September 2011

Fri, 30 Sep

A busy day, starting in the office. Very hot! Summer's back.

Perfect motorbiking weather, so hopped on to my steel horse and headed down to Swanage for my regular surgery at the Sure Start centre, which is located by the day centre.

I had some very interesting feedback on Coalition policies from one couple, who'd come to express their concern about the direction the government was heading in. 

I had time to return home and change, before heading off to Portland for a fundraiser at Whitestones, the renovated and charming bar off Easton Square.

It was a fun evening and a chance to chat to supporters on the island.

Thu, 29 Sep

 

I was amazed by a story of a man who, despite the warnings, plunged into the sea in S Africa only to lose both his legs to a Great White shark which was quite clearly visible cruising through the shallow water just off the beach. 

I was chained to the desk for most of the day, except for a lunchtime run in blazing sunshine. A heatwave has hit the country, at least to the weekend, with the temperature in London forecast to be 29 degrees C!

My highly regarded colleague John Redwood MP has accepted an invitation to come and address our supper club in February, which is excellent news.

John is a man I respect highly, with immense intelligence and integrity. Our members will enjoy the evening, of that I am certain. He tends to call a spade a spade.

Wed, 28 Sep

 

After working through some constituency correspondence, I met up with a member of my team to discuss a constituency newspaper which we are working on.

I also spoke to the Turners in Corfe Castle to see how Michael was bearing up on this long-running European arrest warrant, which has become a farce.

Since our meeting at the Commons there has been no further developments, but no news in this instance we believe is good news. 

After a hot day, I hopped on my motorbike and rode down to Swanage to go out on the town's lifeboat.

The crew trains every Wednesday night throughout the year and this was a good chance both to meet them all and thank them for what they do.

Fortunately, the evening was windless, although spring tides made the sea quite lumpy.

We were out for a couple of hours on an exercise and once again I witnessed the professionalism of these dedicated lifesavers.

Their coxswain Martin Steeden is hugely respected and rightly so. He's trained his team well, to the point he let them all get on with it, while he maintained a fatherly eye.

We really are indebted to our lifeboat service in this country and my deep gratitude to them all.

Tue, 27 Sep

 

Raced through the papers and initial correspondence before tackling a couple of constituency issues.

Then down to Weymouth on my steel horse to address the town's senior forum at the Angling Club.

It's run by the delightful Andy Hutchins, who instantly made me feel most welcome with a cup of tea and some biscuits.

I chatted to an audience of about 60 people for 45 minutes, before taking questions. They were a charming group and I eventually emerged at about 4.30pm to hop back on my motorcycle and drive to Dorchester for a chore.

But not before dropping in on Sallie Wright, the mum of Royal Marine James Wright, who was tragically killed in action in Afghanistan recently.

Sallie was on her own when I arrived and my admiration for her only increased tenfold when I saw how well she is coping with the loss of her son.

She was working so not wanting to disturb her for too long I bade my farewells and headed off. I intend to keep in touch with the family and help if it's needed.

These experiences only remind me how special our armed forces and the families of those serving are. We are indebted to them and of course to James.

Mon, 26 Sep

 

Our wedding anniversary - a most special day. It began, though, apart and early!

I drove to London last night as I was meeting a posse of petitioners from Weymouth and Portland to hand in our save the Coastguard petition to No 10.

After pounding around the park at 7am, I was in the office early, catching my Commons' team by surprise as most of my colleagues are of course not in the House at the moment.

I dealt with some important correspondence, before heading off to a neighbouring pub to meet Catherine Bolado, a reporter from the Dorset Echo, Cllr Kate Wheller, Cllr Sandy West and the rest of team who'd travelled up to London by train with a box containing more than 22,000 signatures!

This petition is calling for the new Coastguard super centre to be based in Weymouth or Portland, rather than Solent.

There are many, many arguments why this should be so, and I hope they win the day in the end.

Our trip to No 10 was fun and we all enjoyed handing in the petition to the doorman, who described himself as the 'custodian', a wonderful word we all thought.

Plenty of photos were taken before we mended our way back to Portcullis House, where we all sat down for lunch.

It was a fun couple of hours, after which the party headed off in different directions - some site-seeing, others back to Weymouth and me back to Dorset to join my wife for our wedding anniversary.

I have another crack of the whip on 11 October where I shall be presenting our case to the minister Mike Penning MP during a 30 minute adjournment debate in Westminster Hall .

