Brussels Atrocity

Another day, another atrocity. Once again we are left appalled by dreadful jihadist attacks on innocent people in Europe. The depravity of these warped fanatics is beyond words, and our hearts here in Cheltenham go out to the Brussels victims and their families. At the same time we give thanks to our security services who work so hard to keep us safe. This week in Westminster has of course been dominated by the Budget. Okay okay, not exactly the Government’s finest hour I accept. I was one of a number of Conservative backbenchers who were unhappy with the PIP disability payment cuts as originally proposed. I felt they risked harming the most vulnerable in our society. I said as much in public, and I am pleased that the Government thought again. But it’s also right to point out that some of the criticism of overall disability provision was a bit wide of the mark. The truth is that the UK spends more on disability and sickness payments per capita than any other country in the OECD, except Germany. At roughly £50 billion a year, spending is significantly higher than the entire defence budget. We also spend considerably more in real terms than Labour did in 2010. So we need to keep this in perspective. I particularly welcomed the Lifetime ISA in the Budget which will help young people here in Cheltenham save for their first home or retirement. From April 2017 anyone aged between 18 and 40 can save up to £4,000 a year, with the Government adding up to £1,000 on top. A great incentive to save. Closer to home I had a very useful meeting at CGH, speaking to our superb midwives about care for babies born with tongue-tie – a cause I have taken up on behalf of mothers who experience difficulties with breast-feeding. In addition to my constituency surgery, I also attended a Dementia Awareness course at the Muni to understand more about how we as individuals can best respond to this cruel disease. I met Benhall residents and reaffirmed my opposition to the proposed A40 bus lane, and I attended the opening of the new police station in Lansdown Road. In short, I spent time in our open, free and tolerant society – something the deluded jihadists must never be allowed to take away.