We asked Ade Williams, Community Pharmacist in Yate, to put some questions to Luke on life as an MP with a young family, and on the issues people are talking about.
Luke, it’s been some time since South Gloucestershire View sat down with you last. A lot has happened in politics since then, but firstly, is it correct that your family has grown again?
Yes! Thank you! I am now a father to three young boys. They are wonderful. Our youngest, William, was born in January 2021. It’s pretty full on having three boys under the age of six, but it’s great fun too, and they all get on amazingly well, which makes our lives a bit easier!
And we heard your youngest arrived early?
Yes, my wife Roisin was admitted to hospital 22 weeks into the pregnancy, and we were told that the baby could arrive at any time. In our case, like so many other parents in these situations, it meant staying in hospital, praying that the pregnancy lasted as long as possible. Every day felt like a month, but also a huge accomplishment because we knew that every day that went by would give our child a better chance. Six weeks later, our son, William, was born on 6th January, at 28 weeks, weighing 2.4lbs. He was tiny and absolutely beautiful. I was in complete awe of Roisin and how she handled everything.
That must have been very difficult. Has it affected any of the work you are doing in Parliament?
Yes absolutely, it opened my eyes to a whole world of challenges that so many parents face. Whether it’s not receiving the right amount of financial support, childcare support when your child is in intensive care, mental health support, the right aftercare by health visitors, the right guidance about where to get answers and help – the list of things we have to improve is a long one. I have been working with some great charities to help deliver a new right for parents who have children in neonatal care to receive up to 12 weeks of extra leave and pay. This will make a big difference to parents, allowing them to spend vital time with their babies if they are born premature or sick without the worry of returning to work.
You mentioned childcare. It’s very difficult to access childcare - the cost can be prohibitive to many new parents. What is the government doing about it?
I think delivering 30 hours’ worth of free childcare for thousands of local families is a really important reform. It will allow parents in our area to have a more flexible working life, save a lot of money and spend more time together as a family. It was a promise made before the election, that I am delighted to have been a part of delivering, and it will really make a difference to many families in our area.
And what about locally. What are you doing to make things better for our community?
We have made good progress on lots of local issues; half hourly train services between Yate and Bristol and Gloucester are up and running, the Yate Park and Ride is open and helping people get to Southmead Hospital, we have scrapped the Severn Bridge Tolls and Charfield Station has been approved. We are rolling out soft plastic recycling to every house in South Gloucestershire, building the new Two Bridges Academy for children with special educational needs.
Having a family has definitely added to my determination to ensure the things that are important to local families are really working and disabilities in Alveston, we have extended the opening hours at Yate MIU, introduced Free Swimming for Pregnant Women, and so much more. But there is so much more to do.
Once again, we are at risk of overdevelopment. I stood up and fought against Buckover ‘Garden Village’ – which is really a 3,000-house extension to Thornbury, last time it was proposed, and now that threat is back. We must continue to fight it. We also have to move quicker on delivering an upgraded Thornbury Health Centre, which I have been fighting tooth and nail for. If we are successful in securing the funding we need from Government, we will be able to deliver more GP appointments, more outpatient services, more mental health services and take the pressure of the local hospitals.
Of course, there is still more to do and I am fighting every day to get the best deal for our community, but South Gloucestershire remains, I think, the best place in the country to live, work and raise a family.
I speak to a lot of people who feel quite disconnected from politics. What can you do as our local MP to reverse that?
I have really enjoyed running the ‘South Gloucestershire Comes to Parliament’ tours – we’ve had well over 3,000 people come up to Parliament so far. Residents head up to London on one of the buses I organise, get a guided tour around the House of Commons and the House of Lords, ask me questions and get involved. The feedback has been really positive, and it’s a great way to her about different issues that are coming up. I am also out and about as much as I can be, whether that’s holding stalls at local festivals, surgeries in villages around South Gloucestershire, or by simply setting up pop-up stands in the local Tesco! This is my home, I am born locally, live locally and I am raising my family here. I use the same local services as everyone else, so I want the very best for our community, and I hope that shows.
Finally, outside of being a dad and an MP, what else do you do?
If I am honest, pretty much every minute outside of work I spend with my family, whether that’s taking them to the park, on walks or to what feels like a never-ending stream of birthday parties. The boys are at a wonderful age where they want to spend time with us, and I want to make use of every second of that!