Press Releases


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Member of Parliament for Newbury, Richard Benyon, has met with First Great Western’s Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, to discuss issues ranging from the electrification of the Great Western Mainline to the performance of services affecting constituents in West Berkshire.

Following an announcement from the Government that Network Rail’s planned upgrade programme for 2014-2019 will take longer than originally scheduled, Richard received firm assurances that the electrification of the Great Western Mainline was an absolute priority. 

He also discussed his determination to see electrification extended beyond Newbury to Bedwyn, thereby servicing Kintbury and Hungerford stations respectively.

On electrification, Richard said: “I am pleased that the Transport Secretary classified electrification of the Great Western Mainline as a ‘top priority,’ a view endorsed by First Great Western. I remain committed to ensure the extension of electrification and following yesterday’s announcement I will be writing to the Department for Transport.”

On other issues, Mark informed Richard of new rolling stock, which will be serving constituents. This will help in addressing issues of overcrowding. What is more, First Great Western will be working to ensure more parking provision as part of the redevelopment of Market Street. 

Richard alongside Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of First Great Western

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Richard Benyon, Member of Parliament for Newbury, has welcomed new figures showing the Conservatives’ Start-Up Loans and New Enterprise Allowance schemes are supporting people in Newbury to set up their own business.

Figures released last week, show that Start-Up Loans have helped 14 people in Newbury to set up a business with £81,702 worth of loans since the scheme launched in 2012. The New Enterprise Allowance has also helped another 20 people to launch their own business.

Richard said: “Small businesses are an essential part of our thriving community in West Berkshire, creating jobs for local people and growing the economy. This support is giving people a chance to fulfill their ambitions, and the Government is committed to increase the number of Start-Up Loans to 75,000 nationally, as we work to create opportunities for everyone in Britain.”


Notes to Editors

·         Start-up Loans are helping new business across Britain. The Start-Up Loans scheme provides loans and mentoring support to people wanting to set up a business. 30,000 Start-Up Loans, worth £155 million, have now been awarded. We are committed to increase the number of loans to 75,000 (Start Up Loan Company data, as at 30 May 2015).

·         A five week national tour has been launched to help boost the number of businesses started this year to a record 600,000. The Prime Minister helped launch the StartUp Britain campaign tour – which will see start-up experts and champions travel to 25 different places across England, Scotland and Wales to support tens of thousands of people looking to start a business (StartUp Britain press release, 23 June 2015).

·         70,000 businesses have been set up as a result of the New Enterprise Allowance. The scheme, which launched in 2011, provides business mentoring to help benefit claimants with a business idea to develop a business plan, and if it is approved seed funding up to £1,274 over 26 weeks. It is available to Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, people who are claiming Income Support as lone parents or who are sick, people on Employment and Support Allowance, and eligible Universal Credit claimants (DWP press release, 24 June 2015, link).

·         Small businesses are an essential part of the economy. Over99 per cent of British businesses are small in size, with fewer than 50 employees.Small businesses account for one third of private sector turnover and are responsible for 48 per cent of private sector employment (BIS, Business population estimates 2014, 26 November 2014, link).

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Visit to Yattendon Primary School

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Year 5 and 6 pupils at Yattendon Primary School were thrilled to receive a visit from local MP Richard Benyon on Friday 12th June. Mr Benyon arranged a special visit to the school to find out more about their challenge to ‘Make a Difference’ to their local community by entering the Go Givers citizenship project.

The pupils recently drew up an action plan to improve the safety of both pedestrians and drivers using the narrow lane immediately next to Yattendon Village Stores in Yattendon Village square.

The pupils were able to show Mr Benyon a scrapbook packed with photographs and documenting all their work on the project including data analysis in the form of graphs and charts; letters to local businesses and representatives; a press release resulting in coverage in the Newbury Weekly News; and much more.

They were also able to update Mr Benyon on the outcomes of a meeting with a representative from the Highways Department of West Berkshire Council who had also come to visit them at the school on the same day as Mr Benyon’s visit.

Mr Benyon commented, “I am really impressed with the children’s efforts to make a difference to their local community and create a safer environment in the village centre. They have obviously put a lot of effort into this project and deserve some successful outcomes.”

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Newbury’s Member of Parliament is putting himself forward to be elected as Chair of one of the most influential Select Committees in the House of Commons. Select Committees have become much more powerful in recent years and the position of Chair is highly sought after. Richard will face an election, which includes at least two other high calibre candidates, Dr Julian Lewis and Colonel Bob Stewart DSO.

Richard has set out his stall in a letter to MPs of all Parties, in which he outlined the need for structured and effective Armed Forces to combat the ever-changing threats facing our country.

