Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill looks at issues she'll be pursuing as the new parliamentary session gets under way
Last week Parliament was dissolved, this happens before the start of a new Parliamentary session. This will be the third session and will commence with the State opening of Parliament on May 10.
Its main purpose is for the monarch to formally open Parliament and, in the Queen’s Speech, outline the Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the coming parliamentary session.
At the start of a new parliamentary session it is a great opportunity to take stock, look at the issues facing my constituents and, going forward, how government can help improve both our lives and communities.
I am a passionate believer in a good education for every child and I am pleased the government recently published the Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child, policy white paper. This white paper marks the start of a journey towards an education system in which all children benefit from the high standards of the best schools and families of schools, bringing us closer to achieving our literacy and numeracy missions year by year.
It will form part of a wider programme of change, alongside the much needed SEND Review and I look forward to legislation being brought forward to action the policies and locally drive standards further.
Another of my priorities for our area is improving the infrastructure. We are rapidly growing, with additional housing stock being built in both Bury and Stowmarket and in villages such as Thurston and Woolpit along the A14 corridor. It is vital we build new homes to allow for the increase in population in the area and to ensure that young people who grow up here can stay in the area, and have their own home. However, if we are building more homes, we need to ensure we have the adequate infrastructure to serve the growing population.
I will continue to lobby government to ensure developers are providing our local authorities with proportionate levels of CIL money, which will then allow them to expand GP surgeries, build new local schools and build community assets such as community centres, football pitches and cycle lanes.
I also want to see housing developments designed in the vernacular and in a more environmentally friendly way, encompassing the latest innovations to help the environment and the homeowner, particularly around running costs, which is something I have spoken to many people about. Community hubs, paths and cycleways connecting a development to the main centre of a village or town to allow residents to leave the car at home and benefits for wildlife such as hedgehog runways and wildflower meadows all help.
The planning legislation being discussed for the next Parliament I hope will introduce much of this aspiration, backed up by changes in the building regulations to drive quality and low environmental impact in our built environment.
It is also important we improve our transport network across Suffolk and the East of England to enable us to truly unlock our full economic potential. The designation of Felixstowe as a Freeport and Sizewell C are fantastic opportunities for the area and we can already see a number of businesses looking to come to towns such as Bury and Stowmarket along the A14 corridor and beyond.
We must invest in the A14 to ensure the road is able to cope with the increased freight traffic from the port of Felixstowe and to support these new businesses. Much needed investment on our rail network, particularly the proposed improvements to Haughley Junction, which will increase capacity on the line and reduce delays.
Campaigning on these issues will be at the forefront of my activity in Parliament over the coming year, but I am also aware we face other pressing issues both at home and abroad that will need to be addressed as a matter of urgency on our return to the House of Commons.