November 2010

Tue, 30 Nov

I set off into the snow this morning and my goodness it was cold. But there's something so alluring about snow and it certainly gives a Christmas atmosphere.

At the Commons, I was soon walking over to the MOD to see Liam Fox MP, the Secretary of State for Defence.

Then, it was to a private meeting of the EFRA select committee before questions to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.

This was followed by two Opposition debates on school sports' funding and tuition fees. Both subjects are emotive and I expected sparks to fly, and they did.

I sat in the Chamber for a large part of the first and all the second, as I was down to speak. Regrettably, there were too many speakers and I was not called.

We were disconcerted when Vince Cable was asked twice by the Opposition whether he'd vote for the rise in tuition fees and he refused to answer.

Bearing in mind, it was he who was selling this policy on behalf of the government, this was an extraordinary state of affairs and one that will not help the Coalition, in my view.

A copy of my speech is on my website at www.richarddrax.com. We were only given five minutes to speak, so it's quite short.

The day ended at 10pm. Fun and challenging.

Mon, 29 Nov

A bitterly cold morning saw me heading for London. The Wikileaks story was dominating the headlines, as was the weather.

In my office, I worked through a pile of correspondence, before attending the tail end of culture questions and the majority of the Chancellor's autumn forecast statement.

That took me to a committee meeting on a tax issue, which unusually is agreed by both Parties.

I then ploughed on through a mass of constituency issues.

Fri, 26 Nov

I hosted a fundraising lunch, at which my colleague Tobias Ellwood MP spoke most eloquently. He is PPS to Dr Liam Fox, and is very knowledgeable on Afghanistan.

We all learnt a lot about this extraordinary country, which has tragically claimed the lives of so many of our service men and women.

No sooner had the event ended than I was on my way to Weymouth College to meet the inspirational and controversial teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh. 

Sadly, on my way there, I witnessed an accident. A dog ran straight out into the road and the car in front of me hit it. In pain, the dog dragged itself to the side of the road.

The driver of the car was clearly distressed. In seconds a police car arrived and an officer I recognised took control. He'd been on patrol and by sheer coincidence was just behind us when the accident occurred.

Leaving the officer to deal with this sad event, I drove on to Weymouth College to meet Katharine. 

I spent an hour chatting to this remarkable lady before the local press arrived to interview her. She then addressed a small audience on parental care, which I found refreshing.

Katharine has upset the education establishment by speaking her mind on state education and how, in her view, it is failing our young people today.

She applauds Michael Gove's plans to shake up education, raise standards, restore discipline in the classroom and give heads the authority to run their own schools, free from the state.

Snow was falling as I drove Katharine to Poole station. I was very struck by this lady. Eloquent, intelligent and passionate, she is just the sort of person we need to push our message on education.    

Thu, 25 Nov

There's no doubt, the weather's getting colder. Apparently, there's more to come! My day started off in the office of the CAB in Weymouth.

What a charming team in there, led by the affable Bob Bullin. They do a remarkable job and with their funding under threat there is genuine concern about their ability to continue providing such an excellent service. Clearly, I will do all I can to ensure this funding remains, but we live in tough times and many areas are being affected.

Afterwards, I headed to Winfrith to visit a company that specialises in underwater technology. The facility at Winfrith was established in 2009 by the German company Atlas, based in Bremen.

The company has expanded into the UK, setting up Atlas Elektronik in order to better compete in this highly competitive area.

I was given a most useful briefing by the management team, before going on a guided tour. I always find learning about companies like this absolutely fascinating. What's such great news for South Dorset, is that this successful enterprise employs about 200 staff, most of whom live in the area. 

The meeting went on into the afternoon, leaving me enough time to get home, change and head out again to a fundraising event in Osmington.

Wed, 24 Nov

A busy day, beginning with my daily battle with those bicycles, but I have the answer. While out jogging this morning, I noticed that all those riding bicycles with small wheels travelled considerably slower than those with larger ones.

So, to control our bicycle zealots, I suggest that these contraptions should all have small wheels! This is an observation made with tongue firmly in cheek - just in case someone thinks I am being serious.

I worked through a large amount of constituency commitments before entering the Chamber to listen to PMQs.

This was followed by an excellent performance by Education Secretary Michael Gove. He was promoting the education white paper, which is full of quite excellent material. Opposition spokesman Andy Burnham made a weak attack on the proposals and staggered everyone on our side of the Chamber by challenging Mr Gove's plans to make children study subjects like the three sciences, history and a foreign language.

