Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Parliament approves General Election 2017

Today I was pleased to vote in favour of holding a General Election on 8 June, as it is clear we must secure the strong and stable leadership the country needs, guiding us through Brexit and beyond.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock since 2010 and I will again put myself forward for election to represent our area, ensuring local people have a strong voice in Westminster.

The General Election will provide a clear choice between strong and stable leadership with Theresa May as Prime Minister or a weak and unstable coalition government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Every vote cast for me, Theresa May, and the Conservatives will count towards strengthening Britain's hand in the Brexit negotiations and delivering our long-term vision for the UK.

The Conservatives' Plan for Britain will ensure a better deal for local people, delivering an economy - and a country - that works for everyone.

I look forward to the chance to take the Conservatives' positive message to the people.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

My statement following the Transport Secretary's announcement of a new Lower Thames Crossing

I am obviously very disappointed and upset by the announcement today that the Secretary of State for Transport will proceed with Highways England's recommendation for a New Lower Thames Crossing at location C and with route 3.

I feel we made a good argument against Option C and associated routes and was convinced we had built a strong case in favour of sorting out the existing crossing before proceeding with any new crossings.

Despite this I am pleased that the Secretary of State has said he looked closely at our arguments and considered alternatives but regret that he did not fully accept our points and has pushed ahead with what I believe to be a flawed decision.

I still believe Option C and route 3 is a mistake in terms of addressing my constituents' concerns about air quality and congestion and I will not stop making that point until the very last moment.

My main concern continues to be that if and when a new crossing is built, if it fails to solve the actual problem, there will be outrage from me and my constituents. There will be anger that our views were not listened to and we will be asking how we made such an error?

While I am disappointed by the decision and will still fundamentally oppose Option C3, I will want to engage with the Department for Transport and Highways England as they come forward with the detailed designs to mitigate its impact as much as possible.

Highways England have a duty to properly engage with local residents and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. I will be working with everyone involved to reduce the footprint of the junctions, crossing and associated roads as much as possible so as to save some of Thurrock's green and pleasant land!

Immediately however, I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport to express our concerns about the decision and call for proper mitigation and consultation. I will also be asking the Secretary of State to meet with local residents to explain how the decision was arrived at so they can understand why our calls for an alternative solution have not been successful.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Meeting Pepper the robot

I enjoyed the chance to visit the Robots exhibition at the Science Museum in London, as part of an event to launch the Science and Technology Committee's new Science Communication and Engagement report.

Pepper is a companion robot with the ability to perceive human emotions and adapt his mood to people he engages with.

Built by Japanese-owned SoftBank Robotics, Pepper is being used for customer relations in over 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan, with other stores set to follow.

I was so impressed with the exhibition and how the Science Museum is helping to inform the public perception of robots. I especially hope that young people with a passion for science and technology see how robotics can be incredibly exciting and also useful: we should see more and more robots like Pepper in our daily lives in future, with what was once science fiction becoming reality in shops, businesses, and homes.

Find out more about the Robots exhibition at the Science Museum here.

Reaction to triggering of Article 50

Yesterday was a momentous day in the history of our country, with the Prime Minister giving EU Council President Donald Tusk formal notification of our decision to leave the European Union.

Following a well-informed and hard-fought referendum, the British public voted to leave the EU in larger numbers than we have seen in any recent General Election.

I am pleased that this decision has been respected and it is now crucial that the Government focuses its efforts on obtaining the best possible deal in the exit negotiations.

By no means will it be an easy process, however I am confident that both sides will want a mutual agreement and for the UK to leave on good terms.

In my role as Chair of Parliament's cross-party Science and Technology Committee, I have already called upon the Government to prioritise the interests of science, particularly around the future of EU nationals in the UK.

I hope that both sides will be able to provide assurances to all our citizens--both EU nations in the UK and UK nationals residing in other EU countries.

I am confident this is achievable and I look forward to contributing to the ongoing debate on our relationship with the EU in Parliament.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Science priorities for Brexit
Ahead of the Prime Minister triggering Article 50 and beginning our country's formal exit from the European Union, I launched the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee's 'Science priorities for Brexit' pamphlet which was informed by advice and evidence from the research and innovation community.

I believe that the strength of UK research and innovation can be maintained and grown with the right mix of skilled people, investment, networks and collaboration, and regulation and trade.

The pamphlet details our Committee's position on these various issues and includes immediate actions that are required, what the priorities for the Brexit negotiation should be, and also UK domestic policy requirements.

Read the full version of my statement on the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee website here.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Smashed Project visits Woodlands School

I was pleased to be invited to Woodlands School to watch a presentation by the Smashed Project, an international theatre-in-education programme dedicated to breaking the culture of underage drinking.

The Smashed Project is proven to raise pupils' awareness of the dangers of alcohol and designed to help them make informed decisions about consuming it in the future.

I was especially pleased to see how well all the pupils responded to this important message.

You can find out more about the Smashed Project here.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Safer Sleep Week: Helping new parents receive advice

This week I am supporting baby charity The Lullaby Trust's Safer Sleep Week campaign which aims to raise awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and help new parents receive the proper advice from health professionals on how to sleep their baby safely.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, while the overall SIDS rates for England and Wales showed a 17% decline since 2013 and a 39% overall decline since 2004, the rates in the East of England have decreased more slowly showing only a 3% reduction since 2004 and remaining higher than the national average.

Adding to this worrying picture is a national survey commissioned by the Lullaby Trust which found that over 38% of parents in the East of England are unsure of one of the most fundamental steps to reduce the risk of SIDS: sleeping a baby on its back for every sleep.

Evidence shows that babies who slept on their back for every sleep are 6 times less likely to die from SIDS than those who sleep on their front or side.

The survey shows 35% of parents in the East of England are unsure whether they can sleep a baby on their front and 39% are unsure whether to sleep a baby on their side. The results are a troubling indication that parents are still not equipped with the information they need to reduce the risk of SIDS and that more needs to be done to ensure all parents in the East of England are aware of life-saving safer sleep advice.

Find out more about Safer Sleep Week here.