Happy New Year everyone and I hope you all had a good break.
Parliament is back and it has been a relatively quiet week. The government is focusing on the Prime Minister’s five pledges. These are: halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the small boats. They are achievable and I look forward to making sure that they happen.
We continue to pass legislation left over from our membership of the EU and this week it was the Procurement Bill - designed to shape our own procurement for government departments. Much of this legislation is necessary as there will be nothing in place to help businesses once EU legislation falls. The benefits of this Bill include reducing red tape, retaining value for money as the highest priority in procurement, and improving transparency. Additionally, this Bill will make it easier for SMEs to win contracts and for the Government to disqualify poorly performing suppliers.
I was unable to be in the chamber for the various statements on strikes and the NHS because I was on a Delegated Legislation committee about Energy Relief. Much of the small changes to legislation are decided in committee rooms around Westminster and never appear in the House of Commons chamber. However, the rules say you must be in the chamber at the beginning of a minister’s statement if you want to ask a question of the minister. This is very frustrating if you have something like a DL, which is mandatory to attend.
In the Education Select Committee on Tuesday we discussed work experience for young people and how beneficial it is. There are some schools that do it better than others and it is very difficult to find placements. If you know any business or organisation that can offer a week’s work experience, let me know and we can match up a young person to them. I do offer a day’s shadowing and I held workshop style work experience in the summer. This year I have been asked to host one young person for a week so I asked for some guidance from one of the organisations we were questioning. It is not an easy thing to do especially in a small office like mine so we will see how it goes.
In the afternoon I questioned the CEO of the AQA examination board about how it marked papers and how it used the criteria to do so. I would like to see much more creativity in our curriculum and examinations but apparently it is much easier to standardise the marking and results if they follow the criteria. This is very limiting.
I spoke in an opposition debate on Wednesday about putting VAT on private schools. I don’t believe it is going to bring in as much money as the Labour Party is claiming and, quite frankly, a 20% increase to schools will have to be reflected in the school fees. It doesn’t take a genius to know many parents will be not able to afford it and children will leave and need places in the state sector.
There is estimated to be 615,000 children in the independent sector and this could cause chaos. What we need to do is make our state system so good that people do not feel the need to pay for education and this would be a more gradual process than the potential cliff edge it might be if we make private schools pay VAT
Instead of holding regular surgeries, my team and I have been dealing with people’s issues very quickly electronically, but I am aware that means that people cannot just pop in for a chat. To remedy this and in addition to my Street Stalls, I have launched ‘Meet your MP’ in pubs.
The next one is 27th at the Kings Head in Wickham 5-6pm. The timing means people can come after work and perhaps buy a pint too. I hope to see as many people as possible and will have some of my team with me in case to help too
I am also holding an advice fair for older people at Wickham Community Centre on Friday 3rd February between 10am and 1pm. Organisations including Age UK, Dementia Friends, U3A, and Age Concern will be attending. The purpose of the event is to highlight some of the support and opportunities available to older people and their families in Meon Valley.
I will have further details and confirmation of more organisations attending on my website soon and in newsletters before the day.
I will be out and about on Saturday campaigning so hope to meet some of you then.
Have a great weekend.