The Government announced last week the allowance for Local Authorities to raise the social care precept on the Council Tax. As the High Peak is a two tier area, that will be the decision of Derbyshire County Council rather than High Peak Borough Council.  I have received communications from several people on the decision with varying views, but the issue of long term social care is something that is looming large and needs to be addressed. The raising of the precept will certainly give extra money into the system, however I believe it is only a small part of a solution to how we care for our elderly in their later years. There are varying estimates of how much this will cost and there are different theories on how the money can and will be found.

At the present time, social care is administered by local government whilst general healthcare falls to the NHS and there needs to be a seamless join between the two services. It was suggested to me that social care be taken into the NHS, but I would be concerned that this would further increase the size and remit of the NHS. The inescapable truth is that whoever delivers the service there is a cost to bear and that cost is increasing with the aging population. The Dilnot Commission of 2011 made certain recommendations, but action needs to be taken and the nub of the issue is where the money will be found. Already suggestions are being made and I would welcome any thoughts constituents may have on this issue of growing concern to us all.

As we approach the end of the year and Parliament looks to rise for the Christmas and New Year recess, we can reflect back on 2016, which had events that will live long in the memory and will doubtless be the subject of discussion and debate for many years to come. The EU Referendum of June 23rd and the immediate consequences of that will dominate the memory of 2016 for many, with David Cameron standing down as Prime Minister and Theresa May taking over. In the USA the election of Donald Trump also came as a surprise to pundits and pollsters alike, and we will enter 2017 with the consequences of both those events unfolding throughout the New Year and beyond.

Finally, as this is my last column of the year, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone across the High Peak a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. Over the festive period we should all spare a thought for those who are less fortunate, and for whom Christmas may not be the happy time that it is for many of us.

Several weeks ago I asked for people to email me with any issues they have with the train services in and across the High Peak. Last year a new franchise was awarded to deliver rail services in the north – including to the High Peak - and the successful bidder was Arriva Rail North, who have adopted the previous Northern Rail name. The new franchise is far more rigorous than previous ones, asking for greater performance and investment from the successful bidder. Following their successful bid, Northern Rail now have a requirement to deliver a service that we expect on trains that are comfortable and fit for service.

They have now been running the franchise since April, so I felt it was time that I took them round the stations in the High Peak to discuss the service and improvements that they were looking to implement. To ensure that all the issues were raised, I asked for people to let me know of any ongoing problems they were having with the train service. People contacted me from different parts of the High Peak with issues around station access, train capacity, the condition of carriages and the frequency of services, to name but a few.

Together with two representatives from Northern Rail, I visited almost all the stations across the constituency and had far reaching discussions, sometimes quite frank, on the full range of issues. Whilst I am reassured that Northern are looking to improve both the service and the trains, I was robust with them about our expectations here in the High Peak. I felt by visiting all the stations it gave them a far better perspective on the needs of the constituency and the opportunities for them as a franchisee. They went away with a list of issues that I had compiled from residents’ feedback. Unfortunately space constraints prevent me from listing them in this column, but some issues I expect to see some rapid actions on, while some will take a little longer. We agreed, however, to have an ongoing dialogue with regular updates on the longer term issues.

I am supportive of the franchise model, however the operators must always put the customers first because, as I pointed out to Northern, a better service will lead to increase usage which in turn will allow them to keep the fares down to reasonable levels, which given recent fare increase announcements is something that I know concerns people who use the railways - especially for commuting.

The subject of secondary ticketing was discussed last week in Westminster and readers may remember I wrote about this in the last Parliament. Secondary ticketing is the resale of tickets to events such as concerts, sporting occasions and theatre performances. In many cases if someone buys a ticket for a concert and then for some reason cannot attend there is no way of returning the ticket, so in recent years websites such as Getmein, Viagogo, Seatwave and Stubhub have sprung up where fans can place their tickets at a price they choose in order to recoup some or all of the cost. This has worked well and in the previous Parliament I felt that as the secondary ticketing market was working reasonably well it didn't need any government interference.

However, as technology has moved on there is evidence that this system is being abused. Touts have developed what are known as 'Bots' which are automated pieces of software that when concert tickets are released can book huge numbers of tickets within seconds. We often read of concerts 'selling out in minutes' yet tickets appear on resale websites equally as quickly at vastly inflated prices, preventing genuine fans from purchasing them at face value prices.

