June 2011

Thu, 30 Jun

Another stunning morning. Up with the larks and off into the countryside for my run. Everything smells so good at this time of the year. And the lime trees sound alive, as indeed they are with bees swarming all over them.

A short time in the office before heading down to Swanage to meet the owner of the town's only language school Harrow House.

A very interesting and hard working family run this business and they had a number of excellent points to put to me which they were not happy with. 

Their main concern was the repercussions that our immigration policy was having on businesses like theirs. 

The previous government and now ours have tried to prevent people from coming to the UK posing as students but with the sole intention of remaining here as illegal immigrants. 

I was given a delicious sandwich lunch and left armed with many salient points which I shall put to the minister.  

Then I headed to police HQS at Winfrith to attend their annual briefing day. This went on all afternoon and was extremely interesting.

The Lord Lieutenant and a host of others were there and after an initial opening brief from the Chief Constable, we were divided into groups and went on a circuit of short presentations, all of them quite excellent.

We are lucky here in Dorset to have not only an excellent Chief Constable, but a dedicated and hard working police force which is doing a quite excellent job, despite being the lowest funded force in the country, which I find staggering.

The force is quite rightly delighted at the ouitcome of the HeatherBarnet case. I recall covering the story for the BBC at the time. Thank God they've now caught her murderer, an Italian, who's also been convicted of murdering a 16 year old Italian girl some years ago.

Then back to the office, before leaping into a suit to attend a well attended fundraiser in Purbeck. Fell into bed at about 2330!

Wed, 29 Jun

 

 

Slightly cooler this morning, thank Heavens. The skies had cleared and it was less humid. 

I worked through in my office to PMQs and then went down to the Chamber to watch the weekly bout of verbal violence!

Interestingly, the Speaker went for the PM at one stage, interrupting him in full flow. I suspect the PM won't forget that one!

I then had a most interesting lunch with Lord King, Baroness Thatcher's defence secretary. Tom has become a friend and he is fascinating to listen to, especially with all his vast experience in this game of politics.

Afterwards, I went straight up to Committee Room 16 for for our Efra Select Committee, which lasted some three hours.

At 1900 we voted on the government's legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill. I regretfully voted against the government because I disagree fundamentally with many parts of it.

My colleague Philip Davies made a most excellent speech and if you want to read it do look it up on Hansard. The reasons I rebelled are all there. 

We are meant to be the Party of law and order and I feel we are allowing the accountants to rule the roost, to the detriment of the victims.

After the vote I headed down to Dorset for a busy two days in the constituency.

Tue, 28 Jun

 

Up at the crack of dawn and round the park on the most beautiful morning. 

Soon munching on a croissant and enjoying a coffee while wading through my ever-full in-tray. We knew today was going to be a long one because the tail end of the Finance Bill was being discussed and this has no time limit on it, effectively.

I had two guests for lunch, both competition winners. David and Sheila Biddlecombe had bought me! I had offered lunch for two when the local paper launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for medical equipment at Dorset County Hospital.

And what's most amusing is that the couple are the in-laws of Clive Chamberlain, the charismatic chairman of the Dorset Police Federation.

They could not have been more charming and we had a very good lunch, while I did my best to extract any information I could use on Clive! They remained very loyal.

David and Sheila left in one of the most dramatic thunderstorms I've seen. I hope they found some shelter, but history does not relate at this moment in time.

Then, it was back to work and we finally left the Commons at 0200!

Mon, 27 Jun

 

 

A sharp run in humid weather started the day.

The main part of the day, except for continuing with my constituency business, was preparing to speak at the House of Lords reform debate.

Regrettably, though, there were so many who wanted to speak and I was at the bottom of the pile so was not called.

At 1530 we also heard the PM report back on his trip to the European Council. Then Defence Secretary Liam Fox announced a shake up in the MOD, which will no doubt ruffle some feathers.

However, what I was going to say is on my website - www.richarddrax.com.

Sun, 26 Jun

Attended a wonderful Civic Service in Swanage. It began at 1400 with a march past, taken by General Barney White-Spunner, who I joined up with funnily enough.

Then, led the Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset, we marched to church. Fortunately, on this occasion the Mayor, Cllr Bill Trite, managed to stop the enthusiastic squad of Signallers from marching too fast. Last year the parade was spread over about half a mile as shall we say the less able marchers fell behind!

John Wood took a wonderful Service, after which we enjoyed a cup of tea and some delicious cakes, which had been made kindly by those serving us.

Sat, 25 Jun

Today, I went to visit a very close friend who is seriously ill with cancer. His courage and dignity in the face of such adversity is quite astonishing.

