Statement released 9am Wednesday 6 July
I voted for Boris Johnson to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Looking back over the past three years there is much he’s got right. It’s hard to think of a Prime Minister who has had more on his plate to deal with on a daily basis. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion, like a large number of my colleagues, that it’s in the best interests of my constituents, the country and the Conservative Party for the Prime Minister to step down. A continuation of the status quo cannot continue and, regretfully, I believe that the Prime Minister’s tenure in office has run its course.
The Prime Minister broke the Brexit impasse that was so debilitating for the country and our democracy. He defeated Corbyn who posed a huge threat to our country and our values. He was at the heart of a hugely successful vaccine roll out and has provided effective leadership on the global stage throughout the war in Ukraine. Ultimately these are the reasons why up until now I’ve continued to support the Prime Minister.
The period since the autumn and the Owen Paterson affair has been an incredibly rough ride. Partygate has caused great anger for many of my constituents and I myself have been deeply uncomfortable with elements of it and its handling. Despite all of this, though, I looked at other major issues where the Prime Minister was getting it right and, with war in Europe and a huge cost of living challenge posed by global inflationary pressures, I didn’t think now was the time for a leadership election and the associated disruption that would bring.
However, events of the past week have been the straw that has broken the camel’s back. In a sense one of the worst things about the revelations at the Carlton Club last week was how unsurprising they were to many colleagues. I personally find it hard to believe that the Prime Minister wasn’t aware of the extent of concerns about the former Deputy Chief whip. I strongly believe that the situation which occurred last week could have been avoided and I also think that the handling of it subsequently was deeply disappointing.
I do not regret voting for Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister. And I do not regret giving him some space to try and turn things around and regain the trust of both the public and the Parliamentary Conservative Party. Sadly however, this opportunity has not been taken and I foresee things descending to new depths and I do not think that under the Prime Minister’s leadership it will be possible to unite the Conservative Parliamentary Party and give us the best chance possible of winning the next General Election.
On the key issues, I believe that the Conservative Party continue to be on the right side of the argument and the Labour Party the wrong side. The Government has many great achievements to its name and many extremely competent Ministers. However, under the Prime Minister’s leadership it is becoming increasingly difficult for both the Government and us as Parliamentarians to focus on these key issues and achieve our full potential in delivering for the British people.
There is no good in blaming sections of the media for the situation we find ourselves in. They’ve been given the ammunition time and time again.
The great risk as I can see it is that the status quo rumbles on, more division is created in our Party and we end up with a Labour Government propped up by the Lib Dems and the SNP.
Unsurprisingly therefore I have today submitted a letter of non confidence in the Prime Minister.
Today I voted against the 10pm curfew being applied at the national level and it applying in places such as Ipswich which have a very large hospitality sector and comparatively low levels of COVID-19. This is the first time I have ever voted against the Government in Parliament and it wasn’t something I took lightly. I was elected as a Conservative MP however I have always said that I will always make decisions based on what I believe to be in the best interests of my constituents and the Town and therefore its likely that from time to time, on occasions like today, that I may take a different position to that of my Party. In Ipswich we are in the position of having a very large hospitality sector and great pubs, restaurants and bars that employ thousands of my constituents whilst at the same time having very low levels of COVID-19 compared to other areas of the country. In addition to this I’m not convinced that the 10pm even makes a positive difference to tackling the spread of the virus. Often what we’ve seen is crowds of people all leaving hospitality venues at the same time and crowding together. All the time when I vote on big items as your MP I ask myself the question, “how does this impact my constituents, on balance positive or on balance negative?”