1. How did you start in politics and from where did the interest come?
I started in politics relatively late in life. Having two careers under my belt (as a chartered surveyor in Carmarthen and the chief executive of a rural rights organisation) I was always keen to undertake something in the public domain. The idea of representing our area in Westminster really appealed.
2. What are they key aspects of your role as an MP in parliament, as well as government duties you may have (please describe your role) and what is a typical week like?
The job falls into two parts. Firstly there is the work in Westminster where we all play a small part in ‘national’ issues and then there is the local role which focuses more directly on resolving issues for individual residents – such as council house repairs, problems with benefits and the like.
3. What were the key issues and events from last year that you had to deal with or were involved with?
Locally I have had over 5,000 cases through my office in three years. Playing a part in getting a local problem resolved – it may be helping sort an operation for someone; getting help from a service charity or a grant for a local business is incredibly rewarding. My discussions with the National Park regarding the affordable housing levy has had a very promising outcome in that they are now in communication with local people about changing their policy. This year the future of Withybush will be one of the biggest subjects facing the County in many years.
4. What are the main issues locally and how are these reflected at a national level?
Poor access to superfast broadband is something that comes up again and again. I am delighted that we have got 100,000 houses in Wales connected to superfast Broadband but there is much still to do. The future of Withybush hangs in the balance and of course continuing to see the drop in unemployment and better economic conditions is also top of the list. I will be hosting two further jobs fairs in the area this year (including one in May in the Pembroke area). Our National approach to benefit reforms remains important – striking a fair balance between those in real need and those whose interests may be better served by being back in work is a difficult one to get right.
5. How do you balance parliamentary duties and local Pembrokeshire duties for constituents - how do you split your time? When Parliament is sitting I am there from Monday to Thursday and otherwise always ‘on the patch’
6. What are your hopes and aspirations, politically, for 2014 and how do you see your role in it all?
Crucial to me is continued economic progress. We are a long way from being able to say for certain that we are out of the woods, but progress is slow and steady. Our area relies hugely on small business as well as the bigger, familiar companies. Getting the right conditions for them to flourish is a vital goal. And then we need goods housing, schools and hospitals and other services to attract business to our area – and keep it here.
7. How do you balance personal and work life?
It is always a struggle as the two so often overlap and I love my job! Having friends and family not immersed in politics is a good reminder of life outside the “political bubble” from time to time
8. Which is better - the job itself or the hustings? in fact how do you feel about the process of re-election and the risk of losing?
I am driven by providing what I hope is a good, professional, local service irrespective of party politics. I quite like the campaigning but for me the best chance of re-election is if I am able to represent the area robustly in Westminster and deliver a competent service locally. If I mange that I might have the honour of another 5 years in post!
9. What are the best and worst aspects of the job?
The best is resolving an issue for someone locally who may be really struggling and running out of options. The worst is some of the tribal party rivalry which would never be tolerated in a professionally run institution and can be an obstacle to achieving an obviously logical outcome.
10. Finally - when are you on question time!?
I’m not sure I meet the BBC criteria. I did QT back in 2005 in Norwich as a ‘non politician’ – and it was quite nerve wracking despite the wine they give you beforehand...
Simon Hart MP
House of Commons
15, St John St
or 0207 219 3000