I was delighted that the Government approved the project to create an institute of technology in Swindon with millions of pounds of Government investment.

I know that a lot of hard work has gone into delivering this project and it is thanks to Swindon College, local businesses, officers from Swindon Borough Council, Council leader David Renard and Coun Oliver Donachie for championing our town and helping to create such a strong bid.

Both Robert Buckland and I lobbied ministers relentlessly to approve the bid and for Government to provide the funding. We made the case that Swindon was an ideal destination for an IoT, thanks to our heritage and excellence in advanced manufacturing and engineering

I have been told by the minister that the competition amongst the IoT proposals across the country was a tough one, with just 12 across the country selected out of over 100 applications. So I am very proud that Swindon was able to demonstrate sufficient ambition and innovation within the proposal in order to give it the green light. We must now ensure that we deliver a high quality institution that can deliver the technical skills locally that employers need.

IoTs will be a new kind of employer-led institution which will offer top-quality, higher level technical education. They will be formed from collaborations between universities, local colleges and employers, and will be able to draw on the experience and expertise of each. Their focus will be on much sought after STEM skills in areas such as digital, engineering and advanced manufacturing. With employers leading the way, IoTs will be tailored to meet the specific skills need of our town, so that they can help to further strengthen our local economy.

Our IoT is expected to offer high-level technical qualifications in advanced manufacturing and engineering, life sciences, digital sciences and creative media.

By training the next generation in these valuable skills, we can provide a highly skilled workforce for the industries of the future. This will ensure employers, and potential inward investors, have access to the high skilled workforce they need. A big thank you again to all of those involved in the bid.

Yesterday was World Parkinson’s Day, with April being World Parkinson’s Awareness Month. The aim is to raise awareness of this chronic, progressive, degenerative neurological disease which affects many people of all ages across the world. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about the disease. For example 32 per cent of a survey of more than 2,000 people with Parkinson’s said that their less expressive facial expressions had been mistaken for unfriendliness, whilst 22 per cent said their slurred speech or poor balance had been mistaken for drunkenness.

This month is about helping to raise awareness and change attitudes towards people with Parkinson’s, as well as promoting the services and support available to anyone affected by the condition.

Locally, we have a fantastic Swindon branch of Parkinson’s UK and I am really pleased to be able to host their monthly coffee mornings at my community office. I have seen first-hand the challenges that people with Parkinson’s face, as well as the impact on their families, and it is so important that they have this valuable support network so they can meet up with those going through the same experience.