by David Gauke, Conservative MP for South West Herts
Since my last column, a ministerial reshuffle has been and gone. I am pleased to say that I am still in post in the Treasury, focusing on tax.
It is a busy role. As I sometimes point out, there are around 100 government ministers, and the other 99 spend their time working on how to spend money. I am the one who has the task of bringing the money in!
A word of congratulations to Mike Penning, who has moved into the Department of Work and Pensions. It is a key department.
It is vital that we have an effective welfare system that looks after those who cannot help themselves but also ensures that it always pays to be in work. Mike’s no-nonsense approach – and broad experience of life – will be ideally suited to the task.
One of the challenges of ministerial life is combining a large and time-consuming departmental workload – the Red Boxes and Parliamentary duties – with the life of a constituency MP.
But very often, the two roles can complement each other. Experience from constituency work can help with ministerial decisions. And the insight gained from ministerial work can help with constituency issues.
One of my roles as a minister (as with many ministers) is to promote the UK as a place in which to do business. Back in April, I visited California to meet US businesses and setting out why the UK has a business-friendly environment and is a good place to locate jobs and investment.
One of the businesses I met was Salesforce.com – a cloud computing company that has grown enormously in recent years. My meeting was designed to encourage them to locate a new data centre in the UK. I was delighted to learn subsequently that they had decided to do this – and even more pleased to learn that the location was to be Hemel Hempstead.
I cannot claim the credit for the precise location of the data centre (rather, I should acknowledge the excellent work Dacorum Borough Council does in making the case for this area as a business location). However, it is a reminder that, as a country, the rewards for a competitive business environment make a real difference to people’s lives.
Another project I have worked on in Whitehall has been apprenticeships and, specifically, how we can make sure that employers have a greater ability to ensure that courses are sufficiently rigorous and effective (this does have something to do with tax but for reasons that are too complicated to explain now).
But to get a proper understanding of the value of apprenticeships, you cannot beat hearing about the reality on the ground. Earlier this month, the borough council organised a conference for employers. Presentations from employers, apprentices, West Herts College and the council all set out the case for apprenticeships. It is great that the number of apprenticeships is rising rapidly but the conference underlined the mutual benefits.
One further example. I have been working on a new social investment tax relief designed to help social enterprises – businesses with primarily social objectives. On Friday, I learnt more about a local example – DENS, which has been helping the homeless in Dacorum for 20 years. This is exactly the type of organisation I hope can benefit from our changes.
So when I asked if it is possible to combine being an MP with being a minister, it is worth thinking of these examples. Each job can help us perform the other role better.
You can contact Mr Gauke’s office on 01923 771781 or visit www.davidgaukecom