DevComms director Charles Bushe reports on what the region’s MPs have been up to over the last month.

Prime Minster Boris Johnson described Cheryl Gillan, who passed away at the beginning of April, as a ‘great servant to the people of Chesham and Amersham’.

Tributes poured for the Conservative MP from across the Thames Valley, with Victoria Prentis (Con, Banbury) calling her a ‘wonderful colleague’, Joy Morrissey (Con, Beaconsfield) saying she embodied ‘what all MPs should aspire to be’ and Theresa May (Con, Maidenhead) recalling her ‘warm, thoughtful and kindhearted’ nature.

Needless to say, this is only a selection of the memories shared by local MPs, with many paying their respects in Parliament.

A by-election will now be called to elect a new Member of Parliament for the Chesham and Amersham Constituency, which Cheryl Gillan had represented since 1992, with no date reportedly yet set.

Turning to other matters, MPs of all political hues across the Valley welcomed the confirmation from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that the Cambridge to Oxford Expressway has now officially been cancelled.

Amongst the chorus of jubilation, Conservative MP for Buckingham Greg Smith called it a ‘hard earned victory’, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran called it a ‘major victory for the Liberal Democrats’ and, in Oxford East, Labour Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds welcomed the ‘long-due cancellation’.

Staying with Anneliese Dodds, there has been speculation in the press over the past month that her position as Shadow Chancellor may be under threat in an upcoming Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle. Jess Phillips (branded the ‘Shadow Shadow Chancellor’ by the New Statesman), Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper have all been cited as possible replacements.

In response to these rumours, leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer has come out in defence of his Shadow Chancellor, saying that he has ‘full confidence’ in her and that she is doing a ‘fantastic job’.

Despite the current rumours, Anneliese Dodds has been vocal in criticising the recent announcement by Robert Jenrick of The High Street Homes Permitted Development Rights, which would enable high street premises to be converted to homes without planning permission.

She said that the plans were representative of a Government that is ‘washing its hands of our high streets’ and that it would lead to further loss of shops and high street businesses. In contrast, the announcement was welcomed by John Howell (Con, Henley) who said it would ‘revitalise our high streets’ and enable them to ‘thrive for the future’.

And in others news…

  • Victoria Prentis has been publicising an East West Rail consultation on plans for the Oxford-Cambridge line, referencing implications for Bicester Village Train Station and the London Road Crossing in Bicester.
  • Victoria Prentis was also criticised for ‘obvious electioneering’ by Labour Oxfordshire County Councillor Mark Cherry, after her name was included on a motion being debated at the beginning of April regarding a masterplan for Horton Hospital which was ultimately voted through.
  • In Newbury, Conservative MP Laura Farris attended a Thatcham Town Council meeting and questioned whether plans for thousands of new homes in Thatcham, via West Berkshire Council’s Local Plan Review, were in the right location. She said she is exploring whether alternative locations may be more appropriate.
  • And finally, Labour MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda, wrote an article for the Reading Chronicle stating that the campaign for Reading Gaol has ‘become even stronger’ with the backing of Reading Borough Council, which recently submitted its bid to create an arts centre on the site.

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