Before I headed up the M3 for what is proving to be an action-packed first week back in Westminster, I spent time catching up on local priorities and issues. I started with an early meeting at the Castle GP practice in Tidworth to discuss possible pressures on the local NHS services arising from the Army rebasing programme, followed by a visit to our excellent Wiltshire College campus in Trowbridge to review their progress and assess what more we can do to support local apprenticeships and “through career” education and training. I then stopped in at HMP Erlestoke to meet the Prison Governor, and it was great to hear that recruitment for new staff is going very well and that the prison (which employs more than 200 local people) is also well supported by a brilliant volunteer team and a very active “Friends” group – all dedicated to helping offenders break the cycle of crime and acquire useful skills to help them “go straight”. I often feel that we don’t hear nearly enough about the positive work done in our prisons by the thousands of dedicated people who work and volunteer for the Prison Service, and there is much to support and celebrate on websites like www.friendsoferlestokeprison.com. We then got the weekend off to a good start with a rousing celebration at the Shed Alehouse in Pewsey to celebrate their win in the Best Drinks category in my Best Local Pub Awards – a worthy win for a very special place.
Then it was back to work and a very unexpected summons to No. 10 for a meeting with the Prime Minister late on Monday night during which she asked me to take on an expanded Clean Growth and Energy portfolio and attend Cabinet every week. This is a huge privilege and a great indication of the Government’s commitment to this vital agenda – not only because it is absolutely fundamental that we protect and improve our environment for the next generation, but also because doing so delivers huge economic opportunities – there are now more than 430,000 jobs in the “low carbon” economy right across the UK, and our exports and investments in all sorts of low carbon technologies are helping the UK be a world leader in this area. I attended my first Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, and am busy sorting out my final portfolio while also celebrating the reshuffle results for some other local colleagues – my good friends John Glen, MP for Salisbury, who will take on an important Treasury role, and my fellow Cabinet attendee, Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes, who takes on the Immigration brief.