As the House of Commons returned last week from the Conference recess for the autumn session, the new Ministerial teams will really begin to come under scrutiny from the House as they continue to deliver the Government’s legislative programme. However locally there are some issues that I know people are very focussed on.

In Buxton, many of us are focused on the Spencer Ward at the Cavendish Hospital, following the recent consultation on the services being provided there. This issue has caused - and continues to cause - great concern, both to me and to many many residents. The consultation has now closed, so for those who have submitted a response to the consultation, we have played our part.

I have had multiple meetings with the CCG, I have made an official submission to the consultation, and I have been clear from the start that the proposals are unacceptable. I would like to pay tribute, not only to those people who have campaigned on this issue with such vigour, but also to those who made representations at the public meetings. The arguments put forward at the meeting I attended were well reasoned and rational. Yes, people were emotional, but as I said at the time, the emotion was underpinned with reason and understanding and a firm belief that the proposals were not only unacceptable but actually harmful for us here in the High Peak.

Whilst the public consultation is now closed, I will continue to do all I can during my ongoing discussions with the CCG to fight these proposals and ask that they have a rethink - either scrapping them completely or making alternative suggestions that will actually help us here in the High Peak and not deprive us of services.

In the Glossopdale area, as we all understand, the issue of the traffic gets ever worse and the need for a solution more urgent. The saga of the ‘Mottram-Tintwistle Bypass’ has run on longer than many of us care to remember and, even after the Government commitment of 2014 to build a Mottram Relief Road and the Glossop Spur, progress has been inexorably slow - something that has frustrated me as much as everyone else.

However, I was pleased last week that Highways England held a ‘Public Awareness Event’ where they updated people on the progress so far, with potential routes and options. Through this column I would like to thank the huge number of people who went along to make their views known. The event ran for much of the day on Saturday 9th and I was there from 2-7pm following my earlier appointments in Glossop.

I have met again with Highways England since the event, and they were very struck with not only the sheer numbers of people who went along but also the almost-universal public opinion that the promised scheme needed to be not only delivered quickly, but also extended to encompass both Hollingworth and Tintwistle. I did say to them prior to the event what I felt the feedback would be, and it was very much as I predicted.

As I continue to bring pressure to bear on Ministers and the Secretary of State over this, Saturday’s event has proved a great help - purely because so many people went along and spoke with a united voice. I am meeting with the Secretary of State next week and I know that the officials from Highways England will have appraised him of the events of that day. If there is anyone who was not able to attend and complete the feedback form, I would urge them to click the link to the right and complete it online, however the deadline is Friday October 21st, so please hurry.

Whilst the event was not the official consultation, it was incredibly useful to have that sort of support. The official consultation will be launched next spring, and I am asking that when that happens, people across the whole of the Glossop area respond in force - as happened last week. I will do my utmost to ensure that no one in Glossop is unaware of it taking place, so we can all speak loudly and effectively to hasten what is an already long-overdue solution to our traffic issues.

Westminster returned from the summer recess last week with the new Prime Minister, Theresa May facing the House. Theresa became Prime Minister just before the House rose for the summer so, whilst this wasn’t her first time in front of Parliament as Prime Minister, it is now that her Premiership will begin to take shape and her Ministerial Team start to work with colleagues from all sides.

The business of the House was overshadowed with the discussions over Grammar schools. There has been a lot spoken over the last few days about the merits or otherwise of Grammar schools and academic selection of pupils at the age of 11. Personally I attended what was then Long Lane Comprehensive in Chapel-en-le-Frith, so I have no experience of the Grammar / Secondary Modern system.

I hear both sides of the argument over selection and Grammar schools and I am still undecided as to whether a return to this would be a good thing or otherwise.

The suggestion that schools will be able to go down this route if they wish is something I would like to look at in more depth, and I suspect the devil will be in the detail of whatever shape the policy takes. I have already had emails from constituents on both sides of the debate and I will read all letters I get on the subject carefully.

It is still some way from becoming law, but as the proposals develop, more detail becomes available and I speak to both constituents and educationalists, then I will form my views on whether this is a good policy that I would be able to support. My initial concerns are that if academic selection was done at aged 11 then I want to see that those who did not go to Grammar school are not left behind with any form of second-class education.

The initial proposals as outlined are to relax the restrictions that stop non-selective schools becoming selective where there is a demand, in return for these schools making a meaningful contribution to raising outcomes for all pupils in every part of the system. I want to see what exactly this will mean in practice. If the proposals can prove this would give greater opportunity to all pupils regardless of their background and stretches the most academically able, then it will be worthy of support.

We are at a very early stage of this debate so it will be some time before any vote on legislation takes place, but I will watch and study the details in the intervening time. 

Possibly the most momentous Parliamentary session in living memory ended last week as the House rose for the summer recess. The changes that have taken place in such a short time have been unprecedented; we have a new Prime Minister and new Ministers, and as the Labour leadership battle continues it seems that there are still some possible twists and turns to come.

