26 April 2020
Westminster Diary: I have been greatly impressed by the sheer number of people who are helping

When I submitted my previous article for The Wokingham Paper in March, no-one could possibly have foreseen the full extent of what would unfold since then. 

Coronavirus is now upon us with a vengeance, but I have been greatly reassured by how society has responded to the crisis.  May I please commend everyone in my own constituency, those right across Wokingham Borough and of course beyond for the fantastic way in which our community has come together – we will get through this.

The advice from the Government is unequivocal at this stage, namely to ‘Stay at home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives’.  Please do not travel unless you must, as you will put others under unnecessary pressure and risk a further spread of the virus. 

Those with underlying medical conditions have been told to self-isolate at home and will be supported. 

Indeed, I have been greatly impressed by the sheer number of people who have already stepped forward to help those who are vulnerable, and it goes without saying that everyone in the NHS and all of our key workers are doing a fantastic job. 

Thank you also to our teachers and school staff, councillors, public sector staff and everyone else involved.

Volunteers continue to emerge in their thousands to lend their support. 

Within Bracknell Forest, the Healthwatch Team and Involve Community Services are working wonders to cover their area and similarly in Wokingham, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Link are providing an effective focal point for the delivery of essential supplies and medicines. 

I have personally had the privilege of working as a delivery driver for the excellent Wokingham Community Hub and the response from those who have received essential supplies has been heart-warming. 

Thank you to everyone who works there – You are doing a super job. 

And for those who still need help, please do contact the respective councils for advice, go online to the supermarket websites, ask your local councillors for guidance or in the unlikely event you get no response, please contact your respective MP. 

My office alone has been receiving several hundred letters and emails per day, but we are working around the clock and endeavouring to respond personally to every query.  If nothing else, we can advise and signpost accordingly.

At the national level, I am confident that the Government continues to do everything it can. 

The last few weeks in Parliament before Recess were challenging but it has been a measure of necessity that all parties supported the emergency legislation through to Royal Assent. 

Of course, nothing is perfect, the bill was inevitably rushed through and policy amendments continue to be developed, but this is a fast-moving global pandemic and all departments have been agile in their approach.

Although Parliament was on recess until Tuesday, MPs still have every opportunity to hold the Government to account and I have a direct line through to the Cabinet Office. 

The tempo is fierce – everyone wants everything now – but I intend to keep serving my constituents and new measures continue to evolve. 

Finally, now is not the time for a debate on the extent of state intervention, police powers or the full merits of the emergency legislation – the day for this will come – but these are unprecedented times which require unprecedented measures.

I am painfully aware that not everyone fits into the bracket for state aid, whether for employers or employees, and I continue to lobby on this with respective ministries. 

But many billions of pounds have already been committed by central Government to fight Covid-19 and we are seeing greater state intervention than at any time since the Second World War.

So, my clear advice please is to get behind the national effort, heed the medical and scientific advice in full, notably on social distancing, volunteer where you can to help others, check out the gov.uk website for regular updates and watch the news.   And above all please, let’s look after those who really need our help.

James Sunderland

First published by The Wokingham Paper