This week I have had various meetings in Parliament in the wake of my Westminster Hall debate on the state of British high streets.

During the debate I spoke about the potential damage which could be caused to local shops by an over-proliferation of charity shops, particularly by major national chains.

While I believe charity shops provide many important services for communities it is vital that there is a balance between the needs of those charities and traders struggling to make a living in our town centres.

Following the debate I was contacted by Robin Osterley of the Charity Retail Association, a group which was set up to protect the interests of such enterprises.

Mr Osterley was understandably concerned about my proposal that councils be given more power to limit the numbers of certain stores in our town centres and came to meet me to discuss those issues further.

During our meeting I made it clear that I am a big supporter of charity shops and have visited a number of Fylde stores since coming to Parliament, even spending some time working in one.

My main concern, and that of a number of Fylde businesses which have contacted me, is to ensure we continue to provide a robust and attractive shopping offer where traders can thrive without being negatively impacted by charity shops selling similar products, staffed by volunteers and paying minimal business rates.

Following that meeting I met with the Minister for High Streets, Marcus Jones MP, to discuss the matter further.

I presented him with copies of articles from the Express and the Blackpool Gazette and pointed out that this is an argument which is roundly supported by local businesses.

He agreed to go away and consider if there was any way in which the Government could assist local councils in protecting our high streets.

Later in the week I attended an event aimed at raising awareness over the issue of the current persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

As a practising Catholic and someone with Christian beliefs, I have deep concerns over what is happening in the region and the possibility that Christianity could be wiped out by these atrocious attacks.

It is vital that the international community recognises what is happening in the Middle East and takes steps to protect those people who share our values.


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