Rail links to boost economy

Iain Stewart MP
Iain Stewart MP

GOOD transport links help position Milton Keynes as the economic hub of the South East region. Since being elected in 2010, I have campaigned for improved transport services for both local businesses and daily commuters. I am pleased that train franchisees and Ministers at the Department of Transport have listened.

Most recently the Rail Minister, Theresa Villiers, announced that the Department for Transport has entered into agreement with London Midland to procure 40 new Class 350 carriages for use within the franchise. In addition, existing trains will be upgraded to allow them to run at higher speeds. More and faster trains, will speed up journeys and reduce overcrowding. Significantly, this agreement will provide 1,508 additional seats into Euston in the morning peak and 2,966 in the evening peak.

This comes after the go-ahead was given to re-open the East-West line, which will give residents of Bletchley direct train services to Aylesbury, Bicester, Oxford and Reading, and Virgin Trains’ commitment to stop three additional services at Milton Keynes Central during the evening peak. These additional rail services are going to make a big difference.

I was also very pleased to be invited to visit this year’s Young Entreprise Trade Fair. This year MK hosted secondary schools from the South East region.

Through the Young Enterprise programme, 15-19 year olds run their own real companies for a year with help from mentors from the business community.

It was really interesting to see all the innovations from these budding entrepreneurs. The whole project is incredibly valuable as it helps students develop team work and communication skills.

In a recent Adjournment debate in Parliament I raised the plight of the Hazara community in the Quetta region of Pakistan. This group are the victims of increasing violence and repression as a result of their genetic ancestry.

To date 600 Hazara have been killed and not a single perpetrator brought to justice. MK has a strong Hazara community and it is important to remember many have relatives whose lives are at threat in Pakistan. The international community can’t stand by and let this sort of persecution carry on. I look forward to working with the Hazara community to encourage the Foreign Office to engage with the Pakistani Government.

I was very happy to welcome Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, and Minister of State for Employment, Chris Grayling, to the city.

Welfare Reform has been the focus of media attention for several months with the cap on benefit payments to households set at £26,000 per year. However, support still remains in place to protect the most vulnerable. All households where someone is receiving Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Constant Attendance Allowance will be exempt from the cap. These reforms are part of Government plans to ensure fairness while making sure that work pays.

My postbag is often filled with requests for help from constituents who have difficulties navigating the very cumbersome benefits process. These reforms will simplify the process and tackle the disincentive to part-time working.

I was delighted Mr Grayling spent some time with MK Physically Disabled and Sensory Impairment Consultative Group.

Email: iain.stewart.mp@parliament.uk

Tel: 01908 686830

Postal address: House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA