March 2012

Fri, 30 Mar

Back on to the bike to beat the fuel shortage - and the fact it was a lovely say - and down to Swanage to attend the AGM of the town's hospitality association, led by Alan Power.

There were about 70 attendees, representing a number of businesses across the town.

After Alan had opened the morning, I said a few words and then listened with great interest to a number of contributors.

Alan and his team are working hard to sell the town and to attract more and more visitors there.

They are making great strides and everyone is working together.

I passed on some government initiatives which will help.

VAT of food and fuel taxes were the two big moans, and I agree and sympathise with both.

Afterwards, I attended my surgery, before visiting a councillor who has recently lost his mother. Very sad.

Back to the office and worked through into the evening. 

Thu, 29 Mar

 

A brief stint in the office before heading to Weymouth on my bike to visit the newly renovated Riviera Hotel at Bowleaze Cove.

After PM and Francis Maude warned of fuel shortages, garages are running low, so decided on the bike!  

The hotel was once a Pontins resort and is listed so the new owner - a Saudi - has had to keep much of the character.

Certainly, a lot of money has been spent and I have to say the result, when it is finally finished will look good, I think.

I was given a guided tour by general manager Kevin Bungay, who has the worry of the world on his shoulders, poor man, as contractors finish of the project in time for the season.

I met many of the staff, all of them local, which is great news for the local economy.

Having spent a couple of hours there, I headed to Littlemoor to meet up with Malcolm Beeson, a charming gentleman who is doing his best, along with others, to help the community decide what to do with the £1 million from the Lottery.

The task is proving harder than you might imagine, with different groups wanting different things.

I chatted for an hour with Malcolm and his lovely team, who are working so hard to improve everyone's lives on the estate. All power to their elbow.

Just had time to head home, bath, change and head back down to Weymouth with my colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, who was addressing our Supper Club.

We had a good turnout and Jacob spoke very well.

We heard that petrol stations along the south coast were now out of fuel as the public panicked!

Tue, 27 Mar

 

Early breakfast with my daughter was a pleasurable start to a busy day.

Into the Commons and carried on working on my speech for the debate on assisted suicide, an emotive topic.

Before that, I listened to the planning minister, Greg Clark, announced his radical shake-up of the planning system.

One part of me shouts 'hurrah' while another says 'Oh,God!'

I am concerned at this presumption in favour of 'sustainable development'.

What, exactly, is that?

No doubt planners, objectors and eventually inspectors will argue over this definition.

I am also concerned that this presumption might favour wind farms, which I oppose. We shall see.

Then, my colleague Richard Ottoway opened the debate on assisted suicide with skill and balance.

Many MPs wanted to speak and I was eventually called after 5pm.

Assisting suicide is illegal in this country and if found guilty you could be jailed for up to 14 years.

The DPP has published guidelines for prosecutors in cases such as these, to help them take regard for each individual case.

In exceptional cases, those who commit this so-called 'crime' will not be prosecuted, nor should they be.

Bythe time I spoke, the Deputy Speaker had reduced us to four minutes each.

Still, it was interesting listening to MPs from across the Chamber give their views.

The veteran Labour MP Frank Field gave a typically combative speech, which was - as always - honest and forthright.

We finished at about 6.45pm, when I returned to office, signed more letters and drove to Dorset for our break.  

Mon, 26 Mar

 

Another stunner of a day.

Into the office first thing and knocked off correspondence from the weekend.

Into the car and up to the Commons in time for Defence Questions.

The topic of aircraft carriers came up and the Defence Secretary brushed it aside, saying he would report back to the House soon on the complexities of which aircraft we will have flying off these carriers in the years to come.

It looks as if he is now considering the vertical take-off version of the Joint Strike Fighter because the conventional version is coming in too expensive.

The whole aircraft carrier saga has been a botched job ever since Gordon Brown signed the cheque.

Defence questions was followed by a statement by Cabinet Minister Francis Maude on Party funding.

Ed Miliband took up the cudgel for Labour.

Following the revelations that the Party's co-treasurer Peter Cruddas had boasted to undercover reporters, posing as wealthy donors, that he could get them access to the PM for huge sums of money, the session was bound to be noisy and bad tempered.

It was.

No one came out of the debate with their integrity intact.

Labour's record is appalling and this cock up by our side doesn't help matters.

We should deal with Party funding promptly, probably by capping any donation.

