What will happen now is that Conservative MPs and Party members will shortly be asked to choose a new Party Leader for the Brexit years to come and to lead us into the next General Election. That means that I, along with Conservative MPs and Party members, will be thinking long and hard in the coming weeks about who we want to deliver Brexit and rebuild the country’s confidence in the Government. My focus at this critical moment is on ensuring that whoever is chosen is able to bring our Party and country back together to deliver Brexit in the national interest so that we can focus on working to address the huge challenges facing our country’s future.
For example, climate change is a global issue which poses a clear threat to our planet’s future and requires a united response. The latest school strikes last Friday, which I know included many local schools, show just how passionate the younger generation in particular are for us to address these vitally important issues. Under this Government we have made great progress in tackling climate change – the last time the UK’s emissions were this low was in 1888!
When the Conservatives came to power in 2010, coal-based generation was over 30% of the total. Since then, our renewable capacity has quadrupled, and the UK has developed the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. This has meant that last year more than half of the UK’s electricity was generated from low-carbon sources, the highest ever share, while we recently reached a record 258 hours (and counting at the time of writing!) of continuous coal-free generation.
Meanwhile locally, last week I kept a long-standing commitment to join the celebrations at Bedwyn Station to mark the introduction of the new bi-modal Inter City Express Trains on the Bedwyn – Paddington service. Together with children and staff from Great Bedwyn School, and representatives from the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group and other local stakeholders, we travelled on one of the new trains into the specially lengthened siding close to Great Bedwyn Church and then onto Newbury. The brand new, environmentally-friendly, trains which run on electric from Newbury to Paddington are longer and provide many more seats and tables, as well as improved legroom and Wi-Fi.
You may recall that that the decision taken to electrify the line to Newbury only meant that many people were concerned that passengers from Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury would be served by a diesel “shuttle” to Newbury – and thus the end of the through trains upon which many local people and businesses rely. However, I led a campaign to convince Rail Ministers that our through services are vital to the local economy and I was delighted when Great Western Railway announced in 2017 that a package of investment was agreed with the Department for Transport to secure additional hybrid trains for the Bedwyn – Paddington stopping service.
This is what real politics is all about – working with local people to champion local issues. My huge thanks to everyone, and especially the Bedwyn Trains Passenger Group who have worked so hard to demonstrate just how vital our Bedwyn to Paddington direct services are to the local economy.
Finally, you may have seen reported in the press that I am taking a temporary Ministerial leave of absence to look after a sick family member. I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for allowing me to take this temporary leave, and huge thanks to my talented colleague Chris Skidmore who will be covering my portfolio as Energy and Clean Growth Minister.
The Rt Hon Claire Perry
MP for the Devizes Constituency