John Howell MP Writes - May 2017


A look back at recent key issues in Westminster and the Constituency

In opening this month I would like to pay tribute to those who helped us in the terrorist attack at Westminster and especially to add my condolences at the untimely death of PC Keith Palmer. I also send my deepest sympathies to the families of the others who died or were injured as a result of this attack; all innocent people simply living life. I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to our emergency services who dealt so bravely and professionally with the situation. Of course we have since seen a series of attacks in different countries and each brings huge sadness. These attacks are attacks on freedom, human rights, the rule of law and democracy. In protection of our values and in honour of those who have died in these attacks we will continue to defend these values - not giving in to terror or allowing voices of hate and evil to rule. We must echo mutual respect and understanding as best we can in our own dealings at home and abroad, in matters large and small.
In the context of this I have been pleased to spend the Easter Parliamentary Recess which is now coming to an end meeting with people around the constituency. In this two week break from the usual Parliamentary activities in Westminster there is an opportunity to meet with groups within the constituency especially some that meet mid-week. I am often asked to attend events or meetings during the week. However when Parliament is sitting this is not usually possible as, together with other MPs, I am required to be in Westminster from Monday to Thursday. Those who follow my regular reports back will know that I am occasionally away in my role as a Parliamentary Representative on the Council of Europe or in my role as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Nigeria. For these I have to get special permission to be absent from Westminster. After the Easter weekend parliament resumes and it will be back to the usual routine.

One issue that is often raised with me is that of litter around the area, especially on the roadsides. It certainly blights our local environment and the task of clearing falls to local councils at a considerable cost. The Government has announced a new Litter Strategy which sets out plans to help to tackle this anti-social behaviour. As part of the first national Litter Strategy litter louts could be hit with £150 fines. This will build on measures to better distribute public bins, making it easier to throw away rubbish, and the recommendation that offenders on community service sentences help to clear up fly-tipped waste. I am sure that this will be welcome across the constituency and trust that our local councils will engage fully with the initiative. 

Another hot topic is broadband. There is no doubt that our digital infrastructure is critical for our economy as well as our daily living and looking at national figures coverage is now high. However there are still rural areas without provision and pockets in South Oxfordshire are among them. The County Council roll out for faster broadband is gradually covering more and more local areas and I am delighted at self-help local initiatives over and above this. Working with Village Networks, a group in the middle of the constituency has been using wireless technology to connect communities. They are being helped by Thames Valley Police who have given permission to use some of their masts for the necessary equipment. A huge thanks to all involved with this innovative scheme.

Whether Parliament is sitting or in recess there are always issues of concern, national, local and those of specific interest to particular groups. I am always interested to learn of these and do my best to respond where they are parliamentary matters or where I can have influence. Many of the issues raised with me are on subjects over which I have no jurisdiction but in such cases will try to give an appropriate steer to those who contact me. On a regular basis lobby groups or specific organisations launch email, postcard and letter campaigns to MPs on a wide range of subjects. In common with many other MPs I place my responses to this campaign correspondence on my web-site. This enables me to make my responses available to everyone in a timely manner.

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