Theresa May completed her new Ministerial team with Secretaries of State and junior Ministers all named last week. As has been reported, there were some surprising appointments and some that were to be expected. Several of the Ministers who served under David Cameron either stood down or were not re-appointed, the most notable of which was George Osborne who has been replaced as Chancellor by Philip Hammond. Some Ministers retained their existing roles, like Jeremy Hunt in Health, while some were moved to different departments and new ones were brought in at all levels.

For my own part, I took the decision to relinquish my role as a Parliamentary Private Secretary. I have done the role for two years in two departments, Defence and International Development, but since being elected to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee a year ago the two roles have become increasingly more difficult to fulfil simultaneously.

Whilst it is thought that the PPS role is the first step on the ladder to a Ministerial appointment, I took the decision that the Select Committee work is more important. At the moment the Committee is doing some interesting work that directly relates to the constituency and I want to fully concentrate on that, which being a PPS would hamper my ability to do purely on the amount of time the role would take up, so I took the decision on that basis.
 
The House will not now sit until early September, however I will be available for constituents and my Advice Surgeries will continue as normal throughout the summer. Whilst many people do take some holidays during this time, there is always plenty for me to do, so I am not taking a holiday myself. My column will recommence after the Parliamentary recess, but in the meantime I would like to wish everyone a nice summer and we will all keep our fingers crossed for some summer sun.

As reported in last week’s article, we now have a new Prime Minister and, whilst this was evident at the time of writing last week, the formalities and procedural matters were dealt with throughout last week, culminating in Theresa May selecting her new Cabinet and Ministerial Team.

Prior to that however, David Cameron tied up the loose ends of his term in office including his last Prime Minister’s Question Time. It was quite a good-natured questions session, with MPs from across the house acknowledging that despite political differences, they applauded his commitment and the work that he had put in as Prime Minister. Being Prime Minister, whilst being a fantastic honour and privilege, regardless of the political party is a thankless task with demands on every waking minute of your day. During his 6 years as Prime Minister I have had the privilege of being a Member of Parliament, so I have seen just how much work and how many hours that David put into the role and it was phenomenal.

Readers will know that I have had my disagreements with the former Prime Minister; I voted against things he wanted in the past, most notably military involvement in Syria in 2013 when his defeat some felt could have precipitated his resignation, however I felt he was magnanimous at the time to listen to the will of the House of Commons and abide by it. On the other hand, I also supported him in many of the things that both the Coalition Government and this present one have done and policies they have pursued, but throughout it all he has always been courteous and available to his Parliamentary colleagues.

Now he has finished as Prime Minister, he will return to the back benches, which is always a strange situation to have a former Prime Minister sat with the body of the parliamentary party. Gordon Brown was very rarely seen in Westminster when he returned to the Labour back benches, I don’t think that David will do that, however only time will tell.

As his final Prime Ministers Questions ended, David quoted something he said to Tony Blair when he became leader of the Conservative Party. Then in opposition, David said that Tony Blair was the future once. Such is the transitory nature of British politics, people come and go, and when David left the Chamber for the final time as Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Conservative benches and some Labour members stood in applause.

After two weeks of tumultuous events in Westminster and British politics as a whole, things seemed to be set on a well-defined course. Writing this column, as I usually do, on a Sunday evening or Monday morning I intended to move away from the various issues surrounding Brexit, leadership elections and challenges, and focus on the Chilcott report which was published last week.

However, mid-morning on Monday, when Andrea Leadsom announced that she was withdrawing from the race to succeed David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party and thus Prime Minister, events then moved very quickly, as Theresa May was duly made leader of the Conservative Party and also our new Prime Minister. As readers will know from my column last week, I was supporting Theresa so I was pleased at the result.

I believe that Theresa’s experience will be crucial and, whilst I am an admirer of Andrea’s abilities, I feel that Theresa is the safe pair of hands that the country needs at this time. There has been talk of Brexit, with people like myself who voted to leave the EU backing Theresa who supported remaining, but as she herself said on the steps of the Houses of Parliament, “Brexit means Brexit”. This however is not solely about Brexit. No matter what view I and colleagues took prior to the 23rd June, it is now about the whole issue of governing the country, giving the stability we need as we move forward. I am convinced that Theresa will bring that to the role of Prime Minister and to the country as a whole.

Such were the magnitude of events last week, the much awaited Chilcott report on the Iraq war was quickly moved off the front pages.  The delay in the publishing of this report was too long; last Wednesday was naturally a difficult day for the families of those who lost loved ones and our first thoughts must be with them. The Iraq War - both the lead up to it and the aftermath - were hugely important events in our recent history. I wasn’t a Member of Parliament at the time, but I well remember the controversy around the decision to invade Iraq.  That debate continues and, whilst Tony Blair still advocates it was the right thing to do, Lord Prescott has cast doubts on its legality.

The Chilcot Report is a huge document which does fully investigate the issue and is critical of various aspects of the decision. The House is debating it this week and doubtless MPs who were around will have much to say on the subject, but whilst other events have occupied the media we should not forget the sacrifice made by many as a result of that decision.

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