• Busy in Westminster - Busy in Central Devon

    The Moorlander
    12 June 2019

    As always life has been busy. In Westminster I have been getting up to speed with my new role as Leader of the House of Commons.

    A lot of this has been about meeting the key people that I am to work with and also preparing for my first business questions when rather like Prime Minister’s Questions I will appear at the despatch box to be interrogated by members on any subject and from right across the House.

    I am looking forward to it. In the constituency I have been busy too visiting a number of local businesses and organisations. In Okehampton I was really pleased to spend time at the Okehampton East Business Park to launch the latest Airband internet mast for which I dug the first clod only a month or so ago. More than 95% of UK premises now have access to superfast broadband with coverage in our constituency improving significantly during the past few years. But many areas still struggle with slow speeds and wireless technology is proving to be a cost-effective solution where laying fibre cables is too difficult or expensive.

    I am grateful for the excellent work Airband has done in improving speeds for communities within Dartmoor National Park and the new mast launched in Okehampton will be a big boost to local businesses and homes on the east of the town.

    According to figures from CDS, the organisation responsible for the rollout of superfast broadband in the hardest to reach areas, approximately 34,000 of the 46,000 residential and business properties in Central Devon have access to superfast broadband with more than 8,000 more premises set to be connected by the end of 2020.

    Whilst at the business park it was really good to spend time with Forthglade Natural Pet Food and to learn more about this key local manufacturer.

    Having moved from Winkleigh, this growing business has now expanded into brand new 70,000 sq foot premises and employs over 100 people, making them a key local employer.

    Given where Okehampton was some years ago when a number of local businesses including those in the food sector closed
    down, this is a great good news story.

    I have agreed to help the business in any way that I can going forward. I also took the time to catch up with local farmers at
    an NFU meeting in Cheriton Bishop at the local NFU Young Farmers Hub.

    We discussed a range of important issues including the Agriculture Bill which is going through parliament at the moment and our 25 year environment plan. There were some concerns about how the new approach to public money for public goods is going to work out and there were also important points made about longer term funding arrangements so that farmers can
    effectively plan ahead.

    At Whiddon Down I held a Q&A which was largely focused on questions relating to Brexit.

    More from Mel at  and on Twitter @MelJStride.