Shop locally this Saturday, because small businesses need our support if they are to survive and prosper

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

Throughout the month of November I have been lending my support to the national Movember charity campaign. and like many others I have been growing a moustache to raise awareness of men’s health issues, in particular prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.

This is a fun way of tackling a very serious issue, and the Movember charity has done an incredible job. In just a few years this good cause has gone from nothing to raising millions of pounds all over the world.

That said, I’m glad it’s over and am very happy that my moustache has now gone!

As we approach Christmas, I am encouraging people across the constituency to shop locally and support small businesses.

I have been lucky enough to have been invited to a number of Christmas lights switch-on events in the area and I commend the local councils, groups of retailers and other organisations who have been working together to make add a festive atmosphere to our shopping centres.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy. They employ millions of people and make a fantastic contribution to our local communities.

You may be aware that this weekend sees Small Business Saturday, a nationwide drive encouraging shoppers to support traders in their community, and I commend the idea.

We need to support these businesses to ensure their survival and success.

In Parliament this week, I am steering a Bill through the House of Commons.

In my role as a minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, I will introduce the Mesothelioma Bill and lead it through the committee stages.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the mesothelium – a membrane that lines some of our body cavities – and is commonly, but not exclusively, linked to exposure to asbestos.

It is a dreadful disease and this bill is long overdue.

The new legislation will set up a lump-sum payment scheme which will be funded by insurers and will provide much-needed financial assistance for sufferers and their dependents

At the end of last week, I took 622 parcels to the sorting office in the House of Commons for our Treats for our Troops campaign.

We have had an incredible response this year, the best ever.

I am delighted – and a bit relieved – that local company Suttons Envelopes agreed to help me transport the parcels to London.

I thank everyone who took the time and effort to make up a parcel and the Hemel Hempstead Lions for their tremendous help in ensuring all the parcels are well wrapped and within the correct weight and size limits.

The campaign is now closed.

Although our troops are due to pull out of Afghanistan this coming year, I hope to run a campaign next year to send parcels to troops who are still serving overseas and far away from home.

That may be the Falkland Islands or somewhere else in the world, but I will let you know.

Finally, I thank everyone for their support over the past year and wish you all a happy Christmas and healthy and prosperous 2014.

Mike Penning is the MP for Hemel Hempstead. You can contact his office on 01442 251126 or through his website at www.mikepenning.com