Making lives easier, helping firms to thrive – that’s what making law should be all about

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

It’s been a busy start to 2014 as I have been continuing to steer the Mesothelioma Bill through Parliament.

I am delighted to say that it has now completed its third reading and is awaiting Royal Assent.

Mesothelioma is a dreadful disease, most commonly linked to exposure to asbestos, often years earlier and as a result of working practices which were rightfully outlawed as we became more aware of the long-term dangers of a substance which was once a staple of the construction industry.

I am pleased that sufferers and their dependents, who have been waiting for a long time, should get their lump sums in the early summer.

It is very rewarding to have played a part in changes to legislation which make people’s lives a bit easier or businesses more profitable.

Last week I was delighted to be able to carry out the official opening of the country’s 400th authorised testing facility (ATF).

I was the Transport Minister responsible when we introduced this policy, which has essentially privatised the testing of heavy good vehicles and buses to ensure they are roadworthy and to meet the required safety and environmental standards – much like the MoT test for private cars with which we are all familiar.

Previously these tests could only be carried out at government-run centres – which means there was no competition and often operators had to take their vehicles long distances, and because of this they sometimes had to be out of service for a long time. That wasn’t good for anyone, I’m sure you will agree.

The 400th ATF to open was at the new HTC depot in Boundary Way, Hemel Hempstead, so it was a real honour and privilege to be able to attend.

I have been contacted by a lot of local people about Luton Borough Council’s decision to allow the expansion of Luton Airport.

This is very controversial as Luton residents are hardly affected but it will undoubtedly cause a lot of additional noise pollution for people living to the north of Hemel Hempstead and in villages around Stevenage.

The decision was made right before Christmas, by a very small committee of Luton councillors. It seems to me that there is a clear conflict of interest as Luton Borough Council owns all the shares in London Luton Airport Limited, so it was in effect giving planning permission to itself.

I have it in writing from the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Robert Goodwill MP that well before that meeting the government issued a letter directing Luton Borough Council not to grant permission without government authorisation. Clearly they have ignored this requirement.

I have written to the Secretary of State calling for him to call in this decision.

I particularly enjoy it when my ministerial role overlaps with constituency work and I have what should be a very interesting visit to a local firm this week.

Trekinetic make 21st century all-terrain wheelchairs which have enabled users to access areas they would never previously had thought possible. Sounds great!

Mike Penning is the MP for Hemel Hempstead. {http://|You can contact him through his website} or call his office on 01442 251126