Firstly, I want to mention that on Wednesday I launched my Christmas card competition – I know, far too early to think about that! This year I’m doing something slightly different and am holding a competition to see which pupil in our local primary schools can do the best design and the winner will be on the front of my cards that go to hundreds of people across Tamworth. If your child is at a local primary school then do look out for it. There will even be a prize!
In Westminster, figures released this week show that average full-time weekly earnings have seen their biggest rise in over a decade and the proportion of low-paid jobs is at a record low.
There has been the biggest rise in earnings for full-time employees for a decade, as median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees increased by 3.5 per cent between April 2017 and April 2018. The proportion of jobs low-paid fell to 17.8 per cent, the lowest since the series began – and a reduction from 21.3 per cent in 2010. This coincides with increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates.
The Fisheries Bill was introduced to Parliament, a major milestone in delivering our promise to take back control of our waters, so that we decide who has access to our waters and on what terms.
The Bill creates the powers to build a sustainable and profitable fishing industry, in the best interests of the whole UK and future generations. It will help deliver a Green Brexit by extending powers to protect and enhance our precious marine environment.
The Bill also includes a new scheme to help the fishing industry comply with the landing obligation to end the wasteful discarding of fish, and powers to tender additional English quotas. The Common Fisheries Policy has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and our precious fish stocks. The Bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.
We are consulting on banning the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds to protect our oceans and wildlife from the devastation throw-away plastic items can cause.
We are launching a consultation on banning single-use plastic items that are used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down. We will work to ensure there are exemptions available, for example for pharmacies and restaurants.
The ban would come into force at some point between October 2019 and October 2020, subject to the views collected during consultation. In England, it is estimated that annually we use 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. We are stepping-up our efforts to turn the tide on plastic pollution and ensure we leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it.
Also this week the Prime Minister updated the House of Commons saying 95 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement is now agreed, bringing us ever closer to achieving a deal which works for both the United Kingdom and the EU.
95 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement is now agreed, with 5 per cent still outstanding on the issue of the backstop. We also have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship, with important progress made on issues like security, transport and services.
There is one real sticking point left, which is how we guarantee that – in the unlikely event our future relationship is not in place by the end of the Implementation Period – there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Serving our national interest will demand that we hold our nerve through these last stages of the negotiations, the hardest part of all. It will also mean focusing on the prize that lies before us: the great opportunities that we can open up for our country when we clear these final hurdles in the negotiations.
As we enter the final, crucial phase of the talks there will undoubtedly be some unexpected challenges to which we must rise. But the finish line is in sight. We are more determined than ever that we will get there together, with a Brexit deal that’s right for you, right for your family and right for our country.
It looks like it might be a little chilly this weekend so have a great few days whatever you decide to do.