Comment: Iain Stewart’s month in politics

Iain Stewart
Iain Stewart

The second week in March was National Apprenticeship Week. I am a firm supporter of apprenticeships and I was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister to Milton Keynes on Monday, March 11.

The Prime Minister took the time to visit the Mercedes Benz UK National Apprentice Academy for a Q&A session with the current apprentices there.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week I joined Niftylift for a morning to get an idea of the excellent programme they have for 16-24 year olds locally.

Niftylift is one of the largest manufacturers of cherry pickers and hydraulic lifts in Europe and they have been running an apprenticeship scheme in Milton Keynes for the past 19 years. I was very impressed by the scheme at Niftylift, which develops youngsters to give them academic skills in engineering and manufacturing up to degree course level, as well as hands on experience. I would like to thank Steve Beckwith, operations director at Niftylift for having me along for the day.

I also spent a morning doing work experience at the McDonalds restaurant in Westcroft.

I, like many other people, enjoy a McDonalds as an occasional treat, but it is often easy to forget what a fantastic employer they are, employing over 90,000 people in the UK and this year alone creating 2,500 new jobs. They are also providing training and apprenticeships in a range of skills, including Business Management, as well as nationally recognised qualifications in Maths and English.

One piece of ongoing work I am involved with at the moment is the Transport Committee inquiry into disabled people’s access to transport. To help inform my work on the Inquiry I spent some time travelling with disabled residents this month. This included taking a blindfolded bus journey to understand the difficulties visually impaired people have using public transport.

I also took a journey on MK PlusBus, the Milton Keynes Community Transport service. The service helps disabled and frail elderly residents of Milton Keynes who are not able to use mainstream public transport. I was able to see firsthand what an important lifeline this service is for disabled people to enable them to get to the shops or to enable them to visit doctors or dentist.

Another transport issue I have been looking carefully at this month is the issue of overcrowding on London Midland services from Euston to Milton Keynes in the evenings.

I know many residents will be well aware of this problem and will face the frustration of seeing half empty Virgin Trains departing at the same time they are not able to get on their own train home.

To help find ways to address this I recently hosted a meeting in Parliament with London Midland management for them to brief other MPs in our region. I have also be working with colleagues in Milton Keynes and Northampton to lobby the Department for Transport to make use of the temporary extension of the west coast franchise to urge Virgin and London Midland to work together temporarily to ease overcrowding on services from Euston, in the evening peak at least, until the full franchise is let and London Midland’s new train order comes through. I have long campaigned for Milton Keynes to get the quality rail services it deserves and I will keep pushing for this measure in the coming months.

Finally, this month I continued my programme of street surgeries in Stony Stratford and Woburn Sands town centres on the morning of Saturday, March 16

I am grateful to everyone who took the time to speak with me. I will be holding my next street surgeries in Bletchley on April 13 and in Woburn Sands on April 27.