22 April 2021
Article for the Wokingham Paper

I write this on the early morning train into Westminster.  Even at this ungodly hour, I am surprised by how many more people appear to be commuting into London, how much busier the trains are and the efforts that everyone is consciously making to ensure social distancing throughout the carriage.  This is of course a good thing.  Not only are we rightly continuing to return to some kind of normality after months of lockdown, but the economy requires our best effort to bring the resurgence that is needed and I am pleased that all those I meet are behaving responsibly.  For me, the vastly improving public health picture must be accompanied by an increased determination to get back to work and I remain confident that business confidence will return quickly.  We will get through this. 

Across the UK, the Government's Roadmap has so far proven to be successful in easing our path to recovery and the vaccination roll-out has continued at its remarkable pace.  This is the fastest and most comprehensive inoculation programme anywhere in history and the impressive figures speak for themselves.  If anyone reading this does perceive that they have somehow slipped through the net or if those who have previously declined the vaccination are now having second thoughts, please contact your surgery immediately.  We each owe it to each other to keep our community safe and frankly, talk of blood clotting as a potential side effect with the Astra Zeneca vaccine has achieved little except to undermine public confidence.  Statistically, the proven benefits of being vaccinated against Covid-19 far outweigh any perceived negative consequences and I would urge everyone to embrace it.

In Bracknell, I have been taking advantage of the recent easing of restrictions to conduct more visits and meet constituents.  The tempo has been fierce in campaigning for the forthcoming local elections and I know that activists from all parties have been pounding the streets in line with the new rules.  I have personally been out on several occasions to Finchampstead and Great Hollands and it has been great to see so many people at this lovely time of the year.  I have been taken by how positive the general mood is and while there is still so much to be done to get back to normal and to recover lives and livelihoods, I am grateful to everyone in the constituency for their fortitude, patience and humour during what has been a tough year.  I do not underestimate the sacrifices that have been made.  

And in Westminster, I have enjoyed the opportunity to chair the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee.  Our careful line by line scrutiny has now been completed and the final report will be presented to the House imminently.  As stated before, working collaboratively with Labour, the SNP and other parties has proven to be worthwhile and I have learned much about Parliamentary procedure.  As Jo Cox MP famously said, far more unites us than divides us and I believe that politics works at its best when all sides come together for the common good.  Beyond this, the Government continues to press ahead with its manifesto promises and tackle the multitude of national challenges facing all of us.

Lastly, I would like to pay a quick tribute to Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.  I watched his funeral on the TV with a mix of pride, respect and emotion and he will be much missed.  As the longest serving consort in history and distinguished war veteran, his loyalty, dedication and service to the Queen will be recorded favourably and I wish him a humble farewell.