I do not like the idea of asking the taxpayer to fund us. That would be wrong.

Somehow, we have to introduce integrity back into politics and events like today do not help with that aim.

The final debate on the Budget continued until 10pm.

Sat, 24 Mar

What a stunning morning. Hard to believe it's only March.

Back on the bike and this time down to Swanage to support the home team running a fundraising sale at Herston Hall.

I arrived at about 11am to find they'd had a good morning.

The event was organised by the lovely Cheryl Knight, Bill Trite's partner.

Everyone was in good heart and attendance was good.

I stayed for more than an hour chatting to all and sundry before heading home.

Fri, 23 Mar

The row over the so-called 'granny tax' continues. Personally, I think it was a mistake to tinker with pensions.

There are more appropriate ways of finding savings, not least cutting state expenditure, which is still excessive.

It was a stunning day and after an hour in the office I hopped on to my motorcyle and headed down to Weymouth.

First and most pleasurable task was to present a certificate to local retailers Mike and Barbara Clements, a charming and hard working couple who run the Spar store in Preston Road.

They'd been recognised for their outstanding service to their customers and, as one myself, I can only vouch how deserved this award is.

After interviews and photographs, I headed across the town to meet the lovely Michelle Price, whose four year old son Max had renal failure and needs dialysis three times a week at Southampton Hospital.

Michelle is a remarkable single mum, who is bringing up three othe children and working on a voluntary basis at one of their schools.

I wanted to meet her after reading about her plight in the local paper.

Humbled, I then drove across to Portland to look at a painting project.

About 20 volunteers were painting away, their subject someone they admired and respected.

The finished project will be hung on a wall for all time.

Then, I ran my surgery, before heading out to Weston Street to visit a lady who'd just lost her husband.

I'd only met him for an hour and a half, but liked him and his friends instantly.

I was devastated to hear that he had a massive heart attack the day after I met him and died.

Poor, poor lady and after 45 years of married life together. A shocking blow.

I then just had time to get home, climb into a suit and head across to Studland for a fundraising evening at the Knoll House Hotel.

I took the ferry route and being on a bike could do straight to the front of the queue.

Our host Mike Ferguson really did put the red carpet out and we all had a fun evening.

Finally, back home to my wife and some dinner!

Thu, 22 Mar

Understandably, the backlash against the Budget has started, not least by pensioners who are furious that their tax allowances will be frozen.

Of course, Labour are linking the reduction in the top rate of tax to this move, which is disingenuous.

However, tinkering with pensions is fraught with danger and when I made my post budget speech yesterday afternoon I had no idea about this freeze.

I am uneasy about it, although the state pension is due to rise to £140.

I had plenty of time to dwell on all this as I lay nervously in the dentist's chair for some treatment.

Back in the House, Mr Balls led a characteristically aggressive attack on the Budget during day two of the debate.

After completing my column, signing 60 letters and putting the final touches to my constituency day tomorrow, I headed down to Dorset in the early evening.

Wed, 21 Mar

Budget day! Holding my breath, I began the day running in glorious spring sunshine in the park.

Into the office, and more work on my speech, which clearly had to be refined following the Chancellor's statement.

I entered the Chamber in time for PMQs as I was on the list for the first time.

Rather amusingly, the Speaker caught me out as I did not have a seat and had agreed with my colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg to swap places with him so I was near a microphone.

What I had not bargained for was the Speaker to call me early, which he did.

A graceful slide here and there, and trying to avoid treading all over Jacob, I scrambled to the microphone to put my question on the Portland SAR helicopter.

The PM's answer was not helpful as it did not answer my question.

The fault lies with the Government's perception that a helicopter from Lee on Solent can do the same job as one based at Portland, which is not the case.

We shall fight on.

Then it was the Chancellor's turn to deliver his Budget, which he did well, to be fair to him.

And there was a lot in there to be pleased about.

Inevitably, the reduction of the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p generated the most heat, as we all expected.

I waited in the Chamber to make my speech and was called about two hours later.

With little room to manoeuvre, and stuck with the Lib Dems, Osborne played a canny hand.

Let's hope his initiatives to help business - so important to help with the recovery - work.

Certainly, an interesting day!

Tue, 20 Mar

Definitely the first day of spring.

A stunning morning as I trotted around the park.

Into the office and met up with a colleague for the first meeting of the day.