Fri, 23 Sep

 

The financial crisis deepens, as does Greece's burden of debt. Some, like Mr Clegg, still want us to join the Euro, which staggers me. I don't know how much more serious this situation has to become before people realise that this EU nightmare is over.

First stop was a useful business meeting with the CEO of Portland Port. My colleague Oliver Letwin attended, too, and we got through an interesting agenda. 

Then it was to the Association office. I have a mass of 18th birthday letters to sign. I've had some very interesting replies to those I have already written to. 

Poole next to visit the DVLA office and then home to complete a lot of correspondence.

My son home for the weekend, which is always special. 

Thu, 22 Sep

A very special day - my daughter's birthday. 

Spent a fair amount of time on two issues: first, delivering a petition to save our Coastguard to No 10 on Monday; and second gathering the information I need for my Westminster Hall debate next month.

I also had the sad task of visiting one of my very sick employees. He's a bricklayer by trade and has worked on the estate for decades, as did his father.

It was heartbreaking to see such a strong, outdoor man looking so fragile and vulnerable. Why is it that the best and kindest people are always the ones afflicted?

Ended the day back in the office.

 

 

Wed, 21 Sep

Down to Swanage on my motorbike on a beautiful autumn morning.

I met up with the leader of Purbeck District Council Cllr Gary Suttle. We had much to discuss, with me doing most of the listening.

These briefing session are most useful and keep me abreast of issues in Purbeck. 

Back to the office for midmorning and tackled a raft of local issues.

Early evening I headed down to Weymouth to address a new branch of the WI. I would guess near on 100 ladies had gathered to listen to me speak on my first year in Parliament. 

The evening was most entertaining and the ladies lively!

Tue, 20 Sep

 

First stop was Weymouth.

I'd gone to comfort and support an anxious mum, whose son is in jail abroad. The situation is not pleasant and I will do what I can with the Foreign Office to see if the man can be helped, or at least reassured.

This is not the first case of a constituent jailed abroad. And they only remind me just how excellent our system is in comparison, although at times we don't think so!

Then it was on to see my old friend and local businessman Phil Laming and his lovely wife Myra.

They are an inspirational couple and have done so much for Portland, where they live.

Late afternoon saw me reporting to the lifeboat station for a briefing and kitting out.

I'd asked coxswain Andy Sargent if I could come out on one of their exercises and he kindly obliged.

What a great team they are and so professional. Tonight Andy had set his number two the task of finding four people who were last reported off Osmington at 5pm. 

The task was completed in pouring rain, high winds and a rising swell. I was most impressed with the way these four lost souls were accounted for.

Regrettably, one - a dummy called Dead Ed - had drowned, but he too was picked up.

I did my bit on the open bridge and armed with a spotlight searched the sea for the missing people.

It was a fun, informative and challenging evening and I saw first hand the extraordinary role these brave volunteers carry out in our name.

Mon 19 Sep

Arrive home later afternoon after visiting my daughter in Madrid. I've never been there before, so that was an added bonus.

Straight back to the in-tray. It's never empty!

Fri, 16 Sep

 

M first meeting was with the new CEO of Dorset County Hospital, Jean O'Callaghan, and the chairman, Dr Jeffrey Ellwood.

We met to discuss an idea I've had to hold a Dorset-wide forum at my home, with representatives from across the NHS attending, to listen to the minister and then to raise questions.

The three of us felt there was still a lot of misunderstanding about the government's prosposals and that such a meeting would be a good place to thrash out the detail.

Both Jean and Jeffrey are impressive figures and are doing a good job at DCH under difficult circumstances.

Then, it was off to Portland on my motorcycle to raise money for research into Alzheimers. The organiser was the lovely Pauline Lewington, who lost her husband to the disease.

Pauline had got together a fabulous team, which included her sister. We all had a good laugh in addition to providing an excellent service - I hope! - and raising money.

The afternoon was so successful that we are planning another assault on Tesco in December.

We have the long suffering and charming manager, Eddie Garlick, to thank for that.

Thu, 15 Sep

 

In the morning, I reported to Clealls of Corfe, to present Mr and Mrs Porter with a Gold award for community retailing.

Chris and Juliet have done the most fantastic job since taking over the store in Corfe Castle about four years ago.

They really deserve this award as their service goes way beyond the normal call of duty. It addition to delivering to residents' doors, the couple often get asked to perform other tasks which they do at no extra charge.

