Broadband campaign is taken to PM

Rural broadband campaign.
Rural broadband campaign.

Since my last column, I have been asked to be one of the 10 MPs to sit on the committee working through the various stages of the Education and Adoption Bill.

I am not sure how the whips decide who gets onto committees, (perhaps it was my being a maths graduate passionate about getting more girls to study STEM), but I am honoured to be asked since educational improvement has always been an integral part of my campaigning work.

There is a list of “things” you have to do for the first time as a newly elected MP, one of which is to ask the Prime Minister a question in PMQs.

I have become the vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Forestry, and co-chair with the excellent veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman on Maths and Numeracy. Having been elected to the Public Accounts Committee, I am now getting stuck into key areas of interest.

A group of us with rural seats are also gathering momentum to build a stronger voice for rural broadband. My colleague Matt Warman MP secured a Westminster Hall debate at which we raised many concerns with Minister for Broadband Ed Vaizey. I am vice-chair of our APPG on mobile and rural broadband so we hope to make real progress.

There is a list of “things” you have to do for the first time as a newly elected MP, one of which is to ask the Prime Minister a question in PMQs. I was called at the first PMQs of the month, and was able to share with the House the immense bravery of constituent Paul Short, from Wooler, who saved lives in the Tunisian massacre.

In my role as vice-chair of the APPG on Forestry, I have been challenging departments on tree planting plans for the next five years. Trees are some of the best carbon capture and storage tools we have.

During the opposition day, debate focused on the gender gap, I raised the issue of funding for women’s sports. I am a great supporter of Sport England’s #thisgirlcan campaign, and of my constituent Lucy Bronze, who won a bronze medal in the Women’s Football World Cup.

There are a number of important local issues under discussion, including the Alnwick School Partnership review. Two rural schools are caught up in this. I am working closely with Branton First School and Embleton C of E First School to help inform councillors of community views.

The changes in EU legislation on clean water beaches will lead to new standards likely to see Spittal beach declassified – no longer ‘fit to swim in’. Consultation processes are ongoing and I am working with Ministers to get the best outcome.

Last Wednesday was the first Conservative budget for 18 years and the Chancellor presented a programme of tax changes, which will bring fairer taxation for all – taking out more low paid workers from income tax and making higher earners pay more on income from buy-to-let property and dividends.

I was pleased that the Chancellor has committed to the two per cent NATO target on defence spending; and that we will be mandating a new National Living Wage. It’s time that business takes back the full costs of employment, rather than continuing a lower wage economy supplemented by Government-funded working tax credits. If someone works hard they should be paid a living wage for it.

On Thursday morning a team of us had a breakfast meeting with the Prime Minister at No 10, raising the rural broadband challenge. I also discussed my proposal to rename the A1(M) to Newcastle the M1, now that the road from the M18 to Newcastle is motorway-standard.

I have also had a meeting with senior officers at County Hall to discuss the coach park options in Berwick, changes to onshore turbine planning guidance, and the potential for setting up of a social enterprise by staff at Seton Hall Care Home.

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