Column: Speaking Up for the Silent

In positions of responsibility, it is important that those with a platform use it well.  As the Sevenoaks MP, I speak up for thousands of people in Parliament; I knock heads together when people can’t cut through bureaucratic systems; and I stand up for causes I believe in.  I do this because I can, whilst most people cannot.

I’m not alone – most MPs worth their salt do this.  But speaking up for those without a voice goes beyond representing only people.  In many ways, I represent our environment, too: from streets to boundaries – even the air we breathe.

IMG_7468Recently, I have received hundreds of letters asking me to ‘stand up for the Green Belt’, for example.  My position on the matter should be clear, not only because I committed to doing just that at recent General Election – but also because I’m a conservative.

The clue is in the name: conservative.  I generally want to conserve things.

Where I think things work well, I think they should be conserved.  Where I think things should be learned from, I think they should be preserved.

But conservatism extends to protecting all things that are vulnerable.  This can include areas of land, and the wildlife they contain, as well as buildings, and the traditions they maintain.

Vellum – on which Acts of Parliament are printed – is a vital part of our national heritage and something I successfully campaigned to protect last year. MF with vellum

Heritage sites – remains from the Reformation or historic pubs – are windows into our local history and a key part of the district’s attractiveness to tourists.

And our Green Belt – about which I recently wrote to the Communities Secretary, urging him to maintain protections – is the jewel to which the rest of the country look.  Having successfully convinced the Chancellor to ring-fence Green Belt land, our beautiful area is safe for now.

But our work to maintain and enhance protections for the environment is not yet done, because the environment always needs looking after to meet our golden standards.

Over the last few months, the Government has raised those standards even further.

Now, we’re tackling the plastics that are damaging our marine environment, cracking down on the ivory trade and increasing jail time for animal abusers.

We have a duty to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better shape than when we inherited it.  And I will continue to help the Government work towards ensuring that this is the case.

Victory in Michael’s Campaign to Save Vellum

MF with vellum
Michael during a recent visit to Patricia Lovett’s studio.

Michael has helped to secure victory in the campaign to continue the use of vellum for printing Acts of Parliament.

On Wednesday evening, he joined MPs from all parties in supporting a backbench motion to oppose the decision by the House of Lords to unilaterally end the use of vellum.  The Commons voted 117 to 38 to approve the motion.

Michael said: “I was proud to vote for this motion.  Vellum is a vital part of our national heritage.  The strong cross-party support of the House of Commons for its continued use is welcome.  The short-sighted attempt to end this tradition must now cease.”

Local calligrapher Patricia Lovett, who was in Parliament to watch the debate, said: “The success of the campaign is an indication of how democracy can work.  I am so grateful to Michael Fallon for the interest that he has shown in the campaign, his support, and the work he has done to ensure that the significance of vellum and the actual cost, £37,000, was made known in Westminster.”

Michael Visits Local Personalities

MF with Pat
Michael with Pat Moore and his Legion d’Honneur.

Last Friday, Michael was delighted to meet Pat Moore, a veteran of the Second World War D-Day campaign, at Pat’s home in Sevenoaks.

Pat has recently received the Legion d’Honneur from the French government in recognition of his service.  Michael personally intervened after Pat experienced delays in receiving the award.

Pat said: “I met Michael and showed him my award. We talked about my time in the war and his own family’s military history as his Grandfather was a Royal Engineer. The award is a great honour and I’m looking forward to receiving it formally in March at Graye-Sur-Mer, Normandy.”

Michael also visited the Sevenoaks studio of scribe and illuminator Patricia Lovett MBE.  He learned about the differences between materials such as vellum and parchment and listened closely to Patricia’s concerns about current plans to use paper instead of vellum
for printing Acts of Parliament.

Patricia Lovett
Patricia in her studio.

Patricia said: “I was delighted to welcome Michael to my studio.  Michael has been really helpful and most supportive of the Heritage Crafts Association’s campaign about continuing to print Acts of Parliament on vellum and we really appreciate his interest and considerable influence on this.”

Commenting on his visits, Michael said: “I was very pleased to meet Pat again and congratulate him on his award.  He is a war hero and this award from the French is a well-deserved recognition of his participation in the D-Day campaign in particular.  I am sure he will make the most of the formal presentation later this year.

MF with vellum
Michael with some of Patricia’s most recent work.

I was also pleased to be able to visit Patricia’s studio.  Vellum is an important part of our national history and Patricia’s incredible knowledge and skill suggests that it will continue to be so for many years to come.  I will be urging my parliamentary colleagues to continue the use of vellum.”