My Week


A week is indeed a long time in politics.  Last week I wrote just as the Budget had been announced and said that the National Insurance rise was regrettable, a view apparently shared by my constituents.


Just as I was writing my column this week the increase was, I am pleased to say, cancelled.  If there is a case for bringing national insurance rates more into line, the right approach would be to lower rates for the employed.


I discussed these and many others issues at a ‘business breakfast’ organised by Barclays last Friday.  Held at the Chequers Hotel, Pulborough, whose bacon rolls I can very strongly recommend, it was a really useful opportunity for me to hear the views of local business people.


We particularly agreed about the need to improve local infrastructure, including broadband, an issue I discussed later with the Rural West Sussex Partnership.


That day the partial separation of BT and Openreach had been announced.  The problem is that BT will still own Openreach and set its budget.  I still want to see complete separation of the companies to open up more competition and drive greater investment in broadband infrastructure.


Last Thursday evening I attended the institution of the new vicar of Bury, from which I had to rush off to a Pulborough Fair Trade meeting.  I was back in Pulborough the next day for a meeting with the village’s Neighbourhood Planning committee, and for the AGM of the Arundel & South Downs Conservative Association that evening.


This week I also had a number of meetings, including with fellow West Sussex MPs, about progress towards fairer funding for local schools.  On Friday I have constituency ‘surgeries’ and meetings in Arundel and Aldingbourne, and on Saturday I will be attending the point to point at Parham.


This week I voted against the House of Lords’ proposed amendments to the Article 50 Bill which will trigger the UK’s departure from the EU.  I believe that the result of the referendum must be respected. 


My concern is that we avoid an unnecessarily damaging ‘hard Brexit’ and ensure that the new arrangements are as advantageous to the UK as possible.  Later this week I will attend a talk by Pascal Lamy, the former Director General of the World Trade Organisation, on Britain’s trading options after Brexit.  I will be listening carefully to what he says.


16 March 2017

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