccination and 85.3% of those eligible have had their booster. An amazing job from all of those running our vaccination programme and all of those getting themselves protected and, with that, their community remains safer and more open.

The Plan B measures, which were brought in at December, have now been phased out. I believe the restrictions struck the right balance and allowed us to keep most parts of life open whilst sending a message that we needed to be cautious. Some would have preferred more restrictions, as in Wales and Scotland. Others may have preferred none at all. I voted for the restrictions because they struck me as a proportionate balance between the two.

Changes to BBC Funding

The Government announced that the BBC Licence Fee will be frozen for the next two years and will then go on to rise with inflation for the following four years. I raised my concerns about this decision in the Culture Secretary’s Statement using a local residents email as an example.

As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC, I am acutely aware of the vital services the BBC provide. I know not everyone supports the fee, but for 43 p a day we get ten TV services, ten national radio stations, 40 local radio stations in addition to everything else on offer from BBC iPlayer to BBC Bitesize, Sport and Weather.

I believe that anything less than a deal linked to inflation will have significant and far-reaching consequences for the wider creative industries and the viewing public.

Watch here ([link removed])

Smart Motorways

The Government has now responded to the Transport Select Committee’s report on the Rollout and safety of smart motorways, accepting every one of our recommendations. In doing so, the Government has committed to:

* Immediately pause the rollout of Smart Motorways yet to commence construction allowing the Government to collect five years of safety and economic data for every Smart Motorway scheme introduced before 2020.
* Allocating £390 million to install additional Emergency Refuge Areas (ERA) and Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology where Smart Motorway schemes are already underway;
* Pausing the conversion of seven dynamic hard shoulder motorways to Smart Motorways, revisiting the case for controlled motorways, and considering alternative options for enhancing capacity on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) ahead of the next Road Investment Strategy;
* Asking the Office for Rail and Road (ORR) to report annually on how successful the Government’s 2020 stocktake and action plan has been in reducing the number of live line breakdowns on Smart Motorways and reducing the time for which people who breakdown or stop in a live lane are at risk;
* Improving safety measures on existing stretches of smart motorway by asking the ORR to independently evaluate the effectiveness of SVD technology, along with other safety measures on Smart Motorways;
* Evaluating the benefits of health and safety assessments being undertaken by the ORR before changes to design or operational standards are implemented on the SRN; and
* Reassessing the business case for Smart Motorways.

Last Thursday, I made a statement in the House of Commons Chamber to update colleagues on this progress and took questions from those impacted. Straight afterwards, I led a debate in our sister chamber, Westminster Hall, to allow MPs to delve further.

You can watch my statement here ([link removed]) .

Watch the Westminster Hall Debate here ([link removed]) .

Further information on the Government's response here ([link removed]) .

Ten Minute Rule Bill

This week I proposed new legislation to protect consumers from getting a penalty, fine, or need to pay if they can prove that they have already paid for the same transaction. I call this ‘double charging’.

In my speech, I raised incidences of double charging that residents shared with me, and also examples currently being dealt with by Which?.

I am pleased that my Bill had cross party support. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on my campaign!

Find out more here ([link removed])

TSC Road Freight Evidence Session

On Wednesday, the Transport Select Committee held its final evidence session in our Road freight supply chain inquiry. We heard from the Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, and discussed issues relating to the sector, including HGV driver recruitment and retention, pay and conditions, facilities available to drivers and changes to testing, drivers’ hours legislation and cabotage rules.

We will be publishing our final report to Government in the Spring. In the meantime, you can watch the final evidence session here ([link removed])

Bexhill Eco Projects

I joined Lindsay White of Community Supporters last Friday to hear about their plans to develop several Urban Eco projects in Bexhill. The exciting proposals include creating a community orchard, wildflower meadow, forest school, rural crafts and a community kitchen and learning space. I will be backing the funding bids to bring these projects to reality and provide educational and community-based opportunities for all generations.

Local Green Investment

I met with David MacDonald and Ashley Bell who have set up a new business, Path Financial, based in Battle. Their fast-growing business is already achieving national awards and providing local jobs through their mission to achieve real positive impact on climate change through green investments. I heard directly from them about how green investment can really make a difference and how important this ethos is to local residents.