There are further concerns around tickets in some cases going straight to the secondary market without even being offered out on the primary market. These and other abuses of what should be a good system have increased to such a level that contrary to my previous position I believe that legislation may be needed.

Outlawing the use of Bots would be a step in the right direction, but may not be the complete solution. Last week the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee that I sit on interrogated industry experts and it threw up more issues than just Bots. Some of the answers provided by the resale website operators were very weak and unsatisfactory and I suspect that this issue has some way to run, but for anyone who has failed to get a ticket for a concert or sporting event will, I am sure, have some sympathy with the inadequacies of the system.

The hearing last week has attracted quite a lot of publicity and Ministers will now be looking at the situation to see what can be done and whether any legislation can be included in the Digital Economy Bill that is working its way through Parliament at the moment.

Although last week saw very light business as the House rose on Tuesday evening for the mid-session recess, I did manage to raise an impressive fact that I was made aware of recently. The High Peak has had more patents granted than any other area in the East Midlands, also more than Manchester and East Cheshire. I raised this during Questions to the new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department and to gain an assurance from Ministers that any industrial strategy does not ignore the rural areas like the High Peak. These figures prove what I have been saying for years, that the High Peak is full of businesses and people that do great work and just because we are a rural area we should not be overlooked by Central Government in any way.

In many ways, last week British politics - and indeed Brexit - were put in the shade by the result of the American Presidential Election. Very few people anticipated a Trump victory, indeed I fully expected Hilary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States. So when, as results came in, it began to emerge that Donald Trump had won the race to the White House there was a collective gasp around the world.

I think many of Mr. Trump’s utterances during the preceding months have been at best 'unstatesmanlike' and in many cases just plain offensive, yet he has now been democratically elected as the Leader of the most powerful country in the world and as such has to be accepted as such. As the second political shock in less than five months, I feel there is something happening in politics across the world; people's views are changing - as is their attitude to the political classes - and those of us who work in politics will do well to listen and take heed.

There has been much conjecture of what sort of President Mr. Trump will be and we will watch and wait. I believe that much of his pre-election rhetoric will turn out to be just that - rhetoric. As a presidential hopeful he was prone to making big statements and pronouncements, but as President he will very much have to not only moderate his tone but in many cases his actions. We will all await these developments with considerable interest and not a little nervousness, because it is a fact that as the President of the United States he has huge power conferred on him by the American people and we all hope that, assisted by his advisors, he uses it wisely and judiciously.

The decision by the courts last week to determine that Parliament must have a say over Britain leaving the European Union has caused a storm of controversy and described by some as a constitutional crisis.

In essence the country voted on June 23rd to leave the European Union. I and colleagues have since received many letters and emails from various different perspectives ranging from requests for a Second referendum through to an immediate and swift exit from the EU. I have been consistent throughout, as indeed I was prior to June 23rd, that whatever the result I would abide by it as the will of the people, and I still maintain that position.

Following last week’s ruling by the High Court, there is now a question on how this will be done with regards to the level of Parliamentary scrutiny any exit deal will be given. Whilst I am supportive of the Prime Minister's position that we must now implement the result of the referendum, I am also conscious of what role MPs can take and the influence they can bring to bear and it is argued that without any parliamentary scrutiny then as MPs we are being denied the ability to do just that.

On that basis, a strong case can be made for some sort of scrutiny by Parliament. However, I am concerned that the request for parliamentary scrutiny is being used by some as a Trojan horse by which to block or thwart Britain’s departure from the European Union. Genuine Parliamentary scrutiny - either via Select Committee or by debate - is something that can add to the situation, but using it to subvert the will of the majority of those who voted in June is something I would not wish to see.

It appears the Government intends to appeal the recent decision, so there are huge constitutional and legal issues involved here. One which has been put to me by many residents is should unelected judges take precedence over the elected representatives? Another is that by not going through Parliament, would that be abusing the standing of Parliament?

We will await the outcome of any appeal made by the Government, but whatever happens, I will do all I can to play a full part and ensure that whatever deal is done it will be the best possible for the country and the High Peak. Most importantly, I want to ensure the decision of June 23rd is upheld, because to go against that would - in my view - create a constitutional crisis far more serious than anything we have faced before.

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