The main focus in Westminster was again on Brexit as the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill went through its Committee Stage where various amendments were tabled. None of the amendments were approved, and the Bill has now passed to the House of Lords where it will undergo a similar process as the Government aim to have it passed into legislation to enact Article 50 by the end of March, as previously promised by Theresa May.

At the end of last week there was a debate on a matter proposed by the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, which is the Committee I sit on. We proposed a vote of no confidence in the Football Association which, whilst it sounds very dramatic, is not binding. However it does indicate the view of the House of Commons. We tabled this proposal following a letter received from various previous Chief Executives, including Greg Dyke, in which they expressed their frustration in the FA’s unwillingness to change. This was despite recommendations from previous Select Committee Reports in which the Governance of the FA was called into question.

The present Chief Executive, Greg Clarke has expressed his determination to bring the FA into the modern age - going so far as to say that if he fails to do this then he would resign his position. Whilst the FA does do a lot of good work - indeed here in the High Peak we have seen significant investment through the Football Foundation - there is a pressing need for them to modernise. Many local football fans contacted me about the debate, asking that I attend and raise their concerns, however being a signatory to the motion I was already fully committed to it.

In a world where there are so many issues that are concerning people, I can appreciate that this many be seen as somewhat irrelevant, but the level of interest and participation in football makes it the most popular sport in the country, and the amount of money in the game today is such that it plays a significant part in the economy as a whole and it should be governed in a modern way with a modern outlook.  It needs to represent the fans of the game at all levels, not just the Premiership elite. I made this point to the FA two years ago when Glossop North End reached the FA Vase final at Wembley, only to find that the FA had changed the way they distributed the prize money and gate receipts since their previous final in 2009, slanting it more in favour of the FA than the local clubs who had reached the final.

Many people across the High Peak receive my Email newsletter, which I send out on a regular basis and has a readership of several thousand people. Anyone wishing to receive it can sign up via a quick form on the front page of my website. I pay personally to use a dedicated company to send it out so that people know it is secure and not a spam email.

For the amount I pay each month, it gives me a certain amount of emails I can send out and I have been giving some thought as to how I can use the spare capacity that this price gives me. I have settled on the idea of also sending a community newsletter / noticeboard that can be used by local voluntary organisations and community groups to promote themselves or events that they are holding.

It will be totally non-political, and I am liaising with High Peak CVS to work out the best way of doing it, but my vision is that a local voluntary organisations that is running an event can send the information into my office for inclusion on the Community Newsletter, which will then be sent out in the same way as my own Email Newsletter.

Naturally there will be limited space available, and the frequency of the newsletter is something that I am still looking at, however I hope it will provide a useful avenue of publicity for the many voluntary organisations that operate across the High Peak - and at absolutely no cost to themselves. It can be used to promote a single event or indeed a service being offered by a specific issue group. There are so many of these across the High Peak and as it is such a large area it is difficult for them to get the publicity they need to reach across the whole area. I am hoping that this Community Email Newsletter will give them an extra opportunity, with no cost and very little extra work required.

I have had discussions with the High Peak CVS who provide support to community and voluntary groups in the High Peak, and they will be invaluable in spreading the word to their members about what I am trying to do, however there will be other groups who may not be in touch with the CVS and I would encourage anyone involved in a local voluntary organisation to get in touch with me. If you are holding an event or running a voluntary community service, and would like to use this to gain extra publicity, then please email or call me so that I can make my new Community Email Newsletter the best it can be.

Following the ruling of the Supreme Court last week that dictated that Parliament had to be consulted prior to the invoking of Article 50 - the mechanism of leaving the European Union - the Government laid a Bill before Parliament giving the Prime Minister the authority to do just that.

This was laid before the House on Thursday and at the time of writing will be debated at second reading on Tuesday and Wednesday (31st Jan / 1st Feb) when there will doubtless be many contributions. It will then be voted on sometime on the Wednesday evening. By the time you read this column that vote will have taken place and, whilst it is always unwise to predict anything in politics - particularly at present, it is expected to clear this first hurdle of parliamentary procedure.

The Bill is very short and concise, as its purpose is purely to give the Prime Minister the authority to commence Article 50. It will be back on the floor of the House the following week for what is known as Committee Stage, and there will be further debates over three days with the likelihood of further votes.

This small piece of legislation is commanding huge attention and it will follow the normal procedure of any piece of legislation going through Parliament. For reference there is a glossary of terms on my website that explains many of the parliamentary terms such as Second Reading, Report Stage etc. and also parliamentary processes, which I hope people may find useful.

