13 OCT 2016

Year 6 at Towcester C of E Primary School - Visit to Parliament

Parliament's brand new Education Centre, opened officially by Professor Brian Cox in July 2015, is a world-class education facility that inspires and connects young people with Parliament and democracy. It makes use of creative and immersive technology to create a unique learning experience that generates a sense of anticipation in groups entering the space, and from which groups depart feeling inspired and excited about their Parliament.

Towcester C of E Primary School, which has gone from strength to strength under the excellent headship of Richard Camp, visited the Education Centre late last month. From all accounts, the students and staff had a wonderful time and left Parliament highly recommending the experience.

Jo Brown, Deputy Head, said of the trip:

"On Wednesday 28th September, Year 6 students from Towcester C of E Primary School took the train up to London to visit the Houses of Parliament. There, they had a tour of the Palace visiting the Queen's Robing Room, the Royal Gallery, the House of Lords, the House of Commons and Westminster Hall.

"They had two guides who were brilliant at explaining all the different rituals and processes that make our society democratic.

"The children enjoyed looking at the ornate rooms and paintings and finding out about the history of the building and parliament itself. After the tour, the children took part in a workshop where the children explored statements and made a stand for what they believed and why.

The motto of the Education Centre is 'Parliament is relevant, Parliament is yours and Parliament is evolving'. These elements were clear to us on our visit. It was a truly fantastic and memorable experience and the children enjoyed the opportunity."

I would encourage any school in South Northamptonshire who would like to visit the Education Centre to get in touch with my Constituency Office Manager, Hilary Edwards, on 01327 353 124 or via email at hilary.edwards@parliament.uk and she would be happy to help you arrange this.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 SEP 2016

Towcester Shop Front Improvement Grants

It's great to hear about the £140,000 of funding to regenerate shop fronts in Towcester town centre, as part of a developer agreement with South Northants Council to allocate money to the scheme. The project is aimed at improving the ground floor of freehold and leasehold properties along the high street, and is part of a wider push for beautification and the improvement of the town's appeal.

The scheme continues the work of the Moat Lane regeneration project in making Towcester a hub for shopping in the area, and proposals for a similar scheme for Brackley are currently being drafted. Whilst great efforts have been made to improve parking in Towcester, the regeneration of the high street will allow for a fresh look at the use of spaces in the market square. Of course, the biggest achievement for the town will be the early delivery of the Towcester relief road and I am working closely with SNC, the developers, and the Towcester Bypass Action Group to push for this.

The Towcester Shop Front Improvement Grants project is open to applications for all shops facing the high street, with the deadline being Wednesday, 30 November 2016. The application form can be downloaded from the Council's website at www.southnorthants.gov.uk/7898.htm. You can also receive an electronic copy by calling 01327 322 216 or by emailing katie.arnold@southnorthants.gov.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 SEP 2016

Bell Ringer Rung In!

One of the truly great things about Parliament is that MPs frequently have the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the best food and drink that their constituency has to offer. One of the easiest and most popular ways to do this, for workers and visitors alike, is to request that one of the two cask ales available in the Strangers' Bar each week is from an independent, regional brewer in your area.

I was absolutely delighted therefore to welcome David Williams, one of the three Directors of the excellent Towcester Mill Brewery, to Parliament in the week that the Strangers' Bar was hosting our local Bell Ringer ale. The Towcester Mill Brewery has become a true success story for the town, bringing commercial brewing back to Towcester for the first time in over a hundred years, and continues to go from strength to strength since they opened in 2014.

David said:

"It was great to experience the Houses of Parliament and to see a Towcester Mill beer at the very heart of British democracy!

"Being our local MP as well as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it was really encouraging to see Andrea Leadsom's support for our brewery and to see Bell Ringer being served in the Strangers bar in the Houses of Parliament.

"My thanks go out to Andrea and her team for making this happen and to really put Towcester Mill Brewery on the map!"

We had the opportunity to catch up and talk about their growing business and the opportunities that the Mill site has offered them, as well as to pull a pint together behind the bar! A number of colleagues have commented on the refreshing and clear qualities of the ale, and my own parliamentary team are all big fans!

I would happily recommend Bell Ringer to everyone (over eighteen!) who enjoys a good beer, and I look forward to stopping by the Mill again soon.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 SEP 2016

St. Crispin's Clock Tower Future Secured

I am delighted to hear that the proposals to save the Clock Tower, as part of the redevelopment of the St. Crispin's site, have been given the green light. Much like the old Express Lift Tower, St. Crispin's Clock Tower is a longstanding feature of the local skyline, and many residents have raised its future as a concern over the years.

This victory for the residents of Duston, Upton, and the surrounding area has been hard fought for, and is certainly welcomed by everyone who has been in touch with my office. Specific thanks is very much due to Cllrs Matt Golby, Brian Sargeant, and Alan Bottwood for their tireless work on the campaign and for the way in which they have brought the community together in support of the Clock Tower's restoration. I know that the many residents who have raised this with me on the doorstep will also be as relieved as I am that this local landmark will be restored thanks to the efforts of many in the community.

Now that planning permission has been granted to the developers, I look forward to seeing W.N. Developments Ltd breaking ground as soon as possible and restoring the site to its former glory!

0 comments

Post a comment


25 AUG 2016

Support for Deanshanger Athletic Football Club

I am thrilled to hear that Deanshanger Athletic Football Club has been granted £581 by South Northamptonshire District Council to install new training goal posts. The club is one of the longest serving community groups in the village, and has trained generations of footballers for 70 years.

I am particularly excited because the grant aims to improve the facilities available for young people in Deanshanger and the surrounding area. It is great to see that the demands of young people are being listened to, and their local priorities are being addressed.

I pledged on the 7th May in my 'Ambitions for South Northamptonshire' that a key priority would be improving sports and leisure facilities for everyone in South Northamptonshire, in particular young people. In March this year I commissioned a youth survey of under-21s in the constituency to ask how their local area could be improved. We're processing the results at the moment and I hope to use the data to press for further local improvements.

I hope this is just the start of increased local support for sports and leisure facilities, as well as the demands of young people being met.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 AUG 2016

Letter to South Northamptonshire Conservative Association Members

You can read my recent letter to members of the South Northamptonshire Conservative Association here.

0 comments

Post a comment


22 JUL 2016

MPs Locus Standi Challenge

I was disappointed to hear that I, along with seven other MPs representing constituencies along the proposed line-of-route for Phase One of HS2, have had our locus standi rejected by the Lords HS2 Select Committee.

I am committed to ensuring that I represent my constituents in this matter, and I will continue to work with all stakeholders on the compensation and mitigation schemes. Should any of my constituents, who are directly and specially affected, wish to call me as a witness for their own hearing, I should be most happy to appear before the Lords Select Committee to support them.

I should very much like to thank my colleagues Cheryl Gillan MP and Keir Starmer QC MP for their excellent presentation of our joint case to their Lordships. I would also like to note the sterling work done by Kate Fairhurst and Kieran Sinclair, respectively Cheryl's and David Lidington's researchers, in preparing for the Lords Select Committee as well as thanking Tommy Gilchrist, in my own office. As ever, please do get in touch with me via him if we can be of any help – tommy.gilchrist@parliament.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


21 JUL 2016

Leadership Campaign

I have been overwhelmed by a huge number of messages of support and goodwill from so many people. Thank you all so very much for your kindness.

In standing for the leadership, it was always about doing what is in the best interests of our Country, and my decision to withdraw was to avoid a protracted campaign that could have proved economically damaging for too many people. You can read my letter to Graham Brady here, as well as his handwritten reply here.

Our new Prime Minister has already made great steps toward unifying the party and country, and making progress on an orderly exit from the EU. She has my full support. I am delighted that she has asked me to serve as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and I look forward very much to delivering on the great opportunities that lie ahead for the UK.

I have returned almost all of the many generous donations made to my campaign, and where donations were anonymous, I will be giving the money to the Parent Infant Partnership UK, a charity which seeks to give every baby the best start in life through support for secure attachment, a subject very close to my heart.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUL 2016

Financial Services CV

Before entering Parliament in 2010, I had a successful and varied career in finance, and you can read my summary CV below:

 

1984 – 1985 ​​Canadian / Chinese Corporate Finance Company

• Junior Support

 

1985 – 1987 ​​EF Hutton

• Trainee Broker, Commodities/London Metals Exchange

 

1987 – 1997 ​​BZW / Barclays

• BZW – Sterling Commercial Paper

• Barclays – Treasury, Sydney

• BZW – Swaps

• Barclays – Managing Investment Banks business

• Barclays – Deputy Head of Financial Institutions Group and ​Financial Institutions Director (managing Global Banking team)

This was my first role in the Financial Institutions Group, following which I became Financial Institutions Director in charge of the Banks team in Barclays

• Barclays – Project Director, preparing bank payments services for the introduction of the Euro

You can read letters from John McFarland and Tristram Roberts, Chairman and Group HR Director at Barclays respectively, here.

My time at Barclays included the period when Barings Bank collapsed, and you might be interested to know that I took part in a 2011 episode of BBC Radio 4's The Reunion where we discussed what happened. You can listen to it here.

 

1997 – 1999 ​​De Putron Fund Management

• Managing Director (You can read a statement by Roger Harlow, Director of De Putron Fund Management here)

 

1999 – 2009 ​​Invesco Perpetual

• Senior Investment Officer and Head of Corporate Governance

The former Chief Investment Officer and my former boss at Invesco Perpetual, Bob Yerbury, discussed my time there in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. You can read the full article here or read the text here.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUL 2016

Andrea Leadsom MP Tax Return 2015

You can read the summary of my 2014/15 Tax Return here.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 JUL 2016

Statement about the story on the front page of the Times during the Conservative leadership campaig

I want to make a short statement about the story on the front page of the Times today. In the course of a lengthy interview yesterday I was repeatedly asked about my children and I repeatedly made it clear that I did not want this to be in any way a feature of the campaign. I am disgusted at the way this has been presented. I want to be crystal clear that everyone has an equal stake in our society and in the future of our country. That is what I believe, and it is what I have always believed. I have repeated my instructions to my campaign team that this campaign must at all times be principled and honourable. Thank you.

6 comments

I think most of us recognise that many newspapers are running a smear campaign against you. I won't be renewing my subscription to The Times.
- PJR

I can see straight through this story Andrea, and it is clear that the reporter has taken your comments out of context in order to damage you and sensationalise this story.... I am sure others will see it too, and hope Theresa May will disregard it! I am disgusted with the reporter in question, however much she defends herself, she knows what she asked you at the outset and she manipulated your words. Lawyers would call that asking you a leading question I suppose, a kind of entrapment to later trip you up with. Good luck with your campaign, hope you succeed!
- jackie taylor

Dear Andrea, I am Polish and living in my country, so I am not your prospective voter, nevertheless your fan and supporter. I follow your campaign out of interest and because I like the UK and British people. I say, as a mother of 2 now adult sons, you have all the right in the world to be proud of the combination of your motherhood and your successful career, inclusive of the right to expose this fact as an asset in your campaign. By the way, it is your opponent who felt it necessary to tackle the "children issue" when revealing her respective regrets. don't apologise and carry on, a nation needs a mother and I am sure lots of those who pretend to be disgusted act out of the political correctness, which often stops the genuine thought from being shared. All the best for your campaign!
- Lucia

Unfortunately Rachel Sylvester is a biased reporter who herself has close ties to Mandelson and whose husband has even closer ties to the Labour Party. He was Political Editor of both the Observer and Guardian. Andrea, you didn't stand a chance during that interview. Whatever you said would have been twisted. Complete stitch up.
- Justin

I listened to the audio that the Times released and you are totally vindicated, your comments were totally acceptable and not offensive in the slightest to childless people, of which I am one. Thank you for agreeing to stand, it is a shame that you felt compelled to withdraw as I think you would have made an excellent PM. However, I look forward to seeing you progress in gov. Best wishes Liz P.S. Subscription to The Times was cancelled yesterday.
- Liz

Your being a mother is most certainly an advantage, Andrea Leadsom. Never apologize for the strength of character which usually accompanies the responsibilities of 18 years of child-rearing. I don't even have children of my own and I can see that. I don't see the insult. Perhaps the burden of explanation should have been on the press, who were the ones kicking up such a fuss. I wish you all the best for the future.
- Jim Clayson

Post a comment


08 JUL 2016

Statement on LGBT Issues

I have a simple view of people: we are all different, but equal. I am proud to live in a country that leads the world in LGBT rights. I am also proud to call many LGBT people dear friends. The last decade has seen great strides forward in the acceptance of LGBT people.

Discrimination and hatred on the basis of sexuality should have no place in our society.

Although I abstained on the same sex marriage vote, I absolutely respect it. I am delighted that people can express their love for each other publicly.

I know that there are still hurdles facing LGBT people, and that there is still far too much prejudice - it's important that we promote tolerance at an early age.

Finally, I know that there are parts of the world where LGBT people live in fear and suffer terribly. As a supporter of our international aid target, I am committed to raising the profile of LGBT rights on the international stage.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 JUN 2016

Why We Should Vote Leave on Thursday

With the EU referendum only a few days away, I wanted to write to all of my constituents to express my passionate belief that our future is so much brighter if we Vote Leave on Thursday.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

I look forward to celebrating our Independence Day with you all on June 24th.

47 comments

I applaud your stance and integrity on this issue, which I regret I cannot extend to Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Rudd. When did I last hear from my MEP? or who in fact is my MEP? Perhaps I should write to him/her to clarify when the last EU accounts were last satisfactorily audited.
- Bob Evans

Superb summary of the really important issues. Well done Andrea.
- Brian Gallen

Absolute common sense as always Andrea - we are with you all the way.
- Sandi Smallman

I too am voting Leave. I voted No to joining first time round, nothing will change my mind, l have watched the damage grow across my lifetime, as l knew it would, to our democracy. I vote Leave. Power to your elbow Andrea... Well done on Audience Question Time, you impressed me, and l have no political allegiance to any party now!
- Jeanette Jordan

Well done, Andrea. I entirely agree with your letter and with what you say in today's Daily Telegraph. I hope that a majority of our fellow-citizens will Vote Leave on Thursday and that you will then play a key role in negotiating an orderly exit in the best interests of all of us in South Northamptonshire and the rest of the UK. Nicholas.
- Nicholas Ward

I'm 100% with you all the way, and I'm looking very much forward to Independence Day and the much brighter future that lays beyond for all of us and for our future generations of free British citizens.
- Kev Corcoran

Hi Andrea, You letter succinctly sums up the very valid reasons that we should leave this EU club. The majority of people that I know in the Brackley area intend to vote to leave so I am hopeful that this will duplicate across the country. I was very impressed with your professional performance during the ITV EU debate, you came across really well, so a big well done. Yours Sincerely Nick Parsons Brackley
- Nick Parsons

I totally agree with your beliefs. My vote on Thursday will also be to leave the EU. We are a strong country and will see this through and come out the other side stronger than ever. The EU is dragging this country down and the British people.
- Mary Driver

Myself and my husband are in complete agreement with you. Kindest regards Jackie and Brian Smith.
- Jackie Smith

I totally agree with all your points, and those of your colleages that are in support of your leave vote, We need to desperately regain our British Soverenity , which we were once well respected for by ALL nations of the World.
- antony alcock

Another superbly put case for Brexit, thank you Andrea. At our Branch meeting last Thursday every Member of UKIP Daventry and South Northamptonshire present agreed that your contribution to the EU referendum debate has been professional, dignified and compelling. Nigel Wickens Chairman, UKIP Daventry and South Northamptonshire
- Nigel Wickens

Good Morning, Thank you so much for all your hard work on the leave campain. I was very proud of our local MP I am sure a lot pf the public were amazed at your knowledge and professionalism.
- Karina Lodemore

Good Morning Andrea, thank you for letter. I agree completely with your reasoning and hope and pray that Thursday will bring us success. A bright new future in the global market is what we need, I am sure it will be a bit bumpy at the start but I think it will be much worse if we remain. Good Luck.
- Shirley Starbuck

Hopefully more of the population will agree and vote to leave, we will have more clout out . Good voting on Thursday
- Allan

We don't agree on everything - but on this you have my full support and thanks for your sterling work Andrea. Whatever the outcome you can hold your head up high regarding how you have conducted yourself. Well done indeed.
- John Tomlinson

Simply expressed, I am overjoyed that overall my MP and I are like minded on the referendum and what an interesting, informative talk you gave at our village hall on your reasons. Thank you for coming to do so. REALLY hope we shall be celebrating on 24th June.
- Ruth Grimmett

It's refreshing to watch a knowledgeable, genuine politician with gumption, an ascertive manner when pushed and a person able to present a reasoned argument without the need to score points. Congratulations on your successful campaign. I just wish the majority of your colleagues could hold such high esteem. In my view, you should be a candidate for our next Prime Minister. Best regards
- Dave Longhurst

I am a Labour voter but if you were my constituency MP I may be in doubt on which way to vote. I think you have been the light of the Leave campaign, being the person who I have listened to and connected with the most. You appear to have what is lacking in Westminster at the moment, honesty, clarity, conviction, empathy and trustworthiness. I wish you well for the future and I am hoping that you will consider yourself for upcoming leadership campaign. You stand out from the crowd and I believe the country would put their trust in you to steer the ship that Mr Cameron is disembarking from.
- Alison Kostiew

I was very impressed by the way you presented your views in the EU Referendum television debates. In the light of David Cameron's statement today, please seriously consider a possible future as PM - or at least a key player!
- Louise Spencer

Please put your name forward for Conservative leader, you were statesmanlike the other evening, clear, precise, informed. The World is short of people who can express and present their point of view and information intelligently, you are needed in the world forum to argue Britains place in the World and in so doing gain huge respect for women and GB.
- Georgina Sarll

Wonderful to celebrate Independence day. Really well done for all your efforts to secure a Brexit victory, excellent TV performances, calm and informed, and please put your name forward for our next Prime Minister. Then perhaps we can enact Article 50 and get on with the process of actually leaving the EU.
- june whitney

I agree with Dave Longhurst about you being a very worthy candidate for our next Prime Minister. I was very impressed with your post Brexit interview on the morning news 24th June on this very unique day when you said we must stay calm and you also made a lot of sense and you are also a very knowledgeable and smart.lady. Good luck in the future. Kind regards Jane Harris
- Jane Harris

Sadly I do not live in your constituency, I wish I did. I have never been moved to contact an mp before but am 100% convinced that you are the person to reunite us all & negotiate a good deal for Britain without upsetting anyone. I am praying that you become our next Prime Minister!
- Sue Raynor

Thank you Andrea for helping to make history for the people of this country,God bless you
- Simon

I too agree that you are a very worthy candidate for Prime Minister or at least Chancellor, Good luck for the future and many thanks for all your efforts xx
- Maureen Bland

You are the breath of fresh air that this country needs to take us forward.
- Lynne Fogg

I would also like to urge you to put your name forward as a candidate to be our next Prime Minister. I was impressed by your calm, knowledgable and professional participation in the Brexit debate.
- Rebecca Carter

I was very impressed by your calm, knowledgeable, reasoned, mature and sensible approach during the leave campaign and since, particularly on Woman's Hour this morning 28 June. I think you should stand in the leadership election. You would make an excellent PM. I am a lifelong Labour supporter, and on the left, but I think you outshine all current politicians. Good luck and best wishes for the future. Sue Robinson
- Susan Armstrong Robinson

Please !! please !! stand for PM,
- Norman Greig

Hi Andrea, There is no doubt in my mind that our country will have a brighter future outside of the EU. I would like to add to the above comments and say thankyou for maintaining honesty, integrity and a serene calmness throughout the campaign. The Remain camp seemed only able to throw personal attacks and infactual scaremongering across the floor to the Leave camp. Your professionalism throughout was exceptional and I really hope you will consider standing for Prime minister. Thankyou
- Sara gray

Hi thank you for all of your campaigning, I would love for you to stand for our new P.M or at least get yourself on the exit panel
- Nicola Williamson

"Cometh the hour, cometh the (wo)man" Please stand for Conservative Leader, your country needs you.
- Steve Adams

If only we had an MP like you in the South. A sensible and intelligent approach is needed to guide the Nation.
- L Moore

Please put your name forward for conservative leader. We need strong leadership to quickly turn the rhetoric from one of narrow-mindedness, xenophobia and economic disaster to one of hope, outwardly facing ideals and economic opportunity. Please put yourself forward.
- Annabel Cameron

I totally agree with the above comments. You expressed yourself so well on the TV debates and I said to myself then (not really knowing who you were and well before we knew the PM would resign!) "that lady should be Prime Minister!" Please consider putting yourself forward for the position because I feel you have the presence, eloquence, positivity and determination this country needs to take us in this new direction. I think you really stood out amongst everyone else and would be an inspirational leader which is what we need so much now to unite our country and set us free from the shackles of the EU. Best wishes for your future - whatever you decide to do!
- Julie Kynnersley

I am a Labour voter but I agree with with all the above comments. Please consider putting your name forward
- Debbie Marshall

Please run as PM. You were the best representative during the Leave campaign and the front runners never win. I think you'd do the best job.
- Dave Perkins

I volunteered for the Leave campaign, now we are leaving the EU you are the most able, sensible, knowledgeable person to lead our country through the negotiations and restore trust in Parliament.
- Judy Richardson

So pleased you have decided to stand for Conservative Leader and very impressed with your performance so far during the Brexit campaign. Clear, calm, concise and with gravitas. Good luck to you Andrea!
- Neil Wilson-Harris

I am so impressed with this wonderful lady - until recently we had heard little about her but I have a strong feeling that will not be the case in future. I do hope the media, particularly the TV will give her some 'air-time' before Tuesday. Good Luck Andrea, you have a great future ahead of you.
- Colin Barber

as a life long tory voter who has recently been of the opinion that I would never vote conservative again due to mr camerons conduct during the referendum campaign I so hope that you become pm. I have been very impressed by your passion and would absolutely give you my vote.
- christopher hill

like sue raynor above i also do not live in your constituency, i really really wish i was, i also hope you are the chosen one to become our new prime minister and the leader of the conservative party, i was very much disappointed with david camerons attitude even after saying we would survive outside eu. as to theresa may i do not know what to say, she kept quite during the referendum i think was because she was a silent brexit and did not want to up set her boss, dc, in case they won, she was waiting for this opportunity and i hope she fails. finally good luck and god bless you
- chandu padhiar

You are a Wonderful Woman ,I don't live in your constituency ,I am in bournemouth ?I really hope you become pm .you come across a person of the people . If you do not win can I adopt you as my mum .. Good luck .. Mario
- Mario Sist

I have been enormously impressed with your abilities during the Leave campaign Andrea and I hope you will be our next PM. Even if you are not, I wish you all the very best in putting your political talents to good use in your future career. You are a shining light among all other politicians, and hooray for that!
- Phil S

Hope you are the next pm good luck
- Wendy

I voted leave and having read your letter, these were exactly my reasons for my vote. I thought long and hard how to vote, realising it would come with a lot of turmoil but that I shouldn't vote to stay within a system I didn't believe in just because I was too scared of the immediate fall out. I was concerned though that we wouldn't have a strong enough leader to take on the discussion and negotiations needed but hoped that someone would emerge. Since your name has come up I wanted to learn more and I'm reassured about what I've seen so far and wish you good luck.
- Jane Savage

Andrea, You instantly impress, spoke brilliantly and calmly during the debates and have all it takes to be next PM - People voted leave because WE TRUST YOU - and we know Leave is the right choice in the medium/long term. The alternative to Andrea is utter madness How could conservatives possibly want elect a PM to lead the Exit from Europe who does not believe in leaving (Ie Teresa May) - its like electing someone who votes conservative to lead the labour party only far worse! This country must be led by someone who believes in the values of the electorate, If Teresa wishes to keep any credibility as a human she ought to stand down a - she does not represent the views of the majority - Please let the Conservative part grasp this massive opportunity to unite the country and select Andrea Leadsom to Lead!
- Jenny

Post a comment


27 MAY 2016

MPs Raise Concerns With HS2 Ltd

Along with seven other MPs who have had their locus standi challenged by HS2 Ltd in the House of Lords, I have written to the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, Simon Kirby, to raise concerns about the democratic process being followed. 

You can find a copy of the letter here.

Also of interest will be the programme for the first round of locus standi hearings from Tuesday 7th - Thursday 9th. This can be found here.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 MAY 2016

Value for Money Update

In continuing my efforts to be transparent about my work and where your taxes are spent, I thought you might be interested to see an update of my parliamentary expenses for the financial year (April 2015 to March 2016).

I do not claim any expenses for my UK accommodation in Northants or Westminster, nor for any travel costs to and from Westminster nor for any travel costs incurred on my constituency business. I do, however, claim the cost of some travel and accommodation on overseas parliamentary business, and in my role as a Government Minister I do travel by pool car and overseas on official business, which is paid for by the relevant Government Department.

I run my office on a tight budget but with a view to making sure we can deal with the workload efficiently - I am conscious of the need to be very careful with taxpayers' money. I spent £16,635.44 on office costs (rent, printing, stationery, etc) out of an annual budget allowed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) of £23,250. My staffing costs for the year were £134,516.80 out of an annual budget of £138,600 provided by IPSA. Finally, my staff (a team of 6 full and part time staff, including my apprentice caseworker, and a number of young constituents who have come for work experience in my office for a week or two at a time) claimed £5,397.99 in travel between Westminster and South Northamptonshire.

Between April 2014 and March 2015, I have written 6237 letters, and over 3,500 emails in response to enquiries from constituents. In the last year, I have spoken in 28 debates in the House of Commons which is above average amongst MPs. As a Minister I no longer ask Written Parliamentary Questions. If you would like more information on the work that I do, you can sign up for alerts at www.theyworkforyou.com.

I will continue to work hard to provide the best service and value for money that I can for South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 APR 2016

Report on HS2 Ltd's complaints handling and community engagement

Ian Bynoe has released his independent report into HS2 Ltd's complaints handling and community engagement, following the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's earlier report on an investigation into complaints about HS2 Ltd.

You can read a copy of Ian's report here.

Ian is a former Acting Deputy Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and he has made a number of recommendations for HS2 Ltd to improve their processes. His report, across 34 pages, goes into considerable detail and uses the case of Mr and Mrs D in Lichfield to outline areas where HS2 Ltd have been lacking. Briefly, these recommendations are:


Recommendation 1: that HS2 Ltd issue instructions that mobile phone number(s) for senior staff be provided to members of the public who may need to make contact urgently. (Paragraph 3.72)

Recommendation 2: that Terms of Reference for community forums and bilateral meetings be altered to make explicit reference to the commitments to openness, customer focus and accountability now reflected in policy documents, Company values and other materials. (Paragraph 3.73)

Recommendation 3: that the Residents' Commissioner considers the Report's observations on the wording of the Residents' Charter and how it can be altered, testing proposals with members of the public before they are introduced. (Paragraph 3.74)

Recommendation 4: that the Company as soon as possible and practicable:

  • approves its strategy for Community Engagement
  • defines clear milestones for the implementation of the strategy
  • defines measurement mechanisms by which the quality and effectiveness of its community engagement activity can be monitored
  • designs and implements a practicable and effective system for learning and implementing lessons from less effective community engagement or any such engagement activities which have attracted justified criticism and/or complaint (Paragraph 3.78)

Recommendation 5: that the DfT amends the Development Agreement to require the Company to have a strategy on community engagement and to ensure that Ministers can hold the Company to account for its effective delivery. (Paragraph 3.79)

Recommendation 6: (after Recommendation 4 has been implemented) that the Company revise and republish its Information Paper on Community Engagement so the public may learn:

  • what the Company's community engagement strategy is and how it may develop
  • what they may reasonably expect to receive from the Company by way of communication and engagement
  • how the Company will measure the effectiveness and quality of its community engagement, and
  • how the Company will learn and implement lessons where community engagement has failed or been less effective, or has been the subject of justified criticism or complaint (Paragraph 3.80)

Recommendation 7: that HS2 Ltd's CEO commissions a project which will result in the Company's agreed corporate Values having far greater prominence in the work environment and where the Company has any interface with the public (e.g. website, information events and leaflets). (Paragraph 3.81)

Recommendation 8: that two reported obstacles to effective and responsive communication with the public (viz. some operating practices of the Help Desk and the use of the GOV.UK website for HS2 Ltd's web based communication) should be urgently examined from an independent, "customer focused" perspective to establish if the concerns are justified and, if they are, to recommend the necessary changes. (Paragraph 3.82)

Recommendation 9: that the Company's Complaints Procedure be amended to reflect the need for central recording both of informal and formal complaints and that this change in practice be promulgated throughout the organisation. (Paragraph 4.21)

Recommendation 10: that a printed leaflet be produced as soon as possible publicising the Company's Complaints Procedure which should be made freely available at all information events and community forums. (Paragraph 4.25)

Recommendation 11: that the Company should publicise its Complaints Procedure and its formal approach to dealing with public dissatisfaction at all future public information events, community forums and bilateral meetings, by having, for example, a banner or poster communicating this message. (Paragraph 4.26)

Recommendation 12: that the Residents' Commissioner, current ICAs and Construction Commissioner, when appointed, should have an early meeting to assist them to understand their respective roles and responsibilities. (Paragraph 4.27)

Recommendation 13: that the Residents' Commissioner should be supplied with regular reports on all complaints relating to her fields of responsibility, viz. communications, community engagement and the property schemes and on other cases, by request. (Paragraph 4.28)

Suggestion: I suggest that there may be benefits in convening a Community Engagement Advisory Panel, drawn from those who have recent and relevant experience of community engagement work on large infrastructure schemes, both in providing and receiving it. This panel could provide a sounding board for new thinking and plans for communications and engagement.


I have written to Simon Kirby, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, to support the recommendations made by Ian Bynoe. You can read Simon's response to Ian here.

0 comments

Post a comment


22 APR 2016

Special Relationship Is Great, But It Goes Both Ways

Our relationship with the United States is one of the strongest in the world. It may not have had the brightest of starts, what with the small matter of the American Revolution, but the UK and US have stood in solidarity for many decades. The partnership is a cornerstone of our defence policy through NATO, and we share many of the same values and principles: democracy, the rule of law, freedom.

Today our country extends its welcome to President Barack Obama, the 44th President, and there are a host of areas of common interest that will be discussed. This will most likely be President Obama's final visit to the UK as Commander-in-Chief, before he hands over the reins in January, and all the stops have been pulled out. However, you can be certain that there will be no statement today from Downing Street telling US citizens that they must vote for Hillary Clinton in November, or that Trump is a danger to both global security and our national interest.

That would, of course, be an unthinkable intrusion into the domestic affairs of an allied nation. Not only would President Obama be appalled by the intervention, but it would be received with total derision by the millions of voters in the States.

For a sitting US president to travel overseas and use the bully pulpit of his office to lecture another country's citizens on their future is, quite frankly, outrageous. Can you imagine any circumstance where the reverse would be true? Can you see Angela Merkel standing in the Rose Garden at the White House, shoulder to shoulder with Barack Obama, as she delivers a speech to the American people telling them their future lies in border free political and economic union with Canada and Mexico? The cable news networks would explode in rage or laughter, or both.

Whilst I welcome the President to our shores, I join with many others in giving him a friendly but serious warning. His popularity is exceptionally high here in the UK, much higher than at home, and he would do well not to squander those good feelings with a few ignorant and insensitive remarks. He does not understand the European question; he is not aware of the pressures on school places, Doctors' appointments and housing that is caused by the uncontrollable influx of people from the EU. He cannot fathom the frustration that, in the ever-increasing areas where UK and EU law collide, we face continuous erosion of our ability to act in the interests of our own country.

Put simply, he shouldn't be sticking his oar into an issue that isn't his concern. He might be the "leader of the free world" but, in the week that we celebrate Her Majesty The Queen's 90th birthday, he would do well to remember that we are a sovereign parliamentary democracy and quite capable of deciding our own future.

I wish him well for the duration of his visit, but the sooner he gets back to the States and leaves the British people to make up their minds the better.

5 comments

Well said Andrea. Obama has made and old man extremely furious this morning. He should get back to his own country and try and sort out the many issues facing them.
- JR

Hi Andrea, Thanks. What puzzles me is that we already have bi-lateral trade agreements with the US, NAFTA and several other countries so I'm unclear why it's suggested that leaving the EU would effectively 'cut us off' when we already have something in place which isn't the result of the EU? From UKTI website (which I am sure you know....) The UK has its own bilateral trade relations with the US. It also works through the EU. In 2007, the EU and US set up the TransAtlantic Economic Council (TEC), with forums for business, consumers and legislators to promote open trade. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/uk-bilateral-trade-relations-business-opportunities What is also puzzling is that TTIP is a long way from being completed. What is also clear is that the EU will be overtaken by the Commonwealth in around 5 to 7 years (based on growth projections) meaning that this will be a more valuable trading partner (based on GDP) than the EU. The Commonwealth gives preferential trade access to its member countries, including the UK. So combine a bilateral trade deal with the EU (which is in everyone's interests), more preferential trade with our Commonwealth partners and existing access to the NAFTA via our existing relationships with the US and Canada, and I fail to see why leaving the EU is so scary? What we also need to highlight is the ticking time bomb in the Eurozone (Greece again, Italy, Spain and Portugal) which will almost certainly need some sort of additional bailout(s) and the negative consequences this will have on the Euro, Eurozone economy and migration to more affluent EU members etc. Do we know how much upcoming EU legislation/rules etc. will add to the existing burden on the UK, additional contributions for Turkey, the new 'joiners' coming along etc. Kind regards, Rob Knight.
- Rob Knight

Very well said Andrea , He would not stand for it, why should we take any notice of his views , I don't think he even understands the workings of the EU .
- Jim Broomfield

Hi Andrea - I'm an American and I totally agree with you! How embarrassing it was for those of us who love and respect the UK to hear that the leader of our country had made such a statement. I was born in the 1950s and remember a time when it would have been considered absolutely improper and unthinkable for a U.S. President to say such a thing. The silver lining for me is that perhaps it added a bit of steam to the "leave" campaign for the Brexit vote. I'm so thrilled that the efforts of the brexiteers succeeded in achieving independence for Britain! Well done, congratulations, and best wishes to you all!
- Lori Baldwin

Andrea, you must stand to be the next Prime Minister. A quick search of your name on facebook shows clear evidence that you the nation's favourite to be the next Prime Minister. Facebook polls show you have 10 times as many votes as your nearest contender. This is your time Andrea. Our nation needs you. Believe in yourself - as we believed in our nation when we voted to leave last week. Do not fear any feedback within your party. You will lead our nation for 20 years.
- Michael Cairns

Post a comment


18 APR 2016

HS2 Petition - Lords Select Committee

I have today delivered my petition on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill to the Lords Select Committee.

You may read my petition here.

As ever, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of help on this or any other issue.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 APR 2016

EU Referendum: Daily Mail Op Ed

I have today written an op ed for the Daily Mail outlining my views on the benefits for Britain of a vote to leave the European Union. You can read it here.

I am also adding interesting articles on the Referendum debate to the 'reading list' on my website here.

4 comments

Well done Andrea!
- Ian Gough

Thank you for doing a great job for Leave!
- Mrs Westrop

Andrea, I was very impressed with your composure and articulate manner during the BBC Wembley debate on 21st June. You most certainly stood out as a truly professional politician. I must confess, I hadn't heard of you before I watched the debate but I hope we see much more of you in the future in a more prominent role in a future government....very well done.
- Paul Roberts

Run for PM please.
- Miss Norwood

Post a comment


21 MAR 2016

Towcester Relief Road Update

Our campaign for the vital early delivery of the Towcester relief road rumbles ever on, and I am very pleased to announce that we have made some progress in recent weeks.

Earlier in January I held a meeting with the developers, Persimmon and Bloor Homes, alongside representatives from South Northants Council and the Towcester Bypass Action Group. It was agreed by all that the early delivery would be of enormous benefit to local residents and those who commute along the A5 through Towcester, as well as improve traffic flow for construction vehicles working on the Towcester Sustainable Urban Extension.

The developers have a requirement under the planning agreements to build the relief road after a certain number of the new houses have been occupied; bringing this forward would require financial help to cover the cost of the additional interest involved in borrowing the money to build ahead of schedule. We are currently finalising with the developers exactly how much additional money would be required and we are exploring options to fund this.

Last week the Council and I met with Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Transport, to put forward our case for early delivery. Robert was most sympathetic, especially given the air quality management areas in Towcester along the A5, and he was impressed that we had brought a project to him that had all the necessary approvals and agreements already in place. We are not asking the Department to fund something from scratch themselves! Robert has undertaken to go away and, with his officials, look at other existing projects that may be running behind schedule which might free up the necessary funds to help us along.

I am intending to host a public meeting in Towcester in due course to discuss the available options once we have all the information, as I firmly believe that local residents should be the ones to make the decision on the delivery of the relief road. I will, of course, continue to keep Towcestrians and others updated through my website.

2 comments

I am really glad something is being done to expedite this. Thank you for the update.
- Jim

The quicker the better, it takes longer each day to be able to get out of my village (POTTERSPURY) onto the A5 South, and only then to join the daily traffic jam at a snails pace heading towards Milton Keynes.
- Paul Kennedy

Post a comment


21 MAR 2016

Broadband Update

Following a meeting this week with BT Openreach I am very pleased that the rollout of superfast broadband in Northamptonshire is continuing apace. I am also delighted that the Superfast Northamptonshire partnership with the county council has made fibre broadband available to more than 61,000 homes and businesses. It was welcome news indeed to hear that this progress on the first contract was made three months earlier than originally predicted and delivered under budget!

The investment by BT of around £7 million in superfast broadband across Northamptonshire is vital for the continued economic success of the area, especially small businesses. In the last four years the average broadband speed has doubled from 12.1 Mbps in 2012 to 30.2 Mbps in 2015.

As a result of BT Openreach providing an open-access network, residents will be able to choose their own broadband provider at a price that suits them, while still having superfast fibre broadband.

Due to the tremendous effort of all those involved, the second contract between BT and the county council is already underway. In January Ed Vaizey MP, the Culture Secretary, visited the county to signal the start of the work which will extend superfast broadband availability to an additional 20,450 homes and businesses by December 2017. It is fantastic that this will bring coverage to more than 95 per cent of Northamptonshire at the end of the second contract.

Whilst we have made some significant progress, now is not the time to slow down! Full access is still a ways away, but I am confident that we will reach this goal soon. You can read more about BT's progress in South Northamptonshire here.

To find out whether fibre optic broadband is available in your postcode, visit www.superfastnorthamptonshire.net. As ever, if you have specific broadband concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

2 comments

I just read BT's platitudes on your link about broadband provision 'ADSL speeds of up to 8Mb'? What a cop-out - they never, ever, give that bandwidth. Our exchange is rated at 7.9 and I have to fight on a weekly basis to get better than 2Mb, involving endless calls to the 'help' desk and constantly eroding performance.
- Wilf ILIFFE

Thank you for your comment. Broadband speeds across South Northamptonshire is one of my top priorities and I continue to do all that I can to raise residents’ concerns. If you would like me to raise a specific concern, please do email me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.
- Andrea Leadsom

Post a comment


20 MAR 2016

HS2 Third Reading

The Third Reading of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is due to take place on the 23rd March, immediately after the Report Stage has allowed the House of Commons to consider further amendments to the Bill.

When the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 - the so-called "Paving Bill" - came forward, giving HS2 permission to spend large sums of taxpayers' money on the project, I was one of 27 Members of Parliament that voted against the legislation in support of the strong views of my constituents. A total of 330 MPs voted for the bill. Given the overwhelming number of MPs in favour of HS2, I have since then focused my attention and priorities on securing the best deal possible on compensation and mitigation for my constituents.

I did not vote on the Second Reading of the HS2 Bill and I will not be voting at the Third Reading on the 23rd March. The high level of cross party support in the Commons for HS2 remains in place and it is clear to me that it will go ahead. Therefore it is in the interests of those who've been blighted for years by this project that we get on with it and get construction over with as soon as possible.

One of the first actions I took was to set up the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum in Parliament to provide a setting for MPs along the proposed line of route to discuss common issues. It quickly became apparent that the concerns of residents in South Northamptonshire were similar to those of communities up and down the line, and the Forum allowed MPs to take a united approach in pushing HS2 Ltd on proper redress of these concerns. We also set up a parallel group within South Northamptonshire - the HS2 Liaison Group - to create a space for affected communities to focus on issues affecting our area. This has been hugely productive and has resulted in real change to the approach taken by HS2 Ltd.

I have held many public meetings where constituents have discussed their concerns with me and written thousands of letters to take these issues forward. There are a number of matters that I continue to press the Promoter on, not least that a Code of Construction Practice is absolutely paramount, and I firmly believe that there is more work to do on the Need To Sell compensation scheme.

After Third Reading the Bill will immediately be sent to the Lords for First Reading in the upper House on the same day. The petitioning period in the Lords will start the next day and run through for three weeks. I am encouraging all directly and specially affected residents who have unaddressed concerns to petition the Lords and you can read more about that process here.

I will do everything I can to support constituents through the Lords' Select Committee and please do get in touch with me if I can help in any way.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 MAR 2016

Need to Sell Scheme Update

Further to my letter to Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Transport, of the 9th February in which I raised a number of questions relating to the HS2 Promoter's Response to the Select Committee Report please find a copy of his response here.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 MAR 2016

Clean for the Queen

In celebration of Her Majesty's 90th birthday, the Clean for the Queen campaign is calling on individuals, volunteer groups, local councils, businesses and schools to do their bit for Queen and Country. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring local communities together for a spot of good old fashioned tidying up, as well as to pay tribute to Her Majesty's lifetime of service in support of our nation.

Alongside members of #TeamLeadsom I was thrilled to be joined by the wonderful Councillor Alice Ord, who represents Brackley South on South Northamptonshire Council, at St. James Lake. Armed with litter pickers, plastic bags and wholly inappropriate footwear, we put ourselves to work in cleaning up the area and bagging up rubbish. It was refreshing to see that, in an area known for its litter problems, there was very little to clean up for once... although it did mean that our bags were not very full by the end!

I had a lovely time doing my share on what was a beautiful afternoon in Brackley, and I am encouraged by the planned events for Clean for the Queen all across South Northamptonshire. You can find out about local events near you by heading to www.cleanforthequeen.co.uk and putting in your postcode, or you can register your own event with them instead. I hope that everyone can get behind this great idea, led by Country Life and supported by Keep Britain Tidy and the Garfield Weston Foundation, and we can both improve our local areas and give the Queen a jolly good 90th birthday!

0 comments

Post a comment


11 MAR 2016

Youth Survey (Under 21)

On the 7th May last year I made a commitment to everyone in South Northamptonshire, the constituency that I am proud to represent in the House of Commons, that I would work to improve sports and leisure facilities.

I want to hear from my younger constituents on what your priorities are for your local area. What facilities and activities would you like to see improved in your village or town?

It is absolutely vital that young voices in South Northamptonshire are heard in the debate over services and spending, and I do hope that you take the opportunity to let me know what changes you want for your local area. If you are aged 21 or under please do take a moment to complete my survey which can be returned by post to Andrea Leadsom MP, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA or emailed to me via andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

I will review the responses that I receive and will use this data to push for the improvements you have asked for, whether this be from your local council or central government.

You can download a .pdf of the survey here: Youth Survey

You can also follow me on Twitter or keep up-to-date via my Facebook page.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 MAR 2016

Parish Council makes funds available for King's Sutton

It's great news that King's Sutton Parish Council have made £25,000 available for projects to improve leisure, recreational and open space facilities in the village. This is the second round of funding for projects in King's Sutton following the money contributed last year by Banner Homes, and offers a real opportunity for residents to improve their local community.

One of the commitments I made to constituents on May 7th last year was that I would work to improve sports and leisure facilities across South Northamptonshire. I am launching a consultation with young people aged 21 and under to ask for their views on how they would improve their local area, and it is very encouraging that King's Sutton Parish Council are leading the way.

Expressions of interest, complete with rough estimates of the amount of money needed, must be received by the Parish Clerk no later than April 30, 2016.

Proposed projects must meet the criteria below to be considered. They must:

  • Fall within the terms of the Banner agreement, which requires that they "improve recreational facilities within the village of King's Sutton";
  • Involve capital expenditure, not simply contribute to running costs;
  • Provide long term future benefits;
  • Improve existing recreational facilities or add new ones;
  • Be of benefit to as wide a section of the community as possible;

To find out more, please visit the Parish Council website here.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 FEB 2016

Support for Unitary Authority Proposals

This is a fantastic opportunity to continue to provide better joined-up services for local residents whilst driving down the costs for the billpayer. South Northamptonshire Council and Cherwell District Council already have a long history of working collectively to deliver services across the region, and the proposals would extend that relationship into other areas.

I look forward to seeing full details of the proposed merger in the summer, and I hope that all local residents will take the opportunity to engage with the public consultation when it launches.

Whilst the benefits of 'ever closer union' with Europe are not in the interests of my constituents, it is clear that the 'ever closer union' of South Northants and Cherwell could bring significant improvements to the way we deliver council services for local residents!

You can read more about the proposed merger on South Northamptonshire Council's website.

0 comments

Post a comment


22 FEB 2016

Submission to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry on High Speed 2

In November 2015, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) published its "Report of the results of an investigation into a complaint about High Speed 2 Ltd (HS2 Ltd)". The investigation looked at HS2 Ltd's communication and engagement with a particular group of residents, including how it had handled complaints. It found that "overall HS2 Ltd's actions fell below the reasonable standards we would expect, so much so that they constituted maladministration." The report made several recommendations about the steps HS2 Ltd should take to put matters right and to improve its service.

The House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) is conducting a short inquiry on these issues and invites written evidence on:

  • The quality and content of the PHSO's report;
  • The quality of HS2 Ltd's communication and engagement with residents who may be affected by HS2;
  • The way in which HS2 Ltd deals with complaints about its engagement with residents;
  • Ways in which HS2 Ltd could improve its communication and engagement with residents who may be affected by HS2;
  • Ways in which HS2 Ltd could improve its complaint handling procedures.

I have sent a written submission to PACAC and you can view this here.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 FEB 2016

My Vote on the EU Referendum

Now that the Prime Minister has concluded his negotiations over the terms of our membership in the European Union, I wanted to make sure that my constituents were the first to know what my position is and how I will be voting in the upcoming referendum.

I want to be absolutely clear – I will be voting to leave the EU. This is not a decision that I have made quickly or easily, as I have been a strong advocate for reform within Europe for many years. I have written an open letter to all of my constituents in South Northamptonshire which sets out why I am voting to leave in detail.

You can read my letter here.

21 comments

Bravo. A conviction politician who puts her country and not her career first. But LEAVE are going to win, so no worries ....
- Martin Barnes

You speak with conviction and make a compelling argument, thank you.
- Simon Clifford

Thank you Andrea for your letter setting out your views on the EU Referendum. How refreshing to see a politician nailing their opinions to the mast so quickly and unequivocally. It is a breath of fresh air after so may years of the European debate having been suppressed by the political "centre" and I hope a sign of a healthy and vigorous debate to come. Whatever the outcome of the Referendum, the UK seems at last to have found its voice with which to tell Europe the truth about its moribund and failed institutions and ailing economic performance.
- Duncan O'Neill

Whether you agree with Andrea's position or not, it is good to see an honest and clear explanation from a Politician out there on day one. If only all MPs nailed their colours to the mast and let the voters make their own minds up
- Pedro

Well done Andrea. A very clear reasoned letter reflecting my own views precisely. Pity we have to wait until 23/6 to vote !
- Tim Collins

Well done, totally agree, I am so pleased I voted for you as you are one of those rare politicians who has put their principles above all else.
- Richard Sandall

Honesty and integrity will always prevail.Well done Mrs Leasdom Tim Ukip supporter Preston
- Tim

Making your decision from the standpoint of what you consider to be best for your children is laudable - I agree with your conclusion!
- Charles Breese

Well done Andrea. It matters not if we agree with you or not. You have been kind enough to explain your thoughts very clearly for what, for most us, is a hugely complex choice to make. Thank you for being so clear and so prompt in your views.
- Kathryn

Many congratulations on your EU decision! Fully behind you.
- Alun Thomas

Andrea. I welcome and applaud your decision to support leaving the EU. Your open letter is an excellent expression of the reasons for doing so and will no doubt be persuasive for those who are currently undecided. Nigel Wickens Chairman, UKIP Daventry and South Northamptonshire
- Nigel Wickens

I would like any constituents who read this page to appreciate that there are many people who emphatically want to keep the strong relationship we have with the EU by staying in. Many of the arguments which highlight the strong position of the UK have been achieved within the current relationship and we have protections that exclude the UK from further integration. I want a progressive, forward looking UK leading from the front and not one keeping the world at arms length because we hark back to old values. The world moves on and we should embrace Europe. Please, please vote to stay in.
- Jeremy

Its not a leap in the dark - its a leap of faith and I would happily hold your hand when we jump Andrea......well done.
- Steve

Perhaps it is worth remembering that you job is to represent your constituents - something which your predecessor Boswell failed to do when he had responsibility in education, and completely ignored the wishes of the majority of local parents and schools. What a shame you are also failing in your duty to us, who gave you your position. But then that is the way of the present government - look after your own interests, it doesn't matter what the people think. You failed to represent us by voting against HS2, and now you are failing to represent your constituents again. Shame on you.
- Simon

Dear Mrs Leadsom Thank you for explaining your views so cogently. I know that over several years you have worked to identify reforms of the EU's arrangements, so your decision is all the more telling than that of your fellow MPs. You have advanced positive arguments which contrast sharply with the fear mongering and scare tactics being employed by Number 10 and the great and good. Clearly Leave has a good chance of success or they wouldn't be so worried. Regards Elizabeth
- Elizabeth

Excellent I heard you interviewed recently on EU exit - you are a tremendous advocate for Exit. Please keep up the good work.
- Richard C

Simon - Thank you for your comment. As I stated in my open letter, my decision to vote to leave has been informed by conversations with constituents as well as my own research as part of the Fresh Start Project (www.eufreshstart.org), but it is also important to note that this is an individual choice for every voter in the country and you are of course free to vote whatever way you wish. If you would like to discuss this, or any aspect of my work as your Member of Parliament, please do e-mail me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk or call my constituency office on 01327 353124 to book an appointment at one of my regular surgeries.
- Andrea Leadsom

A poweful argument for a vote to exit with which I completely agree. Such is my search for something good to come out of the EU that it was only last week that I met a Belgian who actually did something constructive for the good of all: he ran the patent office covering the whole EU which must cut paperwork but I strive in vain to find other advantages. If, as I am lead to believe, Russia and other countries can agree a free trade deal whyever not us? Will BMW want to stop selling cars here? My Brexit advertising slogan would be IF WE WERE NOT IN THE EU WOULD YOU BE VOTING TO JOIN NOW?
- Gordon Rogers

I'm with you all the way and believe you have been excellent coming straight out with your letter explaining your position. I believe this reflects the views of the majority of your constituents and will hold you in good stead with the voters at the next election. Roll on 23rd June and good luck.
- Mr C Kerridge

I'm with you all the way and believe you have been excellent coming straight out with your letter explaining your position. I believe this reflects the views of the majority of your constituents and will hold you in good stead with the voters at the next election. Roll on 23rd June and good luck.
- Mr C Kerridge

As a life-long non-supporter of the Conservative party and most of its policies, it grieves me to have to praise your splendid analysis of the case for exit - not to mention your courage in doing so. You're not related to the late, great Iain Macleod by any chance? The reason for my asking is that I hope to be at the debate in Argyll Street on Tuesday next and, although not normally of a blood-thirsty disposition, the prospect of seeing the case (such as it is) for remaining comprehensively destroyed would provide much innocent, unalloyed pleasure.
- Symmachus

Post a comment


11 FEB 2016

Support for HS2 Action Alliance Proposals

I have written to Robert Syms MP, Chair of the HS2 Select Committee, to lend my support to the ideas behind the proposals put forward by the HS2 Action Alliance group. HS2AA have done excellent work on behalf of residents in South Northamptonshire to investigate the complex issues surrounding the construction and operation of the proposed high speed line. I am particularly grateful to Hilary Wharf, Andrew Bodman and Emma Crane for their dedicated engagement to securing better compensation and mitigation along the line of route.

The three key proposals I am supporting are:

  1. consideration of a reduction in the maximum speed of trains along the line from 360 km/h to 300 km/h;
  2. independent oversight of the environmental impacts of HS2;
  3. the guaranteed planting of 2 million trees along Phase One.

You can read a copy of my letter to Robert here.

1 comment

Andrea - thank you for supporting these ideas which seem very practical and sensible ways to reduce the impact on people living near the line and the environment as a whole.
- Michael Irving

Post a comment


11 FEB 2016

Letters to HS2 Residents' Commissioner and Department for Transport

Further to my recent blogpost on the HS2 Promoter's Response to Select Committee Report and HS2 Resident Commissioner's Third Report I thought it may be of interest for local residents to have sight of the letters I have sent to Deborah Fazan, HS2 Residents' Commissioner, and Minister for Transport Robert Goodwill MP.

My letter to Deborah is here and my letter to Robert can be viewed here.

I shall ensure that copies of the responses that I receive are uploaded to my website for constituents to read.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 FEB 2016

HS2 Promoter's Response to Select Committee Report and HS2 Resident Commissioner's Third Report

Promoter's Response to the Select Committee's First Special Report of Session 2015-16

The Department for Transport has released the response of the Promoter of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill, the Secretary of State for Transport, to the First Special Report of the 2015-16 session that was published on the 17th December 2015 by the HS2 Select Committee.

The Select Committee report is available here, and the Promoter's response can be read here.

There are a number of points in the response that I should like to highlight here and I have written to Robert Goodwill MP, Minister of State for Transport, to seek further clarification in several areas.

On page 3 of the response, the Promoter states that they will undertake a review of the language in the NTS guidance and consider how to best utilise the suggested wording put forward by the Select Committee. I warmly welcome this guarantee as I am very much aware that constituents in South Northamptonshire have raised concerns that the wording of the guidance is both confusing and off-putting. I should be very interested to see how the Promoter simplifies the guidance to make the Need To Sell scheme more accessible to those affected residents along the proposed line-of-route.

On page 4 of the response, the Promoter has committed to reviewing all outstanding [NTS] cases on a regular basis and will write to any applicants for whom it has taken, or is likely to take, longer than 8 weeks for a decision to be provided. Whilst it is promising that the average time taken for an applicant to receive a decision has been reduced to 6.7 weeks, clearly there are a number of cases which fall well outside this timescale. However I do find the wording confused as the Promoter states that the letter will be sent within the 8 week period with a clear indication of the target date for having a decision sent to the applicant. I query how a letter can be sent within the 8 week period if it has already taken longer than 8 weeks for a decision to be provided and I have written to Robert Goodwill MP to seek clarification on this point.

On page 5 of the response, the Promoter notes the comments of the Select Committee that particular rural locations that are severely affected by construction may need to be addressed by way of special recommendation for certain cases. However there is no further mention of the rural locations in this section of the response and the Promoter focuses instead upon areas proximate to urban construction in particular Camden. I have previously written to the Chair of the HS2 Select Committee, Robert Syms MP, to flag that there are residents in rural locations in South Northamptonshire who are frustrated by HS2 Ltd's lack of engagement and I have raised this point again with Robert Goodwill MP.

On page 7 of the response, the Promoter has undertaken to consider how it might better clarify what evidential requirements relating to financial matters may help support an application. I know that local residents would welcome this clarification and I am grateful to the Promoter for looking into this further as clearly, as the Select Committee noted, in many cases the financial scrutiny is excessively intrusive.

On page 9 of the response, the Promoter has said that HS2 Ltd will ensure the Panel and decision maker are aware of previously successful applications in relation to properties close to the applicant's property. This is sensible and I would hope that it will lend support to the applications of constituents who have been unsuccessful in their approach thus far and are frustrated that neighbouring properties have been sold under NTS. I have always thought this was a common sense approach and, whilst the Promoter still states that close proximity to a property that has been the subject of a successful application is not a guarantee, the decision maker will need to provide clear reasons why such an application would be rejected.

Further down on page 9 of the response, the Promoter states that they are working to implement a revised process for the valuation of properties for NTS that will allow the use of local valuers. I know that the current system has been a significant barrier for residents trying to meet the valuation criteria and I think that everyone would welcome the greater consideration of local market knowledge. Additionally, the Promoter has accepted that a review show be undertaken on the requirement not to have received an offer within 15 per cent of the realistic asking price and I note that there is a commitment to doing so route-wide.

On page 13 in the final paragraph of the response, the Promoter writes that the Parliamentary Ombudsman already has the ability and scope of function to investigate and offer remedy to complainants with respect to the application of the Promoter's discretionary compensation policy. However this is contrary to the experience of several constituents and I have written to both the Ombudsman and Robert Goodwill MP to seek clarification.

HS2 Residents' Commissioner's Third Report

Having now been in post for twelve months Deborah Fazan, the HS2 Residents' Commissioner, has released her report into the progress by HS2 Ltd on the property schemes and the Residents' Charter, both of which were introduced in January 2015.

The Residents' Commissioner's report is available here. As with the response from the Promoter I have highlighted a number of points that are of interest and I have written to the Commissioner for further details on some of the issues she has raised.

The Commissioner notes that HS2 Ltd intends to undertake a broader communication and awareness campaign for the property schemes during 2016. HS2 Ltd's engagement with local residents has been widely accepted as inadequate with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman recently concluding that HS2 Ltd's actions fell below the reasonable standards that the Ombudsman would expect to the point that they constituted maladministration. The Commissioner has recommended that HS2 Ltd should undertake a widespread general information communication of all property schemes as early as possible in 2016 to ensure that all those affected are aware of the availability of the schemes. This is sensible but it is vital that this is further afield than the current communication threshold of 1km of the line of route in rural areas as there are examples of properties whose values are blighted at much greater distances. I have written to the Commissioner for further details on what would constitute such widespread engagement.

I am surprised at the low number of applications to the NTS scheme with only 139 received along the entire line of route. Colleagues have made the point to the Select Committee that this evidently suggests that many people are unaware of the compensation schemes available to them, or are put off because of the complexity and length of the process. The Commissioner states that the average time taken to reach a decision is nearly 8 weeks on average; the DfT response document states that the average time is currently 6.7 weeks. I have therefore written to the Commissioner to seek clarification.

The Commissioner echoes the remarks in the DfT's response that homeowners qualifying for the schemes would prefer to use local valuers, and I am pleased that she supports the proposals to implement this much-needed change to the guidance. She also broadly supports an amendment to the criterion for 'no prior knowledge' of the proposed line of route as any new buyer could not qualify for the schemes if they, in turn, were unable to sell their property other than at a substantially reduced price.

I did note that the Commissioner commented that communities have received HS2 Ltd information events in their area positively. I am sure that those who attended the Brackley information event on the 3rd November would disagree as the feedback that I have received from local residents is that technical experts were not on hand to satisfactorily respond to questions nor had the event been properly advertised outside of the local area. The Commissioner does accept the point that the events are very localised and that those outside the immediate area do not currently have recourse to similar information or engagement. I have written to the Commissioner on this point to ask that future events be much more widely advertised and that HS2 Ltd ensure that appropriate specialists attend the meetings.

Whilst I recognise that the Commissioner is independent, I was surprised that she had not yet had sight of how local engagement is being taken forwards. A detailed community engagement plan has recently been presented to HS2 Ltd's Board and I would have thought it appropriate for the Commissioner to have formally had some input into that process. I look forward to seeing more detail of the proposals and I have asked the Commissioner to send me a copy of the plan once it has been approved by the Board.

I hope that the summaries of the key points from the two documents, as I see them impacting South Northamptonshire, have been useful and that local residents are reassured that I continue to press HS2 Ltd for the delivery of proper compensation and mitigation. As ever, if there is anything arising from these reports that constituents would like to raise with me please do get in touch with me via andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk or contact my Parliamentary Assistant, Tommy Gilchrist whom those affected will be familiar with, at tommy.gilchrist@parliament.uk. Tommy was particularly pleased with the recognition, on page 11 of the Promoter's response, that many parliamentary colleagues have members of staff whose entire time is spent on HS2 issues!

0 comments

Post a comment


08 FEB 2016

Update on the Strategic Rail Freight Interchange

Further to my last blog post on the proposed strategic rail freight interchange between Blisworth and Milton Malsor, I wanted to provide a quick update to local residents and the wider community – many of whom I know are concerned about the proposals.

I have now had two meetings with Claire Perry MP, the Rail Minister, where I have had the opportunity to talk through some of the concerns that have been raised by constituents who have been in touch with me.

The three main points, as I see it at this stage, are:

  • the developer Ashfield Land seems to have bought the land / obtained option agreements and are therefore looking for a project that they can develop;
  • local residents are highly concerned about the implications of the proposed site and the blight that might hang over their heads for years;
  • there is existing capacity at the nearby Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal, which is undergoing expansion via DIRFTIII, and the East Midlands Gateway Rail Freight Interchange which was granted a development consent order last month.

Claire has undertaken to look into these issues with her officials and to provide me with further information as soon as she can; I will, of course, make sure that local residents are aware of what she comes back with.

I must stress however that, because Claire may well be involved in the decision-making process if the application were to go to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration, she cannot comment on the merits of the proposals themselves.

I will continue to liaise with Claire on the specific issues that are raised so that Blisworth and others can approach this from an informed perspective, and I look forward to meeting again with the local action group. I am also still anticipating meeting with the developers, Ashfield Land, in the near future to raise local concerns directly.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JAN 2016

Crossrail 2

As frequent readers of my blog will know, I focus my posts on local issues of interest and national government policy that affects South Northamptonshire. So it may be a surprise that I am writing about Crossrail 2, the proposed new railway line that will run north-south serving London and the South East linking Surrey to Hertfordshire via central London: http://crossrail2.co.uk/the-route/

With the proposed arrival of High Speed 2 at Euston station, as well as the significant development plans identified in the Euston Area Plan, additional public transport capacity would be required to meet these needs – dispersing passengers and reducing the crowding and delay that would otherwise occur at Euston.

Crossrail 2 is therefore an important infrastructure project for those residents in South Northamptonshire who commute down the West Coast Main Line into central London. A recent consultation took place between the 27th October 2015 and the 8th January 2016 relating to specifics about the proposed construction phase.

At this stage, the proposals suggest that construction could begin by 2020. My main concern is that, if High Speed 2 does go ahead, Crossrail 2 needs to be delivered on-time to ensure that commuters from South Northamptonshire are able to continue their onward journey from Euston without delay.

Rest assured that I am keeping my eye on the plans as they develop, and will update South Northamptonshire residents when appropriate.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JAN 2016

Strategic Rail Freight Terminal

A number of residents have been in touch with me to raise their concerns about Ashfield Land's proposals to construct a strategic rail freight terminal between the villages of Milton Malsor and Blisworth. Situated at the junction of the West Coast Main Line and the Northampton Loop Line, near to the key freight routes of the M1 and A43, the site would cover some 250 hectares of land and include eight million square feet of warehousing and other facilities.

I met with a group of constituents earlier in the month who are coordinating the local engagement with the development plans and talked through some of the early concerns. These will be familiar to anyone blighted by the construction and operational proposals by HS2 Ltd elsewhere in South Northamptonshire: noise, light and air pollution; construction traffic; LGVs once the site is in operation; impact on house values; loss of green countryside; and so on.

As the project is a nationally significant infrastructure project, local planning authorities are cut out of the decision-making process and authority delegated to the relevant Secretary of State via a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate. To find out more about how this works in practice please visit: http://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk

I am meeting with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, at the earliest possible date to ask a number of questions on behalf of South Northants residents, and I will report back when I have an update. I will also be meeting with the developers, although my Parliamentary Assistant Tommy Gilchrist has had a pre-meeting on my behalf and I continue to be in close contact with them through my office. I would also anticipate attending meetings of the local action group once this has been formally established as, in my experience, these have always served as a useful conduit for local residents' concerns

However, please do not hesitate to drop me a line with your thoughts on the proposal – I should be very glad to hear from you!

4 comments

Hi Andrea and Good New Year to you. Collingtree Parish Council responded to this but was told that it is out of Collingtree so no notice will be taken of the response though it will be sent to the developer. In normal planning terms, the adjacent party is always consulted and as you know the boundaries of Collingtree and Milton Malsor touch with the village centres being about 1 mile apart. I wish to complain that the current procedure is too restrictive and should like you to ask why it cannot be extended, especially as the plan seems to show the road from Milton Malsor to Blisworth will disappear.
- Malcolm Brice

Thank you for your comment about the Strategic Rail Freight Consultation. A number of constituents in Blisworth have been in touch with me to express their concerns about the proposals, and I am liaising with both the developers and the Rail Minister Claire Perry MP to ensure that these are fully expressed. My office is also in frequent contact with the developer, Ashfield Land, and has made clear that a number of additional communities beyond Blisworth and Milton Malsor should be kept informed as they will have an interest in the proposals: these include Roade, Hartwell, Grange Park, Collingtree, Rothersthorpe, Gayton, Tiffield, Shutlanger, Stoke Bruerne, Towcester, and Northampton itself. Please rest assured that I will, as always, reflect the views that constituents put to me and I am happy to represent them in any way that I can.
- Andrea Leadsom

Apparently Ashfield Land has been acquiring land in anticipation of this project since 2003! How come it is only public knowledge now? Also, surely Westminster has been aware of this for some time? Unfortinately, money talks, so no doubt this development will go ahead regardless of how the local community is disrupted.
- E Lithgow

Thank you for your comment on the proposals for a new strategic rail freight interchange between the villages of Milton Malsor and Blisworth. I am aware of the concern that these proposals have generated amongst local residents, and please do rest assured that I am following the developments with a keen interest. A number of people in the area have been in touch with me, and I recently met with Mark Redding and others who are coordinating the local action groups on this matter. I am looking to meet with the Rail Minister, Claire Perry MP, as soon as is practically possible to raise specific concerns with her and I plan to stay in close contact with the developers and residents alike.
- Andrea Leadsom

Post a comment


10 JAN 2016

Visits to Old Stratford Primary School and Sponne School

I was thrilled to have the opportunity on Friday to visit two South Northamptonshire schools; Old Stratford Primary School and Sponne School.

At Old Stratford Headteacher Mrs Sasha Lees and the children warmly welcomed me to their assembly in the morning. Following their recent focus on the importance of democracy as a British value, I was very impressed with how much all the children knew about politics and Parliament – although I must say I'm glad there aren't 12,000 Members of Parliament as one youngster suggested... it would get rather crowded on the benches in the Commons! There were many who said they wanted to be MPs when they grew up, and I was very pleased that some of the important issues they brought up was the legislation on drink-driving and gun-control. I always enjoy a Q&A session with primary school students, as the mind of a child is truly wonderful.

Later on in the day I met with Year 12 and 13 students in the Sixth Form at Sponne School in a session on parliamentary politics organised by Head Girl Bryonie Owen. Bryonie was a wonderful host and I am most grateful to her for having organised a really interesting meeting with some very switched-on young adults. Following an overview from me on my role as both a constituency MP and a Minister of State, I had my second "MPQs" of the day with some really important questions posed on a number of policy areas from the Syria vote to the NHS to my work in the Department of Energy & Climate Change. I also enjoyed hearing from Victoria Austin, Head of Sixth Form, about how the school continues to go from strength to strength, and it was a real pleasure to see Head of Geography Sean Marshall who coordinates Sponne's involvement with the Uganda Twinning Project that I started in 2007 with the wonderful Richard Johnson.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 DEC 2015

Merry Christmas!

On this most special of days, I should like to wish all of my constituents a very merry Christmas and to send you my best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year.

Whether you follow a particular faith or none I hope that the spirit of Christmas brings you glad tidings and, for those who are working in our vital emergency services and Armed Forces, I know that we are all extremely grateful for your time and efforts to protect us at this time of year.

