Francis Maude: The right to work under people’s homes

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude
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A week ago the Queen opened the last session of this Parliament with a wide-ranging collection of proposed legislation.

Correspondence about some of the proposed Bills has started to trickle into my postbag so I thought I might talk about the ones which have attracted attention.

Fracking, Geothermal and Access Laws under the heading of the Infrastructure Bill have promoted a flurry of ‘click and send’ messages urging me to vote against the proposed Bill.

As I outlined a couple of weeks ago, I do not vote against the government on an issue which has been agreed by Cabinet, and nor would I want to in this case.

The aim of the legislation is to clarify what was already the case, which is that a number of agencies already have the right to work under people’s land and homes at very much shallower depths than is proposed here. My full reply to this question will be found on my website in due course.

Other matters for consideration under the Bill include changes to the Land Registry, which will improve its online information and speed of processing information, crucial in its role as a cornerstone of property ownership in the UK, and improvements to the Highways Agency’s ability to deliver projects more smoothly and cost effectively.

The Serious Crime Bill aims to tighten up laws around organised crime, the security industry, child neglect, terrorism and prisoner voting, all of which can partly be achieved by adding to existing legislation.

The Pensions Bill is of particular interest as its twofold aims are to free up the regulations on access to pension savings and enable different models of collective pensions to co-exist.

The Recall Bill extends the mandate of the electorate to register through the ballot box its will to remove a Member of Parliament between general elections if his or her conduct has not met the highest standards expected in public service.

The Modern Slavery Bill might not seem to be something likely to affect many of us in Horsham, but is hugely important in sending a clear message, the first of its kind in Europe, that slavery in all its new forms is intolerable in the 21st century.

The Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill attempts to bring some common sense onto the statute book by ensuring that people who help others in crisis, with the best of motives, are not vulnerable to lawsuits later.

We’ve all seen stories in the press about people who held back or plunged in to help others, fearful or careless of their own vulnerability in law. It’s long past time the law was on the side of the decent, well-meaning citizen.

Which brings me to volunteering and the invaluable contribution which so many of you make, day in day out, to improve the lives of others.

Last week’s celebration of National Volunteer Week focused attention on so many unsung heroes who naturally shun the limelight.

We all owe you, and each other, a huge debt of gratitude and it was humbling indeed to see the poignant D-Day commemorations alongside, both celebrating the very best of selfless public service.