Parliamentary Sketch – Whistle-stop Summer
Olympic lane closures may be slowing the pace of life in the Capital, but everything has become frantic in the village of Westminster as we hurtle towards the summer recess finishing line.
Having “rained on the parade” of the Transport Secretary (Justine Greening) as she announced welcome news of £9bn investment in rail, I called for a halt on rumours that the Government has plans to reduce Penzance to London through trains from 9 to 6 per day as part of a new 15 year Great Western Rail Franchise.
I arranged a meeting with the Rail Minister – Rt. Hon Theresa Villiers MP – the next day to “rain” a little more heavily on their monumentally unwelcome proposal. As the rest of the country looks forward to welcome investment in rail and an “electric spine” to improve transport links north and south I told the Minister that the Government risked turning Cornwall into “a branch line”. It would be disastrous for business, intercity commuters and for the tourist industry. We will know by the weekend if they’ve listened.
I also met Disabilities Minister, Maria Miller MP, with a small delegation from the Penzance Remploy factory following news that the Government intends it to close. I don’t want to count my eggs too soon, but I received a sympathetic response to our plea for more time to bring forward a local initiative to use the factory to benefit disabled workers seeking gainful employment. Much to do there and not much time to do it. We may just manage to pull that one out of the fire!
I felt vindicated by a report by the Care Quality Commission this week which clearly concludes that Cornwall’s out of hours GP service – run by Serco – was not meeting standards. Insufficient GPs, risks to patients, poor monitoring. As I had asked the CQC to conduct the Inquiry I now feel it was the right decision.
Also this week I’ve pressed Health Ministers on plans by some local health trusts to potentially cut salaries, terms and conditions of NHS staff. This has helped to bring out into the open negotiations which have otherwise by-passed the staff who will be affected.
And I’m off to the Scillies too on a back-to-back day tour of pleasure and trouble spots…
17th July 2012