He has a dear wife and wonderful children, who are all supporting him, as you'd expect. But when you see one of your closest mates suffering from this dreadful disease, it really makes you think.

Fri, 24 Jun

Funny how these very small ops can knock you about a bit. However, I was soon in the thick of it as c180 schoolchildren descended on the Estate for our annual Kids to Farm day.

Another huge success, as the youngsters walked from stand to stand around a two mile course. They loved it, and the team here thoroughly enjoyed passing on years of experience and knowledge.

I think the stand with the vet was the most favourite. With the aid of an internal camera, he showed the students a calf inside the mum. Quite an eye opener for all of them!

I then headed down to Swanage to meet a group of residents who were fed up with anti social behaviour in the early hours.

In fact so fed up they had taken some pictures of the activity and I was appalled at what I saw.

Then on to my surgery to try and help those who attended.

Feeling a little wobbly, I then headed home to rest up! 

Thu, 23 Jun

Off line and off colour today. Some minor surgery laid me low for the day, so much time spent contemplating! 

Wed, 22 Jun

 

Up at 0600 for a run. Into the office by 0800 and tackling the in-tray.

Busy day on constituency matters. PMQs interesting, with Miliband performing better. Quite a noisy session, though, with the Speaker having to tell Backbenchers to belt up on several occasions.

Labour rather interestingly chose the economy to debate this afternoon. This after the mess they made of our economy and our country after 13 years.

Voted at 1900, then back to Dorset.

Tue, 21 Jun

Up a sparrows, around the park and in the office by 8.30am.

I had a big meeting to prepare for with Michael Turner, my constituent from Corfe Castle, who is fighting a European Arrest Warrant.

In addition to Michael and his charming father Mark, Jago Russell and Rebecca Schaefer from Fair Trials International were there, as were Dr Pakay, Michael's Hungarian lawyer, Dominic Raab MP, Paul Uppal MP, and a retired solicitor from Corfe Castle Patrick Benson.

It was a most useful meeting and we hope to hear in about a month whether the Hungarian authorities will take this case further.

In my view, they should drop it immediately. This whole debacle has been a disgrace and the sooner Michael is allowed to get on with his life, the better.

Following Treasury Questions, Ken Clarke came to the Despatch Box at 1530 to make a statement on reform of punishment, rehabilitation, sentencing and legal aid.

We all waited for the announcement on his proposal for a 50 per cent remission for criminals who pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

As expected, it was dropped, and I have to say we are relieved.

As the Scotland Bill was debated in the Chamber, I worked in my office on a number of issues.

Mon, 20 Jun

I headed up to London reasonably early as I was speaking in the second reading of the Pensions Bill.

Adjusting the date by which women received their pension has caused a lot of concern.

And I included this important point in my speech, which you can see on my website.

The debate began at about 4pm and last through until 10pm. A long time to sit in the Chamber, waiting to be called.

Sun, 19 Jun

I do enjoy the annual Armed Forces Day celebrations. The rain held off and thousands attended, some said as many as 40,000!

After meeting in the Pavilion, we were bussed to the Prince Regent and there carefully organised into our various groups. 

Just before 1100 we marched out for the Service of Remembrance. A short and touching service followed, after which we walked along the sea front to the stand, where we all watched the march past.

More than 2,000 veterans from Associations around the country attended, along with some youngsters and about 80 historic vehicles.

It really was a splendid affair and Val Pitt Rivers, the Lord Lieutenant, handled it all with her normal dignity and grace. We are lucky to have her.

Then I spent about an hour chatting to the veterans in the Ocean Room as they mingled with old comrades, enjoyed a pint or two and remembered days gone by. I was extraordinarily moved by the whole thing.

One former sailor I met was 91 years old and had served on one ship, a sloop, for three years during the war. He'd seen duty in the Atlantic guarding the convoys, D Day and the Far East. And a humbler, more special man you could not hoped to have met. We really do owe them so much.

So, I headed home feeling humbled and honoured to have been part of such a special parade.

Fri, 17 Jun

 

 

Another busy day, with nothing special to report.  

Thu, 16 Jun

 

Today was one of those funny days when you chase your tail and feel as if you've achieved nothing. 

The morning jog certainly livened me up, before heading into the office fairly early.  

However, a lot was achieved, mainly constituency matters as the Armed Forces Bill went through its committee stage and Third Reading. 

I left for Dorset in the early evening. 

Wed, 15 Jun

 

Another glorious morning and once again I set off into the park at full steam. The trick really is to go early so you don't get mown down by bicyclists!

A trip to the dentist followed, which is always a barrel of laughs!

