As we enter the week of the emergency budget the effects of the previous Governments reckless management of the economy will become apparent. Last week several projects were cancelled as part of the plan to start reducing the deficit, these measures were in addition to the £6 billion pounds worth of in year savings already announced. These were tough decisions and not one’s that anyone would voluntarily want to make, but we have to be realistic about the public finances – we cannot afford everything we want and savings need to be made. By the time this column is published however, the real savings that need to be made will be outlined in the budget. We all know that the budget will be the toughest in many years, but regrettably tough times require tough decisions and a Government prepared to take them.

Last week I was finally allocated an office which means I can start making permanent arrangements to deal with the case work that is coming in and also to really begin to start working efficiently in Westminster. The lack of an office for the last few weeks has been incredibly frustrating, but I am delighted that now I can start functioning properly.

Last week I put in my first oral question and was placed at number 16 on the order paper. The question was on the subject of a solution to the traffic problems of Glossop and Tintwistle. I had already written to the Secretary of State, but I am determined that the High Peak will not get forgotten on this issue or indeed any other, so an oral question in the House seemed a good opportunity to once again bring the matter to  the fore. Unfortunately time constraints meant that the Speaker didn’t reach my question. Whilst this deprived me ofthe opportunity to put my supplementary question, I have subsequently received a written answer. The answer doesn’t provide any assurances, but together with many things this is reliant on funding of which we know there is precious little at the moment. Rest assured though, as your MP, I will continue to press on this and indeed other High Peak issues so that when money does become available they are firmly lodged in Ministers minds.

Locally I was extremely disappointed to hear the news regarding the second bridge in Whaley Bridge. The stance of United Utilities has dealt a fatal blow to all the work that has been done by so many people and I have written to United Utilities on this matter and others, where I believe they can work better to help us all as residents.   I have asked for a meeting with United Utilities to discuss ongoing issues in Whaley Bridge, Tintwistle and on the Melandra waste site.

Last week seemed to be a week of meetings which prevented me from spending as much time in the Chamber as I would like, but the meetings were important and had particular significance to the High Peak.

I and other East Midland MP’s met with a delegation of East Midland police forces including the Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon. They wanted to discuss with us the police funding formula and bring to our attention how the East Midlands suffers under the formula. Compared to other forces Derbyshire and the East Midlands fares very badly receiving less money per crime compared to other areas such as the North East. If the funding formula had been fully implemented by the previous Government then this disparity would have been addressed. The meeting preceded a debate in the House on police funding. I wanted to contribute and make this point however one of my fellow Derbyshire MP’s was called to speak before me and made all the points necessary.

I also met with representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council. Both these organisations are good supporters of High Peak projects and I wanted to make contact with them to thank them for their support and discuss future funding that they may be able to provide for ongoing and further projects in the High Peak. Like many organisations they are prepared for the spending reductions due following the spending review but they were both generous in their praise for the High Peak and the projects that they have supported thus far. Outside investment is crucial to many projects right across the High Peak, examples such as the Crescent in Buxton, and the Townscape Heritage Initiative in Glossop have all benefited from such external contributions, I feel it is important that as the MP, I go into bat for the constituency whenever I get the opportunity and make sure that we are in the minds of these groups as much as possible. As we deal with the deficit there is no doubt there will be less money to go round, this makes it doubly important that I lobby hard for the High Peak.

I have been approached by a group that creates liaisons between MP’s and businesses. They place MP’s with companies for a short period to ensure that as Members of Parliament we have an understanding of how our decisions could impact on private industry. This sounds like a good thing to be involved as I am beginning to think that it is too easy to become completely submerged in Westminster life and lose touch with many aspects of the outside world. I will consider this scheme and whether a placement will help, but I will not accept anything that prevents me from performing my principle duty, serving the people of the High Peak as their Member of Parliament.  

Welcome to my first column as the new Conservative Member of Parliament for the High Peak. 

May 6th marked a turning point in British politics as the Government changed and in the days that followed, it took on a completely new complexion as the new coalition Government emerged.

For my part I was still coming to terms with the privilege of being the MP for the High Peak and the responsibility that I now have to you all. I said at the declaration of the result that I would work hard for everyone and do my best for the High Peak and that is what I intend to do.

 My first week in Westminster was like no other I have ever experienced, whilst coming to terms with a new way of life, learning about Parliamentary procedure and going through an intense induction programme, there was the expectant anticipation as the details of the coalition were being agreed. 

Momentous as these events were however, I believe that the people of the High Peak want to know what their new MP will be doing for them. For the next week or two I will be familiarising myself with the role and organising a constituency office so that I am easily accessible to everyone. As yet, in common with many of the new MP’s, I do not have an office in Parliament either, so I am living and working out of a suitcase, but I am told we will be allocated offices in about 4 weeks.

