The Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, James Gray joined a team of ploggers in Cricklade, this bank holiday Monday, to help raise awareness of the scourge of single-use plastic and help pick up the plastic left along the Thames.

With over 75% of fish in the River Thames estimated to have plastic in their guts and over 80% of ocean litter being plastic, Plogolution wanted to raise awareness as well as document all plastic and other litter picked up along their Ultra Plog.

James Gray MP said:

“It was great to welcome local girl Michele Parkes, born and brought up in Cricklade, back to her old stamping ground to help her campaign against plastic litter. Michelle is the founder of Plogolution, a charity which combines physical fitness with litter collection. She and a gang of others have set themselves the task of running the 184 mile length of the Thames from its source near Ashton Keynes to the Thames Barrier in 6 days, collecting litter as they go along.

Thanks partly to Sir David Attenborough’s brilliant Blue Planet 2, we now all know about the appalling damage which plastic waste is doing to our oceans and wildlife. We must use less, recycle more and collect the plastic waste which others haver thoughtlessly thrown away. Only thanks to initiatives such as this do we stand any chance of saving our oceans, our environment and our planet for future generations.”

Dermot Kavanagh, Michelle’s co-founder of Plogolution, said:

“We set up Plogolution as a way to encourage people to be fit and healthy and care about their local communities at the same time. This Ultra Plog is an excellent way to generate awareness of the amount of rubbish that litters our riverside paths and sadly eventually ends up in the river and then the sea. We hope to have people join us on the way either for all of it or various sections as we pass through.”

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, a year ago today, said she wanted a “speedy resolution” in the ongoing negotiations between NHS England, NICE and drug manufacturer Vertex so that cystic fibrosis patients could have access to Orkambi and Symkevi. Yet, since then, no resolution has been agreed.

To mark the anniversary of this stalemate, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Zoey Jones, and her 12-month-old Eve who has cystic fibrosis, will hand in 65 yellow roses to Theresa May at number 10 Downing Street, today.

Alongside the 65 roses – a term sometimes used by children to pronounce the name of their disease - the charity will deliver a cross party letter signed by local MP James Gray inviting Theresa May to attend a Parliamentary Debate (June 10th) on the issue. The letter asks for the Prime Minister to give an update to MPs on what must happen to bring an end to the ongoing negotiations and give cystic fibrosis patients access to these lifesaving precision medicine drugs – Orkambi and Symkevi.

Orkambi is the second precision medicine that targets the root cause of the disease and would benefit around half of people with cystic fibrosis (CF) in the UK. It has been licensed for use for over three years, but a deal to make it available on the NHS for patients in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is yet to be struck. During that time, a third drug to treat the root cause of the condition, Symkevi, has been approved for use but is also not available on the NHS.

James Gray MP stated that:

“I am backing the Cystic Fibrosis Trusts campaign which calls for access to lifesaving drugs for those with Cystic Fibrosis. This is an extremely important campaign, that can have a real impact on those with the disease.

Today marks a year since Theresa May said she was keen to see a ‘speedy resolution’ in the ongoing dialogue between NHS England and Vertex. Yet, the wait goes on. I have signed a cross party letter due to be delivered to Downing street today which calls on the Prime Minister to act and end the wait for thousands living with this life-threatening condition. We need to see these drugs made available now.”

The Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire, James Gray, joined the unveiling of the new Great West Way branded Calne Town welcome signs to shine a spotlight on the local area’s tourism industry, in a week devoted to travel and exploration during English Tourism Week.

Now in its eighth year, English Tourism week raises the profile and showcases the benefits of the tourism industry to local communities and the economy.

Tourism is one of England’s largest and most valuable industries. English tourism directly employ more than 2.6 million people and generate over £106 billion a year for the British economy. Locally, the South West region welcomed 2.6 million visitors, with these visitors spending £1.2 billion in 2017.