Richard said: “I have set out clearly why I want this post. I believe Britain faces a more dangerous world than at any time since the Cold War. I want to make sure we can defend this country and its interests around the world and we can only do that if we have a clear understanding of what threats we face. We need to show how, with our allies, we can deter and, if necessary, defeat our enemies and make the world more stable and prosperous as a result.”             

Richard in Iraq

Richard in Mali

Richard’s interest in defence stems from his service with the Royal Green Jackets in the 1980s. He serve in Northern Ireland for two years and studied counter-insurgent warfare in the Far East. He was a Founder-Trustee of the military charity Help for Heroes, which has raised over £230 million since 2007. He has campaigned for veterans and the welfare of servicemen and their families. Richard also sits on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.



The text of Richard’s letter to MPs is as follows:

Select Committees have become an increasingly important in recent years. They succeed in holding the Government to account when they operate as a team with an independent minded and determined Chair. The best Chairs are those who do not see the role as an opportunity to “grandstand” but in public utterances seek to reflect the collective view of the Committee whenever possible. Committees need a Chair who is not looking for ministerial office but who cares deeply about its areas of responsibility.  I hope to convince you that I have these qualities as a Chair of the Defence Select Committee.

This is an important time for the security of this country and the protection of our interests around the world. We need Armed Forces that are structured and equipped for the fast changing threats and challenges we face. The Government’s promised Strategic Defence and Security Review needs to be a thorough and comprehensive study of these threats. It must not duck the tough resource issues that flow from such an analysis. As we examine our ability to influence world affairs post Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to accept that if Britain wants to play a part in shaping a better world it will need strong armed forces. Our Select Committee will be more important than ever in holding the Government to account for the defence of this country.

A word about my experience in Defence matters. I served in the Royal Green Jackets in the 1980s.  My service included two years in Northern Ireland and some time studying counter insurgency warfare in the Far East. More recently I have taken a great interest in veterans’ affairs.  I was a founding Trustee of Help for Heroes, a charity that has raised over £230 million (and spent or allocated over £200 million) for those injured in recent conflicts. Kings College London estimate that there could be around 75,000 veterans who have or could experience health problems as a result of conflict in the post 9/11 period. Help for Heroes “Hidden Wounds” project needs to be supported by the MOD and across Government. Veterans and the welfare of our wounded are a priority for me.

I served on the Defence Select Committee during the last Parliament and I hope my colleagues on that Committee will attest to my ability to work across party lines to produce robust reports and to ask the questions that need asking. With a number of colleagues I sit on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and am an active member of its Economics and Security Committee.

I am particularly interested in looking at how we can be better served through a smarter model of intervention in troubled regions. This emerging thinking shows how early intervention using many different agencies, particularly soft power, could be so much more effective than the high cost military interventions we have seen in recent decades.  This could be a better, and less costly, way to help stabilise vulnerable regions, with the intention, wherever possible, of avoiding any conflict at all.

The replacement of the nuclear deterrent will be decided in this Parliament. I represent an area which is closely associated with the deterrent. The Atomic Research Establishment at Aldermaston is my constituency’s largest employer. I believe the Committee must openly examine the critical issues relating to the replacement submarine fleet so that the country is confident the right decision is reached.  

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Richard Benyon and the newly appointed Rail Minister, Claire Perry, have this week met in the House of Commons. Richard requested the meeting to raise wider concerns about the rail service and to seek assurances about the new trains and the electrification of the Great Western Mainline.

The Minister, who is the Member of Parliament for neighbouring Devizes, told Richard:

·         The ‘refresh’ of the decision to electrify the line as far as Newbury will conclude over the summer, after which a decision will be made as to whether to run electrification to Bedwyn.

·         The economic review which Richard and Claire pushed for with the previous Rail Minister has concluded that there is an overwhelming economic case to extend electrification to Bedwyn. A ratio of 2.43 (£2.43 of economic benefit for every £1 spent) is a better economic case than HS2 and much of the electrification work taking place in Wales.

·         If electrification stops at Newbury it would almost certainly mean another platform at Newbury Station for smaller shuttle trains running west of the town. The estimated cost for this is £3 million.

·         A decision on new bi-modal trains (trains which can run on electricity or diesel) will be taken within the next 6 weeks. The new rolling stock will offer an improved travelling experience for commuters.

Following the meeting, Richard said: “The Minister was receptive to my questioning of the £75 million cost of extending electrification from Newbury to Bedwyn. It assumes a stand-alone contract, rather than an extension of the existing works where scale and procurement would keep costs down. I am increasingly confident that electrification beyond Newbury, to serve constituents in Kintbury and Hungerford, will be realised.”

He continued: “I am determined to ensure the best service possible for the many thousands who commute from West Berkshire, and I will be raising matters related to performance when I meet with First Great Western shortly.”

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Richard Benyon was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Newbury on 7 May 2015, with an increased majority of 26,368. Richard won 61 per cent of the vote share.



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