Newsletter June 2010
Posted by Margot James, MP for Stourbridge, at 16:55, Fri 18 June 2010:
Thank you to all the Stourbridge residents who supported me at the Election. It is an immense privilege to be your Member of Parliament and I will seek at all times to be worthy of the trust you have placed in me.
Most people are agreed that it is good to have experience of life outside Parliament to bring with you in to politics. I am pleased to be one of the new intake who can offer experience of business and other fields. But in order to make this really count you have to learn the workings of Parliament and how things get done. I am conscious that there are quite a few people who have left business for politics in my lifetime for whom the transition never really worked.
You run a business, you make decisions. You have to bring people with you of course but ultimately your staff are there to implement your strategies and make them work. Quite different in politics where you have to build support for your ideas among a complex web of influencers and decision makers. So all we new members are on a steep learning curve and I for one am enjoying every minute. There follows a summary of what I have been doing in my first six weeks.
Representing Stourbridge in Parliament
I made my maiden speech and mentioned just a few of the many great things about Stourbridge, sadly we were limited to seven minutes on the afternoon that I spoke so there was much I wanted to say that exceeded the time available. (http://www.margotjames.com/07062010_maiden_speech)
I have attended all Treasury questions and debates during which I have challenged the previous Chancellor on the previous government’s plans to cut public expenditure by up to 20% - odd that they are attacking us for implementing a policy that they themselves saw the need for whilst in government. (http://www.margotjames.com/08062010_queens_speech_nhs_cuts). I welcomed the establishment of the Office of Budget Responsibility and drew attention to the desperate need for more accurate forecasting. (http://www.margotjames.com/08062010_economic_growth) The last government consistently forecasted economic growth that was out be an average of 10% which is one of the reasons our public expenditure was out of control. Some think this was a deliberate ploy to justify the unjustifiable when it came to setting the budget and I am one of them.
I have drawn attention to the amount of money intended to support business that has been spent on administration and signposting to other sources of advice by the Regional Development Agencies (http://www.margotjames.com/03022010_regional_development_agencies). I spoke this week in the Opposition debate on Government Support for Industry. I was truly shocked at the Alice in Wonderland nature of some of the opposition contributions to that debate – Old Labour is alive and well it seems. (http://www.margotjames.com/16062010_industry_government_support)
I spoke in a debate on the consequences of the Volcanic Ash crisis and the learnings from it. This debate took place in Westminster Hall rather than the main chamber and it was interesting to see how that worked. When there is a vital constituency matter that needs a wider airing this is another way of getting it debated so it was good to get experience of this venue early on. (http://www.margotjames.com/10062010_volcanic_ash)
It is not just speaking, it is lobbying too:
I have met with Andrew Lansley (Secretary of State for Health) and his team at the Department of Health. I had a good briefing on where health policy is headed and received assurances about our plans to fund cancer drugs. There is still the most appalling postcode lottery with some drugs and worse there are new cutting edge medicines that are available in many other European countries but not in the UK because NICE has decreed that although these new drugs are clinically effective with benefits over existing treatments they are not cost effective. A special fund of £200 million has been established to fund new cancer treatments over and above existing budgets.
The Chancellor or a member of his team meet with 20 backbenchers every week to discuss Treasury matters and the economy. I am very pleased to be one of this number and to benefit from the regular contact and briefings on offer.
I have written to the Chancellor and spoken to members of his team about the need to maintain incentives and rewards for people who innovate, take risks and invest in light of the proposed reforms of Capital Gains Tax. I have been in regular contact with the Foreign Office on behalf of Luke Walker and his family who live in Amblecote. Luke has been held on remand charged with the murder of his girlfriend for over a month now. There appears to be no evidence whatsoever against this young man and it has brought home to me how incredibly difficult it is for a family who find themselves at the mercy of a foreign judicial system. I have put down for an adjournment debate on Luke’s plight and that of other British nationals in foreign jails and I will find out next week if I have been successful.
I have met with the management of Tesco to discuss the Crown Centre development and the concerns of residents and traders. I shall continue my contact with Tesco and work with our Councillors to make sure the town gets the best possible outcome from the development. (http://www.margotjames.com/02062010_tesco_meeting)
I and my team are handling more than forty cases brought to me by constituents who are having difficulty making their voice heard with the many different government authorities and quangos that citizens have to deal with to get things done or receive an entitlement. I hold constituency surgeries every fortnight around the constituency. So far we have been in the centre of Stourbridge, Quarry Bank and Cradley.
I have put myself forward for election for either the Business, Innovation & Skills select committee or the Health Select Committee. I feel I could make a contribution to either of these forums which are one of the principal means MPs have of holding the government to account on behalf of their constituents. So I do hope I get on one of them but there are only four or five places available for Conservative MPs on each committee and approximately 250 Conservative MPs eligible to stand so it is not easy for new members to get elected.
I attended an excellent briefing on mental health in prisons, and throughout the criminal justice system. 70% of prisoners have a mental health problem and of those between 10 and 15 % have a serious and enduring mental health problem. This needs to be faced up to and acted upon, we need to stop the revolving door of prisons that for the most part just incarcerate people and turn them back out on to the streets only for them to re-offend and cause more suffering.
I attended the launch of the National Autistic Society’s campaign for better mental health services for young people with autism and asperger’s. (http://www.margotjames.com/09062010_you_need_to_know)
I have met with Dudley Council, deputy leader Cllr. Les Jones and CEO John Polychronakis, the CEO of Stourbridge College, Dudley Council’s adult and social care team (one of my main areas of concern), the Coach House carers group for young adults with autism and asperger’s in Stourbridge, the St Michael’s Scout and Guide Group based in Norton, the campaign ‘Tidy Stourbridge’ and the Stourbridge Biker’s Group and numerous other individuals who are seeking my help and support.
It’s not all work...
One of the absolute highlights of my parliamentary career so far was attending the church service for the new parliament at St Margaret’s next to Westminster Abbey. As soon as the organ starts playing you realise you are not in any church and the choir was amazing. Hearing a sermon from Dr Rowan Williams himself was a privilege. The new government is at pains to maintain contact with backbenchers socially as well as policy wise which is good. I have had the pleasure of attending a reception at No. 11 Downing Street and two receptions at Number 10. The second one was the Prime Ministers reception to mark Gay Pride 2010, this took place on a lovely evening in the rose garden and I was very impressed that at least half of the cabinet, including the PM himself, Theresa May, Eric Pickles, Nick Clegg, William Hague and others. I am glad to have made my contribution to the very necessary changes that David Cameron has brought about within the Conservative Party and I will continue to support the changes we need to continue making.
I would like to thank my new staff for all their work this last month - at Westminster: Senior Parliamentary Assistant, Kate Evans; Parliamentary research assistant, Gary Moore. And in Stourbridge: Caseworker, Kerry Connon. Their contact details are: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org I am conscious that this newsletter is too long! If you have read this far thank you very much for your interest. I hope to provide you with shorter and more regular updates in future. If you have any feedback or questions or just want to send me your views please do not hesitate to get in touch: email@example.com