Mr Burnham's logic is that because they come from poor or deprived backgrounds, they are quite incapable of tackling the more academic topics.

it's this thinking, precisely, which has condemned so many of our youngsters to the scrap heap over the years.

During an early division in the afternoon, I was able to lobby the Home Secretary personally over the case of Michael Turner, from Corfe Castle, who is the victim of the European Arrest Warrant.

Then, I attended the EFRA Select Committee, which grilled the fishing minister Richard Benyon on future policies.

A cup of tea and a chat with my Whip followed. He's an affable fellow and for anyone wondering why this meeting happened at all, it was nothing more than a routine catch up.

Then, it was upstairs to attend the weekly Back Bench 1922 Committee meeting. Michael Gove kindly addressed us, to flesh out a little more the White Paper he'd made a statement on in the Chamber earlier in the day.

With votes running through the evening, I ended the day in my office working on constituency business.

Tue, 23 Nov

I've come to the conclusion that the most dangerous vehicle in London is the bicycle. They are driven by mad men and women, who, dressed from top to toe in hideous tight clothing, disobey every traffic regulation you care to mention.

And it's not as if I'm in the hated car; I'm not, I'm on my feet running. And as I jogged round the park this morning, I felt their omnipresence as bicycles flashed past, occasionally erring from their marked lane.

I suppose it keeps you alert, if nothing else, and I was still cursing these wheeled devils when I tucked into a hearty breakfast.

My first appointment was with Patricia Rogers, the chief executive of the Kainos Project, a charity which works in a number of prisons, including HMP The Verne in my constituency.

Its Christian-based philosophy has proved hugely successful in cutting re-offending and Patricia is keen to roll the proven project into more prisons. I am keen to help her and will do so.

From there, I rushed to an EFRA Select Committe meeting, which was taking evidence in private on CAP reforms post 2013.

After a quick lunch, I turned on the television in my office to listen to Ken Clarke taking Justice Questions.

Then, I went down to the Chamber to hear the Home Secretary Theresa May deliver a statement on immigration.

At last, a government is doing something to control the sheer number of migrants which are flooding into our country.

I hope it's not too late.

For the rest of the day I tucked into my office to deal with a mass of constituency matters.

Mon, 22 Nov

An interesting start to the week, with Ireland and euro in trouble. This is just another example to demonstrate what happens if you put a sovereign country into a financial straightjacket.

And, as expected, we the UK are reaching for our cheque book to bail Ireland out to the tune of a staggering £7 billion!

Many commentators have said the UK MUST lend Ireland this sum, but I disagree.

Due to a full in-tray, I watched George Osborne make his statement on the television in my office. He stuck to his script, defending his decision to lend money and we shall have to agree to disagree.

Fri, 19 Nov

A hectic day began on Portland where I visited the YOI and chatted with the governor. He has some very interesting initiatives, which have received a lot of praise from across the board. 

Back to Weymouth to attend my surgery for a couple of hours, before moving upstairs for the regular meeting of the Dorset Olympic Board.

Some tremendous work is being done by many organisations and I must give praise to Gary Fooks, who is leading the Olympic legacy with huge energy and diligence.

Finally back home at about 7pm in time to finish off some more correspondence and write a list as long as my arm of things to do!

Thu, 18 Nov

A busy morning dealing with constituency matters and correspondence. In the afternoon, I visited the Defence Support Group at Bovington.

This remarkable organisation maintains, repairs and overhauls military vehicles, like tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

DSG, as it is known, has been told the MOD is going to sell it off to the private sector, which has caused unease among the work force, understandably.

Not only was my visit and guided tour extremely interesting, but I saw the dedication shown by the 400 or so staff for myself.

In the evening, I attended a fundraising party in Weymouth. It was a great success and a chance to meet more people and hear some very interesting views on where the government is going. Most were supportive!

Wed, 17 Nov

 

Not quite so chilly today, but certainly refreshing as I pounded around the Park. Then on to the Commons where I was soon immersed in constituency matters, press releases and the preparation of some literature.

PMQs at midday provided the usual entertainment as Harriet Harman attempted to land a blow on the Prime Minister. Her attack was aimed a cuts in funding to the police.

A quick bite to eat and then I headed up to one of the committee rooms for the EFRA select committee meeting. 

Today, we grilled agriculture minister Jim Paice MP, who I've got to know quite well. A charming man, he's been in place for some time now, giving him a good knowledge of his brief. 

