Parliamentary recess has now begun, so this article has the feel of an end-of-term report!
After the excitement of the General Election and two months of settling into life as a Member of Parliament, it is good to be able to take time and reflect on recent events.
I think few people would deny that it has been a testing start for the new Coalition Government. Any government that had inherited the fiscal nightmare produced by 13 years of Labour governance would have had to take tough decisions.
As I have written in this column before, I am only too aware that the budget statement and those that followed it about the major adjustments to tax and spending are going to affect probably all of us in Ealing and Acton in one way or another. There is clearly going to be a painful period as we are all required to pay more and receive less while the Government wrestles with the massive deficit which has to be brought under control.
The Budget has set out to be fair and has brought forward a number of positive measures, including the restoration of the link between pensions and earnings, taking 800,000 people out of tax by increasing the personal income tax threshold and increasing child tax credits for the poorest families. These measures will go some way to alleviating the impact of the necessary curbing of overall public spending and tax rises. I hope that we are going to be able to get through these difficult times together as a community. I will always want to hear from anyone who thinks that I can help.
I believe that the Coalition Government is also to be congratulated on bringing forward important measures on civil liberties such as the cancellation of ID cards, the tabling of a Freedom Bill, and a counter-terrorism review to create the right balance between security and liberty. The Freedom Bill, in particular, will propose to row back on the many ways that government has sought to interfere in people’s lives.
The other big legislative event so far has been the passage of the Academies Bill through Parliament. This is a major reforming Act and is intended to improve, significantly, the quality of education in the state system. At its heart lies the principle that good schools should be freed up to flourish, allowing head teachers and governors, supported by the teaching staff and parents, to take decisions without the intervention of local authority bureaucrats. Other schools will be encouraged to improve to the point where they too will be able to achieve academy status.
Berrymede Junior School in South Acton, where I am a governor, has been invited to apply. They will be considering all the implications and have met with representatives from the Department of Education to better understand how the process works and the support mechanisms that will be available to them, should they go ahead.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has considerably shortened the summer break for MPs because there is so much work that needs to be addressed urgently, which is why Parliament will be back in early September to continue its radical and reforming agenda.
I am proud to be there representing the new constituency of Ealing Central & Acton, and will be ensuring that I continue to speak up whenever necessary.