This week the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published information about its #LightsOut campaign. The campaign is about encouraging people to turn off their lights for an hour between 10pm and 11pm on Monday 4 August in recognition of the 100 year anniversary of the First World War. I understand that many local authorities, national organisations and landmarks are planning to take part in the initiative. According to the DCMS press release, #LightsOut has been inspired by Sir Edward Grey’s famous remark on the eve of the outbreak of the War “the lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not seem them lit again in our lifetime.” Support for the campaign can also be demonstrated by signing up to the DCMS Thunderclap which is an online platform which will send an automatic message of support to people via Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr at 10am on 4 August. With its 100 year anniversary, it is extremely important that we remember the First World War and those that sacrificed so much fighting in it. I encourage my constituents to take part in the campaign and sign up to the Thunderclap.
This weekend Armed Forces Day comes to Letchworth with a two day celebration taking place between 9am and 4pm in Broadway Gardens on Saturday and Sunday. I understand that there will be live entertainment on both days and this will include military vehicle displays, live music and refreshments. There will also be a veterans’ parade on Sunday starting at 10.45am in the Gardens which I will be attending. It is very important that we celebrate the work of the Armed Forces. They perform a valuable service and many in the Forces have sacrificed a huge amount in the most recent military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. I look forward to showing them my support on Saturday.
For my week of work experience I worked in Oliver Heald‘s office at the House of Commons. It was exciting as I had read about it and seen it on television and then I was there in person.
The first thing we did was take a free tour of Parliament and found out lots about the buildings and what happened in them. All the rooms were very impressive and grand. In the office I did filing and other jobs. I saw lots of Select Committees on topics like sham marriages, child mortality and the environment which were very interesting. I really enjoyed seeing the Select Committees as I could relate them to things happening where I live.
The best part of my week was seeing Prime Minister‘s Questions. It was very dramatic as it was just after the verdict on the Andy Coulson trial. I’m glad we got to see it because it was one lots of people wanted to go to. Lots of the MPs got very heated over the topic. There was quite a lot of shouting and pointing which made it quite entertaining. I liked seeing all the politicians I recognised from the news in person and how they reacted to the debates.
On the last day we saw a few debates and a Ministerial statement on the NHS investigations. We saw a variety of different things from the gallery where we had very good seats although they were a bit uncomfortable, we could see everything.
I’m very glad and grateful that I could do my work experience in such a respected place and have so much fun doing it.
After the tour of the Palace of Westminster I didn’t think it could get much better. I was wrong.
Tuesday started off with the tour, followed by lunch in Number 1 Parliament Street. After lunch we sat in on the Home Affairs Select Committee on the subject of sham marriages, with some lively discussion over the evidence being given. Certainly made for entertaining viewing!
As if Tuesday hadn’t been exciting enough, we were lucky enough to be able to watch a very heated, thanks to the Andy Coulson case, Prime Minister’s Questions from the gallery followed by lunch on the Terrace on Wednesday. That wasn’t even the last of the excitement! After lunch, along with Oliver, we made our way over to Downing Street, cleared the slightly intimidating security, and were able to hand a petition to Number Ten!
On Thursday we were again very lucky in that were able to watch Jeremy Hunt give his Ministerial Statement on the NHS report into the Jimmy Savile case. In the afternoon we spent some time watching the Grand Committee of the Lords in the Moses Room and also watching a debate from the gallery in the Main Chamber.
As a 6th form student studying politics, the opportunities to see what I have done over the last few days have been invaluable, as well as extremely enjoyable!
I would definitely recommend a few days work experience here at Westminster to anyone with an interest in politics, even if it were to only see the building itself!
I was interested to hear this week about the development of a group of sustainable homes in Waterford on the edge of Hertford. Planning permission has been granted for the construction of eight two-storey homes on Sacombe Road in Waterford which will be low or zero carbon housing. They will have photovoltaic panels on their roofs, be naturally heated and ventilated, harvest rainwater and be able to use some solar thermal hot water. I understand that they will exceed the highest ranking in the Code for Sustainable Homes and that a condition of the planning permission is that the developers will be required to build a footpath link and provide £10,000 towards transport measures which will encourage people to use alternative methods of transport other than cars.
This week I received information about the lottery funded “Heroes Return 2” scheme which provides grants to WW2 veterans and their widows from the UK, Channel Islands and Republic of Ireland to help with travel and accommodation costs so that they can return with their spouse or carer to the places where they served during the War. These grants range between £165 to £8,140 and also cover trips to the UK for a commemorative visit. So far, Heroes Return 2 has awarded over £28 million to more than 57,000 veterans. I think this is an excellent scheme and I encourage WW2 veterans in my constituency to take advantage of it. More details about the programme can be found here or by calling the Heroes Return helpline on 0845 0000121.
I am very pleased that the excellent Conservative candidate for Newark, Robert Jenrick, was successful in yesterday’s by-election. I have been up several times to support Robert, including yesterday, and the atmosphere was fantastic. The result was bleak for Labour, in a seat they held under Tony Blair, coming in 3rd.. It also denied UKIP a parliamentary seat, with them losing considerable support since the European elections just last week. I wish Robert well as the new MP for Newark and look forward to working with him in Parliament.
I am sure many of my constituents were pleased to hear about the changes to Air Passenger Duty which were unveiled during the Budget. Recently Nicky Morgan MP Financial Secretary to the Treasury wrote to me providing more details.
From 1 April 2015 there will be an abolition of duty bands C and D; any country over 2,000 miles from London will fall into the same B rate banding as the USA and for those travellers flying to band A destinations within the UK and Europe, the economy flight duty rate is set to remain at £13.
I am glad that the Treasury is simplifying our previous system of Air Passenger Duty. I am know that many of my constituents travel regularly and I hope that these new measures will assist them.