I can only urge residents, both in the village and the surrounding area, to use their store, as this is the best way of ensuring it remains in business.

In the afternoon, I hosted a tea party at my home for about 100 people. We were lucky in that the sun shone and everyone had a most enjoyable time.

Wed, 14 Sep

 

A real run-a-round day. After my morning run in the park, I was soon in the office and walking to Millbank to meet my former colleague Tristan Pascoe, who works for BBC South Today.

He was interviewing me on the subject of police cuts. Apparently, the piece will appear on the Politics Show this Sunday.

Then it was off to committee room six to meet EMAG, the energetic campaign group which represents the victims of the Equitable Life scandal.

A number of MPs from all Parties attended and listened to an interesting brief from Mr Forfar, who was presenting new evidence. 

He hopes this will be presented to the Ombudsman.

I have huge sympathy with sufferers, many of whom have now died since they lost their money. It's a tragic story.

Then it was off to another office to receive a brief on the proposed boundary changes. At the moment South Dorset is not affected and I hope that remains the case.

Many colleagues, though, have been left feeling very uneasy after discovering that on paper their seats have gone.

While this was going on, Bill Cash gave an excellent presentation on the dire situation of the Euro and the Eurozone.

Meanwhile, the Energy Bill was going through the Chamber and went through on the Third Reading unapposed.

Outside the Commons, the situation in Greece deteriorates further, with ship builders surrounding their government's finance offices.

And with unemployment rising here, we are clearly not out of the woodwork, either.

Tue, 13 Sep

Stormed around the park on a sunny, but windy, morning. Hurricane Katia is battering Scotland but having little impact here.

Dealt with a number of constituency matters first before crossing to Portcullis House for a coffee with a like-minded colleague.

There's a lot going in this tumultuous environment, not least the reaction to yesterday's boundary change announcement.

I was relieved to see that South Dorset is to remain the same, or at least that's what the Commission has recommended.

But there are now weeks of consultation, appeals and a chance for MPs and others to submit their concerns.

The final changes then have to go through the House next October, as I understand it. The question is whether they will get through both Houses. The changes are controversial and have left many colleagues feeling distinctly uneasy.

A working, sandwich lunch and then into the Chamber to listen to Justice Questions for half an hour.

I have to say that I am finding myself in disagreement with our front bench on policies in this area.

We are - or should be - the Party on law and order and I don't like the drive to lower prisoner numbers just to save money.

If someone has committed a crime, they should pay the penalty in full.

At 1800 I attended a meeting in David Davis' office on our new book, which has been released to the press and is getting favourable comment.

We shall launch it proper at our Party conference on Monday 3 October at 1400.

It has restored my faith in what I am doing and places a true Conservative banner in the sand. Our country needs leadership and a radical return to Conservatism if we are to survive the current economic woes and the dangers of an imploding Europe, which was only a matter of time.

Two votes today at 1900 and 2200 on Opposition motions. A fascinating day.

Mon, 12 Sep

After a pit stop at the dentist, I was back in the Commons in the afternoon and catching up with my team.

There was a meeting on the future of planning which I missed but was later told by Bill Cash, who had called it, that it was not well attended.

Bill, I, and many other Tory MPs, are worried about our proposals to loosen planning legislation, although its backers would say we are doing nothing more than simplifying it.

I hope this is the case and have written to the minister for some reassurance.

At 1800 I, along with more than 100 colleagues, attended a meeting on the future of our relationship with Europe.

It was a very good meeting, with views from across the Party represented. The view was that we should really start looking at this emotive EU issue seriously, but pragmatically.

With Greece about to go down the pan, several MPs called for an immediate plan to be put together in the event we have to react to a financial crisis in double-quick time.

What was encouraging to me was the sheer number of MPs - about a third of the Party. Let's hope the PM listens to his MPs, who carry with them the hopes and fears of the electorate.

Two votes at 2200, then home.

Sat, 10 Sep

I had been invited to a reunion at the Black Bear in Wareham by a team I'd filmed ten years ago when I was a reporter with BBC South Today.

Colonel John Blashford-Snell had led an expedition to Bolivia with the intent of navigating the River Amazon from where it rises to the east coast of Brazil where it pours into the sea in a locally built reedboat.

I was attached to this expedition for about two weeks and filmed their progress from the very beginning.