With regard to anyone who has outstanding cases with my predecessor, I requested details of  these immediately after I was elected, however following my request, he tells me that data protection prevents the passing on of any details, so if you have an outstanding case with Mr. Levitt please contact me so that I can pick up the work as soon as possible.  Within the next week or so I hope to have a programme of surgeries arranged throughout the constituency and I will make sure details of those are published as soon as they are in place.

Finally I would like to thank everyone in the High Peak who voted on May 6th and also for the hundreds of congratulatory messages and emails I have received. As the new Parliament unfolds and the new Government goes about its work there will be good times, tough times and interesting times, but throughout it all I will always remain mindful of the enormous trust you have placed in me.

After the false start of the previous week, I eventually got to make my maiden speech in the House of Commons last Tuesday during the Work and Pensions debate on the Queens Speech. Whilst it was a good debate to speak in given the content of my speech, it turned out to be the worst one to speak in as all speeches were restricted to 7 minutes by the Speaker. This was down to the number of people wishing to speak in the debate. If I had delivered the speech the following day, I would have been allowed 12minutes!

I was told that I was 10th to speak, which meant that I was fairly certain to be called, and sitting waiting, counting the speakers until my turn was very nerve wracking. Unseen on the television cameras are the large timers that countdown for each speech so as the 9th speaker was talking I could see the timer counting down to my turn. With the 7 minute limit I had been frantically chopping bits out of the speech to get it in the time, but it took longer to deliver than I thought which meant half way during the speech I realised that whilst being 60% through my time, I was only about 40% through my speech. This meant that I had to try and decide which parts of the speech to leave out whilst in mid delivery, resulting in a couple of key points on affordable housing being missed at the end. I want to reassure people that this in no way minimises the problem in my eyes. Whilst I am in the process of organising my own website, a video and the full text of the speech has been posted on the High Peak Conservatives website at www.hpca.co.uk

As promised in last week’s column, I have now arranged my timetable of advice surgeries. I have tried to cover the whole constituency holding them at various venues in the many different towns and villages across the High Peak. Again, whilst I am setting my own website up, the dates are available at www.hpca.co.uk and I am looking at other ways to publicise these surgeries so that everyone knows when they are. The first of these surgeries will be this Saturday (18th) in Fairfield Community Centre, Buxton at 9.30, followed by a second surgery in Dove Holes at the Community Centre from 11.30am. If you wish to make a specific appointment please call my temporary office on 01298 22521. (I haven’t used supermarkets as I don’t feel they are private enough, however I will be guided by peoples’ wishes as we progress).

I am receiving generally good feedback about the column, but I have been asked about it being more political. As time goes on and the new Government begins to settle down, I will turn more to political issues, however I feel that in these early days, trying to share my experiences as I get used to life as your Member of Parliament and learning the workings of Parliament is an interesting story worth telling.

This week was overshadowed by the news that the latest casualty in Afghanistan was local man Marine Scott Taylor. You only have to read the comments by Scott’s commanding officer to realise what a great soldier and person he was. As we live our daily lives and deal with what we feel are difficulties, we should never forget how brave our soldiers are and the work they are doing in Afghanistan, Iraq and across the world. Scott was one of these brave soldiers and we should acknowledge and pay tribute to his bravery.
Week 4 in Westminster, and whilst I am now beginning to find my feet I keep getting caught out by Parliamentary protocol.  As I said in last week’s column I was hoping to make my maiden speech last week, and was in the Chamber on Wednesday fully prepared to deliver it. However protocol dictates that you have to wait to be called by the Speaker. With so many new MP’s eager to make their own maiden speech, the Speaker has a difficult task accommodating everyone. The upshot was that I sat in the Chamber from 2.30pm into the evening and was not called, meaning my maiden speech still has to be given. Again I hope to be able to do it this week.

Also along with many of the new MP’s I still await an office and somewhere to work but the signs are that we should hopefully be allocated offices this week. Next week I hope to be able to announce the dates of my first round of constituency advice surgeries. I am trying to produce a regular schedule to make sure I get to all parts of the constituency. We have also now been told the dates of the Parliamentary recess, which has been much reduced from previous years – correctly in my view. This means I will have plenty of time to get round the constituency and meet with more people than I can presently manage, being in London for much of the week.

Last week also saw the first Prime Ministers Question’s of the new Parliament, I was fortunate to be sat just behind the Prime Minister as he fielded questions from all parts of the House on a variety of subjects. The session was overshadowed by the news of the terrible tragedy that was unfolding in Cumbria, something that many of us were unaware of at the time until the Prime Minister informed the House prior to PMQ’s. Reminiscent of previous incidents in Hungerford and Dunblane, it will no doubt throw Britain’s gun laws into the spotlight and whether they should be further tightened. This is  something I want to familiarise myself with before coming to a view on,  but at the moment we should concentrate on the feelings of the community in Whitehaven as they come to terms with the shocking events of last week.

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This website was established while I was an MP, and previous content on it relates to that period. I am not currently an MP, as Parliament has been dissolved until after the General Election. I have therefore reverted to the status of Parliamentary Candidate.

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