There was much comment over whether the Supreme Court were right to rule the way they did and the relationship between the judiciary and Parliament, however their decision has been made and we have to work with it. This Bill is necessary as a consequence of that ruling, it is one that I will support as I believe that the Prime Minister is right to look to invoke Article 50 by the end of March as she has made clear she will.

Last week also saw the Prime Minister meet with the new American president Donald Trump. She was the first major overseas Leader to do so. Britain has always had strong relations with the United States. The relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan has been much referred to recently, the relationship between Tony Blair and George Bush was also much scrutinised and Theresa May will build a working relationship with Mr. Trump. I believe it is important to maintain our links with the US, but the Prime Minister should be firm with Mr. Trump over some of his more unacceptable utterances and I believe she is strong enough to do so.

Last week Theresa May laid out the objectives for Britain leaving the European Union. These 12 objectives aim to get the best and right deal for all of us across the country. She made it clear that Britain will be leaving the EU; we won’t be seeking any halfway house type of membership or associate membership.

Last June the question on the ballot paper was clear; it was about leaving the EU and that is what people voted for. There are those who still strongly oppose that path, however to go against that would, as I have said previously, be an affront to our democratic system. In the six months that have passed since June there has been lots of conjecture over what sort of deal Britain would seek and last week the Prime Minister began to explain those details. I have placed the 12 objectives on my website as there isn’t sufficient column space to lay them out here, however one thing is clear - the Prime Minister is determined to get the best deal for Britain and her rhetoric was strong and positive.

The Prime Minister will give certainty wherever she can during the negotiations, and she also affirmed that the final deal will be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. We will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain - meaning we are once again in control of our own laws. We want to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU as quickly as possible. We will ensure that workers’ rights are protected and maintained as European laws are translated into our own domestic employment regulations.

As membership of the EU single market brings with it many of the things that were the subject of people’s opposition to our membership of the EU - such as free movement and European Court of Justice rulings - Theresa May has also said that we will leave the single market, and as a priority we will pursue a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union instead. Leaving the single market will also free us of contributing large sums to the EU budget. She has, however, said that we will look to possibly contribute to some specific EU programmes that we wish to participate in, but this will be our decision. We will also look to strike new trade deals with other countries outside the EU.

The Prime Minister’s speech was optimistic and positive, and I believe it has struck the right tone. There are those who still and will always feel that the country made a huge mistake last June. As readers will know, I am not one of them, but we now have to enact that decision. It cannot and will not be reversed, so we have to look forward and with the 12 objectives laid out last week we have the framework to move forward. There will be difficulties and I am sure some disagreement along the way, but I feel that Britain can prosper outside the EU, and the Prime Minister’s speech last week lays out the path for doing so.

The House returned from the Christmas recess last week facing a new year that will see the consequences of 2016 looming large, namely the invoking of Article 50 that will start the process of Britain leaving the European Union. However, despite this dominating the political agenda for the last 6 months of 2016 there are many other issues that need to be addressed and dealt with.

This time of year is traditionally the time when the National Health Service comes under most pressure, and the 27th December was the busiest day in the Health Service’s history, placing more pressure on the staff and services that they provide. Many politicians have paid tribute to the staff in NHS who worked throughout the holiday period, and I would join them and also pay tribute to the many other people who work over holiday periods such as Christmas and New Year.

The NHS is a great institution and one that is universally admired and funding it is always a challenge. It is one area where Government funding has continued and in greater amounts, yet there seems to be a perennial problem with money for the Health Service. I am not going to say that everything is perfect, it plainly isn't, nor will I say that the NHS is completely broken and I felt the comments by the Red Cross claiming that the NHS faced a ‘humanitarian crisis’ were unwarranted and also diminished genuine humanitarian crises we see elsewhere in the world.

However there are still problems to be addressed, and identifying these problems brings forward a variety of opinions from politicians, health professionals and other bodies. Is there enough money going in? Is that money being well spent? The answer to those questions cannot both be yes. I have had letters, emails and visits to my surgery from patients and professionals alike all with stories to tell and with suggestions on how we can do things better. I feed these into the ministerial team in the Department of Health, particularly suggestions from people working in the NHS, as they are the ones on the front line who can see what changes need to be made and how they can improve the service.

I hope we can get political consensus across all sides to find solutions to the ongoing pressures on the NHS; an aging population, increased demand and increasing costs. If we could leave politics out of the discussions, I feel this would be helpful in ensuring our NHS remains the best in the world.

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