I’m delighted to have secured a breakthrough for the local AEAT Pensioners after 10 years of dogged campaigning by them. The National Audit Office – which has investigated high-profile cases such as Equitable Life and British Steel – has agreed to my request to look at the AEAT case and will produce a report setting out their views in the coming weeks. Parliament’s powerful Public Accounts Committee will also hold an inquiry and are calling for evidence for this until 5th March: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/7230/aea-technology-pension-case/
A highlight in the last month was, of course, President Zelensky addressing Parliament. He gave a very powerful speech, conveying the bravery of the Ukrainian people and his thanks to the UK for our support during the past year.
For anyone born in the UK after the world wars, as I was, it is impossible to truly understand what his countrymen and women are going through at this time, subject to a relentless bombardment by Russian tanks and planes every day that takes the lives of their family members and causes untold destruction. The President’s speech made us all feel proud of the UK’s support. We were the first European country to start sending lethal aid to Ukraine and are the second largest donor of military aid in the world after the USA – a total of £2.3 billion since the outbreak of war.
In addition to all the military equipment supplied – and a major new package of air defence to help protect Ukrainian civilians and critical national infrastructure from Russian strikes – we’ve provided a £220 million humanitarian assistance package and issued some 218,000 visas to Ukrainians. Oxfordshire has of course been at the forefront of hosting Ukrainian refugees, many of whom I have had the privilege to meet. Our support is very important – and must continue.
I was very pleased this constituency was the place Michelle Donelan, the new Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, chose to make her first visit – to the Rosalind Franklin Institute at Harwell, which the Government has just committed a further £40 million to. The Department will be key for this constituency and its creation has happened just before I hold the first meeting of my Science and Technology forum for businesses at Harwell, Milton Park and elsewhere, with George Freeman, Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation, as the guest speaker.
The other event coming up in the near future from me will be an Apprenticeships Fair for local young people and employers. While there has been a welcome growth in apprenticeships with the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy, many employers struggle to fill their apprenticeships while, nationally, the highest-level ones disproportionately go to young people from higher income families. If you work for a company that wants to take part, then do get in touch.
As ever, if I can help with anything then do please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org