On Monday, the House of Commons passed a motion approving the Queen’s Speech, the Government’s legislative programme which was read out by Her Majesty before Christmas and has been debated over the last 10 days. To my mind this vote was as significant as the passage of the Brexit Bill, because it shows this Government is determined to do much more than simply ‘getting Brexit done’.
We need to maximise the opportunities of leaving the EU, but we also need to mitigate the risks – and above all, we have to take steps to bring our country together. That means reducing the inequalities and disparities that divide us and making our communities, especially towns and rural areas far from London, stronger and more united.
The Queen’s Speech set out a number of important initiatives to do this. Especially relevant for us is the Agriculture Bill, which will be the most important legislation for rural communities since the 1947 Agriculture Act. The new Act will set out a system of land management which doesn’t simply subsidise farms, but pays farmers for the ‘public goods’ they deliver, including environmental stewardship, animal welfare and, of course, good food. I am determined to make sure the new system works for Wiltshire farmers and I would welcome any suggestions for how to improve the legislation. I am planning some local events at which I hope to hear from farmers and others interested in this Bill.
The Queen’s Speech also announced an immigration bill that will lay the foundation for a fair, modern and global immigration system once we end free movement from the EU; commitments to tackle climate change; further support for the NHS and a plan to address the crisis in social care; the strengthening of the Armed Forces Covenant; measures to improve prisons and reduce reoffending and domestic abuse; and plans to boost regional growth in England, with more decisions being made at a local level.
I am very proud to have been part of the big majority that voted this Speech through. Now we have to deliver.
In other news, I have held a series of meetings with councillors to discuss the range of challenges and opportunities facing our communities; I have begun hiring staff for my office in Devizes and in London (and am still looking for a chief of staff – if that might be you or someone you know, please click here); and I have continued to process the backlog of correspondence coming in since the election. I’m sorry if you’re still waiting for a reply – we are doing our best!
I spent last Friday in the Tidworth area, meeting Col Andrew Dawes, Commander South West, and his colleagues to discuss the relocation of thousands of soldiers and their families from Germany to Salisbury Plain. I held a surgery at the Tidworth Leisure Centre and dropped in at St James’s Church in Ludgershall, where I was hugely impressed to hear from Rev Tim Laundon about the 30-strong army of volunteers in the village who support elderly and isolated residents. I finished the day in the Crown Inn chatting to a group of regulars and receiving a helpful download of opinions about Ludgershall, Wiltshire, the UK and the world!
I am concerned to hear there may be further delays to the opening of the new Devizes Health Centre. I am completely committed to ensuring the government delivers on the promise secured by my predecessor Claire Perry. I am confident they will – the Health Secretary Matt Hancock joined me at the site late last year to make this commitment – but we need it sooner rather than later. I have written to Mr Hancock asking him to expedite the project through the NHS bureaucracy.
This morning I held an Advice Surgery at the Marlborough Community and Youth Centre, and next Friday (31st January) I’ll be in Devizes – if you have any issues you’d like to raise with me please do make an appointment via the Constituency Office (call 01380 729358) or email me at email@example.com