Read my latest update from Parliament and Blackpool North & Cleveleys
As you can see above, meeting local groups and constituents remains the bedrock of an MP’s role in their constituency. And nothing will change that.
Sam’s Place is a twice-weekly group for young adults with learning disabilities who meet to build up their skill sets, socialise with each other, and allow parents to support each other too. The young adult age group – 16-25 years old – can often be the hardest as there is a cliff edge between the intensive wrap-around support schools can offer, to a much more intermittent service from statutory bodies. Schools do a good job of preparing for the transition – but plans don’t always stand up to the realities of life.
Some of the young people were working part-time in the hospitality sector for a few hours each week – a remarkable achievement for them in many ways – whilst others have begun apprenticeships, mostly at Myerscough. Back in 2015, I conducted for the Government a review of apprenticeships for those with learning disabilities. By requiring specific levels of maths and English to access even Tier 1 and 2 apprenticeships, those with complex needs and learning difficulties were effectively barred from qualifications to do courses that were well within their abilities and led to jobs. So it was really pleasing that having changed this, I was able to meet young people directly benefitting.
Politicians always say they want to ‘make a difference’ on issues just like this within their local communities and in national life – and how best to fulfil that vocation is something I’ve been reflecting on in the week since Sir David Amess was murdered. For MPs, the shock felt went alongside a concern to ensure not so much our own personal safety but also that of our staff, who are rarely the focus of our attention. At Sir David’s constituency surgery were two young female researchers acting as ‘gatekeepers’ – as much of a risky situation for them also.
Without going into detail, I took a number of steps after the tragedy of Jo Cox to upgrade our office security, and also ensure that my own home was kept safe, not least when I was down in London. On this occasion, I’ve been reflecting on how what I do around the constituency might need to change. Having had a few worrying incidents at the height of Brexit, I had already stopped doing ‘drop in, no appointment needed’ surgeries, as well as those that I used to do on street corners covering a specific few streets at an appointed time. We still ensured those who needed or wanted to see me could still do so – and they often got longer slots as a result.
But what now? Should there be a police check on anyone due to meet me? Do I have a policeman at every event – as has been offered? But does that also mean a police guard when shopping in Sainsburys in Red Bank Road (where someone once chased me down an aisle shouting about my choice of yoghurt) to a policeman monitoring my morning coffee in Bispham Village as I read the paper in case anyone either follows me or gives me a hostile glare (the latter not unusual, the former thankfully only once). It is simply not practical, not least as it erects a barrier between me and the people I represent, and who I want to feel able to approach me, particularly if they have a gripe. Even those who disagree are normally far more polite in person than on social media?
At the end of the day, I can only be alert and carry on.
There hasn’t been much chance this week to put anything in practice, since we have had a rare Westminster week which kept me down there until Friday morning. Lots of voting has been taking place, not least in a landmark Environment Bill. There has actually been a quite unpleasant social media campaign accusing Conservative MPs of voting to dump raw sewage in great quantities in the nearest watercourse. With all such extravagantly-phrased campaigns, it’s just inaccurate but plain wrong – I haven’t got the space to print the full page and a half explanation (reply to this email if you need it) – but suffice to say there is now a convincing and compelling strategy to end once and for all the dumping of raw sewage into our seas and rivers, and not before time.
I will save my longer environment ‘piece’ until a bit nearer COP26 – despite having had our own Clean Energy Plan launched this week setting out how we intend to get to Net Zero. I know people have concerns over what it might mean for them – I think the best reassurance is that all of this will be over a 10-15 year period at least and that (reducing) costs and pace will be driven by the technological innovation of industry. We can’t hope to save the planet on the backs of the most vulnerable in society. But more on this to come … so save the emails for next week, please!
Amongst the other Westminster Highlights:
* Speaking on yet another debate on Access to Cash, I called for a moratorium on bank branch closures until the Government’s Access to Cash Law is on the statue book. With plans for shared bank branches, banks are rushing for the exist in towns where they might be one of the last three or four in the town, and so obliged to take on responsibility for the costs of the bank hubs.
* Spoke at the Airport Operators Association, since as former aviation minister, I’m not lacking in strong views as to what should be happening to help the sector recover post-pandemic.
* As chairman of the party group on penal reform, I hosted a round table on the work of the Parole Board, and how victims need to play a greater role in the process of prisoners being released on parole.
* Spoke with Ministers to raise my concerns about the efficacy of the booster vaccine roll out to eligible pensioners and whether the roll out for the 17s and under also needs greater oversight. Neither seem to be as smooth a process as the initial roll out was – and it doesn’t need me to explain why maintaining as much immunity as possible heading into the winter is critical.
It also meant I had a fair amount of desk time, so the inbox of outstanding emails has shrank to a slightly more manageable volume, and I’ve been able to prepare for a couple of next week’s debates which I hope to speak in – not least the Kept Animals Bill which is going to do so much to overhaul animal welfare legislation, from puppy welfare to ending live animal exports (which we can now do as one by-product of Brexit that all can probably be happy to see).
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Paul Maynard MP
RM 11, BTMC
Blackpool, Lancashire FY2 0JW
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