Michael has shown his support for Sikh servicemen at the launch of a campaign for a National Sikh War Memorial in Parliament this week.
The Sevenoaks MP and former defence secretary joined calls on the Government to support a memorial dedicated to those who made or were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom of our country.
Though Sikhs made up only two per cent of the population of British India, they formed 20 per cent of the British Indian Army during the First World War. More than 83,000 turbaned Sikh soldiers laid down their lives and more than 100,000 were injured during the World Wars.
Michael said: “I am proud to have attended the launch. Given the scale of Sikh sacrifice in both World Wars, for which they volunteered, this is a great cause.”
Michael has led calls for a change in the voting system for blind people at the launch of the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) Youth Forum’s 2018 Youth Manifesto in Parliament.
The RSBC Youth Forum was set up to act as a voice for blind and vision-impaired young people in London and the South East and to unearth potential solutions to challenges they face, such as employment, transport, accessible technology and mental health support.
As the charity’s President, Michael was keen to educate parliamentary colleagues about RSBC’s forward-looking initiatives.
“Not enough people know that people who lose their sight in youth have huge hurdles to overcome”, he said.
“As a Member of Parliament, I am particularly interested in improving access to democracy for the vision-impaired: using technology to reduce barriers to voter-turnout, considering the location of polling stations and making local candidate information more available.
These are basic human rights that some young people are being denied: this is something we cannot ignore.”
MPs from all parties then listened to presentations by the Chief Executive of the charity, Dr Tom Pey, members of the RSBC Youth Forum, Ruksana Khanum, Cory Sharp and Charlotte McMillan, and Areeq Chowdrey of Webroots Democracy.
The four key areas of focus in the manifesto are:
Raising awareness about what it looks like to be blind or vision-impaired;
Working with national transport providers in order to improve services for independent travel;
Campaigning for better mental health support for young people who are blind and vision-impaired; and
Making our current voting system accessible to blind and vision-impaired people.
On the day of the State Opening of Parliament, Michael took the special Oath to become the Member of Parliament for constituency of Sevenoaks.
He said to the House: ‘I swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.’
Before the swearing-in ceremony commenced, the Speaker of the House of Commons reminded Members that until they take the Oath, they must not participate in any debate or vote in any Division of the House.
Michael said: ‘I am deeply honoured to have been elected with an increased majority, and would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support.’
Michael yesterday welcomed members of the Sevenoaks Youth Council to Westminster.
Led by Sevenoaks Town Council Chief Executive Linda Larter, the group received a tour of the Palace of Westminster before meeting Michael in one of Parliament’s historic committee rooms.
Michael answered questions on a range of topics relating to his responsibilities as Secretary of State for Defence, including North Korea, cyber security and nuclear proliferation.
The group were also able to watch Michael from the public gallery in the House of Commons as he answered questions from MPs.
Michael said: “I was delighted to welcome members of Sevenoaks Youth Council to Parliament. With their perceptive and intelligent questions, they showed that young people in my constituency are increasingly interested in major political issues. I always enjoy welcoming people to see how Parliament works and look forward to hosting more schools and community groups soon.”
Michael today welcomed members of the Weald CP School Bridge Club to the Houses of Parliament.
Local volunteers have been promoting Bridge to pupils at the school for over a year. The visit to Parliament celebrates the Bridge Club’s achievement of becoming the most successful school bridge initiative in Kent. 16 pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6 have already gained English Bridge Union (EBU) proficiency certificates and there are now plans to extend the programme into other schools.
Hosted by Baroness Henig, captain of the House of Lords Bridge team, pupils were given a tour of Parliament and had the opportunity to play Bridge with several members of the Lords before meeting Michael.
Michael said: “I was delighted to welcome the pupils to Parliament today. They should be very proud of their achievement. It is good to see that initiatives like this one are proving to be so successful in our local schools.”
Michael welcomed Amy Edwards, who has been selected to become one of the National Citizen Service’s (NCS) national ambassadors, to Parliament last week.
Amy, a pupil at Knole Academy, is one of just 100 young people across the country to become a national ambassador from the 80,000 that took part in the NCS programme in 2015.
Established in 2011 to create a more responsible society, NCS is a three week programme that brings together 16 and 17 year olds from a range of backgrounds to face outdoor challenges, learn skills for life and work, extend their social networks and make their mark on their community. NCS provides programmes across the country that cost no more than £50, with volunteers spending 30 hours delivering a project of their choice.
Michael said: “I was delighted to meet Amy. I congratulated her on her achievement and I look forward to supporting her efforts to promote and expand NCS in my constituency in any way I can.”