Since my last despatch on this page I have taken Cabinet Office questions in parliament and spent a delightful spring day in and around my constituency last Friday.
Most of us are familiar with Prime Minister’s Question Time, but you may not know that once a month ministers from each Whitehall Department will take questions from MPs on a complete range of subjects, most of which are tabled in advance but each of which can be followed by an unannounced supplementary.
Last Wednesday it was my turn, and as usual the questions covered their usual wide remit.
I was asked about progress towards ending the practice of ‘check-off’ in the Civil Service (the automatic payroll deduction of trade union subscriptions); the current position on reducing the number of quangos funded by the taxpayer; the latest figures available for the level of charitable giving in these recently straitened times, and the government’s incentives and tax breaks to encourage it; the inclusion of people of opposing political views on public advisory bodies, and other questions about transparency and accountability in public appointments; the inclusion of government procurement in our Efficiency and Reform group; the progress we are making on gov.uk (both of these last two are ones I have mentioned here before); the Big Society; the tracking down and holding to account of websites which misleadingly charge for freely available government services and lastly the proper use of National Statistics by government.
All in a day’s work at the busy Cabinet Office, and it is intensely rewarding to unpick the detail and look for ways to do things faster, better and more cost effectively.
On Friday among other visits and surgery appointments I visited the new retirement village at Faygate and opened a show flat there.
It is clear from the developer’s research that people are having much more active, healthy and involved lives after they have finished paid work, many of them working and living for many years longer than our parents and grandparents did.
Later on, a to visit the River Arun at The Haven to discuss recent flooding problems and the river maintenance, which is something of a conundrum: of the two rivers running through the Horsham constituency, the fast flowing Arun almost never flooded previously and the Adur did, whereas now that position is reversed. I am meeting with local Environment Agency officials soon to discuss this and other matters and will report back.
I would be interested to hear your own memories of this issue.
I was reminded again how much I appreciate being able to represent Horsham in Parliament, and to be able to spend my weekdays at the frustrating and rewarding coal face of government.