MY WEEK IN WESTMINSTER

I OFTEN feel extremely lucky to be MP for Fylde.

But you perhaps wouldn’t expect that one of my proudest moments came this week during a visit to a prison.

The importance and seriousness of the task that prison staff and governors face, as we saw during the disturbances at Ford Open prison in December, cannot be understated.

So to see the air of calm which seemed to flow through HMP Kirkham during my first visit on Friday was extremely welcome.

Its testament, I am sure, to the work of the staff who, from Governor John Hewitson down, oozed enthusiasm.

Before the visit I’d heard nothing but positive comments from local councillors, residents and organisations about the community outreach work that is carried out by the prison.

But it also was extremely pleasing to see the positive work being done internally, particularly around education and reducing re-offending.

It was clear to see, even from my brief glimpse, that the individually tailored educational and work programmes, from numeracy and literacy which is compulsory to bricklaying and cookery, are extremely beneficial and are providing much needed life skills.

Make no mistake I am sure there are numerous problems which went unseen during my visit; contraband, drugs and disputes.

But I can only go of what I see and the level of positivity in the staff was extremely heartening.

I will be commending them and their work to the prisons minister Crispin Blunt as soon as I can and I hope it will continue to be a force for good rather than concern within the community for a long time to come.

As well as surgeries and a number of business meetings last weekend I also raised an important point during the Armed Forces Bill debate last Monday night.

It was with regards to Fijian soldiers currently serving with Fylde’s 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment who are based at Weeton Barracks.

During a recent visit to the Barracks, they pointed out to me that they are asked to pay a large sum to secure visas for their families while putting their lives on the line for the UK.

I don’t know if this situation can be rectified but I hope they know I was pleased to speak up for them and I hope it will help.

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