As ever, my door is always open to any constituent who wishes to get in touch and I look forward to meeting with, and hearing from, as many of you as possible in 2016.

With best wishes,

 

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


24 DEC 2015

Christmas Newsletter

2015 is almost at an end, and what a year it's been! As ever I've been busy in both Westminster and South Northamptonshire, and I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a quick update on what's been happening.

The biggest political event of this year by far was the General Election, where I was honoured to once again be elected to represent this beautiful part of the country as your MP for another five years. The national result was certainly a surprise to the pollsters, but a majority government now gives us the chance to implement our manifesto commitments, including lowering taxes for the poorest in our society, supporting 3 million new apprenticeships, delivering an in/out referendum on our membership of the European Union, and restoring our nation's financial situation to prosperity.

Following the General Election, I was delighted to be appointed the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in the new Conservative Government. It is a fantastic opportunity to take on one of the great challenges of our time, and I am really pleased to be working with my colleague Amber Rudd MP, who was appointed Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. There is lots to do and there has been much to learn in the first few months, however, I am eager to make progress and my priorities in this new role are to ensure energy bills stay low and that the lights stay on as we move to a low carbon economy!

In other Westminster news, the House of Commons this year voted to extend the bombing campaign against ISIL to Syria. While the decision was a difficult one for every MP, regardless of how they voted, the debate held ahead of the vote was among the most considered, respectful and impassioned I have ever known. I set out in full my reasons for voting in favour of action against ISIL on my blog, and I will continue to monitor the situation closely.

2015 has also seen a surge in momentum for the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, a campaign I launched with cross-party support in 2013 and which reflects my passion for giving every baby the best start in life. Parent Infant Partnership UK, a charity I founded, has overseen huge growth in provision of psychotherapeutic support at local level for infants and their families who are struggling to form a secure bond.

It has also been a pleasure to host several constituents and schools in Parliament this year, and in particular I was delighted to welcome Richard Camp, Head Teacher at Towcester C of E Primary School, who won a national Pearson Teaching Award at a presentation in Westminster.

Back in the South Northamptonshire, my team and I have been making progress on my 'manifesto' from the General Election; the list of major issues that were raised on the doorstep and which I want to make progress on. I wanted to take this opportunity to summarise them below:

Potholes

The Government has committed to spending over £5 billion on roads maintenance this Parliament, and Britain now has a permanent pothole fund. More locally Northamptonshire Highways operates the Street Doctor online reporting tool and I encourage local residents to notify the Council of particular problems. If there are specific potholes that have gone unattended, then please do get in touch with me and I will raise the matter directly.

Local Planning

In addition to Collingtree, the A422 Farthinghoe bypass, the Towcester relief road and Government changes to wind farm policy, I have been discussing the vital need for better car park provision across the area with a specific focus on Towcester. Whilst the Northampton Road car park is now in progress, I am keen to explore further sites including the old Co-op site by the Sponne Arcade. Residents have also raised concerns about the impact of the Aylesbury Vale Enterprise Zone on the Silverstone Masterplan, and I am aware that South Northamptonshire Council are talking to Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership on this. If there is a specific local planning matter that is of concern, then do send me an email and I would be pleased to discuss it further with you.

Broadband

At Grange Park superfast broadband has been rolled out some six months ahead of Northamptonshire County Council's original projections and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. I am aware that there are residents elsewhere in South Northamptonshire who haven't been given a timetable for when they will be able to access faster speeds, and I continue to support any constituent who contacts me to raise the matter with NCC's Superfast Northamptonshire team. You can check their roll out schedule, including plans on the 'When and Where' map, on their website: www.superfastnorthamptonshire.net/when-and-where/Pages/roll-out-schedule.aspx

HS2 Compensation and Mitigation

In Westminster, the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum which I founded in the last Parliament has been reconvened, and allows MPs whose constituents are affected by HS2 to liaise over a range of matters and discuss common problems. In the most recent meeting, chaired by my colleague Cheryl Gillan MP, we heard from HS2 Ltd's Residents' Commissioner Deborah Fazan and a number of specific issues were put to her regarding communication and engagement. I have also petitioned on behalf of a number of petitioners against the proposals at Euston in Additional Provision 3, and supported South Northants Action Group in their locus standi challenge for the same provision. I continue to do all that I can for local residents to secure the best possible package of compensation and mitigation and, alongside many of my colleagues, would hope that the recent review by the HS2 Select Committee into the Need to Sell scheme will result in reforms to what is offered to affected residents.

Wind Farms

The Energy Bill, currently passing through Parliament and due for its Second Reading in the House of Commons on the 18th January, aims to ensure that local people will have the final say over planning consent for wind farms of any size. This is a huge success for communities across the country, and one that I am proud that to have had a part in delivering in my role as Minister of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Towcester Relief Road

I am in the process of organising a public meeting in the New Year to discuss how we can make urgent early progress on the delivery of this vital infrastructure, working with local action groups, developers, enterprise partnerships, residents and the Council to find a mutually beneficial way forward. I would urge any local resident with an interest in the relief road to attend: details will be published on my website closer to the time.

Brackley and Towcester Outpatient Services

I will be meeting with Dr Darin Seiger and John Wardell, respectively the Chair and Chief Executive of NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, in February to discuss the services that local residents in Brackley and Towcester have made clear to me they would like provided. There is considerable support across all interested parties, and I am hopeful that we can work collectively to get this sorted following the unfortunate closure of Brackley Cottage Hospital.

A422 through Farthinghoe

Northamptonshire Highways has undertaken a consultation to seek the views of the village on options for a bypass either to the north or the south, following exhibitions in the village hall on the 4th and 5th of December this year. I am hoping to arrange a meeting with Northamptonshire County Council, HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport and/or Highways England once the results of the consultation are known to discuss how we move forwards.

Green Spaces around Northampton

I continue to support the many residents of Collingtree who have overwhelmingly rejected current proposals to build more houses in their area around concerns of overdevelopment around their beautiful village and potential for strains on local infrastructure. I am also extremely concerned that the concreting-over of the green spaces will affect surface run-off into the Wootton Brook, likely leading to more catastrophic flooding locally. Indeed, information I have obtained from the Environment Agency suggests that the flood proofing for the area is not in line with that required by Northampton Borough Council's Northamptonshire Local Flood Risk Management Strategy. I spoke on behalf of constituents against the proposals at the Planning Inspectorate's planning appeal inquiry, and we await the outcome of the Hardingstone appeal.

Full Employment in South Northamptonshire

The most recent statistics show that South Northamptonshire has the 623rd highest employment rate out of the 650 UK constituencies, with a Jobseeker's Allowance claimant rate of 0.7 per cent of those who are economically active. This continues a trend of increasing employment in the area, and I continue to meet with local businesses to discuss how they can provide apprenticeship opportunities for young people.

Sports and Leisure Facilities

I am pleased that progress is being made on the provision of a new skate park in Brackley and I hope that this will be delivered soon; funds are being put aside for this project at the moment. If there are specific facilities or projects that local young people would like to see in their area then do get in touch with me with your ideas; I am always very pleased to support proposals that provide opportunities for our children.

Volunteering and Support for Vulnerable People

In the New Year I will be starting my Village Action Days again, and I am looking forward to visiting all of the villages and communities across South Northamptonshire. In particular I would be very keen to hear about projects and initiatives that can be replicated and upscaled across the area, and to share best practice from one part of the constituency with another.

As always you are welcome to contact me by phone, email or by writing to me. I am also continuing my regular advice and 'drop in' surgeries across the constituency and will start my 'village visits' again in the new year. My new constituency office is now open in Towcester and I hope this will also improve the service I can offer.

I look forward to facing the challenges that 2016 will bring, and as ever I there is any issue I can help with do please let me know. In the meantime, may I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

With best wishes,

 

Andrea Leadsom MP

0 comments

Post a comment


22 DEC 2015

1001 Critical Days Relaunch

I was delighted to attend this week’s Parliamentary relaunch of the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, hosted by Tim Loughton MP and facilitated by the charity Parent Infant Partnership (PIP) UK. In my role as founder of both the 1001 campaign and of PIP UK, I got the opportunity to thank everyone involved for their tireless work to provide every baby with the best start in life, and reiterate the importance to society of such a secure foundation.

Running since 2013, the 1001 critical days campaign began with the publication of the 1001 Critical Days manifesto which highlighted the vital importance of the conception to age two period. A record number of MPs from all sides of the House have added their support to the campaign and I am so pleased with the momentum that now exists both in politics and among healthcare professionals. The main sponsors now include former Children’s Minister and Conservative MP Tim Loughton, Labour MP Frank Field, former Minister for Mental Health Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, Green MP Caroline Lucas, as well as representatives from the SNP, Plaid, SDLP, and the DUP.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 DEC 2015

Visit to Towcester Primary School

It was a pleasure to be invited to visit Towcester Primary School on Friday last week, and to see the excellent work that the Senior Management Team has done to achieve such strong Ofsted results in their recent assessment.

I was expertly guided round by two lovely pupils, Jacey and Alvin, who are clearly very proud of their school and their wonderful teachers. I was very impressed with the innovative new science station under construction in an old Routemaster bus in the playground, as well as with the bright and vibrant artwork from all ages that adorns the corridors. As an L.S. Lowry fan myself, I particularly liked the children's take on his famous "matchstick men" imagery.

In what proved to be even more of a grilling than I usually get in the House of Commons during DECC Oral Questions, a group of Year 5 and 6 pupils put me in the hot seat for an "MP's Question Time". I was, as is often the case when speaking with children of this age, impressed with their level of knowledge on a whole range of issues – both local and national – and I am only sorry that there wasn't time to answer more. However I have taken the questions that weren't asked and I shall ensure that full written answers are provided in true Parliament fashion!

I should like to thank all of the staff and students at Towcester Primary for their warm welcome, in particular Head Teacher Richard Camp and Deputy Head Teacher Jo Brown, and I look forward to visiting the school again soon, or even meeting them in the House of Commons...

0 comments

Post a comment


11 DEC 2015

Andrea Leadsom MP attends Collingtree Planning Appeal inquiry

Acting on behalf of local residents in the Collingtree and Wootton Brook area, I have today appeared in front of a Planning Appeal inquiry to challenge the developers Bovis Homes over their proposals for the Northampton South Sustainable Urban Extension (SUE) at Collingtree. Alongside David Mackintosh MP, the Member of Parliament for Northampton South, I brought the crucial issues of flooding, traffic, air pollution and infrastructure that residents have raised with me over many years to the attention of the Planning Inspectorate.

Despite putting across a number of direct points to the Planning Inspectorate, and referring to evidence-based analyses of local, regional and national planning policy guidance, the Inspectorate's QC declined to ask me any questions on my deposition.

Both David and myself are deeply concerned that the opportunity to further explore local residents' concerns was squandered and, following the meeting, a number of constituents wondered if their local MPs were not questioned because the QC was fearful of what else might be raised.

This came after I had put on the official record that the flood risk provision was not in line with planning guidance as per Northampton Borough Council's Northamptonshire Local Flood Risk Management Strategy, and that local residents believed that impropriety had taken place regarding threats of legal action against the Borough Council.

It is a matter of record that the Borough Council have rejected the SUE at Collingtree, as they did at Hardingstone, and government policy is quite clear that local residents should decide where development in their area occurs. Alternatives should be explored and agreed in conjunction with local planning bodies and the developers.

We await the outcome of the Planning Appeal inquiry, and I will continue to do all that I can to represent the very clear views of local residents on this matter.

You may be interested in correspondence that I have had with the Planning Inspectorate, including my submission against the proposals at Collingtree, as well as with the Environment Agency. These are available below.

Andrea's letter to the Planning Inspectorate - 28th October 2015

Andrea's letter to the Planning Inspectorate - 11th November 2015

Andrea's letter to the Environment Agency - 9th November 2015

Response from the Environment Agency - 1st December 2015

0 comments

Post a comment


08 DEC 2015

Christmas Card Design Competition

Each year I invite all the Primary schools in South Northamptonshire to hold a competition for the design of my Christmas cards, and I invite the winning student to join me at the Houses of Parliament as an end of term treat. There were some fantastic entries this year, and my team and I found it very difficult to make a final decision!


Congratulations to the winner Chloe (7) of Brackley C of E Junior School for her depiction of the Three Wise Men which will appear on the front of my Christmas cards.

There are two runners up this year, Grace (9) of Hackleton Primary School and Luana (6) of Croughton All Saints CE Primary School. Their designs will feature on the back of the cards, and all the designs are featured below.


Many thanks to all those who took part, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

0 comments

Post a comment


01 DEC 2015

Syria

I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the the upcoming Parliamentary vote on military action in Syria against ISIL. I appreciate that this is a very serious decision involving strong feelings on both sides of the argument, and I would like to assure you that I have listened to all of my constituents’ concerns and have thought long and hard about what to do.

There are several fundamental questions regarding intervention that I wanted to have answered before I took my final decision. Over the past several days I have had detailed meetings and briefings on the proposed strategy, and each of my questions has been answered to my satisfaction, in particular:

  • The vote will be proposing to take military action in the form of air strikes against ISIL in Syria, extending the campaign beyond the current scope of Iraqi airspace, and will make use of UK technologies designed to minimise impact on civilians. The vote is fully in line with the recent United Nations proposal.
  • The future of the Assad regime remains subject to political discussions which will involve all the key players in the region. Whilst I agree with the Prime Minister that President Assad should not have a place in Syria’s future, there is no international agreement on this at present.
  • The UK will maintain its support in the region for refugees and the provision of humanitarian aid to those displaced by the current violence, and will play a leading role in rebuilding of infrastructure and communities.

I will be attending the debate tomorrow, and will continue to consider all the perspectives that are put to me. It is my current intention to vote in favour of the motion to authorise military action in Syria against ISIL

I realise this will be disappointing to those who remain strongly opposed to taking this step, but I would like to reassure you that this is not a decision that has been taken lightly. Use of military force should always be a last resort, and I genuinely believe that this is in Britain’s national interest and is the right thing to do.

1 comment

Andrea - you made a strong and difficult decision and I, for one, admire you and will support you for making that decision; a decision I sadly think, was correct.
- Kathryn

Post a comment


30 NOV 2015

Parliamentary Ombudsman Investigation into HS2 Ltd

In a recent report presented to Parliament on an investigation into complaints about High Speed Two (HS2) Limited, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has criticised the effectiveness of the communication and engagement by HS2 Ltd with residents who are affected by the proposed high speed rail link HS2.

The report looks specifically at how HS2 Ltd have dealt with a group of families in one hamlet between Weeford and Packington, near Lichfield in Staffordshire, and details the Ombudsman's investigation into a number of complaints from this group who are affected by the plans for Phase One of HS2.

The investigation considered HS2 Ltd's communication and engagement with the residents, including the way in which HS2 Ltd handled complaints. Whilst making a number of recommendations, including deadlines for remedy and compensation, the overall conclusion of the report is that HS2 Ltd's actions fell below the reasonable standards that the Ombudsman would expect to the point that they constituted maladministration.

I am pleased that the Ombudsman has recognised this important issue. I have always worked hard to ensure that constituents' views are communicated directly to HS2 Ltd, and I will always be happy to support any constituent who wishes to raise issues or questions.

I have made frequent representations to HS2 Ltd on behalf of my constituents since I was first elected to Parliament and I aim to continue to do all that I can to ensure that their concerns are recognised.

To find out more about the Ombudsman please visit www.ombudsman.org.uk.

You can read the full Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman report by clicking here.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 NOV 2015

Reforming Need To Sell

Many constituents have raised concerns with me about the compensation arrangements available to those who are directly and specially affected by the construction and operation of the proposed high speed rail line from London to Birmingham. Since the announcement of the line-of-route, a key concern of mine has been to ensure that homeowners wishing to sell up and move away can do so quickly, fairly, and with a decent compensation package. For those who are affected by HS2 this is of absolute paramount importance, and I have been doing all that I can – along with other Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected – to secure the best deal for local residents.

The Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) was never popular, and the criteria for applications for compensation being granted were onerous at best. Local residents, campaign action groups, myself and others worked hard to replace EHS with something that would be more viable, with a greater emphasis on HS2 Ltd being sympathetic to the plight of the local communities their high speed rail line was running through.

The latest scheme for people like those in South Northamptonshire is the Need to Sell (NTS) scheme, which was created to make the compensation process more accessible and easier to understand for all involved. However, as many residents will be aware, the intention hasn't quite matched the outcome and the scheme still falls short in a number of areas.

Recently the Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee wrote to me, and other MPs, to invite us to submit evidence on the effectiveness of the NTS scheme against EHS and to highlight areas where improvements could be made. In consultation with homeowners along the line-of-route and our fantastic campaign action groups, I have written a full response to the Chairman to outline the concerns that were shared with me. I have attached a copy of this letter below.

As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if I can be of help on this or any other matter.

Andrea Leadsom MP's response to the HS2 Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Need to Sell Scheme

0 comments

Post a comment


23 OCT 2015

Petitioning on Euston: AP3

I have today submitted a petition to the HS2 Select Committee on the proposed changes to Euston station as part of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill, known as Additional Provision 3 (AP3). The proposals for the redesigned Euston station, to include capacity for the new high speed trains as well as maintaining the "classic" Network Rail services, have undergone a number of significant changes since the Bill was first introduced to Parliament in November 2013, and my primary concern is to ensure that the views and positions of commuting constituents have been represented to the Select Committee.

Many people across South Northamptonshire regularly use the West Coast Main Line to commute into London, and have expressed their concerns over the uncertainty surrounding the timescales for the delivery of the Euston redevelopment, and the impact of the reduction in platforms for the classic line services. The improvements at Euston are now scheduled to take place over a much longer period of time, with changes to the number of approach tracks into the station that are reminiscent of the pre-West Coast Route Modernisation era.

I have raised a number of points with the HS2 Select Committee that constituents have put to me and I am confident that the Select Committee, expertly chaired by my colleague and friend Robert Syms MP, will impress upon the promoter HS2 Ltd the importance of a full and detailed response to each of the concerns that local commuters have brought forward. I also took the opportunity to put on record the dissatisfaction many constituents have experienced with the communications from HS2 Ltd, in particular the locus standi objection that was issued to Chipping Warden & Edgcote Parish Council.

I have attached a copy of my petition submission for any interested party to review and, as always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if I can be of any assistance in this or any other matter.

Andrea Leadsom MP's petition submission to the HS2 Select Committee on AP3 [Euston]

0 comments

Post a comment


16 OCT 2015

Update on HS2: AP3 and AP4

As we approach the next round of petitioning on the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill, I thought it useful to take this opportunity to make clear the deadlines and timescales for submissions on Additional Provision 3 (AP3) and Additional Provision 4 (AP4). It is important that anybody who is directly and specially affected by the changes outlined in either Additional Provision has the opportunity to put their case to the HS2 Select Committee, which has the powers to amend the Bill as required through existing powers or further Additional Provisions.

AP3 relates to the re-design of the proposed high speed rail station at Euston, and outlines the changes required to implement this. If you are a regular, or even occasional, commuter along the West Coast Main Line into Euston, then you may wish to consider the changes proposed and whether or not you would be affected. I have received assurances from the promoter of the scheme, HS2 Ltd, at a meeting on the 10th September that, whilst there will inevitably be some disruption during construction, the timetable that is in operation today will be the same up until Phase One of HS2 opens in 2026. There has been some speculation recently in the press that trains along the HS2 route would terminate at the proposed new Old Oak Common station rather than Euston for the first few years of operation; this has been categorically rejected as fanciful by the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, Simon Kirby.

AP4 is related to the line of route across the country, and deals more specifically with seven proposed changes in South Northamptonshire. The majority of these are at the request of the landowners and petitioners, although two are the promoter's improvement of the overall design. Again, should you be directly and specially affected by the proposed changes then please do put these forward to the HS2 Select Committee in full.

The deadline for submitting a petition against AP3 is 2pm on Friday 23rd October, and for responding to the AP3 Environmental Statement it is Friday 6th November. The deadline for petitioning against AP4 is Friday 13th November, and Friday 27th November for responding to the AP4 Environmental Statement.

If you have petitioned before, then I am sure that you are aware of the process – and you will not have to pay the £20 petitioning fee again. If this is your first time petitioning, then please do look first at the FAQs on the High Speed 2 Hybrid Bill, which you can find here: http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/current-bills/previous-bills/hybrid-bills/hybrid-bill-faqs. Marc Pooler, my former Parliamentary Assistant whom I am sure has helped many of you with the petitioning process in the past, has moved on after years of excellent service, and I have appointed Tommy Gilchrist to be my new lead on HS2 matters in South Northamptonshire. If he can be of any assistance in helping you to submit your petition, then please do not hesitate to contact him directly via email: tommy.gilchrist@parliament.uk.

Tommy has been meeting with various parties, not least the South Northamptonshire HS2 Liaison Committee who are coordinating from a local perspective. In addition to the briefing given on the 10th September in Parliament by HS2 Ltd, he has met with HS2 Action Alliance on a number of occasions including attending their deposition on noise to the HS2 Select Committee, and continues to meet with others on my behalf, most recently the West London Line Group to discuss stations, interchanges and connections.

I am also aware that some of you have been in touch with Tommy regarding the new Need To Sell scheme, announced by HS2 Ltd to replace the unwieldy Exceptional Hardship Scheme. For those who are unaware, you may be able to sell your property at its unblighted market value (prior to the announcement of HS2) or receive a lump-sum payment if it is near the proposed line of route. You can find out more details about how to claim compensation if your property is affected by HS2 here: https://www.gov.uk/claim-compensation-if-affected-by-hs2.

HS2 Ltd are hosting an information event on High Speed Two in Brackley on Tuesday 3rd November between 1pm and 7pm. This event aims to allow people to find out more about the project and what it means for the local area, with the opportunity to talk to their experts about any issue of concern, as well as to see maps and plans of the project. The meeting will take place at Brackley Town Hall, Market Place, Brackley, NN13 7AB.

Of course, all of this remains contingent upon a number of factors, not least the Bill passing through the legislative process and receiving Royal Assent. I will continue to provide updates as and when appropriate, and please do get in touch with me on this or any other matter.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 OCT 2015

Update on Towcester Relief Road

Prior to the recent General Election, in my manifesto for South Northamptonshire, I pledged to continue to push for the early delivery of the relief road for Towcester. This was an issue that came up time and again on doorsteps across the constituency by residents in Towcester and the surrounding area who remain concerned about the unacceptable levels of pollution in the town centre and the continued traffic flow problems along Watling Street.

In spite of the success we have had in improving the Tove roundabout at the junction of the A5 and A43, heavy-goods vehicles are still clogging up the roads through Towcester, making it difficult for local people to commute to work, do the school run, or pop to the shops. We all know that the only real solution is the early delivery of a relief road for Towcester, and this is something I am fighting for on your behalf.

I have had extremely positive meetings in recent months with Jo Lappin (NEP), Ann Limb (SEMLEP), Ian McCord (South Northants Council), and Jim Harker (Northants County Council) on behalf of the many people who have spoken to me about the matter, and I am seeking a meeting with all relevant parties before the end of the year to discuss how we can deliver the relief road ahead of schedule. It is the most important infrastructure project in South Northamptonshire in the next few years, and it is vital for local residents that progress is made as quickly as possible. I will update you further with our next steps as soon as I can.

1 comment

Thank you Andrea, for the time and energy you have spent trying to help Towcester residents, workers and visitors on this issue. However the relief-road, as set out in the Section 106 agreement is not a satisfactory answer to the problems facing Towcester now. It is certainly not appropriate for the much higher levels of traffic we are sure to see in the coming years. Alongside Towcester South, we will see (are seeing) development in surrounding towns and villages as well as business development such as Silverstone Innovation Hub / Science Park. Even the recent improvements to M40 have resulted in a 20% uplift in traffic flow along the A43 past Towcester. The town is set to get much busier, but let's make sure that the interests, health and well-being of residents, visitors and workers are properly taken into consideration. Let's see no short-term thinking, no concessions to developers. Let's see the involvement of the people in changes to our town. Please move your focus to providing a proper dual-carriageway bypass to Towcester. One that is safe and attractivefor HGV drivers to use and one with properly planned defences against both pollution and noise for the future Towcester South residents. We need a 7.5 ton restriction for traffic through Towcester, preferably from the future Racecourse roundabout. At the same time we need investment in Towcester town centre to ensure it's status as a destination, so that visitors in greater numbers are drawn to our town. And, following the recent changes to our town, we need confidence that plans shared with the public are delivered.
- Catherine Morris

Post a comment


09 OCT 2015

Broadband Success at Grange Park

It was welcome news indeed to hear that the roll out of superfast broadband at Grange Park is being delivered ahead of schedule, with the first 70 properties being able to take advantage of the new speeds some six months ahead of Northamptonshire County Council's original projections. This means that the delivery of superfast broadband at Grange Park, in partnership with BT Openreach, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

It is vital for the towns and villages in South Northamptonshire that the roll out of superfast broadband across the area continues unabashed, and I am pleased that we are on track this to deliver 90 per cent of premises by the start of the New Year. There are over 50,000 properties locally that are now connected to superfast broadband, with Superfast Northamptonshire being one of the top performing projects of its kind anywhere in the country.

Whilst we have made some significant headway at Grange Park, now is not the time to take our foot off the gas! I am continuing to work with local residents and businesses to flag any "not-spots" in our community to Superfast Northamptonshire and BT Openreach, and I would encourage any constituent to get in touch with my office to discuss how we may help. My Parliamentary Assistant, Tommy Gilchrist, would be pleased to offer his assistance and may be reached via tommy.gilchrist@parliament.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 SEP 2015

Wearing it Pink for Breast Cancer

I am very proud to be a supporter of the breast cancer support campaign, 'Wear it Pink' as part of the battle against cancer. As a Breast Cancer Ambassador, I am particularly passionate about standing up for the women and families affected by the disease and I am very proud to take part in events such as this to raise awareness and support for those affected by cancer, as well as those trying to cure it.

I was one of 230 MPs in Westminster to encourage people across the UK to support 'Wear it Pink'. Breast cancer is a huge challenge; every year in the UK around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, and sadly nearly 12,000 women still lose their lives to the disease.

The campaign is in its 14th year and to date has raised over £2 million each year during Breast Cancer Awareness Week and this year promises to be even bigger and better. Whether you are at school, work or home I encourage everyone to support Breast Cancer Now's research, and, in 'Wear it Pink', there is a fun and simple way for us to get involved on Friday 23rd October.

For more information or to register for wear it pink visit www.wearitpink.org.

0 comments

Post a comment


21 AUG 2015

Welcome To The Team!

I received lots of outstanding applications for the roles of Parliamentary Assistant and Constituency Support Manager in my office. I interviewed some excellent candidates, including many candidates local to South Northamptonshire, and whilst it was a difficult decision, I am delighted to welcome Tommy Gilchrist and Hilary Edwards to my team as my Parliamentary Assistant and my Constituency Support Manager respectively.

Hilary and Tommy will begin work over the next few weeks and I'm sure will be great additions to the team and will work hard to support constituents in South Northamptonshire. Tommy will be leading local campaigns on HS2, planning applications, potholes, wind farms and the Towcester Relief Road to name a few. Hilary is joining us to help support my caseworkers, organise local surgeries and help set up our new constituency office in Towcester. I am looking forward to working with both of them.

Former Magdalen College student, Jonathan Riley has also started as my new Apprentice Caseworker for the next year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ellie Hanger for all her hard work over the last year as my Apprentice and wish her all the best as she moves on to university.

For any local student who would be interested in joining my team as my Apprentice Caseworker for a year, further details of this role can be found by following this link: http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/would-you-like-to-work-in-my-team/565

0 comments

Post a comment


25 JUN 2015

High Court Rejects Spring Farm Ridge Appeal

I am delighted for all local residents who were affected by Broadview Energy's appeal to the High Court! The High Court has dismissed Broadview's attempt to overturn the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government's decision to refuse planning permission for the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm. I would like to take this opportunity again to commend residents on the resolute determination that they have shown in their efforts to protect their community from this unwelcome development.

Broadview Energy have been seeking planning for this five turbine development in the vicinity of Greatworth, Sulgrave and Helmdon for five years now against the clearly stated wishes of the local community. They argued in the High Court that I had influenced the Secretary of State's decision by writing to him on numerous occasions on behalf of those residents who contacted me, and as the result of a number of public meetings I held in the affected villages. They suggested that it was wrong of me to seek opportunities to raise the issue with him and his Ministers in the House of Commons.

I am delighted that the Judge, Lord Justice Cranston, concluded that I was, in fact, just doing my job..... He wrote, 'As elected representatives of individual constituencies, one of the functions of the modern MP is to take up constituency issues. These may be issues facing one constituent, a group of constituents or the constituency as a whole.'

He went on to say, 'This lobbying of Ministers by MPs is part and parcel of the representative role of a constituency MP. It would be quite wrong for a court to conclude that there was anything improper with it as a matter of law.'

He concluded, 'Andrea Leadsom MP was acting perfectly properly, as a diligent constituency MP, although in this case it just so happened that her political judgment aligned with her constituents' interests.'

I would love to be able to say that this is finally the end of this long drawn out situation, but in a sadly rather bitter statement posted on their website, Broadview have indicated that they will consider whether to seek leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Constituents can rest assured that I will always continue to fight for the best interests of South Northamptonshire residents. The Government is ensuring local communities have the final say in wind farm applications and announced the Government subsidy for onshore wind would end a year early. You can read about the full announcement at the following link: http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/fulfilling-our-onshore-wind-manifesto-commitments/797

The full verdict from Lord Justice Cranston can be read at the following link. You might be specifically interested in the 'analysis' and 'conclusion' which begin at paragraph 33 on page 12: http://www.andrealeadsom.com/downloads/high-court-rejects-spring-farm-ridge-appeal.pdf

0 comments

Post a comment


19 JUN 2015

Fulfilling Our Onshore Wind Manifesto Commitments

I am delighted that today, in line with our manifesto commitments we have announced that the bill payer subsidy for new onshore wind farms will end a year early in April 2016 and that local communities will have the final say on planning applications.

The Government recognises how important it is to reduce our carbon emissions and that our energy security requires a mix of energy sources to which onshore wind has contributed. However, it has rightly concluded that we now have enough onshore wind in the pipeline to be sufficient to meet our renewable electricity aims, and so has decided to end the generous consumer subsidy through the renewables obligation that has supported the development of onshore wind until now.

I am confident that the measures taken today offer the right balance between meeting our commitment to decarbonisation, whilst taking into account the thoughts and feelings of local communities.

Northamptonshire is a beautiful county that has certainly taken its share of development, and as the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, I am pleased to have played my part in delivering the commitment to ending new public subsidies for onshore wind which was clearly set out in the Conservative election manifesto.

You can read the Written Ministerial Statements from the Departments for Energy and Climate Change and Communities and Local Government at the following links:

Department for Communities and Local Government - http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June%202015/18%20June/1-DCLG-Planning.pdf

Department for Energy and Climate Change - http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/June%202015/18%20June/2-DECC-Wind.pdf

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JUN 2015

HS2 Motion Next Week

I just wanted to flag with those affected by HS2 that there will be a motion on HS2 before Parliament next week. The full text of the motion is below.

The motion is to allow for 'additional provisions' to become part of the HS2 project. This means that changes which petitioners have asked for, which the HS2 Select Committee have suggested and which HS2 Ltd. have agreed to make, can take place.

This is a largely uncontroversial process and a similar motion came before the House of Commons towards the end of the last Parliament. It is likely that the motion will pass without any vote taking place, however, in the event there is a vote, I wanted to let you know that I will support the motion as it allows for measures that constituents have petitioned on and want to see happen to become part of the plans. This is not an opportunity to consider the principle of the HS2 project.

The motion being considered is:

 

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Instruction (No.3)

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed-

(1) that the Select Committee have power to consider–

(a) amendments relating to the vertical and horizontal alignment of the proposed railway in the vicinity of the A38 and Trent and Mersey Canal in the parishes of Fradley and Streethay, King's Bromley and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

(b) amendments conferring additional power to carry out works in the Borough of Slough and in the parish of Iver in the County of Buckinghamshire for the purpose of providing a new Heathrow Express depot in the Borough of Slough (to the north east of Langley railway station), in consequence of the displacement of the existing depot because of the exercise of powers conferred by the Bill;

(c) amendments conferring additional power to provide sidings for Crossrail services at Old Oak Common in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham that could be extended in the future to create a connection between the West Coast Main Line Railway and the Great Western Main Line;

(d) amendments to accommodate the requirements of landowners and occupiers in:

i. the London Boroughs of Brent and Ealing;

ii. the parishes of Barton Hartshorn, Calvert Green, Chetwode, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, The Lee and Twyford in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iii. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

iv. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Chipping Warden and Edgcote, Greatworth, Radstone, Thorpe Mandeville and Whitfield in the County of Northamptonshire;

v. the parishes of Burton Green, Coleshill, Curdworth, Kenilworth, Ladbroke, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Southam, Stoneleigh, Stoneton, Wishaw and Moxhull and Wormleighton in the County of Warwickshire;

vi. the parishes of Armitage with Handsacre, Drayton Bassett, Hints with Canwell, King's Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

vii. the parishes of Balsall, Berkswell, Chelmsley Wood and Hampton-in­Arden in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull; and

viii. the City of Birmingham;

(e) amendments to accommodate changes to the design of the works authorised by the Bill in:

i. the London Boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea;

ii. the District of Three Rivers in the County of Hertfordshire;

iii. the parishes of Chetwode, Denham, Ellesborough, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, Quainton, Steeple Claydon, Stoke Mandeville, Turweston, Twyford and Wendover in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iv. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

v. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Greatworth, Marston St Lawrence, Radstone and Thorpe Mandeville in the County of Northamptonshire;

vi. the parishes of Coleshill, Curdworth, Kingsbury, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Radbourne and Stoneleigh in the County of Warwickshire;

vii. the parishes of Colwich, Drayton Bassett, Fradley and Streethay, Hints with Canwell, King's Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Weeford in the County of Staffordshire;

viii. the parishes of Berkswell and Bickenhill in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull;

ix. the City of Birmingham;

(f)amendments to the definition of "deposited statement" in clause 63(1) of the Bill to refer to supplementary environmental information provided in relation to matters which do not require an extension of the powers of the Bill to construct works or acquire land;

(g) amendments for purposes connected with any of the matters mentioned in sub­ paragraphs (a) to (f);

(2) that any petition against amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee is empowered to make shall be referred to the Select Committee if–

(a) the petition is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the amendments was published, and

(b) the petition is one in which the petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through counsel or agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 JUN 2015

Value For Money Update

In continuing my efforts to be transparent about my work and where your taxes are spent, I thought you might be interested to see an update of my parliamentary expenses for the financial year (April 2014 to March 2015).

I do not claim any expenses for my UK accommodation in Northants or Westminster, nor for any travel costs to and from Westminster nor for any travel costs incurred on my constituency business. I do, however, claim the cost of some travel and accommodation on overseas parliamentary business, and in my role as a Government Minister I do travel by pool car and overseas on official business, which is paid for by the relevant Government Department.

I run my office on a tight budget but with a view to making sure we can deal with the workload efficiently - I am conscious of the need to be very careful with taxpayers' money. I spent £16,615.44 on office costs (rent, printing, stationery, etc) out of an annual budget allowed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) of £23,250. My staffing costs for the year were £134,516.80 out of an annual budget of £138,600 provided by IPSA. Finally, my staff (a team of 5 full and part time staff, including my apprentice caseworker and a number of young constituents who have come for work experience in my office for a week or two at a time) have claimed £5,158.60 in travel between Westminster and South Northamptonshire in the first half of the year.

Between April 2014 and March 2015, I have written 4858 letters, and over 1,400 emails in response to enquiries from constituents. In the last year, I have spoken in 30 debates in the House of Commons which is above average amongst MPs. As a Minister I no longer ask Written Parliamentary Questions. If you would like more information on the work that I do, you can sign up for alerts at www.theyworkforyou.com.

I will continue to work hard to provide the best service and value for money that I can for South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 JUN 2015

Visit With Year Six At Caroline Chisholm

Now that the dust has begun to settle following the election, I was delighted to get back to some of my normal visits around the constituency. On Friday I had the pleasure of calling in at Caroline Chisholm School in Northampton to talk with Year Six and to help with their studies thinking about the 'laws of the land'.

I explained the role of an MP, how the Government makes laws in Parliament and the issues and problems the Government looks to address and how this affects our everyday lives. I was then happy to answer some insightful and thoughtful questions from the students. We discussed many issues including why I am a Conservative and how Party politics works in Westminster to whether I had met David Cameron and what we all thought about MPs pay!

Visiting schools in our area and speaking with students is definitely one of the main highlights of being an MP. I am always impressed with the understanding and engagement of our young people and was delighted that, when asked, a lot of Year Six said they would like to consider a career in politics! I certainly hope their enthusiasm continues.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUN 2015

Northamptonshire Chamber Of Commerce

Northamptonshire is a fantastic place to do business and recently I was really pleased to be able to meet with Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive of the Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce to discuss the work they are doing to support their members.

During the meeting Paul explained how they are expanding their team to deal with an increase in their workload and the steps that they are taking to engage more with local businesses. I was also pleased to hear that the Chamber is a regular participant at local business fairs and is working on engaging more with schools in our area.

I explained that a big focus for me was apprenticeships and anything the Chamber could do to promote apprenticeships or even take on an apprentice of their own would be very welcome. We also discussed my quarterly Business Breakfast Club and the Towcester and Brackley Job Clubs which I established and which are now run by South Northamptonshire Council. I am delighted that the Chamber have agreed to look into how they might contribute more to the Job Clubs.

I was also delighted to be able to congratulate Paul and his team on receiving a national award for 'Excellence in Membership Services' at the 2014 Chamber Awards. I hope the good work continues and we will be able to work together in the future to promote jobs and businesses across Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 JUN 2015

HS2 Liaison Committee

The HS2 Liaison Committee met recently in its first meeting since the General Election and in its new home of the new South Northamptonshire Council offices at the Forum in Towcester.

There was an excellent turnout as ever, and it was useful to receive updates on matters such as the Chipping Warden Relief Road, traffic during construction and the situation following the end of the petitioning period in South Northamptonshire.

We also discussed the focus of the Liaison Committee going forwards, the progress of the HS2 Select Committee in Parliament and when it is due to report and the plans for HS2 at Euston station, which is a big issue for Northamptonshire commuters.

It is my intention to try and secure a meeting with HS2 officials, including a senior engineer, and the Liaison Committee to provide a full update on current plans for HS2 in the area. I hope to arrange this meeting as soon as possible.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 MAY 2015

Minister Of State For Energy And Climate Change

I am delighted to have been appointed the Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change in the new Conservative Government.

This is a great challenge and I am really pleased to be working with my friend and colleague Amber Rudd MP, who has been appointed the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

My priorities in this new role will be to ensure energy bills stay low and that the lights stay on! There is lots to do and I am eager to get started.

2 comments

Congratulations! We're very excited to work alongside the DECC energy team to insulate large numbers of homes. Let's reduce bills and end fuel poverty in South Northamptonshire and beyond.
- Energy Bill Revolution

At last a Minister whose bite is worse than her bark. She gets results.
- Robert Memery

Post a comment


11 MAY 2015

Thank You!

I would just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me and re-elected me as your Member of Parliament for another five years. It is a huge honour to be an MP and an even greater one to represent the wonderful constituency of South Northamptonshire.

The final result was as follows:

Andrea Leadsom – Conservative: 36,607

Lucy Mills – Labour: 10,191

Tom Snowdon – Lib Dem: 3,613

Roger Clark – UKIP: 8,204

Damon Boughen – Green: 2,247

Majority: 26,416

Turnout: 60,862

I really enjoyed the campaign and did my best to visit as many areas of the constituency and talk to as many people as possible. It was a real pleasure to share the campaign trail with my fellow candidates for what was a friendly and good natured campaign.

I am also delighted that nationally, and against what the polls were saying, the Conservatives have won an overall majority. I am looking forward to the opportunity for David Cameron to implement a full Conservative manifesto. There are many challenges and a lot of work to be done and I know the new Government will waste no time in getting started.

Many thanks once again for your support. This may be a strong Conservative seat but I want to assure you I have always, and will continue, to treat all voters with respect and take nothing for granted. Whether you voted for me or not, you are always welcome to contact me and I will always do my best to help you.

1 comment

I think your wonderful .i hope you come pm . Uk loves you lots ....
- Mario

Post a comment


07 MAY 2015

My Ambitions for South Northamptonshire

Since I was selected as the Conservative candidate for South Northants nine years ago, and as MP here since 2010, I have met literally thousands of people - on their doorsteps, at my surgeries, at schools, at businesses and at charities - so I have a pretty good idea of many of the priorities for local residents, and it's quite a list! These are my top 'ambitions' for South Northants and if I am the MP after May 7, they will be my early 'to do' list with lots of other local priorities besides...

- Potholes to be better repaired

- Planning applications to be decided more locally, taking into account the wishes of the local community

- Broadband to be rolled out across South Northants

- Proper compensation and mitigation for those affected by HS2

- No more wind farms!

- Real progress to be made on the relief road for Towcester

- Outpatient medical services provided in both Brackley and Towcester

- Solution to the dangerous congestion on A422 at Farthinghoe

- Protect the green spaces surrounding Northampton

- Full employment in South Northamptonshire

- Improved sports and leisure facilities for young people

- More volunteering and support for vulnerable people, including for the wonderful NorPIP, a charity I set up to help new families.

- Keep supporting Northampton Saints... COYS!

As an MP, I don't have a magic wand to make things happen. But if I'm elected I will do my best for you every day.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAY 2015

Campaign Feedback

It's been a fantastic campaign, and I've thoroughly enjoyed speaking to residents all over South Northamptonshire at hustings, visits to schools and businesses and on the doorstep!

While there has been a great deal of positive feedback, I've been saddened to receive a few emails and tweets from constituents making reference to stories in the press over the last year about my tax affairs and donations to my Westminster office.

I wanted to take this opportunity to put the record straight in case any voter is worried about it.

On my personal tax affairs, the press suggested I might be making use of 'controversial trusts' and 'offshore' banking.

The truth is that when my youngest child was born, I became part time at work, and at the same time my husband was changing job. It was a very uncertain time for us, so we took the decision to set up a small company with a couple of 'buy to let' properties that we could manage as an extra income if anything went wrong. We set up the company with £100, putting £24 of the shares into an onshore trust as our children were 0, 5 and 7 and therefore legally unable to own shares. The purpose was that the whole family would engage in - and learn from - running a small business. I come from a long line of small business owners! My son became a director, as planned, when he turned 18, and my other two will do the same when they are old enough. So the trust is onshore (tax paying) and the investment was £24. Please click here if you want to see my Members' Register of Interests.

Other reports suggested I might have made use of 'offshore banking'. In fact, as we had very little capital, the company took out a mortgage via a mortgage broker with Kleinwort Benson Jersey, secured on our family home. As you may know, there is no tax advantage in borrowing money from offshore

The second story is about legal donations, correctly registered, to my Parliamentary Office in 20011-12. What happened is that my brother in law's UK business donated £70k to my Office over a two year period to help pay the salary of a Project Manager, and the printing costs, for the Fresh Start Project, which is something I set up with colleagues to research and make proposals on how to reform the EU (www.eufreshstart.org). The donations were fully declared and I did not personally benefit from them.

The reason the donation became a 'story' is because my Brother in Law's family come from the Channel Islands, and have lived there for centuries. His UK business employs several hundred people in the UK and pays tax here - the donations came from the UK company. I can't help where he comes from anymore than I can help having my roots here in Northamptonshire!

I would like to reiterate that I have never evaded tax and have always declared all of my income. I see public service as both a duty and a privilege and will always do my very best to provide good value to the taxpayer.

I hope this deals with any questions you may have, and I hope I can count on your vote!

0 comments

Post a comment


30 APR 2015

The Campaign so far

We're now just one week from polls closing, and it's been a busy campaign so far!

It's been a great opportunity to spend lots of time around South Northamptonshire, and I've spoken to hundreds of people on the doorsteps, at 'meet your candidate' events, hustings, and visits to schools and businesses. With 92 parishes, the towns ofTowcester and Brackley and 4 wards of Northampton Borough, there's a lot of ground to cover, but I've thoroughly enjoyed being able to speak to so many of you.

I have also travelled the length and breadth of the country to spread the word about the strong progress towards economic recovery, and to meet some of the businesses and families who have benefitted from the rise in employment rates and the opportunities for setting up their own business.

I am hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm there is for us to finish the job of recovery that we have started, and hope I will be able to play my part in seeing our economic recovery completed under a new Conservative government.

Thanks to all those who've shared their views with me so far, and if there is anything I can help with or any questions you'd like to ask before May 7th, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

0 comments

Post a comment


24 APR 2015

Securing our Economic Recovery

The Conservatives are focussed on securing our economic recovery and getting the taxpayers' money back from the banks following the financial crisis.

Read the recent update I gave the Independent here

0 comments

Post a comment


26 MAR 2015

Final HS2 Debate In Parliament

This week Parliament 'dissolves' ahead of the General Election but I am delighted that there was a final opportunity for a debate on HS2.Cheryl Gillan, MP for Chesham and Amersham secured the debate and I was pleased I was able to attend to show my support for many of the points raised. The debate was held in the secondary chamber to the House of Commons, Westminster Hall and was well attended, as all debates on HS2 have been. Around 22 Conservative MPs attended as well as a number of opposition MPs, the majority raising different concerns over the project.

Recently I presented my petition on behalf of my constituents to the HS2 Select Committee and I was pleased that Cheryl made clear in her speech that it's important the recommendations of the Committee are upheld and that if there is an unsatisfactory response from HS2 Ltd to the Committee's assurances and recommendations, they should be followed up, with the possibility of petitioners reappearing before the Committee, if necessary.

HS2 will continue to be a major issue for South Northamptonshire in the next Parliament regardless of who is in Government. During the debate, all Parties made clear that they support HS2. As I have made clear for a long time, it is now my intention to work hard on behalf of those affected for effective mitigation and fair compensation. It will continue to be my priority after the General Election if I am fortunate enough to be re-elected on the 7 May.

The transcript of the debate can be read here.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 MAR 2015

South Northamptonshire Winning The Battle Against Wind Farms

Recently another wind farm application in South Northamptonshire was refused at the High Court. A proposal for a wind turbine in the village of Wappenham had originally been allowed on appeal but after a staunch effort and committed campaign by the local community, the decision was quashed.

This recent defeat of a wind farm application can be added to those of the Tove Valley wind farm proposal in January 2014 and the Spring Farm Ridge project which was refused planning permission by the Secretary of State after a long battle, at the end of last year.

I am pleased these proposals have been refused as they were completely against the wishes of the majority of the local communities. Renewable energy is an important part of our energy mix and in securing our future energy needs. However I have always been clear that the thoughts and feelings of local communities must be taken into account and hold sway when determining how an area looks and feels.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 MAR 2015

HS2 Petitioning In South Northamptonshire Concludes

This week saw the conclusion of HS2 petitions from South Northamptonshire being heard by the HS2 Select Committee in Parliament. Over the last few months those affected by HS2 in our area have appeared before the Committee to discuss the impact the project is having on their area and to seek solutions.

Feedback generally has been positive and petitioners report that they felt the Committee understood their concerns, were sympathetic and provided constructive and helpful suggestions and recommendations.

On Tuesday I was delighted to have the opportunity to appear before the Committee myself as the last petitioner in South Northamptonshire. I used the opportunity to 'sum up' petitions in our area. I began by covering some general points regarding communication from HS2 Ltd., access to information and compensation arrangements. I then reminded the Committee of the main points constituents raised in each of the areas affected, including Boddington, Aston le Walls, Chipping Warden, Thorpe Mandeville, Lower Thorpe and Culworth, Greatworth, Radstone and Brackley. I also raised with the Committee the need for the plans for Euston station to be made clear as soon as possible as any changes to the station could have a significant impact on commuters in Northamptonshire.

In conclusion I discussed the need for a 'Code of Construction Practice' to be agreed and implemented and asked the Committee to consider offering some guidance on reappearing before the Committee should the assurances given by HS2 Ltd. and recommendations of the Committee not be carried out to the satisfaction of petitioners.

In response, the Committee offered an assurance that they do follow up to ensure their recommendations are acted upon. The Committee also agreed about the need for plans for Euston to support commuters and also asked HS2 Ltd. to follow up on a matter relating to the marketing of properties in areas significantly affected by HS2.

The transcript of my petition can be read at the following link here.

0 comments

Post a comment


13 MAR 2015

Update on Brackley Cottage Hospital

Residents will have been as concerned as I am about the potential closure of the Brackley Cottage Hospital, and so further to my earlier post I wanted to provide a brief update.

I recently met with trustees of the Brackley Cottage Hospital to discuss the situation, and following that I have written to the Nene Clinical Commissioning Group and encouraged them to work together to find a way to keep the hospital running until the services can be offered from an alternative source, specifically the new GP facility currently under construction in Brackley.

I am following the discussions with great interest, and will continue to do all I can to represent the concerns of my constituents.

3 comments

But it's closed! What now?
- Richard Gentry

Could you let your constituents know what the outcome of your letter to Nene Clinical Commissioning Group was.
- Richard Gentry

Thank you for your comments. I have not yet received a response from the Nene CCG, but I have requested a response from them again this week and will post any replies I get in my blog
- Andrea Leadsom

Post a comment


23 FEB 2015

Car Park at Moat Lane Development

After receiving a great number of concerns from residents regarding the proposed new 170-space car park in Towcester, I have today written to Sue Smith, Chief Executive at South Northamptonshire Council, to make her aware of the strength of feeling in the community. You can read my letter here.

2 comments

Good morning Andrea, Thank you for your response to my previous message and for the subsequent letter to Sue Smith. Some of us residents have a meeting tomorrow evening with Mary Clark at the SNC offices. It would be useful to know Sue Smith's response regarding the Localism Act. Did you receive a reply? Kind regards Martin
- Martin Reeves

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding my recent letter to Sue Smith, Chief Executive at South Northamptonshire Council, regarding the proposed new car park at the Moat Lane development in Towcester. Unfortunately I have not yet received a response from Sue Smith, and I have today contacted her office to chase a response. I do hope your resident’s meeting with Mary Clark is informative and invaluable, and that we receive a helpful and positive response shortly.
- Andrea Leadsom

Post a comment


10 FEB 2015

Health Care in South Northamptonshire

I have today called for the organisation responsible for healthcare provision across the county, the Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, to do more to provide local health services to residents of South Northamptonshire.

With new GP facilities planned as part of new developments in both Brackley and Towcester, I'm keen to ensure that new services are offered to local residents who otherwise have to travel as far as Northampton, Oxford and Milton Keynes for basic healthcare needs such as physiotherapy and eye clinics. With the recent announcement of the closure of the Brackley Cottage hospital, I am more determined than ever to ensure people across the constituency have local access to the services they need.

In a recent very helpful meeting with Dr Philip Stevens, the Clinical Lead for South Northamptonshire on the Nene CCG, we discussed the fact that local residents demand less than the average per head of healthcare expenditure, and on that basis I have written to Darin Sieger, the Chair of the CCG, to seek his support for action on this vital area.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 FEB 2015

Roadworks at Northampton Road, Towcester

On Saturday I met with a number of constituents in Towcester who are concerned about the planned closure of Northampton Road, and have today written to Northamptonshire County Council to outline the issues raised. A copy of my letter can be read here.

1 comment

Did he ever reply? May we see what he said?
- Jim Golcher

Post a comment


09 FEB 2015

South Northamptonshire School Visits

Last week, I had two excellent visits to schools in our area to meet with sixth form students and to answer their questions.

The first stop was to Abbeyfield School in Northampton who had organised a 'Question Time' style event for candidates of each of the political parties. We had a lively discussion and topics from students ranged from our membership of the EU and the future of the NHS to whether to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds and how to engage young people more in politics.

The students had clearly given plenty of thought to their questions and the opportunity to vote at the upcoming election in May is obviously important to them and a responsibility they take seriously.

I then moved on to the Elizabeth Woodville School Deanshanger campus to speak with sixth form students during their lunch break. Again we had a wide ranging discussion touching on the economy, the NHS and the EU as well as Russell Brand!

I am always impressed with the high standard of knowledge and interest our students have for politics and current affairs and I hope I will have the opportunity to visit many more schools in our area in the run up to the General Election.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 JAN 2015

Chipping Warden Bypass Announcement

I welcome the announcement made by HS2 Ltd today of a new permanent bypass on the A361 around Chipping Warden following successful negotiations between the company and Northamptonshire County Council. The Government will now amend the HS2 Hybrid Bill to include provision for the construction of the bypass.

I am pleased that the significant impact of the project on residents close to the route will now be partially mitigated, which will provide some relief to the village, not only from construction traffic but it will also be a permanent solution to the problem of increasing traffic going along the A361 every day. I'm very grateful to residents who have strongly argued with me for this bypass, and that HS2 Ltd and Northants CC have agreed to invest in it.

The press release issued by HS2 Ltd can be read here.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 JAN 2015

Howdens Planning Application

I have received considerable correspondence from constituents about the proposed Howdens development, and have taken this opportunity to write to Sue Smith, Chief Executive at South Northamptonshire Council. You can read my letter to her here.

0 comments

Post a comment


29 JAN 2015

Ealing Mums in Business

I was delighted to recently meet the Ealing Mums in Business Group at the invitation of their excellent local MP, Angie Bray. It was a really interesting meeting in a fantastic Ealing coffee shop, where I got to hear the perspective of Mums (and Dads) who are setting up in business for the first time, while trying to deal with the challenges of young children! I answered lots of questions about all the work this Government has done to support small businesses.

The local online channel, Chiswick Buzz, filmed the meeting and you can watch highlights, with plenty of ideas on how small businesses can access finance, on this link:

http://www.chiswickbuzz.net/arts/news/80-community/401-treasury-secreatary-andrea-leadsom-visits-local-businesses

0 comments

Post a comment


23 DEC 2014

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of year again! It seems to come around quicker each year but I hope you are all ready for Christmas and looking forward to the festive period.

As we head towards 2015, the General Election will soon be upon us, there is much to debate and consider as the country decides who will form the Government for the next five years. I think the current Government, in spite of being in Coalition, has made great progress on key areas, and we go into 2015 with significant reforms to welfare, education and pensions alongside the huge strides the economy has made towards recovery under our stewardship.

Though there is still a great deal to do to get our economy back into full health, I am confident that we have a strong record of achievement from the last five years and I will be fighting for a Conservative majority government in May.

On a national level it has certainly been a very eventful year. In September Parliament took the incredibly difficult decision to join air strikes in Iraq as the UK joined the comprehensive strategy the west has developed to defeat ISIL.

ISIL is an abhorrent organisation which cannot be reasoned with. They are murdering civilians in Iraq and Syria and horrifically executing western hostages. ISIL is a direct threat to Britain and has the capacity to visit terror on towns and cities in the UK and elsewhere. The Iraqi government asked for assistance against them which is why Parliament agreed to Britain playing its part in international air strikes against ISIL in Iraq.

September also saw the referendum on Scottish independence. The UK is one of the most successful monetary, fiscal and political unions in history, which brings great benefits and stability to Scotland and the rest of the UK.

I am glad the Scots appreciated the huge benefit of remaining part of the Union and concluded that we are 'better together'. There will be big changes with more powers being devolved to Scotland as agreed but I am also committed to ensuring that the settlement they get is also fair to the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish. Specifically, I do believe that it is time to introduce 'English Votes for English Laws'.

Earlier this year, I was appointed to the Government as the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. This position is a great privilege and a fantastic opportunity as well as being a big challenge. My priorities as a Minister are to push the reform of our banking sector by increasing competition and improving customer service and choice. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and the banks are still not doing nearly enough to support their growth. I am working on ensuring new competitors come into the market, offering not just loan products, but also using technology in payments, trade finance and invoice discounting products to help build British businesses and create new jobs.

I also continue to press issues which are important to you and to me. I remain committed to achieving fundamental reform in Europe and I have set up the Fresh Start project to research a better relationship for Britain in the European Union in support of David Cameron's promise to hold an In/Out referendum in 2017.

As your MP, it is vital to hear from South Northamptonshire residents about the issues they are concerned about so that I can try to help. I have been distributing surveys for about 18 months now as part of a programme of 'action days' across the constituency, when I visit our towns and villages to call on local residents to discuss issues that matter to them. I have so far visited 46 villages, parishes and towns. I am very grateful for the hospitality and the interest shown by many in sharing their views with me on the doorstep and in their homes. Please always remember that you don't need to wait for a leaflet, survey or for me to knock on your door! If you have an issue on which you would like my help, please just contact me directly.

I attend many events across the constituency throughout the year and I am always grateful to be invited. However, I would like to mention one annual event which is a huge privilege of being an MP. Each November I attend annual Remembrance Day services across the constituency to honour those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This year I attended the eve of Remembrance Day concert at St Lawrence's Church in Towcester where there was a full church and some wonderful music. The next morning I joined the service at All Saint's Church in Northampton and then watched the march past by servicemen and women, young and old. In the afternoon, it was a pleasure to attend the Remembrance Day Parade in Brackley where a very moving roll call of those who gave their lives was read out by the Head Boys and Girls of Magdalen College.

There was the added significance this year of it being 100 years since the start of World War One. The beautiful and poignant tribute of the hand-made poppies, one for each British and Commonwealth soldier killed during the First World War, at the Tower of London was a wonderful tribute and a visual reminder of the sacrifice made and why it is so important that we always remember.

And so we reach the end of another year! Each year I invite all Primary Schools in our area to offer a design for my Christmas card and I always get some fantastic offerings. I am delighted that this year's winner was from Bracken Leas Primary School in Brackley, closely followed by the runner up from Brackley Junior School and I enjoyed welcoming the successful pair and their families to Parliament recently to congratulate them.

Another event which has become a bit of a Christmas tradition is for MPs to visit their local Royal Mail Sorting Office. I enjoyed my early morning visit to those working hard in the Brackley sorting office. The Royal Mail do an incredible job, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year and I was delighted to offer my thanks for the work they do ... and did my best not to get in the way!

Looking ahead to next year and the exciting Moat Lane development in Towcester in beginning to take shape. I know South Northamptonshire Council are planning to move in to their new offices in the spring. I think the new development could be hugely beneficial to the Town and will offer a new hub for many of the important local services that residents rely on.

There is so much more I could talk about, and before I finish I must mention my work representing constituents affected by HS2, representing those affected by unwelcome planning applications and wind farms, the many lovely school visits I have made, the campaign for better broadband and better roads, my Business Breakfast Club, the Job Clubs and my real passion in politics, which is to provide better support for new parents in order to give all babies the best start in life. This year progress has been made on all of these issues and you can rest assured that I will continue to drive, promote and campaign on all of these issues to the General Election and beyond if I am fortunate enough to be re-elected as your MP in May.

I do hope you all have a very happy and peaceful Christmas and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2015!

With best wishes

Andrea

(Photos show: 1. Andrea on a visit to the London Stock Exchange as a Treasury Minister; 2. Meeting residents in West Hunsbury on an 'action day' visit; 3. At the War Memorial in Brackley; 4. Visiting the Royal Mail Sorting Office in Brackley)

0 comments

Post a comment


22 DEC 2014

Spring Farm Ridge Wind Farm Refused!

I am delighted that after years of tireless campaigning by the local community against the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm, the appeal by the developer has finally been turned down and planning permission refused.

This was a development which was completely against the thoughts and feelings of local residents and I would like to thank the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles and all DCLG Ministers in reaching this decison and upholding localism.

I sincerely hope that this is now the end of this saga and that talk of a wind farm in this area, and in other unsuitable areas, will now be a thing of the past.

You can read the decision from the Secretary of State by clicking here.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 NOV 2014

HS2 Petition Meeting In Parliament

On Thursday 27 November, I have arranged a meeting for those affected by HS2 and who are petitioning Parliament, to visit the House of Commons to discuss the petitioning process and their appearances before the HS2 Select Committee.

The meeting will take place in Committee Room 5 in the House of Commons which is the same Committee Room used to hear petitions, therefore this will be a good opportunity for petitioners to familiarise themselves with these surroundings. Neil Caulfield, the House of Commons Clerk to the Select Committee will be attending the meeting to give a presentation and to take questions.

The meeting follows a successful site visit by the HS2 Select Committee to South Northamptonshire at the end of October to see for themselves the affect the project would have on the area.

I am pleased to be able to attend this meeting with my constituents to ensure they have their questions regarding petitioning answered. For many constituents the thought of appearing before a Select Committee of MPs is extremely daunting. Therefore, it is important that they have this opportunity to have their questions answered so they know what to expect.

It is expected that petitions from South Northamptonshire residents will be heard in the New Year.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 NOV 2014

Opening of the Yardley Chase Cadet Training Centre

I was delighted to receive an invitation to the opening of the new Yardley Chase Cadet Training Centre in my constituency.

I've taken an active interest in the project since its conception and have followed the progress closely. The centre will provide lecture rooms, office space, dining facilities, an indoor training area and shooting range, as well as accommodation for up to 185 cadets and 45 adults at one time. The centre will primarily be used by the Army Cadet Force, but will be available for use by other cadet organisations, regular and reserve forces, local businesses and community-based projects.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 NOV 2014

Sex-Selective Abortion

Yesterday Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton brought before the House of Commons a Ten Minute Rule Bill seeking to ensure that abortions carried out simply because of the sex of a baby are illegal.

There is evidence that increasingly abortions are taking place based only on the sex of a baby and the law in this area is unclear. The Department for Health maintains that abortion for reasons of gender alone is illegal however other medical bodies hold different interpretations and the prosecution services rarely seek to prosecute.

I fully support this Bill, which has cross-party support, and the clarification that it is seeking to bring. Although I was unable to vote on the Bill because I am a Minister, I was pleased to see that the Bill was passed by 181 votes to 1. The Second Reading of the Bill will take place in January.

0 comments

Post a comment


31 OCT 2014

Successful HS2 Site Visit

On Monday 27 October, I was pleased to welcome MPs from the HS2 Select Committee to South Northamptonshire to see for themselves the impact the HS2 project will have on the area.

The Committee were making this visit ahead of hearing petitions in Parliament from those affected. On the visit four members of the Committee, Chairman Robert Syms MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Ian Mearns MP and Henry Bellingham MP, were met by delegations from the communities affected to explain how the project will affect the area and what measures they would like to see taken to mitigate the damage done by the project. I think the visit will have been invaluable to the Committee ahead of petitions being heard by them in Parliament.

I congratulate all those involved in planning an excellent visit. It was exceptionally well organised and all arguments and points were conveyed clearly and succinctly to the Committee which I know would have been extremely helpful for them.

 

Lower Boddington

With Robert Syms MP, Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee, Chris Wragg of Northamptonshire County Council and an HS2 engineer discussing a proposed cutting at the county boundary sign near Lower Boddington.

 

 

 

 

Aston-le-Walls

At Washbrook Farm in Aston-le-Walls. The future of this fantastic equestrian centre will be threatened by HS2. There is the potential for job losses and there will be a significant effect on local B&Bs, restaurants and pubs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chipping Warden and Edgecote

Henry Bellingham MP and Ian Mearns MP look at plans for Chipping Warden. Residents are very concerned about the closure of the Culworth Road and the impact on local traffic. A permanent bypass is clearly needed and HS2 Ltd. must engage on finding a solution.

 

 

 

 

Culworth, Lower Thorpe and Thorpe Mandeville

With Harriett Raitt, Stuart Rolt and Maurice Cole in Lower Thorpe which will be destroyed by HS2. The beautiful valley between Culworth and Thorpe Mandeville will have HS2 running through it on a high embankment and the local representatives put forward very clear proposals for how the damage could be mitigated.

 

 

 

 

Greatworth

At Greatworth House to see the impact on a local diverse farming business. HS2 Ltd. were urged to consider leasing rather than buying farming land to make sure farms remain viable. We also saw plans for the green tunnel and asked that the entrance be pushed further back from the village.

 

 

 

 

Radstone

With Simon Marinker at Radstone Church looking at the impact HS2 will have on this rural beauty spot.

 

 

 

 

 

Brackley

At the BP roundabout in Brackley with members of the Select Committee to discuss the proposals to raise the A43 and the noise impact HS2 will have.

 

 

 

 

 

Turweston

With Rachel Halvorsen at her farm in Turweston to look at the effect HS2 will have on her organic business and discuss solutions.

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Syms MP, Chairman of the HS2 Select Committee said, 'I am delighted the other Committee members and I were able to visit South Northamptonshire on Monday and meet with those affected. I hope that we will be able to resolve many of the issues raised without the need for the petitioners to actually come before the Committee in Parliament. However, if this is not the case, then we now have a very good idea of the issues and concerns and will look forward to seeing them at the committee hearings.'

'It was a pleasure to visit the area and to meet those affected and I would like to commend all concerned on planning an informative and well-structured event.'

0 comments

Post a comment


22 OCT 2014

HS2 Select Committee Visit To South Northamptonshire

I will be accompanying the HS2 Select Committee on their visit to South Northamptonshire during the morning of Monday 27 October. The Committee will be visiting sites flagged up by individual petitioners in order to discuss residents' concerns, with a view to adjusting some of the specifics of the project to better mitigate the effects of construction and operation of the line.

I'm grateful for the opportunity this visit will give residents to raise the real and specific concerns they have about the construction and operation of the new line, and have their views heard directly by the HS2 Select Committee who will then be able to decide on any alterations. As ever, I am keen to ensure residents get the best possible compensation and mitigation with regards to HS2, and will continue to do all I can to represent their views.

The itinerary includes stops for the Committee in Upper and Lower Boddington, Aston-le-Walls, Chipping Warden, Culworth, Lower Thorpe, Thorpe Mandeville, Greatworth, Radstone and Brackley.

0 comments

Post a comment


13 OCT 2014

Treasury Visit To Mumbai And Singapore

I recently led a Government delegation to India in my role as Economic Secretary to the Treasury in order to launch a new Financial Partnership between Britain and India. The partnership will establish closer ties between London and Mumbai, enabling deeper financial cooperation between the two financial centres.

I gave a speech in Mumbai to Indian financial policy makers and the leaders of both Indian and UK financial services firms during which I was delighted to announce this new partnership. Sharing our knowledge and expertise will open up new opportunities for our financial services industries and the wider economies of both of our nations, and forms a key part of our long term economic plan.

The UK–India Financial Partnership will examine key priorities across the UK and Indian financial services industries, and will make recommendations for deepening financial cooperation to the UK and Indian governments ahead of the next UK–India Economic and Financial Dialogue.

I also visited Singapore for the first time as a Treasury Minister on the trip, where I met with the Singaporean Ministry of Finance, senior regulators, and leading financial services firms to develop the financial and investment links between the UK and Singapore and promote the strengths of the UK as a global financial centre.

0 comments

Post a comment


26 SEP 2014

HS2 Property Compensation Consultation

I have responded to the latest consultation regarding compensation. The consultation is open until Tuesday 30 September.

You can read my submission here.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 SEP 2014

ISIL And The Recall Of Parliament

ISIL is an abhorrent and murderous organisation which cannot be reasoned with. They are murdering civilians in
Iraq and Syria and horrifically executing western hostages. ISIL is a direct threat to Britain and has the capacity to visit terror on towns and cities in the UK and elsewhere.

We have a comprehensive strategy to defeat them and we have been asked by the Iraqi government for assistance against them – which is why Parliament is being recalled so that we can agree to Britain playing its part in international air strikes against ISIL in Iraq.

What we are doing is legal, right and does not involve British combat troops on the ground. In Britain, when we are threatened in this way we should not turn away from what needs to be done.

