In the Chamber yesterday I raised the comments made by England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, with the Health Secretary when he said: “A national lockdown at the moment would be inappropriate for communities in Cornwall and East Anglia”. And that it would be very difficult to justify to these communities. As things stand with relatively low levels of Covid-19 in Ipswich, I strongly believe he is right. We need a balanced and localised approach to protecting lives, livelihoods and liberties, not the one size fits all national lockdown being proposed by the Labour Party and Ipswich Labour which would completely shut Ipswich’s hospitality sector.
This sector employs thousands of people in our town and includes many great businesses like our local pubs. Labour’s blanket approach would unnecessarily put these livelihoods at risk. It’s important to underline that the situation locally could change but we must be flexible and not approach this crucial issue with the blunt instrument Labour is proposing. It was good that in response to me the Health Secretary re-emphasised Professor Van-Tam’s comments and the need to take action where necessary but not take it where it’s unnecessary. I’ll keep monitoring all aspects of what this pandemic means for Ipswich and represent our town to the best of my ability at every stage.
I share many of the concerns of beauty salons in Ipswich that they won’t be allowed to re-open on 4 July as expected at the same time as hairdressers and other businesses. And I raised this in the House today with Work and Pensions Ministers.
Many beauty salons around the county have sadly already shut their doors for good due to the hardship caused by Covid-19, and this has also caused a number of job losses. Beauty salons need to reopen as soon as possible to avoid more irreversible closures and more job losses, and the uncertainty over the July 4th date has only increased the challenges they are facing.
The beauty salons I’ve been in contact with, like the Beauty Academy in Ipswich, are already well-placed to reopen as they have high levels of hygiene and sanitisation as part of their procedures already. And I urged Ministers today to protect jobs in beauty salons, including by reconsidering the July 4th date. At the very least, local beauty salons need certainty as to when they will be able to reopen so they can plan effectively as businesses. I’ll keep raising this issue at the highest levels to get beauty salons this clarification as soon as possible.
I’m looking forward to going on a socially distanced bar crawl in Ipswich on 4th July to support our local pubs after the Prime Minister announced today that they will be able to reopen on that date.
As well as pubs, a number of changes were set out today to the lockdown which will allow people to see more of their friends and families, and allow more businesses to reopen their doors to customers.
From July 4:
Pubs 🍻 and restaurants 🍝 can reopen
Hairdressers 💇can reopen
Hotels and B&Bs 🏨 will also be able to reopen their doors.
2 households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures
If they can do so safely, other hospitality businesses and community centres will also be able to welcome back customers and visitors, they include:
Places of worship and community centres. 🛐
Outdoor gyms 🏋️
Museums and galleries 🖼️
Theme parks and arcades 🎢
And libraries and social clubs. 📚
The Prime Minister also announced that the guidance will allow people to keep a one-metre plus distance from each other when two-metre distances aren’t possible.
We must continue to make reducing the spread of Covid-19 our top priority and that’s why “close proximity” venues such as nightclubs, indoor gyms, water parkers, bowling alleys and spas will remain closed for now.
As long as we stay vigilant, this summer presents an unmissable opportunity for all of us in Ipswich to rally around our local businesses and support them with our custom. The support they have received throughout the lockdown has been essential but it’s just as important that they can reopen successfully and start to get back on their feet. I’m looking forward to visiting many of them as soon as I can.
Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, has welcomed the Government’s decision to reverse course on its earlier plans not to extend the Free School Meal Voucher Scheme over the summer holidays. The Government announced today that a new £120 million Covid summer food fund would be set up to ensure 1.3 million children in the most hard-pressed families receive a food voucher worth £15 a week over the 6 week summer break.
The Government’s change of course follows a number of efforts made by Hunt and other parliamentary colleagues behind the scenes to stress the importance of these vouchers to families facing hardship during Covid-19 and to urge the Government to extend them over the summer holidays. Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford also made a high profile intervention in support of the extension of the Scheme yesterday.
On 5 June, Hunt penned a letter to the Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, detailing his support for the extension of the scheme and highlighting its importance to many families in Ipswich undergoing severe financial pressure and struggling to make ends meet. Hunt’s letter also came in the wake of a study finding that one in four children in Ipswich are living in relative poverty.
Hunt’s correspondence on the 5 June followed an earlier letter which Hunt co-signed as a Member of the Education Committee on 13 May which urged the Minister for Children to look early on into what can be done to extend the free school meal voucher scheme over the Summer holiday.
Today before the Government’s new plans were announced, Hunt was ready to vote against the Government in a motion calling for money to be available to disadvantaged children over the summer holiday.
Following the Government’s announcement today, Tom said:
“I am pleased the Government has listened to the concerns raised and has decided to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer as part of a new fund. This is an issue I have been intimately involved in as a member of the Education Committee and I know that for many families in Ipswich these vouchers are an essential source of support during Covid-19.
