Please note: This site covers the period that I was a Member of Parliament from May 2010 to June 2017.
This week, Richard called a debate in the House of Commons on the future of Bedford Hospital. During the debate, Richard criticised the flawed Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes Healthcare Review and supported Bedford Borough’s Plan and the NHS National Strategy.
Responding to Richard, Ben Gummer, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, said the people of Bedford had been “let down” by reviews “going on too long” and called on NHS England to “ensure that a plan is agreed locally as quickly as possible and just to get on and do it, so that we stop this indecision and vacillation, which has clearly caused local people in Bedford such concern over so many years”.
You can watch the full debate here:
Earlier this year, Richard took local charity, Schoolreaders, to the Department for Education to meet with the Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb.
Schoolreaders was set up to help improve children’s literacy by matching reading volunteers with primary schools. The charity provides an invaluable resource for schools and enables children to receive much needed one-on-one reading time with an adult volunteer who wants to make a difference to a child’s life.
Founded in Bedfordshire just three years ago, Schoolreaders now operates in 14 counties, works with over 100 schools and has hundreds of volunteer readers. The charity has built relationships with organisations like the Women’s Institute, Rotary and U3A to spread the word and find volunteers. The charity is making an important contribution to literacy in the schools in which it operates and aims to help many more schools and children across the country.
After the meeting, Nick Gibb said: “I am pleased to see this wide partnership of organisations coming together to tackle illiteracy. Nothing is more important in education than making sure every child can read; in fact the whole of society has a role to play in ensuring that children become fluent readers.
“Tackling literacy failure is a priority for the Government, and our plan for education is designed to ensure every single child leaves school prepared for life in modern Britain.”
If you are interested in volunteering or would like to find our more about the charity, please visit the Schoolreaders website.
The diversity of residents in Bedford and Kempston is a unique and powerful asset. Children in our schools get to meet other children whose parents come from every part of the world. Such an early exposure must surely help them prepare for a world – of work, travel, study and culture – that is getting ever smaller.
In the EU referendum, the country decided 52:48 to leave the European Union and the role of migration figured strongly in the debate. In the reaction to the result, some people have used the vote to leave as an excuse to act or speak in ways that reflect bigotry or prejudice. Others have sought to claim that those who voted to leave are somehow racist or are collectively responsible for racist acts.
Let me be clear: any action by anyone who seeks to foment discrimination must be opposed vigorously. There is no excuse, no justification ever for prejudice. The referendum result is not a signal of support for hate crimes, nor should the 17 million people who voted to leave the EU be judged any differently than the 16 million who voted to remain. We need unity against racism.
As your Member of Parliament and as a supporter of Leave, my job now is to speak for the 100%, not the 52% or 48% of the people of Bedford and Kempston. Nationally that means moving forward to implement the referendum decision in the best long term interests of our country. Locally it means unifying both sides, opposing those who would divide us and challenging anyone who would make any of our residents feel unwelcome.
Our country is a beacon of freedom in a world where so many people yearn for freedom. We are a generous country and one that has a strong sense of fair play. We have taken back control so we can embrace these values of openness – on our own terms and how we know best. Let us all reflect that spirit of openness and generosity in our daily lives as well and let this generation of Bedfordians proudly carry forward our heritage of tolerance and peace.
Over the last few weeks, Richard has taken part in a number of EU Referendum debates and discussions around the constituency. Richard will be voting to LEAVE the EU on Thursday and urges his constituents to “vote with confidence, don’t vote out of fear”.
Richard’s views on the EU Referendum can be found here.
One of the debates Richard took part in was opened up to hundreds of local businesses at Bedford Blues Rugby Club, hosted by MacIntyre Hudson. Richard spoke for Leave and Richard Howitt MEP for Remain and the scene was set by Professor of Global Economy at Cranfield University, Joe Nellis. Both speakers made opening statements before questions were taken from the floor and from twitter submissions.
The audience was issued with voting pads so that polls could be taken at various points during the evening. The opening poll showed that 46% would vote to remain, 28% would vote to leave and 26% were undecided. After an hour of lively debate and passionate closing statements, the final result stood at 49% leave, 45% remain and 6% undecided.
The opening statement which Richard gave to the audience can be watched below:
The full debate, filmed by Bedford College Media Department can be watched here.
Richard added: “A Vote to Leave the European Union and get back control is the best gift we can pass on to the next generation”.
I am so deeply saddened by the death of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen today and feel great sorrow for her family.
MPs rightly wish to be open, to meet and to talk with all the people they represent – a valued feature of our democracy.
Jo has made the ultimate sacrifice; a sacrifice she should never have had to make.
Richard was part of the joint parliamentary committee on Wednesday which questioned Sir Philip Green over the sale of BHS.
Following this evidence session, Richard wrote to Frank Field, Chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee and Iain Wright, Chairman of the Business Committee, asking them to broaden their investigation to cover Arcadia’s pensions.
Richard welcomed the Skills Minister, Nick Boles, to Bedford last month for a discussion with local employers on the topic of combating the digital skills shortage.
Nick Boles and Richard were joined on the panel by Ian Pryce, Principal and CEO of Bedford College, Dr Toby Thompson, Director of Networked Learning at Cranfield University and Martin Scovell, CEO of MatsSoft Ltd, a local software company, which has recently established an innovation centre in Bedford, in partnership with international civil engineers Mott MacDonald.
“The digital revolution means the way we work is changing yet many businesses complain that they lack the required skills and resources to drive digital innovation. This raises several questions if you’re a technology firm or a local business struggling to recruit and retain increasingly expensive IT talent.
“We are lucky to be supported here in Bedford by two institutions: Bedford College and Cranfield University. Given the Government’s commitment to create three million apprenticeships by 2020, this forum was an opportunity to identify gaps in our local skills provision and to shape the content and direction of future courses.”
MatsSoft, who sponsored the event, has won global recognition for its Low-code technology which enables business to achieve digital transformation without needing coding skills.
The Business, Innovation and Skills and Work and Pensions Select Committees’ joint evidence sessions into the sale of BHS continued last week with evidence taken from board members and directors of both BHS and Retail Acquisitions Ltd, including Dominic Chappell.
Part of Richard’s contributions to the work of the joint committee can be watched here:
The full evidence session of 8 June 2016 can be watched here.
Earlier this month, Richard got an insight into what’s involved in delivering our mail when he joined local postwoman, Sarah Newbury, on a local delivery round in Queen’s Park.
Richard is one of a number of MPs being invited to go out with postmen and women to see the lengths Royal Mail goes to in order to deliver the post.
“This was a great way to gain an understanding of what it takes to deliver our letters and parcels six days a week, in all weathers. Like many MPs, I am used to delivering leaflets across the constituency but the increase in online shopping has meant Royal Mail is delivering many more parcels and this comes with different challenges, which I was able to experience on my round with Sarah. I would like to thank Sarah and all her colleagues at the Bedford sorting office for all their hard work in ensuring we get our mail every day.”
Richard was delighted with E.ON’s announcement last month that it is doubling its workforce in Bedford with the recruitment of 400 additional customer service jobs at the Caxton Road office. He said:
“Since 2010, unemployment in Bedford has fallen by nearly half but there is more to do. E.ON has been a large employer in Bedford for many years and I am pleased that they are continuing their investment in Bedford and creating more new jobs.
“This is a vote of confidence in Bedford as a great place to do business.”