Afterwards, I chatted with my fellow committee member, former MEP and friend Neil Parish MP, who also has a sound knowledge of agriculture.

In the Chamber it was Opposition day, and we voted against two Labour motiions, the last being at 7pm. 

Then, I headed home for two full days in my constituency.

Tue, 16 Nov

 

A cold start to the day as I headed out into the park for my early morning run.

At the Commons, we were soon involved in a security exercise. The scenario saw some unidentified powder being dropped into the Chamber in a mock attack.

Frankly, if this was for real, and if the powder was harmful, we'd be quarantined in the Division Lobbies next to the Chamber. Clearly, we could not be allowed out in case we were contagious.

Afterwards, I joined my EFRA select committee where we questioned the Secretary of State for more than two hours.

Then, it was a meeting with two colleagues, to discuss the EU and the plans to introduce fixed term parliaments. 

During all this, the news came through that Prince William was engaged to Kate Middleton. Very exciting news and I wish them both all the happiness in the world.

Then it was back to my desk to return to constituency matters.

I ended the day listening to the debate on amendments to the Fixed Term Parliament Bill. I am not happy with thiis Bill, as it tinkers with our constitution needlessly, in my view.

In my Maiden Speech, I said we must respect the governance of the Commons, and I meant it.

The House of Commons will be here long after I and other colleagues have gone. My worst fear is that if we muck around with this place, the Opposition will, too, when they form a government in time, and of course they will.

Mon, 15 Nov

Up to the Commons. A busy day working on my bulging in-tray and catching up with parliamentary colleagues.

Sun, 14 Nov

Remembrance Sunday, is without doubt, one of the most special days of the year. And it was with great pride that I represented my constituents at two parades.

The Weymouth parade in the morning was certainly the wetter of the two, but that did not detract for one minute from the solemnity of the occasion.

Hundreds of people braved the conditions, as the Reverend Christopher Briggs led us all through the Service in great style befitting the occasion.

Sadly, one young cadet fainted and I hope he has now recovered fully. He was one of many youngsters who marched past behind the Veterans following the Service.

Afterwards, we moved down to the American Memorial and held a short Service there.

With the rain still tumbling down, I popped into the Conservative Club for a quick coffee before heading over to Swanage to attend their parade.

Very different to Weymouth's running order, Swanage incorporate a full church service, which is very special.

The march to the church through the town is also part of their ritual and we were led in true style by some pipers, who make the most marvellous noise.

Catherine Graham gave an excellent Sermon, while the Rector glued it all together wonderfully. And, contrary to his fears, he managed to keep in step while we marched!

Two very special parades, both remembering all those who have died for us and of course those who are risking their lives every day in Afghanistan. We must never forget.  

Fri, 12 Nov

 

What a day! Wind, rain and high winds, and none more so than in Weymouth and on Portland, especially.

This morning I spent most of it on the new relief road. I was taken on a guided tour by Mike Read and Andy Ackerman, the county council's head of highways.

Both men could not have been kinder or more informative as we bumped our way down some rutted tracks to explore this new and fast developing road.

I was very impressed. The road will come in on time and on budget, which is a remarkable achievement considering all the obstacles that have been placed in the way.

And I have nothing but praise for Skanska, who are doing the most professional job as sensitively as they can.

The new cycle path will be spectacular, giving enthusiasts the ride of their life as they come down the hill and an exhausting climb as they pedal back up!

And the new improvements into the New Look site will help develop an area which will bring hundreds of jobs to the town.

Afterwards, I grabbed a sandwich and headed to Southwell Business Park to meet former owner and entrepreneur Roy Heywood. He and Ray Bulpit are remarkable men and it is a great sadness that their business failed. Roy is pragmatic, as you'd expect a hardened businessman to be.

I had time to see Jane Fooks quickly to discuss the Portland Academy before heading to the 2000 Centre for my surgery.

That took a couple of hours, after which I headed home to tackle a bulging in-tray before joining my wife, who I'd almost forgotten what she looked like! A busy week.

Thu, 11 Nov

On a wild and cold morning, I set off for Weymouth to meet up with Cllr Nigel Reed. With his Chamber of Trade hat on, we visited five small businesses in the town. This was at my request as I want to meet as many businesses as I can to get some feedback on what our government is doing and whether we can do more.

I have to say that I was inspired by all five businesses. The first helps those out of work collate a CV, the second is a new and dynamic accountancy firm, the third designs and sells maternity clothing on-line,the fourth designs and constructs aquariums and the fifth is a precision engineering company. 

