We rarely get proper snow in Westminster but it has certainly been cold enough this week. I hope everyone stays well and things brighten up soon. Cold Winter Payments to help with costs may be available for those most in need – details are available on the Government website. Please do take extra care on the roads too.
On a related note, it was a shame that due to other business overrunning we were unable to vote on the Offshore Petroleum Licencing Bill. It has provoked a lot of debate but does not promote fossil fuel use of weaken our decarbonisation aims but rather recognises that oil and gas will still be needed at net zero for a range of important products and for reasons of energy and materials security as well as investment and jobs, we are better off using our own that buying it from abroad.
I had a series of good meetings in Somerset at the end of last week including with Abri, the Housing Association, Mark Shelford, our local Police and Crime Commissioner and alsorepresentatives from the Yeovil Bus Users Group and Somerset Bus Partnership. I get quite a lot of casework regarding housing and deal with Abri often. Although they have a challenging role at times covering a wide range of issues from disabled access through to anti-social behaviour, I have found them generally helpful and keen to do a good job. Mark Shelford continues to have the right priorities with the need to tackle knife crime across the country in particular becoming more acute. The bus groups are looking at plans to increase the use of decarbonisation technology which will be a key part in maintaining a sustainable and reliable service in the years to come.
This week I will be working with local crime prevention officers and getting a full update from Highways England on the progress of the works between Sparkford and Southfields.I also co-hosted a reception in Parliament for Leonardo – The Home of British Helicopters. Raising the profile with other MPs and industry figures is always useful and it was also good to welcome some of their current trainees to Westminster to hear about their plans and experiences.
Finally I have unsurprisingly been receiving a lot of emails regarding the Post Office Scandal. Events have moved quickly and it seems an agreement is near to revoke in full all of the prosecutions. In fact many of the lobby and campaign groups are using out of date information. Money alone cannot make up for what happened but already to date more than £148million has been paid out to 2,700 victims with many more cases being finalised. There must be an inquiry and if there is corporate responsibility, for example on the part of Fujitsu, then that must be pursued. If there is a silver lining it is that after his total failure to address the issue when it was raised with him as the Minister responsible, we may at least get a break from Ed Davey calling on others to resign. Paula Vennells has rightly handed back her CBE and I hope the Forfeiture Committee acts more swiftly that it did with Ric Pallister.