Politicians love a good photo opportunity, and given the necessary emphasis on building a stronger economy, hard hats and hi-vis jackets have become de rigueur of late. But the invitation for me to take part in the ceremonial turf-cutting to mark the start of construction at Wiltshire College in Chippenham was too hard-won to turn down.
Seeing work commence on the new state-of-the-art building was especially satisfying after the disappointment we experienced in 2008, when we came so close only to see funding disappear after the previous government overspent on its national college building programme.
I supported the plans back then and, since my election to Parliament in 2010, championed Wiltshire College’s renewed bid to Ministers.
I even enlisted David Cameron’s backing for the project at Prime Minister’s Questions last year. I am delighted that the Coalition Government awarded Wiltshire College the grant it needed to make this redevelopment happen, and I look forward to seeing the site transform over the coming months, to provide better facilities for young people.
I’m particularly pleased that the new campus will allow Wiltshire College to provide more vocational training and apprenticeships, especially in engineering. We have invested heavily in apprenticeships, doubling the number offered each year. Since the general election, more than 1.8 million people have started apprenticeships, including 2,500 here in the Chippenham constituency.
I have written previously about the campaign I have been pursuing with MPs of all parties for a Hillsborough-style inquiry into the organised abuse of children. On Monday in the Commons, I thanked the Home Secretary after she announced the establishment of an inquiry, a month after I took the campaign for it to Prime Minister’s Questions.
Around Westminster, a few fearful voices are already speaking of a witch-hunt. However, I believe if there genuinely is to be justice, both for the survivors of abuse and for anyone accused who is innocent, we need an orderly inquiry which is thorough and open.
So I asked the Home Secretary whether, where necessary, former public servants will be released from gagging clauses or even the Official Secrets Act when giving evidence.
My next surgery will be at my office in Avonbridge House, Chippenham today, from 2pm–3.30pm.