. Having carefully considered the 10pm curfew and discussed with the hospitality sector here in Ipswich I decided to vote the way I did. The reality is that the 10pm is hurting our pubs, restaurants and bars just when they are looking to recover from the first national lockdown. Many of the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents are likely to be lost because of it. I fear it could be the difference to your local making it through this or not. The negatives it brings in my view at this moment in time far outweigh any public health benefits it brings. I was one of 82 MPs voting against the 10pm curfew today but it ended up comfortably passing so it continues but I made my stand. As you will likely already know Ipswich is in tier 1 meaning that things continue as they have been for the past few weeks with the 10pm curfew and the rule of 6 but other than that whilst be careful (hands, face, space) we can largely go about our business as usual. I must say I was a little surprised at quite how many other areas were in this category. Within this tier we have Ipswich and other areas with very low levels of COVID-19 but also areas with much higher rates that are teetering on being moved up to tier 2 such as London for example. It’s a shame that there couldn’t be a tier specifically for low Covid-19 areas where we could look at replacing the 10PM curfew, even an 11PM curfew would be a big improvement allowing restaurants and pubs that serve food a second sitting (this is what they’ve done in Northern Ireland). I am not cavalier about the threat posed by COVID-19 to public health and the lives of some of the most vulnerable within our Town. We need to do everything we all can to contain the spread of the virus. We also need to be alive to the fact that the level of COVID-19 is increasing in Ipswich and Suffolk and neighbouring counties. However, as I’ve previously stated, its critically important we get the balance right between protecting “lives, livelihoods and liberties” and it is my view that at this current time the 10pm for Ipswich doesn’t do this. Just this week we’ve seen the number of those out of work in Ipswich jump and jump at a higher rate that other surrounding areas and I think it would be fair to assume that at least some of this is to do with the size of our hospitality sector and how hard its already been hit by COVID-19.
With regard to the Labour Party’s position and the position of Sir Keir Starmer? They now want a second national lockdown and to close the entire hospitality sector nationwide for up to 3 weeks. Could someone please tell me how closing all the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich will help those COVID-19 hot spots tackle the spread of the virus? The reality is that if we were to shut down all of the pubs, restaurants and bars in Ipswich right now many simply wouldn’t reopen and we should unemployment in the Town rocket to a degree never seen before. This Labour position would be terrible for our Town. There are difficult times ahead and as I’ve said before we need to be vigilant in playing our part as we have all already done to stop the spread of the virus.
This is a very challenging period for the Government and I have every sympathy for the Prime Minister who is desperately trying his best to balance the need to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time. He won’t get everything right and either will I however rest assured that whenever I take a decision its always in what I believe to be the best interests of the people I have the honour of representing, my constituents.
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.”
The coronavirus is not just a health emergency but an economic one too. And this evening the Chancellor set out unprecedented Government intervention to match the exceptional health measures set out by the Prime Minister yesterday.
Many constituents have been in touch with me over recent hours and days to tell me of the concerns they have for their livelihoods in this difficult time. It’s absolutely vital that households and businesses are economically secure so we can all focus on our health and that of our loved ones.
When we emerge from this coronavirus outbreak as we undoubtedly will, we will need our local businesses and their hard-working employees to be at the heart of our recovery. This includes our local pubs, shops, restaurants and leisure businesses who are so much more than just the backbone of our local economy. They are focal points for our community and contribute enormously to the social cohesion of our town. If we are unable to support them with our custom, we must support them and their employees in whatever way they need in the meantime. The Chancellor has responded to this in his statement this evening as he announced the following measures:
A package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support business worth £330 billion initially. This will be available to businesses to pay their suppliers, rent and salaries. The £330 billion will be expanded with no ceiling if necessary.
For small and medium sized businesses, this money will be made available through an extension of the business interruption loan scheme announced in the Budget. This scheme will make loans available of up to £5 million per business with no interest due for the first 6 months. This scheme will be up and running by the start of next week.
Pubs, clubs, retailers and hospitality and leisure industry venues with an insurance policy which covers pandemics will be able to make an insurance claim.
For those types of businesses without insurance and a rateable value of less than £51,000, they will be entitled to an additional cash grant worth £25,000.
All pubs, clubs, shops and hospitality and leisure industry businesses will be exempt from paying business rates over the next year.
The 700,000 smallest businesses in the country will now receive a cash grant of £10,000, up from £3,000 as previously announced in the Budget.
A 3-month mortgage holiday for home owners affected by coronavirus.
The eligibility criteria for statutory sick pay will be extended so more are covered. Businesses will be supported with the extra costs incurred.
