When the larger strategic decisions are being made in our region, and in NE Bedfordshire in particular, I have to work out what my role is on each occasion, how I can engage as many people as possible, and how we all have an opportunity to put our views.

Currently the A1 East of England Strategy Study is under discussion. The objectives are to understand the strategic case for making improvements to the A1, to review previous study work, other relevant data, and current investment plans

Read more: Villager Magazine March 2016 - Strategy and Consultations; what is the role of an MP?

The date is set. On June 23rd this year you will have, as promised by Prime Minister David Cameron when many people doubted it would happen, a chance to cast your vote as to whether this country should remain a member of the EU or not. Make no mistake. This is a very big opportunity indeed, the height of democracy and our sovereignty, that our people, and not its Parliament, should take such an important decision.

You will hear much about it in the next few months, and so you should. I make no apology for writing about it now, and probably many times between now and then. You are entitled to hear what an MP thinks and will do, (and there are more details on my website at www.alistair-burt.co.uk) even though when push comes to shove, my vote is worth the same as anyone else’s.

Read more: Burt on the Benches March 2016 - Referendum

One of the parts of my work as Minister of Health that is most topical these days is mental health. You may have seen last month the report of a Task Force, commissioned by the NHS, to look at the state of our mental health services and point the way forward. Put together by a mixture of independent experts, charities and those who use mental health services, it was a pretty frank report, and pulled few punches about things which needed to change.

Read more: Bulletin Magazine Feb 2016 - Rethinking mental health

The death of David Bowie, and the way in which it dominated news broadcasts and the newspapers for some days, caused me to think about the impact of modern culture in terms of its influence on society, and indeed, politics.

 

My generation (born 1955) has grown up with media, and particularly music, dominating in a manner unknown before. Whilst radio from the 1920's brought music and culture to a mass audience, the expansion of media outlets for music over the past fifty years, and it's all pervading nature, is unprecedented. And for a very small handful of incredibly creative individuals, their influence on society has gone way beyond their own sphere.

Read more: Villager Magazine Feb 2016 - David Bowie

Last Thursday, 4th February, was 'Time to talk' day, devoted to encouraging people to discuss mental health issues.

For all that we have moved forward in the UK in terms of our national understanding about mental health, that such problems affect one in four of us each year, there can still be a reluctance to discuss the issue. When asked how we are, we have no difficulty in saying that we have a bad back, or toothache, but few readily open up on anxiety or depression.

Read more: Burt on the Benches February 2016 - Time to Talk