Following the return of Parliament after the Christmas recess, I have been involved in a huge variety of projects, visits and events. This month has been marked by the Government's announcement of its aims for The Industrial Strategy and due to my involvement in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee, I have taken a particular interest in the development of this policy. Following the EU referendum, the need for a clear framework to ensure prosperity for British business was evident. I have consistently shared my view that the Government's Industrial Strategy must be rooted in our education system, with the promotion of STEM subjects at primary school. Also in promoting investment in regions, with the Industrial Strategy being country-wide. I was pleased to see that both of these initiatives were included in the Government's green paper.
Debate on Yemen
On the 12th January I co-sponsored a debate in the House, alongside Stephen Twigg MP, to discuss the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the impact of the conflict on civilians and to call for an urgent independent investigation into reports of breaches of international humanitarian law on both sides of the conflict. Following the conclusions reached by the Business, Innovation and Skills and the International Development Committee in their joint report it was clear that the crisis in Yemen remains critical and requires further attention.
Since the devastating twin attack on a funeral Hall in Sana'a in October, killing 140 people and injuring 500, the US has launched a review of the attack and cancelled the contract for precision-guided munitions to Saudi. The UK should also be setting an example to the world in terms of our licensing regime, our commitment to the rule of law and our responsiveness to challenges. Criterion 2(c) of our arms export licensing regime forbids the authorisation of arms sales if there is a "clear risk" of a violation of international humanitarian law. The Committees of Arms Export Controls heard compelling evidence to suggest this. In order to protect our reputation in arms export licensing, we must be accountable for our own actions. Therefore it is right that we suspend our sale of arms to Saudi Arabia until an independent investigation is completed.
You can read my contributions to the debate here.
Last summer I spoke during the Queen's speech debate on Industrial Strategy. As a result, I was delighted to see the Business, Energy and Industrial Department launch the green paper on this last week.
I have been working with many organisations and with Government to ensure that the strategy incorporates all the necessary elements in order to boost the local and national economy. I look forward to continuing to feed into this process through my work with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.
The green paper sets out early actions that the Government are committed to take, but this is intended to mark the start of a consultation. I would be interested to hear from local business with their thoughts on this initiative.
Debate on the Midlands Engine
As part of the Industrial Strategy, empowering regions will be crucial to assisting Britain in achieving its maximum prosperity. Consequently, I was pleased to secure a debate in the House on the Midlands Engine, to put forward my views as to how our local area can develop and contribute to the wider Industrial Strategy. The Midlands is a major contributor to the national economy, generating 13% of the UK's gross value. We have a solid foundation and potential to contribute significantly to economic growth. The Midlands Engine initiative is necessary in order to help develop and build on the infrastructure, skills and our wealth of industrial heritage.
I welcome the Government's support for the Catapult network. The High-Value Manufacturing Catapult has generated £15 of benefit to the economy for every £1 of funding. It cannot be said enough that research and development is key to our future success. The Chancellor announced in the Autumn Statement that a Midlands Engine Strategy was to be published, and I look forward to the details that this will provide.
Age UK Warwickshire
I met with representatives of Age UK Warwickshire to discuss the challenges that face the older generation, such as greater demand for public services and social care. These are particular concerns for our local area, as 26% of Warwickshire's population is above the age of 60. Age UK provides support for older people and is reliant on dedicated volunteers to carry out their work. It is important that our healthcare services and voluntary organisations are working together as effectively as possible. During my meeting with Age UK I reaffirmed my commitment to their objectives and followed this up by requesting a debate on how we can better support organisations such as Age UK and the benefits of closer co-operation between such bodies and local authorities during Business of the House questions. Furthermore, in the coming weeks I shall be attending the APPG for Charities and Volunteering meeting on Volunteering in Later Life; involvement in organisations can provide older people with support and social interaction and I shall raise this as one means by which we can help older people live happier and healthier lives.
Pubs Code Debate
The Pubs Code sets out how pubcos should work with their tenants in a fairer manner, however issues surrounding the activity of the Pubs Code Adjudicator were raised, and I put it to the House that the Adjudicator should be called before the Select Committee once again.
My contributions are available here.
Ministerial visit to Warwick Trident College
It was a pleasure to visit Warwick Trident College along with the Rt. Hon. Robert Halfon, Minister of State for Apprenticeships and Skills.We met apprentices studying at WCG, including those from Jaguar Land Rover; and staff from both the College and Jaguar Land Rover.
The number of those choosing apprenticeships in the UK is increasing, with record numbers in the last Parliament and 3,470 of these being in Warwick and Leamington. Apprenticeship opportunities help to support manufacturers, amongst a range of sectors, and will form a crucial part of the Industrial Strategy.
Visit to Warwick Manufacturing Group with The Rt. Hone. Greg Clark MP
I was delighted to be invited to join the Secretary of State for his visit to the Warwick Manufacturing Group. This is an institution that illustrates the importance of adopting a holistic approach in order to drive the development of technical skills. The National Automotive Innovation Centre will be a fantastic development providing R&D, that will be available to large companies and small challenger firms, and with skills the automotive industry across the West Midlands can benefit from.
On Friday I had the honour of proposing this year's 'Toast to the Pious Memory of Thomas Oken and Joan, his wife'. This celebration of our local history is one of many great traditions. Thomas Oken left his fortune to the town and his philanthropic legacy lives on in the Thomas Oken Charity. This home, now the Thomas Oken Tearoom, is owned by the charity and the rent generated goes towards supporting local causes for the benefit of the people of Warwick.