“In my letter to the Minister for Children almost two weeks ago, I raised the fact that there are 3 million children at risk of holiday hunger in the UK and that many of them will be children in Ipswich. This is a scenario which must be avoided and I was ready to vote against the Government today on this issue. But I am glad the Government has listened and will now provide a £90 food voucher for the most disadvantaged children over summer.
“The Covid-19 outbreak has been an exceptional time and it’s important we are ready to implement exceptional measures to ensure that no child is left behind. We will be dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on children’s education for many more months and years to come and it would only have compounded these issues if we didn’t do everything it takes to ensure children come through the summer holidays well-nourished.”
Thank you to everyone who wrote in about with their latest views on the Government’s plans to introduce a quarantine for international arrivals from next week. On Wednesday, I got the chance to share them in a question to the Home Secretary in the Chamber.
It is disappointing that the quarantine was not introduced earlier when there were deep concerns during the peak of Covid-19 that 15,000 people were still flying into the country every day and the impact this could have on public health. I called on the Government at the time to introduce much stricter controls at the border.
Now on balance I think it’s right that this quarantine still goes ahead because preventing a second wave of the virus must be the top priority. But we also have to factor in that we aren’t where we were a number of weeks ago and other considerations are becoming increasingly important. In the Chamber I mentioned the particular contact I’ve had with people who have loved ones, including spouses, in other countries who are now hoping to make plans to visit them after months apart.
That’s why I called on the Home Secretary to take a flexible approach towards the quarantine moving forwards. We need robust health measures at the border but we must also be prepared to strike a balance where it is safe to do so.
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.
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
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.
I was glad to be able to join the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. I raised a number of issues, support for pubs, the self-employed and sole directors of limited companies. However a key local issue I raised was in relation to many of the different businesses in Town who haven’t quite been eligible for a number of different schemes. Many of the floating restaurants and cruising companies who work out of the waterfront have so far been badly impacted and none of the various schemes have supported them.
Today the Chancellor made clear that the local authority discretionary grants fund has the flexibility to cover these businesses, there had been some uncertainty on this point. I’m very glad about this, they are very important to our local economy, heritage and tourist sector. More detail to follow but positive signs
Today (15/05/20), Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich met online with a number of Primary School Heads from Ipswich and Suffolk to discuss the challenges they are facing in the run up to the phased return of some pupils to school from the beginning of June. The Heads set out a number of concerns they have including around the provision of personal protective equipment, the need for clear guidance and the impact of potential new systems on children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Hunt set out his support for a phased and safe return of more children to school from June. But he acknowledged that nobody knew better than Headteachers what will work for their own school on the ground. Hunt emphasised the importance that Headteachers have flexibility when it comes to opening up classrooms to more children and warned against any attempt to impose a top-down approach. This includes Heads being able to set up rota systems where they deem it appropriate. Hunt promised to stand by local teachers and to raise the concerns they have in his ongoing work on the Education Committee. He also committed to supporting them to have a high degree of discretion and flexibility as the phased reopening takes place.
In the meeting, Hunt drew on the large amount of time he has spent on the Education Committee exploring what impact of school closures on children, particularly the most disadvantaged. This includes children who have SEND, who don’t have suitable access to online learning resources, or who may be vulnerable to abuse at home. It is becoming clearer that vulnerable children and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are most at risk of falling behind during this pandemic. Hunt is keen to see that these children return to school as soon as it is safe to do so.
Following the meeting, Tom said:
“It was important to meet today with a number of Headteachers of schools in Ipswich and Suffolk to hear their latest views on the planned phased return of some primary school pupils from the 1st of June.
“This crisis has interrupted the education of all children and particularly some of the most vulnerable and deprived children in our community who may not have access to things like online lessons or who may even be suffering abuse. There are also concerns for children in key year groups like reception and Year 1 and their readiness and well-being as they prepare to move through the school system.
“This is why the phased reopening of schools to more children from 1 June has my support but I’m also aware that each school is different and each headteacher has their own concerns. And it was good to go into the detail of this during today’s meeting. It’s clear that our local Headteachers must have a degree of autonomy in how children are brought back and there must not be a one-size-fits-all approach across the board. Nobody knows better than them what is needed in their own school and it was encouraging to see the amount of thought each Headteacher I met with has given this subject for each of their schools.
“I will do everything I can as the local MP to support Ipswich’s headteachers in using their discretion and knowledge of their own school to guide this phased return to school. And I will always be ready to make the case to the Government if they need additional support to make sure the phased return to school is as safe and as effective as possible.
“As well as headteachers, I am also listening to the concerns of teachers at all levels and parents in my constituency. I am also supportive of their discretion and I welcome the Government’s announcement that parents will not be penalised for keeping their children at home even if they’re eligible to attend. This phased return to school will work best if all involved are allowed to work together as partners.”