July 2010

Thu, 15 Jul

After pounding my route around Hyde Park, I was soon behind my desk dealing with a busy in-tray. Due to a 3-line Whip, I could not meet businessman Ray Bulpit in the constituency. Ray's a dynamic man, with lots of ideas for the future.

At midday, I entered the Chamber to listen to Christchurch MP Chris Chope present two amendments to the Finance Bill.

He was concerned about the rise in insurance tax, arguing that pushing up this tax would hardly encourage those who do not insure their cars already. And even those who can afford to insure their vehicles are sometimes taking the risk of six points on their licence and a fine of about £400 to avoid a larger premium of more than £1,000 in some cases.

It was a very interesting debate, especially as it was a Conservative MP challenging his own government. Like most debates, it was well mannered with some amusing moments.

We voted on several occasions as more of the Finance Bill went through, before heading back to our constituencies.     

Wed 14 Jul

After attacking the in-tray first thing, I walked over to Portcullis House to meet two representatives from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG).

Bearing in mind Weymouth and Portland is hosting the sailing Games, you can imagine that I attach great importance to the organising committee.

The two ladies could not have been kinder or more informative. I'm glad to report that as far as they were both concerned, the saling Games are on target.

Then, it was PMQs and David Cameron was given a 'ticking off' by the Speaker for asking Harriet Harman a question, rather than answering hers.

A debate on the Policing Bill followed and Nick Herbert tackled the Opposition robustly. Sadly, we are having to cut police budgets in line with other savings we're being forced to make.

Hopefully, savings can be found in areas like procurement to ensure officers are not taken off the beat. 

Tue, 13 Jul

An early morning run set me up for a busy day. I wolfed down a hearty breakfast in the Commons before tackling a full in-tray.

At midday, I met up with some representatives from ITV. And it was on the way to this meeting that I bumped into Euro-sceptic Bill Cash MP. He's keen for me to join his committee on Europe and I'm keen to do so. We shall have to wait and see.

Lunch was followed by Treasury Questions and then a statement from the Home Secretary Theresa May.

A running 3-line Whip began at 3.30pm and there are rumours we could be here all night!

We weren't and finally drew stumps at about 11pm.

Mon, 12 Jul

After dealing with a number of constituency matters in my office, I took the train to London. I was keen to attend Education Questions, knowing that sparks would fly following the publication of a list of school capital projects which have been 'stopped'.

Sure enough, Ed Balls was soon turning in his normal sneery performance, while Michael Gove decided to take the fight to the enemy.

After about an hour, I returned to my office and worked through the afternoon and evening as the 3-line Whip took effect.

The Opposition tabled various amendments to the Finance Bill which were debated until after 10pm. 

Sat, 10 Jul

I had promised the organiser of the Crossways Community Day that I'd stick my nose in during the afternoon, and so I did.

The sunny weather ensured there was a good turn out and I much enjoyed wandering around, meeting and talking to those I met.

I even risked an ice cream. I say 'risked'  because it was touch and go whether I could consume it before it melted!

Fri, 9 Jul

I was fascinated today by a visit to Global Marine in Portland Port. The company specialises in laying telecommunication cable across the ocean bed, sometimes at great depths.

The managing director John Davies gave a powerpoint presentation before taking me on a guided tour of their facilities at the port.

Time ran out, unfortunately, as I had to hop on my motorbike and scramble across to Swanage for my advice surgery.

Regrettably, due to appalling traffic, I was a little late, but the attendees were very forgiving.  

Thu, 8 Jul

A busy and fruitful day in the constituency. Started with a coffee with the editor of the Dorset Echo, Toby Granville, under whose leadership sales have risen. This is no mean feat in the current climate.

Then, on to catch up with Gary Fooks, who is running Team Dorset, the organisation which is co-ordinating the Olympic legacy. Gary's working wonders and few have not heard his name as he attempts to draw everyone into Games for the long term benefit of the area.

In the afternoon, I met with the Head of Children's Services, John Nash, and his team to discuss the recent announcements on cuts to the capital funding programme for schools.

