I have written about the future of train ticket offices this week. Been concerned about the proposals. Pleased that we appear to have got off slightly though. But the devil is always in the detail and the delivery when it comes to these sorts of changes. Our ticket office is being converted to a “Customer Information Centre” where you can still buy tickets. Will be the only one in Suffolk.
A large number of elderly residents and those with disabilities still need to use train ticket offices and it’s important they’re central to the thinking of Greater Anglia, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. I’ve made my views clear.
I don’t like how human interactions are increasingly becoming a thing of the past when it comes to customer service. Call be old fashioned but I think this stuff matters and has implications for the kind of society we live in.
Within the next few days the Illegal Migration Bill will be securing Royal assent, and in doing so will become the law of the land.
All in all, I voted against 25 House of Lords amendments over the past couple of weeks. The vast majority of these amendments appeared benign, and well intentioned, but their effect would have been to severely undermine the Illegal Migration Bill and make it far less effective.
With regard to the House of Lords amendments on this vital Bill, there has been far more heat than light. We know what aspects they are against but when it comes to their own alternatives, to this workable plan for tackling dangerous small boat crossings, their amendments brought nothing but vagaries and platitudes. It was very telling that Lord Kenneth Clarke, the former very liberal Conservative Chancellor, even came out in support of the Rwanda policy, saying that the House of Lords had failed to come up with any alternative.
It’s very easy to moralise on this issue without engaging properly in its deep complexities. It’s oh so very tempting. Sadly, there have been too many who have fallen into this trap whilst coming up with no practical workable alternatives to the Illegal Migration Bill and the Rwanda plan themselves. In essence and by default, these individuals are supporters of the status quo; a status quo where we continue to see tens of thousands of people every year entering our country via dangerous small boat crossings. Breaking our asylum system and making it impossible to come up with a sensible compassionate ordered approach.
Anyway, after weeks of ‘ping pong’ the House of Lords finally bowed to the democratic supremacy of the House of Commons and the significant majorities the Bill received in the lower house.
I spoke last week in the debate. Just before we voted against 18 of the House of Lords amendments (Please watch below). Though a major step forward, to be really effective we need the Rwanda scheme to be rolled out and for that, we await the judgement of the Supreme Court later this year.
The Illegal Migration Bill places a legal obligation on the Government to detain and deport all those who illegally enter our country from other safe European countries such as France (where they failed to apply for asylum). As I’ve said countless times before, this situation is intolerable and is causing major issues for the taxpayer and local communities. I can’t see a way of us tackling this without a major deterrent, something that this Bill and the Rwanda scheme provide.
The Labour Party have time and time again, consistently and repeatedly, voted against all measures to help our country secure its borders and tackle illegal migration.
There is little point adding on here how frustrated and angry you are about this. You all know I feel completely the same way. I continue to do everything I can as an individual MP to tackle this issue. I continue to be hopeful that we will eventually “Stop the boats”, it’s just so frustrating how long it is taking. Certainly, I have become personally open to other radical options.
My final domestic visit on the Armed Forces Parliamentary scheme yesterday. This time to the Royal Tank Regiment in Tidworth. Fascinating visit and one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Had a go at commanding a tank with mixed results as you can see.
The Armed Forces Parliamentary scheme gives MPs an opportunity to spend time with the armed forces to better understand the work they carry out and the challenges they face. It’s a brilliant scheme that gives us a real insight into defence issues. It’s lasted throughout the year but the Army scheme I’ve been on has now come to an end.
My respect and admiration for our brilliant British Army personnel has only increased as a result of the insights I’ve gained. There is a reason they’re called the best of the best. A real highlight for me has actually coming across constituents on the scheme who are currently serving our country abroad.
There’re are key challenges when it comes to funding and recruitment and retention though that need to be overcome. Pleased to see all armed forces yesterday getting a significant pay rise. Hopefully that will make a bit of a difference but issues remain. Saw a bit of this yesterday. The Challenger 2 tanks we came across are great but The sooner the new Challenger 3 tanks are properly rolled out the better.
In Ipswich we have a significant challenge when it comes to tackling homelessness. Due to the challenges around the cost of living, it’s sadly not a surprise there has been a slight increase in most places.
However, it doesn’t seem right to me that instead of shouldering the responsibility to tackle homelessness in their own areas, so many local councils in the Eastern Region are sending homeless people who they are responsible for to Ipswich. More often than not, they are then accommodated in the Town centre.
