Newsletter June 2012
Posted by Margot James, MP for Stourbridge, at 18:20, Fri 1 June 2012:
May was a continuation of April in terms of the difficult times experienced by the Government and all of us on the Conservative side. I take heart from the fact that the government’s central purpose of restoring the public finances, encouraging growth in the private sector and reforming welfare and public services are uncompromised by events.
There has been some good economic news as well with the increase in employment and the improving balance of trade. In the first quarter of this year Britain’s automotive industry enjoyed a positive trade balance for the first time since 1976. But the dark clouds hanging over the Euro zone, with the very existence of the single currency being challenged by the markets, pose a very serious threat to our economic recovery.
Several European leaders are indulging in one last throw of the dice. They are trying to persuade their people that there is an easy way out of the debt we have all incurred; of dealing with the deficits that underline how serious the gap is between our living standards and our earnings.
We are all in favour of a growth strategy; and by lowering taxes and regulations on business, investing hugely in our skills base and incentivising investment in regions like the Black Country, this government is pursuing growth vigorously. But if people believe that there is such a thing as a growth strategy that does not involve reducing public expenditure and borrowing they will be bitterly disappointed.
Returning to our travails there is one change to the budget that I am particularly pleased about, and that is the removal of the proposed cap on charitable donations of £50,000. Although this sum is beyond the reach of most charitable donors, there are a number of wealthy philanthropists who give hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions to our Universities and other worthy organisations in the public realm. With constrained public finances likely to be a feature for many years to come, I think it is vital that as a country that we attract as much philanthropy as possible.
Finally I hope you will like the new look of my website which has been re-designed to include video and better signposting of all my activity on behalf of Stourbridge. http://www.margotjames.com
It was the state opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech in May. Parliament was in recess for the last week of the month and most of the week before the opening. I also visited Japan for five days as part of my work for the UK Japan 21st Century Group. so my time in Westminster was quite limited during May. Health: I asked ministers about tests on newborn babies which could identify life threatening diseases.
Energy: I chaired the Green Deal Women’s Panel designed to explore opportunities for women to make use of the new energy conservation measures of homes.
I wrote to the following ministers;
o George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to raise a constituent’s concerns about the proposed tax on caravans, since dropped.
o Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary, regarding child maintenance payments.
o Sarah Teather, Children’s Minister, on behalf a constituent with concerns about funding for children with disabilities.
o Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary, regarding social care reform.
o Maria Miller, Minister for Disabled People, regarding the costs of employing signers for medical appointments.
o Paul Burstow, Health minister, regarding funding for thalidomide research.
o David Gauke, Treasury Minister, regarding the effects of tax changes in the budget on landlords.
o Paul Burstow, Health minister, to ask about cancer treatment on behalf of a constituent.
--Briefings and events in Westminster--
I was able to make good progress in my work promoting trade and investment here as well as in Japan: I made some useful connections with our Ambassadors and trade representatives at the Foreign Office leader’s conference at held at the beautiful Lancaster House.
I invited the UK Trade & Investment regional directors to Parliament to discuss how best to reach small and medium sized businesses across the country.
Several colleagues and I launched the new All Party Parliamentary Group on Trade and Investment which I chair; I was delighted that the event was attended by well over a hundred businesses, MPs from both houses and Lord Green. I spoke to the North East Leadership Academy Clinical Fellows group about how the changes to the NHS were being implemented before giving them a tour of Parliament.
I attended meetings with the Chancellor, the Prime Minister and colleagues about policy developments in the new Parliament and in particular what was going to support business and generate growth.
My Business select committee undertook a short inquiry in to the workings of the new policies to support the Post Office network; policies that I am putting to the test in Stourbridge.
I was pleased to attend the CBI annual dinner as a guest of Jaguar Land Rover. The CBI President Sir Roger Carr made an excellent speech about business, youth unemployment and what the country now needs from the government.
--Out and About in Stourbridge-- We had local elections in Dudley Borough with a very disappointing outcome; we lost some very good councillors: Nic Barlow in Wollaston, Colin Banks in Amblecote and Adrian Turner in Lye. Control of Dudley Council switched from Conservative to Labour in spite of the excellent record of the local Conservative Administration under the leadership of Cllr. Les Jones.
I have been working to reinstate a Post Office service in Quarry Bank and a post box in Pedmore. I held meetings with residents in Quarry Bank to prepare for the visit by Post Office leaders to assess the potential for the service and we met with them later in the month to show them round the area.
I joined a panel for a ‘Question Time’ event at Stourbridge College; students from several colleges in the Black Country had plenty of questions on a wide range of issues.
I nominated a Dudley based band "Of Kings and Captains" for the annual ‘Rock the House’ music awards and enjoyed meeting them after my monthly interview with Al Jackson on the Bridge Radio.
It was great to be at the official opening by Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening, of the new Stourbridge Bus Station known as the Interchange. It is a magnificent facility and a tribute to the vision of the late Cllr Angus Adams; who drove the investment and development when he was Chair of the Passenger Transport Authority, Centro.
The local scouts did a marvellous job clearing the overgrown churchyard of St Mary’s in Oldswinford, where I used to walk my dog, Lotus. I was pleased to help them with their work.
I attended a governors meeting of Redhill School and a meeting with the principal of King Edward’s College, Sharon Phillips to discuss some exciting plans for education in Stourbridge.
I was delighted to be the guest speaker at a ladies luncheon club, run by friends Cllr. Liz Walker and Conservative Association President, Margaret Fraser, at the Edwardian Club. --It wasn’t all work--
I took the bank holiday weekend off after the local elections and Jay and I enjoyed some time in the Cotswolds.
I visited Rupert and his family in Buckinghamshire and took four year old Poppy to her nursery, I love visiting primary schools and pre-schools in Stourbridge and it was interesting to see such a good one somewhere else. The education and activities for children of this age has improved out of all recognition since I was a child.
One of the highlights of my month was hearing a lecture given as part of the series of Speakers Lectures in Parliament, by David Blunkett, on his experience as a cabinet minister. It as a fascinating talk, full of wit and wisdom, from a man I have admired for many years. --And finally...--
I am really pleased to welcome two new members of staff and wish them all the best: Emma Turney who has joined my office in Westminster as a researcher and Chris Herford who has joined my office in Stourbridge as a part time caseworker. Both Chris and Emma worked as interns for me prior to taking up these positions, and I am always very pleased when an internship leads to a proper job for a young person.
I would like to wish all subscribers a very good Jubilee holiday weekend. I will be watching the flotilla on the Thames on Sunday before coming to Stourbridge to help organise a street party in Oldswinford on Monday and attend other celebrations throughout the week ahead.