February 2012

Tue, 28 Feb

Another early start, into the office briefly and then up to London.

The press are screaming that fuel taxes in the UK are the highest in Europe.

That does not surprise me and it's wrong.

Along with other reductions in taxation, the Chancellor should cut fuel taxes pronto.

It's extraordinary that flying to Rome is cheaper than filling up your car! Boris Johnson, I believe, made this interesting observation in his column.

Spoke to the local paper on the way up to give them the latest on our campaign to fight for the SAR helicopter at Portland.

Oliver Letwin appears to have had the stuffing knocked out of him, atleast according to his column last Saturday.

Also spoke to Charlie Barker, a teacher at Stowe, who is bringing a party of about 50 students, including my son, to the Commons tomorrow.

Into my London office and caught up on the news this end.

Signed about 50 letters, wrote my column for this Friday, and began drafting a rebuttal to Justine Greening.

Down to the Chamber for the tailend of questions to the Foreign Secretary and then supported Bill Cash's Standing Order 24 application for a debate on the forthcoming EU summit, which the government had refused.

It was a brilliant ambush and well supported on both sides of the House.

Attended a meeting with colleagues for an hour before returning to my office.

A mass of correspondence later we went home at 10pm. No vote in the end.

Mon, 27 Feb

An early start and into the office for a long day behind my desk.

The Turners set off for Hungary for the first - and we hope last - court hearing in Budapest.

It's a pre-trial appearance, when Michael Turner's lawyer will argue that the case should be dropped.

If it's not, then a trial date will be set, probably in April.

I did further workwork on how we should take our battle to save our helicopter forward.

By midday, and with a mass of correspondence in the out-tray, my old colleagues from BBC South Today arrived to interview me about the Turner case.

A quick sandwich lunch, before I made a series of phone calls, including one to my London team.

A mid afternoon run got me out of the office for a while - so mild.

Worked through to the evening. Back to the Commons tomorrow. 

Sat, 25 Feb

 

Was interviewed on BBC Radio Solent, which was looking back on the week.

I was asked about the Portland SAR helicopter, a subject I am fluent on for all the wrong reasons.

It's a travesty that a Conservative-led government should even contemplate taking away our helicopter in 2017 and I shall fight on in every way I can to keep it.

There is no doubt in my mind that more deaths are likely without this wonderful asset at hand. 

Fri, 24 Feb

 

Breakfast - early as John wanted to get away to Middlesex - was fascinating as we chatted away about politics.

With this enormous breadth of experience, a precious hour with this man is illuminating.

I was in the office by 8am and worked steadily through the morning until I hosted a fundraising lunch.

Afterwards, I was interviewed by Paul Burbidge for Dorset Life magazine.

Paul is a real charmer and by chance the son of one of my team of foresters.

Paul's stuck with journalism for some years and adores it.

His determination will see him through and he is one to watch for in the future.

I then delivered a framed photograph of our bricky, who sadly and tragically recently died from a brain tumour, to his lovely partner. She's a remarkable and special lady and is bearing up well and with great dignity.

A little time to myself then: the barber!

Back to the office and out for a quiet dinner with the wife!

Thu, 23 Feb

 

A morning in the office before heading to Weymouth on my motorbike - far warmer now!

To those who have never ridden a bike, I must tell you that it is the most exhilerating experience; that is until you fall off!

First stop was to drop in and see Mickey Jones, a young developer who is quite inspirational.

He's taken over his family company from dad, and runs it with great skill and panache.

His office is a humble but comfortable affair, located on a recently finished site on the Granby.

Mickey is a visionary and I was most impressed with the design of his buildings and the new ones planned on an adjacent site. 

Had to rush at 1.30pm to get to the council offices to be interviewed by Meridian reporter Martin Dowse, a charming and very able reporter who I used to compete with when I worked for the BBC.

We chatted about the Portland helicopter, which I am very angry about.

Afterwards, my surgery took more than two hours, with many deserving and sad cases. As always, I will do what I can to help.

I just had time to get home, leap into the shower and then suit before returning to Weymouth for one of our supper club dinners.

Tonight's speaker was John Redwood and he was quite brilliant.

He speaks simply, clearly and concisely and certainly wowed his audience.

