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View from the Commons 18th June

18th June 2019

I was interested to note that Salisbury City Council has become the latest tier of local government to turn its attention to climate change.

I am glad the local Extinction Rebellion protest at The Guildhall ran smoothly and peacefully and I hope the participants felt they had expressed themselves freely and been heard. The right to do so is a cornerstone of our democracy.

I am still seeing a constant stream of constituents on this topic. As I assure them all, I welcome any sincere commitments to take our responsibility to the next generation seriously – so long as we first make sure we are actually in a position to follow it up with tangible action.

That is why I had my reservations when Parliament voted to declare a climate change emergency, because the motion proposed no action and therefore risked being an empty gesture.

I did not support the deliberately chaotic and disruptive protests in London, which inconvenienced and endangered ordinary people going about their business – many of them equally passionately committed to reducing their environmental impact as the protesters.

Action which forces knee-jerk reactions will not save the planet. Thought-out, costed and deliverable behavioural change might.

Long before Extinction Rebellion became a household name, the government was working with the independent Committee on Climate Change to assess the practicality of becoming the first major economy to commit to a zero carbon goal.

The UK has always been a global leader in tackling climate change - from being the first country to raise the issue on the international stage to cutting emissions faster than our peers.

We want to continue to lead the way and that’s why we are introducing a legally binding net zero target to end the UK’s contribution to global warming entirely by 2050.

We are doing our bit – the biggest challenge now is ensuring other countries follow suit.

I was also pleased with this week’s announcement of  the next steps in the government’s mission to improve the status and treatment of mental health in this country. The NHS Long-Term Plan is already increasing spending on mental health by £2.3 billion a year in real terms - with funding for young people’s mental health rising faster still.

The government has now set its sights on a quantum leap forward in the prevention of mental illness. To that end, it has announced a set of measures designed to make sure that recognising and preventing mental illness gets the urgent attention it deserves at every stage of life.

Posted by John Glen at 5:04pm

View from the Commons 12th June

12th June 2019

I was pleased to hear that Salisbury City Council this week backed the plans for the building that will house a hotel and temporary library.

This is in large part due to the willingness of the architects to engage and take on board the design concerns that were expressed earlier in the year. It is always important to be vigilant about the quality and utility of new buildings in our beautiful city centre and I am confident this two-way dialogue will continue.

This temporary move is a necessary first step towards creating a permanent new library that offers all the vital and beloved community facilities that the old one does – as well as being fit for the needs of the digital generation.

Most people know that the redevelopment of Market Walk from an enclosed passageway into a glass roofed arcade is only phase one of the Maltings plans. Other phases already revealed include new retail units and a welcome greening of the riverbank to create new open space and reduce flood risk.

But I am keeping my eyes firmly on future phases – the remodelling of the Playhouse and City Hall end of the Maltings to incorporate purpose-built music performance space, better social space and a future-proof library.

Detailed work is underway to define the scope of the ambition, incorporating the wish lists of existing arts and creative organisations and consumers of their output.

Although Salisbury is rich in culture, there are great opportunities in the arts and we must keep moving forward – adding facilities that are lacking but doing it in a way that protects and uplifts existing organisations.

Speaking of which, it has been great to see Salisbury International Arts Festival back in full force – I hope its triumphant run will have eclipsed the pessimism of those who predicted after last year’s hiatus that it would fade into obscurity. As I reflected at the very enjoyable Claire Teal concert over the weekend, nothing could be further from the truth.

Credit is due to Artistic Director Gareth Machin and his team. My congratulations also go to guest director Jonathan Dove, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Well done to the many other local people whose contributions have been rewarded, including Cara Charles-Barks, Salisbury District Hospital’s dynamic Chief Executive.

Posted by John Glen at 10:34am

View from the Commons - 5th June 2019

5th June 2019

The race for leadership of the Conservative Party is now well under way, although it does not formally begin until Theresa May resigns as leader on Friday.

I am acutely conscious of the fact that, although we are technically electing the party’s leader, both Conservative MPs and party members have a weightier responsibility as we are also effectively deciding who will be the next Prime Minister.

As I set out on these pages last week, I have thrown my support behind the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid.

As a close friend for 23 years, I know from direct personal experience that he has what it takes to provide the leadership that our country needs at this challenging moment in our history.

Despite growing up in a household without wealth or elite social connections, Sajid enjoyed a stellar career in business before proving to be an impressive colleague in Parliament and government minister in a number of Whitehall departments.