The vote in Parliament on Friday will be to take part in international action against ISIL in Iraq – if there was a question of taking part in action in Syria that would require a separate Parliamentary vote and debate. I believe Parliament will pass the proposed measures and that all parties will unite to take action against ISIL.

The motion which will be voted on tomorrow is as follows and I intend to support it.

That this House

Condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing; recognizes the clear threat ISIL pose to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support; further recognizes the threat ISIL poses to wider international security and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and its murder of a British hostage; acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq, including countries throughout the Middle East; further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat ISIL poses to Iraq and its citizens, and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq; notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament; accordingly supports Her Majesty's Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces' efforts against ISIL in Iraq; notes that Her Majesty's Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty's armed forces.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 SEP 2014

Marcé Society International Conference

International Marcé Society Biennial Scientific Meeting was held this week at Swansea University. Delegates have come from all around the world to the UK, to share the latest clinical and evidence-based research on the perinatal period.

The 1001 Critical Days Manifesto was shared with delegates as an example of what can happen when science and policy are brought together to give every baby the best start in life.

Further details of this conference can be found here.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 SEP 2014

APPG Conception to Age Two Perinatal Enquiry

I am delighted to see the progress of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Conception to Age Two, which I co-founded in 2013. This important cross party group has been conducting a detailed inquiry into the factors that affect optimal development during the first 1001 days.

The first session focussed on the antenatal period (ie pregnancy) with a panel of experts, Professor Vivette Glover (Imperial College London), Dr Susan Pawlby (Institute of Psychiatry) and Ailsa Swarbrick (Family Nurse Partnership) giving evidence. All the witnesses stressed that the emotional health of the mother during pregnancy can have an effect on the foetus and a lasting effect on the child.

The second session had Professor Mark Bellis (Liverpool John Moores University), Chris Cuthbert (NSPCC), Professor David Shemmings (University of Kent) and Dr Johnathan Sher (WAVE Trust) giving evidence on the profound impact that abuse and maltreatment has on infants. 39% of serious case reviews involve a baby under one and around 200,000 babies (1 in 5) are living in families with issues such as parental drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. The evidence presented also highlighted the shortage of research studies in this field and the difficulty that this presents to local authorities in developing Joint Strategic Needs Assessments without sufficient data.

The APPG is co-chaired by Tim Loughton MP and Frank Field MP.

0 comments

Post a comment


29 AUG 2014

A508 Site Visit

I recently met with a number of residents of Stoke Bruerne who live on or near to the A508 to discuss their concerns regarding the safety of the road as it passes the villages of Stoke Bruerne and Ashton. Residents report that accidents along this stretch of road are many and often. Tragically a young woman lost her life in an accident here recently.

I was able to see for myself the speed the traffic travel at, the difficulty residents have pulling out onto the road and the problems caused by the road signs and markings.

I have now written to Northamptonshire County Council and Superintendent Andy Cox, County Commander for South Northamptonshire to raise with them enforcement of the 50mph speed limit and what further traffic calming measures can be taken, the positioning of road signs and markings along this stretch of the road and whether some signs are appropriate or positioned correctly and the recording and accuracy of accident data. It was raised with me that some incidents may go unrecorded given the nature of the accident and if so this may give an inaccurate picture of how often accidents occur and how dangerous the road really is.

I hope that we will be able to review the safety of the A508 as soon as possible to ensure the safety of those living in the area and road users alike.

(Photo shows Andrea with residents at the side of the A508)

0 comments

Post a comment


22 AUG 2014

Productive Police Meeting

It was a pleasure to meet with Superintendent Andy Cox, County Commander for South Northamptonshire and to have a positive discussion of some of the local issues which are often raised with me.

One of the main issues which residents discuss with me when out and about in our rural villages is that of rural policing. Local communities often explain that they would appreciate seeing more police officers on a regular basis in their village. I discussed with Andy the suggestion of one village which was that when returning from another incident, officers might drive through villages when returning to the station.

Another concern for rural communities is often the speed of traffic travelling through villages. Superintendent Cox explained that he does have a background in traffic policing and is therefore keen to be kept informed of any incidence or concerns that residents have. I have already written to him regarding the current problems on the A508.

We also discussed rural crime which is obviously a matter of concern for our area. I was interested to hear of the rural policing teams and how these will hopefully reassure communities. I look forward to hearing more about these and how effective they are in due course.

We also discussed more specific issues which have been raised with me and spoke of certain areas which are experiencing a few problems and how any extra resources or attention focussed on these areas would be very worthwhile.

I was very interested to hear Andy's thoughts on rehabilitation and prevention measures to stop people turning to crime in the first place. I believe this is closely related to my passion in politics which is for the earliest years of life, and how we need to  efocus support for the very earliest relationship between parent and baby.

I look forward to addressing some of these issues and working with Superintendent Cox in the future.

2 comments

They need police more regular to patrol Deanshanger as it seems to be a safe haven for people to deal drugs.They even grow it in the fields dotted around the area as one plant was discovered.,If there was regular presence of police driving around may be they would discover anonymous persons or peoples vehicles parked on side of road and up to something illegal over the fields.
- Clive

Thanks for your comment. If you'd like to e-mail me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk with your full name and postal address, I'd be happy to write to Adam Simmonds, our Police and Crime Commissioner, on your behalf to raise this issue.
- Andrea Leadsom

Post a comment


19 AUG 2014

HS2 Liaison Committee - Compensation Meeting

A further consultation on compensation for those affected by HS2 is currently ongoing and I met today with members of the HS2 Liaison Committee in Towcester to discuss the current arrangements and the consultation.

The Government has announced that their intention is for the compensation package to be as follows:

  • Express purchase – available to those within 60m from the centre of the line. The unblighted market value of the property plus other expenses such as moving costs will be paid.
  • Voluntary purchase zone – available to those between 60m and 120m from the line in rural areas. The unblighted market value can be applied for but other costs will not be paid.
  • The 'need to sell' scheme – available to those who need to move but cannot because of the impact HS2 is having on the sale of their property. It will be a more flexible scheme than the Exceptional Hardship Scheme that is currently available. Final details need to be confirmed but this scheme will allow for downsizing/expanding families to be legitimate reason for moving.
  • Rent back – under the express purchase and voluntary purchase schemes, renting back a property will be available.

Consultation is not being reopened on these schemes but the Government is looking for comments on two additional compensation suggestions:

  • Alternative Cash Offer – this will be available to those whose property is within 120m of the centre of the railway but want to stay in their home. It will be a cash offer of 10% of the unblighted market value of the property with a minimum £30,000 and a maximum of £100,000 being paid;
  • Homeowner payment – this will be available for those up to 300m from the centre of the railway. A payment will be offered to those properties in this area dependant on the distance from the line. It is suggest that from 120m to 180m from the line £22,500 will be paid; between 180m and 240m £15,000 will be paid and between 240m and 300m from the line £7,500 will be offered.

At the meeting we discussed these proposals and I took away many thoughts and concerns which I will feed into my response to the consultation which closes at the end of September. Specifically, we were all in agreement that a Property Bond which has been considered and rejected by the Government, still seems to be the fairest and most efficient way of compensating those affected.

I also took away a couple of further action points regarding the requirement within the 'need to sell' scheme to accept an offer within 15% of the 'asking price' and the definition of an 'owner-occupier' and whether property owners who have rented out their property would be eligible for the compensation schemes on offer or proposed. I have written to the Secretary of State on these points and I hope to receive a response as soon as possible.

I look forward to attending further meetings of the HS2 Liaison Committee over the coming months.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 AUG 2014

Chipping Warden Bypass

I have long been a supporter of a bypass for the village of Chipping Warden to help it deal with the impacts of HS2. There is significant concern regarding the effect HS2 will have on the village once it is operational, however, it can be argued that the period of construction of the project will be even more disruptive.

Residents have major concerns regarding the impact construction traffic will have on the village. Concerns range from the adverse effect on the health and livelihood of local residents due to increased noise and air pollution to safety concerns the additional traffic will cause around the primary school.

To deal with these concerns, I am delighted that the County Council has just completed a consultation on a bypass around Chipping Warden to improve traffic levels and I hope further progress will be made soon. Both the County Council and I have petitioned Parliament with a view to ensuring that HS2 Ltd. are required to construct, or at least provide funding, for a relief road. You can read my response to the consultation here.

(Photo shows Andrea discussing HS2 with residents in Chipping Warden)

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUL 2014

Caroline Chisholm 10th Anniversary

On Saturday I dropped in to Caroline Chisholm School, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary with an open day. I was able to meet lots of staff, pupils and parents, and also to have a look at some of the work the children have been involved in. I had the pleasure of cutting the ribbon at the new 1808 art gallery. I was particularly impressed by three pieces of collaborative artwork I was shown: sunflowers by Year 1 pupils, a portrait of the Queen to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee, and a Georges Seurat-style picture that everyone in the school played a part in creating!

It was a delight to visit, and as ever I am incredibly impressed by the standards achieved by schools across South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUL 2014

Towcester Library

I recently had the opportunity to attend a drop in event to be updated on the new Towcester Library. The building on Moat Lane, called The Forum, is scheduled for completion in March 2015, when the current library will relocate to the new site to join several other services. I got the chance to meet lots of the local and County team responsible for the library service, and was delighted by their passino for the new site and the potential for various new services for families, for debt advice, and even pensions guidance in addition to good old reading boks!

I will continue to follow the project with great interest, and look forward to visiting the new library when it is complete.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUL 2014

Carlsberg Development Latest

Yesterday, Carlsberg announced that they will not proceed with a planning application to build a new distribution centre on land between the Brackmills industrial estate and the village of Great Houghton.

Carlsberg are a welcome addition to Northampton, being one of the largest employers in the area, and have always had a very good relationship with local communities. However the plans for the new distribution centre were causing a great deal of concern in neighbouring villages, especially Great Houghton.

I recently met with residents, members of the Action Group and Parish Councillors in Great Houghton to discuss this proposal and concerns were raised regarding the increase in traffic on already congested roads, the affect this would have on air, noise and light pollution, whether there would be a risk of flooding and whether the claim that more jobs would be created was accurate. Residents were very clear that they support the existing Brackmills site but the greenbelt 'buffer' between Brackmills and Great Houghton is extremely important. There is great concern that if this development were to go ahead the character of the village could change forever.

Whilst Carlsberg have announced that they will not pursue this development any further, Roxhill Ltd. who are the developers working on behalf of Carlsberg, have not yet said whether they will consider reviving the application with a view to finding a new tenant. I will be meeting with Roxhill very shortly and will be explaining the concerns of the community and insisting that the area in question is not appropriate for development.

Carlsberg have announced that this decision has been taken after a 'thorough analysis of the economic and business case' and that Carlsberg 'will continue to explore options for the future national supply chain solution'.

Whilst developments which aim to create jobs are important, they must be appropriate and in keeping with the local area and take into account the thoughts, feelings and concerns of local residents.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 JUL 2014

Supporting Working Families: Childcare Payments Bill

I was delighted to speak today, in my role as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in the debate to support working families with our new Childcare Payments Bill. Having a baby is one of the most rewarding and challenging things that anyone can do, and it important that, as a society, we do what can to help.

By helping to provide tax-free child care, the Childcare Payments Bill will help to support parents to make the choice about what best suits them and their family, and ultimately to raise happy and healthy children.

Link to Hansard here.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUL 2014

Silverstone Park

I was delighted to visit the Innovation Centre at Silverstone Park on Friday to see the great work that is being done to cement South Northamptonshire's place at the heart of high-tech excellence. MEPC have bought the site of Silverstone Park (the large area around the perimeter of Silverstone Circuit) and aim to create the UK's biggest science park.

I met with Roz Bird (Commercial Director), Chris Kimber-Nickelson (Head of Development) and Carl McKellar PR Consultant) who described some of the superb new technologies being developed there, and also the aspiration for 8,000 new jobs once the site is fully developed. I was given strong assurance of their plans to improve local transport infrastructure too.

It was a fascinating visit to learn more about an area of the UK economy that provides so much employment and international revenue. As this weekend proved once again, motorsport and the surrounding technologies aren't just a lucrative business for our economy, but also a huge contributor to the UK PLC brand.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUL 2014

PSP Anniversary

The Towcester-based PSP association recently celebrated their 20th anniversary at a Reception in London, and I was delighted to attend in order to congratulate them once again for the excellent work they do. Michael Koe, who founded the Association following the sad death of his wife, Sarah, from the disease, gave an inspiring speech about the tremendous support given by the charity to those families whose loved ones are affected by PSP.

The charity helps those suffering from the little known but devastating condition called post supra nuclear palsy. More information about the PSP association can be found here: www.pspassociation.org.uk

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUL 2014

Opening the London Stock Exchange

Two weeks ago I joined the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, to open the London Stock Exchange for the listing of Britain's first Sovereign Sukuk issue. This is the first sovereign Sukuk (Islamic bond) to be issued outside the Islamic world, and is great news for our international financial services sector and for our long term economic plan.

The strong demand for the Sukuk not only delivers good value for money for the taxpayer, but also builds Britain's position as the western hub of Islamic finance and is a part of our long term plan to make Britain the undisputed centre of global financial services.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 JUL 2014

APPG Conception to Age 2: first 1001 days Update

Today saw the launch of a NEW perinatal inquiry for the APPG group which began by focusing on the beginning of the perinatal story - the antenatal period, as well as Tim Loughton MP being elected as the NEW Co-chair alongside Frank Field MP.

Leading academics and practitioner in their field Professor Vivette Glover (Imperial College London), Dr Susan Pawlby (Institute of Psychiatry) and Ailsa Swarbrick (Family Nurse Partnership) kick-started the evidence with their expert knowledge of pregnancy.

All expert witnesses stated that if we are to improve outcomes for children we must start at conception, as the emotional health of the mother during pregnancy can have an effect on the foetus and a lasting effect on the child.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 JUL 2014

NEW Perinatal Mental Health Campaign

Today saw the Maternal Mental Health Alliance who have pledged support to the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, launch a NEW perinatal mental health campaign called #everybodysbusiness. They are highlighting statistics which show that pregnant women and new mothers in almost half of the UK do not have access to specialist mental health services, potentially leaving them and their babies at risk.

As set out in the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, I believe that seamless and universal provision of care in the first 1001 days is essential to ensure that every baby has the best possible start in life.

0 comments

Post a comment


26 JUN 2014

Family and Parenting: the social impact of babies

As part of the 1001 Critical Days Lecture Series in Parliament, which I am sponsoring alongside Tim Loughton MP and Frank Field MP, we had our second lecture today on 'Family and Parenting: the social impact of babies'. The lecture by Professor Lynne Murray (University of Reading) and Professor Pasco Fearon (UCL) highlighted the importance of early relationshipsto support the social and emotional development and wellbeing of children.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JUN 2014

World Association of Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) International Conference

The work of the 1001 Critical Days campaign was showcased today at the WAIMH international conference. This high-profile event, which was being hosted in the UK for the first time in decades, brought 1700 delegates from 63 countries together to address the issues surrounding the emotional wellbeing of babies.

I was delighted to write a piece for the Conference Handbook:

GETTING IT RIGHT FROM THE START: 1001 CRITICAL DAYS

It is with a focus on the importance of a baby's earliest relationship that a group of cross party MPs came together last year to launch the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto. The manifesto focuses on enabling secure parent infant relationships that will, in turn, promote the healthy brain development of infants. The 1001 Critical Days campaign has the support of over 50 influential organisations including the Royal College of Midwives, the NSPCC and Public Health England. Our aim is to see the manifesto adopted by each political party in their 2015 General Election manifestos.

"As our understanding of the science of development improves, it becomes clearer and clearer how the events that happen to children and babies lead to structural changes that have life-long ramifications. Science is helping us to understand how love and nurture by caring adults is hard wired into the brains of children". (Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer)

Almost everyone would agree that preventing relationship breakdown, alcohol and substance abuse and mental illness is a far better approach than curing the consequences of these different scourges of modern life. Yet very few people realise that, in many such cases, there is a common root cause of so many social ills – and that is the absence of a secure bond between parents and their baby in the 1001 critical days between conception and age 2 years.

I'm convinced that, once this very strong link between early years' experience and whole-life outcomes becomes widely accepted, we'll be able to make huge progress in tackling many of society's most intractable problems.

The 20th Century was the century of physical health in the UK; the 21st Century must be the century for mental health. The post-war generation rose to the challenge of building the NHS to secure the physical health of our nation; the challenge for our generation is to build a stronger and happier society. Understanding the importance of good infant mental health is crucial to the realisation of this vision.

It is particularly timely that WAIMH is holding its congress this year in the UK as the momentum of the 1001 Critical Days campaign, continues to raise aspirations for the wellbeing of infants and their families. Thank you to all delegates at this congress who are working so tirelessly to ensure a better future for the wellbeing of our children.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JUN 2014

A Survey Of South Northamptonshire

A huge thank you to all those who have returned the survey that I circulated seeking your views on local and national issues. As an MP, it is vital to hear from my constituents about the issues that they are most concerned about in order to try to do something to help. I have been distributing surveys for over a year now as part of a programme of 'action days' across the constituency, when I visit our towns and villages to speak to local residents about the issues that matter to them.

There are 92 parishes in South Northamptonshire and so far, I have held action days in Aynho, Blisworth, Brackley, Castle Ashby, Cogenhoe, Courteenhall, Deanshanger, East Hunsbury, Grange Park, Hardingstone, Hartwell, Newbottle and Charlton, Pattishall, Potterspury, Roade, Tiffield, Towcester, Upton, West Hunsbury, Whittlebury, and Wootton Fields, and I plan to visit all parishes over the next year. Thank you very much for the hospitality and the keen interest shown by so many in sharing their views with me on the doorstep and in their homes.

I have received 822 surveys in total so far and the results have been fascinating. A few issues have been apparent in all areas of the constituency. Across South Northamptonshire, 69% of the responses reported that traffic and road conditions are a major problem and the surveys indicate that it is the most important issue in almost every area in the constituency. Potholes in particular have been a concern of many residents I have spoken to, so I am delighted that in the budget the Chancellor made an extra £200m available for County Councils to bid for specifically to help deal with potholes.

Residents across South Northamptonshire also reported problems with traffic, particularly where new housing is being built or planned. I am working hard with local councils to ensure that local residents have their views heard when it comes to planning issues.

Another issue raised by many residents is crime. 42% of those residents who replied said that crime and anti-social behaviour is a problem in their area and I have been in close contact with our Northamptonshire police commissioner, Adam Simmonds, to try to help.

In many parts of the constituency, HS2 was raised as the main concern of residents. I have been working hard thoughout this Parliament to represent your views on HS2, but it is clear that there is overwhelming support for HS2 from all parties in Parliament. As a result my key concern is now to support to those affected and work for fair and generous compensation and good mitigation for our beautiful countryside.

The survey also asked residents which national issues are of greatest concern. The main issue raised, which was consistent throughout all of the areas of the constituency, was immigration, with 71% of responses highlighting this. This is closely linked with our relationship with the EU, and many constituents highlighted their concern about how our relationship with the EU could encourage mass immigration from other EU countries. Sice 2011, I have been working with Colleagues in Parliament to develop the Fresh Start Project (FSP), a Conservative initiative to develop and build support for fundamental reform of our relationship with the EU. FSP is determined to achieve wide-ranging reform of the EU and fully supports the Prime Minister's commitment to hold a referendum on this important issue by the end of 2017. You can read more about the project here.

51% of residents who replied to my survey believe that we should have a 'looser', 'much looser' or a 'purely trading' relationship with the EU. Other people believe that we should remove ourselves entirely from the EU with 26% of people saying that we should have no relationship at all. Only 8% of respondents believe that we should have a closer relationship with the EU.

Other issues which fewer constituents raised as an issue include education (30%), crime (36%) and debt reduction (32%). Interestingly, very few residents expressed concern with climate change, unemployment, defence or infrastructure.

The majority of respondents believe that the nation's finances should be balanced by a mixture of tax rises and spending cuts, with only 7% thinking it should be done solely on tax rises and 20% of people thinking that it should be done solely on spending cuts.

The survey responses have also brought to light problems faced in different areas, and confirmed that each area has its own set of issues important to residents:

  • In Blisworth residents reported that the street lighting is inadequate, and 81% of residents said that they thought that the speed of traffic and road conditions were a problem where-as only 9% believed that public transport was a problem.
  • In Grange Park, residents reported that getting high speed broadband and improving the school catchment areas as really important issues. 53% of residents highlighted that crime is a serious concern, and half of all replies highlighted concerns with traffic and road conditions.
  • In Brackley 88% of residents reported a problem with speeding traffic and the number of potholes, and 57% highlighted concerns with planning, largely due to the new housing being built in the area.
  • Traffic and road conditions were reported as the main concern in Hartwell with 64% of responses raising it as an issue. However many residents added that the traffic wasn't as much of a problem as the road conditions, with potholes and the general poor quality of road surfaces. 25% of residents in Hartwell also think that litter is a problem in the area.
  • In Newbottle and Charlton 71% of residents reported a problem with the level of traffic and the conditions of the roads, and 35% reported that inadequate public transport and the level of crime are important issues.
  • In Roade, the traffic and road conditions are cited as the main concern, with 74% of residents reporting it as an issue, with most highlighting problems with potholes. 42% of residents reported concerns with planning, and many also complained about the lack of dog bins leading to owners not cleaning up after their dog.
  • Traffic was reported as the main issue in Towcester with 76% of residents highlighting it as a concern, mostly due to lack of parking, road condition, and the state of the pavements. Linked to this many residents believe that the new housing in the area will increase the amount of cars in the local area, with 48% of residents reporting that planning was an issue.
  • Residents of Upton reported traffic and road conditions as the biggest issue with 65% of responses highlighting trouble with the roads. The main issues appear to be potholes, a lack of street lighting and a lack of parking which can lead to illegal parking blocking in residents cars. Another problem reported by residents of Upton is the levels of crime and
    anti-social behaviour, with 33% of responses noting that crime is a problem in their area.
  • In West Hunsbury, 50% of residents reported a problem with the levels of crime in the area and 60% of residents reported trouble with the traffic and road conditions. Comments from residents of West Hunsbury indicate concern that there aren't enough streetlights, and there is a lack of parking.
  • Wooton has similar problems, with 63% of residents having trouble with the traffic and road conditions and 49% having trouble with the level of crime and anti-social behaviour in the area. There have also been concerns about building on the flood plains.

I am regularly corresponding and meeting with our local Councils, the Police and Crime Commissioner and other relevant authorities to represent your views to them. If a specific issue has been raised with me, I deal with it separately, but do remember that you do not need to wait for a survey or for me to knock on your door if you have an issue on which you would
like my help. You can email me directly at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk or write to me – House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA – or if you would like to speak in person, I hold regular advice and 'drop in' surgeries across the constituency. Details can be found on my website at www.andrealeadsom.com.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


12 JUN 2014

Visit To Bracken Leas Primary School

Visiting local schools in our area is certainly a highlight of being an MP and last week I was delighted to visit Bracken Leas Primary School in Brackley to talk to Year Six about my role as an MP.I am always extremely impressed with how much many young people know and understand about politics in our country. The students I spoke to knew all about the coalition, the political parties and who the important figures are in our political system. They were also extremely knowledgeable about the role of an MP and what issues MPs deal with on a daily basis.

We had a good discussion about current affairs, discussing the recent European elections and the performance of UKIP as well as many other matters. I was delighted to answer plenty of insightful and wide ranging questions on local subjects such as HS2, road safety and wind farms as well as more general issues such as education policy, welfare, jobs and improving the reputation of politicians.

There is certainly no apathy amongst young people in South Northamptonshire! I think the challenge for us all is to ensure that our children continue their interest in politics through primary school into senior school and beyond. I'm sure engaging more young people in politics is a subject that the children of Bracken Leas Primary School will have many strong opinions on!

0 comments

Post a comment


11 JUN 2014

Baby Bonds: Foundation for Lifelong Health

The first lecture 'Baby Bonds: foundation for lifelong health' in the 1001 Critical Days Lecture Series today took place in Parliament. Many world class academics attended to listen and contribute to the long term vision, that every baby in the UK should receive the best possible start in life.

Professor Charles Zeanah from Tulane University, USA and Professor Marian J. Bakersmans-Kranenberg presented their work on attachment, adoption and fostering. The research they presented overwhelmingly shows the importance of the conception to age 2 period and they are both supportive of the aims of the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 JUN 2014

PRESS RELEASE: Road Safety on the A508

Andrea Leadsom MP has today reiterated her concern over the A508 junction at Stoke Bruerne and the high accident rate there. Following a catastrophic week in which there were six road accidents at the site, including one fatality; a 21-year old local resident, who will be very much missed.

Local residents have been campaigning to make the road safer for several years through the Highways Agency to make the road safer, including a proposal to reduce the speed limit around the junction from 50mph to 40mph.

Andrea Leadsom said:

"Since coming to Parliament in 2010 as South Northamptonshire's representative, I have had numerous occasions when it was necessary to write to both Northamptonshire County Council and the Highways Agency to highlight the issue on the A508."

"The recent set of accidents, including the tragic death of a young member of our community, remind us that despite changes being implemented, more needs to be done. I have once again written to Northamptonshire County Council, the Highways Agency and also Northamptonshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, to request an urgent review of the safety of this stretch of road and for further traffic calming measures to be put in place within a week.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 MAY 2014

Hardingstone Planning Success

Recently plans for around 1,000 houses to be built in Hardingstone on the edge of Northampton were rejected by Northampton Borough Council Planning Committee.

Over the past few years I have been contacted by many residents of Hardingstone and the surrounding areas regarding excessive development in and around the Borough of Northampton. Hardingstone is an area which has received more than its fair share of development.

Residents and local Councillors have been fighting hard against these proposals and have raised concerns regarding the adequacy of existing infrastructure, traffic congestion and capacity at local schools and GP surgeries to name a few.

We do need more homes in this country and that means that more houses need to be built but where applications are made the development must be appropriate and take into account the thoughts, feelings and concerns of local residents. Developers must also be held to their promises to build a certain percentage of social and affordable housing, as well as their commitments to improve and invest in local public services and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of this application, as the developer is almost certain to appeal this decision to the Planning
Inspectorate. Previous experience of cases being determined by the Inspectorate have not been good with most of the applications approved on appeal with the Inspector citing a failure to demonstrate an existence of a five year housing supply.

It is incredibly frustrating that time after time we are seeing planning applications which are rejected by the local planning authority, approved on appeal by a Planning Inspector with little knowledge of the area, basing their decisions on an out of date plan. It makes clear how vitally important it is that we have in place as soon as possible our new Local Plan. Not having an up to date plan is simply leaving Planning Inspectors with the excuse to approve development on the top down housing plans of the last Government. Local Councils are in the process of agreeing our Local Plan and I hope that very soon we will be in a much better position to shape our area to our own design.

The fight will go on for Hardingstone and it is impossible to say what the outcome will be but at least there is still the chance to voice their concerns and have them considered.

0 comments

Post a comment


29 MAY 2014

South Northants Probus Visit

Shortly before Parliament dissolved ahead of the Queen's Speech, I arranged a tour of the Houses of Parliament for the South Northants Probus group. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the members before they left to view the Jewel Tower, part of the original Palace of Westminster, and was able to show them around the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, where Parliamentary services are held. It was a delight to meet the members of the group and to answer their questions about how Parliament works day-to-day and what my role as an MP and a Minister entails.

If you would like me to arrange a tour of Parliament for you, please do get in touch at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk. Further details of the tours can be found here: http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/visiting-and-tours/tours-of-parliament/tours/

0 comments

Post a comment


27 MAY 2014

Apprenticeship Success In South Northamptonshire

I am hugely supportive of apprenticeships and they are proving to be a real success for many young people and businesses within our area and across the country. Each year I take on my own apprentice to work in my team. My third apprentice is coming to the end of his year with us and my new apprentice will start in August. All my apprentices have been huge assets to my team, have each been enthusiastic and committed members of staff and have gained valuable experience.

Recently I sent a letter to a number of leading businesses in South Northamptonshire explaining the advantages of taking on an apprentice and encouraging them to look into the possibility of hiring their own. The number of apprentices in South Northamptonshire has grown from 340 in 2011 to 430 in 2012 to 520 last year.

Following my letter I was delighted to hear some of the fantastic stories of apprentices in our area.

Towcester Volkswagen inform me that they currently have two apprentices, Dominic, a Product Advisor Apprentice, who began his apprenticeship straight from school last September, and Matt, a Vehicle Technician Apprentice. They also employ James who is now a qualified technician and will be taking on another apprentice this September.

Towcester Volkswagen report that all three are doing exceptionally well and are adding value to their business. Special congratulations should go to Dominic who sold his first car last week!

Barratt Homes have also written to tell me that they recruit apprentices every year and that this year they will recruit around 155 in total. In Northampton this will see the company hire 10 trade apprentices, two technical apprentices and one commercial apprentice.

I am delighted to hear this good news and if you or your company are interested in apprenticeships or you might like to find an apprenticeship for yourself, further details can be found through the National Apprenticeships Service on 08000 150 600 or at http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/.

(Photos: 1. Dominic, Product Advisor Apprentice, 2. Matt, Vehicle Technician Apprentice, 3. James, qualified Vehicle Technician)

0 comments

Post a comment


07 MAY 2014

HS2 Petitioning Update

Further to my recent update regarding arrangements for the petitioning process, it has been raised with me that it would be helpful for some petitioners if they were able to deposit their petition in our area rather than posting their petition or coming to London in person.

Therefore, we will be available in Meeting Room 1 at the South Northamptonshire Council offices on Friday 16 May between 10.30am and 12.30pm for anyone wishing to deposit their petition for me to submit in Parliament the following week.

The meeting room will appear on the screen at the entrance and staff at reception will be able to give directions if needed. Many thanks to Councillor Ian Morris for arranging the room.

I would be very grateful if you could let me or Marc (marc.pooler@parliament.uk) know of your intention to deposit your petition with me at South Northamptonshire Council so we have an idea of how many to expect.

Do remember that in addition to being able to deposit petitions at South Northamptonshire Council on Friday 16 May, I would be very pleased to meet with you to submit the petition in Westminster and to ensure you have any questions that you may have addressed by the staff receiving the petitions. I would also be happy to submit petitions on your behalf and would recommend my office in London receives your petition by post as soon as possible and no later than Friday 16 May.

Do also have a look at the following information from the Private Bill Office: http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/current-bills/previous-bills/hybrid-bills/hybrid-bill-faqs/.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


02 MAY 2014

HS2 Update

It has been an incredibly busy period for the HS2 project and I would like to update you on the HS2 Hybrid Bill Second Reading and the arrangements for petitioning.

I want to be clear that I will continue to prioritise raising your concerns and supporting communities affected by HS2. It is my aim to ensure fair compensation and mitigation, and provide full support for the petitioning process. I do understand what a disruptive affect this project is having on communities and I'm so sorry for the hardship that this is causing.

As expected, there is very strong support for this project in Parliament from all sides of the House and, like the Paving Bill, the Hybrid Bill passed Second Reading on Monday with a large majority. After I voted against the Paving Bill, I made it clear that my priority is now to support those communities and families affected by High Speed Two as much as possible ensuring fair compensation and mitigation, and providing full support for the petitioning process.

As we enter the petitioning period, you may find helpful the following information which has recently been updated by the Private Bill Office: http://www.parliament.uk/business/bills-and-legislation/current-bills/previous-bills/hybrid-bills/hybrid-bill-faqs/. Regarding submission of petitions, I would be very pleased to meet with you to submit the petition in Westminster and to ensure you have any questions that you may have addressed by the staff receiving the petitions. Petitions can be submitted at the following times:

Tuesday 6 May – Friday 9 May: 10am–5pm
Monday 12 May – Wednesday 14 May: 10am–5pm
Thursday 15 May: 10am–7pm
Friday 16 May: 10am–5pm
Monday 19 May – Wednesday 21 May: 10am–5pm
Thursday 22 May: 10am–7pm
Friday 23 May: 10am–2pm – Please note an earlier closing time.

If you are unable to submit your petition in person, I would be happy to submit it on your behalf; however, I would recommend my office receives your petition as soon as possible and no later than Friday 16 May. This is to ensure that if there are any problems we do have the time to resolve them. Please do also read the guidelines provided above from the Private Bill Office. Please do not send cash in the post, a £20 cheque should be made payable to 'GBS: re HoC: Administration' and marked 'HS2' on the back.

Petitions should be sent to: Andrea Leadsom MP

House of Commons

London

SW1A 0AA

For anyone wishing to be a Roll B Agent and requiring a certificate of respectability, I am happy to provide one as your Member of Parliament and providing we have met on at least one occasion. Alternatively, a Justice of the Peace, solicitor or barrister can also provide a certificate of respectability. Please also contact my office if you would like a certificate.

Finally a concern has been raised with me regarding the inclusion of personal and sensitive information within petitions which are then made public. The advice from the Private Bill Office on how to resolve this issue is as follows:

'Petitions are indeed published, and petitioners sign a consent form in relation to this. I take the point about sensitivity, however. I think the answer would be for the petition to outline the type of issue which concerns the petitioner in broad terms and for detail to be left until the evidence stage with the sensitive material being submitted in a separate evidence paper. For instance, if there is a particular sensitive health problem it would be sufficient to state this in broad terms and not go into detail. In extremis, the petition could state that there are other matters that it cannot go into detail on for reasons of personal sensitivity but which will be expanded on later.'

I do hope this information is helpful and that I have assured you that I will keep fighting to ensure fair treatment for residents of South Northamptonshire. I will keep you updated with HS2 news and if I can be of any further help, especially regarding the petitioning process, do not hesitate to contact me.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 APR 2014

Appointment to Economic Secretary to the Treasury

It is a great privilege to have been appointed Economic Secretary to the Treasury. This is a fantastic opportunity as well as a great challenge.

Before entering Parliament I spent 25 years working in the banking and finance industry so I am pleased that my role focuses on financial services.

I look forward to continuing the government's work to reform the banking system so that it focuses on consumers, and helps our economy grow.

1 comment

Dear Andrea, Congratulations on your new role! As somewhat of an economist, I have began taking interest in issues of money creation and the recent recession. I was wondering that while the recession was clearly caused by too much lending, and too much irresponsible lending, then why is the current strategy to ultimately get banks to lend again? Also why are banks allowed to create money, and keep the seigniorage (does this not act as some kind of subsidy or 'benefit' to banks)? Why is it illegal for a person to print money, but banks are allowed to create it- isn't the creation of money supposed to be a public prerogative? With QE, is money going into businesses and the real economy, or is it going into financial markets and property bubbles? Im sorry to bombard you with these questions, but the truth is no debate or politician has really taken this issue seriously since Robert Peel in 1844. With the Bank of England's recent bulletin, and Martin Wolf's recent article in the financial times, it is clear that these issues are re-surfacing and as the new Economic Secretary to the Treasury, I wanted to hear your views on it. Thank you for taking the time! Kindest Regards Simon
- Simon Johnson

Post a comment


08 APR 2014

Launch of NEW Parenting APP by AIMH UK

Today I hosted the Association of Infant Mental Health (AIMH) at the launch of their new parenting App at a reception in Parliament. The App seeks to provide an innovative way to communicate, educate and support pregnant women and new parents to be.

The cross-party 1001 Critical Days manifesto emphasises the many ways in which the perinatal period is key to a child's later development.

It highlights the way in which the earliest experiences shape a baby's brain development, and have a lifelong impact on that baby's mental and emotional health. By the 1001st day, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size, and from birth to 18 months, connections in the brain are created at a rate of one million per second! It is important for babies to be nurtured during this peak period of growth to ensure healthy brain develop to enable babies to achieve the best start in life.

A foetus or new born baby which is exposed to high stress levels can develop a tolerance to stress which can have profound consequences for later in life. This early stress can come from a mother suffering from depression or anxiety, a bad relationship with a partner, or an external trauma such as bereavement.

Babies are disproportionately vulnerable to abuse and neglect. In England they are seven times more likely to be killed than older children; and around 26% of babies (198,000) in the UK are estimated to be living in families where there are problems such as substance misuse or mental illness.

The best chance to turn this around is during the first 1001 days. A loving, sensitive and responsive relationship with an adult caregiver teaches the baby to believe that the world is a good place and reduces the risk of them facing disruptive issues in later life.

Every child deserves an equal opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life, and with the right kind of early intervention, there is every opportunity for secure parent infant attachments to be developed.

Pregnancy, birth and the first 24 months of a baby's life can be a tough time for every mother and father, and some parents may find it hard to provide the care and attention their baby needs, however, it can also be a chance to affect great change.

The launch today brings together a number of innovative methods of working with parents during the critical 1001 days to ensure they receive the support they need.

http://www.bestbeginnings.org.uk/News/costs-perinatal-mental-health-problems

0 comments

Post a comment


02 APR 2014

Farthinghoe Solar Farm

This week I visited Farthinghoe after being invited by local residents to meet with them to discuss plans for a 55 acre solar farm to be constructed on the edge of the village. There is certainly strong opposition to the plans and I was keen to visit the site and listen to the concerns of local residents for myself.Whilst there is no doubt of the need for new, and renewable, sources of energy, the views of local communities must hold sway. I have received some correspondence in support of the scheme, however it was made clear to me that there is a great deal of concern about the siting of the solar farm and the impact it would have on the rural setting, as well as the specific and very damaging impact on particular residents.

Residents raised with me concerns regarding the proximity of the solar farm to the village, the blight that the farm could cause to property prices, the accuracy of the plans from the developer and the effect of glare from the panels on neighbouring villages and passing traffic.

Whilst not being against solar farms in general, I do share the concern of residents regarding the positioning of this project. It is extremely close to the village and will impact on nearby properties, a well used public footpath and will be in full view of neighbouring villages. I would urge the developer to consider alternative sites for the solar farm which will have less of an impact. I do not accept that the positioning of the solar farm is dictated by the proximity of the project to the national grid – profitability and impact on the local community need to be weighed together.

I am aware that there is support for this project and that many who may be in favour were unable to attend the meeting this week because it was during the day and they were at work. I will be listening to their arguments too and will take them into account. I am also meeting again with the owner of the site at the end of the week.

I understand that residents opposed to the plans have organised a petition which includes over 200 signatures and, as their local MP, I have agreed to present this petition in Parliament which I will be seeking to do in due course.

I am hopeful that the views of all residents can be taken into account and a suitable solution for everyone concerned can be reached as soon as possible.

(Photos show Andrea with the petition and viewing plans for the solar farm)

0 comments

Post a comment


02 APR 2014

Shaping A Child's Future

Early years intervention was a key topic in Parliament today as Dr Bruce Perry, an eminent academic in the emotional and physical effects of adverse childhood experiences, set the scene for the critical importance of brain biology in babies. The lecture asked the question: 'Is there an optimum moment or period in which to shape a child's future?' Dr Perry raised the importance of understanding why empathy is essential and why it becomes endangered when an infant or young child suffers adverse childhood experiences.

The Cross Party 1001 Critical Days: Conception to Age 2 campaign that I launched last summer highlights the importance of this period of development. It calls for a family centred approach to peri natal care, with Midwife, Health Visitor, Children's Centre staff and GPs working together to support not just the physical, but also the emotional wellbeing of the family.

I have also recently set up a new charity – Parent Infant Partnership UK (PIP UK) – specifically to build a national network of parent-infant partnerships, providing psychotherapeutic support for families that are struggling to form a secure bond with their baby. This type of early years intervention has the power to fundamentally change our society for the better. As Dr Perry pointed out at the end of his lecture, the country that first puts into practise what we know about the enormous benefits of early intervention, will take a huge stride forward in solving many of society's ills, with an enormous bounce in human productivity as a result.

1 comment

That's a great start, what is needed is a PIP in many many other towns and cities. Introducing the 'Roots of Empathy' programme to every school would have enormous being it's too.
- Rosemary Frost

Post a comment


27 MAR 2014

HS2 Meeting With Sir David Higgins

Yesterday I attended a seminar with Sir David Higgins, the new Chairman of HS2 Ltd. following the launch of his report 'HS2 Plus' which has reviewed many areas of the project and is aimed at delivering HS2 quicker and cheaper than is currently planned.

Sir David made clear that this project is about achieving greater capacity and connectivity, especially in the North and stated that, 'if you are going to do it, it is best to do it right'. As a result, there will be no HS2 link with HS1, plans for Euston station will be completely re-evaluated and all aspects of the project on Phase 2 – North of Birmingham – are up for discussion.

However, when questioned about Phase 1 of the project, Sir David made clear that there were no plans to discuss substantial changes stating that it would cost 'billions' to make changes to the route. This was very disappointing news.

Sir David also announced that he expected Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill to take place on Tuesday 29 April and the long awaited compensation arrangements to be made public in the next 'four to six weeks.' When questioned by MPs as to whether this was a sufficient timescale for HS2 Ltd. to consider the responses to the Environmental Statement consultation, Sir David made clear that, 'it is not (his) decision when the Bill goes before Parliament.'

Sir David was also challenged on the Cabinet Office's decision to withhold the Major Project Authority's report into HS2 and told the meeting that he, 'wouldn't worry about it', calling it 'history'. During the meeting Sir David also confirmed that it is no longer expected that HS2 will run 18 trains an hour and in answer to my question about the accountability of HS2, he announced that he intends to outline a proposal for how HS2 Ltd. will be 'policed' shortly.

I am disappointed that as the reasons for HS2 have changed so many times and are now about capacity and connectivity rather than speed, Sir David is not open to re-evaluating whether the route is correct. It also makes clear that he has insufficient consideration for the environmental impact of HS2.

I'm also amazed that the failure to release the important MPA Report is passed off as being of little significance.

I do however take away a little bit of hope that the re-evaluation of Euston station will mean a review of plans to close five of
the 18 platforms at Euston for 10 years which would inevitably bring massive disruption to passengers on the West Coast Mainline. Sir David announced that he will come forward with a radical new plan for Euston in six months. I am also keen to hear his plan for the 'policing' of HS2 Ltd. as their performance up to this point has been anything but competent or fair.

I intend to meet with Sir David as soon as possible to explore many of these points further.

My fight against HS2 goes on. Until there is a dramatic rethink about HS2, I will continue to fight for generous compensation and effective mitigation to help those substantially affected by HS2 move on with their lives.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 MAR 2014

Manchester Perinatal Pathway

Recently a Manchester children's centre hosted a meeting Lucy Powell MP and me to discuss the importance of the first 1001 days. Staff gave us an update on the progress of the centre and explained their aspirations to ensure every baby in the area has the best start in life.

During the visit we were shown a perinatal pathway for Manchester which is being rolled out to Greater Manchester as a best practise model. The invitation to establish a PIP service with Parent Infant Partnership UK (PIPUK) received a warm welcome.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 MAR 2014

A Resolute Budget For A Resilient Britain

I was delighted with the Chancellor's budget today. Plan A—to clear up the mess left to us by Labour is clearly working. The deficit is being brought under control and the economy is healing. This was a resolute budget to help create a resilient Britain. As part of our long-term economic plan to give economic security to the families of Britain, it included important measures to help savers, to boost business, and to introduce some potentially game –changing measures on banking.

It also included a less eye-catching measure—the promise of £200million to help repair potholes across the UK. This is a hugely important issue to the people of South Northamptonshire, and I look forward to our County Council using some of these funds to improve the roads in our area.

The Chancellor announced far-reaching changes for savers. While the historically low interest rates we have seen over the last few years have undoubtedly been necessary to stimulate economic recovery, they have been hugely challenging for those who have done the right thing, and saved for their retirement or a rainy-day. I was delighted then to hear of the plans to amend the rules on ISA's—increasing the annual allowance to £15,000, and more importantly to merge the cash ISAs with the stocks and shares ISA's and allow switching between cash and securities. This is vital to give savers the flexibility to make their own decisions.

The changes announced to pension rules are even more fundamental—those on defined contribution schemes will no longer be compelled to purchase an annuity when they wish to access their pension. Those who still want the certainty of an annuity, as many will, will be able to shop around for the best deal. Those who want to use it in another way will be able to. Tax rates for those who want to take lump-sums have also been dramatically reduced.

There were important measures to boost businesses—and there can be no sustainable recovery without a recovery in business. The Chancellor announced an increase in the amount of tax-free investment a business can make to £500,000 which is great news for all businesses in South Northamptonshire, not least those in motor-sport valley.

Perhaps the greatest single measure though, is one that was only announced in the small-print of the budget document. The new regulator of payment systems has been empowered to begin its market investigation a year earlier than previously planned, and should be able to report on the impact of 7-day switching and the costs and benefits of full bank account number
portability before the next budget. Full bank account number portability would allow customers to move their bank accounts from one bank to another while retaining their bank account number, in much the same way as customers can retain their mobile phone number when they switch to a new supplier. This could be a real game changer for our banking system allowing new entrants to freely compete, removing the need to bail-out those banks that are too big to fail, and improving the service provided to customers.

Overall, this has the potential to go down as one of the most far-sighted budgets of recent years.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 MAR 2014

Local Planning Disappointment

I am extremely disappointed with the news that the Judicial Reviews into the proposed Catch Yard Farm housing development at Silverstone and the proposed development at King's Sutton has been unsuccessful.

As I have said before, it is incredibly frustrating that time after time we are seeing planning applications which are rejected by the local planning authority, approved on appeal by a Planning Inspector with little knowledge of the area, basing their decisions on an out of date plan.

I can understand the anger that these decision have been made by taking into account the housing figures in the Regional Spatial Strategy which is completely out of date and has now been revoked! It makes clear how vitally important it is that we have in place as soon as possible our new Local Plan. Not having an up to date plan is simply leaving Planning Inspectors with the excuse to approve development on the top down housing plans of the last Government. Local Councils are in the process of agreeing our Local Plan and I hope that very soon we will be in a much better position to shape our area to our own design.

We do need a far greater housing supply, but development must be sensible and sustainable and in keeping with the local area. It has taken far longer than expected to see the benefits of the Government's 'Localism' agenda, and the action of Planning Inspectors to approve development on appeal has sometimes made a mockery of it. This issue certainly highlights how difficult and protracted it can be to change accepted practice and thinking.

I understand that the Council will be considering whether to appeal these decisions. They have fought these application, and many others like it, vigorously and they will have my support in whatever decision they make.

I am truly sorry that these decisions have been made and I know the strength of feeling there is against these developments. I will continue to raise these matters, and the wider matter of ensuring local residents have a say over how their communities look and feel, in Parliament.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


17 MAR 2014

Supporting Resilience Through Adventure

Last week as part of my work as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Conception to Aged Two – 1001 Critical Days
and as Founder of the Charity PIP UK I met with Susanne Rees to discuss her bid to build resilience in disabled young adults.

CEO & Founder of iDID Adventure CIC, Susanne Rees, is no stranger to the role of attachment in supporting and increasing resilience. Her company, iDID Adventure CIC is an award winning social enterprise improving well-being, confidence and self-esteem through access and participation in adventure sports.

After being diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2 at the age of 19, Susanne has undergone several major brain and spinal cord surgeries which resulted in temporary paralysis, complete hearing loss, a visual impairment and mobility issues, amongst others. Regardless of everything life throws at Susanne, she bounces back stronger than before and uses her experience to teach others. Susanne explained to me that following an accident during her early years, she had a very close attachment to her mother. It has contributed greatly to her ability to understand the world and enabled greater social cohesion throughout her lifespan. Using support systems around her and her own inner strength she has been able to overcome health struggles. Through all of her experiences, she is now passionate about teaching others how they can do the same.

Through her work as CEO and motivational speaker, Susanne recognised that some deaf and disabled young adults lacked the confidence skills to enable fulfilled social experiences and as a result often had difficulty coping with life's hardships. Her company iDID aims to provide an intervention in the early teens to build resilience levels through self-development activities such as rock climbing, snow sports and watersports. By providing an inclusive environment, prejudices are left out of the equation and a total communication environment allows each individual to participate without barriers.

On International Women's Day 2014, Susanne received Northampton's Inspirational Woman Award. She explained why
resilience, confidence and self-esteem are crucial to improving positive life choices. As a child develops, the relationship with those around them becomes more crucial to their emotional well-being later in life. It is widely reported that positive attachments enable individuals to cope better with life's ups and downs. Deaf and disabled people are at risk of losing out
on crucial social development as a result of social perceptions of disability and isolation.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 MAR 2014

Launch of Youth Activators Project

I was delighted to officially launch the Youth Activators Project in Brackley last week. The project is a partnership between South Northamptonshire Council, South Northants Homes and the Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs, and is aimed to support sports activity for young people aged 14-19 in the area.

The project is part of a wider national scheme, and was recently successful in a bid for funding from Sport England. On Friday, at the Brackley Leisure Centre, I got the opportunity to preview some of the excellent work that is to come. I believe that this project will not only benefit young people in terms of their physical health, but will allow them to develop their confidence and leadership skills as they volunteer and bring the community closer together.

I thoroughly enjoyed the launch evening, and will watch the project as it develops with great interest.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 MAR 2014

The Role Of Children's Centres

This week saw three All Party groups (Conception to age 2, Sure Start Children's Centres & Strengthening Couple Relationships) examining the issue of relationships, with a specific focus on the role that Children's Centres can play in poviding appropriate support services, and the importance of couple relationships to children's development during the earliest years of life.

The first part of the meeting focused on the delivery of relationship support services through Children's Centres with presentations from Honor Rhodes of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, and Bev Miller from the charity Relate. In the second part of the session, the focus shifted to consider the importance of couple relationships during the conception to age two period with reflections from Samantha Callan of the Centre for Social Justice, and Jeszemma Garratt of the Fatherhood Institute.

As Chairman of two of the APPG groups I am passionate about ensuring that Children's Centres re-focus their delivery of services in the perinatal period. I would like to see more support for the strengthening of couple relationships in this period with Children's Services offering parenting classes to both parents, and further preparation for the couple in the antenatal period in preparation for the birth of their new baby.

All too often there is a lack of antenatal support and we are seeing an increase of antenatal depression in mothers, which has significant outcomes for the parent infant relationship. Strengthening couple relationships will, of course, significantly improve outcomes for babies and children.

What we need to see is a new focus on the importance of the conception to age two period in which every baby has the best possible start in life. Strengthening couple relationships for the wellbeing of their child by good antenatal care where parental support is a part of the programme, availability of couples counselling and early help and identification of at risk babies.

We have a wonderful window of opportunity in which to improve the social and economic wellbeing of the nation, through a more holistic approach to support for the crucial peri natal period.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 MAR 2014

Final Stages of the Care Bill

Following the debate in Parliament during the final stages of the Care Bill, I wanted to take this opportunity to outline the issues surrounding Clause 119 and to dispel some of the myths associated with it. The clause makes vital changes to the Trust Special Administrator regime (TSA) that will help protect hospital services and save patients' lives. I have received many emails from a particular campaigning group on behalf of anxious constituents, and I'm concerned that they have misunderstood the reasons for Clause 119, and that the campaigning group have worried people unnecessarily.

To clarify, the TSA regime, introduced by Labour in 2009, provides a time-limited, clear and transparent way of dealing with local health services which are badly failing. This process is used only as a last resort, in the most urgent cases when all other efforts to ensure safe, effective and affordable local services have been unsuccessful and lives are potentially being put at risk. This regime has only ever been used twice (Mid-Staffordshire and South London) - exceptional cases where vast sums of taxpayers' money were being spent on bailing out failed hospitals or where patients were suffering from dangerously poor care.

Turning things around in these most severe of cases requires that the administrators can take a look at the wider health services locally. The Government's view is that the original legislation was always intended to allow the administrators to look at the wider health economy in this way. This is the only sensible way to resolve problems for local patients. We have a national health service, comprised of interdependent hospitals, and so it cannot be right that the administrators are currently only able to look at single failing providers in isolation. This Government therefore introduced clause 119 to the Care Bill. Without it, improving patient care and preserving hospital services will be much harder.

It is important to restate that this clause only applies to the administrator regime which is only used as a last resort in the most serious of circumstances. In these cases, it is vital to allow a TSA to look at the wider local health system, when that is necessary to address serious problems at other hospitals. In such situations, lives are put at risk if the problem is not dealt with swiftly and effectively. We need to have a regime of last resort that is able to address these problems in the interests of the taxpayer, patients and the public, rather than simply ignoring problems or bailing out failed and unsafe services.

I hope this clarifies my position with regards to the Care Bill, but as ever if there is anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 MAR 2014

HS2 Meeting With The Parliamentary Ombudsman

Last week I held a meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum which is designed to ensure fair compensation and mitigation for those affected by HS2. The meetings are attended by MPs who may be either for or against the project, but who share the desire for fair and consistent treatment of all those affected.

We had a meeting with a number of MPs and their staff to discuss the many and varied complaints of our constituents against HS2 Ltd which include the operation of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme, compensation plans, poor communication, the operation of Community Forums and the transparency of HS2 Ltd. to name a few.

Mick Martin, Executive Director of Operations and Investigations at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who attended the meeting, told us that some of the specific cases we discussed certainly sounded like legitimate grievances. We will be pursuing these issues further with the Ombudsman.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAR 2014

HS2 Environmental Statement Consultation Response

On Thursday 27 February the extended Environmental Statement consultation finally closed. The Government will now review the responses and publish their response. Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill cannot take place before the Government has published its response to the consultation. I will do my best to keep you informed of developments and a future timetable of events.

You can read my response to the consultation by clicking here.

0 comments

Post a comment


27 FEB 2014

The Importance Of Rural Broadband

This week I held a short debate in Parliament to highlight the importance of good broadband services to rural areas. During the debate I explained how broadband is vitally important for those working from home and running their own business.

I highly commended the Government for the high level of investment which has been given towards achieving the target of 95% coverage of the UK by 2017 and also welcomed the additional £3.64 million additional allocation announced this week by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. I am also delighted with the ambitious plans of Northamptonshire County
Council in ensuring that even the hardest to reach areas have good access to broadband.

However, for all this good news, full access is still a long way off. I regularly receive reports from annoyed and frustrated residents in my constituency who are struggling to gain decent access or any access at all, to broadband services.

Communities like Towcester have had to wait a long time for good access and only now are they seeing an improvement. Sadly this is not the case in Grange Park where investment from the private companies is desperately needed.'

During my debate I called on the Government to ensure that 'private companies cannot hold councils to ransom at the expense of good broadband coverage for communities in desperate need of it.' Responding for the Government, Ed Vaizey MP, promised to work with me, the County Council, Broadband Delivery UK and private companies to find a solution to these issues and was confident of resolving the issue regarding the poor level of access at Grange Park.

You can read a full transcript of the debate by clicking here.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 FEB 2014

Bomber Command Clasp

I was delighted to recently be able to help my constituents, Tony and Joyce Stevens from Evenley, to move forward their application for a Bomber Command Clasp from the Ministry of Defence on behalf of Tony's late father. After receiving an e-mail explaining their situation, I wrote to the Ministry of Defence Medal Office outlining the details of the issue and I am delighted that Tony and Joyce have since received not only the medal but all sorts of information relating to Tony's father's military record.

I am always keen to support my constituents, and if there is anything I can ever do to help you, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 FEB 2014

Cochrane Review: Parent Infant Psychotherapy

Today Professor Jane Barlow of the University of Warwick and Robin Balbernie, Clinical Director of Parent Infant Partnership UK (PIPUK) delivered excellent presentations on the latest Cochrane review to an audience of MPs, commissioners, local authorities and the Big Lottery. The presentations included demonstrations of parent infant psychotherapy clinical material being used.

The clinical presentation showed how powerful parent infant psychotherapy can be in strengthening secure attachment between an infant and a parent, if a problem is identified early and referred to a service like PIPUK.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 FEB 2014

Whittlebury 'Hug' Coffee Morning

I was delighted to visit Whittlebury on Friday for the weekly Reading Room "Hug", to celebrate the committed service of two volunteers, Denise Morson and Linda Williams. Both have worked incredibly hard on making the Hug a key part of life in the village, where residents get together for coffee, tea, home made cakes and a chat each Friday morning.

Thanks to the success of the Hug, Denise and Linda have managed to raise over £10,000 during the three years since it started towards the cost of rebuilding the Reading Room.

It was a great pleasure to be invites along to congratulate them on their efforts.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 FEB 2014

Off To A Flyer

I hope 2014 has begun well for you and, unlike me, some of you are managing to keep up with those New Year resolutions!

It has been a strong start to the year and there are already a number of things I would like to report on both in Parliament and in South Northamptonshire. Frequent readers will know that Europe is one of my key campaigns. Over three years ago I established, along with a large number of other Conservative MPs, the Fresh Start Project, which has been exploring and
researching in detail ways to reform, renegotiate and re-establish what the European Union should be and how it can work in Britain's best interest.

Two weeks ago marked an important point when the Fresh Start Project, along with the think-tank 'Open Europe', held a two day pan-European conference in London on EU reform. Representative from all 28 Member States came together to come up with the best and brightest proposals for how to make the EU more effective, democratic and dynamic. Some 300 delegates from 30 countries attended including ministers, a European Commissioner, MPs, MEPs, former heads of state, leading business people, journalist and many more!

I was delighted to open the conference and introduce the keynote speaker, Chancellor, George Osborne. The Chancellor gave an excellent speech in which he said that reform was absolutely needed and that this would include treaty change. He was very clear that the status quo is not an option and that the EU must 'reform or decline'.

I completely support the Government's aims to reform our relationship so the EU works for Britain and the Prime Minister's pledge to then give the British public a referendum on whether to stay in a reformed EU or leave. It has been far too long since the British people had their say on Europe and it is absolutely the right time to ask the public what they think.

If you have read my newsletters before, you will also know that another of my key campaigns and a real passion of mine is 'early years intervention' and ensuring that babies form a strong emotional attachment to their carers and get the best start in life. Towards the end of last year I launched the '1001 Critical Days' manifesto with Labour MP, Frank Field; Green MP, Caroline Lucas and; Lib Dem MP, Paul Burstow. This is an important cross party campaign which presents a vision for the earliest years. The '1001 critical days' are from conception to a child's second birthday.

I am delighted that the manifesto has received much backing from the children's and health sectors and last week I held a debate in Parliament to raise greater awareness of it. I was delighted that the Minister told the Chamber that our persistence in campaigning has succeeded in changing Government thinking about this vitally important period of life. I hope that the '1001 Critical Days' will be the catalyst to bring about much needed change in how we support babies and their families to achieve the best start in life.

I was delighted with the news recently that the proposal for eight 125 metre turbines to be built in the Tove Valley near to the village of Alderton, will not go ahead. The developer, Gamesa, submitted a pre-application for the project in 2011 but no official application was ever received leaving the neighbouring areas to suffer the blight and uncertainty of a possible wind
farm being built at some point.

I am delighted Gamesa have finally concluded that they will not proceed with these turbines and I hope that this will end the blight and uncertainty experienced by residents. Local residents have fought a determined campaign to oppose this development and I continue to support the right of communities to have the final say on how their areas look and feel and have the right to say 'no'.

I hope that the recent reductions in Government subsidies will have contributed to the decision not to proceed with a planning application. I hope other wind farm developers trying to force unwelcomed developments on villages, like the Spring Farm Ridge application; will also be coming to these conclusions as well.

Unfortunately the blight of HS2 has not disappeared with a new year and there will be further developments on HS2 in 2014. I have always held out hope that supporters of this project will think again. I maintain hope that this still might happen. There is still a way to go before we can say that HS2 will definitely be going ahead.

In the meantime the fight for good compensation and mitigation goes on. This year the Hybrid Bill will come before Parliament, long term compensation scheme arrangements are due to be announced and the petitioning process will begin. The Environmental Statement consultation is currently on going. I am pleased that the deadline to respond has been extended from the 24 January to the 27 February. Some 877 pages of the original 50,000 page document were missing when published, the consultation period included Christmas and many residents of South Northamptonshire are reliant on accessing the material from a public building such as a library – all these factors make it difficult to respond to the consultation and it is only right that the deadline has been extended.

I attend regularly meetings of the HS2 Liaison Committee run by Northamptonshire County Council and South Northamptonshire Council and attended by Action Groups and local Councillors. We can be much more productive if we
all work together. For this reason, at a recent meeting I suggested the meetings alternate between County Hall and South Northamptonshire Council offices in Towcester and we extend an invite to Parish Councils affected by HS2 as well. I am also in the process of trying to arrange a meeting with the Transport Secretary to discuss with him HS2 related matters. I hope to be able to provide a further update in due course.

I will leave it there for now but, no doubt, I will have more to update you on very soon.

With best wishes

Andrea

(Pictures: 1. George Osborne addressing the European Conference in London; 2. the launch of the '1001 Critical Days Manifesto')

0 comments

Post a comment


04 FEB 2014

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) 1001 Critical Days

It has been almost a year since I launched the APPG 1001 Critical Days as Chair with Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, as Co-Chair. With incredible cross-party political support to further the key policy calls and recommendations made by the manifesto; which was launched officially at all political party conferences in October 2013, we are continuing to promote a holistic approach to the antenatal and postnatal period.

The All Party Parliamentary Group specifically holds evidence-based inquiries into best practice for the 1001 critical days to help policymakers make informed decisions on provision in this period; and to uphold cross-party consensus for this age group.

Our first year has been an exciting and eventful one in its promotion of the APPG work which continues to grow from strength to strength. Our recent meeting on the 23rd January saw attendance of up to 100 individuals, representative of policy makers, professionals and parents with an interest in promoting and campaigning for the importance of the conception to aged 2 period.

Speakers presenting evidence included Matthew Downie (Head of Campaigns and Parliamentary Affairs, Action for Children); Professor Susan Ayers (City University); Dr Kirstie McKenzie-McHarg (Warwick Hospital, Warwick University); Maureen Treadwell (Co-Founder, Birth Trauma Association) and Julie Orford (Chair, Birth Trauma Association).

Experts presented their evidence and research into the impact of childhood neglect, the risk factors associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression and traumatic birth.

Startling statistical data reveals the need to do so much more for babies and their families, by ensuring the provision of a joined up approach of physical and mental health in the perinatal period.

The 1001 Critical Days manifesto has one purpose, one aim – to give every baby in the UK the best possible start in life.

For a copy of the 1001 Critical Days click on the following link: http://www.andrealeadsom.com/downloads/1001cdmanifesto.pdf

If you want to join the campaign email me on andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 FEB 2014

APPG Sure Start Children's Centres

Children's Centres provide a hub and haven for family support in their local communities and bring together a vision and aspiration for children from 0-5. As chair of the APPG on Sure Start Children's Centres, I am keen to do all I can to champion these centres by identifying and sharing good practice whilst considering how they can be developed further.

Elizabeth Truss MP, Minister for Education was the keynote speaker at our meeting in January and she highlighted the importance and impact of the work that the APPG is doing. In particular she commended our recent report on 'Best Practise for Sure Start: The way forward for Children's Centre' and used the example of the Children's Centre in Manchester which is recommended in the report. It describes a universal, holistic and seamless service for parents beginning in the antenatal period. Birth registration held in the centre provides an opportunity for families to be supported through their local service and incredibly there is a 100% engagement rate.

In my constituency of South Northamptonshire I want to ensure that every baby also has the best start in life, which
is why I started the charity NorPIP (www.norpip.org.uk). It's work provides psychotherapeutic support to parents, infants and their families.

Going forward our aim is to engage with parents in all communities and using Children's Centres throughout the county. If this is something you are interested in doing in your local community, please do email me for further information - andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 JAN 2014

Westminster Hall Debate: the 1001 Critical Days and early childhood development

I secured a debate on the 1001 Critical Days at Westminster Hall today which continued to highlight the importance of the conception to age 2 period to give every baby the best possible start in life.

Watch the debate here, or my speech can be read here.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 JAN 2014

Tove Valley Wind Farm Will Not Go Ahead

After many years of local campaigning against it, a wind farm developer has finally announced that it will not proceed with a planning application for eight 125 metre turbines to be built in the Tove Valley near to the village of Alderton.

The developer, Gamesa, submitted a pre-application for the project in 2011 but no official application was ever received leaving the neighbouring areas to suffer the blight and uncertainty of a possible wind farm being built at some point.

I am delighted Gamesa have finally concluded that they will not proceed with these turbines and I hope that this will end the blight and uncertainty experienced by residents. I congratulate local residents on their determined campaign to oppose this development which was completely unwelcome.

In their letter to me Gamesa do not elaborate on why they have decided this is not a feasible project but I hope that the recent
reductions in Government subsidies will have contributed to the decision not to proceed with a planning application. I hope other wind farm developers trying to force unwelcomed developments on villages will also be coming to these conclusions elsewhere across our area.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JAN 2014

APPG Conception to Age 2: First 1001 Days Update

Today I chaired a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Conception to Age 2. During the meeting we discussed childhood neglect, post-traumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression and traumatic birth.

Speakers presenting their findings at the meeting were Matthew Dowie (Action for Children), Professor Susan Ayers and Dr McKenzie-McHarg (City University, London), Maureen Treadwell and Julie Orford (Birth Trauma Association).

A point made by many of the speakers was that although mental health issues are a risk factor for neglect it is by no means the case that everyone who has a mental health issue will neglect their child. If a mother has a mental health issues there is potential for there to be an impact on the child as well, however, other children and partners are also likely to be affected.

Secure attachment matters for many reasons, long term, people who have secure attachment have good mental health and themselves grow up to be positive parents. In the short term, secure attachments enable babies to explore their environments and learn about their emotions. The presence of maternal mental health problems can lead to neglect, potentially leading to insecure attachment and then down the line to poor parenting. This will then cause the cycle to start again in the next generation.

At the moment most published research on the impact of mental illness on parenting is concentrated on depression as opposed to other perinatal mental health problems. What the research broadly finds is two patterns of maternal insensitivity to the baby; a remote or disengaged style or; an intrusive, hostile style. Clinically, in practice there is a very similar pattern with women who experience traumatic birth.

A woman who has a traumatic delivery and feels she was at risk of death or injury is more likely to have a remote or disengaged style whereas a woman who feared for her baby's life is more likely to have a hostile or intrusive style. Therefore mental health can be an important indicator towards neglect however, it should be said that most women with mental health issues won't neglect their infant.

There is consistent evidence that support can buffer against the effects of stress and traumatic events. This is an area where we can have an immediate impact on a woman's emotional wellbeing through positive supportive care.

There is very little research on the prevention of perinatal post-traumatic stress disorder and this is something that is being addressed. The Boots Family Trust report on perinatal mental health surveyed 1,500 women through Netmums and found 40% found giving birth traumatic. While this does not mean that these women will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, if this were the case, 150,000 women a year could suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

Perinatal mental health is not just about postnatal depression. There has been a focus on recognising postnatal depression for the last few decades, however the challenge now is to take the same approach to recognising the range of disorders and symptoms that can affect women.

The treatments and referral pathways around mental health do vary widely around the UK. There are patchy but developing services for the severe end of the spectrum and we are therefore beginning to move towards a more coherent service for a mother and baby's needs.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JAN 2014

Consultation Deadline Extended Again!

The deadline to respond to the Environmental Statement consultation has been extended again to Thursday 27 February due to a ruling from a House of Lords committee.

The original time allowed to respond to the consultation was simply inadequate, coupled with the many mistakes and omissions when published, it was almost completely impossible to put together a considered response to the consultation in the time allowed. I have written many times to the Department for Transport and even to the Prime Minister on this matter, so I am
relieved that residents have been given more time.

Along with other MPs, I have written to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to ask her to look into the conduct of HS2 Ltd. and to examine whether the organisation can be considered fit for purpose. I will keep you informed of progress.

Click here for information on the Environmental Statement.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JAN 2014

Some Good News From The EU!

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with an idea from the EU; however, I completely welcome the announcement the European Commission made recently regarding the possibility of ending all subsidies for wind farms.

It has been reported that the Commission will argue that industries like onshore wind and solar 'are "mature" and should be allowed to operate without support from taxpayers. Under the single market rules, European Union governments are forbidden from providing long-term "state aid" to domestic industries that can function without support.'

