THE consultation on the location of a new £900 million hospital for central Hampshire has now ended. My hope is the preferred location at junction 7 of the M3 will be confirmed. I would like to thank everyone who got involved and for the many messages I have received from people – including NHS staff - who understand what an improvement we will get to our healthcare from this new hospital – a centre of excellence - and how it will save lives.

One alarming consequence of the debate about the new hospital is quite how many people seem to think the Royal Hampshire County Hospital will be closing. This is, of course, not true in the slightest and I am wondering where such misinformation is coming from. For the avoidance of any doubt, Winchester’s hospital will remain open with substantial services remaining at the site.

My Parliamentary bill to ensure home schooled children are registered received its second reading in the House of Commons last month as it continues its path through Parliament and hopefully becomes law.

The Children Not in School (Registers, Support and Orders) Private Members Bill has cross-party support, the support of local authorities and I am seeking government support for it too.

It proposes a duty on local authorities in England to maintain registers of children of compulsory school age who are not educated full-time at schools, as well as a duty on local authorities to provide support to home educating families, should they request it.

Importantly, it does nothing to infringe on parents’ right to home school their children.

Since the pandemic more children than ever are being home schooled. Around 81,000 are known to local authorities but the actual figure is very likely to be much higher - hence the need for the register.

Teachers, local authorities, charities and my colleagues have expressed concerns that not all children educated at home are being educated properly or having their needs met and I share those concerns.

Of course, many children are properly home schooled but I’m afraid it would be naive to think it is all and we need to know who they are to ensure they are safe and getting the education they need. That we simply do not know the numbers is very alarming and totally unacceptable.

Quite a few very important elections take place next month and I would like to use this column to urge everyone to go and vote. Our democracy is important and the local element of it underpins lots of our services like waste disposal, many of our roads, schools and planning.

We have city council elections, the election for the Police and Crime Commissioner, a Hampshire County Council by-election for the Meon Valley ward and parish council elections too.

Please remember everyone now needs to show photo ID to be able to vote. Free photo ID can be obtained from the council, if anyone doesn’t have the wide range of accepted photo ID like a passport, blue badge, defence identity card or a driving licence.

The county council by-election is happening in Meon Valley because councillor Hugh Lumby has had to stand down due to ill health. In his three years in post, he has been a wonderful and steadfast champion for his ward. I wish him and his family the very best.

Flick Drummond MP

Member of Parliament for Meon Valley