Monday began with my usual train down to London.
The first item of business in the House of Commons was questions to the ministers at the Home Office. As with last week, it is still the case that only those who have been selected for a question should physically go to the Commons chamber. I had been selected for a question, and asked whether police will still be progressing cases and arresting suspects as usual, despite the Covid-19 outbreak. The Minister confirmed that this was the case, and that the Government is monitoring the situation incredibly carefully. I believe that it is right that despite the health emergency we are facing, criminals across the country should be in no doubt that the police are still hard at work to ensure they are caught and brought to justice.
Later on Monday I was due to hold a meeting with the Belgian Ambassador regarding the Benelux All-Party Parliamentary Group which I chaired before my appointment as a PPS, but due to NHS and Government advice we decided that this meeting should be postponed to a later date. The same is true for the majority of my meetings now – unless we find a way to do them digitally or over the phone, they are moved to a later date.
On Tuesday, I had been selected to ask a question to the Treasury team. I told the Chancellor that following the blow to many Southport businesses of the Covid-19 outbreak, it would be good to see a positive announcement made on the Burscough Curves. I asked him to work with the Transport Secretary to ensure that the funding is in place. He responded by saying that the government is doing all they can to support local businesses – especially those who operate in the hospitality and leisure sectors – and that the funding is in place to reverse the rail line decommissions we saw decades ago. I see the restoration of the Burscough Curves as one of the most important infrastructure projects Southport has had in a long time, and it is an integral part of my overall plan for our town.
Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Question time was Jeremy Corbyn’s last as Labour leader. Unfortunately I hadn’t been selected to ask a question, so had to watch from my office whilst reviewing correspondence. Prime Minister’s Questions has become much less adversarial and much more constructive over the past few weeks, mostly due to the Coronavirus outbreak – I think this change is welcome. Jeremy Corbyn has been Labour leader since before my first election to parliament (indeed, it may have been a factor in me winning my seat), so it was strange to think that this would be the last time he would speak in the Commons as Leader of the Opposition. I respect any person who puts themselves forward for one of the most difficult roles in the country, to be Prime Minister, and I wish him well for the future.
Parliament broke up for Easter recess until late April on Wednesday afternoon and I headed back to Southport. The rest of the week was spent holding digital meetings with my team who are working from home and progressing urgent casework - something there is understandably a lot of due to Covid-19. My office have opened more than 300 new cases in the last week on this subject alone.
A lot of businesses have been in touch asking about the Government support which has been announced. All of the information is available on my website, which also has links and hotline numbers for the NHS and Government departments. The support currently being offered by the Government constitutes some of the most generous in the world. We are offering the self-employed grants worth 80% of average profits, business rate relief, cash grants, and much more. Many constituents will benefit from the job retention scheme we announced, which pays 80% of furloughed workers’ salaries.
Many people have also been in touch seeking clarification on the Government’s lockdown advice. This information is also available on my/the Government’s websites, which I would advise all Southport residents to check on a regular basis. In a nutshell, you should not leave your house unless you are doing essential food shopping, exercising once a day, or seeking medical attention. You should only be going to work if your job absolutely cannot be done from home. If you do leave your house, you must ensure you are adhering to the social distancing measures we have outlined.
The Covid-19 outbreak isn’t just affecting Southport residents in our town, but also those who have been overseas throughout crisis. I have had a number of Southport residents in touch with me who have found themselves stranded abroad – as far away as Peru and Australia - with no reliable flight back to the UK. I am doing all I can to help these people make their way back to the UK, and this includes raising individual cases with the Foreign Office and relevant embassies. The Foreign Office have begun charting flights to bring back British nationals, and so I hope to see those who have been in contact with my office back in Southport and with their families in the very near future.
Despite us all working from home, my office will ensure all emails from Southport residents who need our advice and support are responded to. As we are a small team, it may take longer than usual for us to reply, but we will – and the most urgent cases will be prioritised. You can get in touch with me by email, or by filling out the contact form on this website.