Sandy reports on some of this week's events in Westminster and the launch of his new website.
Carillion and PFI
This January Carillion went bust. Carillion had 450 Government contracts and employed 19,500 people. It was formed from various other companies such as Tarmac, Mowlem and Alfred McAlpine. But it didn’t stick with roads and buildings – it took on contracts and bought up smaller companies, especially those involved in so-called PFI contracts with the Government. It put in bids for cleaning and maintaining schools, hospitals, prisons and army bases. It bid to build new rail lines and new bypasses. Too often, it put in low bids to undercut its competitors, and failed to make a profit. It made substantial losses in other countries too.
Now that it has gone bust, we need to question what the Government buys from private companies and how much it pays. And we need to ask whether more services should be provided by public employees. That’s certainly what I would do. And we need to protect the services that they provided, save as many jobs as possible, support the 20,000 apprentices who are at risk, and ensure that those who are made redundant get the pay and pensions that they are entitled to.
On Tuesday morning, while I was attending my Select Committee meeting about the Carillion situation, there was a debate about Basketball in Westminster Hall. Basketball is a phenomenally popular sport, very athletic, open and inclusive for boys and girls, men and women, and a great way of building friendships and team spirit. Ipswich Hoops, working with Ipswich Basketball Academy Copleston, does a fantastic job training players and promoting the sport, and as well as involving a huge number of young people in Ipswich, they have nurtured players of national and international standard. As a Governor of Copleston School for almost 20 years, I was constantly delighted and amazed at how well the basketball programme went.
But there is no public funding whatever for the senior basketball teams or for elite basketball in this country. Young people want role-models who are showing just how exciting and competitive their sport can be. But when basketball players reach national or international standard they have to meet all their own costs. For many less-well-off families that is just not possible, and great players sometimes drop out of the sport simply because they cannot afford to continue. And now Great Britain may have to withdraw from international competition in basketball. It would take just £1 million to fund elite basketball properly.
Several MPs made excellent speeches about this – including some Conservatives – and I hope that the Conservative Minister was listening, although her closing speech doesn’t give me much hope. I would have loved to be involved in this debate if I had been free, although I might not have had the chance to speak anyway, as there were already so many speakers. As I was not available I have put a clip of David Lammy MP’s speech, which I think sums up the situation as well as anyone could, on my website.
Representing our town to the best of my ability
Every so often I spend time trying to wrestle with all the meetings, debates, demonstrations and speeches which I could go to, and decide which are the ones where my involvement will make the most difference. Some things I cannot get out of – Bill Committees take priority even though I would much rather be doing things for Ipswich, but it is part of the job of being an MP. I like getting messages from constituents asking me if I would be able to attend a particular meeting or debate, because it gives me the chance to engage with that subject, but people must realise that if I don’t attend something it is not because I don’t think the subject is important – I simply cannot be in two places at once, and if my involvement isn’t crucial then my not being there does not devalue the subject.
Sandy's new website launched
I’m glad to say that my website is now up and running. It took a lot longer than I had hoped, but I intend to continue to add features as we go along, so that Ipswich residents will be able to see what their MP is doing and saying. One of the features is a diary which I am filling in after each week so that people can see what I have done – some sections will have to remain blank to protect confidentiality, but I hope there will be enough there to convince you that I am not sitting on my hands. The address is www.sandyofipswich.co.uk