It is clear that across Taunton Deane that we are great pet lovers. Certainly, my own two fine cats have a special place in my heart and have taken on an even more meaningful role in my life since my children have grown up and left home and my husband died. People often share their pet stories with me, and some have recounted tragic experiences having inadvertently purchased a puppy online only to discover it was smuggled into this country with all the consequences that can bring.

That is why I am backing the Animal Welfare (Import of Dogs, Cats and Ferrets) Bill, sponsored by Selaine Saxby MP, which seeks to tackle the unlawful dog, cat, and ferret smuggling trade. Heavily pregnant dogs and puppies often endure long journeys, many with mutilations such as cropped ears, to be sold in this country as pets. The Bill will also increase the minimum age that puppies and kittens can be imported into the country to six months and limit the number of animals that can be imported in a single vehicle. It will also prohibit the importation of dogs and cats in the later stages of pregnancy.

But on a totally different note, on International Women’s Day I joined a group of professional women, many being lab technicians, at technology-based business Novanta, at Crown Industrial Estate in Taunton. The company is a global leader in the manufacture of highly engineered ‘mirrors’ used largely in the medical field, for example, in proton therapy machines which are used in the treatment of brain cancer. Historically, women are underrepresented in the engineering sector and it’s good to see Novanta changing the dial on this. There are many routes into engineering whether at degree level or in-work apprenticeships. As a Conservative politician, I am totally committed to gender parity across the board in our society and remain steadfast in my determination to ensure equality of opportunity for all – so everyone can reach their full potential. 

In a similar vein, huge congratulations to the University Centre for Somerset on their Queens Award for Excellence for their nursing degrees and raft of other nursing related courses which are enabling many students to reach their full potential, especially many woman returners to work after having children, or mature students changing job a number of whom I met on a recent celebratory visit. These courses are also making a real difference to providing the pipeline of talent much needed here in Somerset to join our health service. 

Somerset is increasingly being recognised as an attractive location for high-tech enterprises which will only increase with the recent investment in the Gravity electrical battery site which is already spawning other related businesses and industries in the area. And building on the successful skills and training model already being successfully delivered by our University Centre I will be helping ensure further training opportunities are developed here for this new electric battery revolution.  

With a growing work force required in the local area it makes the case for our Wellington rail station even stronger. Connectivity and top-class infrastructure are virtual.  The Prime Minister himself recognises this as was evident when he referenced the station in a recent Prime Ministers Question time, confirming that funding for the station was possible in the light of the reduced HS2 plans. I’m pleased to report back from our latest Metro Rail Group meeting that the draft full business case is being finalised with a view to submitting it to the Department of Transport at the end of the month. 

Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane