Bucks Free Press Article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he recently wrote for the Bucks Free Press.

"This week, as part of my duties as Lord Chancellor, I took part in a ceremony to mark the beginning of the new legal year. The senior judges, in their scarlet or black and gold robes, joined me in Westminster Abbey, after which we all processed to Westminster Hall, the most ancient part of the Houses of Parliament.

The ritual affirmed the authority and the formality of our legal system but was also an opportunity to reflect on the central importance of the rule of law in our constitutional system.

That principle, together with the independence of the judiciary, forms the very bedrock of a free and democratic society.

It safeguards us against tyranny and dictatorship. It allows us to live in a society where no individual and no government is above the law, a society where everyone can expect equality before the law and the right to a fair trial.

Here, governments of all political colours expect to have their decisions challenged and sometimes overturned in court.  But that respect for the rule of law is not universal.

As a Foreign Office Minister, I talked to colleagues from Eastern and Central Europe who remembered living under communist rule, when the judges and the courts were just a tool of the ruling regime.

I also spent many hours discussing with British business leaders their plans for foreign investment. They explained that a country with an entrenched commitment to the rule of law and judicial independence had a head start over the competition to attract jobs and inward investment. By contrast, businesses were nervous about committing money to a country where a dispute over their tax bill or their license to operate would be decided by a legal system that was in the pocket of ministers or oligarchs.

It is striking that in today’s global economy, English law remains the first choice when companies decide how to settle commercial disputes. Companies from around the world go to the London courts to obtain justice because they know that our judiciary is both expert and relentlessly impartial, doing justice according to the evidence without fear or favour.

I'm not starry eyed. There are many things about our legal system that could be improved. But let us also value those principles of the rule of law and judicial independence which underpin both our prosperity and our freedom."

Bucks Herald Article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he recently wrote for the Bucks Herald.

"House of Fraser is to pull out of Friars Square. That unwelcome news highlights the fact that Aylesbury faces competition for shoppers from towns like Wycombe and Watford. I also think that there's a longer-term message here about the changing nature of our high streets and town centres.

A couple of weeks ago, at one of the regular meetings between Bucks MPs and the County Council cabinet, we talked as usual about current local issues, everything from social care to potholes, but also discussed what the County might look like in 2050.

None of us can predict with certainty how digital technology will change our way of life, but it's already clear that retailing is being shaken up in a big way. When I talk to supermarket bosses, they tell me that it's “click and collect” that's the growth area of business. I've seen too how big retailers, whether computer and electrical stores or clothes chains are integrating their online and in store operations. Royal Mail tell me that the number of Christmas cards sent is on a steady downward trend but the number of Christmas packages and parcels ordered and dispatched online is growing apace.

About a fifth of non-food retail sales in Britain are now online. That figure will continue to grow. So will our mid-century town centres need so many shops? I suspect not. But what does that mean for jobs and for the character of our high streets and market squares?

My hunch is that there will still be a demand for smaller, specialist shops offering exceptional customer service, provided of course that rents and rates are set at levels which they can afford. As shoppers go online, planning policy too will need to change.  I would expect to see town centres with fewer shops than now, more residential accommodation, and more small offices and workshops.

Towns and cities will also thrive as cultural and artistic centres, so the Waterside, Queen’s Park and the cinema should stand Aylesbury in good stead."

Naphill Gazette Article

David thought you might be interested in seeing an article he recently wrote for the Naphill Gazette.

"Roughly once a quarter, all five Buckinghamshire MPs meet the County Council’s Cabinet members to run through current local issues. It's always a very useful catch-up session, which can cover everything from economic development and transport planning to social care to pot holes.

In September, we spent part of the time trying to take a step back and talk about what the County might look like in 2050. What were the implications for the long-term planning of services?

Some things struck us as almost certain. There are going to be a lot more homes in Bucks. The population is growing. Ours is a popular area to live in, with low unemployment. We need more homes to address both greater longevity and the present unaffordability of housing for so many young people.

The impact of that on transport is harder to calculate. The Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge railway crossing North Bucks will be a strategically important growth corridor, but will need improved links to Heathrow and the Thames Valley too. By 2050 driverless vehicles will probably be the rule. How many of us will want or need to own a car, especially if it sits unused most of the week, if the option is available to summon a driverless hire vehicle to take us where we want to go?

Those vehicles will probably be fuelled by electricity. The government’s target already is to have no new petrol or diesel vehicles by 2040 - and my hunch is that industry will move more quickly than that anyway. So we’ll need a network of charging points. Who provides those, especially in rural areas with small populations? To what extent should this be left to the market and what if any kind of public service duty will be needed?

All kinds of questions crowd in. We are likely to have far fewer shops, with a massive shift to online sales. High Streets and town centres will have more residential properties and small businesses. As modern service businesses are not noisy or smelly, should we reinvent the Victorian fashion for mixed residential and business development instead of separate planning zones?

In social care, how can we maximise the opportunities presented by robotics and artificial intelligence to improve the quality of life for elderly and disabled people?

We didn't have all the answers! But discussing the challenges and opportunities is at least a start."