Diary - a new train franchisee announced

Back into the House post all the horror of last week's attack. Everything is back to normal, with floral tributes laid outside Parliament's front gates to the fallen PC Keith Palmer, who so bravely died defending us all within the Palace. A tragedy. And of course there are all those who were killed and injured on Westminster Bridge, who we remember too. The morning started with the announcement that the Stagecoach Group had lost the South Western rail franchise. The winner was First MTR and emails from both organisations soon came in. Naturally, the former was not happy, while the latter announced an investment of £1.2 billion "to raise the quality of every aspect of train journeys on the network." With S Dorset foremost in my mind, I immediately called the new operator to see what benefits we'd see in our part of franchise. There were some welcome improvements which included reducing train journeys between Waterloo and Weymouth by 14 minutes, refurbishing all the existing trains, improving the speed of Wifi five times, putting charging points for laptops and phones with every seat, installing real time travel information screens in carriages and introducing a new service between Portsmouth and  Weymouth, via Southampton. The latter is most welcome and travellers will not need to change. Of course, while all these aspects are to be welcomed, I will continue to lobby hard for even faster trains via Yeovil and for much-need investment in Weymouth station. ITV West country called me out to the Green at 1230 for an interview on this announcement, which I was happy to do. A working lunch at my desk before heading to Westminster Hall later in the afternoon for a debate on the badger cull. This was inspired by more than 100,000 petitioners calling for a debate, which they got. Left-winger Paul Flynn opened the debate with a pretty balanced argument for stopping the cull. I say balanced because some opponents are simply not, with a few resorting to intimidation and violence to make their point. I did not agree with Mr Flynn and said so. Like all wild animals with no predators in the UK, we have to manage their numbers. And badgers are simply not the cuddly beasts that they're made out to be. Again I made this point, much to the annoyance of opponents to the cull. But they are clearly not country folk and do not understand that badgers are very destructive, eating beehives, hedgehogs and eggs from ground nesting birds like skylarks, grey partridge and meadow pippets. They are also a danger to wood warblers, nightingales and stone curlews. The cost to the taxpayer of this bTB is estimated at £100 million a year, bringing misery to farmers and rural communities. The cull must form part of our fight back, along with other measures, of course, including vaccination when and where possible. I could not stay to the end of the debate due to another commitment but it was, for a change, a calm and measured one compared to other occasions. Tomorrow, Alexander Blackman will be sentenced for the final time. As I said in my Sunday blog, I so hope that the five top judges decide that he has paid a terrible price for his actions already and it's right and proper that Al should be allowed to go home to his devoted wife, Claire.