MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

THIS week, it is fair to say, has been the most difficult of my political life.

The changes to tuition fees have attracted widespread criticism and I can assure you a lot of MPs have been wrestling with their consciences.

But on Thursday I voted to support the bill and I will explain why.

There has been a huge amount of misinformation circulating around this issue.

Firstly, students will not pay a single penny until they reach a salary of £21,000. This is a significantly better deal than the current £15,000 level.

Secondly, repayments will be much lower with people earning over £21,000 paying £45 less a month than under the current system.

There are many more complex arguments, which I do not have room to go into in the space, but put simply, in the current economic climate, this is a fairer deal for students than the current alternatives.

I hope people will understand my position and, most importantly, look more closely at the policy and decide for themselves rather than listening to the spin of the Labour Party who, lest we forget, supported and commissioned the Browne Review.

On Thursday we also had the terrible news that more than 600 jobs may be lost at BAE Warton.

I feel devastated for the workers, some of whom I have met, and I will of course be calling on the Government and BAE Systems to do everything they can to help them find alternative employment and if necessary, re-training.

Since the election my number one priority has been to push the case both in the House of Commons and via the media for the outstanding workforce at Warton.

The site has a massive impact on the local economy and I know many businesses nearby, as well as suppliers, will also be affected.

The decision not to go-ahead with Nimrod and Harrier projects were both incredibly difficult but, as Defence Minister Peter Luff told me, the Government were in an impossible situation.

The legacy of debt left over from more than 10 years of overspending and poor planning left the Department hamstrung.

Looking to the long-term I believe one of the keys to the future viability of Warton as a continuing leader in aerospace technology is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle programme which is currently in development.

This is why, at Prime Minister’s Questions last week, I asked David Cameron about this very issue and asked him to state the Government’s commitment to this scheme and visit Warton.

I was pleased by his answer that the Government was committed and, while it may not be of much consolation to those who lose their jobs, I will continue to do everything I can to ensure the site remains prosperous.

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