The phrase “vertical learning curve” characterises the last few days as I get to grips with my new job, although I have been helped by the local work we have already done on rail services.
It has given me a good understanding of the huge electrification project in our region, the service requirements for the First Great Western franchise currently under discussion and the importance of fast,frequent and direct train links from Pewsey and Bedwyn for the economy of Wiltshire. I discussed these points when I met early morning commuters from Great Bedwyn this week where a frequent question for me was the impact of my new job on local rail campaigning.
The answer is that, while there are strict propriety guidelines over possible conflicts of interest in government meaning that ministers typically do not take final decisions on matters in which they have a strong personal or constituency interest (quite right too), there is every opportunity for me to get the right information to the right place, hold appropriate meetings and strongly represent local interests – all of which I intend to do in my new role which, along with railways, includes responsibility for major projects like Crossrail and Thameslink, freight services and agencies like the DVLA.
Also this week I was proud to present several awards locally. The first were BTEC certificates awarded to a group of young people at the Wellington Academy in Tidworth by a wonderful charity called CVQO that teaches teamwork, personal skills and citizenship, all with a military ethos, in schools across the country.
The second was a long- service award for more than 40 years of agricultural employment to David Pearce, of Manor Farm, Alton Barnes.
At this time of year, hearing the buzz of late night combining and with bulging hay transporters on the road, it is appropriate to pay tribute to all local people whose livelihood is intimately tied up with farming and who work year round to grow British food and feedstock for all of us.
The peaceful Wiltshire harvest landscape seems a long way removed from the atrocity of MH17 which shattered so many lives as well as people’s patience with the current regime in Moscow and the Prime Minister is right to impose more punitive economic sanctions and to call for the immediate suspension of all European military sales to Russia.