My Week 17/12/2015
This week the think tank which I chair, GovernUp, has published a report on broadband in the UK. It warns that Britain could become stuck in the broadband slow lane, and recommends a shake-up of the market.
I think the time has come to split BT and Openreach, their broadband delivery arm. One good reason would be to improve the customer service which they provide. Residents in Amberley have had had their phones cut off for three months. It’s completely unacceptable.
Also this week the Transport Secretary made his statement in the Commons the delay in announcing where another runway will be built in the South East. I pointed out once again that the Airports Commission recommended Heathrow, and very few airlines support the Gatwick proposal.
A second runway would mean even more housing, and planning issues are already a huge concern. I asked the Communities Secretary to ‘call in’ a decision by Arun District Council to build 400 houses on greenfield land at Fontwell, because this would contradict a neighbourhood plan. He has suspended the planning permission while he considers this.
This week MPs will vote on preventing fracking in national parks and other protected areas. I will certainly support these measures to protect our most important landscapes.
Drilling will not be allowed at the surface of national parks, but only at enormous depths, below 1.2 km, which is about the height of Ben Nevis. I do not believe that this amounts to drilling “in” the national parks, as some pressure groups are claiming.
On Thursday I will be asking a question in the House about the English wine industry and how it can be promoted. There are more wine producers in my constituency than any other.
Increasingly people are realising that English wine is now a serious thing and that our top producers can compete with the best in the world, winning prizes in blind tastings.
This is the right future for the South Downs - not an industrialised landscape, or villages spoilt by ugly development, but a beautiful area which people want to admire and visit, producing high quality food and wine.
Raise a glass of English bubbly to that.