After attending the event in Calne, James Gray MP said:

“I was very pleased to be able to support English Tourism Week and understand more about ‘The Great West Way,’ a fantastic initiative which offers an extraordinary variety of English experiences not found in any other part of the country. From its lively market towns and rolling open scenery to stately homes, North Wiltshire is a wonderful destination to visit. I am therefore pleased that through projects such as these we can inspire more people to visit and boost its profile.”

The Great West Way directors also gave James Gray a briefing at the Lansdowne Hotel in Calne about the route which is set to transform tourism in this area. The Great West Way is a new touring route between London and Bristol. It hopes to attract visitors from around the world and the UK by allowing people to explore and uncover the essence of England.

VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes said:

“English Tourism Week is a fantastic opportunity to should about the many hidden gems that England has to offer. Whether it is the contemporary culture in our vibrant cities, our countryside’s beautiful landscapes or our seaside destinations there is so much to see and do and we want as many businesses and people to get involved as possible.”

James Gray has welcomed the announcement that four businesses in North Wiltshire, Chipside Ltd, Qualaseot Pharmaxo Holdings, Clarendon Specialty Fasteners Ltd, and Alvan Branch Development Company Ltd, have received awards for both ‘Innovation’ and ‘Internatonal Trade.’ They were part of more than 200 businesses having been honoured with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

Three quarters of this year’s winners are small and medium sized businesses, demonstrating that the UK is one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business. This is down to the environment created by the Conservative Government and the support they have given, which includes:

  • Investing £7 billion through our modern Industrial Strategy in new public funding for research and innovation – the largest ever increase.
  • Helping small businesses access the finance they need – since it was established, the British Business Bank has provided support worth £5.9 billion of finance to over 82,000 smaller businesses across the country.
  • Providing small businesses with £200 million to grow and scale-up their operations.
  • Providing a £31 million package of support for small businesses helping them to grow and reach their full potential.
  • Legislating to make it easier for small businesses to access invoice finance, providing a £1 billion long-term boost to the economy.
  • Cutting business rates for small retailers by a third for two years – saving 90 per cent of all shops, pubs and restaurants up to £8,000.

The winners will receive these prestigious awards at a Buckingham Palace reception, where their contribution to the UK economy will be celebrated. These awards recognise businesses for their contribution in four categories, with winners including:

  • 129 International Trade winners
  • 61 Innovation winners
  • 6 Sustainable Development winners
  • 5 Promoting Opportunity winners

Commenting on the awards, Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

“We know that the UK is the best place to start and grow a business, which we will build on through our modern Industrial Strategy. These awards recognise great British success stories that are the face of this achievement, and I’m proud that so many small businesses are being celebrated by receiving a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.”

James Gray MP further praised the winners, stating that: 

“I am delighted that these businesses have been recognised by Her Majesty The Queen with such a prestigious award. They all make a huge contribution, not just to North Wiltshire, but also to our growing economy. These businesses were selected for their entrepreneurship and I am delighted that they have been recognised for their hard work.”

During Questions for the Secretary of State for the Home Department at the House of Commons on Monday, North Wiltshire MP James Gray spoke up for long-term care workers. Mr Gray stated:

“The National Health Service depends on nurses of course, and we must welcome the Government’s announcement of the removal of the £30,000 pay cap from nurses. That makes a great deal of sense, but does the Secretary of State also agree that the long-term care industry equally depends, to a very significant degree, on people from the European Union? Will he not consider, equally, removing the cap for long-term care workers?”

The Home Secretary, Sajid David supported Mr Gray’s statement, responding that:

“I hope that my hon. Friend welcomes a change that we have already made to the tier 2 system for non-European economic area workers, when, last year, we exempted nurses and doctors from that cap. As far as the new system is concerned, he is right to raise this issue, and that is why, as we set out in the White Paper, there is a process of engagement over this year to make sure that we are listening, including to the care industry.”

Speaking after the debate Mr Gray further added that:

“I feel strongly about supporting long-term care workers from both the EU and around the world. EU citizens are an important part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and their rights needed to be secured. I am therefore very keen to make sure that the new immigration system ensures that EU nationals can continue to perform their vital roles across a range of sectors, in particular the health and care sector.”