The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is one of the biggest challenges we have faced in generations. I have been struck equally by the acts of kindness that I have seen and been part of – for example, volunteer shopping for vulnerable or elderly families – and also the acts of selfishness such as the panic buying which has gripped our supermarkets often of items which are unrelated to the virus such as loo roll. The most telling of the latter is the disregard that some are showing for the call for social distancing. We are asked to do this for very good purpose – to protect the NHS and to save lives. If we all follow the guidelines set by Public Health England we will get through this crisis quicker and with fewer deaths. Below I have set out what I am doing in this crisis and how my office is dealing with enquiries.
Being in Westminster
For the moment Parliament continues in session and has important business to conduct. Next week we discuss the emergency bill to allow the Government to take firm action against COVID-19. Therefore I still need to be in the House to take part in debating and voting. My team is working remotely and we are in touch on a daily basis to answer emails and to prioritise what needs to be done.
Although I am usually happy to meet with constituents to discuss issues and assist with problems in the current circumstances I am not holding face-to-face meetings. However, if you have a problem or issue of concern we may still be able to assist. Please see the page on surgeries on this website.
In the past couple of weeks, my team and I, have dealt with the very large number of enquiries. We are doing our best to respond as quickly as we can but often by the time we are able to the situation has moved on. In order to help us focus on urgent situations and needs I would be grateful if you could check the published Government advice and information first. It is up-dated daily. Some standard campaign emails are begin generated on issues and these quickly come to the attention of Ministers. I will forward these on but may not be able to respond individually due to other pressures on time at the moment.
Website and social media
There is a new section on this website with links to much of the Government information on COVID-19. The Government is adding to the measures it is taking every day and updates can be found in that section. I realise that there are still many areas that have not yet been covered by the Prime Minister or the Chancellor and ask for patience. Ministers are working very hard to address the many concerns that arise from this situation. Please keep an eye on the website for updates. I am not using social media to convey this information. The limit on the number of characters you can use on twitter, for example, makes it impossible to get across the complex information people really want.
Information to constituents
I have written to every Town and Parish Council and Parish Meeting setting out what they can do at this time. As the primary element of how local government is delivered they can play an important role in taking real leadership locally. I know that many have been very proactive in setting up support schemes within their local communities and am grateful for all that many people are doing to help one another. Please contact your own Town or Parish Council. or Parish Meeting to check what has been put in place in your community.
We have some wonderful businesses in the constituency, and I have been working with some to see whether they can help deliver the ventilators and other key equipment we need to support our NHS, ensuring that their offers are recognised by Central Government. I am also encouraged by the way in which local businesses are adapting to support their communities and to continue to operate in difficult times. We are seeing such creative ideas coming forward, please do support your local businesses as best you are able at this time.
One concern that I have no powers to control is the rush on our supermarkets. Government has lessened the competition rules and the companies are working together to manage demand. I can only ask again that everyone is sensible – buying what they need for their own immediate needs and that of others they are supporting.
If we all work together, and follow the advice that is being given, we will pull through this crisis and be in a stronger place for the future.