BY THE time this column is in print we will know who the new prime minister is going to be. While I don’t know the outcome at the time of writing, I would like to offer my congratulations to whoever wins; both candidates have run very broad campaigns and either would be an excellent leader of our country.

However, they will also face enormous challenges: a country still divided over the issue of Brexit, a very narrow majority in Parliament and a looming deadline to find a way through the current Brexit impasse. It is a tall ask, but I am confident that our new prime minister can succeed, so long as they work constructively with colleagues across the House, with businesses and industry, and with our friends in Europe.

I know that there has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks of the October deadline, and whether we should leave then, come what may, even if that means leaving without a deal. I have always maintained that leaving the EU without a deal would be damaging to our national and local economy, and unnecessary given that we should be able to negotiate an arrangement that works for all. That is what it said in the manifesto which I and other conservative MPs stood on in 2017, and that is why I and others, including Boris Johnson, voted to leave the EU with a negotiated deal.

However, I have also been clear that I will not engage in Parliamentary manoeuvres to try and block No Deal, as I think this dilutes our negotiating efforts and also risks not being able to deliver Brexit at all - which would be a serious departure of duty given the Referendum result.

But while Brexit carries on, so does much of my portfolio, and in my role as minister for energy and clean growth I have been continuing to champion policies to support rural areas such as ours. I have been able, for example, to organise the re-opening of the Rural Community Energy Fund. This £10 million programme will support rural communities in England to develop community-based renewable energy projects by providing communities with grants for feasibility studies to test out their clean energy ideas and, if viable, a grant to assist with project development. The Fund has already helped over 150 rural communities plan projects which will support them to become cleaner and more sustainable, and I would urge our local councils and other organisations to bring forward some good Wiltshire-based projects to bid into the fund.

n This column was written before Ms Perry was reappointed in major cabinet reshuffle