And for those who are ineligible for statutory sick pay, access to the benefits system will be sped up. Those eligible for universal credit will be able to access advanced payments without visiting a job centre. Support will be available from the first day of self-isolation or sickness.
Whenever statements like this are made which will have such a significant impact on people’s livelihoods, there is a focus on the detail which sometimes takes more time to come out. Many small business owners have already contacted me about how they can access the cash grants which will now be worth £10,000 and I’m urgently looking to obtain further information about this. I am fully aware that time is of the essence for their businesses and I’ll be working directly with pubs, shops and other local companies over the coming weeks and months. I will be available to meet with landlords, local business owners and store managers to go in to detail about the specific challenges they are facing. If you would like to arrange a meeting, please contact me at: email@example.com
I understand the urgency of the situation and the importance of certainty for all businesses and households. I am closely following all developments and will be updating constituents as soon as I learn more. It’s welcome for example that clarification has already been given that pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to offer takeaway and delivery services if they wish thanks to emergency changes in the planning laws.
The Chancellor was clear that today’s measures only represent one of several steps that will be taken as part of a comprehensive national effort to support our economy and I understand that a number of issues have yet to be fully addressed. This includes those private renters who have contacted me with their concerns about affording their rent if they become sick or have to self-isolate. The Chancellor has said he will make further statements soon about the issues faced by private renters and I’ll be following what this means for my constituents very closely.
The Chancellor emphasised today that he will do whatever it takes to support businesses and households through these exceptional circumstances. It’s now essential that this approach and the measures announced are realised on the ground in Ipswich. As the number of coronavirus cases reaches a point of rapid increase, we must get this right now. I will do whatever it takes as your MP to get businesses and households in our town the support they need.
Since my statement yesterday, I have also written to care homes and churches across Ipswich to offer my full personal support and the support of my office to many of the vulnerable people that they serve. I hope to be able to engage closely with these organisations to coordinate help for groups like the elderly. I’m setting up a service called ‘Talks with Tom’ to keep the vulnerable in self-isolation company over the phone and I’m also making myself available to help with things like shopping and dog walking. I’ll be working closely with charities and community groups like Age UK to ensure these initiatives are as effective as possible. If you would like to get involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please continue to follow the latest health advice through the NHS’s website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
And once again, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any coronavirus concerns. I can be reached at email@example.com
I will keep you fully updated as the situation develops.
Today (11/03/20) Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich, welcomed the Budget delivered by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, which addresses many of the issues Hunt had called to be addressed.
In a joint piece with Peter Aldous, Suffolk MP for Waveney, in the East Anglian Daily Times on Monday, Hunt had called for action on business rates and a reduction in beer duty to support local pubs. Both of these issues were addressed in the Budget, as the Chancellor announced a formal review of the business rates scheme this autumn. This is a priority for Hunt as he fights in Westminster for more support for Ipswich’s town centre and a level playing field high street retailers in the face of big online shops.
The Chancellor also announced a temporary suspension on rates for small retailers for the year 2020/21. Business rates will be abolished for leisure, retail and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000.
On beer duty, Hunt’s EADT article reinforced the case he’d previously made in a Westminster Hall debate on Beer and Pub taxation on 5 February 2020. In that debate, Hunt highlighted Suffolk’s proud pub heritage and the fact that 1,500 jobs are tied to pubs in his constituency. He urged the Government to get “150%” behind pubs by cutting beer duty in the next Budget so landlords felt less like tax collectors and more like small business owners. The Chancellor responded in today’s budget with a freeze on every single alcohol duty for the coming year. He also recognised the vital economic and social roles pubs play in towns like Ipswich as he announced that the business rates discount for pubs will increase from £1,000 to £5,000. Hunt recognises this as a step in the right direction, however, he would still like more to be done.
Hunt was also one of 35 MPs who before the Budget had co-signed a letter to the Chancellor expressing serious concerns about any rise in fuel duty. Today, the letter was found to have been successful as Rishi Sunak announced that fuel duty will be frozen for the tenth year in a row. This is an important victory for the hard-working people, many of whom rely on private vehicles to get to get to work or to run their business.