Then, back to the Commons and worked through until PMQs. Miliband pushed the PM on his claim that cancer sufferers would lose about £90 because of our welfare reforms.

The two went at each other for a while until Miliband's time ran out.

After a quick sandwich it was time to attend another Statutory Instrument, which took about 30 minutes.

Afterwards, I walked next door to my Efra select committee, which last until well into the afternoon.

The next hour or so passed with the division bell ringing fairly regularly as the Opposition debated their amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill.

Then it was off to join my family for a birthday party. 

Tue, 14 Jun

Another busy day. On a stunning, warm morning, I went haring off around Hyde Park at 6.30am. It's the best time as the place is virtually empty except for the horses of the Household Cavalry. Always a good sight.

In the morning, I attended an excellent brief on Afghanistan at the MOD. We were to be patched through to senior officers on the ground, but a gremlin in the system prevented that.

Instead, a general at this end - new to post - updated a group of MPs, which was most helpful.

The highlight of the day was a statement by the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, on the future of the NHS.

A lot has been said about this and Mr Lansley was able to reassure I think most of the nation that the government had listened and that he was going to "accept the NHS Future Forum's core recommendations".

I won't bore you with the details, but these do meet most people's concerns. There appears to be political point scoring going on, but I suppose that's to be expected when you work with Liberals!

With a speech to prepare, articles to write for the local paper and the House magazine and the normal pile of correspondence, it was a busy day.

Last vote was at 10pm.

Mon, 13 Jun

Back to the Commons. But not before dropping down to Weymouth to judge a competition in the offices of the local newspaper.

The construction company Leadbitter was offering several thousands of pounds to any school which submitted a plan on what they would do with a sum of money. 

Basically, the best idea wins. The entries were brilliant. One school submitted a poem, which we thought was different and certainly caught our eye. It took more than two hours to read through them all, each judge making his/her own comments.

The shortlist will be published by the paper. 

Arriving at about 3pm, I was soon ensconced in my office and catching up with the normal pile of mail.

The committee stage of the Welfare Reform Bill was going through the Chamber. A complicated piece of legislation, but necessary.

Later in the afternoon, I met the Home Secretary. She was holding a surgery, for which I and other colleagues were very grateful.

I reminded her of the case of my constituent Michael Turner, who is still fighting his European Arrest Warrant. I urged the Home Secretary to intervene personally in this case, which I hope she will do. We can only wait and see.

The last vote was at 10pm.

Fri, 10 Jun

After a busy morning in the office, I headed down to Crossways to meet a constituent in his home. 

Afterwards, across to Wool for my surgery there.

I received a petitiion from representatives from 38 Degrees, who are campaigning against the government's moves to reform the NHS.

Clearly, suggested reforms of the NHS are attracting a lot of comment, not unsurprisingly. I hope this listening exercise is just that and that whatever is decided has the backing of the majority of those involved in the NHS, not least the GPs themselves.

I can understand people's concerns as the NHS is much loved and of course a huge employer.

Back in the office, I worked though into the early evening.  

Thu, 9 Jun

 

What a remarkable day.

While the rest of the country suffered from grey, miserable cloud, the sun shone and wind blew on hundreds of young sailors as they raced around a number of courses off Weymouth and Portland.

I'd been asked down by the sailing academy's chief executive, John Tweed, to go and watch the racing, prior to a delicious picnic lunch on board his comfortable yacht. 

A team of five of us, which included a senior member of the RYA, a sponsor and a senior officer from the Royal Navy, set off in a large rib to view the racing.

I've never seen so many boats. There must have been hundreds. Each boat has a catchy name, which I can't recall accurately, and they all go like the devil.

The wind was blowing some 15-18 knots, which is perfect for dinghies of this size. The windsurfers were particularly impressive, seemingly to hardly touch the water.

John deserves much praise for all he is doing to make the Sailing Games a success. He is the perfect man for the job and deserves a gong!

After an hour or two we came back and were fed by John's wife, Penny. A more charming lady you could not meet. We all enjoyed a sandwich lunch, chatting down below out of the wind.

Then, it was back to reality and my desk, where I worked through to the early evening on constituency matters.

Wed, 8 Jun

 

 

Rose early and was soon out in the sun on my morning run. London always looks great in the morning, with little traffic, too many cyclists and the odd runner like me.

That first cup of coffee and croissant is always the best. After an hour's dictation, drafting my weekly column for the local paper and reading the bumf for my Efra select committee in the afternoon, I entered the Chamber just in time for PMQs.

