Ranil Jayawardena MP Opinion Piece—September 2018

Summer recess is always a great time of year for me, because I get to spend more time across our constituency, speaking with constituents. It’s even better this summer, as I’ve launched my new ‘Recess Pub Tour’ too! I’ve been travelling across North East Hampshire to visit local businesses, hold more of my informal ‘Tell Ranil in the Pub’ Q&A sessions and—most importantly of all—speak to more of you!

These sessions are one of my favourite parts of being a MP and I always value hearing your views and opinions—even where we disagree—plus getting feedback on issues where we’re achieving great wins for North East Hampshire, as well as those where I know there is still more to do. Though you certainly keep me on my toes, it really does help to hear any concerns you may have and find out how I can help. Of course, it is great to be able to do this while enjoying refreshments in one of our local pubs too!

First up on my tour this year was the Purefoy Arms in Preston Candover, which is in the south western corner of our constituency. This charming redbrick building, dating from the 1860s, was a fantastic location in which to chat to people who popped by to say hello. It has recently re-opened under the new management of Gordon Stott—winner of the 2017 Craft Guild of Chefs ‘Pub Chef of the Year’ award (also known as the ‘Chef’s Oscars’)—so I would thoroughly recommend a visit!

From the south western corner of my constituency to the eastern border, the next pub on my tour was The Station in Fleet. Two-dozen folk came along to raise local issues, including several concerned about school transport and it was a constructive opportunity to be able to share the solutions that local councillors and I have been striving to push forward.

The venue for another ‘Tell Ranil in the Pub’ was the Red Lion in Odiham—one of my regular haunts as it is close to the geographic centre of my constituency and only a few minutes’ walk from my constituency office.

It hasn’t been all pubs though. I am proud to have launched a new local project, ‘Friendly Fleet’. The aim of this project is to create a family of local businesses who will pledge to become more accommodating to all, such as those with disabilities, autism, dementia and visual impairments. By signing up to a list of pledges and offering additional training for their staff, these local businesses can become a certified part of our family.

To launch the scheme, I visited Fleet, walking up and down Fleet Road and through the shopping centre to talk to the people running our local businesses, in person, about how to help those with disabilities. It was encouraging to see that many of our businesses have already worked to modify their shops, like making them wheelchair accessible. If you would like to learn more about this project, you can find it on my website—ranil.uk/fleet—or drop me an email.

I dropped by a number of local businesses also, including a small family farm in Well, to meet entrepreneur Emma. It was great to hear how ‘The Little Grey Sheep’ has had such great success and has grown into such a great British business by combining the fleece of two types of sheep, sheared by shepherdess Susie, which is then washed in Yorkshire, spun in the west country and hand-dyed back on their farm, to produce their unique, 100% natural British fine wool. We can be really proud to have this incredible local business—which recently featured on BBC Two’s Back to the Land (Series 2, Episode 10)—and others in our area.

As for parliamentary business, given that I am on the International Trade Committee, I was delighted to accept an invitation from the Japanese Government to visit their country as part of a small delegation of MPs. We were able to discuss the future trade relationship between the UK and Japan, post-Brexit.

I had insightful discussions with Yasutoshi Nishimura (Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary) and Daisaku Hiraki (Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Economy Trade and Industry), amongst others, about Brexit, trade and other economic issues. There was clear support for the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which eliminates 98 per cent of tariffs across the eleven countries who’ve already signed up in a combined marketplace worth close to $14 trillion, i.e. $14,000,000,000,000—that’s a lot of noughts!

Japan is one of the few countries with a bigger economy than the UK, so this was a great start to many more discussions as we shape our future trade deals with Japan and many other countries.

It has been a really enjoyable and constructive summer so far and, at the time of writing, I have a host more locations on my summer tour itinerary to visit still, so hopefully I will see you at one of them. If not though, don’t worry, my ‘Tell Ranil’ sessions will, as ever, be continuing throughout the year, so please do pop along to one—details and how to get in touch are on my website as always!

You can find details of future events here.