Disappointed to hear reports that the Government won’t be extending the free school meal voucher scheme over the summer holidays and I’ve written to the Minister for Children to raise my concerns.
These vouchers have been a real lifeline for families facing great hardship as schools have been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. A decision to end this scheme too soon will hit Ipswich’s most vulnerable children the hardest and no child must go hungry because of Covid-19.
Hopefully the Government will reconsider this decision over the coming days and of course I’ll be raising this issue on the Education Committee and elsewhere to try to persuade the Government to change course.
A few months ago towards the beginning of the lockdown, a number of constituents got in touch to raise concerns that the measures in place at our borders to prevent more cases of Covid-19 coming into the country weren’t robust enough. I shared these concerns as 15,000 people were continuing to fly into the country every day while countries around the world had cancelled international travel or introduced strict quarantine measures for arrivals. That’s why I wrote to the Home Secretary at the time, urging her to implement stronger measures at our borders as soon as possible.
Since I wrote that letter on 20 April a considerable amount of time has passed but the Government now intends to introduce a 14-day quarantine for international arrivals due to start next week. Many of the arguments in favour of such a quarantine still stand and it’s important that all necessary steps are taken to protect against new imported cases of Covid-19 and ensure our infection rate can fall.
There are however a number of different factors to consider now given the time that has passed and the sense that the virus has started to recede slightly. Some other countries are beginning to look at loosening their restrictions and there have been concerns raised by the tourism and aviation sectors that the economic cost of introducing these measures now could outweigh the benefits. Some families in the UK may also be thinking about their own plans for the summer holidays and how this quarantine will affect them.
I would be interested to here what your views are on the Government’s plans for a quarantine. It’s disappointing that these plans weren’t brought in earlier but I’d like to know your views on them going ahead now. Please don’t hesitate to add a comment here or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know.
Tomorrow I will be leading discussing looking Pet Theft Reform. In total 117,453 people have signed a House of Commons petition calling for the Animal Welfare Act to be reformed to make pet theft a specific offence. Originally this was going to be a full Parliamentary debate but as a result of COVID-19 I will be leading a discussion with the creators of the petition instead, Dr Daniel Allen and Professor John Cooper QC and others. I have to say as a dog and cat lover this has really taken my interest and I think there is a strong case for giving this serious consideration. As it stands when someone is found guilty of a theft “monetary value” is the main determiner of the sentence that is issued.
What this would look to do is ensure that when Courts sentence they must consider the fear, alarm or distress to the pet and the owners. There is no way you could have put a monetary value on my old Springer Spaniel Lucy. I do think its right that we need tougher sentencing when it comes to those who engage in pet theft. The discussion will not be streamed live unfortunately but I will post the video afterwards.
I am glad that Government officials have been in contact with Australian officials to discuss how their “Operation Sovereign Borders” strategy worked which allowed them to successfully tackle illegal immigration. I know how important this issue is to many of my constituents and rest assured I am doing what I can both behind the scenes and in the House of Commons Chamber to ensure firm action is taken to halt the flow of illegal crossings we have witnessed recently. Essentially the Australian approach involved them adopting a zero tolerance to tackling “illegal maritime arrivals”. Law changes were introduced that enabled Australian authorities to intercept those attempting illegal crossings and to return them to their “Port of origin”. It does seem that we will also have to see some law changes here to allow firmer action to be taken. Ultimately it would be good if we had the powers necessary so we didn’t have to be so reliant on the French authorities to prevent the flow of illegal crossings across the English channel.
I know this is an issue that the Home Secretary Priti Patel is getting on top of but I agree that we need to see positive results as soon as possible. I will continue to make inquiries and will provide updates.
Good news announced by the Chancellor at today’s press conference. I know this has been on the minds and a cause of anxiety for many of my constituents who are self-employed. I appreciate that sadly the various packages of support announced by Government don’t cover everyone but I am confident that today’s news will be a great source of help for many. Clearly at some point soon these support schemes will need to be phased out as we all get back to work but I think extending the scheme today was a sensible decision
Really positive visit to the Port of Ipswich this afternoon. Thanks to the amazing efforts of everyone who works at the Port they have actually had a rather busy couple of months. Massive amounts of timber has arrived at the Port due to significant demand and fertiliser has also been arriving in time for the Suffolk harvest. Over the past couple of months around 90 per cent of the key workers at the Port have still been coming into work to keep Britain trading, however clearly they have been working in a different kind of way as a result of the virus.
A significant number of my constituents work at Ports, whether at Felixstowe or Ipswich and I think they all deserve a massive metaphorical pat on the back for the work they have been carrying out over the past couple of months making sure that then when the time comes our local economy and agricultural sector can make positive strides.
My aim was to raise about £2,000 so I’m glad we ending up raising a little bit more than that. I would like to thank all of those who made a donation, I think it goes to show how many people value the work AGE UK SUFFOLK carry out.
