Robert's Weekly Swindon Advertiser Article - 27th January 2016

Last Friday, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to speak at another AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse) national domestic homicide conference here in Swindon, alongside the Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Sara Thornton CBE QPM.  Set up by Swindon campaigner and bereaved relative Frank Mullane in the wake of his own traumatic experiences, AAFDA offers invaluable help and advice to families bereaved and affected by criminal abuse.

On the agenda was a new domestic abuse offence, linked to coercive or controlling behaviour, which came into force on the 29th December last year. In particular, the new offence targets purposeful patterns of incidents that occur over time in order for one individual to exert power, control, or coercion over another. Earlier in 2015, I piloted this new measure through the House of Commons via the Serious Crime Bill as Solicitor General and I’m pleased that the new offence will close a gap in the law around this type of behaviour between partners of family members.

Domestic abuse and its consequences are devastating for families and I am glad to see our Government’s commitment to protecting victims by sending a clear message that it is wrong to violate the trust of those closest to you. The conference generated an informative and empowering discussion about how this reform will help protect victims and prevent escalation, and I would like to thank the AAFDA for their excellent work to help families get victims’ voices heard.

This week, some encouraging figures were released which show 4,440 new apprenticeships have been started by people in South Swindon since 2010. This means more young people earning and learning, getting the skills they need for a successful and secure future, as they do locally through great employers like Nationwide and Pebley Beach.

It is vitally important that young people in Swindon have the opportunity to get into the workplace, giving them them financial security and boosting the local economy to boot. The benefits of taking on an apprentice are substantial. Last September, I was thrilled to be at Swindon College's Apprenticeship Awards evening, where I saw proof first hand that success comes from hard work, determination and drive.

This growth locally in apprenticeships has been part of a wider increase, with 280,450 started in the South West since May 2010, and over 2.6 million new apprenticeships across England.

These new figures show progress towards the Conservatives’ commitment to deliver 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020 – with 268,000 already started in this parliament. They also reveal that the number of under-19s on apprenticeships has increased, and there has also been growth in higher level apprenticeships.

As committed to in the Conservative manifesto we will deliver three million high quality apprenticeships in this parliament. As announced in the Summer Budget with a levy on large UK employers, who will be able to control how the funding is spent to ensure that young people are getting the skills that employers need. This levy will be worth £3 billion by 2019/20         

Recent figures also show that the proportion of young people who have left full-time education has fallen to a record low. There is more to do, but the proportion of young people not in full-time education and out of work is now at a record low of 14.1 per cent. The employment rate for this group is not at 74.6 per cent – the highest in over a decade.

On Monday, the new Childcare Bill passed Report Stage and its Third Reading in the House of Commons which means that it won’t be long before our government can deliver the government’s election Manifesto commitment to give families where parents are working an entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare for their three- and four-year olds.  I well remember hearing this announcement by the Prime Minister when he launched the Manifesto right here in Swindon last year, so am particularly pleased by progress.  Child care costs are a significant burden on working parents, which is why reform and improvement is a priority for us.

In this Parliament, total Government spend on childcare will increase from £5 billion in 2015-16 to over £6 billion by 2019-20. This includes almost £4 billion for the current free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds, the most disadvantaged two-year-olds and the early years pupil premium (EYPP) for disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds. This support comes as well as the extension of the existing entitlement of 15 hours of free childcare a week to 30 hours for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

The Government is also introducing Tax-Free Childcare, which will save around 2 million families up to £2,000 per child on their annual childcare bill for children under 12. Further information on this can be found here:…   

This Friday, I’ll be hosting another advice surgery at my constituency office on Wood Street. It’s always great to see new and more familiar faces and discuss a range of different issues, both local and national. There’s still time to book a slot at the following surgery on Friday 5th February 10-11.20. If you’d like more information, or to book a slot, please call my office on 01793 533393, or drop me an email at

I’ll also be releasing my first monthly newsletter at the end of January, which will contain a summary of my work in here Swindon and in Westminster as well as some important news. If you’re interested in signing up, please visit my website and fill out the ‘get email updates’ form on my homepage.