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David Johnston MP - Newsletter, August 2020

on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 7:00pm

I hope you, your friends and your family continue to be safe and well.  

The most exciting news since my June newsletter is getting Grove station on a list of station proposals to be assessed for exploratory funding from the Department for Transport (see below). It doesn’t mean we will be successful this time but my predecessor, Ed Vaizey, very kindly commented (click) that it was more progress than he’d made in 14 years!  

Parliament is now on recess. Contrary to what some newspaper columnists would have you believe, it is not a 6-week holiday for MPs, we just work from our constituencies instead of from parliament. I will take a week off towards the end of August but will otherwise be working as usual and visiting all the places that I couldn’t visit during lockdown. I’m very grateful to everyone who made recommendations of places for me to visit – please keep them coming.  

Make sure you try and take advantage of the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out (click) scheme in August at participating restaurants/pubs. In Wantage itself, there will be ‘Wantage Wednesdays’ (click) to tie in with this where you can enjoy live entertainment, special offers and get the chance to win a £50 voucher. 

As ever, I can be contacted via [email protected] 

Best wishes, 

David 


In the House of Commons

Speaking in favour of the Business and Planning Bill, I name-checked 4 of the 85 pubs we have in the constituency – in preparing to speak I discovered we are joint 7th out of 650 constituencies for the highest number of pubs. I raised the issue of unauthorised traveller camps at Great Western Park and in Ladygrove and again emphasised the need for support for high-street businesses in Wantage, Didcot, Faringdon and elsewhere. I stressed why schools need to return in questions to Gavin Williamson and in the Education Estimates Day debate, where I also talked about the difficult time that our university students have experienced in recent months. 

I strongly support the Government’s actions on removing Huawei from our networks and on suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong in view of the new national security law China is imposing on the island and asked questions in relation to both.  

In the final debate before the summer, I raised constituency issues such as Grove station, the A34/A420, housing quality, and medical services – as well as the perils of being misreported!


In Parliament

I went to see Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to follow up regarding the unauthorised traveller issues and was pleased to hear that legislation will be forthcoming in the autumn to deal with these. In Zoom calls with the Prime Minister and others at No 10 I have raised the issues facing our leisure and hospitality businesses, including our pubs that don’t serve food and our events businesses. 

The Trade Bill Committee I was a member of finished its line by line scrutiny of the Bill and it was debated and passed earlier this month. There were a lot of myths about the Bill and you can read my statement correcting some of these here.  

On the Education Committee, we continued our scrutiny of the response to Covid-19 and published a report on our concerns about how exam grades are going to be calculated.


In the constituency

Most of my time in the constituency has been visiting local businesses & shops, like Coleman and Coleman jewellers and Dolphin Gallery (which has been working on a new sculpture garden), Wallingford Butchers (I can recommend the ribeye steak and the sausages) and SPR Expeditions in Frilford (which has resumed its walking expeditions to various countries). 

I’ve also been visiting pubs (from the Bell in Faringdon to the Fleur De Lys in East Hagbourne) and voluntary organisations (like Maymessy, which has a beautiful multi-acre site that can be rented for socially distanced events, and the Didcot Railway Centre) to find out how they are doing as we emerge from lockdown.

I was particularly pleased to be able to start visiting schools again, such as Harwell Primary School and St Michael’s Primary School in Steventon. I hosted a Climate Coalition discussion with over 40 constituents as part of their virtual lobby day to talk about a green recovery along with other climate-related topics.

I was delighted to get Grove Station on the list of station proposals to be assessed by the Government for funding. It was initially not on the list of proposals, which I was very disappointed about as I have been lobbying my Government colleagues regularly about it since I was elected. After some digging, it emerged there had simply been some miscommunication between the County Council and the Department for Transport and I was pleased we could see this rectified.  

It does not mean we will get any money to work up plans for Grove station this time round, but I will keep going until we are successful.


In the media

I took part in an hour phone-in with BBC Radio Oxford and was interviewed by Talk Radio about the Government’s plans for schools to return.

My fortnightly columns for the Herald can also be read <here>.