Listening to the entrepreneurs, I was struck by their sheer enthusiasm and determination to succeed. All were solvent and had been very prudent with their money. If my snapshot is an example of what's going on in South Dorset, we have nothing to fear! Inspirational.

Then, I met the lovely Mrs Turner in the centre of Weymouth. She runs the town's Poppy Appeal and co-ordinates the collectors. 

It was my turn today and after a short brief I was left to my own devices outside the Nat West Bank.

For about two hours I rattled by box and was surprised and delighted at the sheer number of people, many of whom had already contributed - who reached for their wallets and purses.

The generosity really staggered me and even two men who had been begging not far from me came over and popped some money into the box.

The people of this country are generous and no more so than in Weymouth. I was humbled and felt extremely privileged to be their MP.

Wed, 10 Nov

Another cold start to the day, and another gallop around Hyde Park to begin it. Straight into the Commons, to prepare for my second select committee and to run through my speech later in the day.

PMQs interrupted my schedule and I arrived in the Chamber minutes before Nick Clegg stood up as Deputy Prime Minister, as the PM is in China.

With thousands of angry and protesting students screaming for Clegg's blood outside the Commons, it was not surprising that Harriet Harman - standing in for Red Ed, whose partner has had a baby - attacked on the topic of university fees. 

To be fair to the students, Clegg and his Party had promised to get rid of fees and here they are raising them to £9,000.

But the Lib Dems have never tasted responsibility before and reality has dawned on them like a bucket of cold water. 

Clegg counter attacked on Labour's record, which iis singularly unimpressive, but the Lib Dem's are tainted with their promise that they probably never dreamed would be in a position to do anything about. 

The select committee was fascinating in the afternoon, taking evidence from the NFU and CLA, to name but two.

I then had to leave to take part in the debate on EU measures aimed at reinforcing economic policy across the EU. 

Regrettably, we were only given 90 minutes to debate this important isssue. I was not called, although Bill Cash MP and Douglas Carswell MP put our point across well.

You can read the speech I was due to make on this website.

Also, regrettably, two amendments submitted for consideration by the Government were not called, so I had to vote against the Government for the first time.

I promised to stand up for my constituents on this EU issue and I did. Although we were reassured by the Minister this new measure would not affect our sovereignty one jot, I do not trust this EU juggernaut, and I am not prepared to accept any new legislation from the EU until we have properly renegotiated our position in Europe.  

Tue, 9 Nov

 

A early morning run on a cold autumn morning is just the right start to the day. A busy morning included corresponding with constituents, preparing a speech for tomorrow and attending a select committee meeting in private.

In the afternoon, I took Dorset's Chief Fire Officer Darran Gunter to meet Bob Neil MP, the Under Secretary of State responsible for the fire service.

Dorset has been appallingly funded for years now and Mr Gunter is quite rightly saying enough is enough.

We were reassured to a certain extent by the Minister, but not rearly enough in my own view. The funding formula itself has to be changed if we in Dorset are to be treated equitably.

I then spent an interesting hour with David Davis MP, who I respect enormously and support his drive to stand up for our freedoms.

Afterwards, I completed some more correspondence, before entering the Chamber to listen to the end of the debate on housing benefit. It was interesting, but you'd think from the way the Opposition spoke they were the only ones with deprived areas in their constituencies. What's more they were in power for 13 years and did nothing to tackle the growing burden on our economy as the bill spiralled higher and higher.  

Mon, 8 Nov

The new week began with Defence Questions. Dr Liam Fox and his team were on the Front Bench answering an array of questions.

I sat through the session, listening intently to the issues. I have made my views on the way the government has handled the future of our armed services and I am not happy, as you know.

I am now receiving a lot of correspondence from former Royal Navy officers, who are appalled by the way their Service has been treated.

The most common issue is their concern that by scrapping the Harrier, we will not have any planes for our two aircraft carriers until 2019. It's a fair point.

I spent the rest of the day voting on the remaining stages of the Finance Bill and dealing with a mass of correspondence from constituents.

Fri, 5 Nov

Another busy day.

Thu, 4 Nov

After dealing with a fair amount of correspondence, I headed down to Weymouth to attend my surgery.

At 2pm I visited the Weymouth Sailing Club, where I met the charming Commodore, Mark Bugler, and his wife, Rima. Another member, Jane Buckle, was also there.

This was my first visit and what a special club it is, with its ample eating and sitting area and a glorious view of the harbour entrance. 

