Last week, as the House was briefly in recess, was a very pleasant opportunity to spend the week at home in my constituency (Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire), and to catch up there on various local issues. One of these was peoples’ concerns about explosions that had been going off in a village called New Toft. The explosions had apparently been caused by tests of weaponry on the former RAF airfield at Faldingworth. These had been conducted by a company contracted by the Ministry of Defence.
One poor old lady had just had her house repaired because of damage from previous explosions, only to have it badly damaged again by the latest ones.
So I wrote to the Health & Safety Executive and the local council (West Lindsey) as well as the MOD. I also invited the Chief Executive of the council to visit local residents with me and hear their concerns directly.
Many of my constituents are still dealing with the aftermath of last summers’ floods, and so I also paid a visit to the parish councillors in Hemswell Cliff, whose residents, to compound their water-logged woes, are still suffering from the poor maintenance and repair of service and ex-service properties.
Back in London, I came up to the office this morning after running the dog around the park, chilly but sunlit.
I always much prefer being at home in the Lincolnshire Wolds to London, but that’s just part of the job, so as it’s Monday and the House has returned, here I am sitting in Gladstone’s old office, overlooking the Thames, as I prepare for today’s meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which I chair.
As usual this morning I had a briefing from the National Audit Office (NAO) about the reports they are publishing next week. It is part of my job as Chairman of the PAC to comment to the press on all 60 NAO reports they come out over the year, so I need a comprehensive briefing every Monday morning.
As it’s Monday, it’s the first PAC hearing of the week – a sort of Grand Inquisition for senior civil servants – so knuckles down! Today we shall be grilling the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence on how the MOD prepares people to re-enter civilian life.
In preparation for the hearing there was a very interesting visit to Aldershott, where we met serving officers and men, who were learning skills for use in the outside world. It is always good to meet in the flesh the people affected by the issues the PAC addresses, and particularly so when they are our brave and long-suffering servicemen and women.