Southern Water Meeting

Sally-Ann Hart MP and I met with Southern Water to discuss how this local waste water company is responding to the demands of the government and local residents to cut sewage discharges into rivers and the sea. We were pleased to hear that they are driving forward initiatives to ensure that storm conditions will not lead to sewage releases. Both Sally-Ann and I will be getting monthly updates and holding regular meetings with the company to hold them to account. We will support their proposals for better regulation and enforcement to ensure that waste water is properly connected to the right drainage systems by developers and small builders alike. I’m determined that our water is clean and that our utility supplier makes more progress.

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Home Office Questions - Knife Crime

At Home Office Questions last week, I commended Arsenal Football Club's No More Red campaign that seeks to focus on the causes of youth violence and provide safe spaces and opportunities for young people.

As a Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime and Violence Reduction, and having volunteered at youth centres in Brixton, this issue is close to my heart. I asked the Home Secretary what more can be done to help charities set up youth centres as a way to give people a better route in life, away from gangs and crime.

You can watch my question and the Home Secretary's answer here ([link removed]) .

More details on the No More Red campaign can be found here ([link removed]) .

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Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and marked 77 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

I was honoured to sign the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment and formally support this important day.

For those of you wanting to commemorate the Holocaust, I recommend watching Yad Va Shem's incredible archive of survivor testimonies
here ([link removed]) .

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Back British Farming

In this week’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions, I called on the Government to improve country of origin food labelling so that it is more transparent.

Residents tell me they want to buy British produce with confidence, and it was encouraging to hear that work is ongoing to find a technical solution to improve country of origin labels. Representing a farming community, and working with the National Farmers Union, I am keen to ensure we support British produce.

Find out more here ([link removed])

Transport Committee - The Year Ahead

2021 was a busy year for the Transport Select Committee. We published reports on a diverse range of transport issues, including smart motorways, zero emission vehicles and major transport infrastructure projects, as well as focusing on international travel during the pandemic. The year ahead will be equally busy as we publish reports on road pricing, aviation and road freight, as well as launching new inquiries into the Integrated Rail Plan and alternative fuels.

You can read more about the work of the Transport Committee in my article in The House Magazine’s Select Committee special edition here ([link removed] )

Visit to the Port of Dover

Last Wednesday, the Transport Select Committee visited the Port of Dover and motorway service areas in Medway and Thurrock as part of our Road freight supply chain inquiry.

This was a really useful opportunity to learn more about border procedures at Dover, including the challenges around the upcoming introduction of the new EU Entry/Exit System (EES). The EES will require drivers to physically get out of their vehicle in order to complete biometric border checks; slowing down the speed at which people can be processed. It is predicted that this could result in 17-mile tailbacks at Dover which would be a disaster for the local economy.

We also heard directly from HGV drivers about their working conditions and saw firsthand the varying quality of facilities that they have access to.

You can find out more about our inquiry here ([link removed])

Autism Roundtable
This week in my role as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Autism, I charied a roundtable with Education Minister Will Quince on school exclusions.

Recent figures from the Department for Education show that autistic children in England are twice as likely to be excluded from school as pupils with no special educational needs.

The roundtable was a good opportunity to hear from Minister Quince, the National Autistic Society, Ambitious about Autism and Euan Bater who discussed his own experiences of the education system as someone with Autism. [link removed]

Observer Article

In my most recent article for the Observer, I covered my work on smart motorways and touched on residents’ understandable concerns over breaches of lockdown restrictions.

Read here ([link removed])

Have your say on health care services in East Sussex

I am working with neighboring MP Sally-Ann Hart to encourage residents to have their say on improving cardiology and ophthalmology in East Sussex through the East Sussex Health and Care Partnership’s public consultations that close on Friday 11 March.

Find out more here ([link removed]) .

Have your say in the consultations here ([link removed]) .

Wylands Fishery Visit

I am always keen to support new and growing businesses in the rural areas. Sustainable and sympathetic rural business growth provides job opportunities for local people. I was therefore pleased to visit Wyland's Farm and Angling Centre in Catsfield where business owner, Pete Bull and Manager, Ray Grant, are creating jobs in their angling centre and farm shop alongside creating much-needed business space for local rural enterprise.

Battle ISP School Visit

I was delighted to visit the new ISP School in Battle which recently opened on the Glengorse Estate. Set in beautiful grounds, this new school provides specialist education for children and young people with social, emotional, and mental health needs. I joined the students for their early morning community meeting and then took part in a Q&A led by two students, Joe and AJ. They have been studying different styles of media and journalism and had some great questions for me on current affairs and politics. They then took me on a tour of the school with Headteacher, Caroline Belchem.
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