Don Foster MP

Don Foster MP - 13/267 - Bath's #1 Supporter

Westminster Update - Summer 2012

With Parliament in summer recess, Don looks back on a busy session in Westminster.

Along with our Coalition partners we’ve been working hard in Westminster to do what’s best for Britain. Our major priority has remained the economy so normal hard-working people are better off. Inflation has dropped to its lowest rate since 2009 and new schemes have been announced to support businesses and families, as well as to create growth and new jobs. Examples include the Regional Growth Fund and the £1 billion Youth Contract that will give young people the opportunity to ‘earn and learn’. We were of course shaken by the Barclays scandal but this simply reinforces the need to reform the regulatory system for banks.

In difficult economic times, it is the Lib Dems who are ensuring fair taxation. Already we have twice lifted the tax threshold so that 1 million of the lowest earners pay no tax and middle income earners - 23 million of them - pay less tax. Further freezes on Fuel Duty will also help, as fuel is now 10p less per litre than it would have been under the Labour Government proposals. However, Liberal Democrats want to do more; we will keep pressing for the Tax Threshold to be lifted further, to £10,000.

You will also have been aware of a number of other issues in Parliament. The Leveson Inquiry in to the culture, practice and ethics of the press has now ended but I followed it with interest. It is of great importance that we establish best practice so I am glad that the Government are fully committed to working with Leveson’s recommendations.

Also within Culture, Media and Sport, I was thrilled to see the Olympic Torch pass through Bath having been so heavily involved on the Olympic Board and the planning of this summer’s Games. As I write, we’ve seen some magnificent results for Team GB and a brilliant opening ceremony. Before long the focus will shift to the Paralympics. I’m particularly looking forward to watching one particular paralympic sport - GoalBall. Few people have heard of it, but I think it’s a great sport and am sure it will be far better known in a few weeks’ time.

Letters and e-mails from constituents flood in on a daily basis. As well as asking for help with individual casework, numerous, wide ranging issues are raised with me. For example, there’s been recent concern about how “gay marriage” will be dealt with in schools. Every school has a requirement to ensure it does not teach anything that would be considered inappropriate to a pupil’s age, religious or cultural background. This will not change. However, we are committed to obtaining equality for everyone regardless of their race, age, gender, background or indeed sexuality. Also recently raised were the replacement of Trident, House of Lords Reform and a wide variety of other issues.

Don gives Culverhay delegation a behind the scenes tour

Education is a subject that I am often contacted about, so while working to assure everyone that we won’t let the Secretary for Education, Michael Gove, take Secondary Education back to the 60s(!), I particularly welcomed the announcement of 600 free early education places for two-year olds in Bath and NE Somerset. It’s simply great news to support parents in our community.

I was also pleased to welcome Culverhay School to Westminster along with three councillors from Bath and North East Somerset Council: Leader of the Council, Cllr. Paul Crossley, Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr. Nathan Hartley and Cllr. Dine Romero. It was a pleasure to have them here – what a lovely group!

Olympic Legacy for the Westcountry with TWE

With Team GB excelling at the London2012 Games, Don Foster answered some questions about the role he has played bringing the Olympics to the West as Co-Chair (with Tim Hollingsworth) of Team West of England.

Team West of England is a group of people from within the areas of Bath, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire who are passionate about maximising the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy opportunities for the West of England area.

How did you get involved with Team West of England?

In 2005 I was in Singapore when Jaques Rogge announced that the 2012 Games would go to “the city of …(long pause)… London”. Just beforehand, in his presentation of our bid, Seb Coe had promised that if we won we would ensure that LEGACY would be a key element of all the activities. I was inspired to ensure that our sub-region maximised legacy benefits from 2012. So I asked for support and volunteers and Team West of England was formed.

What are you hoping Team West of England will achieve?

It’s already achieved a great deal; from hosting the UK School Games and helping establish the Bristol/Kenya and Bath/BPA links, to getting many of our schools involved in the Get Set educational programme and supporting businesses to gain 2012 contracts. I hope we will continue to get even more people involved in sport, build up a bank of community volunteers, follow-up on business opportunities, maximise the tourism possibilities and build on the cultural activities already underway.

What does the Olympics and Paralympics mean to you?

A few weeks of tremendous sporting and cultural activity which will lift the nation’s spirits, raise the profile of the UK around the world and lead to lasting legacy in all parts of the country. As a Member of the Olympic Board I have already had an opportunity to see first hand the amazing work that has gone in to ensuring the success of the Games. I’m confident that we will set a new, sustainable, standard for future host cities to follow.

What is your ideal Olympic & Paralympic legacy?

Although I want to see fantastic business, tourism, cultural, educational, volunteering and sporting legacy in the UK, we should also be proud of the role we have played overseas. Little publicity has been given to the International Inspiration programme which has led to opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young people in developing countries to try various sports and to thousands of coaches to be trained. An ideal legacy is one that has a positive impact both at home and abroad.

What are you most looking forward to at London 2012?

It’s estimated that as many as 4 BILLION people watched the Opening Ceremony. I was lucky enough to have a ticket for it. While it was certainly an amazing spectacle - the joy of the Olympics and Paralympics is you simply don’t know what will happen - I believe it will signal the start of something truly amazing.

Foster calls for charge on plastic carrier bags

Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, has called for a charge on single use plastic carrier bags to be introduced.

Figures recently released by the UK’s Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) shows that the number of free single use carrier bags used across England rose during 2011 by 7.5% in spite of their devastating impact on the environment.

In Wales, a carrier bag charge has had a substantial immediate effect with figures showing a 22% reduction over the year – 3 of these months were during the charge period. Modelling suggests that over a full year this reduction will equate to around a 90% drop in carrier bag use.

Across the world, countries have already introduced levies on plastic carrier bags while many others have introduced outright bans.

Commenting, Don Foster said:

“Our streets, landfills and coastlines are awash with plastic bags which are polluting our environment and killing our wildlife.

“It is absolutely staggering that here in England we continue to rely on the free single use plastic bag while developing nations such as Somalia, Botswana and Rwanda have already implemented outright bans.

“Voluntary agreements have been tried and failed so our approach must change. Evidence suggests that a small charge is easy to implement and delivers significant results.”