From speaking directly with wind farm developers, it is obvious that many of their projects are only viable due to the generous
Government subsidy on offer. I welcome the fact that the Government has cut the subsidy available to developers twice in the last year, but fear that some developments may still be worth pursuing whilst the subsidy remains.

Subsidising these industries which are not competitive is pushing up household energy bills at a time when consumers can ill afford it. The decision which developers must be making is 'where can my development be the most efficient' rather than 'how can I quickly benefit from the subsidy.'

I am not against renewable energy and many sources must play an important part in the energy mix to ensure our energy security in the future, however, these industries must become competitive and survive on their own without the help of the taxpayer. I also think that more attention needs to be given to energy sources which are going to significantly contribute to our future energy security and I do not feel onshore wind is capable of doing so.

I will continue to make the case that subsidy for industries, such as onshore wind, need to be cut to ensure value for the
taxpayer and to encourage these industries to become genuinely competitive.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 JAN 2014

Consultation Deadline Extended

I am delighted that the deadline for responding to the HS2 Environmental Statement consultation has been extended from 24 January to 10 February to reflect the fact that 877 pages were missing from the original consultation documents.

I am disappointed that it has taken so long for this decision to be made and has taken a meeting of an independent parliamentary committee, which last sat in 2008, to ensure this decision was taken. However, huge congratulations should go to our action groups and individuals affected for raising this issue and applying the pressure. I am sure that the fact this decision has been taken is in no small way down to their hard work.

Whilst welcome, I am aware that another 17 days does not suddenly make it easy to respond to a document which runs to 50,000 pages. I have already written to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport and I have tabled some Parliamentary Questions to make the point that there are many reasons why more time is needed to respond to the consultation. These reasons include the complicated nature of this document, the fact that the consultation period has included Christmas and, in many cases, access to local public buildings is needed to access these documents. I have also asked for a meeting with the Transport Secretary to discuss these and other HS2 related matters further.

We should be pleased however that we do have some extra time and do please pass on this information to anyone who may be interested. Further information on responding to the Environmental Statement consultation can be found at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hs2-phase-one-environmental-statement.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


20 DEC 2013

Season's Greetings!

I hope that Christmas for you and your family will be a peaceful and enjoyable time and that you are looking forward to exciting times ahead in 2014. My work has kept me very busy this year but it is a huge honour for me to be your Member of Parliament and, as I've mentioned before, do get in touch if you think I can ever be of any help. I won't be able to list everything I have been up to this year but I would like to touch on a few highlights.

A few weeks ago I was invited to visit the newly opened University Technical College at Silverstone by the Principal, Neil Patterson. He gave me a tour of the impressive state of the art facilities and I got the chance to speak to some of the staff about the work they are doing. Silverstone UTC is one of over 30 new University Technical Colleges opened since 2010 to provide technical education to 14-19 year-olds that meets the needs of modern business. It is sited on the edge of the Circuit, and specialises in engineering and events management - it has already made excellent connections with local motor sport businesses.

It is amazing to see how quickly the school has settled in, in spite of parts of the building being not yet completed. I will follow the progress of our UTC with great interest, and have no doubt it will become a flagship for Britain's UTC programme.

For two years now I have led the Fresh Start Project in Parliament, supported by many Conservative MPs, as we look in detail at how to reform the European Union to make it more globally competitive and democratically accountable. I am fully behind the Prime Minister's plans to give the British people a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

It's been nearly 40 years since the British people last had their say on Europe. People feel the EU is heading in a direction they never signed up to - the Common Market we signed up to in 1975 has become an unstoppable bid for EU power, taking over more and more of our daily life. That is why I support the Conservatives and the Prime Minister in the desire to give Britain a clear vote – in or out – before the end of 2017, after a full renegotiation.

This year we achieved success on a little campaign I have been involved with since I was elected when our Government at last gave full recognition to the brave men on board the Arctic convoys during the Second World War and issued them with a medal. In the summer I attended a fabulous tea party at the Guildhall for the veterans.

I was keen that we organise a proper celebration, so was delighted that the Chronicle & Echo, together with the Borough Council, took up the challenge and joined the search for all the veterans in the county. The Arctic Convoy was the only arena in the Second World War that had not yet been recognised with its own medal, mainly due to the cooling of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union after 1945. I was delighted to attend the tea party, both to congratulate the veterans in person, and to apologise on behalf of successive governments for not recognising their enormous contribution long ago.

Recently, I was incredibly lucky to have the chance to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to Westminster Hall in Parliament when she came to view the new stained glass window which has been installed in the North Window as a gift from Members of both Houses of Parliament to mark her Diamond Jubilee last year. The design depicts The Queen's crest and replaces the clear glass that was there before. The project was organised by Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North and he was also there. It was a great honour to meet Her Majesty in person, particularly for such a happy occasion.

Battles against HS2, onshore wind farms and insensitive and intrusive housing developments continue. HS2 is a controversial project with many believing it is not good value for taxpayer's money, will not achieve its aims and believing that there are measures we can take now which would be quicker and cheaper in increasing capacity on the west coast main line. More and more independent groups and think tanks, as well as an increasing percentage of the public, are becoming concerned about this project and its rising costs. I will continue the fight for South Northamptonshire residents and there will be more opportunities next year for our voices to be heard when the Hybrid Bill comes to Parliament, the Environmental Statement consultation takes place, long term compensation measures are announced and the petitioning process gets underway.

There has been some policy success with onshore wind farms. In the summer the Government announced that communities must have a greater say over planning applications for onshore wind farms. New guidance would shift the balance of power to local communities when determining applications and the law would be changed to make consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind projects.

The important point is that the new guidance will ensure that factors such as landscape, amenity and heritage can be properly considered by local authorities and that meeting energy goals will no longer be an excuse for the wrong developments in the wrong area.

The Government have also cut the subsidy again and I hope that this will mean that developments will no longer be viable to those developers who are simply looking to enjoy the generous taxpayer subsidy with little thought to the local area.

I am working with communities in many areas including Collingtree, Hardingstone, Silverstone and Kings Sutton who are concerned with plans for large housing developments in their areas. There is no doubt we need many new houses to be built across the UK, but developments must be sensible, sustainable and in keeping with the local area.

It has taken far longer than I hoped to see the benefits of the Government's 'localism agenda' and the actions of Planning Inspectors and the appeal process has at times really undermined it. However, as the regional spatial strategies have finally been revoked, I am hopeful, and there is evidence, that finally the thoughts and feelings of local communities will be properly taken into account.

I very much enjoy spending time in the constituency and visiting schools, museums and local businesses. It has been a successful year for our local schools and I have enjoyed visits to Elizabeth Woodville, Magdalen and Gateway Schools. I also had the great pleasure of welcoming students from Caroline Chisholm School to Parliament in the Spring. They beat an outstanding shortlist to win a national competition to help shape the future of development today. The 'Shape the Future' competition was launched in February by International Development Secretary, Justine Greening MP. The competition gave UK secondary school pupils a chance to submit ideas for the post-2015 development agenda. Caroline Chisholm pupils beat four other shortlisted finalists in the final held in Parliament, where they had just ten minutes to make their presentation in front of a panel of experts. It was great to meet them and huge congratulations to all! A fantastic achievement!

Next year will be another busy year and I will continue to do all I can to keep you up to date with what I am doing in South Northamptonshire as well as Parliament, including writing contributions for more local newsletters, sending out more regular e-newsletters and getting out to more areas in our county to discuss with local residents the issues on their minds. However, as always, if you have an issue you'd like to discuss, don't wait for me to come to you! I am always happy to meet at one of my advice surgeries or 'drop in' surgeries, or you could drop me an email or a letter or give my office a call. All details can be found on my website at www.andrealeadsom.com.

 

 

Finally, I would like to wish you and your family and friends a very happy Christmas and all the best for a healthy and prosperous New Year!

With best wishes

Andrea and team

 

(Left to Right: Luke Graystone, Secretary - Sarah Jackson, Senior Caseworker - Connor Batty, Apprentice Caseworker - Andrea Leadsom MP - Bill Clare, Media Advisor - Clair Rees, Parliamentary Assistant - Duncan McCourt, Office Manager - Marc Pooler, Parliamentary Researcher)

Pictures:

  1. Andrea at the Silverstone UTC
  2. At the tea party at the Guildhall with veterans of the Arctic Convoys
  3. Welcoming HM The Queen to Westminster Hall
  4. Discussing housing developments at Hardingstone
  5. With pupils of Caroline Chisholm School in Parliament

0 comments

Post a comment


18 DEC 2013

Visiting Silverstone UTC

Last Friday I was invited to visit the newly opened University Technical College at Silverstone by the Principal, Neil Patterson. I enjoyed a tour of the impressive state of the art facilities and got the chance to speak to some of the staff about the work they are doing; it is amazing to see how quickly the school has settled in, in spite of parts of the building not having been completed yet. I will continue to follow the progress of the UTC with great interest, and have no doubt it will become a flagship for Britain's UTC programme.

Silverstone UTC is one of over 30 new University Technical Colleges opened since 2010 to provide technical education to 14-19 year-olds that meets the needs of modern business. It specialises in engineering and events management, and has already made excellent connections with local motor sport businesses.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 DEC 2013

Meeting HM The Queen at Westminster Hall

Last Friday I was lucky enough to have the chance to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to Westminster Hall when she came to view the new stained glass window which has been installed in the Great Window as a gift from Members of both Houses of Parliament on her Diamond Jubilee last year. The design depicts The Queen's crest and replaces the clear glass that was there before

The project was organised by Michael Ellis, MP for Northampton North, who was also in attendance. Michael was Chairman of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Committee, which had the backing of hundreds of Parliamentarians and raised £80,000 in donations to pay for the design and installation of the new window.

It was a great honour to meet Her Majesty in person, particularly for such a happy occasion.

0 comments

Post a comment


06 DEC 2013

HS2 Property Compensation Consultation Response

The HS2 Property Compensation Consultation closed on Wednesday and I wanted to share with you my submission. You can read it here.

The HS2 Hybrid Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday 25 November 2013 and the Bill and all documents relating to the Bill have now been made public. Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill will take place in Parliament next year. We cannot be sure of the exact time but it is unlikely to be before the end of March 2014. Petitioning Parliament will be the next step that many affected by HS2 will be considering and will have questions regarding. I want to try and give you as much information regarding petitioning as possible. I will write to constituents affected and put all information on my website.

A consultation on the Environmental Statement has now begun and will run until the 24 January 2014. You can find out more about the Environmental Statement at the following link - www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hs2-phase-one-environmental-statement.

You can respond to the consultation by:

  • Completing the response form found at the link above;
  • Email: HS2PhaseOneBillES@dialoguebydesign.com or;
  • Write: FREEPOST RTEC� AJUT� GGHH, HS2 Phase One Bill Environmental Statement, PO Box 70178, London WC1A 9HS.

The Government response to the Environmental Statement consultation must be published BEFORE Second Reading of the Hybrid Bill takes place.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


28 NOV 2013

Building a Strong Evidence Base around Effective Interventions

I was invited to speak as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Sure Start Children's Centres at a conference of early year's professionals, to present the findings of the group's recent best practise report.

I spoke about the long term vision for Children's Centres including:

  • Putting early intervention and prevention at the centre of service delivery;
  • Delivering a holistic approach with a renewed focus on conception to age two;
  • Encouraging local authorities, health and wellbeing boards and their local partners to make greater use of pooled budgets to allow for more innovative commissioning of perinatal and Children's Centre services;
  • Assessing if Children's Centre birth registration has an impact on a child's welfare and;
  • Encouraging Children's Centres to offer birth registration services.

0 comments

Post a comment


27 NOV 2013

APPG Sure Start Children's Centres

As Chair of the APPG Sure Start Children's Centre Group in Parliament and using our latest report "Best Practice for a Sure Start", I was keen that we hold sessions based on its evidence.

Three speakers gave presentations during the session including Mark Rimmer (Chair of the Local Registration Services Association) who speaking about birth registration in Children's Centres, Sabrina Fuller (Head of Health Improvement at NHS England) who would be discussing issues around health integration and Dr Angela Donkin (Senior Adviser at the UCL Institute of Health Equity) who would be presenting on evaluation frameworks for Children's Centres.

There was overwhelming consensus within this meeting of the benefits of having birth registration in Children's Centres and for their place within society to play a massive role in the wellbeing of children in the Great Britain.

0 comments

Post a comment


27 NOV 2013

HS2 Hybrid Bill

As you may be aware, the HS2 Hybrid Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday 25 November. This means that all documents relating to the Bill are now public and include, amongst many other documents:

  • Details of the work taking place;
  • Plans of the proposed route;
  • An estimate of the cost and;
  • The Environmental Statement.

The Environmental Statement will now be subject to a public consultation which will run until the 24 January 2014. The results of the consultation will be announced BEFORE Second Reading of the Hybrid Bill.

I thought you would be interested in a letter I recently received from Alison Munro, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. which gives further information on the next steps now that the Hybrid Bill has been published, it can be read here. The Question and Answer section can also be read here.

After Second Reading of the Bill, which is due to take place next year, there will be a period of petitioning. I am still looking in to this, specifically the cost of petitioning, but I thought you would also be interested in the 'Petitioning Guide' recently published by the House of Commons, this can be viewed here.

Please also note you can contact HS2 Ltd. directly on:

I will continue my campaign against this project, which I do not support. Please do contact me if you have any specific questions I might be able to assist you with, and I will try to keey you up to date with all developments.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


07 NOV 2013

APPG Conception to Age 2: first 1001 days

I was delighted to welcome Tessa Jowell MP, a qualifying member of the APPG Conception to Age 2 Group and colleagues Pia Britto and Nurper Ulkuer from UNICEF based in the International office in New York, to discuss their inspiration of the vision of the 1001 Critical Days Vision which has a particular emphasis on social and emotional wellbeing of the infant.

Emphasis of the first 1001 days and early childhood development is essential to ensure that every baby has the best possible start in life around the world, and as part of the post 2015 development framework, UNICEF has been lobbying the UN to ensure that the first 1001 days becomes a sustainable goal with the post 2015 development agenda being a truly global covenant.

The international figures 'should stir us to act'. 200 million children under 5 in low and middle income countries will not reach their full developmental potential as a result of being exposed to a range of risk factors. By 2015, 1 in 4 children under 5 will suffer from stunting. Children in poorer households are 10 times less likely to attend early childhood education programmes.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 NOV 2013

HS2 Latest News

As you know, I am completely against this project as I believe it is not value for money, will not achieve its objectives and there are much better solutions to deal with capacity issues on the West Coast Mainline, far sooner and far cheaper. I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on HS2.

The Property Compensation Consultation has finally been launched. I attended an HS2 Ltd. public event in Brackley recently to discuss the Consultation. I was delighted that following strong representations to the Department for Transport (DfT) by me and others, the DfT has included the concept of a property bond in the new Consultation proposal. However, I believe it is vitally important that houses which would be covered by the property bond should also be stamp duty exempt to provide additional impetus to the normal functioning of the property market. Also, I believe that all measures in the compensation scheme that are designed to stimulate the property market should be approved by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. I will be making these points in my response to the Consultation.

This week I chaired a meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum in Parliament which was very well attended by MPs of all parties. Representatives from HS2 Action Alliance came along to talk MPs and their staff through the features of the property consultation and what they would like to see in MPs' responses to it.

The Department for Transport also announced the revised business case for HS2 – the fifth revision by my calculation. The public remains unconvinced and I continue to be hopeful that the Government will reconsider the project and conclude that the money can be better spent elsewhere.

After keen interest from me and other colleagues on the Treasury Select Committee we have begun our inquiry into the 'economics of HS2'. This will be an opportunity to get to the bottom of many of the assumptions made by the DfT and HS2 Ltd. and I am looking forward to being able to ask some probing questions of those making the economic case for this project. I will keep you informed of the Committee's conclusions.

At the Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill I voted against the Bill and against the Government on a three line whip. Sadly, but as expected, the Bill passed Second Reading by 330 votes to just 27. I was one of the 27 against, in spite of strong pressure to support the Bill. I voted against it to make clear my opposition to the project, and in support of the hundreds of my constituents whose lives have been so devastated by the prospect of HS2.

Voting against your Party is not a decision to be taken lightly – most MPs do not vote against their party during their entire time as an MP. As you know, MPs are elected on a manifesto, and most voters choose their candidate because they support the general direction that a political Party is taking. I consider myself to be a loyal Conservative MP, who fully supports the Conservative Party's determination to turn around our economy, reduce immigration, reform welfare and deliver a better education for all our children. Voting against a three line whip is therefore not a decision I took lightly, and nor is it something I would expect to do other than in an extreme case. Being a part of the Conservative Party's efforts to rebuild our economy, and at the same time representing the many and varied concerns of my constituents, is my focus.

I am currently involved with representing communities in Greatworth, Helmdon, Sulgrave, Alderton, Duncote and Wappenham and others in resisting unwelcome wind farms, I am supporting constituents in Hardingstone, Collingtree, Silverstone, Kings Sutton and many other communities on planning matters, I am campaigning for rural broadband and for better roads infrastructure. I'm also fighting for individual families in cases ranging from schooling to health matters to pensions and many others besides. It is vital that I develop and maintain a good relationship with the front bench teams in order to make progress on all of these issues. I have been delighted with the support given to South Northamptonshire in many policy areas since 2010, and that I have been able to successfully represent our interests in many ways.

As I have explained, at Second Reading of the Paving Bill I took a stand in support of the hundreds of my constituents whose homes, communities and livelihoods are badly affected by HS2, as I always said I would even before I was elected. However, you will appreciate that my vote then did not make any difference and had I voted against the Bill at Third Reading, it would still have not made any difference as the Bill passed easily by 350 votes to 34. Therefore, I abstained at Third Reading, and I want to be very clear that having registered my 'No' vote to HS2 at Second Reading, it is my intention to abstain on future votes unless my vote will really make a difference to the future of HS2, by which I mean there is a realistic chance of the project being stopped. At the present time this is simply not the case.

What I want to do now is to focus on the many opportunities ahead for our views on HS2 to be heard. As I have said on numerous occasions, I am determined to achieve fair and generous compensation and mitigation for my constituents. The Property Compensation Consultation is currently running and I will be responding to this. The Hybrid Bill will be presented to Parliament before Christmas and there will be the opportunity to petition the Bill Committee in the New Year. The Environmental Statement will need to be consulted on and I will continue to lobby Transport Ministers and the Secretary of State.

Opposition to the project continues to grow as the cost rises and the business case declines. Influential bodies such as the Major Projects Authority, Taxpayer's Alliance, National Audit Office and now the Institute of Directors have all expressed concern. I think the fact that the Government consistently has to reassure the public that this is a project which is good value and necessary is very telling.

I would urge you to respond to the Property Consultation Consultation, further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hs2-property-compensation-consultation-2013. The consultation closes on the 4 December 2013. I will also do my best to keep you updated with the latest HS2 news. You can read my previous HS2 newsletters at the following links:

http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/hs2-newsletter/610

http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/hs2-paving-bill/588

http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/hs2-update/584

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


31 OCT 2013

Children and Families Bill

I was delighted to be asked to sit on the Children and Families Bill Committee as part of the Bill's progress through Parliament. In particular, I have had the opportunity to pursue my own amendment to ensure that every baby has the best possible start in life:

Early Intervention Clause

1. All births should be registered in a children's centre

2. Talking therapies are assigned to parents antenatally whose baby is due to be born with a child protection plan, where no plan has been made for adoption. A decision should be reached about the residence of that child at six months of age, based on relevant measures of parental attunement. The desired outcomes at six months will be:

i. A parent makes significant progress and the Review Conference will recommend that the child remains with their birth parent under social care monitoring

ii. A parent has not made progress with their baby and the recommendation will be made that the child is adopted

3. Deliver antenatal mental health questionnaire through midwives to all pregnant women

0 comments

Post a comment


31 OCT 2013

TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards

On Tuesday I attended the TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards at the House of Commons, where Eric Malcomson, Chairman of the Abthorpe Broadband Association, was presented with his award as the East Midlands region's winner.

The awards celebrate people who use digital technology to help their local communities, and Eric has worked tirelessly to deliver broadband to over 450 properties, including to my own village of Slapton. He is currently working to upgrade areas to new superfast broadband.

I was delighted to nominate Eric on behalf of the Abthorpe Broadband Association for this award and am thrilled that he has won. The hard work he does is both admirable and a great example which I hope other communities will follow. It's so important that people contributing to such worthwhile causes are credited and acknowledged for what they do to help their local community. Congratulations Eric!

0 comments

Post a comment


29 OCT 2013

Spring Farm Ridge Update

The communities of Helmdon, Sulgrave and Greatworth have been fighting tooth and nail against a proposal from a wind farm developer to build turbines in between their communities for four years now. A completely inappropriate development which would add virtually nothing to our energy security needs and yet would damage the lives of residents because landscape, heritage and amenity have not been considered, not to mention the dangers of the B4525. This has been a long battle but I hope the end is now in sight.

South Northamptonshire Council and a Judicial Review have already found against this proposal and yet the developer still insists on appealing which results in added expense for the local communities. I pay enormous tribute to the determination and resilience of local residents.

The latest appeal is now underway and I attended the morning session at South Northamptonshire Council offices last week to hear representations from members of the local community. There were loads of people there, all expressing their opinions and no one was in favour! Veronica Ward made an excellent case regarding the dangers the turbines would cause to drivers along the B4525. Colin Wootton, an ex head of planning and now a key figure with HSGWAG, showed detailed knowledge in explaining the importance of preserving Sulgrave as a heritage setting. I was also very glad to meet with residents during the break and urged them to keep fighting.

After much lobbying from everyone involved in this campaign, Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has agreed to recover this appeal so he can determine it for himself. He has recently announced that energy supply is no longer the primary consideration when determining applications such as Spring Farm Ridge and that matters such as heritage, landscape and amenity must be given equal consideration. There will no longer be an excuse for the wrong development in the wrong area.

I hope that, like the local Council and the Judicial Review, he will find against this proposal and in favour of common sense and will finally bring to an end the turmoil, uncertainty and expense that the local communities have had to endure.

I have written to the Secretary of State on many occasions regarding Spring Farm Ridge. You can read my latest and, what I hope will be, my last letter to him on this matter, here.

I hope to be able to provide you with another update reporting the decision as soon as possible.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 OCT 2013

World Day Of Remembrance For Road Traffic Victims

The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was started by RoadPeace in 1993 and is observed on the third Sunday of November each year by an increasing number of countries on every continent around the world. On 26 October 2005, the United Nations endorsed it as a global day making it a major advocacy day for road traffic injury prevention.

Almost 4,000 people are killed and many hundreds of thousands injured on roads throughout the world every day. Many more have to cope with bereavement or the effects of injury and thus become part of the huge group of people affected by road accidents.

This day is dedicated to remembering the many millions killed or injured in road crashes and their families and communities, as well as to pay tribute to the dedicated emergency crews, police and medical professionals who daily deal with the traumatic aftermath of road death and injury.

I am delighted that the Holy Sepulchre Church in Northampton will be marking this day with a special service to remember those who have lost their lives on Northamptonshire's roads and to thank the emergency services who support road victims.

This year's service is taking place on Sunday 17 November at 3pm at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton. You would be very welcome to attend.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 OCT 2013

On The Road To Greater Competition And Choice

Last week the Government published an excellent response to the consultation on 'Opening Up UK Payments', which I responded to and which closed in the summer.

The Government will now table amendments to the Banking Reform Bill in the House of Lords to create a new Payments System Regulator under the authority of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The Regulator will be fully operational by Spring 2015. The aim of the Regulator will be to promote competition, innovation and benefits for customers. It will have strong powers to open up access and competition, to drive through modernisation and innovation and to ensure payment systems are more responsive to the needs of customers.

The Government has taken on many suggestions and recommendations of the Treasury Select Committee, which published a report in 2011 expressing serious concerns about the governance of payment systems and recommended that the Payments Council be brought under regulation, and the conclusions of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards which also endorsed the proposal to bring payment systems into regulation.

I am delighted that, as the Government has promised, real progress is being made towards opening up our payments systems and promoting competition. The Treasury Select Committee, of which I'm a member, and the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards have done some excellent work to highlight this issue and I am pleased that the Treasury has taken this on board.

Establishing a new utility style regulator under the jurisdiction of the FCA is a great step forward and I am pleased that one of the first jobs of the Regulator will be to provide a full cost benefit analysis of full bank account number portability. In my own response to the consultation I stressed the importance of opening up our payments systems and explained what a real game changer full bank account number portability will be in breaking up the dominance of the five big banks, promoting competition and greater consumer choice and ending 'too big to fail'. I believe we are on the right track to achieving this.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 SEP 2013

London Fashion Week

This week I had the opportunity to visit London Fashion Week at Somerset House, and to meet with designers and officials from across the industry. It was a truly fascinating experience, and it was interesting to learn more about an area of the economy that provides thousands of jobs and billions in international revenue. Fashion isn't just a lucrative business in our economy, but it's also a huge contributor to the UK PLC brand.

The industry is now developing its own apprenticeships to make sure that not just the design work, but also the manufacturing and finishing of garments can be done in the UK.

0 comments

Post a comment


13 SEP 2013

HS2 Property Compensation Consultation

The Government has launched a new period of public consultation on long-term property compensation measures for Phase One of HS2.

I would encourage as many of you as possible to respond to the consultation to make your views known. The consultation will run until 4 December 2013.

Further details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hs2-property-compensation-consultation-2013

You might also be interested in the letter the Minister of State for Transport sent to me regarding the consultation, you can read the letter here.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 SEP 2013

1001 Critical Days Campaign Launch

Today I was joined by MPs from across the political spectrum to launch the 1001 Critical Days Manifesto. Frank Field MP (Lab), Paul Burstow MP (Lib Dem), Caroline Lucas MP (Green) and I share a commitment to the importance of the period from conception to age two, and the significant impact of poor support at this stage in later life.

The manifesto has been positively received by many across the children's and health sectors, and I am proud to be launching the campaign for the Conservatives at our party conference on the 29th September.

I hope that the 1001 Critical Days will be the central to bringing about much needed change in how we support babies and their families to achieve the best start in life.

The manifesto can be read here.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 SEP 2013

Progress On Full Bank Account Number Portability

Wouldn't it be great if you could change your bank account from one bank to another at the touch of a button? So if you were fed up with the service your bank was providing or you wanted to take advantage of a great offer at another bank you would be able to switch without having to worry about changing all your direct debits, standing orders, cheque books, cards, account number etc.

Ever since I was first elected I have been campaigning to ensure customers can change their bank accounts as easily as a customer can change their mobile phone provider. The advantage would be an increase in customer service and competition in the banking sector and would remove the problem of banks being 'too big to fail' so massive taxpayer funded bailouts would be a thing of the past. Banks would be able to fail with no risk to customers because all their accounts could be transferred instantly to another bank.

The Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament at the beginning of the year and is currently making its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This Bill offers a great opportunity for Account Number Portability (ANP) to be introduced. I spoke in the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons and, at the Report Stage, tabled an amendment which would commit the Government to carrying out a cost-benefit analysis of ANP. I spoke in support of my amendment which had the backing of MPs from all parties.

I was delighted that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Clark MP, announced that the Government would require the new payments regulator, which will be established to address competition in banking, to 'conduct a comprehensive review of account portability, including a cost benefit analysis, as an immediate priority.' The regulator should be established within a year and it can then begin its work looking at ANP.

The Bill has now reached the House of Lords and had its Second Reading in the Lords before the summer recess. Several Peers spoke in favour of ANP and again I was pleased the Government confirmed its commitment to seeing a full analysis of the idea.

I believe that ANP could be a real game changer, certainly for customers but also for restoring the badly damaged reputation of our financial services sector. The Banking Reform Bill is an important piece of legislation and I am delighted the Government is behind this idea. Full Bank Account Number Portability is an idea whose time has come.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 SEP 2013

A week in the life...

People often ask me what exactly MPs do.......it's a strange job without a specific job description, so I thought it might be interesting to outline what a typical week looks like. So here it goes: my commitments and meetings for a week in July, in the run-up to the Summer Recess.

Monday

My day started early - 7.30am at Whittlebury Golf Club, holding my quarterly Business Breakfast Club meeting. I was joined by local business managers to discuss areas of Government policy, local business issues and everything in between. I find these meetings to be a great way of getting a sense on the ground of how the South Northamptonshire economy is faring and what local business people feel about the political environment.

I then dashed to Caroline Chisholm School in Northampton to speak to a group of students on the topic of 'what happens beyond Sixth Form'. I met a large group of feisty students and we discussed the importance of voting, being involved in your local community and how politics is more relevant than some of them perhaps thought.

From there, I travelled straight to Westminster for my weekly 'Team Meeting', where my staff from my constituency and Westminster offices come together on a Monday to discuss our plans and priorities for the week ahead. The meeting finished just in time for me to head to the House of Commons Chamber for questions to the Department for Work and Pensions, where Rt hon Iain Duncan Smith answered questions about his work from both sides of the House. I then stayed in the Chamber to take part in the day's important main debate – the remaining stages of the Finance Bill. (The Bill that brings the 2013 Budget into law).

Later on that evening, I left the debate in order to meet with members of the Conservative Party's new Policy Board which has been set up to sound out MPs on their thoughts on specific areas of Government policy in preparation for the next general election manifesto; in this case, I put forward some policy ideas on the subject of Early Years Intervention. This is a subject very close to my heart and I am keen to continue my work on it inside Parliament and beyond.

Monday evenings usually finish at 10pm for the final round of votes, but a special arrangement in place for finance measures means that the House can ' sit until any hour'........Luckily on this occasion it was only until 11.30pm, whereupon we voted and I went home to bed.

Tuesday

I started the day, as I do most Tuesdays, with a 30 minute Bible study session with a small group of other MPs organised by the charity Christians in Parliament before heading to the regular Treasury Select Committee meeting, which this week was on the subject of the Financial Policy Committee's latest Financial Stability Report. I had the opportunity to question several members of the FPC, including the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and several independent Members for a few hours.

Following this, I went to meet a group of constituents who are concerned about the plans for the privatisation of Royal Mail, before heading to the Chamber for the second day of the Finance Bill debate. Later in the afternoon I led a 90 minute Westminster Hall debate, in the Commons' second chamber, on the subject of co-operation between faith groups and local communities. It was a fascinating and lively discussion in which I was delighted to take part.

After returning to the Chamber to rejoin the debate for a while, I then called in at a parliamentary reception hosted by the Motorsport Industry Association where I spoke to representatives from many of the motor sport companies and organisations which are so vital to South Northamptonshire's success. The votes took place around 9pm so not such a late one....

Wednesday

My first appointment of the day was my weekly meeting with my diary secretary to go over upcoming appointments and engagements and to keep my time managed as efficiently as possible. From there, I went to chair a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform, taking evidence from MPs as well as industry experts on how to complete the Single Market for services.

From there, it was straight to the Chamber for the usual lively Prime Minister's Questions, where the Prime Minister is grilled by the House on his Government's work. I then had a lunch meeting with the CEO of a charity I work with on my Early Years campaign.

This was followed immediately by the second Treasury Select Committee meeting of the week, this time discussing the accounts and activities of the Crown Estates, and from there to a meeting I arranged with the Chief Executive of a European finance group together with several of my MP colleagues to discuss Britain's role in the EU and its impact on Financial Services.

The day finished with a meeting of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee and the final set of votes in the House at 7pm.

Thursday

I arrived in the House before 8am on Thursday morning to host a breakfast meeting on behalf of the Centre for the Modern Family, followed by a meeting with a representative from the Centre for Social Justice.

After a couple of further meetings with Colleagues who are contributing to a paper I am writing for the 2020 Group of Conservatives, I met my researcher for our weekly review of the upcoming Parliamentary Business. This involves looking at the next two week's business in the House and seeing which debates I want to be involved in, and specifically where I need to write to the Speaker to ask to be called to make a speech.

From there I went to meet a group of MPs and members of a think tank to discuss the translation of the Fresh Start Project's Manifesto for European Reform into various European languages. Those involved in the project are keen to spread the research we have produced as widely as possible to generate support for our reform proposals from other member states.

I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon replying to the 250'ish emails from constituents, lobbyists and journalists that were waiting for replies......The day finished with votes at around 5pm followed by a pre-recess BBQ for MPs at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister. During the evening, I checked and signed around 75 letters to constituents.

Friday

Fridays are usually reserved for MPs to spend time in their constituencies, but this time MPs remained in Parliament for one of the 'sitting' Fridays which are timetabled for us to attempt to get backbenchers' own legislation passed in the form of a Private Members Bill. This Friday was reserved for James Wharton's highly-publicised Bill on a Referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, intended to commit a future Conservative Government to a 2017 referendum. The Bill passed by a landslide vote, with the Conservative Party voting unanimously to bind itself to holding a referendum.

I spent much of the day in the Chamber, but also held several other meetings, including one with representatives from the Department for Transport to discuss HS2 compensation measures, and specifically ideas for a property bond.

I travelled back home to Northants at 6pm, in time for a musical event in Greens Norton, organised by the village choir.

If you have any questions about my work, or would like to come to Parliament for the day, do let me know!

Best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


03 SEP 2013

HS2 Newsletter

Following my mammoth HS2 Update I sent out in June, as the summer recess draws to a close and Parliament returns, I thought it would be a good time to provide a further HS2 Newsletter.

Before Parliament broke up for the summer recess the HS2 Preparation Bill came before Parliament. I voted against the Bill in support of the hundreds of my constituents whose homes, communities and livelihoods are badly affected by HS2. Regrettably but entirely as expected the Bill was passed by 330 votes to just 27. I am hopeful that the Hybrid Bill, which is due to be introduced to Parliament before Christmas will offer an opportunity for substantial changes to be made, including to the route, and to compensation and mitigation matters.

I understand that the Department for Transport is due to relaunch the compensation consultation very shortly and I am confident that following discussions I have had with Ministers and officials, as well as talks Colleagues have had and the representations from action groups, the consultation will include and ask for opinions on a variety of property bond options. I'm afraid I do not know whether the Government will announce its preferred property bond or what this might be, but I do think this is real progress towards fair compensation for those affected. Of course, this is still only a consultation and so I would urge you all to respond as soon as it is launched!

At the start of the summer recess I held a small 'Roadshow' and spent a couple of days visiting communities which are facing some big issues. The second day of the Roadshow was almost entirely dedicated to HS2 and I was pleased that Martin Wells and Sebastian Jew of HS2 Ltd. joined me as we visited Lower and Upper Boddington, Chipping Warden, Greatworth, Brackley and Radstone. I was very aware of how badly HS2 was affecting these areas but there is nothing like seeing different homes for yourself and speaking to residents about the affect the project would have on them and I am glad that Martin and Sebastian were also present. Since my visit I have written to HS2 Ltd. on behalf of each community raising all the issues we discussed and I will feed back to the communities as soon as I receive responses.

I am aware that there are other communities which I did not have chance to visit on this occasion that are equally affected but rest assured I will be holding similar events and I will make sure I get to these places next time. Of course, in the meantime, do not hesitate to contact me should you need to.

You will be aware that opposition to the project continues to grow. Influential bodies such as the Major Projects Authority, Taxpayer's Alliance, National Audit Office and now the Institute of Directors have all expressed concern with the IoD calling the project 'a grand folly'.

As I have consistently said I am against this project as I don't think it will achieve its aims, we could spend the money better and on more projects to realise benefits far sooner and I am very concerned with the spiralling costs that HS2 already seems to be experiencing. I understand that the Department for Transport will publish an up-to-date business case in the autumn and there are rumours that the benefit cost ratio could be as low as 0.5/1. I will continue to call on the Government to think again, however, I continue to think the most important battle to fight right now is for compensation and mitigation. As the Government relaunches the consultation on compensation and as the Hybrid Bill is brought before Parliament, there are going to be opportunities in the coming months for compensation and mitigation matters to be progressed.

As and when I receive further news, I will let you have an update. Do have a look at my website from time to time, www.andrealeadsom.com, for further updates.

With best wishes

Andrea

(Photos show Andrea in Boddington and discussing HS2 with Martin Wells and Sebastian Jew of HS2 Ltd. and residents of Chipping Warden)

0 comments

Post a comment


02 SEP 2013

Local Antiques Centre Wins National Award

On a recent visit to Brackley, I was delighted to congratulate Brackley Antiques Cellar owner, Jim Broomfield, on being awarded 'Antiques Centre of the Year' in the Home and Antiques Awards 2013.Jim and his team fought off stiff competition from Antiques centres across the length and breadth of the country to land the award at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea Park earlier this year.

I am delighted that the Brackley Antiques Cellar has won this prestigious award. Having visited the centre myself, I know it is richly deserved. Successful businesses in Brackley town centre are a huge benefit to the whole of Brackley and go a long way in bringing investment to the town which is an issue I have discussed with Jim and other Councillors recently.

I am looking forward to visiting the Antiques Cellar again soon and wish Jim and his team all the best in the meantime.

0 comments

Post a comment


28 AUG 2013

It is nearly the end of the parliamentary summer recess, and I thought you might like to know about some of the recent visits I have made in the constituency. Recess is always a great time to meet with constituents to talk about their particular concerns, and so during the first week I decided to hold a small 'Roadshow' and visit some of the areas in South Northamptonshire which are facing some big issues.

The issues I focused on were housing development, wind farm applications and HS2 because I know that these three issues are undoubtedly the three biggest that local residents are concerned about and raise with me. I've highlighted below some of the comments made to me, and I can tell you that in the couple of weeks since, I have written to Ministers, to Councils, to HS2 and to developers seeking advice and putting forward the questions and objections of residents. As replies come through, I will post them on my website, and email or mail them directly to those I met on my travels.

During my Roadshow I was able to visit eleven South Northamptonshire communities and met with county, district and parish councillors as well as with many concerned residents. I began in Hardingstone in the Borough of Northampton where there are plans for 1,000 houses to be built which will practically double the size of the village. Naturally residents are concerned about how the additional houses are going to affect their community, as many feel it will destroy the sense of living in a village. They raised with me concerns regarding school provision, green spaces and more generally the use of green field sites for development.

I then went to neighbouring Collingtree where another 1,000 houses are being planned. Flooding and traffic congestion are the main concerns of Collingtree residents. It is worth making clear than none of the residents I met in Hardingstone or Collingtree are against development in principle, but many feel that Northamptonshire (particularly in the immediate vicinity of Northampton) has already accepted more than its fair share of new developments, and if there is to be more development, local residents want to ensure it is sensible, sustainable and integrates sympathetically with the existing community.

There was a complete change of topic as I visited Alderton, a picturesque village overlooking the Tove Valley. For many years Alderton has been blighted by the prospect of a wind farm, and frustratingly for the residents, the developer has left them in limbo, blighted by the prospect of a wind farm, but with no formal planning application submitted. Residents questioned the viability of placing a wind farm in a valley in one of the least windy counties in England and urgently want the developer to decide whether or not they are going to submit a planning application. This is the only way to end the uncertainty which not only blights house prices but also blights the lives of the residents of Alderton.

I am very proud to have the village of Silverstone in my constituency. Not only is Silverstone Circuit of huge benefit to South Northamptonshire but the 'motor sport valley' is of great economic benefit to the UK as a whole. It is therefore important that Silverstone Circuit and other businesses in motor sport valley are protected and allowed to grow. The proposed housing development of 220 houses on the outskirts of the village would put great pressure on village infrastructure, and many residents feel would also damage the expansion plans for the Circuit. South Northamptonshire Council have already rejected the application and yet the application was approved on appeal, and even the Secretary of State, having called it in, has accepted the Inspector's decision. I fear this makes a complete mockery of the Localism Agenda, and I have written to the Secretary of State to ask what steps are now open to the community to further challenge the decision.

I met with the developers and Councillors in Towcester to discuss the plans for expansion of Towcester by 3,000 new homes over the next 20 years. I know that generally there is wide spread support for this development as it will bring with it much needed development and investment in Towcester. There are some big issues, however, surrounding funding for the proposed A5 relief road and roundabouts on the A43, as well as concerns about parking in the town centre. I am working with the developers, local council and Government departments and I am hopeful of good solutions. The other matter I am pursuing is the idea of a 'cottage hospital' for Towcester, similar to the one being built in Brackley. South Northamptonshire residents are statistically far less likely to have inpatient hospital treatment, and have better health generally than the country as a whole. Having a small local outpatient facility that could offer more than just a medical centre could be a great way to keep residents independent in their own homes for longer.

A whole day of the Roadshow was spent discussing HS2 with residents. My day began with a trip to Upper Boddington - I was of course well aware of how badly Upper and Lower Boddington and neighbouring Aston-le-Walls is affected by HS2 but I wanted to visit some of the worst affected areas for myself so that I can better represent residents' calls for mitigation. I was also pleased that Martin Wells and Sebastian Jew of HS2 Ltd. agreed to join me to hear the concerns raised by residents. As well as HS2, I also had the opportunity to discuss wind farm applications with residents of Boddington.

We then moved on to Chipping Warden and heard from residents that they are particularly concerned with how the A361 running through the village is going to be affected by HS2 construction traffic. The community is very worried with how the greatly increased level of traffic could pose a danger for children walking to school. I am hoping the local council and HS2 Ltd. can work together to look onto the possibility of a bypass being built around the village, using funding from HS2 combined with Northamptonshire County Council funding. I am pursuing this option and will keep residents posted.

Greatworth is a village affected by two big projects; HS2 and the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm development. Regarding HS2, residents particularly want to know why plans for a green tunnel running past the village have been changed meaning that the village will not now be protected from the impact of HS2 as was originally planned. HS2 construction traffic along the B4525 is also a concern. The other issue is the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm, the local council has already rejected the application and a Judicial Review brought by the local community also threw out the application. I am dismayed that the developer will still not admit defeat and intends to go to a further appeal. However, the community is very well organised and deserves enormous credit for their efforts and South Northamptonshire Council is also determined to resist this wind farm, so for these reasons, together with new guidance being issued by the Secretary of State giving local communities greater say, I am hopeful this wind farm application will soon be consigned to history for good.

Kings Sutton is another picturesque village in South Northamptonshire which has fallen victim to insensitive and badly thought through housing applications. 40 houses are already under construction and, when I visited the village, a second development of 35 houses had just been approved on appeal by the Planning Inspector following refusal of the application by South Northamptonshire Council. King's Sutton residents were understandably angry at this decision and raised concerns with me regarding traffic, flooding and school provision. I am pleased that South Northamptonshire Council is appealing the decision and are hopeful that the appeal will be successful. If the Localism agenda is to mean something to our communities, the thoughts and feelings of local residents must hold sway.

In Brackley, I met with Councillors Elaine Wiltshire and Jim Broomfield and discussed HS2, housing developments and how to get empty shop units on the high street back into use. It was a pleasure to visit Jim's antiques centre and congratulate him on his recent national award!

My final stop was to the village of Radstone just outside Brackley. HS2 is a big issue here and residents raised with me the possibility of a green tunnel past Radstone and the affects HS2 will have on public footpaths and bridleways in this extremely rural area. I also proposed that the small community in Radstone join forces with other villages in the area affected by HS2 to ensure that they have their voices heard by HS2 Ltd.

Following my visits to these communities and having listened to the concerns of the local residents I have written to the relevant authority – Northampton Borough Council, South Northamptonshire Council, Northamptonshire County Council, the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport, HS2 Ltd. and the relevant wind farm developer – raising the concerns of the residents and asking for some answers to their questions. I am hopeful that we can fight some of these decisions, influence some of the proposals and get answers to some of the questions raised to put at rest the minds of concerned residents.

I always enjoy visiting our communities, meeting residents and discussing their concerns. I am hoping to do many more visits to the villages in our area in the coming months. I will keep you updated on my constituency visits, and please do let me know if you want to meet with me on any particular subject.

I hope you have had a great summer, and good luck to all our children as they go back to school!

With best wishes

Andrea

Pictures:

  1. With Councillors Phil Larratt and Jonathan Nunn and, Rita Bovey and Chris Preston from Northampton Borough Council discussing plans for Hardingstone;
  2. With Councillor Michael Hill and residents of Collingtree;Discussing wind farm proposals with Alderton residents and Councillor Allen Walker;
  3. In Silverstone with Councillor Dermot Bambridge and residents;Discussing development plans in Towcester;
  4. Saying 'no to HS2' in Boddington;
  5. With HS2 Ltd. officials and residents in Chipping Warden;
  6. In Greatworth;
  7. Visiting the site of the proposed housing development in King's Sutton;
  8. With Councillor Elaine Wiltshire outside Brackley Town Hall;
  9. Disussing HS2 with Radstone residents.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JUL 2013

Katharine House Hospice

I recently visited Katharine House Hospice near Banbury and on the border of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. The hospice offers palliative care and support for those with life-threatening illnesses not responsive to curative care.

The House is set in beautifully tranquil grounds surrounded by countryside, and takes its name from Katharine Gadsby who, at the age of 20, died of cancer. Her parents Neil and Heather Gadsby worked to establish the hospice and have worked tirelessly to maintain it and raise funds. It was a pleasure to be shown around, and it was evident just what a wonderful job the staff do for those at the end of their life.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JUL 2013

Setting The Scene - Making Europe Competitive

I've recently had three articles on our relationahip with the Europe Union and my work with the Fresh Start Project published on the website Conservative Home and I thought I would share them with you.

You can read the articles at the following links:

How To Repair The EU's Democratic Deficit

The EU - We Need Reform And Better Regulation

Setting The Scene - Making Europe Competitive

0 comments

Post a comment


16 JUL 2013

APPG Sure Start Children's Centre Group

The APPG Sure Start Children's Centre Group today launched its report 'Best Practice for a Sure Start: The Way Forward for Children's Centres'.

The key conclusions of the report are as follows:

1. A holistic approach: This should be a priority for future delivery. Children's Centres should continue to provide advice, support and services to all families with children under 5 but with a renewed focus on conception to age two

2. Pooling budgets: Local Authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards and their local partners must make greater use of pooled budgets to allow for more innovative commissioning of perinatal and Children's Centre services

3. Registration of births: Should take place in Children's Centres – no legislation is required but cross-Government political commitments will be needed to make it happen

4. Data sharing: The systematic sharing of live birth data and other appropriate information between health and Children's Centres must be put in place.

5. Under one roof: All perinatal services should be delivered and accessed from the Children's Centre, including midwifery, health visiting and Children's Centre services

6. Early intervention: Government must put this at the heart of the 2016-18 Comprehensive Spending Review, with a commitment to shifting 2-3% of spending from late, to early, intervention each year

7. Measuring and comparing outcomes: Children's Centres should do this for the children and families they work with over the longer term, and at least until the point that the child starts school

8. Sharing information on best practice: As part of doing so, local authorities should monitor relative performance of Children's Centres in their area

The report can be found here.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 JUL 2013

Draft Environmental Statement Consultation

Yesterday, the consultation on the Draft Environmental Statement closed. I have responded to the consultation and you can read my response by clicking here. If there are any specific issues you would like me to address, I am happy to do this seperately, therefore, do let me know!

0 comments

Post a comment


02 JUL 2013

Arctic Convoys Afternoon Tea

Last week I attended a fabulous tea party at the Guildhall for veterans of the World War II Arctic Convoys, who have finally been recognised for their courage after 70 years!

I was keen that we organise a proper celebration, so was delighted that the Chronicle & Echo, together with the Borough Council, took up the challenge and joined the search for all the veterans in the county. The Arctic Convoy was the only arena in the Second World War that had not been recognised, mainly due to the cooling of diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union after 1945.

I was delighted to attend the tea party, both to congratulate the veterans in person, and to apologise on behalf of successive governments for not recognising their enormous contribution long ago.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 JUL 2013

Greens Norton Community Choir

 

Last week I attended the Green’s Norton Community Choir’s fundraising musical evening in aid of Cynthia Spencer Hospice at the Towcestrians Clubhouse.

 

In 2010, the Greens Norton Community Choir was founded for the people in the village and now has members across South Northamptonshire.  Its only criteria for new members is a desire to sing!  After placing an article in the Greens Norton Village News, and finding a musical director in Natasha, the group began with 12 members and has since risen to 36. In a short space of time, the choir has gone from strength to strength and is now a treasured part of the local community, with others keen to emulate its success.

 

Since starting out, the choir has performed in Milton Keynes Theatre to popular acclaim, as well as giving a concert at the Towcestrians in 2011 to raise money for Help for Heroes among other charitable activities.

 

It was a delightful evening and all the singers did a splendid job; I look forward to hearing them again another time!

0 comments

Post a comment


28 JUN 2013

Treasury Select Committee News

There have recently been a couple of interesting hearings of the Treasury Select Committee, I thought you might be interested to know about them.

Sir Mervyn King – Governor of the Bank of England

This was the last appearance before the Treasury Committee of the Governor of the Bank of England before he completes his term in office and is replaced by Mark Carney at the end of the month.

A flagship policy of Sir Mervyn has been the introduction of Quantitative Easing and I wanted to take the opportunity to question the Governor on this policy. It is clear that the Governor remains committed to QE and believes it was the right step to take. He continues to vote for more QE at meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee, but is regularly outvoted by the other members! There will be huge interest in what the new Governor, Mark Carney, wants to do about QE.

Sir Mervyn said there will come a time when interest rates will have to rise and return to levels we are more used to. However, he was clear to stress that 'this was not today' or any time soon and that economies around the world would need to get 'back on the path to solvency' before interest rates could rise and QE can be unwound.

It remains to be seen whether he genuinely believes his own forecast or whether he was ensuring he did not scare the markets. When Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, a week ago suggested the US QE programme might be coming to an end, there was turmoil in the US stock and bond markets.

In response to my question asking whether the Governor thought policy-makers had blown the opportunity they have had to use low interest rates to drive down debt and prepare economies for a return to normal, Sir Mervyn agreed that so far the chances have not been taken nearly enough, but again stressed that there is still time.

On a lighter note, it was interesting to hear from the Governor that from 2015 women will not disappear off all our bank notes! At the moment Elizabeth Fry occupies our £5 notes but is due to be replaced by Sir Winston Churchill from 2015.

Whilst Churchill fully deserves his place on our bank notes, it would be a shame not to have a woman on one of them. However, Sir Mervyn assured us that Elizabeth Fry would still remain in circulation past 2015 and Jane Austen is being kept in reserve and will probably take the next vacancy on a bank note which could be the £10 note!

Andrew Haldane – Executive Director for Financial Stability of the Bank of England

Andy Haldane has appeared before the Treasury Committee on many occasions and I have met him separately to discuss bank account number portability which is an idea I am very keen on seeing implemented. In private Andy has also been very warm to the idea and I was delighted to get his commitment to it during his evidence to the Treasury Committee.

I asked him if I could tempt him to go on the record and say that he thought bank account number portability could resolve one of the big barriers to entry which small banks are facing. I was pleased that Andrew said, 'You can tempt me. Yes, I do think that is something, an initiative whose time has come. I am also reassured by some of the work I have seen most recently about the costs of moving to that regime, that this will not be punitive, that relatively modest changes to the existing architecture could be engineered to deliver the benefits of current account portability. So I think this is one of the ingredients of us creating a more contestable banking system.'

Not only does Andy support the point that full bank account number portability would be a great way of removing barriers to entry for challenger banks but I was also pleased to hear that he didn't feel that the associated costs with implementation were anywhere near as much as the big banks would have us believe.

Interestingly, Andy Haldane obviously shares some of the Treasury Select Committee's concerns about QE, and in particularly, how we unwind these programmes that have been put in place right across the world. He said 'central banks have intentionally blown the biggest Government bond bubble in history... the most significant risk to global financial stability is a disorderly reversion in the yields of Government bonds globally.'

0 comments

Post a comment


27 JUN 2013

HS2 Paving Bill

The High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, also known as the Paving Bill, was debated in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon and I spoke in the debate. You can read my contribution here. Whilst I completely accept the need for more rail capacity, I do not support this project. I have urged the Government to reconsider on many occasions over the last three years, and I regret that the Government and the Opposition are so committed to seeing HS2 go ahead.

I have therefore voted against the Paving Bill, and against my Party's 3 line whip. I have done this in support of the hundreds of my constituents whose homes, communities and livelihoods are badly affected by HS2, and who were looking to me to represent their strength of feeling. I want them all to know that I will continue to put their case for decent compensation and mitigation, and to press for changes to the project.

Regrettably, but entirely as expected the Bill was passed by 330 votes to 27 votes.

I hope that the Hybrid Bill, due to have its Second Reading before Christmas, will offer an opportunity for substantial changes to be made, including to the route, and that the Government will implement a full and generous compensation scheme. I must point out, however, that the chance of this project being cancelled completely becomes smaller by the day. This is evident by the results we saw yesterday in the House of Commons – there is overwhelming support for HS2. Therefore, going forward my focus will be very much on securing good mitigation and a generous compensation scheme for those affected.

All updates, reports and blogs will be posted on my website and I will also send out a newsletter from time to time with further updates on HS2 to my distribution lists. I hope you will also continue to write to me and to the Department for Transport expressing your concerns on HS2.

If you would like any further information on HS2 do not hesitate to contact me.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUN 2013

Let Britain Decide

I am urging people from South Northamptonshire to help the Conservatives in their bid to secure the first EU referendum in 40 years.

This follows news that the Prime Minister has launched a new campaign website, www.LetBritainDecide.com, which makes it simple for people to join the campaign to back the Bill about to go through Parliament, which will pave the way for a vote in 2017, after a full renegotiation. www.LetBritainDecide.com aims to 'build public pressure, to give people a voice, and to urge MPs from other parties to listen to their constituents.'

Britain deserves a vote. It's been nearly 40 years since the British people last had their say on Europe. People feel the EU is heading in a direction they never signed up to.

That is why Conservatives want to give Britain a clear vote – in or out – before the end of 2017, after a full renegotiation.

A draft Bill to make this happen will soon be debated by MPs – but, crucially, it needs the support of other political parties to pass. Britain needs everyone to build public pressure on this. That's why we are launching LetBritainDecide.com: to give people a voice, and to urge MPs to listen to their constituents. Please sign up today at www.LetBritainDecide.com and make your voice heard.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUN 2013

HS2 Update

I am writing to provide you with a thorough update on my work as your representative with regard to the HS2 project in the run up to the 'Paving Bill' that comes before Parliament in a week's time.

The Government is showing no signs of reconsidering the commitment to HS2, and I also understand the Opposition is fully behind this project. Personally, as you know, I remain very concerned that this is not a good project for the taxpayer, and is devastating for our beautiful countryside.

I remain optimistic that the Hybrid Bill process will enable a rethink of the route, as well as of the project itself, but I also think it is important to be realistic. Whilst I oppose HS2, if this project is to go ahead, I am determined to achieve fair compensation and good mitigation for my constituents.

I wanted to share with you what I have been able to do so far in Parliament and the Constituency as the campaign against HS2 has progressed. I hope that this will give you confidence that your views are being put forward at every possible opportunity - and I am doing all I can to defend your property and environment:

In Parliament:

  • I have set up the 'HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum' following the announcement to proceed with HS2 in 2012. The group was established for affected MPs from up and down the line to meet to discuss constituency issues of compensation, mitigation as well as the project in general. Since the group was founded we have met with HS2 Ltd. officials, including Alison Munro, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. on a number of occasions. We have also met with the former Secretary of State, Justine Greening, representatives of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, land agents, 51M, HS2 Action Alliance and representatives of many other action groups.
  • In February I met with the Prime Minister (I also met with him with Justine Greening when she was the Secretary of State) to discuss fair and comprehensive compensation arrangements and in particular, a property bond.
  • Before Christmas I met with Simon Burns, the Rail Minister and in April this year I had a productive meeting with the new Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin. In both meetings I stressed how important good compensation was and made clear that I support a property bond which would give confidence to the housing market.
  • I have responded on behalf of my constituents to all consultations which the Department for Transport have held: on the general principle of HS2, on property and compensation and also on safeguarding. I have also responded to the HS2 Phase Two consultation and next month I will have submitted my response to the Draft Environmental Statement consultation.
  • I have taken the opportunity to raise HS2 in the House of Commons Chamber whenever possible. I led a full debate on the principle of HS2 during the original consultation, I have raised the issue at Transport Questions and most recently I spoke in the Queen's Speech debate again raising my objections to HS2 and calling for good compensation and mitigation.
  • I have continued to table Written Parliamentary Questions asking a variety of questions of the Department for Transport on all aspects of HS2.

In the Constituency:

  • My aim is always to keep you up to date on HS2 related matters as much as I can. When the HS2 Roadshows were taking place in the constituency I attended each one at Greatworth, Upper Boddington, Chipping Warden and Brackley to support those affected in their discussions with HS2.
  • I have arranged several public meetings in the constituency, in Greatworth, Brackley and Boddington.
  • I have taken part in several of the Community Forums in our area, as well as the roadshow at Brackley to discuss the Draft Environmental Statement consultation.
  • I have arranged various meetings with HS2 Ltd. officials and individual parish representatives to discuss specific issues. So far I have held meetings between HS2 Ltd. and the communities of Greatworth, Boddington, Brackley, Culworth and Thorpe Mandeville.
  • Over the last three years I have sent hundreds of letters to the Department for Transport raising the individual concerns of constituents and I continue to do so. As well as the general concerns residents have about the project I have represented a number of families applying to the Exceptional Hardship Scheme who have had an urgent need to sell but who have become trapped by HS2.

Going forward:

  • The negotiations for good compensation for those affected and for better mitigation for individual areas continues.
  • On Wednesday 26 June the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, also known as the Paving Bill, will come before Parliament.
  • The HS2 Hybrid Bill was also included in the Queen's Speech this year and is scheduled to come before Parliament by the end of this year.
  • There will be more consultations to respond to and I will be doing so.
  • I will be holding public meetings as and when necessary and will continue to try and attend those organised by HS2 Ltd.I continue to encourage communities and individual families to write to me and the Department for Transport to raise your concerns and individual issues you may have relating to this project.

I want to now comment on two particular issues which I know are important to constituents – a property bond and the Paving Bill.

My view is that a property bond would restore confidence in the market and allow the housing market to function more normally, which would allow those currently trapped in their homes to be able to sell their homes and move on with their lives.

HS2 Action Alliance have proposed a property bond scheme which essentially would mean that the Government would be required to buy a property at the pre blight value from those who find themselves in the situation where HS2 is affecting the sale of their home. Whilst this would be the preference of many constituents, indications given by the Government are that they unlikely to support this particular scheme.

I have put forward an alternative suggestion which would mean that each property that was affected by HS2 would be eligible for a property bond which, on completion of the line and for one year after the operation of HS2, would entitle the then owner of the property to compensation or the Government to buy the property at the pre blight value, if it could be proved that the operational HS2 was negatively affecting the value.

During the interim period between now and when the line was operational, the existence of the bond guaranteeing the pre blight value (plus or minus house price movements in the intervening years) would enable the market to operate as normal enabling property to be bought, sold, remortgaged and equity realised. As an added incentive to the normal functioning of the market, I have suggested that properties with a property bond should be exempt from stamp duty. The already proposed compensation schemes of the compulsory purchase zone, advanced purchase zone and the long term hardship scheme should operate alongside the property bond.

The Government are going to reconsult on a compensation scheme and this will give the opportunity for the principle of a property bond to be considered again. Whilst I do want the very best compensation for my constituents I am concerned that if the HS2 Action Alliance property bond is not successful then there needs to be a workable alternative 'waiting in the wings', as I believe that any property bond is better than no property bond at all!

I have been told that my version of a property bond is not welcome by HS2AA and other action groups and I am, of course, perfectly willing to accept this. However, I would warn against all our eggs being placed in one basket. My opinion is that if the HS2AA bond is not adopted, then a bond of some kind which helped restore confidence in the market and help people trapped in their homes would be better than nothing. Your views on this would be very welcome.

Secondly, on the Paving Bill, some have asked which way I am going to vote. My honest answer is that I am still deliberating this point at the moment. Colleagues have been making the case that the Paving Bill will allow for compensation to be paid to constituents. Whilst the EHS will still exist after the Paving Bill, I have been told that the Paving Bill allows for the long term compensation schemes to be implemented. The EHS was only designed to be temporary.

Having said that, I want to make clear my opposition to the project, so for this reason I would consider voting against the Paving Bill. I will continue to discuss this matter with Colleagues and take into account the views of my constituents as I come to a decision. I will also make clear my reasons for my decision when I have made it.

This has been a rather epic catch up! I will do my best to send out an HS2 Newsletter on a more regular basis to keep you updated on progress. However, please do take a look at my website at www.andrealeadsom.com as I regularly post blogs and updates on there. There is a dedicated HS2 tab under 'Local Issues'.

This is a long campaign but I can assure you I will keep fighting for South Northamptonshire.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


13 JUN 2013

Final Thoughts On Same Sex Marriage

Following the end of the journey of the Same Sex Marriage Bill in the House of Commons, I wanted to provide you with a final update on my thoughts on this topic.

As you may know by now, I chose to positively abstain once again at the Third Reading of the Bill which means I voted in the 'aye' lobby and in the 'no' lobby. My settled view is now that, although I agree with this issue in principle, I do not think that the legislation that has been brought forward is completely right, and even though it has been heavily amended in the Commons and the Government have gone to great lengths to provide assurances that the rights and beliefs of others will be protected in this Bill, I have not been completely convinced that there would not be some unintended consequences.

It has also always been my opinion that this is an issue which should have been included in the manifesto of political parties that support such a measure so that the electorate had the opportunity to vote on this issue as well. For your information, please see here for a breakdown of the way I voted on all votes of this Bill in the Commons.

The Bill will now go through the same process in the House of Lords and I hope that more amendments will be made to the Bill to ensure that the rights and beliefs of all are protected.

I appreciate that this will not please many of my constituents however, as I have previously mentioned, I would like to assure everyone that I have listened to the voices of all my constituents and that of many other interested parties. This has been an extremely difficult decision to come to but I do believe that my view validly reflects the feedback that I have received.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 JUN 2013

Anti-Social Behaviour Order Debate

Yesterday I was pleased to speak in the Second Reading of the Anti Social Behaviour Bill – an important piece of legislation passing through Parliament which will look at a number of complex issues relating to the blight of anti-social behaviour.

The Bill is looking at some very specific contemporary cultural issues, such as forced marriage and dangerous dogs. It is essential we place the victim at the heart of our response to anti-social behaviour; however I took the opportunity to discuss the approach I would take to shut down the pipe line to anti-social behaviour.

The background to the Bill clearly stated its intent to focus on long-term solutions to anti-social behaviour. In particular it was felt that mental health problems and troubled family backgrounds needed to be addressed in the Bill.

However, I feel that there needs to be more on the face of the Bill if we are to address these deep-seated and cyclical problems.

I want to see an increased provision in the Bill for early years intervention, simply because everything that happens to an infant before the age of two has a profound impact on their later life chances, and indeed their likelihood of developing a conduct disorder or becoming a criminal.

If you are not securely attached to your adult caregiver, then it is highly unlikely you will grow up to feel responsible to the community you live in. Whilst later interventions have their place, if we want to bring about real change and create a generation of respectful and socially responsible adults, then implementing earlier and more effective interventions has got to be the way forward.

This Bill presents us with that very opportunity, and I will be putting forward some new clauses to try and achieve this vision.

You can read my full speech here.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 JUN 2013

Foundation Years - Sure Start Children's Centres

In my role as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sure Start Centres, I have set out a long term strategy for support for the early years in Children's Centres by collecting evidence of best practice models in the country.

Building upon the vision of children's centres since their inception I want to have a refocus of the first 1001 days which brings science and practise together. We know that early years intervention in this period can reap the greatest rewards for our children, such as school readiness and lifelong social and emotional wellbeing.

Today, alongside Sharon Hodgson MP, Chair and Vice Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sure Start Children Centres, I submitted evidence to the Select Committee for Education, providing them with these best practice models in the country.

Click here to find out more Foundation Years.

0 comments

Post a comment


07 JUN 2013

Greater Say For Local Communities Over Wind Farms

Yesterday I was delighted the Government announced it will make changes that will give local people a much greater say over wind farms in their communities, shifting the balance of power to local communities in deciding whether to agree to onshore wind proposals.The law will be changed to make consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind projects, before planning permission is applied for. This will guarantee that local people can have their say at an earlier stage in more cases.

Where local councils have identified areas suitable for wind farm projects they will not be obliged to give planning permission if they think the impact on the local area will be unacceptable. The new guidance will ensure that factors such as landscape, amenity and heritage can be properly considered by local authorities.

Meeting energy goals will no longer be an excuse for the wrong developments in the wrong area.

I am hopefully that this could signal the end for the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm development. If the developer does decide to go to appeal again the new guidelines must be taken into account by the Planning Inspectorate. It is sensible to err on the side of caution but I will be investigating the implications for this proposed development.

For other applications in our area, the guidance set out yesterday by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, makes clear that local interests outweigh national interests. The full statement can be read here.

This is not the end for onshore wind farms but this is a big step in the right direction. This gives local communities the chance to take the lead and for local views to win the day.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 JUN 2013

Tove Valley Broadband

Last week I officially opened the Tove Valley Broadband (TVB) in Abthorpe near Towcester on Friday.

The community based broadband initiative also celebrated its tenth anniversary of bringing broadband to the valley. Led by Eric Malcomson, the volunteers initially brought a satellite based service to Abthorpe and later an ADSL system but now the villages have a broadband service offering speeds of up 30 Mbps, well above the national average.

This is a fantastic community initiative. Having supported Eric Malcomson and his team from the outset, I have been impressed with their determination to achieve 21st century broadband speeds for the Tove Valley.

I know all the villages are delighted with the opportunities this now gives them. What has been done here should act as a model for future broadband initiatives in rural areas.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 JUN 2013

Romanian and Bulgarian Immigration

The Fresh Start Project today published a report entitled 'Making the Most of Free Movement - Dealing with the Potential Impact of Migration from Bulgaria and Romania'. You can read it here.

It sets out the conclusions of our recent research and builds on evidence from the Ambassadors of Bulgaria and Romania, Migration Watch, the Department for Work and Pensions, and Open Europe.

The ending of transitional restrictions governing access by Bulgarians and Romanians to the UK labour market and welfare system has aroused considerable public concern about the impact of increased migration from those countries. This concern is particularly acute in three specific spheres: the impact on wages, pressure on public services and access to benefits. The latter has been heightened by the European Commission's recent decision to trigger legal action against the UK for restricting access to benefits for some foreign nationals.

Predicting the precise level of migration, and consequently the impact which it will have on those three themes, is very difficult: there are no comparable precedents; there is no history of mass migration to the UK from those countries; there are conflicting views on the effect of migration on wages; assessing the impact of previous EU-related migration on public services is highly imprecise; and entitlement to, and levels of, benefits vary markedly between EU Member States

Since the FSP began its research, the Government has announced a series of proposals to reduce the attractiveness of the UK to those contemplating coming here to claim benefits, and we welcome these initiatives.

However, the Government should go further by:

  1. Negotiating greater control for Member States over the operation of their benefits regimes;
  2. Considering what further changes are needed to ensure the right to reside test remains effective;
  3. Reforming our welfare system;
  4. Reinstating the Migration Impact Fund for instances of specific need;
  5. Negotiating greater flexibility in future accession treaties.

0 comments

Post a comment


27 MAY 2013

Waitrose 'Grow and Sell' Launch

I was invited to launch the Waitrose 'Grow and Sell' initiative recently at their Towcester branch. The scheme aims to encourage 7-11 year olds in the area to grow their own produce and sell it to Waitrose customers and at the Towcester Farmer's Market.

Four local primary schools were selected to take part, Pattishall Primary, Paulerspury Primary, Towcester Primary, and Blakesly Primary who each sent children to receive a 'Grow and Sell Seed Kit'.

