By Paul Goodman
Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) was first off the mark on Monday, speaking during the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill. After paying tribute to Sir Michael Lord, his predecessor, he covered three main issues: the lack of broadband in rural parts of his constituency, transport infrastructure, and - principally - the National Health Service.
On the NHS, he said -
"Members may be aware that before my election to the House I was a front-line NHS hospital doctor. That experience has stood me in good stead in representing my constituents, particularly the health care concerns that they face. In the NHS we have a key battle before us to ensure that we keep front-line services at Ipswich district general hospital. Under the regionalisation agenda of the previous Government, we saw the loss of vital cardiac and cancer care services at the hospital. It is important that we fight to restore Ipswich hospital to its former glory and make sure that once again we provide the vital services that the people of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich need."
He also referred to the loss of Hartismere community hospital under the previous government -
In a predominantly rural constituency, Hartismere is a vital community hospital that unfortunately was closed during the last three and a half years of the previous Government. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his team when he was shadow Secretary of State for working with me to help reopen the hospital, which provides essential services to the older people, families and pregnant women who live in our rural communities.
Fiona Bruce (Congleton) spoke yesterday on the Equitable Life Payment Bill. Again, she praised the work of her predecessor, Ann Winterton, praising in particular her work as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group (of which Bruce is now a Vice-Chairman). She said: "I believe that no insignificant person has ever been born.
She said that Congleton was in origin a northern mill town, and that -
"I grew up largely in a terraced house in another northern mill town, Burnley, where my grandmother started weaving in the cotton mill as a girl, my father wore clogs at school and much of the life rawly depicted in William Woodruff's book, "The Road to Nab End", was for them a reality. But education, aspiration and determination, and the support of a loving family and strong local community, all of which I witnessed and benefited from as a child, and which inform my engagement in politics today, were key to my family's circumstances changing for the better. For all that, I am grateful."
After a verbal tour of her constituency, she described the problems facing its towns, but painted an optimistic picture of how local people are "rising to these challenges" -
"Employers, such as Convert2Green, Ideal and Siemens are saying, "If we cannot find the skills, we will train them." East Cheshire chamber of commerce is organising advice on topics as diverse as export licences and shop doctors. Local traders' groups such as STAR-Sandbach Traders and Retailers-and Alsager chamber of trade are developing new ways to promote business and local produce, like farmers markets. The Congleton Partnership and Middlewich Vision are determinedly championing vibrant community life. Enthusiastic residents are giving time in Clean Teams, Milton Gardens, Rotary and Holmes Chapel Village Volunteers. Farmers like the Riddells are investing in technology while also diversifying into hospitality. Cheshire East council members and officers are open to talks with innovative community groups, such as Plus Dane and Crossroads Care, about how best to care for our elderly, whilst recognising that supporting families who care is, where possible, the best solution of all."
After naming and praising a number of her constituents, she said: "People are asking, "What is the Big Society?" I say, "Come to Congleton! It is already here!"
A footnote: in relation to the bill, she called for "proper compensation" for those who lost out in the Equitable Life near-collapse. Over 30 Conservative MPs also called for compensation to be as generous as possible; most were critical of the Chadwick Report; many referred to pledges that they'd made to their constituents on the matter.
All in all, another indicator of the difficulty that the Treasury will have in holding the line on public spending.
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