He and his charming partner Sue Precious spent the night at home. 

Wed, 22 Feb

 

An early morning run certainly woke me up. Warmer now.

Bad news. Justine Greening, the transport secretary, ruled out keeping the Portland SAR helicopter.

I was, and I know everyone else will be, bitterly disappointed.

This is a bad decision, brought about in the main by budget cuts and poor advice from consultants.

I shall fight on. This is not over.

Despatched a press release and spoke to the local paper.

Plenty to think on as I consider how to take this battle forward.

Such a shame to think I am having to battle a Conservative-led government on an issue like this.

In the afternoon, I attended my select committee meeting, where we were taking evidence from Scottish water representatives.

Final vote at 7pm and then back to Dorset.

Tue, 21 Feb

 

Up early and into the office briefly before setting off for London.

Plenty to do on arrival in my Commons office.

Had lunch with New Look's, Chief Financial Officer. Alastair Miller, and the company's property rep Richard White.

Received a very useful update on the progress of the development on their site which will hopefully create hundreds of local jobs. Very good news.

Back to the office and a variety of issues, not least my weekly column to deal with.

House rose earlier than expected at about 8pm. A bonus! 

Mon, 20 Feb

It's always busy returning from a break and today was no exception.

Spent nearly all day in the office catching up and dealing with constituency matters.

Checked with the Turners that they are ready for their ordeal next week. Fingers crossed.

Several concerns raised about this giant offshore wind farm near Swanage.

Amazing it's got this far when you think the blight it will be on our wonderful Jurassic coast. 

A number of MPs, including me, are now working on this emotive topic. We need to change  planning law to give local people more of a say over the final decision.

Sat, 18 Feb

 

Our Association held its AGM today.

A very successful morning with many attendees.

It's always interesting listening to feedback from one's own supporter.

Friday, 17 Feb

 

A sad day.

Attended the touching and simple service for my Godmother, who died after suffering a massive stroke.

The church was packed as she was a remarkable lady and very popular.

Returned home to my desk afterwards to catch up with a lot of constituency correspondence. 

 

Sat, 11 Feb

A beautiful frost on the ground and very cold.

Downed a coffee and headed to Swanage for our branch's AGM. Roger Patrick is standing down as Chairman after four years. He's done the most superb job and now Cheryl Knight is taking over, who will be equally magnificent.

All Parties rely on their foot soldiers and I am so grateful to all those who help fly the blue flag.

We had a good meeting, at the end of which I spoke for a few moments on one or two local issues and one or two national ones.

Then downstairs and into the bar where I chatted with members for an hour or so.

The club really is run well and a great tribute to the town. It's always full and everyone is made to feel totally at home.

We are fortunate to have such a club. 

Fri, 10 Feb

 

Snow on the ground, although most of it fell to the north of us here in South Dorset.

I spent first part of the morning on the phone and writing letters. 

Then to Dorchester to meet members of the library campaigning group called Ad Lib.

They first fought to stop libraries being closed and are now in dispute with the council council over the way the closures were implemented.

They've referred their complaint to the local government ombudsman, which will take a few weeks to complete.

In the meantime, Oliver Letwin, Annette Brook and I listened to the campaigners and noted their concerns.

The next stage is to try and hand over the libraries closed by the council to local communities.

We heard how Ad Lib was meeting a lot of bureaucracy and we are going to try and help with some prompting letters.   

A quick sandwich on the way to Weymouth, where I attended the regular gathering of the Dorset Olympic Board.

I have to say that everyone is working flat out to ensure the Games are a success and deserve much praise for all their work.

After two hours, which included an excellent security brief from the Chief Constable, I headed back to the office and worked through to the evening.

Thu, 9 Feb

 

 

The cold persists!

Busy morning in the office, before heading down to Swanage to meet and chat with Andy Thomas, who runs the Regency Dental Practice.

What a charming man.

I'd gone to find out more about his reason to withdraw from the NHS contract at the end of March, leaving my constituents in the resort without NHS cover.

I won't bore you with the details as they are quite complicated.

Needless to say, I totally understand why he has done what he has done.

The good news for residents is that there are several interested parties who are in talks with NHS Dorset who want to set up a practice in Swanage.

