IN this month’s column Halesowen and Rowley Regis MP James Morris wishes everyone a Merry Christmas.

I spent a lot of last week visiting local primary schools, handing out certificates to pupils who had entered my Christmas card competition, as well as prizes to the winners.

It was great to see so many children from so many schools getting involved, and all of their entries are in display in the Cornbow Centre in Halesowen, on the side of the 99p Store by Asda.

The energy amongst the children in the run-up Christmas is almost intoxicating, as they rehearse nativity plays and make Christmas cards and decorations.

I know how excited my own children are and how hard school teachers and other staff work to arrange the extra activities that help to make Christmas so special.

The happiness and anticipation in our schools makes the horrific events of last week at a school in the United States even more difficult to understand.

Children who – like the ones I was with last week – were doubtlessly looking forward to Christmas with their families, preparing ever-expanding lists for Father Christmas and making cards for their parents were instead brutally killed; shot indiscriminately in their classrooms.

Less well-publicised, but just as shocking, was the stabbing of 22 children at a school in China.

Our minds naturally turn to our own children, and those of family and friends.

I know from the many visits I make to schools just how secure they now are, with measures taken both to stop unwanted visitors getting in and children getting out during the school day.

Whilst there is fortunately very little gun crime in our community, knives remain a problem in some areas.

This month, a new law came into effect that introduces a new offence of aggravated possession of a knife, with a mandatory prison sentence, for people who use a knife to threaten somebody, as well as mandatory life sentences for anyone committing a second serious violent or sexual crime.

I was delighted to vote for the new laws, to crack down on these terrible crimes that ruin lives.

Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, particularly those who are lonely or hungry.

On Friday, I will be helping the Black Country Food Bank to collect donations of food and household goods at Asda in Halesowen.

The Food Bank is an incredibly valuable organisation that supports many people through short-term crises and any donations you can make will be put to very good use.

So to end my last column of the year, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a very happy Christmas.

May it bring everything that you wish for – and may we be grateful for all that we have.