Concession or no concession? That was the question swirling round Parliament on Tuesday night. I was one of a group of backbench MPs who extracted a commitment from the Government to hold a vote on any draft Brexit deal before it is ratified by the European Parliament.
There’s no doubt that this is an important change. That’s because prior to the shift, the final vote was to be held after a deal had been ratified by the European Parliament. At that point the only alternative would be leaving the EU at the end of two years on WTO rules. Now the position is different. By bringing the vote forward – potentially as early as autumn 2018 – Parliament will be able to have its say at a time when it can make a difference.
So why did I push the Government on this? It’s simple. I believe it’s in the national interest for Parliament to be involved in the Brexit process. Of course our negotiators have got to have the space to get on with securing the best deal for the UK. But it’s also right that MPs should have a say if and when the circumstances demand. Cheltenham must be heard.
In other news, I am absolutely delighted that the long campaign for a new school in Cheltenham is showing signs of success. This was something I campaigned on prior to my election, and it was included in my ‘5-point Plan’ for our town.
Why? Because it was clear to me that without a surge in capacity, the choice and quality which local teachers, parents and governors work so heroically to deliver in our schools, would be under intolerable strain.
That’s why I’ve been working closely with Gloucestershire County Council behind the scenes to plug away for that increase in capacity.
So I’m really pleased that there is now agreement in principle for a £30million brand new school for the town. This will be an all-through school, taking two forms of entry at primary and six forms of entry at secondary, opening in 2020.
There’s already a lot of interest and enthusiasm for running the new school as the official ‘sponsor’. I’ll be lobbying the Department for Education to provide the funding. £30million is a big ask! And I’ll be strongly backing local bids to be that sponsor. With so much expertise and local knowledge in our area, I’m keen that we use it.
Once those decisions are made, we can start consulting on the right site. Lots to do, but make no mistake – this is a key milestone for our town.
Whatever the weather in Westminster, I will not lose focus on driving forward for a better future for Cheltenham.