Ed Miliband attacked on two fronts: Ken Clarke's idea of 50 per cent remission in sentencing for criminals who plead guilty at the first opportunity and the NHS.

I have already commented on the first, and I do not agree with it. Perhaps enough said!

On the second, the jury is still out and I hope that our pause and listen plan will bear fruit. There's no  doubt we cannot go on with the NHS as it is.

A quick sandwich and then into the Efra select committee. As part of our on-going inquiry into the dairy industry, we took oral evidence from Pete Nicholson and Graeme Jack, both senior members of Robert Wiseman Dairies.

This was followed by an informal brief from Defra and the Environment Agency on air quality in the UK.

With a vote in the middle, this session went on for some time, interesting though it was.

Returned to my office to finish off before heading back down to Dorset in the early evening.

Tue, 7 Jun

Back to the House.

Health questions were first up and interesting too. Andrew Lansley did well and held his own against the invitable carping from the Opposition benches.  

Statements by the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary followed.

The first was an update on North Africa and the Middle East. The second was a review of a counter-radicalisation programme called 'Prevent'.

The government wants to snip radicalism in the bud and is asking for those in positions of responsibility to help tackle it.

A further debate on fighting terrorism took up the rest of the evening. I returned to my office and dealt with a bulging in-tray until the vote at 10pm.

Mon, 6 Jun

I was lucky enough to be invited down to the sailing academy, where the Skandia sailing championships are underway.

I have never seen so many people from across the world. And despite all the competitors the event was delayed due to lack of wind.

I was there to meet Lord Coe and I caught up with him as starting guns - or recall guns - were being fired. 

Sebastian is a charming man and very inspirational. He began the day addressing an audience of local councillors, which went down very well.

Then he went to meet some sailors before we headed off to Royal Manor Arts College on Portland.

We were met by two students and then taken on a tour. We meet a group who'd been sailing to the Channel Islands, one of whom who'd been sick for six days. Poor girl. 

Sebastian spoke to about 100 13 year olds about the principles of the Games and the friendship he's found through sport. They listened, intently. 

We met many other students, all participating in Games inspired projects. It was a great fun couple of hours, with a most impressive dance group entertaining us in the middle. 

Then, it was off to the Esplanade to meet more local people.  

Sebastian was briefed and updated as he walked and wherever he went there was a genuine sense of excitement among the many people he spoke to. 

Fri, 3 Jun

 

What a corker of a day. Fish was on the press agenda today as they reacted to our committee's report on fish quota and discards.

I began the day speaking to my old friend Julian Clegg on BBC Radio Solent, before biking down to Swanage to be interviewed by another old friend Steve Humphrey, from BBC South Today.

This quota issue is an important one as we must ensure the smaller boats (under 10ms) get a bigger share of the cake so they can remain sustainable. Small fleets are an integral part of our rural communities and must be protected.

After the interview, I called in on the lifeboat station and chatted to one of the attendants, a charming retired gentleman who had volunteered his services. Where would we be without people like this?

Then, hopping on to my motorbike, I cruised across to Weymouth to attend my regular surgery.

Some very sad cases today and I hope I can help. 

Then back to the office where I worked through to the evening. Let's hope this sunshine stays over the weekend.

Thu, 2 Jun

 

After a good run, a coffee and some work in the office, it was off to Corfe Castle to meet former MP Michael Portillo.

He was in the village filming for his railway series. 

I found him in a pub tucking into lunch. He could not have been more charming and he was clearly enjoying his television role.

Afterwards, I popped in to see Michael Turner, who, if you recall, is fighting a European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

The Hungarian authorities are still chasing him and, without going into a long story, I can't tell you what a shambles their investigation has proven to be.

They allege fraud when Michael and his partner's marketing business was closed in Hungary back in 2005.

We shall have to wait and see what happens in the end, but we fight on to ensure that proper justice is dispensed and hopefully Michael's name cleared. 

A meeting is planned in London the week after next with Michael's Hungarian lawyer and a representative from Free Trials.

A haircut then across to Weymouth to attend an evening meeting on Littlemoor.

The estate's been given £1 million by the Lottery and residents have to decide how to spend it. This was the first meeting I've attended and I was fascinated. 

Littlemoor has had more than its fair share of bad press, but I can tell you I saw a group of residents more determined than ever to bring their community together for the betterment of all.

I was genuinely touched by everyone's contribution and I can only wish them well.

Wed, 1 Jun

A major assault on my constituent in-tray. Much done and much organised. It's not often you have the time in this job to clear your desk. For the most part, it's playing catch-up.

Like so many parents, I was encouraging my son to keep studying for his GCSEs. I do feel sorry for them all.