We now know that funding for the Portland Academy programme has been stopped while the government reassesses its expenditure programme in the autumn.

In the evening, I attended a fundraiser at a supporter's lovely home outside Swanage.

Wed, 7 Jul

This morning I played host to Sgt Dave Stroud and his lovely wife Rhiannon. They'd come up to London to receive a bravery award, or Dave had.

Unarmed and off duty, Sgt Stroud tackled a knife-wielding man who was attacking another man in the street in Weymouth.

It must have taken a lot of courage to wade in as Sgt Stroud did. His wife and children had walked on ahead and did not witness the incident.

The first they heard was when Sgt Stroud called his wife on her mobile and said he'd been hurt. Fortunately, the knife wound to the hand was not too serious.

Sgt Stroud was accompanied by Clive Chamberlain, the Chairman of the Dorset Police Federation. We sat on the terrace and enjoyed some tea and a chat.

Tomorrow, Sgt Stroud is attending a reception at 10 Downing Strett in the morning and then receives his award in the evening at the Dorchester Hotel.

A brave and dedicated police office, Sgt Stroud deserves our thanks and admiration.

Later I met Robbie Huston from the Nuclear Development Agency. A warm and quietly spoken man, I was fascinated to have an update on our nuclear industry.

More constituency work and a three line Whip to adhere to.

Tue, 6 Jul

An early start and off round Hyde Park for my morning constitution, before heading to Westminster.

The school building cuts rumbled on, with the local press chasing for a comment. Having spoken to our local education authority, I was able to then speak to the Echo.

Then, I attended a lunch with city entrepreneurs, bankers and lawyers. Four of my colleagues accompanied me and each one of us was invited to speak for a few minutes during the meal.

It was fascinating meeting such a wide range of talent, representing such a vital section of our business community, which needs nurturing.

The afternoon was spent on constituency matters and took me through to the early evening when I broke for a drink on the terrace.

With a three line Whip in place, we were going nowhere. And it wasn't until about 0215 that Labour MPs finally called time on part of the Finance Bill and we could all go home to bed!  

Mon, 5 Jul

Up to London to attend defence questions, which always interest me. The afternoon became even more pertinent when Michael Gove made an announcement about hug cuts in the Building Schools for the Future budget.

Then, rumours of a list of schools affected circulated. I soon had one in my hand and saw that plans for the proposed Portland Academy had been put on hold.

Labour has simply spent all the money and we are now having to pick up the pieces and halt projects that the country simply cannot afford.

But the implications for South Dorset and other constituencies are serious. Many schools need refurbishing and the question now is when will that happen.

Fri, 2 Jul

First port of call was the Association office. Time to catch up and plan for the future. Then on to meet a Wool couple who are furious about some development adjacent to their home. 

Time then to fight my way through the Weymouth traffic to attend my advice surgery, now held in the council offices. 

A trip over to Portland followed to meet the headteacher at St George's School about on-going concerns over this proposed all-through Academy.

Finally, attended a party hosted by Dorset's new High Sheriff, the charming Tim Palmer. Hundreds of people from right across the county were there and Tim made an excellent speech, praising several notable characters, not least Cllr Les Ames, from Portland.  

Thu, 1 Jul

 

I spent a large part of the day in Swanage. I first met the owner of a care home to discuss various issues with him, before meeting Nico, the excellent editor of the Gazette, which is doing so well. We enjoyed a cup of tea on the seafront before I headed off to visit Purbeck View School.

This special school took over Forres Prep School some years ago and now caters for about 50 students with various learning difficulties. 

I was met by the head, Susan Harvey, who impressed me greatly. We chatted for a while before Susan took me on a guided tour.

The staff are clearly dedicated, and have to be. The students have a wide range of problems and need very special care. Meeting a few of them was very moving.

One had been elected MP for the school  during a mock election. I was introduced to this young man, who told me in no uncertain terms he was Labour!

I left the school full of admiration for Susan, her team and of course the youngsters.