Local Press

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:23 am on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham 11:23 am, 20th January 2009

It is important for Opposition MPs to highlight in a public way their concerns about Government spending, particularly in the run-up to a general election when there is a massive peak in such spending. It is a strange coincidence, but there seems to be a correlation between an imminent general election and the amount of Government spending. Of course it is our duty and responsibility to scrutinise whether all that information is totally unbiased, and it is very important that we do that job.

The remainder of my remarks will be brief, Mr. Cummings, because I know that you want to ensure that everybody speaks. The Shrewsbury Chronicle reports the views of its readers and the work of MPs, MEPs, and county, borough, town and parish councils. That is a very important point. We are talking about not only MPs but parish councils. I represent a rural constituency, and my local paper reports on rural, parish matters, which is very helpful especially for senior citizens living in isolated areas who might otherwise be unable to find out about various vital, local services, such as meals on wheels.

The local editor, Mr. Butterworth, has worked with political, business and health officials to improve the town. That has included campaigns to save the town swimming pool and to get signs put up for Shrewsbury on certain main roads—before I became an MP, I asked the Highways Agency how we could get a sign for Shrewsbury on the M6. It had a sign for Telford, but not for Shrewsbury. It said, "No chance; no, no, we're not going to do it!" The local newspaper ran a concerted campaign saying how important it was for Shrewsbury to be recognised as the county town of Shropshire and to have a sign on the M6. It initiated a cross-party campaign; now thanks to the Shrewsbury Chronicle, Shrewsbury finally has a sign on the M6 directing people to our beautiful, historic town—it is, of course, one of the most beautiful in the west midlands, and I highly recommend it for summer holidays.

The Shrewsbury Chronicle has also been involved in a campaign for flood defences. However, its most successful campaign was "Let's grow for it", which concerned Shrewsbury's bid for the Britain in Bloom competition. The town not only won the national title for the first time in 25 years, but won the European and world titles—yes, we hold the town in bloom world title! Not only are we beautiful, but we have lots of beautiful flowers.

In the past 12 years, the paper has raised more than £5 million for various charities, which has helped to build a new Macmillan cancer centre and a new diabetes unit at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital, and it has provided a new vehicle for the Red Cross to use in the county, a much-needed extension for the local hospice, a vehicle for a children's hospice and a new head and neck cancer unit at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital. The paper was recognised for its efforts when the editor, Mr. John Butterworth, was awarded the MBE for services to journalism and charity in last year's new year's honours list. The paper has also organised many competitions, such as hanging-basket, shop-window and tots of year contests—I entered my own beautiful daughter, Alexis, in the tots of the year competition. Regrettably, she did not win—