Robert's Weekly Column - 4th January 2018

The news that 2017 was the cleanest and greenest year in Britain since the Industrial Revolution was a great way to end the year and go into 2018.

Throughout 2017, 13 different renewable energy records were broken and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has predicted that 2018 will be even cleaner and will usher in a new era of low carbon electricity.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on our nature and wildlife, but in Britain, we are at facing up to the challenge, by beginning to turn our backs on polluting fossil fuels and embracing a new clean future.

Under a Conservative Government, since 2012, Britain has halved carbon emissions in the electricity sector making the power system the 4th cleanest in Europe and the 7th cleanest in the world. Public support for renewable electricity production has also hit record highs, with 82% of the UK public supporting green energy.

Last week, the Government announced tough new powers to help protect those who rent their homes in the private sector. The new measures will crack down on bad practices, stamp out overcrowding and improve overall standards.

Here in Swindon, we are fortunate to have many landlords who are providing safe, secure and decent homes, but sadly that is not always the case and across the country, there are landlords who are exploiting tenants and profiting from providing overcrowded, squalid and sometimes dangerous homes.

Housing Minister Alok Sharma has set out how, subject to parliamentary clearance, landlords renting properties in England occupied by 5 or more people, from 2 or more separate households will need to be licensed.

The move, affecting around 160,000 houses, will mean councils can take further action to crack down on unscrupulous landlords renting sub-standard and overcrowded homes.

I am glad that the Government has also set out details of criminal offences which will automatically ban someone from being a landlord. From April next year, someone convicted of offences such as burglary and stalking can be added to the database of rogue landlords and be barred from renting properties.

These latest measures build on government action to drive up safety and standards in the private rented sector. This includes bringing in fines of up to £30,000 for dodgy landlords, protections for tenants from revenge evictions and £12 million funding for councils to take enforcement action in hotspot areas.

The Government has announced an ambitious plan that could see the UK’s train passengers benefitting from a dramatic improvement in onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connections.

As part of its 5G strategy, the Government has committed to improving coverage where people live, work and travel - including on trains.

Minimum standards for mobile connectivity on new franchises are already being introduced, but the new proposals set out how, working with industry, connectivity for passengers on all mainline routes could be dramatically improved by 2025.

An improvement in onboard mobile and Wi-Fi connections will not only make journeys more enjoyable and productive but will help improve the operation and safety of the railway and deliver economic benefits for the whole of the UK.

The Conservative Government is investing record levels of funding to deliver the biggest rail improvement plan since Victorian times, improving services for passengers and providing faster, and longer trains with extra seats, such as those we are now starting to see on our own Great Western line.