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A year in Norfolk politics

PUBLISHED: 17:02 16 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:02 16 May 2016

The Houses of Parliament are lit up by the evening sun in Westminster, London. Picture: Laura Lean/PA Wire

The Houses of Parliament are lit up by the evening sun in Westminster, London. Picture: Laura Lean/PA Wire

Archant

It’s a year since our MPs were elected to serve for a new term in parliament. Rachel Buller asks the “Norfolk nine” how have they enjoyed the past 12 months in politics, what have they achieved and what challenges do they think their constituencies face?

Brandon Lewis

Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, since 2010

“I have been dealing with lots of queries from residents. Great Yarmouth is experiencing issues caused by the worldwide oil and gas industry. I have worked with the Local Enterprise Partnership and local authority to develop a package of measures to provide advice and support to local energy companies. I’ve also held meetings with energy companies such as Vatenfall, who have started work on their offshore wind farm, bringing jobs and growth to the area.

“I am proud of working with the residents of Scratby and California to get essential works needed for the protection of the coastline, and with the people of Hemsby to ensure we can get the same scheme in place for the coastline there. I’m also delighted that, having lobbied Norfolk County Council for months for yellow lines to be placed outside Lynn Grove School, this is finally happening.”

Henry Bellingham

Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, served 1983–1997, elected again in 2001

“One of the great advantages of a general election campaign is that the sitting MP has the chance to visit every single village, hamlet and virtually all the wards in the towns. The result was that I picked up a huge number of additional issues and campaigns, and this has really helped me set my priorities for the next few years.

“My four big challenges for this Parliament, on top of helping with countless smaller local campaigns, are: Working with the council to produce a credible Local Plan that delivers a sustainable amount of new housing, but which also protects our beautiful countryside; helping to secure more high class jobs; securing further improvements to our sea and flood defences; pushing further infrastructure and transport improvements.”

Keith Simpson

Conservative MP for Broadland, since 2010; previously MP for Mid Norfolk (1997 to 2010)

“I am now a member of the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, using my knowledge and experience of foreign affairs and defence.

“I am continuing to support local schools, businesses, the tourism industry and the commencement of the Northern Distributor Route and lobbying for a commencement of further dualling of the A47.

“If the electorate vote on June 23 to leave the EU, this will cause considerable uncertainly and will involve several years of renegotiating agreements which have been in place for decades.”

Chloe Smith

Conservative MP for Norwich North, since 2009

“This term I’m building on my previous work on youth employment and taking it further with the Norwich for Jobs team, trying to help disabled youngsters or those who might have a health condition into work with local firms.

“I’m particularly pleased to have been able to secure the improvement of our railway. The success is in securing new trains in the next franchise, and in getting other improvements done behind the scenes so that we will have faster, more reliable services from Norwich to the capital in 10 years. In due course that will bring thousands of jobs to Norwich.

“We know that Norfolk has had its problems in education and skills. Research has shown poor children in the Norwich City Council area have some of the worst life chances in England. That is one of the biggest challenges for Norwich and Norfolk, and it’s my driving passion as a Norwich MP.”

Norman Lamb

Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, since 2001

“It’s been a tough year. First, the Lib Dems suffered brutal losses at the election. I was then plunged straight into a leadership election. I got 43.5pc of the vote but lost. Now I have plunged into issues that I really care about - particularly fighting for equality for those who suffer from mental ill health, and also making the case for a cross party commission on the future of the NHS and care, as I fear the government is sleepwalking towards the precipice.

“In Norfolk we have to achieve a high performing education system. We have fallen behind many other parts of the country. We all have to play our part in ensuring that Norfolk achieves excellence. But I am also fearful of the future of the NHS and care for elderly and disabled people in Norfolk.”

George Freeman

Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, since 2010

“We are home to some of the most exciting new business sectors creating the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow. That’s why I was delighted to be asked by the prime minister to be the first ever minister for life sciences, with a remit to champion innovation in East Anglia in the sectors of agriculture, food, health and technology.

“Alongside major infrastructure improvements with the A11 and A47, increased investment in high-speed broadband and our investment in the Norwich Research Park (another £50 million in the recent budget), this means Norfolk is firmly back at the top of people’s minds in Whitehall.

“Our area has one of the highest proportions of elderly residents in Britain, and is on the front-line of caring for dementia patients and their loved ones who suffer from this terrible disease. But I have always argued that we need to think much more strategically about how we deliver services locally. And with the government’s major devolution drive, we now have the chance to do just that.”

Elizabeth Truss

Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, since 2010, and secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs

“I want to continue to build on the successes of the previous five years – securing improved infrastructure, supporting the fantastic talent in Norfolk by ensuring access to a quality education, encouraging business, enterprise and innovators.

“I believe that one of the most important campaigns of recent years has been the Make it Marham campaign. The sustained lobbying of ministers and the prime minister, a delegation of MPs, councillors and the local community presenting the petition at Downing Street, ensured the long term future of the base. This protected 5,000 jobs and will generate new opportunities when the JSF Lightning II aircraft arrives in 2018 at Marham.

“One of my key aims for this parliament is to continue to champion south west Norfolk as the destination for jobs, recreation and business.”

Richard Bacon

Conservative MP for South Norfolk since 2001

“I was granted the very first adjournment debate of the new Parliament on the subject of zero hours contracts.

“I steered the new Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act on to the statute book, which will make it easier for ordinary people to get a plot of land to build a house or to have someone build a house to their design – especially in rural areas such as south Norfolk.

“I believe the single biggest challenge in Norfolk is getting better broadband, because it affects everything else. Everyone from farmers, small businesses, and doctors’ surgeries to teachers, students and families are now increasingly dependent on good broadband for everyday life. I spend a lot of time lobbying about this.”

Clive Lewis

Labour MP for Norwich South since May 2015

“A shock has been the rising tide of desperate phone calls and emails you get as an MP. For many people facing hunger, homelessness and then being sent back to countries where harm will be done to you, the local MP is the last hope.

“One of the biggest challenges in Norfolk is the reality of things getting worse for both our younger and older people at the same time. Parents have always expected that their children would be better off than them, but with few secure well-paid jobs, soaring housing costs and the vast post university debt, our kids are set to be worse off. If you’re an older person, you’ll be expected to work longer before retirement and there is no confidence that our NHS and adult social care will be there for all of us when we need it.

“I am proud to have given away almost of all of the huge annual pay rise MPs got to five local charities in Norwich. By the time of the next general election, that’ll be worth around £20,000 to those charities. I already get paid far more than I’ve ever been before and, in good conscience, I couldn’t take the increase while so many people in my city are struggling to get by.”

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