Over the summer there were many events both across my Constituency, in the UK and across Europe which marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. Each was quite different – from the names on the war memorial being read out in Wallingford to theunveiling of the Memorial Arch in Folkestone where I was deeply moved to see a parade, which was a stark reminder of the men who marched off to serve their country a century ago. For me, perhaps the most moving event of all was when people all over the country put their lights out and we all paused to remember the courage and dignity of the millions who fought for freedom and democracy , so many of whom never came home.
It’s so important that we don’t just remember for a day or a week, but that we really do try to learn the lessons of what became known as the Great War, which so sadly was not, as so many hoped, the war to end all wars. In particular, getting young people today to engage with the real impact of the First World War is a challenge. I was therefore delighted to come across a truly imaginative and effective way to do just that set up by one of my constituents – a Facebook page of a soldier-to-be had the platform have been available 100 years ago. I know that young people are already checking out the Facebook page to see the latest information, and I’m sure that the numbers will continue to grow over the summer. You can see the page at www.facebook.com/WW1SoldiersTale. Not only does the page recount the events in one life, but it sets it all in the context of a family and friends, and all the other events – local and national – happening at the time. Not least among those events is the campaign for votes for women: it is still less than a century since any women at all were allowed to vote and it was only in 1924 – within living memory – that women were finally able to vote on the same basis as men.
Reading about the fight for the right to vote is a timely reminder that our we can, perhaps, take our democracy and our right to participate for granted. Over the next few months, the electoral roll which will be in place for the 2015 General Election will be compiled. Please do make sure that you encourage anyone just coming up to 18 both to look at the facebookpage above and to get on the electoral roll – and do both yourself too!
This month my mailbag was dominated with concerns over the breeding and sale of puppies and kittens, where there is believed to be a lack of thought for the health or welfare of the animals. I was pleased that MPs had the opportunity to debate this issue, which is clearly of great importance to many of my constituents. The debate helped clarify the belief that dog breeders only need a licence if they have a bitch producing five or more litters per year. DEFRA discovered that when the relevant Act came into force under the last Government, the Home Office sent a circular indicating this; it is now writing to councils to stress that anyone in the business of breeding dogs must be licenced. Recent Government action shows that much can be achieved without new legislation. That said, I do share concerns about unregulated sales over the internet, so am pleased that the Government has acted to create a voluntary code which has resulted in 100,000 adverts being removed since the start of 2014.
As ever please feel free to contact me on any matter at the House of Commons, SW1A 0AA, 020 7219 6350 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Email is the quickest and most reliable way to get in touch, as I keep a very close eye on my emails and can reply very quickly. Surgery details can be found at www.vaizey.com.
Ed Vaizey MP