In My View - 8th February 2018

This week I am overseas, in Canada and America, on a factfinding and relationship building trip with the International Trade Select Committee. We have a packed agenda which is just as well as it’s around minus 15 degrees in Ottowa so there is only really the desire to scuttle between warm buildings. . The purpose of Select Committees is to advise and scrutinise the Government departments but we are all aware that we are representatives of the UK as we look to broaden our international outlook and deepen our friendships across the globe.

Trade agreements really do come down to the details and talks with our hosts have been encouraging. For example I have had the opportunity to discuss dairy supply chains with Canadian officials and the UK High Commissioner with our local cheese exports in mind, and I had fruitful discussions with key aerospace players like Bombardier. During the week we are meeting various Government officials in Ottawa and Washington, border officials, regulatory agencies and academics to further our knowledge of their systems and see what lessons the UK can learn from them. The systems that allow efficient business across land borders with different regulatory codes and customs areas are, of course, of particular interest. There has been a great deal of simplification about what ‘model’ we may follow in our arrangements outside the European Union – in reality we will form our own model but I am very pleased to have had this opportunity to talk specifics with experts and friends across the pond.

Back in Somerset I have been spending some time working on social care issues. There’s no doubt that looking after the elderly well is one of the biggest challenges facing the Western world as people live longer and also are more mobile geographically. Also, in the West Country we have a higher percentage of retired people than in most parts of the country so the need is greater. Over a visit to Tynedale House and a meeting with Care England it was striking how new technology has the potential to radically improve both the delivery of care and also the quality of life for older people. For example, in residential homes sensors can be used to unobtrusively monitor movement so that something unusual can alert staff without the need for so much manual oversight. I also had a very useful meeting about promoting employment opportunities for people with autism and look forward to supporting future initiatives in that field.

Like most in the political world I was saddened to see the aggressive protest against Jacob Rees-Mogg in Bristol recently. It doesn’t matter who you claim to represent or what political view you choose, if you plan to disrupt a public meeting with violence then you are stepping into a very different world. Given how easy it is to film and identify people nowadays it’s also not a great thing to add to your cv.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about any of these issues, in a peaceful and law abiding manner, if I can help with an issue you may have, or if you would like to make an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries, please do email or call 01935314321.