The Queen, God bless her, addressed both Houses in Westminster Hall. A very moving event.

Then attended Deputy Prime Minister's questions.

Many questions on Lords' reforms, with Mr Clegg leading a sorry path for an elected second chamber - disastrous idea!

More work on my speech for tomorrow.

Slightly dread the budget which, I fear, could easily be delivered by a socialist government .

Let's hope my fears are misplaced.

Last vote on Lords' reforms on the NHS bill at 10pm. 

Mon, 19 Mar

After a short turn in my office, I headed to London.

The day was spent on correspondence, working on my post budget speech on Wednesday, meeting colleagues and a businessman.

Heard that lunch with me in the Commons went for £2,300 at a charity bash! I'm in the wrong business!

Votes went on to about 9pm.

Fri, 16 Mar

First stop was Wyke Regis Infant and Junior School.

My motorcyle gear surprised the receptionist and the charming Federation Head Carl Saunders.

I arrived in time for assembly and some five years old put on a bravo performance with song and acting to tell the watching parents what they'd been learning.

Very touching.

Afterwards, Head of School Maureen Reynolds took me on a guided tour. 

The school, built in the 1950s, has long corridors, which seemed to stretch forever.

I had great pleasure in meeting many of the children and their teachers.

There was a wonderfully happy atmosphere wherever I went.

After the lovely Mrs Reynolds had finished showing me around, I hopped on my motorbike and went up to Southwell Business Park to meet Ray Bulpit, who used to own and run it.

Ray is a remarkable man, with great determination.

He kindly made some sandwiches and we chatted for an hour on various business-related topics.

Then, it was down to the Portland Heights Hotel to meet David Macleod and his charming team who are establishing Portland Seafarers' Support.

The idea is to look after foreign seamen who through no fault of their own become stranded in Portland when their ship is impounded, delayed, damaged or for any other reason.

There are similar missions around the country and they all do a great job.

David and his friends were enormous fun and we had a chatty hour together, enjoying a coffee in the upstairs restaurant.

I then biked to the council offices to meet Jeff Heintz and Nick Henley, who are leading a project to develop the Pavilion site and surrounding area.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it!

They were both charming and clearly very able and I hope the council listens to their idea.

The two sides are due to meet next week.

We need investment on this site, especially now the harbour wall is collapsing.

Let's watch this space.

Back to my office afterwards, where I worked through to the evening. 

Thu, 15 Mar

 

Enjoyed my early morning jaunt, before heading into the office.

Signed some more correspondence and then worked on my speech for the afternoon.

The Back Bench debate on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) began at about 2.15pm.

It ran until 6pm and I sat patiently until I was called about 4.45pm.

There's been some very good speeches, nearly all of them condemning the CFP.

And rightly so.

It's another EU mess and could be resolved simply by re-introducing our 200 mile limit and issuing licences to those who want to fish our waters.

If fish stocks run low, we simply stop fishing in the affected areas.

No EU bureaucrat, no muddle and a safeguarded British fishing industry.

I spoke bluntly - my speech is on my website.

Afterwards, I headed back to Dorset.

Very sad news about the death of this youngster in Weymouth who was hit by a motorcyle while crossing the road.

My case worker has spoken to Cllr Harris to see if there is anything I can do to help.

There is a petition running for a crossing on this section of road and Cllr Harris is going to keep me informed.

So sad and my heart goes out to the family and friends. 

Wed, 14 Mar

 

A busy day.

An early morning jog, then to the office where one of my team was celebrating her birthday.

My first meeting was with the Federation of Small Businesses, which represents more than 200,000 small and medium size concerns in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

We had a useful hour together and listened to their concerns and what they hoped the Chancellor might do in his Budget.

Back to the office, before PMQs, this time being led by Mr Clegg.

Lunch and some early votes before preparing my speech for the debate on the Common Fisheries Policy tomorrow.

Also finished off my column for the local paper.

Signed more than 50 letters to constituents.

Tue, 13 Mar

Into the office, briefly, and then to London.

A busy day in the office before heading out to Chiswick to campaign for Boris, our mayoral candidate!

About eight of us covered a large and rather nice part of London.

One volunteer was 91!

What would we do without these dedicated and reliable supporters.

One lady I met had named her rather large boxer after Boris, much to my amusement.

Then back to the Commons in the evening for a couple of votes.

Mon, 12 Mar

Today was a Royal day and what fun it turned out to be.

