Last weekend, on a scale not seen in a generation, people up and down the land joined together in celebration of the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. It was a joyous spectacle of national pride that deftly wove together hundreds of years of shared tradition, heritage, and ceremony with the diverse spirit of modern Britain.
I had the immense privilege of meeting the King on behalf of the people of Penrith and The Border when he visited Parliament in the run up to Saturday’s festivities. A regular visitor to our county, it is clear the King holds a special place in his heart for the people of Cumbria, as I know that we do for him. The Coronation was clearly a triumphant success, to make our nation proud. Already King Charles has shown a selfless devotion to serving our great nation and so on behalf of all my constituents I say, God Save The King.
From national jubilation to personal, I saw one of most humbling moments of my parliamentary career when I took in and introduced the 3 Dads Walking to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Number 10’s historic Rose Garden. The mental health campaigners raised more than £1 million following the tragic loss of their daughters to suicide and we are working together to embed safe age-appropriate suicide awareness in school curricula and secure more mental first aid trained staff so that young lives can be saved.
Again and again, I am humbled by the 3 Dads’ ability to turn such harrowing personal tragedies into a message of hope. I have been only too happy to play my part raising the issue in Parliament and securing our meeting with the Prime Minister so that such a critical issue can be discussed at the highest level of Government. I’ve spoken with the Prime Minister a number of times since our meeting, and he remains overwhelmingly positive about our campaign. The momentum is incredible, and we look forward to meeting the Education Secretary this month to try to secure lasting change.
Meeting a range of children this month from Orton, Beaconside and North Lakes Schools, I know just how important young mental health is. Also important was making sure youngsters are properly aware of our political processes so they can become knowledgeable conscientious citizens of the future. Meeting young folk is also so enjoyable, and I never cease to be impressed by the depth and understanding in their questions to me.
Unfortunately, I have also been increasingly concerned about the huge uptick in e-cigarette use among our under-18s. Keen to put this public health ticking time bomb in the national spotlight, this month I instigated and led a Parliamentary Debate on the problem. I’ve heard from educators about young people being illegally sold vapes, which are then illicitly traded in playgrounds and parks. Once a child does get hooked, this can cause heart, gum or lung problems or even forcing them to wake in the night or leave class to vape, so withdrawal symptoms don’t set in.
To be clear, vapes have a role to play in helping adults stop tobacco smoking. But, with their sweet flavours, and bright packaging, it seems clear to me that these products are being marketed to children. The Government is rightly clamping down on the issue, but to further strengthen the law I urge those with experiences, to engage with the call for evidence available at gov.uk.
Another consultation I am really encouraging local people to get involved with is regarding the Government’s new holiday let proposals. Designed to protect local people who can all
too often find themselves priced out of the communities they live and work in, the new proposals would require short-term lets to obtain planning consent. For tourism hot spots across Cumbria, this could be hugely beneficial, and I will continue to support sensible measures like this which rightly give local families and businesses control over the heart of their communities.
Looking further afield, I stood up in the House of Commons to push for the UK to re-join Horizon Europe, the €95.5 billion research and innovation programme that finds scientific solutions to climate change, cancer, the degradation of nature, and much more. As I said to the Science Secretary, we have the best scientists, universities, and institutions in the world here in the UK. Our scientific community wants to collaborate, and the world wants to collaborate with us. With frictions over the Northern Irish border resolved through the Prime Minister’s historic Windsor Framework agreement, now is the time to cement UK’s place as science superpower through international collaboration.
As a veterinarian and scientist myself, I’ve also used my background this month hosting leading veterinarians to meet with my colleagues in Parliament to address veterinary workforce shortage and animal welfare issues. Moreover, as part of my Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee role, I have been up and down the country gathering evidence on a host of pressing issues. This has included a fact-finding mission to the Port of Dover to learn more about agri-food trade, pet-smuggling, and the illegal export of horses for slaughter. Soon I will be leading a Parliamentary Delegation to the Animal Plant and Health Agency HQ to shine a light on what is needed to protect the UK’s biosecurity and our vital farming industry, so important for us here in rural Cumbria.