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Fortnightly Update #65 - 14.05.2019

Welcome to this latest update.

There's news below on issues ranging from the fight to protect services at Cheltenham General, to my campaign for the Home Office to waive
visa fees for Commonwealth service personnel who have served in the Armed Forces (currently they have to pay to remain in the UK once they leave the Forces). If like me you've been concerned that work seems to have ground to a halt at the station car park there's an update on that issue too. And for the scientifically minded, I received an answer from Government to my questions about thorium nuclear fuels (!)

In Parliament I also introduced a Bill on climate change (drafted before the Extinction Rebellion protests by the way!) which would see radical, but realistic, new carbon emissions targets to protect our environment. You can read some of the social media commentary below.

Returning to the Cheltenham General issue, I am delighted that the campaign to get local Trust bosses to cancel the flawed proposal to transfer general surgery (abdominal surgery) from Cheltenham General to Gloucester Hospital has been successful. Changing course was the right decision, although it should not have required the threat of legal proceedings to force it.

I make no apology for fighting these proposals tooth and nail, from the moment they were announced in September last year. Shifting such a vital specialism away from Cheltenham would have dealt a hammer blow to CGH’s status as a truly ‘general’ hospital. And although expressed as a pilot, common sense tells you that once rotas are changed and staff redistributed it becomes very difficult to turn the clock back.

Now the managers need to follow through on what they assured me last September they would do when I raised my concerns: work up the alternative (so-called ‘Option 4’) proposal. That would bring all the county’s scheduled, non-urgent, general surgery to Cheltenham, boosting care locally. It’s a model that has been adopted successfully elsewhere.

We must not rest here. We need to be ready for any further attempt to bring the abandoned plan back in a different form. And we also now need urgent clarity about the future of Cheltenham’s A&E. Ever since night-time cover was removed back in 2013, there has been a cloud hanging over this vital service. It’s high time that cloud was lifted. The campaigning work goes on.

And on Boots Corner, you may have read the report that the closure has raked in £1.3m in fines (see BBC article HERE). Motorists have also paid a heavy price for this trial and I continue to be contacted by visitors who have been caught out by this closure and say they now will not return to our town. This experiment needs to be brought to an end.

Thank you for reading this update.

Best wishes,


Alex Chalk MP

P.S Please note that these fortnightly updates are intended to be no more than an overview. If you would like an in-depth update on my various campaigns (from restoring night-time A&E services at Cheltenham General to adolescent mental health and cracking down on the town's 'grot spots') please do get in touch.
P.P.S You may be interested in the upcoming Cheltenham Festival of Cycling, which is taking place on 19 May. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

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CLICK HERE or on the video above to watch Alex's speech in Parliament
Some of the social media commentary on Alex's Net Zero bill
Since the last update, Alex has:
 