I raised this issue with the Government. After raising the question, I was able to meet with the Minister for Homelessness, Felicity Buchan, to discuss my concerns in more detail. She said to me that the local authorities in question absolutely have a responsibility to do everything they can to ensure that those who are homeless are accommodated in their own local area first, and not moved to another local area which is so often the case with Ipswich. The Minister said she would look in detail at what’s happening in Ipswich to ensure that all the rules are being followed and that neighbouring authorities truly are doing everything within their power to accommodate the homeless people they are responsible for within their own local authority area.
When another local authority sends homeless people to another area, they pay their accommodation costs. However, this isn’t the only pressure and challenge placed on the area the people in question are being moved to. Currently it really doesn’t feel that this arrangement isn’t working for Ipswich.
I’m very keen to see that those who fall on tough times and become homeless get all the support they need. We have fantastic organisations in Ipswich which work tirelessly to support these individuals. It is important though, that all others step up, and are required to do so. We already have a significant challenge supporting Ipswich people who become homeless. It’s unfair for this challenge to be made even harder by other areas not stepping up like we do.
Meeting with Dr Dan Poulter MP, the River Gipping Trust and Suffolk County Council about making the river more pedestrian friendly
Visited Great Blakenham with Dr Dan Poulter MP, representatives from the River Gipping Trust and Suffolk County Council. Three goals. Making the river fully navigable between Ipswich and Stowmarket for both boats and canoeists/paddle boarding, cleaning up the river particularly in Ipswich, and being able to easily walk the whole length of the river to enjoy the amazing countryside and nature along it.
I have long been campaigning on this issue. I have written to ministers to stress the importance of such a local river and the history behind it, highlighting how it has been used since Roman times.
I have also been working closely with the River Gipping Trust, pushing Ipswich Borough Council, the Government and Environment Agency as well as local developers to bring joined up thinking as well as see that any new developments near the river carefully consider its impacts and how it can become more pedestrian friendly.
I particularly want to see improvements to the pathway beside the river between Princes Street and Stoke bridge, as it links the station to the Waterfront, and I am encouraged by recent positive discussions.
Overall there is about sixteen miles of River Gipping between Ipswich and Stowmarket and due to the height difference between Ipswich and Stowmarket locks are needed to regulate the water levels. As we discussed today one of them, near Claydon, is broken and local groups are trying to source the funds.
Getting the locks installed has been a part of making the River Gipping more accessible and I am continuing to lobby with Dr Poulter MP to see the installation of Lock gates as a priority. There are steep funds for this at 15 million but we cannot allow such a treasured part of our historic town fall into disrepair. This project will make it more accessible to boats and, alongside other plans, will make the river a more environmentally friendly and safer place for our whole town to enjoy.
I know local groups and residents work incredibly hard to see the river is in the best condition and I have expressed my concern that their work isn’t carried forward by a singular public authority. I have been strong in tying these local authorities, agencies and stakeholders together to see a clear vision going forward.
It is still my belief that we should aspire to have the River Gipping in the category of one of our highest valued local resources enjoyed by the whole community. This river represents the whole history of Ipswich and should be looked after as such.
I visited the Park View Care Home to talk to residents. Whilst there I met with General Manager Emma and Mel the Head of Wellbeing. The care home has been open for 11 years and prides themselves in supporting residents by helping them socialise and stay active.
Whilst there I saw their incredible care facilities such as Ipswich Town Football Club Dementia Café and their huge garden, which provides a positive sensory experience.
Recently they have undertaken a major refurbishment, to modernise their facilities, including adding a cinema for residents. They also have facilities for training new staff and encouraging people to engage and take up a role in adult social care.
They have the capacity for 70 residents, but currently have 46, due to the refurbishments. The youngest resident is 74 and the oldest two residents are 101 and I was fortunate enough to meet them both. Speaking to them it was clear how happy they and all residents are at the home.
Fascinating visit to the Combined Cadet Force unit at the Ipswich School. They have about 140 pupils between years 10 and 13 who do this as a Thursday afternoon activity, evenly split between the army and RAF section. It has been operating at the Ipswich school for well over a century.
I have a real interest in the cadet forces as a result of being on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme for the past year. I really believe that the cadet forces provide fantastic experiences for young people and also helps them to gain invaluable skills and confidence which they can take forward into military and civilian life.
It was great to see the cadets enjoying command tasks, and their skills at arms training and shooting. It is all overseen by Squadron Leader Richard Welbourne and a hugely experienced and dedicated staff team including four regulars, and it also benefits from the support of the Royal Anglians and RAF Regiment.
It’s massively encouraging to hear about ambitious plans to expand the ccf to more state schools. This has already started at Westbourne Academy where the army section is in its third year with 75 cadets already signed up. I’m really keen to see the cadet experience rolled out to more schools in Ipswich so more young can benefit and have offered my support on this.