MY WEEK IN WESMINSTER

I met this week with Lancashire’s new Chief Constable Andy Rhodes who knows Fylde very well, having served and lived here for a long time.

We met to discuss a number of issues, not least the amount of work police officers are dedicating to people with mental health difficulties.

The force has an entire team dedicated to high volume callers, who repeatedly call 999 when it is not necessary.

I have already spoken to health ministers about the possibility of Fylde being used to pilot ways of offering joined up services to those living with dementia, to see how best we can get services working with people living with the condition, rather than tying up the wrong agencies, and making life simpler for patients.

It will be interesting to bring police into this discussion having heard how much of their time is taken up by people who would be better served by health professionals.

The Government has this week suggested an interim temporary customs union with the EU following Brexit, to ensure a smooth and orderly border operation when Brexit kicks in.

We need to keep trade with our neighbours as simple as possible, avoiding any hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the process.

Given the time it will take to put new customs arrangements in place, it is in the UK and the EU’s interests to have a temporary customs union in place, just as it is in the interest of all concerned to have as few barriers to trade with each other as possible in the long term.

Next week sees the start of essential conservation works on the Great Bell – commonly known as Big Ben – in Parliament.

On Monday August 21 at noon, Big Ben will sound for the last time before major conservation works begin.

Parliament will be a strange place without the regular bongs from the country’s most famous landmark.

It is for good reason though; the Elizabeth Tower is currently undergoing a complex programme of renovation work that will safeguard it for future generations. While this vital work takes place, the Great Bell’s world famous striking will be paused until 2021 to ensure the safety of those working in the Tower.

Parliament’s specialist clock makers will ensure Big Ben can still bong for important national events such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The bells will resume their regular time keeping duties in 2021.

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