In My View - 24th May 2018

As an MP you get a fantastic set of opportunities to have meetings and discussions with interesting people from across the globe; Mark Zuckerberg perhaps proving an exception to the rule as he is at present refusing a House of Commons Select Committee summons (although not from one of the committees I serve on). I think there is a risk though that some can stay in Westminster and expect the world to come to them, which leads to the Westminster Bubble problem. In my view MPs, Government Ministers and the Civil Servants should be seeking out examples in all fields that translate the theoretical into practical success.

Last week I visited Cranfield University which has a strong and productive partnership with the Aerospace industry. It’s a very attractive model for achieving high level research with real industrial benefits, and we should consider how to implement similar spurs to innovation and employment in our area. The links with big aerospace companies make studying there an attractive career pathway, and of course as a result they have a very direct and successful recruitment strategy. M-levels or Masterships are one of their initiatives – apprenticeships taken at post-graduate level which can be an option for getting into a great job despite having studied something unrelated. It is an impressive set up that we should learn from.

I also recently met Andy Street, former Managing Director of John Lewis and now Mayor of the West Midlands, to discuss how he is enhancing opportunities for people there. He is injecting expertise into the local economic plan and it is centred around universities, tertiary education and the relationship between them and skills growth, innovation and employment retention for local industry.

A way to bring these threads together in Somerset could be to capitalise on the massive infrastructure investment coming with the A303 dualling, with a well-sited Garden Town. As well as new homes to attract people to the area, such a project would bring opportunities to build on our educational base in partnership with Yeovil College, and developing funding streams and options for enhanced local healthcare facilities. It could bring a step change in the options open to young people in Somerset, whilst at the same time ending the need for unpopular bolt-on housing projects in our towns and villages.

I will continue to encourage Central Government and our Local Authorities to consider this seriously. It’s a big job and quite daunting in planning terms but there are fine examples happening elsewhere in the country and we should be confident in bidding for that level of investment here.

I also discussed supply chain issues with Secretary of State for Business, Greg Clark. Rules of Origin are not always simple and concerns have been raised by some as we prepare to leave the EU, but, as with most things, once you do the work and look at the detail there are solutions, and I am pleased to be able to help the Government find them for the benefit of our local area as well as the wider national interest.

As always, if you would like to get in touch about these issues or to book an appointment at one of my regular advice surgeries do please email or call 01935314321. I am interested to hear more views on a Garden Town in particular.