“Time to dust off taxpayer-funded reports and let progress take its course” says Somerset MP, Tessa Munt

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Long overdue improvements to the A303 were announced in Parliament this week, including the construction of a tunnel to protect the area around Stonehenge from damage caused by traffic on its way to and from Somerset, well-known destination for tourists, visitors and holidaymakers.

But, it’s not just big road projects that are important locally.  The proposed ‘Strawberry Line’ extension between Wells and Cheddar – an ‘off-road’ path for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and disabled vehicles – needs a helping hand too.

With the support of Sustrans, a leading charity supporting healthier, cleaner, cheaper journeys, local campaigners have spent years trying to give school children, locals and holidaymakers – and a growing number of cyclists – a safe green alternative to using the dangerous, narrow A371 route between Wells and Cheddar, both popular tourist destinations.  Rural roads are recognised as the most dangerous, especially with the increasing popularity of cycling.

After over a decade of meetings, lobbying and funding various reports and studies, the Strawberry Line Planning Application has been languishing in the dust on a shelf at County Hall for the last 4 years.

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Tessa Munt: Government commitment to work closely with tidal power company is hugely welcome

Somerset MP Tessa Munt has welcomed today’s announcement that the Government will start closer discussions with Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd to establish whether tidal lagoon projects in the West Country are affordable and value for money for consumers.
Tessa said:

“Earlier this year, I used my position as Chair of my party’s Energy & Climate Change Backbench Committee to introduce Eva Bishop, Director of Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd. to Ed  Davey, the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.

I never waste an opportunity to encourage him to meet experts and entrepreneurs operating in  the clean, green, renewable sector and it seems it’s finally paying off. 

He was persuaded that tidal power is in reach, a reality and a fantastic resource here in the West, where the tidal range in the Severn Estuary is the second highest in the world. I’m a long-term supporter of tidal power. 

The potential of this technology is immense and most of us here in the West Country understand that.  Harnessing the power of the nation’s tides has the potential to supply as much as 10% of the UK’s electricity.”

Tessa Munt

2nd December 2014  

Abortion decisions based on a baby’s sex must be outlawed

Members of Parliament from across the political divide have voted overwhelmingly to ensure abortion undertaken for reasons of sex-selection is made illegal.

MPs voted 181 to 1 for a Bill put forward by Tessa and 11 other MPs aiming to end confusion about the legality of this practice.

The uncertainty was revealed by The Telegraph last year when the Director of Public Prosecutions chose not to bring charges against two doctors caught on camera agreeing to arrange abortions of baby girls purely because of their sex.

The case was investigated by Scotland Yard and passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service, which said that although there was enough evidence, it was not “in the public interest” to bring charges.

Tessa said:

“Whilst this incident was a rare occurrence in the UK, in countries like India, China and Pakistan it’s a big problem.  I felt it would be helpful to clarify the law for the avoidance of doubt in the future.”

The Bill will have its second reading in Parliament in January.

Tessa Munt

26th November 2014

Tessa Munt MP and Quentin WIllson talk LPG autogas

Tessa recently spent the day with Quentin Wilson, leader of the FairFuelUK campaign to talk about her work in Westminster supporting the successful campaign to have Fuel Duty frozen in every year since her election.

Founder of Fair Fuel UK, Howard Cox &  Quentin Wilson said:

“Tessa’s been there right from the start in backing FairFuelUK.

We have met with hundreds of MPs in 5 years of campaigning, very few deliver on their promises.

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Homemade tea and scones with Tessa & Shirley Williams

Tessa and Shirley

Tessa Munt MP and Wells Liberal Democrats invite you to join them for homemade tea and scones and an afternoon with Baroness Shirley Williams.

Shirley was Co-Founder of the Social Democratic Party and one of the few “80 year old politicians who can make their parties stop, think and change direction.” (Guardian, 2011)

Where? Wells and Mendip Museum

When? Thursday 27th November, 3:00pm until 5:00pm

Tickets are £10 with cheques made payable to Wells Liberal Democrats.

RSVP: organiser.wellslibdems@gmail.com or Wells Lib Dems, Hodge’s Chambers, Cheddar Road, Wedmore, BS28 4EH

Tessa Munt

14th November 2014

Tessa lays wreaths in honour of the fallen at Remembrance Sunday services

Chilcompton pic_2

Tessa joined dozens of locals attending a wreath-laying ceremony in Axbridge Square marking the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War and organised by Brian Winder from the town’s branch of The Royal British Legion.  This was followed by a service led by Rev. Andrew Hemming at St John the Baptist Church, Axbridge and then refreshments in the Town Hall.

