Hampshire is an incredibly special place where community is valued and nurtured which is why I have loved living here for the last 33 years, firstly in Winchester and then in Southsea. My husband was born and brought up in Petersfield and my parents moved to the Meon Valley in 1986 following a lifetime of serving the country abroad in the British Army and Foreign Office.
When I was the MP for Portsmouth South, I was determined to encourage an active debate between all people regardless of politics about how we can make our community better year on year. I am really pleased to have been elected as the voluntary director of the Conservative Policy Forum as one of my aims is to encourage everyone to get involved in shaping our country’s future. Here are my thoughts on some of the big issues in politics and society in both Hampshire and in Portsmouth South.
Safety in our community
Crime is going down but it doesn’t always feel that way when you read the papers, or are a victim of crime yourself. My family and I were burgled in Southsea while we slept, and we know the consequences of feeling unsafe in your own home. We do need more visible policing, and I support the hard work of the Community Support Officers and Community Wardens who know their areas and trouble spots well. I was really proud to be able to introduce some of our PSCO's and Community Wardens to the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary so she could hear about what a valuable job they are doing. We must ensure that our high streets and residential areas do not become areas of anti-social behaviour in the evenings and people feel safe to go out in the evenings. Our local businesses must be protected from shoplifters and break-ins.
There is an increasing amount of rural crime in Hampshire and people are reporting that they do not feel safe at night in some areas. Some people on our country roads such as the A32 are driving too fast especially motorbikes. I heard about some of these issues when I worked with the Police and Crime Commissioner and local police and see the problems first hand when I travel around Hampshire.
I have campaigned for more victim support, sometimes it is not in the immediate aftermath of a crime that you need help but further down the line. Our police force and community workers do an excellent job and we must make sure that it is targeted effectively.
I am also delighted to have taken part in legislation to tackle so-called "legal highs". These are largely untested drugs and people do not know what substances they contain. They can be extremely dangerous and can lead to death and psychiatric problems. All the shops selling these lethal highs are now shut in Portsmouth and we still have work to do to stop them being sold illegally.
Cyber crime is an increasing problem. When I was an MP, I set up an all party parliamentary group to look at the issues of cyber security and I am delighted that the Government is taking this seriously with more funding going into this. We are lucky to have experts in Hampshire including the head of the Special Constabulary, Tom Haye, leading the way nationally on this.
I was a governor of Milton Park Primary School for 7 years and am now a trustee of Salterns Academy Trust which is responsible for Admiral Lord Nelson School and Trafalgar School, both secondary schools. Having worked as a lay school inspector for Ofsted, I am passionate about education and believe that a good education is key to everybody’s life chances. If we get the education system right, children will be equipped for the career that they chose and good teaching is absolutely crucial. I invited the University Technical College team to look at setting up a college in Portsmouth and I am very pleased that it is now open and working well. This would add to our education for young people who may want to pursue a more practical route into work.
Teaching is a vocation and very hard work. The teachers working at our schools are in school by 7.30am and rarely leave before 6pm or later often continuing work at home, this is the case in most schools where teachers are engaged with their work. We need to make sure that the right people enter the teaching profession and that they have a continual programme of professional development.
I also recommend being a governor which is a fantastic job if you are interested in education and making a difference to some amazing children.
I am now on the national Board of the National Citizens Service, NCS. So far, 500,000 young people have taken part since 2010 and it has been life changing for many of them. You can find out more about NCS at www.ncsyes.co.uk
The National Health Service
I am a past board member of Healthwatch, having been a member of the Winchester and Eastleigh Community Health Council in its previous incarnation. Everyone uses the National Health Service and everyone has an opinion. I have lived in Australia and the United States and knows how important a free health service is. We are incredibly lucky to live in a society which provides free healthcare at the point of use. I am very pleased that Hampshire hospitals are amongst our top hospitals in the country. We have great expertise in the county and IOW but we still need to work on getting the Emergency Departments right and people need to use walk in treatment centres if they have minor emergencies. I spent a very interesting evening with the Ambulance Service and am full of awe of the work that they do.
There are definitely improvements that can be made throughout the Health Service and I know that organisations like Healthwatch will be the public’s watchdog on the NHS and put patients at the heart of the service.
My father and grandfather were both soldiers and my father-in-law was in the Royal Navy. I was in the Intelligence Corps of the Territorial Army in my 20's. Our armed forces deserve the best equipment and training that we can provide for all our commitments both in the UK and abroad.
I am delighted that this government has shown its commitment to Portsmouth as the home of the Royal Navy and I was as excited as everyone to see HMS Queen Elizabeth coming into our port. I really recommend joining the Reserves, it opens up all sorts of skills and interests that can be used in your civilian career too. This year I was very pleased to be appointed the Chair of the SE Region for the Veterans Advisory and Pension Committee (VAPC) and am working with a team of experienced people to make sure that the Armed Forces Covenant is working in our region and that all veterans feel supported.
Care for our most vulnerable
I am very pleased that this Government bought in the ‘triple lock’ that means that state pensions go up annually at whichever is higher out of 2.5%, the rate of inflation, or wages. This is very important to ensure that pensioners are not left behind, it has meant that pensioners are better off by £1250 a year. The double lock will give an equal guarantee that pensions will continue to go up. I also support the government's commitment to keeping free bus passes and free TV licences for the over 75’s. My recent survey of pensioners show that you also overwhelmingly support this policy. I will be looking to make sure that the winter fuel allowance is well targeted as we need to look after our vulnerable pensioners.
What I am concerned about is that many elderly people (and other age groups) suffer from isolation, particularly as families are more mobile or are working and have less time to support each other. Following a survey of older people I am working to find a senior centre so there is a place older people can go to catch up with friends at any time during the day. If you feel lonely or have any ideas on how to help, please contact me.
Following the work that I did on the Homelessness Reduction Bill when I was in Parliament and my seminar on homelessness in Portsmouth in 2017, I am pleased that we have now developed the website and app Street Support so that people can find support for those on the streets or at threat of becoming homeless. You can find it at www.streetsupport.net