One of the most interesting challenges for an MP is dealing with the bigger picture issues such as the Finance Bill or Brexit (or the international issues which are the staple of an MP's life) while staying focused on the nitty gritty issues that directly affect constituents. Much of this is a question of choice as to who is best placed to deal with the issue. Many of the everyday issues facing constituents are already dealt with by local councils whether at the county, district or parish level even although many people may not be aware of this. The question is therefore about which level to direct people.
A major part of Conservative activity since 2010 has been in ensuring that decisions are located at the appropriate level. This is particularly so with planning where I invented Neighbourhood Planning. Neighbourhood Planning gives to local parishes the right to participate in the planning system by providing their own plan on where the houses should go, what they should look like and which open and green spaces should be preserved. It is not an exercise which the parish undertakes alone. It does so by partnering with the local district council although we have taken steps to ensure that local district councils cannot unduly hold up Neighbourhood Plans. Having gone to this stage in giving local parishes the ability to undertake this work it would be foolish for an MP to tread in this area apart from by giving advice.
Similarly, questions to do with roads fall into two very distinct forms. The first is about the amount of money that is made available by Parliament for example to fix potholes. That is a question for MPs and here in Oxfordshire the Government has made available over £7 million this year alone for this purpose. Contrast this with the work undertaken by the County Council to actually fix the roads and to use that money wisely which is a responsibility of local councillors.
So, a lot of the work of concern to local residents is in reality the function of local councillors. They too are elected and they have an everyday relationship with the Council. MPs do not have this relationship. Of course, it is right for MPs to keep councillors up to the mark but that is a different thing to getting involved with the problem itself.
There are of course issues which affect local constituents and where Central Government has a role. This includes for example making sure that mental health solutions are widely available including in schools. Personally, I think this is an important area of work. Also important is the activity of the NHS in the area. I chair a grouping of Oxfordshire MPs which hold the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to account CCGs are clinically-led statutory NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services. Together we have seen the number of people bed blocking in Oxfordshire radically decrease and I think this activity worthwhile. Another area where MPs can play a part is in the transformation of NHS services. One example of that is at the Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley which we had re-built and re-provisioned the hospital but with beds in the neighbouring care home rather than in the hospital itself. This has changed the way social care and the NHS work together and also changed how clinical staff regard patients and are more likely now to ask for them to be treated at home where most patients want to be.
In all, in the past year in Parliament I have spoken just under 190 times. That is more than twice the average for an MP. Only 4 of those times have been to do with Brexit. What this shows is that despite Brexit there is still important work going on in Parliament and it is crucial that we speak out on it and how it affects our constituents. That has included the use in the UK of Sharia courts for settling cases by means of Alternative Dispute Resolution methods such as arbitration and mediation. These have no legal status and undermine the role of women. It also includes children's life limiting illnesses which is a crucial issue for many families. All of these issues are important and demand our attention.