The run up to Christmas is always a busy time, and there’s certainly a lot going on in my constituency at the moment.
Housing pressures are an ever pressing concern. On the first day that the Commons returns in the New Year, Tuesday 5 January, I will be moving amendments to the Housing & Planning Bill to introduce a ‘neighbourhood right of appeal’ against speculative developments which cut across neighbourhood plans.
That morning I will also be moving a debate on The Global Fund, the international body which leads the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. I continue to campaign for more effective action against TB, the world’s deadliest disease which globally kills 1.5 million people a year.
I’ve enjoyed visiting both primary and secondary schools throughout the year. West Sussex MPs were particularly pleased that we helped to secure the Chancellor’s announcement of a national funding formula to make schools funding fairer.
West Sussex MPs work together on many issues, most recently on the local rail service which has been especially appalling recently, with far too many late running or cancelled trains. We have demanded a further meeting with the rail companies and the Minister, which will be held in the New Year, and I have called for Southern and Thameslink to forfeit their franchise unless they show immediate improvement.
I’ve been leading the charge on the need for superfast broadband across the whole of my constituency. I held a successful ‘digital access summit’ with the South Downs National Park Authority last month, and I’ve just called for the separation of BT and Openreach to stimulate more competition and investment in this crucial infrastructure.
An even more contentious issue is fracking, and this week I’ve explained why - contrary to many misleading claims - the recent Commons vote actually protected National Parks.
Let me end with one cheery note. With the economy growing successfully, the total number of unemployed claimants in my Arundel and South Downs constituency fell again last month to just 275. This represents a rate of 0.6 per cent of the economically active population aged 16 to 64, one of the very lowest rates of unemployment of any constituency.
May I wish all my constituents a very happy and peaceful Christmas.