Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 10th August

In my role as Solicitor General, I have been working hard over recent weeks and months on tackling what has become known as Modern Day Slavery. Despite appearances, slavery did not end with abolition in the 19th century. Modern Day Slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races. This type of criminal activity displays itself in the form of drug trafficking and cultivation, prostitution and people trafficking amongst other things, and is happening across our country including here in Swindon. Over the last year, the Modern Day Slavery Bill has helped to deliver a wide range of tough new policies which equip our law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to target the slave drivers and perpetrators of these heinous crimes and ensure they are brought to justice. In an attempt to ensure that Britain continues to lead the way in the global community’s efforts to finally end this scourge, we are looking into ways in which we can improve the detection and prosecution of crimes where victims are often reluctant to come forward. As a government we are fully committed to rooting out and ending this evil.

It would be wrong of me not to extend special congratulations to a former Swindon resident who also has strong Welsh connections, Jazz Carlin.  Jazz was forced to miss out on the London Olympics after glandular fever impeded her preparations. However Jazz was able to put the disappointment of four years ago behind her and win the silver medal in Rio after she swam the best 400m freestyle of her career with a time of 4 minutes 01.23 seconds.

As a local MP, it was fantastic to see the hard work of all the volunteers and staff at Prospect Hospice be acknowledged, as the charity for the first time in its 36 year history was awarded the prestigious Investing in Volunteers award. It is now one of only five hospices from right across England to have achieved this high level of recognition for its volunteer management. Over the course of last year, just under 120,000 hours of support we given to the hospice by the team of volunteers, which is the equivalent of nearly 17,143 days or 72 members of staff working a full week for every week of the year.  I am very proud of Prospect's achievements and know how valued our Hospice is in our local community. 

In further encouraging news for Swindon, the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) has submitted a bid to the Department for Transport, which if successful, will put in motion the plans to link Thamesdown Drive with Great Western Way. I have long campaigned for the Thamesdown Road extension, which will help reduce congestion during morning and even peak periods along Mead Way and which will improve links to our town centre?  The Thamesdown Drive to Barnfield link road is something that should have been planned and built twenty years ago. I will carry on lobbying my colleagues in the Government to help secure the finding needed for the next stage.

As a local resident I rely on the services of Great Western Hospital like everyone else, so last week's Care Quality Commission update report on the Accident and Emergency Department was particularly important.  The dedicated staff at A & E are seeing more than 230 emergency patients every day, so they are working very hard indeed at a time of increasing demand.  The report followed on from last autumn's inspection which noted that improvements had to be made in training, planning and staffing levels.  GWH has invested an extra £1m since then and has recruited a further nine nurses and an addition senior matron. Training in the treatment of patients with mental health conditions has improved and progress is being made on the main points of criticism.  The report emphasised, however, that there was still a way to go.  I will continue to meet and speak regularly with senior GWH management in order to help make sure that the service continues to improve.  It is important for everyone to remember that A& E is only one option when it comes to local health provision, and that many medical problems can be solved by GPs and nurses in our local surgeries or Success Centres or via ringing 111.