The kit has been specially designed to help set up vegetable patches at school, and includes seeds, tools and step-by-step growing instructions.

This is wonderful idea; not only does it help children understand where their food comes from but they also get the chance to become young entrepreneurs selling their produce to the public.

I shall be at the September farmer's market for one of my drop in surgeries so I am looking forward to seeing the fruits of their efforts!

0 comments

Post a comment


21 MAY 2013

Same Sex Marriage

With the remaining stages of the Same Sex Marriage Bill being debated in Parliament this week please find below an update on my views on this important issue.

The first day of the Report Stage of the Bill was debated yesterday. I attach a summary of the amendments and how I voted on each (below).

I have read your comments with interest and am listening carefully to all the views of my constituents, as well as discussing it with my colleagues. I have also read the submissions from the Government, Gay Rights groups and the Church and can assure you I am paying great attention to all of those.

I still hold to the principles that I set out in the previous speech I made, at the second reading of this Bill in the Commons (a copy of which is attached for your information), that as a Christian myself I believe that the love of same sex couples is as important in God's eyes as that of heterosexual couples. I also believe firmly in the principle of equality as a fundamental 'good' in the secular world. I do recognise, however, the enormous potential this Bill has for unintended consequences, particularly for those who live out their faith through their day to day work. I also recognise the hurt that this Bill has already caused to many of my constituents.

I am deeply concerned that this Bill has been introduced without the chance for thorough debate and there has been no opportunity for it to seek to win the support of the public at a general election. I am extremely disappointed that legislation has been brought forward at this particular moment in time and find myself genuinely torn, understanding as I do the strength of feeling on the matter.

I will of course keep you updated with how I vote on all the specific amendments and on the main Bill but please do feel free to send me your further thoughts on this in the meantime.

 

Please find below a summary of how I voted in each amendment:

New Clause 3 – Aye

New Clause 3 was intended to prevent existing marriage registrars from being required to conduct marriages of same sex couples where the registrar has a conscientious objection.

Ayes 150, Noes 340

 

New Clause 6 – Aye

New Clause 6 was intended to protect beliefs about traditional marriage. It would amend the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that any criticism of same sex marriage in itself cannot be challenged under that Act and that the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman would be a perfectly lawful belief.

The Government has offered assurances that this will still be the case under the Bill as it stands.

Ayes 148, Noes 339

 

New Clause 8 – Aye

New Clause 8 aims to ensure that a denominational decision not to 'opt in' to same-sex weddings would not be the subject of protracted legal action and unfair treatment by a public authority.

The Government's view is that this amendment would not increase the protection the Bill already offers.

Ayes 163, Noes 321

 

Government New Clause 16 –Aye

New Clause 16 commits the Government to undertake a formal review of the future of civil partnerships once the effect of extending marriage to same sex couples has been assessed and when we can ensure we have a proper understanding of the implications of the various options available.

Ayes 391, Noes 57

 

New Clause 10 – Aye

New Clause 10 would extend civil partnerships to opposite sex couples.

Ayes 70, Noes 375

0 comments

Post a comment


21 MAY 2013

Would You Like To Work In My Team?

Would you like to join my office as an apprentice caseworker for a year?

What you'll gain...

The main role of an apprentice caseworker is to help me communicate fluently with my constituents, drafting letters and helping with correspondence, as well as organising advice surgeries and making sure that our records are kept in order. In return, this unique opportunity offers first class training in dealing with correspondence, an exceptional insight into the day to day workings of Parliament, as well as that wonderful feeling of knowing, in certain cases, that you have made a positive difference to someone's life.

What you'll need...

Compassion – As part of this role you will be dealing directly with constituents, listening to problems and lending a sympathetic ear.

Organisation – Being a caseworker involves managing a large amount of correspondence, prioritising the urgent cases and replying in a timely fashion.

Good Communication Skills – You will be drafting letters and working as part of my team so good writing skills and other communication skills are vital.

This position is ideally suited to someone just about to leave school. If you think you have what it takes and would like some more information, please let me know by emailing me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk and remember to attach a copy of your CV.

(Photos show Andrea with previous apprentice, Daisy Peck and with the whole team)

0 comments

Post a comment


20 MAY 2013

Gateway School Visit

I recently visited the Gateway School on the outskirts of Tiffield, near Towcester. What a wonderful, cheery looking place it is! The garden at the front of the school was a sight for sore eyes, full of flowers and beautifully tended. The sun even came out......

The school is a specialist centre for young people with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and many of the pupils are in care.

Gateway consists of a group of modern buildings, having moved from the centre of Northampton some years ago. David Lloyd, the Principal, and David Williams the outgoing chair of governors, showed me round the place, of which they are rightly proud.

Both believe that these children, many of whom live in really difficult circumstances, need the best help to overcome the cards they have been dealt and to help make them capable and responsible adults. Their personal commitment shone out, and the respect and liking of the pupils for their Head was apparent as we went around the school.

The Gateway School has excellent facilities that are also used by the local community including an indoor swimming pool and astro turf pitch. It has 60 pupils on the school register, many travelling in on the schools own buses from Northampton. The school also runs a successful outreach program for children who find traditional classroom settings difficult.

I was very impressed not only with the fabric of the school and outstanding facilities but also with the students. I visited the vocational training areas which included car mechanics, wood working and welding and a full scale beauty salon and hairdressers was just being completed. Building and bricklaying courses were also being run.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 MAY 2013

European Referendum

Whether we like it or not, what happens in the EU has a big impact on the UK.

Europe is by far our most important overseas market and trading partner. And, just in case anyone missed it, the Eurozone was this week confirmed to be in the sixth successive quarter of Recession.

So how the Government handles the issue of the UK's relationship with the EU is critical to the performance of huge swathes of our economy, and thus our well-being more generally.

Since coming to Westminster, I've been increasingly struck, and alarmed, by the EU's lack of democratic legitimacy, and the damaging impact which this has on the interests of the British people.

I therefore believe passionately that British voters must be given the chance to decide whether the UK's relations with the EU serve their interests. That's why I voted for a referendum in 2010, and again earlier this week.

Having said that, I also believe that, while there's a time to focus on when a referendum should be held, there's also a time for concentrating on how the Government goes about negotiating the deal which the referendum will be about.

On this last point, I entirely agree with the Prime Minister – now is the time we should be thinking about the "substance", not the "process". All of our attention needs to be given over to how we conduct the renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the other 26 Member States.

I'm delighted to say that this is where the Fresh Start Project really comes into its own. Our comprehensive research and analysis has identified the (many) failings of the present relationship and set out all of the options available to the Government to put this right. I'm optimistic that our proposals will be at the heart of the renegotiation which the next Conservative Government conducts after the 2015 General Election.

How the UK's relationship with the EU evolves at that point is profoundly important.

If we get what we want from that renegotiation – and I'm absolutely certain that we can – this will be a huge boost to Britain's interests.

So, as the British people ponder how to vote in 2015, they need to keep very much in mind one thought. The Labour Party has made clear that it's the Party of No Referendum. Anyone who really cares about Britain's relationship with the EU had better make sure that they don't land themselves with a Labour Government.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 MAY 2013

Bees Tea Reception

Today I attended the Bees Tea reception in the House of Commons, organised by Friends of the Earth. I was delighted to be involved, and fully recognise the important role that bees play in the biodiversity of our country.

At the reception, I was presented with a briefing pack explaining just how essential bees are, the very real dangers they face as a species, as well as suggestions for how we can help.

If you would like to know more about the Friends of the Earth campaign, please visit http://www.foe.co.uk/what_we_do/the_bee_cause_home_map_39371.html

0 comments

Post a comment


14 MAY 2013

Magdalen School Visit

I recently visited students at Magdalen School, Brackley who are either studying or considering whether to study Politics at A-Level. I particularly wanted to talk to them about apprenticeships and specifically the scheme I operate for an apprentice in my own office.

My current apprentice, Daisy Peck, was formerly a sixth-form student at Northampton School for Boys and leaves my office in August having completed her year long apprenticeship and also achieving an NVQ. She hopes to go on to become a campaign manager for a parliamentary candidate at the next general election.

The apprenticeship I am offering is four days a week at the constituency office in Northampton and one day a week in Westminster. The pay is around £9,000 per annum, and for anyone wishing to get into politics or improve their CV it's a great head start!

I hope to receive plenty of applications from South Northants school leavers. The only limitation is that applicants should be 18 by 14th August 2013.

For more information on my apprenticeship scheme, or to apply for yourself, please feel free to e-mail me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 MAY 2013

NorPIP Charity Bike Ride

The second annual NorPIP Charity Bike took place on a bright and sunny evening at Silverstone circuit with over 400 riders taking the opportunity to help the Northamptonshire Parent Infant Partnership and enjoy cycling around the famous Grand Prix circuit.

For the first time some of the local Formula One teams were involved with Brackley based Mercedes AMG Petronas bringing a former Nico Rosberg formula one car that was on display at the entrance to the Wing.

Red Bull and Marussia also sent teams of cyclists who not only put in some superb times, but also raised thousands of pounds in sponsorship. Thanks so much to all the cyclists!

After cutting the ribbon with Councillor John Bailey chairman of Northamptonshire County Council in the pit lane to start the event, I was able to enjoy a few laps of the circuit with my family.

The event was organised by the wonderful Events Management students at Northampton University and I'm grateful to everyone who attended to help this very worthy cause.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 MAY 2013

Arctic Star Medal

I was delighted to be able to present one of my constituents, David Whitehead, his long awaited Arctic Convoy Medal. The medal, finally issued after years of campaigning, recognises the brave men on board the Arctic convoys during the Second World War.

The Arctic convoys were the only arena of war not to be recognised in the aftermath of World War II, due to the deterioration of diplomatic relations with Russia, our partners in the convoys, which eventually culminated in the Cold War. It is only now that international relations are strong enough again to enable the Government to issue these awards, and I am very pleased that the campaign has finally been successful.

More information about the Arctic Star, including how to apply for one, can be found at http://www.veterans-uk.info/arctic_star_index.htm.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 MAY 2013

Visit To Berlin

I travelled with a group of colleagues recently to Berlin, to meet with German politicians, business leaders and think tanks to discuss ideas for reform of the EU. We wanted to share with them some of the ideas of the Fresh Start Project, and to understand the German perspective on European issues.

We were struck by their deep-seated commitment to the European Union that goes far beyond the economic benefits. We heard comments such as "I would rather describe myself as European then German" and "A common law from Scandinavia to Greece is an end in itself". These are not comments we hear often in UK political circles!

German MPs and businesses leaders typically started our meetings thinking that the Fresh Start Project is moving the UK towards exit from the EU. At the end of our meetings, having discussed the details of some proposals, they usually agreed that we face many of the same issues, and can work together to implement reforms.

For example, some German MPs were very interested in the proposal to limit EU structural funds to those states with an average GDP per head of less than 90% of the EU average. A number of them expressed support for a review of competencies, and potentially rebalancing some competencies back to member states. And the proposal to extend the double-majority voting mechanism, agreed for the European Banking Authority, to other areas of EU decision-making was met with interest and has the potential to be taken forward. "Ah, that was used in the Holy Roman Empire" said one of our German colleagues!

Many of the business leaders we met would support the return of the competence over social and employment law to member states, in order to create competition between regions.

There is much that we can learn from the German system-as one colleague put it, all the regulations come back from Brussels already Germany-proofed. In part, this is because their Parliament engages early in the decision-making process, with the relevant Parliamentary committee summoning ministers, discussing the issues, and coming up with a consensus 'German' view, way ahead of the negotiations in Brussels. We have a long way to go in the UK to reach this standard, but it is something we should strive for, without losing the benefits of our system.

We left our German colleagues with agreement that the discussions had been useful, and with a plan to continue to build a German-UK Parliamentary dialogue.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 MAY 2013

Election Results for Northamptonshire County Council

Local Conservatives fought a strong campaign and focused on the local issues that matter in South Northants. Sincere congratulations to all of them for their hard work. S Northants constituency now has, under the boundary changes, 5 Conservatives, one Lib Dem and one UKIP. In addition two County seats are half in S Northants and half in Northampton South. One is now Conservative and the other Lib Dem.

UKIP have made a big impact in these elections. The national momentum has taken them to second place in many NCC seats. It is definitely a wake up call for our party. We have got to prioritise:

- Serious EU reform

- Limiting migrant access to benefits as well as limiting net migration still further

- Keeping our progress with welfare reform and rolling out universal credit to make work always pay

- Change policy on wind farms to give localism the upper hand

- If HS2 is going ahead, reach a fair compensation and mitigation deal so that residents feel we have heard their concerns

- Amend the Same Sex Marriage Bill to ensure the meaning of marriage is not changed.

That will be my message back to the party.... Any thoughts you have will be welcomed.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAY 2013

Local School Wins National Award!

I am delighted that this week Caroline Chisholm School in Northampton beat an outstanding shortlist to win a national competition to help shape the future of development today. The 'Shape the Future' competition was launched in February by International Development Secretary, Justine Greening MP.

It gave UK secondary school pupils a chance to submit ideas for the post-2015 development agenda. Caroline Chisholm pupils beat four other shortlisted finalists in the final held in Parliament, where they had just ten minutes to make their presentation in front of a panel of experts.

Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening said:

'The number of schools from across the UK that have taken part in our 'Shape the Future' competition shows that British schoolchildren want to play their part in creating a fairer and more prosperous world. Their analysis of our current development goals and creative ideas for the future shows an understanding that what happens across the world matters to us in the UK more now than ever before.

Our aim is that the student can see developing countries grow and prosper over the next decades as we, and others, invest in jobs, opportunities and peace. This competition has given them the opportunity to set out what values they believe the international community needs as we create the world of tomorrow.'

Mr Downing, Caroline Chisholm School's Headteacher said:

'Tackling global poverty is a key target for the 21st Century. Our young people will travel and work all over the world during their lifetimes. We want them to understand the challenges our world faces and to play their part in reducing global poverty. That's why we have a globe in our school badge.'

The winning proposal by our local school will feed into the Prime Minister's work as co-chair of the United Nation's High Level Panel, looking at what should succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2015.

It was great to meet them and huge congratulations to all! This is such a fantastic achievement!

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAY 2013

Meeting With Patrick McLoughlin

This week I met with the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP to discuss HS2. This was the first time I had met Patrick in his capacity as the Secretary of State, as I have reported in the past I have had many meeting with Department for Transport Ministers and officials and representatives from HS2 Ltd. I have also met with the former Secretaries of State for Transport to discuss the HS2 project; however this was one of the most positive meetings I have had regarding HS2 for a while.

The main aim of the meeting was to raise with him the need to provide full, fair and generous compensation to those that are affected, if the Government are determined to go ahead with this project. I explained to him that I felt the best way of achieving this would be to introduce a property bond in addition to the measures of compensation that have already been announced.

I feel that if the Government are confident that many homes that are blighted by HS2 at the moment, are not going to hear, see or experience the train in any way, then they should be prepared to guarantee the pre blight value of those homes. The market simply does not accept the Government's assurances and as a result some residents have become trapped in their own home, unable to sell, remortgage or realise equity in their property. A property bond would get the market moving again.

The Secretary of State was certainly listening very careful to this proposal and I was pleased he told me that he was interested in hearing all views.

As you may be aware, the Judicial Review earlier this year found that the Government must re-consult on compensation and a Department for Transport official who was present at the meeting said that this would 'give them the opportunity to reconsider a property bond.'

I will try to keep you informed of when this re-consultation is to take place and would urge as many people as possible to make the representations again and to support a property bond.

At the meeting I also raised the operation of the Exceptional Hardship Scheme, mitigation for our communities and the performance and engagement of HS2 Ltd. I also raised with the Secretary of State the plans of some MPs to discuss with the Parliamentary Ombudsman the concerns over how HS2 Ltd. are engaging with communities and the operation of the EHS.

All further HS2 updates will appear on these pages and I will do my best to keep you up to date.

0 comments

Post a comment


02 MAY 2013

UKIP And HS2

UKIP seem to have emerged as the party 'against HS2' but they seem to have experienced an eleventh hour conversion in their opposition. In their last manifesto in 2010, UKIP said about high speed rail:

'UKIP enthusiastically supports the high speed rail concept'.

They went further by saying in their 2010 paper, 'Putting Britain Back On Track':

'Whilst France celebrates 25 years of its admirable TGV high speed rail services, Britain struggled to complete barely 70 miles of high speed rail track after 13 years of indecision, whilst the Government has wasted years without building more UK high speed rail lines despite a growing need and consensus of support'

'UKIP will support 3 new 200 mph plus high-speed rail lines: 1.) London-Newcastle (with some other faster sections such as Edinburgh-Glasgow) and a link to Manchester/West Coast Main Line 2.) London-Bristol (for South Wales) - Exeter 3.) a linking high speed line Birmingham-Great Western Main Line'

The only way of stopping HS2 is by sensible, consistent and credible opposition not hollow, empty promises for party political reasons.

With your local Conservative Councillors I have worked for three years now to try and convince the government that HS2 is not the right project, and just as importantly to fight for fair compensation and mitigation.

1 comment

As a County Council candidate for the elections today I agree completely with what you are saying . I like you am completely opposed to HS2 but unless the political will drains away or the money cannot be found it seems inevitable that it will go ahead and therefore we need to work to get the right compensation package for those affected and to mitigate where we can the blight on the villages and countryside in the county . The fight for this will begin as soon as the elections are over . Hopefully those voting today will see the hypocrisy in the about turn by UKIP highlighted by you .
- Ian Morris

Post a comment


29 APR 2013

HS2 Phase 2 Consultation

Today, I have responded to the consultation regarding the Exceptional Hardship Scheme for Phase 2 of the HS2 project. You can read my submission by clicking here.

I would also encourage as many as possible to reply to the consultation as well. The closing date has been extended to 5pm on 20 May 2013. Further information on responding to the consultation can be found here.

Also if you would like some assistance completing the consultation, you might like to visit the HS2 Action Alliance website by clicking here.

0 comments

Post a comment


29 APR 2013

Onshore Wind Farm Update

It has been a while since I last updated you about the Parliamentary campaign against onshore wind and I thought that this was a good time to do so because there have been a number of interesting developments recently.

First, and most importantly, you may have seen that in a High Court case, Milton Keynes Council took a positive step forward for those who wish to see councils have the ability to set 'exclusion zones' between turbines and dwellings. In essence, Judge Howell QC, said that local councils were within the law when introducing buffer zones between houses and turbines (set for local conditions) and that these could be introduced in Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs).

I understand that SPDs can be introduced at any time which could be much quicker than inserting a buffer zone into any local plan. I have contacted our local planning authorities to make them aware that they now have the ability, within the law, to enact exclusion zones from turbines.

You will also be aware that one of the big issues at the planning appeal stage is that developers point to renewable energy targets within the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSSs), as a reason to overturn local decisions. A number of these have been abolished and they all should be gone within the next few days. This should help level the playing field at the planning appeal stage and I have also asked our local authorities to confirm that our RSSs have now disappeared.

I believe we need to be pointing out that expensive wind energy is both pushing people into fuel poverty and hitting Britain's economic competitiveness. Take a look at this report from the House of Commons Library which gives an estimate of the number of people taken into fuel poverty by the wind element of their energy bills by clicking here.

Wind turbines are saving very little on carbon emissions, even when they are turning, and therefore this debate has little to do with climate change. A study looking at the experiences of wind energy in Colorado and how it effects emissions shows that because of the intermittent nature of wind, and therefore the need for constant backup from other energy sources, the 'cycling' of these other energy sources produces an increase in emissions and only a small reduction in CO2. Take a look here.

Many, if not all, of these issues would disappear if and when the Government dramatically reduces the level of subsidies paid to onshore wind. This is a subject I, and many other MPs, have been raising on a regular basis with both Energy and Climate Change and Treasury Ministers.

What You Can Do!

There are lots of campaigns you can sign up to if you feel strongly about this issue.

You can visit the 'Together Against Wind' campaign website at: www.togetheragainstwind.com, where you can find more information, sign up to the mailing list and lobby Government.

There are two new campaigns which would welcome your support:

  • The first is to get the level of subsidy reduced and help to stop more people being driven into fuel poverty; it is called 'The Sums Just Don't Add Up'. Click here and submit a letter to George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer.
  • The second is called 'Local Decisions Are Good Decisions' and is being conducted via a Government e-petition, please sign it by following this link. The objective is to stop our Local Authorities being overridden by the appeal process. This appeal process is expensive for the taxpayer and alienates many communities.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 APR 2013

The EU And The Democratic Deficit

Today I am delighted to be delivering the annual Hansard Society Lecture on the shortcomings of the relationship between the Westminster Parliament and the European Union, with particular emphasis on the effectiveness of scrutiny of EU legislation by the UK Parliament.

It surely stands to reason that the British people should be free to decide what relationship with the EU best suits the UK's interests. Instead, they increasingly, and overwhelmingly, feel at the mercy of Brussels, powerless to shape their destiny.

There is rightly particular anger that Brussels is deliberately and determinedly taking powers for itself which should rest with Parliament in Westminster. However, in many ways the UK has only itself to blame.

Even without a single change to any EU Regulation, Parliament could significantly start to turn the tide – Westminster simply needs to start exercising powers which it already holds but which, for whatever reason, it ignores.

This state of affairs is clearly ridiculous and it is high time we took matters into our own hands. There is a whole raft of measures which could and, I believe, should be introduced without delay.

These fall into four broad categories:

Better Westminster Scrutiny of EU proposals;Getting Westminster better at working with others; Giving the EU a hug in Westminster; Forging real change in Brussels.

The Fresh Start Project will be pressing hard over the coming months for the adoption of these measures. The full text of the lecture can be found here.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 APR 2013

Brackley Fields Country House

Last week I visited the Brackley Fields Country House retirement home just outside Brackley, accompanied by Ron Sawbridge who is the Conservative candidate for Brackley in the County Council elections on May 2.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the residents, who were enjoying a morning of activities as diverse as quoits and flower arranging, and to hear their views on local and national issues, and the upcoming local elections.

Amongst many questions that came up were postal votes that obviously are very important for people who cannot easily get to their polling stations for the county council elections on 2nd May.

One of the things about Brackley Fields that stood out to me were the staff, who not only have been there a long time but also being local people were able to easily communicate and understand the residents. It struck me as being a very happy place to retire......

0 comments

Post a comment


16 APR 2013

Infant Mental Health and Early Years Intervention

A group of cross party MPs will this week launch a campaign calling for a new approach to addressing the mental health needs of babies and their parents during the critical period from conception until the baby is two years old.

Frank Field and I have set up a new Parliamentary Group on Early Years Intervention to highlight the critical importance of a secure early relationship between parents and Their babies. Its first meeting is on Tuesday.

The Sunday Express Crusade for Better Mental Health has highlighted how often the standard of treatment of mental illness lags well behind that of "physical" conditions.

The more closely you look at the overall picture of mental health provision, the more worrying it becomes.

Mental health has always been the 'Cinderella' service within the NHS; and little of what care is available addresses the mental health needs of the very young. There is little recognition of the incontrovertible fact that our brain development when we are babies is utterly vital to the lifelong emotional and physical health of every one of us - and that brain development depends on the earliest experiences of the baby.

Families who are struggling to form a secure bond with their baby, and who would benefit hugely from non-stigmatising emotional support, sadly rarely have access to it. And it's not just families in deprivation who need support - post-natal depression cuts right across the social spectrum, and leaves many families struggling to cope.

This situation is intensely frustrating, since effective psychotherapeutic interventions during the earliest years can make the greatest difference – the roots of many of the emotional problems that people experience later in life can be traced back to their experiences in the period between conception and age two.

Sadly, the worst outcomes in life are reserved for those babies who fail to develop a secure early attachment to a loving adult carer. For most of us, insecure early attachment will mean that as we grow up, we are less able than our peers to meet life's ups and downs - we may struggle to form strong relationships, or may be prone to depression or lacking in confidence.

However, it is all too often the serious attachment 'disorders' dating back to babyhood that are the background to such intractable issues as criminality, alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence.

Thanks to huge advances in neuroscience, we now have a much better understanding of how the brain develops, where things go wrong, and why intervening early is essential.
The connections in the brain which equip us with empathy and resilience are largely made by the age of two. The healthy infant brain will treble in weight between birth and age two - a baby's brain makes a million connections per second in the first year of life! For this amazing development to happen, babies need the stimulus of a loving and attentive carer (usually Mum, but can be Dad or Other key carer). Those who don't get that attention, or, worse still, are left to cry unchecked for hours at a time, or are exposed to frequent domestic violence, will literally have impaired brain development.

Babies in homes where there is great stress, or where they are left alone to cry for hours, can experience high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. If this continues for long periods, then it can predispose that infant to 'high risk taking' behaviour. It can also cause damage to the baby's immune system that can lead to later health problems.

With the scale and seriousness of the problem now so much better understood, Frank Field and I are convinced that the time is right to adopt a radically different approach – finding the best ways of identifying those families most in need of help and of providing such help. And that's exactly what our Group is going to do.

In parallel, the Parent Infant Partnership UK charity which I chair is establishing support services for families who are struggling to cope with new parenthood. This work is truly transformative. Our goal is to create a nationwide network of psychotherapeutic support that will be available to all families.

There is overwhelming evidence that very early intervention is not just the way to transform our society for the better, but also the way to save our public purse from the high cost of poor emotional and physical health and in the worst cases, the criminality, violence and substance misuse that is the fate of our most neglected and abused infants.

The recent National Audit Office Review of Early Action argued that a "concerted shift away from reactive spending towards early action can result in better outcomes and greater value for money." And highly acclaimed research shows that a preventative strategy with a focus on parenting and maternity returns £9 for every £1 invested.

The good news is that policy-makers' thinking is beginning to change.

I'm especially pleased that Ministerial colleagues like Dan Poulter in Health and Liz Truss at Education recognise the contribution Early Years Intervention can make in tackling the root causes of some of society's most deep-rooted problems.

Our Early Years Group will be urging them to adopt our approach – focusing policy squarely on the 1001 days between conception to age two, in order to improve the lives of the next generation.

An abridged version of this article appeared in the Sunday Express on 14.4.13

2 comments

I work in Perinatal Mental Health & after a 25 year career in mental health my role now for the first time begins to offer early intervention in maternal mental health. There simply are not enough resources to offer a proper service to mothers
- Louise

Hello. I am delighted to read this . I work for a tiny charity in Gravesend, Kent where we run an early intervention service for parents of pre school children. The work we do is targetted at providing sensitive, individual support for parents struggling with a range of problems and many suffer from depression too. A lot of the work we do is around parenting and highlighting the very issues you outline in your article about the importance of secure attatchments and healthy brain development. Unfortunately we are facing the threat of closure due to local authority cutbacks. Social Services have cut our grant by 40% and, although we are constantly trying to raise funds from alternative sources, we are unlikely to be able to continue running the service for much longer. We have been established for16years and have worked with hundreds of local families, many of whom have described the help they receive from us as Life saving, and yet we are being starved of funds. It takes £120,000 a year to run our service, which I believe is very good value for money. It is not a difficult or impossible thing to help these families. It is all perfectly do- able as we have proved with our unique approach but the political will seems to be lacking to fund this much needed work. Is there anything you can do to help us? Is there any advice you can offer?
- Rosemary Roumana

Post a comment


16 APR 2013

Digital Radio Boost For Northamptonshire

I was delighted to hear recently that Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, switched on three new local DAB digital radio transmitters for Northamptonshire with Northampton Saints rugby legend Paul "Digger" Diggin at the Northampton Saints rugby ground.

For Northamptonshire this means 675,000 people and 667 km of roads will receive local DAB services for the first time. The local stations now available on DAB are BBC Radio Northampton, Heart, Capital FM, Gold and Connect FM. This launch of new local DAB services is part of a major radio industry investment in building local digital radio coverage across the UK.

You can check which digital stations can be received at any given address by using a predictive postcode checker here. Listeners may need to re-tune their digital radios to receive the new local stations. For more information click here.

Capital FM will be available for the first time in the area, Connect FM will now reach a county wide audience and the reception of Gold will be much improved. The switch-on was also marked by a unique collaboration between public and commercial broadcasters, as BBC Radio Northampton, Heart, and Connect FM broadcast live from the Northampton Saints Rugby Club.

Ed Vaizey said, 'Boosting local coverage for Northamptonshire means the excellent range of local DAB digital radio stations can be received by even more listeners, at home and in their car.'

Ford Ennals, CEO of Digital Radio UK, who hosted the event, said: 'This is great news for 675,000 listeners in Northamptonshire as until now they have not been able receive their favourite local stations on DAB.'

The switch-on comes as the Government has said they will make a decision on radio switchover later in 2013. 45% of homes in the Northampton area have a DAB digital radio and in Q4 of 2012, 42% of radio listening was on a digital radio. In 2012 UK digital radio sales reached the second highest level ever with over 2 million sets sold.

For further information visit www.getdigitalradio.com.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 APR 2013

Croughton Parish Council AGM

I was delighted to attend the Croughton Parish Council AGM this week.

All parishes hold their AGM around this time of year and it was a good opportunity for me to hear about the issues that matter to local residents. Parish Chairman Brian Tomlin took the opportunity to thank Councillor Ron Sawbridge for his 12 years of service as County Councillor representing Croughton.

Ron explained that the county council elections will take place on 2nd May and that the number of Northamptonshire County Councillors is being reduced to 57. He told residents that NCC council tax remains the lowest in the Country, £400 per year on a Band D house cheaper than the the most expensive council tax authority!

Ron will be standing for Brackley Division, representing the whole town, and Croughton will fall into the Middleton Cheney Division. Ken Melling is the Conservative Candidate for that Division, so hopes to succeed Ron as Croughton's representative at Northants County Council. Councillor John Townsend addressed the meeting as the district council representative, having just completed his year as High Sheriff of Northamptonshire. He gave an interesting talk on policing and planning.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 APR 2013

Guest Blog, Mr Ben Mitchell: Planning Meeting at SNC

I recently attended a planning meeting at South Northants Council regarding the Towcester development which I had organised with the assistance of Councillor Andrew Grant, Conservative County Councillor for Brackley but a Towcester resident.

Cllr. Grant showed great interest, worked hard and maintained continual contact from my first contacting him to attending the meeting.
Of the 73 houses backing onto the bridleway between the existing houses and the proposed new development about 60 houses were represented at the meeting.

In view of Cllr. Grant's selfless hard work and example of a Conservative politician in action, I wanted to make public my personal gratitude and that of all those who attended the meeting.

Mr Ben Mitchell, Towcester

0 comments

Post a comment


11 APR 2013

Back On The Campaign Trail

During the Parliamentary recess I was back on the campaign trail in South Northamptonshire to campaign for the Conservatives who are standing in the Northamptonshire County Council elections which are being held on Thursday 2 May.Despite the unseasonably cold and windy weather we have experienced throughout March, the Conservative campaign continues.

On Thursday evening I was campaigning with Allen Walker who is standing as the Deanshanger candidate and also Andrew Grant who is standing for the Towcester division.

It's always interesting to see what the issues are when talking to residents on the doorstep and it gives the candidates and me an opportunity to offer our opinions and advice.

Whatever the weather on Thursday 2 May I would urge everyone to exercise their right to vote and if you would like any further information on the coming County Council elections, do get in touch with me.

(Photo shows Andrea campaigning with Andrew Grant)

0 comments

Post a comment


08 APR 2013

King Richard Court Visit

On Friday, I accompanied County Councillor André de Savage and Chairman of Wootton and East Hunsbury Parish Council, Councillor Jonathan Nunn to visit the residents of King Richard Court retirement village in Hunsbury.We spent over an hour discussing local concerns including flooding, speeding, weight limits, planning and bus timetables and moved onto national issues including EU, immigration and banking.

The residents gave the Councillors and me a very warm welcome and it was a real pleasure to spend some time with them. It was very clear that they take an active and strong interest in their local community and in national politics.

We all had something to take away from the meeting with action points to follow up on. It was great to meet the residents and I look forward to my next visit to King Richard Court.

(Photo shows Councillor Jonathan Nunn (left) and André de Savage (right) at King Richard Court with Andrea)

0 comments

Post a comment


04 APR 2013

Visit To The Towcester Museum

This week I made my second visit to Towcester Museum. I first visited the museum when it was first being constructed.

This week's visit gave me an opportunity to meet the volunteers and have a proper look around exhibitions and a tour of the museum which opened late last year.

It was really interesting to see the development of Towcester and particularly an exhibition of the Roman period the town is so famous for. Towcester certainly has a very rich history.

If you are looking for something to do during this cold Easter break, I would strongly urge you to drop in on the Museum and pay a visit. I highly recommend you see the exhibition 'A Road Through History, Part One – The Stone Age to the Fall of the Roman Empire.'

More information about the museum can be found here.

 

(Photos show Andrea visiting the Towecester Museum with trustee Rob Hamblin and making a donation)

0 comments

Post a comment


03 APR 2013

Google eTown Award Presentation To Towcester Businesses

I was delighted to present the Google eTowns Award in a ceremony at Towcester Racecourse to celebrate Towcester's success as one of the top e-commerce and internet towns in the UK.Following research into the penetration of online marketing by businesses from across the UK, Google have crowned Towcester as one the UK's best connected eTowns, with a flourishing online economy. Towcester was chosen out of 1,300 other towns across the UK.

The eTown Awards aim to celebrate local businesses that embrace the internet and recognise the towns that are leading the way in e-commerce. Towns across the UK were analysed via Google Adwords data and Ipsos MORI research, which indicated that Towcester is the winner above all of the towns across the 12 regions of the UK.

I am delighted that Towcester has won this award. It certainly highlights the importance of rural broadband in South Northamptonshire and how many homeworkers we have in the district that benefit from it.

(Photo shows Andrea Leadsom presenting the award to Sharon McMurray of Towcester Tea Rooms and Nicola Morrow of Mums Stuff who represented Towcester businesses at the presentation)

0 comments

Post a comment


03 APR 2013

Visit To The PSP Association

Recently I visited the PSP Association at their Watling Street headquarters in Towcester and met with Fergus Logan Chief Executive and the staff based there who all do an amazing job for sufferers of this terrible disease. The Association does some fantastic work in providing advice, support and information to people living with the disease and also funds research to find potential treatments for the condition.The PSP Association was founded by Brigadier Michael Koe in a village outside Towcester after his wife tragically died of the disease.

The PSP Association is dedicated to the support of people with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) and the related disease Cortico Basal Degeneration (CBD), and those who care for them. As PSP and CBD are very similar, people often use 'PSP' as shorthand for both.

Recently I held a short debate in Parliament to raise awareness of the condition. It is a dreadful condition which, over time, can rob people of the ability to walk, talk, feed themselves and communicate effectively. The average life expectancy is seven years from the point of diagnosis. I am delighted to be Patron of the charity and to help them raise awareness in any way I can.

The PSP Association has grown over the years and is now a national charity that will be holding their annual PSP Awareness later this month from 21 to 28 April.

(Photo of Andrea with PSP Association Chief Executive, Fergus Logan)

0 comments

Post a comment


25 MAR 2013

A Budget Good For Business And Families

Last week the Chancellor announced a Budget that is good for business, good for families and those that have struggled to make ends meet in the last few years. Here are some of the measures that have been taken that will be welcomed:

  • The Government has announced that in April 2014 the tax free allowance will rise to £10,000. This will mean almost 3 million people won't pay any income tax at all. It will give a tax cut to 24 million people.
  • Another measure the Chancellor took to help families get on is to provide meaningful support to families with the costs of childcare. A £1,200 tax rebate will be available for each child per year.
  • Business is the backbone of our economy. This budget sends out the message that not only is Britain open for business, it is the best place in the world to do business! A further reduction in corporation tax saw it fall to 20%. This is the lowest rate in the G20, and according to KPMG, Britain is now the most competitive place in the world to do business.
  • There will be an employment allowance to cut national insurance bills by £2,000 for every firm. This will now mean that 450,000 small firms will pay no employer National Insurance at all.
  • The measures taken to stimulate house building are great news for the construction industry and for those looking to get on the housing ladder or to move up it. An extra 20% interest free loan will be available from the Government for those able to find a 5% deposit for a new build home. Great news for those looking to buy and also sends the message to the construction industry to start building new homes!
  • A measure that will be welcomed by businesses and families alike is the freeze in fuel duty and the planned rise for September has been scrapped. The Government has now frozen fuel duty for nearly three and a half years. Motorists are now paying 13p a litre in duty less now than they would have under Labour's plans.
  • Finally a measure welcomed by all was the scrapping of the beer duty escalator. The annual above-inflation rise in beer duty will no longer take place and the Chancellor went even further and cut 1p off a pint of beer. Not only does help those that enjoy a pint, it is great news for the pub trade. I'll raise a glass to that!

0 comments

Post a comment


19 MAR 2013

HS2 Judicial Review Announcement

On Friday a High Court Judge ruled that the 'Property Consultation,' carried out last year by the Department for Transport was 'unlawful' and has ordered that the consultation be rerun.

The Judge found that the consultation process was unfair, because not enough information had been provided to those wishing to respond. He also found the criteria by which compensation options were considered, was not adequately explained and that the Government had not fully considered certain detailed consultation responses on compensation.

The Government has announced that it will not appeal the decision and will rerun the consultation.

Whilst I am pleased that the Department for Transport has been held accountable for a poorly run consultation, I am disappointed that it has taken a lot of work by many action groups, in particular HS2 Action Alliance, in bringing this Judicial Review forward and it has taken the ruling of a High Court Judge to point out the substantial flaws in the consultation process.

I, along with many others, have been arguing for a long time that such a controversial project that will affect so many households across the country, needs to have good community engagement, must provide full and substantial information and take into account the views and concerns of those affected. Up until now this clearly has not happened.

I very much hope that a new consultation will result in a property bond being made available to address the blight that HS2 has already caused throughout its route.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 MAR 2013

Visiting Elizabeth Woodville School

Last week I visited the Elizabeth Woodville School, Deanshanger Campus, and was given a tour around by two very helpful Year 8 girls, Nicole and Alice. I also had the chance to talk to two older students, Somer and Sam, who are considering apprenticeships, one in accountancy, the other in landscape gardening. I was very impressed by their determination and confidence to succeed – a good sign of the ethos of the school.

There were plenty of activities going on in support of Red Nose Day. Endless amounts of cakes on sale! One student, Daniel, had his leg waxed to raise money, and a brave teacher was planning a baked bean bath......

I finished up by meeting Pamela Hutchinson, the Headmistress, together with the deputy head of Governors and their colleague from the Learning Skills Trust. Since the merger of Roade and Kingsbrook, to become Elizabeth Woodville School, there have been a huge number of positive changes to the teaching methods, that have resulted in a huge, 16% improvement in GCSE results between 2011 and 2012. I do wish Pamela, the Governors and the pupils every success for the future!

0 comments

Post a comment


15 MAR 2013

Eurozone Update

There are some that say that the crisis in the Eurozone does not affect the British economy. I would go so far as to say that the crisis in the Eurozone remains the biggest risk to Britain's economic recovery.

Here are some facts on the performance of the Eurozone economy in the last year. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the Eurozone fell by 0.6% in the final quarter of 2012. This included falls of 0.8% in Spain, 0.9% in Italy, 1.8% in Portugal and even 0.6% in Germany. Eurozone unemployment stands at 19million or 11.9% of the workforce which is a rise 1.9million in the past year. The European Central Bank has confirmed that the Eurozone will still be in recession throughout 2013 and predicts a drop in GDP of between 0.1% and 0.9% this year.

It is impossible that these figures from the Eurozone are not having an impact on the British economy and the facts strongly suggest that they are. The Eurozone is the largest importer of British goods, accounting for 50% of British exports. Aside from the impact on confidence and bank funding, the crisis in the Eurozone has choked off our hoped for export-led recovery.

Between 2009 and 2012 exports to the Eurozone did recover by 11% in volume terms but imports rose at a similar rate. We can compare this to a rise in exports to non-EU countries of 31% in volume terms.

Had exports to the Eurozone risen at the same rate as exports to non-EU countries, British GDP would have increased by 8.7% since 2009 instead of the 2.9% which has been the reality. Even if a stronger Eurozone economy had simply resulted in 21% overall export growth rather than 11%, our GDP would still have increased by around a respectable 6%.

There can be no doubt about it that better figures in the Eurozone which would have resulted in greater British exports and perhaps we wouldn't be talking about the economy's struggle to recover quite so much.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 MAR 2013

Apprenticeship's are the norm

During 'National Apprenticeship Week' I have supported the Prime Minister's vision for it to become the new norm for young people to either go to university or start an apprenticeship.

Across South Northamptonshire 890 people started apprenticeships in the academic year 2011-12, and another 300 have started in the first quarter of this academic year. This is a percentage increase of 68% compared to Labour's last year in office.

This comes as the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) have released a forecast that apprenticeships completed over the next decade could contribute productivity gains worth up to £3.4 billion a year to the economy by 2022.

Conservatives in Government are investing in apprenticeships to ensure that the country has the skills it needs to compete in the global race and people across our area are benefitting from this. I know from work that I have seen at the National College for Motorsport at Silverstone that apprenticeships are a win for the individual and a win for the business. I have had two apprentices in my office over the last two years and they have provided an invaluable contribution to my office.

'National Apprenticeship Week' provides a great opportunity to celebrate the positive impact that apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

The Prime Minister has said that, 'Apprenticeships are at the heart of our mission to rebuild the economy, giving young people the chance to learn a trade, to build their careers, and create a truly world-class, high-skilled workforce that can compete and thrive in the fierce global race we are in.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 MAR 2013

Spring Farm Ridge - Meeting With Broadview

The Spring Farm Ridge wind farm saga continues. As you know, in the summer I was outraged that the Planning Inspectorate overturned the decision of the local Council and disregarded the opinion of the local community when it allowed this wind farm on appeal. I wrote to Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of Planning Inspectorate to explain that this decision made a mockery of the Localism agenda. I also held a public meeting in September last year in which I explained how important it was going to be for communities and planning authorities to put in place local plans as soon as possible or we would continue to fall victim to planning developments that are against the wishes of the local community being approved on appeal.

Since then, I am delighted that through the hard work of the local community, a Judicial Review found in favour of the community and the Inspectors decision was overturned because the Planning Inspector had not properly taken into account the emerging development plans of the area.

Broadview, the developers of the wind farm now plan to appeal and I held a meeting with them recently at their London offices. In a very cordial meeting I explained to them the affect this is having on the local community and that, now local plans are even more firmly in place, I did not think they could win.

I made the point that whilst this constant back and forth was bad for the community, it is also bad for them and expensive for their shareholders! They feel they still have a viable case and Spring Farm Ridge the correct position for a wind farm.

Their position is to be expected but I hope that a seed of doubt has been sown in their minds and they will reconsider their appeal.

I am writing again to Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask for his thoughts on this situation.

I will make sure I keep you updated as this case progresses.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 MAR 2013

International Womens Day

Today is International Women's Day, and to mark the occasion yesterday I invited a student to shadow me for the day. Hannah Roberts, from Magdalen School in Brackley, came to Portcullis House to take part in a day of activities organised by Parliagender.

The day started with a tour of 10 Downing Street before the girls were invited to attend various Parliamentary debates and committees to get an idea of the internal workings of Parliament. I was lucky enough to be sitting on the Children and Families Bill Committee for the afternoon, and there were also opportunities to witness some of the Same Sex Marriage Bill Committee.

The day ended with a reception in one of the dining rooms in the Palace of Westminster. Speakers included Mary Macleod MP, Fiona Mactaggart MP and the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, all of whom gave rousing speeches on the work that has been done to further the cause of women, and what more needs to be done. The day was very well attended, and I was delighted to be a part of it.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 MAR 2013

Age of Opportunity Report

Today I am delighted to highlight the Age of Opportunity report which has received great contributions from the Early Years Champions Group in Parliament, which I am Co-Chair of with George Hosking, Director of WAVE Trust. The report has been both well-received and widely reported on, and contains recommendations for the Department for Education's research into Supporting Families in the Foundation Years.

The report can be read here.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 FEB 2013

Family and Parenting: the social impact of babies

The importance of the first 1001 days for future social and emotional wellbeing, has been central to my work in Westminster since I became a Member of Parliament. Part of that work concerns the state of fostering and adoption in our country and the impact this has on attachment relationships for all children involved.

I have secured a 10 Minute Rule Bill which would require the Secretary of State to provide appropriate perinatal support to any family expecting a child who will be born on to the child protection register and for whom an adoption plan has not been made at the moment the child is entered on to the register; to require that a decision be made not later than one year after the child's birth as to whether or not such a child will be adopted; and for connected purposes.

To find our more click on Family Perinatal Support and Adoption Bill (2012-13).

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2013

Happy Easter!

I hope you have had a good start to 2013......Not long now until Easter and I, for one, am looking forward to an Easter Egg after giving up sweet things for Lent! I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on some of the things I have been doing in Parliament.....

As I write, we are less than a week away from the Budget. The economy is the number one issue for most people and I know the cost of living is the number one concern for households. We remain in very tough economic times. The need for deficit reduction has meant difficult decisions have been taken, and I am pretty sick and tired of the Opposition's refusal either to support any of the cuts and reforms we are making, or to say how on earth they would propose to sort out Britain's economy if it was up to them!

David Cameron is completely right to stick to 'Plan A' – getting our economy back on track means eliminating our deficit and thereby reducing our huge burden of debt. But it's by no means all bad news on the economic front: the private sector has created one million new jobs since the 2010 election; council tax has been frozen since 2010; we have reduced our deficit by 25%; interest rates are at historically low levels, meaning that for mortgages, businesses and the servicing of our huge national debt, the costs are significantly lower than they were under Labour. We have also introduced major reforms to bank regulation – getting rid of the tripartite regime that so badly failed us during the financial crisis. The Government's 'Funding for Lending' is starting to take effect, with loans to homebuyers and small businesses showing signs of improvement. I can't say that there are not still hard times ahead but I am confident we are on the right track.

I would like to update you on a few planning issues that affect South Northamptonshire. Firstly, the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm saga (affecting Helmdon, Greatworth and Sulgrave) continues. In the summer I was outraged that the Planning Inspectorate overturned the decision of the local Council and disregarded the local community when it allowed this wind farm on appeal. I wrote to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Planning Inspectorate and held a public meeting to explain how this decision made a mockery of the Localism agenda. I was delighted that through the hard work of the local community, a Judicial Review found in favour of the community and the Inspector's decision was overturned.

The developers of the wind farm now plan to appeal and I held a meeting with them recently to explain that this further appeal was appalling PR for the industry, for them as well as the community and I explained that I didn't see how they could possibly win the appeal, in light of now fast moving changes in planning rules. Their position is still to appeal but I hope that a seed of doubt has been sown in their minds and they will think again.

Secondly, I wanted to touch on three proposed developments which I have been dealing with recently. First, many constituents have contacted me about plans to convert the Ironstone pub on Hunsbury Hill Road into a new Tesco Express store. I fully support the views of the local residents on this issue and agree that whilst we all value the success of our big supermarkets, the unwelcome dominance that big chains, such as Tesco, hold over local, long standing businesses should be put to a stop.

The second planning issue I have been dealing with has been the development at Collingtree and the plan for 1,000 homes by Bovis. Residents are unhappy about the proposed scale of the project, flooding risks and the access arrangements and I have spoken in support of local views in the Chamber, written to Ministers and met with Network Rail to discuss alternative access arrangements.

The final planning issue that has concerned many is the proposal for 220 new homes in Silverstone. I have raised their concerns about overdevelopment of the village and the possible impact on the future growth of Silverstone Circuit with Ministers and in the Chamber.

I also want to update you on HS2, which is a constant worry to many constituents. From the very beginning we knew this would be a long battle. I am firmly against the project because I do not think it is good value for taxpayers' money, it is not environmentally friendly and I believe it will not achieve its objectives of narrowing the North South divide. Along with other colleagues, I will do all I can to argue that HS2 is not the right project.

However, if this project is to go ahead, I am determined to achieve the best form of mitigation for the areas affected and decent compensation for my constituents. Over the last year I have held several meetings of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum that I Chair, and have discussed these matters with Department for Transport Ministers, HS2 officials and the Prime Minister himself. This is a long battle but I assure you I will keep fighting.

In Parliament, it has been a busy start to the year. In January it was a real pleasure to welcome Roy Crutchley and Stewart Blake from Hoggleys Brewery in Litchborough to have a go at pulling a pint of their Northamptonshire Bitter in Strangers. Hoggleys brews some great beer which is enjoyed across Northamptonshire as well as further-a-field. I am pleased they have built up a successful business in a time which has been difficult for the pub trade. It was a pleasure to meet Roy and Stewart and discuss issues facing the pub industry. I am always eager to support local businesses in any way I can. Hoggleys is just one example of many successful businesses in South Northamptonshire.

Early this year I held a debate in Parliament to raise awareness of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) which is a disease related to Motor Neurone Disease and Parkinson's Disease. It is a dreadful condition which, over time, can rob people of the ability to walk, talk, feed themselves and communicate effectively. The average life expectancy is seven years from the point of diagnosis.

The PSP Association, which is based in Towcester, does some fantastic work in providing advice, support and information to people living with the disease and also funds research to find potential treatments for the condition. I am delighted to be Patron of the charity and to help them raise awareness in any way I can.

In February, I joined several of my colleagues on Parliament Square to participate in the One Billion Rising demonstration. The campaign aims to end violence against women and girls worldwide. The movement takes its name from the horrifying statistic that one billion women, about one in three, will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. An appalling fact that politicians need to do more to resolve. I was delighted last week to invite a student from Magdalen College to shadow me for a day to mark International Women's Day. Hannah Roberts came to Portcullis House to take part in a day of activities organised by Parliagender – including a visit to Downing Street.

I know some of you are following my Fresh Start Project work......in January we published our Manifesto for Change, by coincidence exactly a week before the PM's speech on the EU. The Manifesto sets out specific proposals for reform of Britain's relationship with the EU, and Colleagues and I have been meeting with various EU Ambassadors and Parliamentarians to explain the sort of fundamental reform Britain needs to see. We are certainly not alone in our desire for change - the British press don't like to report just how much support there is for reform right across the EU.

At the moment, I am a member of the Bill Committee for the Children and Families Bill going through Parliament. It is a huge Bill, requiring the Committee to sit all day Tuesday and Thursday for eight weeks to go through all the proposals, ranging from shared parental leave to speeding up adoption processes to improving the way in which children receive statements for special educational needs. It will change the lives for the better of many vulnerable children and for many working families.

I will do my best to keep you informed on what is going on. Just a reminder that I am always keen to visit schools, charities and local businesses in our area, and I hold a bookable surgery once a month as well as regular 'drop in' surgeries in Brackley, Towcester and at Tesco Mereway for those that have an issue to raise with me. Do let me know if you have suggestions for visits or if I can be of any help with a personal matter.

With best wishes

Andrea

 

(Photos show 1. Andrea signing the petition at the Hill Shop on Hunsbury Hill Road; 2. Serving a pint in Strangers; 3. With other MPs supporting the One Billion Rising campaign; 4. Outside Number 10 to mark International Women's Day)

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2013

One Billion Rising

Yesterday, I joined several of my colleagues on Parliament Square to participate in the One Billion Rising demonstration. The campaign aims to end violence against women and girls worldwide, and yesterday's event, called for one billion women around the world to join together to bring the issue to the forefront. The movement takes its name from the horrifying statistic that one billion women, about one in three, will be raped or beaten in their lifetime.

It was really encouraging to see the level of support, both on Parliament Square and as reported around the world, tying in with a debate in the House of Commons on Protecting future generations from violence against women and girls, and also questions to the Minister of State for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller.

More information on the 1 Billion Rising Campaign can be found at http://onebillionrising.org/

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2013

HS2 Meeting With The Prime Minister

Yesterday, along with Cheryl Gillan MP (Chesham and Amersham) and Chris Pincher MP (Tamworth), I went to meet with the Prime Minister in Downing Street to raise again our concerns about HS2 and specifically the compensation consultation which has just closed.

We explained to the Prime Minister that if all political parties are determined to press ahead with this project then those that are affected must be properly compensated and as it currently stands this is not happening. We urged the Prime Minister to consider implementing a property bond which is more acceptable to residents, would go a long way to allowing the property markets in affected areas to operate as normal and would be good value for taxpayers money. Our proposal is for a property bond to be implemented as well as, not instead of, the current compensation measures which have been proposed.

We also raised our concerns over the compensation consultation which has just closed and the route north of Birmingham which has just been announced. The plan is to have a separate compensation consultation for the route north of Birmingham at some point in the future. This will undoubtedly lead to the situation where, if new, possibly more generous, compensation arrangements are announced for those north of Birmingham, those affected in the south will, understandably, feel this is unfair. However, if the same package or worse is announced for the north, they will feel that the consultation in the south has set a precedent and they have not had a fair say on their compensation arrangements. The bottom line is that a fair package needs to be proposed and consulted on for the whole route so that all those affected have their chance to make their views known.

I am also trying to arrange a meeting with Patrick McLoughlin MP, the Transport Secretary, to discuss both of these matters.

In the coming weeks we are looking to establish a new group of MPs, ensuring those on the Y-route are involved now that a route has been announced, to deal with all aspects of this project as we go forward. This will be a group to deal with everything to do with HS2 including the principles of the project, compensation, mitigation, alternatives and the Hybrid Bill to name a few. I believe it is only by working together and forming a united front can we achieve the best outcome for all those affected and for every taxpayer in the country.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 FEB 2013

HS2 Consultation Responses

As many of you will be aware, two consultations on property and compensation and safeguarding have just closed. I know many of you have provided your own responses and I wanted to share with you my responses to the two consultations. You can view them below:

Property and Compensation Consultation

Safeguarding Consultation

I am currently trying to arrange a meeting with Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport to discuss a property bond and I am meeting the Prime Minister shortly to raise my concerns again.

As ever, I will keep you updated with all developments.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


04 FEB 2013

Same Sex Marriage - UPDATED

6 FEB 2013 - Following yesterday's vote on Same Sex Marriage I wanted to share with you my contribution to the debate. You can read my full speech here.

There are two extracts in particular I would like to share:

'I wholeheartedly believe that same-sex couples have as valid a relationship with their partner as do heterosexuals. I also believe that in the eyes of the state we all deserve to be treated equally.'

'I have deep sympathy with the hundreds of my constituents who fear that legislation for same-sex marriage will profoundly encroach—although this may be unintended —on their right to live according to their faith.'

When it came to the vote I registered an abstention, which meant voting in the 'Aye' lobby and voting in the 'No' lobby.

----------------

Firstly I would like to make clear that I fully support the lifelong commitment that is made between any loving couple and that I believe the legal basis of a same sex marriage should be no different to that of a heterosexual couple.

I have been considering for a while the impact that same sex marriage would have on the definition of marriage; if the structure of marriage is changed, I have been worrying that this risks undermining the religious institution of marriage. Having reflected on this for some time, though, it seems to me that with so many heterosexual couples choosing to marry outside of the church in registry offices, where the church has not objected to them calling themselves a 'married' couple, it is now inconsistent for the church to argue 'possession' of the term 'marriage'. I had wondered whether there might be another term that could be used for same sex marriage, but I fear that any other word created specifically for the purpose, in order to avoid the use of the term 'married', would inevitably create the same feeling of second-class-citizenship as is argued with the current system of Civil Partnerships.

That said, I would never support any legislation that compromises the right of religious freedom, as I firmly believe churches should never be compelled in law to carry out same sex marriages against their conscience and faith. That is why I am pleased to see that this proposal includes a 'quadruple lock' of legal protections which will ensure that no religious organisation or individual minister could be forced into conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies.

I am also frustrated at the timing of this proposal as Equal Civil Marriage was not proposed in any of the Parties' Manifestos, and therefore this very significant change has not been properly aired prior to a General Election. I would much prefer to see this proposal before parliament after the next General Election, and only after it has earned the support of the public.

Nonetheless, the vote will be held tomorrow and I have decided that, considering the above, I will almost certainly formally abstain from it, which means walking through the No Lobby and also walking through the Aye Lobby. This is to reflect my support for the genuine love and commitment of same sex partners, but also to register my protest at the unacceptability of the timing and wording of this legislation, as well as to represent the concerns of so many of my constituents who feel very deeply that this proposal is simply wrong.

I am aware that my decision will disappoint many on both sides of the argument and I too feel let down by the Government for being put in this position. However, having looked carefully at the Government's consultation and considering the opinion of my constituents I find myself genuinely torn on the debate – I cannot vote against a measure that would mean so much to the minority of homosexual couples for whom marriage is the ultimate recognition for their genuine feelings for each other. Yet nor can I vote for a measure that risks centuries of faith based belief in marriage as between a man and a woman, that will upset so many of my constituents and which has not yet won public support.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 FEB 2013

Success For Troubled Families Programme

It's great news that Early Intervention is drastically reducing costs for councils around the country. The Troubled Families programme is taking important steps to help those families most in need effectively turn their lives around. This article features more details, facts and figures on the savings being made.

You can read all about it here.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 FEB 2013

Progress On Bank Account Portability

I was surprised that the Office of Fair Trading, after their review into the poor levels of customer account switching between banks has decided not to refer the matter to the Competition Commission. I was even more disappointed to hear the British Bankers Association, who have assured me in the past that they want to see banks clean up their act, are welcoming the decision of the Office of Fair Trading, not to take the matter any further.

I have been campaigning for full bank account number portability for two years now and I have written on it several times:

Conservative Home Article

Financial Times

This Is Money

Having worked on the means of achieving full account number portability in some detail, it is clear to me there are five benefits:

  1. Increase in competition/elimination of barriers to entry;
  2. Greater consumer choice;
  3. Easy to move accounts/reduced cost to SMEs as account numbers stay the same when the customer changes;
  4. Reduction in bank fraud/addresses poor legacy systems in banks;
  5. Quick resolution to a failing bank.

Of course the big oligopoly banks are keen to resist change because competition will only highlight the frequently poor deal for the customer of recent years. A spotlight on competition would also highlight that the Payments Council, that governs BACs, faster payments and LINK, and Vocalink that manages all payments are both organisations that are run by the banks themselves.

Would anyone want Google to govern the internet? Well, that's wants happening in banking.

There's a unique opportunity with the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill coming to Parliament. I know its one idea whose time has come. I'm putting forward amendments to the Bill to try and push through this game changer for banking in the 21st century.

0 comments

Post a comment


30 JAN 2013

A Pint In Strangers!

On Monday, I had the pleasure of welcoming Roy Crutchley and Stewart Blake of Hoggleys Brewery in Litchborough to Westminster to enjoy a pint of their Northamptonshire Bitter in Stranger's Bar in the Houses of Parliament.

Hoggleys Brewery is a small, family operation run by Julie Hogg and Roy Crutchley who have been brewing since 2003. The business started off in their garden shed! I visited the brewery last Spring and promised to arrange for the Stranger's Bar in Parliament to take a cask of their ale in the New Year.

It was a pleasure to welcome Roy and Stewart to Parliament and to have a go at pulling a pint of Northamptonshire Bitter in Strangers. Hoggleys brews some great beer which is enjoyed across Northamptonshire as well as further-a-field.

I am pleased they have built up a successful business in a time which has been difficult for the pub trade. It was a pleasure to meet Roy and Stewart and discuss issues facing the pub industry.

I am always eager to support local businesses in any way I can. Hoggleys is just one example of many successful businesses in South Northamptonshire.

Hoggleys brewer Roy Crutchley said, 'It was a real honour to have our Northamptonshire Bitter on tap at the Houses of Parliament; our daily routine is usually made up of hard graft, often quite messy and physically demanding, so to spend a day in such a grand establishment and to see our own beer in pride of place really does spur us on and make it all worthwhile.

Alongside this it offered an opportunity for us to talk directly to some Members about issues affecting the brewing industry at present, in particular the beer duty escalator. It was a truly memorable day.'

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JAN 2013

UK To Have A Referendum On EU Membership

The Prime Minister's speech was spot on. It provides a clear roadmap for reforming the UK's relationship with the EU, and crucially, giving the British people a say. It is a defining moment and demonstrates a clear separation between Conservatives and Labour.

The Conservative Party wants the UK to stay in the EU but in a more flexible EU, and with a more sustainable relationship. David Cameron is right to say that Europe must change and the EU needs to serve the interests of the British people much better. Now is the time to have a real debate over what our relationship with the EU should be in the future.

The status quo in Britain's relationship with the EU is no longer an option. Britain was right not to join the euro, and I hope it never will. However, the Eurozone is moving towards fiscal and banking union, and this is not a path that the British people will go down. Fundamental change is inevitable, and it is right that we seek to negotiate a deal that promotes our national interest.

The Prime Minister set out the changes that he wants to see: a more competitive, flexible, less bureaucratic EU with powers returned from Brussels to Member States. National parliaments are the real source of democratic accountability in the EU, and changes must be introduced to ensure fairness for all Member States, euro and non-euro, within the single market. He is right to set out these principles in order to help create an EU, and a UK within it, that can compete and win in the global race.

The Fresh Start Project, which I co-founded, has set out in the Manifesto for Change the detailed changes that we would like to see the UK negotiate to put these principles into action.

And when this negotiation has taken place, it is also right that the British people are given the opportunity to decide the nature of the UK's future relationship with the EU. The Labour government denied the people that choice under the Lisbon Treaty negotiations and that was hugely damaging.

The argument from Labour and Liberal Democrats that the promise of a referendum creates uncertainty and may deter business investment is false. The uncertainty exists anyway, in part due to the fundamental changes taking place in the eurozone, and in part due to changes in public attitudes to the EU. Secondly, it is plain wrong to deny the people a voice on this vitally important issue. It shows they don't trust the people to have a say. Thirdly, far from creating more uncertainty, the Prime Minister has set out a clear timetable for renegotiation and reform.

There is now a clear choice for the country: under a Conservative government, the UK will negotiate a new settlement with the EU and voters will be given a say on whether to accept the new settlement or leave the EU. A straight forward in / out referendum.

I believe the country will unite behind this approach. Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, described the approach as "realistic and pragmatic". John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce stated recently "Britain's business community, many of whom export, wants to see real and substantive change in our relationship with the European Union."

I'm confident this position will help the Conservative Party win the next general election. We can then focus our efforts on a robust but achievable renegotiation to establish a relationship with Europe that the majority of British people are comfortable with at last.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 JAN 2013

Spring Farm Ridge Wind Farm Refused

I am delighted that a Judicial Review into the Planning Inspector's decision to allow the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm has been successful! As a result the decision of the Planning Inspector has been quashed, and the wind farm will not go ahead.

The original application for the five turbines was rejected by South Northamptonshire Council in June last year. An appeal by the developer saw the appeal upheld and planning permission granted for the development against the wishes of the local authority and the local community.

Enormous congratulations should go to Veronica Ward and the community of Helmdon, Sulgrave and Greatworth as well as South Northamptonshire Council who have pulled together, have been relentless in their opposition to this wind farm and have never given up.

We must consider all options, including renewable sources of energy, as we seek to secure our energy security needs for the future. However, I do not believe onshore wind farms are going to meet these needs. It is also clear that they are very often unpopular with local communities who consider them a blight on our beautiful countryside.

This is a really important decision and sets a precedent for the future. I have always been determined to ensure the thoughts and feelings of local communities are listened to and are considered a priority. This decision shows that we are moving in the right direction.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 JAN 2013

PM's Letter On Early Intervention

Having written to the Prime Minister on the issue of the Early Intervention Grant, I was pleased to get a response from him this week addressing the issue. In it he mentions the Education Select Committee report on children's centres, which I am pleased to have submitted evidence to alongside my co-chair of the APPG for Sure Starts, Sharon Hodgson MP. I am confident that this response highlights the need for a greater focus on the earliest years within children's centres, and I will continue to work hard to ensure this.

You can read the letter below:

Letter From The Prime Minister

0 comments

Post a comment


21 DEC 2012

HS2 Meeting with Simon Burns MP

This week Cheryl Gillan MP and I met with Simon Burns MP who is the new Minister responsible for managing the HS2 project at the Department for Transport.

Cheryl and I took the opportunity to raise a number of our concerns regarding HS2 and the arrangements that are being made for compensation and mitigation. During the meeting we discussed the question of a 'property bond' and our view that the advantages of a bond have not been fully considered. There is a precedent for a property bond system under the Grand Central Railway proposal, and I believe that such a measure could allow the property market in the affected area to operate more normally, thereby not trapping those affected in their own homes.

We explained our concerns regarding the operation of the exceptional hardship scheme. There have been cases of EHS panels accepting certain criteria and rejecting others only for another panel to reject on previously accepted criteria. Despite many requests for information on what criterion the panels are using, very little information has been released which has led to great concerns regarding the transparency of the scheme.

Another issue I raised was that of mitigation and that there has not been the option for some of those communities affected to discuss their own proposals for mitigation measures prior to HS2 Ltd. drawing up their own plans. The Minister and DfT assured me that all mitigation proposals will be fully considered and that the DfT will meet with any residents who wish to do so.

Finally we raised a point about phase 2 of the project which is the proposed line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. Measures taken now could mean that those affected by phase 2 of the project will feel they did not have a say over issues such as compensation. We have a great concern that more needs to be done to engage with those that will be affected by phase 2. On the other hand, if there is a new consultation for phase 2, and this results in a different, more generous scheme, it will cause yet further problems for phase 1 residents.

In addition to the Minister there were three Civil Servants present who were there to hear our concerns. I was pleased that the Minister agreed to go away and look at the areas we had raised again. I have since written to him to reiterate the points we made in the meeting and I will share with you any response I receive.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 DEC 2012

NORPIP Carol Concert 2012

I was delighted to be invited to the second annual NorPIP Christmas Carol Concert at St John and St James Magdalen College School chapel in Brackley. The concert was directed by Michael Ridley and conducted by Sophie Banks together with the choir from Beachborough School who played to a packed chapel.

It was wonderful to be at the fund raiser and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The money raised will go to extending therapeutic services not only around Northampton but to Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough in 2013. The carol concert included readings by the Mayor of Brackley, Councillor Chris Cartmel and an American letter was read by Colonel Charles Hamilton from the US Air Force base at RAF Croughton. Councillor Ron Sawbridge, Chairman of Trustees of NorPIP also said a few words.

Photo shows Andrea doing a reading at the Carol Concert

0 comments

Post a comment


12 DEC 2012

The Case For Solid Early Foundation

As part of the 2020 Conservatives series on 'The Opportunity Society', I outline the case for why delivering sound mental health is our nation's greatest challenge – and how early years intervention will achieve this. Read my paper here.

0 comments

Post a comment


04 DEC 2012

Value For Money Update

In continuing my efforts to be transparent about my work and where your taxes are spent, I thought you might be interested to see an update of my parliamentary expenses for the first half of the financial (April 2012 to October 2012).

I do not claim expenses for accommodation nor for my own travel costs on parliamentary business.

I run my office on a tight budget but with a view to making sure we can deal with the workload efficiently - I am conscious of the need to be very careful with taxpayers' money. I spent £9,527.04 on office costs (rent, printing, stationary, training for my staff etc) in the first half of the year. This is comfortably below half of the annual budget allowed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) of £22,200. My staffing costs for the first half of the year were £62,709.89, which is again within the annual budget of £137,200 provided by IPSA. Finally, my staff (including an apprentice and various interns, who have come for work experience in my office for a week or two at a time) have claimed £1,738.35 in travel between Westminster and South Northamptonshire in the first half of the year.

From April 2012 to October 2012, I wrote over 2,400 letters in response to enquiries from nearly 1,200 constituents. In the last year, I have spoken in 78 debates in the House of Commons, and have received answers to 100 written questions. Both of these are well above average amongst MPs. I have voted in 81.89% of votes in this Parliament, which again is above average amongst MPs. If you would like more information on the work that I do, you can sign up for alerts at www.theyworkforyou.com.

