We are now approaching the second week of this second national lockdown, and I appreciate that these are tough times for all, as we make huge personal sacrifices to protect the NHS and save lives. A glimmer of real hope this week came with the news of a vaccine – subject to it passing the final stages of approval – representing an extraordinary feat of human achievement.
In the constituency
Since my previous update my team have opened 721 new cases. 156 of these were casework, with the remaining relating to policy and campaigning issues.
As with the first lockdown, my office received a surge in enquiries at the announcement of the second lockdown, with many constituents writing with a particular focus on wishing to see gyms, places of worship or outdoor sporting activities remain open during the lockdown, whilst many people were opposed to schools and colleges staying open. Some constituents opposed the lockdown altogether.
At the end of October, appalled by the tragic deaths of migrants in the channel, I received many emails from constituents, and I have promised to continue to bring whatever pressure I can to bear upon the current Government to reinstate refugee resettlement, which was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, many constituents have written to share their concerns that after a decade of austerity, our fire and rescue services have been left in a perilous state, requiring urgent investment.
I await a response from Barclay’s Bank to my recent letter to the Chief Executive, following meeting with several managers who talked me through the planned closure of their Kempston branch. I’m deeply disappointed with this decision, which sees essential, convenient face-to-face banking disappear for residents of Kempston, and which I believe will put further strain on local post offices, and the town centre branch. The elderly and most disadvantaged who either cannot or would prefer not to bank electronically will suffer the most, and I have urged Barclay’s Bank to reconsider this decision.
At the end of October, I met with members of the Bedford Blues RFC Board of Directors to the current crisis they are experiencing a result of the pandemic and cancellation of Championship rugby. I followed up with a letter to the Chancellor and a Question in the Commons to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport requesting a £1 million support package to ensure the club will still be there for us at the end of this dreadful pandemic.
I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:
5th November – HOC Chamber: Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Questions on Bedford Blues RFC
9th November – HOC Chamber: Work and Pensions Questions on small and medium-sized enterprises
Early in November I voted against the controversial Overseas Operations Bill. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide greater legal protections to Armed Forces personnel and veterans serving on military operations overseas but the final drafting breaches the Armed Forces Covenant by preventing British Armed Forces personnel from holding the Ministry of Defence to account when it fails to properly equip personnel, or when it makes serious errors that lead to death or injury of British forces overseas. The Bill does not reflect British values of fairness and justice nor meet the necessary standards for investigations, welfare and legal protections for forces personnel or international law.
The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee held the opening session of its new inquiry into supporting high streets after Covid-19.In a report published last year, the Committee highlighted the challenges facing high streets and town centres due to strong competition from online competitors, an unfair taxation regime and fragmented ownership of commercial properties. The Covid-19 pandemic has placed even greater pressures on businesses with many having to adapt to new ways of operating or not being able to open at all.
I supported Labour’s Motion to extend school meals in the holidays during the pandemic for children eligible for free school meals. The Government rejected Labour’s motion only for the Prime Minister to do another screeching U-turn on the issue following Marcus Rashford’s campaign.
After supporting Keir Starmer’s calls for a circuit breaker lockdown, to make use of the half term when schools were at home, which the PM described as a “disaster”, I supported the Government’s U-turn to introduce a second national lockdown. We learned from the first lockdown that dithering costs more lives and jobs and I hope the Government uses this time to finally fix it’s test, trace and isolate system to begin to bring infection rates under control.
Although necessarily scaled down from original plans to commemorate Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day this year, I attended small services on both days to honour the memories of men and women whose service and sacrifice secured peace and freedom 75 years ago, and all who have served to defend our way of life.