Sir Alan backs Broadband's march

BROADBAND'S outreach to take speedy Internet connections to rural Britain has encompassed the Saffron Walden constituency across Mid Essex, thanks to Conservative MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who is principal Deputy Speaker of the Commons.

BROADBAND'S outreach to take speedy Internet connections to rural Britain has encompassed the Saffron Walden constituency across Mid Essex, thanks to Conservative MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who is principal Deputy Speaker of the Commons.

Sir Alan intervened to ensure trigger levels were reached not only in the towns of Saffron Walden, Great Dunmow, Stansted, and Halstead but also villages such as Brent Pelham, Christall, Clavering, Good Easter, Great Chesterford, Great Sampford, Hatfield Broad Oak, the Roddings and Stebbing. It means those who want to work from home as well as local businesses have been given a great lift.

"In most cases, someone locally has taken on the role of co-ordinating and encouraging registrations which have helped immensely in achieving the trigger levels and bringing broadband to rural Essex," said Sir Alan.

THERE were 16,909 burglaries in Essex and 6,248 in Suffolk in the 12 months ending March 31 2003 - but the number of convictions for the offence barely registers on the Richter scale, according to a Commons written answer from Home Office minister Hazel Blears. In Essex, just 434 were sentenced for the offence, of whom 230 were sent to prison. In Suffolk, the number sentenced was 235 with 89 jailed.

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THERE'S been a flurry of back bench motions in the aftermath of the row between the Government and the BBC over the David Kelly affair. One from Colchester Liberal Democrat Bob Russell pointing out the Corporation's world-wide reputation and the need for it to remain independent from the Government of the day has attracted 32 signatures.

Incidentally, the Colchester MP has been re-selected by the Lib Dems as their General Election candidate. Belatedly, I should reveal that he once again tops the regional list for MPs voting in Commons divisions. My only concern about the way these figures are compiled takes no account of the duties of front bench spokesmen whose ministerial or opposition duties take them away from Parliament on official business at home or abroad, thus missing votes which ordinary MPs are around to take part in.

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THE plight of the albatross - and indeed the petrel - is exercising the mind of Maldon and Chelmsford East Tory John Whittingdale who is anxious the UK ratifies an international protection agreement this year. Mr Whittingdale also wants legal and other help given to UK dependent territories South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Falkland Islands, Gough Island and Tristan da Cunha to enable them to sign the treaty.

Elliott Morely, minister of state in the Rural Affairs Department (Defra) told him: "We are keen to ratify the agreement on the conservation of albatrosses and petrels as soon as possible and we are giving priority to those overseas territories that have the necessary legislation in place or have formally requested that ratification be extended to them."

MICHAEL Howard was on fine form when he spoke to more than 720 party members at the annual dinner of Maldon and Chelmsford East Conservatives in Tolleshunt Knights.

On being appointed leader last November, he told the party's 166 MPs that he would not devote his energies to getting them re-elected - his main task was to ensure the election of a further 166 and the return of a Conservative government by taking his message to those parts of Britain that are now Tory-free zones.

But as he had accepted the Maldon engagement long before the Tory leadership crisis, he decided to keep his date with the good and the great from this safest of safe Conservative seats. The dinner raised £1,000 each for the fighting funds in Braintree, Harwich and Colchester, three seats the Tories need to win at the next General Election to stand any chance of turfing Tony Blair out of Downing Street.

As well as Maldon and East Chelmsford's MP John Whittingdale, top Tories on parade were MPs Simon Burns (Chelmsford West), Mark Francois (Rayleigh), and Bernard Jenkin (North Essex), Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden, Parliamentary candidates Brooks Newmark (Braintree), Kevin Bentley (Colchester), and Douglas Carswell (Harwich), and Maldon constituency chairman Julia Peel.

Last week, Mr Howard was rubbished by Labour and the Liberal Democrats for visiting Burnley and lashing out at the "thugs" of the British National Party who have made gains in that town.

His opponents in the "liberal elite" have failed to stem the rise of the BNP and Michael Howard, whose own family suffered grievously at the hands of the Nazis, has as much right - if not more - to attack the party as anybody else.

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