Tennis Opening in Royston

November 30, 2010

I was delighted to attend the opening of the marvellous new courts on Therfield Heath. Christine Knight and all at the Club have worked very hard to secure the funding and see their vision realised. This will be great for Royston’s tennis players and its young people. Perhaps one day we will produce a player of national or international standard.

The photo shows me with Mavis Drake, most senior player at the Club.

Cricket rises to the occasion…

November 30, 2010

Yesterday George Osborne outlined his latest financial thinking in the Autumn Statement and Britain seems to be doing a bit better than expected in coming out of recession with less job losses predicted and higher growth. Cricket is also doing its part with a great fight-back in the Ashes in Australia. Last night I was pleased to attend the parliamentary launch of Sir Alan Haslehurst’s new book “Unusually Cricket” which is a delightful insight into the adventures of the club “the Outcasts”. The event was extremely well attended and I was glad to see that in the midst of the Coalitions’ efforts to tackle the budget deficit, a positive event has taken place to promote a good book, related to a subject very dear to my heart: cricket!

Better rail news…

November 25, 2010

The Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond MP’s announcement today that significant amounts of government funds are going to be invested in the rail infrastructure is excellent news for hard pressed overcrowded commuters.

Mr Hammond outlined policy in the House today which includes funding and delivering the Thameslink programme which will work wonders for those wishing to access the South coast. Equally, the approval of extra carriages for our line, in conjunction with the lengthening of platforms, will surely ease commuter congestion too. This means we are “on track” for more 12 car running.

What’s fair for students?

November 24, 2010

The student protest in London today shows the dissatisfaction of students about our Coalition Government’s plans for tuition fees and it is of course essential that as many students as possible have the opportunity to attend higher education. However, as much as I recognise student concerns, we do face the issue of striking that difficult balance between realising savings on one hand whilst ensuring student admissions on the other; the line has to be drawn somewhere and students are not the only ones facing reduced funding following the CSR.

We have been left with the worst deficit in the G20 and a national debt which has doubled. As a result Government spending has necessitated urgent redress. I am however very cheered to hear that the Office of Business, Innovation and Skills is planning to introduce a scholarship fund to the tune of £150M to help students seeking financial assistance to attend university. I think we should not forget that without a firm programme of action we could be facing the sort of ruinous situation in Ireland.

And who will pick up the tab for all the borrowing of the last Government and any extra Government borrowing now? The answer is – our young people for years to come!

A low carbon China beckons?

November 18, 2010

This week, I met the Shell UK expert helping China with low carbon solutions to its infrastructure challenges and I was also particularly cheered to hear of the news that at the GLOBE forum chaired by Lord Deben held in Tianjin last week, China announced plans to introduce comprehensive climate change legislation.

In a time in which climate change is an increasingly pressing issue and seldom out of the news it is extremely encouraging and a major step forward that such a country like China is willing to address this concerning matter and commit to positive measures to deal with it.

The Globe Forum is doing invaluable work and I commend them thoroughly on their valiant efforts in enlisting the support of such countries across the world to tackle this important area.

A Royal Wedding next year…

November 17, 2010

I was very pleased to hear of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton yesterday afternoon. It is extremely exciting for them and in changing times for the monarchy I am sure that Miss Middleton will prove herself worthy of the task. I know like me that all in North East Herts are wishing the couple well in their future life together. It will be lovely to have a royal wedding to look forward to next year.

Two Standards Committees

November 16, 2010

Today is a busy day starting at the Standards and Privileges Committee, where we consider complaints made about Members of Parliament and also look into alleged breaches of the rules which stop people from obstructing the work of MPs. After that I am going to the meeting of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is taking evidence about funding of political parties. These two committees are often confused, but the first committee is a Parliamentary Select Committee made up of MPs, whilst the Committee on Standards in Public Life is not. It was set up by John Major after allegations of sleaze in order to set Standards for Public Life and has published 7 principles. Although it has a political member from each of the three main parties, the majority of members are lay members appointed by the Prime Minister from different walks of life : some are eminent academics, one a top accountant, another a former police chief and along with other members from other walks of life, our Chair is Sir Christopher Kelly, a former top civil servant. We are interviewing journalists and experts on Party funding and hope to report next year on how parties should be funded without suspicions of undue influence on policy from donors.

Later on I am attending a meeting to learn more about the current situation in Scandinavia.

IDS’s White Paper

November 10, 2010

Tomorrow is an important day at Westminster with Iain Duncan Smith launching his Welfare White Paper. This is a new approach designed to help the long term unemployed into work with a personalised package of job search, training and employment support. There will also be a new benefits’ system with a promise that in future work will pay and a person will always be better off in work.

Over the last 13 years we have seen jobs created, but the number of people without work has not improved in line. There are 3 million workless households where no one of working age actually works. It is vital to people’s lives to have the structure and dignity which work brings. It is important that young people should not be brought up in a world of dependency.

This is a once in a generation attempt to tackle one of the major problems of our time.

Think about being a councillor…

November 10, 2010

I was pleased to hear about the ongoing campaign in the East of England to encourage more people to become local councillors ahead of next year’s May local elections. This is an extremely worthwhile campaign especially in the wake of David Cameron’s plans for the Big Society and the devolution of power to local authorities.

Local councillors have a significant say in the administration of local affairs and often a considerable impact on them too. The campaign is holding open day events so that people can go along and find out further details; have a look at

Active Citizens?

November 4, 2010

Following yesterday’s walk to work, this morning I decided to get off the tube two stops early and finish the rest of my journey walking through Green Park and St James’s Park.

When walking through the respective parks, I noticed with interest quite how many people were taking part in some form of sporting activity or exercise. This is definitely a trend which we should build on and to that end I have recently discussed with the fitness industry the best way to take this forward. After all David Cameron’s “Big Society” is about encouraging social renewal and community regeneration, perhaps as a concept, it should also be about public health and promoting positive ways to improve it.