Neil Parish MP raises constituency issues in Summer Adjournment Debate

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative): It is a great pleasure to be the last speaker in this debate.

 

I congratulate my hon. Friend Jason McCartney on taking on the mantle of my hon. Friend Mr Amess in trying to refer to the most constituents in the shortest time. I echo his concerns about dangerous dogs. We are doing a lot of work on that. Microchipping and other compulsory measures will help. People who have a legitimate right to go into a home, be they a postman, a midwife or a social worker, should not be bitten by a dog, especially a dog that is known to be dangerous. I want to pursue that matter. I have great sympathy for the postman who was bitten in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley, as I do for the thousands who are bitten every year.

 

I will raise one or two serious matters from my constituency. The first relates to the A35, which runs through my constituency, including through Axminster, and on to the Dorset border. Recently, there have been a couple of fatal accidents on the A35 at the Hunters Lodge junction at Raymond’s Hill. In the first collision, a 60-year-old man from Plymouth died and two other people were injured. The second crash claimed the life of 82-year-old Pamela Manning from Harrow and her two elderly companions in the car were taken to hospital.

 

I have met the Highways Agency, Axminster town council and Uplyme parish council to discuss how we can improve the Hunters Lodge junction. Something must be done. Although there have been many accidents at the junction, the Highways Agency said at the meeting that there had been no fatalities. Unfortunately, they have now occurred, so it is essential that something is done, and I shall be working with my right hon. Friend Mr Letwin on this issue.

 

The A303/A30 was mentioned in the financial statement. It should be dualled all the way from Honiton, right the way through those interesting stones in Wiltshire called Stonehenge, to London, so that we have a second arterial route into the west country, and to Devon and Cornwall in particular. Tourism is one of our great industries. Those who run businesses in the west country find that when the M5 is blocked, the A303/A30 is almost impassable. I look forward to it being dualled.

 

I would like to talk about health funding for primary care. The current age profile in Honiton and Axminster—to take two towns I represent—is estimated to be reflected nationally by 2035. The population is getting older. The doctors in Axminster say that the number of people calling them for advice has gone up from 6,000 to 18,000 in a year, and there are similar figures for Honiton. Health funding will have to recognise this trend. People breathe in the good clean air in Devon and live for a long time. I am pleased with that, but people will need to be treated more as they get older and that has to be recognised.

 

As we bask in the sunshine, we must remember that a year ago we were all under water. There were floods in Axminster, Uplyme, Seaton, Cullompton and Tiverton—all over my constituency—and many were caused by the blocking of rivers and tributaries. At the time, the Environment Agency said that it had so much to do just to help people who were already flooded that they could not do a great deal to manage the waterways, by dredging them and clearing blockages. Now is the time to do it:

 

there is never a better time than when it is dry. What we do not want to do is just bask in this great sunshine. I welcome this great sunshine and I am glad that Keith Vaz congratulated the Government on providing it, even though I know he was only teasing.

 

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley, Labour): The sunshine is the only thing the Government have accepted responsibility for since 2010.

 

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton, Conservative): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, even if I am not sure that I entirely agree with him. I think will keep it fairly light-hearted at this stage of the proceedings.

 

We need to remember that flooding took place. We need proper dredging of our rivers. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is keen on it. Now is the time to do it.

 

I have mentioned Mrs Ethelston’s school in Uplyme previously. We need a new school in the village and we are trying to put together a funding package locally. Government support is needed to make that happen. It is a very successful school with very high grades and it will be a great asset to the whole area, not just Uplyme.

 

My constituency runs from Exmoor down through the Blackdown hills, so I have a number of farmers in my constituency. They are concerned about yet another reform to the common agricultural policy. It seems that yet more bureaucracy will be heaped on them, rather than less. There is no level playing field: payments between them and those on the continent, or even between them and farmers from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, are all different. If we are to make a single market in food and agricultural products work, we need to pay farmers at a similar level. My argument over the years has been that we should either pay at a similar level or not pay at all, because otherwise we will distort everything.

 

We have had to negotiate a tough package in Europe. As a Conservative and part of the governing party, I cannot expect to go cap in hand to the Treasury for huge handouts over and above what the CAP provides. Therefore, I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to look sympathetically at how we deliver environmental schemes and payments to farmers in a way that maintains the countryside—the beautiful grassland and hills in my constituency, which people come to visit from all over the place, including down from London and even the north of England.

 

People visit Devon, Cornwall and much of the west country because of their landscapes and the way they are managed. Who manages them? It is very much the farmers who manage them, and if we lose them, we will lose those landscapes. I look forward to a sympathetic reform and to trying to break the bureaucracy of the system. I rather fear that some of what comes from Europe will be somewhat bureaucratic, but let us hope we can make the best of it, because I am a great believer in good, traditional food that is well produced under high welfare standards, which is what our farmers deliver in this country.

 

Finally, may I wish you a very good recess, Mr Deputy Speaker? I am sure that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley, you will be busy in your constituency, as will I and most Members of this House.