Hunt also welcomed the creation of a £1 billion fund for the removal of “all unsafe combustible cladding” after his campaign to make public money available for the removal of the type of highly combustible cladding that was on St Francis Tower in Ipswich. He also acknowledges that leaseholders at St Francis Tower will be keen to see more detail about how this money will be spent before fully breathing a sigh of release. But it’s positive that the Chancellor referred to ‘all unsafe cladding’.
Before, public money was only available for the removal of aluminium composite material cladding, the type found on Grenfell Tower, and not the equally dangerous high pressure laminate cladding found on St Francis Tower.
As part of this campaign, Hunt had raised the exorbitant bills being faced by leaseholders in St Francis Tower for cladding removal in a Westminster Hall debate on 12 February 2020. He had concluded his speech by calling on the Government for fairness for his constituents in St Francis Tower.
The Chancellor’s announcement of a £27 billion fund for the Strategic Road Network was also welcomed by Hunt as details emerge that improvements to the A14 Copdock junction will be part of this. The fund also includes a £2.5 billion allocations to fill up existing potholes and stop new ones from forming too. Improving road services and pavement services around Ipswich has been a focus for Hunt since his election as he personally visits streets across Ipswich to report potholes to the County Council. By working closely with Suffolk County Council Leader, Cllr Matthew Hicks, progress has already been made, including with the resurfacing of the pavement at Denton Close.
While it’s pleasing that many of Hunt’s priorities for Ipswich have been reflected in the Budget, Hunt still intends to speak during the Budget’s continuation debate over the coming days. It is vital that the investment issues facing Ipswich and Suffolk are represented specifically, having not received fair funding across the board over the years. This includes money for schools and education, Suffolk Constabulary and infrastructure.
Following the Budget, Tom said:
“Of course, this Budget will be talked about in relation to coronavirus and I welcome the strong measures the Chancellor to support our economy through this difficult time. The announcement that Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from the first day of absence is a particularly important step to give people reassurance when in self-isolation.
“As well as robust action on coronavirus, there are many positive developments in this Budget and we’re beginning to see real progress on many of the campaigns we have been working hard on. I am pleased to see the Chancellor has heard our concerns about ensuring ordinary people are not overburdened by taxes. The complete suspension of business rates for small retailers this year, and his commitment to a wide review the business rate scheme later this year, are crucial steps as we continue to fight for a vibrant town centre in Ipswich.
“The freezes in all alcohol duties and fuel duty also underline our efforts to ensure tax burdens do not fall on too heavily hardworking people. Before the budget, I co-signed a joint letter urging the Chancellor not to increase fuel duty and I spoke in Parliament about the need for Ipswich’s pub sector to be shown more support. I’m pleased that these messages are cutting through.
“It’s also good news that £1billion will be made available for the replacement of all types of dangerous cladding. It was unfair that St Francis Tower residents had to face exorbitant fees for the removal of the highly combustible cladding on their building just because it wasn’t the same type as that found on St Francis Tower.
“I will continue to digest the detail of this Budget and I intend to set out what it means for Ipswich and Suffolk in the ongoing debates on it next week”.
Tom Hunt calls for the Commonwealth to be at the heart of Britain’s global future
Yesterday (09/03/20), Tom Hunt, Member of Parliament for Ipswich, spoke passionately in Parliament during the debate a general debate on ‘The Commonwealth in 2020’.
Hunt was quick to call out the Labour Front Bench which used the debate on the Commonwealth in 2020 to raise the negative aspects of the British Empire. Hunt was clear that the Commonwealth today was not a legacy of empire but a voluntary community of equal states working together for their common interest.
This community stands in stark contrast to the “outdated and undemocratic model” of the European Union which seeks the power to coerce Member States, and which former EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, likened to the creation of a new ‘empire’. This is of course an organisation which the vast majority of Labour MPs voted against leaving.
Hunt identified the Labour Party’s “incessant need to prioritise apologising for our country” as a key reason for the breakdown in their support among patriotic voters.
Hunt was keen to move the debate towards the future and the rekindling of the UK’s long-neglected relationship with its Commonwealth partners. And he highlighted that increased trade should be at the heart of the UK’s efforts to re-engage.
