The headlines are dominated by leadership news and it is clear that first on any new PM’s agenda must be to deliver Brexit so we can move forward and invest in the opportunities of a post-Brexit global Britain.
But to lead this country will require more, and our next PM must demonstrate their vision for the future and determination to deliver a country and society that works for everyone. Like all Conservative members I will be scrutinising the public pronouncements and asking questions of the contenders in the weeks ahead, including how they will deliver on Brexit given the parliamentary arithmetic and the shameful antics of the opposition parties who claim to want to deliver on the Referendum result but have voted against an exit deal three times so far.
As much as we all love a crowd-pleasing soundbite, this is not the time (and I would argue it never is) for empty words, but for detailed plans that will satisfy the multiple parties in this whole process.
Meanwhile, Theresa May continues to focus on her priorities and I warmly welcomed the announcement this month of world–leading legislation to set a new net zero target of greenhouse gas emissions for the UK. I have been driving this initiative across government for the past two years (along with our bid to host the UN’s 26th annual Climate Change talks in 2020) not only because I want to see damaging emissions dropping rapidly but also because the business opportunities for low carbon leadership are immense.
We now have over 400,000 people working in the “green economy” (that’s bigger than the aerospace sector in the UK) and it is growing rapidly. The path to net zero will be challenging, but I firmly believe that the innovation and determination of UK businesses and people, which has seen us lead the world in reducing our emissions while continuing to grow our economy, will mean that we are able to rise to the challenge – the benefits of which will be incalculable for future generations.
However, whilst we continue to make good progress, I know that there are many who are still anxious to encourage us further, and I was sorry to miss the Climate Change campaigners who visited my constituency office over the weekend. I am always happy to receive messages from constituents concerned about climate change, and I have written to Zach and Esme who left me personal letters rather than scrawling anonymous messages on bottles – although I can assure those who left the messages on plastic milk bottles for me that all the bottles were recycled!
I am a huge supporter of the government’s drive to reduce the use of single use plastic and increase recycling and reuse, and it’s great that real progress has been made in the UK to address this issue over the last two years. I am always happy to meet with anyone who is concerned about climate change locally, at a suitable time in the constituency.
Meanwhile locally, it was a pleasure to meet with Katherine Houlston and Jessica Harriman of the Army Families Federation (AFF) Foreign and Commonwealth Team to discuss some of the issues and problems facing non-British Personnel and their families.
The UK recruits soldiers from across the Commonwealth to serve in our Armed Forces and many of these soldiers leave behind family and friends to move across the world to serve in the UK Armed Forces. There are currently over 6,000 personnel serving in the UK Armed Forces from foreign and Commonwealth countries, including many based locally, with more being recruited each year to fill technical and specialist roles.
Currently, when Commonwealth personnel leave the UK Armed Forces and wish to apply to continue to live in the country they have served for years, they face thousands of pounds of fees to do so. Katherine and Jessica highlighted the Royal British Legion ‘Stop the Service Charge’ campaign which aims to end these charges – I am pleased that the Government has committed to supporting service personnel and their families, and that the Home Office is in discussions with the Ministry of Defence on this important issue.
We are also preparing locally for this year’s Armed Forces Day celebrations where I and other Wiltshire MPs will be joined by dignitaries to recognise and celebrate the incredible work and sacrifice of our Armed Forces. I am delighted to see this important occasion held in Salisbury, which serves to highlight the historic ties that the city has to our Armed Forces, the role the area is playing in the army rebasing and the enormous amount of recovery work and investment since the disgraceful Novichok incident last year.
The Rt Hon Claire Perry
MP for the Devizes Constituency