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

The Chancellor’s Spring Budget may have stolen the headlines in Westminster this month but, in the Thames Valley, all eyes turned towards Reading Gaol where some recent artwork on the prison walls was confirmed to be genuine Banksy.

Labour MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda, felt compelled to speak out following this revelation, saying that the artwork should not affect Reading Borough Council’s bid for the gaol (or the price), whilst confirming that the bid will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice in March.

Rail infrastructure again featured prominently over the past four weeks as Rob Butler (Aylesbury, Con) highlighted in the Commons how ‘excited’ his constituents are about the prospect of an Aylesbury spur for East-West Rail.

In response, Andrew Stephenson, Conservative transport minister, simply stated that they ‘continue to explore options’ but without making any commitments.

There was some cross-party agreement in Oxfordshire, as David Johnston (Wantage, Con) and Layla Moran (Oxford West & Abingdon, LibDem) both promoted the case for the re-opening of Grove Train Station which has been closed since the Beeching cuts of the early 1960s.

The LibDems have a petition running which calls on the county council to prioritise its re-opening, and David Johnston launched a survey which reportedly demonstrated 98 per cent support for re-opening of the station amongst more than 2,600 respondents.

Following Layla Moran’s assertion last month that the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway continues to be built ‘by stealth’, Greg Smith (Buckingham, Con) has called for a ‘formal cancellation notice’ so that his constituents can have certainty that ‘this nightmare road will never be built’.

Staying in Buckinghamshire, Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South, Con) has helped put together a successful bid for investment in Bletchley, at the centre of East-West Rail, which he says will ‘help it make the most of the upcoming rail investment’.

Rishi Sunak confirmed that the town would receive £23 million from the Government’s New Town deals, with a focus on regenerating Queensway, creating improved links to the town centre and introducing a new ‘Tech Park’ based at Milton Keynes College.

In other news…

  • Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North, Con) said that the Chancellor’s Budget showed how the country would ‘build back greener’ and Alok Sharma (Reading West, Con) stated that retrofitting buildings will have a big role to play as part of their 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.
  • Layla Moran (Oxford West & Abingdon, LibDem) secured a debate in the House of Commons on her long-running concerns about flooding in her constituency. Following the debate, she subsequently said that the Minister ‘didn’t seem to grasp the issues raised’.
  • And finally, Labour MP for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, has called for a ‘long-term rolling programme of electrification’ for the UK’s rail network, as only 38 per cent of the network is purportedly electrified at the moment.

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