Free from the protectionist EU bloc which restricted our ability to trade with our historic partners, the UK can now play a full role in the Commonwealth’s target of boosting intra-Commonwealth trade to £1.5 trillion by 2030. This means striking the trade deals which the EU often failed to get over the line, including with India.
Hunt highlighted that the Commonwealth includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies, and with 60% of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion population under the age of 30, he said the opportunities for mutually beneficial trade are “enormous”. Especially given the fact we already share the legal, linguistic and cultural norms which make the foundations of good agreements.
Hunt acknowledged that these shared bonds don’t just exist between the countries of the Commonwealth but they live in the hearts of the peoples of the Commonwealth too. On this note, he told the House of the great contributions of Commonwealth-origin people to life in Ipswich. He paid tribute to the dedication of Ipswich’s Indian community who fill many of the roles our local NHS, as well as the Bangladeshi Community which is home to some of the town’s most successful entrepreneurs and the Bangladeshi Support Centre which helps vulnerable people of over 50 different nationalities.
Hunt pointed out that the relationships between Commonwealth citizens, including those in Ipswich, is often best captured by our shared love of cricket. Wearing his All-Party Parliamentary Cricket Group tie, Hunt called for a big screen in Ipswich town centre to show the next cricket World Cup. He said: “We need to embrace the festival of cricket to a far greater extent than we have in the past.”
Cricket was however not the only sport raised however, with DUP MP Jim Shannon intervening in Hunt’s speech to quiz him about Ipswich Town’s recent form in the third division. Hunt agreed with Shannon, whose eldest son supports Ipswich Town, that recent performances have indeed been disappointing and that Town’s fortunes seem to be taking a turn for the worse after Tom saw them beat Lincoln four weeks ago.
Coming back in his speech to the fraternal bonds which unite the peoples of the Commonwealth, Hunt urged the Government to waive fees for Commonwealth personnel who have served in the UK’s armed forces. At present, there are over 4,700 Commonwealth servicemen and women serving in all three branches of our military. But after serving at least four years, those of them which wish to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain here are faced with charges of £2,389 per person. That means if they are part of a family of four, they face costs of over £9,500 just to stay in the country they’ve served.
Acknowledging “those who sacrifice so much for our country”, Hunt called on the Government to drop the exorbitant costs, saying “If anybody should not be considered a foreigner in our country, it is them”.
Following his speech Tom said:
“Our exit from the European Union gives a historic opportunity to make up for lost time in the Commonwealth. As part of the EU, we were trying to create artificially in Europe much of what already exists between Commonwealth nations, such as our shared history, language, culture, legal system and much else.
“While I don’t think these bonds have been forgotten by the people of the Commonwealth, the importance of them has not been reflected on the nation state level as we’ve been tied into the EU.
“That’s why I set out in the Chamber a positive vision for how we can re-engage with our Commonwealth partners. And this has to start with trade. India for example is growing at around 7% a year but the EU has failed to reach a trade agreement with India since talks started as far back as 2007. Building the deals with countries like India which the EU couldn’t has to be our ambition if we are going to deliver on the opportunities Brexit has presented.
“These deals should of course be grounded in the bonds shared between the people of the Commonwealth. And I told the House how these bonds are lived every day in Ipswich. We benefit greatly from many Commonwealth citizens and Commonwealth-origin Brits who have made Ipswich their home. Their contributions to both our local economy and the wellbeing of others are invaluable.
“It’s high time that we put the human aspects of the Commonwealth at the heart of policy and a new post-Brexit immigration system will be an important part of that. We must send a clear signal to Commonwealth citizens around the world that we will not go on prioritising immigration from certain countries arbitrarily and everyone should be given an equal chance to come here.
“If we are to make exceptions in our immigration rules, then it should be for the Commonwealth troops who come to serve in our military. Often leaving their families far away, these Commonwealth personnel put themselves in harm’s way to fill the shortages in our forces. Given their sacrifice, it’s entirely unreasonable that they should face costs as high as £9,500 if they want to settle here with their family after serving at least four years on our behalf. I urged the Government to waive these exorbitant fees in spirit that Commonwealth people should not be considered foreign to one another.”