As I am sure you are aware, the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday her intention to hold a General Election on 8th June. This was confirmed yesterday with the passing of a motion by the House of Commons for the election to be held. I voted in favour of that motion and will be seeking re-adoption as the Conservative Party candidate for Warwick and Leamington.
I supported the call for an early election as the scale of change that the country now faces means it is right that the British people have their say in who governs the country.
For nearly seven years it has been a tremendous honour and privilege to represent this most wonderful constituency. Together we have made good progress with unemployment falling, businesses investing, impressive schools and colleges and a local hospital of which we can be very proud. The list goes on...
The economy has gone from strength to strength and there is much to be optimistic about, not least through the Government's Industrial Strategy which I have been closely involved with. Building on what has been achieved and approaching the Brexit negotiations with strong leadership must be the priority.
I am immensely proud to have served our local area and if I am given the opportunity to continue to do so, I will redouble my efforts to represent the residents of Warwick and Leamington both locally and nationally to the best of my ability.
As ever, I aim to be as accessible as possible and if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
It was a great thrill to take part in the Regency Run on Sunday, not least to take in the magnificent views of Leamington from the top of Newbold Comyn and raise money for the 'No More Floor' campaign. More than 2,000 runners took part, supporting charities, local community projects and other good causes. Since its creation 13 years ago the event has raised more than £250,000 and as its popularity grows year on year, it's great to see such community spirit among those taking part. I look forward to the Two Castles Run in June which I am sure will also have the same enthusiastic support!
As the weather improves and the evenings get lighter we can anticipate a packed schedule of events in the coming months across the constituency. These will range from food and drink festivals, the Folk Festival, which is a particular favourite and is fast becoming one of the most highly regarded of its type national events, attracting people from all over the country and abroad, and the creativity on display at Art in the Park, amongst others. A big thank you must go to all the volunteers - the organisers and marshals – without their support these events would not take place.
These festivals play an important role, bringing together friends and family and fostering community pride. They increase in number and get larger and better each year which is surely a proud testament to the ever growing vitality of our area.
We are fortunate to live in a place that attracts and supports such a variety of sporting, gastronomic and cultural activity and by celebrating local talent and business these events promote health and wellbeing, attracting visitors and help to boost our local economy.
Last Wednesday I co-hosted a 'Policy Lab' with King's College Policy Institute on Industrial Strategy. The Policy Lab brought together a range of leading individuals in the fields of industry, academia and policy. The Policy Institute aims to form a link between academics and policy-makers, ensuring that the formulation of government policy is supported by an evidence base and can ultimately achieve its aims.
I have taken a deep interest in the Government's Industrial Strategy, having first spoken of the need for such an approach last year during the Queen's Speech debate. Through my membership of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, I have also heard evidence from a wide range of stakeholders on how the policy should be shaped. The findings from the Policy Lab will be fed into the Government's consultation and I look forward to continuing to work with industry representatives to ensure that the strategy provides the necessary framework for our economy to grow.
In the afternoon, I returned to Westminster to vote and it was at this point that the day took such a horrific turn. The events shocked Parliament and the country, but the sense of solidarity both on the day and since shows how deep our reserves and capacity are of strength through unity. It serves as a reminder of the incredible courage and bravery shown by our emergency services. I particularly pay tribute to PC Keith Palmer, tragically killed while on duty, but also my deepest sympathy is with the family and friends of those that lost their lives on that terrible day.
The House sat again at 9.30am the following morning.
As I write on Tuesday, I hope to 'catch the Speaker's eye' and speak in the Budget debate. While I plan to raise a number of issues, one of the most pressing points included in my speech is the imminent revaluation of business rates. In recent weeks, I have canvassed opinion from local businesses on the upcoming changes and will continue to work with business groups to support those that are the most affected.
I thank all those that have got in touch with me to highlight individual cases and I would be pleased to hear from any other local enterprises on the matter. I will be raising local examples in the House of Commons and will urge the Government to keep this issue under review. £435m has been made available through the Budget to be directed towards those seeing the most significant rises but I am keen to ensure the success of small businesses remains a priority. As such, I have written to the Chancellor and would be happy to share a copy of that letter with local businesses if they would like to receive a copy. Please do get in touch if that is the case.
Elsewhere in the Budget, I welcomed the introduction of T-Levels, aimed at putting technical education on a similar footing to the A-Level system. I have long been of the opinion that parity of respect across all types of education is important. Addressing the skills gap and allowing businesses to recruit the very best talent requires our education system to provide a range of quality courses. I am very hopeful that T-Levels will go some way in achieving that goal.
Warwickshire College is a good example of an institution providing first-class courses in a range of subject areas. Building on this foundation and replicating its success across the country can bring a wide range of benefits. I thank the College for the invitation to join its Graduation Ceremony last week and was pleased to congratulate all those that have recently completed an apprenticeship. I wish them all the very best with their future careers.
This week, as part of my role as Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Video Games, I chaired a meeting that brought together MPs, representatives of the games industry and civil servants to discuss the implications of leaving the EU and what constitutes a positive outcome from the negotiations in securing long-term prosperity for the sector.
My involvement in the APPG stems from the strong presence of video games companies in our constituency, making up one of the biggest clusters outside of London. Supporting the sector is therefore a priority for me, with a large number of local residents employed in local games companies which contribute an enormous amount to the local economy.
The event was hosted alongside trade association, Ukie, which has produced a new report on the priorities for the sector as we prepare to leave the EU. The report, State of Play, notes the wide range of requirements for games companies to flourish, from attracting skills and talent to continuing to receive funding. At the APPG meeting, we discussed the merits of the document and heard from senior civil servants who will play a role in setting negotiating objectives.
The UK video games industry is the 6th largest in the world and Brexit will have a significant impact on our international economic relations. We must embrace the opportunities available to us and aim to increase our share of the global market. Much of our work in support of the sector can also tie into the Government's Industrial Strategy, particularly in investing in Research & Development and a strong skills base.
We must provide certainty to the video games sector and the wider economy that the UK will remain an excellent place to do business. Warwick and Leamington is a prime example of that.
It has been a very busy start to the week as I travelled to Edinburgh with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee, before contributing to a range of Parliamentary debates on Tuesday in Westminster.
The trip to Edinburgh encompassed a wide range of issues relating to the work of the BEIS Select Committee. We met with representatives of the Green Investment Bank in order to discuss its performance and future as well as the Scottish Government to discuss the energy sector, energy innovation and Brexit. On Sunday evening, we met with the Scottish Whisky Association, representing a significant sector for the UK economy, to hear its priorities as the Government negotiates our exit from the EU. The trip was insightful and productive in terms of the Committee's work.
In Parliament on Tuesday, I started the morning by contributing to a debate on Intellectual Property, highlighting the importance of protecting businesses operating in sectors such as the creative industries. I therefore welcomed the inclusion of Intellectual Property in the Government's Industrial Strategy. I also succeeded in the ballot for Treasury questions and was asked the Minister about government plans to support our regional economy, with particular reference to the automotive sector. If we are to embrace the shift to electric vehicles, it is imperative that we provide the necessary infrastructure.
Later in the day, I spoke in a debate on the Government's Productivity Plan. Improving productivity in the UK economy is important if we are to realise our potential in terms of economic growth. Our productivity in the Midlands is lower than the European average and I welcomed the opportunity for MPs to debate how best to reverse that trend.
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In this section you can read my articles in the local press relating to my work - both in Westminster and in the constituency. Please get in touch with any comments you would like to make.