In freezing fog, I set off for Weymouth on my motorbike, thinking this does not bode well for Princess Anne's visit to Dorset - by helicopter.

And so it proved.

Arriving at the bottom of the hill, facing the newly renovated white horse, we could all just see the horses feet.

The cold fog persisted for another two hours, until we heard with some relief that the Princess Royal was airborne and on her way.

Princess Anne is brilliant at these visits and she had three more to do in Dorset before flying back to another commitment in London.

After meeting the dignitaries, she was taken off by Geoffrey Codd, who really is the driving force behind this project and deserves every accolade you could bestow on anyone.

With time running short, the Princess Royal could only stay for 30 minutes before flying off to Durlston Castle.

She made a short and charming speech and was then wihisked away with the Lord Lieutenant and her Lady in Waiting.

I then had the challenge of hopping on my motorbike and riding to Bournemouth to catch up with the Princess at her third engagement.

I am a Patron of the Cherry Treey Nursery, which cares for those with mental health issues. It is the most special place, run by Jess Davies, who is one of the most remarkable people I've ever met.

The Nursery has built a new log cabin style reception building, which the Princess officially opened, having tourer the nursery and spoken to many who work there.

It was a very moving and special occasion.

Then, as the Princess flew to Poole to open the new bridge, I headed home and back to the office.

Sat, 10 Mar

Down to Weymouth on the bike to unveil a plaque at the rugby club to commemorate its 140th birthday.

Hundreds of people had gathered for this great occasion, which was carried out in bright sunshine.

The hard working chairman, Glyn Arnold, has much to be thanked for, as the club has notched up some extraordinary achievements.

Particularly worth mentioning is the all the work it does for the young. You learn a lot on the rugby field, not least courage, discipline, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

After the speeches, I unveiled the plaque, which was a huge honour and I was touched to be asked to do it.

I stayed for a couple of hours, before dropping in on the Wrights, whose son James was killed in Afghanistan recently. 

I wanted to see how they were coping and they are but you never get over the loss of a son.

Fri, 9 Mar

 

On to the bike and down to Weymouth to visit Beechcroft St Paul's Primary School, run by the lovely Sarah Sprague. 

What a fun morning it turned out to be.

After a brief tour of the school - which is so neat - I was taken into the assembly hall where more than 200 very quiet youngsters sat waiting patiently for us.

They were fabulous and I was bombarded with questions for more than 30 minutes.

Children have a wonderful way of asking the most direct questions and I did my best to answer them directly.

Then it was off to Weymouth College to speak to the Sixth Form, run by the charming Andy Gilbert.

They'd been bribed with lunch vouchers to attend!

As a result, there were about 50-60 students and four lecturers. I spoke for about ten minutes and then opened the debate to the floor.

As is always the case on occasions like this, the students were at first reluctant to open their mouths, but this soon changed and some excellent questions were soon being fired at me.

The session had been organised the lovely Anastasia Murphy, an attractive girl who is studying politics.

She has worked so hard and had just got her exam results: two As and a B. Well done her.

She hopes to go to either Brighton or Plymouth university and I am confident will be a great success there.

Then it was on to a newly renovated branch of Barclays in Weymouth.

I was asked to cut the ribbon, which I duly did.

The branch is most impressive, with no security screens any more, private areas to chat to clients and state of the art money dispensing machines.

Outside, we were all amused by some pretty girls, wearing dresses made from credit cards, and a team of four soldiers who, dressed all in blue, performed a dance routine to a number of catchy tunes.

Fortunately, I was not asked to join in!

Back to the office afterwards. 

Thu, 8 Mar

 

An early rise and down to Weymouth on my motorbike to meet the new interim principal Alan Birks.

The chairman of governors, John Brewster, was also there.

Two more charming men you could not hope to meet, and I was given a most refreshing brief on their vision of the college's future which, under their stewardship, looks bright.

Both men are keen motorcycle enthusiasts, so we spent a little time of these steel mounts!

Discussions are under way as to whether the college should team up with Yeovil, but nothing has been decided yet.

I then popped down to Lane House Rocks - such a great name - to visit the brave Serita Shone, the bobsleigh lady who broke her back training.

What a gutsy and attractive lady she is.

She's fought her way back from serious injury and it stlll a contender for the team in the Winter Olympics.

She is so determined that I would bet she makes the team.

