Article for North Devon Journal

24th July 2014
Parliament adjourned for recess this week, but that does not mean that your  MP will not be working! As I have done every year since being elected to represent Torridge and West Devon, I will be going out and about in our constituency and visiting many of the smaller towns and villages.
I am very much looking forward to attending the local agricultural shows, and visiting the charities, community organisations and small businesses which make Devon unique. A Member of Parliament’s first duty is to his constituency and getting to be at home each day for a few weeks gives me the opportunity to talk to more local people about the things which really matter to them. Often in the past, the discussion has turned to gloomy economic prospects both local and national but this year, I believe our conversations will, on balance, be very much more hopeful and positive than in previous years. 
This year, parliament has legislated to help cut red tape, corporation tax and business rates for small businesses and I have been campaigning to see a reduction in VAT for the tourism industry which I hope to see happen before too long and will help our local economy immensely. Similarly, the Government's commitment to better strategic road and rail links to the South West and the inclusion of a large part of Torridge in the area eligible for "transitional funding" will help to make Torridge a more attractive place for businesses to locate and reduce the huge competitive advantage enjoyed by Cornwall, which under Labour received over ten times the development assistance of communities in Devon. Now, that gap will be much smaller.   
Small and medium business are responsible for employing nearly 60% of local people. Now, there are very good reasons to believe that our economy has turned a vital corner and that the growth and increasing employment being experienced all around the country are beginning to be felt here in Torridge, where joblessness is going down. In an effort to get our young people into good jobs, the government has introduced its successful apprenticeship program and ensured that the "under 21s" have been taken out of national insurance contributions altogether.   
Similarly, the confirmation last week of the new education funding deal for Devon, with an increase almost £200 per pupil, was the most important news for Torridge and West Devon's schools that we have seen for many years. I have lobbied hard for this and Michael Gove's visit to meet the Heads of our local secondary schools and colleges last year was a significant step on the way to convincing the Government of the need to rectify the historic and unjustifiable inequity of Devon's schools allocation, one of the six worst in the country. This improved grant will be the base from which a Conservative Government will design a new national schools grant formula, which will lock in the improvement permanently. 
Of course, darker shadows and great questions still hang over our national future. The volatility of international events, for example in Ukraine and Palestine, and the fragility of the economies of many of the European nations still present real risks and the task of recovery is not yet half accomplished. That is why it is so important that we remain fixed upon the goal and implement our long term plan for bringing our nation back to sound economic health.