Last week started with a decontamination session on Greenham Common. Not before time some of you may say, but it was part of the experience of the Greenham Trust’s 20th anniversary celebration. The theatrical finale took us through the life of a fictional resident, from her earliest days playing on the Common, through the dark days of World War II when Newbury hosted evacuee children, to the arrival of the US air base, the Ugandan Asians expelled from their country by Idi Amin, the women’s peace protest and through to the present day. It was a compelling story.
Back in Westminster my first port of call was to the Public Bills Office to put my name on the list for a 10 Minute Rule Bill. This is an arcane Parliamentary procedure which allows me, if I get on the list, to introduce a new Bill at the start of the day’s proceedings. I want to put in law a 10 year statute of limitations for prosecutions for past and present members of the Armed Forces to secure them from the vexatious pursuit of allegations of illegality decades after they were in combat. As a former soldier I want members of the Armed Forces to hold to the strict rules and laws of warfare but we also owe it to veterans to protect them from a new industry which sees dodgy solicitors hounding veterans into old age with often little or no evidence to support their allegations. In the context of the Northern Ireland troubles this has caused great concern. One very unwell 78 year old veteran has been questioned 26 times about a firefight in which he took part in the 1970s.
I visited the vast Defence and Security Equipment International expo at ExCel London. I met people from Castle Microwave, a company based in the next door building to my office in Newbury. Another West Berkshire innovator there was Kahootz which provides secure networks for the NHS, the MOD and many other parts of Government. It was good to hear that changes made by the Government in 2012 to allow small and medium sized businesses to bid for Government contracts are really working.
Back in Parliament I attended a reception for the mental health charity MIND. I met people with mental health problems and those who care for them. I heard from parts of the country where partnerships like Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) are more established than in West Berkshire. I am sure that MEAM is a potential game changer across a number of issues from mental health to homelessness and I am closely involved in its development here.
The demand for more doctors has encouraged the Government to seek bids to create a new medical school. So, along with other local MPs, I attended a briefing in Parliament by the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Reading University about their plans to bid to be a new medical school. This would be a huge investment in our local NHS and it gets my full support.
My week also included talking birds with the RSPB, housing with the Centre for Social Justice and supporting the Keep Pubs Afloat campaign. I attended a fascinating talk by President Obama’s Director of the CIA on how to work with the Trump Presidency. And I was glad to give my support to the National Farming Union’s Back British Farming campaign which set me up nicely for a weekend at the Royal County of Berkshire Show, one of my favourite weekends of the year.