On Wednesday last week I met with neighbouring MPs, the A34 Action Group, Highways England and others as part of our campaign to get improvements to the A34 between the Newbury junction of the M4 and the M40. We discussed the keenly awaited safety review that came from a commitment we got from the Roads Minister following the tragic multiple fatality accident of just over a year ago.
The report highlights just how out of date the A34 has become. The configuration of slip roads, the size of lay-bys and many other features might have been suitable when the road was constructed but, with massively increased traffic and the changing face of transport generally, we can see what needs to be done now. Safety is the main motivation for our campaign but statistics prove that the A34 is actually no more dangerous than most similar roads in the UK. What is a factor is that traffic flows are increasing and even small shunts block the road for hours causing a big headache for business and the economy. This is why the £27million that the Chancellor has allocated to the so-called Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which will start at Junction 13 of the M4, will eventually deliver the big win.
I scuttled from this meeting to a packed Committee Room for the launch of my pamphlet Blue Belt 2.0. This highlights many of the good things Britain is doing in ocean conservation around the world, particularly surrounding our Overseas Territories. I then set out how this can be improved and how it can and should be seen as both an act of environmental responsibility and, crucially, global leadership.
One of my great frustrations has been that whilst other countries shout from the rooftops about much smaller acts of marine conservation, Britain lets it slip out with a press release. I call the UK’s oceans commitments “the love that dare not speak its name”. This all ended last week when the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came along and gave it the UK Government’s seal of approval with a typically barnstorming speech. It turns out that one of his cultural heroes is the Mayor in the film Jaws. Boris’ point here (follow me if you can) was that the sea around the fictional town was as much a home for the shark as it was for people. Anyway it seemed to go down well with a room full of greenies.
The stat that surprised many and found its way on to national media was when I said that the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic are home to a quarter of the world’s penguins. So, yes, a quarter of all the penguins in the world are British.
If you want to read my pamphlet you can find it here.