Robert's Weekly Article - 27th June 2018

The sun has been shining on Swindon, which has been good news for our many open air events.  On Saturday, I was honoured and delighted to help open Swindon Armed Forces Day 2018 at Faringdon Road Park before performing the honours at the Hinton Parva Garden Fete where I enjoyed chatting with local residents. I managed to squeeze in the time to perform a couple of songs at Chiseldon’s annual summer fete too. I can only hope that the peace of Chiseldon wasn't spoiled for too long!

This year’s Armed Forces Day marked the 100th anniversary of the RAF. The Poppy Parachute Team got the day off to a dramatic start with a thrilling parachute jump whilst military displays from groups such as the RAF, the Wiltshire Home Guard and the Garrison Volunteers, World War Two costume enactments, and interactive stalls for the public to meet past and present military personnel ensured there was never a dull moment. To all those who helped organise this year’s event, my thanks and praise.

As a community, we are rightly proud of Swindon’s long-standing links with the Armed Services. Armed Forces Day is the perfect occasion to celebrate those connections, as well as remembering the debt of gratitude we to owe to all those brave men and women in the Armed Forces Community who help to keep our country safe. We should be careful not to forget the Service families, veterans and cadets who contribute enormously to the safety of our families and our nation. 

On Monday, in a key parliamentary vote, MPs voted to support a third runway at Heathrow airport.  Justin and I voted in favour.  The importance to our local economy of improved airport facilities west of London is clear.  The Government has further committed to a new Western Rail Link to Heathrow. This is good news for Swindon as it means that we will no longer have to travel into London and back out to get to Heathrow by train. The new link will mean that those travelling to Heathrow will be able to reach Terminal 5 in under an hour.  Labour were split down the middle in this issue, with their leadership opposing the development and acting once again against the interests of Swindon.

Looking ahead to next week, I will be attending a Breast Cancer Now Event in Parliament on 4th July. Breast Cancer Now is the largest UK charity dedicated to funding research solely into breast cancer. Their researchers are working to discover how to prevent breast cancer, how to detect it earlier and how to treat it effectively at every stage.

It is important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer, and tackle this condition, which has taken so many lives over the years. There are around 1,100 cancer cases every year in South Swindon, so I am looking forward to meeting the scientists and finding out what this research is doing to help the people of our town. Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, but there is more to do.

Last Thursday I visited the Ben Kinsella Trust to see first-hand how the Trust is working to educate young people away from knife crime. The charity launched the Ben Kinsella Exhibition in 2012, which is designed to help young people understand the lasting damage that knife crime can have on themselves, families and local communities.  I saw how vital messages about the dangers and consequences of knife crime are brought home to young people with interactive displays and a visit to a mock prison cell to meet a prisoner who had committed knife crime, played by a very convincing actor.  The experience was a powerful one, and is making a real difference.

The government published its first Serious Violence Strategy in April. It strikes a balance between prevention and robust law enforcement with an £11 million Early Intervention Youth Fund for community projects to help young people live lives free from violence. I agree with Patrick Green, CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, who said that through education we can help young people learn positive ways to turn away from knife crime.  This week, we are debating the new Offensive Weapons Bill, which will tighten up the law on knives and their supply and also introduce new offences to deal with the worrying rise in acid attacks. We are taking action at both ends of this spectrum of crime.