Robert's Weekly Column - 27th March 2019

Over the past nine years as your MP for South Swindon, I have continued to be amazed by the lengths that some people go to in order to improve the lives of others in the local community and I am proud to represent a town where such a strong sense of community pride exists, so I was especially pleased to be invited to present Pride of Swindon Awards again this year at STEAM Museum. 

I have worked very closely with the Brighter Futures Fundraising Group over the years, so I was delighted to see them receive an award for reaching the £2.9m Radiotherapy Appeal in December, as well as other groups including the Swindon Rowdy Bunch, Step Out Swindon and the junior Street Reps Team who have worked to clear up litter in their areas.

I was also pleased to help present awards to notable individuals including local author and Chair of Swindon Civic Group, Angela Atkinson, Becky Davidson for her work with the Swindon Night Shelter, Glynis Hales for her work at the Penhill Haven and 16-year-old Thomas Stamp who has autism and cerebral palsy and is an aspiring Paralympian from my home village of Wroughton.

I would like to offer my congratulations to all of those who were nominated and to thank each and every one of them for all of their hard work and dedication within the local community.

As part of my National work to support Public Legal Education in my role as Solicitor General, and also as MP for South Swindon, I went to the Young Citizens Mock Trials at Swindon Magistrates Court last Saturday.  School students between the ages of 13 to 15 here in Swindon and Wiltshire played every role, from defendant in the dock to magistrate sitting on the bench, with their performances scored by real justices of the peace.  

I was very impressed by the performances of pupils from South Swindon schools, which included St Joseph’s Catholic College, The Commonweal School and The Ridgeway School and I would like to congratulate Commonweal School who took the top spot and will now go on to compete in the regional final in Newport, Isle of Wight.

As Solicitor General, my work on Public Legal Education is about ensuring people know about the law and their basic civil and criminal rights - from knowing if you’re entitled to a refund in a shop or whether you’ve been a victim of discrimination. Teaching pupils about their legal rights and responsibilities, together with helping them gain the confidence and skills to get access to justice can really make a difference to their lives – as well as our legal system. 

I launched a Public Legal Education Panel in 2017 to bring together key representatives to support and drive forward legal education initiatives and since then, I have been busy visiting schools across the UK to teach pupils about the law through interactive presentations, mock trials and role play exercises.  I am pleased to be part of this work and will continue to teach both primary and secondary school pupils across the country about their legal rights and responsibilities.

Finally, I am pleased that my work to tackle loneliness in the town, along with Swindon Seniors Forum, has inspired the launch of the Swindon Connecting People Network this week. The Network will bring organisations together from across Swindon, who have an interest in or provide day to day activities that connect people and address the issue of loneliness. For further information on the Network, please email Maggie.watson@wiltshirecf.org.uk