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Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson on Afghanistan, A-level and GCSE results and digital connectivity

Julie Marson, MP for Hertford and Stortford, writes for the Bishop's Stortford Independent...

Whilst I usually use this column first and foremostly as a place to discuss the issues that affect our everyday lives here in Hertford and Stortford, I think it is important that I address the rapidly developing situation in Afghanistan.

I will be in a recalled Parliament today (Wednesday) and hope to participate in the debate, during which we will discuss the UK's urgent response to this, as we continue to prioritise evacuating all Britons and Afghans that we owe refuge to, and provide immediate humanitarian assistance.

I know my deep concern for this is shared by many other residents, and I can assure you that the Government is working day and night to evacuate as many people as we can.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, himself a former soldier, are personally committed and involved in these efforts, and I will call upon the Government to continue to work with our allies to deliver this help now.

This is an event of global concern, and to lose the enormous progress Afghanistan has made throughout its years in peacetime, particularly with regard to women's rights and education, would be a tragedy for us all.

Afghan National Army soldiers taking part in a compound clearance exercise run by British forces at the Kabul Military Training Centre in 2010. Picture: MOD.
Afghan National Army soldiers taking part in a compound clearance exercise run by British forces at the Kabul Military Training Centre in 2010. Picture: MOD.

Some are more optimistic than I am regarding the Taliban's intentions and I hope that they are right, that this is a different group from the one who tyrannised its people and harboured terrorists 20 years ago.

Closer to home, it has been wonderful to see so many teenagers celebrating their educational milestones, having now received their GCSE and A-level results. This is an important stage in any young person's life, and I congratulate all of our students in our area and wish them success in their next steps, whatever they might be.

I was thrilled to hear from lots of our brilliant local schools just how well so many pupils did, despite the difficult circumstances they have faced throughout the past year. Having had the opportunity to speak to numerous pupils on a variety of courses during this time, I fully appreciate how significant this achievement is, both for themselves and those closest to them. I hope that everyone involved, particularly teachers and parents, who have taken on new levels of responsibility to keep education in our area going throughout this pandemic, can now breathe a sigh of relief and continue to enjoy the summer ahead.

A key opportunity for our area is the need for improved provision of high-quality broadband. Digital connectivity is particularly important for our more rural residents, whom I am keen to ensure are not forgotten about. As the trend in working flexibly and from home continues, I recognise just how important this issue is for people throughout Hertford and Stortford. That's why I secured a meeting in Parliament with the minister for digital infrastructure earlier this summer to ensure he is aware of this particular need in our constituency, as well as to press for our place in the Government's plan of action to address this need.

I am delighted that, in response, Hertford and Stortford has been categorised as operating within phase 2 of the £5bn national scheme, Project Gigabit, to ensure everyone in our community has the fast and reliable internet they need. I understand that essential market reviews will begin later this year as the next course of action in this plan, to gather the necessary data about our area's existing network.

This will allow experts to identify any particular problems of concern as well as allow them to build plans right across Hertfordshire and draw up key areas for intervention. I am confident this sort of infrastructure development will make a huge, positive difference to all residents in Hertford and Stortford for years to come, as well as place us on the map for further investment.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also funded Hertfordshire County Council's own smaller-scale Superfast Phase 3 project for immediate effect, in addition to this longer-term plan. I am aware that 237 premises in our own constituency alone, including local businesses, have already been connected to a better network as a result. I will be sure to continue to monitor this figure closely in the weeks and months ahead, as it remains set to grow.

We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful and welcoming community so it is shocking when we hear of an incident which betrays our inclusive values. The homophobic attack that took place in Bishop's Stortford two weeks ago is appalling, and, as I have already done so on social media, I urge anyone who has any information about those involved in this upsetting incident to contact our police.

I work to support everyone here in Hertford and Stortford, and I am looking forward to joining in the Stort Valley Pride event at South Mill Arts later this month. I am sure this will be hugely popular and enjoyable, and encourage everyone to come along if they can – admission is free – to promote such joy and inclusivity within our community.

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