It’s been fantastic to be back in Westminster and I know lots of people will also be returning to the office full time, and this is another really important step on our road back to normality after the last 18 months. Sadly, on the subject of normality, we have also seen multiple roadworks absolutely grinding Haywards Heath to a halt, affecting school drop offs and work commutes. I will be working with Cllrs to see what can be done as it is incessant, and constituents want those doing this essential work to do it in a timely way and appreciate the impact it has on our towns when they all spring up at once.
Meanwhile, I’ll be continuing to ask for the promised weekly updates from Thameslink about the swiftest possible reinstatement of the direct service between London Bridge and East Grinstead. I want to thank constituents for continuing to raise their frustrations with me and letting me know how this is already affecting crowding on other services. This direct train service is vital for our City workers in Mid Sussex, and I am pushing for it to be resumed promptly.
On Monday, the PM made a statement on the situation in Afghanistan, setting out our efforts to support veterans of the conflict, ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave and protect the gains of the last two decades. This includes a further £5 million for military charities offering support – building on the £10 million for military charities announced at this year’s budget and the £2.7 million announced last week for those facing complex mental and physical trauma. We are also hosting a G7 Leader’s Summit to coordinate the international community’s response and leading the way on a UN Security Council resolution.
I am very pleased we have now launched a public consultation to make outdoor measures for high streets and businesses permanent, to continue helping them become long term, thriving places to work, visit and live. This includes allowing marquees to be put up in pub grounds and street markets operating all year round – these key reforms will allow people to enjoy outdoor hospitality and local attractions, providing opportunities for businesses to innovate.
I joined the National Farmers Union (NFU) representatives for Sussex and Surrey to catch up with Mid Sussex farmers at Heaselands Estate. It was fascinating to see the tech used now in dairy farming and how it is improving both quality and efficiency. They also raised several issues with me, which I will be highlighting to colleagues in DEFRA, including on rural crime and its impact on our farmers, employment opportunities, water regulation and the ongoing scourge of fly-tipping in Mid Sussex.