Another interesting week in Westminster and more on that later.
But first, I attended a very moving Remembrance Day service in Bishops Waltham and it was lovely to see so many Cadets and Scouts marching through the town. I am pleased that the Remembrance Day parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall went ahead without incident.
However, it was a shame there was some disturbance during the peace march on Saturday away from the main march and people were seen glorifying Hamas. The police did a very good job in difficult circumstances and came from around the country to help. A big thank you to all police officers who spent their weekend keeping people safe.
On Monday, Suella Braverman was replaced by James Cleverley. James is a different character and we will see a different approach. In the reshuffle, it has been good to see former Secretaries of State take on Ministerial roles and shows how everyone is keen to help the Government move forward.
I was pleased to see David Cameron being appointed Foreign Secretary. His standing as a former PM will be very helpful on the international stage and he has already visited Ukraine. I will be lobbying him on the various issues that I am interested in such as Yemen as well as the crisis in Israel and Palestine.
While this was going on, I was showing constituents and students around the Houses of Parliament as well as a work experience sixth former who has spent the week with me. It was certainly an interesting week for him to be in Westminster.
I had several meetings including one with the Children’s Commissioner about school attendance – an issue that continues to be a worry since covid. Unfortunately, I did not get on the list high enough for a Private Members’ Bill to push forward my Register of not in school children. I will have to find another way round to get this much needed legislation through.
In between meetings, I popped in to meet Lorraine Kelly who has a campaign to get people to check their breasts regularly. This should include men too, my uncle died of breast cancer so it is not just a female problem.
In the Public Accounts Committee, we looked at improving the defence inventory management. There are warehouses full of bits of equipment but a lot of it is redundant and we need to move it, or recycle it or send it abroad to other militaries. Digitalisation is helping but there are millions of items. I asked about whether they were taking lessons from retail. Apparently there are many more items than any retail distributor, but they have taken advice from the sector.
I had to leave early for a meeting with the Leader of the County Council, Cllr Rob Humby to hear about the financial challenges over the next few years. I mentioned this to the Chancellor last week. There are increasing burdens on children’s services but also adult services because we are living longer.
In the evening, I attended a meeting organised by the Conservative Environment Network to hear about the move from oil and gas to renewables by the oil companies. There must be a transition period while we make sure that everyone still has access to energy, but we are on the right trajectory.
Tuesday’s Education Select Committee continued the inquiry into teacher recruitment and retention.
Workload and mental health are among the biggest reasons for people leaving within five years – the time when teachers become the most effective. It will be an interesting report and I hope the new Schools Minister and my constituency neighbour, Damian Hinds, will take forward whatever recommendations we come up with.
Damian was a former Secretary of State for Education and is married to a teacher. At the next election, he will be taking the East Hampshire council area of the Meon Valley constituency - Horndean, Clanfield and Rowlands Castle as part of the revised East Hampshire constituency.
I am hearing that there is still some confusion about the boundary changes. Denmead, Wickham, and Waterlooville from the Meon Valley constituency will be joined with Fareham to be the Fareham and Waterlooville constituency in which Suella Braverman is standing.
Whiteley and Shedfield will go into Hamble Valley and Paul Holmes is standing there.
All the Meon Valley villages from Hambledon, up the Meon Valley north of Wickham to West Meon will be moving into the new Winchester seat along with all the villages west and north. I will be standing in this new Winchester constituency as Steve Brine steps down.
I hope that clarifies things but I do accept it is confusing. Of course, I will stay as the Meon Valley MP until the next election when the constituency disappears.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met with a charity called First Star Scholars. It helps children in care get into universities. The mentoring and support starts in Year 9 and University of Winchester is one of the universities helping to support these young people.
The charity is looking for mentors -something that I am hoping to help with - so if you are interested either contact me or the charity directly, First Star Scholars UK – Empowering Children In Care (firststaruk.org). My former sister-in-law was one of the UK founders having learned about it in the USA. It is a very successful programme with over 79% of children in care getting good GCSEs and 50% going on to higher education. I am looking forward to working with it.
A lot of Wednesday was concerned with briefings on the issues in Gaza and I spoke alongside a Labour and Lib Dem MP at a multi-faith peace vigil in the evening opposite No 10. It was a well -attended and moving event with a rabbi, imam and priest from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office.
The situation continues to be horrendous and I am receiving regular updates from various charities in Gaza and the West Bank which is also now deteriorating. I had a very long-standing engagement in the evening but I would have abstained from the vote as there will have to be a ceasefire at some point. I hope it is soon. Sadly, the prospect looks very bleak until Hamas releases the hostages and agrees to negotiations.
I did the ITV politics show on Thursday morning and spent the rest of the day catching up with admin and emails. Today, I visited two schools as well as a couple of meetings.
Tomorrow, another busy day on the campaign trail.
Have a great weekend.