About 30 people attended this reunion and I recognised them all. The trip was one of my most unusual and exhilerating experiences as a journalist and of course we spent the evening recalling some very amusing moments, not least when their giant reedboat foundered in some rapids, throwing them all into a boiling river. We were lucky not to lose anyone. 

Fri, 9 Sep

After a busy morning in the office, I headed down to Weymouth for my weekly surgery.

It was a lengthy session, in fact probably the longest I have attended. Afterwards, I bumped into Cllr Ian James and chatted to him.

Then, it was back to the Association office to interview a potential new member of staff.

The day ended where it began, with my nose deep in my in-tray!

Thu, 8 Sep

Another pounding around the park, I was in the office and dictating a mass of letters to my secretary - poor lady!

At lunchtime I met up with my lovely niece, who'd come down from Northumberland on a school trip.

Katie is studying politics and they'd had a most interesting tour around the Palace.

At 1430 I attended a debate on flooding in Westminster Hall. The debate including water prices in the south west, which are the highest in the country.

Our Efra select committee is very much aware of this and is taking a very pro-active stance with the government.

There was also a vote on the Fixed Term Parliament Bill, which I am not supporting. This piece of legislation is a complete waste of time and appears nothing more than a guarantee to keep the PM in his job for a full five years. I abstained.

The three line whip was withdrawn just before 1800, when I headed down to Dorset.

Wed, 7 Sep

After completing my Daily Echo column and a piece for the excellent Purbeck Gazette, I met an old friend who'd come to attend PMQs and have lunch with me.

She's very interested in politics and was genuinely enthused by the 30 minute session.

The PM was attacked on lengthening NHS queues which, if true, appear to be rising sharply.

The Health Bill continued in the afternoon, with Nadine Dorries pushing her amendment on abortion in typically abrasive style.

She'd already been the butt of the Houses' humour during PMQs and didn't really fare much better here.

Abortion is an emotive issue and the UK rate is alarming.

In the afternoon, I attended our Efra select committee, which took evidence from representatives from the world of hazardous waste.

Afterwards, I dealt with constituency matters and submitted a request to hold a debate on the future of the Portland Coastguard in Westminster Hall. I shall continue to push for the new super centre to be based in South Dorset rather than Solent.

We were out at 1930, in time for me to visit my daughter at her new rented flat.

Tue, 6 Sep

My morning run began the day. The park was certainly fuller than it was last month when you could be forgiven for thinking London has been evacuated!

After dealing with the normal morning admin, I wandered down to our Efra select committee meeting.

This morning we listened to a presentation given by officials on hazardous waste and, as I wasn't feeling a million dollars that morning due to a stomach bug, I couldn't help thinking how appropriate this presentation was!

Still, to be serious for a moment, this is an interesting area and the government is drawing up a national policy framework to deal with the problem.

After a sandwich, I listened to Treasury Questions for a while on the television in my office. The world's economy is not a healthy place at the moment, that's for certain, and I only wish our government would lower taxes, including VAT, to meet these uncertain times.

Business needs to be able to thrive, but it continues to be held down by red tape, taxes and interference from the EU - no change there.

In the afternoon, the remaining stages of the Health Bill went on until 2200. 

Mon, 5 Sep

Back to the House after our recess.

After Communities and Local Government questions, the Prime Minister made a statement on Libya.

The danger of toppling a dictatorship is that it often uncovers a lot of dirty, little secrets, which many would rather lie buried.

Reports seem to indicate that MI6 was implicit in the illegal practice of rendition. The irony is that one of those caught up in this is now one of the leading figures in the country's fledgling government.

No doubt more will be revealed as the days pass.

As you can imagine, there was a lot to do first day back, not least the ever full in-tray.

The House sat until 2200, then home.

Sat, 3 Sep

It was march day today, as I joined about 100 Weymouth residents, all equally concerned at the government's plans to close the Portland Coastguard watchkeeping centre.

The proposal is to replace with a so-called super-centre at Solent or Portsmouth. I have disagreed with this idea from the start because I, along with many others far more qualified than I to comment, am convinced that rescuers need to be co-ordinated locally for a whole raft of reasons.

The march was organised by the local paper and, led by two vocal reporters, it weaved its way around town for about an hour.

I was one of three people who made speeches, calling on the government to re-think its plans and of course to praise our local Coastguard, who do such a wonderful job.

I have to say that a letter from the minister, Mike Penning MP, did not give us cause for hope, but we'll battle on rather than lie down and give up.