I will continue to work hard to provide the best service and value for money that I can for South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 NOV 2012

Mercedez-Benz Driving Academy

I recently met with Robert East from the newly established Silverstone based Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy, that gives driving lessons at the Circuit to children as young as 11.

Having attended the official opening of the Academy at Silverstone Circuit this summer with British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton in attendance, this follow up meeting covered how Mercedes can take forward their excellent 'Road Sense' half day programme for pre-drivers.

Last year, the Academy was able to offer 350 free places for 14-18 year olds to take the half-day 'Road Sense' programme aimed at aspiring drivers with the intention of cutting the number of road accidents among new drivers. They are keen to put many more students through the programme and will be contacting local schools to inform them of this opportunity.

As an aside, Lewis Hamilton will be driving for Brackley-based F1 team Mercedes AMG Petronas from next year.

0 comments

Post a comment


19 NOV 2012

Every year the European Parliament spends €200million shuttling MEPs, staff, and paperwork between Brussels and Strasbourg. This is an absurd waste of taxpayers' money, it damages the environment and I want it to stop.When Strasbourg was chosen as the official seat of Parliament it was a symbol of Franco-German reconciliation, but it has now become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the EU.

According to the EU Treaties, Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament and yet for most of the year, the Parliament meets in Brussels, where the other main EU Institutions are also based.

So once a month, thousands of people have to de-camp to Strasbourg: MEPs, their staff, civil servants, government representatives and diplomats. Numerous lorries are stacked up with office documents to be transported hundreds of miles to France, and this is despite the presence of an identical debating chamber in Brussels.

The cost of this travelling circus from Brussels to Strasbourg is estimated at €200 million per year and expends 20,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Whether you agree with the principle of manmade global warming or not it is surely hypocritical for the EU to impose increasingly stringent emissions standards on National Governments whilst at the same time needlessly causing pollution to satisfy some antiquated notion of EU solidarity.

That is why I am backing the 'Stop the Strasbourg Circus' campaign and calling on the Coalition Government to push for this in the upcoming EU budget meetings.

The Prime Minister will shortly be participating in budget discussions with other EU heads of states on the content of the next 7 year EU budget deal. Scrapping the Strasbourg Circus will save over £1billion as part of this deal. Times are tight and we shouldn't be wasting money on vanity projects to appease the French!

Please join the campaign and sign the petition at www.stopthestrasbourgcircus.com.

Justice and Home Affairs

I was delighted to hear such a robust commitment from the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Justice to my question to him over the issue of Justice and Home Affairs in the House of Commons this week.

He confirmed that "the Government are currently minded to opt out of the measures included in the 2014 decision en bloc, and to consider which measures it is in our national interest to rejoin." In response to my supplementary question over "whether he is considering undertaking international co-operation on EU justice and home affairs rather than simply looking at the option of opting back in to specific EU directives" the Secretary of State was firm in his assurance that "It is absolutely clear that we can work with international partners effectively in fighting crime, as we do with non-EU allies around the world, without necessarily handing over sovereignty over these measures to the European Court of Justice."

The Fresh Start Project research on Justice and Home Affairs highlighted this as a crucial issue, and we are delighted that the government is giving it such careful consideration.

You can view the full transcript of the debate here.

0 comments

Post a comment


16 NOV 2012

Fridays in the Constituency

Camelot is the company behind the UK's national lottery and it's a little known fact that their only UK distribution centre is in the South Northamptonshire constituency on the Brackmills Industrial Estate.

I was invited for a tour of their distribution centre, which supplies 36,000 outlets throughout the UK with the entire range of National Lottery scratch cards.

It was fascinating to see such a huge operation being carried out right on my doorstep; it really does confirm that Northamptonshire is ideally based in the country for businesses who want to benefit from easy access to the rest of the country.

I also had the opportunity recently to visit Butterflies Healthcare at their new offices near Middleton Cheney.

James and Michelle Sutton founded Butterflies Healthcare in 2004 and have just brought their business under one roof in a rural business park in Warkworth. I was delighted to be shown around and be part of the official celebrations of their new facility.

Butterflies Healthcare specialise in eye wear and eye care, selling through pharmacies, opticians and health stores or through the mail order service they offer.

It's really great to see businesses becoming established in rural areas where they can offer local employment and benefit from both the idyllic surroundings and the easy reach for their customers.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 NOV 2012

Supporting Small and Medium Sized Businesses

On Thursday I sponsored a debate in the House of Commons called stimulating growth through better use of the Prompt Payment Code.

Increasingly small and medium sized companies are reporting that payments are being withheld by businesses further up the supply chain, and that this is not only hampering growth, but also threatening their very existence.

At a time when access to finance has rarely been more difficult for these companies we need to ensure timely payments are made and that companies stick to the agreed payment terms. Last year, the amount of money owed to SMEs beyond agreed payment terms reached an all-time high of £33.6 billion.

The prompt payment code is about encouraging and promoting best practice between organisations and their suppliers. Any organisation can sign up to the code, and those that do so undertake to:

  • Pay suppliers on time within the terms agreed at the outset of the contract;
  • Give clear guidance to suppliers on payment procedures;
  • Encourage good practice and;
  • Request that lead suppliers promote the adoption of the code throughout the supply chain.

In my contribution to the debate I made the point that in these difficult economic times we not only want to see businesses survive but we want to help businesses to grow. If every business in the country was able to employ just one more employee we would be short of workers in this country to the tune of 1.5 million people. We want to do everything we can to enable businesses to expand and grow.

I raised the cases of three companies that have been in contact with me to explain the difficulties they are facing because of late payments. The first was Q Technologies in my constituency which provides specialist medical equipment to the NHS. The company reports that the NHS owes £76,000 that should have been paid in May and £36,000 which is over 60 days late. Another constituent reported to me the difficulties of small businesses down the supply chain. She runs a small IT business, and was contracted by a Fortune 500 company, which in turn was supplying the MoD. The Fortune 500 Company owed her £250,000 which was 6 months late and the bank were about to foreclose on her business. Equally concerning, my constituent was adamant that I should not name her company when dealing with this issue on her behalf, because she was terrified of losing future business.

I finally raised the case of a legal aid firm that supplies the Legal Services Commission who have payment terms of eight weeks – twice as long as normal. However the company reports that invoices are refused for flimsy reasons just so that they can be sent back and be delayed for another eight weeks, and sometimes they are mysteriously lost in the office! The company reports that while they have to wait for payment, being unable to pay their tax bills cuts no ice with the VAT or the PAYE offices, who hound, threaten and fine them if they are even a week late in paying.

The Business, Innovation and Skill Minister, David Willetts MP responded to the debate for the Government and said, 'We heard an excellent speech by my Hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom, which included some powerful examples of the kind of problems that small businesses face. I thought, to be honest, that her examples, from Q Technologies and its experiences of dealing with the NHS to experiences of being paid for legal aid, were, quite simply, shocking and indefensible. I do not think that any Minister with responsibility for this sector would wish to defend that. It is very important that the message goes out loud and clear from the debate today that public agencies are expected to pay bills promptly. It is minimum good practice, which we expect across the public sector.'

Support for SMEs in these difficult economic times is essential and I will be continuing to do all I can to support them and to make sure that Government agencies and public bodies lead by example by paying their bills on time, which in turn, will enable businesses to expand and grow.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 NOV 2012

Prenatal Depression

I have noticed that case studies of postnatal and prenatal depression have made the media recently. Whilst post-natal depression has been recognised for quite a long time as a serious problem facing new mothers, pre-natal depression does not have this same recognition or understanding.

I hope that with increased awareness, more will be done to recognise this dark period of some women's lives. I believe that parent-infant psychotherapy should be more widely available for parents and newborns, to help post-natally depressed mums come to terms with the complex and difficult feelings they go through during this period.

This week I introduced a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons, which would see parent-infant psychotherapy become statutory for women with children born onto the child protection register, where adoption is not the plan. I believe this would salvage those fragile early months where it is vital that a child's attachment to their caregiver is as secure as possible. You can read the transcript of my speech here.

There have also been a couple of articles in the press recently which have been discussing this issue. You might like to have a read of them. Here are the links:

Article 1

Article 2

0 comments

Post a comment


26 OCT 2012

Charity at Chenderit School

I was invited to visit Chenderit School in Middleton Cheney to take part in a fundraising activity for ActionAid organised by a student at the school, Megan Buckley. There was a homemade cakes stall as well as a raffle, and it was great to see so many students participating during their lunch break.

There was even competition for donations! Another cake bake was being held by the delegates for the 2012 Uganda schools twinning project. I helped establish this project back in 2006 and I enjoyed meeting this year's delegates: Faye Connor, Rachel Gunter and James Lesingham, pictured.

I was delighted to see charity work and community spirit alive and well in our schools!

0 comments

Post a comment


18 OCT 2012

Charity Event In Aid Of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy

On Tuesday I attended a charity event to raise money and awareness of the dreadful condition, Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) at the Dorchester Hotel in London.

PSP involves the progressive death of neurons (nerve endings) in the brain and over time PSP can rob a person of the ability to walk, talk, feed themselves or communicate effectively with the world around them, yet they usually remain mentally alert. The average life expectancy of a PSP sufferer is seven years.

The superb fundraising event took place in London on Tuesday 16 October. Lord Seb Coe who is now the Vice President of the PSP association explained at the event, in an interview with Michael Parkinson, the story of Brigadier Michael Koe, Founder and Life President of the PSP Association. Brigadier Koe's wife had tragically died from PSP and his four sons had decided to run the London Marathon to raise money to set up the PSP Association based in Towcester. Lord Coe told, how using the similarity of their names, Brigadier Koe had approached him during his time as a Member of Parliament to help publicise the run.

Following Brigadier Koe's approach Lord Coe remained involved and promoted the PSP Association's involvement each year in the London Marathon. In a cruel twist of irony, in the fourth year of his involvement, Lord Coe's own mother was diagnosed with PSP and as a result died.

Whilst there were many sad stories to listen to, the event was a huge success. Lord Coe had invited stars such as Daley Thompson and Steve Cram, as well as current Olympians. Emeli Sande sang a few songs to huge applause, and another famous guest, Sir Philip Green purchased a limited edition Mini Cooper during the auction, only to donate it back to the charity so it could be auctioned again! Over £200,000 was raised by Lord Archer as auctioneer, for an excellent cause.

I was absolutely delighted to be invited to the event by Christopher Kemball, Chairman of the PSP Association and Brigadier Michael Koe. Michael's determination to honour the memory of his beloved wife is truly touching. I am delighted to be a Patron of this charity and I am going to do all I can to raise this issue and the need for more research into this terrible condition during the coming months in Parliament.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 OCT 2012

Friday in the Constituency

Last week I visited Tesco in Towcester to present four South Northamptonshire schools with new equipment as part of the 'Tesco Schools and Clubs" scheme.

I am delighted that Tesco is able to support local schools through its community engagement scheme, and encourage all businesses to take an interest in their community.I had the pleasure of speaking to children afterwards from two of the four schools: Nicholas Hawksmoor, and Greens Norton C of E. We talked about a wide range of topics including favourite sports and what life is like as an MP.


I also met with the South Northamptonshire Enterprise Board to hear about the progress the board is making regarding promotion of inward investment for the area. It was a chance to talk with the new chairman, Roy Moffat, the Managing Director of Variohm near Tiffield and long standing board member. Martin Lawrence is stepping down from the role after seven years of committed work, and I look forward to seeing the continued success of SNEB in the coming years.

Finally, I was delighted to visit Wappenham based Enterprise Control Systems Ltd (ECS) to officially open their newly-completed office facility. The building accommodates Business Development and Project Management staff as well as providing a large ground-floor vehicle bay and workshop space for product testing and development. The building itself is integrated within the existing state-of-the-art ECS Technology Park, tucked away in the picturesque, rural location of Wappenham, Northamptonshire.

I unveiled a plaque to officially commemorate the opening, which was followed by various demonstrations of ECS products taking place throughout the afternoon.

What an amazing company! It combines the best of innovative technology with a clear commitments to the local economy and local employment. It highlights the best of British creativity and enterprise.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 OCT 2012

Something for Northants Businesses!

I took part in a debate at the Conservative Party Conference this week entitled 'can banks ever do the right thing?' For many around the country, it seems that the answer to this is a firm 'no'. It is important then to acknowledge when they do 'do the right thing'.

It is easy to forget the crucial role that banks play in our economy. Banks are vital to the real economy, helping savers to get decent returns, and helping borrowers get access to the funds they need to invest. They can also provide helpful and valuable advice and guidance to businesses as they seek to export and expand, and it is good to see that Barclays are working closely with UKTI to help businesses to develop their exports. I am sure other high street banks offer similar schemes, and I do hope businesses in Northamptonshire are looking to take advantage of these opportunities.

Barclays research (see http://www.newsroom.barclays.com/Press-releases/Businesses-that-export-grow-by-almost-a-third-in-just-two-years-962.aspx) finds that:

· Small businesses that export grow by almost a third (30%) in just two years

· 29% of small businesses see a positive impact on their bottom line within 6 months

· 31% of small businesses that currently export have had to take on staff in the UK as a result

In a time when growth in domestic demand is frequently slow, drawing on advice to develop markets overseas is an option worth considering. So credit where it is due, and credit to Barclays for launching this free service that I hope will help businesses in Northamptonshire to export and expand.

I look forward to other banks coming up with new and positive initiatives over the next few years. One, simple way of ensuring better product innovation is to unleash the power of a competitive market in banking. My campaign to introduce full and instantaneous bank account portability could be a real game changer—being able to move your bank account as easily as your mobile phone number would provide a real boost to bank competition.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 OCT 2012

Wootton Primary School Academy Conversion

Yesterday I visited Wootton Primary School in Northampton to officially celebrate their new Academy status.

I got the chance to be shown around the school and meet staff, and I was also invited to speak to the children about the work I do as a Member of Parliament and what life is like in Westminster. The children really put me through my paces and asked some very perceptive questions, and when Willy Gilder from BBC Radio Northampton spoke to them afterwards I was impressed with how much they had learned about the role. It was wonderful that they felt they could engage with politics at their age, and I was delighted that several of them said that they too would like to be an MP one day!

To hear Willy Gilder speak to the children at Wootton Primary School, follow this link (available for 6 more days) and skip to 17 minutes in:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00y9hzb

0 comments

Post a comment


04 OCT 2012

Our Relationship With Europe

It was welcome to see the Prime Minister announce that the UK plans to exercise its option to opt-out of around 130 EU laws relating to policing and criminal justice. Asked by the BBC on 28 September whether Britain would opt out of EU justice and policing powers, the Prime Minister is quoted as saying "That has to be done before the end of the year, and the opt-out is there. We'll be exercising that opt-out. The key thing then is, which of the array of things you've come out with do you actually think are good for Britain and you want to co-operate with European partners on? And that's a discussion we're having at the moment."

Not invoking this opt-out would mean the UK being bound irreversibly by these laws subject to the full jurisdiction of the European Commission and European Court of Justice from December 2014, and would be an enormous loss of democratic control.

In taking the opt-out, the UK retains the right to opt back in to the laws that it wishes to, or crucially, to cooperate with the EU through other means – including memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and international agreements. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the government is currently deciding which measures to opt back in to, and which to co-operate with European partners on.

The approach we take is simple and pragmatic. We ask four questions. First, does cooperation in an area serve UK interests? Second, if so, does it require a legal basis or can informal operational cooperation suffice? Third, if we need formal arrangements, could that be achieved through MoUs and/or domestic legislation or does it require international agreement? Fourth, if it requires international agreement – as some cooperation will – can this be achieved on a bilateral or multilateral basis without ceding democratic authority to the European Commission and European Court of Justice.

After all, we have the closest intelligence and security relationship with the US. But we don't give the FBI authority over UK authorities, and the US Supreme Court is not the arbiter of law enforcement on British soil. We cooperated swiftly and effectively with Norway, in the wake of the appalling terrorist atrocities committed by Anders Breivik. But, that did not require supranational supervision.

There are likely to be many areas where we want to co-operate closely with European partners, but control by EU institutions does not guarantee effective co-operation. It does guarantee permanent loss of democratic control over sensitive policy areas. By contrast, concluding MoUs or international agreements with the EU or Member States would enable the most intensive law enforcement co-operation within a clear legal framework without loss of sovereignty.

A number of non-EU countries have already concluded such operational agreements with Europol and Eurojust for example. And the European Commission have confirmed that the UK could conclude such international agreements with the EU as a whole.

Developing a range of such international arrangements may also give the UK an effective framework for its future relationship with the EU. We could cooperate effectively, without giving up democratic control over crucial, and sensitive, policy areas.

0 comments

Post a comment


02 OCT 2012

HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum - Fifth Meeting

The fifth meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum took place recently. Representatives of many of the Action Groups up and down the line came to inform the group of the experiences of residents attending the Community Forums. Miranda Carter from HS2 Ltd. attended to respond for HS2 Ltd.

It is clear that there are various issues with how the Community Forums are operating. Among the concerns expressed was that some Action Group members had been refused entrance to a meeting; many raised concerns about the minute taking of the Forum and described them as inaccurate and self serving. Another complaint was that attendees of the Forum felt lectured to and 'talked down to' saying HS2 staff gave lengthy presentations then left no time for a question and answer session. There was also the feeling that HS2 staff attending the Forum did not always possess the required expert knowledge that the attendees of the Forum were expecting.

Cheryl Gillan, the MP for Chesham and Amersham stressed that it was extremely important that good minutes were taken at the meeting and explained to the HS2 Ltd. officials that there was great concern with the running of the Forum and warned of the dangers of confidence being lost in the whole process.

Miranda Carter responded for HS2 Ltd. and agreed that accurate minute taking was important and stressed that they do like to hear feedback from the meetings but also explained that the presentations had been welcomed by some groups. Miranda explained that the procedure for the Forums would be revised and revisited after the next rounds are completed at the end of November.

Chris Pincher, the MP for Tamworth raised the separate issue of 'relocation' and explained that communities in his constituency were exploring the idea of relocating the entire community disrupted by HS2 to a different area.

As this was the first meeting of the Forum after the summer recess there were many points to raise and I was pleased that a representative from HS2 Ltd was present to hear the concerns and frustrations of those attending the Community Forums.

I am still pressing the Department for Transport as to when the consultation into a compensation scheme will be open. Alison Munro, the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. has agreed to attend a meeting of the Compensation and Mitigation Forum when this consultation finally opens.

Following the reshuffle there is a new team at the Department for Transport. Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP is the new Secretary of State for Transport and Rt. Hon. Simon Burns MP is the new Minister for Rail. I have written to Patrick to request a meeting with him as soon as possible to discuss with him this project and to express my concerns.

I will keep you updated on all matters HS2 as best I can and will post all the information here on my website.

Please note: Dan Byles MP was unable to attend the meeting but he subsequently advised that the Community Forums in his own constituency of North Warwickshire are working well and provide effective two way communication.

0 comments

Post a comment


28 SEP 2012

Job Club 100 Event

On Wednesday I attended the celebration of the 100th person to find a job with the help of the Job Clubs I set up three years ago, presenting awards and telling the story of where it all started.

As well as South Northamptonshire Council, over 100 local firms were represented to share in the success and discover opportunities to support the local economy. The morning included information about the Silverstone University Technical College, due to open next September, which promises to build on the success the local economy; Northamptonshire was recently given the accolade of the 'most enterprising' county by the Government. In a real boost to local business, the developers of the UTC have said that 50% of the work needed to complete the project will come from locally sourced companies.

Getting young people into their first jobs and the start of a potential career is vital, and it is fantastic to be see how well things are going on that front in South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


28 SEP 2012

Spring Farm Ridge Public Meeting Report

On Tuesday 25 September I held a Public Meeting at Greatworth Primary School to discuss the Spring Farm Ridge wind farm application which has been approved on an appeal submitted by the developer Broadview after South Northamptonshire Council had originally refused the application.The meeting was well attended by residents from parishes throughout South Northamptonshire as well as neighbouring counties who are also fighting unwanted developments.

I began the meeting by explaining how important it is going to be for communities and planning authorities to put in place local plans as soon as possible. Until we have proper local plans in place we will continue to fall victim to planning developments that are against the wishes of the local community being approved on appeal. I read out parts of a letter sent to me by Sir Michael Pitt, Head of the Planning Inspectorate. What his letter was saying is that the inspector relied on the old 1997 local plan and the top down strategies of the last government. The existence of the new 'joint core strategy' plan for the local area carried only a small amount of weight because it is not yet completed. You can read his letter here.

South Northamptonshire Councillor, Rebecca Breese and the Head of Strategic Planning, Adrian Colwell also attended the meeting and explained the position the Council is taking on Spring Ridge by launching a Judicial Review. Veronica Ward, resident of Greatworth, is also launching her own Judicial Review alongside the Council.

The Judicial Reviews will focus on two points brought forward by the Council and two brought forward by Veronica on behalf of the community.

An appeal was made to the community at the meeting to raise funds for the Community judicial review. The positive news is that the legal teams are confident that there is a good chance of winning, but want to make sure the costs, if unsuccessful, are shared.

A local resident has estimated that Spring Farm Ridge could make the developer up to £400,000 per year per turbine from Government subsidy. A staggering £2,000,000 per year... Spring Farm Ridge and similar applications are undermining the localism agenda and developers are simply taking advantage of the generous taxpayer funded subsidy that is on offer. We simply cannot continue to support an industry where the rewards are so heavily skewed to the developer who is often acting entirely against the wishes of the local community.

This is a big problem for South Northamptonshire and it is essential we keep on fighting to save our countryside and heritage.

Photo shows Andrea addressing the Spring Farm Ridge public meeting.

0 comments

Post a comment


24 SEP 2012

Towcester Summer Reading Challenge

During the summer holidays children from primary schools around the Towcester area have been taking part in the 'Summer Reading Challenge', which is part of a nationwide initiative.

I was invited along to Towcester Library to present medals and certificates to the children who took part. The scheme aims to encourage children to carry on reading through the summer holidays to keep up their reading skills while they are away from school. It also promotes the importance of reading for pleasure.

I was delighted to present the awards to the children, many of whom had read more than six books over their holidays. Children collect stickers for each book they read, counting towards a medal and a certificate at the end of the summer.

The Summer Reading Challenge is just one of the many ways that Northants Libraries are actively contributing to the National Prevention Agenda. A wide range of activities for children from birth upwards provide positive role models for families empowering them to become actively involved in their children's development.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 SEP 2012

Spring Farm Ridge Public Meeting

As you know the Planning Inspectorate has approved on appeal the application for five wind turbines at Spring Farm Ridge despite South Northamptonshire Council refusing the application.

Obviously this has caused much anger and frustration amongst the local community and I have written on many occasions to Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate expressing my anger and concern.

What the letters appear to be suggesting is that decisions are still being based on the previous Government's policies and until we have local plans in place we will fall victim to planning developments that are against the wishes of the local community being approved on appeal. I think we need to consider how we can defend South Northamptonshire over the next two years before local plans are finalised.

I am arranging a public meeting to discuss this matter and the next steps regarding Spring Farm Ridge on Tuesday 25 September at 7pm at Greatworth Primary School.

I do hope you will be able to attend and would be grateful if you could let others know of this meeting who may be interested.

If you require any further information or to let us know if you can attend, please contact Marc Pooler in my office on 020 7219 1273 or marc.pooler@parliament.uk.

I look forward to seeing you.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


17 AUG 2012

HS2 Newsletter

For your information, I thought I would share with you the latest newsletter from HS2 Ltd and their new Chairman, Doug Oakervee CBE. I hope you will find some parts of it interesting.

With best wishes

Andrea

News Update

From Doug Oakervee CBE, Chairman of HS2 Ltd

 

Welcome to our first HS2 News Update

It is now six months since Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Transport announced the government's decision to go ahead with plans for a new high speed rail line between London and the West Midlands and on to Manchester and Leeds.

Since my appointment in March as Chairman of HS2 Ltd, I have seen at first hand the commitment of the HS2 team to tackling this challenging project and achieving a result that fairly balances the wider economic needs of the country as a whole with the local and very understandable concerns of communities along the railway's route.

We at HS2 Ltd are all committed to ensuring that the design process takes full account of how different areas will be affected by the proposed line of route. This bulletin is the first in a series of updates, designed to keep you informed about the steps we have taken so far and activities that are currently under way, and give an outline of what will be happening next. We've also included a reminder of how to get in touch with us.

Whilst I am personally enthusiastic about the tremendous potential that HS2 can offer to many people across the UK, I am determined to ensure that we are as clear as possible about both benefits and impacts of the project.

Consultations on property compensation and safeguarding

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Transport issued a statement to Parliament on 12th July saying that consultation on the property and compensation package for HS2 will take place after Parliament returns from its summer recess in September, as will the planned safeguarding consultation. In the statement she said:

I am acutely aware of the impact that the proposals for HS2 are having on the property markets along the line of route from London to the West Midlands. The impacts on property are some of the most direct and personal effects of HS2. This is why we have committed to going above and beyond the statutory requirements for property compensation.

Developing the right property compensation package is complex as it needs to be fair to those living and working along the HS2 London to West Midlands route while recognising our broader responsibility to the taxpayer. It was clear from the responses to the consultation that we held last year that property compensation was an issue that generated a considerable amount of understandable concern from those affected. In addition, from personally dealing with the casework from the operation of the existing Exceptional Hardship Scheme, I recognise the range and complexity of issues that the property and compensation package for HS2 will need to deal with. This all means that it is imperative that we put in place the right package.

I am keen to consult as soon as possible to provide people with certainty but, given the nature of the issue and its implications for Phase 2 and work to assess stations and route options, it is clear to me that the detailed work to fully assess options means that we will consult on the property and compensation package for HS2 after Parliament returns from its summer recess in September. I understand that this delay will not be welcomed by individuals and businesses who had hoped to see an earlier resolution to the uncertainty surrounding HS2 property and compensation policies. However, this will enable the Government to put forward a comprehensive, practical and affordable package of property and compensation measures. I will be writing to those likely to be most directly affected by the project to explain this change.

The full text of the statement can be found on the DfT website here: www.dft.gov.uk/news/statements/greening-20120712b

Alison Munro re-appointed as CEO

Alison Munro has been re-appointed as the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, having been at the head of the organisation since it was established in 2009. Under her leadership HS2 Ltd has planned, structured and managed a complex mixture of tasks to develop high speed rail proposals. She will now lead HS2 Ltd through the hybrid bill process to Royal Assent for the line from London to the West Midlands, while also leading work to decide the routes linking to Manchester, Leeds and direct to Heathrow.

Finding out who owns what

Our surveyors are currently identifying all the people and organisations with a legal interest in land and property affected by the route of the high speed rail line. This process, which combines desktop research and site visits, is known as land referencing. After initial enquiries are completed, we will send land interest questionnaires to the relevant parties such as property owners, which will incorporate all the details we have found through our research, for checking.

In some cases we may not be able to identify the owners of the land and so we will put up unknown owner's notices on site and make enquiries of neighbours.

Wildlife and engineering surveys in progress

Since February, we have been making early studies of seasonal wildlife habitats in some areas along the route, involving species such as the great crested newt as well as reptiles and wintering birds. These visits have been facilitated with the kind permission of landowners. This work forms part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which will provide an overall view of the effects the project is likely to have on the environment, and shape our proposals to avoid or minimise them. Weve just finished a consultation on the scope and methodology for the EIA, and a report on the outcome of this will be available this summer. The findings of the EIA will be used to prepare a draft Environmental Statement which will be available for public consultation in spring 2013. This will set out in detail any likely significant effects of the high speed rail line, in subject areas including:

Biodiversity, water resources, geology and visual impactArchaeology and historic sitesTownscapes, traffic and other transport, waste and resourcesNoise, air quality, community, property and agriculture.

Our engineers are also carrying out surveys and site visits in order to develop a detailed understanding of the area along the route. They are assessing ground conditions, geology, utility corridors and drainage, amongst others, all of which will feed into the design work for the high speed line. All our surveyors carry identification. If you have any questions about the surveys please contact our public enquiry line on 0207 944 4908.

Aerial surveys

HS2 is undertaking aerial surveys to obtain true to scale vertical imagery along the route. This is used to create detailed maps at a scale of 1:500. In addition, measurements have been made using LiDAR (light detection and ranging) to create ground shape and elevation models showing heights of structures, vegetation etc.

Both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters are being used; depending on the weather, most flights should be completed by the end of August.

Community forum news

The second round of community forum meetings has been taking place in June and July. 26 forums have been created along the route, with members representing local councils, action groups, heritage organisations, other groups and residents as well as HS2 Ltd. The forums are a key way for local representatives to discuss local issues and seek clarification and consensus. The next round will be held in the autumn. All the details about community forum meetings, and information on how to get in touch with your local forum or put forward your views, are on our consultations website: http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/communityforums

Planning forums

Meetings are also taking place with planning officers from local authorities and other organisations to discuss the development of designs for the route, study the local effect of the line on the environment and look at ways to reduce this where possible, for example through noise barriers. The results of the meetings will be used to fine-tune details in each area of what the line will look like, looking at the specific constraints and impacts including during construction. There are six planning forums along the route and they meet every two months; you can find minutes and further details on the consultations website here: http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/forums/planning-forums

HS2 Key Dates

Phase 1: London to West Midlands

Phase 2: Leeds, Manchester, Heathrow

2012

Decision to proceed with high speed rail network.

2012

Decision on preferred route. Property compensation consultation.

Station and route options submitted; engagement programme on preferred route.

2013

Consultation on draft Environmental Statement including design refinements. Hybrid bill submitted to Parliament.

Engagement programme on preferred route continues.

2014

Hybrid bill process continues.

Formal consultation on route takes place; decision announced.

2015

Target date for Royal Assent to hybrid bill, containing legal powers to construct Phase 1 of HS2.

Commence engineering design, environmental impact assessment and preparation of second hybrid bill.

2026: Phase 1 opens to passengers.

2033: Phase 2 opens to passengers.

How to get in touch with us

There are various ways to make your views known or to find out more about HS2:

Our general enquiries line 020 7944 4908 is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

You can also contact us via email at hs2enquiries@hs2.org.uk

The consultation website highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk features information on all the local community forums, as well as a map with postcode search facility and a record of all the public consultations that have been held so far.

General information about HS2, including key facts about high speed rail, news stories and background technical documents, is available on our website www.hs2.org.uk

0 comments

Post a comment


16 AUG 2012

Summer Recess In The Constituency

Over the past few weeks I've taken advantage of the House not sitting to spend some time in the constituency, catching up with some familiar faces and getting to know some new ones.

One of my visits was to the Northamptonshire Police Federation, who represent the interests of the local police force. I meet with them on a regular basis to ensure I am up to date with any police concerns.

I visited Komcept Solutions, a local business in Ashton who specialize in audio and video recording, telecommunications and surveillance. They do a lot of great work with the police and have been involved with projects for the UK Government as well as successfully exporting around the world.

On one sunny morning in the constituency, I visited the Cogenhoe based Caring and Sharing Trust, a superb place which looks after adults with a range of learning disabilities, offering them opportunities to perform on stage and to take part in a wide range of artistic and creative activities. I am lucky enough to be a patron of the Trust, and it is always great to drop by and see the wonderful work they do. Recently they had a disastrous flood that has wrecked their theatre, but the Principals, Lena and Caroline, wasted no time sorting out insurers,their bank and their local builder to turn disaster into a triumphant new venue. A lot of hard work lies ahead but they are so positive about it all that local Northampton businessman, Tony Anselm, brought along a box of chocolate 'Olympic gold medals' for the entire team!

I was also delighted to welcome a new member to my team this summer. Daisy Peck will be my new apprentice caseworker, following on from the great success of our previous apprentice, Breon Finch. Daisy has just finished her A Levels at Northampton School for Boys, and is already settling happily into the team, and getting used to the large volume of work.

A key meeting was with the bidding team for the Towcester expansion. Pegasus and Bloor Homes wanted to discuss with me their plans for the A5 relief road and the proposed scheme for Towcester. I asked them various questions including the number of homes and affordable homes they plan to build, what educational provision would be likely, where and what sports facilities are included, how access to the new development will be achieved, the locations and types of business premises and shopping facilities included in the plan. They confirmed that the roundabout at the A43 would probably be traffic light controlled - I was delighted the 'hamburger' plan has gone away. There is a great deal still to be done before this plan finally comes forward, but I think this version shows significant improvements on previous plans.

(Photos show Andrea visiting Komcept Solutions, at the Caring and Sharing Trust and with Daisy Peck)

1 comment

I am glad you visited the Cottons Farm House and I am glad you are a patron there. I feel that the place has great potential, but as things stand it is dated and the use of 'therapies" is not regulated and there is little trianing or acknowledgement of current theroy and practice. I feel this organisation is in danger of becoming so insula and disregarding of the outside world that the clients miss out.
- J SM

Post a comment


26 JUL 2012

Triumph In Campaign For Rural Mobile Coverage

The long parliamentary campaign to bring mobile coverage to rural areas celebrated a milestone this week, as OFCOM finally announced auction plans that will see broadband coverage increased to an estimated 98% of the UK population, and will vastly improve infrastructure in remote rural areas of the UK.

Traditionally, up to 6 million people in Britain have been excluded from good mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas. I have been campaigning to increase the coverage, and signed a back-bench business committee debate motion urging OFCOM to increase the coverage to at least 98 % of the population. I spoke in the debate, in the House of Commons in May 2011 and said, 'rural broadband would be an enormous beneficiary to our economy,' as well as signing the order paper to support the motion. The motion was carried unanimously at the end of the 3-hour debate.

The long-awaited auction will start later this year, but bidding will not begin until early 2013, which OFCOM say is in line with its previous timetable. The regulator says it expects consumers to 'start getting services in late 2013'. It says its plans should see mobile broadband rolled out to at least 98% of people in rural areas across the UK, and the auction will offer the equivalent of three-quarters of the mobile spectrum currently in use which is some 80% more than released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000.

This is an investment that will transform the fortunes of thousands of small and medium sized businesses, currently hamstrung by inadequate mobile phone and internet coverage. Hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, farms and businesses will get access to decent mobile and internet coverage for the first time.

I am really pleased by this announcement. This much needed investment will transform our businesses and be of benefit to our economy. It will transform health through telemedicine and education through distance learning. I have long been a supporter of improving rural broadband and this announcement will be a huge benefit to South Northamptonshire. For all those trying to develop and manage a small business in our area, this news will make a real difference to them.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JUL 2012

HS2 Meeting With Conserve The Chilterns Campaign

Recently I chaired a meeting of MPs and the Conserve the Chilterns Campaign Group in Parliament. The group is working hard for better mitigation to the part of the HS2 line that passes through the Chilterns and it was interesting to hear about what steps they are taking to achieve the mitigation they would like to see in the Chilterns.

It was also fascinating to hear from two MPs who are not affected by HS2 but whose experience could be beneficial in the fight for mitigation. Ian Liddell Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, spoke of his experience of being on the Hybrid Bill Committee which looked into Crossrail (which is the train line being built through central London connecting Maidenhead in the West and Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the East).

Ian explained that a lot of work was done in Committee including making changes to the line, changes to the stations, the insertion of new stations and changes to tunnelling, cuttings and measures to mitigate against noise and the visual impacts of the new line. He explained that the Committee Members were very influential MPs who, as they were not necessarily affected by the line themselves, listened carefully to all the arguments and had the power to make many changes and even overrule the Government on changes that should be made.

Ian suggested that once the Parliamentary Committee for HS2 is established there will be an opportunity to put forward clear and concise arguments for changes to the line and for good mitigation. This ties in with the Secretary of State's announcement last week to the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum that changes to the line could be made up until the Hybrid Bill receives Royal Assent. The Committee stage of the process will be before Royal Assent is received.

Ian finished by saying that having sat on the Crossrail Committee, he could see that HS2 would take a lot longer than the current timetable that is set out and that there could be the most appalling problems all the way through the project.

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, is a member of the Public Accounts Committee. He explained what role his Committee would take when looking into HS2. Richard explained that his Committee looks specifically at value for money and how wisely money was spent. Richard explained that the Public Accounts Committee held the work of the Major Projects Authority (MPA) in high regard. In a report into HS2, the MPA gave the project an amber-red warning which means they consider 'the successful delivery of the project to be in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.' Richard stressed that it was important that the MPA's report is published and I will be working hard to make sure this happens.

I felt there were a number of interesting points that came out of this meeting and I think it is certainly important that we learn from the experience of others who have been involved in similar situations with similar projects as the battle against HS2 continues.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 JUL 2012

Debate On Bank Competition

Unless you have been on a trip to the moon for the last month you won't have failed to notice that the reputation of our banks has hit a new low. The LIBOR scandal has engulfed Barclays and has seen their Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer and Chairman resign, Parliament has announced there is to be an Inquiry and there is speculation that this scandal could go far deeper and far wider than just the fixing of LIBOR by Barclays.

Restoring the reputation of our banks will not be an easy task but it is one we must begin immediately. Ever since I became an MP in 2010 I have been encouraging greater competition in the banking sector. Therefore, this week, along with a number of Parliamentary colleagues from all Parties, we called on the Backbench Business Committee to grant us a debate to discuss bank competition. Given how timely this debate is and the great interest from many colleagues, the Backbench Business Committee gave us a three hour debate in Parliament on Thursday.

During my speech I spoke of three steps we must take to inject greater competition into our banking sector –introducing full bank account portability; giving the new regulators a specific objective to reduce barriers to entry; and considering again whether to fully separate retail and investment banking.

Bank account portability would mean that a customer would be able to switch their bank account easily between banks by keeping the same account number, same cards, same standing orders, direct debits, credit limits etc instead of having to completely close down an account and set up another one. We can do it easily with our mobile phone numbers so why can't we do it with our bank accounts? The results would be a game changer for banking – barriers to entry would be broken down, new banks would set up, existing banks would be forced to compete, customer service would take on a whole new meaning......

There was a switching rate of just 3.8 per cent for personal current accounts in 2010, three-quarters of consumers have never considered switching their current account, 51 per cent of small to medium-sized businesses had never switched their main banking relationship and 85 per cent of businesses surveyed by the Federation of Small Businesses had not switched their main banking provider in three years. You are more likely to get divorced than change your bank account!

Compare this with other industries and 15 per cent of consumers changed their gas supplier in 2010 and 17 per cent switched electricity supplier. 26 per cent of consumers switched telephone provider and 22 per cent changed insurance provider.

We also need to reduce barriers to entry - the market concentration of the 'big five' is crazy. Lloyds, RBS, HSBC, Santander and Barclays have an estimated market share of 85% of the personal current account market and 67% of the mortgage market. There has only been one new high street bank in the last 100 years which was Metro Bank. Other recent new entrants tend to have either been backed by one of the 'big five' like M&S bank which is backed by HSBC, or have benefitted from Government sell-offs such as Virgin buying the good bit of Northern Rock.

The issue of a complete separation of retail and investment banking should also return to the agenda. It is right that the government should be the ultimate guarantor of retail deposits but that guarantee should not extend to high-risk transactions. If an investment bank goes under, the losses should be borne by those who were happy to take the profits in better times, something the government is committed to achieving.

Now is not the time for timidity for reform in our banking sector and nor is it the time for false economies. We need to focus on enabling new entrants into the market, taking steps that are good for the consumer and SMEs and beginning the long process of restoring the reputation of our banking sector. I would like to finish with a quote from Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the Chief Executive of Virgin Money who said, 'For too long, banking has been more head than heart. We want to put more heart into it.'

0 comments

Post a comment


19 JUL 2012

Employment In South Northamptonshire

I wanted to share with you the latest unemployment figures for our area. The figures are for June 2012 and have been released by the Office for National Statistics.

The key facts are that the number of unemployed claimants (those claiming Job Seekers Allowance) in the South Northamptonshire constituency in June 2012 was 1,025. This represents a rate of 1.7% of the economically active population aged 16 to 64. This is the 638th highest of the 650 UK constituencies.

The number of claimants in June 2012 is 21 higher than in June 2011 and 63 lower than in May 2012. These data are not seasonally adjusted.

Whilst I am really pleased that our area is one of the lowest areas for unemployment, I want to make sure we are doing all we can to get the 1,025 without a job into work.

In 2009 I launched the Towcester Job Club and in March 2011 I launched a second Job Club in Brackley. South Northamptonshire Council have taken over the running of the clubs and so far they have helped 107 people back to work. If you would like more information on the Towcester and Brackley Job Clubs as well as Parent Pathways and Rural Job Clubs please visit www.southnorthants.gov.uk/jobclub or contact Greg Ward on 01327 322266.

I would also like to reiterate my support for apprenticeships and encourage local businesses to take on an apprentice. I have had an excellent apprentice in my office for the last ten months and have recruited a new apprentice from Northampton School for Boys to start in the summer. Apprenticeships are a real way we can equip people of all ages with the skills that employers need to prosper and I hope our local businesses will take this opportunity to make a real difference and employ an apprentice.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 JUL 2012

Northampton Orchestra Winds

Last Saturday I saw the Northampton Orchestral Winds concert at Caroline Chisholm School, and was incredibly impressed with the energy and effort that must go into creating so many performances.

Northampton Orchestra Winds (NOW) is a community organisation which takes on players of all ages and ability, and it is clear that the group means a great deal to the people involved.

I was delighted also to be asked to become a patron of NOW, and wish everyone involved all the best for the future, and my congratulations on a wonderful concert.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 JUL 2012

Objection Letters - Spring Farm Ridge

I have today written to Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking for him to call in this application for his consideration as a matter of urgency. I have also written to Sir Michael Pitt, Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate to express my disgust and to urge him to overturn this appalling decision to uphold this appeal. You can read my letters to Eric and Sir Michael here.

0 comments

Post a comment


13 JUL 2012

Spring Farm Ridge Wind Farm - UPDATED

*16 July 2012 - After last weeks announcement I wanted to share with you South Northamptonshire Council's response to this decision, you can read it here.

I am amazed that the Planning Inspector agreed with the decision of the Council in that the turbines would have a major impact on the landscape as it currently exists, have considerable impact on some of the many heritage assets within 5km of the proposed wind farm, result in the loss of a perception of tranquillity to the well-used public rights of ways network, dominate the outlook, be unpleasantly imposing and pervasive to a neighbouring resident and be contrary to several local and regional planning policies and yet have still approved this application because, in thier opinion, the total impact of the proposal would not outweigh the wider economic and environmental benefits.

I am writing to Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Sir Michael Pitt, Head of the Planning Inspectorate expressing my discust. I will publish those letters here as well.*

I have discovered today that the wind farm proposed between the villages of Greatworth, Helmdon and Sulgrave has been approved on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate.

In July 2011 South Northamptonshire Planning Committee refused this application and today the Planning Inspectorate, who know nothing about our local area, have gone against the wishes of the local community and approved this application. This decision is completely contrary to the localism agenda.

I am fed up of local authorities making decisions which reflect the needs and wishes of the local community, only for the developer to have the application approved on appeal. I am absolutely appalled at this situation and will work with South Northamptonshire Council to challenge this decision at the highest level.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 JUL 2012

HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum - Fourth Meeting - UPDATED

*16 July 2012 - Following our meeting with the Secretary of State on the 28 June 2012, I wanted to share with you the complete transcript of the meeting. You can read it here. Unfortunately this transcript has not been approved by the Department for Transport.*

Last week the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum met for a fourth time and for what was the most important meeting of the Forum so far. Our only guest was the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP. The Forum was well attended, with MPs or representatives of MPs from all Parties attending to hear what the Secretary of State had to say.

We had pre-submitted a list of questions in advance of the meeting so we could cover many points and get full answers in the time available. The meeting was recorded and I will publish the transcript of the meeting on my website as soon as it has been agreed by the Department for Transport but in the meantime I would like to let you know some of the points that the Secretary of State made.

1. A large number had raised the issue of when the consultation into a permanent compensation scheme would begin. The Secretary of State couldn't give us an exact date but she did explain that she thought it would be 'weeks rather than months'. I know the delay has been frustrating and I know many of my colleagues and I are keen to have a say in the consultation but the Secretary of State explained that the delay had been due to her desire to fully consider all options for a generous scheme.

2. Many Members raised the importance of a 'property bond' and asked the Secretary of State what consideration she has given to this. She is considering a property bond and has not ruled out but explained there were 'pros and cons' to take into consideration, such as what to do if the bond fails to 'normalise' the property market.

3. Another point discussed was the Exceptional Hardship Scheme. Colleagues had the opportunity to raise specific cases. We raised concerns regarding applications being rejected on one criteria, only to be resubmitted and rejected on another criteria. We explained to the Secretary of State how many people could prove that they were experiencing hardship and were simply not helped by the EHS as the terms of reference were too narrow. We raised concerns that there was inconsistency in the panel's decisions and suggested that applicants be able to represent themselves in front of the committee. The Secretary of State said she would consider our concerns and would make sure they formed part of the review of the EHS.

4. In terms of mitigation, the Secretary of State explained that until the Hybrid Bill to bring in HS2 is in place, (by 2015) changes to the project will be possible. The Secretary of State explained that when Crossrail was in committee stages of Parliamentary approval changes were made to the route and stations were added up to a late point in the process. The Secretary of State assured us that she will engage with as many groups as possible and has recently had meetings with Friends of the Earth, the Ramblers Association and the CPRE.

5. I know that many of you remain extremely concerned that this project is going ahead and some find themselves in desperate personal situations. I intend that if this project does go ahead, we will work with HS2 Ltd, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State directly to make sure that no one loses out financially and that the quality of life of people living in our county is affected as little as possible.

Let me be clear whilst I think it is important we do all we can to work for good compensation and mitigation, I am still working just as hard to convince the Government that this project should not go ahead at all. This project is not good value for taxpayer's money, has a poor and deteriorating business case, will not achieve its desire of reducing the North South divide and there are measures we can take far quicker and much more cheaply to deal with the capacity issue on the West Coast Mainline. I'm afraid that this will be a long battle but I can assure you I will keep fighting.

0 comments

Post a comment


05 JUL 2012

Banking Reform

For 25 years before becoming an MP, I worked in finance, including 10 years from 1987 with Barclays, first in the dealing room and then as a Financial Institutions Director running the Banks team. This latest banking scandal takes me back to my experiences of the 'culture' that started post-Big Bang, and that continues to this day – in spite of the financial crisis. That is why I am convinced we must now draw a line in the sand.

Given the importance of banks to Britain's economic well-being, the recent revelations of mis-conduct by bankers is bad news for all of us. The time has come to say enough to tinkering with reforms. We need far-reaching measures to restore probity and credibility to the industry.

Well-functioning banks are crucial to an advanced economy such as ours. They are the oil which keeps the engine running. But hindsight shows that a small and powerful (but also unrepresentative) segment of bankers have, frankly, duped successive governments. The banking industry has had countless chances to heed the warning signals from government and regulators and to reform itself – but all the chances have been squandered. This points to only one conclusion. If our banking system is to meet the demands of today's global economy, it needs a significant overhaul.

Banking employs over a million people in Britain. It generates over 10 per cent of our annual tax revenue. It is a vital industry that could lead us back to economic recovery, but this will not happen on the back of fraudulent and corrupt practices. Rather we need to re-establish banks as calm, measured and instinctively cautious guardians of the trust and confidence account holders place in them.

Above all, we need to go back to first principles. Retail banking must be made genuinely competitive. The best way to shake the banks out of their complacency is to allow new entrants to enter the market, bringing with them the high standards of service (including IT that works...) which customers believe they should be able to take for granted.

One significant step in that direction would be taking the opportunity of selling off the now state-owned banks – in smaller 'parcels'. This would instantly create potential new challenger banks in Britain. It is something I urge the government to reconsider.

I also believe that, in view of the events of recent weeks, George Osborne should re-visit his response to the proposals of the Independent Commission on Banking. The Chancellor needs to move further and faster.

A top priority should be introducing instantly portable bank accounts. We take this for granted with our mobile phones. Why should our bank accounts be any different? This is something I have been pressing for since becoming an MP. Switching instantly between banks would remove a huge barrier to entry currently constraining new, innovative banks.

No bank should be too big to fail. In the US, where there is fierce bank competition, failures can take place without the need for taxpayer intervention. Account portability could help significantly in resolving a failed bank.

The issue of a complete separation of retail and investment banking should also return to the agenda.

It is right that the government should be the ultimate guarantor of retail deposits – a function which, incidentally, would also be considerably less risky with instantly portable accounts. But that guarantee should not extend to high-risk transactions. If an investment bank goes under, the losses should be borne by those who were happy to take the profits in better times, something the government is already committed to.

In terms of regulation, we need to ensure two things. First, regulators must be given a specific objective to reduce barriers to entry and promote competition. Second, they must have real 'teeth'. Investment banking was traditionally governed by 'fear and greed'. In recent years, implicit taxpayer guarantees have left "greed" free to expand, with no downside risk. Huge fines, better disclosure, real accountability at the top of banks, and criminal proceedings for criminal acts will be the way to enforce competence and honesty, without the need to create a new unwieldy oversight of every single banking activity.

Bankers need to acknowledge their failings. Attention can then turn to the important job of restoring their credibility – and the culture I recall from the start of my City career.

Picture shows former Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond before the Treasury Select Committee

0 comments

Post a comment


02 JUL 2012

Limes Farm Visit

Limes Farm based in Farthinghoe, South Northants is a revelation to the rural economy not only has the 200 acre mixed farm diversified into running a well known farm shop and tea rooms but the business also started to provide lunches for local Schools.

Ian Dorwood, owner of Limes Farm said, "It all started with Jamie Oliver and our village school, now we provide hot meals to 15 local schools with another three coming on stream in September.

"We now employ 36 local people and provide nutritious locally sourced high quality food to local school children.

"We can't grow rice yet, but we have beef cattle, pigs and sheep, we have a very good relationship with a local baker.

"We help continue the education process through meal times, this year being an Olympic year every week we have selected a country, our team dress in the national colours and give a little intro to the children, for Russia it was Stroganoff, for Nepal it was Nepalese curry (I was a bit worried about that one, but it all went!).

"Some schools are asking us to provide tea too, many children stay after school for sports or other classes – both in the public and private sector and it's important that children get properly fed – you can't have a cheese sandwich three times a day.

"We are looking at continuing the meals through the school holidays to help families where both parents work."

It's really great to see a working farm diversify in such a positive way that not only brings real value to the communities but also working with apprentices in the rural world. For me, Ian and his team at Limes Farm tick all the boxes: apprenticeships; sustainable rural business; community engagement; and local people being employed.

Giving children good quality, tasty and nourishing food is vital to their development and education.

0 comments

Post a comment


26 JUN 2012

Support From Government Minister For Apprenticeships

On Monday 18 June I was able to ask John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning about the Government's support for apprenticeships in the Chamber of the House of Commons.

I explained that I have had an apprentice in my office and I asked the Minister if he would encourage other MPs to do likewise, as our own contribution to addressing the problem of youth unemployment. The Minister announced that following my intervention he had instructed the National Apprenticeship Service to organise a workshop for MPs who want to find out more about how they can take on an apprentice.

I am delighted the Minister gave such strong support to apprenticeships. I have had an excellent apprentice in my office for the last ten months and will be recruiting a new apprentice from Northampton School for Boys to start in the summer. I hope many more Colleagues will take on an apprentice and that the workshop the Minister is organising will go a long way to encouraging MPs to give it a go.

John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning said:

'Apprenticeships are at the heart of our drive to equip people of all ages with the skills that employers need to prosper. The success of the programme is dependent on the effort and commitment of employers like Andrea who come forward to offer a young person an apprenticeship.'

'We are investing £1.5bn in the apprenticeships programme in 2012-13 and I am determined that it is accessible, so that all employers can benefit from its rewards.'

0 comments

Post a comment


20 JUN 2012

Value For Money Update

In an effort to be transparent about my work, I thought you might be interested to see an update of my parliamentary expenses for this financial year just ended (April 2011 to March 2012).

I do not claim expenses for accommodation either in Westminster or in Northamptonshire, nor do I claim expenses for any of my own travel costs on parliamentary business.

I run my office on a tight budget but with a view to making sure we can deal with the workload efficiently - I am conscious of the need to be very careful with taxpayers money. I spent £15,494.58 on office costs (rent, printing, stationary, training for my staff etc) in the year ending March 2012. This is only 72 percent of the annual budget allowed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) of £21,500. My staffing costs for the year were £104,785.23, which is again well within the annual budget of £115,000 provided by IPSA. Finally, my staff (including an apprentice and various interns) have claimed £2,450.30 in travel between Westminster and South Northamptonshire.

From April 2011 to March 2012, I wrote over 3,700 letters in response to enquiries from nearly 2000 constituents. In the last year, I have spoken in 77 debates in the House of Commons, and have received answers to 93 written questions. Both of these are above average amongst MPs. I have voted in 80.40% of votes in this Parliament, which again is above average amongst MPs. If you would like more information on the work that I do, you can sign up for alerts at www.theyworkforyou.com.

I will continue to work hard to provide the best service and value for money that I can for South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 JUN 2012

Race for Life 2012

Last night I ran with a group of female Conservative MPs in the 'Race for Life' around Battersea Park. I completed the 5km run in 36 minutes, which was sadly only half the speed of the winner who did it in just 18! We were very lucky with the weather and the atmosphere was fantastic.

It's not too late to sponsor us, and I would be incredibly grateful if you would support this very worthy cause. I have three close family members, including my sister, who have suffered from breast cancer. The treatment for it is still a terrible experience, even though the prognosis is now so much improved. New treatments for sufferers will make a huge difference, and I hope you can make a donation.

A group has been set up on the Race for Life website called 'Conservative MPs' and can be found here:

http://www.raceforlifesponsorme.org/conservative-mps

Alternatively, donations of up to £10 can be made directly via text. Simply text 'CMPS47 £amount' to 70070.

Anything you can give would be immensely appreciated.

0 comments

Post a comment


12 JUN 2012

"A Short Walk on Brackley High Street": A Brief History of Brackley

This fascinating brief history of Brackley has been put together with the help of members of the Brackley History Society and I wanted to share it with you.

The first settlement in this area predates the Roman invasion and was at the bottom of the hill near the river. The Romans settled here and built a large villa which has now disappeared but Brackley probably got its name in Saxon times in the 6th or 7th century when it was called Bracklas after a Saxon living nearby at Halse. It was the Saxons who built St Peter's church. Little of the original building still remains as it was largely rebuilt by the Normans and then again in Victorian times. The Normans also built a castle here in 1100 and the mound still remains opposite the new fire station. By Norman times, the town had expanded up the hill and the hospital, which is now Magdalen College School, and the Chapel of St. John were built in the 12th century in what is now the High Street.

In the reign of King John, in 1215, a large number of barons came to Brackley to meet and discuss their grievances. They presented their demands to the King who was then at Oxford. The King was furious and refused to make any concessions but only a few months later, the same barons forced the King to accept their terms and to sign the great document of Magna Carta at Runnymede.

In 1217, Henry III gave Brackley permission to hold a weekly market and every Wednesday, farmers and villagers would come into the town to sell livestock and other produce. This is why the bottom end of the High Street needed to be so wide to accommodate all the animals and stalls.

In 1547, Brackley was given the right to have two members of Parliament and in 1601, John Donne the poet, was made an MP for Brackley but he never even visited the town. Another famous man did visit the town, however. In 1784, John Wesley came and preached outside the Town Hall. He complained that he might as well have spoken in Greek as nobody understood his speech, but one listener apparently said that he looked and spoke like an angel.

The railway came to Brackley in 1850 and wealthy families would use the train to travel there to enjoy the hunting. They built themselves hunting lodges in the High Street with large stables at the rear and to this day, many of the doorways have curved red bricks lining the sides—they were originally the doors to each horse's stall and the bricks were smoothed and curved to prevent any damage to a horse going in or out.

In 1913, George V came to Brackley to inspect the troops. The Americans established a base in the neighbourhood during the Second World War and in the 1960s, Brackley expanded rapidly with new housing and a larger population. Livestock markets no longer take place in the Market Square, but every year, the town hosts a carnival, a soapbox derby, a music festival, a festival of food, a beer festival, a festival of motor bikes, a monthly farmer's market, and a small Friday market on the Piazza outside the Town Hall. There are no more Members of Parliament for Brackley but the town has its Mayor, its Charter, and its Town Hall. The two railway stations have closed but the Brackley by-pass has enabled the town to retain its peaceful centre, its elegant, wide 18th century High Street, and many of its historic buildings.

The Town Hall was built in 1706 at a cost of £200 by a member of the Egerton family, the first Duke of Bridgewater who sold it to the town of Brackley for one shilling. The ground floor was originally open on all sides to allow for market stalls to trade there, first in wool and then later in the 19th century, in corn, brought in from the surrounding farms. In order to build this market house, the Earl had knocked down the largest of the three stone crosses which belonged to the town. The upstairs of the building was, and still is, used for council meetings, political dinners, election meetings, country balls, and dances. The Manorial court first met in the new building in September 1707 and all the burgesses, with the Mayor and the Alderman were expected to be present, all being announced by the Town Crier. The Town officers were also expected to attend, even though they were unpaid – the three constables; the inspector of rawhide skins; the examiners and sellers of leather; the ale tasters; the bread weighers; the clerks of the market; the Bellman and the Crier.

The Crown Hotel was originally built in the 16th century as a coaching inn and in 1649 it was the cause of a major fire and 14 apartments at the back of the Inn were destroyed. But the main damage was caused when the fire spread to the chandler's shop in Halls Lane and £200 worth of tallow exploded. The Inn was repaired and in 1680 it cost £35 to renew the lease for the Inn and some surrounding farmland. By 1729, Magdalen College was charging £127 for the lease but they had to drop the price to £95 in 1737. The Crown had by now become an important coaching inn. The Duke of Bridgewater stayed at the Inn in 1713 and Marshall Bloucher was a guest there in 1813. The Inn was also used as an excise office in the late 18th century.

The Red Lion was also a 17th century coaching inn serving the needs of travellers to Brackley, all of whom at that time travelled by road in horse drawn coaches. It was one of the more important inns of the town and in 1883 an auction was held there to sell off parts of a mill in Syresham. But it was the Reindeer Inn, now Barclays Bank, which was the first inn in Brackley in 1789 to have a daily coach service to London.

The Old Hall Bookshop is an early Georgian building but it is unusual in that it was built with red bricks. It was originally the Manor House of Brackley. It was established as a bookshop in 1977 by John and Lady Juliet Townsend.

Magdalen College School was originally built in 1150 as a hospital by Robert le Bossu (hunchback). He was the son of one of the followers of William the Conqueror, Robert le Beaumont, who came to England in 1066, fought bravely at the Battle of Hastings and eventually acquired the area of Brackley. Very little now remains of the original hospital buildings because they were so badly looked after and in 1484 the land and buildings were sold to the new Magdalen College at Oxford. They used the hospital buildings as a refuge for their scholars when there was plague in Oxford and it was not until 1548 that Magdalen College Free school was established on the site. It has remained a school ever since and is now part of the state secondary school in Brackley. The oldest building on the site was the Master's house and this room, now as an examination room, is one of the few remaining. It is especially interesting as it once had an underground passage connecting it to the Chapel which the scholars could use when they went to attend services in the Chapel.

Chapel of St John was also built by Robert le Bossu in 1160 for use by the people in his hospital, but it was also used later by the scholars of Magdalen College. In 1160 it formed one side of a range of cloisters, but it was almost completely rebuilt by the Victorians. The large stone altar was discovered in the 1930s in the Tudor fireplace of the college house and taken back to St John's. There is to this day a daily service in the chapel and it is often used for musical concerts.

'Feed my lambs' is the local name for the Church of England Primary School due to the carving of these words on the lintel. It opened in the 1870s and had separate entrances for the boys and the girls as was custom in those days. It remained a junior school until 1968 and there are many older residents of Brackley who remember attending this school and having their dinners in a small hall which used to stand at the other end of Hill Street. The slightly Tudor look of black and white remind us of Brackley's association with the Egerton family's home area of Chester and of the puritan religious background of Elizabeth I. The Anglicans had refused to work with the Methodists in the building of this new school, and were determined to undermine the influence of the earlier but smaller Methodist school.

The building now known as the Masters House is called that because it was the home of the Master of Magdalen College School (and the boys' boarding house), but in 1740 it was known as Northgate House and was the scene of a notorious murder. The Reverend Doctor Littleton Burton lived in the house at the time. He dismissed a young serving man called Henry Kerwood for being 'saucy' but the servant hid in a barn. When he was discovered, he was again told to leave the premises and to encourage him to do so, he was hit with a stick. At this, Kerwood picked up a pitchfork and struck the Reverend on the head, killing him. He fled the scene and although there was a 10 guinea reward offered (a huge sum in those days), he was never caught. There is a memorial to Reverend Burton in the College Chapel.

2 comments

Welcome to Brackley
- Matt Kings

Amazing information for homework
- Kk

Post a comment


08 JUN 2012

Jubilee Events in South Northamptonshire

 

Over the bank holiday weekend, I took part in several celebrations in South Northamptonshire to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

We held an excellent village party in Slapton, where there was food, drink and dancing for 100!

There was then a closely fought cricket match between Slapton and Abthorpe.

I was lucky to be Invited to the Jubilee Beacon Event hosted by the Army Cadet Force at the Cadet Training Centre near Horton.

The Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Army Cadet Force are part of the UK's oldest, largest and most successful youth organization, consisting of approximately 45,000 cadets based at over 1,700 local detachments and units across the country.

Colonel Steve Davies, the County Commandant, was master of ceremonies, and We were treated to a barbecue, then an excellent performance by the cadets' military band.

A special draw was held for the honour of lighting the beacon – which was lit prior to the Queen lighting the final beacon at Buckingham Palace.

Pictures can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/towcesternews/sets/72157629994663023/

0 comments

Post a comment


08 JUN 2012

At the launch of the Mercedes Driving Academy

I was thrilled to be asked to the official opening where Lewis Hamilton was guest of honour at Silverstone for the new Mercedes Driving Academy.

Based at the world famous circuit, the new academy is going to be run as a profit centre but is specifically aimed at people who are too young to drive on the roads or who want to improve their driving skills.

Young people aged 15-17 will be taught key driving skills as well as taking part in discussion on how, for example, to be a passenger when a young driver is at the wheel and how to cope with rowdy friends in the car!

Learning to drive is one of the key milestones in life and particularly in a rural economy driving is essential.

It will be interesting to see if Mercedes can persuade private sector insurers that young people who have successfully completed courses like the Mercedes one at Silverstone should be looked on more favourably.

Full size photo can be found here: http://flic.kr/p/c8rqF9

1 comment

I found you blog on Google, i am very excite after reading your news, Thanks Mercedes Driving Academy, Surely i will visit again for gaining new information related to driving academy.
- Driving Academy

Post a comment


01 JUN 2012

Last week the third meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum took place. Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council and Chairman of 51M was our guest and the meeting was very well attended with more MPs beginning to take an interest in the work of the group. I am delighted that Nigel Mills, MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire, which is not affected at the moment but could be when the second stage of the route is announced, has agreed to co-Chair the group with me and is working hard to get MPs north of Birmingham involved in this group.

Martin Tett gave us an update on the work of 51M and specifically the judicial review. Martin explained that there is likely to be a hearing in the autumn. A judge will decide whether there is a case for the Government to answer, if he decides positively then a hearing will take place possibly at the same time.

The judicial review by 51M will mainly focus on two points; firstly, the consultation process and secondly, the decision itself. Martin explained that knowledge of the consultation process was almost non-existent north of Birmingham and Councils in the north have a very limited knowledge of the project. 51M also argue that the decision to proceed is an irrational one. They claim there are serious flaws in the way the line will link with Heathrow airport and the disruption to Euston station that the project will cause has not been adequately considered.

A consultation into compensation is due to open soon and it is the aim of the Forum to put together a submission with case studies from all constituencies affected by HS2. We will also consider promoting the idea of a property bond as a means to minimise blight.

The next meeting of the Forum will take place at the end of June when Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport will be attending. My Colleagues and I will be drawing up an agenda well in advance of the meeting of issues that we want to raise with her and will submit them to her in advance so we get full and comprehensive answers to our questions. I will look forward to updating you on the outcome of that meeting of the Forum.

0 comments

Post a comment


24 MAY 2012

NORPIP Conference

The NORPIP Conference, 'Two Is Too Late' took place last Friday and it was a sell out! I was delighted with the turnout – over 500 delegates and a waiting list besides. We had representatives from 27 Local Authorities, from Kirklees to Cornwall to Jersey and delegates from Adoption UK, The Royal Society for Public Health and the NSPCC to name a few, who also held exhibitions in the atrium.

Our speakers were world class, sharing their expertise on brain development, early years intervention and the consequence of poor early relationships. Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was our keynote speaker. Iain is a Patron of NORPIP and I am delighted with the support and commitment he has given to Early Intervention. Iain spoke about his work in establishing the Centre for Social Justice in 2004 and the importance of cross departmental working in government to progress successful early years work.

I had the great pleasure of being able to launch PIPUK at the conference. My aim is to see 'PIPs' like OXPIP and NORPIP established all over the country. Therefore I am establishing PIPUK which will offer practical and financial support to groups looking to establish a 'PIP' in their area. It is an exciting initiative and I am pleased that Iain Duncan Smith was also able to add his support to the project.

Baroness Susan Greenfield, who sits as a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, spoke about neuroscience and brain development in a fascinating speech. Susan is Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and has been awarded a staggering 30 Honorary Degrees!

Dr Michael Galbraith spoke about his own work as a psychotherapist, and why we should be providing these services more widely. Michael studied psychology at Cambridge University and clinical psychology in Oxfordshire. For four years Michael worked in one of the original Sure Start local programmes and is now leading an early year mental health service.

We heard after lunch from Dr Amanda Jones who is a Consultant Perinatal Psychotherapist and head of North East London NHS Foundation Trust's tier 3 Perinatal Parent Infant Metal Health Service. Amanda explained Attachment Therapy and told us the tragic story of a seventeen year old girl in a physically abusive relationship who was struggling to form a bond with her new baby boy. The video was heartbreaking to watch and it was clear to see that her baby was afraid of her and even arching his back to get away from her.

However, there was a happy ending that brought tears to my eyes. Amanda showed us footage of the ongoing therapy and as time went on it was clear that there was a bond forming as mother and baby started to laugh and play together. Amanda explained that shortly after the therapy began, the young mother left her abusive relationship and went to a refuge and now, eight years later, she is in a new, stable relationship with three more sons and has formed strong, secure bonds with all of her children and the family is in work.

Finally we heard from Camila Batmanghelidjh who is a psychotherapist and founder and director of Kids Company, a charity based in south London devoted to 'lone' children. Camila spoke of the long term consequences of neglect and her own experiences. Kids Company aims to restore young people's trust in adults by providing psychotherapy, counselling, education, arts, sports and hot meals.

I would like to say a huge thank you to all our speakers and delegates for a superb conference. I would also like to say a special thank you to Whittlebury Park for hosting us, the University of Northampton for sponsoring and my Mum and her team of excellent undergraduates from the University of Northampton for organising a brilliant event!

(Pictures show Iain Duncan Smith arriving at the conference, Iain Duncan Smith addressing the conference with Andrea Leadsom and Adrian Sell, Andrea Leadsom addressing the conference, Camila Batmanghelidjh addressing the conference)

0 comments

Post a comment


01 MAY 2012

Out And About In The April Showers!

I do enjoy Fridays as I get to spend the day in the constituency visiting local businesses, schools, museums and other local attractions that are kind enough to invite me. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of my visits last Friday.

My first visit was to open the newly refurbished Snowdrop Bereavement Room at the Barratt Maternity Home in Northampton Hospital. The funding of the refurbishment was paid for by 'Sands' which stands for 'Stillbirth and Neo Natal Death'. This wonderful Charity offers support to bereaved parents whose baby has died before or during birth. It was a great honour to be asked to attend, and perform the official opening.

