1 June 2020
Westminster Diary

With the Parliamentary recess spent dealing with the fall-out from recent high-profile media stories, I have been reliably informed by several senior MPs that the last three months have been unprecedented in terms of workload, casework and enquiries from constituents.  I can certainly vouch for this and the current tempo shows no sign of abating.  As the ravages of Covid-19 continue to affect every aspect of our lives, there is at least some comfort that the mortality and infection rates have begun to fall but we must be more careful than ever not to jeopardise the progress that has been achieved.  Providing essential support to those who need help remains my priority and my team continues to work hard in support of the people of Bracknell, Crowthorne, Sandhurst, Finchampstead and Wokingham Without.

As I recently stated in Westminster, the efforts of our key workers right across the UK are the stuff of legend, not least in the NHS.  In my own constituency, I have been proud to witness the superb provision of life support to those who have needed to isolate.  For Wokingham Borough, the hub at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre has been a beacon of community spirit and I have personally been privileged to deliver food parcels to families who cannot venture out.  And in Bracknell, many others have come together to support Healthwatch and Involve Community Services.  Thank you to them and to Bracknell Forest Council for underwriting this vital provision and for their ongoing selflessness at this time.

Opinions do vary of course on the role played by central Government, but my view is that there has been a pragmatic and entirely conditions-based approach to the pandemic.  The word unprecedented is often over-played but there is no policy precedent for Covid-19 and the Government has rightly needed to feel its way on medical and scientific advice.  As individual freedoms start to return, we should keep reinforcing the social distancing rules in force.  Whilst we are seeing more people on the streets, traffic on the roads, shops starting to open and some returning to work, an incremental approach to easing the lockdown is needed which is based upon common sense.  As tempting as it is to rush to the beach, see wider family or hold parties, please hold your nerve and ensure that all guidelines are being followed.  Risking a second spike at this stage will undo all our sacrifices and hard work.    

As for the future, I have urged the Government to think carefully about further mitigation in key areas.  Firstly, imposing 14 days of quarantine upon entry to the UK by air will have a decisive effect upon individuals, business, the airline industry and our global ambitions, particularly in areas like Bracknell which are close to major airports.  We need to do more to assist those who face job losses at British Airways, and we must not allow the pandemic to be exploited in an opportunistic manner by CEOs for restructuring or for fulfilling previous ambitions.  A more formalised testing regime also needs to be rolled out into care homes.  And lastly, with our primary schools now re-opening, we must do everything possible to assist our governors, teachers and staff in providing a safe environment for our children.  For some, coming out of lockdown may prove to be as difficult as embracing it in the first place but I remain clear that collective responsibility is needed from all of us, in the face of managed risks, to send our children back to school and to get our country going again.