As people will see I really went for it with the shaver. I didn’t do it by half measures. It feels more comfortable that the long out of control hair I had a few days ago but to be honest I’m not sure about the look and the DIY approach to hair cutting was just a one off, I look forward to be back at the hairdressers in the not too distant future.
AGE UK SUFFOLK is one of many local charities playing a pivotal role during the COVID-19 outbreak supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our community. At a time when the role that local charities have to play has never been more important there are a number of challenges that have made traditional fundraising activities difficult. We need charities such as AGE UK SUFFOLK more than ever and I would encourage people to supporting them in whatever way they can.
Comment from Jo Reeder, Head of Fundraising and Marketing, AGE UK SUFFOLK:
“We were delighted and slightly surprised when Mr Hunt’s office got in touch to say that he would like to support us in this great initiative. Mr Hunt has supported Age UK Suffolk from the outset of the coronavirus outbreak and is talking to older constituents, raising older people’s concerns in parliament and generally advocating the needs of older people at this difficult time. This incredible amount raised, will help us to continue our vital work in supporting people on a daily basis with shopping and welfare calls.”
People have made enormous sacrifices over recent weeks to make the lockdown work and beat Covid-19. This is a national effort to beat a virus which affects all of us and we must all play our part no matter what job we have or position we hold.
I therefore understand why people are angry that Dominic Cummings drove with his wife and son to his parents’ house in Durham. Personally it’s not something I would have done even if it was within the rules. I understand his reasoning for doing what he believed to be in the best interests of his loved ones and clearly that’s what motivated his decision to travel to Durham. However, this doesn’t change the fact that many of my constituents have also faced extremely challenging personal circumstances, some perhaps similar to Mr Cummings and yet they decided to “stay home”.
I have been contacted by constituents with many stories like this and behind each one is a human story and a unique set of circumstances. Sometimes there has been uncertainty around how some aspects of the guidance apply to individual cases and I’ve tried to help clarify where I can. But ultimately I’ve always said they must do what they believe to be in the best interest of them and their family while not endangering anyone else.
I watched the press conference today and the allegation that Mr Cummings made a second visit up to Durham was categorically denied and I believe that there is evidence to back up the fact that there was no second visit. It’s unfortunate that this aspect of the national media coverage like some other aspects has been misleading and inaccurate.
The press conference clarified some key points but some other questions do remain. I continue to have concerns regarding the trip to Barnard Castle, in particular why it was necessary to drive that far to test his eye sight and also the fact that he got out the other end.
Though I well understand much of the anger there is about there at the minute bearing in mind the sacrifices we have all been asked to make I do strongly oppose the behaviour of some who have sought to harass and intimidate Mr Cummings and his family. There is no room for it. This does seem to have been part of his calculation when he decided to travel to Durham.
I have been contacted by a large number of constituents on this matter and I want each of them to know that I have read each of their emails and considered their views carefully. Though some politically motivated individuals will have no doubt sought to use this whole episode to score political points this hasn’t been the case for the vast majority who have contacted me. They have legitimate concerns about what has gone on.
Though I believe his actions were motivated solely by the desire to protect his family, that he didn’t endanger the lives of others and that his situation was quite complex, I do believe he has made errors of judgement and frankly I do share much of the confusion and anger of many of my constituents.
I have and will continue to represent both the concerns of constituents and my own concerns to Government over the coming days.
I and many colleagues do have concerns that this is distracting from the central focus of Government right now which is to continue to tackle COVID-19 and set out a path to recovery. That needs to be the central task and all energy should be spent on this.
I do think it’s important that the Prime Minister reflects on the anger that this episode has caused and makes absolutely sure that we are able to move on from this ASAP to deal with the great challengers at hand for both my constituents and country more generally.
Letter to the Lord Chancellor regarding 10 individuals who have flouted and disrespected our justice system
I have now written to the Lord Chancellor about the 10 individuals who have flouted and disrespected our justice system by failing to appear in court in connection to the incident on Norwich Road last November. Warrants have now been issued for their arrest and I’ve asked the Lord Chancellor to put the full force of the Government behind bringing these people before our courts.
The individuals in question appear to be foreign nationals and there is a concern that some may have fled the country in an effort to avoid justice. Even if this has happened then they must still be brought back to answer the charges against them. Freedom of movement cannot mean that crimes can go unanswered for. This would send out completely the wrong message about our faith in the rule of law and would undermine our ability to deter further crimes from happening in the future if people get the impression justice can be avoided.
I’ve also called on the Lord Chancellor to ensure that when these 10 individuals are caught and do appear before our courts, they receive robust prison sentences for their behaviour which has shown a complete lack of respect for the rules we all live by.
I have also been in touch with Suffolk Constabulary today to stress that I will stand by them in doing what needs to be done to find these people and bring them to justice. I’ll keep providing updates on this issue moving forward.