MP’s column: New year, new inititiatives

With a new year ahead of us, the Government is getting down to business.

A number of initiatives have been announced recently that are well worth knowing about.

Education is one of the most important aspects of the work we do here, and it is vital to ensure that young people are given the skills they need to get on in life.

The schools standards minister recently announced an investment of £350,000 into Now Teach. This is a charity set up to help experienced people put the skills they’ve acquired from a successful career into use with pupils in schools.

This is just a small part of the £30 million of taxpayers’ money the Government has devoted to supporting around three hundred schools nationwide, helping them both to recruit and to retain high quality teachers, and ensuring that schools have access to the national teacher supply programmes.

The “digital minister” Matt Hancock has unveiled new plans to help smaller local radio stations broadcast on digital platforms, whether they be commercial or community broadcasters.

Unfortunately, the currently outdated regulations mean that local commercial and community radio stations are limited to broadcasting to small geographic areas on the usual analogue frequencies.

Digital radios are now owned by over sixty per cent of households, and we hope this new move will facilitate a large rollout of small radio networks. This will help people find out more about their communities and keep abreast of local news.

On the environment, we are building on the significant progress we have already made.

Because of the 5p carrier bag charge, there are now nine billion fewer carrier bags in circulation – a whopping 83 per cent drop.

We plan to move on to ban microbeads which can be incredibly bad for the environment and are looking into how to discourage products that include single-use plastics.

An additional £437 million of funding has been specially released to the National Health Service to help it cope with the special problems that arise in winter.

More than one thousand extra hospital beds have been freed up since February and the flu vaccination programme has been extended.

Brexit will occupy many of our minds during the coming year. I am very pleased by the agreement whereby our courts will no longer be subject to the judgements of the European Court of Justice. This is one of the most important benefits which leaving the European Union will bring us.

Our courts will still have the ability to choose to ask the ECJ for its legal view – on a time limited basis – but it will be the British courts which have the final say-so.

Furthermore, this ability to consult will be limited strictly to dealing with the rights of EU citizens who are resident in the UK before Brexit day.

The new year brings challenges, but it brings much promise as well, and I look forward to continuing to represent the interests of our part of Lincolnshire in our national parliament.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough Constituency