Over the weekend I was invited by the Spectator to give my latest book choice. As you will see from the link, http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/blog/7333253/bookbenchers-oliver-heald.thtml, there has been a lot of interest and my book I am currently reading which is To a Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron is an absolute classic travel book and I am really enjoying it as one of the comments says this is a real clash of two cultures, but Colin Thubron writes beautifully about the countryside and people of Nepal and Tibet.
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.
Sunday on Royston Heath, for my Annual Cricket Tournament. My son William bravely put in a team of his own, Ramblers Cricket Club, who enjoyed the Tournament a great deal and even managed to get to the semi finals. Dominic Adams was an absolute star in organizing the whole day and it was also good to see that the Town Mayor and other councillors and officials from the Royal British Legion attended. There were fewer people at the event this year as spectators because of the weather but there were always 100 hardy spectators enjoying the occasion. Babraham did very well to defend their trophy and the final was looking promising until bad light stopped play. We were just unlucky that heavy cloud cover came over. Amjad Afridi of the Market One Team really showed his paces with the bat.
Photo of Royston Town Mayor Martin Beaver, together with members the Ramblers Team, six of whom come from the Royston area:
Standing Left to Right – Adam Tozzi, Nick Waller, Guy Houghton, Will Heald, Ed Jessop
Kneeling Left to Right – Zack King and Tom Hoy
In these difficult economic times, it is important that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely. Public Sector Travel Magazine has recently highlighted some of the answers to Parliamentary Questions I have asked about departmental spending on overseas first class air travel. At the end of last year I asked each Government department how much they spent on first class flights. Many departments ducked the question and simply referred me to the list of all departmental spending on travel which does not differentiate between first, business and economy classes. However the results were still illuminating. The total departmental spend on overseas travel amounted to £2.2 million last year with three departments putting their hands up to Ministers’ first class air travel of £17,790.
The fact that an industry website has picked up on this line of questioning is good, as it shows that we have rattled a few cages. As Public Sector Travel put it: “In better times these might have been considered too small in the totality of public spending to matter much”, so it looks like someone is getting the message!
Here are the results of my Questioning, click on entries to see the links to Hansard:
|DEPARTMENT||FIRST CLASS TRAVEL 2008-09||TOTAL TRAVEL SPENDING 2008-09|
|Business Innovation and Skills||“Cabinet Office provides an annual list of overseas travel over £500 undertaken by Ministers”||£291,616.00|
|Cabinet||“See annual list”||£67,559.00|
|DCSF||“See annual list”||£40,386.00|
|DCLG||“See annual list”||£23,371.00|
|DCMS||“See annual list”||£36,373.00|
|DECC||“See annual list”||£21,700.00|
|DEFRA||“See annual list”||£34,508.00|
|FCO||“See annual list”||£886,780.00|
|Health||“See annual list”||£52,316.00|
|Home Office||“See annual list”||£109,642.00|
|DIFD||“See annual list”||£326,379.00|
|Northern Ireland||“See annual list”||£92,712.00|
|Scotland||“See annual list”||£12,114.00|
|Treasury||“See annual list”||£51,667.00|
|Transport||“See annual list”||£30,739.00|
|Wales||“See annual list”||£2,978.00|
|Women and Equality||£5,026.00||–|
|DWP||“See annual list”||£23,759.00|
This is what it says about my expenses in today’s Legg report (on page 75):
Mr Oliver Heald MP
North East Hertfordshire
Mr Heald has no issues.
Earlier this year the Save Our Bees Campaign sent me a packet of wildflower seeds. The idea was for people to sow the seeds in their gardens to encourage the growth of the bee population. I have previously blogged about the success of my researcher, Martin’s, efforts to grow his seeds on the windowsill of his London flat. I have also been pleased to see the seeds thrive in my Royston garden, although they have been late to open. But I now have a flower and would be grateful if anyone can identify it for me!
Bank Holidays are always busy for me and yesterday saw me at the Ashwell Show, Reed Festival and the Royston Town Cricket Tournament.
Ashwell Show is a firm favourite in many people’s Bank Holiday calendar and cars were queuing for some distance to get in. The Show hosts many businesses and charity stalls, who come back year after year. At the Show yesterday it was possible to scale a climbing wall, buy a saddle, admire the craftsmanship of a thatcher or buy a handbag. This is all in addition to the well-attended Horse Show and Dog Agility Competition. I was pleased to meet the Salvation Army with a display of the community work they do in our area; to talk to the local charity for the deaf about how their group has grown from small beginnings in Ashwell and to talk with the RNLI representative about the importance of their work, even in a land-locked County. I admired those tackling the climbing wall but decided I was not dressed for the occasion! Such is the success of the Ashwell Show that there is talk of spreading it over two days in the future. The photos show me with the RNLI representative at the Show and supporters of the Phoenix Group for Deaf Children.
The Reed Festival was on a far smaller scale but equally enjoyable. Again, the local charities had fundraising stalls, including Heathlands Animal Sanctuary and Dr Peter Gough’s Khandel Light Charity in India. The Royston Fire Station had sent a fire tender and visitors were offered a free fire safety check in their homes. This is excellent preventative work, which Royston Fire Station is pushing hard.
At 2 pm we gathered outside the impressive new extension to Reed Village Hall for the formal Opening by the Chairman of North Hertfordshire District Council, Cllr David Miller. The original Village Hall has lasted well but had no access for the disabled. The new front extension is wheelchair friendly and has been beautifully built by a local firm. The villagers thanked the Committee who had all worked so hard to bring about this wonderful new facility.
The photo shows me with Cllr Howard Marshall and Cllr David Miller after the Official Opening.
The Royston Town Cricket Tournament on the Heath was a far more relaxed affair. Eight teams had entered the Tournament which was being run for the first time. I am sure it will become a permanent fixture, as it was such an enjoyable occasion for the players and spectators alike.
Competition was fierce, but Babraham emerged triumphant from the final with Thriplow. Much of their success was due to the only female cricketer of the day, who bowled magnificently.
Royston Town Cricket Club was only set up recently by Dominic Adams and Steve Gwynne, with the express purpose of bringing Royston Cricket back to the Heath. It is a fantastic setting for the game and I felt greatly honoured that the Shield I presented was named “The Oliver Heald Trophy”.