Parliament

Parliamentary debates are sometimes like London buses - you wait for an age and then three come together.  Having had little opportunity for months to raise rural or environmental issues in the Commons, I was suddenly faced with four outings in a few days.

On Monday last week I called a debate on the effect of the recession on the rural economy, where I criticised a "decade of disrespect" for rural communities and highlighted issues like rising unemployment.

Even in this relatively prosperous constituency, where fortunately unemployment is lower than the national average, it has still more than doubled in the last year, and it's over 40 per cent higher than when Tony Blair took power.

Last Thursday I responded to a Government statement on new climate change forecasts from the Met Office which predict that over the next 70 years - within a lifetime - there will be an increase in average summer temperatures of between 2° and 6°C in the South East.

Even at the lower end, such rises will have serious local effects, including more flooding and the loss of wildlife.

Globally, there will be food shortages, as I reminded the Commons when I led for the Opposition in a farming debate, warning that "food security sits alongside climate change as one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century."

And on Tuesday this week we debated the Marine & Coastal Access Bill.  Anyone who has seen the film 'The End of the Line' about the crisis facing the marine environment will realise the pressing need for action.

Around 70 to 80 per cent of the world's marine fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted due to over-fishing.

And the impact of climate change means that we risk parts of our seas becoming little more than underwater deserts.

It was refreshing that these issues, which are so important to our future, were being debated - a reminder, perhaps, that Parliament still matters.

Michelle Taylor