Francis Maude: Good to see young people are engaged

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

A perfect, sunny weekend in Sussex, with a period of mourning - yet again - for England’s sad exit from our World Cup journey. We probably need special recycling bins for all the flags and other England merchandise that was needed for much less long than we hoped!

Friday started with a routine X-ray at Horsham Hospital. It just reminded me how important local hospitals are. Welcoming, efficient, a minimum of waiting, small local hospitals are essential. And there is no reason, as the new Chief Executive of NHS England has said, why they can’t be viable. With our fast-growing local population, I’ll need a lot of persuading that the plan for a new hospital for our area, with A&E, can’t be made to work.

On to Tanbridge School for a Leadership Conference where a panel of five of us, including the Bishop of Horsham and your distinguished Editor, were asked questions by the students from a number of local schools.

Some interesting points were raised about the legitimacy of elected vs non-elected leaders, whether commercial interests conflict with doing the right thing, the role of religious faith in schools (particularly topical) and the relationship between politics and education. All relevant topics, and it is good to see how young people, many of whom will be voting for the first time in the General Election next year, are engaged in public affairs and thinking about government and leadership. Getting the right things done is seldom simple, and the more openly we talk about these things with the next generation, the more robust and accountable our future society leaders will be.

Surgery cases were as unpredictable as ever. They ranged from the changes to Legal Aid (we now have 15,500 barristers in England, compared with fewer than 4,000 when I was first called to the Bar 35 years ago, and the number of solicitors trebled during the same period), to access to medical records for adoptive and birth parents.

Not at all unpredictably, the latest Gatwick consultation on changes to flight paths came up. This is causing a lot of misery to a great many constituents who have previously lived with some aircraft noise or experienced an occasional incident along with many others. What the current trial does is to focus an intense stream over previously quiet communities, which does seem manifestly unfair.

I continue to pursue the case for no change to the current Noise Preferential Routes. In almost 18 years as MP for Horsham I had no more than a handful of complaints about aircraft noise before 17th February this year, and it would be good to get back to those days for everyone concerned.