I would firstly like apologise for not commenting sooner on the events of the past week. The developments have been very significant and have come very thick and fast and I’ve been reflecting on everything and reading the many emails I’ve been receiving and continue to receive from constituents. Over Friday and Saturday, I was also able to talk to a large number of constituents face to face about all these matters.
Sometimes I think it’s best not to rush into an instant response on issues of such significance. I know this is difficult in our 24/7 social media age but sometimes I think its for the best.
With regard to the ongoing revelations to do with the culture in Downing Street throughout the pandemic I must say that I’ve been appalled. It seems that at times Number 10 seemed to better represent a frat house than the centre of Government. The fact that a big bash was organised the night before Prince Phillip’s funeral fills me with disgust. This is not an isolated example of modest rule breaking. It’s clear to me that whatever happens there needs to be almost a total clear out of Number 10 and all of those who were in anyway connected with what appear to be clear rule breaking events need to properly held to account.
Some constituents have asked me in emails whether I attended any of these parties. The answer is NO. I’ve found out about these party revelations in the same way you all have. Via the media.
The Prime Minister was right to apologise in Parliament last Wednesday. Clearly the fact that he attended the May 2020 event however briefly was a significant error of judgement. I understand that the Prime Minister didn’t receive an invitation to what was clearly a social event, but it should have been instantly clear to him that not only should he be nowhere near such an event but that he should have broken it up immediately and ensured that all those responsible were disciplined.
I’m finding it difficult to reconcile the comments the Prime Minister made in the House of Commons Chamber on Wednesday about the party revelations compared with what he had previously said in the Chamber about the party revelations. This is a significant cause of concern to me like it will be to many of my constituents.
Yes, the Government has got much right recently particularly on COVID management where I feel the Prime Minister has been vindicated by his decision to not introduce further restrictions. I also credit the Prime Minister with delivering Brexit but standards in public life matter as does public trust in our Prime Minister and Government.
I’m acutely conscious of all the sacrifices my constituents have made throughout the pandemic and how painful this has been for many. I would argue that the onus is on those who make the rules to follow them to an even greater extent than the average citizen. I experienced the anger that is provoked when this is not the case over the Barnard Castle incident and have again over this week’s developments.
As many of you will be aware Sue Gray the civil servant is currently carrying out an independent investigation into all what went out and should be publishing her findings next week. I know enough now about what happened to be very angry but in the grand scheme of things waiting few days to read the full report that will follow the investigation isn’t a long time and I’m prepared to do that.
My wish is for the Government to be fully focused on the issues that matter the most to the country and my constituents. Moving on from COVID, getting the economy firing on all cylinders, dealing with the NHS backlog, cost of living, immigration, law and order etc. To say that all events of the past few weeks has been an unwelcome distraction would be an understatement.
I will comment further in due course and everyone who has emailed me will be getting a response which closely resembles this statement (for obvious reasons).
Today in the Education Committee we heard about the government’s catch-up programme. It is absolutely right that this programme has a particular focus on disadvantaged pupils, who have disproportionately suffered as a result of the pandemic.
I raised the question of how this programme is built to provide for students with special educational needs and disabilities. The data clearly shows that those from deprived backgrounds have been badly affected by lost learning throughout the pandemic, but it is essential that the catch-up programme includes those disadvantaged due to disability and learning differences.
I was pleased to hear that over half the providers of the tutoring programme have the capability to support SEND students, as well as a cohort of specialists. You can watch my question on the government catch up programme below.
I welcome Michael Gove’s announcements, detailing that the government will be pursuing the developers responsible for unsafe cladding. It is absolutely right that the bill for remediation works does not fall to the leaseholders. Previously only the buildings over 18 metres were included in the Government’s funding for remediation works – this has now been extended to buildings between 11 and 18 metres, should they require cladding works; there are a group of my constituents falling into this category who will be incredibly relieved. The Secretary of State for Housing told us that he would be making sure developers paid for cladding removal from the mid-sized buildings, ensuring that leaseholders won’t have to foot the bill. I do also have concerns about non-cladding related fire safety issues, such as timber balconies and firebreaks.
I told the Secretary of State for Housing that I do not want to be standing in front of him in 6 months’ time with evidence that leaseholders have been unable to sell their flats due to fire safety issues. Of course, the remediation works need to be carried out, but must be sensitive to the residents it affects. In the chamber today I raised the circumstances faced by residents of St Francis Tower, and I was pleased to hear that the Secretary of State, or a minister from the Department, will be visiting Ipswich to see the conditions
Me earlier discussing Covid and whether there should be any further restrictions.