Good News for British Lorry Drivers

October 26, 2012

I was pleased to hear the Transport Minister, Stephen Hammond MP, announce in the House on Tuesday that HGV hauliers in excess of 12 tonnes will now have to pay a levy when using UK roads. UK owned hauliers will have the levy offset against their Vehicle Excise Duty. The key aim is to ensure a fairer arrangement for UK-hauliers to help improve their competitiveness.

This is a welcome announcement given that previously foreign hauliers have been able to come to the UK and not pay any road tolls, whereas UK hauliers when they travel abroad have been required to do so. According to the Minister’s statement “the levy will be time based and will vary according to the vehicle type, weight and number of axles.” I hope that this will be a great boost to UK hauliers.

Hopeful signs from latest economic figures…

October 26, 2012

Following my press release last week about a drop in unemployment figures in the North East Herts area, I was pleased to hear yesterday that the UK Economy had also grown by 1% in the third quarter of 2012 following three previous quarters of recession. The growth in this third economic quarter is the strongest we have seen since 2007 when the economic crisis first began, which is very positive. Over the last quarter there has been growth in the Services sector and the Production Industries Sector which rose by 1.3% and 1.1% respectively since the previous economic quarter. If we can maintain this same encouraging trajectory in the next economic quarter we will be forging a way out of economic difficulties.

My meeting with UK Feminists

October 25, 2012

Parliament was jam-packed today with the members of UK Feminista, who had come to lobby their MPs. I met four constituents, one of whom, Laura Pankhurst, is the great-great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and the great granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst! Laura wore clothes of the period and a Suffragette sash.

UK Feminista was founded in 2010 as a national voice for feminism. Many activists from across the country converged on London today to call for more action to push forward women’s equality.

After a morning of speeches and briefings at Central Hall, Westminster, the Feminista supporters walked to the House of Commons to meet MPs. Laura was with her friends, Katie Reeve and Lydia Crook (pictured with me above) and Amy Finch also came. One of the issues they were very concerned about was violence against women and what is being done about it. I explained that I am a member of the Ministerial working group on violence against women and this is a very important issue to me. I was also keen to mention David Cameron’s promise to do more about preventing the sexualisation of children and I shall be letting the girls know what progress that has been made so far in this area.

Other issues of concern for UK Feminista include gender stereotypes, availability of child care, abortion and justice for female asylum seekers. We had an excellent discussion and the girls put forward many strong points. I have promised to do some research on some of the areas we discussed and will be writing to them soon!

Code of Conduct for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

October 8, 2012

Until my recent appointment as Solicitor General, I was rapporteur to the Rules Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on creating a Code of Conduct for members. The Assembly covers 47 countries across Europe and also includes Russia, Turkey and other non EU states. There has been a demand for rules to cover principles of behaviour and rules on matters such as declaration of gifts and ensuring that lobbying is controlled. After holding evidence and drafting sessions, I was prepared to present my report to plenary in Strasbourg last week. My Ministerial appointment meant that I could not do so, but my colleague Robert Walter MP kindly stepped in and made an excellent speech introducing the new Code. I was delighted to see that the Code was adopted with overwhelming support. The new Code draws heavily on the Seven Principles of Public Life used in the UK and it is good to see the use of these principles being extended abroad. Having spent more than a year on this project, I was pleased there was such a positive outcome, which will help the Assembly to maintain its reputation.