The House of Commons doesn’t sit in August which means life for MPs takes on a different rhythm than most of the rest of the year. There is no need to be in Westminster for debates and votes but that doesn’t mean that work stops.
At a ministerial level, there is less need to be in the office. However, the red boxes – full of correspondence to sign and policy documents to read and comment upon – continue to be sent and worked through.
The media work continues, too. This usually means journeys into London for a tour of TV and radio studios before heading home. Occasionally, and with a bit of luck, a TV company can be persuaded to drive out to Herts and film me from my front garden. This is convenient although a little surreal. One moment, pottering around home in shorts and T-shirt, then put on a suit, talk about tax avoidance on Sky News whilst neighbours wander past.
Constituency work, of course, continues with regular surgeries and so on. Last week, I had a chance to revisit the Hospice of St Francis.
I have known the team there for many years now, first visiting the hospice on its old site in Shrublands Road before I was even the MP.
In recent months, it has been able to open its last two beds, taking it up to 14. This has long been an ambition and is the maximum number the current buildings can take. But it is important to remember that the Hospice of St Francis is not just about support for those who are resident. Many others benefit from the Spring Centre – those who visit in the day for support and care – as well as other organisations who get advice from Dr Ros Taylor and her team.
As it happens, after my hospice visit, I called in at Kilfillan Nursing Home in Berkhamsted to meet residents. The hospice and the nursing home have a close relationship which has meant that those Kilfillan residents entering their final hours have not had to be admitted to hospital.
I was also struck by the fact that the support the Hospice of St Francis provides is not just for those terminally ill. It is also a caring and supportive environment for family members who may spend a great deal of time at the hospice and who have to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Kimberley McLaughlin of the hospice also told me of the support it now provides for those in remission who may also face challenges.
Dacorum is fortunate in the strength of the hospice here. In addition to the Hospice of St Francis, Rennie Grove Hospice Care does wonderful work. Both organisations rely on volunteers and also charitable donations.
For obvious reasons, legacies are an important part of the income for the hospice movement.
One measure which the government has brought in which may prove to be helpful to these organisations is the ability to reduce your inheritance tax bill (cutting the rate from 40 per cent to 36 per cent) if you leave at least 10 per cent of your taxed estate to a charity. Do get legal advice on this if this is of interest.
David Gauke is the Conservative MP for SW Herts. You can contact him via www.davidgauke.com or on 01923 771781