Robert's Weekly Column 14th February 2018

Since 2010, the Conservative Government has worked hard to maintain and grow a strong economy that is supportive of businesses and creates jobs. Figures released at the end of last month showed that the employment rate in Britain is the highest since records began. Employment is up 102,000 in the last three months and up three million since 2010. In Swindon, there are now 9,000 more people in work than back in 2010. The government’s approach is clearly succeeding, with more people than ever working and contributing to the economy.

It is vital that all workers’ rights are protected and under new major government reforms announced last week, Britain is set to become one of the first countries to address the challenges of the changing world of work. I am pleased that the government has set out proposals to ensure all workers know their rights and receive the benefits and protections they are entitled to, and that action is taken against employers who breach workers’ rights.

Under the new reforms, millions of workers will get day-one rights with sick and holiday pay to be enforced for vulnerable workers for the first time. All workers will be entitled to a payslip including those on casual and zero-hour contracts and workers will have the right to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security.

The reforms are part of the Industrial Strategy, the government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future, by helping businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK. Whilst we are proud to have record levels of work in this country, we must also ensure that workers’ rights are always upheld, and I am pleased that the Conservative Government is taking action to ensure that those who work hard are both rewarded and protected.

As your local MP and a local parent, one of my main priories is to ensure that all children and young people in Swindon receive a high-quality education. I am passionate about making sure that all young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of background, so I welcomed the new figures released last week, which show the proportion of 18-year olds from disadvantaged areas applying for University has risen to record levels. Nine in 10 young entrants to full-time first degrees in 2016/17 went to state school, the highest level recorded. The statistics, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), measure how providers are performing in boosting access to higher education from disadvantaged groups.

Many universities are making a big effort to make higher education more accessible, but there is still more work to be done, which is why the government has introduced major reforms through the Higher Education and Research Act to create more competition and choice that will promote social mobility.

I am pleased that Great Western Hospital has opened a new ward to help manage winter pressures after extra government funding was announced late last year. Located on the ground floor of the Brunel Treatment Centre, Dorcan Ward will provide the hospital with additional beds for patients well enough to go home, but unable to do so while discussions around onward care are still taking place. By having a dedicated location for patients who are all but ready to go home or to another care environment, the hospital will be able to free up beds for emergency patients needing admission.

Finally, it was great to see Year 6 Pupils and staff from Millbrook Primary School on their visit to the Houses of Parliament last week. I enjoyed taking part in an excellent question and answer session with pupils in Parliament's Education Centre, which is an excellent facility used by schools and colleges from all over the country.