IN PARLIAMENT
  • Spoken out to demand fair treatment for Commonwealth personnel serving in the British armed forces. Non-UK citizens who serve in the Army, Navy or Air Force have to pay thousands of pounds in visa fees to obtain leave to remain in the UK once they leave the military. Alex is campaigning (alongside the MP for Gloucester who has shown leadership in this area) for fees to be waived as a gesture of respect and gratitude towards those who serve READ MORE HERE and HERE
  • Introduced a Bill to Parliament to enshrine in law a commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. You can watch Alex’s speech HERE and read it HERE. You can also find out more about Alex’s Bill on his website
  • Paid tribute to Cheltenham employers, Specsavers, who, with the support of the Gloucestershire GEM project, employ people with disabilities. As Alex explained to the House, Specsavers' experience has been hugely positive - office morale has been boosted and overall standards raised. Alex is encouraging other employers to seize the opportunities to recruit great staff. Responding for the Government, the minister noted that Alex "has worked really hard to promote opportunities for employers in his constituency to employ people with disabilities" READ MORE HERE
  • Addressed journalists, politicians and clinicians at a parliamentary event about tackling poor air quality. In January the Government launched a world-leading plan which pledges to reduce people’s exposure to particulate matter and to halve the number of people living in areas breaching World Health Organization guidelines on particulate matter by 2025
  • Held talks with the Transport Minister to discuss Alex's concerns about insurance companies' dubious practice of placing people onto a ‘fault register' (thereby hiking their premiums), even where it can be shown they were not to blame for the accident
  • Joined The Children’s Society and The Prince’s Trust to support the launch of a report into ensuring that vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds are properly supported as they transition into adulthood. You can find out more HERE
  • Spoke at an education conference at the British Library alongside Cheltenham headteachers from All Saints' Academy, CLC and others in support of the Cheltenham Educational Partnership, which aims to foster collaboration and shared best practice between schools of all types in Cheltenham 
  • Met with the National Association for Retired Police Officers (NARPO) to discuss concerns about pensions for widows and widowers of police officers in Cheltenham and beyond
  • Addressed, in his capacity as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pro Bono Law, hundreds of students as well as the Solicitor General and a High Court judge who had attended Parliament for the Pro Bono Awards - recognising the achievements of students who give their time for free to offer legal advice and support 
  • As Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department of Health, Alex has:
    • Supported the Health Secretary for a statement on online harms, social media and mental health. You can watch the statement HERE
    • Provided PPS support to the Health Secretary and his team at Health Oral Parliamentary Questions. You can watch OPQs HERE
    • Organised and provided PPS support at several meetings between MPs and the Health Secretary to discuss local constituency issues
  • Attended the first ever autism awareness session for Parliamentarians. Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. These sensory differences can affect behaviour, and can have a profound effect on a person’s life (you can read more HERE).
IN CHELTENHAM
  • Welcomed Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust's announcement that they have dropped controversial proposals to relocate general surgery services from Cheltenham General to Gloucestershire Royal, following a campaign against the plans in conjunction with local cross-party health campaign group, REACH READ MORE HERE 
  • Welcomed the introduction of two additional direct rail services from Cheltenham to Paddington, ahead of the impending timetable changes later this year, which will see the town benefit from a sub-two hour rail service to London READ MORE HERE 
  • Received the following positive update from GWR regarding the status of the station car park expansion works, which will see the capacity of the car park grow to at least 320 spaces:
-Work has started on site to plant up the embankment, which is a key part of our landscaping plan, and further planting will be undertaken in the next few weeks
-We have formally appointed our contractor and notice to proceed was issued last week
-All Network Rail approvals are now secured including licence to undertake the works
-The contractor’s site compound will be set up in the next couple weeks followed by work on the car park
-Completion should therefore still be before the end of August and we will keep you updated on progress.
-We are also talking to Network Rail about the Access for All lift project which is likely to start once the car park work has completed.

 
  • Welcomed the introduction of the long awaited changes to prevent the abuse of the Arle Court Park & Ride and ensure more spaces are available for genuine Park and Ride users, which come into force next week READ MORE HERE 
  • Reiterated his support for the campaign to protect bees and other pollinators, which play such a vital role in our ecosystem, here in Cheltenham READ MORE HERE 
  • Met with Battledown residents and local councillors to discuss solutions to tackle anti-social behaviour and drug dealing in and around the QE2 playing fields
  • Visited local film company, Room 51's, Cheltenham offices to discuss how Alex can help access export markets
  • Met with Old Pats' Rugby Club and Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP to discuss the club's proposed new site near the A417 roundabout
  • Visited Waterford Court in Leckhampton to meet residents and answer their questions about current affairs 
  • Supported the launch of the Tracey Cadogan art exhibition at East Glos Tennis Club
  • Joined the Mayor, hospital staff and others for the opening of the LINC Sanctuary Garden in Sandford Park 
  • Attended a meeting of the cross-party health campaign group, REACH, following the welcome announcement by the local NHS Trust that they are not proceeding with their plans to relocate general surgery from Cheltenham General to Gloucestershire Royal 
  • Held a constituency surgery
  • Supported the Baden Powell award presentation with Cheltenham Guides at Highbury Church
  • Presented the trophy at the Cheltenham Youth League final at Whaddon Road
  • Attended the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts's Tea at Three event at Christchurch
  • Met guides and leaders at the Girlguiding Annual Review at the Pavilion in Hatherley
  • Presented the trophy to the winning team at the Cheltenham and District Combination Cup Finals at Newlands Park
  • Visited Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's new Drop in Garden on Tewkesbury Road 
  • Volunteered at the Cheltenham Festival of Performing Arts at the Town Hall.

EU Settlement Scheme
  • Received the following update regarding the Government's EU Settlement Scheme:
The EU Settlement Scheme is live

Following a period of extensive testing, the EU Settlement Scheme is fully open. Over 600,000 people have already applied under the Scheme to secure their rights and get the status they need to stay in the UK after Brexit for as long as they wish.

Our message to EU citizens remains the same. We want you to stay and to continue to call the UK your home.

It is a straightforward process

The service has been designed to make it as simple as possible for EU citizens and their family members to apply.

During the public test phase of the Scheme earlier this year, over 200,000 applications were received from citizens of all 27 EU countries:

  • 95% of applicants successfully used the mobile phone app to prove their identity remotely, most in under 10 minutes
  • 88% of applicants were able to have their UK residence automatically checked by providing their National Insurance number
  • 81% of respondents reported that it was “very easy” or “fairly easy” to complete the application form

If you would like to read more about how the test phase went, we have published a full report onGOV.UK.

