I am writing in response to the letter you published last week (“MP must act”). While I was disappointed that the writer requested that their name and address were withheld – leaving me unable to look up whether we received their correspondence – I am pleased that it has given me an opportunity to explain my work as a strong, local voice for North East Hampshire.
I grew up in Hook, where your writer says they live. I went to school there and in Odiham. I know how lucky we are to live where we do. I understand that the security of a good job – in a growing economy – is very important. And I believe in the value of hard work. My father commuted to London daily and then worked tirelessly to set up his own small consultancy business. I worked in London too before I was elected to serve as your MP. With fewer than 250 people out of work across the whole of North East Hampshire (and with many of those people simply between jobs), I know that this is just one example of how hard working local people are – and I have resolved to help local people live even better lives tomorrow than we already live today.
That’s why I have been paying close attention to our post-Brexit landscape in Westminster. I know not everyone will agree with me, but I believe our best days lie ahead. I have served as a Member of the International Trade Committee since it was formed after the referendum (there was no basis for it to exist before, as trade functions have been the sole competence of the EU) and I believe it is in the interests of both sides to strike a positive deal, regardless of the political posturing emanating from the EU as I write this. After all, they have a £67 billion trade surplus with the UK that I’m sure they don’t want to lose for their businesses and their peoples. Besides, they’ve struck deals with Canada and with Japan, economies with very different regulations to the EU – so it is surely not beyond the wit of man to strike a deal with the UK, a country that has exactly the same regulation today as the rest of the EU.
Sure, there are challenges – and I’m not belittling those – but, then again, the best things in life are challenging. With risk comes reward. The Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, has been crystal clear that Britain would be welcomed into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with "open arms" after we leave the EU, adding that his government believes that we will retain our "global strength". This view matters, as Japan is one of the few global economies that is bigger than ours – and TPP offers improved access to a $13.5 trillion ($13,000 billion) market – but we can’t join until we leave the EU. Importantly, we can have a free trade deal with the EU and be part of TPP. As part of my work, I have met Japanese Government Ministers and their Embassy in London regularly over recent months, so I’m pleased to see that the Anglo-Japanese relationship continues to flourish and that both sides remain positive about future growth.
Your writer seems to suggest that I should ignore our local community and sit behind a desk in London though. No. I will continue to get out there, speaking to charities, churches and communities both proactively and at their invitation – and I won’t apologise for doing so. I will continue to call for improvements to our infrastructure, the revitalisation and regeneration of our commercial centres, and the building of a new school. And I will continue to help constituents who need my help.
Since I was elected in 2015, I have worked on over 22,000 pieces of correspondence from constituents. Some constituents, unlike your writer, have deeply personal and urgent issues that need to be resolved, such as housing, immigration or medical matters. I’m happy to help. Others get in touch about matters of policy, where we may agree - or agree to differ! That’s fine too. And others write repeatedly about the same policy matter, even though there is only so much I can ever say on the same point - and we are destined never to agree.
Everyone gets a response and I am sure your readers would agree that I should prioritise correspondence in that order – so that those who need my help urgently get it. If any constituent wants to get in touch, then they are welcome to email: Ranil@TellRanil.com or write to me at: House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
Ranil Jayawardena MP
Member of Parliament for North East Hampshire