I was then taken on a tour outside and shown the relatively new lifting crane the club has invested in. They are very proud of their club, and its 700 members, and so they should be.

They're also well prepared for the sailing Olympics, hosting two international teams and an array of other activities. All very exciting.

Wed, 3 Nov

I particularly enjoyed my morning constitution (run) today, after which, famished, I struck a deal with myself and enjoyed a huge breakfast. Eggs, bacon, fried bread ... the lot. Why not?

I was soon dealing with a mass of constituency matters, before heading to the Chamber for the weekly ding dong called PMQs.

Red Ed led off with two rather tame questions, I thought, before he went for the Prime Minister on the recent appointment of an official photographer.

Then, back up to the office to begin work on a constituency report, finish off my letter to the PM requesting a private meeting with him to discuss this distressing case of my Corfe Castle constituent Michael Turner and write my weekly column for the Daily Echo.

On top of this, I had a mass of reading to do to prepare for my first select committee meeting at 2pm.

It was very interesting, with part of it in private and the rest in public. We quizzed my friend and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Richard Benyon for more than two hours of future flood and water management.

Back in the office, I signed off 30 letters to constituents and then headed out into the congested traffic to fight my way home. The tube strike caused chaos and it took me more than three hours to get back to Dorset.  

Tue, 2 Nov

 

There is never a dull moment here. After a good run and breakfast, I sat down to tackle an on-going problem which has dogged the Turner family in Corfe Castle for eight long years.

I have commented on this case on several occasions both in private and public. The Hungarian authorities, not satisfied that months of investigation and interviews with more than 500 witnesses have produced no evidence to support the accusations of fraud.

The Turner family have been through hell and now we are in government, I am taking this direct to the PM, to at least draw his attention to this gross injustice.

Don't laugh, but I then had coffee with the Speaker. It was kind of Mr Bercow to ask about 12 colleagues to see if we had any queries.

The Secretary of State for Health then took questions in the Chamber, before Mark Harper MP answered an emergency question from Labour about this contentious subject of giving prisoners the right to vote.

Most of us are furious about this. It's more meddling from the EU and it really is time to take our law making processes back to where they belong - the House of Commons.

I was interviewed by my former colleagues at Radio Solent, which put me up against a gentleman who supported this idea.

I'm afraid I did not agree with him one jot and said so.   

I returned to the Chamber in the evening to listen to the Third Reading of the Voting System and Constituencies Bill.

I needed to be convinced that this hurriedly-put-together Bill was what the country needed. I have to say I do not like instinctively as it does not, in my view, respect this place.

I do agree that constituencies should have a more equal number of constituents so that each vote carries the appropriate weight.

But I do not want a vote on AV and I'm not sure reducing the number of MPs will ultimately respect constituencies and their unique characteristics.

At the end of the debate, I did, however, vote with the Government, as this referendum on AV is unavoidable and the sooner we have it the better.

Hopefully, the nation will elect for first past the post and we can then get on with the job of running the country.

Mon, 1 Nov

Where does time go? November already and the shops are counting the days before Christmas. Rose early to see my daughter off to school, and then to drive to Portland to welcome the children back into the Grove Infants' School.

The inexhaustible headteacher, Jane Hurdiss, was there, bright as a button, as always, and rightly proud of what she and her volunteers managed to achieve over the past few weeks.

Due to the discovery of unacceptably high levels of radon at the school, the children had to be moved to nearby St George's School while some remedial work was done. 

The last time I saw the school only a few days ago, I really did not think Jane would have it ready for this morning.

But, she did, and all power to her elbow and all those volunteers who rose to the challenge of redecorating parts of the school.

Driving to London was a real pleasure. The autumn colours are stunning and the sun shone.

Arriving at the Commons, I listened to the Prime Minister report on his recent visit to Europe. Ed Miliband's response was fairly incoherent and certainly didn't bother the PM.

Yes, Mr Cameron's news that the proposed rise in the EU budget was to be reduced by half are to be welcomed, but he set out to cut or freeze the budget, which was not achieved.

I am also concerned at the EU's plans to roll out a vast diplomatic corps, costing circa £5 billion. This really is unnecessary and I oppose these plans which are being instigated because of the Lisbon Treaty. Remember, the treaty that Labour promised us a referendum on and then reneged.

Meanwhile, the bill on AV and changing the size of constituencies goes on. I am deeply uneasy about these plans. In my maiden speech, I said we must respect the governance of this place, and I do not believe this change in the constituency is the right one.