The Home Secretary understands that Brexit must be delivered. The electorate voted to leave the European Union and the entire political class on all sides agreed that the result would be implemented.

Sajid also understands that no deal is preferable to no Brexit. Facing the reality of a new Prime Minister in Downing Street determined to renegotiate the Northern Ireland backstop, it is perfectly possible that EU leaders will return to the negotiating table – despite their current insistence that they will not. Mixed messages are coming from our EU neighbours as they realise UK leaving without a deal has negative consequences for their economies.

Closer to home, on Friday, I am delighted to have been invited to Winterslow Primary School to help the pupils with their topic work on government and democracy.

I am also meeting another delegation of constituents to talk about climate change – the third in as many months. Organised lobbying continues apace – and I know that many Salisbury people are heading to London for another event later this month.

I will continue to do my best to make myself available as much as possible to assure people that the government recognises the threat of climate change and is committed to taking the necessary ongoing action.

However, there is no one-stop solution. Personal behaviour plays its part and international diplomacy is vital – something that, as I write, is firmly on the agenda.

Posted by John Glen at 9:35am

View from the Commons - 30th May 2019

30th May 2019

Harold Wilson's quip that 'a week is a long time in politics' has never felt truer than the past seven days. Following failure to secure a consensus among the Conservative MPs behind the EU Withdrawal Agreement, the Prime Minister bowed to the inevitable last Friday, announcing her resignation.

The inability to deliver Brexit then claimed further victims on Sunday as the results of the European parliamentary elections were announced.

As my inbox can attest, the Prime Minister's approach to Brexit was not universally loved. Brexiteers felt that it did not deliver the break from the EU that the country voted for, while Remainers argued that public opinion had moved on and Brexit should be cancelled or at least put to another referendum. 

I am of the view that the Prime Minister did the very best under extremely difficult circumstances to broker a compromise that had a chance of securing the backing of majority of MPs.

The Conservative Party now needs to choose a new leader and a new strategy to deliver Brexit. But we cannot expect to keep trying the same approach with the same personnel and expect the result to be different.

We need a new leader with a fresh vision to help unite the country, so we can implement the referendum result and put these years of severe polarisation behind us. 

On Monday, Sajid Javid announced that he was running for the leadership of the party, and I quickly confirmed that I was supporting his campaign.

Having known him for 25 years, I believe the Home Secretary has the skills and experience for the job. He also sends a powerful message that anyone, regardless of their ethnicity or upbringing can make it to the summit of British politics.

Turning to local issues, I have written this week to Highways England requesting a meeting to discuss what can be done to alleviate congestion in Southampton Road/College roundabout on the A36. Over the past two years, I have been pushing for this to be prioritised but been disappointed with the progress. It is a challenging situation given the geography and proximity of the river, but we must find a solution.

Posted by John Glen at 7:55am

View from the Commons 22nd May 2019

22nd May 2019

It was a great pleasure to get back to Salisbury just in time to join the congregation of St Francis for the service to welcome the Rev Jean de Garis, who has returned to Salisbury after serving in parishes in Dorset.

My parliamentary colleague from that part of the world assures me that both the parish and Salisbury’s wider church community will be greatly blessed to have a leader with such a special pastoral gift.

On Saturday, I was pleased to attend the installation of the 759th Mayor, Cllr John Walsh, as well as the evening fundraiser for his chosen charity, South Wilts Mencap.

I would like to join him in thanking the outgoing Mayor Cllr  Mike Osment and his mayoress Nikki Savage for their enormous efforts in attending 220 engagements during the year and raising a superb £20,000 for their charities.

It requires considerable energy and commitment to maintain normal professional and family life alongside that number of mayoral duties and they have done a great job.

This week in Westminster started bright and early for me with a speech at The Guildhall in London to launch City Week.

I am also responding to two Westminster Hall debates, both of which require considerable preparation alongside the usual work ahead of Treasury Questions, which seem to come around on an ever more regular basis.

As we count down to the launch of Salisbury International Arts Festival, I wish all the organisers, volunteers and participants a huge success and I look forward to catching a few events over the coming weeks.

At the end of the week, I have been asked to speak at a school prizegiving. With half term on the horizon, I am very conscious that GCSE and A level students are working exceptionally hard and I wish them well at this inevitably stressful time of year.

Posted by John Glen at 8:53am

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