The tree is down, the baubles packed away for another year, and the Christmas cards ready to go for recycling (to St Giles Hospice Shop in Aldridge).

For many this week has meant back to school or back to work and in my case, back to Parliament.

Yet, 2018 for me started on an Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme visit for me to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Estonia to meet with and support some of the British forces based there. The UK and Estonia have a long history of working together across defence and 2018 marks 100 years since the earliest cooperation between our Royal Navy and Estonia. Today Britain continues to play an important part, alongside our allies, in European security, defending the rule of law by which we all stand and upholding our values of democracy.

This issue of Britain’s continued commitment to security post-Brexit is one I raised recently with the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. We will continue to work with our allies on a number of operations and programmes in which we are involved in the EU and which would be beneficial to continue to do so.

As I frequently write here, Government continues to work on many issues not just Brexit and those which are covered by the main news headlines. With the challenge that winter brings and in particular the additional pressures it places on the NHS the Government’s recent announcement of extra funding to help cope with this was good news.

Locally for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust this means our winter allocation is up to £1.7 million. This extra support is to be welcomed and I appreciate our hospitals and wider healthcare system have prepared earlier than ever before for winter.

In other news, proposals are being developed to crackdown on puppies being treated in unhealthy circumstances by unscrupulous breeders who have no regard whatsoever for their welfare. The New Year brought news that work is underway so that mothers’ names will finally be included on marriage certificates.

I will close with a look ahead to the weekend when we will see the curtain go up again for the start of this year’s Pantomime Season at Aldridge Youth Theatre. I am sure ‘Humpty Dumpty’ written especially for Aldridge Youth Theatre by Neville Ellis and directed by Alex Fisher will provide all the usual family fun, bringing together as it does the fabulous talent, enthusiasm and passion for theatre for which our local group is much loved and well known.

The season runs until the end of this month, my tickets are booked and I am looking forward to it – Oh yes I am!!!

This was first published by the Walsall Advertiser and the Sutton Observer on 12 January 2018.