MARIA MILLER, MP - "AS I SEE IT."

  Basingstoke is one of the top ten centres of employment in the South East. The overall health of British business is vital for our local community. There has been a great deal in the media about increases in local business rates as a result of this years Rates reevaluation. Rates are paid by businesses and provide more than £20 billion nationwide to help pay for vital services like social care for the elderly and road improvements. The current system isn't perfect but far from seeing business rates rise, in Basingstoke we are set to see them fall by on average more than 7%. There are more people in work than ever before in our country and in Basingstoke we have some of the highest employment rates. Its important that the right balance is found between raising money to pay for vital services and support for business to create even more, better jobs in our community. Speculation can rapidly undermine business confidence. The facts are that 3 in 4 businesses will see no change in their business rates at all.

   The House of Lords has been debating the Bill to enable the Prime Minister to start the process of the UK leaving the EU. Despite several attempts to reform the House of Lords over the past decade it remains an unelected part of our Parliamentary system. The decision to leave the EU was made by the people Parliament represents and serves. Now is the time to get on with this complex set of negotiations not question a democratic decision of this country. The House of Lords cannot be allowed to delay this important process.

   When I visit schools in Basingstoke I hear first hand from pupils who are worried about cyberbullying, sexting, revenge pornography, online abuse and how these pressures shape their friendships and relationships. These pressures are now a part of growing up in every school in the country. Yet the guidance given to schools by successive Governments hasn't been updated for 17 years and predates the widespread availability of digital mobile phones and access to the online world. I have been campaigning with the support of more than 30 other MPs to put in place, for the first time, relationship education that will sit along side existing sex education, to help children make better, more informed decisions, including about the way they use their digital and online presence. Simply ignoring these new pressures in children’s lives isn't an option.