Then, it was off to Wool for my surgery in the afternoon, before returning to the office and working into the evening.

Wed, 7 Mar

 

Up for my early morning run - what would I do without this daily constitution!

Had time to wade through a mass of correspondence, before hosting my former Association chairman and his lovely wife to the weekly punch up (PMQs) and lunch.

Today, the PM announced the deaths of six of our soldiers in Afghanistan, all killed by an IED which blew up their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle.

It was very sad news and set a rather somber tempo at PMQs, at least at the start.

It soon degenerated in the weekly slanging match.

At the end of PMQs the PM and Miliband paid tribute to the Queen in two moving and amusing speeches, as did one or two other MPs. 

After lunch - a rare treat for me - I returned to the office, completed my weekly newspaper column and chased up the police minister's office as I am trying to get my Chief Constable in front of Mr Herbert to talk money, or the lack of it!

We were on a one line Whip by about 3pm and I headed back down to Dorset at c6pm. 

Tue, 6 Mar

 

Into the park for my morning run. With the road outside Hyde Park Barracks closed, cyclists decided to test their skills on my muddy running track.

I have to say that some cyclists, clad in lycra and festooned with lights, appear determined to break every law of the road in their earnest efforts to get to work!

After a brief flurry in my office, I went to my select committee.

Water was today's topic. Relevant when you think there's likely to be a shortage of it in the months ahead.

We tool oral evidence from three senior members of the Environment Agency: Chairman Lord Smith, Chief Executive Dr Paul Leinster and Ian Barker, who had the marvellous title of Head of Land & Water.

An hour later we had another session and took further evidence from Tony Smith, cheif executive of the Consumer Council for Water.

I had to sneak out a little early to meet my lunch guests Eve and John Went.

The couple had auctioned lunch for two with me at a charity fundraiser. They live in Poole and were a most charming and interesting couple.

After lunch, I took them to the Gallery to watch Treasury Questions, which I attended.

I'd wanted to ask a topical question, but was not called, regrettably.

I then returned to my office and prepared a speech for tomorrow, wrote two articles for the Dorset Echo and Gazette and despatched a press release on extra funding which some of my constituents can apply for.

The sums are not inconsiderable. 

Mon, 5 Mar

Up early and into the office for a while before heading to London.

Work on the flyover is certainly holding up traffic, but arriving in London a midday means you miss most of it, fortunately.

Caught up with my small office team, before heading down to the Chamber to get the end of a statement by the PM on the European summit.

Two Opposition motions on growth and living standards were debated until 10pm.

I worked through a number of issues in my office and began to work on my weekly column and a speech on Wednesday where we will all be paying tribute to the Queen.

Fri, 2 Mar

Up early and into the office.

Then, on to my motorbike and in spring sunshine down to Weymouth to visit the Sea Life Centre.

I was given a most informative brief by Robin and Neil, before being taken on a guided tour of the attraction.

A lot has been packed into a relatively small place, with a wide variety of things to see and experience.

The attraction has just taken on some more staff, some of who I met.

A lot of work is going into the place in preparation for Easter.

Afterwards, I had to pop into the Association office to catch up with events there.

Worked through into the evening on a mass of constituency matters.

Thu, 1 March

 

Spring has arrived.

Up early and off on my run on  a warm spring morning.

A quick breakfast with my daughter, then into the office to prepare for a busy day.

First up was my newspaper column, which I completed. This Friday's is about the Portland SAR helicopter.

Then, later in the morning, I met more than 50 students - one being my son - and three teachers from Stowe School.

I managed to get three of them into PMQs, while my assistant took the rest over to Portcullis House to watch the weekly battle on a screen in one of the meeting rooms.

Afterwards we all teamed up for half an hour and I took questions, which came thick and fast.

A very entertaining morning.

Then at 1400 I crept into the Chamber to join Bill Cash and other colleagues voice my concerns over this week's EU summit.

The Government had not made time in the House for this, and we were concerned that yet again more power would inadvertently slip to the EU.

Many colleagues made excellent speeches, concentrating on the detail.

I let rip because I am just fed up with politicians from across Europe misleading their electorate.

The EU ferderalist nightmare is dead; the train crash is on-going; a disaster is happening in front of our eyes and all we keep doing is pouring more and mire millions of euros into the flames. It really is madness.

The debate ended at about 4pm, when I returned to the office and worked through until the evening.

No vote tonight.