In the constituency
It will come as no surprise that the vast majority of correspondence to my office in recent weeks has been related to the current Covid-19 Coronavirus crisis, and my office has opened a staggering 974 new cases (almost 100% more cases were opened in March than in any month during Brexit negotiations). 493 -approximately half – of these were casework, the remaining were campaign or policy based.
As the nation approached lockdown, constituents got in touch in large numbers with a wide range of issues relating to the measures introduced by the Government. Some key issues that caused concern included the Government’s delays starting lockdown and closing schools, the impact of the Coronavirus Act on those with disabilities, the concern that religious burial requirements appeared to be contravened in an early draft of the Coronavirus Bill, which was addressed, and the impact of the emergency measures on accessing abortions.
Many constituents contacted us to say either they or family members were stranded overseas, and my team worked tirelessly to keep pressure on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure flights were made available for these individuals. To date the vast majority of those who got in touch are now safely home.
As we moved into lockdown, and the Government announced their series of support packages, we have heard from sadly far too many constituents who are falling between the gaps, largely those who are self-employed but who are not eligible for government support, small businesses who don’t meet the criteria, and those who work for umbrella companies. The implications for people’s personal finances, employment and housing have evolved, and my team have either sought out the most up to date information from the Government or we have pushed for the gaps to be addressed, wherever they have become apparent.
Many constituents have written regarding the ongoing issues with insufficient supplies of PPE for staff working across a variety of settings.
Usual casework has, of course, also continued – with Home Office, Universal Credit, housing and other benefit issues still causing a great deal of stress for constituents.
I have stayed closely in touch with Bedford Hospital, Bedfordshire Police, HMP Bedford and other institutions and organisations in Bedford throughout, to keep firmly abreast of any issues in the constituency to inform my work in Westminster.
Please note that whilst lockdown and social distancing continues, despite not being able to offer any appointments or hold surgeries in person, my team and me are still here to answer any emails and calls as usual, and video calls can be arranged where they are preferred.
My team prepared FAQs relating to Covid-19, for the most commonly asked queries.
Parliament has reconvened and I am joining virtually rather than in person, and the next few weeks will be an incredibly important time for opposition MPs to scrutinise and challenge the Government on their decisions to date, current and ongoing issues, and any exit strategy from lockdown, which has been suggested will be announced next week.
Since the current crisis, I have written to Ministers, co-signed by other MPs, including writing regarding passengers onboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, which for a long time was unable to dock, and am pleased to say all passengers, including constituents of Bedford and Kempston, are now safely home.
I wrote to Matt Hancock with regards to the disturbing actions that were being taken by some institutions across the UK, including some within our constituency, where blanket ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ letters were sent by medical or care home management to patients or residents. I was pleased that shortly following on from my letter Matt Hancock reiterated that blanket DNRs should not be sent during a daily briefing.
I have co-signed letters to Ministers on issues including demanding support for Nurseries and Childcare providers, to ensure Postal Workers are protected through this crisis, to provide more support for the thousands of carers who are struggling financially, seeking clarification about the Government’s plans to monitor and collect data on the use of emergency police powers under coronavirus legislation, to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport asking why there haven’t been sign language interpreters at the Government’s daily briefings and regarding regulating online gambling during lock down, amongst others.
I made the following representations recorded on the Hansard:
03/03/20: led Westminster Hall debate on nursing workforce shortage in England
03/03/20: Commons Chamber – Recent Violence in India.
12/03/20: Commons Chamber – Public Transport (Covid).
13?03/20: HCLG Select Committee launches survey on dangerous cladding.
16/03/20: Commons Chamber – Covid 19
16/04/20: Commons Chamber – Budget Resolutions
17/04/20 HCLG Select Committee launch inquiry into impact of Covid 19 on homelessness and private renters’ sector.
27/04/20: HCLG Select Committee takes evidence from Local Government Association on Covid-19 impact.
27/04/20: Commons Chamber – Covid-19: Local and Regional News Organisations.