Backing Bristol Airport and Sleeping Easy with YMCA

This week I've taken up the fight for Bristol.

Not the town, you understand. Rather its airport, which now faces a threat from proposals to allow the Welsh Government to undercut England on Air Passenger Duty.

But why should we care? Well, the starting point is that Bristol airport is a significant asset for Cheltenham. Cheltonians use Bristol to fly all across Europe, from Iceland to Turkey, as well as to Egypt and Cape Verde. And the airport has ambitious plans for slots to the Middle East and elsewhere.

It works well too. Despite handling over six million passengers in 2015, it was named in one survey as the most punctual in the country.

Its future is at risk because the Government is considering giving the Welsh Government the power to reduce the rate of APD paid by passengers flying from Cardiff Airport. Bristol and Cardiff airports are less than 60 miles apart and compete in overlapping catchment areas.

The net result could mean airlines choosing to relocate from Bristol Airport to take advantage of a lower tax rate. That would almost inevitably lead to a reduced network of destinations. On one estimate it could mean the loss of up to 33 routes at the airport – almost one third of the network – over the next decade, as well as jeopardising prospects of securing the return of long-haul flights. It could also mean the loss of more than 1,500 jobs in the regional economy over the same period.

That's why I've signed a letter in this week's Telegraph calling on the Government not to devolve APD. I've got nothing against the principle of reducing APD. I just want to see a level playing field across the UK.

Here in Cheltenham, I was delighted to join around thirty hardy souls to sleep out for a night in a cardboard box in aid of the Cheltenham YMCA 'Sleepeasy' event. I say 'delighted' – it was absolutely Baltic. I took the opportunity to raise awareness of homelessness amongst our former military service personnel, who make up a troubling 10% of the homeless population. I met residents for a walkabout in St Paul's, spoke at the 'Inspire' event for women in Hesters Way and joined local cyclists to see how we can promote everyday cycling in our town.

Oh, and I spoke out in Parliament about the need for more women MPs on International Women's Day!