In the afternoon, Tessa accompanied many villagers to the War Memorial in Chilcompton, where wreaths were laid after a service at St. Aldhelm’s Church, jointly led by Dom. Boniface Hill, the Rev. Chris North and the Rev. Stephen Burrow.  After a ceremony of Remembrance, Tessa spoke to a number of locals including veterans from the Second World War, Jo Vango and Bert Williams.

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National Grid announce £500 million to remove “biggest and ugliest” pylons

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Local MP Tessa Munt welcomed an announcement from National Grid to tear down pylons and under-ground electrical cables blighting some of the nation’s most highly treasured landscapes.

The £500 million budget for the works will be funded through levies on customers’ energy bills, adding an estimated 22 pence per year to a typical household’s bill.

In an unexpected but highly welcome admission, Chris Baines, Chairman of National Grid’s Stakeholder Advisory Group, said:

“Undergrounding is best when you can do it.” And, “a range of engineering measures could be implemented including the replacement of existing overhead lines with underground cables, the re-routing and screening from key public viewpoints of the lines”

Tessa said:

“This announcement, whilst only about pre-existing pylons in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, is nonetheless very welcome.”

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Superfast Broadband for Somerset: Update

Super fast rural broadband is a key issue for us in the Wells constituency, speeds are infuriatingly slow.

Super fast broadband has the power to unleash the true potential of our vibrant and varied economy and the wealth of talent that exists in our communities, from eBay entrepreneurs to farmers and everyone in between.

It’s also important socially – internet shopping, gives senior and less mobile citizens more independence and allows them to stay at home, Facebook and Skype keeps us all in touch with friends and family, school homework and pupils’ support is available online and Jobcentre Plus advertises all its work vacancies on the internet.

It’s hardly surprising that this is one of the most commonly raised issues in the countless letters, surgery visits and emails (many entitled ‘hope this works’) which I receive on a weekly basis, all expressing exasperation. Despite big promises during a flying visit to my patch from the Minister in charge, nothing much has changed and the service we receive is totally unacceptable.

I recently asked the Minister responsible the following Parliamentary Question:

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I spoke to the Minister again in July about broadband in my area, and showed him the map of the proposed coverage. It seems that exchanges just a couple of miles away from main roads such as the A38 and the A370, where fibre-optic cables were laid years ago, cannot be connected, and—to use BT Openreach’s description—the “poor-quality cables” around new cabinets that have been fitted in places such as Wells mean that previously generally reliable but slow services running at 750 kilobits have become desperately unreliable and pathetically slow, at about 250 kilobits. There is no point in changing the provider, because all the signals are carried over the same wires. What do my constituents have to do to get superfast broadband?

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Elected representatives must face the music when they let the public down!

The much anticipated Recall Bill is currently making its way through Parliament.

I strongly support voters having the power of recall over MPs who let them down.  MPs should face the music if they have abused their position or neglected their basic duties.  I am very pleased the Government has introduced legislation, particularly since the Lib Dem Manifesto in the run up to the last General Election outlined our intention to make sure MPs could be recalled by their voters for ‘serious misconduct’.

Last week, the Bill passed its Second Reading, and on Monday this week, it had its first day of debate in Committee.  I listened carefully to the discussion on both occasions.  At the end of the debate on Monday, I voted against one of forty nine separate amendments which had been suggested to improve the Bill.  There are many amendments still to be discussed, and I am sure many more will be put forward as the Bill is debated in the days to come.

The amendments which have attracted the most publicity are those from Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park, so I have set out my thoughts about these in this letter.  If your interest in this Bill related to a different amendment or amendments, then please do not hesitate to let me know and I will write to you separately about your concerns.

Zac’s proposals are quite complex and long-winded. They require firstly a Notice to Recall, signed by 5% of the electorate within the constituency.  Following this, 20% of the voters would then have to sign a Recall Petition.  Once that threshold was met, a Referendum would be held on whether or not the MP should be recalled, and a majority of voters would have to vote in favour of doing so to move the process to the next stage.  Then, and only then, would a by-election be triggered.  These four stages could prove a very long and drawn-out affair, particularly when appeals might be launched at any stage, delaying the process even further.

