Since the late 1980’s the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme has given members of Parliament a chance to experience the work of army, navy and RAF personnel up close.
The purpose is to give MPs (the majority of us have no experience of serving in our Armed Forces) an insight into military life that would not otherwise be available.
It is hoped we will as a result be able to make more informed and up-to-date contributions to defence debates in Parliament and I am pleased to say I am a new recruit for the class of 2021/22.
Last week we gathered at the Shrivenham Defence Academy near Swindon, which is very similar to our own Defence College of Logistics, Policing and Administration at the stunning newly rebuilt Worthy Down, to start this year’s course.
Eleven years ago I made my maiden speech in a defence debate and I have worked hard in the years since to maintain a good understanding of the MoD’s ongoing presence in Winchester; from Worthy Down to the ATR at Flowerdown and our significant military history plus regimental headquarters at Peninsula Barracks.
I am part of the AFPS single service programme within the army and am looking forward to learning from the visits we undertake to better inform my work as our MP in Parliament.
You can learn more about my progress across the year - and see your MP in uniform - at stevebrine.com/AFPS
Elsewhere, and this week has obviously been dominated by the ongoing impact of sharply rising global gas prices.
We are taking action to protect the UK’s energy supply, industry, and consumers; safeguarding millions of customers from sudden price increases through our Energy Price Cap and making sure that customers’ gas and electricity supply continues uninterrupted if a supplier fails.
I was in the Commons on Monday for a broadly reassuring Statement from the Business Secretary – he was at pains to stress we do not expect supply emergencies this winter – but I wanted to understand what happens in practice when customers are left high and dry.
I raised the Ofgem guarantee, known as the SOLAR (or supplier of last resort), as I am anxious it protects any credit balances customers have should their supplier go out of business and whether previously arranged fixed-term deals negotiated with current suppliers will be respected if you have to move to a new supplier.
Whilst I was disappointed the Secretary of State could not confirm that is the position for all, I understand vast numbers could be in this position and I will certainly take up his offer to be involved in a pending review of the SOLR scheme which gives us a voice at the heart of this policy area.
It is of course true to say a much bigger part of the funding required now will be energy costs for this winter and these costs will be re-cycled to consumers via distribution charges so prices will rise.
There may have been a political consensus around price capping but I have some sympathy with the argument being put to me that it is now part of the problem, not the solution. What is indisputable is that it is clearly not increasing competition; quite the opposite.
I would welcome to hear from constituents on this, especially if you’re in the position now or in the coming weeks of seeing your energy supplier cease trading.
Energy pricing and security may seem rather dry subjects but history tells us they can very quickly cross-over to really impact already fragile household finances.