As the famous song goes, “I don’t like cricket – I love it!” I’ve played consistently since I was a youngster, and even padded up occasionally this season for the Lords and Commons Cricket team. In recent weeks, like many of you, I’ve been glued to Test Match Special for such amazing Ashes series as we've witnessed with the men's and women's games this summer. But you don’t get the likes of Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Isa Guha, Stuart Broad or Tammy Beaumont without a thriving grassroots game. That is why I was delighted to visit Penrith Cricket Club in support of their vital upgrade to the changing facilities and pavilion. I was bowled over by the incredible community spirit on display and fully support this initiative which will widen accessibility of the sport to youngsters, girls and women, and those with disabilities. I also joined MPs from across the county in penning a letter in support of Cumbria Cricket’s Sri Lanka tour so young folk of any and every background can benefit from the lifechanging opportunity. Nationally, there is much room to improve the state of cricket, and I recently met with Richard Gould, the England and Wales Cricket Board CEO and discussed widening access and pressed the case for more free-to-air terrestrial TV coverage of our international cricket, so that we can inspire the next generation of youngsters into the game.
Onto the proposed closures of railway ticket offices in England and the Department for Transport has secured a vital extension to the ongoing consultation. I fully share my constituents’ concern about this proposal. The clock is ticking to have your say on these changes that will disproportionately affect rural communities like ours as well as disabled and elderly folk. Please get engaged and help stop this retrograde decision by responding on the Transport Focus website.
I had the pleasure of meeting with Jacqueline and Ben Levene who are doing such great work locally by opening their Woggle Goggle Swimming Pool and Activity Centre, Penrith with help from a government grant. Having attended a National Water Safety Forum event in Parliament for World Drowning Prevention Day, I know just how important of a life skill swimming is and wish them the very best.
I also visited Nic and Paul Renison who are a bastion of best practice when it comes to nature friendly farming. Nestled below the Pennines, they produce high quality local food while also nurturing the environment through regenerative agriculture, improving soil health and biodiversity. Their fine cattle are a real testament to this. Farms like this are crucial to the UK’s food security and with recent international instability I’ve been working hard to shine a light on the issue. Our Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, on which I sit, published our report on Food Security from the Inquiry I instigated. Recommendations for Government include boosting food production, reducing our reliance on unhealthy food and making nutritious meals affordable. Having taken evidence from experts throughout the food production chain over many months, we have created what I believe to be a compelling voice for reform, and I look forward to hearing the official Government response.
The issue is particularly critical following Russia’s cynical withdrawal from the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative, and I stood up in the Commons to secure Ministerial assurances that the UK is working closely with UN and NATO allies to try to restore the deal and keep the flow of grain moving. As well as increasing prices for British consumers, Russian aggression is tragically starving those in developing nations. We need action.
Two potential solutions I have pushed for in Parliament this month include making sure extensive solar developments do not compromise prime agricultural land and the green belt.
Solar is important for our energy mix but there are plenty of warehouses, industrial estates and agricultural buildings with appropriate roofs for panels. A bit more common sense is needed. The second is to make sure land-based education courses are protected and prioritised so the agri-food industry can be properly resourced moving forward.
Now onto an issue I have write about almost every column. Sewage. The state of the water industry nationally is deeply worrying and I’ve made my outrage known consistently. The tide is turning on the illegal and immoral discharges into our nation’s precious waters. Having grilled water company bosses, regulators and ministers from my seat on our EFRA Committee, the Government has announced powers to stop polluters with unlimited fines. The money will also go to a new water restoration fund to boost the health of our water.
Finally, I’ve been continuing my focus on our young folk. This has included standing up in Westminster to crack down on advertisers targeting children with vapes; continuing my push for Government mandated transport to get 16-18-year-olds to college or apprenticeships; and meeting with schools like QEGS, Armathwaite and William Howard.
Finally on youngsters, I again met in Parliament with the incredible 3 Dads Walking. We shared a platform at the Suicide and Self Harm Prevention All Party Parliamentary Group and met with the Mental Health Minister. The curriculum is being reviewed and I am positive there’s a place for suicide awareness and prevention.