Over the past couple of months, whilst Parliament has been on its summer recess, I have been busy here in Swindon talking to residents, businesses, charities and local community groups about the issues that matter most to us.
A very enjoyable part of my summer tasks has been helping to judge a local photography competition. A series of memorable images of our Town were submitted by a number of talented young photographers from Swindon’s schools and colleges to help celebrate the 175th anniversary of Swindon’s locomotive history and the founding of our New Town. The standard of all the entries was exceptionally high, making it a very difficult task to select the winning entries. Everybody who entered the competition should be very proud of their work. The images of Swindon, as seen through the eyes of the next generation, are now on display on the upper floor of the Brunel Shopping Centre. If you are in our Town Centre, I would strongly encourage you to take a look.
Swindon Borough Council has an excellent track record of providing schools places and meeting the preference of where parents would like their children to be educated. This year, the Council was able to give 90.8% of applicants their first preference for primary schools, and 94.8% for secondary schools. This makes our Council the fourth most successful in the South-west, and the fifteenth nationally, in terms of meeting the first preferences for secondary school applicants. Despite these strong statistics, I would still advise parents of children who will be attending primary, junior or secondary school for the first time in September 2017, who can now apply for a school place for their child, to make sure they put down a second and third preference of school, in case their first school is oversubscribed. The closing date for secondary school applications is 31 October 2016 while the deadline for primary school applications is 15 January 2017.
It has now been 11 weeks since the UK voted to leave the EU, and it is the duty of the Government to make sure that this happens and is done successfully. Nobody should expect the negotiation process to be brief or straightforward, bearing in mind the importance of our car industry, the need for British industries to trade in a straightforward way with EU countries plus the accepted fact that there will be a change in the way that immigration to our country from EU countries is administered.
Having worked closely with Theresa May on issues like the Investigatory Powers Bill, there is nobody better suited to provide the strong leadership and attention to detail that this serious and complex task requires.
The Prime Minister has made it categorically clear that there must be no attempt to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin through the back door, and no second referendum. It is now the role of the Government to provide the strong leadership we need to forge a new role for ourselves in a world which is more interdependent than at any stage in history. Let's not forget that we already have a number of other international obligations and agreements that are separate from the EU but which mean that we will continue to be very much a part of our interconnected world.