Another problem with Zac’s proposals is that they actually made it harder for voters to recall an MP if he or she was found guilty of a serious criminal offence.  Interestingly, the current system used to sanction MPs actually deals with that eventuality swiftly and summarily, although it falls short in a number of other respects.

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Tessa commemorates WW1 centenary at ‘Wells Remembers’ Exhibition

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Local MP Tessa Munt visited a unique exhibition marking the centenary of the First World War, hosted by the Wells & Mendip Museum.

The exhibition, part of the ‘Wells Remembers’ Centenary commemorations, includes a ‘walk through trench’ designed by locals Geoff Dickinson and Jeff Allen pictured.

This was built with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a combination of efforts by many local organisations and individuals, all of whom pitched in to help get this four year rolling exhibition up and running.

Exhibits from a variety of local sources, including the City Archives, remind visitors of the need to ensure the great sacrifices made in the trenches during the bloody conflict are never forgotten.

Tessa said:

“This exhibition doesn’t seek to glorify this conflict, but walking through this trench shows much more clearly the day-to-day conditions of living through a war for many ordinary soldiers.”

“The exhibition also highlights how many young men went to war from Wells and the surrounding villages, and the numbers who paid the ultimate price, losing their lives.”

“During this special four years of commemoration, we will all remember the great human cost suffered in wartime.”

“Remembering those whose lives were lost and whose families were forever scarred by the violence of war, we can keep them in our thoughts and, hopefully, keep history from repeating itself.”

“We must never forget.”

Tessa Munt

24th October

Ofsted – [Dr William McCrea in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

I wish to make a short contribution, and the title of the debate enables me to do precisely that. I want to raise a matter on behalf of a constituent.

The debate relates to the accountability of Ofsted, and we all hope that Ofsted inspectors do their work in a fair, constructive and objective way. However, occasionally, judgments can go awry, and they sometimes have a serious impact.

A constituent submitted concerns to Ofsted about her son’s school and his treatment in that school. She was assured by an Ofsted inspector in writing that Ofsted had not revealed to the school that she had made

a complaint. However, she has had sight of official documents showing that Ofsted did make the school aware that she had been in touch with inspectors.

I would like to ask the Minister specifically how my constituent and I can challenge Ofsted about its behaviour, which is unacceptable, a complete breach of trust and contrary to the whole notion of whistleblowing.

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Personal Independence Payments | Oral Answers to Questions – Work and Pensions | Commons debates

One of my constituents—a British citizen—returned to the UK, having lived in New Zealand for five years, to look after her ill mother. She now has cancer, but she cannot claim PIP due to the habitual residence test. Does the Minister agree that she is falling foul of regulations that are really meant to stop benefit tourism by EU migrants? Will he meet me to discuss this particular constituent’s plight?

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Road Investment Strategy | Oral Answers to Questions – Education | Commons debates

I thank the Secretary of State, his Ministers and the Chief Secretary of the Treasury for meeting my Somerset colleagues and me to hear the case for the planned improvement works for the A303, which will benefit businesses, tourists and visitors to Somerset and which I warmly welcome. Will the Secretary of State speak to the Chancellor about helping businesses further by considering the case for cutting VAT on tourism so that the west country can compete equally on cost with western European holiday destinations?

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Vulnerable Children | Oral Answers to Questions – Education | Commons debates

Somerset county council has withdrawn regular checks on children educated at home, stating that it will contact families only if it is

“advised that Elective Home Education is not happening or is unsuitable.”

Does the Minister recognise that it is necessary to check systematically so that children at risk are identified, along with parents and carers who need support to deliver education, because otherwise school is often the only place where children at risk can have contact with other adults?

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Tenancies (Reform) Bil | Prayers | Commons debates

I congratulate my hon. Friend on this Bill, and she will know that my team and I have been working on this problem. As an MP, it is most distressing when tenants come to us with a problem, the landlord takes advantage of the fact that so many tenants are looking for properties and new tenants move into a property once the first ones have been evicted, and then the new tenants come to the MP with exactly the same problem, and this repeats and repeats itself, sometimes on a six-monthly cycle.

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[Mr James Gray in the Chair] – Fracking | Westminster Hall debates

I am sorry that I was not able to speak in the main debate. The Minister has mentioned public confidence. If we look at, for example, the well examination schemes, they are not really fit for purpose. They are self-regulated by the operators. Where there are guidelines as opposed to regulations people will not have confidence. It is not a terribly difficult step for the Government to make regulations instead of guidelines and an inspection regime instead of self-regulation.

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