There are a couple of questions I have for the NHS team and I hope to be meeting them soon.

I also met Andy's Mum, who was lovely.

Then across to Weymouth to visit a successful company called Universal Engineering, which is based on the Granby Estate.

I was met by the CEO Mike Hayle and the Marketing Manager Mark Blunden. They were charming and I had the most interesting brief, before a whistlestop tour of the site where I met quite a few of the staff.

I last visited the company about three years ago and a lot has happened since then.

A large investor has injected huge energy into the company and it really is buzzing.

I was particularly impressed with their long-sighted view on employees. By that I mean, they have taken on about 40 staff who had no electrical skills at all.

They trained and nurtured them and this team is now providing all the wiring for the Merlin helicopter - very impressive indeed.

The staff I met, most of them local, were clearly confident they were working for a good company with a great future.

Almost forgot to mention that the company provides the wiring for helicopters, and builds an artillery piece and new, state of the art six and eight-wheeled armoured vehicles.

Back to the office and worked through into the evening.

Wed, 8 Feb

 

The coldest day so far. At least that's what it felt like as I avoided patches of frozen snow still much evident in the park.

Finished my column for this week and then tackled police funding. The press want to speak to me after they picked up on the Chief Constable's written submission to his police authority.

Dorset Police is in a dire situation and cuts will affect the frontline because we've been so poorly funded for years.

I'm due to speak on BBC Radio Solent tomorrow morning.

Had a good chat with Martin Baker, who is the most superb Chief. We are lucky to have him.

PMQs was noisy.

Miliband attacked DC on the NHS, not particularly successfully, either. He just does not seem to have the gravitas needed.

Had one of my oldest friends in for lunch (not literally!) and he much enjoyed the spectacle.

Good to catch up with him and hear how he, a businessman, feels how the government is doing.

Several pressing constituency matters dominated the afternoon, interrupted with two votes at 4pm and 7pm.

Back to an icy Dorset.

Tue, 7 Feb

A cold morning! Certainly felt a cold chill as I trotted around the park.

Followed on my meeting with the Chief Constable and have written to the Minister, Nick Herbert, requesting an urgent meeting.

Dorset police cannot go on sustaining these huge hits when it's been the lowest funded force for years already.

Worked through until 2.30pm when I dropped down to the Chamber to attend Deputy Prime Minister's Questions.

Mr Clegg was not firing on all cylinders and his rather reedy voice didn't help either.

He seems intent on blundering ahead with reform to the House of Lords. I shall oppose his proposals, which include PR and elections.

After a brief interlude, the Home Secretary came in to take an urgent question on the soon-to-be released terrorist Abu Qatada.

He's wanted in eight countries on terrorism charges, including Jordan where he comes from.

The view in the Chamber was unanimous - he should not be released on bail, however stringent the conditions.

This man is a danger to our country and citizens, yet we are having to let him out.

The world has gone bonkers!

The Home Secretary did her best, but not enough to quieten benches on both sides of the House.

I managed to ask a question, comparing the treatment of this fanatic to that of my constituent Michael Turner, who was jailed in Hungary for four months, without charge, for alleged fraud.

There's clearly one rule for terrorists and another for British citizens.

Back to the office until 8.45pm when a three line Whip was reduced to one.

Mon, 6 Feb

A cold, drizzly start to the day.

I spent the morning in the office organising the week ahead.

The news that the Syrian army continues to butcher its own people is desperately sad. The people want freedom and it sometimes comes at a terrible price, as we found our during two world wars.

Meanwhile, our wonderful Queen celebrate 60 years on the throne in modest fashion - so typical of her. She really is the most remarkable lady and will be my topic in my column this week in the Dorset Echo.

Our leader hearing about many backbench views in letters to the press. One was on wind turbines,  the other on repatriating more than 100 EU laws on crime and policing.

It's time we the Conservatives told the people of this country what we stood for, rather than limping along, hand in hand with the Lib Dems.

The country is in such a mess that only strong Conservatism can turn it round. And, rather than being populist, we need to lead, to let business fly, to lower taxes, to repatriate powers from Europe, to reverse our drastic and short term cuts on our armed services and to introduce a new sentencing policy to deter criminals and thugs, to name but a few.

I detect the stirrings of a new dawn. Interesting times.

