Robert's Weekly Article - 15th May 2018

In the years up to 2010, the "inclusion agenda" meant that many local authorities closed their special schools, denying many children and young people with significant special educational needs the opportunity to be educated in an appropriate way. This was misguided and wrong. Here in Swindon, our Conservative Council did not make the same mistakes, and our local special schools continue to play a vital part in education provision. On Friday, I was pleased to be back at The Chalet School in Liden, where I met with the Head and some Governors to discuss progress and their future plans. The highlight of my visit was attending an Assembly where I was a special guest, as well as talking to pupils and staff whilst on a tour of the school. I would like to thank all of the team at The Chalet School, who work so hard to provide a calm and nurturing learning environment for children with autism and associated complex needs.

After that, it was then over to The Ridgeway School and Sixth Form College in Wroughton. I took part in a lively question and answer session with pupils from years 12 and 13 and discussed my role as MP and as Solicitor General. I talked to students about a life in the law, the rule of law and what it takes to become a lawyer.  The message is a positive one; it doesn’t matter what background you are from, if you have a passion for the rule of law and a belief in justice then you should go for it!

As a community, we are rightly proud of Swindon’s long-standing links with the Armed Services, so I am delighted to be opening the festivities for Swindon’s Armed Forces Day again this year.  The event will take place on Saturday 23rd June and will be returning to Faringdon Road Park.

Armed Forces Day is the perfect day to remember the debt of gratitude we owe to all of those brave men and women in the Armed Forces community who help to keep our country safe and to celebrate our close connections in Swindon.

Let’s not forget that it’s not just a day to commemorate troops who are currently serving in the military, however, but also Service families, veterans and cadets past and present.

Swindon remains home to many serving and past members of our Armed Forces, and our pride in them is strong and enduring. The Government has announced the first ever Veterans Strategy and a new cross-Government Veterans Unit. The next decade will see a large generational shift in the veteran population, from the era of conscription and national service veterans to the voluntary professional cohort of modern times. The Defence Secretary has identified the following important issues: Debt, Housing, Social Isolation, Mental & Physical Wellbeing and Public Perception. Solving these issues is a genuinely cross-government effort, and each Government department has now nominated a Minister to be the department lead on veterans’ issues and the Armed Forces Covenant. Our veterans have served in our national interest and often made great sacrifices to do so, so the Government is going to ensure that our veterans receive the best help when needed.

Finally, following the sad news of the death of Tessa Jowell, I am glad that the government has announced that it will fulfil her requests made during the final months of her life with a commitment to a full national roll-out of a key brain cancer diagnosis test to identify tumours.  Only last year, I lost a very good friend to this type of tumour, and there are many of us who have had similar experiences.  

The government will renew focus on brain cancer research and double investment in a £40 million Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Research Fund as part of a £65 million research package. This will be backed by new clinical commitments.  The government will also host a Tessa Jowell global symposium, which will bring together the best clinical, scientific and academic minds on brain cancer, in order to identify gaps, best practice and priorities in research.

Baroness Jowell faced her illness with dignity and courage and I hope this announcement to improve care and research for others confronting this terrible disease will form part of a lasting legacy and transform brain cancer care in the way that Tessa called for.