I then made my way to Hardingstone Primary School in torrential rain to plant an oak tree in the grounds of the school. The story which led to the planting of this tree is an interesting one. Back in 2004 a number of acorns were taken from an oak tree that was planted at Much Wenlock, the original site of planning for the modern day Olympics. These acorns were planted at Kew Gardens; the idea being that should Britain be successful in its bid to host the 2012 Olympics, oak trees from the birthplace of the modern Olympics could be planted around the UK.

Fast forward eight years and Britain is on the cusp of hosting the thirtieth Olympiad this summer in London and we are all looking forward to the spectacular show and the moral and financial boost the games will give to the country. The acorns planted in 2004 now stand as 7 foot oak saplings ready for planting. I am delighted that Hardingstone School was chosen as a site for one of these trees and privileged to be asked to plant the tree. It was an old fashioned English tree planting during an old fashioned English spring downpour! It was a great event and two Olympic ambassadors from the school will travel to the Olympic stadium in a couple of months to watch the final tree planted ahead of the start of the games.

During the afternoon I held an advice surgery in Towcester and then at 5.30pm it was time to go to Silverstone Circuit for a sponsored bike ride in aid of NORPIP and the Nene Valley Care Trust. The rain had not let up; if anything it had got stronger and was now accompanied by a very strong wind! However, the weather didn't dampen our spirits and I was delighted by the number of people who turned up to take part. Cycling clubs from around the country came to enjoy cycling round our iconic Silverstone Circuit. I managed one circuit with my husband and eight year old daughter as the driving wind and rain was a little too much for us! However I look forward to hearing how much money we raised.

If anyone would like me to attend an event or would like to show me round their business or would just like to discuss an issue or two with me on a Friday, please get in touch with my office on 020 7219 7149 or email me at andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk and I would be delighted to come and see you on a Friday.

(Pictures show Andrea at Northampton Sands, Hardingstone School and at the charity bike ride)

0 comments

Post a comment


25 APR 2012

Last week the second meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum took place in Westminster. Hilary Wharf from HS2 Action Alliance and Tom Barrow from Knight Frank attended to discuss the problems faced by those looking to sell their homes but who do not qualify for the current compensation scheme.

Tom Barrow is a member of the Estate Valuations team at Knight Frank which has been specifically set up to deal with HS2 cases and deals exclusively with property owners rather than also acting on behalf of HS2 Ltd.

He explained that one of the big problems that those affected by HS2 face is the uncertainty surrounding the compensation scheme. He explained that the 'Land Compensation Act 1973' states that if you do not have land compulsorily purchased, you can submit a claim for compensation one year after the project opens for business. Clearly this is unacceptable for those suffering the blight of HS2 now and I am determined that no one should wait 15 years before receiving any kind of compensation! Tom believes no one is going to buy property at this time with the prospect of being affected by HS2. Therefore we clearly need to come up with fair compensation now.

Hilary Wharf stressed that a 'property bond' would be her preference for compensation. She explained that the 'property bond' is also popular with other groups such as the NFU, National Association of Estate Agents and the Council of Mortgage Lenders to name a few. 98% of those that responded to the question in last year's consultation also supported the idea of implementing a property bond. Hilary also explained that a 'property bond' would have a minimal cost to the Government, would provide cost free protection to individuals and would inject confidence into the property market.

It is clear from the forum meetings and the conversations I have with constituents that some residents are experiencing problems with communication with HS2 Ltd, with the EHS and with the blight that means some have tried unsuccessfully for over a year to sell their home. This is a great concern to me and I am meeting the Prime Minister soon to discuss compensation as a matter of urgency. I will keep you all up to date with how this progresses.

I am very encouraged by the first two meetings of the forum which have been well attended and very informative. Whilst there still remain more questions than answers I am hopeful that we are going to have some excellent proposals for a robust submission to the consultations on blight and compensation that will be opening soon.

I am working hard to make sure representatives from the Department for Transport, including the Secretary of State, attend future meetings to start providing answers to some of our questions. I will keep you updated with how these meetings progress.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 APR 2012

A Tale Of Two Breweries

During the Easter recess I had the pleasure of visiting two very different breweries in our area.

Firstly Hoggleys Brewery in Litchborough which is a small, family operation run by Julie Hogg and Roy Crutchley. Hoggleys has been brewing since 2003, starting off in the garden shed! Roy and Julie explained the process of producing their beer and no two barrels are ever the same. Hoggleys beers can be found in pubs and shops across Northamptonshire and even via Virgin Beer Clubs, and at lots of beer festivals.

I am hoping that in the Autumn, the House of Commons might stock Hoggleys for a while. The Strangers Bar always has a 'guest ale' which can be nominated by a Member of Parliament.

Later in the week I visited one of the world's greatest breweries, Carlsberg. Carlsberg is a big employer in our area and produces beer on a vast scale, supplying the whole of the needs of the UK market from the Northampton site. Unlike Hoggleys, all their beer has to be exactly the same to supply pubs, clubs and shops in every corner of the country. It is an impressive process, and I was interested to discover that their yeast goes to making Marmite!

Carlsberg did raise a concern about the alcohol duty escalator and I do have a certain amount of sympathy with this point. Whilst the excessive consumption of alcohol is a real growing problem in Britain, I do want to see British pubs thrive as they bring communities together and are part of our culture and way of life.

I was pleased to learn that Carlsberg take their corporate responsibility role very seriously. Julie and Roy at Hoggleys told me that, whilst being a competitor, Carlsberg have been very helpful in providing support and assisting them and other local breweries.

I would be delighted to visit other businesses in our area so if you would like me to visit or if your business has an issue you would like to raise with me, please do get in touch with my office on 020 7219 7149.

(Pictures show Andrea with Julie Hogg at Hoggleys Brewery and at Carlsberg)

0 comments

Post a comment


17 APR 2012

HS2 Public Meeting Report

On Tuesday 10 April I held a public meeting in Brackley to discuss the current position of the HS2 project. Even though I remain hopeful that the Government will think again regarding this project, I want to prioritise compensation and mitigation to ensure all those affected receive a fair deal.

As you may know, I have established the Compensation and Mitigation Forum in Parliament to give affected MPs the chance to have an input during this consultation period. At the last meeting we made it clear to Alison Munro, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. that we will be looking for full compensation for all affected.

At the meeting in Brackley, Martin Tett from 51M and Hilary Wharf from HS2 Action Alliance informed residents of the 'Judicial Review' that each group is launching. These reviews will challenge the process that led up to the Government's decision to give HS2 the go ahead. A decision on whether there is a case to answer will be made by an independent Judge, within the next few months.

Penny Gaines from Stop HS2 explained what members of the public can do to continue the opposition to HS2. Peter Deeley also attended representing SNAG.

It was clear that many residents are experiencing problems with communication with HS2 Ltd; with the EHS and with the blight that means that some have tried for over a year to sell their home to no avail. This is a great concern to me and I am writing to the Prime Minister to ask for a private meeting to discuss compensation as a matter of urgency. I will keep you all up to date with how this progresses.

An Environmental Impact Assessment is underway and consultations on blight, safeguarding and the environment will begin in May and last until the summer with conclusions announced in the Autumn. I intend to take a full part in these consultations.

The next meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum takes place this week and I will write again with an update after that meeting.

With best wishes

Andrea

0 comments

Post a comment


11 APR 2012

New 101 Non Emergency Police Number

I was delighted to meet Chief Inspector Dave Spencer last week who has just become the new

District Commander for Daventry and South Northamptonshire and I was really encouraged by what he had to say.

One of the greatest problems in our area is the presumption of a lack of police presence. Chief Inspector Spencer told me he will make it his aim to increase the visibility of police officers in our villages and towns which will allow people to feel safer and will at the same time act as a deterrent to criminals.

He also told me about the new national 101 non emergency number that has just been launched. Dialling 101 will connect you with the nearest local police. If you are near to the border of two Forces, you will be offered a choice so if, for example. you are calling from near Brackley you would be asked if you wished to speak to Northamptonshire Police or Thames Valley Police. All calls cost 15p, irrespective of length or if they are from a mobile or a landline. For more information please visit www.police.uk/101

So if it is an emergency make sure you dial 999 straight away but if it's not an emergency but you need to get in touch with your local police, keep in mind the number 101.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 MAR 2012

Meeting Of The HS2 Compensation And Mitigation Forum

On Tuesday the first full meeting of the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum took place in Westminster. Alison Munro, Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd, Ralph Smith, Senior Transport Campaigner from the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Matt Ware, Senior Parliamentary Advisor and Ivan Moss, Chief Planning Advisor from the NFU were the speakers.

The meeting was very well attended with many MPs attending or sending researchers to ask questions and to listen to what our speakers had to say regarding compensation and mitigation.

Alison Munro gave a presentation on the next stages of the project. HS2 Ltd is now working on refining the design and mitigation, and Alison stressed that HS2 Ltd are keen to work with communities to get this right. They are establishing National Environment Forums, Community Forums and Local Authority Planning Forums.

An Environmental Impact Assessment is underway and consultations on blight, safeguarding and the environment will begin in May and last until the summer with conclusions announced in the Autumn. I intend to take a full part in these consultations.

The options for the Y route will go to the Secretary of State this month and she will announce her preferred route later this year before a consultation begins early in 2014. I made a strong request that HS2 Ltd. and the Department for Transport encourage MPs on the 'likely' route of the Y to engage with the consultation on compensation as otherwise it will have been decided entirely without their input.

Ivan Moss from the NFU raised their concerns over the ability of blighted farms to make plans, and explained that they are working closely with HS2 Ltd. to ensure compensation is fair. Ivan explained that land agents working on behalf of HS2 Ltd. should have a duty of care towards all land and property owners. The NFU are also raising issues over replacing lost buildings, access for farmers to their land, water and electricity.

Lastly, Ralph Smyth from the CPRE explained that the CPRE are focussing on the Environmental Impact Assessment and want to work with HS2 Ltd. to improve the design of structures to reduce noise, protect tranquil areas and conserve the countryside. He called for joined up thinking when considering a wider transport and planning policy. Alison Munro confirmed that HS2 Ltd. would be considering placing cabling and water mains, for example, underneath the track when it is laid, which could replace pylons that are currently above ground.

There is a long way to go in this project, and it was clear there are more questions than answers at present. If HS2 goes ahead, I'm determined to make sure none of my constituents lose out financially.

I look forward to being able to update you on future meetings in due course.

0 comments

Post a comment


09 MAR 2012

Share The Warmth In South Northamptonshire!

The cost of living has gone up over recent years, and faster than what earnings have. In this economic environment it's hard for families to make ends meet. One of the areas that people can face difficulty is energy. However, with energy prices rising people don't need to face higher bills. Through energy efficiency people can save money. Insulating a home by filling a cavity, or a loft, can save a household around £175 a year. Most energy companies will offer their customers free insulation; you just need to call them.

But there are those people that need that bit more help. The really vulnerable. Not only do they struggle with their bills, but they are also the least likely to come forward to get help. Help that is readily available. This is when communities can come into their own. If you have a friend, or a relative, or just an elderly neighbour, why don't you see if they are getting their homes made warmer?

British Gas recently announced their "Share the Warmth" offer. If you find someone that meets their criteria for insulation, they'll give you £50 for your troubles. They'll also insulate the house of the vulnerable customer, and then give them £50 as well. Neither of you even needs to be a British Gas customer. All you need do is get your friend or relative to call 0800 975 1195, let them know you referenced them, and the get paid.

This is a great opportunity for our community to come together and help those that need help. I hope you'll be able to find some who can access this programme. To find out more about visit www.sharethewarmth.co.uk.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2012

Treasury Select Committee Visit - China

Utterly amazing, is what I think of China........

From the visible lack of personal freedom (and the astonishing lack of concern about it, even from those who live with it) to the remarkable growth story and the vast economic ambition, all cloaked in an aspiration of 'harmony', China is like nowhere else.

Last time I came with a rucksack 20 years ago, and I remember the extreme poverty, the way we foreigners were literally touched and poked as if we came from another planet, and how everything was so dirty and run down. And the cockroaches...

Now, visiting Shanghai and Beijing as part of the Treasury Select Committee delegation, it was like entering a new world. The purpose of our visit was to look into the issue of Global Imbalances (i.e. the massive trade surpluses in the East - plus Germany- versus the massive trade deficits of the West). What role have global imbalances played in the financial crisis? How can a rebalancing take place? What will happen if it doesn't? What lessons can Britain learn from the way the Chinese government handled the crisis? What will Chinese economic reforms mean for Britain?

Huge questions, and my mind is still buzzing with the vast amount of information we gleaned from 5 days of nonstop meetings with Chinese officials, economists, business people and bankers and from the pretty inspiring visits to:

1. Yu Wu commodities market - the biggest under cover 'buyers market' in the world with over 60,000 shops under one roof and where you can buy literally every basic product under the sun. Buyers fly in from around the world to put in their orders. Apparently at one point 95% of the world's button supply came from this one market!

2. The astonishing TEDA - Tianjin Economic Development Area. Once barren salt flats, in 1984 (notice how long ago the concept was conceived...right at the start of the 'de-communising' of China) the Chinese Government granted to the Tianjin Municipal government the infrastructure (electricity, drainage, roads, trains, water etc) to build an economic zone here. It is one of many now sprung up across China. We took the high speed train from Beijing (30 mins) to Tianjin, 6th biggest city in China (population of 12 million). TEDA has 6 specialisations: electronics and telecommunications, automobile, biopharmaceutical, aerospace, new energy and new material. It's year on year growth is between 20 and 30%. It has new housing set around a lake with shopping malls, a golf course and brand new schools. Population is 550,000 people, referred to by the Vice Mayor of Tianjin as a 'village'. It is truly impressive.

Other visits were to a Tesco 'green' distribution centre and to a Chinese hosiery factory where we got a tiny insight into life for the workers. It's not glamorous even bearing in mind we were probably shown the best of it. Many workers come from rural areas, live in dormitories and send their pay home to their families. However conditions in both places looked reasonably good and most parts of China have a minimum wage that (from a low start) has risen each year by well over inflation. All part of the growth story, and probably the reason why there is little social unrest.

We held countless meetings, usually in the formal Chinese style where the two senior people (Andrew Tyrie on our side, as Chairman of the TSC) would sit side by side in large armchairs with a beautiful floral display on a table between them, with interpreters sat behind and the Committee members in armchairs lining the left hand side of the room and their own staff lining the right hand side. Tea would be poured, consisting of loose leaves in a mug of hot water and many polite speeches would be made before we got down to serious questions.

We learnt an incredible amount, not just about the facts of China's amazing growth, but also about the urgent need for greater economic and financial reform in China if they are to continue on their current trajectory. The 'elephant in the room' was always that of democratic reform. The closest we got to an answer on what their plans are, is that the Communist Party are bending over backwards to ensure greater accountability within a one party system. They believe (not surprisingly) that with a population of 1.3bn, a multi party system could not have achieved the recent dramatic improvement in quality of life. One official told us that now, in the 12th '5 Year Plan', there is recognition that economic growth is an insufficient target. Instead the target should be improved quality of life at all levels. In other words, there is a sense that provided growth continues at 8% or better year on year, and this translates into a real improvement in living standards across the board, then social harmony will be maintained.

So can China continue to grow at 8% year on year or better? Without exception the answer from the Chinese was 'yes'. Chinese productivity is rising fast; average income is rising 15-20% p/a from a low base; the response to the financial crisis of a massive increase in public sector infrastructure investment has created capacity for growth. Investment now accounts for 50% of GDP, both from public and private investment, the latter mainly in creating more capacity for export.

The big problems for China that most Government officials focus on are their 'internal' imbalances: per capita income is more than three times greater in the urban and East Coast areas than in rural regions leading to rapid urbanisation with both Shanghai and Beijing now over 20m population; domestic consumption rates are only about 30% (vs 65% in the US) - this is because there is no meaningful welfare net, healthcare or State pension as yet. The Government is moving to change this, now offering a pension of 120RMB (£12 a month) against an average p/c income of RMB 30,000 p/a, some subsidised housing etc.

Savings are a high proportion of income partly because government controlled deposit rates offer a negative net return - therefore people 'oversave' and there is also a tendency toward asset bubbles (housing, the stock market, even alcohol).

A key focus for Government must be to increase domestic demand and reduce reliance on exports. We went there thinking the Chinese should be as worried as we are about global imbalances, but the truth is that their perspective is a China- centric one: with the Eurozone turmoil reducing overseas demand, with the 6% appreciation of the RMB and with the growing cost base as domestic wages increase, they recognise exporting their way to success is not the ultimate answer.

So to grow domestic demand means real reform, and this is where it all became hazy......the local economists and bankers told us what needs to happen: enforceable land and property rights; market pricing for energy; ability for foreigners to list on Shanghai stock exchange; market interest rates etc etc, but it was unclear what will actually happen in this current 5 Year Plan. On the question of tax rates, where consumption taxes are around 60% (so another reason for low consumption) the Vice Head of the Financial Committee (sort of Andrew Tyrie's equivalent) said that tax reform is too difficult to tackle right now and must wait for future plans.

We also asked lots of questions on Chinese debt, around 18% of GDP until you add in 'local' debt, believed to increase the debt total to 80% of GDP. The local debt is due to the infrastructure investment. This is another hugely 'growth dependent' issue - if the economy grows the loans should be ok, but if growth stalls or there is a global 'shock' e.g. from a Euro breakup, then the government would have to stand behind the loans, and the Beijing IMF Rep suggested China would need another fiscal stimulus of around 3% of GDP.

It was all a very circular debate, pointing to the vital need for economic and fiscal reform leading to increased domestic demand and a lower reliance on export markets. I was left with the sense that growth is the only answer, but long term growth requires reform, and that is unlikely to happen anytime soon. The change of leadership at the top of the Party due in 2012 is another reason why reform will be slower than needed.

China offers huge growth potential to the UK - particularly in the traditional financial services areas such as pensions, insurance, savings and mortgages, where only a tiny proportion of the vast population have access to such products. In TEDA, one of the great success stories we were told about is a joint venture between Standard Life and a local Chinese company that now has 80% of the Tianjin market for life products.

Another big area of potential is in 'brands'. It really struck us how smitten the wealthy Chinese are with designer brands, whether it's cars, clothes or electronics. They have no major brands yet themselves, and we should be seizing the opportunity for taking a share of the fast growing luxury market. It's no surprise that Bicester Shopping Village is so popular with Chinese visitors to Britain!

We tried very hard to get a strong feel for Chinese views on the global picture. What did come across is that we certainly can't rely on China continuing its policy of slow appreciation of the RMB; we also got no sense of the timing of any planned deregulation of the currency. It was clear that China is focused on enhancing domestic growth but is not afraid of a continued high trade surplus. We had one interesting comment that China believes the world must save the Euro to avert global economic disaster, and that the Chinese will contribute via the IMF rather than the EFSF. They expect their role at G20, IMF and World Bank to continue to grow as they become an ever more important global player.

My overall impression is of a vast and largely untapped economic powerhouse. The hotels we stayed in were at the cheaper end, but with world class facilities and service - they have clearly got the hang of 'customer service' and the infrastructure (train stations, airports) is also world class. On the other hand, when you go onto wi-fi there is a slightly sinister message telling you that the police may monitor your internet usage and when footage came up on the BBC TV channel about Tibet, the programme shut down for a minute.

The trip probably raised more questions than it answered, but was a fascinating insight into what will soon be the world's biggest economy.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2012

Towcester By-Elections

By-elections for the District Council and County Council took place in Towcester last week following the sad death of Councillor Di Dallyn and the resignation of Councillor Rosemary Bromwich.

I would like to congratulate Councillor Chris Lofts who took the seat on the County Councillor and Councillor Lisa Samiotis who gained the Town Councillor seat, both for the Liberal Democrats. I look forward to working with them for the benefit of the town.

I think both Councillor Ian McCord and John Gasking, the Conservative candidates deserve congratulating for a well fought and positive campaign. Ian is a well respected Yardley Gobion District Councillor and I know he would have been a strong voice for Towcester on the Council. John Gasking has also been a strong voice for Towcester and I wish him a speedy recovery from his recent illness.

Finally, congratulations to all those that turned out to vote in the by-election on a bitterly cold and snowy February Thursday! The 29% turnout was not bad considering the weather...

0 comments

Post a comment


06 FEB 2012

Treasury Select Committee Visit - Singapore

Singapore - the best place in the world to do business! That's according to the World Bank's 'Doing Business' Report.

I am on a Treasury Select Committee visit to Singapore and China and I see our job as 1. Promoting British business; 2. Understanding how financial services are regulated and what Britain can learn from them; 3. Working out whether Singapore is a 'threat' or an 'opportunity' for British financial services; 4. Understanding China's policy toward opening up her economy.

When we arrived we could immediately see why Singapore has such a high business rating. A huge, modern airport, no queuing for passport control or luggage. In fact they target no more than a 12 minute wait........Heathrow could learn something from Changi. And if there was one consistent message right through our visit, it was that efficiency, ease of doing business and openness to trade is key to Singapore's success.

We had a briefing from the High Commissioner, and then formal meetings with Standard Chartered, the Financial Scrutiny Committee of Singapore's Parliament, the British Chamber of Commerce, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) plus Temasek and GIC, the two fund managers who between them manage Singapore's enormous reserves.

Standard Chartered almost immediately allayed any concerns about regulatory arbitrage opportunities between the City and Singapore - their capital and liquidity requirements remain well above Basel III so even with retail ring fencing in the UK, it's hard to see why any bank would want to move to Singapore. It was also clear from MAS that they are cautious about the size of banks compared to Singapore's GDP...... In fact foreign banks (with the exception of US banks) are only permitted a maximum of 25 outlets (including branches and even ATMs) in Singapore. I was left with the impression that the hints given by bankers who appear in front of the TSC that they might leave London are pretty unfounded at least where Singapore is concerned.....

At the Chamber of Commerce we had a fascinating presentation on China vs Europe and the US. It brought home to us what a vast potential market China offers. With average per capita income of $4,000 per year, the Chinese spend only one third of it, versus the US with $47,000 and spending 65% of it! In the US there are 700 cars per 1,000 of population; in China only 10.

There was a highly unforgiving perspective given to us on the Eurozone. The good news is that Britain is not tarred with the Eurozone brush, and there is consistent and vociferous support for our austerity measures - keep going, they urge! However, Germany is considered to have seriously failed in its duty to shore up the Euro. The argument goes like this.....Germany and China are the two 'problem' economies in terms of global imbalances. (global imbalances meaning the huge trade surpluses of Asia and Germany vs the huge trade deficits of the US and the rest of Europe).

China's policy response to the imbalance has been to permit a slow appreciation of the Renminbi over the last decade (with a notable and unhelpful halt during the financial crisis). This has made Chinese exports gradually more expensive and imports relatively cheaper, therefore encouraging a slow rebalancing of trade.

Germany, on the other hand, has been locked into a relatively suppressed currency (the Euro) versus where the Deutsch Mark might have been. This has boosted their exports outside the EU at the same time as the Single Market has given them unfettered access to the whole of the EU. So Germany took the good times, but her response to the bad times is to force austerity on her neighbours rather than take the real financial hit herself. I don't recall any of those we met believing the Euro can continue without Germany's underwriting it.

GIC and Temasek have undisclosed funds under management, believed to total up to Sing$ 400 billion between them. GIC has a big office in London and bases their infrastructure investment team there. As Britain gets our massive infrastructure programme underway, I hope we will be working hard to attract external funding to relieve the burden on the taxpayer.

Our meetings with Standard Chartered, with Parliament and with MAS were a great advertisement for Statist intervention! All gave the strong impression of Singapore as a huge corporation, where private and public sector decide together on a strategy and then make it happen. The example of shipping finance was given, where decisions were taken to develop an expertise, so while Standard Charter and others recruited the experts, fast track visas were provided and infrastructure to promote shipping was put in place. The tiny local population (5 million, of whom one third are immigrants) means that domestic consumption is tiny relative to international trading volumes. Singapore is a true barometer for the world economy - shipping freight, oil transportation and financial services all mean that Singapore is the first to take the hit in a downturn, and the first to recover afterwards.

My reservation about Singapore's governance is the degree of consensus in their thinking. The MAS is staffed with seriously intelligent people, but they are accountable to the Minister for Finance and then he is accountable to the parliamentary scrutiny committee. It's a far cry from our hearings in Britain where the Treasury Committee directly holds the Governor and the FSA to account, openly challenging their analysis. In Singapore, it's not clear who or how challenge is made. Even their Parliament is almost all one party and there is no effective Opposition. It's fine whilst they continue to get things right, but 'group think' is one of the biggest dangers in any endeavour. On the other hand, it's not Singapore that just suffered a massive financial crisis...

So the answer to the questions: 1. There is huge goodwill towards Britain (apparently even spurred on by our visit) and business opportunities will only get better as the EU free trade agreement is finalised, hopefully this year. 2. Financial Services in Singapore are on an even tighter rein than in the UK.....worth remembering when UK banks complain about regulatory change. 3. In financial services, I saw no evidence that Singapore threatens London's position. However, partnership with the Asian and European time zones is a fantastic opportunity as Asia's economies become ever larger and more globally important.

Next stop Shanghai. We've barely had any sleep yet due to time differences and no rest at all due to nonstop meetings! Still, utterly fascinating and can't wait to get to China. The last time I went was 20 years ago backpacking with my Mum and sister and all I remember was cockroaches everywhere! I'm told it's changed........

0 comments

Post a comment


01 FEB 2012

Early Attachment Adjournment Debate

On Tuesday I secured the Adjournment debate in the House of Commons. The debate was called 'Public disorder of August 2011 and the case for Early Intervention.' 'Mob Rule' and 'Flaming Morons' were headlines we saw back in August as a minority of mindless thugs spread fear and intimidation through our society. There can be no justification or excuse for the actions of this minority; it was simply selfish opportunism which can have no place in our society.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our police officers up and down the country who worked so hard to restore order in such difficult circumstances. I am pleased that strong action was taken against the rioters and that subsequently tough punishments have been handed out. No one made them loot and pillage, no one dragged them out onto the streets to take part. We have to get back to a Society where responsibilities are taken in equal measure to rights.

I am not seeking to justify or excuse the actions of the rioters in August but I would like to explore how we can prevent these scenes from ever being witnessed again. Early Attachment is the ultimate in prevention and I believe that prevention is not only far kinder, but far cheaper, than cure.

I put forward the case that the way to prevent the social breakdown we saw so vividly last August is by early years intervention from conception to age two. This means providing psychotherapeutic support for families struggling with the earliest relationship with their baby. I explained how secure attachment or 'parental love' literally hard wires the baby's brain. 'Loved' babies go on to become emotionally secure adults, able to hold down a job, make friends and keep a partner. Babies who are neglected or abused are likely to become the bullies, the victims, the mentally ill and the criminals - emotional damage done while the baby's brain is still developing has far reaching effects on our society.

It was a great pleasure to discuss the work of the Early Intervention charities OXPIP and NORPIP, who work to support families who may be struggling to bond with their babies. Helping parents to build the strongest possible relationships with their babies during the first two years produces huge benefits for that child as he / she grows up - and society also reaps huge dividends.

I was pleased to be given the opportunity to explain Early Intervention and highlight the impressive, vital and essential work that Parent Infant Projects are doing and can do more of in the future. I'm convinced that Parent Infant Projects can offer a massive contribution to mending our broken society and preventing scenes like the ones we saw on our streets in August.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 FEB 2012

New Anti HS2 Group Established

After the Secretary of State's announcement earlier this month to proceed with HS2, I decided to meet with colleagues to discuss how best to go forward with the campaign.

First and foremost I am against this project and will continue to be so because it is a waste of taxpayer's money, will not bring the benefits to the north that are claimed it will, is not environmentally friendly and will take far too long to deliver. I believe there are much better solutions to narrowing the North South and relieving capacity on our railway lines that can be delivered quicker, cheaper and in a more environmentally friendly way.

However, just because I am against this project does not mean that it is not sensible to discuss mitigation and compensation with the Government and HS2 Ltd if they are determined to go ahead with this project. If HS2 does go ahead then many communities are going to be affected but I do not want to see communities destroyed because of unforeseen consequences such as subsidence or social housing being placed in the wrong areas or houses in small communities becoming cut off and isolated.

I want compensation to be fair. If people want to move and can't sell their house then they need to receive compensation regardless of whether they officially qualify for the compensation schemes or not. If the route changes again we need to know what will happen to those homes who have already received a compulsory purchase order and I do not want to see people waiting decades before they see any kind of compensation. A lot of the talk surrounding compensation is regarding homes although we also have to ask questions about what will happen to businesses.

These are questions that were raised at a meeting with MP colleagues today and we urgently need answers to these questions very soon. I will be sending a letter to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport that will be jointly signed by other MPs very shortly asking her these questions.

It was also agreed to establish a new group of MPs who are sceptical about this project. The new group will be known as the 'HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum' and will meet on a regular basis to discuss campaign ideas and share information. The Secretary of State for Transport, officials from HS2 Ltd and experts who have worked on similar projects will be invited to address the group to answer questions and offer advice.

It is vitally important that we keep up the pressure on the Government and colleagues and I are determined to scrutinise this project closely in every aspect and I hope that this new group will allow us to achieve this.

1 comment

I am not in your constituency however I support you all the way with the formation of this new group.
- Anon

Post a comment


11 JAN 2012

Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences) Bill

In March last year I introduced a 10 Minute Rule Bill, 'Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences) Bill'. 10 Minute Rule Bills do not usually make it onto the Statute book, simply because there is not enough time to see them all the way through the legislative process but they are a great way of raising an important issue with the Government.

The Second Reading of my Bill is scheduled to take place on Friday 20 January 2012, however it is number 27 on the Order Paper and usually only two or three Bills get read therefore I do not expect my Bill to be reached! I have produced a Bill text which has been published and can be read below:

Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences) Bill  

I have also written to the Department for Transport to ask the Minister's opinion of the Bill and to encourage him to use it as a template for future road safety legislation.

3 comments

As a cyclist in London I never cycle on the pavement or jump red lights (I'm also a pedestrian and get as annoyed at those who do as everyone else). However I have hit pedestrians on my bike and have near misses all the time as some people just step into the road without looking or using pedestrian crossings properly. Have you considered what proportion of the collisions between pedestrians and cyclists you mention were caused by the pedestrian? From my experience I expect it's a significant number and you're overstating the problem. Cyclists are as vulnerable as pedestrians, so surely pedestrians should have as much responsibility to use roads safely as cyclists?
- Adam

NZ passed mandatory cycling helmet legislation based on one person's emotional experience. It is very bad making law based on emotions.
- Nigel

Similar to Adam I have been riding around london for many years and conspicuously attept to be law abiding. I am working on the premise that if I am seen to offer respect to other road users then I can reasonably expect the same from others. By and large this seems to work. The knee jerk reaction demonstrated by this bill is ridiculous, death or injury caused by cyclists pale in comparison to that caused by cars and trucks, also injury of cyclists incurred by poor observation when stepping out on the road is a greater problem. It may be populist to come up with this claptrap but I do expect more from an elected politician. An objective viewpoint would be appreciated.
- Rob

Post a comment


10 JAN 2012

HS2 Announcement

The Government have announced today their intention to proceed with the HS2 project. I wanted to provide you with all the information that the Government have produced today. You can view the relevant documents by clicking here.

The Secretary of State's Written Ministerial Statement is now on my website and can be viewed here.

The Secretary of State has announced that changes to the original route proposed have been made along the whole route in response to the consultation. In South Northamptonshire a longer green tunnel has been proposed past Chipping Warden and Aston le Walls and the route will curve to avoid a cluster of important heritage sites around Edgecote. These aim to provide additional mitigation for Aston le Walls, reduce setting impact on Grade I listed Edgecote House, avoid a scheduled momument (the Roman Villa site) and the possible location of the historic Edgecote Moor battlefield.

The alignment has been lowered and a green tunnel introduced past Greatworth, and a short green tunnel at Turweston. These changes aim to help mitigate landscape, noise and visual impacts as well as remove the need for a viaduct. Maps of the revised line of route can be found here.

As you know, I strongly support the need for better transport infrastructure but I continue to believe the existing HS2 project is not the right project and is not good value for taxpayers. I will continue to fight this proposal as strongly as I have before and will continue to try to convince the Government that there are better alternatives available.

0 comments

Post a comment


13 DEC 2011

The Day I Took a Year Five Lesson

I visited Yardley Gobion Primary School on Friday 9th December 2011.

Attending the school assembly I had the opportunity to talk to the whole school who were well informed about the role of MPs and Parliament.

During the assembly the school was presented with the International School Award for outstanding development of the International dimension in the curriculum by the British Council and not for the first time but for the third!

I also took the opportunity to take a lesson with Year 5 pupils. It was a wonderful experience to engage with the Year 5 children. It is one of the highlights of being an MP, and I took the opportunity to invite them to visit the Houses of Parliament which I really hope they will take up.

1 comment

This site is nice and amazing. I love your post! It's also nice to see someone who does a lot of research and has a great knack for ting, which is pretty rare from bloggers these days. Thanks! pilot license
- pilot license

Post a comment


13 DEC 2011

Value For Your Money

In an effort to be transparent about my work, I thought you might be interested to see an update of my parliamentary expenses so far this financial year (April 2011 to October 2011).

I do not claim expenses for accommodation either in Westminster or in Northamptonshire, nor do I claim expenses for any of my own travel costs on parliamentary business.

I run my office on a tight budget but with a view to making sure we can deal with the workload efficiently - I am conscious of the need to be very careful with taxpayers money. I have spent £10,500 on office costs (rent, printing, stationary, training for my staff etc) in the 7 months since April 2011. This is less than half the annual budget allowed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) of £21,500, so we are well ahead of budget. My staffing costs for the 7 months since April are £55,900, which is again well within the annual budget of £115,000 provided by IPSA. Finally, my staff have claimed £1,260 in travel between Westminster and South Northamptonshire, in conducting 38 out of an allowed 96 single journeys.

Since election in May 2010, I have written over 5,700 letters in response to enquiries from more than 2,600 constituents. In the last year, I have spoken in 73 debates in the House of Commons, and have received answers to 77 written questions. Both of these are above average amongst MPs. I have voted in 84.33% of votes in this Parliament, which again is above average amongst MPs. If you would like more information on the work that I do, you can sign up for alerts at www.theyworkforyou.com.

I will continue to work hard to provide the best service and value for money that I can for South Northamptonshire.

0 comments

Post a comment


11 DEC 2011

The Prime Minister Was Right To Use The Veto

I agree entirely with the Prime Minister's approach at the European Council meeting last week. Stability in the Eurozone is clearly in the UK's national interest, as are protecting access to the single market and defending the financial services industry in the UK. The PM sought to achieve all these objectives and was forced to use his veto when it became apparent that other EU leaders were not prepared to allow Britain's own national interest to be taken into account.

The financial services industry employs nearly two million people in Britain, accounts for 10% of GDP, and generates over £50 billion in tax receipts annually in the UK. It is a vital national interest that must be protected. The UK is a gateway to the EU for financial services, but it is important that we also look to the faster growing markets of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and others around the world. We must not get tied down by EU legislation that would prevent our businesses accessing these markets.

Up until the credit crunch of 2008, EU policy on financial services was generally helpful to the City of London, expanding market access and liberalising financial markets across Europe. London was rightly seen by EU policy makers as a leader in the field and an asset to Europe. Since the crisis, the response from UK and EU policy makers has been markedly different. EU policy is generally to restrict activity of financial markets—the default reaction appears to be if you don't like it, ban it. UK policy, on the other hand, is to radically improve regulation and supervision, going further in some cases, such as the Vickers report on banking, than currently allowed under EU law.

There are currently nearly 50 proposals under consideration by the European Union which threaten UK financial services. Some of the most damaging include a Financial Transactions Tax, a ban on some short-selling, and a proposal that transactions on euro-denominated financial products are cleared only in the eurozone.

While having a significant interest in Financial Services, the UK may well be out-voted on matters in the EU. From 2014, the UK will have only 12 per cent of the votes in the Council of Ministers and 10 per cent in the European Parliament, yet it accounts for 36 per cent of the EU's wholesale finance industry and enjoys a 61 per cent share of the EU's net exports of international transactions in financial services.

Over the last two weeks, I have hosted meetings of the cross party group for European Reform and the Fresh Start Project where we discussed the issue of Financial Services. One idea that we have put forward is to negotiate for the UK an 'emergency brake' on EU financial services legislation. This could take the form of a 1 clause, UK specific legal safeguard which would give the UK the ability to block the effects of potentially harmful EU legislation.

Eurozone leaders continue to want to involve all 27 EU members in the treaty change required for closer fiscal union in the eurozone, and to use the institutions of the EU to implement this fiscal union. I don't think it is practical for a new treaty without Britain to be implemented and I suspect we will see other EU member states coming to the same conclusion pretty soon. There is a long way to go, not just in this particular treaty negotiation, but also to stabilise the euro—the crisis is far from over. With this backdrop, the PM is absolutely right to be negotiating in Britain's best interests.

0 comments

Post a comment


02 DEC 2011

Is A Two Speed Europe Back On The Agenda?

The eurozone crisis is reaching end of the beginning. For too long we have limped on with a pretence from European leaders that Greece can somehow survive in the Eurozone. The reality is that Greece is now completely uncompetitive and has been fiscally irresponsible. Greece does not have the infrastructure to collect taxes properly; the Greek pensionable age is far too young; the public sector is far too powerful, and the riots on the streets show clearly that the public is deeply resistant to the level of austerity that is necessary if they are to pull through within the Eurozone terms.

Even with the change of government, I think it is inevitable that Greece will default. It needs to do what it should have done eighteen months ago: leave the euro and renegotiate its debt. The markets can cope with an orderly sovereign debt default; they cannot cope with complete uncertainty and a lack of transparency.

The question is now 'What will the markets do next?' Mrs Thatcher once said 'You can't buck the markets.' This contrasts strikingly with Angela Merkel's view that 'Politics cannot and will not simply follow the markets.' Undoubtedly, politicians will have to follow the markets in the end - unless we are prepared to change entirely our capitalist, wealth-generating system. Of course we are not and we should not – but drastic action of a different kind is needed.

The alternatives are:

  1. Fiscal union between all eurozone countries, effectively giving Germany control over tax rates, interest rates and the pensionable age. Will the European public wear this? I would say absolutely not...
  2. A massive bailout by Germany in return for nothing. Will the German people wear that? I would say absolutely not...
  3. Germany leaving the euro. This is ironically an increasingly attractive solution - if Germany was to leave, its currency would revalue dramatically and the euro would be left to devalue to the point where the rest of the eurozone could become competitive. Opinion polls in Germany suggest the idea has some merit.
  4. A disorderly break up of the euro. Whilst still at the moment an unthinkable outcome, without a comprehensive political solution it becomes an inevitable endgame.

In the end, what could force the hand of European leaders is another banking crisis, not about who owns what in asset-securitised loans but about who owns what in sovereign debt. Banks are not required to mark to market their holdings in government debt, so the uncertainty around who owns what is creating extra problems. If we end up with another banking crisis where banks will not lend to one another because of uncertainty, we will be rightly accused of having learned nothing from the crisis in 2008.

Britain is certainly not immune to the crisis - almost half our exports go to the eurozone and the crisis we are currently witnessing could well push us back into recession. We have to come up with a serious new agenda for growth. One of the biggest hindrances for growth is the bureaucracy of the European Union.

Regulation and red tape is stifling business and acting as a disincentive to entrepreneurialism. It is the single biggest problem of being a member of the EU, and gives a big focus for renegotiation when the time comes, as we know it must and will.

The contemporary reality presents us with a major opportunity. There is no doubt that while markets are instantaneous, treaties take years and Britain needs to be ready to renegotiate a better deal for our citizens as a result of this complete chaos. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for European Reform, which I chair with Thomas Docherty MP (Labour, Dunfermline and West Fife), met for the first time in early November. We will be offering the government a considered piece of research about which areas they should focus on when they come to renegotiate our relationship with the EU in the best interests of Britain. I am delighted that the Foreign Secretary has indicated his support for the group and that he has offered the support of Government advisors to contribute to our meetings.

The outcome of the crisis in the eurozone and the future of the European Union are both uncertain, yet one thing we can be sure of is that the EU is going to change fundamentally - and that this is provides a huge chance for us to negotiate a new relationship that is in the best interests of Britain.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 DEC 2011

Time To Stop The Bonuses!

The Financial Stability Report, to be published twice a year by the new Financial Policy Committee of the Bank of England, has come out today with a very clear recommendation to the Banks: "given the current exceptionally threatening environment, the Committee recommends that, if earnings are insufficient to build capital levels further, banks should limit distributions and give serious consideration to raising external capital in the coming months".

I sincerely hope this means the current proposals for another round of huge bankers' bonuses will be shelved. We are at a point in the Eurozone crisis where the banking system could again collapse with even worse consequences than in 2008. Bank Chief Executives, with pressure from shareholders, need to see the writing on the wall for bonuses.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 DEC 2011

Lobby Day On Sex And Relationship Education In Primary Schools

On Thursday 1 December I presented a petition of over 45,000 signatures to the Department for Education of parents who are against explicit sex education in primary schools. This followed a Lobby Day I sponsored in Parliament on Thursday 24 November to discuss this issue.

The meeting was addressed by a range of speakers, including Antonia Tully, leader of a campaign 'Safe at School' which advises parents and teachers who are concerned about the explicit nature of sex education in schools. There were also a number of parents from Northamptonshire and other parts of England who addressed the meeting and spoke of their experiences with their own children and finding out about the material that was being shown to them at school.

I have been contacted by a number of local parents expressing their concerns. It is, of course, a very difficult issue for many parents to raise, and there is always the delicate balance between expressing concern for what your children are seeing and not being seen to rock the boat or wishing to alienate them among their school friends.

A number of MPs and Lords attended the meeting and I think the whole room was shocked by seeing some of the material that is being used to teach young children about sex. The Department for Education is currently drafting new guidelines for schools on sex and relationship education (SRE) and I would like to see a form of independent classification of the material used. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has been rating films for 99 years and seems to be well placed to assess material, and I am sure that this would give worried parents some peace of mind in knowing what their children were seeing.

To see some of the images being shown to very young children in our primary schools was genuinely shocking. We are not asking the Government to start implementing legislation on SRE material but we are saying we think the status quo is quite wrong and we want to work with the Department and parents to make sure there is good guidance over what materials are used in schools.

I met with Nick Gibb MP, the Schools Minister yesterday with some of the parents from Northamptonshire to discuss the meeting and the issues which were raised. I know the Minister takes this matter very seriously and I hope he will take on board my idea of allowing the BBFC to age rate material.

(Picture shows Andrea presenting the petition to the Department for Education)

0 comments

Post a comment


30 NOV 2011

High Speed Rail Lobby Day 2011

On Monday 28 November I chaired the High Speed Rail Lobby Day which took place in the Grand Committee Room in Parliament.

Many MPs whose constituencies are affected and many that are not attended the meeting to listen to the arguments. I was pleased to see a number of Members of the House of Lords attend as well as members of Action Groups who continue to work tirelessly to change the Government's mind on this project and make sure that people around the country know and understand the facts.

Jerry Marshall spoke about the alternatives to HS2 and the Transport Select Committee's report into HS2 which, whilst supporting the concept of high speed rail, raises serious concerns about this project in its current form. Steve Rodrick then spoke about the environmental impact of HS2. There was then a chance for questions and I was pleased to see so many activists, MPs and Lords take part.

The Government is expected to make an announcement regarding the project before Christmas. The rumour is that an announcement could be made on Tuesday 20 December which is the date that Parliament breaks up for Christmas recess. I continue to urge as many of you as possible to write to your MP and to the Secretary of State for Transport to raise your concerns and insist that she looks again at this project. Even more importantly, I suggest you try to get as many of your family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances from all corners of the country to write to their own MPs and the Secretary of State raising their concerns over the project.

In my view this project makes no economic sense, will not narrow the North South divide, will provide little in the way of regeneration and job creation, is not environmentally friendly and will not deliver the necessary capacity relief on the West Coast Main Line until at least 2026. We must spread this message as far and wide as we can and make sure that as many people as possible also know these facts, share our concerns and urge the Government to look again at this white elephant.

1 comment

The solution to deal with the near weekly incident that closes or severely restricts services on the WCML for part or all of the day is almost in place now, and was used during the later stages of the improvement programme. The Blockade buster trains ran from Euston via Banbury, and the Chiltern Line enhancements mean that these could deliver a route knowledge retention service built in to the timetable now - as already exists with Chiltern running one service a day from Paddington to Birmingham. The problem with our rail network is the removal and lack of interoperability - both of the tracks and trains - examples elsewhere in Europe of systems used more intensively - yet also more reliably have the ability to switch between alternative routes and move any broken train immediately with any train available nearby. (we had this with Southern Region's old electric trains that could have a diesel loco plugged in at either end and carry on in service when the power went away. It would not be too difficult to use the 4-track corridor (now with 2-3 tracks) that was built in the 20th Century with Basle gauge and high speeds designed in, that is the GW/GC joint line (Chiltern) and Chiltern has thoughtfully left the earthworks for Ashenden Junction in place when they relaid 2 tracks to Bicester.. Both PAD-BMO and EUS-BHM routes are 113 miles, and Chiltern has already done MYB-BMO in 87 minutes with a service train, calling at several stops, and thier budget price 100mph track & signalling enhancement (there is s step-cost to take the speeds up over 100mph), and the trains used at present have 125mph carriages but a 100mph constraint on the locomotives. A bit of work at Willesden/Old Oak Common would deliver a pair of 4-track main lines that could run from Paddington or Euston (allowing one to close for major works overnight/at weekends and also be available for those incidents) Restoring a railway Ashenden Junction to Rugby will put Buckingham, Brackley and Daventry back on a rail map of the UK and huge populations connected to a 40-50 minute rail service to London, and allow intensive use of the Chiltern route without adding demand for train paths from Banbury and Leamington where more services heading for Birmingham join it. A WCML connection at Rugby ten permits the use of a flip-flop timetable like that used for the 3 trains/hour MAN-EUS Each takes a different route, via Crewe, via Stafford and direct via Colwich Junction, all taking roughly the same time, and leaving space to fit in the stopping services and other trains. A connected and interoperable pair of 4-track main lines between Birmingham and London (and the connection to the Great Western route) offers both the flexibility of the manchester arrangement and the option for planned closure and gauge enhancement of the WCML (and Chiltern) to carry bi-level commuter trains - more passenger per train without the issues of signalling and platform work associated with train lengthening (and a cost trade off to consider), HS1 and the Tunnel fall down around once a year with a total blockage and no route to switch over to, an isolated HS2 railway carries on with this vulnerability.
- Dave H

Post a comment


21 NOV 2011

Wind Farm Meeting At Sponne School

I organised a meeting on Monday 7 November to discuss onshore wind farms with Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy and a dozen other MP Colleagues. The issues I wanted to raise were:

  1. Localism – how do wind farms being approved on appeal fit with our Localism agenda?
  2. Technology – what realistic contribution can wind farms make to meeting our energy needs?
  3. Fuel poverty – how are we going to deal with the problem of more and more people falling into fuel poverty as energy bills keep on rising?

It was a constructive meeting with the Minister answering a number of questions and later in the week he wrote to me. You can read the letter here. Since then I have held a meeting in the constituency with representatives of the 92 parish councils in the district.

I was able to give them some positive news:

  1. The Government have confirmed that developers will be encouraged to build wind farms in genuinely wind areas! As South Northamptonshire is one of the least windy places in the country this is good news.
  2. The Minister for Energy also told me that the subsidy for wind farms will be cut by 10% in 2013. The Government believes that this may make South Northamptonshire even more unattractive for developers when combined with low wind speeds. The viability of an application is now a material planning consideration.
  3. We also discussed the Localism Bill which has now received Royal Assent. The Bill will amongst other things abolish regional renewables targets and introduces the right for communities to come together and produce neighbourhood plans to shape their environment. It is intended that local councils will provide help and assistance in producing them.

The focus of planning will now be to give the power to local people and key to this was the introduction of Neighbourhood Development. Top down targets are being abolished.

Yardley Gobion was selected to be a pilot village earlier this year to produce a NDP and having worked with South Northamptonshire District Council they have produced an excellent plan. I hope that this could be used as a template for other villages. Some villages and communities may be too small to produce their own plan but several villages could come together to produce a plan and share some of the burden. The NDPs are a 'right' not an 'obligation' and if communities don't produce one the local plan adopted by the district council will apply.

The Minister also spoke about looking at other types of renewable energy such as biomass, photovoltaic, offshore wind and tidal technology. He stressed that in order to meet our energy security needs a mix of renewable energy sources are needed. This also must include nuclear energy.

There were a number of concerns raised such as the cut in subsidy of solar photovoltaic and the 'grey area' that exists from now until the Localism Bill is law and communities have had an opportunity to come up with Neighbourhood Development Plans. The issue of minimum distances being set for wind turbines was also discussed. However, the Minister explained that the problem with setting minimum distances is that this can quite often have unintended consequences. If there was a minimum distance this might rule out a wind turbine being built in an industrial area which might be quite suitable and could mean that wind farms could only ever be built in the countryside.

I have written to the Minister following the meeting to raise a number of the concerns which were discussed and further updates will follow. You can read the letter here.

(Picture shows Andrea at the meeting at Sponne School)

3 comments

Very Nice Blog, I am very happy to visit yours blog. Keep up the good work. I wait to read more posts. Pilot license
- Pilot license

Very Nice Blog, I am very happy to visit yours blog. Keep up the good work. I wait to read more posts. Pilot license
- Pilot license

This blog is nice and amazing. I love your post! It's also nice to see someone who does a lot of research and has a great knack for ting, which is pretty rare from bloggers these days. Thanks! Pilot license
- Pilot license

Post a comment


17 NOV 2011

Visit To Barclaycard

On Friday 11 November I visited Barclaycard in Northampton. They are our largest private sector employer and I was interested to hear about the new technology they are working on, how they are dealing with the growing problem of fraud and the work they do in the community.

Technology is progressing very fast. We have only just got the hang of chip and pin cards but advances in technology will soon see contactless technology become the norm. There is also talk of payments being made using our mobile phones. Advances in technology, like these are aimed at helping small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) with faster, easier and more efficient transactions. Of course, the danger of advances in technology, especially in financial services is the inevitable rise in fraud, but it was interesting to hear how Barclaycard are dealing with it.

In order to deal with fraud they need to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters – which is extremely difficult to do. For a long time a lot of fraud was carried out at cash machines with cards being scanned and cameras recording your pin number. By creating awareness banks feel that we are getting to grips with this problem. However, in recent years as we have moved more and more to online banking so have the fraudsters. Financial services like Barclaycard deal with this by analysing transaction patterns and alerting customers of any unusual activity as soon as possible. Barclaycard estimate that they manage to save many millions of pounds each year by detecting and preventing fraud.

I was also pleased to hear of the good work that Barclaycard do in the community. I was told about 'Easy Street' where Barclaycard brought together local SMEs and provided a market place for them to advertise and trade with some fantastic results. They hope to do these events regularly in future. Barclaycard have also set up a 'Blue Pages' which is a directory of local SMEs.

I also heard about their excellent in-house charity work. This year the company took part in JOGLE which was a journey for charity from John O'Groats to Lands End! Barclaycard employees were encouraged to complete any distance they chose whether it was 1 mile or 100 miles by whatever means they wanted whether it was to swim, run or cycle. It sounded like great fun and a great way of getting all employees from around the country involved. Amazingly Barclaycard exceeded their £50,000 target and raised £105,000 for ABF The Soldier's Charity, so many congratulations to all who took part!

I was delighted to have some good news stories to tell about one of our big banks ...

0 comments

Post a comment


10 NOV 2011

Launch of the APPG on European Reform

I greatly welcome the publication by Open Europe of their paper on repatriating EU Social Policy. You can view the report here. It is of fundamental importance to the jobs and growth agenda in the UK, and is unique in that it quantifies the cost to the UK economy of complying with EU Social Policy at £8.6bn per year. While there are clear benefits to some social and employment law, Open Europe calculate that cutting EU regulation in this area by 50% would create 140,000 jobs in the UK. This is hugely significant at a time when economic growth remains slow.

What is also clear is that even though there is disagreement among politicians about the desirable extent of Social and Employment legislation, there is a growing consensus that decisions are better taken at a national, rather than European, level. The left may increasingly come to the view that EU legislation is not only failing to provide improved worker protection, it is in some ways undermining it, as the austerity agenda caused by the Eurozone crisis will force governments to liberalise their labour markets. The right and business leaders continue to complain about the cost of complying with EU laws.

National governments are better able to create Social Policy that suits the specific needs of their economies and citizens. And making this policy in Westminster brings politics closer to the citizens that it affects.

For these reasons, I am excited about the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on European Reform, and its inaugural meeting which is to be held on 10 November. We will be discussing the issue of Employment and Social Policy and will draw on the opinions of members from all political parties, along with peers, MEPs, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and other leading think tanks. I have put myself forward as Co-Chair, with Thomas Docherty MP, from the Labour intake of 2010. Other MPs who have put themselves forward as officers include Frank Field MP, Gisela Stuart MP, Mark Garnier MP, David Ruffley MP, Margot James MP, Harriett Baldwin MP, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, George Eustice MP, Karen Lumley MP, Anne-Marie Morris MP, Priti Patel MP, and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne.

Following the launch of the APPG, I plan to work with Conservative Colleagues through the Fresh Start Project to develop specific policy proposals on the repatriation of powers.

0 comments

Post a comment


31 OCT 2011

Update: Total Correspondence

Our records indicate that we have dealt with 2573 individual enquiries since I was elected, receiving 5840 items of correspondence, and sending 7183 items in reply.

0 comments

Post a comment


26 OCT 2011

Why I Voted For A Referendum

On Monday 24 October a debate was held in the House of Commons on whether to allow the British public a referendum on our membership of the European Union. The Government had told all their MPs that they should vote against the motion and not vote for a referendum. Whilst I believe the Government are doing an excellent job in Europe, for example keeping us out of further bailouts of Greece and putting in place the EU referendum lock, nevertheless I decided I must support the motion for the sake of our democracy. For too long, voters have been denied the chance to have their say on ever closer EU integration, and so, whilst it was a very difficult decision, I concluded that I had to support the principle of a referendum.

Let me be clear, I did not think that the motion put forward by backbench colleagues was the right motion. What was proposed was that the Government should bring in a Bill to allow the public a referendum on our membership of the EU and the options put forward would be:

Remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;Leave the European Union; orRenegotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.

There are a number of problems with this motion. The first is that it does not explain what is meant by 'leaving the EU'. It is not as simple as just walking away, there are benefits to our membership and advantages that we do not want to lose. The single market is critical to British trade.

The second problem with the motion is that if this was put to the British public, the vote might well be split three ways. 40% might vote to stay in the EU, 30% to leave and 30% to renegotiate. What would a result like that tell us? Absolutely nothing! Technically the pro Europe vote would have won and yet 60% of the public would have voted for some kind of change in our relationship.

I tabled an amendment with other MPs that called on the Government to produce a White Paper looking in to what powers should be repatriated followed by a renegotiation and then a ratifying referendum. Unfortunately the amendment was not selected for debate by the Speaker.

Successive Governments over decades have denied us a right to have our say on the EU, that has sucked so many powers away from the United Kingdom with precious little democratic legitimacy. I was not able to vote the last time we had a national referendum on our relationship with Europe. The Europe we have today bears little resemblance to the Europe we voted for in 1975 – it is high time the British public had another say.

Therefore in spite of the Whips in Parliament telling me now was not the right time to call for a referendum, with a heavy heart I joined the group of 81 Conservative MPs that voted for a referendum. I hope I have your support.

I would like to inform you of a new EU reform project, sponsored by George Eustice MP, Chris Heaton-Harris MP and myself that aims to research and build cross party support for a new relationship between the UK and EU, culminating in a draft White Paper that we will produce by July 2012.

Working closely with Open Europe and other think tanks, we will produce detailed research on each policy area affected by the EU (social and employment law, financial services, Structural funds, CAP etc) and we will then consult with MPs, MEP's, interest groups and constitutional experts on the substance of each area. We will publish a policy paper on each issue, and the first research paper, on Social and Employment Law, is due to be published in the second week of November.

0 comments

Post a comment


26 OCT 2011

Debate on Sex and Relationship Education in Primary Schools

On Tuesday 25 October I led a debate in Parliament to discuss sex and relationship education (SRE) in primary schools. There is no doubt that sex and relationship education is important and needs to be taught to our children as we try to deal with issues such as teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, however, there is also no doubt that some of the material being used in some schools is completely inappropriate for the ages of the pupils.

I am confident that every school is teaching SRE with the best of intentions; however a lot of the material is unlicensed and supplied by private companies without guidance to schools. A number of head teachers have said to me that they would appreciate far more guidance on what is age appropriate and suitable for children of different age groups.

In my speech in Parliament I made four points. Firstly I suggested that an independent body such as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) which has been age rating our films and DVDs since it was set up in 1912, could extend their remit to cover SRE material to provide guidance for schools.

Secondly, I would like to see appropriate material being taught in every school. SRE is about sex and relationships. We should not be teaching our children solely about the physical act of sex but we should also be teaching about relationships, explaining that sex can lead to lots of emotions being felt, explaining certain consequences and emphasising love and commitment.

Thirdly, I called for schools to be helped to make informed decisions over what is being taught. I would like to see teachers, head teachers and governors all taking an active interest in the material being used in SRE lessons and making sensible decisions, with better guidance.

Finally, I stressed how important a parent's involvement in this issue is. Parents often assume that a school knows best – which is no bad thing – but on such a sensitive issue parents must be supplied with all the information. I also believe that rather than being able to 'opt out' of SRE lessons in primary schools, parents should be allowed to 'opt in' after considering all the information. What could be acceptable for one seven year old may not be acceptable for another seven year old and only a parent can make this decision.

The debate was well attended and was very good natured with some interesting and constructive speeches and comments being made. Away from the Punch and Judy style politics of Prime Ministers Questions and the big debates in the Chamber of the House of Commons, which the media tend to focus on, it is often the smaller debates that receive less attention that are the most constructive, informative and productive.

0 comments

Post a comment


17 OCT 2011

HS2 Debate in the House of Commons

After many months of trying Dan Byles MP, Geoffrey Robinson MP and I finally secured a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons to discuss HS2. The debate took place on Thursday 13 October and was very well attended.

Members from all Parties and all sides of the argument attended what was a fiercely argued debate. In total 16 MPs spoke, in addition to the 19 MPs that spoke in the Westminster Hall debate in Parliament earlier in the year. Like that debate, many MPs wanted to speak but were not called to do so as time ran out.

The amount of interest in these two debates shows just how important the issue is to the whole country. I was particularly pleased to see that MPs from across the country including the North West and Birmingham raised their concerns about the project.

In my speech I made clear that I entirely support the need to improve capacity on our railways but that this particular project is neither environmentally friendly nor will it narrow the North South divide, it is, in fact, an enormous waste of taxpayers' money. I argued that there are many measures we can take now to deal with the capacity issue. These measures will go much further in solving the North South divide and can be delivered far quicker so that commuters on the West Coast Mainline do not have to wait until 2026 at the earliest for relief to the overcrowding.

Since the debate we now have a new Secretary of State for Transport. Philip Hammond has moved to the Ministry of Defence and Justine Greening, previously the Economic Secretary, has been promoted to Secretary of State for Transport. Justine has done a fantastic job at the Treasury and has certainly proved her ability as an economic thinker. My main argument has always been that this project is not good value for taxpayers' money and I have written to Justine to ask if she will meet with me to discuss the proposal.

I am hopeful that with two well attended debates behind us, growing opposition to this project from all Parties and MPs across the country and a new Transport Secretary, the Government may reconsider this project and opt for a more sensible choice that would deal with our capacity problems, go further in solving the North South divide and be much better value for money.

I would like to thank the thousands of constituents who are constantly writing letters, attending meetings and giving up their own time to oppose this project – keep up the hard work. The battle continues!

(picture shows Andrea speaking in the HS2 debate)

0 comments

Post a comment


21 SEP 2011

European Reform

The political and economic crisis threatening to engulf the Eurozone could spell big problems for Britain's economic recovery. At a feisty Treasury Select Committee meeting on the crisis this week academics and market practitioners who gave evidence believe the Eurocrats will keep on fudging it until the markets force a Greek default. My own worry is that even when Greece does default it will be partial and inadequate. The markets might short term let them get away with this but if traders turn their sights seriously on a big economy like Spain or Italy there will be bitter regret that the contagion was not prevented by radical action on Greece. I fear we could limp on like this for a while yet, with no clear end in sight.

I think national regulators should be forcing banks to disclose all their exposure to euro sovereign debt, and then fully mark to market. Transparency, provisioning and then recapitalisation of the banks is the only way to avoid a Lehman-style meltdown, as bank counterparties progressively lose faith in the published numbers

Last week Chris Heaton Harris MP, George Eustice MP and I arranged a meeting for Colleagues to discuss a new project with a single goal - to build a new relationship for Britain within the EU.

Over 100 Conservative MPs from across the spectrum of opinion came along with a shared determination to support reform in the interests of Britain and the EU. We explained that this new project will:

1. Do the heavy lifting in researching on a policy by policy basis how Britain's interests could be better served. Working closely with think tanks including Open Europe we will develop a blueprint for a reordered EU-UK relationship, as well as taking advice from constitutional lawyers on how to implement reform.

2. Through the parliamentary European Research Group and its new Associate Group we will consult with Colleagues and pull together the best ideas. We will also produce a draft White Paper.

3. We will establish an All Party Parliamentary Group to engage views across Parties.

What we want to achieve is a considered and intelligent view that supports the Government when the opportunity arises, as I am sure it will, to renegotiate in the best interests of Britain.

The challenge of our project, I believe, is to be ready to meet the day when the eventual 'wrap up' treaty comes along. I think this is a once in a generation opportunity to achieve a better relationship with Europe and a better deal for Britain – a deal, too, that can only benefit the other member states by restoring reality to a debate long dominated by dogma.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 SEP 2011

HS2 To Be Debated In The House Of Commons

I have secured a debate on High Speed Two to be held in the House of Commons Chamber on Thursday 13 October. The debate will be a general debate which will cover all aspects of this project.

Following a previous debate in Parliament earlier this year, the Backbench Business Committee have agreed to allocate time in the Chamber to discuss this topical issue, which is of national significance, due to the overwhelming number of MPs who wish to speak and the wide spectrum of opinion on this issue.

I am delighted that, with support from many colleagues across all Parties, we have managed to secure this debate. The consultation on HS2 has now closed and the Government will be presenting their findings by the end of the year. It is extremely important that a project of such national significance, that will cost every household in the country £1,000, is debated and scrutinised closely.

I will be arguing that, whilst agreeing with the urgent need to improve our rail capacity, HS2 is not the right choice. This project will deliver no relief to struggling commuters on the West Coast Mainline until 2026 at the earliest and once completed I fear that local commuter services from places such as Rugby, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Northampton will actually suffer as a result. The project will be, at best, carbon neutral and I do not believe that this project will achieve the regeneration of Northern cities and towns, that is predicted.

At a time when households around the country are being asked to make savings, it is right that we ensure we are achieving good value for taxpayer's money. The Institute for Economic Affairs, the Taxpayer's Alliance and The Economist, to name a few, have all called into question the value of this project. At £32 billion I believe that this money can be better spent on projects such as Rail Package 2, investment in existing rail services, reopening local rail lines and investment in high speed broadband which will improve connections across the country and can be delivered far quicker than HS2.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 SEP 2011

Independent Commission on Banking Report

I'm relieved rather than delighted at the Independent Commission on Banking's proposals for two reasons - first, the ring fence is 'narrowly defined'. A broad definition that included all commercial banking would, I think, be impossible to enforce. As it is there are still plenty of questions to answer: will designating 'systemically important' banks only make their stranglehold on the Personal Current Account and Small and Medium-sized Enterprise markets stronger? (ie will we all prefer to bank with them, as they are less likely to be allowed to fail?); what happens to new banking entrants?

And that brings me on to the second 'relief' in the ICB proposals - the emphasis on competition. As part of the Treasury Select Committee, we have been urging Ministers to focus on better competition and reducing the barriers to entry. The personal current account and SME markets are highly concentrated and inertia in 'switching' bank accounts is high. I welcome the ICB's determination to force banks to improve the switching process, but would like the Government to go even further by breaking up the state owned banks, selling off parts of their businesses to the likes of Tesco Bank, M&S Financial Services and other diversified British businesses. A diversified and competitive banking sector would offer a major boost to the UK economy.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 SEP 2011

NORPIP

NORPIP, The Northamptonshire Parent Infant Project, is now officially up and running! My dream of building parent infant projects across the country is getting underway at last.

NORPIP, like its sister charity, OXPIP, will tackle some of Society's most challenging issues. We know from the shocking rioting and looting on our streets in August that there is a desperate need to address the broken elements within our society. Young people who cannot control their impulses, who are violent and who have no moral compass, are like that for a reason....

It all boils down to the earliest relationships. The experiences of a new baby are literally hard wired into his or her brain by the age of two. Where a baby is loved and nurtured, he will grow up with the expectation that the world is generally a good place and people are generally kind. The baby who is abused, neglected or totally ignored, however, will literally fail to develop a healthy brain – the frontal cortex (the bit that enables us to empathise with others and to form relationships) will not grow properly. This is because this part of the brain has its peak period of growth between 6 and 18 months of age, and growth is dependent on the stimulation of a loving relationship with a primary carer.

A baby that does not achieve a secure bond with his primary carer (usually his Mum) means he is unlikely to grow into an emotionally balanced adult. Instead he is likely to be predisposed to a life of crime, self harm, drug abuse and aggression. His brain has not been taught the human traits of empathy, responsibility and love. Before the age of 2 the brain is sponge like in its capacity to soak up the stimulation it receives but deprived of the right sort of attention, the emotional part, the frontal cortex, fails to develop adequately. Our prisons, our psychiatric hospitals and our homeless hostels are full of the evidence of poor early relationships. And worse still, poor early relationships are passed from one generation to another creating a cycle of misery that costs our society dearly.

NORPIP will offer intensive therapeutic counseling to parents and their babies in Northamptonshire. We will support families by working with parent and baby together to build a positive relationship that will meet the needs of the baby. The work of OXPIP in Oxfordshire over the past 12 years shows that our methods work – potentially disastrous relationships between baby and those responsible for his development have been completely turned around in a highly cost effective way. Prevention is not just kinder, but it is also much cheaper than cure.

NORPIP will initially be operating from Victoria House in Towcester and Vanessa Bird is our Office Manager. Please contact me NOW on my website if you have any enquiries for NORPIP – if you would like to access our services, if you would like to volunteer to help us, or if you would like to learn more, please get in touch.

I'm convinced that Parent Infant Projects can offer a massive contribution to mending our broken society.

0 comments

Post a comment


25 AUG 2011

Keeping Society Safe

The mindless violence and criminality we saw on our streets last week has no justification or excuse. The selfish opportunism from a minority of hooligans can have no place in our Society. We owe a debt to Police Forces up and down the country and to those courageous police who tried to restore order in such difficult circumstances.

The Prime Minister was right to recall Parliament. As I write, we have just spent nearly 3 hours in the Chamber discussing what can be done against the thuggery of a minority spreading fear and intimidation on our streets. MPs of all parties robustly condemned the violence and destruction.

There was no woolly minded hand wringing for once. As the PM said - these people are all 'volunteers' - no one made them loot and pillage, no one dragged them out onto the streets to take part. We have to get back to a Society where responsibilities are taken in equal measure to rights.