Apply today

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family members can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme free of charge today. Applicants only need to prove their identity, demonstrate their UK residence, and declare any criminal convictions.

You can find full guidance and start your application at: www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families

If you would like to use the Android app to verify your identity, you can download the app from the Google Playstore. For guidance and a video demonstrating how to use the app, click here. This service will be available on Apple devices by the end of this year.

Alternatively, you can visit an identity scanner location to help you complete this part of the application process or you can post your document to us for verification.

IN THE MEDIA

  • Written three articles for the Gloucestershire Echo about his Ten Minute Rule Bill and the successful campaign to fight the proposed relocation of general surgery from Cheltenham General to Gloucestershire Royal READ MORE HERE
  • Appeared on the BBC Sunday Politics 
CONSTITUENCY SURGERIES

If you would like to book an appointment, please email reply to this email or email Alex on alex.chalk.mp@parliament.uk

CASEWORK

To raise a casework issue, please email reply to this email or email Alex.

Written Parliamentary Questions
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps the Government is taking to encourage planners and local authorities to prioritise active travel when building new roads

    The Government has recently strengthened the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to improve consideration of cycling and walking within local development plans. The revised NPPF recommends that planning policies should provide for high quality walking and cycling networks and supporting facilities such as cycle parking, drawing on Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs).

    The NPPF also states that the environmental impacts of traffic and transport infrastructure should be identified, assessed and taken into account from the earliest stages of plan-making, including appropriate opportunities for avoiding and mitigating any adverse effects, which might include, for example, ensuring that new roads make adequate provision for those who cycle and walk.

     

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of using thorium fuels for energy production
Andrew Stephenson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy): The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) maintains an interest in the global potential of thorium nuclear fuels.

In 2012, the National Nuclear laboratory (NNL) published an initial comparative assessment of thorium and uranium technologies in nuclear powered electricity generation. This is available online from:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thorium-and-uranium-fuel-cycles-comparison-by-the-national-nuclear-laboratory.

BEIS has considered these views and drawn on the expertise of its national laboratories to model nuclear scenarios that include the use of thorium. These are used to inform R&D needs on thorium nuclear fuel cycles. An overview of these are included in the document “Nuclear Energy Research and Development Roadmap: Future Pathways”, which is available from:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nuclear-energy-research-and-development-roadmap-future-pathways.

The UK has been supporting research and development into the use of thorium nuclear fuels since such fuels were used in the Dragon reactor at Winfrith in the 1960s and 1970s. Examples of current activity on thorium and related technologies include academic research into thorium fuelled reactor systems and fuel cycle processes through Research Council grants to UK universities; collaboration on thorium fuels, via the UK Research Councils’ Energy Programme, with national nuclear energy programmes of other countries on safety, performance and non-proliferation; experimental development of thorium fuels through the NNL and private sector organisations, as part of international consortia, and thorium fuel modelling and fuel cycle scenario analysis by the NNL. These activities cover UK, EU and worldwide initiatives and receive either financial or strategic support from the Government.

 

POTHOLE, GROT SPOT & HIGH STREET UPDATE
  • Anthropologie have announced the opening date of 31 May for the opening of their new Cheltenham store on the Promenade. READ MORE HERE 
  • Been in touch with the County Council to highlight residents' concerns about dangerous parking on the Lower High Street, opposite the Frog and Fiddle. The parking team confirmed that APCOA will be focusing on enforcement against dangerous parking in the area over the coming weeks and that the Council will consider changes to the current parking restrictions in the area to reduce dangerous parking
  • Contacted the cleansing team at the Borough Council to raise concerns about large numbers of unsightly weeds popping up across the town and to seek clarification regarding the schedule for weed spraying this year
  • Reported a number of weeds on the High Street for attention by the Council's cleaning team
PHOTO GALLERY
Supporting the National Association of Retired Police Officers (NARPO) event in Parliament
Supporting the Gloucestershire Eye Therapy coffee morning in Leckhampton

On the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme 

Enjoying the Jazz Festival, which continues to go from strength to strength. Many thanks to all those involved in the organisation!

Presenting his Ten Minute Rule Bill to Parliament

At the 24-hour singathon in aid of Maggie's cancer charity
Making last minute changes to his Net Zero bill
Congratulating the winner of a prestigious Baden Powell award with Cheltenham Guides at Highbury Church
Copyright © 2019 Alex Chalk MP, All rights reserved.


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