After only a few weeks of 2013, the pace of political business has well and truly picked up. There have been several key debates in Parliament, all of which will have an impact on local residents here in York.

In the very first week of Parliament, I spoke in a key debate on welfare reform in the House of Commons. Quite rightly, welfare is a sensitive issue requiring mature debate. Sadly, on too many occasions in the past, the welfare debate has been hijacked by those on both extremes of the argument, leading to some wild misconceptions and unhelpful media coverage.

Sensible politicians of all political parties should agree on the basis of the welfare question - that we must always provide compassionate and caring assistance for those who find themselves in desperate and genuine need.

During my surgeries, I often meet constituents who are suffering from the complicated and bureaucratic nature of the welfare system. It is also my genuine belief that those who most need support are often the last to receive it. As such, I support the welfare reforms for one crucial reason – that by reforming our welfare system, we will be able to better target our support and resources to those who face the greatest difficulties. An inefficient, bloated, unfair welfare system actually penalises those who are most in need and that cannot be right. Put simply, welfare must be fair for all - fair for those most in need, but also fair for the taxpayer.

Another Government policy was announced which will have a huge impact on York in the years to come. The decision, quite correctly in my view, to push ahead with the High Speed Rail policy, sends a clear message that this Government is serious about bridging the North-South divide by putting the necessary infrastructure in place to support our northern cities and businesses in the years to come.

With York now included as a direct destination on the HS2 line, we will be able to travel to London in record time, as well as benefiting from the exciting regeneration created by the project.

Alongside previous Government funding for the northern hub expansion and the electrification of the Transpennine express rail service, this commitment to high-speed rail will further encourage businesses to stay and even relocate to York, benefiting our local economy and local jobs. Such ambitions have been at the centre of my own local transport group which met again in January to discuss the wider transport issues facing York. Our report will be released at the end of February so keep reading The Press for the latest news on that front.

Lastly, I was also delighted to learn that the Tour de France route will now definitely include our great city. It would have been bemusing for this Yorkshire event to have passed without a visit to York and I know that local businesses are excited about the surge of tourism that this event will provoke. Time and time again, York continues to attract and host major events with great success. Over the coming months, I shall be working with the local authority, Welcome to Yorkshire and local residents to ensure that York gains the maximum benefit from the historic event.

Indeed, as the unrelenting pace of life continues throughout 2013, I think we can all be extremely proud of our great city and its great future.