I raised with the Prime Minister the possibility of spraying rioters with chemical dye so that they can easily be picked up by the Police the next day and he confirmed that the Police will look at all means to stop the violence. Criminal behaviour will be met with tough measures.

We also, though, have to look at the root causes of this social breakdown and try to figure out why a minority of young people behave so aggressively towards other people and property without the restraint of any moral compass.

I know from my work over the last 10 years with a charity OXPIP and now with NORPIP in Northamptonshire that some of these young thugs literally lack a properly developed 'human' part of their brain - they lack the brain capacity to restrain their anger and to feel empathy for others.

It's an astounding fact but proven by brain science that when babies are born, their brains are undeveloped and, in particular, the frontal cortex, the part of the brain that allows empathy and all 'human' qualities, is not yet there at all. This part of the brain puts on a huge growth spurt when a baby is 6-18 months old, stimulated by the loving attention of a primary carer (usually Mum). Babies whose parents ignore them, abuse them, neglect them and deprive them of loving attention commit their baby to a life long sentence of being 'less than human'. Violent criminality, self harming, drug abuse, depression, homelessness - all of these are life sentences handed down by parents when baby was too young to do anything but cry himself into an exhausted sleep.

It's my view that our society is paying the price of a cycle of misery passed down the generations - the baby girl that was neglected becomes the teenage Mum. Why? Because she is looking for someone who at last will love her. But when baby arrives, Mum can't cope and does the same to her baby as her Mum did to her. And so it goes on....

OXPIP and NORPIP intervene early to help families that are struggling to form a secure bond with their babies. The results for the baby are quite simply life changing. Helping parents to form a secure bond with baby during the earliest weeks and months of his life will solve so much of the misery and social breakdown we have seen on our streets over recent days.

It may be too late for this generation but let's call a halt to it now and ensure the next generation get a better start with a full functioning brain. My ambition during my parliamentary career is to see a parent infant project established in every county across this once great country.

Prevention is so much kinder, and cheaper, than dealing with the devastating consequences of poor early relationships.

0 comments

Post a comment


20 JUL 2011

IEA Launches New Report on HS2

Another leading economic think-tank has launched a new report rubbishing the current plans for High Speed Rail.

The Institute of Economic Affairs has launched a new report entitled 'High Speed 2: the next government project disaster?' which raises serious questions over the business case and the value for money of the project to the taxpayer. I was delighted to have the opportunity to chair the launch which took place on Tuesday 19 July in Parliament.

Dr Richard Wellings, Deputy Editorial Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs and co-author of the new report presented his findings. Dan Byles, Conservative MP for North Warwickshire, Geoffrey Robinson, Labour MP for Coventry North West, and Iain Stewart, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes South and Member of the Transport Select Committee made comments on the report's findings.

The panel then took questions and comments from the audience. The meeting was extremely well attended with journalists and MPs, both in favour and against the project, as well as many others attending. An excellent debate was had, that raised questions about not just the business case but also the social impact of this project.

I do not believe the business case for HS2 stacks up, it is not value for taxpayers money. Having support for these arguments from well respected think-tanks such as the IEA gives great weight to our argument against HS2 and proves that the only reason that the pro HS2 campaign accuses us of being NIMBYs is simply because they do not have a valid argument of their own.

You can read the full  report here. http://www.iea.org.uk/publications/research/high-speed-2-the-next-government-project-disaster

Andrea with Dan Byles MP and the new IEA report

1 comment

Andrea, You have very obviously attributed a lot of time, energy and resources to the fight against HS2 and it is much appreciated by those of us close to the proposed line who would suffer most as well as those UK taxpayers across the country who can ill afford to subsidise another white elephant. Best wishes, Charles
- Charles Buckley

Post a comment


01 JUL 2011

PFI Westminster Hall Debate

On Thursday 23 June I spoke in a debate in Parliament on the Private Finance Initiative. The debate was on a campaign to encourage PFI providers to give a voluntary 'rebate' to the taxpayer. Why on earth would they do this, you might ask! Well, there are huge public infrastructure projects needed – offshore wind and marine, nuclear power etc, and fellow campaigners and I believe only those who acknowledge the 'excessive' profitability of some PFI deals, and who are willing to renegotiate a fairer deal for the taxpayer, should be able to bid for future deals.

PFI projects are where private companies are commissioned by public sector bodies to provide new hospitals, school buildings and other infrastructure projects with funding from banks, and then recoup the money over many years from the public body concerned. The advantage of PFI projects is that they provide infrastructure without direct Government funding. They are therefore 'off balance sheet' in terms of our national debt. All the risk in the project is theoretically borne by the PFI provider and therefore if the project is not delivered the private company loses out, rather than the taxpayer.

The problem, however, is that some PFI contracts have proved to be highly expensive as well as highly inflexible. The financing and the project specification are inextricably linked together and therefore any changes to the project also require a recalculation of the funding, often leading to exorbitant extra charges. The only way to avoid this is by having the exact specification for a 25 year contract laid out in advance which is, in the case of a school or hospital for example, impossible to do. The second problem is the cost of providing the loan. At the moment Government bonds can be issued at an interest rate of 3% to 4% whereas bank debt is closer to 6%, plus a further 2% to 3% profit margin. The net cost to the taxpayer of PFI now works out therefore at 8% or 9% versus Government funding at 3% to 4%.

There are only a handful of serious PFI providers in this country – far too little competition! For many years, in funding new infrastructure projects, PFI has been the 'only game in town'. In my speech in Parliament I suggested an alternative, which is to take a radical approach to the establishment of the Government's Green Investment Bank. I explained:

"the green investment bank should be a bank in its own right. It should be listed on the London stock exchange and the Government should have perhaps a 10% shareholding in it. The UK high street banks should have the opportunity to purchase up to a 15% shareholding each, and the final 15% to 20% shareholding should be offered at a highly discounted rate to the British taxpayer. We would therefore have a bank with an undoubted triple A credit rating that would be able to fund itself extraordinarily cheaply—somewhere between Government gilts and triple A bank finance—and access the international capital markets, including very long-term funding."

I think that the GIB could be a real alternative to PFI. It would immediately inject more competition into the market. It could also be a significant competitor to the UK banks in the small and medium sized business market, in the low carbon industries Britain desperately needs to develop.

0 comments

Post a comment


27 JUN 2011

Our Energy Security

This week Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy at the Department for Energy and Climate Change gave a briefing on our energy security needs. I am not in the habit of making party political points just for the sake of it but behind leaving our economy in a complete mess, failing to secure our long term energy needs is Labour's second worst legacy they have left this country.

The Minister explained that at this present time we are able to cope with demand, however, by the second half of this decade we are going to face a problem as energy demand could increase by 50% to 100%. Sixteen of our power stations will close by 2018 due to stricter air quality standards and nuclear stations reaching the end of their operating lives.

We have to take some serious decisions now in order to secure our energy security by the end of the decade or the lights will literally go out. A big challenge will also be to keep energy prices stable but I am confident that by using a mix of energy sources including many types of renewable energy, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage facilities as well as installing 'smart metering' and helping consumers manage their own demand, we can not only avoid disaster but we can keep energy bill prices stable.

I am not convinced that onshore wind energy has a part to play in securing our energy security needs as it is ineffective, unreliable and the energy produced cannot be stored to be used when demand is high. I am in the process of seeking a meeting with Charles Hendry to discuss onshore wind energy further.

At the recent briefing Charles explained that it was the Government's position that onshore wind farms needed to play a substantial role in hitting our 2020 targets to reduce carbon emissions by 20% and have renewable energy contribute 20% of our energy needs. He explained that the Government had removed the regional renewable energy quotas and will be making sure that wind farms are only built in areas that are windy! There will also be an incentive for communities who do host wind farms to benefit from the business rates that may be generated and he explained that the Government were looking into ways that energy bill prices could be cheaper for those living closer to wind farm developments.

I do appreciate the Government's desire to work with communities with wind farms, however I'm still sceptical of the need to proceed with such an inefficient form of energy production simply to meet our 2020 targets. Many countries in Europe are turning away from wind energy and I think it would be far more sensible to invest in efficient renewable energy infrastructure to provide greater energy security for the long term. I am determined not to see this Government make the same mistakes as the last Government and I will keep you informed of how my meeting with the Minister progresses!

0 comments

Post a comment


24 MAY 2011

Greatworth Roadshow and Sulgrave Public Meeting

Greatworth Roadshow

The first HS2 roadshow took place on Tuesday (17 May) in Greatworth at the Sports and Social Club. I was there for a couple of hours in the afternoon and will be attending all the other roadshows as they come through South Northamptonshire. The roadshow was well attended all day.

Members of SNAG and Parish Councillors were also there and collected many names for a petition which I hope to present in the House of Commons at some point soon. I managed to hear the personal stories many residents also spoke with the HS2 staff that were on hand to provide information.

I met with Andrew McNaughton, HS2's Chief Engineer and whilst I was encouraged that he wants to see an open and wide ranging consultation and believes that there are good opportunities for mitigation for villages like Greatworth, should the current route go ahead, I am even more sure than ever, after speaking with him, that this project is going to be a waste of taxpayer's money. We discussed HS1 and Mr McNaughton told me he thought HS1 was a victory of political will over economic sense – exactly what I fear HS2 will be! He also said that as a commuter himself in Kent he knows that he pays more for his service so that others can get a better service – again exactly what I fear will be the experience of commuters in Milton Keynes, Northampton and along the HS2 line.

I am pleased that these roadshows are taking place and I do think it is important that as many people as possible take the opportunity to go along to a roadshow, ask some questions, sign the petitions, take part in the consultation and have their views heard. The remaining roadshows will take place:

· Chipping Warden - 24 May 2011 - Village Hall Car Park, Culworth Road, Chipping Warden, Banbury OX17 1LB;

· Upper Boddington - 25 May 2011 - Boddington Village Hall Car Park, Warwick Road, Upper Boddington NN11 6DH;

· Brackley - 27-28 May 2011 - Brackley Leisure Centre, Springfield Way, Brackley NN13 6JJ.

Do come and have a chat with me if you see me at one of the roadshows. Look forward to seeing you there.

Sulgrave Manor Public Meeting on HS2

On Thursday evening around 120 gathered at Sulgrave to hear from activists against HS2 on how to fill out the forms for the Government consultation that is taking place until 29 July.

Forms are on the Department for Transport website at http://highspeedrail.dft.gov.uk/ and I do urge everyone to respond.

I then gave my own update on HS2. The key points I wanted to make are:

There is a growing number of MPs who are challenging the business case for HS2 and I take every opportunity to raise the issue.

The Transport Select Committee is now holding its own inquiry into the business case. This will be very influential.

Highly regarded organisations such as the Taxpayers Alliance have already come out against HS2 on the grounds of the business case.

The consultation is an open one, and I believe that everyone who is against HS2 should have their say. Views will be listened to by the Government, and I urge residents not to be despondent.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 MAY 2011

Big Week In South Northamptonshire

It has been a big week for South Northamptonshire Council and Northampton Borough Council as voters went to the polls in the local elections and also to vote in the first nationwide referendum for 35 years. It was great news to hear that David Cardoza, the Chairman of Northampton Town Football Club announced he was backing the Conservative Party.

On polling day I made a big tour of polling stations chatting with people casting their vote and thanking the presiding officers and polling station staff for their hard work. I also enjoyed joining the candidates and campaign teams knocking on doors, reminding people to vote and also reminding people about the referendum. At one doorstep I met a lady who was under the impression that AV meant we could use electronic voting and at another I spoke with a man that said he wouldn't be voting in the referendum because he didn't like AV! I hurriedly explained to him that if he didn't like AV it was important he voted 'No'!

I recently visited a meeting of the University of Northampton Court which is a meeting of everyone who has an interest in the University and heard many good stories as well hearing about some of the fantastic courses on offer. I was pleased to hear that the University is very optimistic about the future. I encouraged the University to make clear the plans for tuition fees and explain to prospective students the facts, such as students will only begin paying back money once they are earning £21,000. I enjoy visiting schools and explaining to students the facts and I encourage the University to do the same.

I then made a dash across the campus to the Health and Well Being Research Facility to discuss with the department my plans for NORPIP. With the help of Northamptonshire County Council I would like to set up NORPIP in 2011 to help families bond with their new born babies. In time I hope this is a project that can be rolled out across the country with the help of children's centres.

In Upton the Elgar Community Centre opened this week. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the opening but had the pleasure of calling in on polling day. I was completely taken aback by the absolutely stunning building and the potential that the centre has. It can accommodate activities for all ages, whether in one of the spacious function rooms or outside on a sports pitch, if you are thinking of where to have your next event, I would urge you to consider the Elgar Centre. It is a fantastic example of what a community can do by working together.

In South Northamptonshire I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of projects that have been full of hope and optimism. Deanshanger Primary School invited me to their art exhibition at the Milton Keynes Gallery. The artwork, based on the theme of the rainforest, was truly amazing. Once the exhibition has finished in Milton Keynes the work will go on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London, this is a fantastic achievement and I congratulate all teachers, parents and young artists involved.

This week also marks my first anniversary as the MP for South Northamptonshire. It has been an eventful first year with many ups and downs and it has certainly been a steep learning curve! However, I have enjoyed every minute of it and, as ever, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and proud to be your MP. I look forward to many more years serving South Northamptonshire and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of help.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAY 2011

Vote NO to AV!

On May 5 this year the first UK wide referendum since the European Communities membership referendum in 1975 will take place on whether to change our voting system. The choice on offer is 1. to keep our current system of one person one vote with the winning candidate simply needing a majority, or 2. to change to a different electoral system - the Alternative Vote (AV).I would like to encourage you to vote 'No' to AV. Let me be clear that I do not believe or pretend that our current system is perfect, far from it, but as Winston Churchill said, 'democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried,' I think the same can be said for our electoral system!

The problem with the AV system is that nobody wants it! The Liberal Democrats and many groups that have campaigned for a change in our voting system over the years have campaigned for a system of proportional representation. AV is not a proportional system. All the AV system does is find a way of forcing one candidate in an election over the 50% threshold whether they originally came first, second, third or even lower. The reality could be that the candidate with the third most votes in an election could end up being the winner. You can liken this to any sporting event, such as horse racing, football, or athletics – image if the horse/team/person that came third actually ended up winning the race! The system is simply unfair.

AV is also complex and costly. The cost of implementing AV would cost around £250 million. Local councils would have to waste money on costly electronic vote counting machines and expensive voter education campaigns to explain the complicated system. With ordinary families facing tough times can we really afford to spend a quarter of a billion pounds of taxpayer's money bringing in a new voting system?

AV is a weak system. Sometimes coalitions of two parties are necessary but they shouldn't be the norm. AV would produce hung Parliaments at most elections. Coalitions of 2, 3 or more parties would be needed which would lead to deals done behind closed doors and could lead to weak Governments being formed. Smaller parties would hold the balance of power despite receiving relatively few votes and more extremist parties would also be represented. Voters would not choose the Government, politicians would.

Worst of all is that the system is unfair to the voter. At the moment everyone has one vote that is worth the same, under AV some people would only have one vote that would count whereas others would have 2, 3 or maybe 4 votes that would be taken into account as second, third and fourth preferences are counted. I don't think there is anything fair about this.

I believe our current system is a much better system than AV:

· It creates strong, accountable and stable Governments;

· It is fair; it keeps the principle of 'one person, one vote', therefore everyone's vote has equal value;

· It is simple; everyone votes for the candidate they want and the one with the most votes wins;

· It makes it harder for extremist parties to gain representation; the BNP have never been able to gather enough support in any constituency to achieve representation;

· It is a widely used, tried and tested system; it is used more than any other system with 2.4 billion people using it in countries such as Canada, India and the USA. By contrast AV is used by only 3 countries, Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea.

A change to AV will not restore the public's faith in politicians. The electoral system was not to blame for the expenses scandal and the AV system would not have prevented it. At a time when we are struggling to convince the electorate to vote in General, local, regional and European elections, do we really think a change to a more complicated electoral system is the answer? A change to an unfair system is certainly not the answer, AV would give some more votes than others and I think it is bizarre that you can equate the value of someone's first choice with the value of someone else's fourth choice.

I believe we need to stick with a system that is strong, simple, fair and understood and I hope you will vote NO to AV on May 5.

0 comments

Post a comment


03 MAY 2011

Hope For The Future

There can be few of us who were not touched and uplifted by the sight of two young people clearly in love declaring their commitment to a lifetime together providing each other with comfort and support. We enjoyed the pomp and circumstance, the fashion show and an extra bank holiday! The sun shone and we partied. But at the centre of Friday's royal wedding was the serious business of the promises exchanged and the belief in a future together. These were extraordinary circumstances but any public commitment requires courage and determination to succeed when the going gets tough.

The country has visibly relaxed in the happy combination of two long bank holiday weekends and marvelous Spring weather. This week it is business as usual with the local elections on Thursday and the referendum on the Alternative Vote. Once again we will hear public promises made and hopes for the future expressed. It is important to exercise our right to vote in the local elections and in the referendum based on the facts presented and the arguments made to ensure that our voice is heard.

There is no doubt that the honeymoon period for the Coalition Government is over. But equally there is absolutely no doubt that commitment to the public promises made a year ago is solid and unwavering. Much has been achieved in twelve months on the road to putting this country back on a secure financial footing as well as putting into practice policies to promote a Big Society that will benefit us all.

Looking forward, we know that there is the commitment for the long haul with balanced and measured steps to bring increased prosperity with help and support for the most vulnerable. Determination to see the job through, courage to stick to the promised policies and energetic leadership will succeed. I hope that we are all able to harness some of the excitement and joy we have experienced over the past few weeks to bring a force for positive hope and optimism in our own lives. We can do it!

0 comments

Post a comment


04 APR 2011

High Speed Rail Debate

On Thursday 31 March I sponsored a debate in Parliament on High Speed Rail. I secured this debate along with Dan Byles MP, (North Warwickshire) and Geoffrey Robinson MP, (North West Coventry) through the Backbench Business Committee. I believe now is a very good time to talk about this issue as the consultation is now a month old and the roadshows, taking place along the length of the line, are now underway.

The debate was very well attended. The room was packed from start to finish. Over 50 MPs attended at one point or another, 19 made speeches with many more making interventions. Not all MPs who wanted to speak were able to and the Chairman tried to impose a limit on speeches so that as many people as possible had the opportunity to make a contribution. It was certainly a feisty debate with MPs on both sides of the political divide speaking for and against the current proposals for High Speed Rail.

I spoke about the flaws in the business case, economic case and environmental case as well as discussing the lack of consideration of the alternatives to HS2 such as Rail Package 2. I called on the Government to carry out an independent assessment into the options for increasing rail capacity and to seriously consider the legitimate concerns of many. You can read the full debate including my speech here. I believe now is the time for a grown up debate on High Speed Rail. The Department for Transport have not proved the case for this project or the justification for spending such a vast amount of money.

Kelvin Hopkins, Dan Byles, Geoffrey Robinson and Frank Dobson continued the speeches and made clear their opposition to the project. Dan Byles also stressed how important an independent assessment of the project was.

Iain Stewart made a welcome contribution as a member of the Transport Select Committee, he was very clear that he had an open mind on the project and was looking forward to the Transport Select Committee's enquiry into HS2. Tony Baldry also welcomed the Select Committee's enquiry.

Some Members on both sides of the House spoke in favour of the project, including a number from Manchester and Yorkshire who believe the project will benefit their area and reduce the North South divide.

Andrew Gwynne responded to the debate for Labour and gave a very non committal speech, where he seemed to welcome the Government's plans and yet did not make a commitment to HS2! Theresa Villiers then responded for the Government and again stressed that the North South divide would be reduced and claimed that no one had made a convincing case for the alternative. However, she insisted that the Department for Transport would continue to listen and welcomed ideas for mitigation.

Following the debate I believe supporters can no longer pass off opposition as NIMBYISM. Many are now questioning the business case including the TaxPayer's Alliance, the Adam Smith Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, Friends of the Earth, the Sustainable Development Commission, rail experts and the Countryside Alliance. As the debate was clearly so popular I am going to urge the Backbench Business Committee for more time in the House of Commons Chamber to continue this debate. I will keep you informed of developments!

0 comments

Post a comment


23 MAR 2011

Dangerous and Reckless Cycling 10 Minute Rule Bill

Yesterday I presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons called 'Dangerous and Reckless Cycling (Offences)' Bill. A 10 Minute Rule Bill gives backbench MPs an opportunity to introduce a piece of legislation that the Government may not have time to introduce itself. 10 Minute Rule Bills do not usually make it onto the Statute book, simply because there is not enough time to see them all the way through the legislative process but they are a great way of raising an important issue with the Government.

As the title suggests a 10 Minute Rule Bill allows an MP to make a 10 minute speech introducing the Bill, someone can make a 10 minute speech opposing the Bill if they so wish and then the Speaker calls a vote on whether the Bill should pass to Second Reading. On most occasions the Bills pass to Second Reading unopposed.

On seeing the title of my Bill some people, including MPs, thought I was anti cyclists and seeking to make criminals out of them. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am a keen cyclist myself, I take advantage of many excellent initiatives such as the cycle hire scheme in London and commend people for swapping their cars for their bike to get to school and work. It is brilliant exercise and very green as well!

The aim of my Bill is to update the law and to make sure that all road users are equally protected and take responsibility for their actions. The vast majority of people killed or seriously injured on our roads are pedestrians and cyclists hit by motorists and the penalties for dangerous or careless driving are severe and rightly so. However, very occasionally it is a cyclist that causes death or serious injury to a pedestrian and yet in this case sufficient punishment does not follow.

In 2007 Rhiannon Bennett was walking with friends on a pavement when a cyclist approached at speed yelling, 'Move because I'm not stopping!' He hit Rhiannon who fell and smashed her head on the kerb. She was rushed to hospital but died 6 days later. The cyclist was found guilty of the crime of 'Dangerous Cycling'. This charge carries a maximum penalty of £2,500 but no prison sentence. There are other charges including the 'Offences Against the Persons Act 1861,' but this charge was designed to deal with horse drawn carriages and carts and therefore, for obvious reasons, it is rarely used, so the cyclist who killed Rhiannon was given a £2,200 fine but did not go to prison.

I have not met anyone who considers a fine of £2,200 to be sufficient punishment for taking the life of a young girl. If Rhiannon had been killed by a car which had mounted the pavement, the driver would have faced a sentence of up to 14 years in prison. If he had only received a fine there would have been a national outcry. The aim of my Bill is to update the law and to make sure that in the few cases where a cyclist kills or seriously injures a pedestrian, families like Rhiannon's can receive justice.

Yesterday in the Chamber Members on all sides of the House listened respectfully as I told Rhiannon's story and the Bill was passed without opposition. Afterwards the Transport Minister, Mike Penning MP, who had listened to my speech, briefly met with me and Mr and Mrs Bennett, Rhiannon's parents who had watched from the gallery. Mike promised to do all he could to help and suggested that in legislation that is due to be brought in next year, he may be able to include provisions to update the law so that this situation could not arise again. He offered to meet with us soon to discuss this further.

Often the public only see the bad side of politics, shouting across the Chamber, political point scoring, MPs expenses but often a real difference can be made. Yesterday there was no party politics or point scoring just the desire of all involved to right a wrong. If, for a moment, I have ever forgotten why I wanted to be an MP, I was reminded yesterday.

7 comments

Andrea. Why don't you do your research properly. The police do not claim that the cyclist who killed Rhiannon Bennett mounted the pavement. She and her friends were in a park downing cans of Stella and when a cyclist (on the road) approached, they started playing chicken and jumping in front of him. When he didn't stop (would you stop beside a bunch of lagered up teenagers) their game went wrong and she got hit.
- Andy Strang

Andrea. Do you really believe that penalties for dangerous or careless driving are severe? Recent cases show this to be otherwise, for instance: December 2006: Emma Foa, 56, a mother-of-two from Hampstead, was killed by a cement mixer in Camley Street, King’s Cross - The driver was later fined £300. Eilidh Cairns cycling in killed in 2009 in Kentish Town, driver with poor eye-sight fined £200 has now been questioned over the death of pensioner Nora Gutmann. Or what about Robert Harris, 47 who skidded in Wales and killed 4 cyclists and was fined £180 after pleading guilty to 3 counts of driving with defective tyre's. Every day I cycle with cars, vans, lorries and see their drivers on mobile phones or changing music stations and nothing is being done about it. Yet if I ride on a pavement for 10 yards I would be fined more than if I'd driven a lorry into and killed a cyclist. How do these compare to Jason Howard's £2,200 fine plus costs for not taking action to avoid a collision with a person who was in the road? Sorry but your 10 minute bill is way off the mark.
- Mark Leahy

This seems like a sldgehammer to crack a nut. Every year more than a hundred times as many pedestrians are injured by cars as by bicycles. This means that in a typical year between 25,000 and 40,000 pedestrians killed or injured by cars and about another 5,000 by other motor vehicles. In comparison around 200-350 pedestrians are injured by bicycles each year. Wouldn't it be better to focus your attention where it will do most good.
- Michael Haddock

Well done to Andrea - this is not party political and I am not a Conservative supporter. I heard about this Bill only recently on a Radio 4 programme Law in Action. To say cars kill more people than cycles is totally irrelevant, If it you are the person hit it is of no comfort to hear that, gosh, this is unusual! (We may as well say war kills more people so just forget everything else) Pavements are for pedestrians, There are many walkers who are deaf or very hard of hearing; many who are not steady on their feet; many with heart problems where the speed of a cycist coming towards them is very frightening. To prevent one injury prevents one life being seriously damaged - it may be yours or someone you love. The comment about Ms Bennet is unbelievable and outrageous: this is a death penalty for being young. Cycling on the pavement is against the law; and the law is failing to protect.
- Jan Winster

Andrea, Where can I see an update on the progress this bill is making? I'm very interested. My personal view is that regulations about cycling need to be updated as cycling (hopefully) is becoming a much more popular mode of transport. Charlie
- Charlie Hogg

Sorry. I just found your recent post - http://www.andrealeadsom.com/working-for-you/andrea's-blog/dangerous-and-reckless-cycling-offences-bill/347
- Charlie Hogg

Aggressive cyclists are becoming a problem in my area ,on footpaths. My freedom is curtailed as I avoid certain times of the day when I know there is heavy cycling traffic.I have joint problems and cannot jump out of the way even if I am aware of them.I moved to this area because of ease of access to footpaths but am now finding it too stressful to use them.I frequently drive to an area unfrequented by cyclists even though I have footpaths on my doorstep.I have lost count of the number of times I have closed gates left open by cyclists. When a cyclist passes without alerting me it gives me a fright which hurts my joints and means I am limping for the remainder of my walk, which does little for my rehab programme.I also am a cyclist and do not treat people this way. Cycle bells are not always heard and sounding one does not give carte blanche to cycle through at speed. It is like saying 'excuse me' without giving people the opportunity to acknowledge you, and just barging through anyway. Not only discourteous but dangerous. If we cannot sort this problem my fear is that many footpaths will be closed to cyclists.A shame for all of us.
- S.madgwick

Post a comment


18 MAR 2011

Why I Support The UN Resolution On A No Fly Zone

1. Bombing civilians is both illegal and appalling to anyone with a conscience. If we can't intervene to protect the innocent, then where is the point in having international law?

2. The UN voted 10 in favour, none against and 5 abstentions for the No Fly Zone. Lebanon gave a powerful speech about the need to defend civilians. The support of Arab Nations is critical and must ensure this is not seen as a 'Western' intervention in an Arab problem.

3. There is genuine and widespread opposition to Gadaffi for all to see (much more so than in either Iraq or Afghanistan), and the rebels have been clamouring for help from the UN.

4. Gadaffi has lost any lingering legitimacy he might have once had as a Leader. In February 2011 he was even barred from the Arab League after hundreds were killed in an anti-government uprising. His grasp of reality appears increasingly thin, and whatever the outcome of the rebellion, his days as Leader must surely be over. He will be pursued for crimes against humanity with the consequence that he will feel he has 'nothing to lose'. This has terrifying implications for those that oppose him.

0 comments

Post a comment


18 MAR 2011

Who Is Accountable For The Bank Of England?

Today Sir David Lees, the Chairman of the Court of the Bank of England gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee enquiry into accountability of the Bank of England. Some of his responses were extraordinary!

He confirmed that in future, the Court will be required to ensure the Bank meets the financial stability objectives of the FPC. But that it will only be responsible for overseeing the policies and processes of the MPC. I asked him what the Court will do if, in its view, the FPC is not meeting its stability objective because of monetary policy. He had no answer other than 'it will make for an interesting debate.' Sir David confirmed that the Court has not contributed at all to the Government's major ongoing consultation on Financial Regulation. When pressed, he agreed that he should give it consideration.

On this and many other issues, there is a long way to go before the Court can claim to be truly accountable for the actions of the Bank of England. With its role, and that of the Bank itself, about to be significantly enhanced, the Country had better hope Sir David gives early consideration to how he can improve the quality and depth of oversight.

0 comments

Post a comment


14 MAR 2011

The Value Of A Sure Start

Last week I spoke in the Sure Start Centre debate in Parliament. There was cross party consensus on the value of early intervention and the future importance of supporting Children's Centres. The discussion was well informed and wide ranging.

However, since the debate I have been disgusted to see in the press attempts to lay blame at the Government's door for the possible closing of some Sure Start Centres. No Centres have to close – the Early Intervention Grant from central Government has allowed for Sure Start funding to be maintained. It is the responsibility of Local Authorities to allocate the funding to ensure their Centres remain open.

I wholeheartedly support the Localism agenda and the Localism Bill with its objective to bring decision making for local issues back to local people who are best placed to make informed judgements for local people in the places that they live. Government has now removed the 'ring fencing' of funds that so hampered Local Authorities under the last government from having the discretion to meet the needs of their local communities.

However, now the ring fencing is removed, Councils have to look closely at their consciences to ensure that Sure Start Centres are given the top priority they undoubtedly deserve. Sadly too many councils are treating Sure Starts as an 'easy' target for cuts, and then blaming the government.....

Sure Starts are certainly not above criticism. Many have not proven their value in their local community, and the results of their efforts have been variable. There is much room to focus more on ensuring they are at the heart of the community, reaching out to all young families and providing the support they need.

As a current trustee and for nine years the Chairman of a charity, OXPIP – the Oxford Parent Infant Project - I have seen at first hand the benefits of early intervention when a family is struggling to cope with their new baby. OXPIP is co-located with the Rose Hill Sure Start children's centre in Oxford. They do a fantastic job, and they recognise the value of the work done by OXPIP in helping families to build a secure bond with their baby.

The security of the relationship between a baby and his or her carer is fundamental to the lifelong mental health for that baby and everything we can do to help carers provide a stable environment is critical.

I am now planning to set up a Parent Infant Project in my constituency of South Northamptonshire – NORPIP. We have secured funding and will be based in a local Sure Start children's centre, with the plan to open satellites in other Sure Starts around the County. I hope that NORPIP will pave the way for establishing a network of Parent Infant Projects co-located with Sure Starts throughout the UK providing therapy to promote secure early attachment in vulnerable families.

The debate in Parliament recognised that we all need to understand the fundamental need for support for vulnerable. It is up to Local Authorities to ensure that this can continue to happen through the Sure Start children's centres.

0 comments

Post a comment


08 MAR 2011

The Human Tragedy Of Libya

The human cost to the people of Libya in their fight for freedom is now all too apparent. For us living in a democracy, whatever its faults and challenges, it is difficult to understand the chaos and brutality of the Gadaffi regime and the lengths to which this dictator will go to hold onto power. I suspect that his propaganda machine means what we are seeing on our television screens is only the tip of the iceberg. Bombing of his own people, a complete breakdown in law and order and constant fear are the reality.

It is a dangerously fine line that foreign governments must tread in their efforts to try to help the Libyans. Whether to impose a no fly zone and whether to help arm Libyan rebels are matters of complex and difficult judgment. Providing humanitarian aid and helping foreigners trapped in Libya to get home are a priority.

Governments are busy collecting and evaluating intelligence on which future immediate and long term decisions will be based. Meanwhile from a human perspective, we watch with horror as lives are destroyed. Sitting in Parliament it makes me really appreciate the democratic processes that we enjoy and take for granted. Freedom of speech and association are cornerstones of our society and it is amazing to see the bravery and determination of the people of Libya to achieve their own freedom.

0 comments

Post a comment


15 FEB 2011

Brackley Master Plan Consultation

On Friday I went to the public exhibition held by Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey about the proposed development at Radstone Fields and the Brackley Master Plan.

I have been very critical of planners and developers who fail to take into account the views and considerations of local communities. I am very keen to see local communities have a greater say over how their area looks.

I was delighted, therefore, to see that in this case a good consultation has taken place. The thoughts, views and aspirations of the local community have been taken into account and it seems that developers and planners are listening to the local community.

The Localism Bill going through Parliament will ensure that in future, all planning must take account of local views, and it's great to see that in the Brackley Master Plan we have a good example of best practice in planning.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 FEB 2011

Wind Farm Debate

Thursday 10 February was an important day for the thousands of people fighting to protect their community from poorly sited onshore wind farms. The backbench business committee allocated me a 3 hour debate to discuss onshore wind farms and their impact on Britain's landscape.

The debate about onshore wind farms goes to the very heart of the battle between 'localism' and the 'national interest'. There are real issues of national interest that must be taken into account - the failure of the last Government to plan to meet our future energy needs is second only to their catastrophic economic legacy. The shocking fact is that between now and 2020, some 35% of British power generating capability through nuclear and conventional power stations will be retired due to old age with nothing yet ready to replace them. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is working flat out to plug the energy gap but it's a tall order.

The second challenge where national need is battling against local need is energy security and our dwindling North Sea gas reserves. We are now a net importer of gas and will increasingly rely on potentially unreliable sources for imports, so there is a great need to rebuild our own generating capability. The third issue comes from the binding EU target that Labour signed us up to, requiring that we achieve 15% of our total energy from renewable by 2015. It's not clear that this is achievable even with the massive 'race for onshore wind' begun by Labour. A more realistic option would be to measure 'net' carbon emissions thereby taking into account measures to insulate and otherwise reduce energy usage.

At present Britain has around 350 operational wind farms, 260 either under construction or awaiting construction and 250 at the planning stage. That means that there are already 3,000 turbines in the country, with another 6,500 either awaiting construction or planning permission. To meet the 10,000 turbines needed to ensure that we hit our 15% renewable target by 2020, the rush over the last decade has been for onshore wind.

The scepticism of whether wind energy can meet these challenges is not confined to the UK. Denmark has led the way on onshore wind. It now has more than 6,000 wind turbines for a population of just over 5 million people. In theory, wind turbines could provide for one fifth of Denmark's energy needs, but its national power company has stopped supporting new onshore wind turbines, for three reasons. The first is the enormous public backlash. Communities have just had enough. Secondly, electricity prices in Denmark are the highest in Europe. Since 2005, subsidies paid by businesses and consumers to wind farm developers have totalled some £620 million. However, the key reason why Denmark is putting a stop to onshore wind farms is its effectiveness. Electricity generated in Denmark could provide for 20% of its total needs, but not much of it is used in Denmark. When the wind blows there is no storage facility, so the country sells much of its surplus energy to Norway, Sweden and Germany, often at a substantial loss.

Another issue for Denmark is that the Danes have failed to close a single conventional power station whilst they have developed wind energy. Wind turbines only produce electricity when the wind blows. The Danish found that a back up supply of power was always needed for when the wind was not blowing. Therefore, no power plants have been turned off and furthermore, the Danes have found that it is not practical for large baseload plants to be turned on and off as the wind dies and rises, in fact the quick ramping up and down of these plants would actually increase their output of pollution and carbon dioxide.

What does that mean for the UK? First, we know that wind farms are unreliable. The intermittency causes a problem for the grid. Too much wind means that the turbines have to be turned off. No wind means that they are useless. Wind cannot be stored, and in the UK the average production from wind turbines is about 30%. That means that the theoretical capacity of 100% is only achieved to the tune of 30% on average because of the intermittency of wind. We therefore have to keep all our power plants going to provide a back-up source and we will have to build new power plants anyway.

Secondly, last December, when temperatures dropped to an average of minus 0.7° and demand for heat rose by 7%, there was no wind. Wind power did not contribute at all to meeting a 7% increase in demand for heat.

Thirdly, we have to consider the costs. It is difficult to establish the relative costs because energy prices move all the time, but roughly speaking, wind energy costs about two and a half times the price of nuclear energy and twice the cost of traditional fuel sources. However, it is not just the fuel itself. There is also the cost of building the turbines. The costs of the raw materials for that are increasing, and as the demand for wind turbines increases, so does the cost of building them.

Finally, there is the cost of upgrading the grid to deal with the enormous amount of new connectivity that will be needed by 2020 if we are to have a total of 10,000 onshore wind turbines. The cost has been put at around £5 billion.

In 2008, the Centre for Policy Studies predicted that meeting the 2020 renewable target would require a taxpayer subsidy of between £4 billion and £5 billion a year. That would add £3,000 to the total fuel bills of every household, this figure excludes the cost of updating infrastructure and it takes no account of the fact that, in 2009, 4 million households were already in fuel poverty.

I am delighted that the Government have announced that they intend to share the financial benefit of onshore wind farms with communities. That is important because there is no doubt that taxpayers are already paying a huge price through increased energy bills to pay for the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs).

The greatest cost of wind farms that is also hardest to quantify is the impact on communities. Hundreds of campaigners are fighting against having wind farms in their areas. Their concerns are wide-ranging. They include visual problems: many of the new wind turbines are bigger than Big Ben and taller than the London Eye; they are said to intimidate villages and ruin areas of outstanding natural beauty, the flicker caused by rotating blades in the sun is disturbing to many and there is much disturbance while they are being built.

Turbines are also audible at a great distance - potentially, as far as two miles with the sound being constant 'white noise' that never goes away and is often noisiest at night. The impact on wildlife is substantial. A survey estimates that each turbine kills between 20 and 40 birds a year and larger animals, such as horses, find them frightening. Another key concern cited by communities is interference with television and radio. Emergency services are concerned about the impact on their frequencies and the Ministry of Defence has expressed concern about interference with radar.

Only one in three wind farms are approved by democratically elected local authority planners with many applications being approved on appeal. Perhaps the most frustrating planning point is that developers don't have to justify that their proposed site is windy!

Whilst I accept that onshore wind has its part to play in generating renewable energy, I conclude that the benefits of onshore wind have been hugely exaggerated by the developers who stand to make huge sums from the taxpayer incentives. In addition, we are genuinely adding to fuel poverty in this country and costing consumers and businesses billions of pounds because of this battle to develop onshore wind. We need to look much more closely at other sources of renewable energy. Ground source heat pumps have been described as, 'the most energy-efficient, environmentally clean and cost-effective space-conditioning systems available'. There are also tidal and marine technologies, which are more predictable and reliable than wind, and they are cheap to maintain once they are established. Hydroelectric power is even more reliable than tidal power, because it allows water to be stored to meet peak demand.

After my own speech a further 12 colleagues spoke in a good natured and good humoured debate. Colleagues represented their constituents well and a wide range of points were debated. Interestingly, no one spoke in favour of onshore wind, but all spoke strongly in favour of greater local democracy in decision making! Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change responded for the Government. He stressed the need for a balance of technologies which should include nuclear, clean coal and a 'broad mix' of renewable. Whilst he didn't give any firm guarantees regarding onshore wind farms, I was delighted that during the day he had announced that the Government was committed to listening to the wishes of local communities and that it would be an obligation of the developer to only site wind farms in windy places!

It used to be the case that criticising onshore wind energy led to being denounced as a 'climate change denier'. I sincerely hope those days are over and that a sensible and productive debate on how to deal with our energy gap, our energy security and looking after the interests of our communities can now be had.

3 comments

Keep up the good work--well done.How about tidal turbines across the Wash--I know environmental issues but it could be done sympathetically and think of the number of turbines possible and the massive output--always generating-unless somebody blows up the moon!!
- John Breffitt

.Pursuing a wholesale wind farm policy will be disastrous for the Conservatives re-election prospects. All that most voters will register is the large hike in their bills mostly caused by mismanagement of the renewals issue and the loading of the costs on to the energy suppliers and users. Much of the cause of the problem may well be the EU and legally binding targets agreed by Labour but it will this government that will suffer due to bad management, lack of clear leadership, failure to explain the genesis of the problem and not coming up with a mush more realistic solution. Nuclear power is the answer and if possible overcoming many of the drawbacks by using Thorium reactors rather than plutonium. The PM must lead on this and be a true statesman.
- Robert Boulter

We should focus on offshore wind turbine projects. Although it may be more expensive initially to build it has less objections for residents and is less likely to disrupt our lovely surroundings.
- Phil

Post a comment


14 JAN 2011

Westminster Hall Debate on Local Planning

On Wednesday I held a Westminster Hall Debate to discuss the Government's plans for local planning.

I raised 4 specific issues: Firstly, the St Crispin development in Northampton where I urged the Secretary of State to call in the application; Secondly, I talked about the West Northamptonshire Development Corporation and I asked the Minister to transfer planning back to local Councils asap; Third, I pointed out to the Minister that before the Localism Bill becomes law there is a planning vacuum which is causing frustration and confusion for Councillors and residents and urged him to give guidance on how to deal with planning in the short term; Finally, I talked about wind farms and I asked for confirmation that wind farms are included in the Localism Bill so that local communities have a greater say on where are sited.

I thought you might be interested to read a transcript of the debate and this can be found here.

The debate was well attended and many colleagues were very supportive and made helpful interventions.

As I am sure you are aware, the Localism Bill was presented to Parliament before Christmas and will have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Monday and I do intend to speak. I know how important planning issues are in Northamptonshire and the Localism Bill is a very important piece of legislation that will abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and top-down housing targets and return planning powers back to local authorities. I do, however, want to make sure that this is not a missed opportunity and the Localism Bill fulfils its potential.

I am working very hard on the Localism Bill to make sure that important issues to South Northamptonshire such as planning and wind farms are dealt with by the Bill.

I will do my best to keep you up to date with developments and all information will be posted on my website.

1 comment

PLEASE....PLEASE ACT TO SAVE SALCEY FOREST - WHY WILL YOU NOT USE YOUR POSITION TO SAFEGUARD THE FUTURE OF OUR MUCH LOVED COMMUNITY FOREST....."SAVE SALCEY FOREST" !!!!!!!
- PAUL

Post a comment


05 JAN 2011

Wind Farm Public Meeting

On Thursday 9 December I attended a public meeting at Greatworth Primary School to discuss the recent application from Broadview to build a wind farm between the small rural villages of Sulgrave, Greatworth and Helmdon in South Northamptonshire.

The application would see 5 turbines erected each at 125 metres high which is taller than the London Eye. Each turbine would have blades of 45 metres in length. The project would take 12 months to complete and would substantially impact the countryside and the scenic views in the local area as well as affecting local roads during construction. Therefore the local concern and anger at this proposal is understandable.

I have always said that whilst renewable energy has an important part to play in providing energy for our 21st century needs we have got to stop building insensitive and intrusive wind farms on top of local communities. I am also concerned that onshore wind power still needs to be proven as a valuable contribution to our energy security needs. It was suggested at the meeting that the turbines would only be a maximum of 19% efficient and therefore the benefits would be tiny and yet local communities have to deal with the environmental damage regardless of how effective the turbines are.

Some of the turbines will be less than 1km away from properties and some will be as close as 700 metres, Broadview accept that local residents will be affected. Some residents will be affected by noise, footpaths and bridleways will be destroyed, television signals affected and signals for the emergency services communications could also be affected. Safety is also a big concern for local residents.

I have the greatest admiration for Helmdon, Stuchbury and Greatworth Wind Farm Action Group and the work they do and I took the opportunity to explain to the meeting about what is happening in Parliament regarding this issue. Chris Heaton-Harris, the MP for Daventry, recently secured a 10 Minute Rule Bill on the subject of wind farms and specifically setting a minimum distance from properties. I was pleased to sign the Bill and look forward to speaking in the debate when the Bill reaches Second Reading sometime next year. I have also had meetings with Bob Neill MP and Greg Clark MP, both Ministers at the Department for Communities and Local Government regarding wind farms and the Localism Bill.

The Localism Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday 13 December and sets out provisions for returning planning powers back to local authorities and giving communities a greater say over their local area. I am keen to make sure that the Bill includes applications for wind farms which is why I plan to table an amendment at the Second Reading of the Bill to make sure wind farms are included. I will be looking for support from MPs to raise as much awareness as possible of this issue. When applications are put forward in the future and in all existing cases, I want to see a proper consultation process and the opportunity for communities to say no.

1 comment

Thank you so much for all your hard work. Please know that there are action groups everywhere depending on MPs like you to make the government see sense over this issue. We are fighting 7 turbines near Ripon in North Yorkshire, one is as close as 400m from one house. Why are people having to fight this, commonsense tells us this is far too close for comfort. If wind farms actually provided effective and reliable electricity, caused no harm to the environment or people and actually reduced carbon emissions we would all grin and bear it but we all know this simply isn't the case. It makes me so angry to know the government is wasting so much of our money when it is needed elsewhere. Many thanks again.
- lesley wilkinson

Post a comment


15 DEC 2010

Transport Select Committee

On Tuesday 30 November the Transport Select Committee took evidence from HS2 Ltd. and StopHS2 as they discussed the issues of 'Transport and the Economy'. Representatives from Transport for London, The Northern Way, The Campaign for Better Transport and the Transport Planning Society as well as Alison Munro, the Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd. and Joe Rukin of StopHS2 attended and answered the committee's questions in a meeting that lasted over two and a half hours. Many aspects of transport, transport infrastructure and investment were discussed but the issue of HS2 dominated the questions from the cross-party committee.

Many who gave evidence did speak in support of the HS2 project as they saw it as one of the solutions to the overcrowding on the West Coast Main Line, however they also warned that this was not a 'silver bullet', the lessons from HS1 must be learnt, other solutions to improving the UKs transport infrastructure must be looked at and HS2 should connect with HS1.

Steve Baker the MP for Wycombe, who is also a member of the Transport Select Committee asked Alison Munro about the business case for HS2 and who will carry the cost of this project that could potentially cost around £34 billion. Ms Munro replied that the project would be largely funded by the taxpayer but a final decision was yet to be made. She also defended the business case stressing that the future predictions for rail travel were believable and reasonable but did stress that there is uncertainty in predicting future figures.

Iain Stewart MP another member of the Committee and the Member of Parliament for Milton Keynes South, asked Ms Munro about the estimates for HS1 and the possibility of intermediate stops along the route, similarly to the TGV in France. Again, Ms Munro defended HS2's position stressing that the passenger figures for HS1 could not be compared to HS2 and having looked into the possibility of intermediate stops between London and Birmingham, found that there was no strong case for it. Alison Munro continued by explaining that HS2 would benefit travel from city centre to city centre which in turn would benefit those travelling on existing lines as it would ease congestion.

In the last section of the meeting, Joe Rukin from StopHS2 was called to give evidence. Stephen Joseph from the Campaign for Better Transport, Keith Buchan from the Transport Planning Society and Adrian Davis, Director of Public Health for the West of England were also called and argued that smaller investments should not be overlooked and could bring benefits at a cheaper cost and far sooner. Stephen Joseph suggested that high speed broadband in rural areas was important investment which should not be ignored.

Under rigorous questioning from the Committee and in particular from the Chair, Labour MP Louise Ellman, Joe Rukin argued that this project was not value for money, the passenger figures were wildly optimistic and the environmental benefits were unproven at best.

0 comments

Post a comment


01 DEC 2010

HS2 Westminster Hall Debate

On Tuesday 23 November a debate took place in Westminster Hall regarding High Speed 2. The debate was secured by Steve Baker MP, the Member of Parliament for Wycombe and was very well attended by many MPs from all Parties who, in a lively and informative debate, argued for and against the proposals for High Speed Rail. Mike Weir MP chaired the debate and Andrew Gwynne MP, responded for the Opposition before Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Minister of State for Transport spoke for the Government.

There was a great deal of interest in this debate and many Members contributed during the one and a half hours available. I made two interventions: I began by asking Andrew Gwynne MP, Shadow Transport Minister whether he agreed that a better project would be one that benefitted those whose communities are affected by the route, by for example spurs off the main track allowing interim station stops. He did agree with this point. I then had the opportunity to intervene during Theresa Villier's speech and asked her whether she agreed that a better route would be one that followed existing transport corridors. Theresa replied that this was the aim but stated that it was not always possible. Theresa explained that the Secretary of State had asked HS2 to reconsider their proposed route and that the guidelines for consultation would be produced shortly and would take into account this issue.

Steve Baker MP began the sitting by stressing this was a very contentious issue. He spoke on behalf of many of the Buckinghamshire MPs and argued three points; why should the route run through Buckinghamshire against the wishes of local residents, why should the route run through any part of the country which does not want it and if resources such as land and money are scarce, what should be done? During his speech he made the points that there is no benefit to local communities who are forced to accept this scheme, the environmental case has not yet been established and HS2 have been slow to publish their findings. Mr Baker also went on to suggest there had not been proper consideration of alternative proposals which could be cheaper, less intrusive and delivered sooner.

To prove this is a contentious issue amongst all Parties, Frank Dobson, the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, spoke about how confused he was that HS2 would not connect with HS1, the Heathrow Express or the newly constructed Cross Rail project. He called the scheme, 'badly thought out' and stressed that a more cost effective solution could be found.

Many other MPs also spoke against the scheme including Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, Dan Byles, MP for North Warwickshire and Chris Pitcher, MP for Tamworth. Iain Stewart, the MP for Milton Keynes South and Member of the Transport Select Committee explained that he agreed with the need to improve our transport infrastructure and indeed that a High Speed Rail link could be the right idea, however, Iain explained he was far from convinced that HS2 was the right plan and said it could be a costly error.

However, there were also many who spoke in favour of the project. David Mowat, MP for Warrington South spoke of how the forecasts were that 29,000 to 40,000 jobs could be created, Mike Whittaker, MP for Calder Valley made clear that the project would be to the benefit of Yorkshire and Jo Swinson MP and Mark Lazarowicz MP spoke about how they hoped it would be to the benefit of Scotland.

Theresa Villiers MP concluded the debate by setting out the Government's position. She said she believed there was support for this project across the House and indeed across the country. She gave assurance that the environmental impacts would be assessed and she said she was, 'confident' careful mitigation measures could limit the damage of intrusive infrastructure and cited HS1 in Kent as an example of this. Theresa continued by explaining that it was important the economic benefits were considered against the project being fair for local communities. Theresa stressed that the project was necessary to deal with the overcrowding problems on the existing network and would form part of our low carbon economy. Again, she explained that the consultation would be 'conclusive, wide ranging and comprehensive,' and would last 5 months longer than the statutory requirement, she also made clear that any measures to address blight would also be above the statutory requirement.

0 comments

Post a comment


23 NOV 2010

Uganda-UK Schools Linking

A key priority for me is to help young people in South Northamptonshire realise the value and importance of democracy and develop a better understanding of the world around them.

Following a chance meeting with Richard Johnson, a teacher at Campion School (now retired) he and I decided to establish the Uganda-UK Schools Linking project. He is a Trustee of The Discovery Centre based in Jinja, Uganda and we agreed to hold a Youth Conference there with both South Northants and Ugandan sixth formers. The themes for the Conference shadowed those planned for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting that was due to take place in Kampala in November 2007.

So in October 2007, 6 students, 3 teachers and I all travelled to Uganda. We met with 9 Ugandan students and 3 teachers and the first sixth form conference took place. The topics discussed ranged from The Role of Women, Fair trade, Childrens Rights, HIV and AIDS, The Enviroment, The Commonwealth and Renewable Energy. The students worked together to prepare presentations and soon formed a great bond with one another. It was a fantastic opportunity for each student to learn from each other, realising their similarities and differences in spite of living in such different worlds.

The pilot was a huge success and since then we have established an annual trip that includes many of the secondary schools in Northamptonshire. We have developed ways to share curriculum activities during the course of the year and shared work includes photography exhibitions, essay writing on 'a day in my life', art and jewellery making. Many of the students are in regular contact with one another via Facebook.

As well as studying and presenting together, the students taking part in the trip have visited the Source of the Nile, Bujagali Falls hydroelectric plant and a Chimpanzee Sanctuary. They have shared in barbeques of roasted goat and mutual entertainment with songs and dancing by firelight! A truly life changing experience for all those who have been.

I have just recently sent out information to further schools who are making enquiries about the project, its success and the educational benefits to their own students.

The strong communication links developed between the students of Uganda and here in Northamptonshire are important for global education and development. Most important though is the opportunity for young people to meet one another and form a mutual understanding and empathy that will endure througout their lives.

Statements written by some of the students following their visits made it clear how their experiences allowed them an insight into the world around them and to value their own lives and the things in it such as siblings, parents, clothes, food and freedom of choice.

Below are quotes from some of the British and Ugandan students involved, on what they had to say about the whole experience.

Hannah (Ugandan student)

It made us know the European students and teachers were exactly like us, they reasoned the way we did and many other things.
I got to the conference it made me learn how to deal with various kinds of people and also learn how to initiate friendships with them.

Priscilla (Ugandan student)

The conference changed my way of thinking and sense that has come to my knowledge that members in UK and other developed counties do not despise us because we are of least importance but because they are green about what is happening in Africa and the bad image imposed in their minds

Janak (British student)

I learnt that there is no perfect resolution and that not everybody will always agree but that we need to learn to compromise on issues.
Learning about fair treatment and justice in society has been fascinating seeing how men and women are treated differently in two different cultures and continents
I have learnt from these discussions that I should widen my viewpoints on social, political and economical aspects.

Kirsty (British student)

Looking back on the project and my time in Uganda I can see the amazing things I have learnt. If you have visited Africa you will know that actually seeing the poverty that is blasted on the screens every red nose day or children in need actually happens and gives you an almost surreal feeling. When faced with walking through the local village and seeing children smiling and running with excitement at you just being there you can't help but smile yourself. The happiness they expereince through the littlest things has really made me re-evaluate the way I act.

 

The latest information about the Uganda-UK Schools Linking project can be found at www.u-ukslp.org

0 comments

Post a comment


25 OCT 2010

High Speed Rail Lobby Day

After much preparation the High Speed Rail Lobby Day went ahead on Monday 25 October in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House in Westminster. The Attlee Suite is the largest function room on the Parliamentary estate and was full to capacity for the meeting. MPs along the affected route and representatives of the 52 action groups attended to challenge the plans for High Speed Rail. Importantly, many other MPs attended as well as representatives from HS2, members of the Transport Select Committee, Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Minister of State for Transport and Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport who got to hear, some for the first time, the arguments against the plans.

Over 150 people attended in total and heard the Government case, the case against the plans and had an opportunity to pose their own questions. Sir Paul Hayter, Chairman of the Northamptonshire Campaign to Protect Rural England chaired the meeting. To begin with Theresa Villiers outlined the Governments position on their support for a High Speed Rail project. Theresa assured the room that there would be a long consultation period and that representations made during the consultation period would allow people to make a real difference to the project.

Chris Stokes, former Director of the Strategic Rail Authority, argued against the supposed business case for High Speed Rail. Chris argued that the       Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers Speaking at the Lobby Day      growth forecasts for Rail travel of 133% were unsubstantiated. He showed that for example the actual growth for the channel tunnel rail was only 37% of what was forecasted. He argued that the business case for HS2 is not yet proven, and at best marginal.

Professor Mike Geddes, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Warwick, then spoke on the wider economic impacts of High Speed Rail. He asked whether the case was deceiving the regions as many expert studies have suggested. In general the larger the local economy, the more it will benefit. So-called 'agglomeration benefits' flow primarily to the most economically powerful existing agglomerations i.e. London rather than the regions. He felt the damage to the regions would far outweigh any economic benefit outside London.

Mark Sullivan, the Technical Director of CPRE Warwickshire who previously worked on HS1 in Kent and Joe Rukin, a convenor of StopHS2, then spoke on the HS1 Experience and 'Speed is not Green' respectively. Click here to view the slides from the Lobby Day.

Philip Hammond joined the meeting for the Question and Answer session and took questions from both MPs and constituents. A number of MPs spoke out against HS2 asking whether it really was financially viable. Philip Hammond once more assured everyone that compensation would be available for anyone affected by the final route.

I am really pleased that people got the chance to air their views to a number of members of Parliament and Minsters. There were some excellent points made in the presentations which raise significant questions about HS2. Britain is too small and congested an island to accommodate such an insensitive project.

0 comments

Post a comment


10 OCT 2010

Conservative Party Conference HS2 Update

At this year's Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the issue of High Speed Rail was discussed at length both on and off the conference platform. Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport made a key announcement that the Government will support plans for a Y shaped High Speed Rail line north of Birmingham which will continue the line connecting London and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. I was in the Conference Hall for the announcement on Monday morning and I must report that the announcement was warmly received by many in the audience. High Speed Rail was also mentioned by David Cameron in his own main speech.

I think there is a lot of momentum towards High Speed Rail but nevertheless I believe there is still a good chance we will be able to persuade the Government to think again about how to achieve the goal of dramatically improved transport infrastructure.

My researcher, Marc attended a roundtable discussion on Monday entitled, ‘Beyond High Speed 1 - Delivering A Value For Money Network.' Several senior transport industry figures were there including the Chief Executive and Managing Director of Siemens Europe, Nigel Harris, Managing Director of Rail Magazine, many Chief Executives and Directors of rail companies including London First and MPs and elected representatives from the affected areas. The general feeling at the meeting was that HS2 is an exciting new project which will be beneficial for the whole country, however, when challenged about the proposed route, all were in agreement that it was imperative that a sensible route was found and they could see no reason why existing transport corridors should not be used. Further information that came from the meeting was that after the experience of HS1 it was widely agreed that good communication with residents in affected areas was of paramount importance and that whatever route was decided on the case for it must be made very clearly.

There was a demonstration outside the Conference centre on Monday after Philip Hammond's speech which did gain some good press coverage. Our next opportunity to lobby Government regarding HS2 will be at the National Lobby Day I am holding in Westminster on October 25th at 2.30pm. Chaired by Sir Paul Hayter, Chairman of CPRE Northamptonshire, it will offer an opportunity to challenge and discuss the business and environmental case for and against HSR.

 

 

0 comments

Post a comment


06 OCT 2010

Meeting with Secretary of State Philip Hammond MP

Yesterday Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport, visited constituencies up and down the proposed route for High Speed Rail in order to see sensitive parts of the proposed route for himself. He came to Brackley at 3.30pm to meet with me, Tony Baldry MP and a number of local Councillors and members of the S Northants Action Group (SNAG).

We asked him a number of questions including:

- Whether he believes 250 mph is essential for HS2 or whether it would still be viable at slower speeds that would enable better mitigation. He told us that he intends HS2 to travel at the highest possible speeds in order to 'future proof' the network as technology improves;

- Whether he has considered the proposal by Arup Ltd for a different project that uses an existing travel corridor instead of ploughing through untouched countryside. He told us that trains along, for example, a motorway corridor would require a significant amount of tunnelling and bridges to avoid junctions and settlements and would not be feasible;

- Whether he agrees with the principle that those whose property/business values suffer as a result of proximity to the proposed line should be fully compensated. He did agree, and said that he will look to extend the statutory blight compensation arrangements;

- What the plans are for consultation through to delivery of the project. He confirmed that a decision on the route to be consulted upon will be made before Christmas; broad public consultation will take place throughout 2011 with a decision on the final route expected to be taken at the end of 2011; design of the detailed construction would then take place throughout 2012 and a hybrid bill would be put to Parliament in the Spring of 2013; it is planned that work on the line would begin in 2015;

During the meeting, there was a demonstration in Brackley town centre by up to 300 local residents waving banners rejecting HS2. Philip Hammond came outside after the meeting to speak with protesters and to was interviewed by local and national TV and radio.

I then held a public meeting in Brackley Town Hall to update protesters on the meeting. Local Councillors and members of SNAG joined me in expressing our disappointment that Philip Hammond seemed to have rejected the idea of slightly slower trains using a more environmentally sensitive route.

There were many questions from the audience about why we need High Speed Rail. Many people seemed to accept that we need more train/road capacity, but feel that the cost in money and environmental terms of this particular proposal is too great and has not been properly justified as being in the national interest. There is also a great deal of anger about the poor communication, particularly following the latest route changes.

I will certainly keep fighting against the proposed route and I know residents will do the same. The next opportunity to put the strength of feeling to politicians will be at a National Lobby Day I am sponsoring in Westminster on October 25. SNAG and other action groups are bringing together speakers to challenge the business and environmental impact of HS2 and I hope to have in attendance members of the Transport Select Committee, the Transport Department and all MPs whose constituencies are affected.

 Click here to read Andrea's press release.

 

0 comments

Post a comment


20 SEP 2010

*** High Speed Rail Update ***

In advance of Philip Hammond MP (Sec of State for Transport) visiting S Northants constituency this week, I wanted to update residents on my campaign so far to protect our beautiful environment, and to explain clearly what my position is on the latest changes to the route proposed by HS2 Ltd.
Firstly the campaign so far:

1. Since May 7 I have written and forwarded around 700 letters to/from constituents and to/from Dept of Transport and HS2 Ltd. The subjects covered in these letters range from objections to High Speed Rail, challenges to the business and environmental case, opposition to the current proposed route and questions/concerns about both the Exceptional Hardship Scheme and statutory blight provisions. I encourage every resident to keep writing letters to the Sec of State, copying me each time!

2. I have held four public meetings on High Speed Rail to update residents on the facts around the Coalition plans as they emerge. I helped to establish the South Northants Action Group (SNAG) to represent local residents.

3. I have met both formally and informally with Theresa Villiers MP and Philip Hammond MP numerous times to try and press the concerns of this constituency, and have submitted parliamentary questions on specific issues raised by constituents. Both Philip and Theresa have been very willing to talk to me and are very aware of our concerns in regard to the project, the route and the compensation.

4. I have been pressing Philip Hammond to visit the constituency to hold a public meeting. The meeting this week in Brackley is the result of my requests. The meeting will also be attended by Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury whose constituency is also affected. Cllrs Mary Clarke and Ken Melling will also attend, along with the Chairman of SNAG. Philip intends separately to walk parts of the route with HS2 engineers. Philip will speak to local press following the meeting but has declined my request for a public meeting.

5. PLEASE NOTE: I have therefore booked Brackley Town Hall's upstairs room for one hour on Wednesday 22 September from 5pm and will be there to give an update to local campaigners on what took place at the meeting. Please note that there is limited space in this room.

6. The strength of local feeling has persuaded HS2 Ltd to review their proposed route as it crosses through 3 constituencies - S Northants, Tamworth and Kenilworth and Southam. I was invited to meet with HS2 Ltd on September 8 to see their proposals, and sent out an email to my entire 'HS2 email distribution list' on that same day. If you would like to add your email address to this distribution list then please let me know on andrea.leadsom.mp@parliament.uk.

7. I have met with senior staff at Arup Ltd to review their proposal for an alternative High Speed Rail. This proposal in my opinion fits much more closely with our existing transport network and infrastructure and uses an existing travel corridor. I have asked both Philip Hammond and Theresa Villiers if they will look at this alternative.

8. Last weekend I took part in SNAG's 'Walk the route' campaign with residents of Aston le Walls and Lower Boddington, and had the chance to talk at length with residents about how they can get their views heard.

9. I am pressing the district and county councils to form a 'coordination' group with SNAG and myself to better represent the views of local people and to present a coherent strategy for fighting the proposals.

10. I am arranging a 'National Lobby Day' in Westminster on October 25 to enable Action Groups up and down the line to challenge High Speed Rail. The Sec of State has provisionally agreed to attend, together with many affected MPs and members of the Transport Select Committee.

As you would expect I am in constant and regular contact with local press and with the South Northants Action Group on the subject of HS2.

Secondly, I want to be clear about my position on HS2:

a) I do not support the current route, even in its changed guise.
b) I strongly question whether 250mph is realistic in our small, crowded island.
c) I do not believe the business case is sound - in particular I challenge the economic value ascribed to each minute of journey time saved.
d) I believe that new train infrastructure is vital - anyone getting on a train from MK to London, or travelling on our motorways regularly can see that congestion is getting worse. Freight movement onto the railways and off the roads is critical.
e) I believe that any new train infrastructure needs to fit clearly within our existing train network, with the possibility of additional 'spurs' that allow trains to switch from the high speed to the normal network.

My 3 top priorities in Parliament since May 7 have been to defend our constituency from:

1. The damage of High Speed Rail
2. Insensitively located Wind Farms
3. Housing that is not welcomed by local residents

If you have any specific suggestions or ideas then please do write or email me. Likewise, if you are wondering what I am doing/thinking about a specific issue then please get in touch!

To try and keep in better contact with residents I am planning to write a weekly blog of what I have been doing, both in and out of Parliament. I will always welcome comments.

Best
Andrea

 

 

0 comments

Post a comment


23 JUL 2010

Update Letter on High Speed Rail

Dear All

I thought this would be a good time to update you on the ongoing debate over the proposed high-speed rail link. Since I was elected in May I have taken every opportunity to ask questions regarding the proposed plans and gather as much information as possible.

In June I took part in a Westminster debate that sought to establish the Government's level of commitment to HSR, given the dire state of our economy and I issued a press release following the debate, which you can read here:

Since the Westminster Hall debate I have written several times to Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport, asking him for up to date information on the Exceptional Hardship Scheme (EHS) and on the impact of considering moving the terminus for HS2 to Heathrow.

On Tuesday 13 July I had a meeting with Minister of Transport, Theresa Villiers MP together with Chris Pincher (MP for Tamworth) and Dan Byles (MP for North Warwickshire). We held the meeting in order to get an update from Theresa on the proposed route.

In summary Theresa Villiers made several important comments:

• The Government will take all realistic measures to mitigate the damage caused to the environment and communities along the route. This will include using slower speeds and tunnelling in order to minimise the impact on sensitive areas.

• On the exceptional hardship scheme, the Secretary of State will make an announcement soon on the shape of the scheme. Any compensation paid to homeowners under the EHS would be at 100% of pre-blight levels.

• Theresa also undertook to look into when the Secretary of State may be able to visit South Northamptonshire to walk part of the route and to meet with local residents and see at first hand the impact of Route 3 on their lives. I am hoping that this will be in September.

Two weeks ago I attended a public meeting in Brackley that was arranged by Liz Williams, Chairman of SNAG. The purpose was to update residents on the plans for High Speed Rail. I made clear at the meeting that I believe it highly likely that a high speed rail project will go ahead. There will be a thorough consultation beginning in 2011 and every resident affected will be able to submit their own views. The work of SNAG as an official stakeholder, representing the interests of those affected will be very important. I believe that there is a chance the route may change, but importantly I am increasingly confident that the speed of the train and hence the possibility for good mitigation is negotiable.

Having said that, the publication of the Mahwhinney Report on Wednesday 21 July was not good news for local residents. Lord Mahwhinney has stated that changing the route to run via Heathrow, ‘should not be pursued.' However, I am reassured by the Secretary of State's announcement that he will, ‘carefully consider Lord Mawhinney's recommendations alongside further work by High Speed 2 and will announce our conclusions later this year.'

I have also had a meeting with ARUP who are working with HS2 but who have also put forward their own alternative proposal for a route which would see the line link up with Heathrow and would follow a different route to Birmingham. I was impressed with the case they put forward and I am very keen that the Secetary of State considers their proposal.

On behalf of the many HS2 action groups up and down the line, I am sponsoring a Lobby Day in October around the time of the Spending Review. I hope to be allocated an extremely large Committee Room in the ballot that takes place next week! More information will follow.

As ever, I will do all I can to keep you up to date with any new developments as we get closer to a decision being made regarding the route and all information will be posted on my website.

With best wishes

Andrea Leadsom MP

 

2 comments

With the launch of the EHS it still feels that this government is supporting HS2 even though an M40 corridor approach would be better if ther