29 March 2020
Westminster Diary: Let’s hope this time passes quickly

Thankfully re-invigorated after the short Parliamentary recess in February, I have focused in the past few weeks on getting to grips with constituency issues and supporting as many events as I can. 

Unbelievably, I have received more than 2,000 personal letters and emails from constituents since January, and while my team cannot promise to wave a magic wand, we are of course prioritising our workload, helping where we can and attempting to respond to every enquiry.

I have run five successful surgeries to date and spent most of my spare time in the local area – It has been huge privilege to get to know you and we are learning the ropes fast. 

Thank you to everyone for your warm welcome and patience.

In Westminster, we are have been championing a range of important issues.  I have met with Minister Nick Gibb about the shortages in Early Years Funding for pre-schools in Bracknell and he has acknowledged that a review is needed.

I have met too with Minister Liz Truss about advancing free trade agreements for employers, urged the new Chancellor to increase the provision for Special Educational Needs and continued to champion veterans’ issues in the House. 

Following visits to Elusive Brewing and the Siren Craft Brew in Finchampstead, I have also asked for minor adjustments to the tapering of small brewers’ relief in order to boost business growth, new jobs and exports.  It is not easy to get behind every cause but I am keen to listen to constituents when they contact me and to support those that are most of concern to local people. 

My role is ultimately to champion Bracknell constituency in Westminster.

Committee work is the most effective way of doing this and I am pleased to report that I have been elected to the Procedure Select Committee, which will review a range of processes in Parliament. 

I have become Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Armed Forces Covenant and continue to serve as Vice Chair for the APPGs on South Western Railway, Veterans and Special Educational Needs. 

I am also closely involved in the APPGs for Homelessness, IR35, Loan Charge and International Trade.  Having recently met too with key officials both Bracknell Forest Council and Wokingham Borough Council, I am fortunate to be kept abreast of local council issues as they arise and will do what I can to represent their interests both in the House, notably in terms of legislation.

As I write, the Covid-19 pandemic is taking hold and the next few weeks promise to be very demanding. 

This is a worrying time for all of us and my heart goes out to everyone who is already directly affected. 

My advice is simply to watch the news, follow the advice on the gov.uk website and observe NHS guidelines. 

Please do what you can to stay safe by regularly washing hands for 20 seconds, taking reasonable precautions, minimising unnecessary physical contact and self-isolating as advised. 

I wish you all the best for the oncoming weeks and urge you to stay calm and pragmatic at all times – Let’s hope that it passes quickly so that we can all get back to normal.

First published on Wokingham Today