Fri, 3 Feb

Another arctic day! After an initial and brief stop in the office, I headed off down to Corfe Castle.

What a stunning day. Clear blue skies and bitterly cold. Love it.

I was visiting a remarkable young man called Ryan Hulcoop. Aged 16, he goes to school at Purbeck, and had kindly remained at home to see me.

Ryan had looked after one of his friends after a gang had attacked him and left him badly injured on the ground in Swanage.

And it wasn't just one injured young man Ryan had to cope with. Two more of his friends had also been hurt by this mob.

Ryan gave first aid and in doing so probably saved his friend's life. I was proud to meet him, as he represents the majority of young people in this country, let down by a few mindless idiots, who should be punished harshly

Ryan had to get back to school so, I said my farewells, and headed across to Portland.

I first dropped in on a small company on Osprey Quay which has recently gone into liquidation.

The owner was a most charming man, who, like so many small businesses today, is battling tough economic times.

I also chatted to a friend of his who was not entirely happy with LOCOG, the organisation dealing with the Olympics.

The complaint was - and it's not the first time I've heard it - that not enough business was going to local companies.

I then walked next door to meet the two directors of Dean and Reddyhoff Marinas, Richard Reddyhoff and John Dean.

Two delightful men and I spent a most interesting time being briefed about the site and what businesses are located there.

We also enjoyed a most delicious bowl of soup at the Boat That Rocks cafe. I recommend a visit.

Then, with time pressing, I drove to police HQs at Winfrith to meet the most able Chief Constable, Martin Baker.

I was introduced to his new and very charming new deputy Debbie Simpson.

We chatted privately for 30 minutes or so.

I am very concerned at the cuts having to be implemented when Dorset has already made savings and has had to deal with a funding formula which disadvantages rural forces like ours.

I shall be trying to get a meeting with the minister, Nick Herbert.

Finally, back home and into the office to catch up on correspondence.

Thu, 2 Feb

 

An early and cold start to the day. Decided against the motorcycle!

Down to Weymouth for a business breakfast aimed mainly at those in the construction industry.

Started at 7.30am and was most enjoyable and educational.

Spoke for about 15 minutes and then took questions, before we all headed off on our other morning commitments.

Mine began at St George's Primary School on Portland, being excellently led by joint headteacher Jo Luxon.

Caught up with school's goings-on and then popped down the road to chat to a charming constituent, who's worked in aviation all his life.

He wanted to catch up with the latest on the SAR helicopter. I briefed him as much as I could and he imparted an idea or two of his own.

I then drove across the causeway to visit a jeweller in Weymouth called Good as Gold, run by Daniel Moran and his lovely partner Sally. 

They'd had an unpleasant experience with some dodgy eastern European types, who'd tried to steal from them.

It's a long story, but in the end the money was returned and the police did not press charges. 

However, one of the men was arrested for another offence in Grimsby. 

On the way home, I dropped in on my Association office to sign some birthday letters and to touch base with our hard working secretary.

Back home to my office and pushed on with a mass of correspondence into the evening.

Wed, 1 Feb

 

A very chilly start to the day. I suspect that the biting wind dissuaded cyclists from venturing out, because their number was down, I noticed on my run.

Into the office and got stuck into a number of issues, not least the reform of the House of Lords.

There are a large number of us who are not happy at the proposal to have an elected second chamber and will oppose it.

I finished my column for my local paper, before entering the Chamber to attend PMQs.

Another rowdy session, with honours more or less shared.

A sandwich lunch at my desk, before attending a meeting on funding for schools. The lowest funded councils formed a group called the F40 to fight for the formula to be changed.

The Government is looking at this and is due to report soon.

I then went straight from that meeting to my select committee, where we took oral evidence from the farming minister, Jim Paice, Defra's chief vet Nigel Gibbens, and the chief executive of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories, Catherine Brown.

There is some concern that the re-organisation of this service which will see several job losses around the country.

I did vote for the welfare cap of £26,000 at 5pm because I believe it is time we overhauled the welfare system.

It is not right that those on benefits earn more than those in work. Of course, there are exceptions, but I support the government's general thrust.

The debate went on to 7pm when, after several votes, I headed down to Dorset.