York Press column: Working Together in the Public Interest
May 4, 2022
As the latest session of Parliament came to a close ahead of next week’s Queen’s Speech, I was proud to make significant progress in my campaigns on two crucial issues: the risk posed by antibiotic resistance and the imbalance between rural and urban economies.
Both developments were spearheaded in my role as Chairman of All-Party Parliamentary Groups. While there is a lot of focus on what happens in the Chamber of the House of Commons, in reality this is only a small part of role of an MP.
There are many other ways that Members of Parliament lobby on behalf of constituents, scrutinise legislation, and hold Ministers to account. Some MPs sit on Select Committees – I am currently a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which looks at a range of issues from the air we breathe to the food on our plates while examining Government policy and commissioning our own reports.
Another way Members of Parliament raise awareness and work on important issues is through All-Party Parliamentary Groups. Importantly, these groups rely on MPs working together cross-party.
Often the only media coverage of Parliament each week is Prime Minister’s Questions so understandably the public are given the impression of an adversarial atmosphere between MPs of different political parties, but this could not be further from the truth. In my twelve years in Parliament, I have worked collegially across the aisle on issues that are important to all of our constituents and firmly believe that encouraging cross-party relations is in the best interests of the country.
After campaigning on the issue for many years, I was pleased to see the Government open a consultation on development of a new Biological Security Strategy. In my role as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antibiotics, I submitted comprehensive evidence on the very real threat antibiotic resistance poses. Already, TB and pneumonia are becoming proving harder to treat; increased resistance could even make routine procedures like hip replacements and caesareans too dangerous.
The awful impact of covid has underlined the need for intense vigilance against future public health dangers. My submission highlighted the Group’s recent work on how resistance is built up via leakage into water systems and stressed that this is a specific area we must make decisive progress on overall.
Last week also saw the launch of the Levelling Up The Rural Economy report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rural Powerhouse. As Chairman, I am pleased by the reaction to the report which shines a light on the disparities between rural and urban economies.
Currently, rural economies are 18% less productive than the national average. A gap that, if reduced, could add £43billion to the UK economy. The report sets out a comprehensive growth plan to close the gap to strengthen small towns and villages across the country.
Just as my constituents can look to the city centre for jobs, they should be able to find equal opportunities outside the ring road into rural North Yorkshire. To achieve this, the Government need bold plans to reform planning, tax and transport policy. Our report makes key recommendations that would serve as a strong basis for a Government White Paper and, alongside my cross-party colleagues, I will continue to lobby to ensure these issues are not overlooked.
Outside of All-Party Parliamentary Groups, there are still opportunities to work with opposition colleagues and last week I joined Conservative MPs from across North Yorkshire in supporting Rachael Maskell’s Future of Rail Westminster Hall debate.
This proved an excellent opportunity to keep York’s bid for Great British Railways HQ on the parliamentary agenda.With many other bids and a public vote to helping to inform the Ministerial decision, there is still all to play for and we must use every chance to keep up the pressure.
With a new parliamentary session opening next week, I will continue to work with colleagues of all political parties to lobby on the issues most important for York and my constituents. By working together, we can help influence Government policy and bring about changes we all want to see.