7 September 2020
Westminster Diary

One senior colleague told me recently that he could not recall a Summer where he had worked continuously throughout Recess.  Given that the national imperative is to support the UK population in the midst of a global pandemic, I have also felt the pressure to provide around the clock assistance to constituents and would like to publicly thank my team, all of the hard-working public servants at Bracknell Forest and Wokingham Borough Councils, key workers everywhere and all those who have contributed at a tough time for our country.  As I have stated, we will get through this, so it is vital that we comprehensively open up all our economic sectors, businesses, places of leisure and schools as soon as it is safe to do so.  But this is also about co-existing with Covid-19 and managing personal risks - Life must go on.

Having had my own family break cut short due to the imposition of quarantine, this has at least given me a chance to look ahead to the next Parliamentary term and to assess my priorities.  Having now dealt with almost 10,000 individual bits of casework in Bracknell since lockdown, we could perhaps be forgiven for taking our foot off the gas in the office but there is no chance to do so.  At the top of my list is the need to get our economy moving again and to get back to work.  With so many unprecedented and generous schemes in place, these cannot of course go on forever, our jobs are sacrosanct and there will be a need to pay the Treasury back.  Whilst I am unashamedly supportive of a low tax, high incentive, dynamic, post-Brexit economy which creates national wealth and pays for our public services, we will also need to be honest with the electorate that income does not grow on trees and it will be necessary for the Government to start to balance the books.  I do not have any detailed insights on what is planned but I trust the Chancellor to get it right.  

It will also be necessary to continue to level up right across the country.  Readers may know of my concern about unsustainable house building and I am lobbying hard for a review of the algorithm which sees new targets set against an affordability formula.  Bracknell in particular has a proven record of meeting its local plan and delivering relatively affordable housing but there is not an endless supply of land here.  Next door, Wokingham has also done well to meet its local plan so it is time to reward loyal councils by shifting the burden elsewhere in order to protect the green spaces that we have.  Levelling up also means building elsewhere - and we are still in the consultation phase - so I remain hopeful.

Lastly, there is still a great deal of legislation to get through, not least to finalise Brexit arrangements.  I am greatly reassured what I have seen to date, notably the Withdrawal Agreement, Immigration Bill and Fisheries Bill, and it is right that the UK should regain its political self-determination by taking full control of its borders, sovereignty and autonomy.  Brexit offers much with the promise of free trade deals worldwide and a good deal with the EU, but the latter is very much in the hands of the EU - the UK will walk away if it must.  Beyond this, I hope to press hard on Veterans and Armed Forces Covenant issues as the new co-Chair of the Veterans All-Party Parliamentary Group, improvements to South Western Rail, improvements to the provision of SEN and NHS services across Bracknell, better schools funding and a host of other issues that will be of benefit to the constituency.  It will also be great to see the new veteran hubs opening across Berkshire and a full return to normality.